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Culture Friday: Republicans retreat on pro-life while Democrats advance


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Republicans retreat on pro-life while Democrats advance

Plus, immigration, church disputes, and the end of Sports Illustrated

Pro-lifers participate in the annual March for Life at Capitol Hill on Friday, Jan. 19, in Washington. Associated Press/Photo by Mariam Zuhaib

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday the 26th of January, 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

It’s time for Culture Friday, and joining us now is John Stonestreet. He’s president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast.

Morning, John!


EICHER: January 22nd has long been an important date on the pro-life calendar. It is the anniversary of the Supreme Court abortion decision Roe vs. Wade. And that date came and went this week on Monday.

The annual March for Life is still observing it, choosing the Friday nearest the anniversary date. At WORLD we’ve historically done our Roe magazine cover in January, but we’ve moved the date to June, to remember the anniversary of the Dobbs case that reversed Roe.

Here’s why I bring this up. Because it seems like even though this year’s March for Life was well-attended and youthful, it seems like some new energy is lifting the pro-abortion cause.

Vice President Kamala Harris did a big event on January 22nd calling for a reimposition of Roe. And then the next day, she and President Biden appeared together with spouses for a raucous abortion rally. So two days of that, and making abortion the centerpiece of the re-election campaign, all the while the Republicans are running away. And I don’t mean just Nikki Haley. I mean the presumptive nominee Donald Trump. Do I appraise that right? Politically, is pro-life kind of on the run?

STONESTREET: Absolutely. And I think it is concerning what the two remaining nominees have done on this particular issue. Although I think Nikki Haley has been a little bit more policy driven and policy focused in her comments, at least in the first debate, for example, than Trump who actually needs something else to blame kind of the losses on since his last election run.

But I think even more concerned is when you see where the voters and so far in Iowa and New Hampshire come down on this, despite the fact that President Biden has been really clear, which is unusual for President Biden to be very clear, but the one thing he has been very clear on is that abortion is the centerpiece of this campaign. Now, you know, he's not just doing that - he's trying to distract against, you know, again, from the immigration issue on the southern border. And there's a reason that that's a top issue and the number one issue in Iowa, for example, which should be a top issue, there's no question about it. But given all the context of where we are right now, and kind of the history of abortion in America, for this not to be a front and center issue for voters should be really concerning.

It's going to be more challenging in the days ahead, not just because of the political realities that we're talking about. But because abortion now was becoming even more unseen, through chemical abortion. So now we're dealing with government agencies that are just turning on the spigot for unfettered mailings of abortion medications around the country. We have got no way to stop, you know, off-brand abortion medications from coming in from outside countries. So in other words, the states that have become pro-life states, and we've seen dramatic reductions in the number of surgical abortions in those states, we can't keep the mail out.

Listen, this is a real crisis. And it has a lot more to do with just who's in the White House. But we got to be somewhat pragmatic on the policy side of it, I get, and it's got to be incremental until we get to where we want but the worldview is so far off right now. And that's what's been revealed since the Dobbs decision.

EICHER: You mentioned the border. I want to dig into the illegal immigration question. I don’t think we’ve ever talked about that, but it does seem like a cultural issue of sorts. The Supreme Court issued a ruling supporting the removal of the barbed-wire, razor-wire barrier, and I can understand the narrowness of the issue. Lots of conservatives were really disappointed. But how do you balance, from a Christian perspective, the issues of rule of law, nationhood, borders, that kind of thing, against welcoming the stranger, the sojourner?

STONESTREET: Yeah, well, the biblical concepts are difficult because you know, a lot of times you lift verses out of the Old Testament that had to do with the State of Israel and then you jump in to make policy today that's not legitimate, because, you know, there's a whole lot of other things that were not. I mean, all the people that are saying, the Bible says welcome the stranger. But the Bible also says go sacrifice a goat. No one's doing that, right. I mean, so it's completely inconsistent. It's a terrible hermeneutic on each way you go.

So what do you build it off of? You build it off of things that the Bible is really clear on. Number one, every human is made in the image of God and worthy of dignity and respect. Number two, people are fallen. And the critical theory mood says that some people are fallen and not others, right? And that no one would ever have nefarious purposes. That's just naive and foolish. Number three, the Bible sets up nations and even sets up nations, the existence of nations, it's after the fall, but it's before Babel, right? And even at the end of time, when we see the new heavens and new earth are still national identity represented in Revelation, chapter seven; the Bible doesn't have a problem with nations, it doesn't have a problem with borders. And then finally, the Bible sets up that the state has laws and has laws for a purpose. Right?

