MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!
One presidential candidate is referencing the Christian faith a lot on the campaign trail But is it an accurate reflection of Biblical Christianity?
And, whether it’s ethical for Christians to engage in undercover operations.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: That’s ahead on Culture Friday.
Also Ask the Editor with WORLD’s editor in chief.
Plus Megan reviews the new most popular show in the world.
And special music for this Advent season.
BASHAM: It’s Friday, December 6th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Good morning!
BASHAM: Now news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: House speaker recommends articles of impeachment » One day after the Judiciary Committee took up the House impeachment inquiry, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she’s heard enough.
PELOSI: Today, I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment.
Pelosi said she made the decision with a heavy heart, but added “our democracy is at stake.”
PELOSI: The president leaves us no choice but to ask, because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit.
But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Democrats have been looking for a hook to hang an impeachment case on from day one.
MCARTHY: Today with the speaker’s announcement, she has weakened the nation. It was not new news. They have always had this prewritten timeline from the day they got sworn in.
The full House could vote on impeachment before Christmas. And McCarthy said despite the Democratic majority in the chamber, he doesn’t think it’s at all a slam dunk that the House will vote to impeach the president.
But if it does, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his chamber will have to figure out how to handle it. He said there are three ways the Senate could approach impeachment procedures.
MCCONNELL: By bipartisan agreement on procedure, by 51 senators deciding what the procedure is going to be, or basically kind of a jump ball.
This is only the fourth time Congress has tried to remove a sitting president.
Trump admin announces big changes to food stamp program » The Department of Agriculture has announced big changes to the SNAP program—better known as food stamps—that could mean nearly 700,000 fewer people will receive assistance. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the planned changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—or SNAP for short.
Federal law limits the benefits to prevent them from becoming a way of life. Able-bodied adults under the age of 50 can only receive food stamps for three months.
But states are allowed to waive the federal limit in areas where unemployment is higher than the national average. And with the lowest U.S. unemployment rate in decades, about 3.6 percent, the Trump administration says it’s time for a change.
Under new regulations, states could only waive limits on SNAP benefits where unemployment is above six percent, and only for one year.
The Agriculture Department estimates the change could save around $5.5 billion over five years. But critics say it will harm thousands who are working but still can’t make ends meet.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Thousands protest retirement reforms in France » Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Paris on Thursday to protest the government’s plan to overhaul the retirement system.
At times, the demonstrations turned ugly. Small groups of protesters smashed store windows, set fires, and hurled rocks at police, who fired tear gas to break up the crowds.
And with many government workers walking out in protest, France’s high-speed trains stood still, leaving tourists stranded for hours.
AUDIO: I arrived at the airport this morning not knowing anything about the strikes happening. And we waited for almost two hours at the airport for the train to arrive, and it didn’t arrive.
And many iconic attractions were closed to tourists as well.
AUDIO: We had one morning left and we wanted to come up the Eiffel Tower, but it was closed.
Paris authorities barricaded the presidential palace and police ordered all businesses, cafes and restaurants in the area to close.
French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to reveal the details of his retirement reform plan next week. The plan will encourage some people to work longer. And some fear it will raise the country’s official retirement age.
Gunmen kill Japanese humanitarian, five others in Afghanistan » A Japanese physician and humanitarian who worked in Afghanistan for more than a decade, died this week after attackers opened fire on his vehicle. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen has more.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: Unknown gunmen ambushed Dr. Tetsu Nakamura’s vehicle—killing him and five other people.
The 73-year-old Nakamura led the Japanese charity Peace Medical Service in Afghanistan since 2008. He worked in rural areas to help villagers in a drought-stricken region to build canals using old Japanese techniques.
Afghans credit him for the region’s reforestation and fertile wheat farmlands. Villagers fondly called him “Uncle Murad.” In April, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani awarded him honorary citizenship. Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry extended its condolences and lauded Nakamura for “bringing livelihood to the people of the region.”
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen.
Saudi state-owned oil company set for biggest ever IPO » Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company is gearing up to sell shares in the biggest initial public offering ever. Aramco, which pumps and produces Saudi Arabia’s crude oil to the world, set its share price on Thursday. It’s valuing the company at $1.7 trillion. That’s more than Apple or Microsoft.
It will sell shares at roughly $8.50 each, putting the overall value of the stake being sold at nearly $26 billion.
