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The World and Everything in It: April 2, 2024


WORLD Radio - The World and Everything in It: April 2, 2024

Former President Trump prepares to appeal the judgment against him in New York, the growing popularity of polyamory belies serious problems, and George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin is our Classic Book of the Month. Plus, Gmail turns 20, Brad Littlejohn on virtue and vice, and the Tuesday morning news

Former President Donald Trump comments as he leaves a pre-trial hearing with his defense team at court in New York on March 25. Associated Press/Photo by Mary Altaffer, Pool

PREROLL: 68, 69, 70. The World and Everything in It is made possible by listeners like me. I'm Paul Gebel in Edmond, Oklahoma. I just celebrated my 70th birthday by doing 70 nonstop push ups. Gotta keep up with those grandkids. I hope you enjoy today's program.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning! Former President Trump prepares to appeal his civil fraud judgment in New York. Did the court overstep?

EPSTEIN: The nature of this business is you rely on your due diligence, not on somebody else. They paid all the loans back. And so there was no harm of any sort.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And you knew same-sex marriage wasn’t the last we’d hear of the moral revolution. Today: so-called “ethical non-monogamy.”

Later, WORLD’s Classic Book of the Month.

And a call to tackle the vice in our own lives. WORLD Opinions commentary from Brad Littlejohn.

REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, April 2nd. 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.

SOUND: [Iranian protests]

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Attack on Iranian embassy in Syria » Cries of Death to Israel! and Revenge, Revenge! from Iranian protesters in Tehran after an airstrike that flattened Iran’s consulate in Damasus, Syria.

Iran says seven military officials were killed including Mohammed Reza Zahedi, a top Iranian general.

Tehran blames Israel for the airstrike. Israeli Defense Forces declined to comment.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller also punted questions about the strike yesterday, but speaking generally, he added:

MILLER: We are always concerned about anything that would be escalatory or cause an increase of conflict in the region.

Iran is promising a, “harsh” response. Tehran has long supported, funded, and armed Hamas and other terrorist groups dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

White House-Israel talks » Meantime, the White House is working to convince Israel to rethink its planned ground operation in the city of Rafah.

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre:

PIERRE: There are alternative ways of doing this, alternative ways of going after Hamas.

U.S. and Israeli leaders held a video conference on Monday to discuss it.

The meeting came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scrapped plans to send a delegation to Washington last week amid diplomatic tensions.

PIERRE: We were able to reschedule this on Friday, and we wanted to move very quickly on this. And the meeting is happening virtually, because we understand, and obviously all of you understand, how important it is to have this conversation.

Netanyahu says Rafah is the last Hamas stronghold, and there is no way to win the war without rooting the terrorist group out of the city.

Havana syndrome » The Pentagon is investigating another mysterious case of so-called "Havana Syndrome" from a NATO Summit in Lithuania last year. And new accusations point to Moscow’s involvement.

The Defense Dept. confirms that another senior official became the latest in a long string of U.S. officials to suffer strange symptoms while serving abroad.

GOP Congressman Carlos Gimenez explains that many victims suffer vision and focus problems.

GIMENEZ: That’s just one of the symptoms that they have. And so, the evidence is growing that Russians are behind it.

First reported in Cuba's capital, American diplomats complained of a range of neurological symptoms.

CBS News reports that a lead U.S. military investigator believes U.S. officials are being attacked by Russia, and that the official threshold to prove it was set impossibly high.

Bridge salvage/temporary route » It has now been one week since a cargo ship lost power and slammed into bridge support in Baltimore causing the Francis Scott Key bridge to collapse into the Patapsco River.

Construction crews started lifting the twisted remains of the bridge from the river, but Maryland Gov. Wes Moore says it is not an easy task.

MOORE: We are talking about tons of steel that is mangled and cantilevered. We are talking about water that is so murky and so filled with debris that divers cannot see anymore than a foot or two in front of them.

Divers are tasked with figuring out where to cut the steel to remove large sections from the water.

Authorities have opened a temporary shipping lane for essential cargo vessels, but the wreck is still choking off access to the critical Port of Baltimore.

The White House says President Biden will visit the site of the fallen bridge on Friday.

Scottish free speech law/JK Rowling » A new law in Scotland that makes it a crime to stir up hatred is stirring up controversy and fear of a crackdown on free speech.

The law creates a new criminal offense of “stirring up hatred” related to age, race, disability, and religion as well as sexual orientation and transgender identity.

Critics predict the law will be used to criminalize religious views or even the public expression of the simple fact that there are two genders.

Among the prominent critics of the law are X.com owner Elon Musk as well Edinburgh resident, author JK Rowling.

