The World and Everything in It — September 23, 2020

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

The presidential campaigns are at fever pitch now after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A major reset. We’ll talk about the implications for the election.

NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Washington Wednesday.

Also World Tour. 

Plus a recent study that measures the theological health of the church.

And WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney on how blessed it is to receive.

REICHARD: It’s Wednesday, September 23rd. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!

REICHARD: Time for news. Here’s Kent Covington.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Trump blasts Chinese coronavirus response in UN address » President Trump on Tuesday urged world leaders to hold China accountable for the spread of the coronavirus. 

TRUMP: The Chinese government and the World Health Organization, which is virtually controlled by China, falsely declared that there was no evidence of human to human transmission. 

Trump added that China later “falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease.” 

He spoke by video to a scaled-down U.N. General Assembly as America’s COVID-19 death toll topped 200,000.

China’s ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun fired back, calling the U.S. president’s accusations baseless lies. And Chinese leader Xi Jinping appeared to take a veiled swipe at the Trump administration. Xi said “No country has the right to dominate global affairs, control the destiny of others” or be the—quote—“bully or boss of the world.”

Sen. Romney supports vote on Trump Supreme Court nominee » Republican Sen. Mitt Romney on Tuesday all but assured President Trump will have the votes in the Senate to confirm his Supreme Court nominee. 

Romney said Tuesday he will vote on the president’s pick based on her merits. 

ROMNEY: When there’s a nominee of a party that is in the same party as the Senate then typically they do confirm. So the Garland decision was consistent with that, and the decision to proceed now with President Trump’s nominee is also consistent with history. 

Democrats had hoped Romney would join GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins in opposing a confirmation vote before the November election. 

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and the Democrats would need four GOP defections to block consideration. 

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said every Republican on his committee will back the nominee. 

GRAHAM: We’re going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election. That’s the constitutional process. 

President Trump said Tuesday that he’ll announce his pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday.

He is considering five candidates, all women. And he reportedly met with federal judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House on Monday. Many consider her the frontrunner for the high court nomination.

Ginsburg to lie in state atop Supreme Court steps » The body of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will lie in repose at the Supreme Court this week. And the court said it will allow a public viewing despite some coronavirus concerns. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Ginsburg’s casket will be on public view today and tomorrow under the portico at the top of the court’s iconic steps.

Public viewing is expected to last from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. tomorrow. 

Congress made similar arrangements for a public viewing outside the Capitol after the death of Congressman John Lewis in July.

The justices will join Ginsburg’s family and friends for a private ceremony at the court this morning.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Ginsburg’s body also will lie in state Friday in Statuary Hall at the Capitol. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

Beta drenches Texas coast » Tropical Storm Beta weakened to a tropical depression Tuesday as it parked over the Texas coast. That’s wreaking havoc in flood-prone Houston. 

Rescue volunteer Victor Doctor spoke with KTRK as he helped a woman whose car was swept away by flood waters. 

DOCTOR: She drifted over to a middle school parking lot. This is dangerous right here. So we’ve got to lift the trucks and stuff. I’m going to kayak down, put her on the kayak and walk her back in.

Beta made landfall late Monday as a tropical storm about 80 miles northeast of Corpus Cristi. 

Forecasters last night said Beta will likely be centered over Houston this morning as it continues to track northeast.

That could take the storm over Lake Charles, Louisiana—less than a month after Hurricane Laura devastated the city. Mayor Nic Hunter said Tuesday… 

HUNTER: You can imagine the tens of thousands of people that are trying to pick up their lives and put the pieces back together, to have Tropical Storm Beta now thrust onto their shoulders, it’s a lot to handle. 

Flash flood watches and warnings are likely in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi this week as Beta pushes inland.    

British prime minister announces new restrictions amid virus surge » Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Britons on Tuesday that they should not expect to return to a normal social or work life for at least six months. That as he ordered new restrictions to try and curb a coronavirus surge. 

JOHNSON: From Thursday, all pubs, bars, and restaurants must operate a table service-only, Mr. Speaker, except for takeaways. Together with all hospitality venues, they must close at 10 p.m.

He also expanded mask requirements to those who work in retail, as well as taxi and ride-sharing services. All staff and customers at restaurants and other hospitality businesses must wear masks, except when eating or drinking. 

