The World and Everything in It — January 29, 2021

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

President Biden signed lots of executive orders last week. One of them is likely to have an impact on womens’ sports.

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

Plus Megan Basham reviews a new Disney miniseries from Marvel Studios. It’s called Wanda Vision.

And your listener feedback.

REICHARD: It’s Friday, January 29th. 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: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Biden reopens Obamacare sign-up window » President Biden signed another pair of executive orders in the Oval Office on Thursday. 

BIDEN: And the first one I’m going to be signing here is to strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. 

With pen in hand, Biden said he wasn’t doing anything new on Thursday, but rather he was—quote—“restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president.”

Biden is directing federal agencies to review existing policies that may make it tougher to receive Medicaid, including work requirements. 

He’s also reopening the signup window for Obamacare. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters…

PSAKI: The Department of Health and Human Services will open for a special enrollment period from February 15th to May 15th. 

Biden rescinds Mexico City Policy, restores abortion funding » Also on Thursday, Biden took action to increase access to abortion, both at home and abroad. 

He rescinded the so-called Mexico City Policy, which bars the government from giving taxpayer dollars to organizations that use it to perform or promote abortion overseas.

That drew a sharp rebuke from Republicans on Capitol Hill, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio. 

RUBIO: That this occurs here is shameful enough—and I believe that is what history will regard it—that we use taxpayer money to promote it and export it abroad is outrageous. 

Former President Obama also rescinded the Reagan-era Mexico City Policy in the opening days of his first term. President Trump restored it in the first week of his presidency.

A new Marist poll of roughly 1,200 U.S. adults found that more that 77 percent oppose using tax dollars to support abortion overseas.

Government report details economic impact of pandemic » Even as COVID-19 cases spiked late last year, the U.S. economy actually grew at a 4 percent annual rate in the last three months of 2020. But of course, the numbers for the year overall told a different story. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Thursday’s government report on the U.S. economy in 2020 showed quite the roller coaster ride. 

The nation’s gross domestic product—its total output of goods and services—plunged at a record-shattering pace in the April-to-June quarter. It dropped at an annual rate of more than 31 percent.

Then in the July-to-September quarter, a record surge of more than 33 percent. 

But for the year as a whole, the pandemic dealt a crushing blow, inflicting the worst economic freeze since the end of World War II.

The economy overall contracted 3.5 percent.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

Cases of South Africa coronavirus variant confirmed in U.S. » A new strain of the coronavirus identified in South Africa has spread to South Carolina

State health officials Thursday announced the first two confirmed cases of the variant on U.S. soil. 

The two patients live in different parts of the state and neither of them has traveled recently. 

Dr. Krutika Kuppalli is an infectious disease physician at the Medical University of South Carolina. She called the news “frightening,” because it means there are likely more undetected cases within the state. 

New strains of the virus appear to be more contagious. 

Liquid nitrogen mishap kills 6 in Georgia » Six people are dead in Georgia after a liquid nitrogen accident at a poultry plant. 

Fire crews responded to a chemical leak at Prime Pak Foods in Gainesville Thursday morning. Zach Brackett is Hall County Fire Division Chief.

BRACKETT: Once the units arrived, they found a large contingent of employees that had evacuated, along with multiple victims that were in that crowd that were also experiencing medical emergencies. 

Five people died at the plant, and one more died at a local hospital. 

Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch asked the public to pray for the wounded and for the families of the victims.

COUCH: These folks that came into work today did not have any idea of what would happen, nor did their families. They’re not in a profession that you would expect something like this to happen, but here we are. 

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the accident. Refrigeration systems at poultry plants sometimes use liquid nitrogen.

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: executive orders erasing gender.

Plus, your listener feedback.

This is The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Friday,  January 29th, 2021.

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. Last week, President Biden signed 19 executive orders. He signed more yesterday, so now we’re up to more than 30.

Topics range from COVID relief to climate change to undoing Trump’s order to work toward deregulation: in other words, that for every new regulation approved, two had to go.