SOUND: (White House egg roll band]

White House Easter egg roll »A military band welcoming guests to the White House for the annual Easter egg roll. A crowd of about 40,000 children and parents descended on the South lawn after a 90-minute rain delay.

First Lady Jill Biden:

JILL BIDEN: I’m a teacher, so I love anytime when we can turn the White House into a classroom. And that’s what we’re doing today.

The White House drew criticism over rules that banned religious themes from the Easter egg art contest. However, the White House and American Egg Board say that’s nothing new. They both insist that rules barring religious symbols have been in place for years and were not new to this year’s event.

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: Next steps for Donald Trump’s civil fraud case in New York. Plus, Classic Book of the Month for April.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 2nd of April, 2024. 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: a mammoth fraud penalty.

Last month, a New York judge found former President Donald Trump liable for civil fraud, and ordered him to pay a judgment totaling 450 million dollars plus. Trump vowed that he would fight the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: WORLD’s Leo Briceno now with more on the legal battle ahead.

LEO BRICENO: In February, Judge Arthur Engoron  ruled that the former president, his sons, and his business associates committed civil fraud. How? By purposely overestimating the value of their assets to secure business loans in the state of New York. NYU professor and Hoover Institute fellow Richard Epstein says the size of the $450 million penalty is concerning and so is the reasoning behind it.

RICHARD EPSTEIN: But, you know, I don't want to say a kind word for Donald Trump as a person, because I don't think it's appropriate here to have any opinion about him. But all the litigation against him is right at the edge or over the top of this situation. And it's all brought by people who hate him for political reasons. This is not the way this country should run.

In 2022, Letitia James campaigned for reelection as attorney general on a promise to take Trump to court. She repeatedly called him a “con man” and promised to specifically focus on his real estate dealings. And speaking to ABC last month, she vowed to follow through on Engoron’s judgment.

LETITIA JAMES: If he does not have funds to pay off the judgment, then we will seek judgment enforcement mechanisms in court, and we will ask the judge to seize his assets.

Trump filed a notice of appeal after the decision came down. But state law requires a defendant to post the bond before filing the appeal itself. Trump, however, could not find underwriters willing to cover the half-a-billion dollar judgment. Then, hours before the New York Attorney General could sweep into Trump’s bank accounts, an appeals court intervened. It reduced the bond amount to $175 million. Any bonds above $100 million might still require more than one underwriter, but Trump says that he can pay the amount - in cash.

DONALD TRUMP: I respect the appellate division for substantially reducing that ridiculous amount of money that was put on by a corrupt judge.

But the appeals court left in place Engoron’s appointment of a monitor, retired Judge Barbara Jones, to oversee the Trump Organization. The company must submit daily financial operation information to her and keep her up to date on Trump’s latest efforts to secure a bond. In two months, she will submit a report on the Trump Organization’s internal operations and recommend controls to Engoron, who will require the company to abide by them. Trump insists that this case along with several other civil and criminal indictments against him are aimed at hampering his reelection campaign.

TRUMP: But I would also like to be able to use some of my cash to get elected. They don’t want me to use my cash to get elected. They don’t want me taking cash out to use it for the campaign.

After posting the new bond, Trump can challenge the legal reasoning behind Judge Engoron’s ruling—a ruling that Epstein, the law professor, calls biased and legally flimsy.

EPSTEIN: What they said is, he basically defrauded the banks. Right? By getting more favorable loans by inflating his assets.

Epstein points out that banks have ways to double check applicants’ claims, and that’s what they did in this case.

EPSTEIN: And what they did is they ran their own studies, and they came up with the loan, and the figures that they came up with commercial figures. And it turns out that Trump accepted them. The nature of this business is you rely on your due diligence, not on somebody else. They paid all the loans back. And so there was no harm of any sort.

But Attorney General James says it’s the people of New York that were the victims of the alleged fraud.

JAMES: When the powerful break the law and take more than their fair share, there are fewer resources available for working people, small businesses, and families.

If the ruling survives an appeal, Epstein says it could have far-reaching consequences for businesses in the state.

EPSTEIN: Any transaction that's negotiated inside of New York State, by any two parties who are not Trump may be set aside by a shareholder, by a creditor, or some third party so that no security of transactions can be given. Because there's always this kind of ugly situation hanging over the top of the particular case. And what's going to happen is people are going to have to move out of the state.

The appeals court is in recess until September, so Trump’s lawyers now have six months to prepare for arguments in the case.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leo Briceno. Additional reporting from Carolina Lumetta.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: the sexual revolution marches on.

