Culture Friday – Rush Limbaugh’s legacy

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday, February 19th, 2021.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Culture Friday and so let’s welcome John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast.

Morning, John.


BROWN: Good morning, John.

EICHER: Before we get started, I want to return to our conversation last week. We discussed the actress Gina Carano, the former Mandalorian actress whom Disney fired and rationalized her firing on her social-media activity. 

And that short discussion brought a lot of feedback—all very constructive—but also all critical. 

I shared a representative sampling of that feedback with John and I’ll summarize that even further here and then give John a chance to clarify.

First, I think we should emphasize that way too frequently, our public discourse includes overwrought comparisons of some contemporary problem to the Holocaust or to the Nazi regime. That happens too often and it’s imprudent as we pointed out.

But one listener—a highly respected pastor, a man who is very careful with words—thought that we were wrong to say that the post that ostensibly got Gina Carano fired was “untrue.” 

The pastor said, to the contrary, ample history supports the point—and I’m quoting here—“that while it was Nazi Party members that organized and pushed the Holocaust, it was at many times and in many ways the citizenry of Germany that carried it out.” Skipping down and continuing to quote, “Certainly history provides us with the lesson that while a few people play a formidable role in great wickedness, it is the acquiescence and then participation of ‘ordinary folk’ that see evil to its ultimate conclusion. The Holocaust is perhaps the clearest example (the Soviet purges are another).”

Well, John, I told you! We have a very thoughtful family of listeners.

STONESTREET: Yeah, I appreciate that feedback. I actually caught myself last week in three or four different places moving so fast through comments I made, I wasn’t very clear. And this pastor is exactly right. I think as Hannah Errant, one of the great historians of this whole time, called it, “The thing about evil is its banality.” It just becomes so ordinary and normal and that certainly was the true part of what Gina Carrano was pointing out. And when I used the word “untrue,” I didn’t clarify at all that I was talking about a specific part of it, which is what everybody actually reacted to, which seemed to imply that — and it was having to do with the way she phrased it that the Nazi soldiers didn’t do this, the ordinary people did. And, of course, the story is both did it. Both those who were in an official capacity and those who were trying to advance a cultural narrative that had taken hold so deeply in the German context.

You know, in fact, one of the things I tried to say and probably didn’t say, again, as clearly as I should have last week is that I think the outrage to Gina Carrano’s comment had a lot to do with this idea of a progressive mindset, that they’re the evil ones over there. We’re not over here. And I think when we see the historical narrative and we realize that ordinary people are capable, particularly in what Douglas Murray has called “the madness of crowds”, you can actually be carried along in this slow flowing molasses of culture in a direction of grave and dire evil in which entire members of the population, the attempt is either to marginalize or even to eliminate them. So, yeah, I appreciated that feedback and I think the correction there was well-made.

EICHER: We call this weekly conversation “Culture Friday,” and this week, a major cultural figure passed away, Rush Limbaugh. Now, he certainly said some things we’d never say here on this program. He could be very controversial—in a three-hour daily program that was pretty much all him—for more than 30 years, he had some doozies.

But he could also be, as he frequently described himself, a “harmless, lovable little fuzz-ball.” Our colleague Cal Thomas, who knew Rush Limbaugh, wrote a very moving tribute.

And, I have to say, I admired his courage in facing the cancer diagnosis. But here perhaps is the source of the courage. Have a listen to this, one of Limbaugh’s last appearances on his radio program.

LIMBAUGH: I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is of immense value: strength, confidence. And that’s why I’m able to remain fully committed to the idea that what’s supposed to happen, will happen when it’s meant to.

Rush Limbaugh died about one year after receiving the news that he had cancer. He lived to be 70 years old.

STONESTREET: We’re in an era where there’s a lot of conversation about who is the GOAT, right? The Greatest of All Time. And Rush Limbaugh stands in a category all by himself in terms of professional excellence and how he did what he did. Now, I’m with you. I didn’t always agree with what he said, and certainly didn’t agree with how he said it. And yet at the same time when it just comes to doing the job that he did — in fact, I heard Hugh Hewitt say this years ago that he listened to Rush every week because — when he got started in the broadcasting business — and he said it wasn’t because I always agreed with him, although I’m sure that a lot of their political positions aligned, he said it’s just because he’s the best. There’s nobody else in that category. And there’s got to be a respect for that level of professional excellence when you think about the number of people on the right and the number of people on the left who jumped into this game that he started. And not only started, but basically dominated from the very beginning to the very end. He is the GOAT. 

