MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning! Fertility rates are dropping around the world. What’s that mean for the future, and for Christians in particular?
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: That’s ahead on Culture Friday.
Plus I’ll review a movie about a neighborhood you probably loved during your childhood.
And an “inspirational jazz” artist who followed her dreams.
CLAYTON: The epiphany came to me when I was 29. I don’t want to be 60 wishing that I tried it and I hadn’t.
REICHARD: It’s Friday, November 15th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Good morning!
REICHARD: Now news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Party leaders clash as public impeachment hearings resume » Today is day two of public impeachment hearings in the House. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will testify today. The State Department removed her from the post back in May.
Democrats say she was the victim of a smear campaign by President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and his allies.
Not surprisingly, Republicans and Democrats have very different takes on testimony witnesses gave in the first public hearing. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters…
PELOSI: The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry, and that the president abused power and violated his oath.
But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the only thing he heard Wednesday was more flimsy hearsay evidence.
MCCARTHY: They had never spoken to President Trump. They had not met with the chief of staff. Their understanding, which is the foundation of the case for the Democrats was based on secondhand information.
At least eight witnesses are scheduled to testify next week, including former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker.
Fed chairman delivers good news, warning to Capitol Hill » Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell paid a visit Thursday to deliver both good news and a warning.
Powell told lawmakers on the House Budget Committee that the economy is strong.
POWELL: We’re at levels of unemployment that we haven’t seen in 50 years.
And the short-term outlook is good. He said he does not see evidence of a bubble forming that could later burst and he does not believe—quote—“the probability of a downturn is at all elevated.”
But beyond the short-term, he said, we have a problem. The U.S. government can’t keep spending money it doesn’t have.
POWELL: Our debt is growing faster than our economy by a margin. And so I think by definition, that makes it unsustainable.
Powell said over time, Americans “will be spending more of their tax dollars to pay for interest on the borrowing that we’ve done, as opposed to the things we need [like] education, healthcare, and security.”
At least 2 dead in California school shooting » A student gunman opened fire Thursday at a Southern California high school, killing two students and wounding three others.
Police say a 16-year-old male walked onto campus, pulled a handgun from his backpack, and shot five people before shooting himself in the head.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said officers quickly swarmed the building.
VILLANUEVA: We received multiple calls, and within two minutes, at 7:40 our first units arrived on scene and encountered, in the quad area of the school, multiple victims, gunshot wounds.
Authorities later said the shooter survived but was in grave condition.
The attack occurred at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, about 30 miles northwest of downtown LA. One student described the panic inside the school after the shots rang out.
AUDIO: I saw a bunch of kids running toward me screaming leave campus there’s a shooter. And I still, like, I couldn’t fathom what was happening. I still thought it was a joke, but then I saw my sister running towards me saying Theresa we need to go.
The two students who died were a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. Their names were not released.
Venice “on its knees” following historic flooding » Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Thursday that his government was declaring a state of emergency in the flood-ravaged city of Venice. The move will help secure funding to repair damage from the highest tide in 50 years. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has more.
CONTE: [Speaking Italian]
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The prime minister spent Wednesday night in Venice, where flood waters drenched world-famous monuments, homes, and businesses. Conte described the flooding as “a blow to the heart of our country.”
The water rose more than six feet above sea level Tuesday. That was the second-highest level ever recorded in the city. Another wave of high water hit the next day.
Tourists floated suitcases through St. Mark’s Square, where officials removed walkways to prevent them from drifting away. Wooden boards that shop and hotel owners have placed on doors in previous floods couldn’t hold back the water.
Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said the damage is estimated at “hundreds of millions of euros.”
He said “St. Mark’s Basilica has sustained serious damage, like the entire city and its islands.” He added, “Venice is on its knees.”
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Islamic Jihad fires rockets at Israel following ceasefire announcement » Violence continued in Gaza on Thursday. The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad fired a barrage of rockets at Israel—just hours after the group announced a ceasefire.
That announcement came after two days of fighting, triggered when Israel killed a top commander in the Iranian-backed group. Militants retaliated by firing more than 400 rockets into Israel.
Israeli forces responded with a counterattack on Islamic Jihad targets, killing more than 30 Palestinians. Some rights groups reported that civilians were among the dead.
Deval Patrick announces White House bid » Even as some Democrats have pulled the plug on their White House bids in recent weeks, new candidates are still jumping in.
