Join John Stonestreet for a daily dose of sanity—applying a Christian worldview to culture, politics, movies, and more. And be a part of God's work restoring all things.
Join John Stonestreet for a daily dose of sanity—applying a Christian worldview to culture, politics, movies, and more. And be a part of God's work restoring all things.
Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, the DC Sniper, and the Importance of Fathers
Like many basketball junkies deprived of March Madness and the NBA playoffs, I devoured ESPN’s 10-part series “The Last Dance,” the definitive account of one of the NBA’s G.O.A.T (“greatest of all time), Michael Jordan. Anyone who watched the emergence of the Bulls in the 1990’s knew that Jordan’s talent and athleticism was matched only by his drive, but I’m not sure any of us fully understood his unique ability to manufacture grudges for competitive advantage, or to either motivate or run off teammates.
In one area, however, Michael Jordan was just like the rest of us. The series dove deeply into his love and devotion for his dad. The greatest athlete of the 20th century, the international icon and billionaire, longed for his dad’s acceptance and love just like everyone else, from the time he was a boy until long after his dad was murdered in North Carolina in 1993. His dad was the reason for his first retirement. His dad is the reason behind the iconic photo of Jordan heaving tears, hugging the championship trophy, after returning to the game.
The film also covers the career of Dennis Rodman, perhaps the greatest rebounder in basketball history and an unexpected ingredient in the second half of the Bulls dynasty. Rodman grew up without a father but found one, after his unlikely journey to the NBA, in Chuck Daly, the coach of the Detroit Pistons. After being traded to Chicago, Rodman continued to perform well on the court, but without Daly’s guidance, went off the rails off the court. Today, he’s less known for basketball than he is for substance abuse, Vegas bingers, dating Madonna, getting arrested, wearing a wedding dress and hanging out with Korean dictator Kim Jong un.
Another series I’ve binged during quarantine was the podcast “Monster: DC Sniper.” In October of 2002, John Allen Muhammad (aged 41) and Lee Boyd Malvo (aged 17) held Washington DC, northern Virginia, and Maryland hostage with fear during a three-week random shooting rampage.
A key factor behind the entire horrifying saga, at least according to the series, is Lee Boyd Malvo’e desperate need for a father. Malvo met John Allen Muhammad when he was 13, and Muhammad treated him like a son, trusting and affirming him. Muhammad even introduced Malvo to others as his son. So, Malvo followed him, back and forth across the country, and four years later, on a shooting spree that would kill at least eleven people in three states.
A dominant narrative today is that fathers are expendable except for, perhaps, genetic and financial contributions. Either life goes on just fine without them, or they can be easily replaced by a “loving parent.” The stories of Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, and Lee Boyd Malvo, however, suggest that there is a dad-shaped hole in all us that only dads can fill.
Of course, many people have fared well without dads, and many haven’t fared so well with dads. Heroic single parents are everywhere, as are grandparents and extended family members, foster care parents, and others who step in to fill the gap left by absent dads. But still, the data could not be more clear: dads matter.
Back in 1992, Vice- President Dan Quayle was derided for saying as much in response to sitcom character Murphy Brown having a child outside of marriage and without the father involved. The whole saga likely cost him the presidency. (Either that, or it was because he couldn’t spell potato).
The following year, in an Atlantic article, Barbara Defoe Whitehead proclaimed “Dan Quayle was Right”. According to “a growing body of social-scientific evidence,” she wrote, “children in families disrupted by divorce and out-of-wedlock birth do worse than children in intact families on several measures of well-being.” Today, nearly three decades later, we know that “do worse” is an understatement. “Children in singl
Supreme Court Says States Cannot Discriminate Against Religious Schools
The past two weeks of Supreme Court rulings have not been encouraging. After the disastrous ruling in Bostock arbitrarily expanded civil rights protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity, the Court, in June Medical, all but handcuffed meaningful state efforts to restrict abortion.
Finally, yesterday, good news. The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, held its ground on discrimination against religious education. In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court ruled that a state tax credit which “[discriminates] against religious schools and the families whose children attend or hope to attend them” violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.
The case dates back to 2015 when the state of Montana created a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for individuals who donate to organizations that provide scholarships to private school students. After creating the program, the Montana Department of Revenue ruled that such a tax credit, if used to fund to religious private schools, would violate the state’s version of the “Blaine Amendment,” which prohibits state funding of religious education.
Kendra Espinoza, a single mom who works extra jobs in order to send her kids to a Christian school, challenged the Department of Revenue’s ruling in court. In late 2018, the Montana Supreme Court acknowledged that the Department’s ruling probably ran afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause. However, instead of overturning the ruling, it invalidated the entire program.
Thankfully, that didn’t work.
