The World and Everything in It — February 16, 2021


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning! 

President Biden extends the moratorium on evictions and his upcoming stimulus package offers more rent assistance. But are these measures necessary?

NICK EICHER, HOST: Also the internal report on the late apologist Ravi Zacharias has been released. We’ll talk about it. 

Plus, The Olasky Interview, this time with Christian Sociologist Mark Regnerus on the state of Christian marriage around the world.

And WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney on the standard of beauty.

REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, February 16th. 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:

TKTKTK

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: the push for rental assistance.

Plus, Janie B. Cheaney on rejoicing in beauty.

This is The World and Everything in It.


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 16th of February, 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. First up: COVID-19 and rent.

Since last March, most renters who miss payments cannot be evicted. It’s part of an order under the government’s broad authority to curb the spread of disease. This COVID order extends through March 31st.

REICHARD: Additionally, those who can’t pay can apply for help through a rental assistance program approved by Congress last year. It includes about $25 billion for qualified tenants. 

And the assistance fund could soon grow: President Biden’s proposed stimulus package promises another $30 billion for renters and landlords.

EICHER: Is all that federal rent assistance really necessary? WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg reports.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Aden Batar works with more than 100 refugee families in the Salt Lake City area. His agency, Catholic Community Services, helps them get settled. 

BATAR: When they arrive, it is our responsibility to find housing for them wherever we can find it. 

How many of these families live in rental housing? 

BATAR: All of them. 

Batar says the refugee community has had a difficult year. Most refugees work in service and labor-intensive jobs making $10 to $15 an hour. Most rent a three bedroom apartment for around $1,500 a month. 

BATAR: It takes at least two, two income to pay for those housing. 

But with COVID business closures and children home from school, some parents haven’t been able to work as much. Batar says 40 percent of his refugee families have asked for rent assistance this year. 

Batar says the eviction moratorium has been helpful because it offers families flexibility on payments. Flexibility, but not a free pass.

Even though landlords can’t evict families right now, not paying rent at all would have long-term consequences. 

BATAR: We don’t want anyone to have credit issues, right. So because landlords will report to the credit bureaus, we always encourage them to have their American Dream right to own their own homes. And so it is important that they financially become self sufficient, and also build their credit. 

Batar says stimulus checks and rental assistance have helped keep families from falling too far behind.

Landlords and property owners say federal money helps them, too. Bob Pinnegar heads the National Apartment Association. 

Even with government help, Pinnegar says some property owners are losing money every month because they can’t evict delinquent tenants.  

PINNEGAR: One of my volunteer leaders had a conversation with an operator out of Florida. And they were sharing that their uncollected rents is approaching a million dollars a month. So there is distress out there. 

Pinnegar says while eviction moratoriums remain in place, federal rent assistance for tenants offers renters a way to not get buried in back rent. And it gives landlords the ability to collect the money they need to pay their bills. 

PINNEGAR: I think that anything that we can do to try to assist is going to ensure that we maintain our rental stock on the other side of this crisis.

But despite federal help, millions of Americans are still struggling. 

According to data analyzed by the Center On Budget and Policy Priorities, about 13 million adults—or 1 in 5 renters—are behind on rent. The Center gathers that data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. But it only began collecting that data after the pandemic started, so it can’t be directly compared to pre-COVID rates. 

Other data does shed some light on how COVID conditions have affected renters. 

Joel Griffith is a financial regulations scholar at the Heritage Foundation. He points to numbers from the National Multifamily Housing Council. It collects information from 11 million rental units. 

Griffith says analysis shows pre-COVID and post-COVID rental payments haven’t changed that much. 

GRIFFITH: If you look at data from the National Multifamily Housing Council, it shows that 93.8 percent actually made their rent payments by the end of December, and that is very close to the number from December of 2019, which is close to 96 percent. So you’re talking about roughly a 2 percentage point difference.

Griffith argues that increase in delinquent renters doesn’t warrant another $30 billion in taxpayer-funded assistance. 

GRIFFITH: That suggests that there’s about 900,000 to 1.3 million additional people delinquent each month. Well, $30 billion in additional aid, divided by roughly 1 million delinquent renters. That’s about $23,000 to $33,000 over the course of one year, for each of those delinquent units. That’s a lot of money. 

Joel Griffith says the rental market is ready to get back to normal. No more eviction moratoriums and no more federal spending programs. 

GRIFFITH: The fact is, we have an economic recovery underway, not because of increased federal funding. We have an economic recovery underway right now, because large parts of the country have actually opened up. 

But even after a full economic recovery millions of Americans will still struggle to pay their rent. That was the case pre-pandemic, says Michael Tanner. He’s a poverty scholar at the Cato Institute. 

Tanner says shutdowns have just intensified existing rental market problems. 

TANNER: How you disaggregate the existing problem from the COVID portion is something that statisticians can argue about. But I think there’s no doubt that we had a problem before COVID with high rental costs, caused by too little supply of rental units needing to be dealt with through more building. And we have a problem that is caused by COVID of people not having income in order to pay their rents. And you can argue about how the interplay between the two works. But they’re both problems.

