The World and Everything in It: February 15, 2024 | WORLD
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The World and Everything in It: February 15, 2024


WORLD Radio - The World and Everything in It: February 15, 2024

The Lakewood Church shooter had a history of mental illness, defending religious liberty at home and abroad, remembering marathoner Kelvin Kiptum, and an Ohio church receives code violations for sheltering the homeless. Plus, Cal Thomas on the docuseries Gospel and the Thursday morning news

Police Chief Troy Finner in the aftermath of the shooting at Lakewood Church at police headquarters in Houston, Texas on Monday Associated Press/Photo by Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle

PREROLL: The World and Everything in It is made possible by listeners like me. My name is Jeff Trimbath, and I'm the president of the newly launched Maryland Family Institute in beautiful Annapolis, Maryland. I hope you enjoy today's program.

LINDSAY MAST, HOST: Good morning! The shooting at Lakewood Church raises questions about the perpetrator and about keeping people safe in church.

 MARY REICHARD, HOST: Also, the death of a world-record marathoner.

And a challenge to Canada’s euthanasia rules. And we have an update on a religious liberty dispute out of Oregon.

Plus, a shelter inside a church runs into trouble with officials:

AUDIO: We are literally a 24/7 church… and to me it feels like someone coming in and saying well here’s how you have to run church.

And WORLD commentator Cal Thomas on the power of gospel music.

MAST: It’s Thursday, February 15th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Lindsay Mast.

REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Good morning!

MAST: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Turner warns of serious national security threat » Members of the House Intelligence Committee are sounding alarms about what they call “a serious National Security threat.”

WALTZ: This is so serious, we need to make all members of Congress aware of it.

GOP Congressman Michael Waltz said the matter is classified, so he could not provide details. But he said in his view …

WALTZ: If we don’t deal with this appropriately, if the administration doesn’t take firm action, this could be a geo-strategic game-changer.

A senior congressional aide told the Associated Press that, as he understands it, the threat relates to a space-deployed Russian anti-satellite weapon that may or may not already have been launched.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner on Wednesday publicly called on the Biden administration to declassify the information to make everyone aware of the threat.

That seemed to catch the White House off guard. National security adviser Jake Sullivan:

SULLIVAN: I am a bit surprised that Congressman Turner came out publicly today in advance of a meeting on the books for me to go sit with him alongside our intelligence and defense professionals.

Sullivan referring there to a meeting scheduled for today to brief a group of lawmakers on the intelligence.

Austin out of hospital, pushes for Ukraine aid » Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is back on the job after being discharged from Walter Reed military hospital where he was treated for a bladder infection.

That followed a trip to the ICU last month due to complications from surgery for prostate cancer.

AUSTIN: I’m in good condition, and my cancer prognosis remains excellent. And I’m really grateful for all the well wishes.

Austin heard there as he virtually attended a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

The secretary said despite divisions on Capitol Hill over foreign aid…

AUSTIN: We’ll continue to work to get Ukraine what it needs to hold onto its gains … and to keep pushing back Russia’s illegal occupation in the months ahead.

Ukraine front line » Meantime, Ukraine’s new army chief says his military is starting to feel the effects as Congress waivers on funding more help for Ukraine.

Top general Oleksandr Syrsky visited the front line yesterday, calling conditions extremely difficult.

And back in Washington, Jake Sullivan told reporters …

SULLIVAN: We’ve been increasingly getting reports of Ukrainian troops rationing or even running out of ammunition on the front lines as Russian forces continue to attack, both on the ground and from in the air.

Earlier this week, the Senate passed a bill containing $60 billion in funding for Ukraine, but it faces an uncertain future in the House.

House Speaker Mike Johnson says his chamber won’t be pressured into approving a security bill that “does nothing to secure our own borders.”

FBI director visits Israel » FBI Director Christopher Wray met Wednesday with his counterparts in Israel. He said they talked about the war in Gaza as well as threats to both countries from within the Middle East.

