The World and Everything in It — August 21, 2020

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!

Well, we’re right in the middle of political conventions. So on Culture Friday, we’ll talk about how pastors can help their flocks navigate divisive, controversial issues—from politics to pandemics.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Also today a modern remake of a classic Western that does justice to the original.

And Word Play with George Grant.

BROWN: It’s Friday, August 21st. 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: Up next, Kent Covington has the news.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Biden formally accepts Democratic nomination for president » After four nights of video speeches, musical performances and virtual celebrations, it was finally Joe Biden’s moment last night on the final day of the Democratic National Convention.

BIDEN: I’m a proud Democrat, and I’ll be proud to carry the banner of our party into the general election. So it’s with great honor and humility I accept this nomination for president of the United States of America. 

Biden accepting the nomination from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware.

The former vice president vowed to lead the country out of crisis and unite the nation.  

BIDEN: The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long; too much anger, too much fear, too much division. Here and now, I give you my word, if you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. 

The nomination is a mantle Biden has sought for three decades and through three White House bids. He first ran for president in 1988 and tried again in 2008.

There was no crowd inside the building last night to cheer on their candidate, but outside the Chase Center, it was a different story. 

AUDIO: [Sound from DNC]

A carefully planned reception awaited the Bidens and running mate Kamala Harris outside. 

As music played from loudspeakers, the parking lot was packed with socially distanced vehicles. Supporters cheered as they honked their horns and flashed their lights.

Many sat atop their vehicles waving flags and banners in a celebration capped off with a fireworks display. 

AUDIO: [Sound of fireworks] 

President Trump will be renominated during the virtual Republican National Convention next week.

Jobless claims climb back over 1 million » The Labor Department reported Thursday that jobless claims climbed back over the 1 million mark last week after two weeks of declines. 

1.1 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. That was an increase of 135,000 over the week before. 

Bannon, three others indicted in alleged border wall scheme » Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he siphoned money from a fundraising campaign for a southern border wall. 

Prosecutors accused Bannon and three others of diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the We Build the Wall campaign to their own pockets. 

The other men named in the indictment are Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea. 

President Trump reacted Thursday calling the news surprising. 

TRUMP: I was not involved in the project. I have no idea who was, but I can tell you I didn’t know the people—three people that were talked about were people that I did not know. I don’t think I ever met them. I don’t think that should be a privately financed wall. It’s too complex. It’s too big. 

The men raised more than $25 million through the crowdfunded campaign by promising donors 100 percent of funds would go toward privately constructing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Former FBI lawyer pleads guilty to lying in Russia probe » Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith this week admitted to falsifying a document to make it easier for the FBI to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. 

He is the first government official to face charges in the Justice Department’s review of the Russia probe. 

Clinesmight admitted to doctoring an email when the FBI applied to the FISA court for four warrants in 2017. 

Clinesmith could face prison time following his guilty plea. His sentencing hearing is slated for December 10th. 

Russian opposition leader in coma after apparent poisoning » Russia opposition leader Alexei Navalny is fighting for his life after he was likely poisoned. That according to doctors treating Navalny, who is now in a coma. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: A spokeswoman for Navalny said he was flying from Siberia back to Moscow when he began to feel unwell and lost consciousness. 

She said poison may have been mixed into his tea earlier in the morning, but she did not say who she believed may have poisoned him. 

Navalny’s lawyer Vyacheslav Gimadi said the opposition leader has made powerful enemies—challenging the leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin, among others. He also launched the Foundation for Fighting Corruption, which routinely investigates government officials. 

Gimadi asked Russia’s Investigative Committee to open a criminal probe.

Last year, Navalny was hospitalized in another case of suspected poisoning while he served a prison sentence.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Hong Kong government slams US decision to suspend treaties » The Hong Kong government on Thursday condemned the U.S. decision to suspend treaties with the territory. 

The Trump administration announced this week that it’s pulling the plug on extradition and tax treaties. That announcement came less than two months after Beijing seized greater control over what had been a semi-autonomous region. 

President Trump told reporters…

TRUMP: We really gave them tremendous incentive and subsidy in order that they be successful for freedom. But now that the freedom obviously seems to have been taken away, we will keep all of the incentives that we have given them, which is billions and billions of dollars. 

Canada, Australia, and Britain have also suspended similar agreements. 

But in a statement the Hong Kong government said it—quote—“strongly objects to and deplores the U.S.’ action” and said the United States is using Hong Kong as a pawn in its growing rift with Beijing.  

