The World and Everything in It — December 15, 2020

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

The nation’s biggest gay-rights lobby group is renewing its Obama-era attacks on Christian colleges. This time, it’s targeting the schools’ accreditation.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Also the U.S. State Department adds the first democracy to the list of countries persecuting religious minorities.

Plus, community-level compassion for those who lost income in the Covid lockdowns.

And commentator Les Sillars on the value of biblical journalism.

REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, December 15th. 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 now for the news with Kent Covington.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: First U.S. vaccine shots administered » AUDIO: Nice deep breath. Okay, little poke, 1-2-3. 

Monday was “V-Day” in the United States as healthcare workers and nursing home residents received the very first public coronavirus vaccine shots. 

AUDIO: And that’s the first Kentucky vaccination [applause]

Thousands of Americans rolled up their sleeves for the first of nearly 3 million initial doses. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared… 

AZAR: This is not the end of our battle against COVID, but today marks a critical milestone toward the ultimate defeat of COVID-19.

Truckloads of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine are still rolling into hospitals and other distribution centers across the country. 

More supplies will arrive each week. And there will likely be more vaccine doses to go around next week if the FDA approves the Moderna vaccine for emergency use this weekend as expected. 

U.S. health officials hope to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the month. 

But there won’t be enough for most Americans for at least another two or three months. 

Surgeon general appeals for vigilance as COVID death told tops 300k » And with that in mind, Surgeon General Jerome Adams is appealing to all Americans to keep up the fight against the virus by wearing masks and distancing.

ADAMS: The finish line to this marathon is in sight. And remember that we can’t finish the race without each and every one of you. 

Just as U.S. healthcare workers administered the first vaccine shots, the death toll in the United States hit a grim milestone. 

More than 300,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19. 

The government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, called the numbers staggering. He said it’s the most impactful respiratory pandemic since the Spanish Flu more than a century ago. 

Electoral College formally elects Biden » Electors from all 50 states gathered on Monday for the meeting of the Electoral College. 

HEASTIE: I am proud to announce that 29 votes have been cast for the honorable Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. of Deleware for president of the United States.

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie heard there. 

Constitutionally, it is the electors who officially choose the president, though they represent the will of the voters. 

And as expected, electors granted Biden the 306 electoral votes he won in the November election to President Trump’s 232.

Attorney General Barr resigning » Attorney General William Barr is stepping down amid lingering tension with President Trump. The president has criticized Barr for stating that, despite Trump’s claims, the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. 

Trump has also expressed anger that the Justice Department did not publicly announce it was investigating Hunter Biden ahead of the election.

Barr submitted his letter of resignation at the White House on Monday. His last day on the job will be December 23rd. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen will then take over as acting attorney general.

U.S. agencies hacked in months-long global cyberspying campaign » Hackers broke into the networks of the Treasury and Commerce departments as part of a monthslong global cyberespionage campaign. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Word of the cyberspying intrusion came just days after the prominent cybersecurity firm FireEye said it had been breached. Industry experts said that attack bore the hallmarks of Russian tradecraft.

The Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity arm has issued an emergency directive. It’s calling on all federal civilian agencies to scour their networks for signs of breaches. 

The threat apparently came from the same cyberhackers that attacked FireEye—along with other foreign governments and major corporations.

Some analysts say this could turn into one of the most damaging espionage campaigns on record.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

U.S. government: Iran responsible for death of retired FBI agent » Iran is responsible for the death of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson. 

That’s the word from the Trump administration, which formally blamed Iran for the first time on Monday for Levinson’s presumed death. 

The U.S. government also imposed sanctions on two Iranian intelligence officers believed responsible for Levinson’s abduction. He disappeared under mysterious circumstances more than a decade ago. 

U.S. officials also said the Iranian regime sanctioned the plot that led to Levinson’s abduction and lied for years about its involvement.

Indians owner says name won’t change in 2021 » The owner of the Cleveland Indians says the team is not changing its name in 2021. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has that story. 

ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: Owner Paul Dolan on Monday confirmed reports that the big league franchise does plan to change the name it’s used for more than a century. But he’s not sure when

Dolan said after internal discussions and meetings with outside groups, including Native Americans, he concluded that—in his words—“The name is no longer acceptable in our world.”

He said the name change is a “multi-stage” process in its early stages. And the team will continue to play as the Cleveland Indians next season. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown. 

