Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 171

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. So much ink about the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings! I’m going to avoid posting any articles about it until a little more time has passed and more developments have occurred, except for this insightful bit from the humor site The Babylon Bee: Success: After A Full Day Of Hearings, Everyone Believes Exactly What They Already Believed About Kavanaugh.
    • A verse that keeps coming to mind is Leviticus 19:15 — “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” In other words, God’s standard of justice is straightforward and without partiality. Rich people can sin against poor people, and poor people can sin against rich people. Men can sin against women, and women can sin against men. White people can sin against black people, and black people can sin against white people. True justice comes from judgment that transcends our sympathies and prejudices (a type of unjust prejudgment). Perhaps Judge Kavanaugh sinned against Dr. Ford. Perhaps Dr. Ford is sinning against Judge Kavanaugh. Perhaps her memory is faulty. Perhaps his memory is faulty. We must not show partiality to her or favoritism to him. To do otherwise is to pervert justice.
    • An alumnus sent me this hymn which he found timely (and I concur): A Hymn: O God of Earth and Altar (G.K. Chesterton): “O God of earth and altar, Bow down and hear our cry, Our earthly rulers falter, Our people drift and die; The walls of gold entomb us, The swords of scorn divide, Take not thy thunder from us, But take away our pride.”
  2. Why Atheists Are Not As Rational As Some Like To Think (Lois Lee, The Conversation): “Importantly, the scientific evidence does not tend to support the view that atheism is about rational thought and theism is about existential fulfilments.” The author’s Ph.D. is in sociology from Cambridge and she is a professor of religious studies at the University of Kent.
  3. Terminal Lucidity: The Researchers Attempting to Prove Your Mind Lives On Even After You Die (Zaron Burnett III, Mel): “In essence, terminal lucidity is a mysterious flash of life and vitality that occurs in people just before they die. It’s most remarkable in people who have dementia, Alzheimer’s, meningitis, brain damage, strokes or were in a coma. There’s no known medical explanation for where this sudden surge of vitality and functionality comes from. In large part because as suddenly as it comes, within a few hours or even a day or two, it fades and the person dies, taking any answers with them.” The opening anecdote is wild.
  4. A Christian Singer Is Bigger Than Drake and Ariana Grande This Week (Amy X. Wang, Rolling Stone): “[Lauren Daigle’s] success highlights something broader, however: the deep persistence of Christian music in the U.S. audience — an aspect of music consumption that has been largely skipped over by headlines proclaiming rap as the sole driver of modern music in America. While rap and R&B have indeed risen to become the leading genre of music consumption, Christian music remains a sizable minority mass. Solid numbers are hard to come by, but at its annual conference in 2015, the Gospel Music Association reported that 68 percent of Americans had listened to Christian or gospel music within the last 30 days.”
  5. It’s time to rethink how much booze may be too much (Julia Belluz, Vox): “… the story about the health effects of moderate drinking is shifting pretty dramatically. New research on alcohol and mortality, and a growing awareness about the rise in alcohol-related deaths in the US, is causing a reckoning among researchers about even moderate levels of alcohol consumption.”
  6. Reflecting on “Racism Lives Here, Too”, Part One, see also Part Two, and Part Three (James Banker, Stanford Daily): “As we’ve rallied around our differences, we’ve neglected our commonalities. We ascribe the maximally offensive and hostile interpretations to the words and behavior of others. For fear of giving offense or being offended, we choose silence over dialogue, as we retreat into ever more concentrated factions of like-minded people who think and speak like us. Lines have been drawn. Defenses fortified. But along the way, we lost a common language. With only the brute signals for friend and foe, we communicate across our divides like ships passing in the night: only signs and silence.” The author is a recent Stanford law school grad and writes with unusual skill. Reading this felt more like reading an essay in the Atlantic or the New Yorker than reading a typical op-ed in the Daily. Be sure to read all three parts.
  7. Were Evangelicals Really Silent about Roe v. Wade? (Thomas Kidd, Gospel Coalition): “It has become commonplace for historians to say that evangelicals had a muted response to the Roe v. Wade decision, which struck down state laws against abortion in 1973.… evangelicals, both white and black, registered grave concern about Roe and abortion-on-demand, however. Evidence of this fact is not hard to find. Flagship evangelical magazine Christianity Today wrote that ‘the decision runs counter not merely to the moral teachings of Christianity through the ages but also to the moral sense of the American people.’ Likewise, the National Association of Evangelicals said, ‘We deplore, in the strongest possible terms, the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which has made it legal to terminate a pregnancy for no better reason than personal convenience or sociological considerations.’” The author is a history professor at Baylor University. I find this article fascinating because I have heard the opposite proclaimed confidently so many times, but Christianity Today and the NAE definitely represent the mainstream of evangelical thought.

