Culture Friday – The Equality Act tsunami

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday, March 5th, 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.

The New York Times reported this week that the adoption agency Bethany Christian Services would begin placing children in homes of same-sex couples. Bethany is one of the biggest Christian adoption agencies in the country.

How big is this change? Rachel Aldrich—reporting for WORLD—says the decision applies nationwide. 

Prior to it, Bethany had served same-sex couples, but only in jurisdictions that required it in their contracts—Michigan, for example. 

When the city of Philadelphia made it a requirement back in 2018, Catholic Social Services fought the city. The group sued for the legal right to continue placing children according to its Biblical values, but Bethany declined to get involved. That case is now pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.

BROWN: It’s Culture Friday and so let’s welcome John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast.

EICHER: John, good morning.

JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning, Nick. Good morning, Myrna.

BROWN: Morning!

EICHER: So, what do you think? Is this Bethany saying this what’s best for children or are they just trying to stay out of trouble?

STONESTREET: No, I think it’s a preemptive sort of thing. I think we can kind of give the best intention behind this, but I think it’s a terrible decision. 

There’s not a live threat here. Now, I think it’s a live threat in the years to come, but why give up? I mean, why give up the 50-yard line before you have to? Bethany Services gave up the touchdown before they had to. And that’s what just is so hard to understand.

EICHER: Let me dig into this one other way. Our colleagues are working on a story even as we speak, but trying to see it Bethany’s way for a minute: Why is it not a legitimate thing to do to say, look, in the future Bethany Christian Services is not really going to be the “go-to” for gay couples looking to adopt. And to the extent that a few do, well, that’s how it goes. 

Maybe they’re saying we don’t want to make waves. We don’t want to give up our ministry to these vast numbers of children and husband-and-wife households over this issue. Is that not an honorable way to go?

STONESTREET: It’s not, if one time you have to say that same-sex parenting is okay. That’s the fundamental problem with this decision from Bethany Christian Services. It grants something that is not true. And we can’t just compromise to those categories. 

We don’t have to be mean about it. We don’t have to be rude about it. We don’t have to be snarky or even sarcastic about it. We can just be straightforward about it. But to cave in on these categories, even in the name of doing something good, is a devil’s bargain. You can’t win this one. 

The other problem with this is that Bethany’s decision— whenever a Christian organization caves, it makes it that much harder for the next Christian organization to stand. It gives the justification for those who want to target people of conscience the justification in saying, “So you can be a Christian and agree with our categories because, look, they did. And look at all of the things they do.” I’m not saying their motivations were wrong. This is fundamentally a terrible decision. And it hurts other organizations and institutions. And for a good cause? Okay. But one of the earliest Vacation Bible School songs I remember learning is “It’s never right to do wrong to do right so do what’s right to do.” 

So, this is an example — Did you follow all that? It’s never right to do wrong in order to do right. In other words, good intentions don’t make a wrong decision right. This is a well-intentioned wrong decision and it’s tragic and it’s not the time to do it.

BROWN: Well, let’s talk about what time it is. We’ve got the Equality Act having passed the House. This is a draconian piece of legislation that amends the civil-rights act—the civil-rights act—to include all manner of LGBTQ provisions. Now, I’ve heard you use the term tsunami to describe what it would do, but this isn’t really likely to pass right now, right? What are you thinking?

STONESTREET: I think it’s unlikely to pass the Senate as-is. So the numbers just aren’t there. 

But here’s what we need to know: When I call it a tsunami, here’s why I’m calling it that. First of all, the effect of the Equality Act, if it went through, would be tsunami-like. It’d be hard to identify very many aspects of the cultural landscape that it wouldn’t sweep over. 

The other thing that makes it a tsunami is that I guess I’m a little worried. I’ve been talking about the Equality Act for four or five years. Other people have been talking about it way longer. And so it’s easy to think, well, he’s crying wolf. And I think this is more like the boy standing on the beach saying, “It’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming. The wave’s getting higher.” 