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: an attack on Christian college accreditation.

Plus, Les Sillars on the value of journalism.

This is The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 15th of December, 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, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up: a warning for Christian colleges.

Shortly after the election, the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign issued a list of demands for the incoming Biden administration. The 85 policy recommendations cover everything from LGBT hiring quotas to bringing an end to Trump-era restrictions on transgender military members.

EICHER: Many of the proposals target faith-based groups for their beliefs on sexuality and gender. And one in particular puts Christian colleges and universities in the crosshairs. WORLD’s Leigh Jones reports.

LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: When Lydia Smits decided to study nursing, she knew she wanted to do it at a Christian college. That was the only place she could find an answer to the most important question about her future work: why?

SMITS: So secular institutions don’t get to answer this question as they strictly teach the material and don’t teach why we need to learn this trade, and for what higher purpose there actually is out there.

Smits enrolled at Dordt University in Iowa, where every class poses that question.

SMITS: And the answer is always to give God the glory.

Smits will graduate in May, and she’s already got a job lined up working at an inpatient rehab center.

SMITS: So that deals with motor vehicle accidents, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and you get to be their main support person, which I think is so incredible.

But before she starts working, Smits must take her licensing exam, something she wouldn’t be able to do if The Human Rights Campaign has its way.

The country’s most influential gay-rights lobby group wants the Department of Education to change the way Christian colleges get accreditation. It wants, quote—“neutral accreditation standards, including nondiscrimination policies and scientific curriculum requirements.”

That means any Christian college with hiring and student conduct policies based on Biblical standards on marriage, sexuality, and gender could lose its accreditation.

BOMGAARS: It would be pretty devastating to not be accredited.

Deb Bomgaars heads Dordt University’s nursing department. She says accreditation sets important standards.

BOMGAARS: And accreditation ensures quality, and integrity. It means that if you’re accredited, that you’re held to a higher standard.

And accreditation unlocks some very important doors. Without it, students can’t use federal grants and government-backed student loans. They also can’t get into graduate schools for additional training. And in some professions, like nursing, they can’t get licensed to work.

But accreditation has a less tangible benefit, too.

MULLINS: Accreditation really has been the marker of participation in the larger work of higher education.

Shirley Mullins is president of Houghton College in western New York. She’s also board chair for the Counsel for Christian Colleges and Universities.

MULLINS: Christian colleges have always predominantly viewed ourselves as part of that mainstream of higher education. We are serving, not just, you know, some subset of the culture of Christians, but we are serving the larger world of higher education. And so to me, this is a huge matter of Christian witness, and philosophically, to have these institutions deprived of accreditation, that suddenly sidelines them, makes them idiosyncratic, makes them not part of that legitimate mainstream of higher education.

Houghton has had accreditation since shortly after its founding in the 1920s. But not all Christian colleges have a long history of accreditation.

Cedarville University in Ohio didn’t seek accreditation until the 1960s. And even then, some of the school’s supporters worried what that might lead to.

Tom Mach is Cedarville’s vice president for academics.

MACH: They were concerned that it was a sellout or that we were going to be responsible to follow, you know, federal guidelines that we could not accept, or that would impact, you know, our teaching in some fashion that would prevent us from teaching or providing an education that’s grounded in the Word of God.

The school’s president at the time eased those fears by pointing out that accrediting agencies don’t impose a universal set of standards. They just make sure schools adhere to the standards they set for themselves. Tom Mach says that’s the way it still works today.

MACH: One of the benefits of federal law and really Higher Learning Commission itself is that the federal government expects the regional accrediting bodies to evaluate institutions based on their mission. And that latitude is something really at the Human Rights Campaign blueprint is challenging. 

Shirley Mullins says that challenge didn’t come as a complete surprise.

MULLINS: We have known for a very long time, that the larger world of higher education probably doesn’t have a deep understanding of the importance of faith to the work of Christian colleges. And so, to that extent, we have been alert to these concerns for a long time. We also know that many parts of our society do not understand religion as something that affects dimensions of society outside the church. So in that sense, it’s not a surprise, but it is a tragedy.

During the Obama administration, Christian colleges fought a barrage of attacks over their faith-based standards for students and staff. The Human Rights Campaign led the way in many of those challenges.

Tom Mach says the latest attack on accreditation is just a new front in an old battle.

