Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 173

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. Nobel Peace Prize Goes to Christian Doctor Who Heals Rape Victims (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “[Dr. Denis] Mukwege is the son of a Pentecostal minister and was inspired to pursue medicine after traveling with his father to pray for the sick. Panzi Hospital, which he founded in 1999, is managed by the Pentecostal Churches in Central Africa (CEPAC).”
  2. Turkish court orders release of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson (Erin Cunningham, Washington Post): “In his final statement to the court just before the verdict was issued, Brunson said: ‘I’m an innocent man. I love Jesus. I love this country,’ and broke down in tears.”
  3. So many people have had their DNA sequenced that they’ve put other people’s privacy in jeopardy (Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times): “…once 3 million Americans have uploaded their genomes to public genealogy websites, nearly everyone in the U.S. would be identifiable by their DNA alone and just a few additional clues. More than 1 million Americans have already published their genetic information, and dozens more do so every day.” The underlying research: Identity inference of genomic data using long-range familial searches (Erlich, Shor, Pe’er, and Carmi, Science)
  4. Politics as the New Religion for Progressive Democrats (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “Religiously unaffiliated voters, who may or may not be associated with other civic institutions, seem most excited about supporting or donating to causes, going to rallies, and expressing opinions online, among other activities. Political engagement may be providing these Americans with a new form of identity.”
  5. I Left Same-Sex Romance for Love (Rachel Gilson, Gospel Coalition): “If giving free rein to my desires was the key to life, why had it only sometimes brought me happiness? Just as often, I reaped mediocrity or pain. Contrary to what I believed, pursuing my natural desires did not create fulfillment, nor were my desires fully trustworthy just because they were, and are, ‘real.’ An itch can be very real, yelling out to be scratched. But for some ailments, scratching just deepens the wound. A different cure must be found.” The author is a campus minister and a Yale grad. If you find this article intriguing, she also has a personal website: https://rachelgilson.com/
  6. Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture (Yascha Mounk, The Atlantic): “Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that “political correctness is a problem in our country.” Even young people are uncomfortable with it, including 74 percent ages 24 to 29, and 79 percent under age 24. On this particular issue, the woke are in a clear minority across all ages. Youth isn’t a good proxy for support of political correctness—and it turns out race isn’t, either. Whites are ever so slightly less likely than average to believe that political correctness is a problem in the country: 79 percent of them share this sentiment. Instead, it is Asians (82 percent), Hispanics (87 percent), and American Indians (88 percent) who are most likely to oppose political correctness…. Three quarters of African Americans oppose political correctness.” The author is a lecturer on government at Harvard.
  7. Making What Harvard Is About Transparent (Razib Khan, personal blog): “…a few years ago the president of Harvard declared that the institution was all about inclusion. On the face of it that is just a bald-faced lie, and everyone knows it. Harvard is about exclusion, selection, and curation. ‘Inclusion’ actually meant that there are certain views and backgrounds that Harvard is going to curate and encourage. Which is fine. But an institution which excludes >95% of those who apply for admission is by definition not inclusive and open.” The essay is about Harvard but also applies to schools like it (looking at you, Stanford). You won’t agree with everything, but a lot will ring true.

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 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.

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 172

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.

I didn’t think I’d be able to send the email this week because I’m preaching in rural Alaska without reliable WiFi, but I was able to grab a bit this morning. As a result, this edition feels a bit bigger than normal to me — compiling the list is quick because whenever I read a good article I throw it on the pile, but editing it down takes time I don’t have today. So here you go. Enjoy!

