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
- Chinese city offers US$1,500 reward to help snare foreign religious leaders (Mimi Lau, South China Morning Post): “Under the new reward scheme in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, informants can earn between 5,000 and 10,000 yuan for tips leading to the arrest of a non‐Chinese religious leader, according to a statement on the department’s website. Other payments include 3,000 to 5,000 yuan for information leading to the closure of a foreign religious group, and between 100 and 3,000 yuan for tips about locally organised gatherings and their leaders.”
- Related: Hong Kong Pastor Facing Prison Preaches the Sermon of His Life (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “For decades, I have preached numerous sermons. Little could I anticipate that the one message which preparation took me the longest time and the most heartfelt prayer, and which probably would reach the largest audience, is precisely this one delivered from the defendant’s dock.”
- Pastoring A Purple Church: ‘I Absolutely Bite My Tongue Sometimes’ (Tom Gjelten, NPR): “The promotion of discourse over discord may strengthen civic culture in an era of political polarization, but for Edmonston, the mission is more a reflection of Presbyterian theology than it is a commitment to democratic process.”
- There is a lot to like in this article, but I feel compelled to add that what binds a church together is a commitment to Christ. It is okay to be divided over political issues. It is much less okay to be divided over substantive Scriptural issues. This story confuses the two.
- The Brand Is Belief (Kieran Dahl, Topic Magazine): “C3’s theology would appear to be at odds with how the church presents and markets itself. Isn’t humility one of Jesus’s biggest lessons for humanity? Isn’t social media inherently narcissistic?.… C3 feels like an algorithmically curated brand that happens to love Jesus—the Airbnb of religion.”
- I love articles showing how outsiders view churches. Some of what the author stumbles over I find puzzling — like thinking that the name of the church’s discipleship class ‘Growth Track’ is a capitulation to culture. Interesting throughout.
- The Happiness Recession (Brad Wilcox & Lyman Stone, The Atlantic): “In 2018, happiness among young adults in America fell to a record low. The share of adults ages 18 to 34 reporting that they were ‘very happy’ in life fell to 25 percent—the lowest level that the General Social Survey, a key barometer of American social life, has ever recorded for that population. Happiness fell most among young men—with only 22 percent of young men (and 28 percent of young women) reporting that they were ‘very happy’ in 2018.”
- Reacting to this article, David French offers this observation, “For generations, key elements of our cultural and academic elite have been arguing essentially the opposite — that liberation from religion and liberation from marriage were prerequisites to true human flourishing. If you asked an early era sexual revolutionary for his prediction for a culture with profoundly less religious practice, less marriage, and many fewer moral restraints on sexual practice, I sincerely doubt that he’d respond that he believed that culture would be less happy, with people having less sex.” It Turns Out That Sexual Liberation Isn’t All That Liberating (David French, National Review).
- Case Report of gastroparesis healing: 16 years of a chronic syndrome resolved after proximal intercessory prayer (Romez, Zaritzky & Brown, Complementary Therapies In Medicine): a miraculous healing account as reported in a journal. I found this bit amusing: “A noteworthy observation is that studies showing positive effects of prayer have typically involved intercessors who either professed either 1) being ‘born again’ Christians (with a commitment to daily devotional prayer and active fellowship with their local church) or 2) faith in healing.”
- Democrats Have to Decide Whether Faith Is an Asset for 2020 (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “The real evidence of Democrats’ approach to faith will come in campaign dollars and infrastructure, which will likely be developed slightly later in the election cycle; on their handling of contested issues like abortion, which is crucially important to many religious voters; and their ability to tap religious networks for volunteers.”
- Donald Trump Changed The New York Times. Is It Forever? (Peter Boyer, Esquire): “A Monmouth University poll taken last year found that 77 percent of Americans believe that traditional news outlets report ‘fake news’—a significant leap from the year before.” This is an interesting and disheartening article.
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- Rubik’s Cube Magic on Asia’s Got Talent (Eric Chien, YouTube)
- Woke Bro Commits To Exclusively Making ‘That’s What Xe Said’ Jokes (Babylon Bee)
- Pastor Schedules Special Prayer Meeting For Exact Time Of ‘Game Of Thrones’ Premiere To Weed Out The Heathens (Babylon Bee) — I should do this
- Hell (SMBC) — while this is not what hell is, this is one of the means by which you are condemned to hell.
- Apple (SMBC)
- Silent (SMBC) — I’m disturbed at how accurate I find this
- Election Commentary (xkcd) — I am also disturbed by how accurate I find this
- Hoover Institution Renamed Serra in Protest of University’s Progressive Policies (The Flipside) — it’s been a while since the Flipside has amused me like this.
- Schrodinger’s Cat (PvP Online)
- Under Pressure To Join Small Group, Church Introvert Insists He’s Already In The Smallest Group Of All (Babylon Bee)
- P, NP, and Eve (SMBC)
- Behind the Instagram account calling out evangelical pastors for $1,000 shoes (Madeline Fry, Washington Examiner): this is a legit article, I recommend reading it.
- Pain As An Active Ingredient In Dating (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex) — serious article, amusing insight.
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Everything That’s Wrong Of Raccoons (Mallory Ortberg, The Toast): “Once when my dog died a passel of raccoons showed up in the backyard as if to say ‘Now that he’s gone, we own the night,’ and they didn’t flinch when I yelled at them, and I found it disrespectful to 1) me personally and 2) the entire flow of the food chain. Don’t disrespect me if you can’t eat me, you false‐night‐dogs.” (first shared in volume 97)
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.
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.