In his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said that “when otherwise eligible recipients are disqualified from a public benefit ‘solely because of their religious character,’ we must apply strict scrutiny.” His statement was a reference to the Trinity Lutheran decision, a case that was successfully argued by the Alliance Defending Freedom in 2017.
“Strict scrutiny” means that the action can only be justified by a “compelling governmental interest.” Montana lacked a “compelling government interest.” Instead, the state argued that the law served “Montana’s interest in separating church and State ‘more fiercely’ than the Federal Constitution.”
Montana’s interest, replied Justice Roberts, is actually “limited by the Free Exercise Clause.” In other words, the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause cannot be pitted against each other. The separation of church and state cannot be done by discriminating against the church, and religion is not a secondary part of the First Amendment.
And, Roberts continued, the attempt to sweep the Free Exercise problem under the rug by invalidating the whole program doesn’t change what he called Montana’s “error of federal law.” After all, because of the Trinity Lutheran decision, the Montana Court already knew the Department’s ruling was unconstitutional. But, instead of applying the decision as it should have, it invalidated the whole program “to make absolutely sure that religious schools received no aid.” That action in itself violated the Free Exercise Clause, according to Roberts: “A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”
Roberts’ opinion is a resounding repudiation of dozens of “Blaine Amendments” in other states as well. Originally targeted to limit Catholic education, these amendments provide legal cover for treating religious institutions and the people who depend on them as second-class citizens. Roberts made it as clear as possible that they, and we, are not.
Roberts also rejected Justice Breyer’s argument for a “‘flexible, context-specific approach’ that ‘may well vary’ from case to case.” Religious institutions and citizens should not be at t
Podcast: The Impact of the Supreme Court's June Medical Decision
Chief Justice John Robert's assertion of precedent in striking down a Louisiana Law requiring abortionists to have hospital admission rights has everyone--pro-life and pro-abortion--scratching their heads.
Today on the BreakPoint Podcast, John Stonestreet welcomes the Heritage Foundation's Dr. Charmaine Yoest to break down why Roberts ruled the way he did, what it means for states who want to regulate abortion, and what it means for the future of the Court itself.
Resources: “Justice Roberts Cites Precedent to Uphold Evil of Abortion,” by John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera, BreakPoint
“The Aftermath of Bostock,” by John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera, BreakPoint
“The Peanut Butter Falcon: A Redeeming Story Well Told,” by John Stonestreet, BreakPoint
Charmaine Yoest, Heritage Foundation
Justice Roberts Cites Precedent to Uphold Evil of Abortion
Yesterday, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that would have required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Not only did Chief Justice John Roberts side with the more liberal justices again, he also gave pro-lifers reasons to doubt Roe would ever be overturned during his tenure.
According to media outlets and the court majority, this case, June Medical Services v. Russo, was essentially “identical” to a Texas law the Court struck down in 2016. In that case, Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court ruled that requiring providers to have admitting privileges places an undue burden on women who wanted to access abortion services.
As I argued on BreakPoint back in March, the Louisiana law was similar but not identical. For example, only about thirty percent of women seeking an abortion in Louisiana would have been affected by this law, and requirements for doctors to obtain admitting privileges are less strict in Louisiana than Texas. Because of these differences, a circuit court concluded that abortion providers could more easily comply with this law than the Texas law, and it therefore did not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to an abortion.
The majority, including Chief Justice Roberts, felt otherwise. “The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” wrote Roberts. “The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore, Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”
Roberts appeal to stare decisis, “the legal term for fidelity to precedent,” is troubling. In its history, the Court has abandoned precedent and overturned more than 300 of its previous rulings. In the 2018 Janus decision, for instance, Roberts had no problem with the court overturning the 1977 Abood decision, which required non-union members to pay union dues.
In 2016, Roberts dissented from the Whole Women’s Health decision. And yet, on Monday, he proclaimed the decision he believed to be wrong then as untouchable precedent today. Even worse, Roberts gave particular deference to the “undue burden test” from the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which is whether or not a particular law or regulation presents any kind of “substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion.” These days, “substantial obstacle” essentially means that nothing can get in the way of, slow down, or discourage an abortion in any way.
Justice Clarence Thomas sharply disagreed, not only with the majority opinion, but specifically with Roberts: “The Constitution does not constrain the States’ ability to regulate or even prohibit abortion. This Court created the right to abortion based on an amorphous, unwritten right to privacy, which it grounded in . . . ‘legal fiction’ . . . the putative right to abortion is a creation that should be undone.”
Despite his objection and the widespread panic of media outlets since Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh joined the court, it’s now difficult to see a Roberts-led Court ever overturning Roe.
Like Dred Scott, Buck v. Bell, and the Korematsu decisions, Roe gives constitutional sanction to great evil, and neither slavery, forced sterilization, nor the internment of U.S. citizens were ever overturned by the Court. Dred Scott was overturned by the Civil War and the 13th Amendment. Buck v. Bell and Korematsu are still “the law of the land.” So is Roe.
