The World and Everything in It — March 6, 2020

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!

Two well-known Christian teachers suggest the best way to address polyamory is to focus on the positive things that draw people away from monogamy. As you can imagine, that created a fair bit of pushback from theological heavyweights.

NICK EICHER, HOST: We’ll talk to one of those theologians on Culture Friday.

And two movies that have Christians talking—for very different reasons.

And WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky answers your questions about our journalistic process.

BASHAM: It’s Friday, March 6th. 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: Senate approves $8.3 billion for coronavirus fight » The Senate on Thursday almost unanimously approved more than $8 billion in funding to fight the coronavirus. 

AUDIO: On this vote, the yeas are 96. The nays are 1. The 60-vote threshold having been achieved, the bill is passed. 

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul cast the only vote against the measure. 

The Senate voted to send the $8.3 billion bill to the president’s desk, just a day after the House approved the funds. The money would pay for a multifaceted attack against the virus. 

U.S. coronavirus death toll rises » Meantime, the U.S. death toll from the virus is on the rise once again. Recent deaths in Washington State and California bring the total to 11.  

Officials in California ordered a cruise ship with about 3,500 people aboard to stay back from the California coast Thursday—until they can test passengers and crew.

That after a traveler from its previous voyage died of the disease and at least two others became infected.

California Governor Gavin Newsom… 

NEWSOM: With this new ICU patient that passed away entered into this next phase that has required me under the circumstances to advance a proclamation of a state of emergency in the state of California. 

A Coast Guard helicopter lowered test kits onto the Grand Princess by rope Thursday—as the vessel remains anchored off the Northern California coast.

Schumer seeks to walk back remarks aimed at justices in abortion case » Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer responded Thursday over a firestorm he ignited with his remarks about an abortion case at the Supreme Court. 

At a rally in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Schumer said two conservative justices would—quote—“pay the price” … for their decision in the case.

His remarks on Wednesday drew sharp criticism from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and members of Congress. 

On Thursday, Schumer sought to walk back those comments. 

SCHUMER: I should not have used the words I used yesterday. They didn’t come out the way I intended to. My point was there would be political consequences, political consequences, for President Trump and Senate Republicans if the Supreme Court with the newly confirmed justices stripped away a woman’s right to choose. 

But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn’t buying it. He said “there is nothing to call this but a threat.” 

MCCONNELL: He very, very clearly was not addressing Republican lawmakers or anyone else. He literally directed the statement to the justices by name. 

These were Schumer’s exact words on Wednesday:

SCHUMER: I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh, you’ve released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price! 

He added “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

McConnell said Schumer’s remarks could have “horrific unintended consequences.” And Texas Senator Ted Cruz floated the idea of a censure.

The justices are currently weighing a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. 

Court blocks ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy on part of US border (KC✓) (LJ✓)

A federal appeals court has blocked a Trump administration policy on part of the U.S. border that requires asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. court hearings. WORLD’s Anna Johansen reports. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco only blocks the “Remain in Mexico” policy in Arizona and California, the two border states under its authority.

The ruling will take effect next week unless the Supreme Court steps in sooner. 

President Trump’s administration says it is asking the high court to intervene. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled in the administration’s favor on questions of immigration and border enforcement.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen. 

COVINGTON: International court approves Afghan, Taliban and U.S. forces in Afghanistan » Judges at the International Criminal Court Thursday authorized a far-reaching investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. The investigation targets Afghan government forces, and the Taliban, as well as American troops and U.S. foreign intelligence operatives.

Some human rights groups applauded the ruling, but Washington strongly condemned it. The United States does not recognize the ICC as a legitimate court and does not cooperate with it. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded.

POMPEO: This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution masquerading as a legal body. It is all the more reckless for this ruling to come just days after the United States signed a historic peace deal on Afghanistan, which is the best chance for peace in a generation. 

Pompeo added—quote—“We will take all necessary measures to protect our citizens from this renegade, unlawful, so-called court.” 

Warren ends presidential campaign » Senator Elizabeth Warren is ending her presidential bid. She is the latest to drop out of the rapidly thinning Democratic field. 

Her announcement comes two days after she failed to win a single state on Super Tuesday and finished third in her home state of Massachusetts. 

WARREN: I have no regrets at all. This has been the honor of a lifetime!

