Do kids have a natural right to their mom and dad? Katy Faust argues that the answer is yes, and that we need a new campaign to protect the rights of children today. Katy is the author of the timely and provocative book Them Before Us, in which she argues that we need to put kids' rights before the desires of adults. This bonus episode was recorded on Sean's YouTube channel, which is in partnership with the Talbot Apologetics program.

Katy Faust is the founder of Them Before Us, which aims to advance the rights of children. She is the author of Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children's Rights Movement.

Episode Transcript

Sean McDowell: Welcome to Think Biblically, Conversations on Faith and Culture, a podcast from Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. I'm your host, Sean McDowell, Professor of Apologetics. Today we've got a bonus episode for you that I think you're really going to enjoy, it's with Katy Faust. Who's the founder of Them Before Us and an author of a book by the same title, Them Before Us. And the premise is that she argues in culture today, in particular in issues of sexual morality, we are putting the desires of adults over the needs and rights of children. And she says, we actually need a children rights reformation, and I agree. When I interviewed her, this is actually from my YouTube channel, which is in partnership with our Apologetics program. Some of the things she said in her book were game-changing for me. So I think you're going to find this eye-opening, challenging, and really push back on some of the narrative that we typically hear in the larger culture today. So enjoy, and please consider sharing with a friend. Katy, thanks for coming on the show.

Katy Faust: Thank you. I'm really glad to hear that, it's not the first time. Once you start to talk about children's rights and start to understand the importance of a child's mother and father, that they don't just need them, that they don't just benefit from them, but they have a right to them, you don't unsee it. You start to look at every headline, every conversation differently, so I'm glad that was the impact that it had on you. Thanks for letting me share it with your audience.

Sean McDowell: Well, it was, and I hope it has the same effect on my audience. So let's jump right in and start with your story and your experience growing up in your family. Clearly shaped your worldview and gave you a passion of speaking into this subject. Would you share that with us?

Katy Faust: Yeah. My parents were married until I was 10. I was really connected, really loved them both. And then they divorced and it rocked my world. My dad dated and remarried before he passed away five years ago. My mom, soon after their divorce, partnered with another woman and they've been together ever since. So I had split time between my dad's house and my mom's house. Thankfully, my mom and dad had a really amicable divorce. I stayed in contact with both of them. I got to benefit from the love of my dad and the love of my mom. I love her partner. I don't consider her partner, my mom, but I do consider her partner, my friend. So I wasn't raised in a Christian home. I became a Christian late in high school. I was still an idiot for most of that time. And then I really grew in my faith as a college student, when I went off to college and met my husband. And we kind of figured out what this whole Christian worldview thing were us together. And then we did a lot of youth ministry. My husband became a pastor. I had kids and I was really happy just living my life, keeping my friends, not talking about controversial things. And then the gay marriage debate started out. And what I heard the other side saying was, "Kids don't care if they're raised by two moms or two dads", which what that means is they don't care if they've lost their mom or dad. And I said, you're lying. I've never met a kid who lost their mom or dad through death, divorce, abandonment, and now reproductive technologies who didn't care. Most of the time, they would say that it left a lifelong wound. So that's when I felt like I needed to speak up because it now was an issue of injustice against children.

Sean McDowell: Now, you first spoke up in a blog that was called, "Ask the Bigot". I didn't know it was you. It was anonymous. I read it. Some times reposted stuff. And I understood why you were anonymous because the kind of, frankly, criticism I get daily from people that's pretty harsh at times. But then when it came out, I'm like, oh, this is Katy. I understood. Take us back a little bit to what you were doing with that blog. And then how you came out, so to speak, and what you're doing now.

Katy Faust: Yeah. So I used to blog anonymously because I'm a coward, because I understood the cost. I understood I was going to lose friends. And I hated that. I loved to be loved. I hate to be hated. And the hatred coming from the culture and even from some people close to me, not my family, thank God, kept me quiet. They did their job. Accusing people of being haters and bigots and homophobia was very effective for me because some of the people I love the most in life are gay and lesbian. And I hope I'm some of the top people on the top five list of people that love them as well. So yeah, I started blogging anonymously because I thought I need to make the case for marriage as a social justice issue for children, because marriage is not just a private arrangement between two adults. It's the only relationship that unites the two people to whom children having natural rights. And that's why it deserves to be respected and protected in different ways than other adult relationships. But then in the name of love and intolerance, I was outed by a gay blogger who then doxed members of my church in an attempt to silence me.

Sean McDowell: Wow.

Katy Faust: Yeah. And wrote terrible things about my husband and our church and all of that. And it's such a, what the enemy means for evil kind of story, because I didn't have my anonymity anymore. And so then I would get invitations to speak at the United Nations or travel to Australia to meet with their members of parliament or submit Amicus briefs to the Supreme Court. So that's what I did. His attempt to silence me actually just enlarged my platform a hundred fold, that eventually turned into this realization that it can't just be Katy being like, "Listen, I actually know a lot of other kids with gay parents who don't like it, so trust me." And I went, somebody's got to document these stories. There has to be a safe place for people to talk about the impact of mother and father loss in their life. People have to be able to read it and interact with it themselves because it's stories that stir the heart. And that's the one thing that pro-family people just haven't had is the real life stories of kids.

Sean McDowell: Now you used the term, that's probably going to be a trigger word for some people. When you said social justice and applied it to marriage. Now typically, we'll think of say, poverty. We'll think of race, maybe people with disabilities. Why do you apply that to issues of family, marriage, and reproductive rights? Why is it a social justice issue?