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. First, a bit about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I’ve had less time than normal for reading this week, so I am certain there are interesting and insightful articles I never stumbled upon. Send me things you think I missed! Of one thing I am convinced: the level of fury on both sides over this nomination is off-the-charts, and both sides seem to underestimate just how outraged the other side is.
    • Only the Truth Can Save Us Now (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “even more than before the hearings, my feeling after over eight hours in purgatory is that I still really want to know the truth. And surprisingly, I left the long day of testimony convinced that for all the years that have passed since the summer of 1982, the truth might actually be accessible, and there are obvious questions and avenues of inquiry, unpursued by both parties, that could bring us closer to understanding which of the two witnesses were telling the real truth.”
    • I Know Brett Kavanaugh, but I Wouldn’t Confirm Him (Benjamin Wittes, The Atlantic): “Faced with credible allegations of serious misconduct against him, Kavanaugh behaved in a fashion unacceptable in a justice, it seems preponderantly likely he was not candid with the Senate Judiciary Committee on important matters, and the risk of Ford’s allegations being closer to the truth than his denial of them is simply too high to place him on the Supreme Court…. As much as I admire Kavanaugh, my conscience would not permit me to vote for him.” This makes the most thoughtful case against Kavanaugh. See last week’s edition for a similar piece that comes to the opposite conclusion.
    • The Rachel Mitchell Memo -“A ‘he said, she said’ case is incredibly difficult to prove. But this case is even weaker than that. Dr. Ford identified other witnesses to the event, and those witnesses either refuted her allegations or failed to corroborate them….I do not think that a reasonable prosecutor would bring this case based on the evidence before the Committee. Nor do I believe that this evidence is sufficient to satisfy the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard.” This is the report written by the sex-crimes prosecutor who interviewed Dr. Ford on the Republicans’ behalf in the Senate hearing.
    • A Non-scandalous, Non-ideological Case Against Brett Kavanaugh (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “I do worry about a Supreme Court where literally all nine members received their respective legal education at either Harvard or Yale Law.”
    • Conservative Women Are Angry About Kavanaugh—And They Think Other Voters Are, Too (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “These women are infuriated with the way the sexual-assault allegations against the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have been handled. They are not convinced by Ford or any other woman who has come forward. They resent the implication that all women should support the accusers. And they believe that this scandal will ultimately hurt the cause of women who have been sexually assaulted. Above all, these women, and the women they know, are ready to lash out against Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.”
    • The Pernicious Double Standards Around Brett Kavanaugh’s Drinking (Megan Garber, The Atlantic): “There’s been a lot of talk about double standards of late—rightfully so—and here is one more: the assumption that alcohol is one thing for men and another for women.” This one comes recommended by an alumnus. For the record, you should not get drunk regardless of your gender. Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”
    • Poll: Amid Kavanaugh Confirmation Battle, Democratic Enthusiasm Edge Evaporates (Domenico Montanaro, NPR): “While Democrats and Republicans are now equally enthusiastic about the midterms, the story is very different for key Democratic base groups and independents. While 82 percent of Democrats say the midterms are very important, that’s true of just 60 percent of people under 30, 61 percent of Latinos and 65 percent of independents.”
  2. On the broader implications of the Ford/Kavanaugh drama.
    • Six Broader Insights From the Kavanaugh Saga So Far (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg): “Most men are not abusers, yet very large numbers of women have been abused. So if a man is an abuser, there is a good chance he has abused a fair number of women. That means many well-meaning men experience sexual abuse as a relatively rare phenomenon. They haven’t done it, and most of their male friends haven’t either. At the same time, most women have abuse, rape or #MeToo stories, and they experience these phenomena as relatively common and often life-altering. Probably they also have heard multiple such stories from their female friends. This structural asymmetry of perspectives is crucial to understanding the discourse and the often fundamental differences in opinion.”
    • An Age Divided By Sex (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “the culture war as we’ve known it since has not been a simple clash of conservatives who want to repress and liberals who want to emancipate. Rather it’s been an ongoing argument between two forces — feminists and religious conservatives — that both want to remoralize American society, albeit in very different ways.”
    • The Meritocracy Against Itself (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “the whole meritocratic game… depends on a reproduction of privilege that pretends to be something else, something fair and open and all about hard work and just deserts. In this game the people whose privilege is particularly obvious, the boarding schoolers and New York toffs and Bethesda country clubbers, play a crucially important role. It’s not just that their parents pay full freight and keep the economics of tuition viable for everyone. It’s that the eliter-than-elite kids themselves help create a provisional inside-the-Ivy hierarchy that lets all the other privileged kids, the ones who are merely upper-upper middle class, feel the spur of resentment and ambition that keeps us running, keeps us competing, keeps us sharp and awful in all the ways that meritocracy requires.” This is not really about Kavanaugh, but it is certainly about the world most of you inhabit at Stanford.
    • See this insightful response: Brett Kavanaugh and the Limits of Social-Class Privilege for Conservatives (David French, National Review): “The social battles of the elite college represent the squabbling of men and women at the tip of the privilege spear in the most powerful nation in the history of the planet. But as real as these petty resentments were and are, they pale in comparison to the most important thing. They miss the real roots of Ivy rage. Brett Kavanaugh’s true sin isn’t his connections, his popularity, or his prep school. His true sin is that he’s a conservative. And now he’s a particular kind of conservative — a conservative who matters, a conservative who will have the power (and might actually have the convictions) to threaten one or more of the most sacred elements of progressive jurisprudence. He can potentially affect the law and the culture in a profound way. So what we’re watching is the systematic revocation of his elite privilege.”
