Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 187

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. Emotions Make Terrible Gods (Greg Morse, Desiring God): “We live in an emoji world where self-expression and ‘being the true you’ hold highest priority — no one can tell us how to feel…. In all, the assumption stands: you are your emotions — for better or worse. To repress them is to repress yourself.”
  2. ‘I Was a TSA Agent, and You Fed Me’ (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “But churches, as they join in prayer for a legislative solution, have also stepped up to support community members affected by the budgeting stalemate. Here are 10 places where Christians are reaching out to love their furloughed and unpaid neighbors…” This is an inspiring list. I am struck by both the geographic and the denominational diversity. The extent to which churches bless their communities is difficult to overstate.
  3. Is Big Tech Merging With Big Brother? Kinda Looks Like It (David Samuels, Wired): “A national or global surveillance network that uses beneficent algorithms to reshape human thoughts and actions in ways that elites believe to be just or beneficial to all mankind is hardly the road to a new Eden. It’s the road to a prison camp.”
  4. Death on demand: has euthanasia gone too far? (Christopher de Bellaigue, Guardian): “Altogether, well over a quarter of all deaths in 2017 in the Netherlands were induced.… suicide leaves scars on friends and family that may never heal. But suicide is an individual act, self-motivated and self-administered, and its force field is contained. Euthanasia, by contrast, is the product of society. When it goes wrong, it goes wrong for everyone.” In case you’re reading quickly, read that first sentence again. Over 25%!
  5. The Gay Church (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “A church that, since 2005, bans priests with ‘deep-seated homosexual tendencies’ and officially teaches that gay men are ‘objectively disordered’ and inherently disposed toward ‘intrinsic moral evil’ is actually composed, in ways very few other institutions are, of gay men.” I find his lack of engagement with Scripture and focus on church history striking and very Catholic.
  6. A lot of articles about the dustup at the March for Life. I find polarizing situations like this fascinating and frequently revealing.
    • The Media Botched the Covington Catholic Story (Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic): “Among other things, journalistic ethics held that if you didn’t have the reporting to support a story, and if that story had the potential to hurt its subjects, and if those subjects were private citizens, and if they were moreover minors, you didn’t run the story. You kept reporting it; you let yourself get scooped; and you accepted that speed is not the highest value. Otherwise, you were the trash press.” This piece is brutal. If you only read one of the articles in this section, make it this one.
    • For an example of a harsher perspective: Why do the Covington Catholic kids get the benefit of the doubt? (Laura Turner, Religion News Service): “There’s no virtue in rushing to get in a hot take! But neither is there in ignoring clear evidence of racism and cruelty. As new accounts and new videos of the incident emerged, more stayed the same than changed: Sandmann’s simpering expression remained, as did his immovable opposition to Phillips. (In his ‘Today’ show interview, Sandmann says he now wishes he ‘could’ve walked away and avoided the whole thing.’ The use of ‘could’ve’ is doing a lot of work there — he always could have chosen to walk away. He chose not to.)”
    • The Covington Scissor (Ross Douthat, NY Times): “To understand what makes this incident so brilliant in its divisiveness, you need to see the tapestry in full, how each constituent element (abortion, race, MAGA, white boys, Catholicism, Native American ritual) automatically confirms priors on both sides of our divide. And you also need to see how the video itself, far from being a means to achieving consensus, is an amazing accelerant of controversy…” Douthat’s op-ed is inspired by the short story Sort By Controversial (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex). It’s an easy read and I recommend it.
    • Another perspective less sympathetic to the boys: The real politics behind the Covington Catholic controversy, explained (Zack Beauchamp, Vox): “The argument here is not that it’s wrong to care about the Covington students per se. Rather, it’s a kind of disgust at the hypocrisy on display: Conservatives and the mainstream media don’t, in the left-liberal view, ever display the same levels of concern for minority kids accused of actual crimes. All the sympathy being extended to these kids, all the benefit of the doubt, reflects the ability of the privileged to command a level of sympathy that the less privileged lack.”
    • Covington isn’t about facts, but about identity politics. Nick Sandmann committed ‘facecrime’ (Tucker Carlson, Fox News): “People’s views evolve over time. Political divisions can heal and often do. But fights over identity do not; they are different. Identity does not change. It can’t be moderated or controlled. It’s inherent. We’re born that way. When we go to war over who we are, it’s a permanent battle. It is a disaster that lasts for generations. Identity politics will destroy this country faster than a foreign invasion.”
    • The Abyss of Hate Versus Hate (Andrew Sullivan, NY Magazine): “To put it bluntly: They were 16-year-olds subjected to verbal racist assault by grown men; and then the kids were accused of being bigots. It just beggars belief that the same liberals who fret about ‘micro-aggressions’ for 20-somethings were able to see 16-year-olds absorbing the worst racist garbage from religious bigots … and then express the desire to punch the kids in the face…. this is what will inevitably happen once you’ve redefined racism or sexism to mean prejudice plus power. ”
  7. US missionary who engaged with reclusive Brazilian tribe could be charged with genocide (Phoebe Loomes, NZ Herald): “Campbell has claimed that he made the expedition to the remote region at the request of the Jamamadi people, who he is in contact with, as they wanted to learn to use GPS navigators. During this expedition he encountered the isolated Hi-Merimã tribe. For this, Brazilian officials say Campbell could be charged with a slew of offences, including genocide.“
    • Genocide seems much too strong a term for a situation in which no one is known to have died or even so much as sneezed. Maybe the word translated as genocide is broader in Portuguese?
    • Helpful context: Brazil Investigates If US Missionary Encroached on Isolated Amazon Tribe (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “Ribeiro shared concerns about indigenous people receiving assistance from groups appointed by the government, since they rarely stay in a community long enough to build relationships and learn the language. Meanwhile, she says field missionaries often bring high levels of technical training—from anthropology to nursing—while committing to serve for an extended amount of time.”