She follows former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who dropped out on Wednesday. 

Biden now leads the delegate count with 603. Sanders has 538. Both Bloomberg and Warren had tallied less than 70. 

I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: the debate among Christians about how to address polyamory.

Plus, answers to your questions about WORLD’s journalism.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MEGAN BASHAM: It’s Friday the 6th of March, 2020.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.

NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: Culture Friday.

BASHAM: A couple of weeks ago we talked about HGTV’s highly-rated show House Hunters featuring a throuple—that is a polyamorous relationship among three people.

After that, I came across several other examples of how quickly polyamory is following the trajectory of the LGBT movement. Basically, it’s being positioned as a civil-rights issue.

Last year, the American Psychological Association created a task force to promote “awareness and inclusivity” of these kinds of relationships.”

CBS produced an original documentary series on the subject which the news division promoted with the sub-title, “Fighting the stigma of consensual non-monogamy.”

And then there’s the popular ABC sitcom, Single Parents. Here’s how that show recently characterized a throuple:

AUDIO: How does this work? Anybody ever feel left out? We have a three-pronged approach for working through the sticky stuff. Radical honesty. Active listening. And open communication. And it just works. Now I want to be in a throuple.

So it’s understandable that Christianity Today wanted to run an article to help pastors and churches deal with this issue.

The controversy came with the way the authors addressed it

Preston Sprinkle and Branson Parler said that while these relationships are sin, Christians should focus on how “good things” like hospitality and a desire for community draw people to polyamory.

They also advised pastors to avoid a list of “do nots” when teaching on sexuality. 

A lot of other Christian leaders took issue with that advice. 

The list included Albert Mohler, and fair journalistic disclosure, he is on World’s board, and Culture Friday regular, John Stonestreet.

Another critical voice in this debate was Owen Strachan, and he joins us now on Culture Friday. Owen Strachan is Director of the Center for Public Theology and author of Reenchanting Humanity.

Owen, good morning and welcome to Culture Friday for the first time. We thought we would just throw you into the deep end of the pool here. 

OWEN STRACHAN, GUEST: Yeah, getting me started slowly. I very much appreciate that. It’s great to be with you two.

EICHER: So, Owen, you have thought about this quite a bit, just quickly hit your main objections.

STRACHAN: Yeah, polyamory—multiple loves, from the Greek—is a real issue as you two have said—three or more people in a consensual sexual relationship. And it is a rising concern. So, as you mentioned just a few minutes ago, it’s appropriate, fully appropriate to address this issue and try to equip pastors and Christians beyond that to speak to it. The issue I took with this piece by Preston Sprinkle and Branson Parler for Christianity Today is what you noted a minute ago. That there are good things that draw us to polyamory. I noted that as well as the idea that pastors should not teach negatively about sexual sin. Those two realities, as well as just the general tone of the article that’s hard to sum up quickly in this interview. But the general tone of the article is essentially that, yeah, this is an issue but in general, polyamory really has some positive things to commend it—even though the article did technically say that it is sin to be in a polyamorous relationship. For those reasons, very quickly, I had some significant concerns.    

BASHAM: Since the criticism hit, Sprinkle has said he should have added the word “just” in several places. So he wrote, “Instead of addressing homosexuality, educate your people on the meaning of marriage…” 

He now says he should have written, “instead of just addressing homosexuality.”

Would that have addressed the issues you had with the article?

STRACHAN: That would have ameliorated my concerns to a degree. It would have lessened them somewhat. Nonetheless, I don’t think the tack the article takes is fundamentally the Biblical tack. In other words, polyamory is not a sort of neutral issue with some negative elements mixed in as well as some positive ones. To be in a polyamorous relationship falls in the kind of category that the Apostle Paul is addressing in Romans 1:18-32 where you’re in this kind of pagan sexual relationship, you’re following the lusts of your flesh. There’s nothing good in a section like Romans 1 or other texts we could mention—1 Corinthians 6—that draws us into sin. These are things to be repented of. We’re supposed to think that whole pursuit, even if it was just in my mind, that’s sinful. And that’s a misfiring of my being, of my mind, of my heart, such that that desire is corrupted. It’s not that there are some good things in that desire and some bad things. That is a bad desire.

