MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!
Today, another media meme accepts the easy narrative of black-hatted villains and white-hatted heroines at a Christian school.
AUDIO: … freshman Kayla Kenny celebrating her 15th birthday with family at a restaurant in late December. Her big smile, rainbow top, and a colorful birthday cake captured in this photo.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Culture Friday.
Also today, Megan will review something rarely seen on the entertainment landscape—a children’s show that does justice to dads.
And George Grant has the January edition of Word Play.
BASHAM: It’s Friday, January 24th. 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: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Democrats wind down opening arguments in impeachment trial » Today is day three of opening arguments for House Democrats in the Senate impeachment trial.
On Thursday, the lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff pressed his case once again—defending the House’s charge that President Trump abused his office. He discussed evidence from Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, which he says bolsters that case.
SCHIFF: The only thing that mattered with the public announcement. As this note says with an asterisk, get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be Biden case will be investigated.
And fellow impeachment manager, Texas Congresswoman Syvia Garcia, said in pushing for that announcement, the president abused his power.
GARCIA: Because he knew it would be damaging to an opponent that was consistently beating him in the polls. And therefore, it could help him get reelected in 2020.
Democrats today will use the balance of the 24 hours allotted to make their opening arguments. Then, White House lawyers will respond.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow…
SEKULOW: We will be putting on both an affirmative case in defense of the president, but also pointing out some of the errors in the case they presented.
White House counsel will also get 24 hours over three days to make their case.
New visa rules aimed at curbing “birth tourism” in U.S. » The Trump administration on Thursday published new visa rules aimed at restricting so-called “birth tourism.” WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The new rules are designed to stop women from traveling to the United States to give birth so their children can have U.S. citizenship.
The federal government will deny tourist visas to travelers if consular officers determine that they’re coming here primarily to give birth.
Those with medical needs will be treated like other foreigners coming to the United States for medical treatment. They must prove they have the money to pay for it—including transportation and living expenses.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that, “Closing this glaring immigration loophole will combat these endemic abuses.”
The new rules take effect today.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.
W.H.O. says it’s still too early to declare coronavirus emergency » The World Health Organization said Thursday that it’s still too early to declare the coronavirus outbreak a global emergency. WHO Emergency Committee chairman, Dr. Didier Houssin explained why they’re holding off on that declaration.
HOUSSIN: Because of limited number of cases abroad, and also considering the efforts which are presently made by China—Chinese authorities—to try to contain the disease.
An emergency declaration can bring more money and other resources to fight a threat. But it can also trigger economically damaging restrictions on trade and travel in the affected countries.
On Thursday, Chinese authorities moved to lock down at least three cities with a combined population of more than 18 million. It is an unprecedented effort to contain the deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds.
At least 25 people have died in the outbreak, all but one of them in and around the city of Wuhan.
Three American firefighters killed battling Australian wildfires » Three American firefighters died Thursday while battling wildfires in Australia.
They were flying a C-130 aerial water tanker in New South Wales when the plane went down. State Rural Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters…
FITZSIMMONS: The crash down in the Snowy Monaro area, it impacted heavily with the ground, and initial reports are that there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground.
Officials are investigating the cause of the crash. Americans and firefighters from several other countries have joined Australian teams to combat one of the worst fire seasons the continent has seen.
The tragedy brings the death toll from the blazes to at least 31 since September. The fires have also destroyed more than 2,600 homes and torched more than 25 million acres. That’s an area bigger than the state of Indiana.
Journalist Jim Lehrer dies » Journalist Jim Lehrer has died at the age of 85. Many knew him as the longtime host of the nightly PBS “NewsHour.”
LEHRER: Good evening, I’m Jim Lehrer. On the NewsHour this Wednesday …
Many others knew him best for his role as a debate moderator. Lehrer moderated 11 presidential debates between 1988 and 2012.
LEHRER: Governor Romney, do you have a question you’d like to ask the president directly about something he just said? Well sure, I’d like to correct the record, and go through piece by piece.
He also anchored PBS coverage of inaugurations and conventions.
After Lehrer graduated from college in 1956, he served three years in the U.S. Marine Corp. He later worked 11 years at The Dallas Morning News and other newspapers before making the jump to television.
In a statement, PBS said Lehrer died “peacefully in his sleep.”
Giants’ Eli Manning retires » Eli Manning is ending a 16-year NFL career. The New York Giants announced this week that the two-time Super Bowl champ is retiring.