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 This Is What Makes Republicans and Democrats So Different (Vox, Ezra Klein): the title made me skeptical, but there are some good insights in this article (first shared in volume 32 back in 2016).

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 149

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 Ugly Coded Critique of Chick-Fil-A’s Christianity (Stephen Carter, Bloomberg View): “A few years ago, a well-known progressive commentator mused to his large Twitter following that sometimes he wishes all the Christians would just disappear. I would like to believe he was simply too uninformed to realize that he was wishing for a whiter world.” This article makes an important point that you may find useful in campus discussions. It is in response to the very odd Chick-Fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration Of New York City (Dan Piepenbring, New Yorker). Recommended to me by an alumnus.
  2. Church Of The Donald (Ruth Graham, Politico): “Trump personally has appeared 11 times on CBN since his campaign began; in 2017 alone, he gave more interviews to CBN than to CNN, ABC or CBS…. Christian broadcasters offer an unmediated channel to the living rooms of a remarkably wide swath of American believers, an audience more politically and racially diverse than you might expect. TBN alone has more local stations to its name than Fox or the three major networks.” Insightful and recommended.
  3. When the Rohingya Came, This Christian Hospital Was Ready (Sarah Eekhof Zylstra, Christianity Today): this is a gripping story and difficult to excerpt. Wow.
  4. Alfie Evans and Our Moral Crossroads (Charles Camosy, First Things): “Alfie Evans’s death is being aimed by the very people whose vocation it is to help and protect him. The difference in Alfie’s case is that, because he has continued to breathe, the pretense of ‘removal of burdensome treatment’ is patently absurd. In a situation that was no doubt distressing to those who hoped he would die, Alfie’s continuing to breathe has clarified the true object of the act of removing his ventilator.” The more I read about this case the angrier I become.
  5. Alan Jacobs: a Christian intellectual for the internet age (David J. Michael, America): “…he was publishing scholarly work within his field but was increasingly devoting time to writing essays and theological pieces for Christian magazines and journals. Switching back and forth could be disorienting, and he spent several years debating and praying about which audience he should focus on. ‘At one point, I just had an epiphany: You don’t get to choose.You’re gonna have to write for your scholarly peers, and you’re gonna have to write for your fellow Christians because you have things to say to both audiences. So, that means, you gotta learn to code switch.’” I am a big fan of Alan Jacobs’ writing.
  6. Dear Humanities Profs: We Are The Problem (Eric Bennett, Chronicle of Higher Education): “Three generations ago, literature professors exchanged a rigorously defined sphere of expertise, to which they could speak with authority, for a much wider field to which they could speak with virtually no power at all…. Literature professors have affected America more by sleeping in its downtown hotels and eating in its fast-food restaurants than by telling one another where real prospects for freedom lay. ” Oof. That’s a solid blow, right there. The author is an English professor at Providence College.
  7. Uncanny Vulvas (Diana Fleischman, Jacobite Magazine): “Video games and social media already undermine the native psychological mechanisms that make us work towards status — they supply more immediate rewards and take far less effort than anything we work towards out in the real world. Sex robots are only going to make that worse, especially for young men.” Definitely not a Christian article. From a somewhat related Christian standpoint: The Economics of Sexual Purity (Douglas Wilson, personal blog).