BASHAM: Just real quick, do you see a connection between how some churches, some pastors have dealt with other sexuality issues—homosexuality, shacking up, adultery, fornication, that sort of thing. Do you see a similarity between how that was addressed and how we’re now addressing polyamory?

STRACHAN: Yeah, I don’t doubt that there are pastors who have failed to educate their people well on let’s say what is called heterosexuality, sexual sin in that form. So we can say that that may well be true. In general, though, this view that Sprinkle has championed is part of what you could call the sanctifiable sin view. We’ve seen this applied to so-called gay Christianity, to the Revoice Conference, and other such matters, that there are good things mixed into sinful things in terms of our pursuit of homosexuality, for example. And what I and others have been trying to say is that, yes, it is human to want community and love and affection with others. 

But we’re not supposed to sanctify our sin in that respect. Instead, we’re supposed to repent in full of our sinful desires, of our sinful actions. There’s no part, in other words, of what draws us to sin that is a good thing. If a person is drawn into some kind of terrible, incestuous relationship with a child, or an act of molestation—a terrible thing to talk about in public here, but here we are—we’re not supposed to look back and say, ‘You know, that really was my love for children. I guess it went awry at a certain point.’ But, again, there’s kind of a positive element, kind of a negative element. That itself, my friends here, is a softening of what the Bible teaches us about our sin. We’re supposed to look back at that instinct or behavior—either one—and think that is desperately wicked and evil all the way through and I need to repent of it and ask God to actually give me a true love for children instead of what I had just manifested.

BASHAM: Turning now to another subject that can sometimes be a bit of a hot potato among Christians…

Friday, Beth Moore said that Christlike manhood is “Safe enough to be alone with a woman…It was all about Jesus being alone with the woman at the well.”

Now, this sparked a lot of conversation among my female friends, as most of us took it to be a reference to what’s known as the Billy Graham rule. It’s also frequently mocked in the press as the Mike Pence rule. That is, not meeting alone, in private, with a woman who’s not your wife.

Some women told me they really resent this rule. They feel it’s unfair and leads to their being shut out of professional opportunities. 

However, the few times it’s come up in my professional life, I’ve been pretty thankful for it. 

Now let me give you a quick personal story to set up my question. When I was in my twenties I was working at a large church where the Billy Graham rule was official policy. I had a meeting off-campus with a staff pastor, an older man, and he said he could pick me up and we’d drive together. It would’ve been an hour drive each way. When I declined, he really acted like I was being silly. He kind of tried to strong arm me by telling me how inconvenient it was for him to drive separately.

I’m a rule follower by nature, so my fear of trouble outweighed how embarrassed I felt to stick to my guns. But, honestly, the whole thing made me really uncomfortable. 

A few months later it came out the pastor was getting divorced. There were rumors of involvement with another woman. 

Now, as a tough mom and wife today, I’d probably have no problem telling that pastor to buzz off. But as a naive young woman, it was hard to say no. And I always think, I’m so thankful our head pastor instituted that policy!

So, Owen, since I have a job where I can just ask theologian what they think, what Biblical principles might apply to this debate over whether the Billy Graham rule is a good idea?

STRACHAN: Yeah, I love that story, Megan, and I love your instinct as well, and commend you for it and your pastor as well. Fundamentally, the biblical principle that drives the men I know who would seek to follow this kind of guideline or rule—call it what you want—is their desire to protect themselves, their wives, and then other women who are not their wife. So, we recognize in a text like Ephesians 5:22-23 that the marriage relationship displays nothing less than the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so that’s going to motivate you to do anything you need, really, to safeguard your vows. Of course, you’re going to do that within reason. You’re not going to treat women who are not your wife, you know, like they’re an alien species or anything like that. No one commends that. 

You want to be warm and welcoming to the degree that you can to all people, men and women  alike. And yet you want to live a very careful life. You know that without holiness, no one will see the Lord. And so the men I know who are adopting this kind of principle are following it in some form as a guideline. They’re not doing it because they want to harm women. They’re actually doing it because they want to protect women, they want to protect their marital vows and they’re willing to go even to slightly socially awkward lengths in our kind of egalitarian age. We need to name it as what it is. They’re willing to go to those lengths in order to guard their covenant and guard their vows. And I commend them for doing so. I don’t think they’re doing something shameful or worthy of scorn. You know, Nick and Megan, as I wrap this up, we don’t need fewer careful men in this world who are willing to go to great lengths to protect their marriage. We need more men of that kind, to be honest.

