Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 186

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. America in one tweet:“We are living in an era of woke capitalism in which companies pretend to care about social justice to sell products to people who pretend to hate capitalism.” (Clay Routledge, Twitter)
  2. Engineers of the Soul: Ideology in Xi Jinping’s China (John Garnaut, Sinocism): “In classical Chinese statecraft there are two tools for gaining and maintaining control over “the mountains and the rivers”: The first is wu (weapons, violence — 武) and the second is wen (language, culture — 文). Chinese leaders have always believed that power derives from controlling both the physical battlefield and the cultural domain. You can’t sustain physical power without discursive power. Wu and wen go hand-in-hand.”
  3. A Strange Argument for the Commonplace (Cato Unbound, Agnes Callard): “We should not equalize the rich and poor, but rather endeavor to make the poor of tomorrow wealthier than the rich of today.” I’m including this link mostly because of that quote. Also because it has some commentary on Peter Singer which dovetails with a conversation I had earlier this week.
  4. Most Teenagers Drop Out of Church as Young Adults (Aaron Earls, Lifeway Research ): “Almost half (47 percent) of those who dropped out and attended college say moving to college played a role in their no longer attending church for at least a year…. Among all those who dropped out, 29 percent say they planned on taking a break from church once they graduated high school. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say their leaving wasn’t an intentional decision.”
    • The title is a bit misleading. Yes, a majority of young adults who previously attended church do stop attending church for at least one year between the ages of 18–22, but if you look at their underlying research about 70% eventually start attending again. Also, it doesn’t seem to ask whether any of these people were involved in an activity that they might not characterize as church (like Chi Alpha or Intervarsity). I know some of my Chi Alpha students are not currently worshiping with a Sunday morning congregation, but it would be wrong to infer that their faith has been put on pause.
  5. Have Aliens Found Us? A Harvard Astronomer on the Mysterious Interstellar Object ‘Oumuamua (Isaac Chotiner, New Yorker): “Last year, I wrote a paper about cosmology where there was an unusual result, which showed that perhaps the gas in the universe was much colder than we expected. And so we postulated that maybe dark matter has some property that makes the gas cooler. And nobody cares, nobody is worried about it, no one says it is not science. Everyone says that is mainstream—to consider dark matter, a substance we have never seen. That’s completely fine. It doesn’t bother anyone. But when you mention the possibility that there could be equipment out there that is coming from another civilization—which, to my mind, is much less speculative, because we have already sent things into space—then that is regarded as unscientific.”
    • I am skeptical, but I find the conversation fascinating. Related: an article on the Fermi paradox I shared back in volume 159 and an article on government investigation of UFO reports from volume 132.
  6. The marvel of the human dad (Anna Machin, Aeon): “But crucially, dad has not evolved to be the mirror to mum, a male mother, so to speak. Evolution hates redundancy and will not select for roles that duplicate each other if one type of individual can fulfil the role alone. Rather, dad’s role has evolved to complement mum’s.” Dr. Machin is a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford.
  7. The Virtue Signalers Won’t Change the World (John McWhorter, The Atlantic): “Just as the first and second waves of both feminism and antiracism transformed social structures, third-wave antiracism may seem parallel to third-wave feminism in moving on to a different form of abuse, psychological rather than institutional. But this focus on the psychological has morphed, of late, from a pragmatic mission to change minds into a witch hunt driven by the personal benefits of virtue signaling, obsessed with unconscious and subconscious bias. As noble as this culture of shaming genuinely seems to many, it’s a dead end.”
    • A useful, detailed follow-up: The Perils of a Psychological Approach to Anti-racism (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “If the phenomenon McWhorter described is real, we should be able to find leftists who intend to fight bias by calling out psychological harms, only to fall into ‘hypersensitivity, oversimplification, and even a degree of performance’ as participants signal virtue in ways that help no one.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Inside Graduate Admissions (Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschick): if you plan to apply to grad school, read this. There is one revealing anecdote about how an admissions committee treated an application from a Christian college student. My takeaway: the professors tried to be fair but found it hard to do, and their stated concerns were mostly about the quality of the institution rather than the faith of the applicant. Troubling nonetheless. (first shared in volume 32)

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 185

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

In case you’re wondering: I just don’t find stories about the Russia investigation or the government shutdown interesting. I think they’re important, but few people are writing things about them that catch my attention. Recommendations are welcome.

