The World and Everything in It — January 1, 2021

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

Well, they say hindsight is 2020, and that’s literally true today. We’ll review some top cultural news of the year that was.

NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Culture Friday.

Plus a review of the documentary series American Gospel. It’s an exploration of the way American culture distorts Christianity.

And your listener feedback.

REICHARD: It’s Friday, January 1st. 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: Now here’s Kristen Flavin with today’s news.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, NEWS ANCHOR: Muted celebrations ring in New Year » AUDIO: [Fireworks]

Revelers welcomed the new year with muted celebrations on Thursday.

In Australia, one of the first countries to hit January 1st, fireworks exploded over Sydney’s famed Opera House as usual. But few people saw them in person. 

New York’s Times Square, normally filled with thousands of people, remained empty ahead of the iconic crystal ball drop at midnight.

South Korea canceled its annual New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony—the first time that’s happened since it began in 1953. And police across Europe enforced early curfews designed to keep crowds from gathering.

But in a few counties where COVID-19 cases remain low—Taiwan and parts of the South Pacific, including New Zealand—public celebrations carried on much like normal.

Census misses end-of-year deadline » The U.S. Census Bureau did not release the final figures for this year’s population count on Thursday, as required by law. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has that story.

ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: It was the first time the bureau missed the December 31st deadline in 40 years.

Agency officials say they plan to deliver the final count by early this year. But internal documents obtained earlier this month by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform show the numbers might not be ready until after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20th.

The missed deadline does not come with any penalties. But it could put an end to President Trump’s plan to exclude illegal residents from the official count before it’s approved.

The president has already directed the bureau to exclude illegal residents from the count used to reapportion congressional districts, but his successor could rescind that order.

In addition to redrawing the congressional map, census counts are used to divvy up $1.5 trillion in federal funding each year.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.

McConnell again blocks stimulus check expansion » For the third day in a row, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked an attempt to increase the amount of COVID-19 stimulus checks.

MCCONNELL: Borrowing from our grandkids to do socialism for rich people is a terrible way to get help to families who actually need it. 

The House bill would boost the checks headed to most Americans from $600 to $2,000. It passed with bipartisan support at the urging of President Trump.

But McConnell has resisted calls to approve the additional spending in the Senate—unless it’s targeted to the families who actually need it. The stimulus checks already approved in the $900 billion package will go to anyone earning up to $75,000, regardless of financial hardship.

McConnell proposed a compromise that would include the $2,000 dollar payments as well as repeal protections for tech companies and establish a bipartisan commission to review the election results.

But Minority Leader Chuck Schumer rejected that proposal.

SCHUMER: The House is gone for the session. Any modification or addition to the House bill can’t become law. Either the Senate takes up and passes the House bill or struggling Americans will not get $2,000 checks during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The Senate will reconvene today to vote on a measure to override President Trump’s veto of the defense policy bill. 

Sen. David Perdue to quarantine in final days of campaign » Senator David Perdue announced Thursday that he will go into quarantine after being exposed to someone with COVID-19.

The Republican lawmaker is in the final days of a tight runoff race for one of Georgia’s two Senate seats. The statement issued by his campaign did not say whether he intended to leave quarantine before Tuesday’s vote.

Perdue is facing Democrat Jon Ossoff while fellow Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler is defending her seat against Democrat Raphael Warnock.

Both Republican candidates were scheduled to join President Trump Monday for a rally in heavily conservative northwest Georgia.

I’m Kristen Flavin.

Straight ahead: the biggest cultural stories of 2020.

Plus, your Listener Feedback.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday,  January 1st, 2021. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It.

Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

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

Well, we’ve left 2020 behind and I think we have broad agreement that it was a rough year, with the Covid crisis, the resulting lockdowns, the illnesses and deaths, the economic devastation, the racial tension, an impeachment, and then of course the difficult election. 

We had wildfires, we had murder hornets, we had a split in the royal family.

And then we came to the end of the year to discover our critical national-security infrastructure had been hacked.

