MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Friday the 29th of May, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. For the past two weeks we’ve been conducting the 22nd World Journalism Institute course. As we do each year, we are working with some excellent young Christian journalists. This year, of course, we had to do things a little differently. But that didn’t stop us from editing, interviewing, writing, recording, and just digging deep into the principles of journalism with some wonderful students from across the country…
BASHAM: …across the world, as I understand it.
EICHER: True, yes, I knew that! Because the time-zone differences were playing havoc with one of those overseas students I had the privilege of working with.
Of course, one of the most important things we do at WORLD is report the news from a Biblical worldview. So for this Culture Friday, some of our WJI students were eager to participate, to ask questions.
BASHAM: They did. And so let me first introduce John Stonestreet, the president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. John, good morning to you.
JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning.
BASHAM: John, we had lots of questions and for the sake of time we had to choose just eight, and we’ll break them right in half: four this week and four for next week.
So let’s dive right in.
REITZ: Hi, my name is Glory Reitz. I’m a student at Crowder College in Missouri. My question is, people’s reactions to COVID-19 have been really divided between extreme isolation and protests against stay-at-home orders. Do you think the division runs along party lines, geographic areas, or something else?
STONESTREET: Thanks, Glory. It’s a good question. I’m not sure that I really know the answer to that. I think that when all of this is said and done, we’re going to actually find out that there was an awful lot of motivations—some noble, some less than noble—that drove people to do what they did.
I think probably the best case take on all that we have seen—including the predictions about the virus, how bad it was going to be, what it was going to be like, and then all the policy surrounding it—the best case scenario is that we were kind of all going blind. We didn’t have a whole lot of context for this. The last pandemic took place before the culture was like it is with high mobility, centralized workplaces, and all kinds of things.
So, I think the most charitable take is that we’ve all made things up and everyone got things wrong. I do think that we’re going to start seeing—I mean, there are some states in particular where the governors’ reactions have been so kind of over the line and has been a real either restriction on freedom or clearly revealed a disdain for religious conviction and religious gatherings or really seeing work as being nonessential. And you can certainly see that difference between those who see some work or work in general as nonessential to those who see work as central to kind of who we are as individuals and for our lives together.
So, yeah, I hope—maybe that’s a non-answer way of answering your question. I think we’re going to be really surprised when all of this is said and done from what we learn.
STITES: Hello, my name is Sarah Stites. I am calling in from Goumri, Armenia and my question John has to do with the tension that I see between women’s rights and transgender rights. I’m curious if you can provide any insight or thoughts as to why many feminists actually do support the transgender movement. Thank you.
STONESTREET: Sarah, I think that’s a great question and for a long time I’ve been kind of pointing out as much as possible this kind of growing battle between the L and the T in the acronym. I don’t know that so many feminists do support the transgender movement. I think you’ve got two things at work. Number one is the older generation of feminists, particularly those that were part of the lesbian movement. They don’t support the transgender movement. And they are actually deeply committed to this idea that men just don’t understand the female experience. And when you say that, then there leaves no room there for someone to pop in and say, well, I’m a biological male. Not only do I understand the female experience, I’m going to kind of appropriate it and assume it. So, I think you see a generational divide between those who really kind of fought long and hard in the feminist movement. As opposed to maybe some younger people that would call themselves feminists but really what that means is they learned how to be woke and that means they can’t say anything against the disenfranchised group of the moment, which is the T really in the acronym.
But I think we’re going to see this more and more. We’ve had certainly some higher profile feminists, lesbian feminists in particular that have run afoul of the transgender movement. And if Martina Navertalova’s not woke enough, then the rest of us don’t really have the chance to be woke enough. And I think that’s what we’re going to see more. And I think, too, that the transgender movement has just kind of oversold any sold any sort of oppression that it’s had. And I think that that’s also going to run afoul of those who really have suffered oppression. It’s going to be different. It’s going to be seen as different and there’s not going to be that sort of room in there for them as far as I understand.
JOHNSON: Hello, my name is Seth Johnson and I’m a senior at Bob Jones University studying journalism. John, my question is, how can Christians navigate having compassion for illegal immigrants will also seeking the health of their country. Christ teaches to love those in need, but there’s also a need for the rule of law to be upheld. Is there a healthy balance between the two that we can reach, and what are some guiding principles you suggest?
STONESTREET: Well, Seth, I think that’s an interesting question. I think if you can solve that question or answer that problem then you should run for Congress immediately or write a book and sell a lot of copies of it, because I think that’s what people are trying to figure out.