Katy Faust: Yeah. So sometimes if I'm giving a talk at a school or a conference or something, I'll put up a chart and I'll say, "Here's some issues. I want you to tell me which one of these you would solve if you could. Homelessness, youth homelessness, youth poverty, teen suicide, teen dropouts, teen pregnancy, behavioral issues, incarceration rates, high incarceration rates. Choose one, which one really burdens you? Which one, if you could solve, would you just say that one's gone?" And I usually get a lot of different answers because a lot of us are really burdened about various different issues based on things that we've seen or the volunteer work we've done. And then I say, "What if there was an all of the above option? What if there's one thing that you could do that wiped out, decimated, took down to a 10th every single thing that I just mentioned, would you do it? And what if it was cheap?" And they're like, yes, tell us that thing. And I said, well, that thing is fathers. That thing is making sure that the children have daily constant access to both their mother and father. And what you see when you look at children who are living in poverty or on the street, or behavioral issues or substance abuse or high incarceration rates or teen pregnancy, all of those different demographics are overpopulated with fatherless children. That's the power of children's rights. That's the power of children being loved and connected to the two people responsible for their existence. And marriage is the only way they're going to get both. And so I tell my dear, dear friends on the left, please continue manning the hotline for the suicide prevention line. Please continue anti-poverty work and volunteering with at-risk kids. But if you do not also get on board the children's rights train, you get no social justice. There is no social justice. First, you have to secure individual justice for the child in the home, then you can tackle those other issues. So that's why marriage is a social justice issue for children, because if they don't get marriage, they're drastically at risk for every other social ill that we are battling today.

Sean McDowell: Well, I want to come back to some of the data that you document in your book, again, "Them Before Us," about the importance of mom and dad in the lives of kids. Excellent. It is a fantastic book. I hope viewers will pick it up and read it. Here's a quote from your book that I want you to explain. You say, "Adult desire almost exclusively drives the narrative when you're talking about family, marriage, reproductive rights and divorce." What do you mean by that statement?

Katy Faust: Yeah. Whenever you read a headline or have a conversation or look at a piece of legislation that has to do with marriage, family, divorce, reproductive technologies, sperm and egg donation, surrogacy, even adoption, look at the headlines, look at who's telling the story, look at what kind of words they're using. It's all all about, I want, I feel, I struggle, I need, and it's always focused, almost obsessively, on what adults want. Sometimes they'll mention the kids, if they do it's well, my kids will be happy if I'm happy. My kids don't want me to stay in an unhappy marriage or my kids are going to be okay that they're created through sperm or egg donation because they're so loved and wanted. My kids are going to like this. My kids are going to be okay. My kids are going to get over it. That's what we hear that the adults say about the kids. And I would just tell your audience, try me, try it. Just look at headlines about marriage and family. Look at what's coming through the news, listen to the conversations that are happening in the culture and maybe in your own world. How much of the time do those center around, this is what the kids need. These are their rights. I'm going to bend and sacrifice so that they don't have to do the hard thing. I'll do the hard thing so they don't have to. I dare you. Find me those articles. They're extremely rare. But the reality is that when we get questions about marriage and family wrong, when we allow adult desire to drive, not just headlines, but policy and personal decision, the children are the victims every time. And so that's what we try to do in the book is make it very clear that these are the victims and this is how they're being harmed.

Sean McDowell: Now, let me start this next part, by asking you to talk about the difference between a natural right and a legal right. And the reason I'm asking you to make that distinction is one of the things you said in the book that gave me pause, and I have a master's in philosophy and I've studied this for a long time ,is you said, "Kids have a right to their mom and dad." And now first, let's actually start there. What do you mean when you say kids have a right to their mom and dad?

Katy Faust: Yeah. They have a claim on their mom and dad that is distinct from their claim to any other adult, to any other person really. In fact, like adults, we understand, we have a pretty fundamental understanding of the fact that adults have a right to the children that are born to them. When you have a baby, you don't want to just take any kid home from the hospital, you want your baby. There's something special about your baby. Indeed, you have a right to that baby. There's something distinct about the relationship that you have with that baby. That's pretty easy for us to understand. Guess what? The child cares who they go home with the hospital with too. That baby has a claim to those parents, to those specific adults, because those specific adults have something that the baby needs, wants, craves, and has a right to. Now. A lot of people on the right, I think. Are very leery of rights talk. Indeed, the term children's rights really needs to be redeemed because unfortunately it is being distorted, misused, and often for what I think is very detrimental in detrimental ways. Children's sexual rights, children's rights to sexually identify, to sexual pleasure. That's often how people understand the term rights. Well, when you look at natural law, it's obvious that children have a natural right to both of their biological parents. We talk a little bit about this in the book. Like, how do you know that something's a natural right? And we say, look, conservatives, look, Christians, you actually already use the language and understanding of children's rights when we're talking about fighting abortion. Children have a right to life and that's something that we can stand unflinchingly on. Even though it's not necessarily a legal right in this country, it's a natural right. We can understand by looking at the nature of a child and embryology and natural law principles that children indeed do have a natural right to life. Guess what, kids also have rights on this side of the womb and the primary right, once they have their right to life protected is their right to the two people responsible for their existence.

Sean McDowell: I got to tell you, when I first read that I took it to my wife. I'm like, think of about this. It's so obvious that a mom and dad have the responsibility and the right to take their kid, not another. Well, that right goes both ways. The kid has the right to be taken home by mom and dad and not another. It seems so obvious when you frame it that way. In your book, you argue for something, what makes a right a right? What's the underlying kind of ideas here that makes, say sexual rights, the way you're framing it for kids is very different than the right to life?