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 Dealing With Nuisance Lust (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “Minimize the seriousness of this, but not so that you can feel good about indulging yourself. Minimize the seriousness of it so that you can walk away from a couple of big boobs without feeling like you have just fought a cosmic battle with principalities and powers in the heavenly places, for crying out loud. Or, if you like, in another strategy of seeing things rightly, you could nickname these breasts of other woman as the ‘principalities and powers.’ Whatever you do, take this part of life in stride like a grown-up. Stop reacting like a horny and conflicted twelve-year-old boy.” (first shared in volume 148)

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). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

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 170

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. So I was mostly ignoring the Kavanaugh nomination, but this week things turned way up. Wow. Here are the articles that have helped to shape my thinking.
    • What Would a Serious Investigation of Brett Kavanaugh Look Like? (Jeannie Suk Gerson, New Yorker): “…Kavanaugh does not stand to lose something that he already has. He is petitioning the public for the privilege of holding one of the highest public offices in the country, and he should have to persuade us that he didn’t do what he is accused of doing. ”
    • The Kavanaugh Debacle (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I am glad that Ford will have a chance to speak her mind, and that Kavanaugh will have the opportunity to defend himself. But I think this will only make things worse for all of us. If Kavanaugh gets a Senate vote, and prevails, he will forever be tainted as a Supreme Court justice. If he is forced to withdraw (that is, without further evidence against him emerging), or is voted down, he will become a martyr to many, and will, as the Wall Street Journal editorial page said, legitimize ‘weaponizing every sexual assault allegation no matter the evidence.’”
    • I Believe Her (Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic): “I have been entirely agnostic about Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. Republican presidents nominate conservative judges, and Democratic presidents nominate liberal judges. This guy sounded like he was entirely qualified for the job. When Dianne Feinstein made her announcement about the super-secret mystery letter by the anonymous woman that she had sent to the FBI, I thought it was a Hail Mary pass aimed at scotching the nomination, the kind of distasteful tactic that makes people hate politics.”
    • In Evaluating Credibility, the Signs Point in Brett Kavanaugh’s Favor (Dan McLaughlin, National Review): “It’s always a good idea, in politics, to evaluate accusations against your friends as if they were made against your enemies, and to evaluate accusations against your enemies as if they were made against your friends.” This is a very thorough argument.
  2. The Unlikely Endurance of Christian Rock (Kelefah Sanneh, The New Yorker): “On Billboard’s list of the twenty most popular rock songs of 2017, fully half of them were by bands whose members have espoused the Christian faith.” A striking claim, but you have to count Mormons as Christians for the math to work. A fascinating and well-researched article nonetheless.
  3. The Tiny Blond Bible Teacher Taking on the Evangelical Political Machine (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “Whereas her criticisms of church leaders were once veiled, she now speaks her mind freely. She blogged icily about meeting a prominent male theologian who looked her up and down and told her she was prettier than another famous female Bible teacher. She has castigated the evangelical movement for selling its soul to buy political wins. “
  4. The Other Political Correctness (Isaac Stone Fish, The New Republic): “There is an epidemic of self-censorship at U.S. universities on the subject of China, one that limits debate and funnels students and academics away from topics likely to offend the Chinese Communist Party.”
    • From someone not worried about offending China: The People’s Republic of Cruelty (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “In the list of what ails China — slowing growth; corrupt officialdom; a declining birth rate; a trade war with the U.S.; Xi Jinping’s cult of personality; the inherent disconnect between a politics of repression and the spirit of innovation — the regime’s war on the soul doesn’t usually rank high. But it matters most. It means the regime has made an enemy of the one thing it cannot kill, capture, eradicate or cure. At some point it will either have to abandon the struggle or destroy itself in the effort, much as the Soviet Union did.”
  5. So a Chicago priest who was once abused burns a rainbow-cross flag: All heck breaks out (Terry Mattingly, GetReligion): the title is clickbaity, but the article delivers. “Well, here is a hot-button story if I’ve ever seen one.”
  6. The Liberalism of the Religious Right (Emily Ekins, New York Times): “Religion appears to actually be moderating conservative attitudes, particularly on some of the most polarizing issues of our time: race, immigration and identity. Churchgoing Trump voters have more favorable feelings toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims and immigrants compared with nonreligious Trump voters. This holds up even while accounting for demographic factors like education and race.“ Recommended by an alumnus.
  7. What Do We Owe Her Now? (Elizabeth Bruenig, Washington Post): “‘The examination that I did was consistent with what [Wyatt] said,’ [Nurse] Schiavo told me when I contacted her this May to discuss her finding. ‘That girl was raped.’ As I read her exam notes aloud to her over the phone, Schiavo began to fill in details on her own. She remembered Wyatt’s case all these years later, right down to the fact that she was never called to court to testify about it.” This is a depressing story, well-researched.
    • The follow-up is more encouraging: Amber Wyatt told her story of rape. This is how the world responded. (Elizabeth Bruenig, Washington Post): “The day after her 29th birthday, which was also the day after her story first appeared online, Amber Wyatt, now Wilson, stood in the shower in her San Marcos home and sobbed — hard, wrenching, wrung-out tears. They had been a long time in coming.”