Also, one of you mentioned that you sometimes can’t open the links. If you, being a broke college student, ever can’t access an article because of a paywall, try putting http://outline.com/ in front of the link. I did it for the first article as an example. Having said that, please support journalism once you are able.

  1. Is Marijuana as Safe as We Think? (Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker): “The authors assumed that alcohol use among students would be a predictor of violent behavior, and that marijuana use would predict the opposite. In fact, those who used only marijuana were three times more likely to be physically aggressive than abstainers were; those who used only alcohol were 2.7 times more likely to be aggressive. Observational studies like these don’t establish causation. But they invite the sort of research that could.”
    • This Reporter Took a Deep Look Into the Science of Smoking Pot. What He Found Is Scary. (Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones): “I smoked plenty of weed in high school and so did all my friends, and none of us jumped off a balcony or killed anyone—we could barely get off the couch. But the marijuana sold today is not what we smoked, which at 1 percent to 2 percent THC was the equivalent of smoking oregano. Today’s weed is insanely more potent, as are products like “wax” and “shatter”—forms of butane hash oil designed to be vaped or dabbed that come pretty close to 100 percent THC. And these high-potency products usually contain very little CBD oil, the ingredient in cannabis that’s supposed to account for many of its supposed health benefits.”
  2. Is Sunscreen the New Margarine? (Rowan Jacobsen, Outside): “People of color rarely get melanoma. The rate is 26 per 100,000 in Caucasians, 5 per 100,000 in Hispanics, and 1 per 100,000 in African Americans. On the rare occasion when African Americans do get melanoma, it’s particularly lethal—but it’s mostly a kind that occurs on the palms, soles, or under the nails and is not caused by sun exposure. At the same time, African Americans suffer high rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, internal cancers, and other diseases that seem to improve in the presence of sunlight, of which they may well not be getting enough. Because of their genetically higher levels of melanin, they require more sun exposure to produce compounds like vitamin D, and they are less able to store that vitamin for darker days. They have much to gain from the sun and little to fear.”
  3. Leaving Religion at Home: Engaging Religious Thought and Action in American Society (Nathalie Kiersznowski, Stanford Politics): “People’s beliefs about the world will inevitably influence their positions on issues like morality, politics, dress, gender, sex and more. Similarly, politicians will naturally support legislation in accordance with their values, religious or not. Many politicians, like Vice President Mike Pence, have faced criticism for allowing religion to shape their political decisions. It would be unwarranted, though, to expect Pence to act ‘un-Christian’ or ‘non-religious’ exclusively at his place of work. The notion of having both a ‘secular public self’ and a ‘religious private self’ is impossible: any private value system will influence decisions throughout all areas of life.”
  4. The case for going to bed at 2:30 am (Kate Shellnut, Vox): “My faith doused our cultural preference for early birds with biblical backing, too, making me feel even guiltier. Within American evangelicalism, many expect faithful Christians to dedicate the ‘first fruits’ of each day to ‘quiet time’ with the Lord (prayers, devotional reading, Bible study). Researchers even found people to be more ‘spiritually aware’ early in the mornings. Faced with these expectations, I really did question whether my habits were sinful: Was I being selfish by staying up late? Was I putting productivity over the natural patterns of work and rest?”
  5. China’s Gulag for Muslims (Mustafa Akyol, New York Times): “…Russia’s gulags are long gone, as is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that operated them. But now another dictatorship, ruled by another Communist Party, is operating a new chain of prisons that evoke memory of the gulags — more modern, more high-tech, but no less enslaving.”
    • Where Did the One Million Figure for Detentions in Xinjiang’s Camps Come From? (Jessica Batke, ChinaFile): “Two key studies independently arrived around the one million mark, by using limited data samples to estimate what percentage of the ethnic minority Muslim population is detained. Both studies arrive at a detention rate of 10 percent —at least in some areas of Xinjiang—suggesting that just over one million of the region’s 11 million ethnic Uighur population could be in the camps.”
  6. Conquerors of the Courts (David Montgomery, Washington Post): “The society itself lobbies for no policies; it never signs amicus briefs or represents clients in cases. No one at Federalist Society headquarters in Washington dictated Barnett’s moves or told him how to advocate for what positions. It’s just that at a few gatherings made possible by the Federalist Society that Barnett happened to attend, synapses fired, a corner of the hive mind engaged, and Barnett took it from there. Multiply that chemistry tens of thousands of times over the past 36 years and you have the Federalist Society’s true source of power.”
  7. Elected leaders who weaponize religion are playing a dangerous game (Tulsi Gabbard, The Hill): “While I absolutely believe in the separation of church and state as a necessity to the health of our nation, no American should be asked to renounce his or her faith or membership in a faith-based, service organization in order to hold public office.” Gabbard is a Democratic congresswoman representing Hawaii.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have the unfortunately date-specific Reading The Whole Bible in 2016: A FAQ (Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor): “There are about 775,000 words in the Bible. Divided by 365, that’s 2,123 words a day. The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute. So 2,123 words/day divided by 225 words/minute equals 9.4 minutes a day.” This article is full of good advice for what could be the best commitment you make all year. Do it! (first shared in volume 31 — useful for any year)

