Culture Friday: WJI student questions

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday, the 7th of June, 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. Well, we’re at the end of the week, the first week of our 2019 Spring Giving Drive, and it looks like we’re about 20 percent of the way there. Which seems like a good start, and it is a good start.

You know, I’m enjoying the Stanley Cup Finals for my beloved hockey team, the St. Louis Blues, and I have a feeling the series is going to go down to the wire.

I’m to the point, sometimes, I can’t even bear to watch.

And I have to say, I’m kind of the same way about watching our online tracker. It’s important that we raise $750,000 this month, because that’s the fiscal-year end. This is the biggest part of our operating budget, the giving we receive from listeners and readers to support the work we do every day.

REICHARD: I’ve loved hearing our colleagues this week laying out the rationale for why our reporting is worth supporting. I like that little slogan our development team came up with.

Puts the emphasis in the right place: sound journalism, grounded in God’s word, backed up by an army of faithful supporters. It really is reporting worth supporting.

EICHER: Mindy Belz stated a crucial fact about that very thing: the stories we tell are the result of on-the-scene journalism. It takes people. It takes travel budget. It takes a team of professionals to do this work.

We heard the same from Tim Lamer, then Paul Butler on Wednesday talking about the necessity of training and bringing on board more journalists.

And then he proceeded that very day to bring you a high-quality story he worked with World Journalism Institute students to produce. Those two young women had never done a radio story before, let alone a five-minute feature, and I thought it sounded great!

But that kind of thing just tells me, there is a bright, bright future for this kind of reporting.

REICHARD: There definitely is! Janie B. Cheaney told a really great story yesterday about the importance of connection, how we’re all more connected than we think, how we rely on one another to fulfill this big mission.

And then Marvin, just now, wow! Sometimes we take for granted the opportunity we have to bring crystal clarity to the life issues.

Shame on The New York Times! Embryonic pulsing, good grief! That’s propaganda, not journalism. We have the opportunity to get these important things right, and stand up for the vulnerable! It’s a privilege to be able to do it.

EICHER: Well, I hope you’ll visit and give what you can today. As I said at the beginning, I hope you’ll take the drama out of this. Maybe we’ll need the proverbial game seven to hit our goal, take it all the way down to the wire. But I’d just as soon end it right away, take care of the budget needs, and get into the next fiscal year on solid footing!

REICHARD: Right on!

EICHER: Alright, let’s get Culture Friday going.

You may remember, we had time last week for only half of the questions students at our 2019 World Journalism Institute wanted to ask.

So I thought, because they were such interesting ones, we could answer the rest of them this week.

And to do that, John Stonestreet is here. He’s president of Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

John, good morning.

STONESTREET: Good morning, Nick!

EICHER: Let’s get right to the students.

SCHVANEVELDT: My name is Haley Schvaneveldt and I’m a graduate of Anderson University in South Carolina. My question is a lot of celebrities in Hollywood and the music industry have reached the height of earthly riches and fame and they have found it to be empty, which we see played out in cases of drug addiction—like recently Demi Lovato—and suicide—like in the case of Robin Williams. Is there anyone trying to bring the gospel to these celebrities who have such a wide range of influence? And, if there is not, should there be? And what would that look like?

STONESTREET: I think that’s a great question, Haley, and my understanding is that there is a wide range of individuals who are trying to reach a wide range of people of influence.

I think right now you can see it especially in the sports world. You’re asking more about kind of Hollywood. That’s a little bit different, of course. I think you see it in professional athletes as well and we also have, I think, some business leaders of prominence of faith that are also wielding an awful lot of influence these days, which is great.

In Hollywood, though, there are groups that are dedicated to go and reach these individuals that are in Hollywood. One of the groups is called Master Media and they’ve been at this, really, a long time. And I also want to just remind you of what the scripture talks about we don’t know all of those who are working and haven’t bowed the knee to Baal, if you remember that passage out of the Old Testament. And be encouraged because God’s at work everywhere.

SKINKER: Hi, my name is Loren Skinker and I’m a recent graduate from Virginia Tech. I think religiously divided families are becoming a more common occurrence in the United States and I was just wondering how the church can respond to this growing problem.

STONESTREET: Yeah, Loren, I think you’re right. I think it is becoming a more common occurrence in the United States. I have seen, for example, up close and personal—not in my own life, but in many former students and so on—maybe not religiously divided families but worldview divided families. In other words, especially politically. I think we’ve seen that, too, between the generations. I think one of the things the church needs to do is talk about Christianity as if it’s the defining aspect of one’s life. When it becomes kind of my chosen means to self fulfillment or self esteem or self help and it becomes the way that I choose to live my life, but, hey, I don’t want to impose it on anyone else. 

