MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!
Crisis can reveal the heart of a culture, and today we’ll talk about some signposts that point to just how secular we’ve become—where God is simply not part of the conversation.
NICK EICHER, HOST: We’ll talk about that on Culture Friday.
And even though we’re stuck at home, we can still enjoy a night at the theater.
And singer-songwriter David Leonard shares his family’s struggle with infertility.
BROWN: It’s Friday, April 17th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
BROWN: Here’s Kent Covington with today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: White House announces new guidance to ease virus restrictions in some areas » At the White House Thursday, President Trump said the United States is winning the battle against the coronavirus and it’s time to move cautiously forward.
TRUMP: Based on the latest data, our team of experts now agrees that we can begin the next front in our war, which we are calling opening up America again.
The president and other top officials announced new guidelines aimed at easing restrictions in areas with low transmission while holding the line in harder-hit areas. It will be up to governors to determine what’s appropriate in each state.
The new guidance outlines three phases on the road to recovery. White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx…
BRIX: Phase One begins with all vulnerable individuals, including those with comorbidities continuing to shelter in place, and ensuring that those that first go out into the public are not those that are most vulnerable to bad outcomes in this disease.
Phase One calls for all Americans to minimize non-essential travel, to keep as much physical distance as possible from others, and avoid gatherings of 10 or more people where that’s not practical.
It also calls on companies to bring employees back to work in phases and to continue to encourage working from home.
Phase Two loosens guidelines on group settings and travel. And Phase Three allows for the reopening of gyms, movie theaters, bars, and large venues with—quote—“limited physical distancing protocols.”
The government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned…
FAUCI: There may be some setbacks. I mean, let’s face it. This is uncharted water. There may be some setbacks where we have to pull back a little and then go forward.
Fauci said paying close attention to the data at the local level will be critical.
Paycheck Protection Program runs out of cash » The government’s Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses is out of money. The Small Business Administration said Thursday that it reached the $349 billion lending limit for the program. That means it’s on hold for now.
That comes as new unemployment numbers show another 5.2 million Americans filed for jobless benefits last week.
Thousands of small business owners are now waiting on Congress to approve a Trump administration request for another $250 billion to refuel the program.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he’s waiting on Democrats.
MCCONNELL: Every Senate Republican was ready to act today. Today. But Democrats would not let us reopen the program.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats want the legislation to address other needs as well.
PELOSI: We wanted to negotiate on how we can do more for hospitals, state and local government, that is police, fire, education, etc., as well as recognizing the revenue lost from many of these states and municipalities.
Pelosi said Democratic leaders are actively negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and hope to reach an agreement soon.
Esper has “an open mind” about reinstating Capt. Crozier » Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he has “an open mind” about possibly reinstating the Navy captain fired over his handling of coronavirus concerns aboard his ship. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen has more.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: Esper stated Thursday that he directed an investigation into the matter two weeks ago. It concluded last week. He said—quote—“It is now with the Navy, it will come to me at some point in time”
He added that he can’t comment on the investigation now, but will “keep an open mind.”
Crozier lost his command of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt last month. He penned a letter voicing his concerns that the Navy wasn’t doing enough to protect the ship’s crew and it was later leaked to the media. Former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Crozier distributed the letter too widely and violated the chain of command.
But Modly later resigned over his handling of Crozier’s removal.
The New York Times reported this week that the Navy is actively considering whether it can reinstate Crozier as captain of the Roosevelt.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen.
U.S. intel investigating whether virus came from Wuhan lab » U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether the coronavirus emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
According to an NBC News report, “spy agencies have ruled out that the virus was man-made.” But intel officials are examining evidence that a lab employee studying diseases in bats may have become infected and then unknowingly spread the virus.
The report, citing a U.S. intelligence official, states that scientists at a military and a civilian lab in Wuhan “are known to have conducted ongoing research on coronaviruses.”
And this week Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley confirmed that officials are investigating evidence surrounding the Wuhan lab.
MILLEY: It should be no surprise to you that we’ve taken a keen interest in that. We’ve had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that.
He said the results of that investigation so far are inconclusive.
MLB participating in nationwide antibody test »27 Major League Baseball teams are participating in a nationwide coronavirus antibody study. Antibody tests could help determine if a person has been infected in the past and if they have developed immunity. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has that story.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: As many as 10,000 league employees will receive tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies.
Stanford University researcher Dr. Daniel Eichner is the president of the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory. He said he asked Major League Baseball to take part in the study, and the league didn’t hesitate.
