Kicking off the C. S. Lewis Summer Reading Project

The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through three books by C. S. Lewis, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2018.

This is the first week of our summer reading project. I’ll be sending out reminders to read along with some commentary on the readings throughout the summer. Remember that the schedule is online (you can print it out and use it as a bookmark if you find that helpful).

This week we’re reading the first two chapters of The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis: “Men Without Chests” and “The Way” (pages 693–717 in the anthology).  If you don’t have a copy of the book yet, you can hear it entertainingly presented on the C.S. Lewis Doodle YouTube channel (not all of our readings are on this channel, but some will be).

I believe this is one of Lewis’s most important books, and I am not alone in my opinion. In The Narnian, Alan Jacobs (himself an excellent essayist) calls The Abolition of Man the “most profound of Lewis’s cultural critiques” (page 174).

At first you may wonder why you are reading about a British high school textbook from 1939, but as you progress into the chapter you’ll discover that Lewis is pointing out a profound error in thinking which has become even more widespread today. I encourage you to persevere; the payoff is worth it. The last four sentences of the first chapter are among the most powerful I have read, and you will find that the second chapter seems to be addressed to your contemporaries at Stanford.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 156

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.

Also, 156 is three sets of 52, which means I’ve been doing this for a little over three years now (I sometimes take a week or two off). Yay!

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Mr. Rogers Had a Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Children (Maxwell King, The Atlantic): “1. ‘State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.’ Example: It is dangerous to play in the street. 2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in It is good to play where it is safe. 3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in, Ask your parents where it is safe to play.” There are several more rules, most equally good for talking to adults.
  2. The Lifespan of a Lie (Ben Blum, Medium): “The appeal of the Stanford prison experiment seems to go deeper than its scientific validity, perhaps because it tells us a story about ourselves that we desperately want to believe: that we, as individuals, cannot really be held accountable for the sometimes reprehensible things we do.” The article claims, convincingly, that the Stanford Prison Experiment did not happen at all the way we have been taught. Wow.
  3. When Diversity Means Uniformity (Lionel Shriver, The Spectator): “Will Norman, London’s ‘walking and cycling commissioner’, bemoaned the fact that too many cyclists in the city are white, male and middle-class. ‘The real challenge for London cycling,’ he declared, ‘is diversity.’ As opposed to building more cycle lanes for everybody, or fixing potholes lethal to everybody’s wheel rims, Norman regards his principal function as increasing black and minority ethnic ridership.” This anecdote is not the focus of the article.
  4. Of Boys and Toys (Leonard Sax, Institute For Family Studies): “…they found that little children—boys especially—had barely a clue which gender they belonged to, even when the psychologists used the simplest nonverbal prompts. Kids under two years of age score only slightly above chance in assigning themselves or other kids to the correct gender. Nevertheless, Serbin’s group found that children’s toy preferences are firmly in place by this age, especially among boys. When the experimenters offered boys a truck or a doll, most boys chose the truck. In fact, boys preferred trucks over dolls more strongly than girls preferred dolls over trucks. That ought to be surprising if you buy into gender schema theory because 18-month-old girls were more likely than boys to be able to classify themselves and other children by gender. If gender schema theory is correct, the girls should show a stronger preference for gender-typical toys because girls this age are more likely to know that they are, in fact, girls. But the reality is just the opposite.”
  5. Harvard Rated Asian-American Applicants Lower on Personality Traits, Lawsuit Says (Hadley Green, New York Times): “They compare Harvard’s treatment of Asian-Americans with its well-documented campaign to reduce the growing number of Jews being admitted to Harvard in the 1920s. Until then, applicants had been admitted on academic merit. To avoid adopting a blatant quota system, Harvard introduced subjective criteria like character, personality and promise. The plaintiffs call this the ‘original sin of holistic admissions.’” What are the odds they are the only highly-selective university to do this?
  6. Conservative Religious Leaders Are Denouncing Trump Immigration Policies (Laurie Goodstein, New York Times): “A coalition of evangelical groups, including the National Association of Evangelicals and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, sent a letter to President Trump on June 1 pleading with him to protect the unity of families and not to close off all avenues to asylum for immigrants and refugees fleeing danger.”
    • Related: World Refugee Day 2018: ‘Welcoming the Stranger’ Meets ‘Zero Tolerance’ (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “For Christians, the issue of family unity for immigrants shows signs of transcending partisan lines. Franklin Graham, an evangelical adviser to President Trump, recently spoke against family separation on CBN News, encouraging legislative reform to remedy the new guidelines for migrants at the border.”
    • Related: She says federal officials took her daughter while she breastfed the child in a detention center (Ed Lavandera, Jason Morris and Darran Simon, CNN): “The undocumented immigrant from Honduras sobbed as she told an attorney Tuesday how federal authorities took her daughter while she breastfed the child in a detention center, where she was awaiting prosecution for entering the country illegally. When the woman resisted, she was handcuffed…” Bear in the mind that this is an allegation, not a substantiated event. I find it plausible.
  7. A compelling series of articles on China by a history professor at Johns Hopkins (who also happens to be a Stanford grad): China’s Master Plan: A Global Military Threat, China’s Master Plan: Exporting an Ideology, China’s Master Plan: A Worldwide Web of Institutions and China’s Master Plan: How The West Can Fight Back (Hal Brand, Bloomberg). The money quote from the second article: “If the U.S. has long sought to make the world safe for democracy, China’s leaders crave a world that is safe for authoritarianism.”

