Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 141

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. Plenty of the ‘Nones’ Actually Head Back to Church (Ryan Burge, Christianity Today): “For atheists, the defection rate is about 18 percent. Even more striking, about 48 percent of agnostics defected, as did 42 percent of those who described their faith as ‘nothing in particular.’ That’s a staggering amount of flux: About half of the agnostics in the US in 2010 were no longer agnostics by 2014.” There are many details not reflected in this quote – read the whole thing. The author is a professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University.
  2. Holy Ambivalence (Brad East, LA Review of Books): “The arc of history does not bend toward justice; it bent and cracked long ago under the weight of another Empire’s injustice, under Pontius Pilate; now it wends in unknown and sometimes wicked ways, under our own disordered direction. Faith confesses that it has been and will be righted, once for all, but we know not when or how the denouement will come; only that it will be beyond history.” This is a very thoughtful commentary about how Christians should think about the Western world.  The author is a theology professor at Abilene Christian University.
  3. The Syria Memory Hole Is Opening Up a Bigger Danger (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg View): “Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes referred to the dog that didn’t bark as a telltale sign that something unusual was going on during a horse theft. The relative lack of attention being paid to the news that U.S.-backed forces killed 200 to 300 Russian mercenary soldiers this month in Syria seems like a non-barking dog to me…. I have found that I know plenty of well-educated people, with graduate degrees and living in and near Washington, who aren’t even aware this occurred. The story has fallen into a memory hole, in part because neither the Americans nor the Russians wish to escalate the conflict.”
  4. No, Fascism Can’t Happen Here (Tyler Cowen, Politico): “My argument is pretty simple: American fascism cannot happen anymore because the American government is so large and unwieldy. It is simply too hard for the fascists, or for that matter other radical groups, to seize control of.”
  5. Many things were written about the recently-deceased Billy Graham  this week. Here are a few that caught my eye:
    • How Billy Graham Killed Communism with Kindness (David Aikman, Christianity Today): “But 19 years later, at least one major journalistic critic of that day had changed his tune. ‘Graham’s efforts contributed to the fall of communism, and in no small way,’ said Dan Rather in a 2001 interview. ‘He was right; I was wrong, big time.’”
    • What Is Billy Graham’s Friendship with Martin Luther King Jr. Worth? (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “King is quoted as saying, ‘Had it not been for the ministry of my good friend Dr. Billy Graham, my work in the civil rights movement would not have been as successful as it has been.’”
    • Graham And The Jews: A Complex Connection (David Neff, Christianity Today): “When Syria and Egypt launched a surprise attack on Israel in October 1973, it soon became evident that Israel was under severe stress. The European powers refused to help. Richard Nixon hesitated to aid Israel for fear of escalating international tensions. But as the crisis grew graver, and Israel quietly threatened to use nuclear warheads, Nixon delivered weapons and supplies to stabilize Israel. Years later, Tanenbaum’s widow told The New York Times that it was only after Graham personally telephoned Nixon that the airlift began.”
    • The Wrong Spite Of History (Samuel James, Mere Orthodoxy): “Social media doesn’t usually shock me, but it got me this week. I was genuinely taken aback by the bile and viciousness I saw toward Billy Graham and his family from progressives, especially LGBT progressives. What I saw in dozens of tweets from accounts with shiny blue checkmarks was hatred of the simplest and most unembarrassed kind. It bothered me, not least because it threw me: This is Billy Graham we’re talking about. Not a politician, not a culture warrior. Is it even possible to be meeker and milder as a Christian than Billy Graham was, and still actually believe the gospel?”
  6. Expropriating land without compensation is impossible—take it from Zimbabwe (Johann Kirsten and Wandile Sihlobo, Quartz): “South Africa will now begin to reclaim land taken from black people near a century ago without payback to the current owners, dividing public sentiment along fears of a ‘land grab’ and cries for justice. On Feb. 27, lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor to amend the constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation…. If the South African government seizes private property for free, someone somewhere within the economy will have to pay.”  The authors are economists in South Africa. One is black and one is white.
  7. More on guns – the debate roils on with no sign of abating:
    • A ‘Deeply Libertarian’ Plan To Restrict Gun Sales (Stephen Carter, Bloomberg View): “The state establishes a ‘No Gun’ registry. Joining is entirely voluntary, but upon adding my name, I give up my right to purchase a firearm. Not forever. Not for some set period of time. The waiver is in effect only until I change my mind, which I am free to do whenever I like. Sound too easy? This is where the elegant part comes in. When I join, I can supply the email addresses for people who should be notified if I change my mind. If I decide later to drop my name from the registry, nobody can stop me, but there’s a three-week cooling-off period.” The author is a law professor at Yale.
    • What Critics Don’t Understand About Gun Culture (David French, The Atlantic): “Because of the threats against my family—and because I don’t want to be dependent on a sometimes shockingly incompetent government for my family’s security—I carry a weapon. My wife does as well. We’re not scared. We’re prepared, and that sense of preparation is contagious. Confidence is contagious. People want to be empowered. That’s how gun culture is built.”
    • Some Thoughts on School Shootings, Media, and the Consequences of Fear (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Contrary to common wisdom, mass shootings also occur in European countries. I suspect, however, that the Finnish media don’t cover German shootings as frequently as shootings in Florida are covered in Nebraska–as a result the larger the media-market the greater the extent of availability bias. In other words, the larger the media market the greater the over-estimation of rare but vivid events.”
    • Why Gun Laws May Finally Change: Kids Are Leading (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg View): “Children are effective messengers because they are difficult to convincingly attack. It’s easier to forgive their excesses and their mistakes, and they are not constrained by having full-time jobs. The very fact that children are doing something attracts news coverage.”
    • Why Did It Take Two Weeks To Discover Parkland Students’ Astroturfing? (David Hines, The Federalist): “On Twitter, I lost track of the number of bluechecks rhapsodizing over how effective the kids’ organizational instincts were. But organizing isn’t instinctive. It’s skilled work; you have to learn how to do it, and it takes really a lot of people. You don’t just get a few magical kids who’re amazing and naturally good at it.” This is an excellent article with a unfortunately off-putting title. It’s about how real political advocacy happens.
    • Nation That Calls Trump ‘Hitler’ Demands He Take All Guns Away (Babylon Bee)
  8. Beauty and the Body of the Beholder: Raters’ BMI Has Only Limited Association with Ratings of Attractiveness of the Opposite Sex (many authors, Obesity: A Research Journal): “In summary, individual variations in ratings of physical attractiveness are large. There was little support for the idea of mutual attraction as a driver for assortative mating. Our data suggest that despite overall trends favoring leaner phenotypes of both sexes as most attractive, everyone is beautiful to somebody of the opposite sex.” (emphasis added)

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  1. Christian Breakup Lines (John Crist, YouTube)
  2. Calvinist Dog Corrects Owner: ‘No One Is A Good Boy’ (Babylon Bee)
  3. Black Panther star boldly proclaims “I fell in love with Jesus” (Philip Kosloski, Aleteia): “One of the causes behind that success is breakout star Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s little sister Shuri, a brainy technician who is one of the most likable characters of the movie. Interestingly, Wright almost never got the role, as she left acting completely to purse a relationship with God.”

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Weight of Glory (C.S. Lewis): It was originally preached as a sermon and then printed in a theology magazine. Related: see the C. S. Lewis Doodle YouTube channel – it’s really good! (first shared in volume 36)

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.


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.

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