To Change The World, Week Six

To Change The World by James Davison Hunter
To Change The World

Today’s reading is about the religious right. I know some of you are conservative and some of you are liberal. Whichever camp you align with, I encourage you to read both this chapter and the next chapter (on the religious left) carefully, seeking to gain sympathy for the side you oppose. I also encourage you to read the attached essay “The Problem With Conservatism” by J. Budziszewski, a Christian political philosopher at the University of Texas. He has a companion essay about liberalism which I’ll send next week – so whether you are liberal or conservative you’ll find a chapter that describes your views fairly while also encountering a thoughtful critique of your tribe.

Anyway, on to today’s insights. Hunter is fair and insightful in describing the Christian right:

“In the present world order, many if not most of the principles [politically conservative Christians] most esteem have come under fundamental challenge. There has been a challenge to heterosexuality, to monogamy, to marriage as a life-long commitment, to the sacred responsibility of parenting, to the authority and autonomy of the family. There has been a challenge to the sanctity of human life, most clearly in the earliest stages of life but also life at its most vulnerable and at its end. Not only has there been a challenge to the truths of the Christian faith and the traditions and scripture that express them, but there has been a challenge to the very concept of truth as well. And there has been a challenge to the moral authority of the church. These challenges have been expressed intellectually, educationally, and artistically, but also commercially, through advertising, and in the range of entertainment media. Not least, all of these challenges have also been expressed legally and politically.” (page 111)

I would be surprised if you have not heard similar sentiments in the lobby after church. In response,

Conservative Christians “defend a prominent role for religion in public life, a traditional nuclear family, and traditional morality.” (page 122)

Hunter deeply understands the perspective of conservative Christians. It makes me wonder what churches he has attended. Even in small things he gets their self-understanding. I think it would surprise many at Stanford to learn that most politically-engaged conservative evangelicals consider themselves to be the true activists who pursue human flourishing in the face of an unjust culture.

“In this view, the Tocquevillian legacy that celebrates the active role of religion in public extended into the modern age through the abolitionist movement, prohibition, and with the civil rights movement of the 1960s and it extends to the present in the movement against abortion, homosexuality, and the like. In their own view, conservative Christian activists are anything but strange. They are, rather, the “rightful heirs” of progressive Christianity.” (page 114)

Having said all of that, Hunter addresses something that I hear often: many conservative Christians are fed up with the Republican party because they feel taken for granted.

This is the problem with electoral politics in our time. Politicians cannot get nominated without the support of the grassroots activists, but they cannot get elected and govern without moving to the political center. It is inevitable that politicians who do get elected betray their most ardent supporters by moderating (p.126) their positions. Needless to say, this comes as a source of terrible frustration to the movement leaders. Movement leaders regularly and probably rightly accuse Republican politicians and officials of “just ignoring those that put them in office.” (page 125-126)

Having said that, as long as the Democratic party continues on their current trajectory it is difficult to imagine a large-scale drift of conservative Christians from Republican to Democrat. As I said in the runup to the election, I could not in good conscience vote for either Trump or Clinton and so I cast my ballot for a third party candidate. But I know many of my friends who voted for Trump as a way of preventing a Clinton victory. I think if I was to ask them why they would say something like this. “Sure, Trump is crazy and personally immoral, but Clinton is disciplined and devoted to promoting wickedness. I think America will be better off under the crazy sleazebag.”

It is difficult to overstate the centrality of the Supreme Court to the thinking of most of my conservative Christian friends. Hunter nails it with this paragraph:

If there is an epicenter of the problem, though, it is seen in the judicial system—“the last great bastion for liberalism.” Some have called “the secular-liberal takeover” of the judiciary the greatest assault representative self-government has ever faced; an assault that is “more dangerous and successful because it comes from within and aims to destroy not just our physical defenses, but the moral ideas, habits and practices that sustain our character as a free people.” The principal instrument for their assault has been “an abuse of the judicial system,” and in particular the Federal judiciary’s assertion of supreme and unchecked constitutional power. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court has arrogated to itself governmental power that the Tenth Amendment unambiguously reserves to the States, arbitrarily withdrawn the protection of the community from generations to come, interfered with the public celebration of religious festivals and observances determined by the people, and now seeks to remove all references to the Creator, God, (p.117) from public declarations adopted by the people. The campaign of “liberals and progressive forces” has been nothing less than “insidious.” The problem, then, is not just the fact that the courts are complicit in “trying to erase our Judeo- Christian heritage.” “The courts have also imposed immoral decisions on the American people.” The courts’ decisions liberalizing the practice of abortion and homosexuality are particularly galling since the majority of Americans oppose them. Cumulatively, these actions amount to “judicial tyranny.” (pages 116-117)

My friends who voted for Trump felt a huge sense of vindication when Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Trump could do everything else wrong and get the Supreme Court right and my friends would say, “I made a good call. Thank God Hilary Clinton is not president.”

