Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 223

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. Ethiopia’s Evangelical Prime Minister Wins Nobel Peace Prize (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “The son of a Muslim father and Orthodox mother, Ahmed is a Protestant Pentecostal, or ‘Pentay,’ like many Ethiopian politicians. His faith is seen as a driving factor in his push for peace.”
  2. Algeria Forces Christians Out of the Country’s Largest Churches (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “At least 15 Protestant churches—out of only about 46 in the country—have been shuttered since January 2018, according to the Christian advocacy group Middle East Concern. The country, home to just 125,000 Christians, fewer than 1 percent of the population, ranks 22nd on Open Doors’ World Watch List. Christian congregations struggle to register with the government agency tasked with regulating non‐Muslim worship, per a 2006 law. It never convenes and has not issued a single approval.”
  3. The Perilous Power of the Preacher’s Wife (Kate Bowler, New York TImes): “Ordained progressive women secure a measure of institutional sway, but they lack the cultural capital of their conservative counterparts. My research shows that conservative women gain considerable influence without institutional power, and liberal women gain institutional power without considerable influence.” The author is a professor at Duke Divinity School and I have spotlighted articles by her three times previously, in volume 37, volume 116, and volume 143.
  4. The deluded cult of social justice (John Gray, UnHerd): “Seldom have the demands of justice been so manifestly faddish. Increasingly, justice is seen as not an attribute of legal systems but of entire societies. At the same time it is believed to be owed to groups more than individuals. In these circumstances, everything depends on whether the group to which people are deemed to be belong is in vogue.” The author is a retired professor of political philosophy (London School of Economics) and a well‐known atheist. 
  5. How to Convince an Atheist that God Exists (John Ellis, personal blog): “I didn’t become an atheist because that’s what I wanted; I became an atheist because I believed it was the truth. So, standing on that sidewalk while trying not to think about my mom praying for me, I cursed a God I didn’t even believe existed.”
  6. Some thoughts about China’s government:
    • What are the Options Part III: The Bigger Picture (Christopher Balding, personal blog): “The United States must be prepared to layout a vision for the value it wants to promote, to make the biggest sacrifices to realize those values, share the benefits with aligned countries, and deny benefits to adversary or nonaligned countries.” Recommended by a student. I linked to another of Balding’s posts about China back in volume 162
    • Here’s a growing list of companies bowing to China censorship pressure (Natasha Pinon, Mashable): “Major global companies have been bowing to both direct and indirect pressure from China’s political leaders to control how the economic powerhouse of a country is portrayed for some time.”
    • China’s Vision of Victory? (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “So‐called influence operations are aimed at the enemies China’s leaders fear most: the ones who pose an ideological, not a geopolitical, threat to the Communist Party. These are the hostile forces that threaten the stability of the Communist regime, and many of them—from Christians and Uighurs fleeing religious persecution to Taiwanese, Hong Kongers, and others of Chinese descent who dare imagine different futures for their people—live in America. As long as these groups can safely assemble and freely speak within the United States, America will be seen as a threat to the Chinese party‐state. Similar fears have already led Beijing to demand ideological fealty from its foreign debtors. China’s leaders do not ask clients to change their system of government but to squelch criticism of Chinese communism inside their borders.” Greer has appeared once before in volume 217.
    • China’s Looming Class Struggle (Joel Kotkin, Quillette): “Initially, China’s progress lifted up all classes, raising as many as 850 million people out of extreme poverty in 40 years, one of the greatest economic accomplishments in history. Yet the boom has been less successful in creating a Western‐style mass middle class which analyst Nan Chen estimates at roughly 12 percent of the population. ‘Rather than replicating the middle‐class growth of post‐World War II America,’ she observes, ‘China appears to have skipped that stage altogether and headed straight for a model of extraordinary productivity but disproportionately distributed wealth.’” Kotkin is a professor of urban studies at Chapman University.
  7. Attorney General William P. Barr Delivers Remarks to the Law School and the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame (William Barr, Department of Justice): “From the Founding Era onward, there was strong consensus about the centrality of religious liberty in the United States. The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.” (you can watch a video of the speech instead)
    • What Barr Got Right — And What He Might Add (Howard Husock, National Review): “Barr stands accused of endorsing some sort of Christian theocracy. Barr, of course, hardly endorsed the idea the church–state divide should be erased in the United States. Nor did he insist that only the religious could live a healthy and productive life. Rather, he singled out for criticism those who believe that, in effect, government social programs could replace the virtues instilled by religion. It’s an important distinction.”
    • William Barr Is Neck‐Deep in Extremist Catholic Institutions (Joan Walsh, The Nation): “In a histrionic speech at Notre Dame Law School on Friday, he blamed ‘secularists’ and ‘so‐called progressives’ for destroying society and precipitating the crises of family dissolution, crime, and drugs, while talking of a war between religious and nonreligious Americans.”
    • Bill Barr: Religious Liberty Warrior (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “It’s a standard defense of religion’s role in American life. It would have been unremarkable for any US Attorney General, Republican or Democrat, prior to 2008 to have given. But now, many on the Left have become so hateful of religion that Barr’s speech strikes the ears of people like Nobel Prize‐winning economist Paul Krugman as the handiwork of a Cossack propagandist…” I probably include more articles from Dreher than anyone else because he is so amazingly prolific and often writes about topics I am interested in.