Katy Faust: Yeah. So we talk about, we make the case that, well, first of all, the term rights in general has been so used and abused. It's really hard to tell what's a right, because some of people will say, "I have a right to government funded birth control. I have a right to housing. I have a right to education". Those are all good things. Well, some of them are good things. Some of them like, we'll say, well, people have a right to water. Well, water's a good thing, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you have a right to it. We're kind of lay people, my co-author, Stacy and I, we're not deep philosophers. So we are like, okay, here's the three rules that make it a rights test. So number one is, it needs to be pre-government. A right is something that existed before the government existed. The government is just there to protect it, not provide it. Second, nobody has to provide you with the natural right. You just have it. The right to defend yourself, the right to life. You simply have it. The government just needs to protect it. And finally, a natural right is distributed equally. Everybody naturally has the same amount.

Sean McDowell: Good.

Katy Faust: And the alternative is commodities. You can actually tell when something's a commodity, if it can come in different degrees, like Mar-a-Lago versus a dormitory. Because housing is different, you automatically know that it's not a right. So when you look at a child's right to life, it completely passes the three rules that make it a rights test with flying colors. It existed pre-government. No one has to provide it for you. And everybody gets the same amount, one life. So that's how it is with children's right to their mother and father. It says pre-government, as it comes, whether you're on Team Adam and Eve or Team Homo Erectus.

Sean McDowell: Yup.

Katy Faust: This is a pre-government relationship. Number two, nobody has to provide it for you. If you exist, your mother and father also exist. And finally, it's equally distributed. Everyone gets exactly two, one mom and one dad. So when you're looking at it from a natural law perspective, we also kind of throw in some quotes from Melissa Moschella, who I think is the philosophical genius on parental and children's rights, if you need a bigger name than me. But if you look at it, if you're able to look at it from the kids' perspective and from the natural law perspective, it's a pretty solid case.

Sean McDowell: So let me jump ahead with a question here. And this is a topic that you cover in your book. Jason Clover asked an important question that relates to this. He said, "So does this apply to adopted kids? They have a right to their biological parent, or is that up to the adoption parents?"

Katy Faust: Good. That's a great question. We have an entire chapter on adoption because what we talk about through the book is that modern family is really just code for child loss. The child has to lose something to be in that modern family, but there is one form of parental breakdown and rebuilding that does protect children's rights and center around children's needs and that's adoption. But we first have to have a proper understanding of what it adoption is. Adoption is not a means for adults to get kids. Adoption is a critical institution that exists to meet the needs of children. And so adoption is not about adults building their family. I love adoption. I'm an adoptive mom, but the is not about adults fulfilling their desire to have kids. This is, the child is the client, and the child had to lose something critical to them before they became somebody in need of adoption to begin with. They had to lose the two people to whom they had a natural right. So first of all, we have to never approach adoption casually. Adoptive parents these days, like me, were trained to understand that adoption is a process where you're going to be shepherding your child often through that lifelong loss, that they're going to have different understandings about their adoptive story at different times, that that loss is going to manifest itself in different ways. And as an adoptive parent, I would say, I understand that I cannot fully compensate for everything that my son has lost. We are there to seek to mend the wound that was left when his biological parents gave him up. So yeah, adoption does have a role to play here, but here's the difference. What we do in chapter nine is we spend time contrasting adoption with reproductive technologies. And so adoption is an institution that is centered around what the kid needs. The adults do the hard thing by going through background checks, screenings, vettings, references, post-placement supervision. The adults, a lot of adults that want to be adoptive parents, won't be. Not every adult who wants a kid should have one. But when adoption is done well, every child that needs a family is going to find one, because the child's the client. We contrast that with reproductive technologies where the adults is the client, where they don't go through any screening or vetting or background checks or supervision or post placement, even though they very often go home with an unrelated child. At least one adult is unrelated, if not both of them. In reproductive technologies, they don't clear background checks, their check has to clear. Reproductive technologies are a marketplace, not centered around the best interest of children, but centered around the desires of adults. So adoption is a critical institution that unfortunately exists because our world is broken, but adoption done properly upholds children's rights, whereas reproductive technologies willfully violates children's rights.

Sean McDowell: My sister was adopted, my youngest sister, and she's just been such a beautiful, amazing addition to our family. What's interesting is, as she got older, she wanted to find her birth mother. And part of it was understanding her story and who she is, was tied to discovering and connecting with her mom. And it's been a huge blessing in her life. You talk about in the book, how biology is tied to identity. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Katy Faust: We have chapter two, this is one of the foundational chapters in the book where we talk about why biology matters. First, biology matters to the parent-child relationship because statistically biological parents are the safest, most connected to, most protective of, and most invested in their children. And that's not to say that a child's married biological mother and father means they will never experience abuse or neglect.

Sean McDowell: Sure.

Katy Faust: It's just to say that there's no other family structure that's even close in terms of abuse and neglect. Every time, unfortunately, when there is a home of a non-biologically related adult, risks of abuse and neglect skyrocket. So safety is one of the biggest aspects of why biology matters. But the other thing that biological parents offer is biological identity, and we know that because we've got lots of adopted kids and we've got a lot of donor-conceived children who've been raised loving heterosexual homes with moms and dads who scour the internet for hours and hours and years and years sometimes to find their absent mother or father, that there's something, for example, for my son, that I can't give him when it comes to his biological identity. Sociologists, child psychologists have been studying this ever since the sixties when adoption kind of boomed during what they call the baby scoop era. And they noticed that kids experienced something called genealogical bewilderment, this feeling of like, I don't belong, who am I like, why do I look this way? I'm not seeing myself mirrored back or reflected back in anybody else in the house. And so all kids, especially in adolescence, are struggling to answer the question, "Who am I? "And when you don't have those biological or kinship connections, sometimes that question is harder to answer. The man, Erik Erikson, the famous psychologist who coined the term, "identity crisis" was an adopted child. Well, his stepfather adopted him and he actually changed his name. Erikson was not his original name, but he didn't know his dad. He didn't connect with his stepdad, so he renamed himself Erikson as the son of myself. I don't have any other deeper connection. Identity does have a big part of who we came from and from whom we came. And we know that because those are the questions that adoptees and donor conceived children are asking.