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 Political Correctness (William Deresiewicz, The American Scholar): a long and thoughtful article. “Selective private colleges have become religious schools. The religion in question is not Methodism or Catholicism but an extreme version of the belief system of the liberal elite: the liberal professional, managerial, and creative classes, which provide a large majority of students enrolled at such places and an even larger majority of faculty and administrators who work at them. To attend those institutions is to be socialized, and not infrequently, indoctrinated into that religion…. I say this, by the way, as an atheist, a democratic socialist, a native northeasterner, a person who believes that colleges should not have sports teams in the first place—and in case it isn’t obvious by now, a card-carrying member of the liberal elite.” (first shared in volume 92)

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). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

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 169

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

This one is coming to you from Seoul. I’ve been super busy on this mission trip, so these are selected from a less wide range than normal.

  1. The Ideological Blindness at the Heart of Media Bias (David French, National Review): “It is consistently interesting to me that mainstream media outlets have somehow convinced themselves of two contradictory things at once: 1) They cannot fairly cover America without a newsroom that more or less looks like America, but 2) they can cover American without a newsroom that thinks like America.”
  2. God Doesn’t Turn A Blind Eye To Abuse, Neither Should The Church (Russell Moore, Gospel Coalition): “Many throughout the centuries have sought to protect the reputation of God by downplaying his wrath. To some degree, the impulse here is good, because many have a false view of God as an angry, sullen, punitive deity, not as the God of overflowing love Jesus revealed to us. God’s wrath isn’t a temper tantrum. On the other hand, those who point us away from the wrath of God do so at the peril of eclipsing God’s own revelation of himself as holy and just, the One who ‘does not leave the guilty unpunished’ (Ex. 34:7). At the cross, the apostle Paul wrote, God ‘condemned sin in the flesh’ (Rom. 8:3). This is important for us to know, especially those who have survived awful things…. At the cross, God’s wrath and God’s love come together. They don’t cancel one another out.”
  3. Remember those articles I shared about the horrific China crackdown on Muslims? Now they are turning their attention to Christians (although much less intensely — the situation with the Muslims has echoes of concentration camps).
    • China Bans Zion, Beijing’s Biggest House Church (Christianity Today): “Beijing authorities threatened to close Zion Church last month after the 1,500-member congregation, one of the Chinese capital’s largest house churches, refused to install surveillance cameras in its sanctuary. After services on Sunday, officials delivered on their threat to the unofficial Protestant congregation, which meets in a renovated hall in northern Beijing. Zion is now banned and its materials confiscated.…”
    • Group: Officials destroying crosses, burning bibles in China (AP News): “China’s government is ratcheting up a crackdown on Christian congregations in Beijing and several provinces, destroying crosses, burning bibles, shutting churches and ordering followers to sign papers renouncing their faith, according to pastors and a group that monitors religion in China.”
    • Church raided amid escalating crackdown (ChinaAid): “All across China, churches are facing pressures unprecedented since the reign of dictator Mao Zedong. In Henan, where a concentrated crackdown is occurring, seven ministers were arrested and then later released that evening…. Additionally, local officials in Wenzhou, Zhejiang distributed a form collecting information on the religious beliefs of middle school students and their parents. This could have dangerous repercussions, as Chinese regulations forbid parents from teaching religion to their children.”
    • China Mulls Major Restrictions on Online Ministries (Christianity Today): “Chinese Christians have one month to tell their government what they think of proposed new rules that ban the sharing of prayer, Bible reading, baptism, communion, and other forms of religious activity online.“
  4. Vice And Fire (Peter Hitchens, First Things): “As far as I can find out, ­Martin is a lapsed Roman Catholic and has quite banal views about how religion causes wars and God is a ‘giant invisible guy in the sky.’ I do not think he has set out to make an attack on Christianity. I do not think he especially likes it, but I suspect he has discarded it, and so he has written an account of a world in which it simply does not exist. His fantasy greatly disturbs me, because it helps to normalize the indifference to Christianity which is a far greater threat to it than active atheism.” This is an excellent critique of the hugely overrated Game Of Thrones.
  5. After Botham Jean’s shooting death, his Dallas church intent on seeking justice (Bobby Ross, Jr., The Christian Chronicle): “By all accounts, Botham Jean was a devoted man of faith with a ‘beautiful’ and ‘powerful’ singing voice. He was baptized at age 10 in his native St. Lucia and moved to the U.S. at age 19 to attend Harding University in Searcy, Ark., where he often led worship in chapel and served as a ministry intern with the College Church of Christ.”
    • Related: The Worst Police Shooting Yet (David French, National Review): “We ask police officers to be brave. We ask officers to face a much higher degree of danger than civilians. We ask them to show restraint even in the face of provocations and tense confrontations. There are countless among them who do all we ask, and more. But we also ask something else: that police officers be subject to the very laws they’re sworn to enforce.”
    • Related: End Qualified Immunity (David French, National Review): “A police officer killed a completely innocent man because of the officer’s inexcusable mistake. He escaped criminal prosecution. And then he even escaped civil liability — because of a little-known, judge-made legal doctrine called qualified immunity.” Note that French is writing about a different case in this article.
    • Related: Should Cops Be Immune From Lawsuits? (Matt Ford, The New Republic): “The problems with qualified immunity mirror a deeper and more disturbing trend in the law. Courts, which are supposed to be the great vindicators of Americans’ rights and liberties, are increasingly closed off to them.”
  6. California legislator shelves bill to ban paid ‘gay conversion therapy’ for adults (Melanie Mason, LA TImes): “The news of Low’s decision was lauded by opponents to the measure. Jonathan Keller, president of the socially conservative organization California Family Council, said his group was ‘inexpressibly grateful’ to Low for listening to religious communities.”
  7. Does Our Cultural Obsession With Safety Spell the Downfall of Democracy? (Thomas Chatterton Williams, New York Times): These are “‘the three Great Untruths’ of the current moment: ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker’; ‘always trust your feelings’; ‘life is a battle between good people and evil people.’” This is a review of two books and is quite insightful.