WRAY: We have learned a lot. The information exchange between our two countries has been terrific, as well as with a number of our other close allies.

Wray made the stop before heading on to Germany for a security conference in Munich.

Mayorkas impeachment » Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says his chamber does plan to open an impeachment trial of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. That after House Republicans voted to impeach him on Tuesday saying he betrayed the public trust.

GOP Congressman Jodey Arrington

ARRINGTON: The guy had no intention of enforcing the laws of the land. He didn’t fulfill his sacred oath to his security mission to guard and control the border.

But Schumer called the impeachment a “sham” and an “embarrassment” to House Republicans. The Democrat-led chamber is unlikely to remove Mayorkas from office.

Chiefs parade shooting » Police in Kansas City are still investigating a shooting that marred the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade.

Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves told reporters last night:

GRAVES: The number of shots, the time in between them, the motive; all of that is still actively being investigated.

She said the shots rang out just after the parade ended.

One fan described the chaos:

FAN: We thought it was fireworks, so we kind of remained calm. But then we heard people screaming and running.

Police detained three people for investigation.

Video footage showed fans tackling one person who may have been involved and holding him for police.

More than 20 people were wounded, at least one fatally.

I'm Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: Investigating the Lakewood church shooting. Plus, Religious liberty in hospice care.

This is The World and Everything in It.

LINDSAY MAST, HOST: It’s Thursday the 15th of February, 2024. You’re listening to The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Lindsay Mast.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up: the shooting at a church in Houston, Texas on Sunday.

Given the subject matter, this might be a story you come back to later if children are nearby.

When we cover these stories here at WORLD, we aim for the facts without calling attention to the perpetrator who might be seeking notoriety.

MAST: In this incident at Lakewood Church, there’s been confusion about the shooter’s background and possible motives. Here to bring some clarity along with discernment on this disturbing story is Juliana Chan Erikson. She is WORLD’s marriage, family, and sexuality correspondent.

JULIANA CHAN ERIKSON: Shortly before Lakewood Church’s 2pm Spanish language service this past Sunday, gunshots cut through the chatter.

SOUND: [Gunshots and yelling]

Two off-duty police officers traded fire with the shooter while law enforcement sped to the scene. Later in the afternoon, Houston police chief Troy Finner spoke to reporters.

TROY FINNER: She was armed with a long rifle and a trench coat with a backpack, accompanied by a small child approximately 4 to 5 years old. Once she entered, at some point she began to fire…She's deceased here on the scene. The five-year-old kid was hit and is in critical condition at our local hospital.

A 57-year-old man was also hit in the leg. But apart from that, there were no other injuries. Lakewood Church’s pastor, Joel Osteen, spoke with reporters:

JOEL OSTEEN: I can only imagine if it would have happened during the 11:00 service. We were in between services going into the Spanish service. So, you know, if there's anything good of it, you know what, that she didn't get in there and do a whole lot worse damage. So we thank God for that…

So who was the shooter, and what was the motive for her attack?

Here’s what we know so far.

Police identified the woman as Genesse Ivonne Moreno from her Colorado-issued driver’s license. Moreno previously attended Lakewood Church with her mom, and in 2020 posted on Instagram details for a donation she made to the church.

But from here, the story gets complicated. Here’s Houston Police Commander, Christopher Hassig, on Monday.

HASSIG: There are some discrepancies. We do have reports she used multiple aliases, including Jeffrey Escalante, so she has utilized both male and female names.

Moreno had a criminal record going back decades, with charges for theft and assault, and was involved in a contentious divorce back in 2022. Court records show that her ex-husband, lawyer, and other members of the court also referred to Moreno as Jeffrey. But WORLD was unable to find any ID info on Moreno that supports the theory that this person was born as a male. And documentation about their divorce proceedings refer to Moreno with female pronouns and as the “former wife” and “mother” of their now 7-year-old child.

