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Culture Friday: Political liability

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WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Political liability

With midterms around the corner, issues like abortion and same-sex marriage are getting the spotlight


Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speak during a news conference to discuss the introduction of the Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Washington Associated Press Photo/Mariam Zuhaib

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It's the 16th day of September, 2022. 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. It’s Culture Friday! Let’s bring in John Stonestreet. He’s the president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast.

Good morning!

JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning!

BROWN: John, I know the new school year just started, but we’ve already got a report card to contend with. The Nation’s Report Card for schools is out, the first one since the pandemic.

No surprises here. It’s not good. Reading scores among 9-year-olds saw their largest drop since 1990 and math scores fell for the first time in 50 years. We’ll post a link in today’s transcript to the full report.

Parents who can afford it are turning to private school and homeschooling to get the help needed for their students. But what about those parents who can’t afford those alternatives. Some argue policymakers need to make changes so that parents without means will have options, too. But as fellow Christians, are we our brother’s keeper? What’s our role in this?

STONESTREET: Well, you know, it's a good question. And before we go there, we have to acknowledge that this isn't the whole story, the picture is so much worse than this. And it's not necessarily caused by the pandemic, it's what I often refer to as a pre existing condition of the pandemic, a social pre existing condition, when you talk about mental illness when you talk about kids struggling with anxiety when you talk about the over and hyper prescribing of medication and putting students on this, and all of this just got worse, right? When we sent everybody home and made them you know, look at screens all days and, and that not only that, but we'd lost track of a bunch of kids, there was a whole bunch of kids that just stopped going to school. And of course, in times past that might have been because you know, they had farm work to do. That's certainly not the case with many of them here. So this picture is so much worse than even what this report card says when you add in the other factors of it. And so the question is, what's our responsibility? What's an act of love to our neighbor? And, you know, I think Chuck Colson would answer that question, your question, Are we our brother's keeper? Absolutely, yes. In fact, a lot of people don't know this. But you know, Chuck, who was very concerned about the church, being the church and running into the plague, whatever the plague happened to be right before he passed away, this became a passion of his. And so he became a champion of things like school choice and policies that could actually make kids tax dollars, or parents tax dollars, go with their kids, to whatever school that they chose, and that they could make work out so that they would not simply be subjected to a bad education because of where they found themselves. Historically, Chuck thought that this was connected to what Christians had always done. Wherever Christianity went, education went, wherever Christianity went, the protection of children, and the securing of children's future that always was part of the way that Christians understood their calling to that cultural moment was to take care of kids particularly take care of kids learning. And of course, there's a philosophical foundation for education that is unique to Christianity. And that is the world is ordered, because it was created by God. And this God not only created the world that way, but he created people with an incredible capacity to learn and to know. So there's so many parts of the education story right now, a whole bunch of parents became, you know, clear eyed about what was happening to their kids, because of Zoom classrooms, the ideas that were at work. And you also have more and more of a picture of kind of the brokenness that oftentimes comes into the lives of kids before they go to school. There's so many chapters of it, but the short answer is, we are our brother's keeper. I think the church has always understood that and I think we should care about that. The idea of public education itself was a Christian one, and I know you know, now, we've reached a point where all of that needs to be rethought and reframed. But I will say this, I think the brightest spot right now, in Christians interaction with culture, is the innovation that has come in the area of education. This is part of our Christian history. It's a good part of it. And there's a lot of educational innovation happening right now, which is good news.

EICHER: Question for you on the Lindsey Graham legislation on abortion. You saw his bill to ban abortion after 15 weeks nationwide. It includes exceptions for rape and incest.

He has supported federal bans before. If you go back to the time before the Supreme Court reversed Roe vs. Wade, he had a bill with a 20-week ban.

And we can get into the particulars if you want, but what I’m most curious about is the reaction of other Republicans. The leadership seems to be running away from this, and not because they oppose the rape and incest exception. It’s more because they don’t want to talk about abortion during mid-term elections.

Do you think that says more about internal Republican political dynamics or do you sense that pro-life is a political liability this fall?

