Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 258

Is 650 a lot? it depends. Pennies? No. Murders? Yes. Coronavirus cases? Depends on where they spread.

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. Churches Emerge as Major Source of Coronavirus Cases (Kate Conger, Jack Healy and Lucy Tompkins, New York Times): “More than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, with many of them erupting over the last month as Americans resumed their pre-pandemic activities, according to a New York Times database.” 
    • Are Churches “A Major Source of Coronavirus Cases?” (Tim Challies, personal blog): “If I have $3,000,000 in the bank and you give me another $650, you’d hardly be in the position to claim that you had made a major contribution to my wealth. Similarly, adding 650 cases to America’s total caseload of 3 million is no more than a blip that leaves 99.98% attributable to other causes.”
    • Churches, Coronavirus, and the New York Times (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “It is strange (at best) to use words like ‘major’ and ‘erupted’ when describing 650 cases. On that point, the headline is misleading. Having 650 cases in my county might be news, but 650 nationally out of three million cases is a headline looking for a story. The real story is this: churches are gathering and remarkably few infections are taking place.”
  2. America’s Racial Progress (David French, National Review): “There are two things that I believe to be true. First, that America has a long history of brutal and shameful mistreatment of racial minorities — with black Americans its chief victims. And second, that America is a great nation, and that American citizens (and citizens of the world) should be grateful for its founding. Perhaps no nation has done more good for more people than the United States. It was and is a beacon of liberty and prosperity in a world long awash in tyranny and poverty.”
  3. A Letter on Justice and Open Debate (many signatories, Harpers): “The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other.”
    • Prominent Artists and Writers Warn of an ‘Intolerant Climate’ (Jennifer Schuessler and Elizabeth A. Harris, New York Times): “‘We’re not just a bunch of old white guys sitting around writing this letter,’ Mr. Williams, who is African-American, said. ‘It includes plenty of Black thinkers, Muslim thinkers, Jewish thinkers, people who are trans and gay, old and young, right wing and left wing.’”
    • ending the charade (Freddie deBoer, personal blog): “Please, think for a minute and consider: what does it say when a completely generic endorsement of free speech and open debate is in and of itself immediately diagnosed as anti-progressive, as anti-left?”(emphasis in original)
  4. Lazarus Chakwera: Malawi’s president who ‘argued with God’ (BBC): “In the unmistakable cadence of a preacher, Malawi’s new President, Lazarus Chakwera, appealed for unity in his country shortly after he was sworn in on Sunday. The day of the week seemed fitting as the former head of the Malawi Assemblies of God, one of the largest Christian denominations in the country, treated the stage like a pulpit to inspire fervour with his words.”
  5. Slate Star Codex and Silicon Valley’s War Against the Media (Gideon Lewis-Kraus, New Yorker): “The division between the Grey and Blue tribes is often rendered in the simplistic terms of a demographic encounter between white, nerdily entitled men in hoodies on one side and diverse, effete, artistic snobs on the other.” Interesting throughout. 
  6. Christianity’s Covert Success (Mark Tooley, Providence) “I quote an Indian professor who says that Christianity proceeds in two ways, through conversion—which is obvious, that’s how people tend to think Christianity precedes—but he then says, through secularization. And I think he’s absolutely right. And I think that the assumption of people in the West that the secular is somehow neutral, that if you’re secular, you’ve somehow escaped the bounds of cultural contingency, couldn’t be more wrong.”
  7. On Religion, the Supreme Court Protects the Right to Be Different (Michael McConnell, New York Times): “The court may be political, but its politics is of the middle, and of a particular kind of middle, one that is committed to pluralism and difference rather than to the advancement of particular moral stances.” The author is a Stanford law prof.

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 Planet of Cops (Freddie de Boer, personal blog): “The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats. Go to any space concerned with social justice and what will you find? Endless surveillance. Everybody is to be judged. Everyone is under suspicion. Everything you say is to be scoured, picked over, analyzed for any possible offense. Everyone’s a detective in the Division of Problematics, and they walk the beat 24/7…. I don’t know how people can simultaneously talk about prison abolition and restoring the idea of forgiveness to literal criminal justice and at the same time turn the entire social world into a kangaroo court system.” First shared in volume 161.

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.

Christianity For Modern Pagans: Vanity and the Vanity of Human Justice

Pascal diagnosed our modern dysfunctions 350 years ago.

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through an annotated translation of Pascal’s Pensees called Christianity For Modern Pagans, I’ll post the thoughts I’m emailing the students here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2020. The reading schedule is online.

One reason I appreciate reading writers from the distant past is that when they make an observation relevant to modern times it is usually more powerful than if it was uttered by one of our contemporaries.

It reminds me of an excerpt from C. S. Lewis’ introduction to a translation of Athanasius’ On The Incarnation of the Word of God:

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

C. S. Lewis

With that in mind, two of Pascal’s observations struck me as especially prescient:

The mind naturally believes and the will naturally loves, so that when there are no true objects for them they necessarily become attached to false ones.  

Pascal, Pensée 661 (page 77)

Hundreds of years ago, Pascal accurately diagnosed the modern American. Our deceptively secular age is full of religion, and for many people politics is their preferred form of worship. Look back over my Friday “Issachar” emails and you will see many examples of the religious dynamics in our cultural debates; in fact, the very first article I ever shared was Joseph Bottum’s The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas and this week I’m likely to share David French’s America Is in the Grips of a Fundamentalist Revival.

As your pastor I urge you: don’t participate in the crazy of whatever group you tend to vote with. You already have a religion, so you are free to treat politics as significant but not ultimate. Back in the 90’s, political scientist J. Budziszewski wrote two articles back-to-back for First Things, The Problem With Liberalism and The Problem With Conservativism. Read them both, especially read the one that describes your team. You won’t resonate with every critique in either article, but you will find much to think about.

Moving on, I also appreciated one of Pascal’s comments which is relevant to social media:

We are not satisfied with the life we have in ourselves and our own being. We want to lead an imaginary life in the eyes of others, and so we try to make an impression. We strive constantly to embellish and preserve our imaginary being, and neglect the real one.

Pascal, Pensée 806 (page 79)

Reading this Pensée brought to mind Madison Fischer’s assertion that ditching social media was key to her winning a medal as a competitive climber.

“I cared so much about what everyone thought of me that it became outsourced confidence…. I couldn’t step out of the reputation I forged online so I lived in a world of entitlement. Pride in my accomplishments made me content, and contentedness is poison to a young athlete who has to stay hungry if she wants to stay competitive.”

Madison Fischer

She realized that she faced a choice: actually become a more competitive climber or spend her time trying to look like what people thought a competitive climber should be.

In a similar manner, we can actually strive to be like Jesus or we can instead try to become what other people think a follower of Jesus should be. In other words, we can either follow Jesus or we can follow other people. We can follow Christ or a crowd.

This is about more than social media, but it’s definitely about social media as well. You probably know that I am on Facebook and Twitter, so clearly I’m not about to tell you to delete your accounts. But I do urge you to be aware of the temptations they create. Meditate on Matthew 6:1, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

Other tidbits I appreciated:

The atheist argues: “If there were a God, how could there be injustice?” To which Pascal replies: “If there is injustice, there must be true justice for it to be relative to and a defect of; and this true justice is not found on Earth or in man, therefore it must exist in Heaven and God.” Either there or nowhere; and if nowhere, then “everything is permissible”. But not everything is permissible. Therefore there must be a God.

Kreeft commenting on Pensée 697, page 94

And I particularly like this one. It’s true of babies, and it’s true of adults. Different trifles, same psychology.

