The World and Everything in It — March 19, 2021

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!

The Catholic Church issues a statement on same sex marriage that seems to take the media by surprise.

And what happens when we jump to conclusions about crimes like Tuesday’s shooting in Atlanta? We’ll talk with John Stonestreet about that.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: That’s ahead on Culture Friday.

Plus I’ll review the new Disney animation film, Raya and the Last Dragon.

And Word Play with George Grant.

BROWN: It’s Friday, March 19th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Good morning!

BROWN: Time for the news. Here’s Kent Covington.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Senate confirms Bacerra as HHS secretary » The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Xavier Bacerra as Health and Human Services Secretary on a nearly straight partyline vote. 

AUDIO: On this vote, the yeas are 50, the nays are 49. The nomination is confirmed. 

Only one Republican voted yes, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. 

GOP senators had numerous concerns about Bacerra—none greater than his record on abortion and religious liberty. As California’s attorney general, Becerra led the prosecution of pro-life activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for their hidden camera investigation of Planned Parenthood. 

He also sued the Little Sisters of the Poor in an attempt to force them to provide contraception to employees under Obamacare. 

Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters…

MCCONNELL: Yeah, I think he’s uniquely unqualified for that particular position from a variety of different points of view. 

Republicans noted that Becerra has no medical training or experience. 

Before serving as California’s attorney general, he served more than two decades in the U.S. House. 

But senators confirmed another nominee on Thursday with zero controversy. Without opposition, the chamber confirmed veteran diplomat William Burns as CIA director. 

Burns served at the State Department for more than 30 years under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

Blinken, Sullivan meet with top Chinese diplomats in Alaska » Secretary of State Tony Blinken is in Anchorage today for meetings with top Chinese diplomats. 

National security adviser Jake Sullivan is joining him for two days of meetings. Both arrived in Alaska on Thursday. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters… 

PSAKI: This meeting, we certainly anticipate, will have difficult components of the conversation. We expect it to be frank. They plan to cover areas where we have concerns.

The top diplomats from both countries are expected to discuss concerns over trade, human rights, COVID-19, and China’s aggression in the South China Sea. 

The White House framed the meeting as a chance for the Biden administration to open a dialogue with Beijing. 

Blinken is just back from meetings with U.S. allies in Japan and South Korea. And before heading home, he had this to say about China: 

BLINKEN: We are clear-eyed about Beijing’s consistent failure to uphold its commitments, and we spoke about how Beijing’s aggressive and authoritarian behavior are challenging the stability, security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry quickly responded, saying—quote—“There’s no room for China to compromise on issues related to sovereign security and core interests.”

Putin reacts angrily over Biden “killer” remark » Russian President Vladimir Putin reacted angrily Thursday to recent remarks by President Biden calling Putin a killer.

Putin shot back, saying, in effect it takes one to know one. He referenced the U.S. history of slavery and injustices against Native Americans. 

Jen Psaki told reporters that Biden is not afraid to speak his mind when it comes to the Kremlin. 

PSAKI: We are confident that we can continue to look for ways where there’s a mutual interest, a mutual and national interest, but the president is not going to hold back, clearly, when he has concerns. 

Biden’s remarks came during an interview with ABC’s Geoge Stephanopoulos who asked if he believes Putin is a killer. Biden responded “I do.” 

U.S. intelligence agencies believe the Russian government was behind the near-fatal poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navlany. 

Biden also hinted at forthcoming penalties against Russia. That follows declassified intel reports that Moscow again tried to interfere with last year’s U.S. election. 

EU agency: AstraZeneca vaccine safe, will add clot warning » Health officials in the European Union say that after days of scouring all available data on the AstraZeneca vaccine, they’ve reached a “clear scientific conclusion”… 

COOKE: This is a safe and effective vaccine. It’s benefits in protecting people from COVID-19 with the associated risks of death and hospitalization outweigh the possible risks. 

The head of the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cooke, said the EMA studied data related to a small number of cases in which people developed blood clots after receiving the vaccine. She said she found no evidence that the AstraZeneca shots increase the risk of clots. But they also can’t rule it out. 

With in mind, the EMA’s Dr. Sabine Straus said that the agency’s risk assessment committee… 

SABINE: Has recommended to add a warning to the SMPC and the patient leaflets so that the information should be provided to the healthcare professionals and to the public. 

Several EU nations had suspended their use of the vaccine over the past week as health officials investigated reports of clots. 

But with only a few dozen cases out of millions who have received the shot and no confirmed link to the vaccine, Emer Cooke said “If it were me, I would be vaccinated tomorrow.”