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).

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 77

1 Chronicles 12:32 - they "understood the times"
1 Chronicles 12:32 — they “understood the times”

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. White Christian Apocalypse? (Philip Jenkins, The American Conservative): Jenkins is a well-known historian. “On one critical issue, though, contemporary debate and theorizing really is trespassing on my areas of expertise.” Jenkins unpacks some long-term trends and their implications for America’s demographic destiny.
  2. The End of Identity Liberalism (Mark Lilla, NY Times): One of the more insightful things I’ve read lately. It’s inspired by the recent election, but is about something much broader — some intrinsic weaknesses of identity politics. For a very strong reaction against it, read Making White Supremacy Respectable. Again. (Katherine Franke, LA Review of Books). Both authors are professors at Columbia, which will no doubt make for tense times in the faculty lounge.
  3. Yes, Trump will build his border wall. Most of it is already built. (Peter Andreas, Washington Post): “It is important to remember that Trump’s predecessors carefully avoided calling any new border barriers a ‘wall.’” Wow. I did not realize how much of the southern border is already barricaded. It would be helpful if reporters periodically brought this fact up for context.
  4. Trying To Think Through The Logic Of Abortion Rights (Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition): Taylor summarizes the arguments of two philosophy professors. For me, meditating on Luke 1:39–45 has been important when thinking about abortion. 
  5. Everyone should have the right to assisted suicide — or no one should (Felicia Nimue Ackerman, Vox): “a society that ‘pathologizes’ suicidal feelings of indignity and degradation in rape victims while endorsing them in the terminally ill is, I contend, engaging in a horrifying, odious form of bigotry.” The author is a philosophy professor at Brown.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it).

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

Archives at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 56

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues, with a preference for content from academics and influential voices. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom.