A trifle consoles us because a trifle upsets us.

Pascal, Pensée 43 (page 75)

Christianity For Modern Pagans: Wretchedness and The Paradox of Greatness and Wretchedness

My favorite of Pascal’s thoughts.

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through an annotated translation of Pascal’s Pensees called Christianity For Modern Pagans, I’ll post the thoughts I’m emailing the students here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2020. The reading schedule is online.

This reading includes the line from Pascal that has shaped my thought more than any other of his, “There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition” (Pascal, Pensee 149, page 69). It’s simple observation that explains something we observe every day at Stanford: the coexistence of smart people who think God’s existence is blindingly obvious alongside smart people who think that God’s nonexistence is blindingly obvious.

I think about this observation frequently, and I have come to believe that such exquisite balance is itself evidence of a master planner at work behind the scenes. If a flipped coin landed on its edge once, we would be astounded. If it landed on its edge repeatedly, we would be sure that the coin was rigged. Pascal’s point is that reality is rigged in such a way that strong cases can be made for faith and for doubt. Pay attention the next time there is a significant scientific discovery in an area you might expect to clarify the existence of God, you will see that theists and atheists alike rejoice in the discovery and write about it with great glee. The coin will have landed on its edge once again.

Why would God arrange reality this way? To reveal our heart. As Pascal said earlier in the same Pensee:

‘If he had wished to overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, he could have done so by revealing himself to them so plainly that they could not doubt the truth of his essence, as he will appear on the last day with such thunder and lightning and such convulsions of nature that the dead will rise up and the blindest will see him. This is not the way he wished to appear when he came in mildness, because so many men had shown themselves unworthy of his clemency, that he wished to deprive them of the good they did not desire. It was therefore not right that he should appear in a manner manifestly divine and absolutely capable of convincing all men, but neither was it right that his coming should be so hidden that he could not be recognized by those who sincerely sought him.

Pascal, Pensee 149, page 68

As I heard a pastor say once, “You get what you want in eternity. Do you want God? You go to Heaven where He dwells. Do you not want God? You will be free of Him forever and will go to Hell where He is not.”

Other sections that stuck with me:

It is instructive to compare Job and Ecclesiastes. For this is the comparison between ancient and modern man. Ecclesiastes, like modern man, has everything and yet has nothing because it is only “vanity”. Job, like ancient man, has nothing but has everything because he has God.

Kreeft’s commentary on Pensee 403, page 49

The two most life-changing revolutions in modern times were the scientific-industrial revolution, which taught man to live and think abstractly, like an angel; and the sexual revolution, which taught man to live and think like an animal. The first knows only the head, the second knows only the hormones. Neither knows the heart.

Kreeft’s commentary on Pensees 678 & 121, page 53

Man’s greatness is so obvious that it can even be deduced from his wretchedness, for what is nature in animals we call wretchedness in man, thus recognizing that, if his nature is today like that of the animals, he must have fallen from some better state which was once his own…. Who would think himself unhappy if he had only one mouth and who would not if he had only one eye? It has probably never occurred to anyone to be distressed at not having three eyes, but those who have none are inconsolable.

Pascal, Pensee 117, page 59

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 256

FYI, I offer some of my own thoughts on police towards the end.