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 184

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Moral Horror of America’s Prisons (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg): “…if you think America’s current penal system is the very best we can do, that is about the most pessimistic verdict on this country I have ever heard. Has anyone ever suggested that the American prison system is the world’s best? The can-do attitude is one of my favorite features of American life. We just need to apply it a little more broadly.”
  2. The Number 1 Reason For The Decline In Church Attendance… (Thom Ranier, Facts & Trends): “Stated simply, the number one reason for the decline in church attendance is that members attend with less frequency than they did just a few years ago. Allow me to explain. If the frequency of attendance changes, then attendance will respond accordingly. For example, if 200 members attend every week the average attendance is, obviously, 200. But if one-half of those members miss only one out of four weeks, the attendance drops to 175. Did you catch that? No members left the church. Everyone is still relatively active in the church. But attendance declined over 12 percent because half the members changed their attendance behavior slightly.”
  3. Biblical Archaeology’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2018 (Gordon Govier, Christianity Today): “These discoveries, relatively insignificant individually, join with many other discoveries over the decades to give us a great deal of confidence in the historical details contained in the Bible.” Note: these are precisely the sort of mundane, ongoing discoveries we would expect from a book describing real people doing real things in real places. I encourage you to contrast it with the texts of other religions.
  4. Facts Are Not Self-Interpreting (Twitter) — this is a short, soundless video. Recommended.
  5. Evangelical Mega-donors Are Rethinking Money in Politics (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “‘What Christian philanthropists see now, maybe more than in past generations, is the full landscape of how they can deploy their [money] toward the entirety of what God cares about,’ said Josh Kwan, who was recently appointed the head of the Gathering—the organization’s first new leader in its three-decade run.”
  6. Two Roads for the New French Right (Mark Lilla, New York Review of Books): “Continental conservatism going back to the nineteenth century has always rested on an organic conception of society. It sees Europe as a single Christian civilization composed of different nations with distinct languages and customs. These nations are composed of families, which are organisms, too, with differing but complementary roles and duties for mothers, fathers, and children. On this view, the fundamental task of society is to transmit knowledge, morality, and culture to future generations, perpetuating the life of the civilizational organism. It is not to serve an agglomeration of autonomous individuals bearing rights.”
    • This article provoked letters to the editor to which Lilla responded: How to Write About the Right: An Exchange. Lilla ends his rebuttal with this, “For those concerned about the antiliberal forces gaining strength in world politics, the most important thing is to maintain one’s sangfroid. Before we judge we must be sure of what exactly we are judging. We need to take ideas seriously, make distinctions, and never presume that the present is just the past in disguise. Greil Marcus falls into that last trap, I’m afraid, by shifting from discussing the affinities among countries to imagining a Fascist International with poles in the US and Russia. Whatever we are facing, it is not twentieth-century fascism. Hell keeps on disgorging new demons to beset us. And as seasoned exorcists know, each must be called by its proper name before it can be cast out.”
    • There is something helpful about reading about politics in another culture. If you are inclined to skip this because you’re not French, I encourage you to at least skim it.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have  Christian Missions and the Spread of Democracy (Greg Scandlen, The Federalist): This is a summary of some rather wonderful research Robert Woodberry published in The American Political Science Review back in 2012: The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy. If it looks familiar it’s because I allude to it from time to time in my sermons and conversations. (first shared in volume 14)

