Culture Friday – All eyes on the Court

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday, June 24th, 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.

Buenos dias!

JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning.

EICHER: Well, this could be a significant day in the history of the pro-life movement, John, with the Supreme Court having added an opinion day for today and not releasing the dobbs abortion decision yesterday.

The court’s going to do what the court’s going to do, of course, but it does seem it’s either today or next week.

Now, should it come today, make sure to visit WNG.org. We’ll have coverage and analysis if later this morning we receive the court’s decision.

But John, if we are in fact just hours away from a decision, what do you think pro-life people need to hear? What do you hope the reaction will be to a favorable decision?

STONESTREET: I think the most important thing is just to be clear on what this decision actually means. And what it doesn’t mean, it’s not the end of abortion in America, it’s not some sort of handmaid’s future where all women have to dress like Puritan girls, or anything like that. What we’re actually dealing with is that restrictions and limits on abortion placed by states are not dead on arrival. That’s literally what this means. Because Roe has been an odd way that Roe has been interpreted has meant that any sort of restrictions based on native categories, viability, women’s access to abortion services, that’s all it took to make something quote unquote, unconstitutional. And all that’s out of the way because Roe was bad law, the interpretation and extension of Roe through these other cases, were bad law. And the court finally acknowledged that – which is great, it’s a wonderful step in the right direction. Now what we have is the task of coming up with good law when it comes to abortion on the state and local level. That’s what this needs to lead to. And it needs to lead to ongoing care and protection for unborn children, locally, people engaging people that are in these difficult situations, period. That’s what needs to happen. I think also what will remain to be seen is what this does to us as a nation. The last time there was an issue that divided us this deeply and was also divided in terms of state by state, local law, it was slavery, there’s no way around that. I don’t know that the level of passion around abortion is the same as the level of passion around abortion is the same as the level of passion around slavery, but will be a nation with abortion states and life states. And I think that’s unavoidable for the next little bit. So I don’t know what that requires of us as citizens. But certainly pro life activism in California is going to look different than pro life activism in Tennessee.

EICHER: What if the decision is unfavorable to pro-life? I know that’s very unlikely, but we don’t know until we know.

STONESTREET: Well, look, I’ll be as disappointed as everybody else. Because this is, I think, a lot of us who have been chastened for years on placing our faith in the courts. So we may be, the lesson is we should have learned are less than the last time we were disappointed by the court. But it doesn’t really change whether life is inherently valuable at every stage of development. It doesn’t change that we still must be pro life, we still must stand for the inherent dignity of all life, we still must talk about it, we still must come up with scientific and cultural research, we still must, you know, do everything we can to support women in crisis pregnancies and their husbands and help people find forgiveness for past sins of abortion, and so on. Like all of that doesn’t change because this is a cultural and structural legal issue that has such incredibly dramatic personal ramifications. So none of that part of it changes. I guess I’m just reminded who holds the keys of life and death and who holds the story of history and who’s writing that and who is determined for us to live here is the one who also knows how the whole thing is going to work out . And it’s just an important thing to remember how something unthinkable yesterday can become completely thinkable today in both good and bad ways.

BROWN: John, let’s move away from abortion before we go.

I want to call your attention to the results of a Gallup poll out this month, showing that belief in God in this country has fallen to a new low.

It was a six percentage point overall drop from the last time Gallup polled the question five years ago.

We should note the percentage who will affirm “belief in God” is incredibly high, 81 percent, and you can’t get that kind of agreement in this polarized nation on virtually anything else, though of course it says very little about the theological content of that belief.

But I think the bigger news is the big drop, concentrated among younger people (age 18 to 29, 10 point drop from 78 to 68 in that age cohort).

So here’s my question: Is it really a sign of growing unbelief, or is it just more culturally acceptable to state unbelief? Or something else?

STONESTREET: The answer’s yes. In other words, I think there is not one thing, it’s a few things, there is a sign of growing unbelief. And one of the reasons that unbelief is growing is because it’s more culturally acceptable to state unbelief. Those aren’t two mutually exclusive options at all. But there’s also something else here. And I, I want to be really careful here how I walk through this. And I’m going to use an illustration that people are going to think is unrelated, but I think it is. So just a couple weeks ago, I had a conversation with a wonderful theologian, whose friend teaches in the public school system in the northeast. She asked her friend of her, and this I think, you know, ninth grade class, how many of the students identified as LGBTQ? The answer was from her friend of her, all of them do, every one of them does. Now, it’s not because all of them had had a sexual experience with someone of the same sex. It’s because none of them wanted to be cis. And that’s short for cisgender, which, of course, is a made up word that doesn’t need to exist, but does. But the idea there is that there’s something else at work. Cisgender was a word created to morally equivocate all the letters of the ever growing acronym, but with a new mood that has overtaken American culture, and I’ll call it the critical theory mood. It kind of reminds me back in the days when we were talking about post modernism, not one had read Derrida and Foucault. But we all had Britney Spears, Kurt Cobain and The Matrix. It is very similar to that now, where very few people I’ve read the academic sources of critical theory, but there’s a critical theory mood, there’s good guys and bad guys. So being cis has moved from being one of many options to being the oppressor. And that’s why no one wants to be identified not because they actually want to be identified in this classroom as LGBTQ. But to be cis is to be uncool, or to be cis, in some context is even to be the one who needs to apologize for their guilt. The same thing is true with belief in God, that there is a critical mood, where there are good guys and bad guys that have been predetermined for us without having to do any sort of hard moral deliberations. Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. And the bad guys are the religious folks. The bad guys are the Christians. The bad guys are those who believe in something supernatural that comes with it some sort of moral rules, because that is a tool of oppression, that is a source of oppression. I’m not saying that’s the biggest factor in this drop at all. But again, it’s not one thing. It’s more than a few things. But part of it being more culturally acceptable to state unbelief, is because we have a world in which the good guys and the bad guys have been predetermined. And of course, we all want to be good guys. Not bad guys. I think we’re going to see more of that than less of that as we go forward.

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

STONESTREET: Thank you so much.


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