MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning! If you pay any attention to pop culture, you’re probably hearing a lot about Kanye West’s new album, Jesus is King. It’s poised for a commanding No. 1 debut.
WEST: Now that I’m in service to Christ, my job is to spread the gospel, to let people know what Jesus has done for me.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Plus, a review of the new biopic on Harriet Tubman, the Christian abolitionist who helped liberate hundreds of slaves.
CLIP: Harriet can you read a sign or a map? Can you read it all? I put my attention on trying to hear God’s voice more clearly. Do you know what would happen if you got caught?
And on Ask the Editor, Marvin Olasky explains why we publicly recognize people who do good.
BASHAM: It’s Friday, November 1st. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
BASHAM: Now news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Democrats pass ground rules for impeachment inquiry » Democrats pushed a package of ground rules for their impeachment inquiry through a sharply divided House on Thursday.
AUDIO: On this vote the yays are 232, the nays are 196. The resolution is adopted.
Two Democrats sided with Republicans on the vote. Independent Congressman Justin Amash, who recently left the GOP, voted “yes.”
Democratic leaders say the vote kicks the legs out from under Republican complaints that the process is too secretive. House Judiciary Chairman Jarrold Nadler…
NADLER: This resolution that we passed today lays the groundwork for open hearings in both the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee. The House and the American public must see all the evidence for themselves.
Republicans like Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole say it’s too little, too late—and that the resolution does not address many concerns about the fairness of the inquiry.
COLE: A legitimate process is one that offers protections for everyone involved, and without those protections, this will be seen as just another partisan exercise.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise accused Democrats of running a “Soviet style” inquiry—ignoring due process and minority rights.
Pentagon reveals new details, images of al-Baghdadi raid » Top U.S. military officials are revealing new details about the raid that killed the leader of ISIS last weekend.
The Pentagon released photos and video clips of the nighttime operation. One shows Delta Force commandos creeping up on the walls of the compound where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was hiding.
General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie said U.S. forces surrounded the compound and ordered everyone inside to move outdoors.
MCKENZIE: Five ISIS members inside the compound presented a threat to the force. They did not respond to commands in Arabic to surrender, and they continued to threaten the force. They were then engaged by the raid force and killed. There were four women and one man.
Several non-combatants did obey commands. They were later released.
Other videos show airstrikes at the compound. McKenzie said the U.S. forces completely destroyed it to ensure it would not become a shrine to al-Baghdadi.
MCKENZIE: It looks pretty much like a parking lot with large potholes right now.
He said the military buried al-Baghdadi’s remains at sea.
Meantime, ISIS declared a new leader Thursday. In an audio release, a spokesman for the terror group identifies the successor as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. The spokesman called him a well known warrior and urged followers to pledge allegiance to the new “caliph.”
At least 71 dead in Pakistan train fire » A massive fire erupted Thursday on a train in eastern Pakistan—killing at least 71 passengers. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Flames roared through the cars as the train traveled through Punjab province. Survivors recounted horrific scenes of fellow passengers screaming as they jumped through windows and off the speeding train. Some said it took 20 minutes for the train to finally squeal to a stop.
Pakistan’s minister for railways said a passenger was cooking breakfast with a gas cylinder when it exploded, and the flames quickly spread. But other reports suggest an electrical problem may have sparked the blaze.
It was the latest tragedy to hit Pakistan’s dilapidated rail system. Eleven people died in a rail accident there in July.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Twitter removing all political ads » Twitter announced this week that it is removing all political ads from its platform.
CEO Jack Dorsey said the reach of a message should be “earned, not bought.”
He said political ads force—quote—“highly optimized and targeted political messages on people.” And he added, “We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.”
Meantime, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shows no signs of backing down from his decision to allow political ads. In a call with investors, he said, “I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news.”
Kentucky Supreme Court sides with print shop owner in religious liberty case » The Kentucky Supreme Court handed a legal win to the owner of a print shop in a highly public religious liberty case. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg reports.
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: The court ruled unanimously that an LGBT group did not have the legal right to sue Blaine Adamson for declining to print messages that violate his religious beliefs.
The case started in 2012 when an LGBT group asked Adamson’s Hands On Originals print shop to make promotional t-shirts for a pride festival.
Adamson did serve LGBT customers and only declined to print certain messages.
But the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization filed a complaint with the county’s Human Rights Commission. And the commission said Adamson must set aside his faith and print the shirts.