I am very eager to see how he portrays the religious left in next week’s reading and then how he critiques them both afterwards.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 111

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. Meet the Megadonor Behind the LGBTQ Rights Movement (Andy Kroll, Rolling Stone): “More broadly, for Gill and his allies, nondiscrimination is the new front of the movement: a campaign that pits LGBTQ advocates against a religious right that responded to marriage equality by redoubling its efforts…. Gill refuses to go on the defense. ‘We’re going into the hardest states in the country,’ he says. ‘We’re going to punish the wicked.’…. ‘We have been fighting for [nondiscrimination] since the Sixties,’ he says. ‘It’s the religious right that decided to make marriage an issue. They worked tirelessly on it for decades and they lost.’”
  2. Fusion GPS Illuminates the Brave New World of Manufactured News For Hire (Lee Smith, Tablet Magazine) “There is no accurate accounting of how many of the stories you read in the news are the fruit of opposition research, because no journalist wants to admit how many of their top ‘sources’ are just information packagers—which is why the blinding success of Fusion GPS is the least-covered media story in America right now.”
  3. The Death Of Reading Is Threatening The Soul (Philip Yancey, Washington Post): “I am reading many fewer books these days, and even fewer of the kinds of books that require hard work. The Internet and social media have trained my brain to read a paragraph or two, and then start looking around.”
  4. Ask Andrew W.K.: My Dad Is a Right-Wing Asshole (Andrew W.K., The Village Voice): apologies for the title, this is a surprisingly good piece (published back in 2014).
  5. Charlie Gard and the Experts (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “The rights of parents are essential to a free society’s architecture, and fathers and mothers are far more likely than any other party to have their child’s best interests close to heart. To intervene on behalf of experts against the family is sometimes necessary but always dangerous, fraught with totalitarian temptations to which the modern West is not immune.” Charlie Gard died after this column was written, which makes the piece even more important.
  6. How Cool Works In America Today (David Brooks, New York Times): argues that being woke is a cultural replacement for being cool. “The woke mentality became prominent in 2012 and 2013 with the Trayvon Martin case and the rise of Black Lives Matter. Embrace it or not, B.L.M. is the most complete social movement in America today, as a communal, intellectual, moral and political force.”
  7. Free Markets and Unicorns (Andrew Strain, First Things): “In the age of corporations, a truly free market is as mythical as a unicorn.” This essay called forth the response piece Why is socialism being promoted by conservative Christian outlets? (Joe Carter, Acton Institute): “by analyzing his essay we can see a common pattern that is emerging, even in once conservative publications: writers who don’t know the first thing about free markets explaining why they are inferior to socialist policies.” Reading them together is illuminating.

Things Glen Found Amusing/Entertaining

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).

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.

To Change The World, Week Five

To Change The World by James Davison HunterBlog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through To Change The World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2017. The reading schedule is online at https://xastanford.org/summer-reading

Earlier this week I saw an essay that illustrates many of the ideas from our reading so far: Why Didn’t the Planned Parenthood Videos Change the Abortion Debate? (Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition). Carter makes many points, but two stand out – the video makers failed to coordinate with institutions and they also were attacked by elite networks. To use Hunter’s terminology, Planned Parenthood is an institution on the center and the Center for Medical Progress is an institution on the periphery – they had an uphill battle for which they were unprepared because they apparently held to the naive view of culture Hunter critiqued. I encourage you to read the article and reflect upon the readings so far in light of it.

Hunter is now moving onto the second theme of his book – rethinking power in light of faith. He’s going to focus “on the conservative, progressive, and neo-Anabaptist positions — because in contemporary America, these are the most prominent” (page 109). As Hunter hints, there are more theological options than these. Perhaps we will discuss them as we move through this second essay.

His main point in this week’s reading is that in modern societies discussions of power are inevitably political.

“Politics has become so central in our time that institutions, groups, and issues are now defined relative to the state, its laws and procedures. Institutions such as popular and higher education, philanthropy, science, the arts, and even the family understand their identity and function according to what the state does or does not permit. Groups (women, minorities, gays, Christians, etc.) have validity not only but increasingly through the rights conferred by the state.” (page 103)

Hunter says this tendency is evidence of a weak social fabric.