    • One of the Best Speeches You Will Ever Hear from the Senate Floor (Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “I believe that we have a widespread legacy of sexual assault in this country. I believe we don’t have much of a shared sexual ethic right now—and we haven’t for quite some time—and I think horrible stuff has happened, and continues to happen. I’ve wept with the victims of sexual assault, and I believe the advocacy groups’ data that between one-fifth and one-third of American women have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. And given that most women have many other important women in their lives—a mom, and a daughter, sisters, and a couple of close friends—it means that the overwhelming majority of American women have been deeply affected, deeply hurt, by the tragedy of sexual violence.” The speech is by Ben Sasse, a former seminary president now serving as a senator from Nebraska.
    • Rage Politics On The Left (R. R. Reno, First Things): “Of the utopian dreams of the 1960s, only the sexual revolution has attained cultural dominance. To a great degree, we as a society believe in the promises of that revolution: that sex can be safe; that men and women can enjoy sexual freedom to the same degree and in the same way; that sex need have nothing to do with children; that sex is purely private. These promises are backstopped by abortion, the constitutional status of which fuels the urgency surrounding the Kavanaugh appointment.”
      • In a similar vein: Believability Is The Road To National Ruin (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “When politics becomes solely a matter of ‘I believe’ versus ‘I believe,’ it descends into a raw contest for power. Historically, it’s been fascists, not liberals, who tend to win such contests.”
    • I was sexually assaulted and thought it was my fault. It’s past time for a 1980s reckoning. (Kirsten Powers, USA Today): “There is a problem, though, and it’s this: The culture failed to give us the language to describe such violations, and made us feel that talking about what happened to an authority figure would only make things worse for us. Fortunately for women, what happened in the 1980s isn’t staying in the 1980s. It’s a reckoning that is well overdue.”
  3. Steelmanning the NIMBYs (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “San Francisco is easy to hate. Even a lot of the people who already live there hate it. They hate the streets piled with discarded needles and human waste. They hate the traffic (fifth worst in the world) and the crime (third most property crime in the US). They hate living five people to a three-bedroom apartment. They hate having aggressive people scream incomprehensible things at them on the sidewalk. They hate the various mutually hostile transit systems that interlock in a system I would call byzantine except that at least you could get around medieval Constantinople without checking whether the Muni and CalTrain were mysteriously failing to connect to each other today. They hate that everyone else in the city hates them, from visible KILL ALL TECHIES graffiti on their commute to work, to a subtle mood of seething resentment from everyone they meet. They hate the omnipresent billboards expecting them to have strong opinions on apps. I’m not saying everyone in San Francisco hates it. There are people who like all sorts of things. Some people like being tied up, whipped, and electrocuted by strangers. And a disproportionate number of these people live in San Francisco. I am just saying this isn’t a coincidence.”
    • Steelmanning refers to the opposite of attacking a straw man argument. Instead of making your opponent’s argument weaker, you strengthen it as much as you can.
    • Counterpoint: YIMBY! (Scott Sumner, EconLib): “Think of it this way. Lots of parents don’t let their kids play outside by themselves, because other parents don’t let their kids play outside. If you choose to be the exception, then (unlike during the 1960s) your kid is the only one available for pedophiles to prey upon. Lots of the anti-NIMBY feeling comes from a false perception of what the real estate market would look like if complete laissez-faire were adopted, based on the current distorted market.”
  4. The Disappearing Conservative Professor (Jon A. Shields, National Affairs): “Professors are even less tolerant of evangelicals, whom they associate with social conservatism. Nearly 60% of anthropologists, 50% of literature professors, 39% of political scientists and sociologists, 34% of philosophy professors, and 29% of historians say they would be less inclined to hire evangelicals. Yancey further found that female professors expressed more anti-conservative bias than men, perhaps in part because female professors tend to be more progressive than their male peers.” The author is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna.
  5. The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies (Jordan Robertson and Michael Rieey, Bloomberg): “Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design. Amazon reported the discovery to U.S. authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community. Elemental’s servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships. And Elemental was just one of hundreds of Supermicro customers. During the ensuing top-secret probe, which remains open more than three years later, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines. Multiple people familiar with the matter say investigators found that the chips had been inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China.”
    • This bit made me chuckle: “Two of Elemental’s biggest early clients were the Mormon church, which used the technology to beam sermons to congregations around the world, and the adult film industry, which did not.”
  6. How Do Christians Fit Into the Two-Party System? They Don’t (Tim Keller, New York Times): “Christians are pushed toward two main options. One is to withdraw and try to be apolitical. The second is to assimilate and fully adopt one party’s whole package in order to have your place at the table. Neither of these options is valid.”
  7. Are You a Young Evangelical? We Want to Hear From You Ahead of the Midterm Elections (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “If you are an evangelical born after 1980, I’d love to hear about the relationship between your faith and politics today. And if you grew up evangelical and your views are shifting, feel free to share that, too. We may publish a selection of the responses.” Take a few minutes and respond to this — you might get printed in the New York Times.