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 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). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

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 168

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 Most Momentous Place? (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “The old city of Jerusalem is astonishingly small for a city with so many momentous places. One can walk from Christianity’s holiest site to the holiest site of Judaism, pausing to look at one of the holiest sites of Islam, in less time than it takes to walk from my office on the campus of George Mason University to the campus Starbucks.” Short and provocative.
  2. Australia’s new Pentecostal prime minister: Try to guess how the press is receiving him (Ira Rifkin, GetReligion): “…the new prime minister, Scott Morrison, is an outspoken, politically conservative Pentecostal Christian. This mixing of religion and politics may be old-hat at this point for Americans. But it’s an entirely new experience for Australians.”
  3. My nephew tried to school me on cultural appropriation. It didn’t end well.(Jack VanNoord, Chicago Tribune): fictional, amusing, and makes a serious point about global cultural exchange. “Most weeks, his less-woke friends go out for Taco Tuesdays, but not Kyle. No more hummus. No more bagels. No mo’ pho. Poor Kyle. Living the unappropriated life is tough business. Whenever it rains, Kyle gets soaked. No more umbrellas for him. Chinese. Kyle has stopped binge watching ‘The Walking Dead’ once I mentioned the word for, and the concept of, zombies were appropriated from West Africa. Kyle was taking a summer math course at the community college. But he dropped out. It was just too hard. His homework was taking all evening. He was doing all his assignments using Roman numerals since Arabic numerals are … well, Arabic.”
  4. The Religious Typology (Pew Research Center): “ a new Pew Research Center analysis looks at beliefs and behaviors that cut across many denominations – important traits that unite people of different faiths, or that divide people who have the same religious affiliation – producing a new and revealing classification, or typology, of religion in America.”
  5. A Prison That’s Also a Loony Bin (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “A transgender prisoner has admitted sexually assaulting inmates at a women’s jail. Karen White, 51, who was born male but now identifies as a woman, has pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual touching at New Hall Prison, Wakefield.” The story is astounding.
  6. Better Dead Than Disabled? (Charles Camosy, Commonweal): “prolifers are not imagining things: arguments in favor of the autonomous moral and legal choice to commit infanticide are easy to find…. [for example, a] 2012 article by moral philosophers Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, which appeared in the respected Journal of Medical Ethics, was provocatively titled ‘After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?’”
  7. Diary of a Concussion: What I Learned About Head Injuries By Having One (Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge): “To have your personality altered by brain trauma seems to upset people more than having it altered by, for instance, emotional trauma. I don’t know why this is! …. If I thought I was my brain, probably I would have found the injury more upsetting. But I didn’t and don’t believe that; my self is an interaction between my body and my brain.” This is a year old but I just stumbled upon it. Super interesting.

