MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!
What perspective should Christians have when they see business owners defying shut down orders?
And how do we draw the line between healthy skepticism and conspiracy theories? We’ll talk with John Stonestreet about all that.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: That’s ahead on Culture Friday.
Also we could all use a few laughs these days. Thankfully, Jerry Seinfeld has that covered in his new comedy special.
Plus George Grant on our new pandemic vocabulary.
And a spirit-lifting stay-at-home trend: virtual choirs.
BASHAM: It’s Friday, May 15th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Good morning!
BASHAM: Up next, Kent Covington has the news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Sen. Burr steps down as Senate Intel chairman amid insider trading probe » Republican Senator Richard Burr stepped aside as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. That after the FBI served a search warrant for his phone as part of an ongoing insider-trading investigation.
Burr told reporters that removing himself from the committee was the right thing to do.
BURR: This is a distraction to the hard work of the committee and the members, and I think the security of the country is too important to have a distraction.
FBI officials showed up at Burr’s home with the warrant on Wednesday. The Justice Department is investigating whether Burr broke the law with a well-timed sale of stocks just before the coronavirus caused markets to plunge.
Burr’s attorney said last month that the law is clear that any senator can participate in stock market trading based on public information “as Sen. Burr did.”
Three million more Americans file jobless claims » Nearly 3 million more laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the viral outbreak led more companies to slash jobs.
That news comes as Democrats and Republicans remain in a standoff over the next steps.
House Democrats have proposed another $3 trillion in aid. But GOP leaders want to evaluate the impact of the trillions in aid already approved. And they say the House bill is highly partisan and bloated with “pet projects.”
Republicans demand answers on Flynn unmasking » Republicans say former members of the Obama administration, including Joe Biden, have a lot of explaining to do. That in light of new documents related to the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson told Fox News…
JOHNSON: It is, from my standpoint, pretty curious that the vice president of the United States would be requesting unmasking, in this case of General Flynn, eight days before he left office.
Biden’s name appeared on a list of officials who asked for documents that led to Flynn’s unmasking a list that also includes former White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.
Unmasking refers to revealing the identities of presumably innocent U.S. citizens named in intelligence reports.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden’s presidential campaign said “These documents simply indicate the breadth and depth of concern across the American government” over reports of Flynn’s talks with Russian officials.
But Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey said GOP leaders plan to “get to the bottom of it.”
TOOMEY: Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which is the committee that has jurisdiction over this, has told us he’s going to have very thorough hearings.
An investigating agent with the FBI found no wrongdoing by Flynn, but former FBI department head Peter Strzok asked to keep the case open, saying the 7th floor was involved—a reference to top ranking officials.
Special counsel Robert Mueller later removed Strzok from the Russia probe after finding anti-Trump messages he exchanged with his mistress.
Flynn eventually pleaded guilty to lying to Strzok and another agent. But he later sought to withdraw that guilty plea after evidence surfaced suggesting agents sought to entrap him and that Strzok heavily edited notes from his FBI interview. The Justice Department has since moved to drop charges against Flynn.
Immunologist issues dire warning, criticizes response to pandemic » Immunologist Dr. Rick Bright made a sobering prediction in testimony before a House committee Thursday.
BRIGHT: Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to improve our response now, based on science, I fear the pandemic will get worse and be prolonged. There will be likely a resurgence of COVID-19 this fall, and it will be greatly compounded by the challenges of seasonal influenza.
He said he believes the nation lacks a coordinated response to the pandemic. And he added America faces the—quote—“darkest winter in modern history” unless we prevent a rebound of the virus.
Bright was removed last month from his job as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. He said he said that’s because he resisted a push to make the drug chloroquine more freely available to the public without close medical supervision.
And a federal watchdog agency has found “reasonable grounds” to investigate his claims.
Bright also said top officials at the Department of Health and Human Services ignored his early warnings months ago … about a shortage of critical supplies, like N95 masks.
BRIGHT: I began pushing urgently in January along with some industry colleagues as well. And those urges, those alarms, were not responded to with action.
But HHS Secretary Alex Azar pushed back Thursday, saying his department was acting to prepare for the pandemic.
AZAR: Everything he’s complaining about was achieved. Everything he talked about was done.