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 On Obstinacy In Belief (C.S. Lewis, The Sewanee Review): this is a rewarding essay from way back in 1955. (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.

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 155

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 Problem with Dull Knives: What’s the Defense Department got to do with Code for America? (Jennifer Pahlka, Medium): “I have a distinct memory of being a kid in the kitchen with my mom, awkwardly and probably dangerously wielding a knife, trying to cut some tough vegetable, and defending my actions by saying the knife was dull anyway. My mom stopped me and said firmly, ‘Jenny, a dull knife is much more dangerous than a sharp knife. You’re struggling and using much more force than you should, and that knife is going to end up God Knows Where.’ She was right, of course…. But having poor tools [for the military] doesn’t make us fight less; it makes us fight badly.” (some emphasis in the original removed). Highly recommended.
  2. Number One in Poverty, California Isn’t Our Most Progressive State — It’s Our Most Racist One (Michael Shellenberger, Forbes): “If racism is more than just saying nasty things — if it is, as scholars like James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Alexander and countless others have described, embedded into socioeconomic structures — then California isn’t just the least progressive state. It’s also the most racist.” Annoyingly split into seven sections, but worthwhile. The author was a gubernatorial candidate, but he did not make the general election.
  3. This week the Supreme Court, in a 7–2 decision, vindicated the Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding. A lot of ink was spilled in response:
    • Colorado Made the Masterpiece Case Easy for the Court (Robert P. George, New York Times): “This much, however, is clear: Business owners and others have no obligation under the Constitution, nor can one be imposed by statute, to confine their religion to the private domain. On the contrary, they have the constitutional right to proclaim and act on their religious beliefs in the public domain, including in the domain of commerce.” The author is a law professor at Princeton.
    • Symposium: Masterpiece Cakeshop — not as narrow as may first appear (Douglas Laycock and Thomas Berg, SCOTUSblog): “The Supreme Court has announced a powerful ideal. Even when a law has no explicit exceptions, hostile enforcement is unconstitutional. Single-issue agencies that enforce state civil-rights laws must approach claims to religious exemptions with tolerance and respect. And this is apparently an absolute rule; the court does not consider whether hostility might be justified by some state interest, compelling or otherwise.”
    • Social Conservatism After Masterpiece Cakeshop (Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary Magazine): “Reducing traditional beliefs to a matter of religious freedom carries other risks. It allows progressives to frame traditional positions, which are rooted in reason and natural law, as a kind of idiosyncrasy or superstition…. Defending traditional morality on the basis of religious liberty alone, in other words, risks cornering religious conservatives in the long-term. The alternative, of course, isn’t to give up on religious freedom. That defensive battle must continue to be fought. But religious conservatives should also go on the offensive and once more formulate a substantive politics of the common good.”
    • In Masterpiece Cakeshop, Justice Kennedy Strikes a Blow for the Dignity of the Faithful (David French, National Review): “the Court did not issue the sweeping free-speech ruling that many advocates hoped for and others feared. Instead it issued a ruling that reminded state authorities that people of faith have the exact same rights — and are entitled to the exact same treatment — as people of different faith or no faith at all. And it did so in an opinion that decisively rejected the exact talking points so favored by the anti-religious left.”
    • No Victory For Religious Liberty (Darel E. Paul, First Things): “Only profound naïveté can spin the majority decision as a victory for religious liberty.”
    • Against The Masterpiece Cakeshop Killjoys (David French, National Review): a strong response to the above piece and a few others.
    • Why The Masterpiece Ruling Is Truly A Major Win For Religious Liberty (John Eastman, The Federalist): “In short, Masterpiece Cakeshop is the first post-Smith Free Exercise decision where the Supreme Court applied strict scrutiny to a neutral, generally applicable law that was not designed to target religion. Rather, strict scrutiny was triggered because of how the law was applied against religious objectors.” The author is a law professor at Chapman College and a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute.
