Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 190

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 Secret Facebook War For Mormon Hearts and Minds (Kevin Poulson, The Daily Beast): “We may be resigned to faceless corporations buying their way into our thoughts, but are we ready for a world where our neighbors and in-laws can do the same?” Genius and super-interesting.
  2. The scandal of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches:
    • Part One: Abuse of Faith (Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco, Houston Chronicle): “In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state. They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions. About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending.”
    • Part Two: Offend, then repeat (Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco, Houston Chronicle): ”No religion is immune to sexual misconduct in its ranks. But unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which is wrestling with its own sex-abuse scandal, Baptists don’t answer to a pope or bishop. Local church autonomy is a bedrock foundation of Baptist faith. There’s no diocese that assigns priests to a parish. Instead, each church is responsible for ordaining and hiring its own ministers.”
    • Part Three: Preying On Teens (Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco, Houston Chronicle): “More than 100 Southern Baptists described as former youth pastors or youth ministers are now in prison, are registered as sex offenders or have been charged with sex crimes, the newspapers found. Their most common targets were teenage girls and boys, though smaller children also were molested, sometimes in pastors’ studies and Sunday school rooms.”
    • Southern Baptists and the Scandal of Church Sexual Abuse (Russell Moore, personal blog): “Jesus does not cover up sin within the temple of his presence. He brings everything hidden to light. We should too. When we downplay or cover over what has happened in the name of Jesus to those he loves we are not “protecting” Jesus’ reputation. We are instead fighting Jesus himself. No church should be frustrated by the Houston Chronicle’s reporting, but should thank God for it. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be far less reticent than a newspaper series to uncover what should never have been hidden.” — he also wrote an op-ed for the New York Times a few days after this: Southern Baptists Face Their #MeToo Moment (Russell Moore, New York Times).
    • The Reality of Sexual Abuse Hits Home: What Happened? What Do We Do Now? (Al Mohler, personal blog): “Southern Baptists, by instinct, have practiced a form of moralism that views sexual misbehavior as an isolated event—deal with it and move on. This simplistic moralism reduces sexual abuse and glosses over the severity of the crime. Sexual abuse is not an isolated act of misbehavior; it leaves in its wake scarred victims as well as malicious victimizers. Abuse of this nature snowballs.” This article has some insightful commentary on the unique challenges facing the Southern Baptists because of their structure.
    • Evangelical Apocalypse (Dale M. Coulter, First Things): “As one denominational leader pointed out to me, ministers brought up on charges and dismissed from one denomination have simply gone to another for credentials. It’s not just laity who take advantage of evangelicalism’s big tent to move around. These open networks for ministerial movement from one part of evangelicalism to another allow sexual abusers to escape judgment and start over. We don’t need a database of sexual abusers for the Southern Baptist Convention, we need it for evangelicalism as a whole.” I don’t know how feasible that specific suggestion is, but I do know Coulter is pointing out a real and very hard-to-address problem.
    • In a different neck of the woods: Why Does the Catholic Church Keep Failing on Sexual Abuse? (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “O’Malley’s career, with all of its successes and frustrations, illuminates why the sex-abuse crisis has once again subsumed the Catholic Church—and why this institution, one of the world’s great moral authorities, has been incapable of solving one of the most morally straightforward problems of our time.”
  3. Bill Gates tweeted out a chart and sparked a huge debate about global poverty (Dylan Matthews, Vox): “Hickel argues that focusing on data showing declines in global poverty does political work on behalf of global capitalism, defending an inherently unjust global system that has failed residents of rich and poor nations alike. Pinker agrees that the data supports the idea that capitalism is working for the world’s poorest, and says that’s a decisive rebuttal of Hickel’s narrative of enduring persecution.”
  4. An African-American Woman Reflects on the Transgender Movement (Nuriddeen Knight, Public Discourse): “Paradoxically, the more our society tries to free itself from gender stereotypes, the more it becomes enslaved to them. By saying that people can be born in a body of the wrong gender, transgender activists are saying there is a set of feelings that are only allocated to women and another set for men. Therefore, they believe, those who feel things that do not conform to their sex’s acceptable set of feelings must outwardly change their gender to match their mind.”
  5. Trevor Noah on Liam Neeson’s Racist Confession (YouTube): much more thoughtful than anything else I have come across.
  6. A (Not So) Secular Saint (James K.A. Smith, Los Angeles Review of Books): “Mill’s legacy was effectively ‘edited’ by his philosophical and political disciples, excising any hint of religious life. One would never know from the canon in our philosophy departments, for example, that Mill wrote an appreciative essay on ‘Theism.’”
    • I am pretty sure I shared a similar link before, but I can’t find it searching my archives. Maybe I cut it at the last minute one week. Fascinating regardless.
  7. Science Is The Evangelical Trophy Wife (David Heddle, personal blog): “In many evangelical circles, science has become a trophy wife. Put her front and center, and show her beauty in, say, the form of Hubble nebulae photographs, with the requisite Psalm 19:1 caption, but do not ever let her speak, for she is likely to embarrass you. Her theological utility is only in the pleasant optics, not in the substance.” Beautiful title.

