Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 157

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. These Harvard Kids Got the Lesson of Their Lives in the Heartland (Salena Zito, NY Post): “I have been a national political journalist for nearly 15 years. Whenever and wherever I travel in this country, I abide by a few simple rules: No planes, no interstates and no hotels. And definitely no chain restaurants…. Those simple rules are what intrigued students at the Harvard Institute of Politics (IOP) after hearing me speak at a Pizza and Politics event on the school’s campus last fall.”
  2. Don’t Quit the Republican Party. Stay and Fight (Michael Wear, Time Magazine): “The problem is that politics is not an individualistic endeavor. Independents tend to spurn institutions generally, and then feel vindicated when our institutions do not reflect their views. But while Independents think they are sending political parties a message, political parties do not hear them…. In essence, Independents actively minimize their impact on elections and party positions. When people leave (or fail to join) parties in protest, they starve those parties of ideological diversity, driving them to their extremes.”
    • On Twitter the author (a former Obama White House staffer) says “The headline is misleading. My argument is a caution against becoming an indy. If you read the article, I explicitly argue that if you believe the Democratic Party more closely aligns with your vision of what is best for our nation’s politics, you should become a Democrat.” In case you didn’t know, authors rarely choose their headlines (or even the titles of their books).
  3. When Children Say They’re Trans (Jesse Singal, The Atlantic): “ …to deny the possibility of a connection between social influences and gender‐identity exploration among adolescents would require ignoring a lot of what we know about the developing teenage brain—which is more susceptible to peer influence, more impulsive, and less adept at weighing long‐term outcomes and consequences than fully developed adult brains—as well as individual stories like Delta’s.” This is a long and balanced piece which has garnered outrage in some online circles.
  4. The Sin Of Silence (Joshua Pease, Washington Post): “Without a centralized theological body, evangelical policies and cultures vary radically, and while some church leaders have worked to prevent abuse and harassment, many have not. The causes are manifold: authoritarian leadership, twisted theology, institutional protection, obliviousness about the problem and, perhaps most shocking, a diminishment of the trauma sexual abuse creates — especially surprising in a church culture that believes strongly in the sanctity of sex…. Roger Canaff, a former New York state prosecutor who specialized in child sexual abuse, tells me that many worshipers he encountered felt persecuted by the secular culture around them — and disinclined to reach out to their persecutors for help in solving problems.”
  5. Contra Caplan On Arbitrary Deploring (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “This is my long‐winded answer to a question several people asked on the last links post – why should we prioritize responding to China’s mass incarceration of the Uighurs? Aren’t there other equally bad things going on elsewhere in the world, like malaria? Yes. But I had optimistically thought we had mostly established a strong norm around ‘don’t put minorities in concentration camps’. Resources devoted to enforcing that norm won’t just solve the immediate problem in China, they’ll also help maintain a credible taboo against this kind of thing so it’s less likely to happen the next time.”
  6. The Handmaids of Capitalism (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Feminists were divided over surrogacy and commercialized fertility, but the opposition to both practices gradually dissolved, and now only eccentric conservatives notice the weird resemblances between California‐style surrogacy practices and the handmaids and econowives of Gilead. They were divided over pornography, often bitterly — but over time the sex‐positive side increasingly won out over the Andrea Dworkinish dissenters, even as the online realm was overrun with images and videos that more than justified her arguments. They were, and are, divided over prostitution, but it’s pretty clear that the version of feminism that supports the rights of sex workers to sell their bodies in the marketplace has the intellectual momentum.”
  7. More on border family separations, a policy that has been stopped by executive order after massive public outcry.
    • The Lesser Cruelty On Immigration (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “it would be useful for everyone if the Trump White House just admitted that this policy was conceived as a deterrent — traumatizing a certain number of families in the hopes of bringing greater order to the border in the long run. That admission would get us closer to the hard problem in migration policy. Some harshness, some deterrence, really is unavoidable in any immigration system that doesn’t simply dissolve borders. So policymakers are therefore obliged to choose tolerable cruelties over the intolerable one that we’re witnessing in action right now.”
    • Immigration: Was A.G. Sessions Right to Quote the Bible in Defense of Family Separation? (Bruce Ashford, personal blog): “Paul is saying, in effect, ‘Look, it’s true that Jesus is the ultimate Ruler of a cosmic Kingdom while Caesar is only the temporary ruler of a limited earthly kingdom. But that doesn’t mean you’re above the law. You should be a good citizen and obey the law except, of course, when God’s law conflicts with Caesar’s law.’”
    • A case study in the proper role of Christians in politics (Michael J. Gerson, Washington Post): “In the case of child separation, some of the most effective resistance has come from religious leaders — Catholic, Protestant mainline and even some evangelical Christian (see Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Franklin Graham). It was a case study in the proper and positive role that religion can play in our common life.”
    • Enforce the Border — Humanely (David Frum, The Atlantic): “Illegal immigrants are committing no moral wrong. They are doing what we might do in their place—as we, by defending borders, are doing what they would do if they were in ours. Like so many human institutions, borders are both arbitrary and indispensable. Without them, there are no nations. Without nations, there can be no democracy and no liberalism. John Lennon may imagine that without nations there will be only humanity. More likely, without nations there will only be tribes.”
    • Our Debate On Illegal Immigration Is A National Disaster (David Harsanyi, The Federalist): “The majority of kids in care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most often teenagers, are apprehended because they’re here without any parents. It’s a growing problem. In 2013, a little fewer than 40,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended by the Border Patrol. That was a historic high. In 2016 there were nearly 60,000. This year there are likely to be more than 80,000.”
    • American Families Shouldn’t Be Separated, Either (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg View): “Obviously, a case can be made for enforcing the border, but deliberate cruelty is never a good idea. Those children — innocent victims all of them — will likely be traumatized for life…. If you agree with me on this, I’d like to push you one step further. It’s horrible to forcibly separate lawbreaking parents from their young children, but we do that to American citizens, too. According to one 2010 study, more than 1.1 million men and 120,000 women in U.S. jails and prisons have children under the age of 17.” This is one of the most intriguing things I read this week.
    • The Rise of the Amnesty Thugs (David Brooks, New York Times): “For centuries, conservatives have repeated a specific critique against state power. Statism, conservatives have argued, has a tendency to become brutalist and inhumane because a bureaucracy can’t see or account for the complexity of reality. It tries to impose uniform rules on the organic intricacy of human relationships. Statist social engineering projects cause horrific suffering because in the mind of statists, the abstract rule is more important than the human being in front of them. The person must be crushed for the sake of the abstraction.” Astute insights in this op‐ed. Recommended. Also, the title is slightly misleading.
    • A Twitter thread from an immigration attorney explaining how longstanding this problem has been

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 Alcohol, Blackouts, and Campus Sexual Assault (Texas Monthly, Sarah Hepola): I think this is 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.

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