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 Rebel Physicist Trying to Fix Quantum Mechanics (Bob Henderson, New York Times): “Bassi is a practicing Catholic and a believer in God, something he says is ‘unusual’ but ‘not rare” among his colleagues at the university. Einstein called his own belief that reality could be understood ‘religion,’ and I wondered if there’s a connection between Bassi’s religious faith and that in what has become essentially a far-right position in physics.” I have no opinion on the underlying scientific controversy, but Bassi sounds like a fascinating person.
  2. What the Tentmaking Business Was Really Like for the Apostle Paul (Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “[It] cost the Apostle Paul to write his letters, including the securing of materials and the hiring of a secretary to make a copy for himself. After extensive research and calculation, he determined that on the low side it would have cost him at least $2,000 in today’s currency to write 1 Corinthians. (And that doesn’t include the cost of sending someone like Titus on a long journey to deliver it.)” Short and fascinating.
  3. The Tempting of Neil Gorsuch (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “We may officially have three branches of government, but Americans seem to accept that it’s more like 2.25: A presidency that acts unilaterally whenever possible, a high court that checks the White House and settles culture wars, and a Congress that occasionally bestirs itself to pass a budget.”
  4. Religious Americans Have Less Positive Attitudes Toward Science, But This Does Not Extend to Other Cultures (Jonathon McPhetres, Jonathan Jong & Miron Zuckerman, Social Psychological and Personality Science): “It is commonly claimed that science and religion are logically and psychologically at odds with one another. However, previous studies have mainly examined American samples…” Raw data at https://osf.io/t7w6x/ DOI 10.1177/1948550620923239. The authors are professors at MIT, Oxford, and the University of Rochester.
  5. “He’s the Chosen One to Run America”: Inside the Cult of Trump, His Rallies Are Church and He Is the Gospel (Jeff Sharlet, Vanity Fair): “Nonbelievers roll their eyes over what they see as the gobsmacking hypocrisy of Trump as a tribune of family values, the dopiness of the rubes who consider him a moral man. Nonbelievers, in other words, miss the point. They lack gnosis. Very few believers deny Trump’s sordid past. Some turn to the old Christian ready-made of redemption: Their man was lost, but now he’s found. Others love him precisely because he is a sinner—if a man of such vast, crass, and open appetites can embody the nation (and really, who is more American—vast, crass, and open—than Trump), then you too, student of porn, monster truck lover, ultimate fighter in your dreams and games, can claim an anointing.” The title filled me with low expectations, but the article has some interesting reflections on Gnosticism in modern America. 
  6. On religious liberty:
    • The True Extent of Religious Liberty in America, Explained (David French, The Dispatch): “Yes, it is true that in some respects religious liberty is ‘under siege.’ There are activists and lawmakers who want to push back at multiple doctrines and some radicals even dream of revoking tax exemptions from religious organizations that maintain traditional teachings on sex and gender. But if the siege is real, then so is the citadel. People of faith in the United States of America enjoy more liberty and more real political power than any faith community in the developed world.” This is really good.
    • No Longer a Luxury – Religious Liberty is a National Security Priority (Christos Makridis, Providence): “…increases in religious liberty are associated with robust increases in human flourishing even after controlling for differences in gross domestic product, the labor force, and measures of economic freedom. For example, moving a country that ranks in religious liberty along the lines of Russia to one that ranks closer to the United States amounts to an 11 percent increase in the share of individuals who say that they are thriving.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry. 
    • Torah Is the Air We Breathe (Gil Student, First Things): “But our spiritually impoverished society views religious practices as merely cultural expressions. It views religious services as equivalent to yoga classes and book club meetings. It does not see religion as essential, and therefore cannot understand that Jews don’t serve God as part of our lives; rather, we live to serve God.”
  7. On race, police, and protests
    • Above the Law: The Data Are In on Police, Killing, and Race (Lyman Stone, The Public Discourse): “…police killings have made up about one out of every twelve violent deaths of Americans between 2010 and 2018. That’s including American military deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere during that window. Indeed, more Americans died at the hands of police officers during that period (about 14,400) than died while on active military duty (about 9,400). Police violence in America is extraordinary in its intensity. It is disproportionate to the actual threats facing police officers, and it has risen significantly in recent years without apparent justification.”
    • Jewish businesses in Los Angeles ransacked in riots, but only Israeli and Jewish media care (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “The Oregonian called riot-plagued Portland ‘a city of plywood.’ Since then, images have emerged of a darker narrative, with rioters targeting Jewish businesses. Israeli newspapers ran with this angle this past Saturday, but by the end of the day, there was nothing about the Jewish vandalism to be found on the New York Times website. Usually the Times is pretty up on anti-Semitism, but it was easier to find a piece about Anna Wintour than any mentions of vandalized Jews.”
    • How Jesus became white — and why it’s time to cancel that (Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service): “Anderson said that it has been common for people to depict Jesus as a member of their culture or their ethnic group. ‘If a person thinks that’s the only possible representation of Jesus, then that’s where the problem starts,’ he said.” It’s almost like portraying God visually leads to trouble. I wish God had thought to warn against that.
    • Reflections from a Christian scholar on Social Justice, Critical Race Theory, Marxism, and Biblical Ethics (Kelly Hamren, Facebook): “I have two English degrees (B.A. and M.A.) from a Christian university and a Ph.D. in literature and criticism from a state university. In my field, Marxism is one of the most commonly studied and most influential perspectives, and Critical Race Theory is also a significant force and gaining momentum.… my studies have convinced me that the sufferings and deaths of millions are not only correlated with but largely caused by the Marxist-Leninist agenda, and I am therefore deeply opposed to Marxism as a framework. I hope that, knowing this, those patient enough to read these notes will acquit me of being a closet Marxist covering a secular agenda with a veneer of Bible verses.” The author is an English professor at Liberty University.
    • Law professor’s response to student offended by their shirt (Patricia Leary, Imgur): “Premise: You are not paying for my opinion. Critique: You are not paying me to pretend I don’t have one.” Two comments: first, this is a few years old. Second, initially looks made-up but checks out. The author is a professor at Whittier Law School: Law professor responds to students who complained about her Black Lives Matter shirt (Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed) 
    • The New Truth (Jacob Siegel, Tablet Magazine): “What we are witnessing, in the rapidly transforming norms around race, sex, and gender, is not an argument at all but a revolution in moral sentiment. In all revolutions, the new thing struggling to be born makes use of the old system in order to overthrow it. At present, institutions like the university, the press, and the medical profession preserve the appearance of reason, empiricism, and argument while altering, through edict and coercion, the meaning of essential terms in the moral lexicon, like fairness, equality, friendship, and love.”
    • History Shows Free Speech Is The Loser In Mob Action (Jonathan Turley, personal blog): “What will be left when objectionable public art and academics are scrubbed from view? The silence that follows may be comforting to those who want to remove images or ideas that cause unease. History has shown, however, that orthodoxy is never satisfied with silence. It demands speech. Once all the offending statues are down, and all the offending professors are culled, the appetite for collective suppression will become a demand for collective expression.” The author is a law professor at George Washington University.
    • Of Statues and Symbolic Murder (Wilfred M. McClay, First Things): “…a great many of the foot soldiers in this movement are young, white, suburban, middle-class and college-educated; and that they are working out their salvation with fear and trembling and a deadly earnestness. The ‘white privilege’ of which these young people complain is a projection onto others of the very condition that they suspect and fear in themselves. Hence the convulsive rage, complete with copious gutter profanity, which we have all seen in videos of them. People in the grip of such powerful psychological forces will go a long way to expiate for their existential sins and rid themselves of their demons. They are easily mobilized by others. According to Pew estimates, only one out of six Black Lives Matter activists is actually black.”
      1. Related to the last sentence: George Floyd Protester Demographics: Insights Across 4 Major US Cities (MobileWalla report) has bar charts based on surveilling the cell phones of people at the protests and inferring their demographics the way marketers do. 
    • A Minneapolis Neighborhood Vowed to Check Its Privilege. It’s Already Being Tested. (Caitlin Dickerson, New York Times): “The impulse many white Powderhorn Park residents have to seek help from community groups rather than from the police is being felt in neighborhoods across the country. But some are finding the commitment hard to stand by when faced with the complex realities of life. While friends, neighbors and even family members in Powderhorn Park agree to avoid calling the police at all costs, it has been harder to establish where to draw the line.” Read through to the insane final story. 
    • I don’t often insert my own commentary in these emails, but in this case I’d like to highlight a Biblical perspective.
      1. The Bible teaches that one of the reasons that God gives governments authority is for them to use violence in the pursuit of justice. Romans 13:4 is key: “the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
      2. We have freedom in how we choose to do that as a society — the Bible does not require that we use police or that we build prisons. Having said that, if we abolish domestic law enforcement then the only alternatives I see are the military, private businesses that offer protection for a fee, sanctioned vigilantism, or mob justice. These are not appealing options. Some combination of unbundling police work, reducing criminal laws while rethinking the sanctions for violating them, and increasing police pay while imposing higher standards for police conduct seems like a better path forward.

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.

Christianity For Modern Pagans: Order & Method

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through an annotated translation of Pascal’s Pensees called Christianity For Modern Pagans, I’ll post the thoughts I’m emailing the students here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2020. The reading schedule is online.

The theme that seems most important to me from this first week’s readings (the preface and the chapters Order & Method) is the need to understand the heart behind someone’s skepticism. We must genuinely love our skeptical friends if we are to persuade them.

Their intellectual questions are real and have to be answered honestly, but the cries of the heart (Christianity is intolerant, faith is for ignorant people, becoming a Christian would make me into someone I wouldn’t like, following Jesus would mean abandoning fun) are far more important.

I find when I speak with unbelievers on campus their first questions to me are often tests: they want to see how I respond to purely intellectual inquiries before they begin raising the issues that really keep them from faith. And sometimes they don’t even know the real reasons they won’t consider Christianity. A reply I’ve found helpful is, “I’ll answer your question as best I can, but I’m curious: if I answer it to your satisfaction will you seriously consider becoming a Christian? If not, what would still hold you back?”

What do you think Stanford students’ biggest heart objections are to Christianity? I’m curious what you notice as you speak with your friends.

And now a few excerpts from the reading I particularly enjoyed:

In the past, the difficulty in accepting Christianity was its second point, salvation. Everyone in premodern societies knew sin was real, but many doubted salvation. Today it is the exact opposite: everybody is saved, but there is no sin to be saved from. Thus what originally came into the world as “good news” strikes the modern mind as bad news, as guilt-ridden, moralistic and “judgmental”. (page 26, Kreeft’s commentary on pensee 6)

Page 26 (from Kreeft’s commentary on pensee 6)

If he exalts himself, I humble him.
If he humbles himself, I exalt him.
And I go on contradicting him
Until he understands
That he is a monster that passes all understanding.

Page 37 (Pascal speaking, pensee 130)

When we want to correct someone usefully and show him he is wrong, we must see from what point of view he is approaching the matter, for it is usually right from that point of view, and we must admit this, but show him the point of view from which it is wrong. This will please him, because he will see that he was not wrong but merely failed to see every aspect of the question.

Page 39 (Pascal speaking, pensee 701)

Our religion is wise and foolish: wise, because it is the most learned and most strongly based on miracles, prophecies, etc., foolish, because it is not all this which makes people belong to it. . . . What makes them believe is the Cross. . . . And so St. Paul, who came with wisdom and signs, said that he came with neither wisdom nor signs, for he came to convert, but those who come only to convince may say they come with wisdom and signs.

Page 42 (Pascal speaking, pensee 842)

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 254

The less timely stuff is up top this time and there are a lot of magic videos at the bottom.

