Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 196

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.

This one is coming out early in the morning because I’m driving back from a mission trip and will be on the road the entire day. When I’m on a mission trip I usually do very brief video blogs (under a minute each) — you can see the ones for this trip here.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. China Shuts Down Another Big Beijing Church (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “Throughout its 26‐year history, Shouwang members have refused to come under Communist authority and persevered despite persecution, with their ‘underground’ services forced outside when evicted from their buildings in 2009 and with their founding pastor Jin Tianming under house arrest since 2011.”
    • Related: China’s Muslim gulag is tough to cover, but a few reporters aren’t giving up (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “One of the mosques in Kashgar, it added, has been transformed into a hookah lounge. A city that was once a world center for traditional Islamic and Central Asian architecture is now Disneyland meets Aladdin, (a fairytale that originally was set in China, by the way). It’s tough covering China and the journalists who try to do it well inevitably end up expelled.” This is a good summary of reporting on one of the most wicked government programs in the world right now. Highly recommended.
  2. A Case for the Electoral College (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Is there a case for a system that sometimes produces undemocratic outcomes? I think so, on two grounds. First, it creates incentives for political parties and candidates to seek supermajorities rather than just playing for 50.1 percent, because the latter play is a losing one more often than in a popular‐vote presidential system. Second, it creates incentives for political parties to try to break regional blocs controlled by the opposition, rather than just maximizing turnout in their own areas, because you win the presidency consistently only as a party of multiple regions and you can crack a rival party’s narrow majority by flipping a few states.”
  3. An Interview With Lisa Littman, Who Coined the Term ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria’ (Jonathan Kay, Quillette): “Although there have been speculations about my affiliations, I am not a religious or political conservative and I am not a radical feminist. No organizations funded my study. That means that I pay out‐of‐pocket for research‐related costs like printing, traveling to academic conferences, publication fees, etc. And because I do not earn my livelihood providing transition services or referrals for transition, and I have not personally (nor has my spouse or children) experienced gender dysphoria or transition, I have far fewer conflicts of interest than many of the current researchers in this field.” Fascinating interview.
  4. How the West Changed The World For the Better (Ben Shapiro, National Review): “Thanks to the West, billions of human beings no longer suffer in abject poverty; thanks to the West, democracy is seen as both the moral and the practical default position for aspiring governments; thanks to the West, individualism has been able to gain ground against the natural tribalism endemic to human beings. The history of the West isn’t a history of unalloyed greatness: It is replete with suffering and tyranny and slavery and misery. But all of those evils are present in every civilization historically. The question is why the West changed the world.”
    • A mostly‐negative review of a related book Shapiro just published: The Right Side of History—A Review (Jared Marcel Pollen, Quillette): “…Shapiro’s attempt to demonstrate that secular civilization needs to rekindle the Judeo‐Christian teachings upon which it is based, inadvertently shows us why we were right to leave them behind in the first place.” I have not read Shapiro’s book, but many of the specific criticisms Pollen makes are not very persuasive. For example, it is a conventional enough position among experts that modern science arose due to Christianity that I have had students tell me that they were taught it in history courses at Stanford.
  5. The Real Reasons American Evangelicals Support Israel (David French, National Review): “The [common media] explanation goes something like this — Evangelicals believe that the rebirth of Israel is hastening not just the second coming of Christ, but a particular kind of second coming, one that includes fire, fury, and war that will consume the Jewish people.… But the true narrative of American Christian support for Israel is substantially different. The intellectual and theological roots of Christian Zionism do not rest in end‐times prophesies but rather in Old Testament promises.”
    • One example of a much broader phenomenon. I very rarely recognize myself or my peers in media explanations of “why evangelicals believe ______ about _______.” Or even just “evangelicals believe ______”. I find this puzzling because it’s not as though we don’t have regular gatherings where we explain what we believe to anyone who will listen.
  6. Openly Gay, Openly Christian Buttigieg Challenges the Religious Right (Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine): “As Barack Obama once convincingly argued, doubt about what God wants people to do politically is an important part of an attitude of humility which used to be called ‘the fear of God.’” It is interesting how many of the Democrats seeking nomination are outspoken about their faith.
  7. Black and Evangelical: Why I Keep The Label (Brandon Washington, Christianity Today): “I too have been wounded by evangelicalism’s posture toward social ethics. But I have concluded that an exodus of ethnic minorities amounts to segregation of the movement and only contributes to the problem. So I remain.”

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.

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