EICHER: Well, Owen Strachan is Director of the Center for Public Theology and author of Reenchanting Humanity

Owen, thanks so much.

STRACHAN: Thank you, Nick and Megan. I appreciate it very much.

NICK EICHER: The Wallenda family has been breaking records for years, but this week Nik Wallenda did something no one has ever done before. He walked a high wire over an active volcano. 

An ABC special called Volcano Live! With Nik Wallenda followed his trek high above a crater of molten lava in a volcano in Nicaragua.

He wore a gas mask to protect him from the toxic fumes.  

As he normally does during such walks, he prayed to God as he carefully placed each step. Listen here and you’ll be able to pick up the wind gusts around him.

AUDIO: Jesus, thank you Lord. Calm that storm.

He covered 1,800 feet and in about two hours became the first man ever to traverse an active volcano.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: Today is Friday, March 6th. 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: two new movies hit theaters this weekend with two very different agendas.

It was one of the Babylon Bee’s characteristically barbed headlines—a joke that skates so close to reality, it’s hard to tell if it qualifies more as satire or commentary: Disney To Introduce New LGBTQ Superhero Whose Superpower Is Turning Invisible In International Markets.

Yeah, because that’s exactly what’s happening with Pixar’s latest movie, Onward.

The PG-rated film tells the story of the Lightfoot Brothers, a pair of elves played by Spider-Man and Star-Lord themselves, Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. They live in a land that was once full of magic. But now the manticores have gone corporate and the pixies are happy to travel on wheels rather than wings. When the boys discover a spell that can revive their deceased father for one day, they set off on a quest to bring enchantment back to their world. Or at least back to their house.

CLIP: Quick, somebody help me. These Griffin nuggets were supposed to go out five minutes ago. That’s the manticore? Oh great and powerful manticore. Whoa, sir, you’re right in the hot zone. You’re late Adolphus. I understand there’s traffic, you need to plan for that. Well maybe your mother should get her own car. Your fearlessness, my brother and I seek a map to a phoenix gem. Oh, well you come to the wright Tavern. I have the parchment you desire right here. Behold. Oh, that’s a children’s menu. Isn’t that fun, they’re all based on my old maps.

The much-ballyhooed LGBT representation comes from a character so minor she needn’t have a name. Of course, she has one for the sake of all that promotional press. Specter the centaur says, “My girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out.” That’s it. Scratch an earlobe and you’ll miss it. 

You definitely won’t hear it if you see the movie in Russia though. Because there the line has been changed to “my partner’s daughter.”

We’ve seen this sort of thing from Disney before with Rise of Skywalker and Avengers: Endgame. The studio strikes a brave progressive pose in English-speaking nations, trusting the media won’t call them out for leaving inclusivity on the cutting room floor in places like China, Singapore, or the Middle East.

The good news: if you’re a die-hard Pixar fan wrestling over whether it’s worth taking your little ones to see this one, fear not. Onward has a few inspired moments, but you definitely won’t be missing the next Incredibles or Toy Story. The movie is at its best when it focuses on an under-explored relationship in animation: brotherhood.

CLIP: Something wrong? Sorry, it’s just your stance is…Here. Chin up, elbows out, feet apart, back slightly arched. OK, how does that feel? Great. One more thing. Barley! OK, OK. Magnora gantuan. Don’t let the magic spook you. Elbows. What? Elbows up. No no, too high. That’s too high. I’m trying to focus here. Oh yeah, focus on the can. Focus. Focus. It worked! The can is huge. The van is huge. And you’re…oh no.

Too often, though, it reaches for the obvious joke or expected message. The lame PR campaign surrounding Specter feels symptomatic of its overall shortcomings. Like Onward’s fantasy world, Pixar has lost part of its magic to cheap marketing interests.

Another new movie opening this weekend comes from the Erwin Brothers, the filmmakers responsible for 2018’s surprise hit, I Can Only Imagine. That movie made more than $85 million dollars to become the fourth highest-grossing biopic of all time, behind Bohemian Rhapsody, Straight Outta Compton, and Walk the Line. So some pretty A-list company. 

While it follows a similar pattern of telling the true story behind a popular Christian song, I Still Believe isn’t likely to reach the same heights.

