MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!
Another corporation gets caught in the melee over sexual ethics and the meaning of marriage. This time, it’s the Hallmark Channel.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Culture Friday.
Also your listener feedback.
Plus the new Star Wars movie is out and we’ll have a review.
AUDIO: Drop your weapons. It’s okay that we’re here. It’s okay that you’re here. It’s good.
And our final Music of Advent features an original musical recording just for WORLD listeners…
BASHAM: It’s Friday, December 20th. 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 the news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Democrat White House contenders gather for final debate of the year » Democratic presidential candidates gathered on a noticeably less crowded debate stage last night in Los Angeles.
While the first debate of 2019 featured 20 contenders, only seven Democrats faced off in the final debate of the year.
Among the top issues debated Thursday was climate change. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: So what I think we need to do—get back into the international climate change agreement. I will do that on day one.
Several candidates argued that the economy is strong, but South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg said working class Americans aren’t feeling the benefits.
BUTTIGIEG: That is not the result of some mysterious cosmic force. It’s the result of bad policy, and we’ve got to change it by raising wages and empowering workers.
Government run healthcare, so-called “Medicare for all,” remained the most divisive proposal among Democrats. But they all agreed on one thing, President Trump has to go—next November, if not sooner.
BIDEN: It was a constitutional necessity for House to act as it did.
Former Vice President Joe Biden heard there.
Among those missing the stage last night—Senator Cory Booker, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, and newcomer to the race, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. All three are spending big on campaign ads, hoping to bolster their support and make the cut for the next debate January 14th in Iowa.
Pelosi not ready to send impeachment charges to Senate » House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that people have a—quote—“spring in their step” after Democrats voted to impeach President Trump.
She also said she’s not sending the charges to the Senate until she learns more about how it will handle the trial.
PELOSI: The next thing for us will be when we see the process that is set forth in the Senate. Then we’ll know the number of managers that we have to go forward and who we would choose.
That drew a sharp rebuke from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who called the House impeachment vote “the predetermined end of a partisan crusade.”
MCCONNELL: It was made even more clear last night when Speaker Pelosi suggested that House Democrats may be too afraid, too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the Senate.
Pelosi’s unexpected delay is widely seen as a play to gain leverage in trial arrangements.
The Senate trial is expected to start in January when lawmakers return from holiday recess.
House passes U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade » One day after impeaching the president, the Democratic-led House gave President Trump a big legislative win. Lawmakers approved a new trade deal his administration negotiated with Canada and Mexico.
AUDIO: On this vote, the yeas are 385 and the nays are 41. The bill is passed.
The United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement—or USMCA for short—will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump made ending NAFTA a hallmark of his presidential run in 2016.
The Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Richard Neal said the bipartisan agreement is a win for everyone.
NEAL: Every once and awhile you get to participate in these it-will-never-happen moments, and I believe that this indeed is one of them.
Democrats won key concessions on the agreement, including tougher labor standards demanded by unions. It also creates processes to verify if parties are holding to environmental standards. The Senate will take up the agreement next month.
Senate approves $1.4 trillion spending bill » Meantime, the Senate on Thursday voted to advance a $1.4 trillion government spending package to President Trump’s desk. He’s expected to sign it into law, funding the government through next September.
The bill increases spending on both Democratic and Republican priorities while adding an estimated $4-to-500 billion to the national debt over a decade.
Democrats scored big increases for domestic programs. While many Republicans celebrated, among other things, $22 billion dollar spending boost for the military.
But not everyone is happy. Some Democrats say it doesn’t spend enough on domestic programs. And GOP Senator Mike Lee called the spending package “a fiscal dumpster fire.”
Police arrest 1,200 demonstrators in India » Police arrested more than 1,200 protesters in some of India’s biggest cities Thursday. That after they defied a government ban on public protests against a new citizenship law. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg reports.
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Thousands flooded the streets in the city of Lucknow, many holding signs decrying the law. Some threw rocks and set small fires.
Police set up roadblocks and even shut down internet and phone services in some places in an effort to deter the angry protests.
In the southern city of Mangalore, police fired warning shots and used tear gas and batons to scatter large groups of demonstrators. At least two people were reportedly killed during clashes with police.
The controversial law provides a path to citizenship for many non-Muslim religious minorities who are in India illegally. They have to demonstrate that they were fleeing religious persecution in neighboring Muslim-majority countries.
But the legislation does not offer citizenship to Muslims. That has sparked anger at what many see as the government’s push to bring the secular country closer to a Hindu state.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.
COVINGTON: I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: the Hallmark Channel gets some unwelcome time in the cultural spotlight.