And then the executive order I want to talk about today.

It’s titled “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” It lets people with male chromosomes compete against those with female chromosomes. 

Not to be overly scientific: boys against girls. Here’s language from the order justifying this change: 

“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”

EICHER: 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.

REICHARD: Morning, Katie.

KATIE MCCOY, GUEST: Hey, Nick and Mary. Good to be with you, as always.

REICHARD: This seems right up your alley as a women’s-studies professor. I’ve always understood one of the aims of the feminist movement was promoting equality for women and Title IX specifically led to opportunities for female athletes. Do you think that complaints we’ve heard that this is the death knell for women’s sports are a bit overblown? 

Is it really reasonable to believe there’s going to be this rush of born-male athletes identifying as women and displacing born-female athletes from positions in the lineup?

MCCOY: It’s a good question. I think the significance of this executive order is more in the precedent that it sets more so than the number of transgender athletes that will be represented in womens’ sports. Of course, we’re already hearing about teenage girls who have been elbowed out of winning competitions and then consequently I don’t know how that would affect their scholarship opportunities. 

Christiana Holcombe of Alliance Defending Freedom has been defending three different — I believe it’s three — teenage girls. And she had a fascinating observation. She said that here we celebrate the first female vice president and then hours later eviscerate womens’ sports and spaces. It isn’t pro-woman. 

And I would have to agree. It’s entirely not pro-woman. One of the ironies is that second-wave feminism advocated for womens’ expanded rights and social parity on the basis of the belief that they were oppressed because they were born female. And that one’s femaleness was a predictor of one’s cultural and social experience.

And so one of the things that has been reversed in all of this transgenderism and the rise of transgender in the mainstream has been that now a biological male can define what it is to be a woman. It actually doesn’t get more patriarchal than that.

EICHER: Along these same lines, the new president repealed what’s been called the ban on transgender service in the military.

BIDEN: And what I’m doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform, and essentially restoring the situation as it existed before, with transgender personnel, if qualified in every other way, can serve their government in the United States military. So that’s what I’m about to sign.

What struck me as I read the order was this sentence:

“The Secretary of Defense … concluded that it was appropriate to create a process that would enable service members to take steps to transition gender while serving.”

That sounds to me like the military paying for hormone treatments and surgeries. Again, this seems at odds with traditional understandings of women’s rights or a strain of feminism that promoted equal opportunity for women in the military.

MCCOY: Yeah, in fact, I think even expanding that conversation to not just the military covering for hormone therapies and surgical procedures, but I think we’re not too far away from requiring private healthcare providers to cover that as well. 

So I think that we’re probably two, maybe max five years away from almost like an Affordable Care Act 2.0. Here we thought the contraception mandate was going to be this real watershed moment in our culture about religious liberty and healthcare. I think we have just seen the beginning. 

I think it’s reasonable to assume that as gender identity and transgenderism becomes a civil right and increasingly accepted as a civil right for biological males to identify as women and vice versa, that we’re going to see more and more pressure for health-insurance providers to cover hormonal treatment therapies and surgical procedures and to require private companies to subsidize and cover for those treatments as well.

EICHER: Did you see this story from Baylor? A friend of mine put out a Tweet that called the transgender orders and a reversal on a protective pro-life policy anti-science and bad for human flourishing. And a woman who is a lecturer at Baylor basically agreed with it—and said provocatively—what if I don’t want biological boys in the bathroom with my biological daughter? Do the 99 percent of us who do not struggle with gender dysphoria have a voice? No? Cool.

According to the journalist Rod Dreher: “Baylor students … report[ed] her message to Title IX, BU Equity, Baylor NAACP, and It’s On Us BU. It has since been deleted.”

It doesn’t appear Baylor is taking official action and the department chair plans to have her back, but it is one of these issues you want to watch—whether it’ll be a cancel culture moment or whether Baylor will stand for the lecturer’s freedom to speak.

You pay attention to trends in higher education like this. Do you see this one as a bellwether?