Giants’ president and chief executive officer John Mara said “For 16 seasons, Eli Manning defined what it is to be a New York Giant both on and off the field.”
Manning holds numerous franchise records with the Giants, and was selected to four Pro Bowls. The 39-year-old leaves the NFL with as many Super Bowl titles as his brother, Peyton, who retired after leading the Denver Broncos to a title in 2015.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: On Culture Friday, another media meme pushes a familiar narrative.
Plus, George Grant considers how redefining words has changed the world.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MEGAN BASHAM: It’s Friday, January 24th, 2020. 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. Before we get started, I need to make an apology. On Wednesday, as we were reporting on the impeachment trial in the Senate, I made a sarcastic remark about the congressional schedule, very strongly implying members of Congress don’t work as hard as regular taxpayers do. Well, that was just wrong, and really I know better than that. When I was young, I was a congressional staffer and I know how many hours members of Congress work, and it’s a tough schedule.
Many of them are away from their families and that’s hard on families, and many members work hard to serve the public, and Congress the institution doesn’t deserve the broad brush treatment that I thought I gave, so I’m sorry about that. So I apologize.
BASHAM: Yeah and I spent a couple of weeks a couple years ago doing interviews with lawmakers and I couldn’t believe the pace some of them kept up, so I’ll add my apology to Nick’s.
Well, onward. Maybe you heard about this story. It went viral last week. A Christian school in Kentucky expelled a 15-year-old girl simply for wearing a rainbow sweater and posing in front a colorful cake during her birthday party.
Pretty bad, right? It certainly sounded so when the local paper’s story hit the web with the headline, “Louisville Christian school expelled student over a rainbow cake, family says.”
The school’s outrageous act was then covered by FOX News, Good Morning America, The Washington Post, and the U.K. Daily Mail, to name just a few.
Here’s a bit of the report that ran on the Today Show.
AUDIO: [Singing Happy Birthday] It was a happy moment. freshman Kayla Kenney celebrating her 15th birthday with family at a restaurant in late December. Her big smile, rainbow top, and a colorful birthday cake captured in this photo.
She was happy, she looked beautiful, you know, of course, as a mom I took her picture blowing out her candles and I posted that on my Facebook page.
The girl’s mother was quoted in USA Today saying, “I just feel like it’s a label [the school officials] have put on her. Just because I’m wearing a rainbow doesn’t mean I’m gay.”
And that’s the angle all those news outlets started and stopped with.
EICHER: The problem is, there was more to the story. A lot more.
Some intrepid citizen journalists spent, well, it probably didn’t take much time at all to check out the girl’s social media to verify the family’s account.
What they found put a decidedly different spin on things.
In multiple public posts the girl referred to herself as “coming out” and “getting a girlfriend.” She mentioned going to bed with other girls. One picture showed her in boy’s clothing—a formal suit, essentially—asking a girl at another school to a dance.
All of it suggests that when the mother insisted the rainbow sweater and cake “meant nothing,” as we said, there was more to the story.
At the very least, it showed that her daughter had an extensive and very public record of being in violation of the school’s Bible-based policies for student conduct.
John Stonestreet joins us now for Culture Friday. He’s president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
John, good morning.
JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning!
EICHER: Now John, it seems like in the mother’s own initial comments there were some red flags that should have made a competent reporter’s spidey senses tingle. She said of the school, “I just feel like those religious beliefs they are imposing now are very judgmental.”
Now I would naturally ask, why would you send your child to an unequivocally Christian school if you object to their religious beliefs?
I don’t necessarily say that to render judgment on the mother here. But when I saw this controversy, I did the same thing the citizen journalists did: pulled up one of the girl’s publicly available social-media accounts and in two minutes had enough information at least to begin to question the narrative.
You have these massive media organizations basically mounting a PR campaign when a citizen journalist can easily pop the balloon.
Listen, feel free to comment on the story, but I’d like for you to interact with what I really think is a crisis of credibility in the news media, especially where it applies to disfavored groups like people who run Christian schools.
STONESTREET: Yeah, I kind of wonder sometimes if some members of the media are trying to feed the Babylon Bee new headlines—headlines that aren’t even satirical. And that’s where Babylon Bee is at its best is when it reports on actual stories that happen.
