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
- How to Witness to a Distracted World (O. Alan Noble, Christianity Today): “Let me give you a scenario. I believe it’s entirely possible today to sit down with a non‐believing friend and have a passionate, lengthy conversation about the gospel and never plant a seed deeply. Because as soon as you both rise from the table, he pulls out his phone and checks Facebook or responds to a text from his wife…. It was all a kind of rhetorical dance or game that we play. And the primary purpose of the dance is not to win over the other person but to define your identity. The game is called expressive individualism. And most of us play it.”
- A Global Guide To State‐Sponsored Trolling (Michael Riley, Lauren Etter, and Bibhudatta Pradhan, Bloomberg): “‘People sometimes worry that Azerbaijan will shut down Facebook,’ said Katy Pearce, a communications professor at the University of Washington who has studied the platform’s use in that country. ‘Why would it? Facebook is the most effective tool of control the government has.’”
- Housing Costs Reduce The Returns To Education (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “The return to education, for example, has increased in the United States but it’s less well appreciated that in order to earn high wages college educated workers must increasingly live in expensive cities. One consequence is that the net college wage premium is not as large as it appears and inequality has been over‐estimated.”
- The many deaths of liberalism (Daniel Cole and Aurelian Craiutu, Aeon): “The problem for anyone declaring the death of liberalism is that it has not one but several pillars and dimensions: legal, political, economic and moral (or religious). The weakening or disappearance of one or two liberal pillars or tenets would not be enough to declare liberalism as a whole dead.”
- Epistocracy: a political theorist’s case for letting only the informed vote (Sean Illing interviewing Jason Brennan, Vox): “I like to say I’m a fan of democracy, and I’m also a fan of Iron Maiden, but I think Iron Maiden has quite a few albums that are terrible — and I think democracy is kind of like this. It’s great, it’s the best system we have so far, but we shouldn’t accept that it can’t be improved.” The title is inaccurate — Brennan goes so far as to favor extending the right to vote to children.
- The Trump Administration Convenes the ‘Super Bowl’ of Religious Freedom (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “This ministerial, which is really just a fancy word for ‘big meeting,’ could be interpreted as the unveiling of an element of the Trump administration’s foreign‐policy strategy. For the last three days, delegations from around the world have gathered to hear victims of religious persecution share their stories. American officials have declared in no uncertain terms that they believe the United States should evangelize religious liberty around the world, and that democracy is built on a foundation of freedom in faith.”
- Related: Pence and Pompeo Make Big Religious Freedom Pledges (Morgan Lee, Christianity Today): “The Vice President called out countries across the globe, starting with Nicaragua where he accused the Ortega administration of ‘virtually waging war on the Catholic Church.’ He condemned China’s persecution of its Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims, and Christians, as well as the actions of its authoritarian neighbor: North Korea…. Pence also called out Iran. While acknowledging that its Christians, Jews, and Baha’i are all persecuted by its Shia government, he specifically singled out its Sunni Kurd population…. Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have been subject to intense persecution in recent years, were also recognized by Pence…. The Vice President also called for an end to anti‐Semitic attacks in Western Europe.”
- Related: Turkey Lets Andrew Brunson Leave Prison (Christianity Today)
- Related: The World’s Next Religious Freedom Success Story: Uzbekistan? (Christianity Today): “‘That [panel was] different than anything you’ve ever heard from almost any place in the former Soviet Union,’ said Chris Seiple, president emeritus of the Institute for Global Engagement, who organized the panel and will lead a delegation to Uzbekistan this fall. ‘… They’re institutionalizing the process of change. That’s the key. The process is the goal.’”
- Is There Recourse When Fact Checkers Get It Wrong? (Kalev Leetaru, RealClearPolitics): “In short, through the business decision of a single Silicon Valley corporation, fact checkers have been elevated from helpful reference librarians into a position of ultimate arbitrator of truth in our online world, without the attendant checks and balances to mitigate abuse.”
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- A college student on Penn & Teller (YouTube)
- College Mathematics (SMBC)
- Peer Review (xkcd)
- Why Is Google Translate Spitting Out Sinister Religious Prophecies? (Jon Christian, Vice): “the languages that generate the strangest results—Somali, Hawaiian and Maori—have smaller bodies of translated text than more widely spoken languages like English or Chinese. As a result, he said, it’s possible that Google used religious texts like the Bible, which has been translated into many languages, to train its model in those languages, resulting in the religious content.”
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have No Food Is Healthy. Not Even Kale. (Michael Ruhlman, Washington Post): People can be healthy. Food can be nutritious. This is a wonderful essay about how we misuse language to our detriment. If you’re surprised I included this, I believe that our culture has a quasi‐religious relationship to health and to food, and I also believe that the use of language is profoundly moral and that our culture is a linguistic mess (to which I know of no finer guide than The Underground Grammarian). (first shared in volume 33)
Why Do You Send This Email?
In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.
Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it).
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.