MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!
Today, a new effort to fight back against cancel culture, along with another example why it’s important to do it.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Culture Friday. Also today, Megan Basham reviews the documentary Uncle Tom.
And A profile of Christian musician Michael O’Brien.
BROWN: It’s Friday, August 14th. 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: Now the news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Jobless claims drop for a second straight week » The number of Americans applying for jobless benefits dropped for the second straight week. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications fell to 963,000—down from 1.2 million the week before.
PNC chief economist Gus Faucher said the 20 percent drop in claims was much better than expected.
FAUCHER: That’s the first time it’s been below 1 million since the pandemic started, so certainly that’s good news. However, if we go back to the beginning of the year, claims were about 200,000 per week, so they’re still extremely high.
The drop signals layoffs are slowing, which is welcomed news for the economy, even as lawmakers remain deadlocked over a new coronavirus relief bill.
Wildfires rage in three states » Firefighters are battling wildfires in three states that have now destroyed more than 73,000 acres.
An enormous plume of smoke was visible across much of Southern California Thursday. And officials have ordered evacuations in parts of Los Angeles County threatened by the so-called Lake Fire near Lake Hughes. Deputy Fire Chief Dave Richardson…
RICHARDSON: There are currently over 300 Los Angeles County firefighters here providing structure defense along with perimeter control in battling this fire. Keep in mind, this is a major fire.
Richardson said the blaze has been spreading surprisingly fast, considering wind in the area has been very light. It has quickly spread to more than 10,000 acres.
In western Colorado, the Pine Gulch fire had scorched roughly 70,000 acres by Thursday afternoon. And the Grizzly Creek Fire about 200 miles west of Denver had burned more than 6,000 acres.
Appeals court upholds male-only draft » A federal appeals court has ruled that a men-only military draft system is constitutional. WORLD’s Anna Johansen reports.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The decision by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a ruling from a federal judge last year.
The National Coalition for Men and two men had sued to challenge the male-only draft. They argued that the 1981 Supreme Court ruling on the matter was decided at a time when women were largely absent from combat. And a federal judge in Texas agreed.
The appeals court acknowledged that the facts underpinning the high court’s decision have changed. But the judges said, “only the Supreme Court may revise its precedent.”
Plaintiffs in the case could seek a rehearing before the full 17-judge appeals court or go to the Supreme Court.
Earlier this year — after the arguments before the 5th Circuit — a federal commission recommended including women in the military draft system.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen.
Hong Kong criticizes U.S. plan for ‘made in China’ labels » The United States will soon begin labeling imports from Hong Kong as ‘Made in China.’
That follows Beijing’s recent crackdown on freedoms in what is supposed to be a semi-autonomous region.
But Edward Yau Tang-wah, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development, took exception to the move.
TANG-WAH: It is a deliberate attempt to sort of undermine Hong Kong’s separate custom territory, which is a very important pillar for Hong Kong’s international trading center, which is well recognized by all members of the WTO.
The Trump administration no longer recognizes any separation between Hong Kong and mainland China.
This week, Hong Kong authorities made two high profile arrests under the new, so-called national security law Beijing imposed on the city. Police arrested the pro-democracy founder of a local newspaper, as well as an influential pro-democracy activist.
U.S. designates the Confucius Institute as foreign mission of Chinese Communist Party » Also, on Thursday, the Trump administration designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center as a foreign mission of the Chinese Communist Party. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: U.S. officials say the program to help teach Chinese language classes in America has a more strategic purpose to promote Beijing’s propaganda in classrooms.
The designation requires the Confucius Institute to submit reports to the U.S. government about its funding, personnel, curriculum and other activities.
In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said—quote—“The People’s Republic of China has taken advantage of America’s openness to undertake large-scale and well-funded propaganda efforts and influence operations in this country.”
GOP Senator Ben Sasse praised the move. He said Confucius Institutes also allow the Chinese Communist Party to spy on Chinese students studying in the free world.
The State Department says roughly 500 kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms are affiliated with the Confucius Institute.
