Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 5

In the time of King David, the Bible says that 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.

To that end, I share articles/resources I have found helpful recently in thinking about broader cultural and societal issues (be sure to see the disclaimer at the bottom). May these give you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Heads up: in light of today’s Supreme Court decision I’ll likely include some articles about marriage and same-sex relationships in next Friday’s update. If you see anything you find helpful, please send it my way.

  1. From the ongoing reflections on Charleston department: Persecution and the Black Church (Ross Douthat, NY Times) – Douthat is a NY Times columnist who consistently talks about issues of faith (he is a devout Catholic).
  2. These next two articlesare linked in that they are about people driven by their Christian faith. One is an outspoken liberal and the other an outspoken conservative. If you only have time to read about one, read about the one you probably disagree with.
  3. From the backstory department: Palestinian BDS Movement: Getting a Handle on a Complicated Story Ahead of Deadline (Ira Rifkin,GetReligion): this is an article for journalists helping them prepare for coverage of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement as it comes to the awareness of the American public (it hit Stanford last year, as you no doubt recall).
    • Incidentally, it’s really hard to get a good understanding of this or of most topics related to Israel, especially as it connects to Palestine. For an eye-opening (and dismaying) experience, read What The Media Gets Wrong About Israel (Mattie Friedman, The Atlantic).
  4. From the Chi Alpha worldwide department: Georgia Couple Defend Their Love After Bouquet Selfie Gets Negative Comments: Our Relationship ‘Is Not About Looks’ (Caitlin Keating, People): I include this only because it is about two Chi Alpha student leaders at Columbus State University, which I know because I know their campus pastor. On a related note – if you are ever in the news please feel free to wear your Chi Alpha t-shirt.

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 4

In the time of King David, the Bible says that 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.

To that end, I share articles/resources I have found helpful recently in thinking about broader cultural and societal issues (be sure to see the disclaimer at the bottom). May these give you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

  1. From the Charleston department:
    1. Why A Black Church? (Emma Green, The Atlantic): the last paragraph was like a punch in the gut.
    2. In this moving Youtube clip, representatives from the families of the victims forgive the shooter in court and call upon him to repent. It sounds as though several of them were actually there when the shooting happened and interacted with the shooter in the hour beforehand.
    3. The Charleston Shooting is the Largest Mass Shooting in a House of Worship Since 1991 (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): this is an informative overview of the history of mass violence at religious organizations in the US. I noticed one typo in the article – it refers to 176 deaths when I am pretty sure it should have referred to 176 violent incidents leading to 74 deaths in 2014.
    4. Black Americans Are Killed at 12 Times the Rate of People in Other Developed Countries (Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight): this is probably the most depressing thing I read on a day of reading depressing things.
    5. The story of the lady who busted the shooter is a more encouraging one. “It was God’s way of putting her in the right place at the right time, the Gastonia woman said.”
  2. From the clarity is important department: Is Mormonism Christian? (Roger Olson, blog): Olson, a theologian, gives a very thorough and helpful answer to the question. It’s really long, so if you just want the summary jump to the last paragraph.
  3. From the misunderstood research department: The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment (Maria Konnikova, New Yorker): interesting for several reasons, among them the fact that we walk past the site of the experiments regularly.
  4. From the sin is pervasive department: All Your Clothes Are Made With Exploited Labor (Gillian B. White, The Atlantic): even the most conscientious companies are unable to keep their products oppression-free.

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 3

In the time of King David, the Bible says that 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.

To that end, I share articles/resources I have found helpful recently in thinking about broader cultural and societal issues (be sure to see the disclaimer at the bottom). May these give you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

