Culture Friday: Walking and chewing gum

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday the 18th of January, 2019. 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 John Stonestreet joins me now. John is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Good morning.

JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning, Nick!

EICHER: John, first item today involves a controversial member of Congress, Steve King. He’s a long-time congressman from northwest Iowa, served there since 2003. He’s been very outspoken on immigration, very provocative, and increasingly so. Very recently he came out in favor of a fringe protest candidate running to become mayor of Toronto. In a tweet, he said, the candidate is “pro Rule of Law, pro Make Canada Safe Again, pro balanced budget, &…BEST of all, Pro Western Civilization and a fighter for our values.” Well, turns out she’s a white nationalist.

When the whole thing blew up in the media, King said, well, he didn’t know she was a white nationalist.

Then last week he gave an interview to the New York Times, in which he said, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?”

He didn’t deny that he said it, but he did apologize, and said he’s not racist and he’s not a holocaust denier.

Still, the resulting furor over the comments led to his being stripped of his congressional committee assignments, and a resolution of disapproval by the entire House, a resolution even he voted for. And so he’s now got a very energized Republican challenger awaiting him next election in 2020.

So, what do you think, John, good for the Republicans policing their own here?

Do you think that’s the end of it? Are there some lessons here for Christians engaged in public-square debates?

John, what do you think?

STONESTREET: You know, Nick, there was also a story this week in which the vice president’s wife, it was announced that she was going back to teach at the school that she’s taught at before in northern Virginia. It’s actually a school that I used to play basketball against, by the way. I used to live there. But, anyway, she’s teaching art and, of course, the headlines of all the papers were not that she was teaching at a Christian school, but that she was teaching at a school that bans gays and transgender teachers and students. And, you know, you get that sort of coverage and it’s so frustrating. And it’s so frustrating for so many people that there becomes this us versus them kind of mentality, so, you know, when a Gillette ad encouraging men not to be jerks or when Representative King says these ridiculous indefensible things, too many conservative folks want to find a way to defend them and to attack anything on the other side or whatever.

To me, there was just all these examples this week as if we couldn’t wade through each one with clarity. And that’s what we’re going to have to do because we can at the same time say that the New York Times and CNN completely miss the ball when it comes to the Karen Pence story and say that white nationalist and white supremacist are offensive language and always have been because of the way that God created us in the Garden.

When you begin with an understanding of identity of being an image bearer of God, then anything that sets some people over and above others is the wrong thing. And to equate Western civilization with those other two things was a dreadful thing as well, because it missed the greatest contribution that Western civilization had, which was this understanding of what it means to be human. One that ended up working through it in such a way that it ended things like slavery and so on.

Good for the Republicans for policing their own. This isn’t, obviously, the first thing that Representative King has said that’s been controversial. Some have been overblown, but this one wasn’t. And I’m glad that they did that.

I think, probably, that’ll be it for him in 2020. And I think that the lesson for Christians is essentially we’ve got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We can say that this is wrong on our side while saying that’s wrong on their side. We can say that this is right on our side while saying this is right on their side. We actually can do that, whoever us versus them are. And it also reveals what I call the “Drunk Uncle” problem in conservatism, Christian conservatism in particular. Which is if anyone to the left of us we’re so quick to call evil, anyone to the right of us we’re quick to call mistaken or an extremist or he’s just going overboard or maybe he went a little too far and, after all, he’s one of the family. And it’s like the drunk uncle that shows up at Thanksgiving and what do you do? Do you say something? Well, he’s part of the family. Sorry, when the drunk uncle starts spouting racist jokes or, you know, dancing naked on the table, you actually gotta do something. You gotta say something. This crossed a line. And this was an example, I think, for the Republicans and I’m glad they decided to act.

EICHER: John, at noon today, noon eastern, it’s the 46th annual March for Life in Washington.

I saw you put together at the Colson Center a Breakpoint symposium on the state of the pro-life movement in 2019.

You have said in previous years how encouraged you are that the younger generation is carrying on the fight for human rights for unborn children. But, you know, 46th annual March for Life. That means legalized abortion has been going on for almost half a century now with, really, no end in sight.

What are your thoughts on this anniversary of Roe versus Wade?

STONESTREET: Well, it is stunning to think that it’s been 46 years, but, you know, it’s interesting. I think there’s things you can point to that are significant. First of all, Planned Parenthood is on the run. They are very vulnerable right now. Their funding has never been more vulnerable. And shame on the GOP Congress for actually not defunding them this past year. It could have happened and they chose not to. They campaigned on that they would and then they didn’t. But we also have a different Supreme Court. Now, as I’ve said a couple times even if Roe v. Wade gets overturned in some sense, all that does it kick it back to the states. People forget that several states before Roe v. Wade had abortion legalized. Then it goes back to the states, so that means that it continues and that means what needs to happen is not a federal March for Life in D.C.—although maybe that would be good, too—but we’re going to have to have 50 state capital March for Lifes on this day. And I know we already have it in many states, but the work has to go back to the states.

To me, that reveals a lot of things. First of all, you have a pro-abortion side that I think is more vulnerable and mainly because they’ve been forced to move from saying, “Oh, it’s a necessary evil,” to putting all their chips in the basket. It’s amazing. The new Planned Parenthood CEO actually has moved away from that talking point from Cecile Richards that abortion’s only 3 percent of what they do. And she said, “Look, I don’t want to hide what we do. We’re proud of this and our job is to expand access and so on.” And then you’ve got the revelations that have happened about the lack of regulations of abortion clinics. So there’s a good bit of vulnerability there.

On the same side, what this means is this is going to have to permeate pro-lifers in their everyday life. In other words, it can’t just be something that we say I’m pro-life. It can’t just be something we give money to. We’re all going to have to get in this game, whether it’s articulating our views to our elected representatives, whether it’s being willing to care for unborn children and the mothers of unborn children. And also just the ability just to make pro-life arguments. The cocktail party pressure gets us. We don’t want to say it. And the fact of the matter is you’ve got this happening at the same time as the MeToo movement and some of the pro-woman stuff—some of which is good and some of which, though, has been completely hijacked by an abortion agenda. The Women’s March might as well be called an Abortion March. And this year, Nick, Friday’s the March for Life and Saturday’s the Women’s March, which will not allow a pro-life feminist to be in their march. So, we’re just at a really interesting time and the fight continues.

And I’ll say this: we stand up for the defense of innocent human life not because we can somehow win. We do it because innocent human life is valuable and to not do it is a dereliction of duty.

EICHER: As we close up, it seems appropriate to play a bit of a pro-life song by Seals & Crofts.

John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday. More importantly, March for Life Friday.

John, thanks so much.

STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) In this June 8, 2018, file photo, U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, listens during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

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