The World and Everything in It: April 6, 2023
As generative AI gets more powerful, tech titans call for a timeout to consider the ethics involved; migrant deaths put heavy burdens on local communities as summer surges are anticipated; and walking in the footsteps of Jesus in modern day Jerusalem. Plus: TikTok on Capitol Hill, T-Rex lips, commentary from Cal Thomas, and the Thursday morning news.
PREROLL: The World and Everything in It is made possible by listeners like us. My name is Kathleen Harkness, I’m currently living in Colorado Springs, I’m an Army wife, a part time RN, and a mother of 3 with a baby on the way in November. I hope you enjoy today’s program.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!
Tech titans are calling for a timeout on developing AI tools like ChatGPT…how should Christians think about the ethics involved in Artificial Intelligence?
And is it time for lawmakers to ban TikTok?
BILL BILIRAKIS: Do you have full responsibility over the algorithms used by tiktok to prioritize content to its users? Yes or no, please.
SHOU CHEW: Congressman, we, we do take these issues very seriously.
BILIRAKIS: Yes or no.
CHEW: And we do provide resources for anyone who types in anything that—
BILIRAKIS: Sir, yes or no.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Also today, migrant deaths at the border are on the rise as summer nears. We’ll talk about it with one of our reporters just back from the region.
Plus, a visit to the Holy Land.
KATHY AUGUSTINE: I have waited for I can’t tell you how many years to be here, and I’m gonna get teary to think that we just walked down from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. We just sat in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s just, it’s kind of hard to believe we’re here.
And commentary from Cal Thomas.
BROWN: It’s Thursday, April 6th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
BUTLER: And I’m Paul Butler. Good morning!
BROWN: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Tornadoes / weather » Rescuers with chainsaws cut through toppled trees and brush in rural Missouri, searching for survivors of another tornado.
At least 5 people are dead and more are injured after the storm swept through the southeastern part of the state on Wednesday. It pulverized buildings and ripped trees from the ground along a path up to 20 miles long.
RESIDENT: Me and them got down in the bathtub and then he put the mattress over us, and it was just awful. In the bathroom a blue like the shampoo hit her in the back of the head.
A spate of severe weather has spawned numerous tornadoes across the Midwest and the South over the past week. At least 32 people died from the storms last weekend.
Taiwan » The president of Tawain was in California yesterday for a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in his home state.
KEVIN MCCARTHY: We take our support for the people of Taiwan seriously and are determined to speak with one voice.
As the threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan looms, McCarthy said the United States must continue to sell arms to Taiwan, and strengthening economic ties, especially on trade and technology.
The meeting drew threats of retaliation from China.
International cybercrime bust » The FBI teamed up with European agencies to take down a major network of cybercriminals. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher has more.
JOSH SCHUMACHER: Law enforcement agencies arrested more than 100 people as part of a global crackdown on identity theft.
The so-called Genesis Market provided users with access to data taken from more than 1.5 million computers infected with malicious software.
Criminals could purchase software code from Genesis that track a user’s online activity.
The market advertised on several mostly Russian-speaking underground forums. It billed itself as a—quote—“one-stop shop for account takeovers.”
Officials say the people who actually ran the site are unlikely to be arrested because they are in Russia.
For WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.
Russia defector » A Russian communications engineer says he defected after Vladimir Putin sent some of his colleagues to fight in Ukraine.
GLEB KARAKULOV: Putin’s criminal affairs
Gleb Karakulov is speaking out after fleeing to Turkey with his wife and daughter.
He told independent investigators that he couldn’t stay in Russia and carry out Putin’s criminal orders, and did not want his daughter to learn propaganda in preschool.
Very few ranking Russian officers have spoken publicly after fleeing the country.
Zelenskyy Poland, fighter jets »
SOUND: [Zelenskyy in Poland]
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a warm welcome in Poland on Wednesday.
ZELENSKYY: [Speaking Ukrainian]
Speaking after closed-door meetings with Polish leaders, Zelenskyy said “Every time the Ukrainian flag returns to its rightful place on Ukrainian land, and the Russian occupier flees, the Polish flag also grows stronger.”
Hours earlier, Poland pledged renewed military and economic support.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said Warsaw has provided four Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine with 10 more on the way.