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 183

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. You Are Doing It Wrong: Reading Entire Books Of The Bible (Tim Miller, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary): “Imagine being in Rome when the book of Romans was first delivered. Now imagine the reader only reading for three minutes (corresponding to the end of chapter one) and saying, ‘well, that is enough for today, we will read some more tomorrow.’ The crowd would be outraged and would demand the man continue reading.”
  2. Shame Storm (Helen Andrews, First Things): “The more online shame cycles you observe, the more obvious the pattern becomes: Everyone comes up with a principled-sounding pretext that serves as a barrier against admitting to themselves that, in fact, all they have really done is joined a mob. Once that barrier is erected, all rules of decency go out the window, but the pretext is almost always a lie.” I found this essay engrossing.
  3. China’s Detention Camps for Muslims Turn to Forced Labor (Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy, New York Times): “The evolution of the Xinjiang camps echoes China’s ‘re-education through labor’ system, where citizens once were sent without trial to toil for years. China abolished ‘re-education through labor’ five years ago, but Xinjiang appears to be creating a new version.”
  4. Internet Church Isn’t Really Church (Laura Turner, New York Times): “The intention behind live-streaming services — to make church, and its attendant benefits of community, prayer and worship, available to everyone with a smartphone — is a good one. But it presumes that God is primarily present to us one on one, as individuals, rather than as a community of believers.” Kind of a follow-up to last week’s John Crist video.
  5. A mother’s leap of faith at an African airport, and a 15-year mystery (Petula Dvorak, Washington Post): “The story of Tom and Maya and Zainab is about trust, about listening to your heart over your mind, and about that gut feeling you have when you meet a good person. And it’s a story that could’ve gone horribly wrong.” Heartwarming.
  6. Is There Such a Thing as an Authoritarian Voter? (Molly Worthen, New York Times): “In one of the ironies of history, as the social scientific portrait of humanity grows more psychological and irrational, it comes closer and closer to approximating the old Adam of traditional Christianity: a fallen, depraved creature, unable to see himself clearly except with the aid of a higher power.”
  7. Men and Marriage: Debunking The Ball and Chain Myth (Brad Wilcox & Nicholas Wolfinger, National Marriage Project): “…the benefits of marriage for men are substantial by every conceivable measure, including more money, a better sex life, and significantly better physical and mental health. Yet many men remain ignorant of these benefits, a view seemingly promoted by popular culture.” This is a PDF of a brochure from the Institute for Family Studies. The two authors are sociologists whom I have linked to in previous issues.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Alcohol, Blackouts, and Campus Sexual Assault (Texas Monthly, Sarah Hepola): I think this is the most thoughtful secular piece I’ve read on the issue. “Consent and alcohol make tricky bedfellows. The reason I liked getting drunk was because it altered my consent: it changed what I would say yes to. Not just in the bedroom but in every room and corridor that led into the squinting light. Say yes to adventure, say yes to risk, say yes to karaoke and pool parties and arguments with men, say yes to a life without fear, even though such a life is never possible… We drink because it feels good. We drink because it makes us feel happy, safe, powerful. That it often makes us the opposite is one of alcohol’s dastardly tricks.” (first shared in volume 25)