Severe storms strike Southeastern U.S. » Severe thunderstorms ripped through the Southeast on Thursday, knocking out power to more than 70,000 homes and businesses. 

In southeastern Mississippi, residents today are cleaning up broken glass, twisted metal and toppled trees after a tornado touched down in Wayne County.   

AUDIO: When I seen it I knew and I jumped behind the recliner and just hung on and in 10 seconds it was gone, but if it would have lasted a little bit longer, I probably wouldn’t be here. 

Several states reported possible tornadoes and more than a half-dozen states received hail and damaging winds. In Alabama, some reported baseball-sized hail. 

As of early this morning, the severe weather system was pushing up the Atlantic seaboard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday, March 19th. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. 

Well,  big news this week out of the Vatican. At least, big news for most of the media, based on the headline reporting.

Pope Francis issued a statement that the Roman Catholic Church cannot bless the union of two men or two women in marriage. The reason given that gay marriages aren’t part of God’s plan, so the church can’t bless them. 

Here’s what Father Anthony Figueiredo told CBS:

FIGUEIREDO: Nobody likes the terms “sin,” but that’s the business of the Church. If we bless a union we are actually putting them on a par with marriage. That for the church is outside what God intended in creation.

BROWN: Well, it’s Culture Friday and we welcome back John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. Good morning, John.


BROWN: Well, what do you think, John? Big news or much ado about nothing?

STONESTREET: I don’t know. Can the answer be yes at the same time to both? I mean, the reason is that it shouldn’t be big news, you know? It’s always a somewhat amusing thing when the wider press, who have thoroughly embraced an inevitability narrative that these sorts of things, every cultural institution changing their minds about things like gender and marriage and sexuality. Kind of run into an institution that goes back so far and they realize, oh, hey, the Pope is actually Catholic. That’s a pretty intense revelation for some of them. But part of that, obviously, is on the Vatican itself because this particular pope has really struggled in terms of speaking out loud, though I think that many who are trying to thread these needles would say he’s not speaking ex-cathedra in any sort of kind of authority of the church. And, of course, that’s the difference with this particular document is that it actually does carry that sort of weight. And it’s important. It’s important to note. 

On the other hand, one of the things I really appreciated about this statement not only is that it did hold firm but where it grounded this particular decision. It didn’t ground it into tradition or age old teaching of the church, although that is kind of how it’s often pitched. It grounded it very specifically in God’s design. People, for example, who have said, well, the Bible only speaks about homosexuality or things like that in a handful of what’s known as clobber passages, have — and, by the way, many people who hold to traditional morality have also made the same mistake of looking at just a handful of verses, these same clobber passages and saying this is what the Bible says — have missed the point that the Bible offers us this grand story of reality. It tells us where everything came from and where everything’s headed. And so what we get in the first several chapters of the Bible is more than just a creation narrative that stands against the evolutionists. What it gives us is actually a pretty thorough description at least when it comes to sex and gender and marriage of what God intended, what God’s plan was. The sort of creatures we are and what we’re for in terms of our relationships across the sexes. And that’s what this document referred back to. And that’s where a lot of evangelicals, on the other hand, have missed a solid grounding in sexual ethics. And so that’s, I think, a lesson for both sides to learn.

BASHAM: I want to jump in here because I saw that Elton John got involved. You know, the rock star? He tweeted that the Catholic Church was hypocritical because it invested millions of dollars in a movie about his life, called Rocketman. And a big part of that movie dealt with his homosexuality and marriage to another man.

It’s unclear how much Pope Francis knew about this, but he did strip the department within the Vatican that supposedly poured millions into that movie. 

John, what about that aspect? What can evangelicals learn from it?

STONESTREET: Yes, yes. Be consistent. I mean, what was this? A financial decision? We have seen what happens when institutions that are Christian, whether evangelical or Catholic, make pragmatic decisions disconnected from their clear teaching. I mean, good for the pope for stripping this department. I mean, this is insane to do that. This wasn’t just a biopic of a guy who is a remarkable musician. It was an endorsement of a lifestyle as part of his success, which obviously it shouldn’t be connected although it is. In the same approach as we revise history in the same way. Don’t do it? I mean, is that a summary of the lesson we can learn? As, who was it — Bob Newhart, yes! Thank you! How did you know I was thinking about that? Bob Newhart would say in Deep Therapy, just stop it!

BASHAM: Alright, well, John, taking a hard turn now to an upsetting topic—a sickening news out of Atlanta Tuesday night. A 21-year-old gunman opened fire on three spas, killing eight people. 

