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
- The 1619 Project (many authors, New York Times Magazine): “…[many believe] that 1776 is the year of our nation’s birth. What if, however, we were to tell you that this fact, which is taught in our schools and unanimously celebrated every Fourth of July, is wrong, and that the country’s true birth date, the moment that its defining contradictions first came into the world, was in late August of 1619? Though the exact date has been lost to history (it has come to be observed on Aug. 20), that was when a ship arrived at Point Comfort in the British colony of Virginia, bearing a cargo of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans. Their arrival inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years. This is sometimes referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the country’s very origin.” The link is to a PDF of the entire issue.
- A positive liberal reaction: A Brief History of the History Wars (Rebecca Onion, Slate): “For the sake of our collective cardiovascular health, we would do better to recognize these skirmishes over American history—in which conservatives demand that a positive vision of our nation’s past, studded with successes, inventions, and ‘great men,’ take pride of place in our public culture—as recurrent episodes in a particular decades‐old front of the culture wars. That way, we could stop wasting our good faith on old, dead‐end conversations.”
- A negative liberal reaction: The New York Times surrenders to the left on race (Damon Linker, The Week): “Throughout the issue of the NYTM, headlines make, with just slight variations, the same rhetorical move over and over again: ‘Here is something unpleasant, unjust, or even downright evil about life in the present‐day United States. Bet you didn’t realize that slavery is ultimately to blame.’ Lack of universal access to health care? High rates of sugar consumption? Callous treatment of incarcerated prisoners? White recording artists ‘stealing’ black music? Harsh labor practices? That’s right — all of it, and far more, follows from slavery.”
- A complicated conservative reaction: How slavery doomed limited government in America (Philip Klein, Washington Examiner): “A number of conservatives reacted to the project by branding it as anti‐American. But I don’t think that’s fair, at least based on the lead essay I read from Nikole Hannah‐Jones. In fact, her piece is quite the opposite. Sure, it chronicles the brutality of the institution of slavery and the century of oppression, institutionalized discrimination, and racist terrorism that followed. Yet the piece is ultimately about how she reconciles that history with her patriotism and comes to understand her own father’s love of a country that treated him so poorly.”
- A negative conservative reaction: How To Delegitimize A Nation (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “But who we imagine ourselves to be today shapes who we will become tomorrow. If The 1619 Project were merely about expanding our common understanding of the American origins, who could object? It arrives, though, in the midst of an epic culture war over who we are, and who we are going to be.”
- Related: Black American History Should Give Evangelicals a Sense of Perspective — and Hope (David French, National Review): “If men and women have the opportunity to speak and possess the courage to tell the truth, they have hope that they can transform a nation. What was true for black Americans (including the black American church) in the most dire of circumstances is still true for contemporary Christians in far less trying times”
- In response: In Defense Of Evangelical Cultural Pessimism (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “This, I think, is a distinction that makes a big difference re: French’s argument. You can’t cease to be black; you can cease to be Christian, or at least meaningfully Christian.” This piece is way too long but makes some good points.
- Don’t Use These Free‐Speech Arguments Ever Again (Ken White, The Atlantic): “If you’ve read op‐eds about free speech in America, or listened to talking heads on the news, you’ve almost certainly encountered empty, misleading, or simply false tropes about the First Amendment. Those tired tropes are barriers to serious discussions about free speech. Any useful discussion of what the law should be must be informed by an accurate view of what the law is.” White is best known under his internet alias Popehat. Recommended to me by a student.
- The Real Problem at Yale Is Not Free Speech (Natalia Dashan, Palladium): “The campus ‘free speech’ debate is just a side‐effect. So are debates about ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion.’ The real problems run much deeper. The real problems start with Marcus and me, and the masks we wear for each other…. In a world of masks and façades, it is hard to convey the truth. And this is how I ended up offering a sandwich to a man with hundreds of millions in a foreign bank account.” I liked this one a lot.
- Related: ‘Luxury beliefs’ are the latest status symbol for rich Americans (Rob Henderson, New York Post): “…as trendy clothes and other products become more accessible and affordable, there is increasingly less status attached to luxury goods. The upper classes have found a clever solution to this problem: luxury beliefs. These are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class.”