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 182

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. If They Weren’t Taking Notes, How Did the Disciples Remember Jesus’s Exact Teaching? The 3-Step Process for Formulating the 4 Gospels (Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “I might not be able to tell you what I did last week, but I could give you a three-hour lecture about Jesus and the Jewish roots of the Last Supper with zero preparation because I have been talking about it all the time for the last ten years. That’s one key difference between rehearsed memories and incidental memories.”
  2. What Straight-A Students Get Wrong (Adam Grant, New York Times): “The evidence is clear: Academic excellence is not a strong predictor of career excellence. Across industries, research shows that the correlation between grades and job performance is modest in the first year after college and trivial within a handful of years. For example, at Google, once employees are two or three years out of college, their grades have no bearing on their performance.” The author is an organizational psychologist at Penn’s Wharton School.
    • This article was sent to me by an alumna who said, “I sometimes skipped Chi Alpha or other meaningful activities with friends for that one extra hour of studying, which I now regret.”
  3. Hundreds of sex abuse allegations found in fundamental Baptist churches across U.S. (Sarah Smith, Star-Telegram): “One hundred and sixty-eight church leaders were accused or convicted of committing sexual crimes against children, the investigation found. At least 45 of the alleged abusers continued in ministry after accusations came to the attention of church authorities or law enforcement.… Independent fundamental Baptist churches preach separation: Stay separate from the world, separate from non-believers and separate from Christians who do not believe as they do. That includes Southern Baptists, who are deemed by the strict sect as too liberal.” This is horrifying stuff.
  4. China cracks down on Christians — a new era of religious persecution has arrived (Nina Shea and Bob Fu, Fox News): “The government’s repression against the churches is being done in the name of President Xi Jinping’s ‘sinicization’ campaign, ostensibly to strengthen Chinese culture. However, it increasingly appears aimed at removing the Bible and its teachings from Chinese Christianity.” (related coverage at the New York Times)
    • My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience (Wang Yi, Christian Daily Reporter): “As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world.” A now-imprisoned pastor wrote this letter with instructions that it be published if he was detained for more than 48 hours. STRAIGHT FIRE.
  5. Masterpiece Cakeshop and how “religious liberty” became so toxic (Andrew Koppelman, Vox): “Deep disagreement about moral fundamentals is nothing new; it is what religious diversity consists of. That ought to include disagreement about such fraught matters as sexuality. Moral disagreement about things that matter a lot is an inevitable consequence of a free society. The best we can hope for is to live peacefully together in mutual contempt.” The author is a law professor at Northwestern University.
    • Related: ‘Fairness For All’: Smart Politics, Or A Sellout? (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “…there really is a question of justice within a pluralistic society that conservative Christians have to face. We may sincerely believe that homosexuality is morally wrong, but at what point does the common good require that we agree that gay people have a right to be wrong? Especially because we are asking them to agree that we have a right to be wrong (in their eyes) too.”
    • Response to the above: Misguided Proposal From Christian Leaders and LGBT Activists Is Anything but ‘Fairness for All’ (Ryan T. Anderson, The Daily Signal): “Establishing bad public policy for everyone and then exempting select religious institutions is not acting for the common good—and is certainly not fair for all. And there are better ways forward for those who seek compromise.”
    • Kinda different, but kinda related: The Culture Wars Are Ancient History (Peter Leithart, Christianity Today): “The real fight isn’t between religion and secularism, but between two kinds of religion. His book makes the case that today’s culture war shares much in common with the culture war that rocked ancient Rome.” Insightful.
  6. The Case Against Meritocracy (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…meritocrats are often educated to be bad leaders, and bad people, in a very specific way — a way of arrogant intelligence unmoored from historical experience, ambition untempered by self-sacrifice. The way of the ‘best and the brightest’ at the dawn of the technocratic era and the ‘smartest guys in the room’ decades later, the way of the arsonists of late-2000s Wall Street and the ‘move fast and break things’ culture of Silicon Valley.”
  7. Is Sex Socially Constructed? (Alex Byrne, Arc Digital): “Clearly many animals have belonged to the category female (or male) without existing within a society of any kind. Indeed, there would have been females and males even if life on Earth had been destroyed by an asteroid half a billion years ago and humans had never evolved. Female and male are therefore not socially constructed categories; that is, sex is not socially constructed.” Byrne is the head of MIT’s department of linguistics and philosophy. I shared a related article of his back in issue 177.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have On Obstinacy In Belief (C.S. Lewis, The Sewanee Review): this is a rewarding essay from way back in 1955. (first shared in volume 6)