The U.K. on Tuesday recorded nearly 5,000 new confirmed cases in 24 hours. That was the highest daily number since early May and more than four times the figure from a month ago. 

Johnson had encouraged workers just weeks ago to go back into offices to keep city centers from becoming ghost towns, and he expressed hope that society could return to normal by Christmas.

But in a stark change of tone, he said Tuesday that “for the time being, this virus is a fact of our lives.” And he urged those who can work from home to do so.

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: the fight to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court.

Plus, Janie B. Cheaney on human gifts and God’s grace.

This is The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: It’s Wednesday, the 23rd of September, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up: the fight over the Supreme Court.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on Friday reset the presidential race and threw Washington into an uproar. As you just heard, President Trump plans to announce on Saturday his pick to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat. 

Here’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows explaining the president’s decision.

MEADOWS: What he’s looking for is someone who will uphold the Constitution. Look at those principles that are the bedrock of our foundation as a nation, and making sure that that court is one that does not make the laws but they actually just implement and interpret the laws in a fair and constitutional way.

EICHER: Interpreting the laws sounds pretty straightforward. But, as we all know, it isn’t. If it were, the confirmation hearing would emphasize a nominee’s legal qualifications. Instead, it’s almost solely about the nominee’s stance on hot-button social and cultural issues. 

In other words, the confirmation process doesn’t address whether a nominee will uphold the Constitution but rather,  how he or she will resolve life’s big questions. 

The makeup of the Supreme Court has become as important to the American political process as which party holds the House and Senate. And just as partisan, as Senator Mitt Romney of Utah noted on Tuesday.

ROMNEY: My liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court. And that’s not written in the stars. And I know a lot of people are saying, gosh, we don’t want that change. I understand the energy associated with that perspective. But it’s also appropriate for a nation which is, if you will, center right, to have a court which reflects center-right points of view.

REICHARD: The Founders did not envision the Supreme Court as a partisan body, so how did it get to this point?

Well, it’s Washington Wednesday, or perhaps we should say, Supreme Court Wednesday! Joining us now to talk about the current political drama is James Todd. He’s a political science professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University, a Christian college in South Florida. His research focuses on Supreme Court influence in American society.

Professor, thanks so much for joining us today!

JAMES TODD, GUEST: Thank you. 

REICHARD: Let’s go back to 2018 when Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing was going on. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska made some comments about the court then that are even more applicable now today.  Let’s have a listen.

SASSE: The hysteria around Supreme Court confirmation hearings is coming from the fact that we have a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Supreme Court in American life now. Our political commentary talks about the Supreme Court like they are people wearing red and blue jerseys. That’s a really dangerous thing and, by the way, if they have red and blue jerseys, I would welcome my colleagues to introduce legislation that ends lifetime tenure for the judiciary. Because if they’re just politicians, then the people should have power and they shouldn’t have lifetime appointments.

So, how about that? Do Americans have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Supreme Court?

TODD: I believe so. And it’s the court’s fault, really, for getting into such contentious areas of social policy and circumventing legislative majorities on these kinds of contentious issues. So, Americans, of course, now look to the Supreme Court for that sort of policy making role and so the focus of a lot of political activity in our society is directed toward judicial nominations, judicial confirmations.

REICHARD: The court’s outsized influence means that the reactions to any perceived shift in power also are outsized. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said if Republicans move forward with a confirmation process, quote “nothing is off the table next year.” That’s a pretty vague statement but could be a reference to ending the filibuster rule for all votes, not just judicial appointments.

Congressman Jerry Nadler had a more direct warning. He said if the current Senate votes to approve President Trump’s nominee, the next Senate should move to expand the court beyond its current nine members. Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden previously said he opposed the concept of “court packing.” But do you think that could be a very real debate we see in the next four, or even eight, years?

TODD: I tend to think that cooler heads will prevail on that. I believe that’s just overheated rhetoric for the moment, for the election season. I don’t think any kind of court packing plan would get off the ground, which of course could be filibuster. Unless the filibuster is abolished. But I don’t think that’s going to happen either. So, I think that’s just rhetoric for now. I don’t think we’ll have a serious debate about expanding the number of justices on the court. We’ve been at nine since 1869 and the one attempt to make that number larger, since 1869, did not even go well for Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was very popular otherwise and had lots of support in the Congress, but he couldn’t get support for that. So, if FDR couldn’t do it, I don’t think a President Joe Biden could.

