Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 147

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. Inside the White House Bible Study group (Owen Amos, BBC): “But is a bible study for Cabinet members, with political themes, not a merging of church and state? ‘I believe in institutional separation, but not influential separation,’ [Drollinger] says. ‘No matter what the institution is — the family, commerce, education — it needs the bulwark precepts of the word of God in order to function correctly… But the minute I start to amalgamate the church and the state institutionally, then I’m into theocracy.’”
  2. Why you stink at fact-checking (Lisa Fazio, The Conversation): “First, people have a general bias to believe that things are true. (After all, most things that we read or hear are true.) In fact, there’s some evidence that we initially process all statements as true and that it then takes cognitive effort to mentally mark them as false. Second, people tend to accept information as long as it’s close enough to the correct information. Natural speech often includes errors, pauses and repeats. (‘She was wearing a blue – um, I mean, a black, a black dress.’) One idea is that to maintain conversations we need to go with the flow – accept information that is ‘good enough’ and just move on.” The author is a psych professor at Vanderbilt.
  3. One extra glass of wine ‘will shorten your life by 30 minutes’ (Sarah Bosely, The Guardian): “The risks for a 40-year-old of drinking over the recommended daily limit were comparable to smoking, said one leading scientist. ‘Above two units a day, the death rates steadily climb,’ said David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge.” This is certainly going to be contested research, but it caught my eye.
  4. The 10-Year Baby Window That Is the Key to the Women’s Pay Gap (Claire Cain Miller, NY Times): “When women have their first child between age 25 and 35, their pay never recovers, relative to that of their husbands. Yet women who have their first baby either before 25 or after 35 — before their careers get started or once they’re established — eventually close the pay gap with their husbands.”
  5. Two different analyses of California’s state politics:
    • CA is awesome! The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War (Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira, Medium): “California today provides a model for America as a whole. This model of politics and government is by no means perfect, but it is far ahead of the nation in coming to terms with the inexorable digital, global, sustainable transformation of our era. It is a thriving work in progress that gives hope that America can pull out of the political mess we’re in.”
    • CA is a train wreck! California Is the Model for National Divorce, Not Democratic Domination (David French, National Review): “…it turns out that California politics and policies are repellent to millions of Californians. Between 2007 and 2016 roughly 6 million California residents left the state. Only 5 million people moved to California from other American states. And where did a plurality of former Californians go? Texas.”
  6. The Sam Harris Debate (Ezra Klein, Vox): this is a long, interesting debate partly about Charles Murray but ultimately about much deeper issues.
    • Sam Harris: “How can we get to a world where the maximum number of people thrive? I view identity politics as among the worst pieces of software you can be running to try to get there. I want to get to a world where, I mean, it’s Martin Luther King’s claim about the content of your character, rather than the color of your skin. That is the goal, and if you want to reverse engineer that goal, giving primacy to identity is one of the worst things you can do.”
    • Ezra Klein: “To Harris… identity politics is something others do. To me, it’s something we all do, and that he and many others refuse to admit they’re doing. This is one of the advantages of being the majority group: Your concerns get coded as concerns; it’s everyone else who is playing identity politics.”
  7. There was a big kerflufffle about The Atlantic firing columnist Kevin Williams over his views on abortion. I was really stunned by how much ink was spilled over it — this is just a small sample. The authors make interesting observations about disagreement in America.
    • Kevin Williamson, Thought Criminal (Jonah Goldberg, The National Review): “Editors or owners should have absolute authority to control what appears in the pages of their magazines. How they exercise that authority, i.e., how much orthodoxy they want to impose or how much free-for-all they want to encourage, is a prudential question (and one I often have strong opinions about). What editors should not have any control over is what their writers are allowed to think.”
    • Among The Abortion Extremists (Ross Douthat, NY Times):  “…this is a case study in exactly the problem establishment editors are trying to address by widening their pool of writers: the inability of contemporary liberalism to see itself from the outside, as it looks to the many people who for some reason, class or religion or historical experience, are not fully indoctrinated into its increasingly incoherent mix of orthodoxies. By this I mean that my pro-choice friends endorsing Williamson’s sacking can’t see that his extremism is mirrored in their own…”
    • Bias against conservatives works like any other prejudice (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “In a better world, this moment would help us understand each other, and come to some sort of reasonable agreement, rather than swearing mutually assured destruction. That’s because what conservatives are saying about media bias sounds a lot like what liberals are saying about race and gender — and vice versa.”
    • Congrats, Jeff Goldberg. You Just Martyred Kevin Williamson. (Jack Schaefer, Politico): “I’ve long admired Williamson’s writing, if not his ideas, for the way he’s internalized Michael Kinsley’s warning that if you’re afraid to go too far, you won’t go far enough. Williamson almost always goes too far, taking his arguments to thought frontiers where there are no roads, no mobile phone service and sometimes barely enough air to breathe.”
    • A Twitter thread by Elizabeth Bruenig giving another point of view: “So the market incentives inside the rightwing media world — the things you need to do to get ahead there — are opposite those outside of it. To put it another way: You can get famous triggering libs, but if you’re really good at it, well…it works?”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • Gracefully Graces Me (YouTube): I am grateful that our worship team doesn’t sing songs like this
  • Never Throw Anything Away (Pearls Before Swine): I am pig, to the tremendous consternation of my wife.
  • What is Skim Milk? The FDA versus Dairy Farmers (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “South Mountain Creamery sells skim milk, i.e. milk with the fat skimmed off. The FDA, however, wants skim milk to contain as many vitamins as whole milk so they define skim milk as including vitamin A and D. If farmers want to sell skim milk and call it ‘skim milk’ they have to add vitamins. To avoid prosecution the FDA is requiring South Mountain Creamery to label their skim milk, ‘imitation skim milk’! Yes. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Real Skim Milk is Imitation Skim Milk.” This is actually true. I still found it amusing.