AUDIO: I’m Deval Patrick. I used to be governor of Massachusetts, but that’s not where I started ...
Deval Patrick heard there in a video announcement on Thursday, declaring his candidacy. The 63-year-old served two terms as governor, leaving office in 2015.
His entrance comes days after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg filed paperwork in Alabama to run in the Democratic presidential primary. Bloomberg has made no official announcement about his plans.
Also this week, former GOP South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford announced that he’s ending his primary challenge to President Trump.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: what shrinking family sizes tell us about shifting priorities. Plus, a Christian music artist pioneering a new sound. This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD: It’s Friday, the 15th of November, 2019. We’re so glad you’ve joined us today for The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Hey, Mary, six days until Nashville!
REICHARD: I know, can’t believe it’s almost here. I wonder if we’ll have time to see the Country Music Hall of Fame while we’re there! And if Brad Paisley is listening…
BASHAM: (laughs) Well, if he is, here’s the scoop: Thursday evening in Nashville it’s The World and Everything in It Live! A time to meet listeners and put together bits of the program in front of a live audience.
REICHARD: And we’ll talk about why sound journalism based on verified facts and Biblical truth matters. This really is a team of journalists, support staff, and listeners who make it all happen.
BASHAM: Yes, so if you’re in the Nashville area next Thursday, we hope you’ll come out so we can meet you. All the info you need is at this address: worldandeverything.org. Click on the “engage” tab, then “live events.” Seats are free, but you do have to register to get in.
REICHARD: Registration required, event free. Alright then!
Now on to Culture Friday.
Maybe you’ve heard that birth rates in the United States have fallen to all-time lows. What may surprise you is that this isn’t just an American or even European problem. Fertility is plummeting all over the world. Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Mexico, Malaysia—all are having fewer babies. Some nations have even started paying families to have more.
Among wealthy nations, almost all birth rates are now below replacement levels. Meaning women aren’t having enough children to replace themselves and a father. One standout exception: Israel.
Researchers warn fewer babies mean demographic trouble in the future. A shrinking workforce hurts economic productivity. It hurts consumer spending. More older people means fewer young people to finance government programs like social security and medicare.
BASHAM: Trevin Wax joins us today for Culture Friday. He’s a theologian, a blogger, and author. His books include This is our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel.
So Trevin, I recently saw a tweet from W. Bradford Wilcox, the sociologist and director of the National Marriage Project. He half-jokingly said, “I know it’s been a newsy three years. But folks, this matters a lot more than the latest DJT drama.” By which he meant President Trump.
And it seems like a good point. We’re all so busy arguing about petty intrigues, we’re missing a story likely to have more impact on all our lives in the future than just about any other.
So to start the discussion with a firm foundation, what Biblical principles can we apply to this subject?
TREVIN WAX, GUEST: Well, I think we have to start where the Bible starts and you can’t even get through the first chapters of Genesis without this understanding that God created human beings in His image and that the creation mandate in Genesis 1, for example, is that we be fruitful and multiply and that the images of us filling the earth with image bearers of God—people who bring worship to God. The more people there are that are worshipping the one true God, the more glory He’s receiving. And so it’s this—all throughout the scriptures you see this emphasis on the importance of children, of family.
And even among, especially among Israel, what happens in Genesis 3 when you have the first human beings, Adam and Eve, they both fall into sin. But then you have God already making the promise that he will bring someone along who will crush the serpent’s head. Right? And you’ve already got this understanding that through one of the descendants of Eve, there will be this serpent crushing.
And so throughout all the Old Testament you see this hope and this promise that the redeemer is coming, the redeemer is coming.
And that’s what makes infertility and challenges in conceiving all throughout the Old Testament particularly challenging because it’s adding narrative tension to the idea that we’re waiting for this savior to come. And at the same time, the creation mandate is waiting to be fulfilled. That’s how we think about this from a Biblical perspective.
REICHARD: It’s funny, Trevin, because researchers also find that the link between wealth and fewer babies doesn’t just happen on the macro level. It happens on the micro level too. The more prosperous a household is, the fewer children they’re likely to have.
So what do you think this tells us about our priorities in life?