Aramco is expected to start trading on the Saudi Tadawul stock exchange within the next two weeks.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: statements of faith on the presidential campaign trail. Plus, Marvin Olasky explains why WORLD investigates Christian organizations. This is The World and Everything in It.
MEGAN BASHAM: It’s Friday, December 6th, 2019. Glad to have you along for The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up, politics and religion. Used to be it wasn’t polite to talk about those things in public, but things have changed.
Democratic candidate for president Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a campaign ad in South Carolina this week.
In it, he quotes Jesus from a parable in Matthew 25. Let’s listen.
BUTTIGIEG: In our White House, you won’t have to shake your head and ask yourself, whatever happened to I was hungry and you fed me? I was a stranger and you welcomed me?
BASHAM: This is hardly the first time Buttigieg, who’s Episcopalian, has referenced Jesus in particular or Christianity in general. In interviews he cites Saint Augustine as one of his major influences and talks about the app he uses for “scriptural meditation.” And he laments that his party doesn’t work harder to relate to voters on matters of faith.
Plenty of media outlets seem eager to help frame Buttigieg as the candidate religious voters can embrace. USA Today ran an in-depth interview that focused solely on the mayor’s faith. So did Rolling Stone, which, I have to say, was sort of an unusual focus for that publication.
It’s Culture Friday and we welcome John Stonestreet from the Colson Center for Christian Worldview to the conversation.
John, good morning.
JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning!
BASHAM: So, John, to start, I’d like to focus on the political calculations of the way Buttigieg is framing himself as a candidate. He’s clearly employing the language of Christianity to telegraph an image to voters about the kind of president he would be. I mean, frankly, except for a few half-hearted exceptions, he’s the only candidate on the left talking about faith at all. And, as we see from that South Carolina ad, he talks about it enthusiastically.
Why do you think he’s carving out kind of the lone “Christian” persona among the Democrats?
STONESTREET: Well, I think he’s got two groups that he’s really trying to reach with this persona. The first is a group that he’s got a real problem with and it’s kind of stunning when you see the numbers come in and Buttigieg is polling zero among African Americans. And, you know, the reason is, frankly, African Americans, many of whom that drive the political side of the process—especially in the primaries—are religious folks. And they’re not comfortable with the fact that Buttigieg is gay. So, I think that’s probably the key demographic that he’s going after. And I think it’s something—I think we talked about this last week—the media is completely missing. The media who runs a headline talking about how Buttigieg is the next Obama. Not with a huge demographic!
And then there’s also a second demographic that may be part of this calculation, which is there is a narrative right now—it’s an inevitability narrative that evangelicals are eventually going to get on the side of the LGBT movement. That this is like the Civil Rights movement. They once opposed that, they’re opposing this, but they’ll get on board. And I think there’s that middle ground. And we’ve seen that, I think, among a lot of pop evangelical churches that aren’t theologically or worldview sound come in not knowing what to do with the issue of homosexuality or same sex marriage “evolving.” Things like that. I think there’s a sense that that demographic is larger than it actually is and that there’s probably some calculation that some of the evangelical vote can be stolen with enough evangelical language.
BASHAM: Now, to turn to how Christians should receive Buttigieg’s comments, John you recently quoted Ross Douthat’s observation that “[he] doesn’t appear to support any policy that deviates from the progressive catechism.” You said this to point out that Buttigieg isn’t afraid to apply the Bible to cultural issues. As he does in this interview on MSNBC.
BUTTIGIEG: For the party and the movement known for beating other people on the head with their faith or their interpretation of their faith, it makes no sense to literally vote to take food away from the hungry, to essentially be practicing the very thing that not just the Christian scriptural tradition but so many others tell us we’re not supposed to do, in terms of harming other people.
Is he wrong here John?
STONESTREET: Well, he’s not wrong that Christians should care about those that are starving—and Christians always have. Of course, what’s always missing in the progressive calculations is who’s responsible to feed them. Somehow it moves from Christians should care about those who are starving to the government should be the primary means by which everything gets handled and taken care of. And so there’s a real equivocation that takes place on liberal-progressive Christianity. But the thing that we’re seeing in the phenomenon of Buttigieg—and I wrote about this maybe a month ago on Breakpoint—is this: when you have a church that is very, very reticent to apply the Bible to cultural issues and especially when it comes to the controversial things, where it seems like to take a stand is to be unkind, then when comes out is that Christianity fundamentally is about being kind. And now you have Buttigieg who’s really nice—I mean, he’s a nicer guy than the current occupant of the White House—and he’s now applying the Bible to cultural issues.