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 181

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. America’s New Religions (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “The need for meaning hasn’t gone away, but without Christianity, this yearning looks to politics for satisfaction. And religious impulses, once anchored in and tamed by Christianity, find expression in various political cults. These political manifestations of religion are new and crude, as all new cults have to be. They haven’t been experienced and refined and modeled by millennia of practice and thought. They are evolving in real time. And like almost all new cultish impulses, they demand a total and immediate commitment to save the world.”
  2. Is the Protestant Work Ethic Real? (Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics): “The randomized controlled trial of a missionary project in the Philippines found that very poor people earned more money as a result of receiving religious instruction. Why? The researchers suspect there were two primary drivers: optimism and grit.”
    • The researchers in question wrote up their research in Randomizing Religion: The Impact of Protestant Evangelism on Economic Outcomes (Gharad T. Bryan, James J. Choi, Dean Karlan, NBER): “To study the causal impact of religiosity, we partnered with International Care Ministries (ICM), an evangelical Protestant anti-poverty organization that operates in the Philippines, to conduct an evaluation that randomly assigned invitations to attend Christian theology and values training.” The authors are affiliated with the London School of Economics, Yale, and Northwestern. The second author, Choi, is an evangelical Christian.
  3. Dutch Asylum Service Nears 1,000 Hours, With Evangelicals’ Support (Christianity Today): “A marathon worship service held by a church in the Netherlands to shield a family of asylum seekers has garnered worldwide attention. The feat has proved impressive for its longevity alone—now going on six weeks—but also represents a unique ecumenical moment among Christians in the tiny European nation.”
  4. Former Stanford postdoc criticized for creating the world’s first gene-edited babies (Elena Shao, Stanford Daily): “On Nov. 28, He Jianku — a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford from 2011–2012 — announced to hundreds of scientists, colleagues and journalists that he had created the world’s first genetically edited babies: twin girls with the pseudonyms Lulu and Nana whose DNA he claims to have altered to make them HIV-resistant.” FYI Bill Hurlburt, one of the Stanford bioethics experts interviewed in this article, is a solid believer.
  5. Godspeed: The Pace Of Being Known (Vimeo): a frosh brought this 30 minute video to my attention and said it made her think about how she should be living in her dorm. Recommended.
  6. I read two interesting profiles of famous Christians from the past this week:
    • Phillis Wheatley: An Evangelical and the First Published African American Female Poet (Thomas Kidd, Gospel Coalition): “Phillis Wheatley, the first published African American female poet and a devout Christian, died on December 5, 1784. We can’t be sure of her birthdate, because she was born in West Africa and sold into slavery by 1761.”
    • Evangelical retailer John Wanamaker built fortune by blending faith with business (Mark Kellner, Religion News Service): “Wanamaker, who also served four years as postmaster general of the United States, was foremost an evangelical Christian who melded faith and works, specifically the working of his retail empire. While building the first department store in Philadelphia, he also funded the growth of the city’s first megachurch, which featured a range of social services undergirded by a strong evangelistic outreach. He offered young male employees of his store guidance through a YMCA-like program aimed at promoting spiritual discipline. All employees could spend a summer vacation at a church-run resort, albeit with strict behavioral codes.”
  7. Have U.S. Protestants gone soft on alcohol? (Richard Ostling, Patheos): “…from 2007 to 2017 U.S. deaths attributed to alcohol increased 35 percent, and 67 percent among women (while teen deaths declined 16 percent). These fatalities well outnumber those from opioid overdoses that have roused such public concern…. Only 2 percent of evangelicals admitted they sometimes over-indulge.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Land of We All (Richard Mitchell, The Gift of Fire), an essay  built on this insight: “Thinking can not be done corporately. Nations and committees can’t think. That is not only because they have no brains, but because they have no selves, no centers, no souls, if you like. Millions and millions of persons may hold the same thought, or conviction or suspicion, but each and every person of those millions must hold it all alone.” (first shared in volume 2)