  1. From the everyone’s a critic department: The Media Loves The Gates Foundation – These Experts Are More Skeptical (JuliaBelluz, Vox). This piece never mentions God, but I found it theologically fascinating for three reasons:
    1. This article reminds me that no matter how much good you do there will always be critics. Jesus was perfect and the world nailed him to a cross.
    2. This article reminds me that it is far easier to criticize than to accomplish. The article left me far more impressed with the Gates than with their critics. And I reflected upon the fact that the critics are unwittingly storing up judgment for themselves in heaven where they will be measured by the same standards they apply to Bill and Melinda Gates (Romans 2).
    3. But Bill and Melinda do not get off scot-free. This article also reminds me of Isaiah 64:6 – our righteous deeds are like filthy rags before the Lord. These criticisms (at least those which are well-founded) are mere hints of the limitations God sees in the righteous deeds of Bill and Melinda Gates. All of us need Jesus – even our most moral friends.
  2. From the responding to criticisms department: On Conservative Religious Activism, The Numbers Speak For Themselves (originally Washington Post, but better-formatted at RNS)  People sometimes claim that Christians spend too much of their time and money fighting political battles rather serving the poor. This op-ed provides numbers to rebut the claim. A related article by a non-Christian journalist explains why many people believe the charge despite the data:  Verily I Say Unto You: Christians Care About the Poor (Megan McArdle, Bloomberg  View).
  3. From the self-deception department: If You Use Facebook to Get Your News, Please – For the Love of Democracy – Read This First (Caitlyn Dewey, Washington Post): Nancy sent me this interesting article about how Facebook’s filtering algorithms subtly reinforce our biases. In related news, Ezra Klein at Vox explains Why The Most Informed Voters Are Often The Most Badly Misled.
  4. From the laughter is good department: Dilbert meets an Internet star. The last panel kills me. Yesterday’s strip about brainstorming was insightfully funny as well.

Suggestions for a better title/frequency/best day to send the email on/articles to consider/etc are welcome. My current plan is to send out an email with 3–5 topics every Friday.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and 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 will 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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 2

In the time of King David, the Bible says that 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.

To that end, I share articles/resources I have found helpful recently in thinking about broader cultural and societal issues (be sure to see the disclaimer at the bottom). I’m thinking I’ll send these roughly once a week. May these give you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

  1. From the depressing department: Hot Girls Wanted (Kenneth Morefield, Christianity Today): a sobering review of a Netflix documentary (from Sundance) about the “amateur” porn industry. Read it if you have a hard time explaining why pornography is a bad thing. Prepare to be bummed.

  2. From the faith and politics department: Is Obama Really a Christian? (David French, National Review): this is the most detailed article I have read about President Obama’s faith.

  3. From the higher education department: I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me (Edward Schlosser, Vox): the article is better than you might expect from the clickbait title. It’s a critique of the current practice of identity politics at American universities by someone sympathetic to identity politics.

  4. From the learning to think clearly department: The Land of We All (Richard Mitchell, The Gift of Fire): this essay teases out the implications of 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.” Warning: the formatting is horrid. It is worth reading anyway. Either use the Readability bookmarklet, an app like Pocket, or just cut and paste it into a text document on your computer.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and 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 will 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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 1

[this was an email I sent to the students in Chi Alpha @ Stanford]

In the time of King David, the Bible says that the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). That’s a worthy goal – to understand our times and know how to live wisely in them. We need to learn how our faith interacts with the world.

To that end, I’m going to try something: for the next few weeks I’ll send out three to five articles/resources I have found helpful in thinking about national, global and theological issues (be sure to see the disclaimer at the bottom). My hope is these readings nudge you into continuing the tradition of Issachar. If these emails are well-received then they may become an ongoing thing.

So here’s the first batch:

  1. The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas (Joseph Bottum, The Weekly Standard): many modern political ideas are derived from Christian theological concepts.

  2. What ISIS Really Wants (Graeme Wood, The Atlantic): the key to understanding ISIS is understanding their faith, particularly their eschatology. A takeaway for Christians – your eschatology matters (so get it right).

  3. Evangelical Protestants Are The Biggest Winners Whenever People Change Faiths (Leah Libresco, FiveThirtyEight): this is the most interesting take I’ve seen on the Pew Forum study that filled the news recently. If current trends continue until they reach an equilibrium point, then evangelicalism will become the largest religious identity in America (followed by either the religiously unaffiliated or the Mormons depending on whether fertility is factored in).

