The World and Everything in It — October 23, 2020

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

Pope Francis is pushing to legitimize same sex relationships with an idea LGBT activists rejected six years ago.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: That’s ahead on Culture Friday.

Plus Megan Basham reviews a new documentary that Amazon originally didn’t want on its platform.

And our wordsmith, George Grant, with Word Play.

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

BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Good morning!

REICHARD: Now the news with Kent Covington.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Trump, Biden square off in final debate » The president and his Democratic rival faced off for the final time last night before the election. 

AUDIO: We welcome to the stage former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald J. Trump. 

The candidates met at Belmont University in Nashville for the second and final debate. And while both candidates lobbed personal attacks, they avoided the name-calling and constant cross-talk that marked the first debate. 

On the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden said President Trump’s response has been reckless. And he called for a more measured approach to reopening the economy. 

WELKER: You haven’t ruled out more shutdowns?
BIDEN: Well no, I’m not shutting down today, but look, you need standards. The standard is, if you have a reproduction rate in a community that’s above a certain level, everybody says slow up. 

The president countered that Biden is ignoring the unintended consequences of lockdowns. 

TRUMP: People are losing their jobs. They’re committing suicide. There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level nobody’s ever seen before. We have to open our country. The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself. 

On healthcare, Trump again said he still hopes to replace Obamacare, while retaining its most popular provision. 

TRUMP: Pre-existing conditions will always stay. What I would like to do is a much better healthcare. 

The former vice president said he would largely keep the current law in place while expanding the government’s role. 

BIDEN: What I’m going to do is pass Obamacare with a public option. It’ll become “Biden-Care.” 

Election Day is now 11 days away, though more than 40 million Americans have already voted early. 

Biden holds an 8-point lead in an average of recent national polls. Trump is also trailing in most swing state surveys. But the Trump campaign is quick to note he trailed in the polls four years ago as well. 

U.S. officials: Russia, Iran attempting to influence election » Meantime, the U.S. intelligence community is working overtime to guard against foreign interference ahead of the election. 

On Thursday, intel officials said Russian hackers have targeted the networks of dozens of U.S. state and local governments, stealing data from at least two servers.

U.S. officials say it would be extremely difficult for hackers to alter vote tallies. But they’ve warned about other interference, including cyberattacks meant to impede the voting process.

And on Wednesday, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told reporters…

RATCLIFFE: We have identified that Iran and Russia have taken specific actions to influence public opinion relating to our elections. 

He said Iran sent a flurry of fake emails aimed at hurting President Trump’s reelection campaign. 

The threatening emails sent to Democratic voters claimed to be from far-right groups in the United States. That in an apparent effort to make it appear as though pro-Trump groups were terrorizing voters. 

At a news conference, FBI Director Christopher Wray assured voters…

WRAY: We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election. 

The two officials called out Iran and Russia for obtaining U.S. voter registration information.

Wray said the United States will hold bad actors accountable and that the integrity of the vote remains sound.

Unemployment claims fall to lowest level since March » The number of Americans seeking jobless benefits fell last week to the lowest level in months. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The Labor Department said 787,000 people filed claims last week. That figure was down from 842,000 the week before. 

And it’s the lowest that number has been since pandemic shutdowns started crushing many businesses back in March. 

Unemployment claims fell in 39 states and rose in just 11.

Thursday’s report also said the number of people continuing to receive jobless aid tumbled by 1 million to 8.4 million.

Economists welcomed the declines as evidence that the job market is continuing to recover. Though, many are concerned that a fall coronavirus surge could reverse some of those gains. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Senate panel advances Barrett Supreme Court nomination » Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate on Thursday, despite a Democratic boycott. 

AUDIO: Mr. Chairman, the votes are 12 yeas, 10 no votes. The nomination will be reported favorably to the floor with a unanimous vote. 

Boycotting Thursday’s Judiciary panel session forced Republicans on the panel to change its rules to keep the confirmation on track. Those rules said at least two members of the minority party need to be present to constitute a quorum for doing business.