Plus, the last installment of the Star Wars saga.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MEGAN BASHAM: It’s Friday, December 20th, 2019. Glad to have you along for The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s an all-too familiar story these days. A corporation inadvertently becomes the latest flashpoint in America’s widening cultural divide on sexual morality.
This time the controversy centers on the Hallmark Channel, that purveyor of very popular, if somewhat corny, Christmas movies.
BASHAM: Watching Hallmark’s original holiday programming has become something of a tradition for many families. So much so, you can now buy spoof gifts bearing slogans like, “This is my Hallmark Christmas Movie Watching Blanket,” at numerous retail outlets.
In part, that’s a result of clean content appropriate for most ages. Just since its seasonal launch on October 25th, the network has reached 50 million viewers.
It’s also why the parent advocacy group, One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association, complained when the network began airing an ad from the wedding planning website, Zola.com.
Zola’s commercial features two women getting married and ends with a kiss at the altar. Let’s listen to it:
COMMERCIAL: I, Ava, wonder if our guests would be here on time. If we had a custom wedding website. With our ceremony details on it. And I, Taylor, would pick Zola to have and to host our wedding website. Do you think Zola could have made planning your perfect wedding easier? We do. I do.
Surprisingly, Hallmark at first seemed to sympathize with One Million Moms. They pulled the ad, noting that it “aired in error.”
Two days later, however, a more typical narrative asserted itself. After outrage from LGBT groups and public figures like Ellen Degeneres and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, Hallmark reversed course again.
It’s parent company promised to reinstate the ads and released a statement apologizing for the “the hurt it has unintentionally caused.” They further promised to work with groups like GLAAD to increase LGBT representation in their programming.
Well, it’s Culture Friday and Trevin Wax joins us. Trevin is a theologian, an author, and Senior Vice President of Theology and Communications for LifeWay Christian Resources.
Trevin, good morning.
TREVIN WAX, GUEST: Good morning.
BASHAM: So Trevin, as we’ve seen this scenario play out so often in the last couple of years, it seems like a waste of energy getting outraged over the ad or Hallmark’s handling of it. I’d say we’re past the point of culture war and more onto a culture rout.
As an example, I’d like to listen really quickly to CBS Morning News’ coverage of the dustup. Here’s anchor Gayle King and reporter Nikki Battiste discussing it.
AUDIO: Seems like a no brainer to a lot of people. It really does, I think Ellen Degeneres speaks for a lot of people when she says, “Hallmark what were you thinking, its 2020.” Who’s in the room when that decision is made? Well at least they’ve, you know, changed course. As a Holocaust survivor said to me after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, I keep thinking of it in this controversy, “Love is easier than hate.” Yes!
BASHAM: When we’re at a place where national morning news shows take it for granted that Hallmark was way out of line to pull this ad, is it useful for Christians to focus on consumer boycotts anymore? I mean, it seems like a given this would play out the way it did.
WAX: Well, I was actually surprised to see Hallmark pull the ad in the first place and then when they did, I thought, ‘Well, it’s not going to take long before the avalanche of criticism is going to come and they’re going to be trending on Twitter, and suddenly they’re going to have to backtrack.’
EICHER: Yeah, you could look at your watch and backtime it, 3-2-1-boom.
WAX: The more interesting conversation I think we ought to have around this rather than, you know, boycotting Hallmark versus boycotting Chick-fil-A, I mean, this is a situation in which people that have been somewhat friendly to family values concerns are now showing that in certain cases—these are different scenarios, of course—but may not be as friendly as thought or maybe turning it in a certain way. The reason why this is so controversial I think and why this avalanche of public criticism came against Hallmark is like it or not—and we can actually critique some of what Hallmark does even in their normal movies of the picture they paint of romance and whatnot. But the real battle is over what is considered just normal, average, ordinary. That’s really where the battle is and by the fact that Hallmark has done all of these movies and they’ve never had an LGBT storyline of any sort or anything like that, what they basically are saying is the predictable, the normal, the bland boring but well put together Hallmark movies are there for consumption around this time of year. They’ve really had the assumption of traditional marriage. And the fact that they pulled this ad and then they reinstated it shows that they want to say that a same-sex marriage now, I think they want to say a same-sex marriage is just as normal and love is love and it’s exactly the same as a man-woman marriage.
EICHER: I’d like to return to the sort of original idea of consumer boycotts. You were talking, Trevin, of the kind of soft despotism—if I remember that right—of the left. Is it also a soft despotism when we do it, when our side kind of does it back?