Sean McDowell: Now, you have something that I think is pretty bold here. You say, "To thrive outside the womb, children require three nutrients in their socio-emotional diet. Their father's love, their mother's love, and stability." Tell what you mean by those three things and why they're so important.

Katy Faust: Yeah. Well, kids need a lot of things. I've got four of them. They need good friends. They need a roof over their head. They need all kinds of things. But what we know from studying family structure for decades is that if they don't have one of these three socio-emotional staples in their diet, mother's love, father's love, and stability, they're going to be emotionally malnourished. And so we see that, we can see it in the numbers. We can see it in the stories of kids. We can see it in the outcomes of kids. And that all three of those things are required just as sort of a baseline of social and emotional health. And again, back to why marriage is a social justice issue for children, marriage is the only place, the married home of a child's biological parent, is the only place where they're going to be nourished on all three of those staples. For example, in a divorced family, they might get 50% of mom and 50% of dad, but very likely they're living in a significantly unstable environment. Stability is often completely gone in the wake of a divorce as dad dates and remarries sometimes with step kids and then mom moves out and then has a boyfriend, has another child. Dad breaks up, they lose those step kids. Then he moves to another state. Mom has another baby, but then she divorces again. Divorce is often the very first of a long list of losses and transitions for kids. Instability is almost always the result of a divorce even if a kid is able to maintain a contact with both mom and dad. So there really is no other, unfortunately, it's very hard for our 2021 ears to hear, but that whole traditional marriage thing is the place where kids are going to receive the nourishment, the social-emotional nourishment, foundational staples that they need to thrive.

Sean McDowell: There's so many lines in your book. I was highlighting, circling. And one of them that jumped out to me, relates to something my father had said in his books, he said to me when I'm younger. He said, "The greatest way for a dad to love his kids is to love his kid's mother." And that kind of made sense to me. The older I get, the more I see it. I'm like, "Oh my goodness". And you explained in your book, you said, "Kids feel loved when they see their biological mom and biological dad loving each other, but this doesn't apply to stepparents." Why is that so important? And why do you think that's the case?

Katy Faust: So I start out chapter two, I think, talking about this, and this was an observation by Pat Fagan, who is a marriage and family giant in terms of marriage and family research. But he had also done family counseling and he's a child psychologist for like 50 years. And that's what he said. He said, "It's fascinating because when kids watch their dad love their mom, they feel like their dad is loving them. And when they see their mom love their dad, they feel like their mom is loving them." He said, it's like the only relationship that I know of where you can be loved indirectly, where you're not directly being the target of the love, but you feel loved anyway. And I was like, okay, this is fascinating. Since I heard that, I'll ask different people who've shared their story or whatever, if they had a stepparent, I'll say, "What did you think when you saw your mom and dad or your mom and your stepdad kissing?" And the boys would be like, "I felt angry." I was like, "Get away from my mom." Or the girls would be like, "Well, I'll just wait. It's fine. It's fine, but it's not like I love it. I'll just go in the other room." A lot of times the introduction of a stepparent does not have that circuitous love effect, but rather it will introduce competitiveness. Now the child feels like they're competing for love with their stepdad, for the love and the affection of their mom. So it's all together different. I think that I will, I know that there are heroic stepparents out there. I've seen them. I know the kids who have been raised by heroic stepparents who have stepped in to fill the gap of a missing or negligent biological parent, and they're out there. But when you're talking about the magic that just naturally springs up in a child when they watch their own mother and father loving each other, so far I haven't heard of anything that can match it.

Sean McDowell: It's intuitively true. And it's it's powerful. And it's always stuck with me since my dad said that. And sometimes I'll give my wife a kiss and the kids act kind of funny, but there's something that just bubbles up in them that, you know they want to see this affection from their mom and their dad, and it trickles down to them. So mom and dad loving each other benefits the kids. You have a good amount in your book talking about how kids suffer in particular without the father, such as girls getting puberty on average, correct me if I'm wrong, about a year earlier, which has some medical effects in the long run. Why is a father in the home so important?

Katy Faust: How much time do you have? But you're right. You can see it in their bodies. Their bodies tell you that their father is important. Now, we don't have as much experience with mother absence and mother loss because biology makes that a lot more difficult. Mom is connected by a literal cord when the baby is born, you have to cut that cord. So it's a non-negotiable that mom is going to be there. And then with breastfeeding, and just the way that moms are wired in terms of nurturing and connection, it's highly unlikely that mom's going to bail and abandon the kid. But without the social and the legal cord of marriage, it's not a guarantee that dad's going to be there. And yet, his presence is so critical and you can see it in their bodies. You can see it in their minds. You can see it in their hearts. You can see it in their behavior. And so, yeah, the example that you gave is shocking that girls who do not grow up with their father on average, go through menses a year earlier or have early menses. We don't know exactly why. It might be because an evolutionary biologist might say, well, that's because she realizes that there's a shortage of men so she has to get ready to reproduce sooner. Other people would say, well, there's a lot of pheromones from unrelated men in the home, whether it's stepfather or mother's boyfriend and that triggers sort of the early onset of a girl's reproductive season, but something in her body is saying, it's time to go find a man sooner, which is not awesome. Because coupled with a child's father hunger, a girl's father hunger, that she often experiences without dad, that just means that's a recipe for higher teen pregnancy. So fathers do an awful lot for kids. We spend a lot of time in chapter three, talking about why dads and moms are different and why, in fact, we shouldn't even say parenting, we should just say mothering and fathering. That's how different men and women are in relation to their kids.