Democrats refused to show up in protest of the committee’s vote on Barrett. They say it should’ve waited until after the presidential election and that the next president should fill the Supreme Court vacancy. 

The full Senate will vote on Barrett’s nomination on Monday and Republicans say they have the 50-plus votes needed to confirm her.

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: the pope’s position on same-sex marriage.

Plus, George Grant spell-checks the Constitution.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MYRNA BROWN: It’s Friday the 23rd of October, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Pope Francis grabbed headlines this week after the release of a documentary film on his life. 

In it, he appears to refer to a position he took back in 2014 when he was archbishop in Argentina. Back then, he called on the government to pass a civil-union law for same-sex couples. In the documentary, the pope is quoted saying:

“They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

BROWN: At the Rome Film Festival, a Russian director said he understood the pope to be calling for acceptance of homosexual people but not going so far as to be changing church doctrine. This is from a Reuters interview with the director:

AUDIO: I think that that’s what is important, that he teaching (sic) us to stop labelling and stop framing people. Allow every human being to be equal in this world.

REICHARD: One LGBT-rights group in the United States applauded the pope’s remarks as—quoting here—“a fundamental step forward at a time when LGBTQ acceptance around the world and across religions is expanding and rightfully becoming the norm.”

BROWN: It’s Culture Friday and so let’s welcome John Stonestreet. John is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

REICHARD: Good morning, John!

JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Morning Mary, morning Myrna.

REICHARD: It’s interesting to me that the buzz is about civil unions in 2014, because the very next year, 2015, is when the Supreme Court reversed marriage laws here and firmly rejected half measures like civil unions. The court’s Obergefell decision rooted same-sex marriage in “dignity.” In other words, that only an equal right to marriage would pass legal muster from here on out. And LGBT groups absolutely reject civil unions so it seems to me what we quoted here is exactly right, the applause is for what activist groups see as a “fundamental step forward.” 

What do you say?

STONESTREET: Well, I think the history here is that Pope Francis—before he was pope—used the idea of civil unions as a kind of strategic measure in order to hold back same-sex marriage and it was kind of seen as a third way or as a middle ground. And that’s what civil unions have always been within this movement. It’s always been kind of a useful place to get to. It’s kind of an incremental victory. 

But it’s not a destination for LGBTQ rights groups because what I mean by “useful” is not even that it’s just an incremental step, it’s something to achieve so that from there you can further claim bigotry or discrimination. Once civil unions were allowed and civil unions were, of course, intending even for heterosexual couples to grant the same sorts of property rights and legal status for couples that aren’t officially “married,” now you could say, well, what’s the difference? Right? It’s everything but the name so it must be out of animus or bigotry. And it certainly seemed like Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy bought arguments similar to that one and so on. 

And so the stranger thing is why this is coming out now and what’s the point? Civil unions, like you said, that’s so 2014. Who’s talked about civil unions since 2014?

BROWN: I’m not an expert on Roman Catholic theology. But I do understand marriage for Catholics is sacramental. The pope appears on a really treacherous road for any kind of long-held position the church has had on the meaning of marriage. Do you think it’s possible that the pope could go further than he has?

STONESTREET: I think that’s the question. I think that’s the question that is troubling for a lot of faithful Catholics. There’s that old joke he’s more Catholic than the pope. There’s a lot of Catholics more Catholic than the pope at this moment after that statement yesterday. But not just that statement yesterday. I mean, this isn’t a new concern with this particular pontiff. 

On one level, again, I want to go back to what we know from history, which is that when he was bishop in Argentina, this pope used civil unions as a strategic measure. And that measure is based on reducing marriage down to only a sacrament. This is, in my mind, both a strength and a weakness here of this particular theological position. 

On the strength position, it actually treats this as something divinely instituted, which it, of course, is. It recognizes the inherent blessedness of one image-bearer and another image-bearer coming together for life and that the actual outcome of that is going to be more image-bearers. It’s a remarkable thing that God has done in marriage. At the same time, we need to understand that marriage is God’s sacramental gift to his creation, to all image-bearers. You don’t have to be a Christian to be married. This is a natural grace that God has given. What the pope is doing is drawing this line to protect the church’s ability to do church marriage. Well, the problem with that is then the church ceases to become the institution that it has always been, pointing to marriage as a gift of God to all people. And, look, I’m not saying that every church has done that, but I think that’s what marriage has always been. 

