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, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.
Things Glen Found Interesting
- The Black Church After Christendom (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I don’t know about you, but I cannot recall the last time I witnessed more powerful public expressions of what it means to be a Christian than what Brandt Jean and Judge Tammy Kemp did in that courtroom. Guyger — again, a white woman — is going to prison to do time for her crime — but both Mr. Jean and Judge Kemp wanted her to know that there is hope for her, and redemption.”
- There are lots of news sources that feature the video clip of Brandt Jean. I chose Dreher’s piece because he also focuses on the judge. Both of their actions inspire me.
- I first saw video clips of Brandt Jean’s moving words surging on social media, and I almost immediately afterwards saw a backlash which I found perplexing. Some commenters even suggested that there is something racist about liking this video. I think the truth is much more wholesome — Christians love seeing costly acts of obedience to Christ. Witness the similar reactions Christians had to the gospel‐fueled testimony of Rachael Denhollander against Larry Nassar and to the Amish community’s forgiveness of a school shooter years ago. There were different racial dynamics but similar responses from Christians.
- The Internet Is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse. What Went Wrong? (Michael Keller and Gabriel Dance, The New York Times): “Pictures of child sexual abuse have long been produced and shared to satisfy twisted adult obsessions. But it has never been like this: Technology companies reported a record 45 million online photos and videos of the abuse last year…. the problem of child sexual abuse imagery faces a particular hurdle: It gets scant attention because few people want to confront the enormity and horror of the content, or they wrongly dismiss it as primarily teenagers sending inappropriate selfies.” WARNING — this is very disturbing. The reporters non‐gratuitously describe some of the content. If you suspect that the scene preceding “The predominant sound is the child screaming and crying” will bother you, it will.
- I know some of our alumni who work in tech and in policy still receive my Friday emails. If that is you, you need to read the preceding article.
- Related: Porn Culture and Political Courage (Terry Schelling, First Things): “The uncomfortable truth is that the rapid growth in child pornography is connected to the cultural normalization of online pornography as a whole.”
- I Spent Years Searching for Magic—I Found God Instead (Tara Isabella Burton, Catapult): “I wanted magic. I didn’t think too much about meaning. Or at least, as long as everything meant something, the specifics didn’t seem to matter. Basil could mean love. Thursdays could mean power. The full moon purity. Why not? The alternative was that nothing meant anything at all.” This is wonderfully written. Highly recommended.
- How Do Christians Fit Into the Two‐Party System? They Don’t (Tim Keller, New York Times): “I know of a man from Mississippi who was a conservative Republican and a traditional Presbyterian. He visited the Scottish Highlands and found the churches there as strict and as orthodox as he had hoped. No one so much as turned on a television on a Sunday. Everyone memorized catechisms and Scripture. But one day he discovered that the Scottish Christian friends he admired were (in his view) socialists. Their understanding of government economic policy and the state’s responsibilities was by his lights very left‐wing, yet also grounded in their Christian convictions. He returned to the United States not more politically liberal but, in his words, ‘humbled and chastened.’ He realized that thoughtful Christians, all trying to obey God’s call, could reasonably appear at different places on the political spectrum, with loyalties to different political strategies.”
- Related: A Basic Primer on Rights and Obligations (Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition): “…the Bible doesn’t say much about rights. It does, however, frequently address obligations, so the key to formulating a biblical doctrine of rights is to flip the doctrine of obligation.”
- How Stanford Hides Conflicts of Interest (Daniel “Bob” Ferreira, Stanford Sphere): “We started by going through all 127 full‐time, non‐courtesy professors in Biology, Chemistry, Bioengineering, and Chemical Engineering, and we checked what Bloomberg, Crunchbase, and the SEC had on them. Then, we went on to verify whether this information was current—through company websites, mentions on their own public CVs, or media coverage. Finally, we removed faculty whose links to businesses had nothing to do with biotech.”
- Hong Kong: First Line of Defence against a Rising Fascist Power (Aaron Sarin, Quillette): “China’s government has only retained the name ‘Communist Party’ because to do otherwise would be a first step towards admitting the atrocities of the past. The severing of the link between Xi and Mao would make it possible to acknowledge that Mao was one of history’s worst villains. This would set a precedent for criticising authority that would inevitably lead to Xi’s own downfall. So the name stays, but in truth there is nothing ‘communist’ about this Communist Party (save its authoritarianism). In fact, Marxist students, activists, and social workers have been arrested and tortured since Xi took power, and universities have shut down Marxist societies.”
- The Prophetic Voice of Hong Kong’s Protesters (Christianity Today): “Many Hong Kong Christians, while comprising less than 12 percent of the population, have played a prominent role in the protests—marching, singing hymns, holding prayer circles, and providing food and shelter to other demonstrators. (The Jesus People song ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ became an unexpected anthem of the protests, as participants sang the tune to calm confrontations with police.) For Christians there, the Chinese Communist Party may be the greatest existential threat to the Hong Kong church.”
- The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research (Martin A. Schwartz, Journal of Cell Science): “At some point, the conversation turned to why she had left graduate school. To my utter astonishment, she said it was because it made her feel stupid. After a couple of years of feeling stupid every day, she was ready to do something else. I had thought of her as one of the brightest people I knew and her subsequent career supports that view. What she said bothered me. I kept thinking about it; sometime the next day, it hit me. Science makes me feel stupid too. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to it. So used to it, in fact, that I actively seek out new opportunities to feel stupid.” The author is a professor at Yale. This essay is about a decade old but I only recently stumbled upon it.
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- John Walton’s Magic Square (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): seven minutes
- SangSoon Kim’s Shoes Magic (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): seven minutes
- Woody Aragan’s Creative Card Magic (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): eight minutes
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have America in one tweet:“We are living in an era of woke capitalism in which companies pretend to care about social justice to sell products to people who pretend to hate capitalism.” (Clay Routledge, Twitter) First shared in volume 186.
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. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.