I also certainly appreciated watching this last year and you saw elements of his faith rise to the surface that I don’t think you saw very often during his career. And I think that was important. And it also has something to do here with this line that Chuck Colson used to repeat over and over and over that politics is downstream from culture. When you look at the towering figures of the GOP and conservative politics of our lifetime, Nick, I mean, Rush would be on the Mount Rushmore, pun intended, of that list, right? And he never held elected office. What he was doing was cultural. It was upstream, so to speak, from the political fray, and yet he shaped it in really profound ways. And there will be a lot of history written about his influence on the GOP for better, for worse. But he did and he did it on a cultural level, which is something I think we can all learn about this as well.

BROWN: When I think about Christian authors and you mentioned the GOAT. I would say Max Lucado would be a strong contender. And I want to talk about Max Lucado right now. John, on Feb 6. you tweeted, “If Max Lucado is cancel-worthy, no one else on the planet can possibly be “nice” or “winsome” enough.” 

You were talking about the uproar over Max Lucado’s invite to preach in a cathedral worship service. Lots of outrage over him comparing same sex marriage to bestiality, incest and legalized polygamy in a 2004 sermon. Lucado also said the lifestyle could be changed by pastoral care.

Then, about a week later on February 11, Lucado issued an apology for his comments on homosexuality saying, “It grieves me that my words have been used to hurt the LGBTQ community.” Although he says he still believes what the Bible says about marriage, he also added he regrets the words he used in that 2004 sermon. 

What words exactly? We may never know because that sermon and article have been deleted by the owner.  

Is this another Christian leader acquiescing to the LGBTQ agenda. What do you make of that?

STONESTREET: Well, because we don’t know what words he’s apologizing for—and I don’t even know that I know the content to know specifically if he’s acquiescing. I’d be shocked. The rumor of the evangelical collapse to the new progressive sexual orthodoxy is far overblown. You have really high profile sorts of “evolutions” but almost to a person, and I don’t know any exception, everyone that’s acquiesced to the LGBTQ agenda has already acquiesced to liberal theology when it comes to the inerrancy of scripture, when it comes to the authority and reliability, when it comes to sin and salvation, and that’s just not something that Lucado has acquiesced on all those other things. So I would be shocked if that was the case. When I said if Lucado is cancel-worthy, no one else on the planet can possibly — I was on another radio program this past week and I just said, “Look, none of us is woke enough for this.” The attempt to chase down the approval of culture in our tone, we should chase down the approval of God in our tone, the integrity of the gospel in our tone, but not the approval of the culture because you can’t get there. And Lucado is as winsome and nice and articulate and just brilliant. I have benefited greatly from his writings. I’ll just name one book in particular, God Came Near, a remarkable reflection on the incarnation. I have tons of respect for him. But that’s the thing: to hold this position no matter how nicely you do it is to risk or make it inevitable that you’re going to be canceled.

But I will say that putting same-sex marriage or homosexual sexual activity in the list with bestiality, incest, and polygamy is not something that Lucado did first. It’s something that the Old Testament did first. And it’s something that Romans did second. By the way, before any of us kind of hold our head high like those aren’t our sins, in that same list in Romans is disobedience to parents and gossip. So, in other words, the answer here is not to take that sin out of this list. It’s to put more sins in the list. It’s not to tone down the offense that people feel of saying same-sex sexual activity is always an affront to God.

Now, am I going to put it in the same degree? The Bible doesn’t put all sins at the same level of violation against God. There’s seven sins that God really hates, as Proverbs says. Paul says that there are not only sins against God but sins against your body. By the way, all those are sexual sins. But the idea is not to soften any sin. It’s to make sure we’re consistent across the board on all of them.

By the way, to not do that is to rob people of hearing the gospel. When we downplay a sin, then we downplay the grace and forgiveness that’s available from Christ Jesus as well. So, it’s not only a theological mistake to take these out of the same category, it’s a strategic and tactical mistake. And so we’re going to be better in keeping everything in the same line that the Bible does.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast.

BROWN: Thank you, John.

STONESTREET: Thank you both.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) President George Bush talks with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh at WABC studios in New York City, Sept. 1992. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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