“…the amount of law that exists in any society is always inversely related to the coherence and stability of its common culture: law increases as cultural consensus decreases. By these lights, the fabric of the common culture in modern America has worn even more thin in the last several decades and the extraordinary amount of litigation we have seen in recent decades is just one place we see it.” (page 102)

Given that laws will multiply, the reach of the state will become ever more encompassing, and so interest groups feel it is imperative to get the state to act in alignment with their values. The state cannot simply remain neutral, as Hunter explains:

“There is a tradition in political theory that claims that in a liberal democracy, the state is or should be neutral when it comes to questions of the good. This is wrong mainly because it is impossible. Law infers a moral judgment; policy implies a worldview.” (page 103)

There is, of course, the caveat that this ressentiment-driven impulse toward power-seizing is not always true of individuals – even influential ones – but as Hunter demonstrated in the previous essay the attitudes of individuals prove less significant than the attitudes of institutions.

“I don’t want to overstate the case—clearly what I describe here are not fully and comprehensively established realities; all is not power and ressentiment. What makes it more complicated (and interesting) is that there are genuinely public-spirited people on all sides of all issues. Indeed most people are not resentment-filled and power hungry. But consistent with my view all along is the fact that the motives of individuals and the structures of culture are not the same thing.” (page 109)

This essay is off to a promising start. I’m eager to see how he summarizes the three theological options he mentioned.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 110

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 First Church of Intersectionality (Elizabeth C. Corey, First Things): “Intersectionality is, then, a quasi-religious gnostic movement, which appeals to people for precisely the reasons that all religions do: It gives an account of our brokenness, an explanation of the reasons for pain, a saving story accompanied by strong ethical imperatives, and hope for the future. In short, it gives life meaning.”
  2. Nondicrimination For All (Jonathan Rauch, National Affairs): “The landmark civil-rights bills that broke the back of racial segregation in the 1960s were not absolutist. They provided exemptions for religious organizations. They exempted ‘Mrs. Murphy,’ the landlady renting a room in her own house. At the time, civil-rights advocates in Congress made the pragmatic argument that exemptions were needed to pass the bill, but they also made the politically principled argument that exceptions would increase social comfort with the legislation while still covering the vast majority of cases — a trade they deemed worth making…. In fact, the pop-culture ideal of zero-tolerance nondiscrimination is possible only because of the underlying reality of ubiquitous accommodation.”
  3. The Wasted Mind of Ben Sasse (Ben Mathis-Lilley, Slate): “What is most maddening about Sasse is not his party fealty per se—I’m not expecting a Republican senator to support left-wing policies; that’s not the standard we should hold him to—but the way he has outlined the basis for a path he has yet to take himself.” This is more partisan than most things I share, but since I highlighted Sasse as one of my two favorite Senators back in issue 107 it seems appropriate. I still like both Sasse and Booker, by the way.
  4. Some questions I’m asking while off to my white evangelical church (Lisa Robinson, personal blog): “Has all this attention on white supremacy maybe pushed down central issues to being part of the kingdom of God together, with its discipleship mandates and being salt and light in the world? Because it seems to me, based on what I read in Scripture anyway, that only through him can true reconciliation happen.”
  5. Meet Five Men Who All Think They’re The Messiah (Jonas Bendiksen, National Geographic)  “If Christ were to come back to complete his work today, I’ve thought, what would he think of the world we’ve created? And what would we think of him? With these thoughts tumbling around in my head, I decided to start looking for messiahs. I found them the way you find everything these days: through Google.”
  6. “Mainline” Churches Are Emptying. The Political Effects Could Be Huge (Lyman Stone, Vox): “While progressives are keen to see in the decline of labor unions an important component in the rise of conservative political power, they rarely consider the impact of losing their movement’s soul. Despite mainline denominations commanding as much or more popular support and membership as labor unions, their decline seems to be unmourned within the progressive movement they birthed; the consequences of that decline likewise go unconsidered.”
  7. Getting the Rich and Powerful to Give (SSRN, Kessler, Milkman & Zhang): “Consistent with past psychology research, we find that the rich and powerful respond dramatically, and differently than others, to being given a sense of agency over the use of donated funds. Gifts from rich and powerful alumni increase by 200-300 percent when they are given a sense of agency.”

Things Glen Found Amusing

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), 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).

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.

Podcasts I Listen To

This is sort of an update to a post from a few years back: Do you geek out when there’s a new episode of Radiolab? Thoughtful Christian Podcasts, although it’s broader and includes podcasts that aren’t specifically Christian.