But after that, all three levels of the state court system ruled in his favor.
Kentucky Supreme Court Justice David Buckingham said Thursday that—quote—“Hands On was in good faith objecting to the message it was being asked to disseminate.”
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.
Chrysler, Peugeot agree to form auto giant » Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA Peugeot have agreed to merge to create an automotive giant.
Matteo Caroli is an international business professor at Italy’s LUISS University. He said merging into the world’s fourth-largest automaker will benefit both companies.
CAROLI: It will increase competitiveness in the American market, and I think also in Europe.
Italian-American Fiat Chrysler has a strong footprint in North America, where it makes at least two thirds of its profits. And Peugeot is the second biggest automaker in Europe.
Analysts say the move will position the new larger company to play catch up in developing electric vehicles and other new technology.
The combined company would produce nearly 9 million cars a year—just behind Toyota, Volkswagen, and the Renault-Nissan alliance.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: Kanye West’s public confession of faith. Plus, Marvin Olasky on the difference between shining lights and blaring trumpets. This is The World and Everything in It.
MEGAN BASHAM: It’s Friday, November 1st, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Culture Friday.
LYRICS: Won’t be in bondage to any man
We the descendants of Abraham
’Ye should be made free
To whom the son set free is free indeed
He saved a wretch like me. (Hallelujah 40X, Hallelujah, He is wonderful)
I never expected to be playing a Kanye West song. I have to be honest about that.
BASHAM: Right?! That’s “Selah” from Kanye West’s new album “Jesus Is King.” It’s a sort of Kanye’s public confession of faith and we’ll talk a bit about that today.
EICHER: Actually put on this record Sunday morning, driving to church. It was right on the main page of Apple Music, front and center, so I played it and I was struck by what I thought was pretty robust theology.
LYRICS: … Everything old shall now become new
The leaves’ll be green, bearing the fruit
Love God and our neighbor, as written in Luke
The army of God and we are the truth
Apple Music also featured an interview with Kanye West. It was about an hour and a half. Pretty meandering interview, but I’ll share a couple of moments that were interesting. First, you’ll hear West talking about the change in his life.
WEST: Now that I’m in service to Christ, my job is to spread the gospel, to let people know what Jesus has done for me. You know, I’ve spread it up a lot of things. I, there was a time I was letting you know what high fashion had done for me. I was letting you know what the Hennessey had done for me. I was letting you know all these things, but now I’m letting you know what Jesus has done for me and in that I’m no longer a, I’m no longer a slave. I’m a son now, son of God. I’m free.
I think what he’s talking about, when he says “what the Hennessey had done for me,” he’s talking about expensive cognac, because you’ll hear him say it in the second bit of sound we’ll share with you. He refers to a Hennessey bottle.
BASHAM: Yeah, the interviewer asks Kanye West a really good question here. Let’s listen to that.
INTERVIEWER: But you’ve lived at well-documented life, filled with temptation, and it’s been, it’s all throughout your records and all throughout your music and it’s been quoted. And what’s your relationship with temptation now? How do you process that? Are you able, once you find God to the degree you have to just switch that off? Is that possible?
WEST: I think when people have been addicted to something, like if you asked somebody who’s a drug addict, it’s like you say, are you still addicted?
Well, yeah, you turn it off actually. You’re like, with God, I’ve been able to beat things that had a full control of me. Things that, you know, that that Playboy that I found when I was five years old was written all over the moment when I was at the MTV awards with the Timberlands, the Balmain jeans before people’s rockin’ Balmain jeans, um, and the Hennessy bottle, it’s like, that was such a, a script out of a rock star’s life. My mom had passed a year before and I said, you know, some people drown themselves in drugs and I drown myself in my addiction.
INTERVIEWER: Mm. Which was what?
Trevin Wax joins us today for Culture Friday. He’s a pastor, a blogger, and author. His books include This is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel.
BASHAM: Trevin, good morning.
TREVIN WAX, GUEST: Good morning to both of you.
BASHAM: So last time you were here, we talked about Kanye West, and we’re still talking about Kanye West. But I think here’s what’s different: we actually have something specific to look at. We can evaluate the content of the art.
EICHER: We talked yesterday before going on the air today, Trevin, and so I know you’ve listened to this record. It’s surprisingly theologically rich, isn’t it?