MACH: We’ve had quite a positive four years with the Department of Education we’ve had recently in terms of the enhancing of religious liberty, and moving away from some of the developments that were occurring in the previous eight years. And now, you know, this type of request is sort of a return to what we had five years ago. It was clear we were heading in those types of directions, and we’ve had a reprieve. We’re praying that we will continue to have that reprieve.

If not, both Tom Mach and Shirley Mullins say Christian colleges are prepared, once again, to defend their constitutional rights in court.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: holding persecutors accountable.  

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this year’s list of the world’s worst persecutors. The 10 countries include many names you would probably expect: Iran, North Korea, and China. It also includes less familiar countries, like Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Most of the countries are not new to the list. But one did make its debut: Nigeria. It’s been added as a country of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act. Nigeria is the first democracy to make the list. It opens the country to economic sanctions and may well jeopardize millions of dollars in U.S. aid.

Joining us to talk about that is Lela Gilbert. She is a senior fellow for International Religious Freedom at the Family Research Council, where she writes about persecution in Nigeria. Thanks so much for joining us today.

LELA GILBERT, GUEST: Oh, thank you for inviting me.

REICHARD: Well, we know terror groups like Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen have attacked Christians in Nigeria for years. So why is it just now that the State Department designates Nigeria as a country of particular concern?

GILBERT: Well, that’s a very good question. It’s interesting that our USCIRF committee, which is bipartisan, has been calling for this since 2009 and it’s just now getting done. So, it’s really hard to explain why, but it’s clearly either not on somebody’s list of important things to do, or they just aren’t taking this seriously as a religious issue, which is what I suspect.

REICHARD: And I should clarify that USCIRF is the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. It issues an annual report that assesses threats to religious freedom.

Lela, Nigeria has a fairly close diplomatic relationship with the United States. Will this designation as a religious persecutor matter to Nigerian leaders? And will it motivate them to protect Christians?

GILBERT: Well, as I’ve said before, money talks. And one of the things that’s possible now is sanctions. And cracking down on specific leaders or on groups within Nigeria that are not participating in stopping this. It’s a very corrupt government, whether we have diplomatic relations or not. It’s really complicit in this, if you look closely enough at it. So, it could make a difference.

REICHARD: The designation as a country of particular concern doesn’t by itself trigger sanctions or other penalties. So what do you hope to see happen next?

GILBERT: I’m just glad to see it on the radar and I do hope for sanctions and I hope for a real truth-telling session where we say this is a religious concern. It’s not just a matter of climate change or a matter of resources being limited to these people that are coming in and burning down entire villages. This is a religious act. When they cry “Allahu Akbar” as they kill people, I think that’s enough representation of religion and so I would like to see a little bit more serious action taken on our government’s side inside the country there, including our ambassador and so forth, as well as in sanctions that have to go through our governmental processes.

REICHARD: One question on the minds of many: do you think the next administration will be mindful of the dangers religious minorities face around the world?

GILBERT: I’m not sure about that. I think religion is going to be sidelined against other issues intentionally. But there are cases where Biden seems to have more of an interest in certain regions, and he may well go along with this. It’s so obvious and clear. It’s just that we aren’t sure, yet, how it will play out state-by-state. I’m talking about nation-by-nation when I say that. And whether the religious aspects will be underscored or whether they will be overlooked as they have long been.

REICHARD: Anything else you’d like to add that you think people ought to know about this designation?

GILBERT: Well, my biggest concern is that people really pray for our brothers and sisters in that part of the world. We are Christians. We believe that prayer is important, too. And I don’t think a lot of Americans are even aware of what’s going on in places like Nigeria and Mozambique where there are massacres of Christians for their faith. And I want Christians to be concerned, as well as politically active, in these issues.

REICHARD: Lela Gilbert is a senior fellow for International Religious Freedom at the Family Research Council. Thanks so much for joining us today!

GILBERT: Thank you for inviting me.

NICK EICHER, HOST: I looked this up: a government report estimates that here in the United States graffiti costs nearly $20 billion per year to monitor, detect, remove, and repair. This form of vandalism is believed also to lower property values. That makes sense. 

But here’s a story where a piece of graffiti dramatically increased a home’s value.

The graffiti artist Banksy painted graffiti art on the side of a home on a very steep street in the city of Bristol. Did it overnight. That’s what he does, and he’s world famous for doing it. 