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 180

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

This week was especially hard for me to put together. I stumbled upon so much insightful writing this week! I had to ruthlessly eliminate some that I really liked, so I hope you enjoy these gems that survived my ruthless winnowing process.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Slain missionary John Chau prepared much more than we thought, but are missionaries still fools? (Ed Stetzer, Washington Post): “…Mary Ho, who leads All Nations (the agency that sent Chau on missions), indicated that he was heavily vaccinated and even quarantined before going on the mission. The Washington Post reported Tuesday night that Chau also undertook linguistic and medical training to prepare for the outreach. These new reports at a minimum challenge the simplistic image of an adventure-seeking zealot willing to recklessly risk the lives of a remote group of islanders.” By far the best article I’ve read on this subject.
  2. Liberal Parents, Radical Children (David Brooks, New York Times): “In the age of social media, virtue is not defined by how compassionately you act. Virtue is defined by how vehemently you react to that which you find offensive. Virtue involves the self-display of a certain indignant sensibility, and anybody who doesn’t display that sensibility is morally suspect.” An insightful column — this excerpt does not do it justice.
    • Related but not obviously: The Question Without A Solution (Alan Jacobs, The Weekly Standard): “You read all this with a feeling of rising horror, and not just because of the physical and mental and spiritual suffering. You feel that horror also because it becomes increasingly difficult, as the story progresses, to imagine how the even the worst of the pain could have been avoided. Not one man, or woman, knew a prudent remedy.” Haunting and highly recommended.
    • More clearly related: Debate ends when we label views we simply disagree with as ‘hatred’ (Kenan Malik, The Guardian): “‘It is better to debate a question without settling it,’ observed the 18th-century French writer Joseph Joubert, ‘than to settle a question without debating it.’ How naive that sounds today.”
  3. My New Vagina Won’t Make Me Happy (Andrea Long Chu, New York Times): “Until the day I die, my body will regard the vagina as a wound;as a result, it will require regular, painful attention to maintain. This is what I want, but there is no guarantee it will make me happier. In fact, I don’t expect it to.”
    • See also this response piece: The New York Times Reveals Painful Truths about Transgender Lives (Ryan T. Anderson, Public Discourse): “Why should a doctor perform surgery when it won’t make the patient happy, it won’t accomplish its intended goal, it won’t improve the underlying condition, it might make the underlying condition worse, and it might increase the likelihood of suicide?” Anderson was mentioned in Chu’s op-ed.
  4. American Exorcism (Mike Mariani, The Atlantic): “If neither the mental-health evaluation nor a subsequent physical exam turns up a standard explanation for the person’s affliction, the priest starts to take the case more seriously. At this point he may begin looking for what the Church considers the classic signs of demonic possession: facility in a language the person has never learned; physical strength beyond his or her age or condition; access to secret knowledge; and a vehement aversion to God and sacred objects, including crucifixes and holy water.”
  5. What If The Placebo Effect Isn’t A Trick? (Gary Greenberg, New York Times Magazine): “The findings of the I.B.S. study were in keeping with a hypothesis Kaptchuk had formed over the years: that the placebo effect is a biological response to an act of caring; that somehow the encounter itself calls forth healing and that the more intense and focused it is, the more healing it evokes.”
  6. For Californians living in their cars, a church parking lot can briefly be home (Kimberly Winston, Washington Post): “As they often do in hard times, houses of worship stepped in. In Chico, a hub for Paradise refugees, churches have opened their buildings and parking lots as temporary shelters. But while those churches have been lauded, congregations in other areas that open their parking lots to those they sometimes refer to as ‘vehicle residents’ face hurdles and hostility. Many Bay Area municipalities, including the tech centers of San Francisco and San Jose, have outlawed sleeping in a car parked on the street overnight, while neighbors speak out against having the homeless next door.”
  7. A Time To Fast (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Over one hundred years ago researchers demonstrated that calorie restriction in rats increased lifespan, sometimes by as much as 50%. Since that time, the finding has been replicated and extended to primates. A few humans have taken up the diet but for most of us easy access to delicious food trumps willpower. A new paper in Science reviews the literature on calorie restriction and also offers some evidence that less restrictive regimes such as intermittent fasting may have similar effects.” A secular perspective on the benefits of certain types of fasting (this is a summary of an article in the journal Science).

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas (Joseph Bottum, The Weekly Standard): many modern political ideas are derived from Christian theological concepts. (first shared in volume 1)