With teams scattered from Seattle to San Diego and Boston to Miami, the MLB’s involvement provides geographic diversity. And people of many different ages, ethnicities, and physical conditions will participate, not just the players. Eichner said everybody “from general managers to hot dog vendors.”
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: national secularism on display.
Plus, one family’s struggle with infertility.
This is The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: It’s Friday the 17th of April, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.
MYRNA BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. First up: Culture Friday.
Here’s New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, talking about disease-mitigation efforts in his state, why coronavirus cases have hit a plateau and started to fall, and why New Yorkers have to remain vigilant.
CUOMO: It is directly the result of what you do today. The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that. Fate did not do that. Destiny did not do that. A lot of pain and suffering did that.
EICHER: Maybe you think a reporter baited Cuomo into his lack of gratitude to God. But it didn’t appear to me that way as I looked at the quote in context.
The reporter asked about the plateauing of the coronavirus numbers and asked specifically, “what makes you feel so confident that the worst is over?”
To be fair, the governor said he wasn’t confident. He was making the point that draconian efforts must continue. It’s like going on a diet, he explained. You eat right, you lose weight. You lose discipline, you gain weight. Simple as that. It’s all about what we do. We do smart things, we mitigate the disease. We do dumb things, the disease is likely to take off again.
That’s the context.
It’s Culture Friday and time to welcome in John Stonestreet, the president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Good morning!
JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning!
EICHER: I bring this up, because it got a lot of attention. Kind of a pride-goeth-before-a-fall sort of attention. These are uncharted waters we’re in, and now’s not the time for hubris from any political leader—whether it’s a political leader at the White House in Washington or at the state house in Albany, New York. The first thing you should be doing is asking God for help, not saying, we’ve got this.
But I am noticing, and I’ll bring this up in a moment, a disdain for the worship of God, and it seems to me to stem from this idea: that God has nothing to do with issues like these. This is a matter for “the experts” and don’t bother the experts with your judgy ideas like “repent or you will likewise perish.”
What would be the right balance, do you think? The appropriate stance for a public official. I guess, boiling it down, what would Kuyper do?
STONESTREET: Well, I mean, obviously he wouldn’t do that. And neither, by the way, would almost any other political leader in American history, not just Christian ones. I mean, Abraham Lincoln wouldn’t have said anything like that. Benjamin Franklin, who was highly cynical and skeptical of religion and Christianity, wouldn’t have said anything like that. I’m not even sure Voltaire, who wasn’t really a political leader or American, would have said something like that. Because even though he was pretty much a skeptic, he still had some sort of sense of the providence of God in moments even of his skeptical writing.
This is really just a stunning thing. And I think it reveals a couple things.
Number one is there are these moments in time when you realize just how secular something, a place has gotten. The coronavirus has been that. So, for example, we have seen the complete and utter embrace of something that is morally problematic like abortion as essential services, while so many other things are not. We had so-called Christian writers question Samaritan’s Purse intention in New York City. There are times when the worldview of a culture is revealed. This has been actually one of those. And it’s been a theme where hopefully Christians continue to run into the plague and do the good work that they’re doing, not making foolish decisions like we’ve seen some make, but really trying to engage the moment.
But there is a great kind of cynicism and skepticism.
And one of the marks of this, too, is not just the openly disdainful stuff. It’s in quotes like this one by Cuomo, which is essentially what folks have called either the political illusion or technocracy, this idea that the world really isn’t a place that’s governed or controlled by anything outside of this world, that all the forces that matter are horizontal ones, they’re not vertical at all. And so what we’ve got to do is rightly align either our political process, some sort of medical solutions or medication, or our science and so on and we will be able to fix the world’s problems.
Now, look, that’s been an impulse in modern culture for a long time. But this is the gut-level impulse of modernism that religion goes to the category of personal and private and that the thing that really tells us the truth, the thing that really brings us the progress, the thing that really solves us our problems is our own ability to figure out and restructure our lives around techniques or around scientific endeavor or around medical experiments and then we’ll rid the world of whatever kind of “fall” that it has.
So, we’re seeing a stark contrast of worldviews and we’re seeing also kind of an indicator, the little yellow “you are here” arrow of just really how secular we are as a culture.
EICHER: Let me play a bit of audio from a cellphone recording by Pastor Charles Hamilton of King James Bible Baptist Church, Greenville, Mississippi. This from Good Friday. You’ll hear an official warning him that attendees for a drive-in service will receive tickets, and you’ll hear, if you listen carefully, an officer saying the pastor’s rights are suspended by Governor Tate Reeves, followed by the pastor’s reply. It’s quite an exchange.