President Trump dismissed Bright’s testimony, saying he sounded like a “disgruntled” employee.
Wisconsin governor warns of “chaos” after high court struck down stay-at-home order » Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers is warning of “massive confusion” after the state Supreme Court tossed out the Democrat’s stay-at-home order on Wednesday. The court said his administration overstepped its authority by going around the legislature to renew the order.
The court did not block local governments from enforcing coronavirus lockdowns, but Evers said without a statewide standard, the ruling throws his state into “chaos.” He told CNN, with many restaurants and bars now opening…
EVERS: This will cause us to have spikes across the state. There’s no question about it.
But Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos pushed back, saying “We already know that local health departments have the ability to utilize their power” if they feel it’s unsafe.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: business owners practicing civil disobedience.
Plus, George Grant on our new pandemic vocabulary.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MEGAN BASHAM: It’s Friday the 15th of May, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.
MYRNA BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have all been cracking down on content they define as COVID misinformation.
In some cases, that has meant things like removing videos that claim Bill Gates manufactured the virus so he can profit from a vaccine and insert microchips into the public.
Or Facebook removing information about protests and rallies against stay-at-home orders. Here’s Mark Zuckerberg defending this practice on Good Morning America.
ZUCKERBERG: We do classify that as harmful misinformation and we take that down at the same time.
BASHAM: It’s Culture Friday and time to welcome John Stonestreet, the president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Good morning!
JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning.
BASHAM: So John, I think part of the difficulty here is that we’ve seen similar suppression from the tech giants before. Especially on subjects like gender, sexuality, or abortion. I’d like to quote from a Breakpoint article by Shane Morris. Maybe you’ve heard of that guy?
STONESTREET: Yeah, I’m not admitting anything.
BASHAM: Well, Shane says, “Our increasing distrust of ‘official stories’ and established knowledge is in some ways an understandable response to a cultural and political elite who have turned their backs on us.”
Piggybacking on that we had a WORLD reader, Douglas Hageman, write in that based on recent experience, “temperate skepticism of the mainstream narrative is always a healthy thing.”
And, I mean, along with some of the kookier stuff getting passed around, there have been stories that seem to bring up some legitimate questions about the accuracy of infection and death rate models.
So I guess the question is, for the Christian, where does healthy doubt end and conspiracy theorizing begin?
STONESTREET: Yeah, this is a really hard question because we’re doing it already in the context of misinformation and worldview laden information that passes as neutrality. And this has obviously been going on a long time.
I mean, it’d be a lot easier to trust Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and some of these social media giants in their attempt to weed out bad information if they hadn’t already proven their tendency to weed out conservative thought or religious thought as opposed to others, if they hadn’t already jumped onboard.
And we’ve got a whole culture, though, that is reflective of kind of the new idol of scientism. If you read through the Old Testament, you see this repeated phrase, “Thus sayeth the Lord.” And now we’ve replaced it with thus sayeth science. And science then actually makes these kind of defining claims—or, we’re told that science makes these defining, truthful claims. The science is settled, we say, and scientists say, and the majority of scientists and the scientific consensus says.
This is all a way of kind of establishing authority when in reality we don’t know what we’re doing. None of us. We don’t know what we’re doing. Governors don’t know what they’re doing. Scientists don’t know what they’re dealing with. Medical professionals are making it up as they go. And they’ve done pretty well, actually, across the board.
But let’s just admit a little humility and not pretend that the “experts” are infallible and that we somehow know more than the experts because we have a Facebook page where we found that secret video. It’s foolish.
Now, of course, for Christians, which was your question, we should be wiser than that. By the way, the other thing we have going on is we have scientific and medical experts now making blanket policy decisions. And then you have in particular I think media outlets so oftentimes christening the words and the suggestions of certain people as long as it supports a given narrative. There has to be, I think, an understanding of historical context that we’re not doing this in a vacuum and there needs to be a little bit of humility about what we’re dealing with, and those are probably two good places to start.
BROWN: So while Twitter, Facebook, Google, and YouTube have largely aligned with governing powers, one tech titan has rediscovered Silicon Valley’s rebel roots.
Elon Musk filed a lawsuit claiming Alameda County was violating his due process and equal protection rights when they prevented him from reopening his Tesla plant.