Another detail that raised concerns for police was that the AR-15 rifle she used had a sticker attached that said “Palestine” on it.

But on Monday, Moreno’s former mother-in-law, Walli Carranza, said on Facebook that it wasn’t Middle East politics but poor mental health that made Moreno volatile. Sound here from CNN.

CARRANZA: She threatened her husband’s life, she threatened mine, she threatened to kill her own son.

According to divorce paperwork, Carranza said Moreno suffered from schizophrenia. She was also known to carry a handgun in her son’s diaper bag.

CARRANZA: We’ve asked for help from police and received it many times, but she was still allowed to own guns.

Even with the symptoms of mental illness, Moreno purchased her gun legally. And since 2021, Texas no longer requires licenses to carry one. But Moreno’s neighbors had concerns about behavior they witnessed.

One neighbor identified by news outlets as Jill said that Moreno often blamed her troubles on other people, or different aspects of her identity. Audio here from Houston Fox affiliate KRIV.

JILL: At first it was, oh, it’s because I’m transgender. Then it was because we’re Mexican. And then it was because we were black. And every time, depending on what her narrative was for that day, she changed the reason for why you were picking on her.

Justin Moreno began identifying as transgender about two years ago, after Moreno complained about the neighborhood mail carrier.

JILL: She filed a false report with the post office stating that he wouldn’t deliver the mail because she was transgender. OK? Well, what the problem was is that they were parking in front of their mailbox.

Jill also said Moreno stalked pedestrians in her car on multiple occasions and nearly ran them over…among other forms of aggressive behavior.

Now Moreno is deceased, and her son is in critical condition in the hospital.

While law enforcement works to learn more about Moreno’s motive in targeting Lakewood Church, one thing is clear: the church had people in the room who were prepared to respond with the right amount of force.

CHUCK CHADWICK: Everybody’s all about active shooter stuff. And yeah, that happens every once in a while.

That’s Chuck Chadwick, founder of the National Organization of Church Security and Safety Management.

CHADWICK: But mostly the kinds of things that we deal with are domestic disputes and people that are, you know, have nefarious motives for being there.

Chadwick told WORLD that churches should be intentional about security, investing in training so that members know how to handle a variety of situations. That said, being ready doesn’t mean churches need to have a SWAT team in the pews.

CHADWICK: Most of the time, churches with a few good men or women that are trained appropriately, can usually I think handle the situation.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Juliana Chan Erikson.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: the life and death of a marathon runner who set world records. Here’s WORLD’s Lillian Hamman with the story.

LILLIAN HAMMAN: On Sunday, Kenyan long distance runner Kelvin Kiptum died after crashing his car into a tree near Kaptagat, Kenya. He was 24. Kiptum’s 36-year old coach Gervais Hakizamana also died, and 32-year old passenger Sharon Chepkurui Kosgei was taken to the hospital.

NBC ANNOUNCER AT CHI MARATHON: The story of the moment and the story of this marathon is Kelvin Kiptum. We've been talking about him for weeks.

Just five days before the crash, World Athletics ratified Kiptum’s 2 hour and 35 second finish at the 2023 Chicago Marathon as a new world record. Chicago Marathon race director Carey Pinkowski remembers Kiptum jumping into his arms at the finish line after setting the record.

CAREY PINKOWSKI: I can’t help but smile…I think he drew on the on the energy from the city. The city embraced him, I think he embraced the city. He just was just an amazing, young man.

Averaging 4 minutes and 35 seconds per mile for the 26.2 mile race, Kiptum broke the world record in just his third marathon. Kiptum also set the record in his first marathon for the fastest debut ever and ran all of his races faster in the second half than the first.


KELVIN KIPTUM: For now I am very happy. A world record was not in my mind today, but that’s come definitely. But I knew one day one time I’ll be a world record holder.