WAX: Well, I don’t think the despotism is seen in boycotts and things. I think the soft despotism is seen when there are legal moves made in order to squash dissent on this issue. So, I don’t think despotism is seen in boycotts. That’s just bringing societal pressure on a certain thing. And, you know, Christians have access to that same sort of recourse as well—deciding who we’ll do business with and who we won’t, what things we’ll watch and what foods we’ll eat and all of that. And so I don’t think that’s where the despotism shows up. I think it shows up more in the legal moves on wanting to penalize people who are dissenting from what is becoming the majority opinion on what marriage is and what it’s like. And so the reason that all dissent has to be squashed is because the new social project just doesn’t work if it doesn’t.
BASHAM: To follow up practically, I’m a mom of a 10-year-old and I’m starting to navigate this stuff and going, OK, even we went and saw the new Star Wars and I will get to this in a little bit, but there’s sort of a silly moment that—a totally irrelevant LGBT moment that they’re trumpeting and saying how great this is. I mean, it was nothing. It was just so silly. It seemed like a please don’t come after us moment. But I’m watching it, my daughter is sitting next to me and I’m thinking of the other parents who are watching Hallmark, how do we grapple with that as parents? Are we trying to block our kids from seeing it? Are we just not absorbing the culture? Should I not have taken her to see Star Wars because of this?
WAX: Well, I think different parents are going to come to different conclusions on the best way forward on a lot of those issues that I wouldn’t want to say there’s a hard, fast rule on every single storyline. I mean, I have kids older and younger and one close to the same age as you’re talking about, and we have conversations about this on shows and whatnot because it seems like gay and lesbian characters are now over-represented as far as population goes, statistically on some of these programs. And the conversations we’ve had with our kids whenever we see that or there’s a line here or there or something, we talk about it as we’ve used the term propaganda. I don’t think that’s a bad word. I think that’s something we ought to say, to help our kids understand, hey, there’s a message here. There’s a push here. And we’ve even had to have conversations, too—because I think what we’re seeing is a kind of culture where at some point it’s going to be like Daniel and his friends and Nebuchadnezzar sets up the statue and, in this case, I guess it would be Artemis, to the goddess and says, “Everybody bow down.” And as Christians, we’ve got to be training our kids for that moment when we’re not going to bow down. We’re not going to bend the knee to Aphrodite, Artemis, whatever the god is that our culture is propping up as the great idol that everybody has to bow down to. And so I think that’s wise. Things may not move in that direction. There’s all sorts of ways that cultural currents turn and things, but our kids are going to be better fortified if we’re having intentional conversations in that regard than if we’re not.
EICHER: Trevin Wax is a theologian, an author, and Senior Vice President of Theology and Communications for LifeWay Christian Resources.
It’s Culture Friday, Trevin, great to talk to you! Merry Christmas!
WAX: Thank you. Merry Christmas to you!
NICK EICHER: While many 5-year-olds this time of year are trying to sneak a peek at the presents under the tree kindergartener Katelynn Hardee had something else on her mind.
She was concerned when she found out some families had a hard time paying for school lunches. So, as she told KSWB tv she decided to do something about it!
KATELYNN: So I can give money to the lunch people that don’t have money so they can have lunch and snack.
Her proud mom, Karina Hardee, said Katelynn asked if they could sell hot cocoa and cookies to help her friends at school. So after baking for hours, she set up a stand outside.
KARINA: She sat out there for probably about three hours and sold through all the cookies, all the hot cocoa.
She raised $80 that went toward paying off the lunch debts of more than a hundred classmates in Vista, California.
And she’s not done! Katelynn plans to hold more bake sales to help more struggling families.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: Today is Friday, December 20th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: A great space odyssey comes to an end—for now.
CLIP: Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi.
That may be, but breaking bad news to fans is the destiny of a movie reviewer. And sadly, like Rey, I’m here to fulfill my destiny.
It’s not that The Rise of Skywalker is a complete mess. The final entry of the new Star Wars trilogy still has plenty of enjoyable moments, especially in the first half. The problem is the pleasure arises almost solely from nostalgia for better scenes and characters in the original films, not from what’s on screen before us. More exasperating is that even the main conflict is borrowed from the past.
As the iconic yellow text crawl declares, “The dead speak!” Sith Emperor Palpatine, last seen at the end of Return of the Jedi, has arisen as a sort of zombie villain. The voice echoes from within Kylo Ren’s mind in a way that disturbingly suggests possession. It entices him to complete the mission his grandfather Vader started. Kill the last hope for the Jedi.
CLIP: At last. My boy. I have been every voice you have ever heard inside your head.