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 Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis [pdf link] (Carol Hill, Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith): “Joseph and Joshua were each recorded as dying at age 110—a number considered ‘perfect’ by the Egyptians. In ancient Egyptian doctrine, the phrase ‘he died aged 110’ was actually an epitaph commemorating a life that had been lived selflessly and had resulted in outstanding social and moral benefit for others. And so for both Joseph and Joshua, who came out of the Egyptian culture, quoting this age was actually a tribute to their character. But, to be described as ‘dying at age 110’ bore no necessary relationship to the actual time of an individual’s life span.” You will not agree with everything in this article, but it is full of fascinating insights. (first shared in volume 51)

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 189

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. Biohackers Encoded Malware In A Strand Of DNA (Andy Greenberg, Wired): “…a group of researchers from the University of Washington has shown for the first time that it’s possible to encode malicious software into physical strands of DNA, so that when a gene sequencer analyzes it the resulting data becomes a program that corrupts gene-sequencing software and takes control of the underlying computer.”
    • WHOA. Also, the term “biohacker” is much cooler than “hacker.”
  2. The Nature of Sex (Andrew Sullivan, NY Magazine): “It’s no accident that some of the most homophobic societies, like Iran, for example, are big proponents of sex-reassignment surgery for gender-nonconforming kids and adults (the government even pays for it) while being homosexual warrants the death penalty…. If you abandon biology in the matter of sex and gender altogether, you may help trans people live fuller, less conflicted lives; but you also undermine the very meaning of homosexuality.”
  3. How A Demon-Slaying Pentecostal Billionaire Is Ushering In A Post-Catholic Brazil (Alexander Zaitchik and Christopher Lord, The New Republic): “When Macedo completed his $249 million headquarters in 2014, his point of comparison wasn’t John Hagee’s megachurch or Pat Robertson’s TV studio. It was the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mount Corcovado, overlooking Rio de Janeiro, the symbol of Catholic dominance since 1921. In interviews, Macedo made sure to note that his Solomonic church was nearly twice as tall.”
  4. E Pluribus Unum? (Stacey Abrams, Foreign Policy): “…minorities and the marginalized have little choice but to fight against the particular methods of discrimination employed against them. The marginalized did not create identity politics: their identities have been forced on them by dominant groups, and politics is the most effective method of revolt.”
    • I don’t see many straightforward defenses of identity politics. Worth reading.  This is a rebuttal to an article by Francis Fukuyama. Further down the page a few others respond as well, and then he offers a rejoinder.
    • Abrams is a Democratic politician, currently out of office. She was the one chosen to give the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union address.
    • A  vaguely related article by one of my students: Failed and Racist: Why Stanford Should Ditch Affirmative Action (Annika Nordquist and Jose Antonio Avalos, Stanford Review): “African American and Hispanic representation at elite universities is actually lower than it was 35 years ago, and the minority students who attend appear to be primarily upper class…. Elite universities are able to pat themselves on the back and pad their promotional materials with pictures of a diverse student body, while leaving minority students genuinely trapped in cycles of poverty almost untouched.”
    • Confession: it’s not really all that related, but I try to limit myself to 7 main bullet points. I also have a commitment to posting stuff that my students get published. This is my best compromise. 🙂  Also, if you’re in Chi Alpha and get something published be sure that I know about it.
  5. The Philosopher Redefining Equality (Nathan Heller, New Yorker): “When she was three, her mother asked, ‘Why do you allow your brother to talk for you?’—why didn’t she speak for herself? ‘Until now, it simply was not necessary,’ Elizabeth said. It was the first full sentence that she had ever uttered.” I think that’s the best first sentence I’ve ever heard of. A tad long, but recommended.
  6. This Black History Month, don’t pretend racism has disappeared from the church (Jemar Tisby, Washington Post): “Many people, including Christians, like to believe that if they were alive during the 1960s, they would have participated in the civil rights movement. If Christians refuse to acknowledge racism and fight against it today, then it is clear where they would have stood half a century ago, too.”
    • Tisby is a Ph.D. candidate in history and graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary.
    • Related: a thoughtful review of Tisby’s book by George P. Wood, an acquaintance of mine.
    • Related: To All The White Friends I Couldn’t Keep (Andre Henry, personal blog): “I thought that if you heard from a black person you trusted—me—that racism is alive and well in our times, that you would come to understand that what happened to Mr. Castile, to Mr. Martin, Ms. Bland, Ms. Boyd, Mr. Sterling, Mr. Brown, Mr. Garner, Mr Grey, Ms. Shirley, Ms. Gaines, and so many others were not unique, isolated incidents but parts of a pattern.”
  7. The State of American Fact-Checking Is Completely Useless (David Harsanyi, The Federalist): “There are plenty of legitimately misleading statements worthy of fact-checkers’ attention. Yet, with a veneer of impartiality, fact-checkers often engage in a uniquely dishonest style of partisanship.”