Kiptum was set to compete at the Rotterdam marathon in April after training to become the first human to officially run a marathon in under 2 hours. Many also expected the 24-year old star to bring home gold for Kenya at the Olympic marathon in August. Athletics Kenya President Jack Tuwei says now the nation must adjust their Olympic team and expectations.

JACK TUWEI: And his name on the male category was the first one. He was on top. So we had already selected him to go and run in Paris. But unfortunately now he's no longer with us.

Nation Sport reported that Kiptum and his coach were on their way to Eldoret to watch an African football game when they crashed. But Kiptum’s father asked the Kenyan government to investigate foul play from a group of men who came to his house looking for his son a few days before the crash. The men were released yesterday after questioning, but the investigation is still ongoing.

Kenya’s Ministry of Sports will organize Kiptum’s funeral, which is set for Saturday February 24. He leaves behind his wife and two children.

ABABU NAMWAMBA: Kenya, the world, and the fraternity of athletics and sports in general has lost a special, shining, gem.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Lillian Hamman.

LINDSAY MAST, HOST: And now, religious liberty at the bakery and in hospice.

Last week, the Archdiocese of Montreal sued Quebec province to keep euthanasia out of Catholic services that provide medical care.

Quebec requires even religiously-affiliated centers to provide medical assistance in dying with no exceptions.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: We’ll get to that story in a moment.

But first, a religious liberty case out of Oregon is at the appeals court for the third time in just over a decade.

Joining us to talk about these cases is WORLD legal reporter, Steve West.

Good morning, Steve.

STEVE WEST: Good morning, Mary.

REICHARD: Well, remind us about the background to this case…

WEST: Well, it does have a long and tortured history. Aaron and Melissa Klein operated a bakery and custom cake design business in Oregon until 2013, when the state effectively shut them down. Two women visited the Kleins to ask about designing a custom cake for their wedding. Because of their biblical convictions about marriage, the Kleins politely said no. The woman filed a complaint, and ultimately, the state fined the Kleins $135,000. They eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court where justices sent the case back to be reconsidered after the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, because of the hostility the state agency showed toward the Kleins’ religious beliefs.

REICHARD: That should have ended it, but it didn’t. Am I correct?

WEST:That's right, the Oregon appeals court again found the Kleins discriminated against the women. The State agency reconsidered the fine and reduced it to $30,000. The Kleins ultimately made their way back to the Supreme Court again. And the court again sent the case back - this time to be reconsidered in light of their ruling last year in 303 Creative v. Elenis, where they said that Lorie Smith, the website designer in Colorado, could not be compelled to design websites for same-sex weddings.

REICHARD: So how did the three judge panel handle the arguments in the Klein case this time around?

WEST: It was what appellate lawyers call a “hot panel,” as the judges were very engaged, asking a lot of questions. They seemed eager to distinguish this case from 303 Creative, peppering Klein counsel James Conde with a host of questions–like this one from Judge Kristina Hellman, that seemed to betray her sympathies.

HELLMAN: If your clients are going to ask for an exception based on free speech, how are other citizens here supposed to know about that, so that they don’t go into a place of public accommodation that holds itself out as open to all, only to learn in exceptionally sort of humiliating ways that it is not actually open to them at all?

WEST: Conde countered with an argument familiar to free speech advocates.

CONDE: I’m sorry that that’s offensive to them, but I think the First Amendment protects offensive speech. That’s what the First Amendment is all about.

REICHARD: Was the state’s attorney also grilled?

WEST: Not so much. At one point, it turned into a culinary discussion as they asked him about the reach of their ruling. What about sheet cakes? Three-tier cakes? A simple cake with a flower but no message? This is where Carson Whitehead made a comment that judges could seize on to pull this case out of the 303 Creative orbit.

WHITEHEAD: It would be an awkward, you know admittedly and awkward thing for a public accommodation to have tiers of service, which makes me wonder if you’re this kind of private cake service, maybe it’s not a public accommodation at all and this is a completely different case.