REICHARD: But we ought not to leave it behind without a final examination and a look ahead to the new year that is 2021.

It’s Culture Friday and so let’s welcome Katie McCoy. She’s assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas.

EICHER: Katie, good morning to you. Happy New Year!

KATIE MCCOY, GUEST: Good morning to you both. Happy New Year! If ever there was a year we were so excited to be able to greet, I think it’s 2021.

REICHARD: Indeed. As we recounted yesterday, clearly Covid was the big story of the year. But what about from a cultural standpoint, what do you think we’ll point to in 2020 where we say, OK, that’s where everything changed and we’re probably not going back?

MCCOY: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think that, first of all, this year is going to be one that we’re going to be talking about for decades. This is going to be a pivotal year in, certainly, a generational sense but culturally, as you pointed out as well. 

I think on the negative, if we could pinpoint anything, it would be our relationship to society and our government. That you saw so many conflicting ideas come to the forefront of what our relationship to society and government should be. 

On the positive side of that, though, I think it showed with the disruption and everything that happened this year was a disruption of what we were trusting in, in our own lives, and with that it was a return to, I think, looking at what do we actually value and consider important. 

And on the plus side, with the pandemic, certainly, you saw a return to the basics of what it means to be a good person in society. You saw people being concerned about hunger and food banks and taking care of their neighbors and making sure we spread good news. And there was a return to being aware of your community in a way that I don’t know we had before. 

Certainly in churches. You saw churches go back to the basics of what does it mean to be a church. And it means that we proclaim God’s word, that we take care of each other, that we are present in our communities. So, you saw also, I know I found this in my church, there was this return to really valuing and even treasuring the ordinances of the church—baptism and the Lord’s Supper. That’s something that I don’t think we really treasured before like we did before this pandemic, when we couldn’t meet. 

And then also on the positive, I think we saw an appreciation of the people we often overlook: the bus drivers, the teachers, the grocery store workers. All of a sudden they became what we called the essential workers. They became the people without whom we couldn’t function. And we saw this kind of return of valuing the individual who just gets up and does the grunt work that we all need and thanking them and having a deeper appreciation for those people who are often unseen and overlooked in our society.

EICHER: In academics, we’ve talked about this in times past, I know you’re concerned about illiberalism in academia, threats to freedom of speech on campus, cancel culture, with that remarkable letter from academics on the left wondering whether we’ve gone too far, the hounding out of journalists like Bari Weiss from The New York Times

Reflect on that a bit.

MCCOY: You know, cancel culture is another way that we are seeing our values system disrupted and we’re, again, having to ask that question of “What is our relationship with society and our government? What do we value?” And this really is a clash of values. On the one hand, you have what some would call the traditional culture of faith, family, individual freedoms, individual liberties. And then on the other side, you have a movement that is looking at all those things and saying it has been a tool of oppression. It’s been a tool of keeping other people marginalized and how do we disrupt that? And one of the things that I think we see from this year is this difference between reforming and replacing. Some people say we need to reform certain institutions or certain spheres of society. And other people say we need to completely disrupt and replace them. 

The challenge of that is what are we going to hinge our sense of morality on? Because it is very much a sense of morality. It has right and wrong. It has sins and pennants and atonement and all of that that you practice to be part of it. But we haven’t yet found with this new illiberalism, we’ve not yet found what the true doctrines are. 

It’s something that we’re seeing evolve and there’s no anchor. We’ve not yet found a solution to it. And I think it’s going to continue to spiral out of control.

REICHARD: I want to ask you about something else: the transgender moment. Your area of academic specialty is women’s studies. 

We had a major Supreme Court decision advancing transgenderism in the law, despite warnings of harm to biological women and laws meant to lift them up: women’s sports programs, promotion of women-ownership of businesses. Practical questions like that, but from your perspective, what does the transgender moment really mean to you?