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 Weight of Glory (C.S. Lewis): It was originally preached as a sermon and then printed in a theology magazine. Related: see the C. S. Lewis Doodle YouTube channel – it’s really good! (first shared in volume 36)

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 188

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. Assessing Betsy DeVos’s Proposed Rules on Title IX and Sexual Assault (Jeannie Suk Gerson, New Yorker): “The truth is that there is much to criticize in DeVos’s proposal but also much that would help to make schools’ processes for handling sexual misconduct fairer to all parties.” Gerson, a Harvard law prof, consistently offers insightful perspective on issues surrounding campus sexual assault.
  2. Cruel and Unusual Punishment (Lionel Shriver, Harpers): “The contemporary impulse to rebuke disgraced creators by vanishing their work from the cultural marketplace exhibits a mean-­spiritedness, a vengefulness even, as well as an illogic. Why, if you catch someone doing something bad, would you necessarily rub out what they’ve done that’s good? If you’re convicted of breaking and entering, the judge won’t send bailiffs around to tear down the tree house you built for your daughter and to pour bleach on your homemade pie.”
  3. How I Knew the #CovingtonBoys Video Was Clickbait (Clair Potter, Public Seminar): “I think the most underreported story about #CovingtonBoys is how it got to us in the first place. It originated with a piece of clickbait that was chosen and edited, by persons unknown, to produce outrage on the right and the left. Originating in a fake account, and proliferated by other fake accounts, it was part of a professional social media campaign intended to disrupt.”
    • Related: Bad, Press (Charles Cooke, National Review): “For a neat illustration of how farcical things have become, take a look at the Washington Post’s most recent ‘fact check,’ which helpfully informs its readers that the claimed ‘one thousand burgers’ President Trump bought for the Clemson football team were not, in fact, ‘piled up a mile high’ because, ‘at two inches each, a thousand burgers would not reach one mile high.’ Democracy dies in darkness, indeed.”
  4. Imagine Nations Were Selfless—It’s No Paradise (Brad Littlejohn, Providence): “We hear often today about how we live in “a global society” and have to take up the responsibilities of “global citizenship.” But what these exhortations miss is that the exponential growth in human knowledge over the past century has not been matched by nearly as rapid growth in human agency. It is now possible for a housewife in Tennessee to be aware of a rape in Bangladesh within hours or minutes, but she is only marginally more able to do anything about it now than she was 100 years ago.” The article as a whole is not great, but it makes a very interesting argument: patriotism is a necessary way to make our empathy productive.
  5. In polarized Washington, a Democrat anchors bipartisan friendships in faith (Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service): “A bridge builder with Republicans, Coons is known for helping create rare flickers of bipartisan agreement. Part of his secret, it seems, is religion…. Coons, who grew up attending Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church in Hockessin, Del., explained that his faith has not only provided grounding for his own life but has also emerged as a point of connection with Republicans, with whom he has forged lasting relationships — and legislation.”
  6. What The Establishment Right Doesn’t Get (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): this essay, a large part of which is actually commentary from a reader, is like a flamethrower. “…those who preach the bourgeois virtues can’t get a hearing if there is no stable employment for people who do the right thing. And, if those who do the right thing (by which I mean play by the rules: live lives of hard work, fair play, and self-discipline) can find everything kicked out from under them all of a sudden, it destabilizes the entire society.”
    • The follow-up, Liberty, Equality — But Where’s The Fraternity? is also stimulating.
    • Reading the latter one brought to my attention a very short essay by G.K. Chesterton. I highly recommend it. “The English people as a body went blind, as the saying is, for interpreting democracy entirely in terms of liberty. They said in substance that if they had more and more liberty it did not matter whether they had any equality or any fraternity. But this was violating the sacred trinity of true politics; they confounded the persons and they divided the substance.”
  7. 4 Facts Every American Should Know About Third-Trimester Abortions (Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition): “As I noted in an article last week, Democratic legislators in places like New York and Virginia are moving to codify abortion rights in state law to prepare for the day when Roe and Doe are overturned. When the Supreme Court throws the abortion issue back to the individual states, third-trimester abortions will still be protected in states that reiterate Doe’s standards for ‘viability’ or ‘health.’”

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 No Food Is Healthy. Not Even Kale. (Michael Ruhlman, Washington Post): People can be healthy. Food can be nutritious. This is a wonderful essay about how we misuse language to our detriment. If you’re surprised I included this, I believe that our culture has a quasi-religious relationship to health and to food, and I also believe that the use of language is profoundly moral and that our culture is a linguistic mess (to which I know of no finer guide than The Underground Grammarian). (first shared in volume 33)

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.