- How Life Became an Endless, Terrible Competition (Daniel Markovits, The Atlantic): “Escaping the meritocracy trap will not be easy. Elites naturally resist policies that threaten to undermine their advantages. But it is simply not possible to get rich off your own human capital without exploiting yourself and impoverishing your inner life, and meritocrats who hope to have their cake and eat it too deceive themselves.” The author is a Yale law professor. I found his diagnosis more persuasive than his prognosis.
- The Coming Migration out of Sub‐Saharan Africa (Christopher Caldwell, National Review): “The population pressures emanating from the Middle East in recent decades, already sufficient to drive the European political system into convulsions, are going to pale beside those from sub‐Saharan Africa in decades to come.” Fascinating.
- Why Niceness Weakens Our Witness (Sharon Hodde Miller, Christianity Today): “We exist in a world that swings between sweetness and outrage, two behaviors that seem to be at odds with one another. In reality, they are two sides of the same coin: a lack of spiritual formation. When our civility isn’t rooted in something sturdy and deep, when our good behavior isn’t springing from the core of who we are but is instead merely a mask we put on, it is only a matter of time before the façade crumbles away and our true state is revealed: an entire generation of people who are really good at looking good.” I agree with the substance of this article, but the title bothers me.
- Fact‐Checking Satire — Is Snopes Serious? (Bill Zeiser, RealClearPolitics): “the Bee’s founder and minority owner, Adam Ford, took particular exception to the tone of the Snopes assessment. In a lengthy Twitter thread, he called Snopes’ handling of the piece on Thomas ‘particularly egregious’ and ‘disturbing.’ He pointed to a subtitle that castigated the Bee for ‘fanning the flames of controversy’ and ‘muddying the details of a news story’ to the point that it was unclear if the piece qualified as satire. Ford complained that throughout the Snopes story, supposedly an ‘objective fact check,’ the assessment ‘veered towards pronouncing a moral judgment,’ seemingly accusing the satirical site of willful deception. It is certainly understandable how Ford could feel this way: Snopes referred to the Bee’s ‘ruse’ and offered that ‘the Babylon Bee has managed to fool readers with its brand of satire in the past.’”
- Interesting details about the Snopes methodology (PoliticalMath, Twitter)
- Related: Too many people think satirical news is real (R. Kelly Garrett, Robert Bond, and Shannon Poulsen, The Conversation): “Members of both parties failed to recognize that The Babylon Bee is satire, but Republicans were considerably more likely to do so. Of the 23 falsehoods that came from The Bee, eight were confidently believed by at least 15% of Republican respondents. One of the most widely believed falsehoods was based on a series of made‐up quotes attributed to Rep. Ilhan Omar. A satirical article that suggested that Sen. Bernie Sanders had criticized the billionaire who paid off Morehouse College graduates’ student debt was another falsehood that Republicans fell for. Our surveys also featured nine falsehoods that emerged from The Onion. Here, Democrats were more often fooled, though they weren’t quite as credulous. Nonetheless, almost 1 in 8 Democrats was certain that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway had questioned the value of the rule of law.” The authors are communication researchers at The Ohio State University.
- Satire: Under Mounting Pressure From Snopes, Babylon Bee Writers Forced To Admit They Are Not Real Journalists (Babylon Bee)
- Satire: Concerning Survey Finds Too Many People Believe Snopes Is A Legitimate Fact‐Checking Website (Babylon Bee)
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- When You Have Baptism Envy (Matt Falk, YouTube): five and a half minutes
- Phoenix the Mind Guy (Australia’s Got Talent, YouTube): eight and a half minutes
- Josh Nordido, Magician (Australia’s Got Talent, YouTube): six and a half minutes
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How the State Serves Both Salvation and Religious Freedom (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “Two basic kinds of governments, then, show up in the Bible: those that shelter God’s people, and those that destroy them. Abimelech sheltered; Pharoah destroyed. The Assyrians destroyed; the Babylonians and Persians, ultimately, sheltered. Pilate destroyed; Festus sheltered. And depending on how you read Revelation, the history of government will culminate in a beastly slaughter of saintly blood. Romans 13 calls governments servants; Psalm 2 calls them imposters. Most governments contain both. But some are better than others.” First shared in volume 165.
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.