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. What Unites Most Graduates of Selective Colleges? An Intact Family (Nicholas Zill & Brad Wilcox, Institute for Family Studies): “… even after controlling for parent education, family income, and student race and ethnicity, being raised by one’s married birth parents provides an additional boost to one’s chances of getting through Princeton.”
  2. What Christians Must Remember about Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control (Peter Feaver & William Inboden & Michael Singh, Providence): “Before embracing calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons, thoughtful Christians must confront two uncomfortable facts. First, we live in a fallen world in which the threats we face are changing, and arguably growing. Second, the envelope of peace and security in which free societies have thrived for the past eight decades is not self-sustaining—one need only view the recent decline of democracies and rise of authoritarian threats from Russia and China. One can detest nuclear weapons and still see their strategic value.” The authors are, respectively, a professor of political science at Duke, a professor of public policy at UT Austin, and a senior fellow at a thinktank.
  3. Peer Review (Rodney Brooks, personal blog): “I came to realize that the editor’s job was real, and it required me to deeply understand the topic of the paper, and the biases of the reviewers, and not to treat the referees as having the right to determine the fate of the paper themselves. As an editor I had to add judgement to the process at many steps along the way, and to strive for the process to improve the papers, but also to let in ideas that were new.” The author is a professor emeritus of robotics at MIT.
  4. JK Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues (JK Rowling, personal blog): “…I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it.”
  5. More on the NY Times tangle last week and what it reveals about our society
    • America is changing, and so is the media (Ezra Klein, Vox): “The news media likes to pretend that it simply holds up a mirror to America as it is. We don’t want to be seen as actors crafting the political debate, agents who make decisions that shape the boundaries of the national discourse. We are, of course. We always have been.”
    • The Still-Vital Case for Liberalism in a Radical Age (Jonathan Chait, NY Magazine): “…it is an error to jump from the fact that right-wing authoritarian racism is far more important to the conclusion that left-wing illiberalism is completely unimportant. One can oppose different evils, even those evils aligned against each other, without assigning them equal weight.”
    • Why everyone hates the mainstream media (Andrew Potter, Policy for Pandemics): “It’s not a coincidence that lawyers, journalists, and politicians are routinely ranked as the most disliked professions in the world. It’s because the law is not about justice, politics is not about democracy, and the news is not about information. But in each case, that is what emerges, by harnessing the status-conscious competitive natures of the participants.” The author is a former journalist and editor.
  6. Thoughts on race and racism:
    • George Floyd and Me (Shai Linn, Gospel Coalition): “Though I’m deeply grieved, I am not without hope. Personally, I have little confidence in our government or policymakers to change the systemic factors that contributed to the George Floyd situation. But my hope isn’t in the government. My hope is in the Lord.”
    • American Racism: We’ve Got So Very Far to Go (David French, The Dispatch): “If politically correct progressives are often guilty of over-racializing American public discourse, and they are, politically correct conservatives commit the opposite sin—and they filter out or angrily reject all the information that contradicts their thesis.”
    • This moment cries out for us to confront race in America (Condoleezza Rice, Washington Post): “Still, we simply must acknowledge that society is not color-blind and probably never will be. Progress comes when people treat one another with respect, as if we were color-blind. Unless and until we are honest that race is still an anchor around our country’s neck, that shadow will never be lifted. Our country has a birth defect: Africans and Europeans came to this country together — but one group was in chains.” She is, of course, a fellow believer and also a Stanford professor who will soon be the director of the Hoover Institution. 
    • Our Present Moment: Why Is It So Hard? (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “I’m thinking more broadly about why race in this country is so difficult, and in particular difficult even between people of good will, between people in your church of a different color. I’m thinking about people who agree on so many other things. And you sing the same songs and you really love Jesus together. And you read the same Bible, and you really are together for the gospel. So why is it so divisive?” Some really good thoughts in here.
  7. On the protests
    • The protests started out looking like 1968. They turned into 1964. (Omar Wasow, Washington Post): “For a growing international movement trying to draw attention to the long history of racist and brutal policing, nonviolence in the face of police repression is an exceedingly difficult strategy to sustain. Evidence from the 1960s, however — and perhaps this month, too — suggests using such tactics to generate media coverage of a pressing social problem can be a powerful tool for building a coalition for social change.”
    • We often accuse the right of distorting science. But the left changed the coronavirus narrative overnight (Thomas Chatterton Williams, The Guardian): “Two weeks ago we shamed people for being in the street; today we shame them for not being in the street.”
    • Tribalism Comes for Pandemic Science (Yuval Levin, The New Atlantis): “These public health professionals are simply admitting that their views on the health risks of large gatherings depend on the political valence of those gatherings. Rather than compartmentalize their professional judgment from their political priorities — explaining the risks of large protests regardless of their political content and then separately and in a different context expressing whatever views they might have about that content — they openly deny not only the possibility but even the desirability of detached professional advice. This kind of attitude inevitably makes it much harder for the public to assess scientific claims about the pandemic through anything other than a political lens.”
    • The Growing CHAZm in Seattle (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “It took activists less than 24 hours to discover that even their make-believe Duchy of Grand Fenwoke relies on the basic building blocks of any polity. If Seattle’s supine and sausage-spined political leadership allows this experiment to continue, pretty soon you can expect the emergence of currency, taxes, even some kind of charter or constitution. It wouldn’t shock me if they ended up creating rudimentary courts or even a jail.” Goldberg is an expert at the meandering rant. 
    • Anarchy In Seattle (Christopher Rufo, City Journal): “The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone has set a dangerous precedent: armed left-wing activists have asserted their dominance of the streets and established an alternative political authority over a large section of a neighborhood. They have claimed de facto police power over thousands of residents and dozens of businesses—completely outside of the democratic process. In a matter of days, Antifa-affiliated paramilitaries have created a hardened border, established a rudimentary form of government based on principles of intersectional representation, and forcibly removed unfriendly media from the territory.”
    • A Dark Cloud For Democracy (Carl Trueman, First Things): “…this does not entirely explain why Minneapolis and not Hong Kong has grabbed the imagination of British youth. After all, Hong Kong is a much more recent part of the British narrative; one can watch the dismantling of Hong Kong’s constitution online and on the television; and an extremely good case can be made that the British government is more responsible for that mess and its potential amelioration than for the chaos in the Minneapolis police department. After all, the British can actually do something about it—as Boris Johnson’s pledge on immigration to the U.K. from Hong Kong indicates. So why Minneapolis, not Hong Kong?”
    • If we want better policing, we’re going to have to spend more, not less (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “Reform is thus more likely to stick if we co-opt the unions rather than trying to break them. Instead of ‘defund the police,’ what if we offloaded the nonjudicial parts of their work, like dealing with the homeless and the mentally ill, to social workers, and then ‘stuffed their mouths with gold’ to reform the policing part? We could offer a significant salary boost in exchange for accepting stricter standards and oversight, which wouldn’t just ease the political obstacles, but possibly attract higher-quality candidates to the police force.”
    • Most Americans Want Police Reform But Don’t Back ‘Defund The Police’ (Ariel Edwards-Levy and Kevin Robillard, Huffington Post): “A near-universal majority of Americans support at least some changes to policing in the United States following the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. There is majority support for proposals circulating in Congress to ban chokeholds and make it easier to track and charge officers accused of misconduct. But the idea of ‘defunding the police’ has little support from the public.”
    • Police Brutality: The Ferguson Effect (Robert Verbruggen, National Review): “There’s a temptation in some quarters to think this issue is like gay marriage or marijuana legalization, where there’s a turning point in public opinion and a rapid shift in policy and then everyone wonders what the big deal ever was. See, for example, Tim Alberta’s piece in Politico today, which bizarrely claims we may be seeing the ‘last stand’ of law-and-order Republicans and draws those two parallels explicitly. But crime isn’t like that. When the streets become unsafe, public opinion shifts back in favor of the folks who stand between the innocents and the bad guys.”