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have some thoughts about slavery and the Bible – Does The Bible Support Slavery? (a lecture given by the warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge University, the link is to the video with notes) and Does God Condone Slavery In The Bible? (Part One – Old Testament) and also Part Two – New Testament (longer pieces from Glenn Miller at Christian Thinktank). All three are quite helpful. (first shared in volume 76)

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 this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 146

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. Everyone Got The Pulse Massacre Story Completely Wrong (Melissa Jeltsen, Huffington Post): “…in acquitting Salman, 31, on Friday, a jury also delivered a verdict on the story we’d told ourselves about the killings: We’d gotten it wrong. In the wake of the shooting, the media and public focused on certain details, many of which were later determined to be unfounded, and discounted others, like Mateen’s own explanation for his actions.” This is a must-read. It’s amazing how wrong the cultural consensus is. 
  2. Altered Brain Developmental Trajectories in Adolescents After Initiating Drinking (Adolf Pfefferbaum, et al, American Journal of Psychiatry): Initiation of drinking during adolescence, with or without marijuana co-use, disordered normal brain growth trajectories.” Adolescence is defined as up to 21 in this study, which means most college students should be far more leery of alcohol than they are. 
  3. “Engaging the Culture” Doesn’t Work Because Christian Beliefs Are a Mark of Low Status (Dean Abbot, Patheos): “Evangelicals sought to engage the culture by being relevant, by creating works of art, by offering good arguments for their positions. None of these addressed the real problem: that Christian belief simply isn’t cool, and that very few people want to lower their social status by identifying publicly with it.”
    • See also his follow-up Traditional Christian Belief and Low Social Status: Four Responses: “The cultural shift that dislodged traditional Christianity from its place as the foundation of American culture has provoked a number of responses among believers. Though these responses may seem infinitely varied on the surface, the bulk of them can actually be categorized under four headings: accommodation, appeasement, acceptance and aggression.”
    • And the sequel to that, The Low Social Status of Christian Belief Is Part of a Larger Problem: “In Christianity’s place, a new default religion stands. In this system, the human problem is lack of liberty, specifically the lack of liberty for each individual to determine his own values, purpose and morals. The solution is to liberate others by advocating, even in an abstract and risk-free way, for ‘social justice.’”
  4. Plumbers and Priests (Tony Woodlief, personal blog): “I don’t know how I got to the point where I’m inclined to disbelieve anything an academic claims. I’m not anti-intellectual. I read stuff. I even hold a PhD, and a Master of Fine Arts on top of that. I can show you mathematically why a single-member plurality voting system tends to yield two major parties, and for the chaser I can hit you with an explication of the roots of literary modernism.… [and yet] the fact is I don’t have any confidence in those N.C. State findings.” The author has a Ph.D. in political science. I almost didn’t include this one, but I can’t stop thinking about it.
  5. ‘I Know I Will Be Criticized’: The Latino Evangelical Who Advises Trump on Immigration (Laurie Goodstein, New York Times):  “Mr. Rodriguez represents a growing segment of the evangelical movement, and one that is often overlooked in all the attention paid to the white evangelicals serving as Mr. Trump’s cheerleaders. One in four evangelicals in the United States is now an immigrant or the child of one. In the younger generation of evangelicals, there are now more Hispanic people than non-Hispanic whites.” Disclosure: I have met Sammy but don’t know him. We’re in the same denomination.