Appeals court gives reprieve to Uber, Lyft in California » An appeals court has allowed ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft to continue treating their drivers as independent contractors in California.

The last-minute stay pauses a lower-court ruling that was scheduled to take effect at midnight. It would have forced Uber and Lyft to treat all their drivers as employees. The companies said it would be impossible to make that shift overnight and it would have been too costly at a time when the pandemic is already pounding revenues. 

Lyft and Uber both said they would have had no choice but to halt service in the state if the order had taken effect.

California is a critical market for both companies. Before the pandemic, the state accounted for 9 percent of Uber’s worldwide rides 21 percent of Lyft’s rides.

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: politics and the church.

Plus, George Grant coins a new term for Christians in 2020.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MYRNA BROWN: It’s Friday the 21st 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. First up: Culture Friday.

BROWN: It’s election season, so it stands to reason even if America were otherwise unified, we’d be desperately divided during a presidential campaign.

And it’s not as though this is some kind of unique political moment. 

This parody makes the point.

AUDIO: John Adams is a blind, bald, crippled, toothless man, who wants to start a war with France … haven’t we had enough monarchy in America. I’m Thomas Jefferson and I approved this message because John Adams is a hideous …

EICHER: Actual words from history. 

But a modern adaptation obviously, put together by the people at Reason TV, making the point that political division has always been with us. 

We want to talk about that and how it’s affecting the church. And another issue that divides the church: and this one isn’t necessarily about politics, but pandemics.

Reading from a recent LifeWay Research study:

Pastors say that churchgoers have vastly different perspectives on handling COVID-19. ‘Some are scared to death, … others are convinced it’s a hoax,’ one pastor said. ‘Trying to minister to both ends of the spectrum is exhausting.’”

Let me say good morning now to our friend Trevin Wax.

He’s senior vice president of Theology and Communications at LifeWay Christian Resources and a visiting professor at Wheaton College. He is the general editor of The Gospel Project, and the author of multiple books too numerous to mention.

Trevin, good morning.

TREVIN WAX, GUEST: Good morning, Nick. Good morning, Myrna.

EICHER: I’ve certainly noticed how we’ve divided into COVID camps among our friends and church families. But I didn’t think of it from a pastor’s point of view. You deal with lots of pastors. What are you hearing about the challenges they’re facing?

WAX: Well, in my personal conversations with pastors from across the country, I’ve heard a lot of anecdotal evidence that there is some level of division in different congregations. But this research study was interesting because it had an open-ended question asking what are the particular—the most pressing issues, the biggest stress points for the pastor. And only eight percent back in March and April said that division in their congregation over how to handle the pandemic, only eight percent said that was an issue. That jumped to 27 percent in the most recent survey, which was far above any other stress points, pressure points that were mentioned.

I think what that says to me is that the early decisions to shut everything down, go online, pivot to different kinds of ministry, that was relatively simple. It wasn’t easy. It was hard from an emotional standpoint, but it was simple in how to pull that off. I think what is challenging right now for pastors is the reopening conversation is much more complicated. There are many perspectives as to what exactly are the best procedures, the best posture to take, the best positions on how many people in the congregation, what that should look like. And there are people in the congregation that have widely varying views as to the seriousness of the virus—from people who say “This is so serious we can’t believe our church is not taking sufficient precautions” to people who are saying “This isn’t as serious as people are making it. Our church, our leaders are keeping us from worship and from kids ministry and from other things that we really believe need to go on in this moment.” I don’t think that’s the majority of people in the churches. Those tend to be the louder voice in the churches. And so I think a lot of pastors who feel the deep sense of responsibility for preserving the unity of the church are having a challenging time when they have members in their congregation that just see things so differently.

EICHER: Well, that’s interesting, Trevin. You know, that’s why I mentioned that quotation from the pastor describing the two sides of the coronavirus issue. Do you have some advice to pastors on how to get through this moment?

WAX: Well, I’ve been encouraging pastors to look for something that we would call the fellowship of the trenches. They need camaraderie in this moment. Nobody, no pastor went to seminary and took a “How to lead your church through a global pandemic” course. That course is not on the seminary list. So, everybody is struggling, grappling, trying to figure out the best way forward. And the differences, depending on context, region, geography, the nature of your church, the members of your church, the risks for your church, all of those are different. We’re in the realm of wisdom here. We’re not in the realm of a black and white, right and wrong for every congregation across the country.