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  Book Review: Seeing Like A State (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Peasants didn’t like permanent surnames. Their own system was quite reasonable for them: John the baker was John Baker, John the blacksmith was John Smith, John who lived under the hill was John Underhill, John who was really short was John Short. The same person might be John Smith and John Underhill in different contexts, where his status as a blacksmith or place of origin was more important. But the government insisted on giving everyone a single permanent name, unique for the village, and tracking who was in the same family as whom. Resistance was intense.” This is long and amazing. (first shared in volume 95)

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 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!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 167

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 Catholic Church is facing a tremendous crisis, one potentially far bigger than any I have seen in my lifetime. There’s been a lot of ink spilled about it. Here are some pieces I found illuminating.
    • Protestants Should Care Deeply about the Catholic Catastrophe (David French, National Review): “The Church is like a navy, a collection of ships united in purpose and in destination. Each denomination is like a different ship in that navy, and while each crew is primarily tasked with the health and well-being of its own vessel, it’s also deeply invested in the strength of the fleet. Each vessel is more vulnerable as the fleet weakens. Each vessel is stronger surrounded by its protective armada. If the analogy holds, then one of the mightiest battleships in the fleet, the Catholic Church, is taking torpedoes left and right.”
    • A Catholic Civil War? (Matthew Schmitz, New York Times): “…the Catholic Church has been plunged into all-out civil war. On one side are the traditionalists, who insist that abuse can be prevented only by tighter adherence to church doctrine. On the other side are the liberals, who demand that the church cease condemning homosexual acts and allow gay priests to step out of the closet.” This may sound like hyperbole, but I believe it is accurate.
    • Catholics Face A Painful Question: Is It True? (Elizabeth Bruenig, Washington Post): “In his statements on Viganò’s testimony last Sunday, Francis invited journalists to use their skills and capacities to draw conclusions about the matter. And so, on Monday morning, I began to try.” This is sad. It seems the only person doing actual journalism on this for a major newspaper is… an opinion columnist. It stinks to high heaven that the major papers aren’t ferociously pursuing this.
    • What Did Pope Francis Know? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “this doesn’t mean that the pope should resign — not even if Viganò is fully vindicated. One papal resignation per millennium is more than enough. That cop-out should not be easily available to pontiffs confronted with scandals, including scandals of their own making, any more than it should be available to fathers.”
    • Answering Vigano’s Critics (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Again: if the allegations are false, you say, ‘They’re false.’ But that’s not what the Pope said. At all. If the Pope thinks he can ignore Vigano as he has ignored the dubia cardinals, he is gravely mistaken.”
    • Story of bombshell charges against Pope more surreal by the minute (John L. Allen, Jr., Crux): “If there’s one thing anyone who’s covered the Vatican for a long time ought to have learned by now, it’s never to say a particular story just can’t get anymore surreal, because trust me — it always can.”
  2. The School Shootings That Weren’t (Anya Kamenetz, Alexis Arnold, and Emily Cardinali, NPR): Difficult to excerpt the key data, so here’s the summary: schools reported 240 shootings in the 2015–2016 school year, but NPR followed up and was only able to verify 11. How did this happen? “the law of really, really big numbers. Temkin notes that ‘240 schools is less than half of 1 percent,’ of the schools in the survey. ‘It’s in the margin of error.’”
  3. There was a revealing kerfluffle at Brown University.
    • Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports (Lisa Littman, PLOS ONE): “The elevated number of friends per friendship group who became transgender-identified, the pattern of cluster outbreaks of transgender-identification in these friendship groups, the substantial percentage of friendship groups where the majority of the members became transgender-identified, and the peer group dynamics observed all serve to support the plausibility of social and peer contagion for ROGD [Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria]. The worsening of mental well-being and parent-child relationships and behaviors that isolate teens from their parents, families, non-transgender friends and mainstream sources of information are particularly concerning. More research is needed to better understand rapid-onset gender dysphoria, its implications, and scope.” The research paper in question.
    • Journal Looking Into Study on ‘Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria’ (Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed): “Brown University and PLOS ONE have distanced themselves from a controversial, peer-reviewed published study on ‘rapid-onset gender dysphoria,’ or gender identity issues that present not early and over a lifetime but quickly, in teenagers and young adults.” This is the neutral take.
    • New paper ignites storm over whether teens experience ‘rapid onset’ of transgender identity (Meredith Wadman, Science): “The actions by the journal and the university have infuriated some researchers who say the moves trample academic freedom, although the paper remains freely available. ‘This is a sad day for @BrownUniversity, and an indictment of the integrity of their academic and administrative leadership,’ Jeffrey Flier, a former dean of Harvard Medical School in Boston and a professor of medicine there, tweeted on Monday.” This is a slightly more feisty take.
    • Ryan T. Anderson on Twitter: “If this is the sort of censorship that takes place out in the open, just image what’s taking place behind closed doors. All because this research reached politically incorrect conclusion. But when lives are at stake, it’s more important to be correct than politically correct.” A feisty and I suspect very accurate take.
  4. The French, Coming Apart (Christopher Caldwell, City Journal): “Since Tocqueville, we have understood that our democratic societies are emulative. Nobody wants to be thought a bigot if the membership board of the country club takes pride in its multiculturalism. But as the prospect of rising in the world is hampered or extinguished, the inducements to ideological conformism weaken. Dissent appears. Political correctness grows more draconian. Finally the ruling class reaches a dangerous stage, in which it begins to lose not only its legitimacy but also a sense of what its legitimacy rested on in the first place.” This is a fascinating article that’s sort of about France, sort of about America, and mostly about Western modernity.
  5. China Is Treating Islam Like A Mental Illness (Sigal Samuel, The Atlantic): “The medical analogy is one way the government tries to justify its policy of large-scale internment: After all, attempting to inoculate a whole population against, say, the flu, requires giving flu shots not just to the already-afflicted few, but to a critical mass of people. In fact, using this rhetoric, China has tried to defend a system of arrest quotas for Uighurs. Police officers confirmed to Radio Free Asia that they are under orders to meet specific population targets when rounding up people for internment. In one township, police officials said they were being ordered to send 40 percent of the local population to the camps.” I’ve mentioned this before, but it truly is one of the scandals of the modern world.
  6. With Flowers In Their Hair (Andrew Ferguson, The Weekly Standard): “The seeds of the destruction of the Haight experiment could be found in its own antinomianism, in its original inspiration. Maybe the wholesale rejection of time-honored and time-tested values — monogamy, moderation, good manners, self-denial, self-control, the sanctity of private property, personal accountability to higher authorities, both material and spiritual — leads to squalor and misery. Maybe the project they’re celebrating in San Francisco this summer was doomed from the start.” Long and good.
  7. America Soured on My Multiracial Family (David French, The Atlantic): “There are three fundamental, complicating truths about adoption. First, every single adoption begins with profound loss. Through death, abandonment, or even loving surrender, a child suffers the loss of his or her mother and father. Second, the demographics of those in need of loving homes do not precisely match the demographics of those seeking a new child. Adoptive parents are disproportionately white. Adopted children are not. Thus, multiracial families are a natural and inevitable consequence of the adoption process. Third, American culture has long been obsessed with questions of race and identity.”

