Culture Friday – Forcing Christian colleges to compromise


MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday, April 2nd, 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.

A seemingly significant federal class-action lawsuit this week.

A group known as the Religious Exemption Accountability Project on Monday filed suit targeting hundreds of Christian colleges and universities that have policies the group says are anti-LGBTQ. The goal of the suit is to force the schools to give up essentially their statements of faith and codes of conduct or lose federal money.

But another goal is to highlight a debate over the Equality Act—should it come before the Senate. This is a measure that would add LGBTQ priorities into federal civil-rights laws. One debate that may come up is over whether to exempt Christian colleges and universities from these laws, much as they’re exempted now in federal law on grounds of religious freedom.

The Washington Post quoted the head of the group that filed the lawsuit, and he said it was the prospect of religious carve-outs from the Equality Act. I’ll quote him: “Many mainstream LGBTQ groups aren’t committed to fighting. We want to say: ‘Don’t negotiate us away.’ Don’t bargain away these students, who are really being damaged with taxpayer money. I’m worried they will be cut out of the Equality Act protection.”

Well, it’s Culture Friday, and John Stonestreet joins us now. He’s president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. John, good morning!

JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning.

EICHER: This is quite a lawsuit, and you see a number of sympathetic faces and I think this is the point of it, to put human faces and names on the coming debate over the Equality Act and whether there ought to be some kind of compromise scheme that’s been floated, so-called “Fairness for All.” So it seems like a smart strategy on the part of the gay group to present these students who say they were felt badly treated at this or the other Christian school.

But the practical effect is basically to force Christian institutions to choose between holding to basic Biblical doctrine or receiving federal funds in any form. Is it an exaggeration to say this could be the biggest threat to Christian institutions to come down the pike?

STONESTREET:

No, I think this is actually exposing something else. I mean this is really not, in a sense, a reaction to the Equality Act. It’s a reaction to the potential compromise solutions to the Equality Act, like Fairness For All. The Equality Act already puts any claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity over any Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, right?

So in other words, you can’t be protected by RFRAs.

Now of course, the religious exemption of institutions is a little bit more deeply ingrained and a little bit stronger than just RFRA laws, uh, but that was the idea of those who advanced compromise solutions like the Fairness For All legislation. I think this just demonstrates that that sort of compromise, uh, is, a strategic mistake.

Um, first of all, to say that we’ve reached a compromise with LGBT groups. This group in and of itself is exposing, “well which groups are willing to compromise with you?”

Says who?

This isn’t a random group of college students that got together online. You had students featured in this article from Bob Jones and Baylor. They don’t hang out with each other! I mean, that’s just not you know, the k- You know, they’re not gonna run into each other in the NCAA tournament, right? This is not what’s happening here. This was a fabricated group of students that was specifically targeted to say religious exemptions aren’t going to go forward.

Now as I’ve said before, the religious exemption of institutions protect us but not the rest of us. It protects you know, maybe Christian colleges and churches, if you can negotiate those, but it fails to recognize the religious freedom that people in our part of religious institutions also have.

And also, you know, there’s still a lot of work to be done in the courts. And it’s gonna be interesting what kind of protections we’re gonna have.

You know, I kinda feel like that meme of Michael Jackson, sitting there at the theater eating the popcorn during the Thriller video. Like, there’s a whole lot of movie left to be had. We’re gonna see some more.

EICHER: Yeah, [laughs] well, John. Everybody is talking about these Satan shoes. Sneakers that are said to contain a drop of human blood in the sole of this product that’s being promoted by this rapper. I’m not gonna say his name. But he has amassed a very young audience. And he’s also released a video of himself giving Satan a lap dance in hell. It’s incredibly disturbing for sure, probably by design. But is it culturally significant? And if so, what’s culturally significant about it?

STONESTREET: You know, uh, this is an interesting topic. I’m glad you brought it up for a number of reasons. Number one, is I think Satan is much more clever than jumping out and going “boo.” So these kind of shock things are shocking. And we shouldn’t indulge in them and we should definitely keep kids, who tend to be attracted to just being shocking for the sake of being shocking, away from it.

But we shouldn’t think that that’s the primary way Satan is working in our world. Uh, you know, Satan has been working far more effectively at shedding innocent unborn human blood than putting drops of blood in a particular sole of a shoe.

I’m not saying that makes it okay. It’s still ridiculous and absurd and awful.

The point is, is that culture has this dual role. Not everything that gets said or done in culture is embraced as normal, right? Um, you know, when, when professional athletes do some things, it’s very, very popular in culture. You know, when they do other things, it gets soundly rejected as being you know, racist or you know, drug abuse or you know, mistreatment of women. That’s the role that culture has.

And so it’s interesting how widely the condemnation has been of these shoes, right? You can kinda think back that Marilyn Manson who was accepted by a very small, subgroup and culture but pretty much widely and soundly rejected.

This is what you have to look at in culture. Sometimes culture serves a role of embracing new thing. A lot of times, it will reject new things. Uh, and then it will make a big noise but it really won’t go forward.

Which is one of the reasons, I think the scriptures tell us to be wise to serpents. Uh, because not everything that’s noisy is important. We’ll see if this one is.

EICHER: You know, speaking of Satanic, we’ve had a spate of stomach-turning acts of violence lately. From two mass murders, one case said to be based on a young man’s sexual disorders and another said to be based on a young man’s paranoia and explosive rage.

Then a carjacking captured on video, you hear more than you see, but the owner of the car tried to save his car and ended up losing his life.  And a young girl is seen more concerned about retrieving her cell phone than about the man she’s likely responsible for dragging to his death.

Then in New York, another attack captured on security video. For absolutely no other reason, apparently, than that the woman was an older Asian woman. She’s walking to church. The assailant kicks her to the ground, then kicks her twice more, allegedly says, you don’t belong here. And from the security tape, you see a security guy in this building, just shuts the door, no care for the woman lying on the sidewalk. Thirty one, according to NYPD, hate crime incidents against Asians versus 11 at this same time last year. That’s not satanic shock entertainment. That’s real life on the streets.

STONESTREET: No, it is Satanic. And we’ll see, uh, you know, when the numbers come in is you know, whether we’re seeing an overall rise in violent crime or acts of violence. And whether it’s everywhere and you know, what’s the relationship between that and you know, the police and all that sort of stuff. But I, but I do think we’re seeing, uh, an uptick in two things. And we know one thing is statistically verifiable and that’s the deaths from despair.

The other category I call acts of desperation. Just when people feel like, they’ve got nothing left to do except act out in some sort of way, that’s either self harming or others harming. And I put into that category certain, certainly acts of mass violence, you know, irrational blaming of people. Uh, for example, Asian Americans for, for COVID-19.

But, but we gotta look at it in that 30,000 foot view. This reminds me of just a few months ago when Bill Maher on his show, was talking about the Capitol riots with an African American conservative on the program. It got a lot of attention because African American conservative said, look, 2020 was the year of rioting. The rioting didn’t start in January of 2021. It, we have a whole trend of rioting that has taken place over the last 12 months. If we look at this as an isolated event, as opposed to asking, what has gone wrong in our culture that has created so much unrest, we’re gonna miss the story.

And I think, what we’re seeing is, our narratives right now, on these acts of violence are failing us. They’re proving themselves too small to handle all the facts.

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

STONESTREET: Haha, thank you both.


(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) A police officer hangs a sign offering a reward for information on the person who attacked an Asian American woman near the crime scene, Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in New York.

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