So I’m encouraging pastors to find a camaraderie of other pastors who have similar situations so they’re able to maintain a sense of sanity, a sense of humor in this—you need pastor friends who can say, “Boy, you wouldn’t believe the earful I got on a voicemail from a church member.” And then another pastor saying, “Yeah, well, let me forward you an email I just got.” Just so that they’re able to recognize that this is going to pass. We’ve got to keep our heads and our hearts in this. With church members, I believe that the quiet majority of churches across the country, they may not agree with every single precaution or lack of precaution they see the congregation taking, but they’re bearing with their pastors and their church leaders because they recognize this is a moment for wisdom, discernment, that we need to extend grace to each other when we don’t all come to the same conclusions. I recommend those people, which I believe are the majority, they need to reach out and encourage their pastors. Because their pastors are hearing from loud voices on the two opposing, polar opposite sides of how you would do this, whether it’s those who say everything should open back up, we need to take a stand. Or those who are saying how could you put people’s lives at risk, we really ought to be still online. The very loudest voices on both sides of that debate are being heard by the pastor.

So, the quiet majority in the congregation who, again, may not completely see eye-to-eye with everything their church is doing, but recognize it’s an unprecedented situation, it’s a challenging time. I recommend they reach out to their pastor and give them a word of encouragement because according to the responses from this Lifeway  research survey, pastors really do need that encouragement in this moment.

BROWN: Trevin, you’re right. This is a challenging time. There are so many different voices. No matter what a pastor does or says, somebody’s going to be unhappy. I was listening to one of your recent blogs and, in it, you say, “the only way to live without approval of others is if we follow—is if we know—we have approval of God in Christ Jesus.” And I would love for you to unpack that, because I think that’s encouraging and would be encouraging to pastors listening.

WAX: Well, pastors know that our job at the end of the day is not simply to please everyone, that we are—there are going to be times where you make people upset and there are going to be times where we may offend. Unintentionally, of course, but there are times when that’s going to happen. I think it’s important for us in a moment like this to recognize that we need to be reassured of the deep love of Jesus for us—shepherds that are looking after the flock, after the sheep that have been entrusted to us. We as shepherds, though, ultimately point to the Good Shepherd and the Good Shepherd is the one who laid down his life for us. And because of Jesus, we have the approval of God. We can live without the temporary approval of people. My point in that video that you mentioned, Myrna, is to say that unless we are overcome by the love of God, we will be overcome by the fear of man. And so pastors need to walk forward with confidence that whether or not they make all the right calls in this moment, they recognize that Jesus the Good Shepherd, he’s for them. He’s on their side. He’s not standing against them. He’s for them and is for the good of the flock.

EICHER: Speaking of division, let’s talk politics. We’re at the end of the Democratic convention—on the cusp of the Republican convention. 

I really like that parody ad we played earlier, because it’s a nice reminder that politics has really always been that way.

We know the famous military axiom that war is the continuation of politics by other means. You might flip that: that politics is the continuation of war by other means and I’d add, politics is preferable to war.

But this year just seems especially fraught—any special words of wisdom on how to navigate this one?

WAX: Well, the thing that we have to remember every four years, every election cycle is that politics is important. Politics is not ultimate. And I think it’s easy in times like this for us to assume that the levers of most influential change happen in Washington D.C. or happen in the halls of government when really the most influential things that happen week-to-week are happening in local congregations all across the country that are worshipping the true king of the world, Jesus Christ. We have to put things in perspective.

First of all, there’s a great big world out there that’s a lot bigger than just our own country and our own politics. As important as our country is for the world situation, this is the first thing we have to remember. The world is a lot bigger. But then we have to remember that the kingdom is a lot bigger. So, that’s not to downplay the importance of politics. Our involvement in the political process is a way that we love our neighbors. It’s a way that we care for the world that God has entrusted to us, for the culture and the society that’s around us. Politics are important. But at the same time, I think we have this tendency especially in very heated political seasons to ratchet up the rhetoric to where you’d think our life depends on what happens in the ballot box and what happens in Washington D.C. every four years based on who’s occupying that White House.

And the truth is, as important as that is and as important as our civic duty is, there are more ultimate things. And if we lose sight of those more ultimate things, we are likely to make an idol out of political power and then our Christian formation becomes warped and distorted as a result. And so I just would encourage people: do your duty. Vote. Follow the issues. Look at the party platforms. Consider the issues at stake. At the same time, step back and remember that God is sovereign. Jesus Christ is still king and there’s a whole world out there with a kingdom that’s growing because of what happened on Easter morning, not on election day.