AUDIO: OK, I’m good. I got that. I know. I know about it … we’re gonna get tickets.
Give you a formal warning.
And we’ll allow the … if you do have members come, we will allow them to leave before they’re cited.
If they decide not to is when they’ll—
Order from the governor.
Your rights are suspended.
No. The government does not have the right over the constitution. We’re talking about the constitutional law, the first and second amendments to the U.S. constitution that were given from our forefathers. Tate Reeves can’t take it away. Erick Simmons can’t take it away. Nor can the police officers.
Can be suspended, by the military
No, you can’t.
I should’ve mentioned the other name in there, Erick Simmons, the mayor of Greenville, Mississippi. That’s who Pastor Hamilton was also talking about: the governor, the mayor, the police, the military, all constrained by constitutional limits on their powers.
Now, a couple of words here before we move on. My colleague Mary Reichard is going to explain this and another case in Kentucky, and go into some detail on the legal questions. So that’s coming on Monday.
The cultural question is interesting, too. By and large, churches have been most cooperative. We’ve wanted to be good neighbors. I can speak for my own church, I’m on the livestream team, and we’ve been working within the spirit of the local lockdown, to prepare online worship services for our congregation and community. So the exceptions to the rule have really been exceptions to the rule.
My question for you is this: when do you think is the right time to be polite and cooperative, and when’s the right time to fight aggressively to advocate for our rights?
STONESTREET: Well, I don’t like the way the question’s phrased, honestly. Forgive me, Nick, but I don’t the choice is between being polite and cooperative and fighting. I think you can be polite and not cooperative and I think that’s sometimes what you have to do.
EICHER: And I think you heard that there, to be fair to the pastor.
STONESTREET: I think we heard that there. I think he was trying to be very polite as I think most have. Not all. I mean, there’s been some bad actors in this and there’s been foolish actors in this. And this is a really tough situation. I don’t think it’s going to get easier. And because, again, we’re making these decisions in the context of a culture that no longer sees church or religious experience as core to our lives together.
And that’s really important because many people, first of all, still do see church as core to our lives together. I think pastors see that. I think maybe some of them are realizing that they see it in their congregants or their culture doesn’t and maybe we haven’t done such a great job catechizing our own people in why church is really so important. I worry, too, that when all this is over whether we can get people back in the pews when it’s so much easier to watch stuff online. And I heard somebody on a podcast this week said something along the lines like there’s no difference between what happens in our church and what happens online. You can sing at home, you can get good preaching at home and so on. I thought, man, if there’s really no difference, we’re not doing this right. So I think it’s revealing so much about our culture right now and it’s a fascinating reveal.
That said, I think what you have here is a real issue. Now, I think some of it is innocent, honestly. And part of that has to do with bureaucracy, part of that has to do with local—I think in the town of this mayor of Greenville—a local mayor trying to do his job with the governor, trying to stay on good terms with the governor, and then having to kind of be this guy. And he clearly doesn’t know what the Constitution says.
Now, I do think, though, that the church doesn’t need to resist some of these orders just because it’s the state telling them. And this is where I think it’s also been confused. There’s been this kind of growing tension between the church and the state so that we sometimes think that, well, if I’m getting a directive, it’s my duty to disobey. If the directive is wise, if a way to love your neighbor—especially the elderly attendees maybe in your church or community—is to stay at home in order to flatten the curve, well then great. Do it.
Look, I’ll close with this, Nick: I’m going back to what this is revealing about our cultural moment is both fascinating and should be very revealing, that we’re far more secular than we thought we were, and that the church, which if you watch any episode of Little House on the Prairie you’ll see was at the center of everything that happened in town, is considered widely—maybe even in places like Greenville, Mississippi—to be extra, non-essential, to be on the peripheral of life together. And that should tell us an awful lot about our culture and about ourselves.
EICHER: John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Thank you!
STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.
MYRNA BROWN: Today is Friday, April 17th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Enjoying a night at the theater … while at home.
Reviewer Emily Whitten now to help you navigate some good options.
EMILY WHITTEN, REVIEWER: Every year or two, our family saves enough birthday money to take in a musical downtown. Last June, we headed to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Just in time, we slipped into our plush, crimson fold-down seats. A gigantic curtain rose, and then…magic.