Some universities have closed the institutes because of fears that they were spreading communist propaganda information, but they remain on about 65 U.S. campuses.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
New Zealand coronavirus outbreak spreads » A puzzling new outbreak of the coronavirus in New Zealand’s largest city grew on Thursday. National Health Director General Ashley Bloomfield reported more than a dozen new cases.
BLOOMFIELD: There are 13 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 to report in the community. They are all in Auckland, and they are all linked to the four people who we reported as confirmed cases yesterday and the day before.
Officials warned that more new cases are likely. And a lockdown in Auckland designed to halt the outbreak could be extended well beyond an initial three days.
It was a turnabout from Sunday, when the nation marked 100 days without any cases of local transmission. The only cases for months had been a handful of returning travelers who were quarantined at the border.
Health officials say they’re stumped as the source of the new outbreak.
Bloomfield said genome testing has not yet matched the new cluster with any infections that have been caught at the border.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: Culture Friday with John Stonestreet.
Plus, Christian musician Michael O’Brien.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN: It’s Friday, the 14th of August, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Culture Friday and time now to welcome in John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
Hey, John, good to talk to you. Good morning.
JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning.
EICHER: I wanted to ask you about a new statement from Alliance Defending Freedom on cancel-culture and freedom of expression. Lots of signers—including yourself—Christians and Jews, scholars and theologians. Impressive group.
STONESTREET: Well, it’s called the Philadelphia Statement and it was led by some of the folks over at ADF, but, really, if you look at the list of signatories, it’s really an amazing list, I mean, present company excluded, of course. These are amazing leaders, which made me so excited to be a part of this.
And, listen, it’s almost in a sense like the conservative counterpart to the Harper’s letter from a few weeks ago. We need the ability to debate ideas otherwise we’re actually going to not learn from the wisdom of the past and we’re not going to be able to sustain our projects in humanity, particularly in education or the arts or in journalism or anything like that.
And when you talk about the significance of the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion and the freedom to own private property, these are ideals that are deeply grounded in a way of seeing life in the world from a previous day and age. And by and large, a lot of these ways of seeing life in the world have been replaced by things not nearly as helpful or good.
For example, the idea that property rights that give one a level of freedom and a level of ability to make their own way in the world now basically is dominated by this socialist impulse that if the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and everything’s a zero-sum game. The freedom of religion is dominated by this idea that religion is nothing more than a personal, private belief in a fairy in the sky or an invisible friend that’s a crutch to help you personally, but it doesn’t deal with ultimate truths. Well, then that makes freedom of religion sound like the right of imposition of one’s belief on others.
And the freedom of speech is the same way. If you think the entire story of the world can be boiled down to those who have power and those who don’t, and the only way those who have power could do anything right is to give up their power and give up their platform and give up their speech and that their ideas have to be judged by the power that they have instead of anything else. Well, then freedom of speech is not the core at which ideals get debated and ideas get kicked around so that we can advance as a society.
So, all of these things point to the upstream work that we have to do. And that’s what I was really pleased with the Philadelphia Statement. And it’s an essential thing. Look, the future of the Christian faith does not depend on our political success or even the preservation of our freedoms. We’ve seen the faith succeed in all kinds of arenas. But Christians should absolutely—let me say this again—Christians should absolutely be about the common good and these are things that are worth stewarding and protecting for the common good.
EICHER: You mentioned it’s something of an answer to the Harper’s letter that criticized cancel-culture, and I wonder about that. Opposing cancel culture, it seems to me, cuts across all kinds of ideological commitments. Why was it necessary to have another of these and how’s it different?
STONESTREET: Well, first, we weren’t invited to sign the other letter, of course—
EICHER: Well, there’s one reason—
STONESTREET: Because the tolerance of ideas only goes so far.
But I think it is important that we can at least demonstrate that those of us on different sides of all kinds issues can at least agree on this call to civility and the significance of debating ideals instead of just canceling them.
