To Change The World, Week One

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through the book, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful).

It’s the first week of our summer reading project. Yay! Our book this summer is To Change The World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter, a Christian who is a sociologist at UVA. This is a thoughtful book about Christianity, politics, and culture. The reading schedule is online at https://xastanford.org/summer-reading

SUMMARY OF THIS WEEK’S READING

In chapters one and two Hunter is setting the stage for his argument. A quick summary: as Christians we want to change the world and we have an intuitive notion that the best (or only) way to change the world is one life at a time. Hunter will go on to argue that this is a huge mistake.

Here are some passages that stood out to me:

CHAPTER ONE: CHRISTIAN FAITH AND THE TASK OF WORLD-CHANGING

“In the Christian view, then, human beings are, by divine intent and their very nature, world-makers. For Christian believers, an obligation accompanies God’s gift of life…. People fulfill their individual and collective destiny in the art, music, literature, commerce, law, and scholarship they cultivate, the relationships they build, and in the institutions they develop—the families, churches, associations, and communities they live in and sustain— as they reflect the good of God and his designs for flourishing.” (pages 3-4)

“I contend that the dominant ways of thinking about culture and cultural change are flawed, for they are based on both specious social science and problematic theology. In brief, the model on which various strategies are based not only does not work, but it cannot work.” (page 5)

CHAPTER TWO: CULTURE – THE COMMON VIEW

“To understand how to change the world, one must begin with an understanding of what is to be changed. In short, everything hinges on how we understand the nature of culture. What is meant by culture, and what it is composed of, are of critical importance, as we shall see.” (page 6)

“It is this implicit view of culture that motivates certain communities of Christians, especially Evangelicals, to focus on evangelism as their primary means of changing the world. Evangelism is not only a means of saving souls but of transforming individuals and, in a roundabout way, the culture…. As the logic goes: if people’s hearts and minds are converted, they will have the right values, they will make the right choices, and the culture will change in turn.” (pages 9-10)

“At the end of the day, the message is clear: … if you have the courage and hold to the right values and if you think Christianly with an adequate Christian worldview, you too can change the world. This account is almost wholly mistaken.” (pages 16-17)

And on that note, this week’s readings come to a close. Eager to see how he critiques this widespread view of culture.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 106

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. One American family’s mission to rescue civilians in Mosul (Marco Werman, PRI’s The World): I heard this story on NPR this week and was floored. Listen to the thirteen-minute interview (don’t just read the surrounding text -the sizzle is in the audio version). Amazing. For more about David Eubank’s ministry, read Jungle Cowboys (Sophia Lee, World Magazine).
  2. The Legal Meaning of the Cosby Mistrial (Jeannie Suk Gersen, New Yorker): “The extraordinarily high prosecutorial burden of proof in any criminal trial is intentionally designed to heavily favor defendants, because we long ago embraced as a society Blackstone’s principle. Formulated in the seventeen-sixties by the English jurist William Blackstone, the presumption is that it is better to have ten guilty people go free than that one innocent person suffer. Hard as it is to stomach today, embracing that calculus means that we should even want ten rapists (not to mention terrorists and murderers) to go free in order to protect the one falsely accused.” Gersen, a Harvard Law prof, also has another solid article this week: Why Racially Offensive Trademarks Are Now Legally Protected.
  3. Philando Castile Aftermath (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Still, I can’t grasp why Castile’s killer got away scot-free, and why there hasn’t been much of an outcry. If a police officer can shoot to death a motorist who was obeying all his commands, and walk away a free man from that shooting, how safe are any of us?” On Slate, Leon Neyfakh writes Philando Castile Should Be the NRA’s Perfect Cause Célèbre. There’s Just One Problem. See also David French’s The Unwritten Law That Helps Bad Cops Go Free.
  4. Camille Paglia: On Trump, Democrats, Transgenderism, and Islamist Terror (Jonathan V. Last, The Weekly Standard): “Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave, which I think has been produced by far more complicated psychological and sociological factors than current gender discourse allows. Furthermore, I condemn the escalating prescription of puberty blockers (whose long-term effects are unknown) for children. I regard this practice as a criminal violation of human rights.”
  5. Mis-Educating The Young (David Brooks, NY Times): “Childhood is more structured than it has ever been. But then the great engine of the meritocracy spits people out into a young adulthood that is less structured than it has ever been.”
  6. The most important truth about hard work, and also reading, that you can find (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity – it is very much like compound interest.”
  7. Two minds: The cognitive differences between men and women (Bruce Goldman, Stanford Medicine): “In a study of 34 rhesus monkeys, for example, males strongly preferred toys with wheels over plush toys, whereas females found plush toys likable. It would be tough to argue that the monkeys’ parents bought them sex-typed toys or that simian society encourages its male offspring to play more with trucks.” Recommended by a student.