Sean McDowell: You talk about, in your book, that kids who are denied a mom and a dad because of different relationships naturally feel this hunger. They have two dads, there's a hunger for a mom. Two moms, there's hunger for dad. And your point, which I appreciate, is to say that somebody's sexual orientation is irrelevant to whether they're a good mom or a dad, has nothing to do with it. But a man, regardless of a sexual orientation, can't be a mother, and a woman, regardless of sexual orientation, can't be a father. Kids need both in the family relationship. That's so important. Talk about that a little bit, because you tell some stories about kids who grew up in, for example, same sex parenting and will miss a mother, because they say have two dads, but never feel the freedom to share that and struggle internally. And I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, you said sometimes it's not until middle age that they really process that hurt.

Katy Faust: Yeah. There's a couple things there. So I'll just zoom out a bit and say, when a child loses a parent to tragedy, like a parent dies and we had to deal with this, unfortunately, a couple times as youth ministers, you're there when a parent dies, but you know what happens is everybody comes around that child, they mourn together. The kid can remember, they're not alone in their grief, their loss is validated. And there's a lot of people to talk to and bear that burden. That's what happens when a child loses a parent to tragedy. When a child loses a parent because of intentionality, because adult desires are prioritized above the child's rights, the child has to mourn in secret. The child can't be open about their pain because they are living with the very adults who chose for their parent to be gone. And so that places a sort of psychological burden on the kid where the kid actually has to start supporting the parents instead of the parents supporting the kids. And so you actually see this in kids of divorce, kids of reproductive technologies, and kids with say and sex parents where they feel like, I can't really say anything because if I do, I'm really condemning the choices of the people that are in my home. So that's really difficult. And that's really true, really of all desire-based parental losses. We see that in all of these different groups. Second. Yes. Many kids, I have found, it's pretty rare for kids to process this before they're 28. You kind of have to be 10 years out of the home before you can really have the distance and objectivity to be like, you know what, that wasn't awesome. I felt really protective of my mom or I felt really protective of my dad. And so I kind of was like, "Oh my gosh, having two homes is great", but I'm like, that sucked. And it was actually really rough when my mom got remarried and then this new guy joined and I felt like he took over my home and I felt like I was a third wheel because now they were so focused on their new baby or whatever it was, that it just takes some time and distance before you're able to look back objectively. So those are true. Those are true statements, I think, for all of these groups that we work with and whose stories we catalog. So if you want, if that's not too long, we can talk about kids with same sex parents and the additional pressure that's placed on them.

Sean McDowell: Yeah.

Katy Faust: I think the challenge for them is that many of these kids are being told, you're so lucky. You're so lucky to have two moms. You're so lucky to have two moms that love you. The problem is many of these kids desperately want a dad. Why, because they're human kids and all human kids want their dads. And it doesn't matter if you have two moms who love you, two moms or 10 moms will never be the dad that you have a right to and whose love you crave. So that's really difficult, especially I think for the kids with gay parents, because they are going to be accused of bigotry and being anti-gay if they just say what every kid feels in their heart, which is, "Where is my dad? Who is he? Does he think about me? Does he wonder about me? Would he want to get to know me if he knew who I was? Where did he go? I wonder if he would love me? Do I look like him?" These are questions that kids, definitely donor conceived kids ask, a lot of kids with same sex parents ask. But these kids, a lot of times they're in the closet because the people they love the most in their life are gay, but saying that they want a dad, then the world says that's anti-gay, so it's a pretty difficult position for some of them.

Sean McDowell: That dilemma, the way you explain in the book is really eye-opening to me, because there's so many kids with two same sex parents. Like I love my moms. I love my dads. That's not the issue. But I feel a loss of something, and I'm betraying those who love me if I share this. That's the bind that they're in. I want to ask you about the no difference thesis. I think you probably know this. In 2014, John Stonestreet and I wrote a book, "Same-Sex Marriage", the year before Obergefell came out. We saw the writing on the wall and I spent a good amount of time studying some of the research and articles that claimed there was no difference in the psychological, emotional wellbeing of kids with same sex parents. And some said, it's even better for kids. You have a good amount time in your book, pushing back on that saying, this does not really reflect where the studies are. So tell us, and obviously, this only goes so far, but as unbiased as you can, what does the data really show about the effects of same sex parenting as a whole on kids?