But when you start talking about things like, you know, as he did a couple months ago, the Bible supports abortion. The Bible is on the side of same-sex marriage, which he’s also done. That shouldn’t even play out of the room, right? If that’s effective at all, that’s not Buttigieg’s fault, that’s the church’s fault.
REICHARD: John, I want to ask you about another name in the news of late, David Daleiden. He’s the man who exposed that Planned Parenthood was selling body parts of babies aborted at their facilities. Daleiden secretly recorded executives of the abortion giant haggling over prices.
Planned Parenthood went on the offensive and sued Daleiden. A jury in California found Daleiden guilty of violating racketeering laws and ordered him to pay $2 million in damages.
Now we support what Daleiden was trying to do, to reveal the illegal activity of Planned Parenthood, and that jury decision is being appealed.
But a listener wrote in to ask whether Daleiden’s method of obtaining those tapes was wrong? After all, he’d used deception to gain access to an abortion industry conference, then recorded conversations while posing as a trader in fetal parts. So how should we think through this? Is undercover work a special subset of the Christian life?
STONESTREET: Yeah, it’s a great question. And I think we can all agree that whatever we think about the methods, what was discovered through the methods is still enough to take Planned Parenthood down—or it should be. But I’m OK with the use of this sort of undercover work. And I think, first of all, you see a history of Christians kind of working, using deception not as an end but as a means in order for the truth to get out. We can talk, for example, about Rahab being honored in the Old Testament for her deception. And, actually, makes it into the genealogy of Christ, which is a fascinating detail in the text. Or Tamar, also making it despite her deception. I mean, what a controversial story that is. She’ll never make it onto the Sunday School flannelgraph, right? But she somehow made it into the genealogy of Jesus. The guy to read on this, for our listener, it’s a little bit more than probably we could walk through, but I’m an advocate of this vision of ethics. It’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrestle through this. And, of course, as he’s wrestling through ethical theory, he himself is in the fire. He’s trying to figure out how to handle Hitler and to the extent to which he should join the resistance. And, of course, he goes all the way. And his understanding is that you tell the truth to everyone to whom the truth is owed. And the truth is owed to almost everyone except those that are implicated or involved into some direct evil. And I’ve employed that ethical framework, honestly, because I think there’s a way to value the truth that requires the truth to come out. And that’s what Daleiden was trying to do. I know not everyone agrees with me on that. But I would suggest taking a look at Bonhoeffer for more on that.
REICHARD: I’ll add something else the listener asked. What if we turned the tables and imagined secretly taped conversations within churches that were then broadcast. Do you think there’s merit to state laws against surreptitiously recording someone?
STONESTREET: Well, not all state laws say the same thing, for example, and I’m not sure of the conditions in Daleiden’s because it’s not always illegal to secretly record someone across state lines. That’s a state-by-state sort of decision. But, look, that actually has happened and when it does expose people in the church, or when it exposed something untoward, then I think, again, if the truth is being served, then that could be seen as OK. At the same time, yeah, because just trying to hijack or ambush someone with secret recordings, obviously something that—there needs to be statutes, there needs to be limitations on it as well.
BASHAM: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday. John, thanks so much!
STONESTREET: Thanks so much!
MARY REICHARD: Talk about odd! Something plopped into the front yard of a man in Massachusetts this week.
Wenhan Huang was minding his own business, doing yard work at his home just south of Boston when he heard a loud noise.
He turned around and saw a big gray thing sitting there. It’s hadn’t been there before. No cars or trucks had passed his house. No visitors had come by.
He looked more closely and realized nobody could have put it in his yard. Huang told WCVB-tv:
HUANG: It’s pretty heavy. You can’t even carry it.
The “thing” was an inflatable slide that had fallen from the sky!
HUANG: It’s kind of crazy. Who could know like there’s something coming from the air and dropping to my yard, right?
The good news is no one was hurt and the slide only took out a few branches from a tree in Huang’s yard.
And it’s a good thing the Delta Air Lines flight from Paris to Boston didn’t have to make an emergency landing.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD: Today is Friday, December 6th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re really glad you are!
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham.
The streaming era has given audiences lots of diverse, targeted viewing options. But there’s one area it’s still curiously deficient. Except for a few sleeper hits, it hasn’t offered much by way of family viewing. I’m talking about shows that are complex enough to entertain both parents and older children, not just kids’ programming that adults have to suffer through. The Mandalorian on Disney Plus brilliantly fills that gap.