And I also think it’s important to say that I believe that this is something that people on our side of the so-called “aisle,” whether we’re talking about political aisle or whatever, need to hear as well. Mainly because we have Christians who are I think captivated to critical theory in an attempt to explain and deal with injustice. Though the impulse to deal with issues of injustice is the right one, critical theory’s absolutely the wrong tool
But also I think people on the right, there’s this sense that our ultimate allegiance is to our political sides rather than to truth and goodness. And so we’re quick to talk away or justify wrongdoing or bad ideas or bad strategies or bad practice because we don’t want to ultimately lose. And I get the impulse of not wanting to “lose” this or that or the other, but to advance one’s views by power is a Nietzschean way of doing things, not a Christian way.
EICHER: Before I let you go, I wanted to ask about something that you placed on social media. It was a communication that you had received from Amazon. It had to do with a book you were offering for sale online. It’s titled, Growth Into Manhood: Resuming the Journey. And Amazon indicated the book violated Amazon guidelines. The company said: “During a review, we found the subject matter of your book”—again, not your book— “the subject matter of your book violates our content guidelines …”. What was that all about?
STONESTREET: Yeah, it was an interesting thing. I got an email on Sunday morning. I was flying back from a burial service that I attended over the weekend, sadly. I was flying back and I got a notification from Amazon that had to do, I think, and it’s been so long—we used to have a resellers account on Amazon because I have so many books on there and I posted this one and I didn’t really remember the book very well. I investigated it and it’s a book written by a man who came out of the homosexual lifestyle. He founded a couple organizations—neither of which actually advocate anything close to the worst versions of what we might call reparative therapy from shock treatment or guilting or shaming or anything like that. Certainly holds to a conservative view and a Christian view of sexual morality in dealing with same-sex attraction. No promises of changing orientation, but only that behavior and desires can be curbed by following Jesus. And it’s his own story. Well, I dug into it a little bit and what I found was that the gentleman who wrote this book died a few years ago after founding these organizations and working to help people who had—and let me emphasize this—unwanted same-sex attraction, OK?
So apparently that book and two others that had to do with changing sexual orientation had been banned from Amazon because of that belief.
Now, to me, this underscores the importance of the Philadelphia Statement. Like, let’s have a real conversation about the people who do exist who so many in culture pretend don’t who, like this author, maybe their orientation didn’t change but their sexual behavior did to the extent that this man lived a married life with his wife and children for years after dealing with this. It’s an amazing story. It’s one of the many that we hear about if you know where to look, but otherwise the culture silences.
Anyway, that was the backdrop of this. Well, a couple people that had written controversial books reached out to me and said, “Why is mine not canceled?” Well, they haven’t started canceling those books yet, but the fact that Amazon will de-platform books that have positions that are considered to be controversial … So, it is an example of this cancel culture and that some views are immediately pre-debate, without actually talking through these things, “settled” where opposite sides are considered hateful. So, anyway, it’s a shame and it’s also a warning sign. This is a precursor of more things to come.
EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Thank you, John.
STONESTREET: Thanks so much, Nick.
MYRNA BROWN: Driver’s license photos aren’t always flattering.
But a Tennessee woman was particularly shocked when she received her license this week.
The photo looked nothing like her. It looked nothing like anyone.
Jane Dodd told WKRN news…
DODD: The lady at the DMV did not really believe me. And then she looked it up in the system and she was like, oh, I need to go get my manager for this.
The image on her license was a picture of an empty chair.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security said the photo of the blue chair was just a mistake and somehow got saved to her file.
Dodd took it in stride.
DODD: It was fun. It was a funny situation. It kind of lightened the mood up a little bit since everything’s been weird.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN: Today is Friday, August 14th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are! Good morning to you. I’m Myrna Brown.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Next up, Megan Basham reviews a recent documentary she says deserves more attention.
MEGAN BASHAM, FILM CRITIC: The rollout of the new documentary Uncle Tom is, in some ways, evidence of its thesis. The film argues that the media prefers to ignore or mock black conservatives rather than engage with their arguments.
