Culture Friday: Christian disaster relief

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday the 21st of September, 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. He’s president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Good morning to you.


EICHER: It won’t be long before the news on Hurricane Florence fades completely from view. But for those affected, it’s going to be a very long and a very slow recovery. And what we know to be true is that alongside those making that recovery will be an army of compassionate Christian workers. We’ve already heard about it.

And I do think it’s important to emphasize the stories of those who are suffering. But equally important, I believe, is emphasizing the stories of those who are helping. Because the very same motivations—specifically, Biblical faith—that cultural elites are working to belittle, that’s precisely what motivates assistance in people’s greatest time of need. Talk about what you’ve seen and heard, John, in the aftermath of this storm.

STONESTREET: Well, what you see is what you see in all of these storms. And there was great media coverage of it, actually, out of Houston and the recovery of Hurricane Harvey. In particular I’m thinking of a USA Today article in which the headline said, if you have received any assistance from FEMA, it likely came through the hands of somebody faith-based, a Christian, a Methodist, a Lutheran, a Southern Baptist. It’s amazing. That’s what Christians do. That’s what they’ve always done. It’s just kind of part of the gig and that was a question that I asked last year in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and that headline is do you really want Christians to keep their faith to themselves? That’s what we hear when culturally unpopular beliefs—like our belief about sex and marriage and gender and those things which tend to be more controversial—but, you know, if Christians kept their faith to themselves, we wouldn’t have seen nearly the progress we’ve seen in dealing with global poverty, for example, or the AIDS crisis or the Ebola issue several years ago and that famous story with Kent Brantly and so on. I mean, the story just goes on and on and on. And it doesn’t just go through our lifetime, it goes back to the beginning of the church, from Christians’ first sticking around during the plague and not running away and the long-term impact that had, that Rodney Stark has has so, I think, ably described in several of his books about the history of Christianity and its impact on society.

Last weekend on Breakpoint This Week, which is a weekly podcast that I do with Ed Stetzer, Ed likes to quote and he quoted again a line from Mister Rogers when Mister Rogers was asked, “How do you help kids understand great tragedy?” And he said, “I tell them to look for the helpers.” I heard that quote not only from Ed recently, but also from the author of a new book called Dope Sick. It is another book trying to tell the story of this devastating opioid crisis that we’re facing. But this author actually said the same thing, that she wanted to tell this story not just from the perspective of the addicts, but from the perspective of those who are trying to help. And when a storm like this pops up, when there’s a tragedy, when there’s a disaster, when there’s a plague, when there’s a famine, if you look for the helpers, by and large you’re going to find an awful lot of Christians.

EICHER: Well, John, you know this: Planned Parenthood has a new president at the helm, Leana Wen. She is 35 years old, born in China, emigrated with her family as a child, educated in America. And for the first time in 50 years, Planned Parenthood has a doctor in charge. She succeeds the political activist Cecile Richards. So a big difference in tone, but so far it seems business as usual.

Interesting exchange last week on the ABC television show, The View. Dr. Wen appeared and she came under some tough questioning from one of the panelists, Sunny Hostin. And I’d like to play a bit of it.

HOSTIN: Dr. Wen, I know that Planned Parenthood provides services for women of color, for low-income women, and I think that’s very noble. But I also know that Planned Parenthood provides more abortions, ah, the most abortions, than any other healthcare provider in the United States. And, in fact, I think, that in 2016, Planned Parenthood provided 328,348 abortions and in terms of emergency contraception kits, 730,329. That’s more than well-woman exams, pap tests, HPV vaccinations. Planned Parenthood doesn’t perform mammograms. But why isn’t Planned Parenthood more transparent about its true position?

WEN: Well, I disagree with this. Planned Parenthood, just like every major medical organization that I’ve ever worked for follows the law. And is transparent and makes clear what are the procedures that we perform and what are the services that we perform. Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of reproductive health care in this country. That includes abortions, but over 90 percent of the services performed are preventive care services. I mean, I’m—

HOSTIN: But see, you’re separating it. It provides more abortions—

BEHAR: But no tax dollars—

GOLDBERG: But they are legal—I’m sorry they are legal. OK, I just want to point that out—

HOSTIN: But why not be transparent about that? It seems to me that Planned Parenthood is trying to have it both ways.

BEHAR: I don’t get what you’re saying.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, me either.

EICHER: Now, the president of Planned Parenthood by definition is going to be a major cultural figure. What’s your sense, John, of Dr. Leana Wen?

STONESTREET: Well, first of all, let’s just say it’s surprising that The View actually went after a progressive on a political position, so good for them. Although, of course, it wasn’t everybody and that’s a number that Planned Parenthood needs to be continually hammered about as an organization, as they continue to spin it as if abortion really only provides three percent of their services when the way they divide up their services is what offers that number and also it has nothing — there’s no correlation there from the amount of income they receive either from abortion services as part of their overall budget or what they get from the government.

All that to say, this move to a doctor really indicates the sort of fire that Cecile Richards had come under during her tenure. I mean, she clearly grew it, Planned Parenthood, she clearly, more closely was able to align Planned Parenthood with the Democratic party—a party that went from using the language of Bill Clinton of abortion needing to be “safe, legal, and rare” to basically having an annual celebration at each of their Democratic National Conventions, particularly in an election year, when they would celebrate abortion and cheer for it even to the point liberal commentators would say, hey, you’re going a little too far. This probably isn’t something to party about. And so that was all Cecile Richards. She was able to line the Democratic politicians up. She was a political figure and that’s what she was known for.

But this move to having a physician as president, in fact, Dr. Wen said this in her introduction to the world on YouTube that she said Planned Parenthood having a doctor as president communicates that — what did she say — we’re a mainstream medical organization. And that’s really the heat that they’ve been under is that what they’re doing is making a lot of money, they’re not providing a broad range of services, certainly not as broad as they claim, they’re not a legitimate medical organization, they don’t deserve that federal funding, they’re overstating their importance to impoverished women, and to inner city communities and so on. And that’s clearly, I think what Planned Parenthood had in mind is to move away from the political and establish somebody with a story like Dr. Wen which is really an amazing story of personal triumph and everything. But at the same time, I think it’s just indicative of how much heat they’ve been under to prove that they are a legitimate organization, that they do legitimate medicine and don’t just basically peddle in abortions with other medical things that they do on the side. Now, of course, the numbers speak to the fact that what they do is they make almost all of their money from abortion and they offer a few other services on the side and then they claim to offer a whole lot more services, which they don’t actually provide, especially in many of their centers.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday, John, thanks so much. We’ll talk to you next time.

STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.

(AP Photo/Steven Senne) In this Aug. 14, 2012 file photo, Dr. Leana Wen stands in the emergency department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, during her medical residency. 

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