    • This has not settled the issue, though. Religious Liberty: Not A Piece of Cake (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “we have our first court ruling on religious liberty since Masterpiece Cakeshop. An Arizona appeals court even cited the ruling in its own ruling against two Phoenix calligraphers who said that doing same-sex wedding invitations was a violation of their constitutionally protected religious beliefs.” This will no doubt be appealed, but is interesting nonetheless. There is massive hostility in some circles against religious freedom in general and specifically against the freedom of evangelical Christians and traditional Catholics to publicly live as though their faith is true.
  4. In related news: CrossFit Just Fired Its Spokesperson Who Said LGBT Pride Is A “Sin” (Stephanie M. Lee, Buzzfeed): “Berger had also said, ‘The tactics of some in the LGBTQ movement toward dissent is an existential threat to freedom of expression.’ In response to a Twitter user who pushed back, he wrote, ‘Thankfully I work for a company that tolerates disagreement. I have homosexual coworkers who I love and respect, and as far as I am aware, they aren’t demanding I be punished for my views.’”
    • In response, The Greengrocers Of CrossFit Gyms (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Gay activists and their supporters among the gym’s employees destroyed this Christian’s business, not because he wouldn’t allow gays to work out at the gym, but because he would not permit them to celebrate gay Pride there. They shattered his business overnight without filing a charge or a lawsuit, but solely by using the power of stigma and collective action.”
  5. Reading Dangerously (Ian Marcus Corbin, Weekly Standard): “I currently split my professional life between academia and the Boston art world, the most liberal corners of the most liberal state of the union. I can’t speak strongly enough about the beauty and kindness of the black, Jewish, Hispanic, gay, transgender, feminist, socialist people whom I count as colleagues and friends here. They are deep, sensitive, searching souls. As a straight, white, able-bodied male, though—one who has even occasionally voted for Republicans—I am, on paper, a perfect storm of privilege and prejudice. Perhaps shockingly, my colleagues and I have managed to treat each other with respect and at times even deep friendship and care.”
  6. Identity Questions (Ron Belgau, Spiritual Friendship): “ ‘Identity’ is borrowed from the surrounding secular culture. It has displaced terms, like ‘nature’ and ‘calling,’ which have deep roots in the Bible and in the history of Christian thought. This displacement has made it more difficult for Christians to think clearly about what it means to be transformed in Christ.” This is from several years ago and was brought to my attention via a Twitter thread. Belgau is a fascinating guy — a former software engineer turned philosopher who is attracted to other men and is convinced those temptations are sinful.
  7. When The Punishment Feels Like A Crime (Julia Ioffe, Huffington Post): “Dauber may be a hero to many Stanford students, but when I visited the campus in April, I discovered that much of the faculty does not feel the same way. Twenty-nine Stanford Law professors have signed a letter against the recall.” This is a long and amazing article about the Persky recall campaign written before the vote.
    • Related: The recall of the judge who sentenced Brock Turner will end up hurting poor, minority defendants (Rachel Marshall, Vox): “…in this country, we have an epidemic of wrongful convictions, yet never have I heard of a public outcry to recall or vote against a judge who presided over a case in which an innocent client was convicted or sentenced. In contrast, as we have just seen, a sentence perceived as too light not only will make headlines but could cost a judge his job.” The author is a Stanford Law School grad.
    • In case you missed it, Persky was recalled in the elections this week.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • This guy is a chef in the White House (twitter). This is real. Google for “jacked White House chef.” Wow. Every outlandish action-adventure movie premise just became more plausible.
  • Great Chuck Norris Facts (imgur): I know these jokes have been around for years… but some here are new to me. My favorite: “Chuck Norris and Superman once fought each other on a bet. The loser had to start wearing their underwear on the outside of their pants.”
  • Moron or Genius? (Pearls Before Swine)

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Land of We All (Richard Mitchell, The Gift of Fire), an essay  built on this insight: “Thinking can not be done corporately. Nations and committees can’t think. That is not only because they have no brains, but because they have no selves, no centers, no souls, if you like. Millions and millions of persons may hold the same thought, or conviction or suspicion, but each and every person of those millions must hold it all alone.” (first shared in volume 2) This is one of the more important things I’ve shared. 