Trans study » A new study finds that parents who take their children to so-called gender clinics for treatment of gender dysphoria are often pressured to agree to medical procedures and ultimately find that their children are worse off. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has that story.
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN: The study of more than 1,600 possible cases was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
The findings suggest that transgenderism has become a social contagion fueled by media and gender treatment facilities.
Of nearly 400 parents in the study, roughly 52% said they had felt pressured by professionals to support transgender interventions for their child. Only 25% said they were not pressured. Others were unsure.
And the study finds that according to the parents—quote—“children’s mental health deteriorated considerably after social transition.”
It also found that “youths with a history of mental health issues were especially likely to have taken steps to socially and medically transition.”
And it said that is “concerning because youth with mental health issues may be especially likely to lack the judgment necessary to make these important” and often “permanent, decisions.”
For WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
I’m Kent Covington.
Tech titans are calling for a timeout on developing AI tools. Plus, migrant deaths are on the rise near the US southern border.
This is The World and Everything in It.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: It’s Thursday the 6th of April, 2023.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
First up on The World and Everything in It, the ethics of Artificial Intelligence—or simply “A-I.”
Last week, an image of Pope Francis wearing a puffy white winter coat went viral on Twitter. It soon came out that the image was not an actual photograph but the product of an AI image generator called Midjourney.
BUTLER: Now, the puffer coat Pope is a fairly benign image, but it raises concerns about what could happen if the same technology was used for malicious purposes.
So last week, a group of tech titans, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, signed an open letter by the Future of Life Institute. The letter now has over 10 thousand public signatures, and it asks that the industry take a six-month break from developing the next generation of GPT technology in order to establish some much needed ethical standards and policies.
BROWN: Well, joining us now is Jason Thacker. He’s the Chair of Research in Technology Ethics at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Jason, good morning.
JASON THACKER, GUEST: Hey, thank you for having me today.
BROWN: Well, Jason, can you explain what generative AI is and why so many people are concerned about it?
THACKER: Yeah, it's kind of funny, especially with late last year with the release of ChatGPT, there was kind of a storm and kind of a fury surrounding artificial intelligence. This is a technology that we've been using for a very long time. What kind of happened with Open AI in this release was kind of the popularizing of what's long been possible in the field and generative AI specifically, in the idea of being able to create or to generate, whether it's text or images, or even video content, is something that's very novel in some ways, but also a lot of the principles and a lot of the ideas have long been around. But the idea is that we have non-biological intelligence, we have computers making really complex decisions. And I think specifically with ChatGPT, it's challenging, because we see these ideas of these machines creating things that once we, you know, we exclusively thought was reserved for humanity in terms of writing and creativity, and art and video production. And now we're seeing machines do that. And so I think that releases a little bit of panic, and a little bit of kind of anxiety inducing surrounding this type of technology. But the reality is, is that artificial intelligence has been around for a while, and we all use it every single day, whether we realize it or not.
BROWN: In your 2020 book The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity, you said that in order to arrive at an answer for how we can live with artificial intelligence we need to start with Scripture, and especially with what Scripture says about what it means to be human. Can you explain that?
THACKER: Yeah. And I think that's actually the central question really of all ethical and social issues that we deal with today, but specifically with technology issues, because these technologies are doing things as we said before, were once reserved for human beings alone. It seemed that human beings in this sense were the pinnacle of creation, we had the intelligence, we had the creative abilities. And now we have machines that I believe are mimicking and imitating that type of ability. I don't think they're actually intelligent in that sense. But they are doing things that kind of shock the system a little bit. We start to realize, like, hey, artificial intelligence isn't a far off kind of future phenomenon. But it's something that's affecting our lives right now. And I think chat GPT and other types of artificial intelligence that are causing us to ask questions, you know, really central questions that really aren't that new. I like to say that technology, specifically AI, doesn't cause us to ask new questions of humanity, per se, but to ask the age old questions in light of some new opportunities. And what I mean by that is, we have long asked from the very beginning of civilization questions like what does it mean to be human? And we've had various answers and ideas of that throughout history. Today, we're facing some of those challenges in unique ways as we see machines that are doing things that were once reserved for human beings. And that's challenging us a little bit to rediscover. And I think as Christians, we have a specific understanding of how God created us in His image and what that means, and that we're wholly unique despite our abilities, despite our creativity, despite our intelligence, that God has created us uniquely in the cosmos, and he calls us to live in a particular way and to wield these tools so that we could love God and to love our neighbors as our self.