BROWN: Trevin Wax is senior vice president of Theology and Communications at LifeWay Christian Resources. Trevin, thank you so much for joining us.

WAX: Thank you for having me.

NICK EICHER: A war veteran earned a nickname for himself cycling through his neighborhood every day for nearly 30 years.

Bicycle Bob, they call him. He lives in Santa Monica, California—not a bad place to cycle—but he did do it every day, rain or shine.

So his perseverance is one thing—but here’s another: Bicycle Bob Mettauer took up cycling after he retired and this month logged his 100,000th mile.

Neighbors gathered to celebrate.

METTAUER: [cheers] I’m astonished at the fact that all these people have come.

No small thing considering his age. 

Here’s Bicycle Bob talking with television station KEYT…

METTAUER: I can do the things I do because I do what I do. September 18th I’ll be 96 years old, and I’m going to keep on going.

Only a shoulder injury sidelined Bicycle Bob for a short period, but once he was healed, he was right back at it. Good for him!

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: Today is Friday, August 21st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MYRNA BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Megan Basham recommends a 2010 Western remake that’s available to stream right now on Hulu or Amazon Prime.

MEGAN BASHAM, FILM CRITIC: Few Western purists probably would have guessed it beforehand, but it turned out brothers Joel and Ethan Coen were the perfect filmmakers to adapt one of the most beloved cowboy stories of all time: True Grit.

Up to that point, the writing/directing team was famed for darkly ironic humor and eccentric characters. With movies like The Big Lebowski and O Brother Where Art Thou, they built their brand on smart but subversive storytelling. Yet because their movies are often peopled with idiots who wreak violence in pursuit of the most petty and pathetic ambitions, the brothers have also been accused of being misanthropes.

Their best films, however, like Fargo and No Country for Old Men, soften this tendency. In the midst of an Ecclesiastical parade of vanities, they also showcase humanity’s nobler instincts. Such is the case with True Grit.

When 14-year-old Mattie Ross arrives in Fort Smith, Arkansas, she’s looking for a man to go after the outlaw who murdered her father. 

CLIP: Could I hire a marshal to pursue Tom Chaney? You have a lot of experience with bounty hunters, do you? That is a silly question. I’m here to settle my father’s affairs. All alone? I am the person for it. Mama was never any good at sums and she could hardly spell cat. I intend to see Papa’s killer hanged. 

Single-minded and intelligent—though not necessarily wise—beyond her years, Mattie refuses to be swayed from the path of vengeance. It doesn’t take her long to wear down the objections of the meanest, orneriest marshal she can find: One-eyed Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn. Drunk, disorderly, and possibly homicidal, Rooster can’t shake the solemn-faced, Scripture-quoting girl.

CLIP: Rooster Cogburn? What is it? I’d like to talk to you a minute. What is it? They tell me you’re a man with true grit. What do you want, girl? Speak up, it’s suppertime. I’m looking for the man who shot and killed my father, Frank Ross, in front of the Monarch Boarding House. The man’s name is Tom Chaney. They say he’s over in Indian territory and I need someone to go after him. 

Rooster soon finds his hunt joined by a foppish Texas Ranger, played by Matt Damon, who’s a better braggart than he is a marksman.

In typical Coen fashion, the movie mines plenty of humor from Mattie and her confederacy of dunces.

CLIP: While I sat there watching you, I gave some thought to stealing a kiss though you are very young and sick and unattractive to boot. But now I have a mind to give you five or six good licks with my belt. One would be as unpleasant as the other. 

Different as they are, each member of the trio possesses some measure of the grit from the film’s title. And as they get to know each other on the trail, their presumptions about one another fall away.

If Jeff Bridges was at all daunted to step into the shoes that won John Wayne his first and only Oscar, he never shows it. His Rooster is at once pitiable, menacing, buffoonish, and steely. Damon is equally good as a dandy whose fringed rodeo costumes mask hidden depths.

But the real story on the acting front is Hailey Steinfeld. Without a young actress who can make us believe that a 14-year-old girl would care that much about avenging her father’s death, True Grit would fall flat. Steinfeld delivers on every front. She brilliantly develops Mattie’s growing conflict between her desire for justice and the realities of violence.

CLIP: I just spent last night at the undertakers in the company of three corpses. I felt like Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones. 

