Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 143

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. I’m a scholar of the “prosperity gospel.” It took cancer to show me I was in its grip. (Kate Bowler, Vox): “Every day I pray the same prayer: God, save me. Save me. Save me. Oh, God, remember my baby boy. Remember my son and my husband before you return me to ashes. Before they walk this earth alone. I plead with a God of Maybe, who may or may not let me collect more years. It is a God I love, and a God that breaks my heart.” The author is a professor at Duke Divinity School.
  2. Two intriguing articles on the transgender movement in America:
    • The Disappearance of Desire (Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary Magazine):  “Sexuality is a bodily experience. It stretches credulity to suggest that a trans person’s decision to alter his or her sexed body has nothing to do with what he or she wishes to do with that body—and whom he or she wishes to attract. Yet, as with gender itself, the trans activists treat sexual desire as an abstract and disembodied thing.”
    • Divorcing The Transgender Community (Gretchen Rachel Hammond, Tablet Magazine): the language in this one is uncouth. “It was then that I began to notice that those transgender people who started to speak out as an activist, journalist, celebrity, organizer, commentator or even via a social media post were coming under attack, not just from the usual crowd of Evangelical Conservative hysterics, but increasingly and unnervingly from their own community.”
  3. For the lawyers: Disagreement is Not Always Discrimination: On Masterpiece Cakeshop and the Analogy to Interracial Marriage (Ryan Anderson, Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy): “Colorado is part of a larger national trend in which authorities are using antidiscrimination statutes as swords to punish already marginalized people (such as supporters of the conjugal understanding of marriage), rather than as shields to protect people from unjust discrimination (such as African Americans in the wake of Jim Crow and today).… support for marriage as the union of husband and wife is essentially different from opposition to interracial marriage, and that the status of African Americans is importantly different from that of Americans who identify as gay. As a result, First Amendment protections for people who act on the belief that marriage unites husband and wife differ in critical ways from hypothesized First Amendment protections for racists—and the courts can distinguish the two cases…. protections for citizens who support the conjugal understanding of marriage bear much more similarity to protections for pro‐life citizens.”
  4. The Ignoble Lie (Patrick Deneen, First Things): “This helps explain the strange and often hysterical insistence upon equality emanating from our nation’s most elite and exclusive institutions. The most absurd recent instance was Harvard University’s official effort to eliminate social clubs due to their role in ‘enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values,’ in the words of its president. Harvard’s opposition to exclusion sits comfortably with its admissions rate of 5 percent (2,056 out of 40,000 applicants in 2017). The denial of privilege and exclusion seems to increase in proportion to an institution’s exclusivity.” The author is a professor of Constitutional Studies at Notre Dame.
  5. Sex, Lies, and Spies (Darrell Cole, Providence): “Once the case for employing a spy in the first place has been made, the question of how to spy comes into focus, and thus one of the major moral problems for spies is trying to make a case that lying and sex are just (combat) tactics…. We can make a clear and convincing case that the Christian tradition may support the idea that lies told for the public good are justifiable. When spies tell such lies in the line of duty, their deceptions fall into that category and, so, are justifiable. Can the same be said for sex in the line of duty? Can manipulative sex for the public good be justifiable?” A fascinating discussion of a question that had never crossed my mind. The author is an ethics professor at Drew University.
  6. The Last Temptation (Michael Gerson, The Atlantic): “In a remarkably free country, many evangelicals view their rights as fragile, their institutions as threatened, and their dignity as assailed. The single largest religious demographic in the United States—representing about half the Republican political coalition—sees itself as a besieged and disrespected minority. In this way, evangelicals have become simultaneously more engaged and more alienated…. It is true that insofar as Christian hospitals or colleges have their religious liberty threatened by hostile litigation or government agencies, they have every right to defend their institutional identities—to advocate for a principled pluralism. But this is different from evangelicals regarding themselves, hysterically and with self‐pity, as an oppressed minority that requires a strongman to rescue it. This is how Trump has invited evangelicals to view themselves.” The author worked in the Bush White House and describes himself as an evangelical.
    • In response: The True Sin of American Evangelicals in the Age of Trump (David French, National Review): “it matters exactly how Evangelicals arrived where they are today. It wasn’t the hysterical reaction of a self‐pitying people. For most it was the sad result of a series of tough choices — made in response to difficult and unreasonable challenges. Even today there are millions of Evangelicals — people who still count themselves reluctant Trump supporters — who are deeply uneasy with the president and the state of their own religious movement. It serves no one’s interests to minimize the legitimacy of their deep political concern.”
    • My take: Gerson’s essay is very good and French adds a needed perspective. Bonus quote from Gerson’s essay: “The banishment of fundamentalism from the cultural mainstream culminated dramatically in a Tennessee courthouse in 1925. William Jennings Bryan, the most prominent Christian politician of his time, was set against Clarence Darrow and the theory of evolution at the Scopes ‘monkey trial,’ in which a Tennessee educator was tried for teaching the theory in high school. Bryan won the case but not the country. The journalist and critic H. L. Mencken provided the account accepted by history, dismissing Bryan as ‘a tin pot pope in the Coca‐Cola belt and a brother to the forlorn pastors who belabor half‐wits in galvanized iron tabernacles behind the railroad yards.’ Fundamentalists became comic figures, subject to world‐class condescension. It has largely slipped the mind of history that Bryan was a peace activist as secretary of state under Woodrow Wilson and that his politics foreshadowed the New Deal. And Mencken was eventually revealed as a racist, an anti‐Semite, and a eugenics advocate.” Emphasis mine. I consider myself fairly well‐informed about American religious history and found the bolded details surprising.
  7. The real Down syndrome problem: Accepting genocide (George Will, Washington Post): “Iceland must be pleased that it is close to success in its program of genocide, but before congratulating that nation on its final solution to the Down syndrome problem, perhaps it might answer a question: What is this problem? To help understand why some people might ask this question, meet two children. One is Agusta, age 8, a citizen of Iceland. The other is Lucas, age 1, an American citizen in Dalton, Ga., who recently was selected to be 2018 ‘Spokesbaby’ for the Gerber baby food company. They are two examples of the problem. Now, before Iceland becomes snippy about the description of what it is doing, let us all try to think calmly about genocide, without getting judgmental about it. It is simply the deliberate, systematic attempt to erase a category of people. So, what one thinks about a genocide depends on what one thinks about the category involved. In Iceland’s case, the category is people with Down syndrome.”
    • Related: a Facebook post from one of our sophomores (shared with his permission): “My parents were told that I would be born with down syndrome and advised to abort me. In response my father pulled us out of the hospital’s mandatory counseling program, spent a lot of time in prayer, and decided emphatically that I would be born. I had no say in the matter, as I was too small to communicate or understand. I couldn’t cry or plead for my life. I couldn’t even look the people in the eyes who wanted to kill me. 20 years later, I have my God and my parents to thank for defending me, defending an unborn child wrongly accused of a crime that carried a death sentence: a defect. My parents had no idea exactly where God wanted to take me, but because of their defense, I’m here, down syndrome free, sitting in a classroom at Stanford University.” (source) By the way, he was was not only admitted to Stanford. He was admitted to every single Ivy League school.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Every Place Has Detractors. Consider Where They’re Coming From.(Megan McCardle, Bloomberg View): “There is grave danger in judging a neighborhood, or a culture, by the accounts of those who chose to leave it. Those people are least likely to appreciate the good things about where they came from, and the most likely to dwell on its less attractive qualities.” Bear this in mind when listening to conversion testimonies (both secular and religious). (first shared in volume 62)

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.

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