MCCOY: In 2020, the transgender movement really made mainstream the idea that gender is a feeling. We saw it on the fringes. We saw it in certain pockets of society and certain academic arenas, but now it became mainstream. And you can always tell when something is becoming mainstream when the language shifts. And we saw that throughout this year that now women are not women, they’re birthing persons. They have uteruses. All of a sudden, it is separating personhood from biology. And, ironically, it is doing so in an attempt to downplay the significance of biology to personhood. Go figure. 

And this is, again, where the Christian worldview enters into the conversation and provides a holistic view of humanity that we are both material and immaterial beings, that we are created intentionally male and female, man and woman. 

But with transgenderism, this year we saw it become far more mainstream and couple that with your point about the cancel culture, now it becomes a social sin to challenge it. 

We saw the attempted silencing of a very important book by a woman named Abigail Shrier called Irreversible Damage. And what Abigail Shrier points out is that there is an undercurrent in especially our public school system that is pulling young people into transgender ideology because it is a socially influenced idea. It is a socially influenced identity. 

I’m hearing more and more from people who talk to Sunday school classes and small groups in their church and say that now my daughter is graduating from high school and it’s the cool thing to be trans. It’s now the minority to be cis-gendered. So, this year is one that we will look back on and see that it became mainstream not primarily because it became an adopted identity, but because it became an accepted part of society that we see in language and we’re about to see it in laws. 

You mentioned the election. Well, with a Biden presidency, one of his main priorities is to pass the Equality Act and that is hinging on a Senate vote. If the Republicans lose the Senate in this Georgia runoff election, we can almost certainly look at the passing of the Equality Act. And that will be another step towards making the maintaining of a biblical sexual ethic and the insistence that God created us male and female intentionally, that gender is a binary idea, that will increasingly become a hostile concept in our society.

EICHER: Christians are people of hope. So let’s end that way. Looking into 2021, this is day one of the rest of 2021. What are you looking forward to in the new year?

MCCOY: I think taking the good that happened in 2020 and I would love to see that flourish. One of the best stories that came out of this year was from a church in Nashville. 

And it traced a horrible tragedy that led a mother to seek Christ and come to Christ and if we were to look at this spiritually and see this through spiritual eyes, we would hopefully welcome the disruption of what we are trusting in—whether that is our political processes, whether that is socially dominant morals or ideas—and we would become the church that Jesus intended us to be, that we would cling to the values of loving God and loving our neighbor, that we would continue to focus on what is important and enduring. And I would love to see us become and continue to grow in becoming that type of church in the community. 

The early church, they faced even greater odds than we do today. And they turned the world upside down in a few generations. And they did it simply by proclaiming Christ, living set apart lives unto the Lord, and loving each other. And I think we can do that again.

EICHER: Katie McCoy, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. Katie, thanks for being with us and happy 2021.

MCCOY: Happy 2021! Great to be with you all.

REICHARD: Thanks, Katie.

NICK EICHER, HOST: A man in upstate New York bought a fixer-upper house west of Albany and got a bit more than he bargained for. 

Nick Drummond set about improving his hundred year old house. And under the floorboards, he stumbled upon a secret stash. 

He told USA Today

DRUMMOND: And after ripping off sort of a few boards at the same time, something sort of tumbles out of the wall. And I was like – is this insulation? But there was like clanking.

Clanking like bottles, 88 of them. Specifically, whiskey bottles from the Prohibition era. 

Some bottles were still full and sealed with labels with contents described as blended Gaelic whiskey from Scotland, dated from 1920s and earlier. 

Drummond said he’s not quite sure yet what to do with the bottles. But he’s had a lot of fun researching the rumors about the house and the bootleggers who once called it home.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, January 1st. 

You’re listening to WORLD Radio on this first day of the new year, and we’re so glad you are. 

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Emily Whitten reviews two films about Biblical distortion that has infiltrated too many American churches.

AUDIO: The Bible is so helpful to us if we just read it. We’re gonna read things that offend our sensibilities. Did God kill Jesus? Yes. I don’t think God killed Jesus. You cannot read the gospels and think that.

