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Culture Friday: Incremental wins


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Incremental wins

Moral clarity is seen in the Vatican’s statement on human dignity, the NAIA’s stand for female athletes, and steps forward in the pro-life battle

Pope Francis at St Peter’s square in The Vatican on Wednesday Getty Images/Photo by Andreas Solaro/Contributor/AFP

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday the 5th of April, 2024.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I'm Nick Eicher. Time now for Culture Friday. Joining us is author and speaker Katie McCoy. Katie, it's always great to see you. And welcome back. Good morning.

KATIE MCCOY: Good morning, Nick and Myrna!

EICHER: Hey, let's begin with that declaration that came out on Monday, the Vatican statement, a declaration on human dignity. It identifies what it calls “grave violations of human dignity.” It is a rather lengthy list. It includes abortion, euthanasia, and surrogate motherhood. Now, none of us here is Roman Catholic. I think, though there's a lot to appreciate in terms of moral clarity. And especially when you consider some mixed signals that have come from this pope. I assume you've seen the document and you have some thoughts on it. So tell us what you think.

MCCOY: I did. And it was some welcome clarity on these cultural issues. Now, we certainly are aware of the moral issues like abortion and euthanasia. Surrogacy is something that in some ways we Protestants are catching up with in terms of a moral and ethical issue. We tend to think of surrogacy as a friend maybe bearing the child of another friend who can't physically have a baby. But in real life, real world circumstances, that is a rarity. So much of surrogacy has to do with commercial surrogacy, particularly in third world countries, where women are impoverished. And having a baby is a way to really sustain and provide for themselves financially. And one of the ironies here too—especially in our socially justice conscious world—is that there are a lot of wealthy white people who will effectively rent the womb of an impoverished third world woman. And so the pope bringing this up and putting it on the same plane as offense of human dignity as abortion and euthanasia is bringing some very needed conversation as we talk about this as an ethical issue.

BROWN: Well, Katie, this was a pretty good week for women's sports. And I want to ask you about a comment from one of the coaches. But I want to begin with this first: the National Association for intercollegiate athletes said, “NAIA athletes can compete in the league's male sports competitions, but only biological females can compete in the league's women's competitions.” Now, it seems like we're close to being on the other side of the eclipse of reason on this issue. It's getting brighter, I think. If if you'd seen this six months ago, would you have been more surprised by the announcement than maybe now?

MCCOY: Yeah, love that eclipse reference there, Myrna. Yeah, this is some, also some welcome news from a very different sphere of society. In some ways, it's a surprise. But in others, I think we have been leading to this place for several years. And now we're seeing some organizations start to speak out and create policies. I hope that we will see that pattern continue in international sports, as well. Now, the thing to watch, though, is how this issue continues to become politically partisan and entrenched on different sides of the political aisle. Because really, people see a news story like this, and they don't think about it in terms of the biological differences between male and female, they're thinking about it often in terms of the political camp, in which they find themselves fitting. And so that's just one of the ways that we have to keep going back not only to facts, but reasoning with people who have been inundated by a lot of messages that fit one particular political slant, and have been silenced by another.

BROWN: Okay, well, now, Coach Dawn Staley, the head coach of the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks and women's NCAA champs, so a reporter asked her if men ought to be able to play in women's sports. And here's what she said:

DAWN STANLEY: I'm on the, I mean, I'm on the the opinion of, of if you're a woman you should play. If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports or vice versa, you should be able to play. That's, that's my opinion. You want me to go deeper?

REPORTER: Do you think transgender women should be able to participate?

STANLEY: That's your question, I mean, you want to ask? So I'll give you that. Yes, yes. So now, the barnstorm of people are gonna flood my timeline and be a distraction to me, one of the biggest days of of, of our game, and I'm okay with that. I really am.

BROWN: Katie, I can't imagine she'd want to jeopardize her winning streak. Right? Taking a terrific women's team and having them compete against men?

MCCOY: Ironic, isn't it? You know, it reminded me of when Megan Rapinoe, the female soccer player, advocated for biological men in women's sports after her competitive career was over. So after she didn't actually have to compete over a biological male. And then of course, we hear about world famous athletes like Serena Williams talking about how there's no way that she would be able to beat a guy, because of these ingrained cellular differences between male and female. Interesting, the coach talked about it in terms of both, if you are a woman, and if you believe that you are a woman, or consider yourself a woman. And that really is if you're going to boil it all down what the debate is over. So the only defining factor in whether someone is a woman or not, culture says, is your self perception. And so, interestingly, she she kind of codified the whole debate down into that one statement.

EICHER: Hey we really, I think, need to talk about former President Trump, Katie, and his statement on abortion politics this week. Let's take a quick listen to some of what he had to say.

DONALD TRUMP: My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, to states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both. And whatever they decide must be the law of the land, in this case, the law of the state.

EICHER: So in the statement, Trump also endorsed in vitro fertilization, and he suggested that the Republicans really need to be careful not to politically overreach on life issues.

TRUMP: Now, it's up to the states to do the right thing. Like Ronald Reagan, I am strongly in favor of exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. You must follow your heart on this issue. But remember, you must also win elections to restore our culture, and in fact, to save our country.

EICHER: Trump did take credit for appointing justices who overturned Roe v. Wade and sent the issue back to the states. And he added that Democrats were the ones who are the radicals on the issue for supporting unfettered abortion. So here's my question for you, Katie, we listened to the terrific Abby Johnson this week. She spoke with our colleague, Mary Reichard. You know who Abby is. She's the former Planned Parenthood abortion business director, turned pro-life activist. When we talked to her she did not sound open at all to the Trump pragmatic argument. Here's what she said, and I'll, quote, "I would rather lose 25 years of elections, if that meant that people will finally stand up and stop compromising on the issue of abortion." Now, I know you have a slightly different perspective on that, and I'd love to hear what you have to say.

MCCOY: You know, I think this story, or people's reaction to this story, is reflecting the degree to which we believe our government should reflect our absolute beliefs. Now, Abby Johnson is one of the leading voices in the pro-life movement, with good reason. I so admire her idealism, and I'm grateful for her uncompromising commitment.

But consider this: to lose 25 years of elections means losing 25 years worth of judicial appointees, judicial appointees whose jurisprudence can lead to overturning unjust laws, like Roe was, or judicial appointees who can legislate from the bench and overturn lawful popular pro-life votes. So even if the public was swayed to a right view of the dignity and legal protections for preborn infants, by the time we could have inherited that view, we could also have inherited a judicial system that legally circumvents that.

Now, neither candidate is particularly stellar, to say the least, right? And follow your heart is hardly a policy. It certainly isn't a very good policy. But I'm of the belief that incremental legal wins are still wins, similar to how Wilberforce abolished slavery without a war through incremental legal change. I wouldn't want to lose elections with judicial appointee power in the name of idealism necessarily. But that's just what that is.

Keep in mind, it's a legal win, not one that changes the hearts and minds of the people. We are always going to have the mandate as part of our great commission to go into the world, teach everything that God has entrusted us to teach. We are bringing the kingdom and the justice of God into the world. But there will be a limit to how much our sinful world can reflect the justice of God.

So, we work towards the common good as part of our mandate from God. But historically, spiritual reform has always preceded political reform. I think we've got to keep that hand in hand.

BROWN: Katie McCoy is an author and speaker. Her most recent book is titled To Be a Woman: The Confusion over Female Identity and How Christians Can Respond. Thanks so much, Katie.

MCCOY: Always good to be with you.

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