WAX: Well, you know, theologically rich isn’t exactly what comes to mind as much as theologically bold. I mean, don’t you think? When you listen to this album, it is very much “I’m a Christian,” it’s very in your face, here are Bible verses. And I think if you’re an evangelical, you belong to a denomination or churches that emphasize being born again and we love conversion stories. When I’m thinking about this album, I think one of the reasons it’s resonated so widely with a lot of evangelicals who might even be familiar with hip hop is partly just because of the thought of someone who had such a reputation suddenly now devoting their artistic energies to singing praise songs to the Lord and worship songs to the Lord and trying to express his commitment to God through music.
BASHAM: I think what I liked about it was that it falls very much in that tradition of here’s my story. And that’s what we’ve come to expect from Kanye. He never holds anything back and this is just so much about his own coming to faith and it’s inspiring.
WAX: Well, there’s been something of a narrative arc in his music for awhile. I don’t listen to explicit music and so I haven’t really listened to a lot of his albums before, but I’ve read articles about him in the past and in just sort of watching this unfold. I mean, I’ve had friends who really analyzed his work even a few years ago saying, you know, there’s a lot of spiritual energy in Kanye’s music and even saying things like I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually found the Lord. Because you just sense this searching and emptiness that was coming up and all of the kind of things that come along with a sinful, decadent culture and in some of his actions. So, it’s encouraging and fascinating to watch this artist who’s so well-known deliver a powerful message like this.
EICHER: Yeah, Trevin, I’m like you. I never did listen to Kanye West before so the very first song I listened to by him was from the album titled, “Jesus Is King.” So, all that said, I listened to it and I wonder, where’s the repentance? I’m not sure that comes through clearly to me.
BASHAM: See, I feel like I actually did hear that because we’ve all been watching Kanye’s life—at least those of us who sort of grew up along in this generation. Watching him, this feels like repentance to me, him talking about Hennessey and these things that used to be his gods. So, I felt like I did kind of see repentance in this album.
WAX: Yeah, and if you take repentance as a change of direction, a change of heart, then repentance is all over the album. I don’t think it shows up so much in expression of sorrow for his past sins so much as it shows up in the sense of I am on a different road. I have turned around from one way of life and I’m going completely in the other. And I think that is what comes out a lot in the boldness of what he’s putting on this record in terms of lyrics.
BASHAM: How about the music? I mean, did you feel like this is the kind of album or genre that you would enjoy listening to?
WAX: Ok, well, so for me, I have listened over the years—part of this album reminds me a little bit of Kirk Franklin and some of the work Kirk Franklin has done over the years. But I’m not—I listen to a wide variety. I’m very eclectic. If you look at my music playlists, one time I just listed all of the artists on my music playlists and it was very, very eclectic. But all that to say, a lot of people are talking about, in the evangelical world, talking about how artistic this album is and there certainly is a lot of artistry to it. I’m not denying that, but when I’m comparing this to some of the Christian hip-hop and rap artists from the past decade, I’m thinking of people like Lecrae and Shai Linne and Trip Lee and KB and others. There is some terrific work—Flame—just terrific work that’s going on. And so when I compare some of these songs to some of those songs, I think, man, there’s some terrific artistry going on right now in the Christian hip-hop genre that is truly breathtaking. And I’m glad that Kanye is getting this attention. Because I think it might shine light on some of the terrific work done by brothers who have been really working hard at this craft for many years now.
EICHER: Maybe this is a change of gears, maybe it isn’t. But Ross Douthat, writing in The New York Times, talks about a new Pew Research Center survey of American religion titled, “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace.” Now, I don’t always agree with Ross Douthat, but I always take Ross Douthat seriously. And in discussing this decline of Christianity, Douthat offers that in his view Pew is overstating things. He offered three qualifications, little dissents from the main point of the survey: number one, Lukewarm Christianity may be declining much more dramatically than intense religiosity; two, The waning of Christianity may be still as much a baby-boomer story as a millennial story; and three, which is important, I think, because Douthat is Catholic, There’s a strong case that any crisis facing Christian institutions is a more Catholic crisis than a Protestant one.
BASHAM: Trevin, I’ve read some of your writing online on this general topic, too, and it’s worth all of us reading and thinking about. Having said that, I’ll place a link inside the transcript of today’s program so you can find it easily.
It had me wondering about your point that a lot of the decline has come from mainline churches, who embrace far more liberal doctrine. It’s counterintuitive to me that we’d expect this from younger generations. Do you think this tells us maybe millennials don’t find orthodox Christian beliefs as offensive as we’ve been led to believe?