A quick word to parents: this story deals with subject matter that amounts to a distortion of biblical marriage, something that may not be suitable for younger listeners.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Nine years ago this month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Obergefell v. Hodges. At issue was whether the Constitution guaranteed a fundamental right to marriage that would extend to same-sex couples.

During that argument, Justice Samuel Alito set up a hypothetical to try to find a limiting principle from the lawyer arguing that marriage needs a new definition:

JUSTICE ALITO: Suppose we rule in your favor in this case and then after that a group consisting of two men and two women apply for a marriage license? Would there be any ground for denying them the license?

EICHER: One of the lawyers arguing for same-sex marriage said yes, there would be ground for denying a license. Because the structures of marriage are designed around two people, and polygamy raises questions of coercion and consent. And the distinction between two-person marriage and more than two was so great as to make it another institution altogether.

Well, here we are with another institution altogether.

Proponents of polyamory are seeking to normalize what they call “ethical non-monogamy.” They claim this is the answer to overworked and overcommitted households, so many chores, so many kids, not enough grown-ups.

REICHARD: So polyamory is not just a trend, it’s a new front in the sexual revolution. And far too few self-identifying Christians have a biblical sexual ethic to stand up to it.

WORLD’s Lillian Hamman has the story.

COUPLE TO THROUPLE: If you were given the chance at non-monogamy in paradise, what would you do?

Back in February, NBC released a new show called Couple to Throuple. Viewers follow along as romantic partners test out opening their relationships to more people.

A couple weeks later, the dating app Tinder added over a dozen pronoun options and 5 different relationship structures for profiles, including so-called “ethical non-monogamy.”

And polyamory is also echoing through courtrooms.

BRETT CHAMBERLIN: Our focus right now is on advancing non-discrimination protections to ensure that people are able to be open without fear of losing their jobs, being denied housing.

Brett Chamberlin is the founder and executive director of OPEN. His pro-polyamory non-profit has been rallying sponsors to support legislation in California that would extend anti-discrimination laws to polyamorous people.

CHAMBERLIN: I think we've just reached a point where it is sort of starting to break through as it gains more publicity, more people become aware of it. There's more media, and so on, and so forth.

But contrary to growing media attention, only around 5 percent of Americans are currently in relationships with more than two people. So, should it matter whether non-monogamy and polyamory are legally affirmed?

AMY HAMILTON: Even though it's like a small percentage, it has much greater ramifications that we're even in the point of, like, considering this.

Amy Hamilton is a research associate at the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin. She says polyamory is just the next movement of the sexual revolution.

HAMILTON: We want to live where every individual person is free to essentially design the world as they wish. If the the liberation of the sexual self is the highest good, this expressive individualism, then there can't be any constraints, right? Given on what is normative, and what is good.

A 2023 study from the online dating company Match found that nearly half of single Americans are interested in relationship structures other than one male and one female. Over 30 percent have already been in relationships of more than two people.

Pastor and speaker Branson Parler says the church is not isolated from this trend.

BRANSON PARLER: Recently, the church where I'm at a few weeks ago, had three folks show up. And I was a little bit like, “Oh, what's what's happening here?” They were younger, but they were clearly polyamorous. And so I'm up front preaching, and I can see the way that their body language is, you know, they're all holding hands. And you see more and more people as it becomes mainstream, sort of embracing it in different ways, perhaps within the church.

Parler points to research by sociologist Mark Regnerus who found that just over 20 percent of church-goers ages 24 to 35 affirm consensual non-monogamy as morally acceptable.

Both Parler and Hamilton say that when a society elevates sexual liberation above God’s revelation, it always comes with a cost, of children, adults, and the true image of who God is.

HAMILTON: This design of male and female in a procreative union ordained by God. That's no longer the thing we want. We want the freedom to self define, and to self express. And children are always the first victims when adult sexual interests are placed at the forefront.

Some argue that children who grow up with more adults in non-monogamous relationships get more love and attention that’s equal to or even better than having two biological parents. But multiple studies demonstrate children who live with unrelated adults are 40 times more likely to be abused, and 8 times more likely to die of maltreatment than children living with two biological parents.

And polyamory doesn’t just put children at risk. Eli Sheff is a sociologist and relationship coach who has spent decades studying how polyamorous relationships affect the people involved over time.

ELI SHEFF: The relationships can be very traumatic, you know, like, they've got very high highs and very low lows, and I think are just challenging enough to establish and sustain.

Sheff says when members of polyamorous relationships lack legal and biological connections to the children involved, they make themselves expendable and disposable.