  6. Some news from the global church:
      • Missionaries at border spread Christianity to North Korea (Hyung-jin Kim And Gerry Shih, AP News): “Among the missionaries and pastors killed under mysterious circumstances in recent years is the Rev. Han Chung-ryeol, a Chinese pastor of Korean descent who headed a front-line church in the Chinese border town of Changbai before he was found dead of multiple stab wounds and a punctured skull in April 2016, raising suspicions that North Korea was involved.”
      • China Bans Bibles from Online Sellers Like Amazon (Morgan Lee, Christianity Today):  “Two days before the Bibles were banned from online purchase, the Chinese government released a document outlining how it intends to promote ‘Chinese Christianity’ over the next five years. According to the document, one of the government’s key objectives is to reinterpret and retranslate the Bible in order to enhance ‘Chinese-style Christianity and theology.’”
      • Meet the First Female Evangelical Presidential Candidate of Colombia (Deann Alford, Christianity Today): “My public participation follows a biblical model. The Bible teaches that we must be witnesses of the Lord whenever we are. In the last century, US missionaries taught that politics was of the devil, and the church here was apathetic. Fortunately, we’re waking up. But we must wake up properly, mindful to not confuse the church with a political party.”
      • Conservative Christian Singer Loses Costa Rica Presidential Race (Morgan Lee, Christianity Today): “The evangelical candidate had emerged from obscurity to take a plurality of the vote in the first round of the presidential race…. Despite his loss, Alvarado Muñoz’s success is ‘a cultural game changer,’ says Douglass Sullivan-González, a University of Mississippi Honors College dean who has done religious research in Central America. ‘[Evangélicos] are now going to be seen a political challenge thanks to the success of Fabricio Alvarado, said Sullivan-González.”
  7. Two related articles by the Chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (he is also a professor of political science at Villanova).
    • Religious Totalitarianism, Secular Totalitarianism, and Other Threats to International Religious Freedom (Daniel Mark, The Public Discourse): “Serving on USCIRF, which monitors and reports on the worst religious freedom situations in the world, I am acutely aware of how our challenges at home pale in comparison to what goes on abroad. But the lesson from this is not what you think. It’s not that we should feel so good as to become complacent about our own present circumstances. On the contrary, the painful international scene should be an ever-present reminder to us of how rare, how precious, and how vulnerable religious freedom is—and how vigilant we must be in defending it.” 
    • Domestic Challenges to Religious Liberty From Left and Right (Daniel Mark, The Public Discourse): “One central consequence of this denial of human nature is that it leads ineluctably to a denial of human rights. Without a firm view of human nature, we cannot construct a coherent account of human rights. I am aware, of course, that the people I have in mind here claim all sorts of things in the name of human rights. But the new menu of human rights is selective, subjective, and, finally, indefensible.”  

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 How To Pray A Psalm (Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): prayer life need a boost? Give this a try. (first shared in volume 69)

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 this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.