There’s this kind of long line of journalists, a long history of journalists that certainly has become more intense in recent years as journalists missing the story and, really, what’s behind it. It’s hard not to think of the Covington Catholic boy’s story that happened basically a year ago at last year’s March for Life clearly misrepresented from a narrative that should have taken very little effort at all to correct. And, again, it underscores, I think, what is a deeply held worldview across many that are in this position. Now, let’s be clear, too, that this is a position where the job is to kind of get past any sort of narratives that are already embraced and kind of get to the facts. That’s really the job of a journalist from day one.
But the worldview is affecting their job really in two ways. First, it is kind of introducing a narrative up front and anything outside of that narrative is not told. But I think it’s also creating a sort of intellectual laziness. It’s a laziness that can’t even imagine—what would keep you from just doing that? What would keep you from just Googling this girl or looking up Facebook? It’s only if you’re already convinced up front that there’s no possible other angle to the story. And that’s really the role that a worldview can play in our lives.
By the way, it’s interesting. I just spend this past weekend speaking to our Colson Fellows program about a story where we first saw this sort of media bias and it goes way back. 1925. The Scopes Trial where 6,000 journalists flood into Dayton, Tennessee to cover what is the trial of the century before OJ—what happened in the courthouse there between William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. And you saw that same sort of thing. It was very much a narrative driving that media and intellectual laziness where so many of the journalists actually believed that they didn’t even have to go to the trial. They could just get it through hearsay. And then send the news to their papers. We’re just seeing that same sort of thing and it’s unfortunate that—It’s one thing to be captivated by a narrative. It’s another thing when that same kind of worldview assumptions lead you to laziness and not doing your job.
BASHAM: You know, John, this follows on the heels of CNN paying out a large settlement to the family of Nicholas Sandmann from Covington Catholic.
So a hypothetical in light of the Sandmann settlement. Let’s say the school had it in mind to sue over damage to their reputation. And let me be clear, I’m not suggesting they’re going to do that or have any grounds to do so–I’m not the legal lady around here!
But I do wonder if more Christians aren’t going to go the route of the Sandmann family and start taking the media to court. If so, do you think that’s a viable, Biblical option for dealing with a negligent or even hostile press?
STONESTREET: That’s an interesting question. I’m going to draw a kind of strange analogy. I think that there’s all kinds of legal recourse that Christians right now are taking. It is a completely justified recourse and because of financial damage or reputational damage or things like that. And I think that’s legitimate.
I’m grateful, for example, and this is something a lot of folks don’t realize is that the tremendous legal work that’s being done by ADF or Becket or the Christian Legal Society. A lot of that never gets to the Supreme Court or even to the courtroom at all. There’s legal action that’s taken in order to kind of stop it in its tracks. Sometimes a sternly worded letter is all that it takes in order to kind of rebalance the power here. And I’m completely ok with that. I also think, though, that the mistake is going to be made if we think that the legal action is the only action we have. In the midst of all of this, I don’t think we should ever underestimate the power and the influence and the reputational boost that Christians will get with a well-timed act of forgiveness. And, look, I’m not imposing my conscience on anyone or on this particular situation at all. In fact, man, I’ve been trying to figure out what is the settlement that Nick got? No one seems to be reporting on how much it is. I really want to know that and I think it would be really helpful information to rebalance the scales if we kind of knew what’s at stake.
And I think that both of those things need to be in the arsenal as we try to figure out what it looks like to live in this cultural moment.
BASHAM: So, John, I want to turn to another Christian conflict playing out in the media, and I want to be careful that we don’t commit any of the journalistic errors we just talked about.
Earlier this week the St. Paul Pioneer Press ran a story about a United Methodist church whose older members claim they’re being asked to leave to make way for young families.
When I posted the article in our internal communication channel, a lot of staff members said they thought it was a Babylon Bee article.
Now, the church’s leadership clarified a bit in a follow up with the Washington Post. They said they’re not saying the mostly 60 years and older parishioners will be barred from the church. Only that the services they attend are being cancelled.
So there’s a lot happening in this story, from why mainline churches are struggling to the issue of age-discrimination.
So to start, I guess I’ll just ask, do you think there’s any merit to this idea that attracting young people means moving away from the elements that appeal to older people?
STONESTREET: Well, you know, I suppose if what we’re after is to attract younger people, if that’s the win of the church, then maybe there is. Or if the win is to have a bigger church, then maybe the strategy could work. The problem is I think both of those things are the wrong definition of a win. I think that there is a big infection in the American church that bigger is always better, that growth is always a measure of God’s blessing the church. Maybe God’s blessing the church by shrinking it.