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 Problem with Dull Knives: What’s the Defense Department got to do with Code for America? (Jennifer Pahlka, Medium): “I have a distinct memory of being a kid in the kitchen with my mom, awkwardly and probably dangerously wielding a knife, trying to cut some tough vegetable, and defending my actions by saying the knife was dull anyway. My mom stopped me and said firmly, ‘Jenny, a dull knife is much more dangerous than a sharp knife. You’re struggling and using much more force than you should, and that knife is going to end up God Knows Where.’ She was right, of course…. But having poor tools [for the military] doesn’t make us fight less; it makes us fight badly.” (some emphasis in the original removed). Highly recommended. First shared in volume 155.

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 251

Concerning the benefits of religion, the virtue of intellectual humility, perspectives on the pandemic, the global strategy of the Chinese Communist Party, and an unsettling account of governmental surveillance.

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. Religious services may lower risk of ‘deaths of despair’ (Chris Sweeney, Harvard Gazette): “After adjusting for numerous variables, the study showed that women who attended services at least once per week had a 68 percent lower risk of death from despair compared to those never attending services. Men who attended services at least once per week had a 33 percent lower risk of death from despair.” Those are HUGE reductions!
  2. Pandemic Perspectives
    • Amid the Coronavirus Crisis, a Regimen for Reëntry (Atul Gawande, The New Yorker): “But, in the face of enormous risks, American hospitals have learned how to avoid becoming sites of spread. When the time is right to lighten up on the lockdown and bring people back to work, there are wider lessons to be learned from places that never locked down in the first place.” This was quite good.
    • What African Nations Are Teaching the West About Fighting the Coronavirus (Jina Moore, The New Yorker): “Much of what Gercama encountered at the airport had been designed to prevent Ebola. Since 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan’s neighbor to the southwest, has been struggling with the disease. But local public-health officials’ quick repurposing of Ebola protocols and infrastructure impressed Gercama, as did the work of rapid-response teams, whom she twice witnessed respond to suspected coronavirus cases during the week she spent in the country.”
    • A Spectacularly Bad Washington Post Story on Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification Project (John Gruber, blog): “A Washington Post story today on Apple and Google’s joint effort on COVID-19 exposure notification project, from reporters Reed Albergotti and Drew Harwell, is the worst story I’ve seen in the Post in memory. It’s so atrociously bad — factually wrong and one-sided in opinion — that it should be retracted.” Ouch. Gruber backs it up. 
    • Coronavirus Crisis: Ron DeSantis Got Florida’s COVID-19 Strategy Right (Rich Lowry, National Review): “A couple of months ago, the media, almost as one, decided that Governor Ron DeSantis was a public menace who was going to get Floridians killed with his lax response to the coronavirus crisis…. The conventional wisdom has begun to change about Florida, as the disaster so widely predicted hasn’t materialized.”
    • As more states reopen, Georgia defies predictions of coronavirus resurgence. What’s the lesson for the rest of the country? (Andrew Romano, Yahoo News): “That’s the balance reopening needs to strike if it’s going to work: fewer official restrictions in exchange for more individual and community responsibility.”
    • A contrary perspective: It Sure Seems Like Florida And Georgia Lied About Their Infection Rates (Luis Prada, Cracked): “Florida and Georgia are petulant, entitled quarantine protesters embodied as states. Since this all started, both states have been frantically searching for an excuse to end their quarantines as fast as possible and get back to life as usual despite a rampaging virus that’s killing people.”
    • Mississippi church destroyed by arson was suing city over safer-at-home order (Arianna Poindexter, WLBT TV): “A Mississippi church at the center of an arson investigation is the same church currently in a battle with city leaders over a COVID-19 safer-at-home order. First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs was destroyed by what investigators believe is an arsonist. Investigators found graffiti on pavement in the church parking lot that reads, ‘Bet you stay home now you hypokrits (sic).’” 
    • Meet the ‘Gang Pastor’ Behind Cape Town’s Viral Coronavirus Cooperation (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “We regularly stop while we are working to invite people to follow Jesus. I’ve lost track, but maybe 5,000 to 10,000 have told us they’ve repented and are turning to follow Jesus. But I don’t call this success, it is just a small piece in the overall cause of what we Christians are called to do.”
    • Donald Trump Doesn’t Want Authority (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Great men and bad men alike seek attention as a means of getting power, but our president is interested in power only as a means of getting attention.”
  3. Uncertainty (Howard Marks, Oaktree Capital): “The people who are always sure are no more helpful than the people who are never sure. The real expert’s confidence is reason-based and proportional to the weight of the evidence.” Shared by an alumnus’ father.
  4. China’s Plans to Win Control of the Global Order (Tanner Greer, Tablet Magazine): “As Beijing sees it, China’s success depends on discrediting the tenets of liberal capitalism so that notions like individual freedom and constitutional democracy come to be seen as the relics of an obsolete system.” I found this piece to be very insightful.
    • Related: In China’s Crisis, Xi Sees a Crucible to Strengthen His Rule (Steven Lee Myers and Chris Buckley, New York Times): “Mr. Xi, shaped by his years of adversity as a young man, has seized on the pandemic as an opportunity in disguise — a chance to redeem the party after early mistakes let infections slip out of control, and to rally national pride in the face of international ire over those mistakes. And the state propaganda machine is aggressively backing him up, touting his leadership in fighting the pandemic.”
    • Related: Xi’s Regime Recasts China as the Good Samaritan during Pandemic (Alan Dowd, Providence): “Add it all up—the PR spin, the propaganda push, the pallets of aid, the preening—and in a very real sense, Xi Jinping’s regime is offering a new, twisted version of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In Xi’s retelling, the roadside robbers who assault the traveler later return to rescue him—and somehow expect to be hailed as heroes.”
    • An explosive summer of discontent is brewing in Hong Kong (Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post): “On Tuesday, Hong Kong authorities extended pandemic-related rules limiting public gatherings to effectively ban, for the first time, a June 4 vigil marking the anniversary of China’s massacre of student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.”
    • China Pushes for New Hong Kong Security Law (Keith Bradsher and Austin Ramzy, New York Times): “The legislative push in Beijing marks the most aggressive step by the party to exert its influence over the former British colony since it was reclaimed by China in 1997.”
    • Seriously — pray for Hong Kong.
  5. A Mississippi pastor with eight kids and no professional music background won ‘The Voice’ — and made show history (Emily Yahr, Washington Post): ““‘I’ve literally never performed. I just sing at church,’ Tilghman explained, introducing himself as a pastor. This sparked an attempt to prove who was the biggest church fan; Legend revealed his grandfather was a pastor, and Jonas one-upped him by boasting his father was a pastor.”
  6. Under the Rainbow Banner (Darel Paul, First Things): “In June 1999, President Bill Clinton declared the first national Pride Month. Twenty years later, June is as teeming with rainbows as December is with reindeer. The Pride flag flies above embassies, state capitols, and stadiums. Rainbow stripes adorn city crosswalks.”
    • In response: Queer Times (Carl Trueman, First Things): “The debate over LGBTQ issues is not a debate about sexual behavior. I suspect it is not really at this point a debate with the L, the G, or the B. It is the T and the Q that are carrying the day, and we need to understand that the debate is about the radical abolition of metaphysics and metanarratives and any notion of cultural stability that might rest thereupon.”
  7. Since I Met Edward Snowden, I’ve Never Stopped Watching My Back (Barton Gellman, The Atlantic): “Someone had taken control of my iPad, blasting through Apple’s security restrictions and acquiring the power to rewrite anything that the operating system could touch. I dropped the tablet on the seat next to me as if it were contagiou” Recommended by a student. Gripping and disturbing.