But Tanner worries government efforts to help solve rent struggles caused by COVID-shutdowns will lead to bigger issues down the road.

TANNER: What we want to be careful of when you have a federal program like this is it tends to live forever. What you don’t want to do is have short term interventions become a long term program that will end up doing more harm than good.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.


NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: Misconduct in ministry.

Now, a warning: this story is probably not suitable for younger listeners. So if you have some young ones nearby, you might want to hit pause right now and come back at a later time.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Alright. Three years before he died, well-known Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias had fended off claims of abuse made against him by a female follower, Lori Anne Thompson. Zacharias accused Thompson and her husband of extortion and sued them for emotional damages.

EICHER: He later settled with the couple for an undisclosed amount and a promise not to talk about what happened. No other accusations against Zacharias surfaced until after his death from cancer in May. But then several women came forward with similar stories that revealed a pattern of inappropriate behavior. That prompted the board of his ministry to launch an investigation. RZIM released its findings last week.

REICHARD: Joining us now to talk about it is WORLD’s Emily Belz. She covered some of the early allegations against Ravi Zacharias last year and wrote about last week’s report.

Good morning, Emily.

EMILY BELZ, REPORTER: Good morning, Mary. 

REICHARD: Let’s start with the evidence this report is based upon. Who were the investigators, and how did they go about gathering evidence? 

BELZ: This all starts with two spas that Zacharias owned. And last year there was a lone atheist lawyer named Steve Boffman who was going on and on in a YouTube channel about how Ravi Zacharias owned spas. And it all seemed a little shaky and far-fetched, but we decided to look into it and confirmed with multiple sources in our reporting over the summer that Zacharias was in the spa business and Boffman was right. Zacharias did have back problems, so he had regular massage appointments, which some spa employees told me he used as a cover for sexual misbehavior. So, all of that leads to the reports we did last fall and then RZIM—the ministry that he founded—hired a law firm and private investigators and they interviewed more than a dozen massage therapists in the U.S. who served him over the years. And they also got several recent mobile devices and one laptop from the ministry that he had used. And he had many devices, but the investigators were only able to get a few from the last few years. So, there’s really no telling what else was on the previous devices over the decades. 

REICHARD: And what did the investigators find?

BELZ: They found a lot for such a short period of time. The phones contained contact info for more than 200 massage therapists and there were hundreds of photos of young women, including nude photos as well as photos of Lori Anne Thompson, who had accused him previously. And she had been dismissed by RZIM and the public, essentially. So, the interviews that the investigators did with therapists revealed some really horrible stuff, which I won’t share in detail on here, but a number of women said that he would take advantage of them during massage appointments. And one therapist reported multiple rapes. There was another therapist who told the investigators that she remembered tying his arms down with sheets during appointments so that he wouldn’t touch her. 

REICHARD: Investigators interviewed women in the United States, but they also found evidence of alleged misconduct overseas, too. Did they look into that as well?

BELZ: The investigators didn’t send anyone on the ground to investigate potential abuse overseas because their main goal was just to establish if he had committed sexual misconduct, which they found plenty of evidence for just in the U.S. But he did spend a lot of his ministry overseas and his phones revealed a lot about his overseas activities. The investigators said that he spent long stretches alone in different parts of Asia, staying in hotels where he had massage therapists come to his rooms. And he owned two apartments in a building in Bangkok—one where he stayed and one where a therapist stayed. They also found on his phone notes that were saved with suggestive phrases translated in Thai and Mandarin. So, he also apparently had a discretionary fund called “Touch of Hope” which he used to wire money to several massage therapists and he paid for some of their schooling and living expenses. And that was with ministry funds, which is another problem in all of this report. 

REICHARD: We mentioned Lori Anne Thompson, who was really the first person to bring these accusations to light. Do we know any more about her case?

BELZ: Well, the pattern of so many other women uncovered in this investigation reinforced her account of what happened—with Ravi Zacharias seeking out much younger women, learning their spiritual vulnerabilities, and especially accounts of abuse in their past. And then using that to establish trust before turning the relationship sexual. And then he would warn them that if they said anything about it, they would be harming the Gospel. So that’s all what Thompson had said happened to her back in 2017. She had a past history of abuse from her father and she said Zacharias took on this fatherly role with her before slowly beginning to demand sexual favors by phone. So, last week in its statement, the RZIM board apologized for not believing her account and for essentially discrediting her publicly. And they acknowledged that their failure to investigate the Thompson situation resulted in a lot of slander that they bore for some years. But Lori Anne Thompson is still under a non-disclosure agreement. The investigators said the executor of Ravi’s estate had refused to release her from the NDA in any form. So this is an investigation that is validating for her, but she’s not allowed to speak openly about what happened. But it is useful after being thrown under the bus as an extortionist who was trying to ruin Ravi Zacharias’s reputation. 

REICHARD: Anything in the report about how RZIM will go forward from this?