BROWN: Last question. Regardless of what happens with the open letter’s proposal, there’s a good chance that these AI generated images will continue to pop up online and generate confusion about what’s really going on in the world. So I’d like to know, what advice would you give listeners who see something online that they aren’t sure is real, but are being told by friends and family that it is? Wttttttttthat would you say?
THACKER: Yeah, and one of the things about this open letter that I appreciate is that it's raising concern. I'm not sure that a lot of things are going to stop or halt or be paused by any means. And one of the things about this letter that listeners need to be aware of is that it's calling for a six month moratorium, or pause on these things, really. We've been long working on AI principles at the government level, at the industry level, even from the ethics level in terms of the things I've been doing for the last few years. This isn't all that new, and six months isn't going to change that much. But one of the things that we are facing is the polar proliferation of fake news and conspiracy theories and misinformation and disinformation. Now, while that can feel very politically charged, we have to realize that we live in a time where the things we see online may not be true. We know that in terms of Wikipedia, we can go to say that I'm an NBA superstar for at least five minutes before it gets changed. But reality is, is that the internet is manipulating and shifting and shaping our understanding of truth. Generative AI takes it to the next level, not only do we have the distribution channels, through social media, and through mass media today, we also have the ability to create it at a mass scale. And so that's one of the things that I think the principle this, this letter actually calls out correctly is that there's a proliferation of this kind of information now, and we have the ability to create it at scale. So one of the big things and I write about this in my last book, Following Jesus in a Digital Age, one of the biggest things we can do is to slow down and to ask the hard questions, not just assuming the things we see online are true, to slow down to read things before we post it before we share it with our friends and family and those that follow us online and to be a people of truth. That's what Christians are, we're people of the way, the truth, and the life we follow Jesus in every single aspect. So we have to slow down and recognize that technology is shaping and forming us as people. And one of the ways that we see that right before us is the rise of generative AI and a lot of the challenges surrounding that. But the Christian ethic is more than robust and sufficient enough to help us to navigate any of the challenges we face, especially with generative AI.
BROWN: Slow down, ask the right questions, and be people of the truth, yes. Jason Thacker is the Chair of Research in Technology Ethics at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Thanks for being with us, Jason.
THACKER: Yeah, thank you for having me.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: migrant deaths at the southern border.
For weeks now, we’ve heard report after report of migrant-related tragedies from migrants found dead in a train car to a fire at a migrant detention center. The drumbeat of headlines may feel relentless and even impersonal. But for rural border communities, the situation is much more concrete and costly.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: WORLD Reporters Bonnie Pritchett and Addie Offereins visited a couple of these border towns last week. Bonnie will be bringing some feature stories from the trip in the weeks ahead, but Addie joins us now for a quick update from the trip. Good morning, Addie.
ADDIE OFFEREINS: Good morning.
BUTLER: Well Addie, you’ve seen the headlines, and you’ve been to ground zero of where many of these events took place. Based on what you saw, what is missing from the mainstream coverage of migrant deaths at the border?
OFFEREINS: I don't read many stories that focus on the toll this crisis is taking on these poor rural counties in South Texas. In Brooks County, the sheriff there told us that the county is still trying to pay off different entities in the county for immigrant deaths from 2012. And so there's these costs that these poor counties are facing, which are very understaffed. They don't have the resources to deal with this. And something surprising that we learned was when an immigrant is apprehended and taken into custody, they're in the custody of the federal government. But if that immigrant dies, that becomes the county's jurisdiction. And these counties just don't have the resources to deal with that.
BROWN: Can you give an example of where you saw this in action, and how does it connect to the bigger picture?
OFFEREINS: The first day we were in Eagle Pass, we were doing a ride along with the sergeant who works for the Sheriff's Department in Maverick County, where Eagle Pass is located, and he got the call from border patrol that they just found a body on a ranch. We went along with him and we saw firsthand that this woman had been there for several weeks and most likely was abandoned by her smuggler. So we did see the very real toll of just this confusing situation for everyone involved at the border, and the toll of laws that aren't cracking down on this smuggling activity that is taking place. What we saw wasn't an isolated incident. We saw the body of one woman but there are hundreds of deaths taking place over the span of years and probably will be hundreds more this summer as it gets hotter, as crossings rise—crossings are really higher in the summer months—and the law enforcement we spoke with are concerned that they will rise this summer.
