Award-winning broadcaster and bestselling author Todd Starnes has been on the front lines of the culture wars for years. His latest book, “Culture Jihad,” deals with the ongoing cultural tensions between left-wing progressivism and traditional Biblical values. Recently, he spoke with Decision about religious liberty issues.
Q: When you talk about “culture jihad,” what do you mean?
A: Several years ago I was watching a documentary. The Islamic radicals, ISIS, had invaded Iraq, and they were pillaging and plundering the museums and the historical sites, literally turning Iraq’s history into piles of rubble—the statues, the monuments, the paintings and books. I realized as I was watching this that the same thing was happening in this country. It was a level of jihad, and it was targeting the culture, which is how I came up with the phrase “culture jihad.” And a lot of people say, “Well, that’s a provocative title.” It is a provocative title, but we’re living in a very provocative time in American history, and we really do need to wake up the Body of Christ. As I write in the book, I believe that Christians have a unique responsibility to stand up and to defend freedom and liberty.
Q: Many progressives, including both political leaders and university professors, have made statements that are not merely intolerant but hateful, with a few even encouraging violence against people who believe in Biblical principles. What are we to make of such statements?
A: It is a great irony that those who preach tolerance are in fact the least tolerant of all. The challenge here is that the mainstream media are antagonistic to Christian people in this country. That has been demonstrated time and again. You have Joy Behar suggesting that people who talk to Jesus Christ are mentally ill. That is a dangerous thing. People of faith need to start paying attention, and they need to start speaking out because if they do not speak out, then the perception becomes the reality. And I really fear the day when that happens in this country.
Q: Just how extensive do you believe the goals of leftists are today?
A: Well, to put it simply, there is an effort to turn America into a socialist nation, and that is ultimately the driving force of this massive cultural change.
Q: How would you rate the overall state of religious liberty in the U.S. today?
A: It’s an interesting position. We’re a lot better off than we were in the Obama years. President Trump has delivered on his promise to protect religious liberty, especially within the federal government. And that’s really where the Obama administration waged this war. In the courts, we are seeing victories and defeats. You win some, you lose some. My concern, though, is not about what’s happening now, but really looking at the future. What happens after the Trump administration? What happens if the left reclaims power?
Q: How difficult would it be for leftists to dismantle the religious liberty protections that have been instituted by the Trump administration?
A: It would be very easy for them. And I think we have to understand the bigger picture: the battleground is not Washington, D.C. It’s our local public schools. I’m not saying every public school in America is a left-wing indoctrination center, but a good many are. And there are some very troubling stories about how the cultural change that’s happened in our country has happened so swiftly because that’s what they’re being taught in too many public schools. The left could very well win the day and the war without even having to fire a shot, simply because they’ve been able to win over the hearts and the minds of American young people. That is the bigger issue here.
Q: In addition to reading the Word of God, what can people do to better position themselves to stand strong and fight for religious liberty?
A: I think the Word of God is the most important thing, but it’s also important where you’re going to church. I reference a survey in the book about how a number of pastors just do not like to talk about the tough issues of the day because they might offend someone. It’s important for people to make sure they are in Bible-believing, Bible-teaching churches. That’s probably the most important thing. Because how does socialism take root? It’s about the dumbing down of society. And that’s why a lot of kids don’t understand what capitalism offers. They don’t understand the Constitution, and I’m afraid the dumbing down of society is also happening in many of our churches, where people are reading books other than the Bible. I’m not saying these other books are bad. I do want people to read my book. But ultimately, the final authority is the Holy Bible. It doesn’t get better than that.
Q: Do you have a verse or a passage of Scripture that you often turn to for guidance when thinking about challenges that our nation faces?
A: There is a beautiful passage, Habakkuk 3:18-19, which has some parallels to our day. The olive crops fail and the fields produce no fruit, no food—basically, things look hopeless. “Yet I will rejoice. … God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” And I think that’s a great message of encouragement to all of us, that no matter how bad things get, no matter how difficult things are, the Lord is going to pick us up and carry us through those difficult times. He’s not going to let us stumble, and He’s going to take us to a place where we can worship Him on that mountaintop.
Q: How would you characterize the spiritual condition of our nation?
A: We are living in a sinful world. That has not changed. I was speaking at Liberty University, and I told the students that if we really want to fix America, it’s not about the statehouse, it’s about the church house. We’ve got to get engaged at our local churches, and we’ve got to start making a difference because, ultimately, if you want to fix what’s wrong with America, you’re going to get out there and share the Gospel with somebody.
The Scripture quotation is taken from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
Todd Starnes is host of Todd Starnes News & Commentary, produced by Starnes Media Group and heard on more than 750 radio stations.
Interviewed by Giovanna Albanese, deputy assistant editor.