Ultimately, June Medical Services v. Russo is not about abortion access in Louisiana. It’s about the nearly unique and untouchable status of legal abortion in our country.
Every Constitutional right, even legitimate ones such as the freedom of speech or religion, is subject to limitations. Any restriction on
The Link Between Marijuana, Psychosis, and Suicide
Recreational marijuana is legal in eleven states, and another twenty-one states permit the use of so-called “medical marijuana.” I say “so-called” because, as NYU drug policy expert Mark Kleinman has put it, “the vast majority of ‘patients’ buying ‘medical marijuana’ aren’t doing so under any sort of active medical supervision . . . Many of them aren’t ‘treating’ anything but their desire to get high . . .”
In the push to legalize, America has been sold dangerous lies about marijuana: of financial windfalls with no accompanying social cost and of therapeutic benefits with no accompanying dangers. But marijuana is dangerous. In fact, for some, it’s potentially lethal.
Dr. Erik Messamore, a psychiatrist with a doctorate in psychopharmacology, recently brought attention to a study published by a branch of NIH about my state, which is ground zero of the marijuana push in the United States. The title of the study telegraphs the punchline: “Legalized Cannabis in Colorado Emergency Departments: A Cautionary Review of Negative Health and Safety Effects.”
This “cautionary review” begins rather bluntly: “Cannabis legalization has led to significant health consequences, particularly to patients in emergency departments and hospitals in Colorado.” The consequences that are, in their words, “most concerning” are “psychosis, suicide, and other substance abuse,” not to mention the impairment of a user’s “complex decision making,” which may be irreversible, even by subsequent abstinence.
In Colorado, cannabis-related emergency and urgent-care visits among “teenagers and young adults” increased nearly three-fold after legalization. Most of these visits required “behavioral health evaluation.”
To quote the G.I. Joe public service announcements of my youth, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” Except, and this should disturb us all, the link between cannabis use and mental illness was already well-known before legalization. In his book, No One Cares About Crazy People, Ron Powers (who co-wrote the World War II history Flags of Our Fathers) told the story of his two sons, both diagnosed with schizophrenia in their early twenties. Marijuana use, Powers learned, contributed to their diagnosis. Specifically, marijuana use increases the chances of schizophrenia for people
who carry the genes AKT1 and COMT, which “affect brain chemistry.” Powers’ sons had these genes. One of them committed suicide, and the other attempted suicide but was saved through a timely intervention.
Again, all of this was known in 2014 when Colorado eagerly legalized cannabis. It’s still known as legal weed marches across the rest of the country.
By the way, do you know what is also known? The claim that you can somehow limit marijuana use to adults who are just looking to relax or get high, and keep it away from kids and schools, is, well, excrement. Even before legalization, teenagers had no problem getting marijuana. Are we supposed to believe that legalization has made it more difficult?
And, how are we supposed to keep those with the triggering genes from using? Unless there’s a known family history of schizophrenia, chances are the first time someone knows they have AKT1 or COMT is after they land in the psych ward.
Despite what we know about the effects of marijuana use on teenage brains and the genetic-related danger to some, we are committed to playing Russian Roulette with young lives. And media outlets loudly proclaim legalization as “inevitable” and part of our expanding “freedom,” even while stories about the hazards go underreported.
By the way, this “cautionary review” was published a year ago. I only heard about it recently. It clearly escaped the attention of just about everyone, including those tasked with knowing.
Given all the talk of listening
Podcast: The Age of Artificial Intelligence
We've all encountered the term "Artificial Intelligence" in science fiction movies and books, but what does it mean, exactly? And what does it mean for our world? What is a Christian worldview perspective on Artificial Intelligence.
Today on the BreakPoint Podcast, Shane Morris welcomes Jason Thacker, an associate research fellow at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and author of The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity.
Resources: The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity by Jason Thacker
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Great, succinct coverage of hot topics
I’m always impressed by how succinctly this podcast covers hot topics and breaking news of interest to Christians. Always worth the listen.
Thought-Provoking Every Time
This podcast is a must if you want to live out your Christian faith in the world. They evaluate the cultural trends and life’s events - incredibly helpful to me as a Believer. Breakpoint reminds me that ALL of life is spiritual. I’m challenged and/or encouraged each time I hear an episode. It helps me not to compartmentalize my faith.
Breakpoint this week - a Super Tuesday surprise?
I’m going to be honest and say that when this title showed up in my playlist feed for my Saturday morning long run my first thought was, “not another discussion about politics”, but I decided to leave it and, if I didn’t like it just skip to the next podcast in my play list. I’m so glad I did! This was one of the best discussions I’ve listened to in a while. It was informative and also made me think. It addressed some of the theological matters I’ve been thinking about recently (divine providence?), and provided sources for further reading. I am probably going to listen again. Thank you,