Anyway, I just feel like there’s something at work here.
There’s something ideological here. Because within the United Methodist Church, that has dealt with such deep division right now and so many mainline denominations in the same sense, I wonder if the divide between young and old is also a divide between ideologies. Whether this church is trying to become more progressive in order to attract more people and these old people are standing in the way. I don’t know that that’s behind this story, but I certainly wonder if it is and I know that there are churches that are dealing with that as well.
EICHER: Well, John Stonestreet is the president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday.
John, thanks so much.
STONESTREET: Thank you both!
NICK EICHER: NASA is preparing to launch a new Mars rover later this year. But first, they have to answer an important question: What to call it?
AUDIO: The Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.
Nah, too cartoony.
No, NASA sought K-to-12 student input from across the country for possible names.
And out of 30,000 essays received, they’ve narrowed the options to nine.
Here they are:
And you can vote for the winner at mars.nasa.gov.
But I think what’s clear here is that student input is much better than surveys of the general public. Perhaps you remember a few years ago, the Natural Environment Research Council asked the public to name a research vessel.
And the result they came up with: RSS Boaty McBoatface. ’Nuff said.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: Today is Friday, January 24th, 2020. 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 show targeted at the very youngest members of the family but still holds appeal for all ages.
I have to say, I never thought I’d have much reason to devote a full review to a preschool cartoon. But that was before I found my husband and our 5-year-old daughter parked in front of the TV, giggling away at a little blue dog.
“Sit down,” my husband said as he wiped laughter tears from his eyes. “You’ve got to see this.” Thus, I met Disney’s newest international star, Bluey.
CLIP: Ding, ding, ding. You lose. Dad! This isn’t fair. I am not Dad. I am magic claw. Magic Claw has no children. His days are free and easy. Ugh.
The series debuted in Australia in 2018 and immediately became that country’s most popular children’s show. The BBC soon started airing it in the U.K. to similar acclaim. That’s when Disney decided to get in on the action. The show premiered stateside on Disney Jr. in October and hit Disney Plus this week. And to that this American mum says “good on ya mate.”
Because everything about the little blue heeler puppy and her lovable family feels refreshingly modern yet wholesome.
Start with the fact that they actually are a family.
CLIP: Well, what about when you pretend to be me? What? I don’t pretend to be you. Yes, you do. All the time. Mum! What is it Bingo? I didn’t say Dad. I said Mum. Oh, okay. I’ll go get her. What is it sweetheart? What is it my little Boo Bear. I said I want Mum! This is Mum. Can’t you tell by my lovely voice? Daaaad. Dad’s not here, which is a shame, because he’s such a handsome fellow with big, strong muscles.
Given that parents are, or largely should be, the center of a preschoolers’ world, it’s strange how few children’s shows include them. Or include them only to show them as bumbling. Bluey creator Joseph Brumm especially wanted to address that with depictions of family life that feel realistic.
In an interview with an Australian newspaper he noted that it was important to him to explore the way kids really learn about life—largely through play within their homes. As such, each seven- to eight minute-episode shows 6-year-old Bluey and her 4-year-old sister Bingo engaging more with their parents and each other than the wider world. It may be a make-believe game of “Daddy Robot” or something as ordinary as picking up take-out for dinner.
CLIP: Five more minutes, kids. They forgot the spring rolls. Hey babe, what’s up. They forgot the spring rolls. Ah, your dad and spring rolls! They’re just cooking them now. Forget them babe. The kids must be starving. Not leaving without spring rolls. Say see ya, Mum. See ya Mum. Well, good luck.
This focus on comical realism is what makes the show truly enjoyable for adults as well. Especially when it comes to the dynamic between Bluey’s parents.
I’d struggle to name any other children’s show that depicts a husband-wife relationship that feels affectionate. In fact, I’d struggle to name any other children’s show that acknowledges there is a husband-wife relationship and not just a mom-dad one.
While never inappropriate, Bluey’s parents are flirtatious with one another, as when dad Bandit, pretending to be a peacock, waves his tail feathers and waggles his eyebrows at mom, Chilli.
But that’s not the only thing that sets Bandit apart.
Most cartoon dads are lazy, dim-witted, and largely there only to be the butt of jokes, even if they don’t rise to Simpsons’ level character assassination. Even Daddy Pig on preschool favorite Peppa Pig isn’t much of a leader in his home.