REICHARD: How do you expect the court to rule this time?

WEST: It doesn’t look good, with judges trying to find a way to distinguish this case. Which also means it may not be over for the Kleins. In rebuttal, Klein attorney James Conde summed up the case’s impact on his clients.

CONDE: This case has been going on for over a decade. [The state agency] A bully in the process has destroyed the client’s business, denigrated their religion as prejudice, and fined them over $100,000 for quoting the Bible in a conversation about religious truth. I think 303 Creative should end this case.

REICHARD: Well, let’s turn to the case out of Canada. Why did Roman Catholic Archbishop Christian Lépine appeal to the high court in Quebec last week?

WEST: Many of us have watched with concern as Canada has expanded its provision of euthanasia to those facing terminal illnesses and soon to those with mental illness by what lawmakers euphemistically call Medical Assistance in Dying—MAiD. The Montreal Catholic diocese offers palliative care–hospice–to those facing terminal illness—not death. They were forced to sue here because the provincial government refused to exempt them from the law because of their religious convictions.

REICHARD: What makes this case significant for religious liberty in Canada?

WEST: Canada has a Charter of Rights that, similar to our Constitution, guarantees religious freedom. This case provides the court with an opportunity to affirm that constitutional right. It’s about the right of conscience—will it be protected? If not, the church will have to stop providing care and comfort for the dying—something it has always done.

REICHARD: Final question here, Steve…how do you keep your hope when reporting on stories like these, where it seems no happy ending is in sight?

WEST: You know, every day, if not every hour of the day, I have to remind myself of the larger story that’s going on, that the Lord is at work in the world, redeeming the world, and setting all things right. And that’s ultimately our hope.

REICHARD: Steve West is a legal reporter for WORLD, and you can keep up stories like this in his weekly Liberties newsletter. We’ve included a link in today’s transcript. Steve, thanks so much!

WEST: My pleasure, Mary.

LINDSAY MAST, HOST: Police in Missouri recently received a call about a possible home invasion. They heard noises coming from inside the house. One officer drew his gun and walked through a hallway...

OFFICER: Let’s go. We’ll just start clearing room by room.

...clearing room by room until the culprit saw him first and ran!

OFFICER: WOOOOOHOOOO! (laughter) Close the door! Close the Door!

Turns out, he’d startled the intruder squirrel as much as it startled him!

DISPATCH: Aaaaahhhh. (dispatch: can we clear the air?) Officer: Yes, you can clear the air.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: All he had to do was act like a nut... 

MAST: ...and he’d come right to him!

It’s The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 15th. This is WORLD Radio and we thank you for listening. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

LINDSAY MAST, HOST: And I’m Lindsay Mast. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: offering shelter amid zoning rules.

In January, a pastor in Ohio was criminally charged for allowing the homeless to sleep inside his church, a building called “Dad’s Place.”

When Pastor Chris Avell decided to keep it open around the clock, he was hit with a zoning violation. Then a fire code violation. Then, a building code violation.

REICHARD: Avell sued, alleging religious discrimination.

Last week, the city dropped its criminal charges against him. But his discrimination lawsuit is still going on. WORLD Correspondent Maria Baer paid a visit to Dad’s Place and brings this story.

MARIA BAER: Pastor Chris Avell is not interested in running a homeless shelter.

CHRIS AVELL: I’ve always said, we’re not a homeless shelter. We’re a church. I just don’t want to lose sight of our mission. We’re called to be a church that’s open 24/7.

In 2019, Avell began renting this space for his church. It’s a small labyrinth of rooms in a row house just a block east from Bryan’s humble town square. This isn’t a standalone building. That detail is important.

Last March, Avell decided to keep Dad’s Place open around the clock. That’s when Maria Shannon began sleeping here, on a couple of chairs in the church’s sanctuary.

MARIA SHANNON: We just hook the chairs together… and they hook together, and they make a pretty good bed.