Asked to speculate about Robert Aaron Long’s motive, President Biden said, very wisely to my mind, that he’s “waiting for an answer as the investigation proceeds.”

But John, that’s not what we’re seeing from some early media reports that are making connections to the church this man attended as he was growing up. I’d like to read you a quote from a Washington Post story that ran Wednesday afternoon, just hours after the shootings:

“On Sunday the church’s pastor gave a sermon on the apocalypse. Christ was coming soon, [the pastor] said, and the world must be ready.”

The reporters then admitted they don’t know if Long was present to hear this sermon, which, from their reporting, was pretty standard stuff about the second coming. In fact, the reporters said it’s not clear when Long last attended this church or any other. Yet the Washington Post devoted nearly 1600 words to exploring church and ministry connections though, at this point, investigators haven’t mentioned faith or religion as a motive.

What do you make of this?

STONESTREET: Yeah, I read that story as well and I don’t understand, at all, what the connection was to the pastor’s sermon on Sunday morning. Not only was it unverified that the young man was there, but, again, there’s no clear connection at all if someone was, for example, going to take that and live that out for argument’s sake, why then the targets would be these particular small little facilities. I thought it was an irresponsible connection, actually, because it didn’t actually make any sense.

What does seem to be emerging is that this was a young man who seemed to be really tormented about his sexual temptation. And I think what this is going to mean is two things. Number one is the church has long needed to rethink how it talks about sexuality. Growing up, we often talked about sexual temptation with a great bit of fear and then it kind of moved to what my friend Gina often calls “princess theology,” which is if you just fulfill God’s perfect sexual plan for your life, then you’ll have a happily ever after. Which is something that the world can’t deliver and no other person can deliver in your life. And, by the way, you’re not a prince or a princess either. So, you know, there’s so many things wrong with that narrative. So I think there has been room for a long time to rethink how we talk about sex, how we talk about sexual morality. To go back to what we said earlier, we talk about it in moral terms when we need to talk about it in terms of God’s intent and design and purpose terms, which we don’t do nearly enough of. So, all of that is at play here. 

On the flip side, we’ve just come out of a year where it’s quite popular to connect all kinds of weird things. For example, the evangelical or the conservative Christian view of sexuality with violence. There was just a book published called Jesus and John Wayne, which replaced history with kind of anecdotes and strung it all together to make that same case. So, I think what we’re going to see is a blame put on the Christian way of talking about this, A) as if it’s monolithic, B) as if this one incident reflects that this has been happening for decades and it hasn’t led to the same kind of violence at any means. So I think we need to do that self reckoning and at the same time there’s going to be a lot of blame. This fits a narrative that’s been building in culture for quite a while and so I suspect we’re going to see more of these kinds of irresponsible connections that are an easy way to frame the narrative. And it’s not going to actually get us to the heart of what we need to think about and what we need to do about it.

Now, as far as this young man’s actions, if it does emerge that his sexual temptation was part of it, let me just say fundamentally this was so awful. And what Jesus said is if your right arm offends you, cut it off. If your right eye offends you, pluck it out. What this young man did instead was blame someone else for his sexual temptation. He absolutely targeted at the wrong person. It should have been internal, not external. And that’s a tragic and awful and evil misreading of scripture.

BROWN: Well John, I’m wondering about the potential impact this shooting in Georgia could have on H.R. 127. 

That’s the legislation sponsored by Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. It would create a mandatory national registry, making public the names of gun owners, the number of firearms they possess, even where they keep the guns. 

With the recent changes in the Senate, a pro-gun control administration and this latest shooting, is it the perfect storm? What do you think?

STONESTREET: That’s a great question. I mean, one of these incidents is going — we see the national conversation on gun control go in a particular direction and in a culture in which there are two things plaguing especially young men, but across America more broadly, it makes these conversations that much more effective, unfortunately. On the one hand we have what we call the deaths from despair, opium additions, suicides, and so on. On the other hand, we have what I’ve called acts of desperation—acts of mass violence, lashing out, kind of losing your mind over small sorts of things. And, by the way, I’d add to that category the self-mutilation of healthy body parts for the perpetual search for identity. All of this is an act of desperation. And it reflects, obviously, far more about a culture that is not securing the identity and stability of young people more than it can be pointed to that guns are the problem. And people have made this argument before, but this particular legislation will do absolutely nothing about the vast majority of gun crime, which is happening in cities and will not be solved by a registry, will not be solved by the government knowing more about what’s happening. It just won’t. 

I think that can we expect some sort of further legislation to come out of this? To come out of this in particular communities and particular states? Probably.