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). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

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.

The Screwtape Letters: Twenty-Six Through Thirty

The Screwtape Letters 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. The schedule is online.

We’re almost done. Next week’s readings will be very short indeed. You might even want to finish them off now — they will take you a few extra minutes at most.

These passages caught my eye this week:

In letter 27, the demon says of humans

…their kind of consciousness forces them to encounter the whole, self-consistent creative act as a series of successive events. Why that creative act leaves room for their free will is the problem of problems, the secret behind the Enemy’s nonsense about “Love”. How it does so is no problem at all; for the Enemy does not foresee the humans making their free contributions in a future, but sees them doing so in His unbounded Now. And obviously to watch a man doing something is not to make him do it. (Letter 27, pages 264–265)

I like this, but I’m not sure I agree with it completely. The last half I’m definitely on board with. The first half makes me hesitant. God rested on the seventh day, but Lewis makes the demon say that all of human history is the continuation of the act of creation. There’s a beautiful insight hidden in there, but I think the way Lewis worded it falls outside the bounds that Scripture permits. I’d be more comfortable with something along these lines, “Of course they can find an unbroken series of causes leading up to the condition they desired — the Enemy saw their request being made simultaneously with His answer to their prayer manifesting two weeks later even as He began forming the conditions that would lead to its answer a month before they even became aware of their need. There is a sense in which it is all Now to Him.”

Now that I’ve offered some writing advice to Lewis, I’m off to give some investing advice to Warren Buffet. But first, the next missive (letter 28).

Lewis has Screwtape offer a complaint about humans and time.

How valuable time is to us may be gauged by the fact that the Enemy allows us so little of it. The majority of the human race dies in infancy; of the survivors, a good many die in youth. It is obvious that to Him human birth is important chiefly as the qualification for human death, and death solely as the gate to that other kind of life. We are allowed to work only on a selected minority of the race, for what humans call a “normal life” is the exception. Apparently He wants some—but only a very few—of the human animals with which He is peopling Heaven to have had the experience of resisting us through an earthly life of sixty or seventy years. Well, there is our opportunity. The smaller it is, the better we must use it. (Letter 28, page 268)

Clearly, Lewis believes that infants and children go to heaven. I share this belief. As David said of his dead son in 2 Samuel 2:23, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Elsewhere in the letter we see that this ticket to heaven for the young is so frustrating to demons that they sometimes endeavor to keep us alive, but I think that’s not quite right. After all, John 10:10 informs us that the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. Nonetheless, Lewis is on to something here.

This last excerpt (from letter 29) is my favorite for the week.

This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. (Letter 29, page 270)

This, this, a thousand times this. Act with courage. It takes courage to stand for Christ at Stanford. It takes courage to forgo a pleasure and risk giving offense because of a deep conviction. It takes courage to tell your friends certain truths.

Something that encourages me (literally encourages me — puts courage into me) is to reflect on this: Revelation 21:8 tells us that the cowardly are the first group thrown into hell. It’s a sobering thought.

And this related point at the end of the letter speaks directly to what I see as one of the chief failings in modern culture:

For remember, the act of cowardice is all that matters; the emotion of fear is, in itself, no sin and, though we enjoy it, does us no good. (Letter 29, page 271)

So many people today confuse feelings with action. For instance, they often seem to believe that feeling bad about something is the same thing as opposing it. “I saw those pictures of starving children and I felt bad. I should tweet about how horrible hunger is.” Do you know who is actually opposed to hunger? The people who send money or spend time to combat hunger.  On the last day, Jesus is not going to say, “As you felt it for the least of these, so you felt it for me.” Allow your feelings to inform your choices, but do not confuse the two.

Be a person of action and hell will hate you.

Enjoy the last little bit of reading!