CLIP: What’s your highest bounty. Not much. 5000. That won’t even cover fuel these days. There is one job. Let’s see the puck. No puck. Face to face. Direct commission. Deep pocket. Underworld? All I know is no chain code. Do you want the chit or not?
Any fan of Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns will recognize their influence on this stand-alone Star Wars story. It takes place five years after events in Return of the Jedi. The fall of the Empire has inevitably left chaos in its wake. Out on the lawless frontiers of the New Republic, we meet a lone bounty hunter known only as Mando. That’s a moniker taken from the name of his people: The Mandalorian.
Like any gunslinger worth his salt, we don’t know much about Mando save that he’s the quickest draw in the galaxy. In fact, he’s so mysterious, four episodes in, we have yet to glimpse his face, which remains hidden beneath his tribal helmet.
CLIP: Greef Karga said you were coming. What else did he say? He said you were the best in the parsec. Freeze. Drop your weapons. No, no, no. Sorry, I didn’t mean to alarm. This is Dr. Pershing. Please excuse his lack of decorum. His enthusiasm outweighs his discretion. Please lower your blaster. Have them lower theirs first. We have you four to one. I like those odds.
But in classic cowboy fashion, Mando’s tough exterior hides a deeper morality. In this case, it’s grounded in his Mandalore faith. When Mando finds out the 50-year-old person he’s been hired to capture is actually a Yoda-like toddler, he honors the code of the Mandalorian over the code of the bounty hunter and risks his life to save the child.
CLIP: You need to drop your rifle. I’m a Mandalorian, weapons are part of my religion. Then you are not getting your parts back.
The Force has always represented a vaguely Eastern grab-bag of religious traditions. But it’s proven flexible enough to become more personal in the latest films. And the spiritual story arc of Star Wars is that of a largely secular world experiencing a religious awakening thanks to the fervent belief of a few. George Lucas understood that including this explicit faith element in his fantasy played an integral part in its success.
He said in a 1999 interview, “I see Star Wars as taking all the issues that religion represents and trying to distill them down into a more modern and easily accessible construct—that there is a greater mystery out there.” He went on, “I put the Force into the movie in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people—more a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system…I wanted to make it so that young people would begin to ask questions about the mystery. Not having enough interest in the mysteries of life to ask the question, ‘Is there a God or is there not a God?’—that is for me the worst thing that can happen.”
Now I quote that not to suggest that Lucas intended for viewers to see Christian themes in Star Wars. But to make it clear that he understood that a story with a sense of God—a sense of something providential and eternal—is a powerful draw.
The Mandalorian explores the spiritual aspect of Star Wars further by showing a competing religion for the first time.
Like the Jedi, martial arts aren’t just a way of life for the Mandalore, but a way of belief. Mando makes it clear that to not follow the strict dress codes of his faith would mean abandoning it. His conversations with other members of his tribe suggest his people are more a religious minority than an ethnic one.
CLIP: When one chooses to walk the way of the Mandalore you are both hunter and prey. How can one be a coward if one chooses this way of life? Have you ever removed your helmet? No. Has it ever been removed by others? Never. This is the way. This is the way. This is the way.
How will this fringe religion stack up against what has been set up as the true faith of the galaxy far, far away? Will the miraculous displays of power by the character the internet has dubbed “Baby Yoda” challenge Mando’s belief system? Will it foster doubt in the hero about the rules-based religion he grew up in? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better launching point to discuss weighty faith topics with older kids.
Two weeks ago, a research firm announced that The Mandalorian is now the most in-demand television series in the world. That means across all platforms, including all major broadcast and cable networks.
It seems Lucas’s approach of family friendly high stakes in deep space, with a strong sense of the mystery of spiritual things, is still a winning formula.
MEGAN BASHAM: Next up on The World and Everything in It: WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky answers questions you’ve asked.
MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR: Four questions and short answers this time.
Question 1: What’s the point of reporting from the Mexico border? Are you liberals, telling us asylum seekers have it rough? Surely we already knew that.
Answer: Pastor Bob Drake taught me the difference between gnosis, intellectual knowledge, and epignosis, experiential knowledge. I have gnosis concerning refugees but not epignosis. I suspect it’s the same for many of you. Our goal is to describe what’s happening at street-level, not suite-level—and our reporter Sophia Lee, now has epignosis, and communicates that to us.