Next door to Dad’s Place is a bona fide homeless shelter called The Sanctuary, with offices on the first floor and a few bedrooms on the second floor. That detail is important, too.

But Maria can’t stay at The Sanctuary, because she’s in a wheelchair and there’s no elevator over there. They’re usually full anyway.

SHANNON: (Maria, what would your situation look like if you weren’t able to stay here?) Back to the car. Bounce around.

Last November, the city engineer and the Bryan police chief came knocking. They cited Avell for a zoning violation, telling him people can’t sleep inside Dad’s Place. The building is zoned for commercial use, not residential.

The zoning violation set off a chain reaction of additional citations.

AVELL: The fire code stuff didn’t come in until later.

Avell was cited for having a washer and dryer hooked up in the Dad’s Place basement. So he donated the machines to The Sanctuary next door, whose second floor is zoned for residential use.

Avell was cited for having a stove in the church kitchen with no vent hood. He installed a vent hood. Then he was cited for violating the building code by installing the vent hood.

AVELL: So you need to submit plans, the building — it’s like ugh, I don’t know. So we’re just like, “Okay. If we just don’t use it, if we show we’re not going to use it…”

Today the stove sits awkwardly a few inches from the wall, unplugged, with four black holes where the burners should be.

Technically, the zoning violations were criminal charges. But last week, the city dropped those charges “without prejudice,” meaning they could bring them again.

A few weeks after receiving the original citation, Avell sued the city of Bryan, alleging religious discrimination. His lawyers with First Liberty Institute said city officials were selectively enforcing their zoning code against Avell’s church.

AVELL: I do know, literally right next door is an apartment, first floor. (Zoned that way?) I don’t know. I don’t know if it was under the radar. Now I know it was known about...

Avell said the police evicted the longtime occupants of the first-floor apartment next door shortly after Dad’s Place got in trouble.

Avell’s lawyers said the city agreed to drop the criminal charges after closed-door negotiations last week because Avell agreed to, quote, “cease residential operations” at Dad’s Place.

That was an easy concession, his lawyers said, because Dad’s Place never had residential operations.

AVELL: I sincerely don’t view what we’re doing even as a homeless shelter. We are literally a 24/7 church and to me it feels like someone coming in and saying, “Well, here’s how you have to run church.”

Avell’s lawyers won’t confirm whether people are still sleeping at Dad’s Place overnight. But they said the two church volunteers who were stationed inside around the clock, to provide security and welcome newcomers, have stopped. Ostensibly, these were the church’s “residential operations.”

SARAH UTLEY: My personal opinion …

Sarah Utley is the administrative assistant for the Bryan Area Chamber of Commerce, just across the town square from Dad’s Place. She said Bryan residents don’t seem to mind that people are sleeping at the church. She said the locals are more concerned about safety. Remember: Dad’s Place is not a standalone building. He has neighbors.

UTLEY: Just, fix your violations man. There’s a taco shop next to you, Taco’s Nachos. Ignacio came from Mexico and started his own business from the ground up. That place if it burns down…

Utley is referring to another of the city’s allegations: that there was a gas leak recently at Dad’s place. According to Avell’s team, this was a pinhole leak the fire marshal discovered in a routine inspection after the laundry machines were unhooked in the basement. No one was evacuated; no alarms pulled. Fire officials advised Avell to ask the gas company to cap the leak. They did.

After the charges were dropped last week, Avell thanked the city in an official statement and said he would quote, “seek proper building certifications for the operations [the church] plans to pursue.”

But as anyone who has sought a permit from a city zoning board or had to parse the legalese of a city’s building code knows, “seeking proper building certifications” isn’t always straightforward.

Things get even more complicated when parties don’t agree on definitions. At the heart of this case is the question: what makes a shelter a shelter, and what makes a church a church?

