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Culture Friday: Respect for marriage


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Respect for marriage

Plus: a one-sided public forum, and lessons learned from Charles Schulz

People stand on the South Lawn after President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, at the White House in Washington Associated Press Photo/Andrew Harnik

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s the 16th day of December, 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!

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

Morning, John.


EICHER: John, the White House was all lit up in rainbow colors after the president signed into law the so-called Respect for Marriage Act. Let’s hear what it sounded like at the White House on Tuesday.

BIDEN: Today's a good day. A day America takes a vital step toward equality toward liberty and justice, not just for some, but for everyone, everyone, toward creating a nation where decency, dignity, and love are recognized, honored and protected. It's one thing for the Supreme Court to rule on a case, but it’s another thing entirely for elected representatives of the people to take a vote on the floor of the United States Congress and say loudly, clearly: Love is love. Right is right. Justice is justice. These things are fundamental things that America thinks matter.

So not only did we not hear about the religious liberty protections in the new law that helped win over some Republicans—I’m talking about the protections that were supposed to make this a win-win for all sides. We heard none of that.

But here’s what we did hear—and I have to say, interesting choice of pre-speech entertainment from Cyndi Lauper, singing her old hit "True Colors," because it seemed the true colors came shining through—we heard that the Respect for Marriage Act is just not enough.

The president called for passage of the Equality Act. He specifically called out states passing laws that would prohibit doctors from castrating or mutilating children, said that to prohibit those practices was cynical public policy.

But all told, it was pretty clear what’s next on the legislative to-do list for the LGBT movement and the Biden administration.

Do you think we’re just an election or two away from that? Or are there signs that the tide is turning at least where kids are concerned with surgeries and puberty blockers and so forth?

STONESTREET: Well, I think we are getting to hear more and more stories right now of trans regret, and they're going to have to be reckoned with and I think that's going to be the wildcard factor right now. But I guess what concerns me far more is this critical theory mood that seems to be permeating this entire debate and almost all the cultural debate. And what I mean by Critical Theory mood is that we have this tendency to group people by these identifications, and then to call some of the good guys and some the bad guys. It wasn't just that Biden called out states with laws that are trying to protect children, particularly as we see more and more detransitioners and examples of trans regret. It's that he then listed anyone who is not fully on board with the agenda in the same list as racists and bigots. It's exactly the opposite attitude that was said to have inspired the religious liberty protections in the Respect for Marriage Act. And it really, I think, demonstrates how foolish conservatives—so-called conservatives—who supported this bill have been. And I'm going to use the word foolish. There was no reason whatsoever to suppose that these religious liberty protections would somehow be enough when immediately the first thing that the president did was welcome a bunch of drag performers to the ceremony. These are people who actually target the hearts and minds of children, teach them to question the goodness of their own bodies, and teach them things that just flat out aren't true. So it doesn't matter if we have a billion religious liberty protections, the spirit of the age, what's driving this whole movement right now is evil. It's evil, evil stuff. And we have to be able to say that not only is what's driving this evil, but that those who are driving in are calling everybody on the other side evil to the same degree as racists and bigots. So the religious liberty protections become far more vulnerable. And can I just say that if President Trump's tweets really matter in terms of how we're supposed to think about him, then President Biden's speech should really matter. Because I think that's what we'll hear. This is just a speech. It's not really what's in the law. But we just spent the last term of the last president being told that everything that he sneezes and tweets and everything else is the most important thing that ever happened, and that you have to take it seriously. Well, here. He didn't hold back. President Biden, in a moment of lucidity, which, of course, he doesn't always have, was really clear about his intentions. It wasn't up in the air at all. By the way, one things you got to put in context of, and maybe I have a different perspective being in Colorado Springs is the barrage of press blaming this horrific shooting at Club Q on Focus on the Family and groups like it with no justification whatsoever. In other words, it's going to take one or two cultural events like that to take that critical theory mood where we know who people are based on these identifications. And oh, yeah, we know who the good guys are and the bad guys are upfront, apriori without any sort of further conversation. And then something's going to have to "be done." We're going to have to do something about such hate speech. That's how all this works. It's a mix of law. It's a mix of cultural mood. And it's a mix of cultural incidents and then language. So I guess I came out of that less upset about President Biden because I was pretty sure I knew where he was coming from on all this. But it did make me think, man, all those evangelical groups and all those major evangelical voices, who assured us that this Respect for Marriage Act was exactly what we needed, and had all the protections, I hope they were paying attention to this speech.