REICHARD: Both campaigns are going to use the vacant Supreme Court seat as their loudest rallying cry. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this is the issue that will decide the presidential race. So, which candidate do you think benefits most from that?

TODD: I don’t know. The default setting for most analysts—including me—is that judicial politics tends to help Republican candidates. It seems as though Trump has a basis of support amongst those who care deeply about the Supreme Court and about changing Roe v. Wade and other decisions that sort of reflect prior judicial activism. And so I believe that the conventional wisdom that I’m going to stick to is that judicial politics helps Republicans. I think the Kavanaugh scenario in 2018 helped the Senate Republicans expand their number in the 2018 midterm elections, despite the fact that it was a very good year for Democrats otherwise. So, I’m going to say small, small advantage Trump here because the only thing that’s not a larger advantage Trump is because it is Ruth Bader Ginsburg we’re talking about. As a progressive icon, maybe motivates people to look at the situation a little more closely than they otherwise would on the left.

REICHARD: The court’s role, both in politics and over American society, has continued to grow for decades. Do you see anything that might reverse that trend, or is it only going to get worse?

TODD: I never say never to any trend reversing. But I would say judicial politics is here to stay because judicial review is here to stay. The idea that the Supreme Court should protect minorities, especially in the political process, from the political process. I don’t think decisions like Obergefell are going to be reversed—the same-sex marriage opinion from 2015. And so I think judicial politics is here to stay. Therefore, confirmation battles are going to be political. I’m not sure they’re all going to be as political as this one, because they don’t always present the circumstance of replacing a justice ideologically speaking. In other words, the balance of power is not the issue in a judicial nomination and confirmation dispute. It just happens to be this year. 

One thing that we could consider is it’s hard to speculate about these situations until we know who the nominee is, first of all. So, to the extent that the confirmation process becomes a referendum on someone, a person who is put forward by a president to serve on the court, it’s hard to speak abstractly about the situation. I feel as though the idea that principles enter into this that would bind future Senates, future presidents is futile because really the only two things that matter come from the Constitution. The president nominates and if the Senate majority is so inclined, the Senate confirms. And that’s really the end of the matter when it comes to judicial confirmations. The rest is just noise.

REICHARD: James Todd is a political science professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University who researches the Supreme Court. Thanks so much for joining us today.

TODD: I enjoyed it. Thank you for having me.

MARY REICHARD: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with Africa reporter Onize Ohikere.

ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Refugees move to new camp after Moria fire—We start today in southern Europe. 


Police on the Greek island of Lesbos are moving thousands of refugees to a new tent camp. The refugees fled the overcrowded Moria camp when it went up in flames two weeks ago. Authorities charged four Afghan asylum-seekers with setting the blaze. They allegedly started the fire to protest coronavirus restrictions. The fire completely destroyed the camp.

About 9,000 people have been resettled so far.

But some refugees say conditions in the new camp are just as bad as Moria, without food, water, or toilets.

Xinjiang birth rates dropped by a third in 2018—Next, we go to Asia. 

Birth rates in the Xinjiang region of China have dropped by nearly a third. That’s where most of China’s Uighur Muslims live. Many Uighur women have reported being forced to take birth control or endure sterilization procedures. Rights activists say it’s a deliberate attempt to decrease the Uighur population.

AUDIO: Government efforts to reduce birth rates in Xinjiang are both systematic and ruthless.

The Chinese government denies that, but confirms that births in the area have plummeted since 2017. The Chinese government has placed over 1 million Uighurs in fortified detention centers, reportedly subjecting them to indoctrination and torture.

World Vision aid worker killed in the DRC—Next, we come here to Africa.

Attackers in the Democratic Republic of Congo ambushed a humanitarian convoy last week. They killed one aid worker and took two others hostage.

All three worked for the international charity group World Vision.

The convoy was returning from a mission to deliver food to vulnerable people in the eastern part of the country. That region has suffered from militia violence and instability for decades.

Armed groups often clash over ethnic ties and valuable mining resources.

Space Force deployed to Arabian Desert—And finally, we end today in the Middle East.

The newly formed United States Space Force just got its first international mission: to the Arabian Peninsula. Twenty service members will be stationed at an air base in Qatar. They will monitor missile programs in the area and keep an eye on any efforts to hack or jam satellites.

One Space Force general said the troops are vital for protecting U.S. interests.