BROWN: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. John, thank you.

STONESTREET: Thank you both.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Megan Lundahl was hard at work in her Sturgeon Bay, Wisc. gift store when all of a sudden:

LUNDAHL: Voom! (laughs) A jeep just – bam! Right into the window, right into the shop.

A black Jeep Grand Cherokee jumped the curb and slammed into the side of the building. Fortunately, it wasn’t going very fast and nobody was hurt. 

But police say it was quickly obvious why the accident occurred. The driver of the Jeep, Callie, was only 5 years old! 

Also, she’s an Australian Shepherd. 

Police believe the pooch may have bumped the gear shifter while her owner was inside a nearby business.

But Lundahl told WBAY tv she’s taking it all in stride.

LUNDAHL: I have a shop dog that’s with me often, Carmen. And I told her that if she’s going to invite her friends over just to have them use the front door!

Enough said.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Friday, March 19th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. 

Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Disney’s latest animated movie, rated PG, has held the top spot at the box office for the last two weeks. I’ll help you decide if it’s worth an outing to theaters or thirty dollars on streaming.

CLIP: How did our world get so broken? Well, that all began 500 years ago. Kumandra. This is what we used to be when our land was whole and we lived harmoniously alongside dragons. Magical creatures who brought us water and rain and peace. It was a paradise.

But as Disney’s latest big movie, Raya and the Last Dragon, opens, the land of Kumandra has become a paradise lost. It is a world beset by dissension, where envy drives complicated socio-political negotiations and distrust reigns supreme. Every negative event is an opportunity for one faction to impute guilt to another, and no one seems able to come together, even for the purpose of furthering their own self-interests. If weren’t for those magical dragons, it would in many ways resemble our own world these days.

But Chief Benja, played by Lost’s Daniel Dae Kim, believes there is another way to live. He tries to teach his daughter, Princess Raya, played by Kelly Marie Tran, to pursue common ground. At the outset of the story, he invites the monarchs of the other four lands to a peace summit.

CLIP: We’re not going to poison them and we’re not going to fight them. We’re going to share a meal with them. Wait what? I invited them. But they are enemies. They’re only our enemies because they think the dragon jem magically brings prosperity. That’s ridiculous. It doesn’t do that. They assume it does. Just like we assume things about them. Raya, there’s a reason why each land is named after a part of the dragon. We were once unified. Harmoniously as one. Kumandra. That’s ancient history Ba. But it doesn’t have to be. If we don’t stop and learn to trust one another again, it’s only a matter of time before we tear each other apart. 

But lessons of trust are hard learned. When Raya and another princess battle over the sacred dragon gem believed to grant prosperity and break it, they unleash the Druun. These are a sort of negative energy born of human discord that turn all the life they touch to ash and stone, including Raya’s father.

Flash forward six years and Raya embarks on a quest to reunite the broken pieces of the dragon gem and awaken the last magical dragon, Sisu, to restore Kumandra.

If all that seems like pretty standard fantasy fare, well, that’s because it is. But the way the story is realized makes for a stunning visual experience. The five lands of Kumandra—Heart, Talon, Fang, Spine, and Tail—named for different parts of the dragon, are gorgeously realized. Inspired by several Southeast Asian countries, each has a distinct sense of culture and atmosphere, different from typical settings in this genre.

Also refreshing—for once we get a Disney princess who needs to learn more from her parent than the other way around. It’s a welcome change that Raya has real character growth to undergo. Her default personality—distrustful and a tiny bit arrogant—eventually compounds her problems rather than alleviates them. 

CLIP: We don’t know him. It could be poison. Why would he poison us? Yeah, why would I poison you? First, to get my jade purse, second, to steal my sword, and third, I don’t know, to kidnap my tuk-tuk. All good points, but if this is poison, you’re going to die happy.

And while the warrior princess theme has certainly been overdone in recent years, in this case, it doesn’t feel as girl-power-y as it has in the past. Perhaps because, surprisingly, there’s no love interest here.  

Less appealing for Christian parents will be depictions of dragon worship. Because Kumandra is a make believe world, this goes beyond simply faithfully depicting a different culture, as we saw in Mulan. At one point Raya falls to her knees and prays to Sisu. She also performs religious rituals, bowing down to the gem that represents the spirit of the dragons.

CLIP: The spirit of Sisu, I can feel it. It’s the last bit of dragon magic in the whole world. I can see why heart guards it so closely.

However, some concern over this is mitigated once we actually meet the dragon Raya is worshiping. As played by Awkwafina, Sisu is a bit silly and underwhelming. Honestly, there’s not much to her character to inspire devotion or laughs.

