Culture Friday: Political exhaustion

MARY REICHARD, HOST: From member-supported WORLD Radio, this is The World and Everything in It for Friday, March 30th. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Culture Friday and time to welcome John Stonestreet. John is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

John, good morning.


EICHER: I’d like to hear you talk about the Republicans’ failure to make good on a major campaign promise. Last week, Congress approved a big spending bill that nobody read. It pays for government operations to September. But it does not stop Planned Parenthood’s half-a-billion-dollar subsidy.

Give us the House, give us the Senate, give us the White House — all three. That was the Republican message to evangelical voters. Now the GOP controls the entire government, and still can’t manage to defund Planned Parenthood. What do you think the fallout will be?

STONESTREET: Well, as I said on Breakpoint on Thursday, it seems a lot like the proverbial Charlie Brown kicking Lucy’s football situation. I mean, we’ve been told this over and over and over and over that this would be what would happen. President Trump said it, the GOP say it over and over and over and it’s — highly frustrating. I think a whole lot of pro-life leaders are frustrated about it as they should be, but I also think there’s a couple things we should keep in mind. Number one is, again, we should be really clear that the best hope for ending abortion is not conservative politicians.

Now, I am not calling for quote-unquote strategic withdrawal from politics, I’m not calling for Christians to abandon the political process and not to vote their conscience. Do all of those things

Fascinating to see the abortion numbers drop across America. Of course, that’s not because of the GOP Congress who have increased funding for Planned Parenthood over the years. No, it’s because of places like where I was last week, which was on the Gulf coast of Texas, ya know, with 13-hundred people over a two-night period who were committing themselves financially and as volunteers to expand the work of a pregnancy care center and just doing excellent work. That’s really were the difference is going to be made culturally.

And this is one of those examples where politics is downstream from culture. There’s not enough cultural pressure on the GOP to make a difference on this. Many of them aren’t with us. They say they’re with us but they’re not with us. And there’s a limit here to what the political process will do.

And so our goal should not be to defund Planned Parenthood or to even overturn Roe v. Wade, although both of those things are great incremental goals and we should go after both of them. But the ultimate goal is to make abortion personally and culturally unthinkable.

And to do that, every Christian needs to have these pro-life conversations with their friends and neighbors. Every parent needs to be able to articulate to their kids when life begins and why life is sacred. Pastors should be actively including pro-life apologetics, the ability to understand and articulate the pro-life position as part of their discipleship programs because to be a follower of Jesus is not just to pray and to read the Bible but to live as a Christian in the cultural moment to which we are called.

We don’t follow Jesus in a vacuum, we follow Jesus in a cultural moment and in this cultural moment, this is the most significant cause of justice that our world and our nation faces. And man, I tell you what, if the church would get on full board with this one, it would make a big different in a hurry. Just like we’ve seen the church make a big dent in all kinds of social injustices throughout history. So, anyway, I mean, there’s a lot of places I could recommend for resources, but that — I think that’s what we’ve gotta do.

EICHER: Alright, John, about the Stormy Daniels and President Trump controversy, David French of National Review had a really insightful column. His point was that Trump’s biggest problem in all of this comes down to one word: exhaustion.

“It’s one more embarrassment among many,” he says. “And with each new embarrassment, a few more people tune out. [skipping ahead] …

“A few days ago, I was talking to a Christian Trump supporter, a person who didn’t support Trump in the primaries but happily voted for him in the general election. He doesn’t regret his vote. He’s glad Hillary isn’t president, but his sentiment was clear. ‘I’m just tired of it,’ he said. ‘I’m sick of the scandals.’

John, I hear the same sorts of things. What do you say?

STONESTREET: I think that’s probably true. I mean, I sense that exhaustion. I feel that exhaustion as someone who probably fits into a similar category of didn’t support Trump during the primaries and, ya know, really went to the voting booth in the election with a great deal of struggle and cast my vote, thinking of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s line that the decline of a great society is marked by the lack of great statesmen and thinking if these are our two choices, we’re in trouble.

And I — ya know, there’s been, good heavens, 75-thousand articles written in the last 4 days about why evangelical voters are overlooking the Stormy Daniels thing and there certainly are many that are overlooking it. We’ve had Christian leaders say that Trump will get a mulligan on this one. No idea what that means and it’s just flat-out not true of the church. The church won’t get a mulligan from a culture who finds it’s hypocrisy.

And, listen, I’m saying evangelicals have been hypocritical on this. If we’re not willing as leaders to say that, ya know, committing adultery is a sin and saying that you don’t need to repent is not a Christian idea. We need to be as clear on that as possible. And all of us who are concerned about Mr. Trump’s soul more than his agenda should be calling him to repentance so he can become right with God. And I hope those that are closest to him are doing that. It doesn’t seem like they are. I hope they are. And maybe there’s conversations going on that we don’t know.

On the flipside, though, I think everyone needs to realize, like, there’s — the policy initiatives on the other side are not just progressive, they’re radical. And it is so leading things over the cliff right now when it comes to religious freedom, life, and marriage. These aren’t like peripheral issues for evangelicals and people of faith, they’re central ones.

So, there’s just a strange dynamic going on where you do have someone of questionable moral character. But when we say the other side is worse, we mean that much worse.

And so I’m not a prophet. I’m not going to predict what’s going to happen. I think David French is right an awful lot of the time. I feel that exhaustion, but I still look across and am going, okay, when push — push leads to shove, what now? What’s going to happen? And, yeah, all the more reason for us to go back to what we say here a lot, Nick, which is politics is downstream from culture so let’s get busy in culture because, man, if we think there’s going to be any solutions coming out of the political arena anytime soon, I think we’re missing it.

I cannot let you go without acknowledging what today really is. It’s Good Friday. Sunday is Easter. These are important dates on the calendar.

EICHER: You know, some days, some weeks, the news can be exhausting and discouraging. But our emphasis always is that God is writing a story of redemption, and I think today, we should be especially mindful that Christ died for sinners … and I would add as the Apostle Paul added, among whom I am chief. Last thoughts today, John.

STONESTREET: Well, last thoughts are — and isn’t it a great way to end after the last depressing question … and that’s exactly right. The Apostle Paul wrote the epistle of joy from prison. The Apostle Peter wrote the epistle of hope from a time of persecution. His first letter, First Peter, is written to a group of Christians who are heading into significant persecution and it’s kind of — they’re kind of feeling the temperature rise on their faith and he basically writes this call to hope to them and he centers it all not on the fact that anything in culture will change, but in the fact of an event that is secure and that’s the resurrection of Christ and that’s what we’re doing this weekend is remembering like Christians have throughout history those three words, Christ is risen and the response He’s risen indeed… that is not a statement of personal conviction, but a statement of public proclamation.

And that’s — we need to remember that as Christians that these — this idea that Jesus rose from the dead is the center of history. And that’s why we have hope. Not because we feel hope because we like the fact that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. That’s great, we should like that. But the ultimate reality is that this is the centerpiece of all of history. And as we hopefully even today on Good Friday walk through the crucifixion, we remember that the only way to get to Sunday is through Friday. And the only way to get to the resurrection is through the crucifixion.

EICHER: Amen! John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. John, thank you. He is Risen!

STONESTREET: He is Risen, indeed. Thanks, Nick.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) A copy of the $1.3 trillion spending bill is stacked on a table in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 23, 2018.

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