SHEFF: Those social parents are at great risk. They often will put in a lot of resources, time, energy, money, attention. You can't become polyamorous and then get upset when there are strings. Like you're inviting strings.

So how can we respond to this next movement in the sexual revolution? Branson Parler says it starts with knowing the truth of how we were not only created by God to flourish, but to glorify Him.

PARLER: So because God is faithful to us, that's why it is so important that in our marriages, we are faithful to each other.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Lillian Hamman.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Seems everybody has a Gmail account. But you know 20 short years ago, nobody did.

Except for Larry Page. Page and his Google cofounder had a flair for April Fool’s jokes. And on April 1st 2004 Gmail seemed like one of them.

But when AP reporter Michael Liedtke received an invite to have a look at a new product, there was Page in front of a laptop

MICHAEL LIEDTKE: And he said he wanted to show me something. And he did a demo for me of Gmail. And he kind of smiled and said, I think people are really gonna like this.

Yeah, no kiddin’.

But it came with a catch Milton Friedman could’ve seen a mile away—because there’s no free lunch, and no free email.

LIEDTKE: A computer was going to scan the contents of email, only to learn what a person was interested by the topics that they would talk about.

And serve up relevant ads.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: When a product is “free,” you’re the product.

EICHER: Or to rework Friedman: when you’re offered a free lunch, you’re on the menu.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, April 2nd. 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: Classic Book of the Month.

Book reviewer Emily Whitten recommends a Victorian author who helped invent a new genre.

EMILY WHITTEN: In 1872, Scottish author and minister George MacDonald first published our Classic Book of the Month for April, The Princess and the Goblin. Before publishing it, he read the book aloud to his own children. All 11 of them. With so few books for children back then, MacDonald hoped to do something relatively new–delight them with a fantasy story written just for kids. Here’s narrator Andy Minter.

AUDIOBOOK: One very wet day when the mountain was covered with mist, which was constantly gathering itself together into raindrops and pouring down on the roofs of the great old house which it fell in a fringe of water from the eaves all round about it, the princess could not of course go out. She got very tired, so tired that even her toys could no longer amuse her.

In The Princess and the Goblin, Princess Irene finds a hidden room in her castle where her great-great grandmother lives, a fact which no one will believe, not even Irene’s nurse:

AUDIOBOOK: It is not at all becoming in a princess to tell stories and expect to be believed just because she’s a princess. But it’s quite true I tell you. You dreamt it then, child. No, I didn’t. I went upstairs, and I lost myself, and if I never found the beautiful lady, I would never have found myself.

Soon after, the Princess encounters goblins–these are awful creatures who live underground and who plot to get rid of the humans. But Princess Irene’s grandmother gives her a magical ring to help foil their plans. Irene also teams up with a 12-year-old miner named Curdie who discovers the goblins’ weak points.

AUDIOBOOK: Curdie then rushed into the crowd, stamping right and left. The goblins drew back, howling on every side as he approached. But they were so crowded that few of those he attacked could escape his tread.

I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say, this is not your typical fantasy story. One way the miners fight the goblins is by singing silly rhymes, so it feels a bit like Monty Python at times. If your kids have the patience to stick with this quirky Victorian tale–and you may need some patience–Wheaton professor Timothy Larsen says it’s worth it in the end.

LARSEN: It's so fun and that's a mark of MacDonald's princess and fairy tales. 

Larsen is a historian who’s worked on several books related to MacDonald, including an annotated version coming this May of his Diary of an Old Soul. Larsen says the Christian themes of MacDonald’s work make sense, given his background.

LARSEN: He actually trained for the Christian ministry, and though he did not pursue that long term, he kept up a preaching ministry his whole life. He was a very dedicated Christian, very committed to being a follower of Jesus Christ, and made that the lodestar for everything that he did.

MacDonald did have some quirky theological beliefs, especially about the afterlife, but they don’t impact this story. Instead, Christian families will find this book wisely challenges readers to take faith seriously. MacDonald lived at a time when science and philosophy were beginning to be more antagonistic to Christianity. Many embraced materialism, or the idea that matter or physical stuff is the only thing that really exists. In that view, God and miracles aren’t real.

LARSEN: And so what he's saying is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to follow him, to trust him. It doesn't mean that you could answer all philosophical, scientific questions that might come up. You don't need to have a philosophy of miracles. You need to discern that Jesus is telling you the truth, that he is worthy of your trust and then you follow him.

We also see Irene and Curdie learn lessons about courage and honesty, which in other novels might feel too moralistic. But MacDonald keeps kids reading with clever word play. He was close friends with the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and he uses a similar kind of humor.

LARSEN: He has a wonderful way of like kind of confiding in the reader and bringing you in on the joke.