AUDIO: A fiddler on the roof, sounds crazy, no?
That’s Andy Warlow playing the part of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. So wonderful.
Of course, now that we’re all starring in the mixed review production called Quarantined, a trip to the theater seems light years away. Thankfully, online streaming outlets bring horizon-expanding culture right to our home theaters.
My favorite new option for families might be a U.K. theatrical version of The Sound of Music filmed live in 2015. You can watch it for free on the PBS website or app via Amazon Fire Stick among other venues as part of their Great Performances. Here’s Britain’s Kara Tointon as Fräulein Maria:
AUDIO: The hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years.
In my mind, no one will ever top Julie Andrews in the role, but taken on its own terms, this production has a lot to offer. The live take feels more immediate and dramatic in some ways. And Tointon’s version of Fräulein Maria is affectionate and warm. She nicely complements the strict but winsome Captain Von Trapp, played by stage, film, and opera veteran, Julian Ovenden:
AUDIO: Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever. Edelweiss, Edelweiss, bless my homeland forever.
Some of the best theatrical productions for families aren’t new. You can stream the 1971 version of Fiddler on the Roof from plenty of outlets, including free on Netflix. And there are lots of ways to stream the 2012 film version of Les Miserables starring Hugh Jackman. Younger kids will probably need to skip it, though, due to PG-13 violence and sexuality.
AUDIO: Sweet Jesus, what have I done? Become a thief in the night, a dog on the run?
One excellent theatrical show for families with teenagers is Max McLean’s stage production of C. S. Lewis’s life story. Lewis is best known for his Narnia series. This production, entitled The Most Reluctant Convert, draws on Lewis’s autobiography and his apologetic writing. You can stream it for free if you have an Amazon Prime subscription. Or you can buy a DVD copy online from several sources.
Admittedly, the recording quality isn’t fantastic. That in turn makes some of the lighting and sound effects feel hokey. Still, McLean’s storytelling and acting are top notch.
AUDIO: If Jesus’ statements are false, Christianity is of no importance. If they are true, it is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.
McLean uses many of Lewis’s own words to trace his journey to mature faith in Christ. Some of that journey includes frank but not graphic discussion of sexual temptation, occult practices, and other sins. That’s probably why McLean recommends the presentation for ages 14 and up. For those old enough to follow his logic, McLean lays out a powerful apologetic.
AUDIO: I thought Chesterton the most sensible man alive, apart from his Christianity. I was beginning to think Christianity was quite sensible apart from its Christianity.
Music lovers may feel overwhelmed right now with all the livestream options. One favorite of mine is the 2019 version of Handel’s Messiah recorded live from the Sydney Opera House. It’s available on Youtube. With over 600 choir members in the piece, it’s a powerful performance.
MUSIC: [Handel’s Messiah Live]
Die-hard ballet and opera fans might want to consider Marquee TV. It contains quite a plethora of on-demand dance, opera, and theater, including shows from the Bolshoi Theater in Russia and the Royal Shakespeare Company. You’ll have to give them your credit card number, though, to get the free two week trial. But teachers and students get half off a yearly subscriptions.
I’ll end with an offbeat selection for the littlest ones. It’s a 2013 recording of a Christian magic show. Just search YouTube for Karl Bastian Family Fun Nite Magic Show. Bastian is spelled B-A-S-T-I-A-N.
AUDIO: Go ahead and open both hands. Show ’em what you’ve got. And she’s got ’em both. Give her a big round of applause!
This admittedly simple show includes lots of corny laughs as well as serious gospel object-lessons. It’s the sort of amateur performance you might catch at the church down the street on a normal Thursday night. And while it won’t win any awards, Bastian may hit the spot for families missing their time at church these days.
For now, theater lovers are stuck inside. But with new performances added online daily, maybe your family will enjoy a night IN at the theater enough to make it a tradition.
MUSIC: Tradition, tradition, tradition, tradition!
I’m Emily Whitten.
NICK EICHER: Today is Friday, April 17th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MYRNA BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming up next: Infertility.
One in eight couples in the United States is struggling to conceive, so it’s a widespread problem. Last fall, I traveled to Tennessee to talk with a Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and his wife about their struggles starting a family.
With Sunday marking the beginning of National Infertility Awareness Week, I thought now’s a good time to share this story.
On my visit, it’s a Saturday morning, and 8-year-old Ella Kate has been up for hours. Wearing a hot pink polka dot top, jeans, and a huge royal blue ribbon, Ella plays with a neighborhood friend.