Things Glen Found Entertaining

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.

Archives at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 105

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. Alvin Plantinga’s Masterful Achievement (William Doino, First Things): “In the 1950’s there was not a single published defense of religious belief by a prominent philosopher; by the 1990’s there were literally hundreds of books and articles, from Yale to UCLA and from Oxford to Heidelberg, defending and developing the spiritual dimension. The difference between 1950 and 1990 is, quite simply, Alvin Plantinga.”
  2. The Man Behind Trump’s Religious-Freedom Agenda for Health Care (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “Severino spent seven years in civil-rights enforcement at the Department of Justice; before that, he litigated religious-liberty cases. He has experience. He just doesn’t share the ideological convictions of many who work in his field.”
  3. Iraqi Christians should not be deported to become victims of ISIS (Bawai Soro, The Hill): “The American government, for the first time ever, is about to deport to a country undergoing an active genocide the very people targeted in that genocide.” See US Prepares to Deport Hundreds of Iraqi Christians (Griffin Paul Jackson, Christianity Today) for more details.
  4. There is no Thucydides Trap (Arthur Waldron, Supchina): “For the first time this year, my Chinese graduate students are marrying one another and buying houses here. This is a leading indicator. If it could be done, the coming tsunami would bring 10 million highly qualified Chinese families to the U.S. in 10 years — along with fleeing crooks, spies, and other flotsam and jetsam. Even Xi’s first wife fled China; she lives in England.The author is an IR professor at Penn.
  5. Can’t Believe You Think That (Citizen Of No Mean City): “Maybe next time before dismissing someone for their views on this subject we would do well to afford them the dignity of having thought about their position, and to dig deeper and ask ‘what has led them to think this way?’ or ‘can I learn from listening to them?’”
  6. Six Days and 50 Years of War (Bret Stephens, NY Times): “In June 1967 Arab leaders declared their intention to annihilate the Jewish state, and the Jews decided they wouldn’t sit still for it. For the crime of self-preservation, Israel remains a nation unforgiven.”
  7. Here are several links about a disturbing moment on Capitol Hill:

Things Glen Found 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.

Archives at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 104 – Special Edition

Welcome to issue 104: this is my two-year anniversary of these (kind of – I’ve taken a few weeks off along the way). In case you’re reading for the first time, every Friday I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues.

In honor of the two year milestone, I’m doing a special edition: instead of linking to specific articles that caught my attention recently, this week I want to highlight thinkers I consistently find helpful. I don’t always agree with them, but I find their writing stimulating.

Authors Glen Regularly Finds Interesting

  1. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  When you don’t know what I think about something, see if Russell Moore has written about it. Odds are we’re on the same page. Here are a few things I’ve linked to from him before:

     

  2. Tyler Cowen – an economist at George Mason University. Cowen is a libertarian and an atheist and I frequently disagree with him. But I love reading his blog. Here are some posts I’ve highlighted before:

     

  3. Doug Wilson – a pastor in Moscow, ID. This guy is super-controversial and I love reading him. Even when I disagree with him I usually learn something. Here are some things I’ve highlighted from him:

     

  4. Megan McArdle – a journalist for Bloomberg View. I always find her views insightful. She’s more politically wonky and theologically confused than the other entries on this list, but she’s got intriguing opinions about almost everything. Things she’s written that I’ve featured before:

     