WAX: Yeah, I don’t know that we can read too much into millennial attitudes when you’re looking at quantitative research like this, which is basically their answers to survey questions of a wide spectrum, a large number of people. I think you have to look at qualitative research, which means you have to look at actual, what do millennials say. And I think what you’re seeing there are multiple things at the same time. So, yes, it’s true that Christianity is declining at a rapid pace when you’re talking about those who are now claiming to be unaffiliated so those who are no longer claiming Christian as sort of the default option, that number continues to shrink, and shrink rapidly. But if you actually look at millennials who are—and not just millennials. A recent book, for example, called The 20-Something Soul, shows that, well, you’ve got three out of 10 20-somethings today are evangelical protestants. And you have three out of 10 are none. And then the rest are Catholic or belong to mainline churches or belong to another religion. What it shows is you really have this spectrum here of more devout and then you’ve got on the other side those who perhaps have not been as active in their faith according to certain religious practices just choosing to move further and further away.
But if you look at the rate of church attendance, the percentage of the population that is attending worship services, there’s some decline, but not really as much as you might expect. It’s holding fairly steady. Where you do see a lot of decline is in the Catholic church and mainline denominations and it’s—I think when you actually look at what millennials say or what 20-somethings say, it doesn’t always back up some of the doom and gloom headlines that are out there based on just the quantitative research alone.
EICHER: Trevin Wax is a theologian. He’s a blogger. He’s an author. And his latest book is This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths In Light of the Gospel. Always great to talk with you, Trevin. It’s Culture Friday. Thanks so much.
WAX: Thank you guys.
MEGAN BASHAM: The book of Psalms tells us: Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
But a young lady attending church last Sunday in Alabama wasn’t expecting what happened during the service.
Have a listen to this: we will hear her reaction from this recording of the service, at Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church.
AUDIO: The Lord be with you – and also you [scream]
Senior pastor Bill Brunson quickly got his bearings and reminded the congregation of a Ray Stevens song called the “Mississippi Squirrel Revival”…
BRUNSON: When the squirrel went berserk in the First Self Righteous Church in the sleepy little town of Pascagoula. Well, just so you’ll know, the scream you heard is because a squirrel came through our stained glass window in the balcony.
Ushers got creative to lure the little guy.
BRUNSON: I like that we’re now trying to trap it with an offering plate [laughs] Um … and so um [scream] – okay, it’s still going on.
The bushy tailed rodent eventually scurried out the front door of the sanctuary—after leading the Alabama church revival!
It’s The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: Today is Friday, November 1st. We’re thankful you’ve joined us today! Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a superhero origin story.
But even better.
The tale of how the slave Araminta “Minty” Ross became American freedom fighter Harriet Tubman is more than a welcomed change of pace from fictional caped crusaders.
TRAILER: I don’t know if you know how extraordinary this is, but you have made it 100 miles to freedom all by yourself. Would you like to pick a new name to mark your freedom? Harriet Tubman.
There have been several television specials about Tubman. But the famed conductor of the Underground Railroad has never been the subject of a feature-length movie. Something to the film industry’s shame. Now that we have one, we may wish it was a little less conventional and a little more imaginative in telling her story. But there’s no question it does Tubman and the faith that motivated her justice.
CLIP: Rescuing slaves requires skill and careful planning. It requires reading, Harriet can you read a sign or a map? Can you read it all? I put my attention on trying to hear God’s voice more clearly. Do you know what would happen if you got caught? They were torture you until you pointed them right to this office. You got lucky, Harriet. There’s nothing more you can do. Don’t tell me what I can’t do. I made it this far on my own. God was watching but my feet were my own running, bleeding, climbing. Nearly drowned. Nothing to eat for days and days, but I made it. So don’t you tell me what I can’t do.
Beautifully staged and tremendously acted, the PG-13 Harriet provides fascinating—and awful—legal details on slavery as an institution. How it was enforced through violence has been explored in numerous other films, sometimes to the point of seeming to revel in it. It’s important not to turn away from the bloody reality. But it can also make the perpetrators of that evil seem like far different creatures from us. We can safely judge their wickedness because we see so little of ourselves in it.
Harriet, in contrast, explores the banal, daily pragmatism that allowed slavery to persist for so long. This isn’t the snarling, mustache-twirling villainy of Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Instead we self-justification grounded in ledger books and family finances. Tubman’s oppressors deny both her moral and legal claim to freedom for the most uncomfortably relatable of reasons—the desire to keep up appearances and maintain their standard of living.