Katy Faust: Okay. Here's a really helpful thought experiment for your audience. Anytime researchers are not studying same sex parenting, they agree on three things. Number one, biology matters in parenting, that biological parents benefit children in ways that non-biologically related parents don't. When you're not talking same sex parenting, that is the consensus. Number two, that men and women offer distinct and complimentary benefits to children, that gender matters in parenting. And that dads do something moms don't do, and moms do something that dads don't do, and kids need both. Number three, kids are harmed when they lose, when they go through the trauma of parental loss, whether that's through death, divorce, abandonment, or reproductive technologies. Whenever you're looking at kids whose parents have died, kids whose parents have divorced, kids whose parents created them through reproductive technologies, death, divorce, abandonment, and even adoption. If they're adopted subsequently after an abandonment, any of those kids raised with heterosexual parents do not fare as well. Okay, that is the consensus when you're not studying same sex parenting. And something interesting happens when you study same sex parented homes. Interestingly, those kids fare no different, or like you said, even better. Despite the fact that you're always missing a biological parent, you don't have the complementary of male and female, and you've always had the parental loss and the trauma that goes with that. So tell me why, why is it that suddenly the three items on which there is unanimous consensus among social scientists suddenly doesn't matter when you're studying same sex parenting? Could it be because those studies use very small sample sizes? They're not random participants they're recruited or volunteered. They're not longitudinal. They don't study children over long periods of time. Oftentimes, they assess the adults. "How do you think your kid likes having two moms? You think they love it? Awesome." They're not actually measuring the outcomes of the kids themselves as adults looking back saying, yeah, I actually did struggle with depression, or yeah, I didn't do so well in school, or I did kind of dabble with self-harm issues or yes, we were on welfare or yeah, I was seen by a psychologist. Yes, I was diagnosed with a depression or anxiety. You're not actually measuring the outcomes of kids, you're surveying how the parents think that they are doing and how they think their children are doing. So that is why, that is why those studies defy the consensus because they don't use good methodology. So since you wrote that book, there have been a couple pretty incredible large studies done primarily by Paul Sullins, where he draws data from a couple large government data sources, CDC is one of them and then a national child incident study report. And both of those are graphed out in our book so that you can see that when you actually look at quality samples studied over time where kids actually reported the outcomes or you can actually see the outcomes, not just what the parent thinks the outcomes are, the no difference actually looks like a huge difference and that kids really do suffer when they're raised by two moms or two dads. Paul Sullins, who I think has probably interacted with more samples than any of the no difference people prior to 2015, at least, would say, it's just like you said, it's not because gays or lesbians are incapable of being good parents, that's not it. It's that they're incapable of both being biologically related to parents and that's where the advantage seems to be.

Sean McDowell: When this topic comes up, one thing I'll hear from students is, "Well, isn't it better for a kid to have two moms that be in the foster care system?" And when it's framed like that, I found with younger people, there's a sense of like, yeah, that actually is better for kids. They find that compelling. What's your response when you hear that?

Katy Faust: So this is often posed in the hypothetical. I think I'm the only person that's actually lived it because I am a total children's rights advocate. I've always believed in traditional marriage, but I also used to work at the largest Chinese adoption agency in the world. And this is before I was a mom, but I was super adoption-oriented. I had been overseas several times. I had walked the floors of orphanages. I had seen the babies packed in cribs two and three at a time where the rooms were completely silent even though there was 150 of them because those babies had learned that nobody comes when they cry, so why bother. I had walked the floors of orphanages where babies and kids had fingertips that looked like light bulbs that were blue on the tips of each one of them, because they had holes in their heart and their body wasn't pumping oxygen fast enough. So some good friends of mine who were lesbians said, "We're going to go get this kid, this kid who has a significant special need." And I knew because I was in the adoption world, that that agency had tried to place that child with several heterosexual couples and nobody wanted to take her on. But my lesbian friend said, we will.

Sean McDowell: Wow.

Katy Faust: But we're going to need your help, will you go with us? Because you have an adoption background, you've kind of seen it. It's not going to be a shock to you. And I said, let me think, hell yes, I'm going. And so we went and we spent two really, really difficult weeks as that child learned to be with people that looked different, smelled different, spoke differently. She was older. She had a very significant special need. It was hard. It was really hard. The little girl ended up needing almost yearly surgeries. She would've died. She would've died without them. And honestly, there was no Christian heterosexual couple who had the balls to do it.

Sean McDowell: Wow.

Katy Faust: So you can acknowledge that there are times and places where a child would be better off with people like my friends, with two loving men or two loving women. But you can acknowledge that exception without saying, so moms and dads don't matter, so we should throw away marriage as an institution that unites the two people to whom children have a natural right. You can, and must, acknowledge the exceptions and say, adoption is all about finding the best parents available for a child. And then also say, also, there's an ideal, and the ideal is that all children would have their own mother and father. And if they've lost their own parents, that whenever possible, they're also raised by an adoptive mother and father because adoptive kids need moms and dads too. I won't speculate about their family, but I know other adoptive families where, whether it's a single or a same sex parented couple, kids are better off because they're not in an orphanage or because they're not in foster care, but those kids still long for a dad too.

Sean McDowell: That's awesome to recognize the sacrifice and love that they made without saying that exception overturns the rule and the norm and the good, that kids need a mom and a dad. I think that's a very fair response. Now, I think your answer's probably going to be similar to this one, but let me just jump in and bring one question over that I think is thoughtful. Darren says, abusive mom and dad versus non-abusive same sex, both, not an ideal in a Christian worldview, but would one be better for kids than the other hypothetically in situations?