EMILY WHITTEN, REVIEWER: That’s just one of the theological debates featured in the 2019 film, American Gospel: Christ Crucified. It’s the second in the American Gospel series created by Brandon Kimber. The series launched in 2018 but reached a wider audience on Netflix this May. Both American Gospel films help viewers scrutinize distortions of the Biblical gospel in American culture.

In the first film, subtitled Christ Alone, Kimber takes on the prosperity gospel and Word of Faith movement. He shows the Biblical gospel is all about Christ and His work of redemption. The prosperity gospel isn’t.

AUDIO: ‘Scripture says we make the mistake of thinking God is just like us.’ ‘What you do is you make a God who only wants to give you the desires of your heart.’ ‘Money cometh to me!’ ‘Your destiny is calling out. It’s time to start living large.’

Kimber’s Transition Studios achieves a high production value here, moving viewers quickly through documentary-style interviews without narration. Illustrations, virtual chalkboards, and highlighted Bible verses also help clarify important ideas.

One major plus—Kimber lets his opponents speak for themselves when possible. He explained his approach in a Youtube interview with author Doreen Virtue.

AUDIO: I think it’s very interesting. This almost in a debate style format where I think it will be really helpful for people to see what the other side is saying and how you would respond, your objections. 

Even with that give and take, the films clearly support Reformed views on a wide range of issues. We hear from plenty of famous Christians like Alistair Begg, John MacArthur, and Costi Hinn. But Kimber adds depth by interviewing people who aren’t famous, like the Berger family. It’s one thing to say against prosperity teaching that God doesn’t always heal His children immediately. But the Bergers show us what it looks like to walk humbly with God through deep pain.

AUDIO: That’s sort of what palliative care is, honestly, and that’s the space that we live in. Where you’ve got one foot in the medical world and one foot out of it.

Katherine Berger and her daughter both have a genetic disease that makes everyday life excruciating at times. So, when their family says God is good, their witness carries a lot of weight.

Another positive feature in Christ Alone—Kimber includes a full-throated presentation of the Biblical gospel before tearing down unBiblical ideas. That order is crucial for people still in the Word of Faith movement, like Samantha. You can hear her testimony on the American Gospel YouTube channel.

AUDIO: It was so freeing, because I understood this is so simple. By grace you’ve been saved through faith. I just felt so free in that. And then they started breaking down everything I believed. So my whole foundation was just stripped away.

In the second American Gospel movie, subtitled Christ Crucified, Kimber criticizes what he calls Progressive Christianity. From Rob Bell and Tony Jones to Richard Rohr and Oprah, Christ Crucified looks at some of the ways liberal Christians distort the gospel. Here’s author and speaker Bart Campolo.

AUDIO: People say like, when did you lose your faith? It started like 15 minutes after I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and savior. 

This film deals with how God’s wrath and love fit together and whether non-Christians can go to heaven. The central argument, though, is penal substitution, or whether Jesus endured God’s wrath on the cross to save sinners. Russell Berger explains in the film.

AUDIO: So when someone calls the doctrine of penal substitution divine child abuse, they’re failing to make that distinction that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh laying down His life intentionally. That’s not child abuse. That is a hero of the story taking the cross to save His people.

The second film runs nearly three hours long, and that’s probably too long. Both films could have benefitted from a sharper focus. That said, those who subscribe to Kimber’s new streaming platform, AGTV, may get more from slower, incremental study.

Kimber plans to release a third American Gospel film, subtitled Spirit and Fire, on AGTV at the end of 2021. In the meantime, this series offers meaty theological discussion that continues to impact viewers. Evangelist Todd White publicly repented for several theological errors featured in the first film. Here’s a clip from one of his sermons last July.

AUDIO: I feel like I haven’t preached the whole gospel. I repent. 

It remains to be seen how deeply White will change. But other viewers report being challenged or saved while watching the films.

AUDIO: I’m so very grateful that we did get to watch American Gospel. We did leave that church. And I’m happy to say the last year we’ve been going to a Bible-believing church. 

