Culture Friday: Woke capitalism

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Next up, John Stonestreet joins us for Culture Friday. He’s president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Good morning, John!


REICHARD: Well, I’ll start with something you wrote recently about threats to religious liberty coming out of corporations. What sorts of threats are we talking about?

STONESTREET: Well, I think we often think about the government pressures through policies, through civil rights commissions in Denver, Colorado and places like that being threats to religious liberty. One of the things that we’re seeing, though, increasingly is what we might call “woke capitalism” and this new push for corporations to “be on the right side of history” on some of these issues and to elevate those causes to a point where it threatens folks’ livelihood. The LGBT movement had gained great traction in education and the arts for a long time, but in 2014 when the business community was mobilized against a state-level RFRA in Indiana. That leveled a whole new degree of pressure on then-Governor Mike Pence. And we’ve seen the same thing happen in Georgia, we’ve seen the same thing happen in North Carolina. 

The other thing, too, that we’re seeing that’s worth mentioning is the banking and the financial lever side of things. ADF has kind of been tracking this new push, especially on donor advised funds, which are tax-beneficial donations that are given through a middle-man, so to speak, that enable that tax donation in this year but you can actually then wait and designate the money in the future. Well, donor advised funds have rules and one of the things that happens is when you kind of give that money, it actually belongs to the institution that’s hosting the donor advised fund. Well, there’s a new push with a group called Hate Isn’t Charity, I think it’s called. Which is actually pushing donor advised funds from the big banks like Fidelity or Schwaab or something like that, to not give any of their funds or allow any of their funds to be given to anyone who shows up on SPLC’s hate list or some other sort of hammer list. And the SPLC hate group list, obviously, involves groups not only historically that are racist and things like that, which is what the group was initially founded to do. But specifically, groups that have a traditional view of marriage. And so these are new things that a lot of people don’t realize that where they’re giving their money actually could be limited because of using one of these products from one of these big banks that’s being pressured in this new kind of form of woke capitalism.

REICHARD: So hemming in Christians with financial incentives and social pressures outside the job. 

John, I’ve heard you say we each need a “theology of getting fired.”  Now, that’s not an abstraction to me. When I was a stay at home mom, my husband was our family’s sole support. His employer was quite vocal in support of the LGBT agenda, so I actually used my maiden name sometimes to avoid getting him associated with my activism at the time. It was quite scary to feel his livelihood was threatened by my opinions in a free society. How would I have thought through that “theology of getting fired” back then?

STONESTREET: Yeah, this is a phrase that we’re using just because, look, I think we should defend our religious freedoms whenever we can—including the right to take our beliefs not only into our houses of worship and our houses of residence, but into actually our public lives. And that includes how we structure our business, our rights as employees, certainly educators and so on. But that’s not the norm when it comes to the history of Christians on the planet. We’ve kind of been blessed on that front to not have to choose, oftentimes, between our livelihood and our deeply held convictions. But I think there’s quickly coming a time when we’re going to have to choose between our convictions and our careers. Some people have already had to choose, make that choice. I would say folks like Kelvin Cochran and Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman. These people have wrestled through this theology of getting fired. Preparing now is a really important way to think about our faith. It’s really different, by the way, than any sort of prosperity gospel or your best life now sort of thinking that permeates a lot of evangelicalism.

REICHARD: So it’s a matter of being bold, no matter the consequences?

STONESTREET: Yeah, at some level. I don’t think we need to unnecessarily pick a fight wherever we can find it. But we do need to stand when the stakes are there are. And that’s the thing that I’m not sure we’re discipling the body of Christ to be able to do.

BASHAM: Speaking of being bold and the theology of getting fired, I want to segue over to something else in the culture: Dave Chappelle. It’s very clear from everything in his new Netflix special from the title—Sticks and Stones—to the jokes about the LGBT movement and the position of power they now hold in his industry—that the comedian has gone looking for a fight. And he’s certainly gotten it. 

Now there’s very little of it we could recommend to our listeners and I certainly want to be clear that we’re not doing that. I watched the show and to call it crude would be an understatement. 

What interests me is the fact that a celebrity at Chappelle’s level chose to unequivocally and unapologetically take on the anti-free-speech trend a lot of people have taken to calling “cancel culture” and how the LGBT movement in particular is driving it. So, John, the reaction to Chappelle?

STONESTREET: Yeah, it’s been fascinating to watch and it’s fascinating, too, how quickly when a celebrity does something, all sides want to claim him as their own before they universally reject him. I think that’s what has happened to Chappelle. I think folks on the left wanted to claim him but, oh, wait, he violated that rule. But, clearly, he’s not just crossing some lines in this, he’s jumping over them and pointing it out as he’s in the air. 

I do think some of the reaction, though, is pointing to the fact that once the T and the Q jumped onto the acronym, and, you know, the reaction that he’s eliciting is not just what he’s saying about the LGBTQ movement, although it’s a big part of it. But people forget that the T and the Q are pretty recent adds to this acronym and the first iteration of this movement was stay out of my bedroom. That was the L, the G, and the B. The T and the Q are drag queen story hours and here let’s give your kids hormone therapy. It’s a lot more in your face and I don’t think everyone’s quite ready for that. It’s not a unified acronym anymore. It just isn’t. And particularly between the L and the T, but we’ve even seen other breaks in the acronym. And so, yeah, I think it’s an oversold, one-size movement where everything’s kind of been put into one basket and that’s just not where a lot of people are. 

BASHAM: It seems like the enormous reaction from regular viewers—a 99 percent positive rating from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes despite almost universal criticism from mainstream critics suggests the public has been hungry for someone to take a stand like this. Could this be an emperor has no clothes moment for the entertainment industry?

STONESTREET: Yeah, I think we’ve seen in other parts of culture, I mean, it’s interesting that academic heroes emerge like Jordan Peterson. And, you know, he’s not the most charismatic guy, is he? I mean, he’s just kind of sitting up there shooting straight thoughts right between your eyes. And so I think that’s what Peterson brings is this refreshing straightness in a world of so much kind of crazy. And maybe that’s why whenever a celebrity—I mean, we’ve heard Bill Maher do it. We’ve heard other people do it. They’re not ideologically with us at all, but just saying, look, this has gone too far. And that seems to be at least part of what the story’s about.

REICHARD: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Thanks, John!

STONESTREET: You’re welcome.


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