Released six weeks ago, it offers sharp perspectives on the most contentious political debates of recent months. And yet, about the only place you can find it is at uncletom.com.
While other recent documentaries on race like 13th and Whose Streets were rewarded with fawning news coverage, first-rate streaming deals, and numerous nominations, as of now, no major outlet has even bothered reviewing Uncle Tom. Perhaps that’s because a review would require admitting it’s pretty good.
CLIP: Why wouldn’t they teach us about Thomas Sowell in school. I know LeBron James. I know all these rappers. I don’t know Thomas Sowell. I don’t know about Walter Williams. If there’s one person you’d think black American would be celebrating. It’s like having a very successful family that you never knew you had until your grandfather dies and you all meet at the funeral.
Billing itself as an “An Oral History of the American Black Conservative,” the film features original interviews with well-known personalities like Larry Elder, Herman Cain, and Allen West. It also includes archival footage of Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Ben Carson, and Kanye West.
The first and most scatter-shot segment focuses on how they came to hold right-wing views. The next section cross-examines liberal sacred cows regarding racial division, such as micro-aggressions and privilege. It contends they have little, if any, real-world impact today.
The last, and most engaging sequence, presents a summary of African American political history. It illustrates how W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington offered divergent paths forward after abolition. And it contends black well-being has decreased since the Democratic Party and poverty programs won the majority of their allegiance.
CLIP: Before the war on poverty launched, 87 percent of blacks lived behind the federally defined level of poverty in 1940. By 1960 that number had decreased to 47 percent. A 40 point drop in 20 years. That’s probably the greatest economic prosperity period for blacks in the history of this country. And it all happened before affirmative action, before the so-called war on poverty.
Uncle Tom offers persuasive arguments and an appropriately long-term perspective that allows for only a few minutes on the presidency of Donald Trump. But it does at times suffer from an overreliance on pundits. Its most compelling insights come from people who’ve never been quoted in a Twitter or Facebook battle. People who don’t make their livings as black conservatives.
Like Patricia Watson, a successful farmer who describes how she came to purchase her land. Or Chad Jackson, a contractor and small-business owner.
Jackson shares that, for him, becoming a conservative was secondary to becoming a Christian. Shortly after his salvation, a friend challenged his belief that the Democratic Party offered him a better political home because it favors benefits for poor, urban communities.
CLIP: I became a Christian back in 2009. The year prior I voted for Barack Obama. I was really passionate about Barack Obama and his policies. I was having a conversation with a friend and I was telling him I’m a Democrat because the Democrat policy is pro Medicaid, pro government benefits, and all these things that can help poor, urban communities. And doesn’t the Bible say that we’re supposed to look out for poor people? And this friend of mine who’s also a Christian said, “Well, was it talking about the government or was it talking about you?” And I thought, well, that’s really interesting. So I went back and read it, and it was talking about me. A lot of the way I saw things began to change.
Uncle Tom isn’t rated, but it includes a fair amount of bad language, including racial epithets. This is the rare case, however, where the profanity often proves a point. As we see vitriol, derision, and disingenuous concern thrown at Candace Owens, it becomes easier to understand what may be motivating her famously strident tone.
CLIP: What do you think the press is doing when you try to smear someone as having a mental disorder and when you say someone is inspiring a mosque shooting? Well, you’re trying to make it so my career is effectively cut off. You’re trying to make it so nobody talks to me. So I’m considered this sort of reject.
At the least, it prompts us to consider whether we’re applying a higher standard to Owens than we do to other young African American commentators. And whether it’s fair for more established and respectable Republicans to dismiss her as a political grifter. Perhaps it’s only a tranquility born of experience that allows an old war horse like Elder to smile and shrug when racist names are thrown at him.
The film, understandably, feels targeted at black audiences. But as it traces the lonely, comparatively thankless road of a conservative minority, it has a secondary effect of challenging white viewers to search their hearts as well.
Are their political beliefs and social activism, whatever side they may fall on, really serving the interests of black Americans, Uncle Tom asks. Or is it only serving their own images?