For Christians weary of COVID-19 and political enmity, the American Gospel films offer a breath of fresh air. They clearly present the true gospel, and offer helpful primers on avoiding pitfalls on the left and right, theologically speaking. That’s truly good news.

I’m Emily Whitten.

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s New Year’s Day, 2021. Good morning to you. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up: Listener Feedback.

We will start today, as we always do, with corrections.

EICHER: On the December edition of Word Play, we attributed several songs to Mel Tormé that he didn’t actually write. “Born to Be Blue” is a Tormé composition. But not the following: “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” “Autumn in New York,” “Isn’t It Romantic,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” are not—although he did sing them.

REICHARD: Ok, moving on now to another song that gave quite a few of you a good laugh. We’ll let listener Caleb Moan explain.

MOAN: Good morning! Long-time listener, first-time caller. Just finished the Culture Friday special episode with Dr. Al Mohler. And I must say, the outro music really brought a smile to my face, going back to a classic song that I’ve enjoyed, “You can call me Al.” Thank you so much for the work you guys do, and just giving me a little chuckle at 5:45 in the dark as I drive to work in the morning. Thank you so much, I really appreciate all you guys do.

EICHER: Ah, yes. One of my favorites. Just seemed like the right thing to do to lighten things up a little bit. 

REICHARD: Turns out Nick was on a roll this month.

SKELTON: Hey, this is Makayla Skelton. I listen in Hickory, North Carolina. I wanted to give a shout out to Nick Eicher for his well-placed Ted Lasso quote in his bit about pronouncing names on Friday. I heard it. I appreciated it. Well Done. Merry Christmas guys.

EICHER: Couldn’t resist. I should point out, it was a little Ted Lasso imitating Allen Iverson’s hilarious moment with the press after his coach called him out for missing practice. In that exchange that lasted maybe 2 minutes, the superstar used the word “practice” 22 times. It went a little like this.

IVERSON: I know it’s important. I do. I honestly do. But we’re talking about practice, man. What are we talking about? Practice? We’re talking about practice, man. [Laughter] We’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice. We ain’t talking about the game. We’re talking about practice, man.

OK, got it? We’re talking about practice.

REICHARD: Don’t you mean the game? Ah, never mind. Now, we get all kinds of feedback. Kudos, criticism, and sometimes story suggestions or requests, like this one:

PETERSON: Hi Nick and Mary. My name’s Ethan and I’m from Osage, Iowa. I’m 13. I enjoy listening to your program every morning, and watching The Big Bash. I enjoyed the story about the Cuban-American pastor. And I was wondering if you could do a story about a Japanese-American after Pearl Harbor bombing. Love your show! Thanks.

EICHER: Well, Ethan, that is a great suggestion! And next year is the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, so we’ll see what we can do.

REICHARD: Next we have a call from listener Tim Cox. He had a few specific questions, and we’ll answer those for him via email. But here’s how he started:

COX: I just got done giving to your December giving drive. And God bless you in that. I hope you reach the goal before the end of December.

EICHER: Well, Tim, we did! Thanks to you and so many, many thousands just like you. We still have to get a final score on this, and that’ll take several days because sometimes contributions come in by mail later on. But we know at this point we have shattered that goal. YOU have shattered that goal and that’s only going to help us do more of the journalism that you have come to rely on. So thank you for your generosity. 

REICHARD: And one final word of thanks. We greatly appreciate all of you who sent in Scripture readings for our Christmas week programs. That was a special way to end each day, and we couldn’t have done that without you, either! And that is our feedback for this week!

NICK EICHER, HOST: So many hardworking folks kept the program coming each day this week, juggling work with Christmas and New Year’s. So heartfelt thanks to Mryna Brown, Paul Butler, Kent Covington, Jamie Dean, Kristen Flavin, Katie Gaultney, Kim Henderson, Leigh Jones, Jill Nelson, Onize Ohikere, Jenny Rough, Les Sillars, and Emily Whitten.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: 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.

They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;  they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they will walk and not be faint.

Happy New Year!

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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