Only this time, instead of sacrificing a son, the conflicted antihero must offer up his true love—orphan Rey. She, in turn, must try to fan the spark of humanity still hidden in that dark breast before it crushes the last vestiges of light in the galaxy.
It’s not a bad set up, which is why it worked in Return of the Jedi. But director J.J. Abrams throws in all sorts of go-nowhere, extraneous twists in an effort to distract us from the fact he has nothing new to offer.
Palpatine and Kylo Ren’s motivations constantly shift, to the point we’re not convinced either bad guy has a workable scheme for domination. Hard to fear the heroes will lose when their enemies are so unclear about their aims.
Yet the good guys’ goals aren’t much better. For half the movie Rey, Poe, and Finn ping-pong across planets chasing down an artifact only to discover they don’t need it after all.
CLIP: We spotted the fugitives. Oh, they fly now. They fly now? They fly now.
Romance arises, sort of. But it feels lackluster and tacked in. Like something included simply to ape Han Solo and Princess Leia’s relationship without achieving any of their chemistry. On several occasions we see a beloved character from the old guard die. One assumes it’s to gin up the emotional stakes, as the loss of Han did in The Force Awakens. Yet, in the very next scene, they’re resurrected. So was the point only to remind us how much we love these original characters? That certainly seems to explain a big reveal about parentage that doesn’t really make sense. It recalls the greater, “I am your father,” scene that came before it.
This same “let’s throw everything in to please everybody” impulse is likely what led to what’s being trumpeted as an “historic” first—the first gay moment in Star Wars. When something happening in a single movie franchise now qualifies as “historic,” isn’t it time to declare victory and stop writing these headlines?
The breathless news stories are as silly as the moment itself. In essence, two female characters who are so minor they barely have names, lock lips for a split second. And that’s only in the background as our main characters embrace in more platonic celebration. It might give parents pause, but it’s a little embarrassing for any movement to claim it as some sort of triumph. It’s more like Disney desperately hoping to avoid a kicking from the progressive entertainment police.
What moms and dads need to know about as much if not more is Palpatine’s followers. Wearing dark, hooded cloaks while monotonously chanting in an underground lair, they suggest nothing if not a black mass. That, along with some minor language, calls for taking the PG-13 rating seriously.
So The Rise of Skywalker may be a bit of a down note to leave the Star Wars saga on. But fans always have this new hope—with the box office numbers it’s sure to score, another reboot can’t be too far, far away.
MUSIC: Rise of Skywalker, Finale
MEGAN BASHAM: Today is Friday, December 20th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s time now for your listener feedback.
We’ll start as we always do by making a few corrections:
First, we made two errors related to a recent story about Puerto Ricans moving to Florida. As we told the story, we referred to them as “leaving for the United States,” and we did not say “continental United States,” so we left a wrong implication. Puerto Rico, of course, is a part of the United States, just not the U.S. mainland.
But to make it even worse, we referred to the travelers to Florida as immigrants. They are not immigrants. They are Americans.
BASHAM: Another regrettable error in terminology: This correction concerns a story about some Navy Seals, and in a subsequent reference we said “soldiers.” They are, of course, sailors.
And yesterday, we wrongly said that the Texas legislature would not meet again until December 2021. That is not right. The next biennial session, the 87th Texas legislature, opens its next term on January 12th, 2021.
EICHER: And finally, we mis-identified the writer of an Advent hymn we featured earlier this month. I’ll let listener Troy Bassett from Rochester, New York, make the correction for us.
AUDIO: I’m a long time listener of the podcast, and I love what you guys do. Being a lifelong Free Methodist and a musician, I immediately noticed that John Wesley was given credit for writing the song “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” Actually, it’s the other Wesley. John Wesley was the preacher, and his brother Charles Wesley was the hymn writer who wrote that particular song. Again, I love the podcast. Keep up the great work and have a Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas to you, too.
I should note here that Troy was not the only one to notice our Wesley mix-up. But we appreciate your calling and leaving your comments. This is a podcast, after all, and we love to hear your voices!
BASHAM: That we do! But we also enjoy reading your tweets, emails, and comments from the website. Listener Robert Rayburn emailed us about a recent Culture Friday discussion of Advent. He noted we mentioned fasting, reflection, and preparation. But, he said that these left a somber tone, leaving out the joy, celebrating, eager anticipation, ebullience that should also be the hallmark of the season and are the focus of many of the [Christmas] carols we sing.
EICHER: And finally, we have one more listener comment to share with you. This one’s from Marie Jeffries. She used her phone to record her reaction to Bonnie Pritchett’s piece about turning living rooms into concert halls.
