MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s the 26th day of May 2023. 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. Joining us now is John Stonestreet, the president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint Podcast. John, good morning.
JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning.
EICHER: John, it’s that time of year again, and we’ve returned to Dordt University in Sioux Center Iowa. We’re celebrating WJI’s 25th anniversary and we have our largest class ever. Really strong students. They’re learning journalistic technique across different platforms and they are asking very good questions.
And we offered them the opportunity to ask questions of you, John, and we’ll get to them in just a moment. Sound good?
STONESTREET: That sounds great. I always love taking the questions and love that WJI is still such an incredible program for students to take advantage of.
EICHER: All right, first thing I want to bring up is this on-again, off-again controversy with the L.A. Dodgers. They were planning for a pride night and had invited a drag group known as The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. But then the team got some organized pushback from a conservative Catholic organization, and the Dodgers wound up disinviting the group. But now they’ve reversed course, apologized for disinviting and then re-invited. So that’s one. And I wonder what you think that back and forth says.
Second, related story connected to the retailer Target and its “pride” product line. Conservatives seemed to win some concessions, and Target pulled some of its products. But the way the retailer announced it was interesting: it said it pulled products because of threats to employees.
What do you make of that? That’s not a PR victory if the public perception ties Christian groups to threats of violence. That’s not a net positive, right?
STONESTREET: It's not a net positive, but I'm not sure it actually happened. I think that's actually become a line that Target punts to. And I think actually Target’s M-O is to when they get caught on this that they pulled back and then quietly implemented the same policy a few months later, I suspect we'll see some of that, although let's be clear, targets been very actively promoting pride and pride ideology in various forms for a long time. This is to another level. And speaking of to another level. I mean, the LA Dodgers story is just really something to, you know, to call this group, a drag group is an understatement. This is a group that specifically targets religious imagery, Catholic imagery, but Christian in general, and then sexualizes it. So what this does is it reveals that at least a part of the transgender movement is a group of men who have fetishes and that this group is about promoting those fetishes. This isn't really about a pride thing. If you look at their public performances, they're very sexualized, and they're very targeted. You know, this kind of falls under the category of, you know, if you don't believe in Christianity, why do you spend so much time talking about it? And that's all this group does. This is a group that just absolutely is lock step fascinated with Christianity, Christian imagery and Christian opposition to their behavior and then chooses to mock it and then sexualize it. I suspect the Dodgers will backpedal again, just because this group is so extreme. I hope they do. And if they do, it'll be because some of the players and some of the management who have professed to be Christians actually say something about it. I can't imagine that they would ignore that, but maybe they will. And that will say a lot. And all of this then fits into what we might call the theology of getting fired. Right. So we've talked about before that now you have professional athletes that are going to have to make some hard decisions. Let's all look to their hockey players, because they apparently there's a whole group of hockey players that seem really clear about it.
TYNEISHA HERRING: Hello, my name is Tyneisha Herring. I'm from Royal Palm Beach, Florida, and I am at WJI this week. How do we reconcile accomplishments of transgender people, despite our beliefs as Christians. The big debate now is about athletes and as an athlete this affects me personally. And I know that biological men competing against women is absolutely unfair. But if it comes down to other accomplishments, like in the arts and sciences, what do we do about them getting more over people who are not transgender, like if they were to get a role in a show or a play? How do we reconcile okay, they chose them because they're transgender, or are they genuinely more talented?
STONESTREET: Well, I think you're asking the right question. And I think that the accomplishments that humans are able to accomplish is because they're made in the image and likeness of God, it's because that is who they really are. And it's completely appropriate to point to those accomplishments as accomplishments in and of themselves. It's not an accomplishment, to have an identity crisis, it's not an accomplishment to be confused about who one is and to embrace an ideology that really has nothing to do with, you know, courage or something else. But you actually have to be willing to say that, and I think that's going to be the task of Christian journalism in the days ahead, let me say, let me be a little more specific there. I think that is the task of truthful journalism in the days ahead, making that distinction that you're making, you know, this was a historic performance. And that has nothing to do with who one chooses to sleep with, or who want chooses to identify as or whether one dresses appropriately or inappropriately. And that's a very different thing than actually calling it as you see it. And I think, you know, for example, Lea Thomas, this, this swimmer, that's not an accomplishment that has to do with athletic prowess. That has, that's an accomplishment that has to do with he's a man, competing against women. And that is not something then that you highfive somebody over, journalistically or personally. And you're gonna have to, I think, make those really hard decisions and do that analysis if this is your world going forward journalism, and especially sports journalism, or journalism in the arts.
ALEX CARMENATY: Alex Carmenaty of WRSU Rutgers Radio at Rutgers University in New Jersey, currently here at Dordt for the WJI program. For someone who was a, you know, student radio reporter at Rutgers in New Jersey, in a Rutgers is not a Christian school, very woke very left wing leaning, you know, lots of CRT being taught, lots of non Christian things, and especially in journalism, definitely not biblical objectivity. How would you encourage someone like myself to persevere through those things, and how would you try to fight back against it if there's a possibility to do so?