Tonight I had a bunch of friends over and we began discussing podcasts we listened to. One of them asked me write up my list, and I thought it might be of more general interest.

Here are the ones I get most excited about seeing in my feed. They’re an eclectic mix of intellectual, devotional, and practical.
  1. Planet Money – this is a fascinating NPR podcast about the economy. One of my absolute favorites. The episodes are not long but the topics are explored in sufficient depth to be informative.
  2. Radiolab – a show about curiosity (often with a strong science bent). This was the show that got me into podcasts. When it is good, it is off the charts.
  3. Campus Ministry Leadership Podcast – two Chi Alpha leaders, Lennon Noland and Andrew Youngblood, conduct engaging interviews with university ministers.
  4. Pete Bullette from Chi Alpha at UVA – Pete is one of the consistently best preachers I know. I listen to him to stretch myself. Bias alert – Pete is a friend of mine and so factor that into my endorsement.
  5. Larry Osborne from North Coast Church – Larry Osborne is extremely insightful. The podcast is a mix of the various pastors on staff, so I should clarify I only listen to him – I don’t resonate with the other preachers on the church staff that much. Others seem to like them a lot, though.
  6. Unbelievable? – this one is from the UK. This is a show that usually features a Christian debating a non-Christian. The host is phenomenal at keeping his guests on track and forcing them to interact with their opponent’s strongest arguments. The episodes are long, but if you like the topic of the day you will be pleased with the quality of the conversation.
  7. The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast – Andy has a talent for taking big ideas and making them accessible. I nearly always walk away from one of his podcasts with a new practical insight.
  8. Ask Pastor John – these are bite-sized podcasts. Each day John Piper answers one question that has been emailed to him. Every once in a while the questions are silly, but very often they’re relatable questions and Piper gives well-thought-out answers.
  9. Thinking in Public – an interview-style podcast with the president of Southern Theological Seminary. The guests are usually amazing and the topics are stimulating.
  10. Bayside Church – a large church near Sacramento. I particularly like Curt Harlow’s sermons (bias alert – I have known Curt for over 20 years and consider him a good friend).
  11. Conversations with Tyler – Cowen is one of the great public intellectuals of our age, and if I am at all interested in the person he’s interviewing I know I will love it. He asks questions that other hosts don’t think to ask.
  12. Econtalk – from Russ Roberts, a scholar at the Hoover Institute here at Stanford. I like the host, but sometimes the topics fail to interest me.
  13. Research on Religion – the host, Anthony Gill, is a professor of political science at the University of Washington. He hosts experts on religion (usually academics) to talk about their area of expertise.
  14. Revisionist History – bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell digs into something from history and analyzes it from a fresh perspective.

To Change The World, Week Four

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through To Change The World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2017. The reading schedule is online at https://xastanford.org/summer-reading
The first part of this week’s reading is a straightforward extension of Hunter’s thought so far, perhaps best summed up by this observation:
Against the prevailing view, the main reason why Christian believers today (from various communities) have not had the influence in the culture to which they have aspired is not that they don’t believe enough, or try hard enough, or care enough, or think Christianly enough, or have the right worldview, but rather because they have been absent from the arenas in which the greatest influence in the culture is exerted. (page 89, emphasis in original)
A book he mentions in the footnotes, Faith In The Halls Of Power by D. Michael Lindsay, is definitely worth reading in conjunction with this one. The book is available online through the Stanford library. I posted some excerpts from it a few years ago: Notes from Faith in the Halls of Power.
What I was most pleased by in this week’s readings were Hunter’s reflections about the perils of elitism.
The significance of every person before God irrespective of worldly stature or accomplishment and the care for the least are the ethical hallmarks of Christianity…. This is why elitism—a disposition and relationality of superiority, condescension, and entitlement by social elites—is so abhorrent for the Christian. Its foundation is exclusion on the implicit (and sometimes explicit) view that people are not equal in love and dignity before God. Thus, by its very nature, elitism is exploitative. So far as I can tell, elitism for believers is despicable and utterly anathema to the gospel they cherish. (page 94)
Whatever its larger influence in the world may be, a culture that is genuinely alternative cannot emerge without faithful presence in all areas of life. This will include networks (and more, communities) of counter-leaders operating within the upper echelons of cultural production and social life generally. These are realms of performance and distinction that may be rare and inaccessible to the average person, but they are still critically important to both the renewal of the church and its engagement with the culture. (page 96)
Here is my challenge to you, someone who is being conditioned by Stanford to serve in elite roles. Whatever you wind up doing, learn to love what you do without disdaining less elite believers. This is harder than you think it will be. A part of elite culture you must remain vigilant against is ostentatiously despising people who relish popular culture. One key marker will be whether you truly view believers who have never heard the word intersectionality and who view Denny’s as the pinnacle of cuisine as brothers and sisters worthy of celebrating and defending. In other words, be elite without being elitist.
Worth reading in this regard is the recent David Brooks New York Times column and its frenzied responses.
How We Are Ruining America (David Brooks, NYT): “To feel at home in opportunity-rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention possess the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child-rearing, gender norms and intersectionality.” This column spawned much derision on social media, but I strongly agree with Brooks. Here are two sympathetic reactions from Freddie deBoer on the left and from Rod Dreher on the right. Dan Drezner takes it in a different direction.
The above snippet will be featured in today’s Friday email.
Given our summer reading, I supposed I should highlight that this is from a New York Times columnist. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I deliberately choose articles from high-status institutions and individuals that are either directly relevant to the Christian life or are germane to a Christian view of human flourishing. I don’t hold to this rigidly, but it’s something I am very aware of when composing each Friday email. It’s one small step towards helping our community interact with the most influential parts of culture.
Incidentally, if you don’t get those Friday emails and are interested in them, you can sign up at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/subscribe