I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER: Today is Friday, August 14th. 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. Christian musicians often write songs to inspire and motivate. But I recently met up with a dad who says he had to learn the hard way, how to use his music to simply love his family.
MICHAEL O’BRIEN: So, my oldest is Megan. She’s 28. I have Michael Jr., 25, Joseph, 22…
MYRNA BROWN, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Singer, songwriter, and keyboardist Michael O’Brien not only loves to talk about his family…
SONG: Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus…
He gets to make music with them…
O’BRIEN: Hard to put into words, except, you know, it’s just a thrill.
SONG: Abide, abide, oh abide in me…
On his latest project, O’Brien sings duets with each of his four children and his wife of 31 years.
SONG: When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down…
O’Brien’s music is more than a collection of favorite hymns and songs. Much more. Each musical moment spent with his family is a reminder of what he almost lost.
O’BRIEN: And I’m grateful for God’s mercy, for His redeeming love, and for Him restoring something that we thought was dead.
Michael and Heidi O’Brien were married in 1989. But he had a secret addiction. It took eight years before O’Brien finally confessed it to his wife.
O’BRIEN: Six years old… Playboy magazines. Thirteen years old… hardcore pornographic material and videos. And then, you know, playing some of that out through high school and college. Just know this. I was completely lost. Christ was not at the center of my life. It was me, me, me and darkness. And then, I got radically saved at 23. But the reality is I never really dealt with the sin.
After O’Brien’s confession, he found healing and freedom from pornography by bringing it to Christ.
O’BRIEN: I ran to God because where else could I go? Where else could I go? 1 Thessalonians says, this is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each of you knows how to control his own body, and holiness and honor not in the passion of lust, like the gentiles who do not know God. And so that’s a good sign that you’re in Christ, if you’re running to Christ.
Although painful, O’Brien’s wife, Heidi, found strength to offer forgiveness to her husband.
O’BRIEN: She was devastated and crying one day, and everything inside of her wanted to turn away. Like cross your arms and turn away from me and everything inside her, by way of the Holy Spirit, was turn toward, turn towards (me)
God gradually restored their marriage. In 1999, O’Brien became the lead singer for the Christian band Newsong, bringing with it a whole new set of challenges.
O’BRIEN: And we’d literally see thousands of people come forward, giving their life to Christ. Problem is, Myrna, I was on the road, if you add up travel dates, studio dates, about 235, 240 days out of a year. And you know, if you do the math, you can realize that’s not real healthy for a family.
O’Brien was now a father of four with little time to nurture his fragile marriage or his family.
O’BRIEN: Heidi and I almost divorced in 2001 because of my selfish life. I don’t know how else to say it. Just gratifying my sinful nature and not really taking my role seriously as a father.
After seven years with Newsong, O’Brien left the band to focus on his family. He started with his marriage.
SONG: One and Only
O’BRIEN: I wanted to write her a song. I’m a musician. I can write a love song. And so I began out of the overflow of my heart because of what God was doing in our marriage to write this song called One And Only.
O’Brien says from that one song came an entire collection of Christian love ballads. And that launched a series of marriage enrichment date nights held across the country.
O’BRIEN: Me talking to men about purity—her talking to women about submission. I’m just thankful for the opportunities that we’ve been able to do this together. It’s not just me doing my thing, we’re doing things together as well.
A heritage of harmony to pass on to their children.
O’BRIEN: You think about the legacy. All my kids love music and I just pray they’ll keep on using their gifts for the glory of God as well.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown.
NICK EICHER: The World and Everything in It takes a team of people to put it all together and provide programs all week. So thank you to our hard-working colleagues: Megan Basham, Mindy Belz, Paul Butler, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Laura Finch, Kristen Flavin, Kim Henderson, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Mary Reichard, Sarah Schweinsberg, Les Sillars, and Cal Thomas.
MYRNA BROWN: 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 all of it possible with your support. Thank you for helping keep sound journalism grounded in God’s word in the marketplace.
Let me leave you with the words of the apostle Paul: The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
Go now in grace and peace.