BUTLER: Addie, have the numbers of migrant deaths and smuggling incidents gone up, or is it just that there is more coverage of human smuggling and deaths at the border?
OFFEREINS: Migrant deaths reached an all time high in Eagle Pass last summer. And as crossings fell during the winter months, those deaths fell as well. But they're continuing to still see these deaths on a weekly basis and to still see incidences of smuggling, even as crossings have gone down a bit and they will probably rise as crossings go up during the summer.
BROWN: Addie Offereins is WORLD’s Compassion Beat reporter, and you can stay up to date on stories like these with her weekly Effective Compassion newsletter. Just go to wng.org/newsletters to sign up. Addie, thanks for joining us today.
OFFEREINS: Thanks for having me.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Up next, taking down TikTok in the US.
Last week, TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before a Congressional committee with Republicans and Democrats united in their concern over TikTok’s future in the United States.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: WORLD’s Washington Bureau reporter Leo Briceno explains what’s at stake.
LEO BRICENO, REPORTER: The video sharing app TikTok is everywhere—it’s at the top of Apple’s app store, in the hands of about 150 million American users, and now it’s at the center of some of the most critical considerations in Congress. The Senate recently introduced a bill to ban the app or force its sale.
The proposed legislation, known as the RESTRICT act, would give the president the power to ban Information and Communication technologies or force their sale if they’re owned by a foreign adversary or pose a risk to the country. Here’s the bill’s sponsor, Democrat Senator Mark Warner
MARK WARNER: So instead of playing whack-a-mole on Huawei one day, CTE the next, Kaspersky, TikTok, we need a more comprehensive approach to evaluating and mitigating these threats posed by these foreign technologies from these adversarial nations.
Critics of the proposed law say that’s a violation of the First Amendment. Depending on whether the ban focuses on national security or not, those critics might be right.
But why does Congress feel that a ban is necessary in the first place?
Just five years ago TikTok went from being an app that no one knew about to a platform outperforming the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The fact that so many Americans are using it—especially underage users—makes policymakers uneasy about what kinds of data collection practices are going on behind the scenes.
What sets TikTok apart from other social platforms with powerful algorithms is its ownership. Because ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, is based in China, lawmakers are concerned that the Chinese Communist Party may be looking over the app’s shoulder at the troves of American data the app could have access to. What is the relationship between the CCP and Byte dance? Would ByteDance have to surrender data to the Chinese government if asked to do so? And what kind of privacy measures does the app have in place to protect Americans?
TikTok CEO Shou Chew faced these—and hundreds of other questions earlier this month at a congressional hearing. Both Democrats and Republicans in the Energy and Commerce Committee made their feelings very clear. Here is representative Bill Bilirakis, followed by Shou Chew.
BILIRAKIS: Do you have full responsibility over the algorithms used by tiktok to prioritize content to its users? Yes or no, please.
CHEW: Congressman, we, we do take these issues very seriously.
BILIRAKIS: Yes or no.
CHEW: And we do provide resources for anyone who types in anything that—
BILIRAKIS: Sir, yes or no.
Even with a rare bipartisan alliance in Congress against the app, a ban of TikTok still has to respect the free speech rights of the many Americans who use the app to express themselves. It also has to overcome the Berman Amendments—a Cold-War-era policy that prevents the ban of books, information, and the like from a foreign rival. If the ban has any hope of clearing that hurdle, it has to focus on the national security questions posed by TikTok. Concerns about content that may be harming children are nonetheless concerns about speech. And in America, that’s constitutionally protected.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leo Briceno
SOUND: [JURASSIC PARK T-REX]
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: T.rex dinosaurs are often depicted as baring their teeth, and even when the dinosaur's mouth is closed their teeth are always seen jutting out. But a new article in the journal Science suggests this stereotypical image might be wrong.
THOMAS CULLEN: This project has been going on for a long time.