WAX: Well, it is interesting to look at that link. I don’t know what all it says about every particular case because I—obviously there are all sorts of different factors that go into that. And there may be all sorts of reasons that are not really able to be seen on a survey with quantitative research like you could if you were sitting down having conversations with people, more qualitative research.
But I will say that there tends to be this correlation, anyway, that we see where the desire for more earthly goods can suppress the natural sensibility that humans tend to have where we want to pass on something to the next generation. And where we find some sort of meaning and significance in family and the generations coming behind us and having kids and then grandkids and then great grandkids.
I think wealth and prosperity and flexibility with travel and job and all sorts of other things can suppress that natural human instinct to want to have a legacy through your family.
BASHAM: It’s interesting that you mention qualitative versus quantitative—a recent Gallup poll showed the number of children women say they want has pretty much been stable since the early 1980s.
In fact, the number of Americans who say they’d like more than three children is up even as our birth rate is at its lowest point in over 30 years. This makes me wonder about the role birth control might be playing in this.
Do you think evangelicals treat this subject too lightly? Is there something we can learn on that from Catholic doctrine?
WAX: Well, this is an interesting question. Let me put it this way: until about 100 years ago, there was no wing of the Christian church in any form whatsoever that countenanced birth control.
And so all I will say—and I realize a lot of evangelicals have a lot of different perspectives on this based on our view of what Scripture would explicitly or implicitly teach. But when you ask that question, I do think we need to step back and pause and ask questions—hard questions—about what our Catholic friends would say is a contraceptive mentality that is all throughout our society.
And we also should ask the question—if for 1,900 years the Christian church was unanimous in its view of this issue, then might we ought to rethink, perhaps, the ease with which we have turned that over in many evangelical circles?
Again, I’m pressing the question. I’m not giving the “here is the answer from on high” kind of answer here. But I do think there’s something for us to step back and consider regarding this question and more thinking, deeper thinking on these issues is required of us, I think. Not less. And not reactionary sort of without even thinking, flinching and reflexively going to a position that we may hold. I think deeper thinking on these issues is important.
REICHARD: Now, I want to talk about women who choose to be childless, or who cannot bear children, or for whatever reason don’t have children. Sometimes there’s this feeling in Christian circles that something’s awry. But the Bible doesn’t actually say so as far as I’ve studied. Trevin, what do you think?
WAX: Well, I think there are lots of different reasons that families may be childless, and I don’t think this is a one size fits all blanket—all reasons are either OK or no reason is OK. This is the mandate for every single person.
What you do find, though, is with this question there is a sense in which the Bible fully understands and leans into the pain that families feel, that women feel in particular, when they’d love to have children and are unable to have children. And so the Bible really leans into that kind of pain. But it recognizes that pain not by saying, oh, you know what, having children isn’t everything. That’s not the most important thing in life. It leans into that pain by recognizing there is a legitimate good here that comes along with marriage and is one of the fruits of marriage.
And when it’s missing—and I have friends who have not been able to have children, and they’ll be the first to tell you that that’s a heartache, that’s missing, because there is something very good in this.
And as Christians I think we don’t increase sympathy for those who are unable to have children by saying that it doesn’t—that there is no pain there or to try to minimize the good of what that is. Instead, we walk through with faith trusting in the sovereignty and the love of God and then seeking other ways in which we pour our lives into others, into the children in our churches, into the next generation that’s coming up.
There are all sorts of ways that we as the family of God can be fathers and mothers and grandmothers to people and because of the beauty of the Christian faith, it’s not merely a biological family. It’s a family that is brought together by the blood of Jesus.
BASHAM: Trevin Wax is a theologian, a blogger, and author. His books include This is our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel. It’s Culture Friday, Trevin, thanks!
WAX: Thank you for having me.
MARY REICHARD: In the summer of 2010, a young boy grabbed pen and paper and wrote a letter to no one in particular.
10-year-old Max Vredenburgh began his letter in very neat handwriting this way: “Hello, my name is Max. Whoever is reading this letter, please write back.”
Max told a little bit about himself next: He liked the color blue, apples, the beach, animals, cars, and outer space.
Then he rolled up the paper, stuffed it into a glass bottle and tossed it into the ocean off the coast of Rockport, Massachusetts.
Someone named G. Dubois found the bottle and responded.
Max told WCVB …
VREDENBURGH: This actually worked?! I was like, are you kidding me?!