AUDIO: As the wife of an avid sports enthusiast and a mom to six equally avid sports-loving young men, you can imagine how many sporting events we attend each season. Therefore, I feel it is my job to balance our family’s arts experiences with rich cultural events such as this. So thank you, Ms. Bonnie Pritchett for bringing this very intriguing human interest story to WORLD listeners. This, among a multitude of others, is why we choose to be WORLD Movers each year. With WORLD’s mission to inform, educate, inspire—and even entertain—with Biblically sound journalism. That’s what keeps us coming back each day.
That’s so encouraging to hear. We’ve surpassed the 40 percent mark in our December Giving Drive, and yeah, I’m guilty of hitting the refresh button a little obsessively at wng.org, just to check the progress bar.
BASHAM: Yeah, me too!
EICHER: It really is important. Maybe you heard yesterday, we introduced our new standalone podcast “Effective Compassion.” We put the trailer in your podcast feed yesterday afternoon, and I was thrilled to see a good number of listeners downloaded it.
But what I want to say is, listener support is what makes this program possible: we need to pay journalists, we need to buy airline tickets, we need microphones, recorders, cables, editing equipment there’s just a lot that goes into it. And because we have donors who give generously, we’re able to launch new projects like “Effective Compassion.”
And I’ll remind you, check your podcast feed tomorrow, Saturday, because we’re going to release a sneak preview, the very first episode of “Effective Compassion.” I’m really proud of the work of Marvin and Susan Olasky, and Paul Butler, and Anna Johansen, and I think you’ll be proud of it, too, as a WORLD Mover, because that’s another example of the kind of work that your support makes possible.
BASHAM: If you count today, we’ve got 12 more days before year-end, and we’re not yet halfway to our December Giving Drive goal. So I hope you’ll head over to wng.org/donate and make a gift today.
NICK EICHER: Once again, we’re ending our program week with music. Today our featured selection is not technically an Advent hymn, but a Christmas carol.
MEGAN BASHAM: It’s a holiday classic that’s giving one family of musicians a chance to pause and ponder over one of the most important questions of Advent.
Here’s WORLD Radio’s Myrna Brown.
AUDIO: INSTRUMENTS TUNING
MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: With bows up and chins down, a string ensemble tunes their instruments.
ANNIE WOLAVER DUPREE: My name is Annie and I’m a violinist.
GRETCHEN WOLAVER: My name is Gretchen and I play the violin, mandolin and guitar.
GERONE: My name is Gerone and I’m playing the viola.
BENJAMIN: My name is Benjamin and I play the cello.
Benjamin, Gretchen, and Annie are siblings and part of the Wolaver family. They started making music together 15 years ago as the Annie Moses Band. Annie Wolaver says Annie Moses was her great- grandmother.
ANNIE: She started the whole legacy of faith and family and music.
But this Nashville, Tennessee family hasn’t always observed the season of Advent.
ANNIE: I remember kind of all of a sudden becoming aware in my twenties that there was something called the church calendar and it was deeper than just, oh there’s Easter Sunday and Christmas Sunday.
After that insight, Benjamin Wolaver says the band began exploring the music of Advent.
MUSIC: WHAT CHILD IS THIS
BENJAMIN: What the season of Advent invites us to do is to meditate on what’s about to happen and what child was this? I think of almost any song, this kind of literally asks that question, you know, what child is this?
Written in 1865 by British poet, William C. Dix, “What Child Is This” was sung to the tune of Greensleeves, a traditional English folk song. Dix wrote the song, about the birth of Christ, while recovering from a long illness that left him bedridden. Hours of solitude and silence inspired the Christmas carol. Benjamin says, those spiritual disciplines also played a key role in their arrangement.
BENJAMIN: Our father made that arrangement. He was really good at creating a lot of space and a lot of silence in the arrangement. So, I think in our noisy culture we tend to overlook the silence. We overlook the pause and Advent is the silence before the song of Christmas.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown, reporting from Franklin, Tennessee.
NICK EICHER: Well, it’s time to say thanks to the people who put the program together for you this week: Myrna Brown, Paul Butler, Kent Covington, Kristen Flavin, Katie Gaultney, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Jill Nelson, Trillia Newbell, Andree Seu Peterson, Mary Reichard, Jenny Lind Schmidt, Sarah Schweinsberg, Les Sillars, and Cal Thomas.
MEGAN BASHAM: Audio engineers 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.
And you make it possible for all of this to happen. Thank you!
Next week is Christmas, and we hope your preparations are filled with grace and peace.