Thomas Cullen is the article's lead author. He recently spoke with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
CULLEN: We discovered that large dinosaurs like tyrannosaurus rex likely had lips similar to a lizard and were not like a crocodile with their teeth exposed all the time.
When researchers compared the skulls from dinosaurs and living reptiles, they discovered that some monitor lizards actually have bigger teeth in relation to the size of their skull than the T.rex. Yet their teeth still fit comfortably inside a set of scaly lips.
There's another significant clue: teeth wear patterns. T.rex teeth aren't worn down like you'd expect if they were constantly exposed. So, these evidences lead at least some researchers to say T.rex must have had lips, and how does T.rex feel about these newest developments?
LARRY: I love my lips.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Today is Thursday, April 6th.
Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a special visit to Jerusalem.
The sites in the area are important not only to our Christian faith, but for the holidays we mark this weekend: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.
BUTLER: Millions of Christians visit Israel each year. This spring, WORLD’s Jenny Lind Schmitt was one of them, and she brings us this story.
SOUND: [CARS, HORNS HONKING, TALKING]
JENNY LIND SCHMITT, REPORTER: On a bright spring morning on the Mount of Olives, the sounds of a busy city intrude on the peace of the Garden of Gethsemane. Cars honk their horns and visitors from all over the world emerge from tour buses. It’s a little hard to picture Jesus in this garden, living some of his most difficult moments after the Last Supper with his disciples.
GETHSEMANE MEDITATION: After dinner they obviously crossed the Kidron Valley. They came into the Mount of Olives, and it was this night, and from this garden that Jesus was betrayed and he was arrested. And that points us then to the cross where the crucifixion happens.
Trinity Opp is pastor of Alexandria Covenant Church in Alexandria, Minnesota. Church members sit amid tall dark cypresses, flowering shrubs, and ancient spreading olive trees. The name Gethsemane means “oil press.” In biblical times, people made olive oil here. Opp reads the story of Christ’s passion from Luke 22, and reminds his listeners that the name also points to something else.
TRINITY OPP: It was a place where the weight of the sin of the world pressed upon Jesus so much, that he sweat blood because of the pressure of what was to come. The pressure that he felt was the weight of your sin, the weight of my sin.
Opp and his congregants are on a tour of Israel. They began in Caesarea, traveled north to Galilee, and south to the Dead Sea. Now the trip culminates in Jerusalem as they retrace the steps Jesus walked during His life on earth.
OPP: In the Christian life, understanding the Bible in context is a really big deal. When you understand the Bible from the land of the Bible, it changes the way you read the Bible. It changes the way you understand the Bible.
Kathy Augustine is visiting from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
KATHY AUGUSTINE: I have waited for I can’t tell you how many years to be here, and I’m gonna get teary to think that we just walked down from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. We just sat in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s just. It’s kind of hard to believe we’re here.
SOUND: [STREET NOISES, WALKING, CARS]
Next, the group walks on the Via Dolorosa, the path in Jerusalem where Jesus carried his cross to the crucifixion hill. The narrow cobblestoned street is busy with visitors, merchants, motorcycles, delivery vans, and Israeli army security personnel. The busyness feels unsettling. But Mickey the Israeli guide points out that’s how the original Good Friday must have been. Everyone was hurriedly preparing for Passover. Jesus was just one more person executed by the Romans.
VIA DOLOROSA: We’ll walk from the Antonia to Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is here. It’s not a very long way.
At the end of the Via Dolorosa, the group gathers in the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Tour leader John Delancey explains why this is likely the very spot Jesus was crucified and buried.
JOHN DELANCEY: I’m just going to say right out, that archaeologically, hands’ down, this is the site. But also as I begin, we need to remind ourselves that we worship the Person, not the place.
Delancey is an archeologist and pastor who’s been leading tours to Israel for 30 years. On short trips, it’s challenging to quickly teach visitors how archeology works and have it all make sense. But Delancey’s passion is helping Christians make the geographical and archeological connections that help them understand the Bible’s environment.
DELANCEY: Even though this is a so-called traditional place, the Holy Sepulchre Church, I think it really does preserve the location of where Jesus died on a cross, was buried, and rose again. We do know that this was a necropolis of the city. Because of Hadrian tipping us off, perhaps where perhaps he thought Jesus was crucified and buried and wanting to get rid of any evidence of this guy named Jesus, we almost have to indirectly thank him because later Christians 200 years following Hadrian built this church here in honor of that event.