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 Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+ (Hannah Furness, The Telegraph): this is a real article. First shared in volume 151.

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 250

Probably my favorite article in this bunch is the epidemiological analysis of the seven deadly sins. What a genius idea.

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.

Also, this is the 250th of these weekly roundups I have published. Even though last week was number 249, I was still surprised to type in 250 this week. Someday I’ll remember a special number is coming up and do something different for it. But not this day.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Are the Wages of Sin Really Death?: Moral and Epidemiologic Observations (David Lyle Jeffrey and Jeff Levin, Christian Scholar’s Review): “So, are the wages of sin really death? As far as population-health research suggests, the answer is a guarded yes.” The authors are professors at Baylor, one of epidemiology and the other of literature. 
  2. Kids’ TV has a porn problem (BrazyDay, Medium): “In a very real way, the ‘hypersexual and toxic’ culture that has sprung up around children’s TV cartoons is of companies’ own making. They actively allow it to happen simply by doing nothing — creating a lawless vacuum where anything goes and porn coexists with harmless fan creations.” This article was much better than I expected it to be. 
  3. How We Got the Bible (Dirk Jongkind,Desiring God): “…by understanding what God had done over the ages, we will see that it is reasonable and justified to trust that the Bible in our hands is a translation of the trustworthy words of Scripture.” The author is a research fellow in New Testament text and language at Tyndale House, Cambridge University. 
  4. The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months (The Guardian): “The kids agreed to work in teams of two, drawing up a strict roster for garden, kitchen and guard duty. Sometimes they quarrelled, but whenever that happened they solved it by imposing a time-out. Their days began and ended with song and prayer. Kolo fashioned a makeshift guitar from a piece of driftwood, half a coconut shell and six steel wires salvaged from their wrecked boat – an instrument Peter has kept all these years – and played it to help lift their spirits.“ Recommended by a student.
    • Fascinating Twitter thread in response by Tanner Greer: “Lord of the Flies is one of those novels that people remember wrong. People remember its central theme as ‘take away civilization, and we all turn into Hobbesian little monsters.’ But if you read the book as an adult, instead of an 8th grader speeding through, you find a different meaning.”
  5. Should Religious Conservatives Aspire to Notoriety? (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “You don’t go looking for power and prestige. You aspire to be faithful. If prestige finds you, then you allow yourself to be extruded into it and pray that God protect you from the spiritual dangers.” This is essay is part of a swarm of internet articles about the trajectory of the magazine First Things, but you don’t have to read anything else about that (or even care much about that) to find this essay worthwhile. 
  6. Pandemic Perspectives
    • “Our regulatory state is failing us” Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “When the CDC pooh-poohed masks early on, or botched their testing kit thereby delaying U.S. testing by weeks or maybe months, did the permanent staff of the CDC rise up and rebel and leak howling protests to the media, realizing that thousands of lives were at stake? That is surely what would happen if say the current FDA announced it was going to approve thalidomide.” This is a link to a search result on his blog, keep scrolling after you finish the main article to see several examples of what he is describing. 
    • Coronavirus Pandemic: A Plea for Generosity (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “There is a good reason to hesitate to judge, namely our ignorance. Plagues are a time for scapegoats and blame-shifting precisely because they deal out suffering such a seemingly unjust and random fashion. Our leaders say they will follow the science, but they can’t, really. With a heretofore-unseen virus such as this one, the science is more like inherited wisdom and intuition from previous, similar maladies, at least at the start. What follows is a confused rush to catch up through trial and error.“
    • The Risks — Know Them — Avoid Them (Erin Bromage, personal blog): “I regularly hear people worrying about grocery stores, bike rides, inconsiderate runners who are not wearing masks.… are these places of concern? Well, not really. Let me explain.” The author is a biology professor at U Mass who teaches courses on immunology and infectious disease. Recommended by an alumnus. 
    • No, the superspreader choir in Washington doesn’t prove church is dangerous (Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner): “It’s hard to blame the choir for not taking more precautions, as this was March 10, before stuff really hit the fan (and when our government was still telling people NOT to wear masks).”
      • This op-ed is based on a CDC investigation: “The March 10 choir rehearsal lasted from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. Several members arrived early to set up chairs in a large multipurpose room. Chairs were arranged in six rows of 20 chairs each, spaced 6–10 inches apart with a center aisle dividing left and right stages.”
    • Lockdown is over. Someone tell the government (Dominic Green, Spectator USA): “Every society has reacted to COVID-19 according to its principles or, if no principles were to hand, its habits. It has been America’s misfortune that its principles and habits are ill-suited to managing an epidemic.”
    • Take the Shutdown Skeptics Seriously (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “The general point is that minimizing the number of COVID-19 deaths today or a month from now or six months from now may or may not minimize the human costs of the pandemic when the full spectrum of human consequences is considered. The last global depression created conditions for a catastrophic world war that killed roughly 75 to 80 million people. Is that a possibility? The downside risks and costs of every approach are real, frightening, and depressing, no matter how little one thinks of reopening now.”
    • Coronavirus and The Myopia of American Exceptionalism (Brad Littlejohn, Mere Orthodoxy): “Rather than proving ourselves exceptional, we simply assume that we are. The ordinary rules do not apply to us, because we are America. We make things better here, we run things more efficiently here, we live more happily here, because we are America. There is no need to look at OECD rankings, because we already know that they are wrong if they show us anywhere but #1…. this way of thinking, far from making America great, is almost certain to make her the opposite. After all, the only way to improve is to learn, and the chief way we learn as human beings is from the examples of others.”
    • The Miracle of the Internet (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “The surge in traffic, on the internet as a whole and on AT&T’s part of the network, is extraordinary in a way that the phrase 20 percent increase doesn’t quite capture. AT&T’s network is carrying an extra 71 petabytes of data every day. How much is 71 petabytes? One comparison: Back at the end of 2014, AT&T’s total network traffic was 56 petabytes a day; in just a few weeks, AT&T has accommodated more new traffic every day than its total daily traffic six years ago. (During the pandemic, the AT&T network has been carrying about 426 petabytes a day—one petabyte is 1 million gigabytes.)”
    • Stanford’s $27.7 billion not enough to house students in need amid pandemic (Sheikh Srijon, Stanford Daily): “Harvard is allowing those on campus with demonstrated need to stay for the whole summer for only $200. MIT is offering free housing and meals. Duke is offering free housing and partial compensation for lost summer earnings to those with substantial financial aid.… Compare Stanford’s policy to these institutions’ policies. Though it has a $27.7 billion dollar endowment (as of October 2019), it is charging students nearly $6,000 for summer housing and meals in times of such financial uncertainty.”
  7. The New York Times Surrendered to an Outrage Mob. Journalism Will Suffer For It. (Pamela Paresky, Jonathan Haidt, Nadine Strossen And Steven Pinker, Politico): “…for the Times to ‘disappear’ passages of a published article into an inaccessible memory hole is an Orwellian act that, thanks to the newspaper’s actions, might now be seen as acceptable journalistic practice. It is all the worse when the editors’ published account of what they deleted is itself inaccurate. This does a disservice to readers, historians and journalists, who are left unable to determine for themselves what the controversy was about, and to Stephens, who is left unable to defend himself against readers’ worst suspicions.”