MYRNA TO ELLA KATE: So what is this game? Guess Who. Yeah Guess Who. You’re trying to guess the other person’s play by asking yes or no questions.
FRIEND TO ELLA KATE: Can I ask you one? Yes. Is yours a girl? yes…
Wobbling towards them at full speed and dressed just like her big sister, 18-month-old River.
RIVER COLLIDING WITH ELLA KATE AND FRIEND: River, river…(crash) Game Over!
After 14 years of marriage: spills, tumbles and lots of giggles finally fill David and Natalie Leonard’s Tennessee home.
NATALIE LEONARD: We tried about three years to get pregnant with Ella.
DAVID LEONARD: Once we started trying again, it weighed on us pretty heavy because we knew what it meant to be parents. We knew what it meant to have a little one running around. It was something we desired greatly and as much as we wanted it, there was nothing we could do to fix it.
The 37-year-old high school history teacher says she dealt with the disappointment and grief by marking the months of infertility.
NATALIE LEONARD: It was 35 months. Years seemed so short, but like the constant every month expecting and then being let down definitely became numb to it. I didn’t want to talk about it because then it was real. There were also seasons that I was really sad because nobody would talk to me about it. And I didn’t want to reach out.
David mourned through music. First as a touring member of the Christian rock band, NeedToBreathe, then as part of the duo, All Sons & Daughters.
ALL SONS & DAUGHTER’S SONG: It’s your breath in my lungs and we pour out your praise, pour out your praise
In December of 2016 David and Natalie experienced both the highest and lowest points of their lives.
NATALIE LEONARD: I had just had my miscarriage, so within a week of me coming back to work after that is when we found out that he was nominated. It was this really weird emotion because I was within a week of being out of the hospital.
Nominated for Christian Album of the Year, the couple traveled to California for the awards ceremony, though they didn’t bring back the Grammy. Natalie flew home, while David decided to drive the 30-plus hours back to Tennessee.
DAVID LEONARD: The big struggle for me in all of it was feeling seen by God. There was this desire that we wanted to have a kid and to have the miscarriage felt like the rug was kind of pulled out from under us.
While making his way through the Mojave Desert, David says he was overwhelmed by both the physical and symbolic darkness that surrounded him.
DAVID LEONARD: I don’t remember stars. I don’t remember cars on the road. I just remember kind of being really overcome by fear. I could see this light starting to shine over the horizon. I thought I was coming to a city, but it just kept getting brighter and brighter and all of a sudden the moon broke the horizon and it was like God just threw on a big flashlight and just said he saw me.
David says the experience inspired a new song and the name for their youngest daughter.
DAVID SINGS SONG I WILL WAIT: Your hand will hold me, your love sustains me through the weight. I will wait on you Lord. I will wait on you Lord.
DAVID LEONARD: We knew we wanted to name her River. We were able to work it into the song. “Oh the burdens that I’ve carried. They are too heavy, too heavy to hold.”
The Leonards say they learned to trust God through and beyond their infertility battle.
NATALIE LEONARD: It was a complete surrender once again. After having a miscarriage and being in complete fear, in having to trust God in every single day and to say, I give this pregnancy to you, healthy or loss or whatever. It’s yours.
AUDIO: [GIRLS PLAYING]
As the Leonard sisters head downstairs for a new Saturday morning adventure, David and Natalie seem to cherish the commotion because they know that many couple’s stories don’t have happy endings.
NATALIE LEONARD: But I just like want to eat her up all the time because after years of anticipation and now she’s finally here. I’m like savoring every little breath of hers.
NICK EICHER: We are thankful for the strong team that works so hard to make sure this program gets to you each weekday. So a hearty thanks to our colleagues:
Paul Butler, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Laura Edghill, Kristen Flavin, Kim Henderson, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Jill Nelson, Onize Ohikere, Mary Reichard, Sarah Schweinsberg, Cal Thomas, and Emily Whitten.
For production assistance to help us keep our social distance, I want to say a special thanks: Kyle Kondik and David Bahnsen for recording from home.
MYRNA BROWN: Our audio engineers are Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz. J.C. Derrick is managing editor. Marvin Olasky is editor in chief.
And it’s you who make it all possible. So thank you for listening and for supporting us.
The Apostle Paul tells us to be anxious for nothing. Instead, we should present our requests to God with thanksgiving for all that he’s already done.
I hope that brings you peace that passes understanding this weekend! Lord willing, we’ll meet you back here on Monday.