  5. Mollie Hemingway – an editor at The Federalist who is increasingly doing television spots. She’s a devout Lutheran and is endlessly entertaining to me. These caught my eye:

     

  6. Scott Alexander – this is the pseudonym of a psychiatrist who blogs prolifically at Slate Star Codex. He is an atheist with complicated political views. Always fun to read. Here are a few things I’ve linked:

     

  7. I’ve left out a lot of other people such as Matthew Lee Anderson, Jeannie Suk Gersen, David French, Rod Dreher, Freddie DeBoer, Ross Douthat, Conor Friedersdorf, Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung, Joe Carter and more. If you’re ever bored, search for their names and see if you find them as intriguing as I do.

Things Glen Often Finds 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.

Archives at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 103

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. Praise & Questions: How Kendrick & Chance Talk to God in Different Ways (Miguelito, DJ Booth): “I’ve encountered two different kinds of religious believers, generally speaking. The first are those who focus on the gifts of God and the blessings in their life and take an optimistic approach to humanity. The other group is made up of those who become gripped by the mystery surrounding such a figure and keep an air of skepticism about them.”
  2. How Oxford and Peter Singer drove me from atheism to Jesus (Sarah Irving-Stonebraker, Veritas): “I grew up in Australia, in a loving, secular home, and arrived at Sydney University as a critic of ‘religion.’  I didn’t need faith to ground my identity or my values…. [however, while at Oxford] I began to realise that the implications of my atheism were incompatible with almost every value I held dear.” The author is a history professor at Western Sydney University.
  3. Listening: An Antidote to the Modern University’s Incoherence (Dominic Burbidge, The Public Discourse): insightful breakdown of the three sub-universities we dwell within: the university of rationalism, the university of revolution, and the university of subjectivism. The author is an administrator at Oxford.
  4. Wonder Woman and the Gender Wars (Russell Moore, personal blog): “Wonder Woman does indeed represent power, but she also is, in every iteration, designed to be sexually attractive to men. The 1970s-era television series noted in its theme song, ‘Fighting for your rights, in your satin tights, and the old red, white, and blue.’ The rights and the tights were both part of the package—and, from the looks of things, still are.” This piece is quite good.
  5. The Marines Can Treat Women Honorably Without Putting Them in the Infantry (David French, National Review): “The women-in-infantry debate is the luxury of a society that hasn’t fought a large-scale ground war in generations, and a serious mixed-gender experiment wouldn’t survive first contact with a well-equipped and well-trained opposing force.” The author is both a veteran of the Iraq war and a graduate of Harvard Law School. A short but thoughtful response to the widely-shared Vox article The Marine Corps has a “toxic masculinity” problem
  6. If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s quite the controversy at Evergreen College. There’s a good summary at The blasphemy case against Bret Weinstein, and its four lessons for professors (Jonathan Haidt, Heterodox Academy): “I generally oppose zero-tolerance policies, but if we are to have one, it should be for violence and intimidation on campus.” And this is a good op-ed on the situation: When the Left Turns on Its Own (Bari Weiss, NY Times): “Liberals shouldn’t cede the responsibility to defend free speech on college campuses to conservatives. After all, without free speech, what’s liberalism about?”
  7. I’ve seen lots of opinions about Trump pulling America out of the Paris climate agreement. I was most struck by these two reactions that both grant that the agreement was in some sense just for show but arrive at different conclusions from that premise:
    • From the right: The Placebo Politics of Paris (Jason Willick, The American Interest): “President Trump’s repudiation of the agreement… delights his nationalistic base and sends his internationalist-minded critics into paroxysms of rage and despair—all without actually doing anything, because the Paris agreement consists simply of voluntary, unenforceable emissions pledges that are already being flouted.”
    • From the left: The Odd Kabuki of the Climate Pact Withdrawal (Eric Posner, personal blog): “[the pact] was meaningful-symbolic rather than meaningless-symbolic. Meaningful-symbolic means that the countries were taking a first step toward actually reducing greenhouse gases rather than a first step toward pretending to reduce them.”

Things Glen Found 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.

Archives at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links.