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 If I Were 22 Again (John Piper, Desiring God): “There have been about 18,340 days since I turned 22, and I think I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have eaten. I have certainly read my Bible on more of those days that I have watched television or videos.… Read your Bible every day of your life. If you have time for breakfast, never say that you don’t have time for God’s word.” This whole thing is really good. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 151.

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 249

The vindication of a vilified missionary, thoughts about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and pandemic perspectives.

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. A Missionary on Trial (Ariel Levy, The New Yorker): “According to a study published in 2017 in The American Journal for Clinical Nutrition, fourteen per cent of children treated for severe acute malnutrition at Mulago Hospital—Uganda’s best facility—died. The study notes that the over-all mortality rate in Africa for children with S.A.M. is between twenty and twenty-five per cent. During the years when Serving His Children functioned as an in-patient facility, its rate was eleven per cent.”
    • Recommended. If you want to dig deeper, last October a Ugandan television station did a twenty-minute story on this case which also discredited the missionary’s accusers. Proverbs 18:17 wins again.
    • I see a similar dynamic in some students who are feeling angst over their faith. Upon conversation, I often learn that they have been told untrue or misleading things about missions, the history of the church, and the present status of the church in the world. Always remember that critics might have motives beyond simply establishing the truth. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to them, but it does mean that you don’t treat their complaints as axioms. When this reporter flew to Uganda and talked to people on the ground she quickly learned that the internationally-accepted narrative was not right.
  2. Why We Opened a Christian University in Iraq Amid ISIS’ Genocide (Jayson Caspar, Christianity Today): “There was an unwritten understanding that the Christians would not overtly proselytize and share the gospel, but be indirect and not offend sharia law. But after ISIS and the lack of any real response from the Muslim world, Archbishop Warda says that this agreement is now finished. That as we go forward, we will no longer be shy. We are going to proclaim the gospel, proclaim the teachings of Christ, and whoever comes to us will come…. There may not be many Christians in Iraq. But as an old priest said once to me, ‘Well, remember Christ only had 12, and everyone wanted to kill them, too.’”
  3. Exquisite Scandal (Nancy Lemann, Lapham’s Quarterly): “The familiar theory at the trial was that the people of Louisiana would rather be entertained than served with ethics. Some would call this a Gallic attitude, to be blinded by charm at the expense of integrity, and indeed the culture of Louisiana is historically French Catholic. And as the Catholics might say, the fall from grace is inevitable, a mystery to be endured rather than a problem to be solved. And some in Louisiana would prefer a smart crook to an unintelligent opportunist masked as a crusader whose ambition blinds him to his own stupidity. Such a one could be just as dangerous, if not more so, than a crook.” As someone born in Louisiana, I very much enjoyed this article. 
  4. Gregory and Travis McMichael face murder charges in connection with Ahmaud Arbery case (Steve Almasy and Angela Barajas, CNN): “Two men involved in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Georgia, have been arrested and face murder and aggravated assault charges, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.”
    • It is amazing to me that it was not the video evidence that led to their arrest, but the public outcry in response to the video evidence. 
    • A Vigilante Killing in Georgia (David French, The Dispatch): “When white men grab guns and mount up to pursue and seize an unarmed black man in the street, they stand in the shoes of lynch mobs past.”
    • Thinking Christianly About the Ahmaud Arbery Lynching (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “If we are to be people who act justly and promote justice, which is that each person receives their rightful dues, then we must rightly discern what has happened in the case of Arbery. This was a lynching. It was an act that God hates. And so we must recognize that and we must call it by its name and speak out against it and against all such acts of injustice.”
    • Related in the abstract: How to Punish Voters (Josie Duffy Rice, New York Times): “It’s well known that voter suppression has taken the form of the closing of polling places, new restrictive voter ID laws, voter roll purges of thousands of eligible voters and nine-hour lines at the polls. But Ms. Pearson’s case is a reminder that it can also take the form of the aggressive prosecution of individual black voters for polling-place offenses — which in many cases appears motivated less by a sincere desire to address fraud than by a desire to intimidate.”
  5. Pandemic Perspectives
    • The Covid-19 Riddle: Why Does the Virus Wallop Some Places and Spare Others? (Hannah Beech, Alissa J. Rubin, Anatoly Kurmanaev and Ruth Maclean, New York Times): “The coronavirus has killed so many people in Iran that the country has resorted to mass burials, but in neighboring Iraq, the body count is fewer than 100. The Dominican Republic has reported nearly 7,600 cases of the virus. Just across the border, Haiti has recorded about 85.”
    • Coronavirus Could Disrupt Weather Forecasting (Henry Fountain, New York Times): “…data on temperature, wind and humidity from airplane flights, collected by sensors on the planes and transmitted in real time to forecasting organizations around the world, has been cut by nearly 90 percent in some regions.” I must confess I did not see that coming. At all. 
    • Google App Censoring Covid-19 Courses (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Google is a private entity. It has the right to control what goes out on its app platform. Whether Google is morally correct to exercise that right to suppress any unofficial pandemic information is a different question — and a very important one. Google owns YouTube — how long will they allow these courses to remain on YouTube?” These are courses by academics speaking within their areas of expertise.
    • Related: Who is Judy Mikovits in ‘Plandemic,’ the coronavirus conspiracy video just banned from social media? (Katie Shepherd, Washington Post): “The film is so questionable that social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo on Thursday scrubbed it from their sites. A Vimeo spokesperson, for example, said that the company ‘stands firm in keeping our platform safe from content that spreads harmful and misleading health information. The video in question has been removed … for violating these very policies.’” A friend sent me a link to her video but it was pulled down. I have no opinion about the video because I haven’t seen it. But I do have an opinion about it being pulled down. I dislike that intensely. I fear the risks of misinformation far less than I fear the risks of controlling information. 
    • A pastor in the Bronx thought he knew hardship. Then his church saw 13 coronavirus deaths. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “Promised Land, in the poorest congressional district in the nation, sees about 250 mostly African American and Latino worshipers on a normal weekend. Public housing units line the streets near the church in the Mott Haven neighborhood, where city officials estimate the poverty rate is about 44 percent.”
    • In Inner-City Black Churches: More Grief, Fewer Resources, Stronger Faith (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “Despite bearing the disproportionate impact of the outbreak, black believers have demonstrated particular spiritual endurance. In a Pew survey released last week, members of historically black churches were more likely than any other religious tradition to say their faith has been strengthened through the outbreak. More than half (56%) say their faith has become stronger, compared to 35 percent of all Christians and 24 percent of adults overall.”
    • Clinical Study Considers The Power Of Prayer To Combat COVID-19 (Tom Gjelten, NPR): “Half of the patients, randomly chosen, will receive a ‘universal’ prayer offered in five denominational forms, via Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. The other 500 patients will constitute the control group.” This study looks like a mess. How do they expect to keep the 500 in the control group from being prayed for? I am pretty sure that if you are hospitalized with Covid-19 someone is praying for you. And my theology leads me to believe those organic, heartfelt prayers offered by people who actually know the patients are going to be more significant than the “universal prayers” offered by the research participants. I expect this study will lead internet atheists to claim that all prayer has been debunked when at most it will show that scripted multifaith prayers offered on behalf of strangers do not move the heart of God. 
    • Food Banks Can’t Go On Like This (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Normally, ‘rescued’ food—items that would otherwise be thrown out as their sell-by date approaches—accounts for 97 percent of Feeding San Diego’s distributions. Until the pandemic, the group was receiving unpurchased food from 204 Starbucks locations every night of the year. Most of those stores are now closed. The organization normally gets excess food from 260 grocery stores too, but consumers have been stocking up enough lately that many shelves are picked clean.”
  6. The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (YouTube): seven moving minutes. Shared with me by a student’s father.