It did work. It just took nine years. Dubois sent a map showing the exact location where he found the letter in a bottle washed ashore—in southern France, nearly 4,000 miles away!
VREDENBURGH: Oh, speechless because I didn’t think it would even make it there. And if it did make it there, I didn’t think someone would actually like write a letter back.
Now 19-year-old Max Vredenburgh posted photos of his original letter and the reply and added—quote—“I am mind blown.”
BASHAM: I am, too!
REICHARD: It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD: Today is Friday, November 15th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio, and we’re glad you are! Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. I always love when I get to review a movie I know you, Mary, and you our listeners are going to be excited about. It hits theaters next week, but I just couldn’t wait.
Now, there are two kinds of feel good movies. There’s the kind that simply offers some escapism. They make for fun nights out, where you can forget your problems for a couple of hours. And they often include high energy, toe-tapping soundtracks.
But unless you kept this song in your favorites playlist a lot longer than most people, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the other kind of feel good movie.
MUSIC: [Mr. Rogers Theme Song]
It doesn’t make us feel good by taking us away from the difficulties of the world. Instead, it takes us right into the heart of all those things that cause the most anxiety, depression, and anger. Especially as we enter the holiday season. Then, it inspires us with a story that tells us it’s possible to overcome even our oldest, most entrenched conflicts.
TRAILER: We are trying to give the world positive ways to deal with their feelings. Yeah, like what? There are many things you can do. You can play all the lowest keys on a piano at the same time. Bong.
Lloyd Vogel is an award-winning journalist who confuses being a hard-hitting reporter for being a jerk. His relationship with his father is beyond strained. They can hardly be in the same room without coming to blows. As for his career, most public figures refuse to speak to him after reading the hit jobs he’s done on others. No surprise, both Lloyd and his wife think he’s a strange choice to profile America’s most beloved children’s show host: Fred Rogers.
TRAILER: You okay? I’m profiling Mr. Rogers. Lloyd, please don’t ruin my childhood.
Though his personality is marked by gentleness onscreen and off, Fred isn’t afraid of Lloyd. In fact, he’s happy to open his life wide to him. If, that is, Lloyd will let Fred into his life as well.
Great as Tom Hanks is as Fred Rogers—and he is great—it is Matthew Rhys who steals the show.
Rhys is best known for his work on the Cold War spy series, The Americans. As Lloyd, he’s cynical, suspicious, and bitter. He thinks his complex, adult problems are beyond the lessons Fred teaches to children, like liking each other just the way we are. Or try to be one of the helpers. In short, he’s most of us. And like most of us, he’s looking for evidence that the famously kind Mr. Rogers is a phony baloney just like everyone else. Except, the more Lloyd gets to know Fred, the more he discovers Fred’s radical, self-sacrificial love and kindness aren’t a put on. They’re real.
TRAILER: He’s just about the nicest person I’ve ever met. I just don’t know if he’s for real.
“The way he led his life, I believe dad tried to follow the example of Christ,” James Rogers said of his father, who was also an ordained Presbyterian minister. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood likewise makes it clear that Rogers’ lessons were based on his Biblical beliefs.
Fred tells Lloyd his preternatural calm isn’t because he’s naturally so much better than everyone else. He’s just more in control of his emotions. And that’s the result, he explains, of his spiritual disciplines. They include daily Scripture reading, praying for lists of people by name, and spending hours a week personally writing return letters to his fans.
TRAILER: All these people line up to tell you their problems. That would be an incredible burden on you. Sometimes we have to ask for help. And that’s okay.
The same unselfish interest Fred takes in overlooked children, he takes in Lloyd. And Lloyd, who sees himself as hopelessly broken, begins to find hope. His bitterness and rage don’t magically disappear. But he’s able to take the first steps toward the forgiveness that will soften his heart enough to allow him to change.
The real Lloyd Vogel is an Esquire writer named Tom Junod. The cover story he wrote about his encounter with Rogers changed his view of what’s true about the world. That’s what should happen when lost souls encounter people who are modeling the love of their Savior. Even if they don’t ultimately come to the faith, our grace becomes their grace.
MEGAN BASHAM: Today is Friday, November 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. What happens to a dream deferred? It was C.S. Lewis who said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
WORLD Radio’s Myrna Brown has the story of a Georgia woman who never gave up and found a way back to her first love.