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 world will only get weirder (Steven Coast, personal blog): “We fixed all the main reasons aircraft crash a long time ago. Sometimes a long, long time ago. So, we are left with the less and less probable events.” The piece is a few years old so the examples are dated, but it remains very intriguing. (first shared in volume 67)

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 those of any organization I work for or 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 Through Twenty-Five

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.

This week we’re looking at letters 20 to 25. Two passages caught my attention this week.

I was struck by how contemporary Lewis’s comments on sexual temptation in letter 20 seem, even though he wrote this book nearly 80 years ago.

We have engineered a great increase in the licence which society allows to the representation of the apparent nude (not the real nude) in art, and its exhibition on the stage or the bathing beach. It is all a fake, of course; the figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than nature allows a full-grown woman to be. Yet at the same time, the modern world is taught to believe that it is being “frank” and “healthy” and getting back to nature. As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something which does not exist—making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast! (letter 20, page 243)

It was indeed easy to forecast, but now we need merely look around. Sexual dysfunction plagues our society. A study that appeared this week (Pornography Use and Marriage Entry During Early Adulthood: Findings From a Panel Study of Young Americans in prepublication) found that “higher levels of pornography use in emerging adulthood were associated with a lower likelihood of marriage by the final survey wave for men, but not women.” Lewis called it.

The other passage which stood out to me was from letter 21, and I confess it struck uncomfortably close to home:

Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered. Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. It is the unexpected visitor (when he looked forward to a quiet evening), or the friend’s talkative wife (turning up when he looked forward to a tete-а-tete with the friend), that throw him out of gear.… They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.… The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon his chattels. He is also, in theory, committed a total service of the Enemy; and if the Enemy appeared to him in bodily form and demanded that total service for even one day, he would not refuse.

That is so true. If God asks for fifteen minutes, I’ll give it to Him gladly regardless of what I am doing. But if someone chats with me for fifteen minutes while I’m trying to get a task done, I become impatient and irritable. Yet Jesus clearly said “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). I need to change.