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 Sister… Show Mercy! (Dan Phillips, Team Pyro): “Sister, if there’s one thing you and I can certainly agree on, it’s this: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, and you don’t know what it’s like to be a man. We’re both probably wrong where we’re sure we’re right, try as we might. So let me try to dart a telegram from my camp over to the distaff side.” (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 244

Theological perspectives on the pandemic, some interesting news tidbits, the state of Stanford athletic fandom, and a good reminder that Mormonism is not a Christian denomination.

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. Christian Coronavirus Perspectives
    • Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus (N.T. Wright, Time): “Supposing real human wisdom doesn’t mean being able to string together some dodgy speculations and say, ‘So that’s all right then?’ What if, after all, there are moments such as T. S. Eliot recognized in the early 1940s, when the only advice is to wait without hope, because we’d be hoping for the wrong thing? Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament.”
      • Please remember that authors do not usually pick the headlines for their articles. In this case especially the level of mismatch between the title and the article is striking.
    • Surprised by Hopelessness: A Response to NT Wright (Andy Davis, The Gospel Coalition): “Despite what T. S. Eliot says, Christians know exactly what to hope for. We’ve been clearly instructed by God’s prophetic Word, and therefore, we should be radiant with hope—an unshakable conviction that the future is indescribably bright. The world is ‘without hope and without God’ (Eph. 2:14); so when Christians radiate hope, the world notices and is moved to ask us to give a reason for the hope within us (1 Pet. 3:15).”
    • Like the Merchants of Babylon (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “The Bible tells us that God’s dealings with mankind are often mysterious, and so we should never rush to glib explanations. But His works are not absolutely inscrutable. When Jesus rebuked the people for misreading the collapse of the tower of Siloam, and for the incident where Pilate killed the men of Galilee (Luke 13:1–5), He rebuked them, not for reading meaning into the story, but for having read the wrong meaning into the story.”
    • How An Evil Virus Points to the Crushing Weight of the Fall (David French, The Dispatch): “Last night, my wife and I were walking through our neighborhood and saw a pastor friend in his backyard. We stopped him and had a lovely conversation while maintaining proper social distancing from the sidewalk. As we shared our own burdens and stresses, he made an important observation – this moment demonstrates so clearly our need for a savior. By that, he meant far, far more than the idea that we need some of that ‘old-time religion’ before we meet our maker. No, he meant that a broken world eagerly awaits the redemption declared in Revelations 21, when the Lord declares, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”
    • The Book of Common Prayer: Prayers for Plagues and Times of Great Sickness (Richard Beck, personal blog): “Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality; that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
    • The Apocalypse as an ‘Unveiling’: What Religion Teaches Us About the End Times (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “For people of many faiths, and even none at all, it can feel lately like the end of the world is near. Not only is there a plague, but hundreds of billions of locusts are swarming East Africa. Wildfires have ravaged Australia, killing an untold number of animals. A recent earthquake in Utah even shook the Salt Lake Temple to the top of its iconic spire, causing the golden trumpet to fall from the angel Moroni’s right hand.”
  2. General Coronavirus Commentary
    • Tips from someone with 50 years of social distancing experience (Rae Ellen Bichell, Minnesota Public Radio): “Keep track of something…. In the era of COVID-19, he suggests tracking what you can — or can’t — find at the grocery store. Or, better yet, participating in some citizen science, like a project called CoCoRaHS that tracks rainfall across the country.”
    • It’s Time to Face Facts, America: Masks Work (Ferris Jabr, Wired): “The collective evidence makes a strong case for universal mask wearing during a pandemic. Masks are not a substitute for other interventions; they must always be used in combination with social distancing and hand hygiene.” Recommended by a student. 
    • The Coronavirus and the Conservative Mind (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…the supposed conservative mind is more attuned to external threat and internal contamination, more inclined to support authority and hierarchy, and fear subversion and dissent. And so the political responses to the pandemic have put these psychological theories to a very interesting test.” This is an angle that never would have occurred to me but which is obviously worth exploring. 
    • Coronavirus maps and charts show COVID-19 symptoms, spread, death rate (Business Insider): “These 22 charts and graphics lay out what you need to know as the outbreak continues to progress.” Recommended by a student.
  3. This is only marginally about the coronavirus: An inside look at the hospital going up in Central Park (Tony Carnes, A Journey Through NYC Religions): “The heart of Central Park is Bethesda Fountain, which was built to commemorate the healing power of Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda in Israel. Frederic Law Olmsted, the park’s designer, hoped that the park would provide spiritual refreshment to urban masses from their travails. Now, a Christian ministry is realizing the symbolism in the 21st Century by erecting a critical care hospital at the park’s 97th Street Transverse and Fifth Avenue…. Samaritan’s Purse medical personnel use the twenty seconds while they wash their hands to pray for each of their patients by name. It is fitting that they do that at their present location.”
    • What a heartwarming story. Who could be opposed?
    • Oh, wait. De Blasio “Very Concerned” About Anti-Gay Evangelical Group Running Central Park Coronavirus Hospital (Jake Offenhartz, The Gothamist): “Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will keep a close eye on the Christian fundamentalist group operating a field hospital in Central Park, amid growing fears that some New Yorkers could face discrimination and substandard care from the religious organization.”
    • And New Yorkers Are Right to Be Skeptical of Evangelical-Run Coronavirus Ward in Central Park (Jonathan Merrit, The Daily Beast): “The vast majority of New Yorkers are not Christian, and if they find themselves wheezing for air due to COVID-19, they don’t want to be proselytized while receiving treatment. They too have reason to be skeptical of the organization’s makeshift hospital.” 
    • Some amusing comments I saw in response, “I think they’re actually afraid that the volunteers will give away Chick-Fil‑A sandwiches” and “If the mayor had been as concerned about the coronavirus as he is about the Christians then New York would look very different today.” Ouch.
  4. Donations: From Bribery to Benevolence (Jasmine Kerber, Stanford Daily): “A spectrum exists between bribery and benevolence, and donations fall in various places along that continuum. Operation Varsity Blues highlighted the most corrupt ‘donations’; former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe, not an altruistic contribution to athletics.” Jasmine is a student in Chi Alpha.
    • I shared an article that discussed philanthropy from a different perspective back in volume 213.
  5. At least the seats are red: Why is Stanford Stadium often empty? (Stanford Daily): “As national Heisman voters did not vote for Christian McCaffrey ’18 because they could not bother to watch his games, Stanford students would not bike over to Stanford Stadium for [his] games. ‘I will never forget this,’ McCaffrey told The Athletic. ‘My sophomore year against UCLA, I had a heck of a game. I biked back to my dorm, I’m kind of on a high horse. I walk in, and six or seven people asked where I was! I think I had something like 243 yards rushing, four touchdowns. And they didn’t know where I was!’”
  6. 3 Types of Skeptics (C. Michael Patton, Credo House): “1. Those who need answers…. 2. Those who don’t like the answers…. 3. Those who need healing.”
  7. Are Mormons Christians?: A Review of “The Saints of Zion: An Introduction to Mormon Theology” (Tim Miller, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary): “He makes clear that Mormons are not Christians, but does so by pointing out that this has been the claim of the Mormon church itself throughout history (despite recent attempts to argue differently).”

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.