AUDIO: We are on the cusp of a tectonic shift in warfare. Access to space can no longer be assumed. I am convinced the next major conflict will be won or lost in space. 

U.S. officials worry Russia or China could develop a weapon that would knock out American satellites. The military relies heavily on satellite communications, navigation, and missile warning systems.

That’s this week’s World Tour. Reporting for WORLD, I’m Onize Ohikere in Abuja, Nigeria.

NICK EICHER: Life has its little annoyances, and one of them is the common housefly. 

But I’m going to tell you about a little annoyance that became a really big one.

French media reported the story of a gentleman in his 80s, sitting down to enjoy dinner when the unwanted guest buzzed by over and over again.

So the man grabbed an electric flyswatter and came out swinging.

Here’s the problem. Unbeknownst to him, he had a gas leak—a leaking gas canister. See where we’re heading here? 

An electric fly swatter isn’t about swatting. It’s about sparking. 

And it sparked. But instead of zapping the fly, it ignited the fuel, caused an explosion, and set his roof on fire.

Thankfully, the man suffered only a burn to his hand and he’s otherwise OK. But as his home undergoes repair, he had to check into a campground. Here’s hoping he remembered to bring bug repellant.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: Today is Wednesday, September 23rd. We’re so glad you’ve joined us today. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Every other year since 2014, Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research survey 3,000 Americans with 35 theological questions. Topics include things like the deity of Christ, the authority of the Bible, and sin.

EICHER: Two weeks ago, Ligonier released its current research.

WORLD reporter Paul Butler analyzed the data and talked with one of the researchers about what it may mean. 

SESAME STREET: Hello everybody! Today I’m in the doctor’s office having my checkup. You should get a check-up too, if you want to keep body and fur together…

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: Good advice from our old pal Grover. In this classic Sesame Street segment, he’s assuring kids that a regular checkup is good for their health and nothing to be afraid of. 

During checkups, a doctor takes your temperature, listens to your heart, and has you step on the scale. All data that’s helpful for finding any anomalies. 

NICHOLS: About six years ago, we just realized, we’re just sort of awash in a sea of polls when it comes into election season…

Stephen Nichols is the president of Reformation Bible College, in Orlando, Florida. 

NICHOLS: We thought: “We need a poll on theological issues. We need a poll on issues of eternal consequence.”

Nichols also serves as the chief academic officer at Ligonier Ministries. He was part of the initial group to call for a national survey: taking America’s theological temperature.  

NICHOLS: Theology is made up of two words. The first word is the Greek word for God. And the second word, the “ology” part means: “to study.” It’s what we believe about God. It’s what we believe about His word. And it’s what we believe about what he’s doing in this world. And so I can’t think of a more important subject than the subject of theology.

Researchers asked everyone the same questions, regardless of their religious affiliation. LifeWay then collated those answers and entered them into an online interface. Nichols is most interested in how evangelicals responded.

NICHOLS: As you take a step back and you look at the big picture of the survey, it raises the question, what, what does it reveal that is of the most significance? 

Eighty-four percent of evangelicals believe that salvation is by faith alone. Ninety-nine percent affirm that God is a perfect being and cannot make a mistake. And ninety-nine percent also acknowledge that Christ will someday return to judge the world. 

Now evangelicals score very high on a few questions like these due to the analytical methodology. For this study, researchers did not rely on religious self-identification. They designated people as evangelicals if they answered certain key questions in a particular way. So on those statements, there’s great uniformity. But when looking at some of the other questions, Nichols identifies some worrisome trends. 

NICHOLS: I see two things that are troubling. One is that when we look at the general population, we can see a lot of theological confusion. We can see a lot of what, we would call as Orthodox Christians, heretical beliefs, alive and well in the American public. 

And the second troubling trend? 

NICHOLS: The church is lagging, not too far behind culture, on really crucial issues, issues that get right to the heart of the gospel.

For instance, 32 percent of evangelicals believe people are by nature good. Thirty-six percent say the Holy Spirit is just a force. Fourteen percent aren’t sure if Jesus is God.

And when it comes to the exclusive claims of Christianity? 

NICHOLS: This one stands out. 

The survey worded it this way: “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.”

NICHOLS: Now, when we put that statement to the general population, 63 percent said, they agree with that statement and that of course should trouble us, but it might not surprise us. 

What was surprising—evangelicals didn’t answer much differently.