Based on the romance between contemporary Christian music star Jeremy Camp and his first wife, Melissa, it features a likeable cast that includes Gary Sinise. Several cute, rom-com moments. And, of course, it has plenty of good music.

CLIP: I’ve been learning a new song. Just the chorus. I love, I love you, I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you. Is it about God? Not entirely.

Unfortunately, when the star-crossed lovers start to face down cancer, they have only two speeds: saintly acceptance of God’s will and melodramatic raging against the dying of the light. Think laying prostrate with grief on the hospital room floor or anger-sprinting through the rain. Things people in movies do all the time, but people in real life, hardly ever.

One of the best things about the similarly themed documentary about Kara Tippetts was that it allowed her to express herself quietly. Like her bitterness when she saw healthy moms with their kids. Or her fear when she realized her husband was talking about her in the past tense. We don’t see anything so raw in I Still Believe.

That said, the film succeeds when it bucks the Christian movie trend of suggesting only miracles and victories make for good stories. 

CLIP: Dad, can I ask you a question? Anything. I remember I prayed and prayed in this room for Josh to be born healthy. It didn’t happen. And you prayed for so long for your ministry. Dad, I begged God to heal Melissa. What am I supposed to do with that? Are you asking if Josh’s disabilities are disappointing? Yes, they are. Did I have big dreams that didn’t come true? Sure.

The Erwins are careful to show that God is faithful even when He says “no.” In a prosperity gospel culture, that’s truth worthy of any filmmaker.

NICK EICHER: Today is Friday, March 6th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. It’s time now for the March installment of Ask the Editor. This month WORLD Editor in Chief Marvin Olasky tackles five questions he often receives.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: This month I’ve grouped five questions regarding our process. 

Question: How does WORLD decide what to cover? 

Answer: We have two categories of stories, obligatory and discretionary. Obligatory stories are big national and international ones that everyone else is covering. If we ignore them, our readers will question our competence.  Discretionary stories are ones we don’t need to cover but we want to.  

We emphasize discretionary stories in seven categories, using an acronym LEAP For—we leap for good stories. The L is for Life (including abortion-related stories). E is for Education, A is for the Arts (including reviews of books, movies, TV, and music). P is for Poverty-fighting, F is for Family, O is from Origins, particularly the creation-evolution battle. R is for Religious Liberty.  LEAP FOR 

Question: How do you respond when your reporters say they have writer’s block? 

I think of writer’s block the way pilots learned to deal with the sound barrier: fly through it because it does not exist. When we feel blocked, we need to do more street-level reporting. 

Question: Do you read all those books you review?  

Yes, with one caveat. One way to read a lot is to enjoy slow baseball games on TV. I read during them and I can still look up and follow the action. A second way is to designate 10 pm to midnight as reading time. But here’s the confession: If I describe a book in a paragraph or more, I’ve read the whole thing. If I write only a sentence, it’s sometimes because I want readers to be aware of it, but I don’t guarantee I’ve read every page.  

Question: Why do you run a lot about some scandals and just a little on others. Do you cherry-pick which to cover and which to gloss over? 

A lot of different elements go into how much space we give to a particular piece of news, including: is a story national or local? But in general, we tend to go big when we can report new developments. We tend to be brief when we’re just repeating what others have already reported. 

Question: I’ve had columns published in many leading publications. Want to make me a World columnist? 

Thanks but no thanks. First, we have all the commentary we need: we’re investing in more reporting. Second, we have a promote-from-within strategy and have hired five young reporters since the summer of 2018: We want to give them time and space, affording opportunity to move up. We would send the wrong message if we hired a star from outside. 

I’m Marvin Olasky.

NICK EICHER: It’s the end of the workweek and time to say thanks to the people who put the program together this week: Myrna Brown, Paul Butler,  Kent Covington, Jamie Dean, Kristen Flavin, Kim Henderson, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Jill Nelson, Onize Ohikere, Mary Reichard, Sarah Schweinsberg, Cal Thomas, and Emily Whitten.

MEGAN BASHAM: Our audio engineers Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz stay up late to get the program to you early! J.C. Derrick is managing editor, Marvin Olasky editor-in-chief.

And you make it all possible. We thank you for your support and encouragement. 

That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you so that you too may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Go now in grace and peace.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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