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 179

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. ‘God, I don’t want to die,’ U.S. missionary wrote before he was killed by tribe on Indian island (Joanna Slater and Annie Gowen, Washington Post): “An American missionary trying to meet and convert one of the most isolated hunter-and-gatherer tribes in the world offered them fish and other small gifts before the tribesmen killed him and buried his body on the beach, journals and emails show.”
    • Related: US Missionary Killed by ‘World’s Most Isolated’ Tribe (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “Some have declared Chau a martyr and compared him to Jim Elliot, who was famously killed at age 28 while attempting to evangelize an isolated indigenous group in Ecuador.”
    • Related: Death Of A Missionary (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “If Chau had been a missionary trying to sneak into North Korea, I would have thought him insanely brave. But the law against visiting that island was there for a very good reason: this tribe has had no exposure to outsiders, and is enormously vulnerable to communicable diseases. There are only a small number of them in existence, and they could be wiped out quickly by common illnesses for which they have no immunity…. It is one thing to be willing to lay down your life for these tribal people. It is cruel to expect them to lay down their lives so you can prove your love for God.”
  2. How do conservatives respond to archaeologists’ skepticism about Bible history? (Richard Ostling, Patheos): “There’s vast unexplored terrain in Israel, where only 50 of an estimated 6,000 sites have undergone thorough examination, with limited work at another 300. Surviving evidence from ancient times is necessarily spotty and interpretations can be subjective. Scholars usually end up with circumstantial plausibility, not absolute proof or disproof.”
  3. Ex-Detainee Describes Torture In China’s Xinjiang Re-Education Camp (Rob Schmitz, NPR): “Samarkand says he was transferred to a re-education camp, where people were separated into three groups: those who were religious, those who were suspected of being criminals, and those, like him, who had traveled abroad. All of them, says Samarkand, had one thing in common, though: They had grown up in Muslim families and communities.”
  4. Infographic: You Have More Time for Bible Reading than You Think (Crossway): “In just 12 minutes per day, you could read the whole Bible in a year. Does that still feel a bit ambitious? In just 6 minutes per day, you could read the entire New Testament over the course of 6 months.”
  5. Elisha and the She-bears (Peter J Williams, Twitter): a very insightful Twitter thread about a disturbing OT story. The author is the Warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge.
  6. Sir Roger Scruton Is a Friend to Muslims and Jews (Jibran Khan, National Review): “There can be no real dialogue with someone who doesn’t believe in anything, and yet this has been the guiding principle of liberal ‘interfaith’ discussion, to so water down the discourse that no one gets to encounter, let alone tolerate and appreciate, difference.” I did not think I would find this article interesting.
  7. It’s time we balance the scales of justice in our schools (Betsy DeVos, Washington Post): “A fair process treats each party with dignity and ensures the integrity of final decisions. Having outcomes overturned and relitigated because of process concerns — which has happened dozens of times in recent years — can be counterproductive to survivors.”
    • Related: The ACLU Declines to Defend Civil Rights (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “the ACLU issued a public statement that constituted a stark, shortsighted betrayal of the organization’s historic mission: It vehemently opposed stronger due-process rights for the accused.”
    • Related: One Criminal-Defense Attorney’s Lament (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “In certain ways, social condemnation has become something even worse, the mere accusation being all that’s required for a mob of unduly passionate people to crush a career. There’s no opportunity to defend and no means to challenge an accusation. While the ‘punishment’ isn’t levied by government, and is therefore beyond any required involvement of such niceties as due process, the net result can be as destructive given the current tide of blind acceptance and capitulation.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have the provocative In Defense of Flogging (Peter Moskos, Chronicle of Higher Education) — the author is a former police officer and now a criminologist at the City University of New York. This one was shared back before I started sending these emails in a blog post called Punishment.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Thanksgiving

Every year we host students in our home for Thanksgiving. Today we will have just shy of three dozen. They come from around the world and find it difficult to make it home for such a short break.

Since Thanksgiving in a novel cultural experience for many of them, I always give a quick explanation before the meal. For the curious, here’s what I’m planning to say today:


American Thanksgiving traces its roots back to 1621 when the European colonists of Plymouth Plantation celebrated their first harvest on the new continent. 45 colonists and 90 native Americans celebrated together for a three-day feast.

This became a custom in many colonies, but the schedule and the details of the celebration would vary from place to place. On October 3, 1789 George Washington called for the first Federal Thanksgiving with this proclamation. It’s a bit long so I’m going to read the highlights:

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be….

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually….

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

That proclamation regarded a single occurrence, not a yearly event. A few generations later on October 3, 1863 Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday which we still celebrate to this day.

I am a Christian, and so this day is very special to me because gratitude is at the heart of Christianity.

As the apostle tells us in 1 Thess 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (ESV)

And we do this because even when circumstances are bad, God is good. As we read in Psalm 107:1

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (ESV)

And so this Thanksgiving, join me as we offer thanks for the food.

Creator God, we are grateful for your provision of a universe for us to inhabit filled with wonderful things, including delicious food. Help us to enjoy it and the conversations that fill this room. Most of all, thank you for giving us Jesus as a savior and a Lord.  Today we declare with the Psalmist: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, ESV)

Now let us eat with grateful hearts!