The state, obviously, is no longer in that business proclaiming to the world what God had instituted. This institution that is both pre-state and pre-church. So, if the state’s out of doing that, we don’t want the church out of doing that. So as a strategic measure to protect our territory, I’m not a fan of the civil unions approach if it’s tactical. If it’s theological, well, of course not. That’s just heretical. It’s wrong. In the Catholic situation, calling this sacramental and then going against that, that would make this in a sense heretical. I don’t think he’s gone that far. I don’t think we should think he’s gone that far at this point. But that would be a huge mistake.

REICHARD: I want to play one more piece of sound from the director of this documentary. Very interesting. Again, director Evgeny Afineevsky casting the pope’s pro-LGBT statements as an important break from tradition.

AFINEEVSKY: Because the old traditions are staying in a closet still.  And I think he, who is trying to care about every human being, he is the pro-life person, so that is my statement.

It’s a little hard to make that out, but remember the old idea of being in the closet or being out of the closet—this is very old language around homosexuality. But his point is that the pope’s statements will help homosexuals come out of the closet in more conservative societies around the world. And even more interesting is this is how the director interprets “pro-life” saying the pope’s encouraging words for the LGBT community is what makes him “the pro-life person.” 

Redefining the meaning of “pro-life.”

STONESTREET: Well, in a sense I think he’s right that it will encourage more folks to come out of the closet, and I think that’s actually what’s happened in this papacy on a couple levels. 

That said, the redefining of the term pro-life is just obviously a ridiculous thing. It’s gnostic, actually. And here’s what I mean by that. The problem with what we’ve done to marriage, what we’ve done to sexuality, is that we’ve removed any sort of created giveness to it from its definition, from what it actually is. And you actually hear this in churches, faithful churches as well that don’t go this far. They talk about marriage as being about companionship, marriage as being about mutual affection, commitment, and love. Everything but actually the bodies that God has given us coming together, when Jesus himself said that the two shall become one flesh. He did not say the two shall become just one. But we often in song and even in our modern liturgy and in the modern ways we talk about marriage as if it’s an emotional oneness. Well, if it’s an emotional oneness and that’s it, then there’s no reason to keep it away from same-sex couples, and that allows someone like this to use this ridiculous language. 

But if marriage actually itself has to do with the becoming of one flesh and in the becoming of one flesh kickstarting a process that requires two people—a male and a female—can never be done by two males or two females and can never be done by anyone alone, and that is the physical process of procreation, which God instituted in order to allow his image-bearers to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Then to say it’s pro-life is patently false on its head. Had we actually kept inherently throughout the early days of the sexual revolution the fundamental ties between marriage and procreation as being more than kind of a personal choice or, hey, do you want to have kids? I’m not sure I want to have kids. Instead of the God-given created design of the institution itself, then it would be a lot easier to call this what it is, which is bogus to say that an inherently sterile union could in any way be pro-life. An inherently sterile union doesn’t produce any life whatsoever.

BROWN: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

REICHARD: Thanks, John!


MARY REICHARD: A man in California recently made a wager with his wife.

Mike Myler bet his bride Makenna $100 dollars that she couldn’t run a mile in less than 8 minutes. 

And he lost that bet. Big time. 

She ran it in 5 minutes and 25 seconds. 

Mike welcomed a breathless Makenna at the finish line.

MYLER: I owe you a hundred dollars. Good job!

Her 5-and-a-half-minute one-mile time was impressive. According to Runner’s World, the average female runner completes a mile in 10 minutes and 40 seconds. 

But her feat was impressive for another reason: 28-year-old Makenna was 9 months pregnant! 

She cleared it with her doctor before running. 

Mike later wrote, “Someone check the Guinness stats. My wife is an absolute champion!”

Makenna gave birth on Tuesday to a healthy baby girl!