And so I think that’s the first thing. We’ve got to go back to talking about what Christianity is and what Christianity is not.

I think also the church doesn’t do a great job preparing young people to marry. It just doesn’t. Our premarital counseling is based on a vision of marriage which is kind of like marriage is this thing that makes us happy and it’s not anything bigger than that in a Christian worldview in terms of —we don’t even connect it to procreation and God’s vision for human flourishing, much less anything else.

And I think also we need to do a lot more intergenerational stuff. In other words, connecting one generation to the next and I think that will bridge some of the other divides.

LE MAHIEU: Hi, John, I’m Leif Le Mahieu. I will be going into my junior year at Covenant College next year. I’m wondering how do you witness to a friend whose problem with Christianity is not intellectual but because he doesn’t see Christians actually changing their behaviors?

STONESTREET: Yeah, that’s one of the oldest critiques of Christianity that there is, isn’t there? That Christianity is great, Jesus is great, but Christians aren’t. I always remember something that C.S. Lewis said and he said it’s impossible to judge the validity of a religion based on the adherents.

And when we say we don’t see them changing their behaviors, I mean, I think that that’s just not true. I mean, you can actually go to statistics and see how people of faith are more generous and that they have a tendency to stay married longer and so on. And I know we hear kind of these doom and gloom statistics, but they’re typically a pretty narrow segment group.

But, of course, the best way to respond to that is you be a changed Christian in his life. I often have thought that, man, what a difference it would make that if every time someone said, “I hate those Christians, they’re all hypocrites. Well, except for that guy. That guy’s a good guy.” And if everyone had a “but that guy” in their life, it would certainly make a big difference.

FERRIS: Hello, my name is Rebekah Ferris and I am a rising senior at Bob Jones University. I have a question for you, John. I have a really smart friend. We’ll call him Peter. He believes the Bible is God’s word, but he struggles to understand how we can really know the cultural context of the Bible today. And because of that, how we can know the right way to interpret the Bible. How should I respond to him and maybe help show him his postmodern assumptions?

STONESTREET: Hey, Rebekah, that’s a good question. The thing is that people have worked on this. I would show him, first of all, the incredible mass of information and material that has been written to try to get at exactly what you’re trying to get at, which is the context behind the Bible. But, you know, one person that I would point him to—if he really wants to wrestle with someone who takes the cultural background of the scripture seriously but also its universal message—I mean, there’s a lot of places to turn. N.T. Wright’s book—well, he’s got a number of books on Paul, on Jesus, and it ranges from the highly scholarly to the translated for the individual. And I would point him there. This is one that sounds to me more like an excuse than a real reason for disbelief, simply because the mass of material is already produced.

DAWSON: My name is Annie Dawson and I’m a senior at Geneva College. John, my question is India and China have a population with more men than women. Many of these men are coming to America for education. How do you think this will affect marriage and family life in America?

STONESTREET: Annie, that’s a great question. I think it is going to affect marriage and family life in America just because of what I’ve read in articles. I mean, we know about sex tourism, which is a horrific way to victimize and objectify women because of men in these nations. But I think it is going to be marriage and family tourism where we see the access to marriage prospects is just not available in some of these communities. This is a dramatic problem. And, by the way, this is not just because of a lack of women in those countries, which is, by the way, absolutely the case.

But also because, well, Westerners—including Americans—they’re not hitting the fertility reproduction rate. So we’re not meeting the demand. It’s a self-selective out. It’s not because we lack women but because our birth rate is 1.7. Marriage rates are plummeting. Cohabitation rates are rising and that tends to lead to a lower birth rate as well. And so that’s not the values that you get from other parts of the world. And so I think we are going to see some of the influx of that tourism.

But you’re also going to see problems on the ground in those nations. And you already have. Men need women, basically. And I don’t mean that emotionally, I mean that in almost every aspect of life. Particularly culturally. Because men that aren’t married have a higher tendency to do stupid things. And so marriage is one of the great gifts that God has given the world to protect us from ourselves and as the marriage rate drops, it’s harder to hold the social fabric together. We’ll see that in America and we’ll see that around the world is my prediction.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday. Great questions from our students, I think John, thanks!

STONESTREET: Those were great questions, Nick. Thanks a lot!

(Photo/World Journalism Institute)

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