MCCOY: Absolutely. And I think the wording in Biden’s executive order sets the stage for that. 

You’ll notice, Mary, when you quoted the exact line it frames the dilemma in terms of children being denied access to the restroom, locker rooms, and school sports. I don’t know of a scenario in which a school administrator is denying a child access to those spaces. It seems like the real issue is they’re being denied access to those spaces of their gender preference. And so it’s really this matter of their preference—the restroom of their preference, the locker room of their preference, the sport team of their preference. And so what the wording in that seems to do—I’m not a lawyer—but it seems to make it on par with denying a child access to any social space. So, in other words, if you’re denying a child access to the social space of their preference, you’re denying them access to any social space. It is tantamount to forbidding a child from going to the bathroom if you tell that child that he or she cannot pick the bathroom of their choice. 

The reason that this is also happening just at this lightning, break-neck cultural speed is that this is the new cultural ethos. This is the new cultural morality. It is the belief that one’s biological sex is irrelevant to one’s identity and one’s gender identity. And that one’s gender identity is actually based on an internal, psychological state. 

So in a culture that values individuality so much that cultural, social, and religious influences are viewed as restraining or constraining someone from being their true, authentic self, then objecting to someone’s chosen gender identity is a cardinal sin. 

And that’s exactly what we’re seeing in this response to the Baylor professor.

REICHARD: You mention breakneck speed of change. How do you address these topics,  and I assume you do as a seminary teacher.  From a Christian perspective, to express empathy for people with gender dysphoria but also we want to stand for what’s true. How do you balance that?

MCCOY: Absolutely. Well, I’m so glad you brought that up because it reminds us all that when we’re talking about these headlines, these headlines represent people. 

And the core problem of our human condition is that we need to be reconciled to our creator. And we Christians have that message. And I think it’s important to go back to the basics that no matter how complicated our world becomes, the solution is actually quite simple. 

The Bible tells us that God created the world and said it was good. God created humanity and said it as good. So our material world, our physical selves are good. The fact that Jesus resurrected bodily and that we, too, will be bodily resurrected reinforces the goodness of our physical selves. So, our personhood is more than our physical bodies, but it isn’t less. And we will never understand the significance of what it means to be male or female and we will never find the inner wholeness of our gender identity as man or woman apart from being reconciled to the Creator who made us. 

And He made us male and female in His image.

EICHER: Katie McCoy, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas.

REICHARD: Thanks, Katie.

MCCOY: Always great to be with you.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Imagine for a moment that you’re creeping along a snowy highway in the foothills of southern Oregon, when suddenly your tires are spinning in the snow, and you’re stuck!

But that’s when a good Samaritan knocks on your window and offers to stick a needle in your arm

Well, that’s what happened this week in Grants Pass, Oregon. 

Health workers got stuck in the snow along with many other drivers and they were carrying coronavirus vaccine doses that were about to expire. 

So rather than see those shots go to waste, they set up an impromptu vaccine clinic right there on the frozen asphalt. 

An ambulance was even on hand for safety.

Josephine County Public Health Director Mike Weber called the snowbound vaccine operation one of the coolest things he’d ever been a part of.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, January 29th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are. 

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: You may not be able to see a new Marvel movie in theaters, but you can watch the studio’s first show on Disney+.

Megan Basham has our review.

MEGAN BASHAM, REVIEWER: Give executive producer Kevin Feige and the Marvel team credit for this: They are willing to take a risk on a creative vision. We saw this when Taika Waititi bucked expectations set by previous Thor movies for a stalwart, iron-jawed hero. Instead he turned Ragnarok into a goofy buddy comedy. 

We saw it when the studio gambled on bizarre characters from a minor comic with almost zero name recognition, that is, Guardians of the Galaxy. It then handed the reins over to little-known horror director James Gunn. 

And now, having transformed superhero movies from the gritty sturm und drang of Batman to lighthearted extravaganzas, Marvel has taken yet another unexpected turn. It’s downsizing and going introspective with perhaps its strangest offering to date, WandaVision.