  4. God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (Larry Eskridge, Oxford University Press): a scholarly history of an oft-overlooked Great Awakening – the Jesus People revival among the hippies. It is full of delightful anecdotes, including this charmer: one couple “began to talk to their friends about Jesus and even went so far as to name their dog ‘Repent’ so they could stand in the city’s parks and shout the canine’s name and their message at the top of their lungs.”  (p 148). The book is available online through Stanford’s library system – the link will take you right there.

Suggestions for a better title / articles to consider / best day to send the email on / etc. are welcome, as is feedback on the idea as a whole.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and are not about the elephant’s agenda – we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read stuff (and may therefore share stuff) from all over the ideological map. I read widely in part because I aspire to pass an ideological Turing test and more generally because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand.” I encourage you to adopt a similar perspective.

Also, for the first few installments I’ll probably reach farther back than normal for some articles that stand out in my memory. As time goes on I imagine the links will become more and more recent.

Do You Geek Out When There’s A New Episode Of Radiolab?

Podcast BearI love podcasts. I listen to them every day as I bike to and from campus. I listen to them in the gym as I work out. I listen to them whenever I drive somewhere and there is no one else in the car.
There are a ton of Christian podcasts out there, but most of them are sermonic. Nothing against sermons – I preach a lot of them and listen to even more. I even podcast my sermons. But there are so many sermons podcasted that it can be hard to find some of the other Christian gems that are out there.
So if you’re into podcasts and are into Jesus, here are a few to consider adding to your list.
Thinking In Public with Al Mohler
http://www.albertmohler.com/category/thinking-in-public/
Dr. Mohler is the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In this podcast, he interviews interesting people about theological and cultural issues.
Unbelievable?
This weekly radio show from the UK features Christians and non-Christians in dialog. They usually bring in amazing people and the host is good at helping each person put their arguments forward effectively. The episodes feel long to me, but I still come back to it over and over again.
The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast
This one is more ministry related. Highly successful pastor Andy Stanley explains principles of leadership in a helpful way. This is one of my favorites.
This is a roundtable discussion about theological topics with intelligent and well-informed people. Sometimes it gets a little confusing because their voices are hard to tell apart, but it is nonetheless worthwhile.
Research On Religion with Anthony Gill
Dr. Gill is a professor of political science at the University of Washington. This podcast is pretty academic and can be dry at times, but the best episodes are fascinating. Two good ones to start with:

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Race and Grace in a Broken World

UPDATE 12/4/2014: Last night was our first Chi Alpha gathering since the Ferguson non-indictment – the same day as the NYC non-indictment. As a prelude to the sermon, I gave a more comprehensive take on race and the gospel. If you’re interested, check out the first few minutes of xastanford.org/sermons?sermon_id=52

I emailed this to the students in my ministry earlier today and they seemed to find it helpful. I share it in the hope that it will also prove useful to you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I know many of us are reflecting on racism and justice this week. As a follower of Jesus, I encourage you to remember that the journey Christians are on is a journey alongside “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.”

Why should we remember that fact? Because it reminds us that racial unity is one of the outcomes of the gospel. Christ brings people together by drawing them to Himself.

So I urge you to think in a Christian way about these issues. Here are some resources to stimulate you.

IF YOU WANT TO ENGAGE WITH SOMETHING BRIEF

If you are wondering where the church has been in the midst of all of this, the answer is front and center. I mention this because it is frequently overlooked:
http://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2014/11/25/what–role-did-clergy-play-during–ferguson-chaos-if-you-looked–for-them-they-were-there

Thabiti Anyabwile has some useful things to say in this eight minute video. He is speaking before the grand jury’s decision was revealed. If you want to read more of him, he blogs at http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/.

White Christians in particular will find Ed Stetzer’s thoughts helpful –  http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/november/decision-in-ferguson-how–should-evangelicals-respond.html

IF YOU WANT TO DIG DEEP

If you have more time this Thanksgiving break and want to go beyond reading an article or two, pick one of these books and dive in:

  • Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian (John Piper) [like many (all?) of Piper’s books it is free on his website as a PDF – http://www.desiringgod.org/books/bloodlines )
  • From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race (J. Daniel Hays)
  • Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Emerson and Smith) [this book is quite critical of the church – it is painful but helpful reading]

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving, and may the Lord continue to heal this broken world.