Culture Friday: The Healthy Youth Act

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday the 18th of May, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s episode of The World and Everything in It. 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.


Well, hey, I want to talk about something we reported on the program a couple of days ago: California’s “Healthy Youth Act.” Now, all apart from the seemingly Orwellian nature of the names politicians tend to give to their laws, the Healthy Youth Act is drawing a healthy reaction from concerned parents.

And we need to stress here that there does remain an opt-out provision in California for comprehensive sex-ed.

But the Healthy Youth Act is different. It’s not all just sex-ed. It’s also instruction, and now I should use the language of the Act, on how to “[develop] healthy attitudes [on] body image, gender, sexual orientation, relationships, marriage, and family.”

Now, as a parent, you don’t get a special opt-out from that. One of our California reporters, and she’s a young mom, she points out that you can still take an unexcused absence, and perhaps that’s something some parents will be able to do, in theory. But it’s certainly not as easy as the blanket opt-out.

And, John, I think that recently you summed it up well. You said you can still opt your kids out of the anatomy but not the ideology.

And California seems really to be doing what California always does, and that’s push boundaries like this. Do you see this as more of the same, John, or do you see in this a difference in degree?

STONESTREET: No, I mean, I think it’s a difference in degree in the same trajectory that they’ve been on for quite some time, which is that the new gender ideology and the new, really, sexual ideologies are unquestionable now. To question them is to be out of touch with modern society. To question them at all is to be in the category of a racist and a bigot. And so there is no way that parents should be able to opt their kids out in their way of thinking. To question something that is as dogmatically true as all the conclusions having to do with racism or civil rights or anything like that.

I mean, look, this is the same California legislature that assumed that terrible mistreatment of gays and lesbians and transgender students were happening on Christian college campuses. Assuming it. Saying it out loud, even though there was no evidence whatsoever that it actually was. This is the same legislature that essentially threatened to tie federal grants and state-level grants to this same sort of ideology.

So this is all in line with that. We were told how’s my gay marriage going to impact yours? Or how’s my choice to live this way going to impact you? I mean, everybody should have been able to see through it, but it — here’s how it impacts is basically, again, the state deciding that something that everyone thought was not normal and out of step a decade ago is the thing that you’re not allowed to question whatsoever. That’s how fast this stuff happens. And this particular set of ideologies is leading to the replacement of what’s in the best interest of the child to what’s in the best interest of adults.

But, more fundamentally, the only way to replace kind of the way we’ve done education, the way we’ve thought about marriage, the way we’ve thought about children and sexuality and gender, really, from the beginning of our nation until yesterday, the only way to change that is with state coercion, whether it’s federal or the state level, it’s through government, basically, policy and requirements.

It makes perfect sense in this worldview for the state to require that students be indoctrinated along these lines. It’s very low-risk for them to say, well, you know, comparatively speaking, you can opt-out of the mechanics of sexuality, but it’s very high-risk to the overall agenda to not force every child to hear this kind of brand new ideological thinking about gender, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

One of our governing assumptions for this Culture Friday feature is that politics is downstream of culture. In other words, politics follows the culture. But that construction doesn’t place culture first. It places religion first, or worldview, what we believe. Because in the order of things, politics is downstream of culture and culture is downstream of religion. And I say all that to introduce this idea:

On Twitter this week, you called attention to a theological controversy brewing. It involves a well-known evangelical pastor by the name of Andy Stanley. In short, he has said that preachers need to unhitch the New Testament from the Old. You applauded what you called a “needed rebuke” of Andy Stanley.

Can you explain what this is all about and why it’s important?

STONESTREET: Well, it’s about a number of things and I think we need to start by acknowledging a couple of things.

Number one is that this was a line or two out of a sermon that was part of a sermon series.

And, second, Andy Stanley has responded to this. And, in fact, just recently in Relevant Magazine in an interview saying that his critics were wrong and his critics didn’t listen all the way through it and so on.