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 A (Not So) Secular Saint (James K.A. Smith, Los Angeles Review of Books): “Mill’s legacy was effectively ‘edited’ by his philosophical and political disciples, excising any hint of religious life. One would never know from the canon in our philosophy departments, for example, that Mill wrote an appreciative essay on ‘Theism.’” First shared in volume 190.

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 215

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 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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.’”

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 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.

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 211

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. American journalists have duty to report on tragedies in countries like Sudan. (Isaha Sesay, USA Today): “If the suffering of these girls and their parents is not enough to make us pay attention to what has happened in Chibok, there is something else to consider: the threat to global security. The fate of these girls is in many ways a reflection of the Nigerian federal government’s longstanding inability to maintain peace and stability in the northeast of the country. Americans should see the disappearance of the Chibok girls as a flare, illuminating the existence of an ‘ungoverned space’ that is fertile ground for a powerful terrorist group.”
  2. Facebook and Google track what porn you’re watching, even when you’re in incognito (Isobel Asher Hamilton, Business Insider): “Researchers from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Pennsylvania analyzed 22,484 pornography sites using a site called webXray to identify tracking tools feeding data back to third parties. ‘Our results indicate tracking is endemic on pornography websites: 93% of pages leak user data to a third‐party,’ the study concludes.”
    • Numbers 32:23 comes to mind: “be sure that your sin will find you out.”
    • An unexpected consequence of porn: Streaming online pornography produces as much CO2 as Belgium (Michael Le Page, NewScientist): “The transmission and viewing of online videos generates 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, or nearly 1 per cent of global emissions. On‐demand video services such as Netflix account for a third of this, with online pornographic videos generating another third.”
  3. An Epidemic of Disbelief (Barbara Bradley Hagerty, The Atlantic): “Historically, investigators had assumed that someone who assaults a stranger by the railroad tracks is nothing like the man who assaults his co‐worker or his girlfriend. But it turns out that the space between acquaintance rape and stranger rape is not a wall, but a plaza. When Cleveland investigators uploaded the DNA from the acquaintance‐rape kits, they were surprised by how often the results also matched DNA from unsolved stranger rapes. The task force identified dozens of mystery rapists this way.” Infuriating and highly recommended. 
  4. Oil‐patch evangelicals: How Christianity and crude fueled the rise of the American right (Darren Dochuk, Washington Post): “In the face of the Rockefellers’ progressive way, Texan oilers championed a theology of personal encounter with scripture and an active Higher Being. They heralded church autonomy and gospel teachings about prosperity and end times, a message that anticipated the violent disruptions of the oil age and the need to save souls and reap God’s — and the earth’s — riches before the world’s end.” The author is a history professor at Notre Dame and describes an aspect of modern evangelical history I had not heard before.
    • An interview with the above author: Anointed with Oil: Evangelicals and the Petroleum Industry (Thomas Kidd, The Gospel Coalition): “Oil historians may be surprised to hear it, but in some instances oil’s corporate structures evolved directly out of the theological commitments of its leaders.” The first piece felt a little hostile to me, whereas this one did not at all. 