Articles I Found Interesting

  1. Your Unchurched Friends Want to Know About Your Faith (Bob Smietana, Christianity Today):  “Almost half [of unchurched Americans] say they discuss religion freely if the topic comes up (47%). A third say they listen without responding (31%), while 11 percent change the subject. Only about a third say someone has explained the benefits of being a Christian to them (35%).”
  2. Obergefell and the New Gnosticism (Sherif Girgis, First Things): “For decades, the Sexual Revolution was supposed to be about freedom. Today, it is about coercion. Once, it sought to free our sexual choices from restrictive laws and unwanted consequences. Now, it seeks to free our sexual choices from other people’s disapproval.” Sherif has spoken for Chi Alpha before.
  3. As a Psychiatrist I Diagnose Mental Illness. And, Sometimes, Demonic Possession (Richard Gallagher, Washington Post): “Questions about how a scientifically trained physician can believe ‘such outdated and unscientific nonsense,’ as I’ve been asked, have a simple answer. I honestly weigh the evidence.”
  4. Most American Christians Believe They’re Victims of Discrimination (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “Almost half of Americans say discrimination against Christians is as big of a problem as discrimination against other groups, including blacks and minorities.”
  5. Nine Prayers For The Not-Yet-Married (Marshall Segal, Desiring God): recommended by a student, relevant to many of you.
  6. Man Seeks Euthanasia To End His Sexuality Struggle (Jonathan Blake, BBC): sanctioning euthanasia is unwise and leads to unexpected outcomes. For a theological argument see Is There No Moral Law? (Douglas Farrow, First Things).
  7. Russia’s Proposed Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “To share their faith, citizens must secure a government permit through a registered religious organization, and they cannot evangelize anywhere besides churches and other religious sites. The restrictions even apply to activity in private residences and online.
  8. Some more on Brexit:
    • Why Brexit Happened And What It Means (Tyler Cowen): “The actual practical problems with immigration are much greater here in Brussels, but the country is much further from ‘doing anything about it,’ whether prudently or not, and indeed to this day Belgium is not actually a mature nation-state and it may splinter yet.  That England did something is one reflection of the fact that England is a better-run region than Belgium, even if you feel as I do that the vote was a big mistake…. Most of all, I conclude that the desire to preserve the English nation [sic] as English is stronger than I or indeed most others had thought.  There is a positive side to that.  And if all along you thought there was no case for Leave, probably it is you who is the provincial one.” Oddly, the [sic] is in the original.
    • A great piece from shortly before the vote: Reflections Of A Referendum Fence-Sitter (David Goodhart, Prospect Magazine)
    • An interesting piece on the theology of Brexit: For hard-line Protestants, leaving Europe is a matter of eschatology (“Erasmus”, The Economist)

Interesting Research Findings

  • Why People With No Religion Are Projected To Decline As A Share Of The World’s Population (Michael Lipka, Pew Research): “These projections, which take into account demographic factors such as fertility, age composition and life expectancy, forecast that people with no religion will make up about 13% of the world’s population in 2050, down from roughly 16% as of 2010.”
  • The Data On Children In Same-Sex Households Get More Depressing (Mark Regnerus, Public Discourse): “…during adolescence the children of same-sex parents reported marginally less depression than the children of opposite-sex parents. But by the time the survey was in its fourth wave—when the kids had become young adults between the ages of 24 and 32—their experiences had reversed. Indeed, dramatically so: over half of the young-adult children of same-sex parents report ongoing depression, a surge of 33 percentage points (from 18 to 51 percent of the total). Meanwhile, depression among the young-adult children of opposite-sex parents had declined from 22 percent of them down to just under 20 percent. A few other findings are worth mentioning as well. Obesity surged among both groups, but the differences became significant over time, with 31 percent obesity among young-adult children of opposite-sex parents, well below the 72 percent of those from same-sex households.”
  • Church Attendance Linked With Reduced Suicide Risk, Especially For Catholics, Study Says (Melissa Healy, LA Times): “Compared with women who never participated in religious services, women who attended any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide between 1996 and 2010, says a study published Wednesday by JAMA Psychiatry.” See the underlying study in JAMA Psychiatry.
  • Researchers Have Found That War Has A Remarkable and Miraculous Effect (Jeff Guo, Wonkblog): “the experience of wartime violence somehow changes people for the better, making them more cooperative and more trusting.”
  • Concrete Problems in AI Safety (multiple impressive authors, arXiv.org): CS people please read this, especially in conjunction with AI Downs Fighter Pilot.

A Quote To Ponder

“Being part of community takes time and involves restrictions. Merely having an identity doesn’t. In our cultural emphasis and life, we’ve gone from a community focus to an identity focus.” David Brooks (source)

Something Amusing To End On

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it).

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

If you have a non-Stanford friend who might be interested in these emails, they can sign up at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/subscribe, and if you want to view the archives they are at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links.