It depicts a woman sneezing. Thought to be a social comment on Covid. The woman sneezing powerfully. So powerfully that it appears the sneeze is blowing the neighbor’s homes down depending on your point of view. You can find photos online. It’s interesting to look at.

As it happens, the home had been for sale and was under contract for the equivalent of $400,000 but after Banksy put up his overnight mural and Banksy confirmed he did it, the woman pulled out of the contract because according to the U.K. newspaper The Daily Mail, the home is worth now at least 10 times the price. Probably more.


You can hear workers here installing a piece of plexiglass over the valuable defacing of the property to protect it from being defaced. Because now it’s worth millions.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, December 15th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. 

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming up next: addressing food insecurity. 

This is a new term we use to describe living conditions for those without enough resources to get the food they need.

EICHER: Before the pandemic, “food insecurity” was at a 20-year low. The economy was roaring, Americans were working, and we heard talk of a blue-collar boom at the lower-earning end of the labor market.

But now, 1 in 5 Americans relies on a food bank.

Today, WORLD reporter Jenny Rough tells us how one church is helping people in its community.


JENNY ROUGH, REPORTER: On a Tuesday afternoon, two long lines wind through the parking lot of Silver Spring Christian Reformed Church in Maryland. Car after car after car. More cars wait in an overflow lot next door. Street parking spots? All taken. Some people arrive by foot and stand shivering in the cold. All of them—men, women, children—have shown up for a basic daily need: food.

JENNIFER RENKEMA: It’s economic impact from COVID. I mean there’s all kinds of people who have lost income. 

Jennifer Renkema coordinates the church’s food pantry. Certain occupations have been hit hard because of COVID response. When Renkema loads groceries into trunks of cars, she sees cleaning supplies, painting supplies, maintenance supplies. 

JENNIFER RENKEMA: Well, when if you’re someone who cleans people’s homes, or cleans offices, and the offices are closed, and people are under stay at home orders, you’re suddenly out of work. And it kind of tells a little bit of a story of what might be going on. 

The church’s food pantry used to operate once a month and served about 80 families. After the pandemic hit, Renkema expected a little increase. Maybe 100 families. 

But the demand for food assistance exploded. The church now serves 800 families—a week

Pastor Doug Bratt has never seen anything like it in his 22 years at the church. To complicate matters: The number of those receiving food increased at the same time that the number of those giving out food decreased. Elderly women tend to serve as food pantry volunteers. 

PASTOR DOUG: When this pandemic publicly broke loose, a bunch of pantries actually had to close down because they were small and staffed largely by vulnerable populations.

Bratt says Washington, D.C.’s largest hunger relief organization asked the church for help. But how would a small church meet such a big need? Renkema remembers bare grocery store shelves and missing items.

RENKEMA: If you went into a store in May, it was going to have a sign that said: Limit two cans of tomatoes. And besides that, we were all under stay-at-home orders and couldn’t go to 100 stores looking for tomatoes.

Bratt had become friends with some local rabbis. Through them, he connected with the owner of a local kosher grocery store. The grocer ordered food and sold it to the pantry at wholesale cost.

RENKEMA: It was his way of making sure that the community is taking care of and supporting the work that we were doing.

Individual donations helped too. Renkema posted a message online asking her neighbors for help.

RENKEMA: And I had bags of food showing up on my doorstep. There were weeks where those individual donations were the only reason we had enough food. We never ran out. We have never run out of food.

One key to running a successful food pantry is to sit and talk with those who come. That’s how Renkema learned customers needed laundry detergent. She’d never thought to offer it before. 

That ability to get to know those in need is why church-based work is effective. Renkema says federal programs have an important role to play, but it’s the local partners that often make it compassionate.   

RENKEMA: Churches are a very key piece of food assistance. Churches and other nonprofits are able to know their individual communities in a way that the federal government can’t. State governments know their states better. Local governments know their local needs. 

Another key to running a successful food pantry: organization. 

Minutes before the 3 p.m. open, volunteers gather in prayer.

RENKEMA: We pray, Lord, for hope and peace and encouragement for each family who comes today…

Renkema assigns duties and the volunteers break into stations. For unloading:


Receiving orders. 


And delivery.


Renkema is a huge proponent of food choice pantries. Where customers come into the church and shop for what they need or prefer. It supports dignity, reduces waste, and allows conversations to arise naturally. That’s difficult right now because of the virus. So inside the church building, three women form an assembly line to pre-bag items.

