Culture Friday: Overturning Roe


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday the July 6th, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition 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 now to welcome John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. 

Good morning, John.

JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning, Nick.

John, let’s not talk about President Trump’s Supreme Court replacement today, because there will be plenty of time for that.

Let’s talk instead about an issue related to that Supreme Court pick, and that’s the prospect, as we hear, of overturning Roe versus Wade.

Now, we know that’s just a quasi-legal way of talking about abortion. Because when you talk to knowledgable lawyers on this issue, they’ll tell you the law of abortion is, really, Justice Kennedy’s Casey versus Pennsylvania decision. Casey, interestingly named after a pro-life Democrat, permitted some state regulation of abortion by the states, allowed states to enact some protective measures for unborn children.

But otherwise, Casey preserved the abortion right by saying states are prohibited from placing undue burdens on it.

So the whole Roe conversation is somewhat misplaced.

That said: it seems clear that the legal foundation of abortion is much shakier today than it was just a couple of weeks ago.

But as this argument ensues, John, I’d like to know where you think the pro-life argument stands culturally. What I mean by that is, clearly pro-lifers have mobilized politically, but have they done enough work culturally? Can pro-lifers say credibly that women with unintended pregnancies, young single moms, have nothing to fear from what’s happening now in Washington? Can they say, “Don’t worry. There’s a pro-life community out there ready to come alongside, compassionately to help you?”

STONESTREET: Well, I think they can say it more today than they could five years ago, and I think they could say it more five years ago than they could 10 years ago because the movement, the pro-life movement has gained steam primarily on cultural grounds.

I mean, good heavens, the idea of overturning Roe was unthinkable two years ago, was unthinkable a year ago. I mean, it wasn’t just something that many people took seriously. And so all the work went into what we might call as more cultural.

I would say maybe a little bit different, more personal, and so that’s why I think it rings hollow. At least it does for me. It’s amazing. I did a Breakpoint commentary on Thursday called “Zombie abortion argument.” It was really a response to a letter we had received, just kind of the typical “abortion should be safe, legal, and rare,” and it would be a lot better if you guys actually cared once a baby is born. I mean, these are just such kind of ridiculous arguments. But that kind of question, what you’re asking, which is kind of often on the tail end of some critiques that, you know, pro-lifers don’t care about babies after they’re born. It’s just not true. It’s amazing that pro-lifers are far more likely to adopt, that pregnancy care centers are not only there to talk a woman away from abortion but they’re there to support her through the pregnancy and even after the pregnancy, offering everything from parenting classes to resources and so on.

All that to say, where are we? I think we’re probably on better cultural ground when it comes to the pro-life movement than we are on political ones, even if we get the justice that we want from President Trump. I think what we can expect if we get the justice we should get from President Trump, then I think what we can expect is a couple things.

Number one is an incremental move toward more common sense incremental wins to restrict abortion on demand for any reason.

And I also think we’ll see much more of a return to the states, that states will be able to pass their own restrictions. And I think that will be a good thing. As many people have noticed, even Justice Ginsburg, Roe was bad law. So I think that’s what we’ll probably end up seeing.

Which means, then, that the real future of the pro-life movement is more local than ever because if these political laws — if the political opportunities are happening at a state level, then the cultural provisions that Christians and pro-lifer bring to bear to remove the cultural reasons for abortion, that’s got to be as local as ever.

So in every community we’re going to have to be able to say as you asked that women with unintended pregnancies have some help.

OK, so related to the Supreme Court pick, I’ve got a question about the state of our politics. Everyone’s predicting a heated battle.

Both political parties have a vested interest in, as you hear in politics, firing up the base.

I think we can expect social media to be uglier than usual.

Which means lots of straw-man arguments. Which means lots of demonizing people with whom you disagree.

Now, you’ve said more than a few times here your spiritual gift is sarcasm. But is there anything you can offer today — in the sort of calm before the storm (if you can call it that), before the confirmation hearings get underway — to help promote winsome engagement on issues we’re all passionate about?

STONESTREET: Uh, no. Oh, wait no, that’s my sarcasm talking. I mean, I hope I can. I don’t know.

Listen, it’s going to be heated and I think one thing that we have to all learn — well, two things that Christians are committed to. First of all that we’re not winsome because it works. We’re winsome because we’re called to be kind and joyful. I was really pleased this week to see the feature on Kristen Waggoner in the Washington Post. Just a profile of this woman who has moved from a law firm in Seattle into the center of the religious liberty battles in our country right now. Jack Phillips’ lawyer, Barronelle Stutzman’s lawyer, and it was clear that the author disagreed with ADF’s idea of religious liberty and disagreed with Kristen on a number of things, but the thing that came out in the middle of it was what a joyful person she is.

And anyone who knows Kristen knows that’s absolutely the case. She’s a joyful person. Winning or losing or whatever, she’s serious, she knows her stuff, but she’s what you might call winsome. Not because it’s a strategy, although it is, but because it’s what you’re supposed to be.

There are these truths in Proverbs that kind of sound like revolutionary ideas today. And one of them is a soft answer turns away wrath. Our ability to not escalate our emotions even when our opponents are is going to be the only way we can really obey Jesus in a cultural moment where our views have gone from being considered wrong or outdated to being considered wrong and evil. I think that’s kind of what we’re facing.

I think the other thing that we need to say is that Christians are called to be joyful and to be kind and to be — that doesn’t mean we can’t be clear and articulate, but not because it’s a strategy but because we’re called to be it. But I think the other thing we have to say is you can’t be winsome enough. I mean, look, if Barronelle Stutzman is a hater, if Jack Phillips is mean, I mean, you kind of look at this and you think, well, there’s not anything else you can do after you’re kind and you’re articulate, you know your stuff and you express joy and so on.

We’re going to have to do it. I say is there any hope? It’s hope that we’re following Jesus who’s risen from the dead, who’s the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, who’s placed us here. Those are the things we know. We know those things not from looking around us but from looking in the truths of Scripture and how God has revealed himself to us and his working in history through the pages of Scripture. And it’s from that vantage point that we’re going to have to engage the challenges of our moment.

If we look around at the challenges of our moment for some sort of eternal grounding, we’re going to end up compromising. Either on the truth side or the love side. And truth without love isn’t truth. Love without truth isn’t love. So we don’t really have an option here.

John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday, John, thanks so much, and we’ll talk again soon.

STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.


(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Activists rally at the Supreme Court as President Donald Trump prepares to choose a replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 28, 2018. 

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