CLIP: Do you think they know its my fault? Our neighbors? Well, yes, with all the close calls we’ve been having, it seems the people of Westview are always on the verge of discovering our secret. Yes, I know what you mean. But it’s more than that, isn’t it. Mrs. and Mrs. Hart. Dinner. Outside with Herb. I think something’s wrong here Wanda.

The Disney+ series, airing, like The Mandalorian, in weekly installments, couldn’t lean any further into its small screen stature without falling over.

When we left Wanda Maximoff, played Elizabeth Olsen, in Avengers: Endgame, the infinity stones had resurrected her from Thanos’ cosmic death snap. But her android love, Vision, played by Paul Bettany, was killed before the great disintegration, and can therefore ne’re return.

The first episode of WandaVision offers no bridge from the couple’s final separation except what we can infer from the fantasy setting. It’s a black and white, laugh-tracked sitcom a la I Love Lucy or Dick Van Dyke. The next two episodes update the period incrementally, going from a Bewitched-style backdrop to something more like The Brady Bunch. But the false cheeriness and contrived dilemmas don’t alter, except when a bossy neighbor breaks character to telegraph something like real terror through her pleading gaze. Or when an eerie voice with a decidedly modern accent comes through the old RCA radio.

CLIP:  I’ve heard things about you. You and your husband. Well I don’t know what you’ve been told, but I assure you I don’t mean anyone any harm. I don’t believe you. Wanda. Wanda, can you read me? Who is that? Who are you. Wanda. Wanda. Who is doing this to you Wanda?

But these are all the disruptions of a moment, easily dismissed when you have a superhero’s ability to bend reality. A quick snap of Wanda’s fingers and it’s back to whipping up a last-minute magical dinner to impress the boss so hubby can win the big promotion.

CLIP: Can I just see you in the kitchen for a moment sweetheart? Who are those people? What are you wearing? Why are they here? What are you wearing? Well it’s our anniversary. Our anniversary of what? Well if you don’t know I’m not going to tell you. That man through there is my boss Mr. Hart. And his dear lady wife Mrs. Hart. The heart on the calendar was an abbreviation. You move at the speed of sound and I can make a pen float through the air, who needs to abbreviate?

We can only guess at this point, but it seems plain Wanda is hiding in the place so many of us do when facing loss or pain—in the imaginary world of the television. The central mystery rolls out slowly, allowing us to get lost in the superficial plot lines just as Wanda does.

It’s understandable if, upon first seeing the initial “Pleasant Valley Sunday” setting, you brace yourself for a commentary on the oppressive nature of marriage circa 1950. Or glass ceilings circa 1970. But WandaVision isn’t interested in any of that. Through Wanda and Vision’s relationship we see a surprisingly touching tribute to that earthly institution Scripture calls the grace of life.  The fantasy Wanda escapes to is a traditional marriage to the man she loves, complete with homemaking and children. No one is sneering at suburbia here.

CLIP: We are an usual couple you know. Oh I don’t think that was ever in question. What I mean is, we don’t have an anniversary. Huh. Or a song. Or even wedding rings. Well we could remedy that. Today could be our wedding anniversary. Of what, surviving our first dinner party? Precisely. And our song could be. Yakety yak, naturally. Naturally. And the rings. Well, couldn’t you make some for us? I do. Do you? Yes, I do. And they lived happily ever after.

In fact, in the first three episodes, with the exception of a stray minor profanity here, a subtle, off-color joke there, this is all the PG, nearly G rated world we remember from Leave it to Beaver and Andy Griffith.

With no fight scenes and few special effects, so far, at least, this is less a show about saving the world than about building a family and forming a community. Which, in its own way, amounts to the same thing.

 I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, January 29th. 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. Next up: your listener feedback.

REICHARD: We’ll start the way we usually do by admitting our faults.

EICHER: Do we really have that much time today?

REICHARD: Haha! Good for the soul.

