Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 55

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues, with a preference for content from academics and influential voices. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom.

Articles I Found Interesting

  1. Britain voted to leave the European Union.
  2. Related To Orlando:
    • Omar Mateen’s Multiple Motives (Kirsten Powers, USA Today): “Almost as quickly as the massacre of innocents in Orlando unfolded, Americans retreated to their ideological corners to interpret the motivations of the mass murderer, Omar Mateen.”
    • FBI Investigators say they have found no evidence that Orlando shooter had gay lovers (Molly Hennessy-Fiske, LA Times): huh. This is still a developing story, do not assume this is the final word.
    • The Gun Control We Deserve (Patrick Blanchfield, n+1): “As many critics have observed, we would be naïve to think that heavy-handed gun control measures would not involve the same disproportionate racial targeting and police violence we rightly condemn in the War on Drugs and in everyday encounters in places from Baltimore to Ferguson to Cleveland to Oakland.” A very thoughtful piece.
  3. Elon Musk Is Wrong. We Aren’t Living In A Simulation (Riccardo Manzotti and Andrew Smart, Vice): “The world we live in is made of real stuff. Simulations are things made of the same stuff. Musk’s argument does not show that we are getting any closer to producing an alternative reality. Rather it shows that we are getting better and better at shaping the physical world.” The authors take unwarranted pot shots at dualism, but make very good points overall. Related: SMBC “Heap Problem.”
  4. The Sotomayor and Kagan Dissents in Utah vs Strieff (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “If outstanding warrants were few and far between and distributed more or less randomly the case would have been wrongly decided but of little practical importance. Outstanding warrants, however, are common and much more common in some communities than others. As I wrote in 2014, in Ferguson, MO a majority of the population had outstanding warrants and not because of high crime:”
  5. Ban the Box or Require the Box? (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Sadly, a policy that was intended to raise the employment prospects of black men ends up having the biggest positive effect on white men with a criminal record…. Policies like ban the box try to get people to do the ‘right thing’ by blinding people to certain types of information. But blinded people tend to use other cues to achieve their interests and when those other cues are less informative that often makes things worse.”
  6. I’m A Single-Issue Voter On Multiple Issues And So Are You (Denny Burk, personal blog): “Single-issue voting is not the idea that being right on any single issue qualifies a candidate for office. Single-issue voting is the idea that being wrong on a single issue may disqualify a candidate from office.”
  7. My Holy Land Vacation (Tom Bissell, Harpers): “I excuse myself and stroll outside. I notice that someone else has also walked out early: Pastor Marty. He tells me that he was troubled by the violence of the Israeli Redneck’s speech. I tell Pastor Marty that I don’t fault a man who’s fought in four wars for sounding like a lunatic. What bothers me is the way people were applauding him.” Highly recommended.

A Quote To Ponder

“Stanford students are good at being good at things. Your Christianity can’t just be one more thing you’re good at. To be good misses the point. The point is not what you do but what Jesus has done.” Seth Villegas

Something Amusing To End On

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).

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 54

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues, with a preference for content from academics and influential voices. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom.

A QUOTE I COULDN’T GET OUT OF MY HEAD

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” – Cardinal Francis George (1937-2015)

Including a quote may or may not become a recurring thing. Feedback welcomed.

LINKS WHICH CAUGHT MY INTEREST

  1. Some helpful articles about processing the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando:
  2. A History of the Second Amendment in Two Paintings (Ezra Klein, Wonkblog): In the wake of Orlando, a lot of people are talking about guns. This brief article from a few years ago is still one of the most insightful things I’ve read about firearms in America. The Yale professor interviewed, Dr. Amar, also wrote a lengthier article about this for Slate.
  3. Why there is a “gay ban” on blood donations (reddit): also something people are talking about since Orlando. This is a very simple explanation. The comments are informative. I find it particularly interesting that describing the situation accurately practically forces a focus on behavior and not orientation. The fact-driven explanation winds up framing things similarly to the way evangelicals talk when discussing LGBT issues.
  4. Epic Correction of the Decade (Steven Hayward, Powerline): the authors of a widely-reported study about personality types and political affiliations accidentally coded their data backwards. Their real results are the literal opposite of what you remember seeing in the news. Regardless of your political propensities, this is kinda hilarious. More at RetractionWatch.
  5. Study: schools that give away condoms see more teen births, not fewer (Sarah Kliff, Vox): “A new research paper suggests that [giving away condoms] may have backfired. It finds that access to condoms in school led to a 10 percent increase in teen births.”
  6. The Sphinx Was Disappointed In Them (G.K. Chesterton): “Now the mistake of critics is not that they criticise the world; it is that they never criticise themselves. They compare the alien with the ideal; but they do not at the same time compare themselves with the ideal; rather they identify themselves with the ideal.” Chesterton was one of the most important Christian intellectuals of the 20th century. This almost became the quote of the week.
  7. Amusing:

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).

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 53

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues, with a preference for content from academics and influential voices. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom.