Anyway, that’s some of what I got from this week’s readings. Only two weeks of reading remain!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 166

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. God’s Mayor in Guatemala (Dale Hanson Bourke, Christianity Today): “In the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America, the countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala form a violent triad. The murder rate is higher in this region than in most active war zones. Gangs, cartels, and vigilantes impose their will, taking over or co-opting legitimate police forces and routinely terrorizing average citizens…. In the middle of this violence sits the town of San Cristóbal Acasaguastlán, a picturesque oasis of calm with a population of about 6,000 people. What sets this place apart are the efforts of Jeaneth Ordoñez, the Christian mayor who has united the townspeople in their quest to keep the municipality free of the violence and upheaval that surrounds them.”
  2. No alcohol safe to drink, global study confirms (Laurel Ives, BBC): “A large new global study published in the Lancet has confirmed previous research which has shown that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. The researchers admit moderate drinking may protect against heart disease but found that the risk of cancer and other diseases outweighs these protections.” The underlying research: Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 (The Lancet. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310–2)
  3. Christians to Science: Leave Animals the Way God Designed Them—Except Mosquitoes (Rebecca Randall, Christianity Today): “Messing with nature or God’s plan was a top concern for those opposed to engineering animal meat to be more nutritious (22%), bringing back an extinct species (23%), or making aquarium fish glow (18%). The reason cited most often to oppose creating glowing fish was simply that it is unnecessary and frivolous (48%).” Apparently I am an outlier. Make the fish glow, make meat more nutritious, and deal with mosquito-borne disease. I really like the way the Kenyan researcher quoted in the article encourages us to target the parasite and not the carrier. We are made in the image of God so that we can exercise dominion over Creation!
  4. The Peter Principle is a joke taken seriously. Is it true? (Tim Harford, Financial Times): “The authors of the paper discovered that the best salespeople were more likely to be promoted, and that they were then terrible managers. The better they had been in sales, the worse their teams performed once they arrived in a managerial role. What’s more, people were not promoted for behaviour that might seem correlated with managerial ability — in particular, those who collaborated with others were not rewarded for doing so. What mattered were sales, pure and simple.” It may be the case that you should dress for the job you want, but if you want to get promoted you had better rock the job you have.
  5. Gay Men Are Different, Says Gay Male Reader (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Well-meaning straight liberals just do not get it, and lots of gay men will not criticize anything gay men collectively do because they think it will result in both lots of anger from other gay men as well as the empowerment of ideological enemies who want to, say, ban gay marriage. Men and women are fundamentally different and a male-female sexual culture is not going to be the same as a male-male sexual culture.” I suspect this will considered controversial by one set of readers and common sense by another, and that the groups will not break down along predictable lines.
  6. How the internet has changed dating (The Economist): “…a 2013 study researchers from Harvard University and the University of Chicago showed that marriages that started online were less likely to end in break-up and were associated with higher levels of satisfaction than marriages of the same vintage between similar couples who had met offline: the difference was not huge, but it was statistically significant.”
  7. What Trump Knew and Voters Didn’t (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “…Trump voters went to the polls unaware that a sum exceeding most of their annual salaries was expended to keep that [Trump paid off a porn star] from them. Even if the payment had been totally legal, it would’ve constituted a deliberate, immoral, classically politician-like effort to mislead voters about the choice before them. But the payment was not legal. It violated campaign-finance laws—and it was not a merely accidental and technical violation of an overly complicated or controversial provision.” This article is a pretty good and succinct summary of the current debate about Trump.

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 Can I Learn To Receive – And Give – Criticism In Light Of The Cross?(Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ’s crucifixion. In other words, in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s judgment of me; and in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s justification of me. Both have a radical impact on how we take and give criticism.” This is based on a longer article (4 page PDF). (first shared in volume 63)

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).

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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