Because this is the closest the Equality Act will get to passing. And it is the most extreme version of the Equality Act that we’ve ever seen. And that’s what we have to understand. And we have a president who has said, you know, look, if something happens and the numbers go through, I’ll sign it in the first 100 days. So, in other words, more pieces are lining up politically to make it happen. But that’s because more pieces have lined up culturally to make this piece of legislation thinkable. And that’s the real thing. 

There’s no cultural forces right now that are providing any sort of obstacle or speed bump, much less an actual impediment to this sort of way of thinking from going forward, right? 

So, the clear example is the response culturally to the questioning of Rachel Levine by Rand Paul, in which Rand Paul basically said, “what makes what you’re proposing or what you believe is OK to do to little kids different than genital mutilation that’s happened at the hands of fringe religious groups or fringe religions for years and that all liberals say is barbarism. What’s different?” And the fact that Levine was not forced to answer the question, that a punt like he did was accepted, and Rand Paul was the bad guy for asking the question tells you all you need to know that the wave is getting bigger and the wave is coming. 

So, there’s nothing culturally right now that makes me think that there’s anything in its way. It’s not going to come this time, but it’s coming and it’s not going anywhere. So that’s why I use the tsunami language.

BROWN: If I could follow up just a bit. People of course have heard of the Equality Act and I think that there’s a sense of helplessness. But you touched on that exchange between the senator, Senator Paul, and the president’s nominee to head up an important part of Health and Human Services—touted as the first transgender nominee—but that whole exchange came around to the issue of children and that’s even what we’re talking about in the Bethany story—the effect on children.

STONESTREET: Right. Mmm-hmm. 

BROWN: So who’s going to stick up for them?

STONESTREET: That’s a great question and I don’t know what it’s going to be. I just know we don’t have an option on this one. Look, the LGBT issue disproportionately affects and victimizes children. That’s always been the MO of the sexual revolution. But these latter chapters of the sexual revolution have gone from harmful ideologies to early sexualization to downright physical mutilation—and taking something that leads little ones to despair and suicide and promising them an answer, knowing full well by data that it doesn’t provide. So this is a new level of the victimization of children. 

Throughout history, Christians who have taken the gospel to pagan societies have always found themselves protecting children. You can start with Amy Carmichael. You can talk about Wilberforce. You can go down the line. I don’t know what the outcome will be, but I do know this, that for a church that has so struggled to stand up to these different chapters of the sexual revolution in one way or another, if we don’t stand up to protect children we are absolutely out of step with the history of the church.

That said, I mean, I think there are remarkable — we have to remember that the Equality Act would be a federal piece of legislation not unlike Roe v. Wade. And Roe v. Wade was “the law of the land” until it’s not, right? Because of the state level ability to push back, to regulate, to carve out exemptions and all kinds of things. And I think the state work is what’s going to be really important to do and we should put as much of it in place. And some states are putting it in place—protecting women’s sports, protecting girls’ privacy, protecting children’s rights. 

These are all real things that we can do. And you also have to remember on a cultural level we’ve just gone through the Me Too movement and it’s not over yet and we have a heightened awareness of things like sexual trafficking, sexual victimization in particular areas. In other words, this superstructure of sexual freedom that’s been built-up because of these bad ideas, it has some real cracks in the foundation. The ideas about sexuality that the progressives and the left and sexual revolutionaries have been touting for years are unsustainable. They violate what is true about life in the world, not to mention human nature. 

So, this isn’t going to go on forever. There’s going to be a whole lot of ruined, hurt, broken lives between now and then. But this isn’t the end of the story and I think we need to remember that this is God’s world with God’s moral values that we’re taking the stand on, which makes it all the more unconscionable, all the more scandalous when Christians who claim to believe in God and the way He created the world won’t protect the victims of these bad ideas.

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

EICHER: Thank you John.

STONESTREET: Thank you both.


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