  1. Why I Believe Again (A.N. Wilson, The New Statesman): this piece is about seven years old, but I don’t remember seeing it before. “one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood.”
  2. The Evangelical Roots of American Economics (Bradley Bateman, The Atlantic): “One unlikely example of the Protestant influence on American culture is the formation of economics as an academic discipline in the United States.” Fascinating and highly recommended.
  3. Evangelicals like me can’t vote for Trump — or Clinton. Here’s what we can do instead. (Alan Noble, Vox): This is a long and thoughtful piece. “unless a third-party candidate with broad appeal emerges, evangelical Christians would be better served by abstaining from [the presidential] vote and shifting their energy toward electing people to Congress and local and state governments who have the opportunity to restrain whichever candidate is elected as needed.“  
  4. Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker (Katie J.M. Baker, Buzzfeed): many of you have seen this. If not, it’s worth reading. Powerful and insightful.
    • In relation to this case, an anonymous alumna contacted me recently to say: “I’m frustrated [that people] are not making an effort or recognizing the role that alcohol and the culture surrounding the whole situation had. What they’re calling for is greater punishment on college kids who commit sexual assault but I think that kinda misses a huge point. They refuse to recognize the sin in being ok with college drinking and the whole frat party thing.” I replied with a suggestion that she read something I shared way back in issue 25 titled Alcohol, Blackouts, and Campus Sexual Assault, which I still believe is the most thoughtful secular analysis I’ve read of the issue.
    • Many people feel that to criticize the party scene is to exculpate rapists. That seems odd to me, because we recognize that when someone drives drunk they accept moral responsibility for any accidents they cause. Their inebriation is not a defense – it is an admission of culpability. And we also recognize the principle does not flow in both directions – if you stab me while I am drunk, the fact that I am drunk does not provide you with any excuse. The same principle holds here: Brock Turner’s drunkenness is no defense and the victim’s drunkenness is no justification. Furthermore, our convictions about drunk driving hint at a broader principle: drunkenness is a sin because over time it predictably leads to deplorable outcomes. This means that Brock Turner is to blame – and so are the parts of campus culture which encourage drunkenness. The party scene is no excuse for Brock’s wickedness, but that does not make the party scene a virtuous one. 
    • In fact, the party scene on our campus abounds with sin even when it fails to make national news. The worst sin that night (that we know of) was the sexual assault committed by Brock Turner. But it was far from the only sin. There were numerous consensual nonmarital sexual encounters that night – each of them also sinful (although less so). There were many people drunk that night – they too sinned, every one of them. There was arrogant posturing, envy, lust, anger, lying, betrayal, gossip, slander and a whole host of sins exacerbated by alcohol and the social scenario. Our alumna’s instincts are correct – the system itself makes sin likely and it should not be embraced by Christians.
    • In case you stumbled over the “worst sin/less sinful” judgments I made, you should read All Sins Are Not Equal (J.I. Packer, Christianity Today).
    • Thank you for your patience. I rarely add lengthy editorial comments, but my words ran away with me today.
  5. My Life as a ‘Sex Object’ (Jessica Valenti, The Guardian): this is powerful, slightly vulgar piece. I am always intrigued by authors who embrace the sexual revolution and are dismayed by some of its manifestations.
  6. Amusing:

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).

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 you have a non-Stanford friend who might be interested in these emails, they can sign up at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/subscribe, and if you want to view the archives they are at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links.

[minor edit for clarity shortly after posting]

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 52

On Fridays I share articles/resources about cultural, societal and theological issues, with a preference for content from academics and influential voices. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom.

  1. Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life (Nicole Cliffe, Christianity Today): “I emailed a friend who is a Christian, and I asked if we could talk about Jesus. I instantly regretted sending that email and if humanly possible would have clawed it back through the Internet.”
  2. The Sun Is Always Shining In Modern Christian Pop (Leah Libresco, FiveThirtyEight): interesting, although the author is comparing contemporary performance songs to older worship songs, and I suspect the genre difference accounts for some of her findings. Doing some research on the author I discovered that she wrote a fascinating article at First Things called Statting While Catholic – you should read it if you’re a social scientist.
  3. Why Americans Don’t Trust Government (Larry Summers, Washington Post): “I’m a progressive, but it seems plausible to wonder if government can build a nation abroad, fight social decay, run schools, mandate the design of cars, run health insurance exchanges, or set proper sexual harassment policies on college campuses, if it can’t even fix a 232-foot bridge competently.“ Summers is, of course, the former president of Harvard.
  4. Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor? (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Could the tools of neuroscience be used to understand the much simpler Atari brain? The answer is mostly no. The authors, for example, looked at three ‘behaviors’, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders and Pitfall (!) and they are able to find transistors which uniquely crash one of the games but not the others. ‘We might thus conclude they are uniquely responsible for the game – perhaps there is a Donkey Kong transistor or a Space Invaders transistor.’ Of course, this conclusion would be very misleading but what are we then to make of similar brain lesion studies?”
  5. Study: Same-sex experiences are on the rise, and Americans are increasingly chill about it (Rachel Feltman, Washington Post): nothing to see here, folks. Everything is 100% genetic. There are no moral choices involved at any point on the journey. Move along, please.
  6. The Return of Bernard Lewis (Martin Kramer, Mosaic): “Forty years ago, nobody foresaw the rise of radical Islam—except for the preeminent historian who both predicted and explained it, and much else besides.”
  7. Under Attack (editorial, The Economist): “…when progressive thinkers agree that offensive words should be censored, it helps authoritarian regimes to justify their own much harsher restrictions…“
  8. Like A Prayer: Is Social Justice The New Campus Religion? (Ana Marie Cox, MTV News): Cox came out as a Christian (her words) last year. She has a much more enthusiastic take on campus activism than many of the articles I share (such as the ones above and below).
  9. The amazing 1969 prophecy that racial preferences would cause the exact grievances of protesters today (Jonathan Haidt, Heterodox Academy): the disclaimers at the bottom apply to this one most of all. I at first wondered if it was based upon a hoax, but it seems legitimate. If you have a strong negative reaction to this piece, you’re welcome. Thinking through why will help you be more persuasive.
  10. Amusing:

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).

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.