The Coens explore the cost of vengeance and underline it with an opening quote from Proverbs and a sweeping score of traditional hymns.

MUSIC: [A few bars of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms]

In a stark departure from modern-day convention, the movie doesn’t suggest that seeing and experiencing brutality in pursuit of her father’s killer is necessarily a negative thing for Mattie. It may make her grow into a harder woman, maybe even a lonelier woman. But it may also make her a more clear-eyed woman. The movie itself is far too clear-eyed to offer soft sentimentality one way or the other.

CLIP: You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.

The only major misstep the Coens make is when they indulge their trademark penchant for comic gore. There’s no question that doing a Western right is going to require some shootin’. But a couple brief scenes, like when a character’s fingers are lopped off, go beyond that, and earn the movie a PG-13 rating.

Without these, True Grit is a masterpiece that should win over the most dedicated Duke die-hards. And it has the potential to introduce a new generation of older boys (and girls) to the stern justice of the Wild West.

I’m Megan Basham.

MYRNA BROWN: Today is Friday, August 21st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Hey, if you haven’t heard this week’s episode of the Legal Docket podcast, please do check it out. It’s about the Espinoza case in this last term. That’s the one that delivered a big win for school choice—and specifically religious school choice. 

I actually got to travel to beautiful Kalispell, Montana, where this case originated. It’s a fascinating story and shows the difference one single mom can make. 

So you can check that out right now by searching your podcast app for Legal Docket. Or, if you aren’t subscribed to the Legal Docket podcast, we’re going to drop that episode into this podcast feed tomorrow morning. 

Great weekend listening.

BROWN: For sure. 

Well, by now you’re used to hearing George Grant explain the meaning and derivation of unusual words. That’s why we call his monthly segment Word Play! 

But this month, George has coined an unusual word of his own. And it’s the perfect term to describe the year 2020.

GEORGE GRANT, COMMENTATOR: Any number of commentators have suggested that 2020 may well go down in history an annus horribilis, a Latin phrase meaning “horrible year.” To be sure, we have had more than our customary allotment of woes—and with months to go before we can turn a calendar page, the mainstream and social media alike have responded with apocalyptic lamentations and mournful jeremiads

A jeremiad is usually defined as a long and doleful complaint. It is a tale of sorrow, disappointment, and grief. It is a declaration of doom. It has passed into English from the French, first used in 1762 to describe the lamentations of the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah. It was a clever etymological construction intended to call to mind Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid

In literature, it is typically used as a term of ridicule or mockery, implying either that the lamentations are exaggerated, or that their proclamations are overwrought and tediously self-righteous. 

Despite this, well might we plead the case for a fresh outpouring of jeremiads in our day. With forces of cultural disintegration undermining the very foundations of all that is near and dear, such a prophetic stance might seem altogether apt. Issue the warnings. Lament the injustices. Expose the evils. Denounce the barbarities. Set forth with zeal the very real consequences of sin and perversity. Hurl upon the land jeremiad after jeremiad like unto none that man nor beast has ‘ere seen.

But perhaps there is a better option for us in these perilous times—an option that bespeaks hope and resolve; an option that animates reformational vision. Perhaps we ought to consider the possibility of taking the course of the nehemiad—modeled on the Old Testament reformer, Nehemiah. 

In contradistinction to the jeremiad, the nehemiad, does not merely bemoan the transgressions of evildoers. Its first concern is the repentance of God’s own people. Unlike the jeremiad, the nehemiad does not only have a negative, indictive tone. Its primary concern is constructive.

A jeremiad is a cry of woe, an expression of righteous indignation, and a resolution to mourn over the ruins. A nehemiad is a cry of humility, an expression of righteous repentance, and a resolution to repair the ruins. 

Undoubtedly, our culture is in want of zealous jeremiads. But, in this hour of disarray, resolute nehemiads may be all the more needful. The walls are down. The rubble is nigh unto impassable. So much is in a shambles. So, with sword in one hand and trowel in the other, let the nehemiads begin. 

Such is the need of the hour. O God, grant us repentance. And then, let us take our places at the wall and begin to restore the toppled stones.

I’m George Grant.

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: Maria Baer, Megan Basham, Joel Belz, Paul Butler, Kent Covington, Laura Edghill, Kristen Flavin, George Grant, Kim Henderson, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Jill Nelson, Onize Ohikere, 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. 

The Apostle Paul reminds us to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

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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