Host Ira Glass talks with Stephen Nissenbaum, author of a history called The Battle for Christmas, which explains when people started believing in a Santa who arrives Christmas Eve carrying presents. It was in 1822, and incredibly, the poem that created our modern idea of Santa is still around, known by heart by tens of millions.
These teenagers are the children the Christian right has in mind when it holds conferences on what's at stake in America's culture war. On the fourteen-hour drive to West Virginia, we listen to the Backstreet Boys and talk about Dawson's Creek. One of the things that's so interesting about these teenagers is the odd mix of Christian and secular pop in their lives.
In this act we hear two stories of people who stumbled upon a place where they instantly and instinctively felt more at home than in their real homes. Stephen Dubner, author of the memoir Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family, talks about an encounter with a Jewish man named Irving that changed his life.
When the end of time comes, what videos will we watch? Under fundamentalist Christian doctrine, the first thing that will happen during the End Time is that all the good Christians will be whisked suddenly to heaven. We hear clips from Left Behind—a video designed to be played after all the Christians have vanished, by all the people left behind.
How fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews are combining forces to breed a perfect red cow that could bring about the end of the world. Ira talks with cattleman and minister Clyde Lott, and with New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright.
Both Bonnie Gaunt and Marilyn Agee have been counting the length of time of all the events in the Bible, and through their calculations, they believe they have individually discovered the exact day that good Christians will be raptured directly to heaven. Bonnie's date: September 11, 1999; Marilyn's date: May 21, 1999.
A Hollywood TV producer tries to convince a church of evangelical Christians to sell out a member of their own congregation. Matt Malloy reads. He was one of the stars of the acclaimed independent film In the Company of Men.Also in this act: Dickens vs.
Ira reaches current-day Dave, who is a born-again Christian living with his parents. According to Dave, Bob was at fault for the breakdown in their relationship, because Bob had decided to become friends with someone else.
Ira talks with Karen Hutt, Director of Religious Education for the First Unitarian Church of Chicago, who one Sunday gave a sermon at the church about her experience as the first black child to integrate the Philadelphia public school system. The sermon inspired a project: Hutt, along with Laura Finnegan, collected an oral history of the experiences of African American members of the congregation about their own experiences as the "first" integrators of their neighborhoods or organizations.
After he goes to Jerusalem and sleeps on what is supposedly the very spot where Jesus was crucified, Kevin Kelly has a revelation: that he should live the next six months as if he would die at the end of them. So he gives away nearly everything he owns, and tries to live each day as if his death is imminent — which turns out to be a great challenge.