PAT B: There’s one can of tuna, two of black beans, two of diced tomatoes, fruit, corn, rice… 

Another volunteer stands outside loading apples, onions, and potatoes to go with a box of milk and meat. She works diligently to help—as fast as she can—all those who wait.

WOMAN VOLUNTEER: You don’t line up for two hours for one bag of groceries unless you need it.

Before COVID, Cassie Chew worked in video production at business conferences. During COVID, her work dried up. Conferences were canceled. Employees began to telecommute and use Zoom. She felt the strain quickly. Chew lives near the church and saw the long lines. 

CASSIE: I had no idea there was places that people could go when their cupboard was bare.

She first came to the pantry as a customer. 

CASSIE: I thought you know you had to have some previous connection with this church in order to be able to participate.

But you don’t. If you come, you get food. Now, Chew volunteers by flattening boxes.


CASSIE:, So I came for a few weeks, and then I said, Hey, you know, instead of waiting in line, I can lend a hand with the packaging and outcome of the program.

That’s something Renkama has witnessed over and over. Grateful customers coming back to volunteer. 

RENKEMA: People are joyful when we treat each other the way we should treat each other.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jenny Rough in Silver Spring, Maryland.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, December 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

How should we value Biblical journalism?

Here’s WORLD commentator and Patrick Henry College journalism professor Les Sillars.

LES SILLARS, COMMENTATOR: On June 30, 1945, people in New York City were going about their usual daily lives, working, shopping.

AUDIO: Part of this normal life was newspapers, taken as a matter of course by everyone.

People took those newspapers for granted.

AUDIO: No reason to contemplate what life without newspapers would mean. Until suddenly and with little warning—Strike!

The delivery men of eight New York newspapers went on strike late in the afternoon. It lasted 17 days. One paper, The News, produced a newsreel about it afterward.

AUDIO: Newspaper trucks stopped rolling. Newsstands formerly piled high with eight daily New York newspapers, were devoid of newspapers, devoid of customers, barren as a desert waste.

Thirteen million readers lost their printed news.

AUDIO: And this at a time when great events were in the making the world over.

The Second World War was nearing its end. President Truman was headed to a meeting of the Big Three and American bombers were laying waste to Japanese cities. People wanted to know, needed to know, what was going on.

AUDIO: Now newspapers were more than a habit. More than a convenience. They were a necessity.

In desperation, people flocked to the printing plants of their favorite papers to buy a copy in person. Sometimes they stood in line for hours.

AUDIO: Trouble. Inconvenience. This was the price paid each day for New York newspapers by long lines of people in rain and sun. Standing for hours on hard concrete, risking bodily harm by cutting through picket lines…

Why would they do this? Columbia University researcher Bernard Berelson sent out students to interview people during the strike. Many said they felt lost and uncertain without their newspapers. “I am like a fish out of water,” said one person. Another felt uneasy because, quote, “I don’t know what I am missing—and when I don’t know I worry.” Said another: “I sat around in the subway, staring, feeling out of place.”

Today there is no shortage of news. Our culture is drowning in an ocean of information. But somehow more and more people still feel like those news-deprived New Yorkers. Big things are happening, yet so many people feel anxious and uncertain.

Perhaps that’s in part because the vast majority of “news” flooding out of screens today is irrelevant, incoherent, or just plain nonsense. News like that is worse than no news at all.

But at WORLD you’ll find biblically objective journalism. New Yorkers in 1945 stood in line for hours to pay today’s equivalent of 70 cents to get news. They didn’t know when, or if, their favorite newspaper would return.

That won’t happen to WORLD’s readers and listeners as long as we keep asking ourselves, what’s Biblical journalism worth to me? What would I do without World News Group? So head on over to

And I’ll go one further. The vast majority of our readers and listeners don’t actively support our work. Some people just can’t afford it, and that’s fine. But if you like what we do here at WORLD, think for a minute about how much more news we could produce if everyone who enjoys this program contributed even a few bucks a month.

AUDIO: Such is the miracle of journalism, and such is the significance of newspapers to their readers.

I’m Les Sillars. Merry Christmas, and thanks for your support.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: The Biden administration is shaping up to look a lot like the Obama administration. We’ll talk about that on Washington Wednesday.

And, a 100-year-old woman reflects on her life of service. 

That and more tomorrow. 

I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: 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.

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

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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