Culture Friday: Divided government

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday the 9th of November, 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. John, good morning.

JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning, Nick!

EICHER: We always say that politics is downstream of culture. But when we say that we say it to emphasize the importance of culture, not as much to diminish the importance of politics.

So let’s do talk about Tuesday, John, as an expression of what’s happening upstream in the culture.

I want to start by talking about our national politics, with the House in Democratic hands, and the Senate in sturdier Republican hands.

Do you think that this will ratchet up the cultural tension that we’ve been feeling the last couple of years, or do you think it’ll let a little air out of that balloon?

STONESTREET: First of all, I want to say that I think politics is most often downstream from culture, not always. And, of course, politics in a real sense is part of culture, too. So there is a mutually reinforcing sort of process there and there are plenty of times where politics is out ahead of culture. I often think of the civil rights legislation in the 60s as the culture, at least in the south, probably wasn’t ready for it, but the law made it necessary anyway. All that to say, your question’s a little bit different. I think that, though, the divide that we see or the cultural tension that you see is not a result of politics, it’s upstream of politics completely. I mean, there is a vast difference in worldview. And it’s not just two. There’s a multitude of worldviews in our culture, and there’s also a population that lacks kind of a cultural consensus or a national identity or even a coherent moral framework.

So, there’s just competing visions for what life in the world is all about. In a sense, it may be that having this sort of stalemate might create a level of stagnation and calm everything down and put the tension back in the cultural waters instead of it just being up on the screen. I hope it will, I hope that there will be a little bit of a stalemate there. But the things that are at stake right now are huge and I think right now you’ve got one side that’s largely driven by the agenda of the sexual revolution. You’ve got another side that I think is largely driven by, you know, kind of a more remixed conservative political vision and there’s elements of Christian conviction in there at times as well, but not nearly enough. So, is that a long-winded, sufficient way of saying, “Nick, I’m not sure?”

EICHER: [Laughs]

I think that’s fair enough.

Well, we reported on the initiatives that took place on Tuesday night earlier this week on the program, but I have a couple more questions about those for you.

First, I’m interested to know, John, what you think about the abortion-related referenda. First, in Oregon, interestingly, voters had before them a measure that would’ve barred public funding for abortion, and that failed. Alabama approved a constitutional amendment protecting the rights of unborn children and stating there is no constitutional protection for an abortion right. Clearly, this is waiting in the wings of a possible reversal of Roe versus Wade, if the Supreme Court once again allows states to decide on abortion. So that’s second, and Alabamians voted almost 60-to-40 in favor. Third, West Virginia. That was similar to Alabama, in that it says that nothing in West Virginia’s constitution secures or protects the abortion right and nothing in it requires the funding of abortion. That was 52-to-48. Those are significant. I wonder whether that is the beginning of a trend.

STONESTREET: I think it is the beginning of a trend and I think it’s the only way, really, we’re going to see at least a legal dent in this. We’re not going to see it from Congress. I’ve kind of all but given up any sort of congressional limits on Planned Parenthood funding. It’s really heartbreaking to see the amount of campaign promises that are completely dropped and now that they have lost — the GOP has lost the House it’s kind of off the table. That said, there’s a very real chance there’s going to be some sort of Supreme Court decision about Roe v. Wade, about it’s scope and about it’s limits and that’s going to push it back to the states. And it’s been at the state level where there’s been the most successful legal curbing of abortion and it goes back to creative ways of keeping your eye on abortion clinics where before they went unregulated there’s been access issues and notification laws and things like that. A lot of them just kind of common sense ways to try to regulate an industry that, A, shouldn’t be an industry and, B, is really violent. And so you kind of put those things in place and the evil of abortion kind of reveals itself.

This is certainly — Alabama’s language is certainly the most wide-reaching language that we’ve seen in terms of the human rights of the unborn, but you’ve got some other things in the law that’s going to create some contexts where this actually might live on. I mean, this is going to be constitutionally challenged, it’s going to be put into the courts, but you have this story out of New York just last week where a woman got high, pregnant, and drove and ended up — her child died because of it and if the child was born then it would have been homicide. It was 6 days before the birth — or, the child was born 6 days after the accident and then died and so then the New York court said it’s not a homicide at all. It’s just a confusing — and this sort of inconsistency is in the law all over the place. So, there’s lots of ground and it’s going to be accomplished on the state level. That’s what we’re going to see. Not in the Congress.  

EICHER: Right, and let’s stay at the state level for this last one, John: Marijuana initiatives. North Dakota declined to legalize, but Michigan joined the nine other states, plus the District of Columbia, that have approved recreational marijuana use. So that makes 10 states, one in five.

Two other surprises on that front: Missouri—my home state—approved medical marijuana, and a bigger surprise, I think, Utah also approved medical marijuana. And that’s important, because every state that now has recreational use started with medical use. So maybe we could say sort of a gateway policy, to coin a term.

John, you’re a Coloradan, you’ve seen the future on recreational marijuana: What are these states in for?

STONESTREET: I think what the states are in for—and, by the way, for the record, I was much more interested having seen the devastation of marijuana in Colorado, the Florida Amendment 4 having to do with returning voting rights to people convicted of a felony. That is a fascinating case study, particularly given the history we have with Chuck Colson. I just wanted to throw that in there. But part of that is I’m so weary of the devastation of marijuana to school children. I’m so weary of a government that wants to incentivize laziness, loneliness, and all the other things: isolation and poor decision making in the name of money. Anytime a state incentivizes poor behavior by throwing a carrot of money out there, you know it’s going to be a bad idea, whether we’re talking about the lottery or we’re talking about any number of things. I do think the medical marijuana issue’s a little bit harder to wrestle with, specifically if it’s regulated well and if the right part of the medicine is approved. But a lot of times, you’re right, this is just a gateway. We start with medical and we get to recreational. At least in the state of Colorado, traffic accidents are way up, the number of people giving birth, for example, that have marijuana in their system. The number of people that get on the road smoked marijuana in the last, just 24-48 hours, these are scary, scary numbers and you can’t keep them out of the schools and you can’t keep them out of the state. So, that’s what they’re looking at. These states should have done what Arizona did in 2016 which is have the Colorado police department come to your state and tell you what you’re in for and I think the results would have been different.

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.

(Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily via AP) People vote during the midterms Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Avon, Colo. 

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One comment on “Culture Friday: Divided government

  1. John Melillo says:

    So, Mr. Stonestreet believes that the evidence is in on the Colorado experiment. Here in MA, we are about to embark on this, and all I hear is the (1) help for those needing pain relief, (2) the economic boom, and how I am so out of touch. I would sure love some hard resources. I saw a hint of higher traffic violations in his discussion – but I am told by a chemist friend that there is no real test for impairment by THC (as for alcohol), so how is the data taken. And the recent World series (not the Red Sox one) was interesting, but seemed mostly about who is involved rather than facts about potential negative impacts to our society. Does Mr. Stonestreet have any resources more than “homelessness is up” (of course it is, but from what I read, it is more due to poorly prepared individuals coming to CO to join in the boom, and having no housing). Any good resources suggested?

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