It’s The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD: It’s Friday, October 23rd and you’re listening to WORLD Radio, supported by listeners like you. Thanks for joining us today. I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. This summer, during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, Amazon Prime released a series of billboards promising to, “Amplify Black Voices. It also added an “Amplify” branded carousel of African American films to its home page. 

But there was one black filmmaker the streaming giant wasn’t interested in amplifying, at least until it faced a barrage of negative press: Shelby Steele. 

Megan Basham, our movie reviewer, explains why.

MEGAN BASHAM, FILM CRITIC: Few screenwriters bring as impressive a résumé to their project as Shelby Steele. He’s a former San Jose State literature professor and Hoover Institution fellow at Stanford. Along with winning a National Book Critics Circle Award, a National Humanities Award, and a Writers Guild Award, he also won an Emmy for a documentary he co-wrote and produced for the PBS news program, Frontline.

Yet when he and his son, director Eli Steele, submitted What Killed Michael Brown? to Amazon’s video on demand service, they received this reply: “Unfortunately, we have found that your title doesn’t meet Prime Video’s content quality expectations and is not eligible for publishing on the service at this time. We will not be accepting resubmission of this title and this decision may not be appealed.”

Anyone who views the film will get a quick idea what prompted such a terse reply.

CLIP: Back then I had no cynicism about justice. It was the word that animated the Civil Rights movement more than any other. But after three years in East St. Louis I no longer trusted the word. It hid more than it revealed and left too much room for corruption.

What Killed Michael Brown? ostensibly focuses on the tragic case of a black teenager killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. But what it tells us about cultural myths—how Big Tech and Big Media help shape them and why—goes far beyond a single flashpoint.

Steele calls these myths, such as the widespread inaccuracy that Brown had his hands up and said, “don’t shoot,” just before he died, “poetic truth.” People buy into it not because they have examined the evidence and found it credible, but because they align with narratives they already believe. They feel true.

CLIP: This is a distortion of the actual truth that we use to sue for leverage and power in the world. It is a partisan version of reality. A storyline that we put forward to build our case. For example, that Michael Brown was executed was a poetic truth.

In Steele’s example, the poetic truth is that systemic racism in the Ferguson police department created an environment that led to Brown’s death.

Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder found no evidence Officer Darren Wilson was motivated by race. What he did find is that black people make up only two-thirds of Ferguson’s population yet represent 85 percent of traffic stops. Because of that, Holder concluded widespread bias permeated the police department. But Ferguson’s mayor had another explanation, based on more localized data.

CLIP: Ferguson is a community that’s integrated but our surrounding communities are predominantly African-American. 90% to 95 percent. Statistically, who do you think is driving down the roads? People from all over this area come to Sam’s because there is no grocery stores, no Walmarts, nothing in north St. Louis city and everyone of those people come to Ferguson to shop.

Steele says the danger in favoring poetic truth over objective truth, or put another way, broad theories over specific details, is that it always traps us into solving the wrong problems. He makes a host of arguments worthy of consideration. But for Christian viewers, the way Steele highlights how two different how two different churches approach the nebulous subject of justice is especially valuable.

The first joins forces with out-of-town activists.

CLIP: If you get hurt, if you get gas in your eyes, the word was, go to Saint Mark’s. If the protesters had not had a place, a home base if you will, to come and set up, the movement would not have lasted as long as it lasted.

The result, several local black leaders explain, was that violent protests in Ferguson went on longer than they otherwise might have. The city was torn apart. In the end, poor minorities who live there faced destroyed infrastructure, crashing property values, and fewer resources.

Steele puts it starkly:

CLIP: Holder made Ferguson pay the price for a racist murder that was neither racist nor a murder.

The second church is in Chicago’s South Side. Pastor Corey Brooks doesn’t talk about theories or politics. Neither does a young, former drug dealer who now works with him:

CLIP: I’m gonna be honest I just did 11 years for the feds. I got some good street skills. My friends take me to the church. And I’m like who am I meeting? And they’re like, you’re going to meet the pastor. And I’m like I don’t wanna meet the pastor. I just came home. They like no you have to talk to him because he runs our neighborhood now. I’m like, he don’t run no neighborhood I’m in. So we seen the pastor and he was like, OK I know who you are. I heard a lot about you. Glad to see you’re home. But I am the new sheriff in town. Do you really know what you did to your community. I’m like, no, what? He said, you tore your community down.