Katy Faust: Really good. So this is a question. I'm leading a discussion group with some teens as well, and they brought this up. They also brought up. So let's just knock these both out at the same time, of like, okay, well, like what about the infertile couple. There's the infertile couple that can't have kids. They're the same sex couple who can't have kids. So should they both be married? Should neither be married? And so what I think is so fascinating is in these kinds of conversations, we immediately jump to the exceptions. The exception is that biological parents are going to be abusive. Google the word's, "mother's boyfriend", for me really fast, whoever's listening, whoever asks the question. Tell me what you see. You're going to see pages and pages of the most horrific headlines about abuse and child death because cohabiting unrelated adults, especially men, are statistically the most dangerous person in a child's life. Statistically, the safest adults that a child is going to have in their life is their own married mother and father. Are there abusive biological parents? Yes, there are. And I don't want to meet them in a dark alley with a club in my hand because that enrages me. But do you understand how statistically unlikely it is that a non-biologically related couple is going to be more protective of a child than their own biological parent? It is a statistical anomaly. It's possible, but completely unrealistic. It is the exception versus the exception. You are pitting two exceptions against one another. Let's look at the norm. The norm is that biology matters significantly. That's exactly why adoptive parents have to go through months of vetting, screening, background checks, research, references, home study, supervision, post-placement reports because social workers aren't fools. They know that non-biologically related adults will not, do not interact with kids the same way. So I don't know which is better of those two, I just know that they are both total extreme exceptions to the norm.

Sean McDowell: That's super fair. One of the things I try to do, Katy, and I know I fall short of this is that I want to speak truth that Jesus taught, but I want to do it graciously with a kind heart with people who see the world differently. And you do that in your book, I think because of your experience, because your mom, just because of your life and who you are. You have a bold statement that I want to read you, which I think is true. And I want you to unpack this a little bit. You said, "To suggest there's no difference between men and women is as destructive as it is false." Unpack that, if you will.

Katy Faust: That something so self-evident has to be explained is such a sign of the times. Men and women are gloriously different. And unfortunately we've been sold this lie that we're not really equal unless we're the same, which is really tragic because the only way that our species exists is because of our differences. And those differences are the most beautifully, and in my opinion, critically manifested in the home. God, give me a President Nikki Hailey. Give me the Justice Amy Coney Barrett. I don't care if there's a female or all-female leadership at the bank. I don't care. But men and women, in terms of their differences and how that's manifested, is so critical to have those gender differences and the gender balance in the home. And interestingly, that is the institution that gets the gender balance exactly right every time. To have a child means that you automatically are going to have a perfect gender balance. And yet the world is saying, "Well, men and women, they're the same. They have to be the same if they're going to be equal". They've got all kinds of liberal laws saying we need equal representation for women on our boards.Or there's a lot of countries that will say you have to elect a certain number of women to the legislature. So at some point we recognize that gender balance does matter and yet we have spent so much time destroying the one institution that gets the gender balance exactly right. And kids need moms and dads. We, in the book, we talk about all these different little examples, but Google "dads with baby videos" and tell me what you see? You see dads doing the most goofy, silly, slightly risky, really exciting things with their babies and the baby is just loving it. But look at moms, look at moms with babies, it's cuddle, it's holding them close. It's nurture. It's soothing. It's just like the perfect picture of naturally what moms and dads do differently with babies, and babies need both. They need that safe place to land. They need the oxytocin that mom releases that lowers their stress and their cortisol levels that literally teaches them to have an emotional regulation and central nervous system. Kids don't develop that on their own. Mom's nurture does it for them. You also have dads that are throwing kids in the air like in Toledo, in Tokyo, in Tianjin. Dads throw their babies in the air on every continent of this planet and kids love it. And they actually learn something really important about life from the rough and tumble play that dads offer. And you can see it. We refer to it as father hunger and mother hunger through the book. When kids don't have it, they long for it. They crave it. And in a very real sense, they're starved without it.

Sean McDowell: I was driving my kids. We went on a hike as family this morning. And I asked my kids just driving a car, eight and 13. I said, "If you Google, dad baby videos, how do you think it'd be different from mom baby videos?" And my kids got it. "They're like, mom's probably cuddling and caring. And my eight year old's like, dad's probably throwing a football or a water balloon". And both are equally valuable, but the way your arguing, there's something universal built into a man and a woman. Now, I venture people would say, well, if you take same sex parents, they can get those things. Kids with same sex parents from other relationships, so it doesn't have to necessarily be in the home. Can't that mitigate some of the differences?

Katy Faust: Well, you better. If your two moms are two dads, you darn well better find somebody who can have a motherly role or a fatherly role in the life of a kid. But there's a lot of stories that we've got in our book. So kids with two moms or two dads who are like, "Nope, I don't care. I don't need some uncle that picks me up twice a month to take me out on a date or something. I need my dad." There's this one, my gosh, saddest story ever of this kid who wrote us. It was actually a comment that he put under one of our posts. And he goes, "I just want a dad like my friends have." It's his mom's friend. And he goes, "He's kind of like me, we're both kind of chubby. We like to be outside. We like hunting. I think I'm kind of like him and I wish he was my dad. Why don't I get a dad?" And so even kids that have role models, the role model is not the father. I've had kids say, well, what if one mom is like kind of feminine and the other mom's kind of butch. So then one's doing the mom role and the other one's doing the dad role. I haven't met a kid or read the story of a kid of a same sex couple who goes, "Yeah, that was totally it for me. My butch mom absolutely filled that role of dad." No, this doesn't have to do with acting a certain way. This has to do with manhood and womanhood and mothering and fathering. Isn't a switch that you flip on and off. It's something that springs up in you because of your maleness or your femaleness and affects the way that you talk, the way you discipline, the way you play, the way you interact, the way you orient your child to the world, the way that you present the world to your child. These aren't things that you can just say, "I'm going to dress a certain way", or "I'm going to use certain words" or "I'm going to throw a football and that's going to do it". I haven't met a kid that has been like, yeah, that does it for me. But I would encourage you. Why don't you read one of the, I don't know, 30 stories of kids with same sex parents in the book and just take their word for it, not mine.