NICHOLS: Almost half, 46 percent of evangelicalism, agree with that statement. Now to be an evangelical means we are about the gospel, that there is salvation and no other name than the name of Jesus Christ. And so here you have evangelicals affirming a pluralistic doctrine of affirming that there is salvation outside of Jesus Christ and outside of the gospel. I think we can easily classify that as troubling. And it shows that we’ve got a lot of work to do within the church.

But that’s not Nochols’ only concern. The study also shows that 13 percent of evangelicals think the Holy Spirit may tell them to do something the Bible prohibits. Fifteen percent believe that gender identity is a choice. Sixty percent are confused whether Jesus was created or not. 

NICHOLS: And so you’re left scratching your head. Where does this come from? And I think the answer is this. We have far too long neglected the serious study of God’s Word. We just don’t devote our time and attention to God’s Word like we should…

But it’s not all bad news. One finding is actually pretty encouraging and points to the solution. 

NICHOLS: The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe. Now, when we put that statement to evangelicals: 90 percent, nine in 10, affirmed and agreed with that statement. What that tells me is evangelicals value their Bible. evangelicals see their Bible as their authority. So I want to build on that. And I’m going to latch onto that and say, okay, let’s go, let’s hop in there and let’s study our Bibles. 

The State of Theology survey data is available to anyone online for free. Churches can also conduct the survey with their own members and use the responses to identify areas for further study. 

For Nichols, this year’s theological checkup provides clarity on what Bible colleges, seminaries, and local churches need to do to improve the overall health of believers.  

NICHOLS: You know, as we look at this survey and we see things that trouble us, we can sort of sit back and just opine about how bad it is. I think that would be the worst possible response. I think instead we need to be encouraged. We need to be inspired to roll up our sleeves and jump in there and study. And I think one of the things that we need to engage very significantly is the study of theology.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Paul Butler.

MARY REICHARD: Today is Wednesday, September 23rd. Good morning to you! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Here’s WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney on lavish grace.

JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: Remember a couple of months ago, when I shared how my moving plans were derailed? How, after years of longing to move closer to town, my plans came to an abrupt halt, with an equally abrupt change of attitude? Well, the plans didn’t stop. In fact, I came up with a whole crop of new ones for home improvement.

Some of those plans had to be scaled back. A lot. But one seemed feasible: a deck outside our back door. About 9 by 16, with a corner bench. I’m no carpenter, but I knew someone at my church—one of those guys who can do anything. I asked him to suggest a reliable craftsman. “Oh,” he said, “I can build it.”

And he did. It wasn’t that he was retired with time on his hands. Nope—a family man with young kids and a job, he volunteered early mornings and weekends to build that deck, with the help of a few other guys. A laborer is worthy of his hire, but I didn’t hire him. He did it for free.

Have you ever been in a position where you felt uncomfortable about accepting a gift? Not those designated gift occasions of Christmas and birthdays, but other times when a blessing just came out of the blue or you were in a bind and needed help that you couldn’t repay? I know people, and you do too, that you just can’t seem to do anything for. They insist on repaying—not necessarily in money, but in reciprocal favors. Sometimes so much that you start feeling you should repay them.

“It is more blessed to give than receive.” Paul said this in his farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, and he attributes the quote to Jesus himself. Even though there’s no record in the gospels, we needn’t doubt that Jesus said it, or that it’s true. We are blessed by giving. I know someone with a chronic illness who admits she struggles with accepting help that she can’t repay. We remind her of the more-blessed-to-give principle. Don’t deprive us of a blessing!

Why is it so hard to just accept? We all know there are takers in the world, and we don’t want to be them. But we also don’t want to be debtors. Might God be using these non-reciprocal gifts to remind us, in practical, down-to-earth terms, of his impractical, out-of-this-world gift? Paul, again, reminds us that he did not merely pay our debt—he lavished grace upon us in Christ Jesus—see Ephesians 1:8.

The next time you’re struggling to accept a favor, draw a deep breath and think about that word “lavished.” Then open your hands and accept it.

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.

NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: Possible reset in the U.S. Senate. Arizona Republican Martha McSally appears to be losing the fight to keep her seat. We’ll tell you how the Supreme Court vacancy may shift the momentum in that race.

And, we’ll meet a couple who’ve turned an economic challenge into something sweet.

That and more tomorrow. 

I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.

The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.

WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

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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