The film does an equally fine job depicting the Christian faith that shaped Tubman’s life and informed her actions. When she was a child, an overseer struck her in the head with a two-pound lead weight. That caused Tubman to suffer from lifelong bouts of narcolepsy and other ailments. During her periodic dazes, she would see what she believed were visions from God.
Some Christian viewers may feel uncomfortable with the mystical way the movie characterizes these dreams. One scene, in particular, has a bit of a “Luke using the force” feeling. But could God use the physiological symptoms of Tubman’s brain trauma for His purposes? Certainly. And there’s no doubt that Tubman believed that’s what was happening. Maybe it was audible supernatural guidance. Or maybe it was God simply using her natural intellect to providentially order her steps. Either way, the number of times Tubman manages to escape danger and circumvent her enemies is near miraculous.
CLIP: How do you do? How do you do? Good. Confident, composed, wise enough to know not to look a strange white man in the eyes. You don’t want no trouble. But if trouble comes, you’ll be ready. Try it. Yeah, you’ll be ready.
This is far from the only representation of Christianity in Harriet. Her father’s example of trusting the God of the Bible inspires Tubman to take her own risks in faith. And she can only help others escape and win the nickname “Moses” because her family’s minister first helps her flee to the North. Though she can’t read, her fervent prayer life is a clear source of her courage.
Tubman’s life was so extraordinary, it’s a shame some of the most riveting facts about it are told only in postscript. What a crime to see her exploits as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War covered by a quick placard. Or her work in the suffrage movement. Or her late-in-life romance with her much-younger husband. If Captain America, Spider-Man, and Wonder Woman all merit a multitude of sequels, surely, so does the daring adventurer who, in her own words, “Never ran her train off the track and never lost a passenger.”
MEGAN BASHAM: Next up on The World and Everything in It, Ask the Editor.
NICK EICHER: Today WORLD Editor-in-Chief Marvin Olasky answers a listener who wonders whether WORLD’s Hope Awards for Effective Compassion is biblical.
MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: One WORLD member recently worried that by giving out yearly Hope Awards for Effective Compassion, we encourage Christians to toot their own horns. This member cited Matthew 6:2 about those who sound a trumpet “that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have [already] received their reward.”
We are fine with readers challenging us. So I went back to the Bible before responding. The context of that Matthew verse is important. Just one chapter earlier, Jesus tells his disciples, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Then in Matthew 6:1 Jesus warns them, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them.”
What gives? Did Jesus forget what he was saying from one minute to the next? Obviously not.
Jesus is concerned with those who are show offs, who pray loudly in the synagogues and on the street corners, wanting to draw attention to themselves. They fast with a gloomy, suffering expression so others will think them holy. The command to “let your light shine before others” does not conflict with “sound no trumpet before you” — if we glorify God and do not seek praise for ourselves.
The problem Jesus addresses is self-glorification. As an editor, I see a lot of it today. Whenever shootings, disasters, and other sad things happen, one ambitious evangelical leader has his publicist send out notices about his availability for interviews.
I receive hundreds of emails daily from publicists proposing that we write about an organization that has hired them to sound the trumpets. But our Hope Award nominees are different. They go about quietly loving others because God has first loved them. They did not seek acclaim. Someone noticed their work and contacted us to say something remarkable is happening.
In most cases, the founders have toiled without recognition – and done it year after year. They aren’t even eligible for an award unless they’ve been laboring for five years or more.
They are in this to glorify God, not themselves. They want to give themselves to their neighbors, not pile up fame and fortune for themselves.
I’m thankful for them, and thankful to those who nominate them. If you have a nomination for next year’s Hope Awards, please email our reporter Charissa. Her address: [email protected]
For WORLD Radio, I’m Marvin Olasky.
NICK EICHER: Well, it’s time to thank the hardworking people who put the program together for you this week:
Maria Baer, Myrna Brown, Paul Butler, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Kristen Flavin, Katie Gaultney, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Onize Ohikere, Andrée Seu Peterson, Mary Reichard, Sarah Schweinsberg, and Cal Thomas.
MEGAN BASHAM: Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz stay up late to get the program to you early. J-C Derrick is managing editor and Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief.
The Lord is my shepherd, the Psalms say: He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
I hope you’ll have a restful weekend, and join us again on Monday.