Then on Tuesday, he reopened Tesla in defiance of shelter-in-place orders, daring local officials to come arrest him on the assembly line with his workers.
BASHAM: While Musk may be the biggest, he’s by no means the only business owner who’s giving civil disobedience a chance. Shelley Luther became something of a new American folk hero when she defied local orders and reopened her hair salon in Dallas.
So John, I’ll be honest, I tend to admire Musk a little bit, though I don’t know if that’s my most orthodox instinct. Basically he called the county’s bluff and forced them to back down. So did Shelley Luther.
And I ask myself, isn’t this also part of the process of federalism, that kind of making it up as we go as you mentioned? Musk, Luther, and others argue that unequal standards are being applied and officials are unfairly picking winners and losers. They’re willing to pay fines and face jail to bring about change.
I’m thinking too about the Protestant doctrine of the “lesser magistrate.” Citizens rein in petty tyranny by resisting it. On that front, we’re also starting to see sheriffs and other local authorities refusing to enforce various lockdown orders.
But on the flip side, first we have to discern when authorities are being unjust. And of course we have that Biblical standard of submitting to authority.
So John, what are your thoughts on Musk’s show of civil disobedience?
STONESTREET: Well, I mean, I appreciate what he’s trying to do and tend to like it, recognizing that he oftentimes is coming from a sort of scientistic, trans-humanist view that I just kind of condemned. But in this sense of, I think, trying to answer the challenge that we’re all facing which are two things—regulations that seem unwise, that seem inconsistent, and then also that tend to change and apply differently from one group to another. And that’s, I think, the real challenge. And, again, I’m not going to be one that says that the government is picking winners and losers intentionally, but in many cases are they picking winners and losers? Sure. I mean, here in Colorado, the winners are the pot shops and the losers are the churches. And so what does that look like going forward? These are, again, uncharted territory.
I will say, though, that we need to be willing to disobey when the time is right. But knowing when the time is right is different than immediately jumping on and drawing a lot of attention to yourself. And I think what’s missing there is the good bit of wisdom that we see in the first chapter of Daniel when Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abendigo are given two alternatives, neither of which they find acceptable. And so rather than make a big deal about it, they quietly—instead of embarrassing the person in charge or embarrassing the person who works for the person in charge, they come up with a third alternative and a set of conditions and so on and so on and so on and then trust the Lord. And I think there’s probably not near enough right now third alternatives being invented, and I think that what we’ll see is just like in the 2008 recession and what we saw in the Great Depression and what we’ve seen in other points throughout history, certainly in the corporate space, those who invent and innovate rather than make a lot of noise are the ones that tend to come out on top. I think we also see that throughout the history of the church is that there’s a good bit of innovation that is possible in front of us, and I think we need to double down on that side of things maybe more than the heated rhetoric.
BROWN: John, just a quick follow-up here, and this might be comparing apples to oranges, but when I think of civil disobedience, I think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Any parallels that you can see?
STONESTREET: Well, I think that one of the big parallels is the intended injustice and the maliciousness towards people of color in the United States, particularly African Americans, was certain and sure and I think impugning the motives of government officials for being either anti-American, anti-freedom, anti-Christian is more than what we know. And I think what we have in this case is much more either somewhere between mistakes and even foolishness than we have animosity and bigotry. And so I think going in up front with that is probably a good distinction to make.
BROWN: Well John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. John, thanks for being with us.
STONESTREET: Thanks so much.
MYRNA BROWN: In the town of Lund, Sweden about 30,000 people gather in a park around this time every year for a local celebration.
But obviously, amid a global pandemic, the town doesn’t want thousands of people gathering in one place. So the question facing officials was how do you keep them away?
Trying to fence off and police a park of that size would be very costly, so the town came up with a creative solution: Raise a stink!
They decided to dump massive amounts of chicken manure in the park. The local council reasoned that the fowl smell would discourage people from attending the Walpurgis Night in the park.
Council member Gustav Lundblad said—quote—“It will stink and so it may not be so nice to sit and drink beer in the park.”
I suspect he’s absolutely right.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN: Today is Friday, May 15th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.
MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham.