EICHER: We haven’t talked about the incredible revelations Twitter’s celebrity CEO Elon Musk is serving up to, interestingly, two of the most independent-minded journalists on the left—Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss. It’s a fascinating picture of how incredibly one-sided this supposed digital town square operated before Musk came in and cleaned house.

What’s your sense of what we’ve heard so far? Lots of crickets in mainstream media, but do you see this as a positive cultural development?

STONESTREET: I do. I do see it as a positive cultural development because, you know, this sort of thing needs to be exposed and it is being exposed. And it, I think, is becoming less and less believable. Whereas the mainstream media is crickets on this, but man, everyday we get six stories about how Elon Musk is the biggest threat to free speech or to the republic or to a democratic world or to our highways in outer space and, and everything else. I mean, it's getting kind of bizarre. It's so bizarre, by the way, that I think it's jumping the shark. It's beyond the pale of believability. I have said for a long time, Twitter's not the real world. Even if you could trust what we clearly were not able to trust and many people since, in terms of the whole editing and blacklisting and darkening and quieting process, it's a very few amount of people in the world that are on Twitter. And is a very few amount of people who do the vast amount of tweeting. And so it just has I think a reputation that's far bigger than the reality. But at the same time, you got to say that there was a, if this sort of coordination is happening here it's probably happening in some of these other places that are being strangely quiet. Now, I know there are some that said, well, this isn't about free speech or free press, because Twitter is a privately held company. Yes. But when a privately held company is directly coordinating with public officials, it does become a freedom of speech issue. And that's the revelation that we're seeing.

BROWN: John, here’s a question for you.

LINUS: Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

That famous line of course from one of the all-time favorite television traditions, Charles Schultz’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.

But what’s most memorable, at least to me, is the minute-long monologue of Linus reciting word for word from the Gospel of Luke!

WORLD’s Maryrose Delahunty wrote about Charles Schultz on what would’ve been his 100th birthday if he’d lived to see it. So I asked Maryrose what was her one big takeaway from her cover story in the current WORLD Magazine:

DELAHUNTY: Who doesn't look forward to the Charlie Brown Christmas special. But even more than that, I remember my mom, I was a kid in the ’70s. She bought me the Peanuts Parade books. So those were compilations of Peanuts from the beginning. And I remember poring over those books over and over.

And it wasn't until I was much older that I realized that the Red Baron was a real person in World War II.

And, you know, it's like C.S. Lewis books, right, the Chronicles of Narnia, you get introduced to something as a child, but you get different and nuanced understandings depending on what year of life you read it. And you're like, what?! Oh my gosh, total enlightenment, and so many things in the history of all the people he mentions in the comic strip. I mean, he really lived his life out and thoughts out through the characters of Peanuts.

In her piece, Maryrose wrote about Schultz’s ability to elicit opposing responses on controversial topics like prayer in public schools. After one of his Peanuts Sunday strips, he had both sides of the school prayer debate labeling him an ally.

John, What do you think we can learn from him more than 20 years after his death?

STONESTREET: I think he's another example of the power of art. And I know, you know, look, to call Snoopy art is not in the sense that it's a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt. But you know, the difference between a good book and a bad book, and I think, a good painting and a bad painting, and a good movie and a bad movie—and I owe this thought to a former professor at Moody Bible Institute named Rosie de Rosae and I still remember this from a chapel that she spoke at when I was teaching at a college—and she said, you know, the difference between a good book and a bad book is a good book takes you deeper into life and a bad book distracts you from life. And I think that's really profound because it doesn't have to do with whether it's realistic or abstract. It doesn't have to do with whether it is for children or for grownups, it doesn't have to do with whether it is super sharp and precise, or whether it kind of has an extra dose of creativity and imagination. Compared to a lot of cartoons, The Peanuts cartoons were really simple, right? They were simply drawn. But there was a way in which when you spend some time in Peanuts, which we do a lot, by the way, right now with my son, Hunter, you're getting deeper into life. It's different than just being distracted from life. There's a qualitative difference, even when you compare it to things maybe that are a little bit more artistically embellished. And of course, that comes from a Christian worldview that there is a real world, and that it is the job of art in some way or another to paraphrase the real world. And you can do this directly. You can also do it through the imagination. And Schultz had an ability to do that. Those characters, many of us would see our childhood friends in those characters and the conversations that they had and the questions that it brings up—whether it's about our own insecurities, or about whether we should be grateful or complaining, all kinds of different things. And I think that's what it tells us about Schultz. He was a true artist, in that sense. And you can laugh at yourself. You can laugh at life. You can laugh at the inconsistencies and ironies of life. But there's a difference between being distracted, and being more thoughtful. And I think Schultz did that for us.

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

STONESTREET: Thank you both.

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