So look, it's not an exact science, the process should always be to make our laws more and more humane. Anytime we have a law - and I was one of that quickly that spoke out on the separation of families at the border. That's a dehumanizing practice, right? But to ignore then, that children are being carried by mules and put into trafficking on that side of the border, and then just saying, well, it just doesn't happen, or it doesn't. I mean, that's, that's inhumane. So that's the thing about being inhumane, you can be inhumane with bad laws, you can be inhumane by not having laws and recognizing the real sense of evil.

So you've got to have strong laws, or you can't have humane ones. And, you know, that's the math that has to be done. And I'm not going to give a policy prescription, but that's, that's the worldview framework of this. And you know, what's currently driving the narrative to reduce the laws is a deeper narrative of the rejection of national sovereignty of borders, of the existence of nations. And that's not humane, that's not even sensical that you can live that way, given what we know about the human condition.

BROWN: John, I think you’ll be interested in this next story involving the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina and British cleric Calvin Robinson, who is also one of our WORLD Radio commentators.

As you know, Robinson is a conservative straight-talker, unafraid to touch on hot-button cultural topics. You’d think that’s why the organizers of last weekend’s conference, hosted by the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina invited him. As I understand it, they asked him to speak broadly about critical theory. Instead he blasted feminism and female ordination. In his words ”the female priesthood is ontologically impossible.”

Not only was Robinson privately chatisted, he was not allowed to be on stage to participate in the closing panel. The first time he says he’s been canceled from an event during the event.

These kinds of public squabbles make me wonder if the body of Christ as a whole really understands what’s at stake?

STONESTREET: Well, you're right. I was really interested in this issue for a number of reasons. Number one, Father Robinson is someone that I have been very impressed by and thankful for, both as a Christian and as an Anglican. Second, Father Robinson is coming to the Colson Center National Conference at the end of May. And I promise if we have him scheduled for a panel, he will show up on that panel, even if he says some things that we disagree with, which I don't foresee, but you know, who knows?

I was also interested because, you know, really all the data was out there that Father Robinson thankfully posted a transcript of the speech and he was very clear on women's ordination, which is a divisive issue within the Anglican Church. It has to do with how the ACNA - the Anglican Church in North America - let me be clear, it has to do with how the ACNA was formed coming from multiple bodies coming, some running away from you know, pagan Episcopalianism, some running back to the prayer book from evangelicalism, there's all kinds of directions into the ACNA. I think he was falsely accused of something that he actually did. He was asked to speak on critical race theory and its kind of history and how it fits with the gospel.

You can't deal with critical race theory without dealing with critical theory - otherwise, it actually becomes kind of racist in a way. You got to deal with the that you know that this has something to do with the, you know, the overall framework of oppression and oppressed and how that reflects Marxist categories. And you know, what, there are plenty of mainline Protestant bodies as Father Robinson said, that have embraced these Marxist categories, and it's become a real problem. So I look at it and they accused him of not speaking on what he was agreed to speak on. You can't deal with this and see these as isolated issues. Otherwise, you're training a group of people to play Whack-a-Mole. It's not helpful for the formation of the clergy.

And by the way, I think they didn't like that there were implications from his line of argument for women's ordination, I hate that it went to social media. But it's, I think it's actually pointed to something that eventually you have to deal with bad ideas that have taken root in your church bodies. Otherwise this is the inevitable result. What are you going to do? Say, “Don't talk about these things.” Right? You know, I think his question was, are you asking me as someone who is a person of of color to talk about a race issue that's kind of a tokenized way of doing things, and he's smarter and more educated than that, and apparently then his critics in this case, so good for him.

BROWN: For the sports fans in our audience—I know Nick is hockey—not sure of your sport of choice John.

STONESTREET: Not hockey, basketball.

BROWN: I want to touch briefly on the end of Sports Illustrated just a few months shy of its 70th anniversary.

At the end of last year, we talked about the death of Norman Lear and how his sitcom content impacted the culture. I wonder if Sports Illustrated to print what All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, etc were to television and the culture?

STONESTREET: Yeah, I mean, well, you're right to say it's more than just about a particular sport. It's even more about sports. No question Sports Illustrated was part of it. I mean, this that was a one of my Christmas gifts every year was an annual subscription. And then around February my, my mom would, you know, hawk the mailbox and grab the swimsuit issue and chop it all up and give me what was remaining, you know, as a good mom would. So I mean, that's my experience with it.

But you know, there, I don't fully agree, you know, with this line that we want to throw it a lot of celebrities like stay in your lane just shoot the ball and don't talk. But on an institutional level, Sports Illustrated drifted dramatically from its brand promise. And for some reason, they thought that demoralizing and dehumanizing women, the way that they had done for years, would somehow be you know, okay, if they changed the definition of woman, as opposed to the definition of demoralize. And that's what this philosophy about human nature and identity being constantly fluid and the whole narrative of oppressed and oppressor does. It makes you do dumb things and makes you think dumb thoughts and therefore do dumb things.

BROWN: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. Thanks so much, 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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