MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Friday the 27th of July, 2018.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
It’s Culture Friday and time now to welcome John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
Good morning, John.
JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning.
EICHER: John, yesterday here on the program, we reported on a conference happening right now where I live, actually in the church where my daughter was married, a PCA church, Presbyterian Church in America: It’s a conference called Revoice.
We carried a critical commentary by Albert Mohler. He’s a well-respected public intellectual, theologian, and seminary president. He’s also a member of WORLD’s board of directors. But if I could boil down his criticism, it’s this: Mohler’s concerned about the conference’s celebration — quoting what he said yesterday — “of LGBTQ culture—even styled as queer culture—while claiming to hold a Biblical model of sexual morality.”
He said, continuing the quotation: “Christians do experience temptation, and each Christian has his or her own pattern of temptation, but we are not to give in to temptation, nor are we to find our identity in any temptation to sin. Our identity is in Christ.”
I won’t ask you to comment on something that’s still ongoing, but Mohler also made the point that it’s not just this conference, the idea is spreading — spreading fast, he says — of trying to square LGBT identities with Christian orthodoxy.
Here’s my question. What’s the greater problem here: that those of us who hold to Biblical orthodoxy are not having a productive dialogue with those who identify as LGBT, or that LGBT ideas may be creeping into the church? Or is it something else?
STONESTREET: Well, I’m thankful that you said, “Which is the greater problem,” not, “Which is the problem.” Because both of those things are problems.
I think the greater problem are the LGBT ideas creeping into the church. But that’s even itself more of a symptom than a cause. It’s the ideas of the sexual revolution. And I think that’s one of the critiques that have been leveled at the Revoice conference and some of the language that’s on the website, which normalizes LGBT identity as identity. And then celebrates part of that identity as being bringing good things to the culture of the church and even into the clarity of the Gospel. And those are really strange things to try to make sense of.
Now, at the same time, I think there has been a communication problem here. There are things that many people who are part of this conference, and I would see many of them as brothers and sisters in Christ — I don’t know all of them, but I also want to say, too, that the founders of the conference and the main voices of this conference are really clear on the ethics, acting out of same-sex attraction. There’s no such thing as being able to act on these desires without entering into sin. In fact even Nate Collins, the founder of this conference, even expressed a clarification in an interview with Christianity Today that the desire for same-sex eroticism is itself sinful. And that was a refreshing thing to hear him say, based on some of the things that weren’t maybe as clear on the website.
I think, though, the problem or the question many of us have is simply this: The category of sexual orientation or gender identity, the categories that are commonly accepted, are those acceptable categories from a standpoint of Christian theology? These are brand new categories in the history of the world, these aren’t things that certainly the scripture ever acknowledges as being legitimate categories of identity and identity is a fundamental thing dealt with in the scriptures. And that’s where I have a lot of questions. And I think words really matter. Culturally speaking, words really matter, but especially in a time of confusion. We’ve got to have some precision here with our definitions of what do we mean when we talk about same-sex attraction. And if we’re going to grant the category of sexual orientation as legitimate identities, that seems to be giving up on a theological premise about the image of God that I don’t think the scripture allows us to do.
So I hope these conversations can go forward. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of dialogue between these different quote-unquote “camps.” And I consider and respect, I consider those on both sides of this one to be friends and colleagues and I’d love to have these conversations because I think both sides are bringing up some important things that need to be addressed in the whole debate.
EICHER: Ran across this a couple of days ago, an article on Nate Silver’s 538 blog. If you’re not familiar with it, 538 styles itself as telling “compelling stories about elections, politics, sports, science, and economics” by using “statistical analysis — hard numbers.” It’s certainly coming from a secular liberal point of view, and you’ll really perceive this in the article I want to ask you about. But the title is, “How Catholic Bishops Are Shaping Health Care In Rural America.” Here’s what in journalism we call the nutgraf, in other words, the main point. Listen to this paragraph:
“In a growing number of communities around the country, especially in rural areas, patients and physicians have access to just one hospital. And in more and more places, that hospital is Catholic. That sounds innocuous — a hospital is a hospital, after all. But Catholic hospitals are bound by a range of restrictions on care that are determined by religious authorities, with very little input from medical staff. Increasingly, where a patient lives can determine whether Catholic doctrine, and how the local bishop interprets that doctrine, will decide what kind of care she can get.”
Three guesses what this is about and the first two don’t count: Clearly, the grudge here is abortion and birth control.
You have said before, that secularists who seem to be trying to push religion out of public life are really going to miss all the compassionate benefits that religiously motivated people provide. But here’s a case where you see everyday compassion in action (hospitals in underserved areas) and an insistence that these hospitals are oppressive because they’re anti-abortion. What do you say about this?
STONESTREET: Well, I’ll give you the cleaned-up version and the not safe for radio version.
EICHER: Yeah, let’s be careful here.
STONESTREET: This is one of those things that’s just kind of ridiculous. Three quick thoughts. Number one is the headline’s just completely misleading. Catholic bishops aren’t shaping healthcare in rural America. The point here that’s being addressed is the Catholic position on birth control and abortion. This has not been up in the air ever, so to say that somehow there’s a group of powerful men that are somehow shading the coverage that certain people, especially women, can get is just misleading and it’s just flat-out not true. There’s no surprise here.
This is the 50th anniversary of Humana Vitae. It was 50 years ago they thought that maybe the church might soften on contraception and the ongoing consequences that would have for our understanding of procreation and they didn’t. And that’s been 50 years. This isn’t new information, folks. This is the way Catholics have always seen it. And Catholic hospitals in particular. There’s a consistency here that’s not up in the air at all.
The second thing is it’s important to note that even though maybe these communities have access to only the immediate medical care that these Catholic hospitals provide. There are other hospitals. And when we talk about things like birth control and abortion — and I think to be clear we need to go ahead and immediately say, look, this is going to also include things like transgender surgeries and transgender quote-unquote “treatments” and this is going to put hospitals right now in a difficult situation. Right now, no hospital, much less a Catholic hospital has a policy that says that we amputate fully functioning organs. But, of course, that’s what transgender reassignment surgery does. That’s what this surgery’s going to provide and this same sort of misleading headline and story is going to apply to that pretty soon.
But you talk about that sort of treatment, whether it has to do with getting an abortion or receiving one of those surgeries, it’s not like there is no access to those sorts of services if you go to a different medical provider. It may not be in your community, but really no one in the United States lives with– outside of driving distance, even if it takes a couple hours to a place where you could get the sort of service that you want, even if it’s not strictly actually speaking healthcare. And so part of this is what’s being smuggled into the definition of healthcare under, really, under the guise of healthcare but really it’s just kind of worldview.
And the final thing I’ll say is, look, if you want to have access to that sort of services in every community, then put hospitals there. Don’t begrudge Catholic hospitals because they’re the only ones that go to these communities, and the sort of amazing benevolent work that they do. This is hijacking one of great developments in the history of the world, the push by Christians to provide even things like hospitals and healthcare to people everywhere. There’s a reason when you drive around cities you don’t see the Buddhist hospital or the atheist hospital but you see the Methodist hospital, the Episcopalian hospital, the Presbyterian hospital, the Mennonite hospital, and the Catholic hospital and the Baptist hospital and I probably forgot some.
Hospitals are Christian sorts of things. So if you want to provide this sort of service that violates the deeply held beliefs of people of faith, then you’re just going to have to probably run your own hospitals.
EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday, John, thanks so much, and we’ll talk again next week.
STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.