AVELL: It’s because they’re saying we’re residential. So since we’re residential, then it changes everything because then we’re no longer a church. From my perspective they’ve put us under the burden of both.

The situation has made international news, but with a twist. Usually in cases of alleged religious discrimination against Christians, the media cast the Christians as aggressors. In Avell’s case, he said the media has largely cast him as the victim. He sees God’s hand in that.

AVELL: If the media had been clearer and said this guy’s actually all about Jesus. I have an agenda. My agenda is Christ, period. I am an ambassador of Christ, not an ambassador of the homeless. I’m out here saying, “Repent, and be saved.” That’s my message.

Now that the criminal charges are dropped, Avell is no longer facing jail time. But he’ll be back in court in March for the next hearing in his discrimination lawsuit.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Maria Baer in Bryan, Ohio.

LINDSAY MAST, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Lindsay Mast.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next: WORLD commentator Cal Thomas sings the praises of a new PBS documentary.


CAL THOMAS: If you are tired of TV shows like The Bachelor where women demean themselves by competing for the “love” of a man; if you are sick of all the shootings and explosions on TV, the canned laughter on sitcoms that mostly aren’t funny (which is why they have to insert canned laughter in the first place); if you want to have your spirit lifted out of the mundane and into the heavens, there is a place you can go.

Visit PBS for the brilliant, fun, entertaining blessing of watching a new docuseries called GOSPEL.

Hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., GOSPEL traces the history of gospel music, which has sustained African-Americans through toils and troubles. Gates is a Harvard professor, not a seminary professor, so he misses some theological distinctions. But he has created an uplifting program that will bless all but the hardest of hearts.

“Musical styles come and go, says PBS, “but there’s one sound that has been a constant source of strength, courage, and wisdom on any given Sunday. GOSPEL … digs deep into the origin story of Black spirituality through sermon and song.”

As I’ve written before about Gates’ work, he doesn’t judge people for the historical plight of Black Americans. Instead, he presents facts and lets viewers reach their own conclusions. His is a soft touch but with a powerful message.

What amazes about GOSPEL is that in the midst of much suffering–from slavery to more contemporary discrimination and hate–there is so much joy. Historians and other scholars fill in the facts about this unique musical style, but it’s the music itself that lifts viewers to another level.

When I have visited Black churches, I have experienced something decidedly different from what I encounter in majority white churches. First, I am usually greeted by people who clearly identify me as a visitor. The spiritual energy is noticeable from the start. The preacher doesn’t just preach a sermon. He (and sometimes she) exhorts. No one falls asleep in the Black church.

Gates’ program recalls how some of these great gospel hymns were written. He even demonstrates the influence some of the music has had on rock and roll. Chuck Berry makes a brief appearance with his famous guitar riff. As in more staid hymns, many gospel songs were inspired by pain and suffering, but those twin experiences are overcome by hope and then joy.

Some critics of this up-tempo music once called gospel as well as rock and roll “the Devil’s music,” but Gospel music isn’t about the Devil, but God and Jesus. While emotional at times, its theology is often solid. Listen to Mahalia Jackson sing “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” which she sang at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. There is no Devil in that song.

JACKSON: Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me to…

Here’s a thought: how about a performance of gospel songs during halftime at next year’s Super Bowl? It would beat some of what we’ve witnessed in recent years, including this year.

GOSPEL is viewable on your local PBS station or at If you aren’t smiling, joining in the singing, and experiencing a blessing, you may want to check your vital signs. GOSPEL is more than great TV. It is a warm spiritual bath.

I’m Cal Thomas.

EPISODE 4: You are the source of my strength. You are the strength of my life. I lift my hands in total praise to you. Amen.

LINDSAY MAST, HOST: Tomorrow. Culture Friday with John Stonestreet. People and pets, can the bonds between them be too strong? And, Oscar nominations for the best animated films in 2023. That and more tomorrow.

I’m Lindsay Mast.

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 records that Jesus lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. —Luke 6:20, 21

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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