SONG: It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me… and I’m feeling good
MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: Music makes Myrna Clayton feel alive.
SONG: I’m feeling good
CLAYTON: Music penetrates where nothing else can go.
The early years of the petite, honey-blonde’s life were full of church melodies, harmony, and high notes.
CLAYTON: It was a children’s choir. It was called the Sunbeam choir. So yes, I’ve been singing since I was 5.
As a teenager Clayton was introduced to jazz.
CLAYTON: My dad’s album collection had everything from Duke Ellington to Sarah Vaughn to Ella Fitzgerald to Louis Armstrong. Just the whole essence of the depth of music.
While it was a big part of the family’s fabric, music according to Clayton had its place.
CLAYTON: My dad was like music is an avocation, not a vocation. And so when my brother dropped out of college to go out to pursue music, I was like, OK, that’s not my path. I’m not gonna do that. I’m not gonna make my dad mad.
So, Clayton pursued numbers instead of notes. As a business major, she went on to get an MBA. For nearly a decade she called Milwaukee,Wisconsin home and worked in market research.
CLAYTON: The epiphany came to me when I was 29. I don’t want to be 60 wishing that I tried it and I hadn’t.
SONG: HOW GREAT THOU ART
After a failed marriage, she and her young daughter moved back to the space where she first fell in love with music. She also yearned to finally share with her family its true place in her heart.
CLAYTON: My mom was like clueless because she’s been working her whole life and didn’t know anything about entrepreneurship and going after stuff. She was like, what… you need a job.
To pay the bills, Clayton returned to her corporate America roots, but she continued to find ways to use her gift.
CLAYTON: I was always singing at church. Always and didn’t know how to get into the music scene. And then five years later my mom got sick and I became her caregiver.
Not long after, her company downsized and Clayton found her musical niche: inspirational jazz.
CLAYTON: I purposely didn’t want to call it gospel or Christian because gospel is black music. Christian, typically is white music.
While the limitations were frustrating, Clayton says she saw her music as a way to reach an untapped population.
CLAYTON: There were a lot of people that were unchurched and were seeking and wanting to know God. If the church is talking to itself or to its members and not talking to the community, then who’s going out there? I ultimately discovered that’s me.
Clayton says she carried that newfound discovery to local jam sessions and open mics. But it was while at church that she discovered her calling.
CLAYTON: So, the short of a long story, I’m at the altar and I hear very clearly, worldwide ministry in music. And I’m saying to myself, what’s that?
The farthest she had ever been outside of the U.S. was the Carribean. But in 2015 she researched and applied for a spot in a U.S. State Department program. American Music Abroad sponsors American performers on month-long tours to underserved countries around the world. Clayton and her band applied three times before getting the call to audition. Out of 400 bands, the Myrna Clayton Experience was one of the top 10 chosen.
PERFORMANCES AROUND THE WORLD: Introducing Myrna Clayton
CLAYTON: It clicked to me when I was selected, ohh…this is what I’m to do. I’m to be this little light that’s performing abroad on behalf of the U.S. State Department, on behalf of music or on behalf of God because I am an ambassador for the kingdom.
In 2018 Clayton and her band toured all over Eastern Europe sharing their music through public concerts, workshops, and jam sessions. The following year they traveled to Southwest Africa.
CLAYTON PERFORMING: I am a follower of Christ and so with that I can’t do a show without acknowledging…
After performing in nearly a dozen countries around the world, Clayton says she hopes the next assignment takes her to China.
CLAYTON: This has been a journey and there has been a lot of stumbling blocks. But I keep in front of me worldwide ministry because that’s what God spoke to me. God said he’ll bless you more than you can ask or imagine. And I know my imagination is huge.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown, reporting from Atlanta, Georgia.
MEGAN BASHAM: Well, it’s the end of the week when we thank the people who worked hard to bring the program to you: Myrna Brown, Paul Butler, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Nick Eicher, Kristen Flavin, Hannah Harris, Kim Henderson, Leah Hickman, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Onize Ohikere, Jenny Lind Schmidt, Sarah Schweinsberg, and Cal Thomas.
MARY REICHARD: Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz burn the midnight oil to get the program to you each morning. J.C. Derrick is managing editor and Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief.
Genesis tells us that God created man in his own image; male and female he created them.
I hope you have a restful weekend. We’ll talk to you again, Lord willing, on Monday.