Well, let’s begin with a news-story correction.

We reported on the death of singer Gerry Marsden, and inadvertently referred to his music group as Gerry and the Peacemakers. It’s actually Gerry and the Pacemakers. And really this falls into the category of a slip of the tongue. We’d written it properly, but when the time came to read it, well, you know what happened.

EICHER: Been there, done that. Next one comes from a recent WORLD History Book. We referred to John F. Kennedy as the youngest U.S. president. That’s partly correct. He was the youngest man ever elected president. But Teddy Roosevelt was the youngest to hold office when he got the job after William McKinley’s assassination.

REICHARD: Let’s hear from listener Frances Cook who brought to our attention something really important.

COOK: We celebrated Monday, January 18th as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday here and I was disappointed that the podcast made no mention of the holiday. Otherwise, thanks for a great news program. I listen every morning.

EICHER: Absolutely right. Regrettable oversight. Very sorry we missed that. Shouldn’t have. Appreciate the gentle correction!

REICHARD: Turning now to the segment that generated the most feedback this month: last week’s Culture Friday interview with popular podcasters Darryl Harrison and Virgil Walker. We’ll start with listener Matt Brown from Boone, North Carolina.

BROWN: Outstanding. So desperately needed in this time to get clarity, to get the still thinking, to get worldview that we as Christians need to be embracing. Convicting. Challenging. Thanks for that interview and I would hope that we could hear from them again, periodically, since they are so clear in how they state the mission and challenge of the church.

EICHER: Listener Chris Kinsinger wrote in to register his disagreement. He says he thinks evangelicals have developed a reputation that overemphasizes politics.

He thought Harrison and Walker conflated 

allegiance to Christ with … allegiance to the political ideology of the Republican Party. It sounded [to him] like a call to oppose the Biden administration and continue the division that is dominating our society.

[He says he thought it was a missed opportunity] to  bring healing to those wounds on Friday.

REICHARD: Moving on now to another segment that generated quite a bit of feedback: Emily Whitten’s interview with Krysten Getty about teaching hymns to children. Here’s listener Austin Smith.

SMITH: I thought it was full of some very helpful suggestions, as well as provided a great window into the life of the Getty family and what life can look like for one family of Christians seeking to raise their children and give them the gift of music and the gift of sound doctrine. I did want to say that I thought you missed an opportunity to include fathers in that important formative role of the children in the home. So, thank you for sharing it and maybe next time you could get Keith to chime in as well or find other ways to emphasize that both mothers and fathers have important, unique roles to play in the formation of their children.

EICHER: Next, we’ll hear from a listener who noticed a new look to our podcast logo.

MCALLISTER: Hi there. My name’s Ian McAllister. I’m listening from Western Massachusetts. Just wanted to say I love the new show logos, the icons that show up on the website and in the podcast app. Great redesign. It looks really good.

REICHARD: We should mention, of course, that not everyone liked the new color scheme. We understand that. Hopefully it will grow on you!

EICHER: I’ve been around for a very long time. Can’t tell you how many design tweaks we’ve made to the magazine, the website and, yes, change isn’t always welcome. The idea was to bring some unity to all the different podcasts we’re doing.

Ok, well we have one more call today and that’ll bring us to the end of this month’s feedback. So last word from listener Rick Kellum who wanted to offer some praise for this week’s commentary from Kim Henderson.

KELLUM: I felt like the perspective was right on, biblically, and one that we really need to remember as believers. The quotable was, “For most Christians the war isn’t in Washington. It’s within.” How true. Thank you so much, Kim, and thank you to the team at The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Well it takes many people to put this program together each morning. So we want to say thanks to: Megan Basham, Anna Johansen Brown, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Kristen Flavin, Katie Gaultney, Kim Henderson, Leigh Jones, Onize Ohikere, Sarah Schweinsberg, and Cal Thomas.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Much thanks to audio engineers Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz who 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. Your support makes the difference. Thank you so much! 

May you have a restful weekend, and worship alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ.

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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