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 154

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 Baptist Apocalypse (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “We’re a long way from any final judgment on God’s purposes in the Trump era. But so far the Trump presidency has clearly been a kind of apocalypse — not (yet) in the ‘world-historical calamity’ sense of the word, but in the original Greek meaning: an unveiling, an uncovering, an exposure of truths that had heretofore been hidden.”
    • Related: On Gender, Power, and Sin: The Evangelical #MeToo Moment (Richard Beck, personal blog): “A theological and biblical way to say all this is that men’s dominance over women is a part of the Fall’s curse upon humanity. The wound of sin upon gender relations is clear in Genesis 3: ‘He will rule over you.’ So if that’s a part of the curse, why do evangelicals think that building the curse into the system–gender subordination–is going to produce anything other than cursed outcomes?” I wish the author spent more time building the Biblical case for his perspective.
  2. A One Parameter Equation That Can Exactly Fit Any Scatter Plot (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Overfitting is possible with just one parameter and so models with fewer parameters are not necessarily preferable even if they fit the data as well or better than models with more parameters.” Researchers take note.
    • The underlying mathematics paper is well-written and interesting: One Parameter Is Always Enough (Steven T. Piantadosi) — among other things, it points out that you can smuggle in arbitrarily large amounts of data into an equation through a single parameter because a number can have infinite digits.
  3. What I’ve Learned in Twenty Years of Marriage (Russell Moore, personal blog): “My grandmother wisely asked one night when I was finally going to ask ‘that girl from Ocean Springs’ to marry me. I answered, ‘When I can afford it.’ She laughed. ‘Honey, I married your grandpa in the middle of a Great Depression,’ she said. ‘We made it work. Nobody can afford to get married. You just marry, and make it work.’ Apart from the gospel, those were, and remain, the most liberating words I ever heard. I bought a ring that wouldn’t impress anyone, then or now, but we were headed for the altar. My only regret is that we aren’t today celebrating our twenty-first anniversary instead of our twentieth.” This is from a few years back and is full of wisdom.
  4. Title IX Is Too Easy To Abuse (Caitlyn Flanagan, The Atlantic): “Is it possible for two people to simultaneously sexually assault each other? This is the question—rife with legal, anatomical, and emotional improbabilities—to which the University of Cincinnati now addresses itself, and with some urgency, as the institution and three of its employees are currently being sued over an encounter that was sexual for a brief moment, but that just as quickly entered the realm of eternal return. ”
  5. Whatever Happened to Gifts of Language, Prophecy, and Healing? (Andrew Wilson, Christianity Today): “taking a longer view by tracing our roots back to the early church fathers leads to some surprises. We discover that some things, though relatively unusual in recent times, are actually very normal across the broader sweep of human history. Angels and demons would be an obvious example. Or, more surprisingly, miraculous gifts.”
  6. I was Jordan Peterson’s strongest supporter. Now I think he’s dangerous (Bernard Schiff, The Star): “When he was renovating his house I invited his family to live with mine. For five months, they occupied the third floor of our large house. We had meals together in the evening and long, colourful conversations. There, away from campus, I saw a man who was devoted to his wife and his children, who were lovely and gentle and for whom I still feel affection. He was attentive and thoughtful, stern and kind, playful and warm. His wife, Tammy, appeared to be the keel, the ballast and the rudder, and Jordan ran the ship.” This is a long profile, by turns informative and puzzling.
  7. The Evangelical Fight to Win Back California (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “Though the state has one of the highest percentages of religiously unaffiliated adults, the fast growing religious group in the country, that largely blue sea is dotted with evangelical islands that are largely red. One in five adults in the state are evangelical Christians, according to the Pew Research Center, and there are more megachurches in California than in any other state.” This article is mostly about politics, but is interesting nonetheless.

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 The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas (Joseph Bottum, The Weekly Standard): many modern political ideas are derived from Christian theological concepts. (first shared in volume 1)

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.