Sean McDowell: Well, what I do appreciate about the book is there's a lot of stories you've captured, but there's also a lot of facts that back it up. So it's narrative and fact-driven. So it's interesting. It's personal. And there's some heartbreaking stories that just moved me to tears reading it, but you're backing it up with the data. Now I know some people say to you, they'll say Katy, your husband's a pastor. You used to be a youth pastor. Why making these religious arguments from the Bible? What would your response be?

Katy Faust: Yeah. I'm like, yeah, I know, so much scripture on my website, isn't there? Oh, actually there's none. So we actually have a section in the book where it says, this isn't about religion. In fact, it should be about religion. If you're a Christian, great, but God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve just isn't going to cut it. You have to become experts when it comes to the social science. You have to be able to deal in the universal authority, which is natural law and appeal to that common authority. We've got a section in the book where we kind of give a little test and say, what do the five major religions have in common? Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism. Let me give you a quick, multiple choice test on what do those five religions agree? The nature of God, the nature of man, the problem in the world, the solution to the problem, the nature of the afterlife, or the definition of marriage. What do they all agree on? And the answer is, marriage. They all have something that looks a lot like men should commit to the women they're making babies with for life before they make those babies. And that's because marriage, children, men, women, sex, those are universal truths that are recognized. They're self-evident, and that's why they've made their way into all of these religious traditions. We need to, and we can make these cases not based on religion, and so we don't. There's no scripture in this book, there's no scripture on my website, even though I'm Bible crazy. Someday, let's just do a Bible chat. I can't get enough, but this isn't the place, honestly, especially in public policy debates.

Sean McDowell: So let me ask you somewhat of a question to personalize this. I imagine there might be some people watching with two moms or two dads or somebody watching this who would want to share this with somebody in that situation. I've met kids with two moms or two dads that are, like the way you described, hurt, it's difficult for them. I've met two kids who have at least said, I'm fine. I love it. No issues with me. All kids with same sex parents included, what message if you were speaking to them right now, what would you say to kids who grow up in that family situation?

Katy Faust: That's good. First, I would say it's okay to feel really protective of your parents. That's okay. That's natural. And especially when you're living in your home, sometimes it's really hard to figure out where's the line between where I am, what I want, how do I feel, and feeling like I need to love and protect my parents. So you don't need to say anything if you don't want. Loving them, that's totally okay. But I would also say that if you feel like you're missing out or you wish that you had a dad or you wish you had a mom, I want to tell you're not the crazy one. You're not crazy for wanting that. You deserve that. You are made for that. And if the world is telling you that you shouldn't want that, or you're bad for wanting that, the world is crazy for saying that. You're not the crazy one. I submitted an Amicus brief to the Supreme Court for the Obergefell case and we put in dozens of stories of kids with same sex parents. And what we say in that is, kids with same sex parents aren't special. It's just one of the many ways that kids experience mother and father loss. And so any kid that's watching this who maybe has experienced parental loss from abandonment or a divorce, or because they were created through sperm or egg donation, or because they have two moms or two dads, you're not special. You're just a kid. And it's really natural to wonder about your missing parent and to wish that you were loved by that missing parent. That's just what it means to be a human kid. So if that's how you're feeling, you're not crazy. You're just a human kid and that's what most human kids want.

Sean McDowell: Katy, thanks for bringing both your mind and your heart to this question. I want to honor your time because when we jumped on, you were scrambling to make dinner. I have somebody putting in faucets for both parents, running around trying to do this thing. So let me end by saying this. I hope people will pick up your book, "Them Before Us". Again, each week on Instagram, I put a game-changing book that just shifted my thinking in some fashion on a range of topics that I hope people who kind of follow me will pick up. Your book, Them Before Us is one of them. Tell us where else people can follow you.

Katy Faust: I'm not awesome on social media. I kind of need a little social media discipleship. Wink, wink. But I'm on Twitter at @advo_Katy. Get it, like advocate, but it's Advo_Katy. Clever.

Sean McDowell: Oh, smart. Clever.

Katy Faust: Thanks. Thanks. And I'm on Facebook. I've got a public Facebook page, Katy Faust, which is probably a little more where I post because I can't talk that short. Twitter's too short for me. We've got some Instagram. Our Them Before Us Instagram page is great. So if you're on Instagram, look for Them Before Us. I think, them_before_us. We're there. Go to our website, You can sign up for our newsletters. So that's something that the big tech giants so far can't control. So you can log on there. The book is probably the best place to really get the full message and have all your questions answered. We were really insistent that we do a detailed table of contents so you can sit down and you can read it all the way through, or you can go, "Oh my Gosh, what was that thing about abortion and surrogacy? How is abortion involved in surrogacy? I have to look at that." "Oh, somebody just said that if I'm against gay marriage, that means I'm also the equivalent of someone being against interracial marriage. Wait a second. What was that thing? Oh, where was that? She said that biology means you're the most connected to and invested in. Wait, I need to see some studies on that." And so it's really detailed. I don't know if you're going to be able to see this, but-

Sean McDowell: There's a ton of things.

Katy Faust: Here's our table of content. And it's a reference guide. It's supposed to be your quick place to get answers about all of these questions and find the stories of kids because that's really where the power is. When you're having a conversation about somebody who's ... I just don't want to wait for Mr. Right anymore. I'm already 40. My biological clock is ticking. I think I'm just going to go get a sperm donor. You grab the book, you look at it. You're like, "Okay, here's five stories of kids created through sperm donation who were raised by single mothers by choice. My friend needs to read this", so we've got it broken up so you can get right to the information that you need on every single matter of marriage and parenthood. It's all there for you, the stories, the studies, the very best research.