But that’s not true about all of his critics about this particular line and, you know, I respect Andy Stanley’s communication ability. I’ve disagreed with a few things. This is a real challenge and the guy who really, I think, has articulated the problem with what Andy Stanley did, which is essentially using the story of the Jerusalem Council and the decision there at the Council to not require Gentile converts to fully live according to Jewish lifestyle ideas.

That’s really what Andy Stanley was talking about is, you know, in the way that the Jerusalem Council unhitched New Testament Christianity from Old Testament Jewish Covenant things, he then basically said we’ve got to do the same thing, too, in order to reach people.

The problem with that is that the only Jesus we know, the only Jesus that’s given to us through holy revelation is the Jesus that comes out of a storyline through the Old Testament. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise that through the line of Abraham and through this nation all the other nations will be blessed. Which is a part of the Old Testament that’s connected back to the creation narrative.

So, unhitching Jesus from the Old Testament not only unhitches him from the people through which he came, but it also unhitches him from the creation narrative. Jesus himself hitched himself to the creation narrative when he was asked about marriage, for example, in Matthew 19. And divorce. In order to answer a question about divorce, which some of the teaching in the Old Testament can seem really harsh about divorce, but Jesus says, this is what God intended marriage to be: a procreative, unitive institution that’s about future generations and, therefore, implies permanence. I mean, this is what Jesus does, so Jesus clearly hitches himself there.

Now, again, Andy Stanley has responded and said, look, I fully affirm the inerrancy of the Old Testament, it’s all interpretive matter. And I agree it’s an interpretive matter. Wesley Hill in First Things basically referred to it as a new Marcionism. That may have been a little bit harsh because Marcion did a lot more than just unhitch from the Old Testament. He kind of took it apart. But I think you need to take Wesley Hill’s article very seriously. I mean, go to First Things, to the website, and read this. Because I think he’s done the best so far at articulating, really, what’s at stake.

And the problem is if you don’t understand Jesus in the storyline by which he’s given us, then it’s very, very easy to make Jesus into our own image. And again, I think Andy saying, “Ah, I didn’t mean that in the same way that it’s been said.” But what he said was very unclear, particularly to a church that doesn’t know the Old Testament well. That’s an epidemic across the American church, we don’t know the Old Testament well. So then what we mean when we say we want to be like Jesus is, “I want to be like Jesus that wants to be like me.” It’s getting reversed, the God and the image. And I think that’s the real risk here.

Alright, and we will put a link to that First Things article that you mentioned, John, up on our website at worldandeverything-dot-org.

John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. John, thank you. We’ll talk to you next time.

STONESTREET: Thank you, Nick.

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3 comments on Culture Friday: The Healthy Youth Act

  1. Stacy Hotes says:

    SO LOVE listening to the World and Everything In It every morning on my way to work! It informs me without providing political bias, it causes me to think deeply and expands my perspective, and it often provides a smile or even a chuckle. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

    I came to your website for the first time this week (and bookmarked it so it’s easier for me to get to), and returned today to look for a link to the First Things as mentioned by John Stonestreet. However, I’m not sure where to find the links for each article – could you let your listeners know how to do that, or even attach the links to the transcript?

    Thanks for listening, and a deeply grateful, heartfelt thank you for this bright spot in my day!

    Stacy Hotes
    Woodinville, WA

  2. Bill Holloman says:

    I listened to the recent Culture Friday and John Stonestreet’s segment about Andy Stanley’s recent teaching on Act’s 15. I replayed John’s comments multiple times and I reread Acts 15 and I listened to Andy’s comments. I just don’t see the controversy. I understand what he was trying to say and the context he said it in and didn’t conclude any of the denial of Old Testament understanding. It seems that a clear teaching is being over dissected by theological academics. Could that be some theologians acting like modern day Pharisees and overburdening the people unnecessarily with their comments which is what Stanley was talking about?

  3. Ronald Godat says:

    Always great commentary on Culture Fri. So true that adults are making rules they want without regard to adverse affects on our children.

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