BELZ: So, that is an open question. They said the organization had no knowledge of the abuse, and I think that is something we have to look into, especially since the board claimed in 2017 that it had thoroughly investigated claims from Lori Anne Thompson. And there’s also the question of how ministry funds were spent to perpetuate these abuses. But they’ve hired some outside consultants, including victim expert Rachael Denhollander, to review what happened and what they should do going forward. And they said they’re looking at what the future of the ministry might look like. I imagine that might include downsizing or changing the name, but we’ll keep following it. The UK branch has already broken away from the organization and decided to rename itself and end all ties with RZIM. And then the book publishers who put out Ravi Zacharias’s books have taken them out of print. So, there’s a lot of things unfolding very rapidly. 

REICHARD: Emily Belz is a senior reporter for WORLD Magazine. You can read more of her work at WNG.org. Thanks for joining us today, Emily!

BELZ: Good to be with you, Mary.


NICK EICHER, HOST: Hey, did you hear the one about the chicken who got lost outside of a Cracker Barrel? 

REICHARD: Not a great place for a chicken.

Yeah, and this is not just any old chicken. This is a prized rooster named Peep who is so capable he has a part in military reenactments. His owner, and I guess commanding officer, is Thomas Ramsey. 

One day Ramsey popped into the Cracker Barrel for lunch and left Peep in the back of his truck.

When he paid his bill and headed back to his truck—Peep went “poof!”

Ramsey explained to television station WBRC what he did next…

RAMSEY: I asked them did they have any cameras in that parking lot because it looked like someone had stolen my chicken, which is kind of hard to say with a straight face.

Yes. I get that. But Ramsey was up to the challenge. He hit up social media and crowdsourced some reconnaissance on the runaway rooster. 

It didn’t take long for a local farmer to let him know he’d found Peep, and so now Ramsey and Rooster are reunited and it feels so good—hey, hey.

It’s The World and Everything in It.


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, February 16th. 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 next on The World and Everything in It: the Olasky Interview.

Today, a conversation between WORLD editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky and sociology professor Mark Regnerus.

EICHER: Last September the two talked after Regnerus released research examining Christian marriage around the world and some of the cultural pressures working against it.

TKTKTK


REICHARD: That’s Mark Regnerus talking with Marvin Olasky. To read more of their interview, we’ve posted a link on today’s transcript at worldandeverything.org.


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, February 16th. 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. Here’s World commentator Janie B. Cheaney now pondering beauty.

JANIE B. CHEANEY: At a church we attended years ago, the annual Christmas concert included singers from the local university. One of the college girls that year had been a finalist in the Miss America pageant. During dress rehearsal an overhead mic needed adjustment, and our Miss America popped out of her seat to do some tweaking. I had a good view from a few rows back, and I remember thinking, “What a pretty girl. What a neatly proportioned body. You did some good work there, God.”

I’m not envious of beauty (or not since high school, when one of my classmates was an actual model, with the coolest clothes). But that was the first time I recall giving praise to the One who designed bodies to be beautiful. 

That memory come to mind with an article in Quillette, titled, “The Attack on Beauty”

According to the author, the body-positive movement is teaching young women that the cover-girl ideal is a conspiracy. Every girl is lovely just the way she is. Consider “Scars to Your Beautiful,” an Alessa Cara song with this refrain:

And you don’t have to change a thing,
The world could change its heart,
No scars to your beautiful,
We’re stars and we’re beautiful.

Got that? If the world doesn’t turn its head when you walk by, it’s the world’s problem, baby. You’re a star, and don’t you forget it. 

If that message taught young girls to stand up straighter, in spite of acne or bad hair, fine. But rather than confidence, they display whininess, defiance, or destructive behavior, because they’ve been told the world should respond to them in a way it never will. 

Pretending everyone is a “star” encourages narcissism: investing in an idealized projection at the expense of one’s real self. 

One’s real self could eventually turn into a decent person if it’s not obsessed with imaginary stardom. But if everyone is physically beautiful, then there’s no standard of physical beauty. And we know that’s not true. Even the oversize models I see in poster displays at Penney’s have flawless skin and hair.

In That Hideous Strength, the last volume of C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, four of the female characters are dressing for a celebratory banquet. Rather than each picking out her own gown, they collaborate in choosing for the others, and somehow the colors and styles perfectly complement each personality. The dressing room has no mirror; they are not to admire themselves, but each other. 

We should appreciate beauty in landscapes and flower arrangements and Miss America contestants. All the more, perhaps, because it’s fleeting: “the grass withers, and the flowers fade.” All transient beauty points to the timeless, original Beauty who made our eyes to observe it and hearts to respond to it. And I think rejoicing in beauty, wherever it’s found, makes us all a little more beautiful.

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.


NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: The World Health Organization and Covid-19. The WHO has adopted China’s narrative about the origins of the deadly virus. We’ll talk about the Biden administration’s response.

And, a musical love story.

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.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 

I hope you’ll have a great rest of the day. We’ll talk to you tomorrow!


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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