SOUND: [People talking, honks]
SOUND: [MUSLIM CALL TO PRAYER]
Later, Muslim calls to prayer wail across the city.
Crowds of Muslims stream from Ramadan prayers at the Temple Mount. The tour group threads through them to get to the Garden Tomb. It’s a possible site of Jesus’ resurrection.
In the quiet of the garden, the group gathers to take communion together. Delancey reminds everyone that while the journey here is significant, what is more important is the salvation that Jesus bought for each one of us.
DELANCEY: Lord thank you for this blessed time we set ourselves apart for the sacred purpose of worshiping and honoring you.
GROUP SINGING: I will sing of my Redeemer and his wondrous love for me. On the cruel cross He suffered, from the curse to set me free. Sing, Oh Sing of my Redeemer, with his blood he purchased me.
Bethany Harper from Redmond, Washington, says the journey has reminded her of the truth her belief is based on.
BETHANY HARPER: There’s historical truths all around, of: This is where Jesus exactly was, and we know that for sure. Or this is where he might have been. It kind of makes you realize the reality of our faith.
Kathy Augustine says she won’t feel the true impact until she gets home.
AUGUSTINE: Only because I will read the Bible completely differently than I ever have.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jenny Lind Schmitt, in Jerusalem.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Thursday, April 6th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler. Up next: Commentator Cal Thomas on Asbury University and the best hope for America.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: The secular and cynical find it difficult to believe not only that “God governs in the affairs of men,” as Benjamin Franklin said, but that He would visit a small town where there are few traffic lights and a decent restaurant is several miles away.
Something happened here at Asbury University.Dr. Kevin Brown, the president, is reluctant to use the word “revival” to describe what began in early February and lasted for several weeks. He prefers “outpouring” to describe the days of prayer, repentance and singing that drew as many as 50,000 people to campus from miles away and other countries, along with international attention from a media that are normally indifferent to spiritual things, unless they involve scandalous behavior.
Professors who have been at the school for years and read about previous spiritual experiences at this campus and in other places told me they had never seen anything like it.
Theological explanations aside, perhaps this outpouring can be partially explained by a recent NBC News poll. It found 71 percent of those surveyed believe the country is headed in the “wrong direction.” Little seems to be working. We have a record national debt. Confidence in our political leadership is low. America’s enemies seem ready to take advantage of what they perceive as weakness and indecisiveness in our president. Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he believes America is in decline.
Spiritual “awakenings,” as they are sometimes called, are nothing new. “The Great Awakening” of the mid-18th century, began with the preaching of Jonathan Edwards at his Northampton, Massachusetts, church. Patrick Morley, writing for the publication Church Leaders, described what is common to all such awakenings: “People sense the presence of God powerfully; conviction, despair, contrition, repentance and prayer come easily; people thirst for God’s word; many authentic conversions occur and backsliders are renewed.”
A second Great Awakening occurred between 1790 and 1840 and evangelical church membership grew rapidly.
The revival of 1857 was the greatest of them all. Church historian J. Edwin Orr has written that 10,000 people a week were converted in New York City alone. Writes Orr: “Trinity Episcopal Church in Chicago had a hundred and twenty-one members in 1857; fourteen hundred in 1860. That was typical of the churches. More than a million people were converted to God in one year out of a population of thirty million. What astounded many was the social impact as it paved the way for the abolitionist movement that eventually ended slavery and created missionary societies that built hospitals and performed other good works around the world.”
We’ve tried everything else in America from politics, to government, to spending money. Nothing seems to be working as effectively as that which came before–from what Orr described as “a concert of prayer.”
Is that what happened at Asbury University? Time will tell in the results. Meanwhile, what C.S. Lewis said might help us avoid putting too much faith in human institutions: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
The Asbury students appear to be on to something.
I’m Cal Thomas.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST:
Tomorrow: John Stonestreet returns for Culture Friday.
And, Collin Garbarino reviews “On a Wing and a Prayer”—a new faith-based film inspired by a true story.
That and more tomorrow. I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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The Psalmist writes, I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever. With my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
Go now in grace and peace.
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