  5. Stanford opposes bill that would let college athletes in California profit from endorsements (Ian Park, Stanford Daily): “The NCAA earns more than $1 billion in annual revenue from broadcasting rights and championships. In return, student‐athletes receive little to no compensation, other than scholarships. According to a study by Drexel University and the National College Players Association, scholarships aren’t enough for many student‐athletes, as surveyed athletes had to pay colleges scholarship shortfalls of as much as $17,000.”
    • In other and completely unrelated local news: SF does not have the highest rents in the Bay Area (Adam Brinklow, Curbed): “Menlo Park, home of Facebook, has the highest rents in the region, averaging $4,638 per month. Palo Alto also beat out SF with a startling $3,857 per month price tag.” 
    • Elsewhere in the article we learn that Redwood City rents average $1,956. I love Menlo Park, but there’s no way it is twice as nice as Redwood City. Sheesh!
  6. Trump vs. Dems: ‘Racist,’ ‘socialist’ lines drawn for 2020 (Lisa Mascaro, AP News): “With tweets and a vote, President Donald Trump and House Democrats established the sharp and emotionally raw contours of the 2020 election campaigns. In the process, they have created a fraught political frame: ‘racists’ vs. ‘socialists.’”
    • What Pelosi Versus the Squad Really Means (David Brooks, New York Times): “Liberalism arose out of the fact that political revolutions, while exciting at the outset, usually end up in brutality, dictatorship and blood. Working within the system is best. People who came of age in the past few decades did not grow up in an atmosphere of assumed liberalism. They often grew up in an atmosphere that critiques it.”
    • ‘It Makes Us Want to Support Him More’ (Peter Nicholas, The Atlantic): “A few conceded that Trump occasionally fires off an inappropriate tweet, but said his accomplishments in office overshadow any offense. If anything, they said, his language springs from an authenticity they find refreshing. None of the people I spoke with considered his comments about the congresswomen racist.”
    • People Who Have Screamed ‘Racism’ For Decades Wonder Why No One Is Listening To Them About Trump (Babylon Bee): this would normally go down in the amusing section because the headline is from a satire site, but this is one of those times where the Bee’s insight is relevant: “‘I mean, we compared John McCain to George Wallace,’ stated Democrat Maggie Wilkins, ‘and I’m not sure who to compare Trump to in order to show he’s an even more worser racist.’ Activists are considering coming up with other words to express that Trump is a worse kind of racist. They considered ‘white supremacist,’ but they’ve been using that a lot lately, so it would only mean to most people that Trump is as bad as the Betsy Ross flag. So they tried to invent a new term — double plus racist — to express how extra racist Trump is, but then remembered they already used that on Mitt Romney.”
  7. 5 Reasons to Disentangle Sexuality and Race (Rebecca McLaughlin, The Gospel Coalition): “Christian sexual ethics were as shocking to their original first‐century Greco‐Roman context as they are today. If Christians are to learn from history, the lesson must be this: hold fast to Scripture’s radical demands, whether the cultural tide is coming in or out. You won’t know which side of history you’re on until the last day.” Disclaimer: I know the author and have collaborated with her on events at Stanford.

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 When Children Say They’re Trans (Jesse Singal, The Atlantic): “ …to deny the possibility of a connection between social influences and gender‐identity exploration among adolescents would require ignoring a lot of what we know about the developing teenage brain—which is more susceptible to peer influence, more impulsive, and less adept at weighing long‐term outcomes and consequences than fully developed adult brains—as well as individual stories like Delta’s.” This is a long and balanced piece which has garnered outrage in some online circles. First shared in volume 157.

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.