One of my favorite running gags starts when Irene first meets her grandmother. She tells Irene “I’m your father’s mother’s father’s mother” but that goes totally over Irene’s head. So, Irene just calls her her “very great huge grandmother.” Word to the wise, that kind of humor does come across better in an audiobook or through reading aloud. As far as cautions go, there’s really nothing here of note. No witches or anyone casting spells. And very little violence.

LARSEN: There's one incident where there's a drowning situation, which is an accident, but there aren't people killing each other. And so I think it's a fascinating model to me of how you can have adventure and conflict that is super exciting, and yet you don't have to make everything so violent the way that our culture sometimes wants to today.

Our Classic Book of the Month for April is The Princess and The Goblin by George MacDonald. If your family is looking for a clean fantasy story with solid Christian morals, I do recommend reading the Narnia books first. MacDonald helped pioneer this genre of kids’ lit, but Lewis built on that beginning, reaching even higher heights. Still, once you’ve exhausted Narnia, MacDonald might be the next best addition to your family library.

AUDIOBOOK: There was a hideous noise in her room—creatures snarling and hissing and rocketing about as if they were fighting. She immediately took off her ring and put it under her pillow. As she did so she fancied she felt a finger and thumb take it gently from under her palm. 'It must be my grandmother!' she said to herself, and the thought gave her such courage that she stopped to put on her dainty little slippers before running from the room.

I’m Emily Whitten.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday April 2nd. 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. Up next: WORLD Opinions commentator Brad Littlejohn encourages us to root out sinful habits in our Christian communities and in our own lives.

BRAD LITTLEJOHN: In a recent column at his Substack, evangelical commentator Aaron Renn calls American Christians to get serious about rejecting vice in our own lives and communities. The very concept of “vice” may feel passé, a throwback to medieval morality or police “vice squads” that once busted gambling or prostitution rings. And if there’s anything that Christians in 2024 are nervous about, it’s seeming old-fashioned or “puritanical.”

Of course, that’s nothing new. For decades, some evangelicals have soft-peddled moral issues, accepting the legalization of pornography, gambling, marijuana, and more. After all, “it’s a free country.” Shouldn’t government only restrict serious harms? Evangelical leaders seemed to say, “we’ll drop our ‘fundamentalist’ opposition to all these private vices, and prove we’re not puritans, if you let us continue opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.” Needless to say, the bargain has not been accepted.

Perhaps this rout can afford us an opportunity to step back, take stock, and renew our moral witness. Renn is best known for his concept of the “Negative World,” recently expanded into an influential book. His basic idea is this: until the later 20th century, Christians in America inhabited a “Positive World” in which society was broadly aligned (at least outwardly) with Christian values. Toward the end of the century, we shifted into a “Neutral World” in which Christianity was one acceptable lifestyle option among many. Now, most parts of the country are “Negative World,” where any attempt to live a principled Christian life is seen as threatening.

Within Positive World, “vice” laws were commonplace: alcohol was carefully regulated, gambling and drugs were pushed to the margins, prostitution and pornography were outlawed. Within Neutral World, a devil’s bargain was struck. Most vices would be decriminalized, but Christians could continue opposing them as matters of personal morality. In theory, this was not incoherent; the state cannot successfully suppress every vice. But cut off from rich categories of older Christian thought, evangelicals tended to think in black-and-white terms. Something was either a “sin” (a violation of God’s law), or it was fine.

In contrast, the older language of “vice,” hailed from a more complex moral universe. Vice was not exactly the same as “sin.” It was the opposite of virtue, or conforming one’s character to wise living. Vice, then, was conforming one’s character to foolish living. The Book of Proverbs teaches that such folly can’t be reduced to a list of do’s and don’ts, but it is real, and it leads to destruction—not just self-destruction, but the degradation of any community.

Negative World has its drawbacks, but it is at least clarifying. Many Americans now live in a world where even the most basic Christian moral stances won’t get much traction in public debate. Maybe that’s the opportunity we need to stop trying to persuade outsiders and get our own house in order. Vice is weakness—weakness of will that ultimately leads to weakness of body, weakness of soul, and weakness of communities where it takes hold. If Christians can have the courage to start tackling vice again, we may offer a compelling witness of strength and integrity to a fragmenting world.

I’m Brad Littlejohn.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. benefitting from one of the best name-IDs in all of politics goes with a no-name running mate. On Washington Wednesday, where does his campaign stand now?

And cutting down trees to save a history of friendship between America and Japan. 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.

The Bible says: Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. —Acts 9:36

Go now in grace and peace.

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


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