STONESTREET: I think a lot of people do think it's a political liability, whether it should be or not. And I think certainly the media has largely embraced that narrative and are trying to kind of make sure that it is the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade. And there's been a real problem, I think, from Republicans framing that what this is, and being able to tell the difference. I think that one of the ways that we've missed it is that there's a thought that because we care about this issue everybody else does, which is why the pre political work for those of us who are pro life is so important. Essentially, you've got diehard, pro-abortion forces, and they're willing to lie, they're willing to say whatever. And that is what you hear from the kind of these diehard folks and then you have diehard pro lifers. And then between the middle, I think most of America is in a, I don't really want to think about this until it affects me. So I think it's a miscalculation for the Republican leadership to run away from this thing from Lindsey Graham, I think maybe it's a miscalculation from Lindsey Graham to put it out there. Or maybe it's a political calculation. And I think it's an intriguing one to turn around and say, not only should we have more bans on abortion, and by the way, if we're going to do it, you know, you know, obviously, we don't want it to stop at 15 weeks, I think maybe he's calling where the polls tend to say people are, which is they don't like, when they understand what Roe v. Wade did, they don't like this kind of abortion free for all, that America was characterized by, they also don't want kind of full bans on abortion. And so I think he's trying to basically steal this issue back from being an issue on the left and saying, Look, if you want common sense restrictions, the only way to get it is with Republicans. I mean, that's my best guess on this. But I'll say this, that for those of us who really care about protecting pre-born lives, you'll see that these little political juggling acts are going to be at times important and at times posturing. But the real work is happening right now outside of politics, the real work is happening not by politicians, but by neighbors and moms and dads. That's where the real work to defend life has to happen. So, you know, I only see this as kind of an interesting thing happening, you know, on the other side of the planet, and it may or may not affect me in the long run.

EICHER: On the subject of politics or political issues, it looks like we’ll be seeing a vote on something called the Respect for Marriage Act basically grows out of the abortion decision at the Supreme Court.

But I’m noticing here another trend among elected Republicans to shy away from certain issues and basically concede same-sex marriage and take the position that the debate is over we need to move on.

Do you think the debate is over?

Is same-sex marriage here to stay?

STONESTREET: I'd like to know when the debate began. I don't remember ever having a debate on same sex marriage. I remember a bunch of memes, a Will and Grace television series, and then all of a sudden, anybody that disagreed was a bigot. I mean, I don't think it's over. But not because I think it's happening. I don't think it's over. Because there's now no way to stop this runaway train of calling any relational arrangement we want ‘marriage’, and it's directly connected to this crazy thing of calling any identity that I want to claim as legitimate. In other words, if you just say, This is my relational arrangement, and therefore you have to call it marriage, because who are you to say that love isn't love? There's no end to that. And I think we haven't quite seen where that has gone. Same sex marriage, the legalization made the conversation about gender that we're currently having, and if we're having a conversation about it possible, it's going to make polyamorous marriage the next thing on the docket. There won't be any possible way to restrict that. We'll have local governments allowing that, extending marriage licenses to thruples and quadruples and then it'll be incestuous marriage, and I don't mean forcing incestuous marriage. But I think we've got a situation where who's to say that extended family members, children and step parents and siblings can't fall in love if love is love. And of course, the reason that we've historically banned those things is because love isn't love. Love between a brother and sister has physical consequences for children that love between others don't have. And because of that, that's why we've, in other words, we've actually pretended as if the body matters, and physical realities matter. And, you know, that's kind of out the window. So it's not over, but it's not over because we're actually able to have the debate, it's not over, because the floodgates are open, the waters running down the hill, and eventually we're going to look around going, Oh, wait, this is not a good idea. And we're going to have to figure out, well, how are we going to stop it? You know, we've already removed any sort of ideological fences that would you know, hem in marriage and, and we didn't do what GK Chesterton wisely warned, which is, before you move a fence, you need to ask why it was put there in the first place. And you know, that's all gone. So I think the debate will be a necessary consequence of not having the debate, if that makes sense. We'll kind of look around and go, How do we get down the bottom of this pit? And how do we climb out of it? And it'll be hard. There'll be a lot of people, particularly children, because that's the way the sexual revolution has gone, that are the victims of those bad ideas.

BROWN: Well, John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. Thank you, John.

STONESTREET: Thank you both.


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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