You know, Myrna, we reported yesterday on how graduates are passing a major milestone without the traditional graduation ceremony. And that got us thinking: Why not give listeners a chance to recognize their graduates on the program?
BROWN: Right! Such a fun way to say congratulations and let everyone in the WORLD family celebrate with them.
This is open to anyone with a graduate to honor. And graduates, if you want to toot your own horn, that’s fine, too! Visit worldandeverything.org, click on the “Engage” tab in the top menu, and then click on “Record a preroll.” You’ll find all the instructions there.
BASHAM: Be sure to check that out because there are a few things you need to do to make sure we can use the recordings.
And speaking of recordings, we’re also looking for more questions for our resident medical expert, Dr. Charles Horton!
BROWN: Yes, he is coming back to do another special episode about the coronavirus. So if you have something you want to ask him, let us know! The best way to do that is to record yourself asking your question. Do it just like you would record a preroll. If you feel a little shy about hearing yourself on-air, just send us your question by email. The address for that is feedback at worldandeverything.com.
BASHAM: Alright, well coming next on The World and Everything in It: something we could all use a little more of these days—laughs.
Under different circumstances, Jerry Seinfeld’s new Netflix special, 23 Hours, might be something of a let down. The comedian breaks no new ground, braves no uncharted territory. Yet in a world living at arm’s length, the old trivial observations that are Seinfeld’s stock in trade suddenly feel as comforting as a mediocre meal at a convenient corner diner.
His cranky rants about intrusive friends and the exhaustion of maintaining an active social life take on a nostalgic hue.
SEINFELD: I just want to be out. This is out. People talk about going out. We should go out. Let’s go out. We never go out. Well, this is it. Now the good thing about being out is you don’t have to be out for long. Just long enough to get the next feeling which you’re all gonna get. And that feeling is, I gotta be getting back.
There’s no doubt that if Seinfeld were a young up and comer, some of this material would be dismissed as clichéd. Hacky even.
His musings on matrimony are about as cutting edge as Henny Youngman’s old, “Take my wife, please” routine. And yet, the man poised to become comedy’s first billionaire knows how to sell corny as classic better than just about anyone else standing up in front of a mic today.
SEINFELD: When I was single I had married friends. I would not visit their homes. I found their lives to be pathetic and depressing. Now that I’m married, I have no single friends. I find their lives to be meaningless and trivial experiences. In both cases, I believe I was correct. Whichever side of marriage you’re on, you don’t get what the other people are doing. I can’t hang out with single guys. If you don’t have a wife we have nothing to talk about. You have a girlfriend? That’s wiffleball my friend. You’re playing paintball war, I’m in Afghanistan with real loaded weapons. Married guys play with full clips and live rounds.
And let’s be honest, the “it’s funny because it’s true,” adage is the reason marriage jokes became such a staple in the first place.
SEINFELD: A man in marriage will not survive if he does not have a strong brain to speech guard gate control filtration system. You don’t just talk in marriage. It’s risky. When I’m with my wife, who I love so dearly, and a thought enters my head, the first I think is, well I know I can’t say that. Maybe I could I say I heard someone else say it. And then she and I can share a warm moment together agreeing on what an idiot that person must be. And we get along great.
I should note here, while Seinfeld’s latest routine is officially rated PG, there’s enough language to merit more caution than that. It may be mild compared to most big comedy acts, but it still jars to hear ol’ Jer taking the Lord’s name in vain. He’s taught his fans to expect better from him.
It’s too bad, because when he’s at his best, his insight into humanity’s foibles is as incisive as ever.
SEINFELD: Remember when we first got text? Not really. Can’t really remember that. I can’t either. I mean, I know that we have it. I know that we didn’t use to have it. I don’t know how we got it. I don’t remember. Did they tell us we were getting it? Was there an announcement that we’re getting it. There was no commercial. I don’t remember a commercial. Want some human contact but kind of had it up to here with people? Try text. Need to get someone some information but don’t want to hear their stupid voice responding to it? You need to be on text.
But even when the jokes are mediocre, we still want to press our nose against the TV glass to see the audience sitting close together, sharing a laugh. The image offers hope that eventually we’ll be able to move forward into a past we used to take for granted.
As Seinfeld has always pointed out, the only thing more grating than being around other people is not being around them.