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 109

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. How We Are Ruining America (David Brooks, NYT): “To feel at home in opportunity-rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention possess the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child-rearing, gender norms and intersectionality.” This column spawned much derision on social media, but I strongly agree with Brooks – and so do many commentators. Here are sympathetic reactions from Freddie deBoer on the left and from Rod Dreher on the right. Dan Drezner takes it in a different direction, and the Monkey Cage says “duh” while Alan Jacobs calls people unwilling to acknowledge Brooks’ observation “willfully blind”.
  2. Luther’s Revolution (The Nation, Elizabeth Bruenig): “Theology is morality is politics is law—and whether or not it’s immediately obvious, the world is steeped in theology. In contemporary America, and especially in the more secular precincts of Western Europe, it seems unlikely that one could look at a property deed or a government budget and find, just beneath its explicit reasoning, traces of old theological disputes and their resolutions. But they’re there…”
  3. I’ve Worked with Refugees for Decades. Europe’s Afghan Crime Wave Is Mind-Boggling. (Cheryl Benard, The National Interest): “Europeans were predisposed to be positive towards Afghan refugees. But it quickly became obvious that something was wrong, very wrong, with these young Afghan men: they were committing sex crimes to a much greater extent than other refugees… It took a while for the pattern to be recognized because, until recently, western European media deliberately refrained from identifying an assailant’s refugee or asylum status, or his country of origin.”
  4. Personality, Gender, and Age in the Language of Social Media: The Open-Vocabulary Approach (Schwartz HA, Eichstaedt JC, Kern ML, Dziurzynski L, Ramones SM, Agrawal M, et al., PLOS One) – This one is from 2013. Pay particular attention to Figure 6 and notice the cluster of words associated with emotional stability. #blessed #on_my_way to #church
  5. No Retreat: Lecrae’s Approach to “Culture-Making” (Jemar Tisby, Christ and Pop Culture): “But Lecrae couldn’t fulfill his mission if his beats only banged in Christian ears, though not because Christians aren’t important to him. It was Christian fans who propelled him to popularity and still continue to support him. Nevertheless, having testified in Jerusalem, so to speak, Lecrae felt compelled to testify also in Rome (Acts 23:11).” This is related to what we’re covering in our summer reading project, and you’re welcome to join us. 
  6. In Praise of Extreme Medicine (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “It’s odd that we allow some crazy things and ban others—even more that the crazy things we allow are sometimes socially useless while the crazy things that we ban are sometimes socially valuable. The case for banning extreme sports, for example, is much stronger than the case for banning extreme medicine.”
  7. ‘Born this way’? It’s way more complicated than that (Alia E. Dastagir, USA Today): “Getting America to believe that people are born gay — that it’s not something that can be chosen or ever changed — has been central to the fight for gay rights. If someone can’t help being gay any more than they can help the color of their skin, the logic goes, denying them rights is wrong. But many members of the LGBTQ community reject this narrative…”
  8. Why Roman concrete still stands strong while modern version decays (Nicola Davis, The Guardian): recommended by an alumnus. I sometimes hear people state it like a self-evident truth that we are smarter than the ancients. I see no evidence we are any more intelligent than them. We just have more accumulated knowledge in certain domains.

Things Glen Found Entertaining

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). Lewis explains why Christians are justified in continuing to believe even when they encounter an argument they can’t immediately answer (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).

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.