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Culture Friday: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

Plus: laws against homosexuality, and homosexuality in the church

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to a crowd at The Moon in Tallahassee, Fla. on the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023 Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat via Associated Press

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday the 27th of January, 2023. Thanks for listening to WORLD Radio today! Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Culture Friday!

Joining us now is John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast.

Morning, John.


EICHER: Well, Pope Francis has called for the repeal of laws around the world criminalizing homosexuality. He called them unjust laws.

In an interview with reporter Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press, Pope Francis said, “Being homosexual is not a crime. It's not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime … . It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another.”

The pope went on to say that the Catholic Church should work to put an end to such laws: “It must do this,” he said. “It must do this."

Let me try to narrow this down a bit. What seems clear is he says laws that criminalize homosexuality are unjust and working to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality is just. Is he right?

STONESTREET: Well, based on Roman Catholic teaching, and by the way, this reminds me of the question that we discussed when we learned that Emeritus Pope Benedict had passed away and what the long term effect was going to be. It seemed like every time in the early days that Pope Francis would extend beyond where many historic Roman Catholic teaching was, on this particular issue, he would rein himself back in and I think many people wondered what the role was there of somebody who was so clear on what Christian doctrine was on this issue of sexuality and identity as Pope Benedict was. So it is interesting that this is happening in the wake of that. But that's a perspective of conjecture, and nothing more, let me just be really clear. What he's not clear on and that's really the problem whenever the Pope Francis seems to step out and talk about this particular issue, is that he just lacks clarity on any level is what does he mean by a law that makes homosexuality a crime? Is it just those that make homosexuality a crime that leads to the death penalty, or imprisonment or something like that? Or is he talking about a law that does not recognize same-sex unions as marriage? Or a law that says it's actually bad for children to not have a mom and a dad, and so therefore, homosexual parenting is outlawed? And there's just no sort of clarity here. And the fact of the matter is, there is a difference between what is a sin and what is a crime, because what is a crime is culturally determined based on where a particular society is. But I do think it's important to note that whether or not something is legally possible—and law tends to be downstream from culture—should homosexuality be against the law? And I would say, based on what is true and the fact that we want our laws to reflect reality and not deny reality, that a more just society would be a society that restricts homosexual activity—both by culture and in law. Now, I'm not in any level advocating here for really stiff penalties, certainly not something like the death penalty any more than I would in the cases of adultery or divorce or anything like that. But sexual brokenness should not be treated as normal. And the law has an incredibly powerful ability to normalize behaviors. So yes, I do think homosexual behavior should be outlawed. I think it's a better society where it is. Now, again, no one write me and say that I'm advocating death penalties. That's not what I'm advocating at all. But I want a law that reflects reality, not a law that denies reality. I think we're a long way. I think the idea of ever getting back there is a long shot. But I think it is a legal devolution, not a legal evolution when anti-sodomy laws were overturned. You're gonna get so many emails on that one, aren't ya?

BROWN: From Pope Francis to Pastor Andy Stanley. Take a listen:

STANLEY: How to get straight people as excited about serving and engaging as the gay men and women, I know we would have a volunteer backlog, that's my experience in our churches.

… A gay person who still wants to attend church after the way the church has treated the gay community, I'm telling you, they have more faith than I do.

They have more faith than a lot of you.

A gay person who knows, you know what?

I might not be accepted here, but I'm gonna try it anyway.

Have you ever done that as a straight person?

That’s a portion of a message delivered last year at a leadership conference at his church in Atlanta

First, I want you to address what sounds like Pastor Andy Stanley affirming evil in the church for the sake of serving or volunteerism.

Then I’d like to hear your take on this often used cultural argument. How many divorced people are in the church? How many liars, drunks, proud and vain people are in the church? Shouldn’t they be cast out as well?

STONESTREET: Yeah, I mean, well, the quick answer to that argument is maybe. I mean, there is a whole realm of church discipline when a sin is exposed and what you're supposed to do to go forward. And the fact that you're inconsistently applying biblical morality doesn't mean that the answer then is to not apply it at all, particularly in the area of a sin that is blatant and that is exposed and that in many ways one is actually wearing on their sleeve. Is that is that a way to put it? If the same sex couple comes into your church and claim it, and so many people do, claim it as part of an identity, then I think you've got the flaunting of a sin against the clear revealed will of God. Now, should you kick them out of the church at that point? There's a whole church disciplinary process. Do you celebrate them going through the sin while still wanting to love God is some sort of virtue? That was what was odd about this. And I'm really hesitant on this particular question, Myrna, just because people love to throw up part of Andy Stanley's sermons and then go after him. And because he does tend to say things that bring that sort of reaction. And there's been more than a few times where what's been represented in a tweet or a video clip isn't actually accurate of what he actually was trying to say. This one had larger context and I did see this sermon, and I do think it's really problematic, but I think he's been problematic on the issue of homosexuality for a while. I do absolutely appreciate the fact that he wants to reach those who struggle with same-sex attraction and homosexual behavior. I think that there is something to be said about the courage of a believer who follows Jesus, despite every voice in the world giving that person a kind of get out of jail free card and a justification for that sin. If that's what he was talking about, then I think just like anyone who struggles with sin and overcomes it is somebody that I can learn from. That's a little bit different than what I heard in this particular clip where it's not sinful, and it's not really struggling against it, it's continuing to indulge in it while still saying, Yeah, I want to come to church, even though people don't like me here. That doesn't seem to be as courageous, nor is it something then that reflects the work of the Holy Spirit, as he seems to suggest in the clip.

EICHER: OK, I want to play a piece of unedited audio:

HARRIS: America is a promise.

It is a promise of freedom and liberty, not for some, but for all … [applause] … a promise we made in the Declaration of Independence that we are each endowed with the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. [applause]

Be clear: these rights were not bestowed upon us.

They belong to us as Americans.

You recognize the voice as that of the vice president of the United States. It’s Vice President Kamala Harris. And I introduced the clip as unedited. I mean, I didn’t edit the audio. But I think it’s pretty clear she edited the script from which she was reading. Edited the Declaration of Independence. I know you saw this, John, it blew up on social media.

STONESTREET: Yeah, I mean, I think perhaps the best read on this is that the Vice President, like so many other folks in America, are students of a bad civic education. So I'm not sure really how many normal Americans could quote the Declaration of Independence. Clearly, this was a little bit more intentional, because the phrase was the right to life, which is a pro-life talking point and she felt like she could not say it out loud. But the whole thing, though, is problematic because there's an ordering to these articulated rights in the Declaration of Independence and there's a source that is articulated. But that's also accurately stated. You don't have the right to pursuit of happiness, that's not a right. Unless you have the liberty to pursue that happiness. You have to have a level of freedom. So the right to the pursuit of happiness is based on the right to liberty. You don't have a right to liberty if you're not alive, if you don't get to choose whether you live or die, if you don't have actually the freedom to live. And so, really, the two rights that she cites there are dependent on the right to life. And if you leave it out, you don't get the others. And of course, if these rights are not endowed by the Creator, then the only source left is the state. And if the state gives rights, the state can take those rights away. And trust me, this is something that the founders absolutely had in mind in order to guarantee the sort of country that they wanted and hoped and prayed could take place. And there is something that is irreplaceable about the source of those rights being a creator. That this is not something that the state creates. It's something that the state is forced to recognize. So, in any sort of applied sense, her comments are going to fall apart. We might say it's a house built on sand.

EICHER: Yeah, we might. John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. John, thank you so much. We’ll see you next week!

STONESTREET: Thanks so much!

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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