SEINFELD: The human is a social species as we can see. We tend to congregate, aggregate, and coagulate together. We live here in New York City. That makes no sense. If you take a plane out of New York and you look down at the city. What do you see around the city? Why there’s nothing but open, empty, beautiful, rolling land out there. Nobody’s there. Let’s pack in here tight. Uncomfortable, on top of each other, traffic congestion. That’s what we like.
We may not all like congestion, but we were all made for fellowship and to bear all the petty offenses of those other annoying humans. We miss them when they’re gone.
MYRNA BROWN: Today is Friday, May 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Next up: George Grant on how extraordinary circumstances change the way we speak.
GEORGE GRANT, COMMENTATOR: Benjamin Jowett, in his Victorian idiomatic translation of Plato’s Republic, famously rendered one of the philosopher’s proverbial quips as, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” He might have just as well asserted that it is also the mother of vocabulary. After all, it is almost always the case that the emergence of new circumstances will necessitate new lexicons to describe them.
It can’t have escaped the attention of any of us that the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic has not only dramatically changed our lives, it has dramatically changed our language. Our everyday conversations are now cluttered with epidemiological quarantine jargon.
We speak about asymptomatic risks, case clusters, frequency curves, and incidence rates. We find ourselves repeating statistics about droplet transmission, herd immunity, super-spreaders, and incubation periods. I’ve even heard few folks speak with new-found authority on viral seasonality, pathogenicity, immunocompromised virulence, and zoonoses.
Perhaps more interestingly, the epidemic seems to have spread slang faster than the virus itself. So, we now dismally discuss the coronacession and coronageddon leading inevitably to depressorona.
On the brighter side, many coronials find themselves coronacocooning and coronacuffing with their coronatinis—I suppose that must mean that they’re micro-socializing in an extended virtual happy hour.
Inevitably, a few derogatory terms have also crept into our vocabulary. Skeptics and conspiratorialists are now disdained as Covid-Truthers or Quarantrolls. Those who disregard social distancing guidelines are sometimes dismissed as being Wuhanified or Covidiots. Protesters against the more draconian government lockdown decrees talk about the tyranny of an emerging Epidemiocracy or Covid 1984.
From the Quarantech apps we’re using to the Quarantips we’re trying, from the Quarantrend fashions we’re wearing to the Quarantough resolve we’re undertaking, it is evident that viral jests, jibes, and neologisms have run rampant.
Rita Mae Brown has asserted that, “Language is the road map of a culture.” If that’s the case, then our post-corona culture really is all over the map.
This is George Grant.
THE UK BLESSING: The Lord bless you, and keep you, Make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you…
MYRNA BROWN: Next up on The World and Everything in It: the rise of virtual choirs during the pandemic.
What you’re hearing here is a viral video featuring singers and musicians from 65 different Christian churches and movements scattered all across the United Kingdom. The video is titled: “The U.K. Blessing”—featuring a song written by Chris Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Steven Furtick.
The lyrics come from Numbers chapter 6 and is sung as a prayer over a hurting world. It’s also meant to be a reminder that while church buildings may be closed, the church is very much alive. As of today, nearly 2.5 million people have watched the video.
MEGAN BASHAM: Last month, 31 Nashville Studio singers participated in a similar project. Using cell phones, tablets, and laptops, musicians recorded themselves singing at home during the first days of the stay-home order.
The Ten-Two-Six Music Group organized the virtual choir and edited them all together.
The song? Horatio Spaford’s hymn of hope: “It Is Well with My Soul.” Music by Philip Bliss and arranged by David Wise.
The song has been edited to fit our remaining space. Enjoy!
MEGAN BASHAM: It takes a lot of people to put this program together each week. Thanks so much to our team:
Emily Belz, Mindy Belz, Paul Butler, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Laura Edghill, Kristen Flavin, George Grant, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Nick Eicher, Onize Ohikere, Andrée Seu Peterson, Bonnie Pritchett, Mary Reichard, Sarah Schweinsberg, and Cal Thomas.
MYRNA BROWN: Our audio engineers are Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz. Managing editor J.C. Derrick and editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky keep us all on track.
And it’s you who make it all possible. You have our gratitude!
Ephesians tells us to act with humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another in love.
Have a great weekend.