Brooks’s ministry teaching these young men tangible life skills that they go on to teach other young men has created a domino effect of transformed lives.

From a bird’s eye view, it’s all too easy to oversimplify every headline in favor of our neat ideologies. To create our own poetic truth. But one of Steele’s closing questions suggests the path out of focusing on forests and forgetting about trees.

CLIP: I wonder what would’ve happened if Michael Brown had had the good fortune to meet Pastor Brooks.

It’s our job to try to provide an answer to that question for some other Michael Brown.

I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD: Today is Friday, October 23rd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. One week from today, we will have our regular Listener Feedback segment. So if you have something you want to tell us, now’s your chance! 

We love getting emails and connecting with you on social media. But we can’t play those messages on the program.

REICHARD: That’s why we especially like getting audio feedback. 

You can do that one of two ways: Call our feedback line at 202-709-9595. Or record a voice memo on your smartphone and email it to us.

BROWN: Simple enough. Alright, coming next on The World and Everything in It: Word Play with George Grant. 

GEORGE GRANT, COMMENTATOR: When the text of the Constitution was first composed in 1787, it was written in the manner of the day. In other words, it was handwritten—with a goose quill pen dipped in oak gall ink inscribed on fine parchment. According to the supervising conservator at the National Archives in Washington, that original copy, with its distinctively classical calligraphy, was engrossed by Jacob Shallus, one of the official stenographers at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

Without the benefit of a spell-checker app, Shallus inevitably made a few spelling mistakes—mistakes that survive in the revered document to this day. To err is human after all.

For instance, in the list of signatories, the word “Pennsylvania” is misspelled with a single “n” in the first syllable. The state’s correct spelling does appear in Article 1, Section 2, making the contradiction all the more noticeable—and embarrassing. Shallus after all, was from Pennsylvania. And he served as the clerk for its State Assembly.

There may have been some consolation for him in the fact that it was apparently a common enough mistake in 18th century America—even the inscription on the Liberty Bell immortalizes the misspelling.

Another snafu Shallus made in the Constitution was a common enough one: in Article 1, Section 10, he spelled the word “it’s” with an apostrophe, as if the word were a contraction of “it is.” But the word is used as a possessive, and thus, it should have been spelled without the apostrophe.

On several occasions, Shallus spells the word “choose,” with a “u” rather than with the customary “double-o.” To modern eyes, this looks like an obvious mistake. Actually, it was an acceptable alternate spelling in the 18th century. American spelling standards then, as now, were inconsistent at best.

Not surprisingly, Shallus also used the British spelling for a number of words: “defence,” spelled with a “c” instead of an “s” and “controul” and “labour” both spelled with “ou” diphthongs rather than with a single “o.” Again though, these were acceptable alternate spellings in the former colonies.

Pondering these lexicographic oddities reminded me of Mark Twain’s delightful quip: “Anyone who can only think of one way to spell a word obviously lacks imagination.”

I’m George Grant.

MARY REICHARD: Well, it takes many souls to put this program together each week, so we want to say thanks to: Megan Basham, Paul Butler, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Nick Eicher, Kristen Flavin, Katie Gaultney, George Grant, Kim Henderson, Anna Johansen (who’s getting married tomorrow!), Leigh Jones, Onize Ohikere, Bonnie Pritchett, Sarah Schweinsberg, Cal Thomas, Whitney Williams, and Kyle Ziemnick.

MYRNA BROWN: Our audio engineers Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz stay up late to get the program to you early! Paul Butler is executive producer, and Marvin Olasky is editor in chief. 

And you. Without you, none of this happens. We thank you for your support. 

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” 

I hope you have a restful weekend.

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.

Like this story?

To hear a lot more like it, subscribe to The World and Everything in It via iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.







Pocket Casts

(Requires a fee)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.