Question 2: Since many of your positions are conservative, do you even talk to Christians who are more liberal politically?
Answer: It’s easier to talk to those like Ron Sider who share a high view of Scripture. We have lots to learn from each other—and talking politics helps us to remember to hold our political views more loosely than our theological ones. It’s harder to find common ground with those who are liberal politically and theologically. I hope people of all stripes realize that WORLD’s commitment to the truth means we always strive to report views accurately, even when we disagree with them.
Next Question: I understand part of WORLD’s job is investigations, but why investigate Christian groups?
Answer: Here are three reasons.
First, Christian groups these days are under tremendous pressure to go with the cultural flow. Sometimes that means bowing to government demands. Christians deserve to know whether they are being led by foolish, weak, or wicked leaders.
Second, secular journalists are eager to expose ministries. Corruption will eventually become public. WORLD can do a better job of reporting because we understand the context.
Third, anti-Christian propagandists say Christians are hypocrites. That we’re just out to protect ourselves. It’s important to show that Christians take sin seriously and are willing to expose it. Our God is a God of truth. He does not need our public relations help.
Last Question: How can Christian journalists avoid the egotism of folks like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, who seemed to have an unlimited view of their own power and influence?
Answer: It’s not that hard for us at WORLD, since we’ve learned we have limited influence. But it’s a good question for all Christians, as Christmas approaches. Unlike Pulitzer and Hearst, we don’t trust in our own greatness. The Bible keeps us humble. We know that we are sons of earth who need a second birth – so hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new-born king.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Marvin Olasky.
MEGAN BASHAM: Today is Friday, December 6th. 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.
Before we come to the end of our program today, I want to let you know we’re kicking off our December Giving Drive next Monday. Our theme, this year, is “team,” and starting Monday, you’ll hear more about that.
Various ones of us will be talking about the importance of the team that stands behind us.
It’s not one bylined writer or one voice—but a talented team of journalistic professionals that makes possible WORLD Magazine, WORLD Digital, WORLD Radio, WORLD Kids, and WORLD Journalism Institute.
And behind the team is an army of support, people like you. If you gave last time, we’re going to ask that you renew your giving this time. And if you’ve never given before, we’re going to ask that this is the year you start something new. Biblical journalism, grounded in God’s word, is a labor-intensive endeavor, and we do it every day, and we count on you to come alongside us.
Thanks for considering it.
Well, coming next, the music of Advent.
From now until Christmas, we’re ending each week with a musical selection.
Today, a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and guitarist. He tells World Radio’s Myrna Brown about his rendition of one of the most well-loved Advent hymns of all time.
SONG: O Come, O Come Emmnauel and ransom captive Israel.
JONATHAN BUTLER: When I sang that song, I literally was thinking only about how powerful the words were and the message of Christ.
MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: In Apartheid-era South Africa, Jonathan Butler didn’t grow up singing the 8th century Latin poem, turned song, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. He was introduced to the Advent hymn as an adult. The youngest of 13 children, Butler’s family lived impoverished.
BUTLER: We didn’t have electricity or water. We had an outside stove that was wooden.
Butler, the first black artist who broke barriers on White South African radio, says despite their lack of material things, his parents and siblings treasured time around the warm fire, celebrating the birth of Christ.
BUTLER: Christmas was colorful. Capetown was a vibrant city. And even where there’s great poverty, greater is the spirit. So, I really carry that and I wanted to carry that into this album.
And I was trying to just really deconstruct the song so you would hear the powerful words and the powerful, haunting melody that the song has. It just stands alone. I wasn’t thinking about anything. How can you with a song like that? You really have to be introspective and sing it from a pure place, you know?
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown.
MEGAN BASHAM: It takes a team to put this program together each week. We give our thanks to these hardworking folks: Maria Baer, Joel Belz, Mindy Belz, Myrna Brown, Paul Butler, Kent Covington, Nick Eicher, Kristen Flavin, Katie Gaultney, Kim Henderson, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Jill Nelson, Trillia Newbell, Onize Ohikere, Sarah Schweinsberg, Cal Thomas, John Vence, and Emily Whitten.
MARY REICHARD: The guys who stay up late to get the program to you early are Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz. Managing editor J.C. Derrick and editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky keep us on track.
And you make it all happen with your support. We can’t do this work without you on the team, too. It takes all of us. So thank you.
I hope you have a restful weekend.