Although, I would say that at some level on so many issues—this being one of them—Christians in particular just have to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. There’s not an inherent conflict between holding up rule of law but also dealing with individuals as if they’re made in the image of God. If you allow immigration and immigrants to be handled purely by policy—in other words, policy is not just a guide, policy is the tool that you use to handle immigrants—well, it’s the problem you have with any policy, right? Which is policies are impersonal. It’s like trying to do surgery with a chainsaw.
During this quarantine COVID-19 crisis, a good friend of mine was not allowed to see his wife who was really deeply struggling in the hospital for three weeks, even though we are in a relatively low area of infection. Both he and his wife had tested negative for COVID and he had his own personal protection equipment that he could bring into the hospital. She was in the hospital for two and a half weeks and then passed away and he actually did not get to see her and his sons didn’t either.
So, what this shows is that there was a policy. The policy should have been bended to respect the dignity of people. And I think this goes both ways. You don’t respect the dignity of people if you have no laws. And the flip side, you can actually have policies that serve as guides, but you have to treat individual people as individuals.
And I think that’s what’s been lacking on both sides. A law that’s not enforced is a law that gets trampled on. That’s what we’ve had in the past. And then when you try to do blanket policies instead of dealing with individual situations, then you end up with some horrible, horrible issues such as the family separation thing that we’ve seen under the last two administrations.
NOWLIN: Hello, my name is Addalai Nowlin. I am an English writing major at the University of Northwestern, St. Paul in Minnesota. My question for John Stonestreet is about Ravi Zacharias. I grew up listening to his sermons on the radio, but I’m just now learning the influence he had on the international stage. He shared the gospel with Hamas leaders, foreign diplomats, and heads of state and dialogued with well-known atheists like Sam Harris. What lessons do you think Christians can learn from Ravi’s approach to evangelism?
STONESTREET: Well, yeah, I’m a big Ravi fan. I did one of our Breakpoint commentaries on Ravi and just—my story is Ravi’s motto was helping the thinker believe and the believer to think. And I was in that second category having grown up in faith but not really having embraced the thoughtful Christianity and had really an intellectual renewal somewhere in college and Ravi was part of that. Not that I knew him, but that I was one of the many that were listening to him.
At the same time, Ravi did have an opportunity to share with unbelievers. You mentioned a handful that were more even hostile non-believers. But then you have a guy like Ben Shapiro. And this is a fascinating conversation between Ravi and Ben Shapiro, whereas they would probably agree on a whole lot of things and Ben Shapiro would not be hostile to Christianity at all, but also not believe in Jesus Christ as someone who identifies as Jewish. Same thing with Dennis Prager. Just had some really interesting conversations.
I think that there’s probably two components to this that we can learn. And so much about Ravi reminds me of Chuck Colson, so much of his story, including his passing, reminds me of Chuck Colson. And I’ve spoken about this on a number of different interviews and podcasts and articles and so on. But one is that Ravi and Chuck both never got over the fact that they were sinners who were saved by the grace of God and the person of Jesus Christ. For Chuck it was in the midst of political scandal. For Ravi it was on, as he would call it, a bed of suicide. And when you hit that sort of low and you’re lifted up, you never forget that kind of humility.
Chuck was the smartest person in the room and yet he had this deep dose of humility at the hands of Jesus Christ. And I think Ravi is an awful lot like that. And so if you don’t have that sort of real sense of what you were saved from and what you’re saved to, it’s probably going to be hard to keep the sort of humility that we saw displayed and exhibited by Ravi.
And the next thing is I think exactly part of that, which is not losing the individual in the mass. When you speak to thousands and thousands of people like Ravi did, it’s very easy to forget that you’re speaking to 1,000 individuals, 1,000 image bearers, 1,000 people with souls made in God’s image and whom God loves. And you can see this even in the questioning, even when you had kind of hostile questions that were thrown at Ravi. His goal was not to win the argument or answer the question, his goal was to compel the questioner to Christ. And both of these things have to do with remembering. It’s amazing how much of the Old Testament is about remember. How much of the Bible, actually, is about just remember. Remember who you really are and what God has saved you from and to in Jesus Christ. And remember that every person that you meet is made in the image of God. I’m sure those are not the only two things we can learn from Ravi, but those are certainly two things that were front and center for me as I thought about his life and influence over the last couple weeks.
EICHER: Student questions are among the highlights of the year for me, and I know for you, too, John. Thanks for handling these four, and we’ll do four more next week. John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Thank you, John.
STONESTREET: Thank you.