CLIP: But you’re a dragon. I’m going to be real with you, all right? I’m not like the best dragon, you know? But you save the world. I did do that. That’s true. But have you ever done like a group project but there is like, that one kid, who didn’t pitch in as much but still ended with the same grade. Yeah, I wasn’t the one who actually made the gem. I just turned it in.

So in the end, while Raya and the Last Dragon may not have the staying power of past Disney princesses, she does offer some beautiful scenery and perhaps a chance to point out to children the truth of Proverbs. Life and death are in the tongue. And as even dragons fall before envy, we should make it our aim not to build societies based on it.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Friday, March 19th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham.

Hey, before we go any further, we have a small request to make. Our stock of prerolls is getting low again. You know, those program introductions that everyone loves so much. So if you haven’t done one yet, or if you feel inspired to record another one, now’s your chance. 

You’ll find all the instructions at Click on the “Engage” tab at the top of the page and then “Record a preroll.” Just remember, it needs to begin with: “The World and Everything in It is made possible by listeners like us.”

BROWN: And then it needs to end with, “I hope you enjoy today’s program!”

BASHAM: Yeah, and between those two, you can get a little creative! Just keep the whole thing to 20 seconds. Multiple speakers are fine, just not at the same time. Please and thank you!

BROWN: Now it’s time for Word Play with George Grant. He’s got the backstory on some well known nursery rhymes.

GEORGE GRANT: Whenever I return home from a long trip, I often think of the wonderful line, “Home again, home again, jiggety jig.” It comes from the old English nursery rhyme, “To Market.” Maybe you’ve heard it before: To market, to market, to buy a fat pig; home again, home again, jiggety jig. To market, to market, to buy a fat hog; home again, home again, jiggety jog. To market, to market, to buy a plum bun; home again, home again, market is done.”

Although their origins remain murkily uncertain, scholars of English folklore believe that almost all our traditional nursery rhymes were originally composed as parodies to satirize political and cultural circumstances long ago in British history—making them anything but innocent nonsense ditties.

So, for instance, “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” was probably a complaint against the hardships imposed on the poor by the enclosures of land in the days of King Henry VII. “Georgie, Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie” (a rhyme I wearied of hearing when I was a child) may have been written to poke fun at the Prince Regent, later King George IV, because of his greed, his sloth, and his substantial girth. “Hickory, Dickory, Dock” is said to refer to Richard Cromwell, who was unable to preserve the Commonwealth created by his father or prevent the restoration of the Stuart monarchy. “Humpty, Dumpty” probably refers to the days when the barons confronted King John at Runnymede and toppled him from his solitary seat of power. “Rock-a-Bye, Baby” may have served as a warning to the proud and ambitious nobles, who tended to climb so high that they were apt to fall precipitously at the last. “Jack and Jill” supposedly referred to the scheme to wed Princess Mary Tudor to King Louis XII of France. “Little Boy Blue” is said to refer to Cardinal Wolsey who lost favor with Henry VIII because he was unable to win a papal dispensation for the king’s divorce. “Little Miss Muffet” according to one oft disputed account, may have referred to Mary Queen of Scots, who sat on her tuffet, a three-legged stool, during her confrontation with John Knox, portrayed as a wily spider. “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” is said to be a lament for the persecution of Protestant believers during the “killing years” of Bloody Mary.

We probably could go on and on. But, back to the rhyme at hand: some scholars think the “jiggety jig” verse parodied the dubious consent Archbishop Cranmer gave to King Henry to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, as well as the nefarious counsel of Thomas Cromwell to confiscate the treasures of the kingdom’s monasteries.

So, given that backstory, I’m not too sure how apt it is for me to sing this rhyme when I return home from a journey. As comedian Dennis Miller has quipped, “That’s the trouble with getting the whole story; that’s the danger of an education: you run the risk of disabusing yourself of comfortable obliviousness.”

I’m George Grant.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It takes a team to put this program together and deliver it to you each morning.

Thanks are in order to:

Anna Johansen Brown, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Nick Eicher, Kristen Flavin, Katie Gaultney, George Grant, Kim Henderson, Jill Nelson, Onize Ohikere, Mary Reichard, Jenny Rough, Sarah Schweinsberg, and Cal Thomas.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz are our audio engineers. Leigh Jones is managing editor. Paul Butler is executive producer. And Marvin Olasky is editor in chief.

And, thanks to you. Because of your support, you’re helping make it possible to bring Christian journalism to the marketplace of ideas. 

Jesus said: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Have a great weekend.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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