STONESTREET: Yeah, I think there's a couple of ways to do this, in this world of journalism, whatever form that it takes. The first is you have to be deeply grounded and what's true about reality in which true about human nature. That's different even than just having kind of a gut level sense, or even an educated sense about morality, what's right and wrong, because the fundamental distinctions here are not just distinctions on how to behave, their distinctions on who we are, what does it mean to be human and the sort of world we live in? Are we in a world that is socially constructed, a world that exists because of whatever we make it to be? Or are there givens? That's the big philosophical crisis point right now. Is there anything given in the world that no matter what I feel, I can't change. And to be clear on that is, first and foremost, what you got to do. Because it's one thing to believe what you believe in a Christian environment. And as you've learned at Rutgers, it's another thing to believe what you believe in a hostile environment, it's a completely different thing to believe what you believe in an environment that's not only hostile to your beliefs, but in some situations hostile to you, because you hold those beliefs, right. It's one thing to be mocked, it's another thing to be called Hitler. And that's the sort of dynamic that some people I think are experiencing in their day to day life. The second thing that I would tell you is that you can point and highlight the truth of the world in various ways. Either I, you know, in service to others, or in just kind of celebrating good stories that are good and a good definition. So to go back really to the last question, when you do find a human accomplishment and hold it up and ask why. I'm just reminded of a wonderful story years ago, where a radio station, since you're representing radio, basically had a contest for original songs. And this 86 year old man who was a widow for about five years who missed his wife had written his wife a song. And it was beautiful, except he sang it and it was terrible when he sang it. And so he sent it to this radio station, and they were so moved by his lifelong commitment to his bride, they produced it professionally and gave it back to him as a gift. What a wonderful way to point to something that can only be explained in terms of something ultimate that can ground this emotion that we have called love and commitment and faithfulness and fidelity and things like that. The last thing I'll say, and this is huge and take advice from one of the great communicators in world history, but especially in the 20th century, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who in his last piece written to his fellow countrymen before he was exiled, said look You don't have to fight everything and I appreciated your question. You know, I should take the opportunity to fight back when it's a possibility. Now, I don't think that every fight is a Christian fight. I think you have to distinguish between what's essential and what is a derivative. And to his point, you don't have to show up at every street corner. You don't have to join every protest. But here's the very minimum. Don't say something that's not true. Don't be co opted into saying something that's not true. And man, what a lesson for anyone who's involved in language or words or communication, don't say something that's not true.
MARY HARRISON: Hi, Mr. Stonestreet. My name is Mary Harrison. I'm from Southwest Georgia and a student at Berry College. And I'm here this week at WJI. I have a question about perspectives and representation in news reporting. As sports editor of our student paper, I choose which pictures to run in our section. As every reporter, I also have to choose which sources to interview for my stories. When making these decisions, I often find myself trying to balance perspectives based on ethnicity or gender. Do I interview the white or African American senior soccer player? Do I run a photo of the men's or women's lacrosse team on an article that addresses both genders especially given previous coverage? Is there a time to take these qualities into account when sheer equality of treatment might overlook unique perspectives? Or is any consideration of ethnicity or gender giving into unbiblical intersectionality? PS…I saw you at Summit session one last year and you recommended I apply for WJI. Now I'm here and loving it. Thank you.
STONESTREET: Well, Mary, thanks! Great to see you. And I know Barry college. It's the college with more deer than people. And I also am a little stunned and taken aback that somebody actually listens to what I say. So thank you for doing that. And I'm glad it turned out well, for you at WJI. I think this is actually a crisis that we have in Christian thought right now. Because the over emphasis and the wrong framing of race and racial division and the understanding of essential human nature as being racialized, that also then pre-determines, you know, one's moral status. That's the problem with the way we talk about race. Another way to say it is the problem isn't that we talk about race. The problem is that we talk about race in the framework of critical theory. So it's the critical theory that's the problem, not the race problem. We do have a race problem, there is a racial history to America, there's no question about it. And unfortunately, in a kind of hyperpolarize, we, you know, who do you belong to, to even bring up questions of equal opportunity, and access and representation is to then be accused of accommodating or smuggling in critical theory, and I think we're gonna have to do both. Christians, of course, know that sin is structural. We believe that about abortion, right, that this is a structural thing. It's embedded in law. It's embedded in cultural norms. It's embedded in the way the media talks about issues. It's that framing that misses that question, that essential question of worldview, which is what does it mean to be human? And so I think if you can get the question, right, what does it mean to be human, and you can then understand, where ethnic diversity and difference and racial diversity and difference and sexual diversity and difference and what I mean by that is men and women, not sexual choices, then you're going to actually be able to better represent and tell that story. You know, and you're going to have a framework that you're going to be able to tell, oh this is where a group that someone either belongs to or identifies as matters in the story. And here's where it doesn't. And here's what it means to get both sides. So you have to think clearly, in an age of lies. You have to think clearly, in an age of confusion, you have to have the intellectual foundation, fundamentally answering correctly the questions of what kind of world do we live in? What are human beings? What's wrong with the world? What's the solution to what's wrong with the world? Whose job is it to fix it? These are kind of the fundamental worldview questions. And if you get those wrong, you're going to get the application wrong. But I think if you get it right, you're going to be able to tell better stories, right? Christianity is not just true, because all the other systems are wrong. Christianity is true because it is the best explanation of reality, the best explanation of the human predicament. It gets human beings, right. I oftentimes think of Blaise Pascal, who called humans the glory and the garbage of the universe. And, you know, the problem is, in a humanist framework, humans have the glory of the universe. In a nihilistic framework where the garbage of the universe Christianity gets both of those things, right. Christianity said we're made in the image of God and we act like animals that seems closer to reality.
BROWN: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. Thanks, John!
STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick and Myrna and good to see all of the WJI students.
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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