Brumm specifically wanted to avoid that stereotype. He said in that same interview, “Just looking around [at] me and my friends and brothers, we are all trying pretty hard. We’re not perfect, but we’ve learnt how to change nappies and make lunches.”
That’s what we see with Bandit. An archeologist who often works from home, he cares for Bluey and Bingo when Chilli is at her part-time job. While that’s definitely a different model from, say, Leave it to Beaver, Bandit’s parenting style is distinctly fatherly. Think more rambunctious and hands-off.
CLIP: You alright Bluey? My knee! Give us a look. Oh yeah. Okay, I’ll just have to chop the leg off. What, you don’t need two.
He’s also a clear authority figure.
CLIP: Bluey if I’m talking to another grown-up, you don’t interrupt like that, okay? Dad, I’ve got a plan. You’re not allowed to stop the wagon and chat to your friends. You have to take us straight to the monkey bars. No stopping. Hmm, interesting plan. I know, how about this plan. I’ll do what I want and you don’t tell me what to do.
And now that I mention how dads’ and moms’ styles are typically different, it might be a good time to mention the one thing about Bluey that could give some parents pause—Bandit’s occasional, let’s say, gaseous, jokes.
Now, as I’m married to a man who’s given to a similar comedy stylings—usually to the delight of his daughters and the chagrin of his wife—we find that element pretty authentic too.
But if you prefer your kids not be exposed to any whoopee cushion humor, Bluey might be a little too real for you.
If you don’t mind that sort of thing, Bluey is a little miracle. A cartoon about real home life that entertains even the youngest kids while still making the rest of the family giggle.
MEGAN BASHAM: Today is Friday, January 24th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. He’s Nick Eicher.
NICK EICHER: And she is Megan Basham. Notice I didn’t say “They is Megan Basham,” although the Merriam-Webster dictionary might not have corrected me.
Here’s George Grant with the January edition of Word Play, in which he explains why.
GEORGE GRANT, COMMENTATOR: Merriam-Webster has announced its 2019 “Word of the Year,” as have the Oxford, Cambridge, and Collins dictionaries. Determined by various factors—page hits and popular searches on their websites, online polling, and editorial discretion—the words are intended to reflect the leading developments in popular English usage as it is inevitably shaped by current events and social trends.
We live in a world of sudden and dramatic shifts and changes, a world flooded with information and words. So, it’s probably not surprising that a host of new words—or old words with new meanings—crowd into the cultural consciousness as jargon, slang, or neologism. Seemingly out of nowhere our public discourse is peppered with words like deep-fake, rewilding, and non-binary; or, BoPo, slang for body positive, and FoMo, meaning fear of missing out.
The designation of the “Word of the Year” is intended to highlight an expression that particularly reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the preceding year. Over the past two decades words like blog, meme, woot, woke, truthiness, vape, and Brexit have been named “Word of the Year” by one or another of the dictionaries.
This year, Merriam-Webster selected the word they as the “Word of the Year.” It is a repurposing of the traditional third-person plural pronoun as a first-person singular pronoun—used for someone whose preferred gender identity is non-biological and “non-binary.” According to the dictionary’s editors, this new usage literally burst onto the public stage this past year. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, for instance, revealed during a Judiciary Committee hearing that her child is “gender-nonconforming” and self-identifies with the pronoun they. British pop singer Sam Smith announced that he too now prefers to be called they. And the American Psychological Association recommended that the “singular they be preferred in professional writing over he or she.”
The Oxford, Cambridge, Collins, and several online dictionaries were similarly progressive-minded, opting for words related to climate change: eco-anxiety, extinction, flight-shaming, climate-emergency, carbon-sink, plastic-footprint, and up-cycling.
So, once again we’re reminded that language is a worldview construct—and that the battle for the dictionary is nearly as fierce as the battle for the Bible. As John Locke once declared, “Whoever defines the words defines the world.”
For WORLD Radio, I’m George Grant.
NICK EICHER: It takes a lot of people to put this program together each week. Our thanks to these hardworking folks: Maria Baer, Joel Belz, Paul Butler, Kent Covington, Laura Edghill, Kristen Flavin, George Grant, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Onize Ohikere, Mary Reichard, Michelle Schlavin, Sarah Schweinsberg, and Les Sillars.
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.
And you make it all possible with your support. Thank you!
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I hope you have a restful weekend.