Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 215

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The 1619 Project (many authors, New York Times Magazine): “…[many believe] that 1776 is the year of our nation’s birth. What if, however, we were to tell you that this fact, which is taught in our schools and unanimously celebrated every Fourth of July, is wrong, and that the country’s true birth date, the moment that its defining contradictions first came into the world, was in late August of 1619? Though the exact date has been lost to history (it has come to be observed on Aug. 20), that was when a ship arrived at Point Comfort in the British colony of Virginia, bearing a cargo of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans. Their arrival inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years. This is sometimes referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the country’s very origin.” The link is to a PDF of the entire issue.
    • A positive liberal reaction: A Brief History of the History Wars (Rebecca Onion, Slate): “For the sake of our collective cardiovascular health, we would do better to recognize these skirmishes over American history—in which conservatives demand that a positive vision of our nation’s past, studded with successes, inventions, and ‘great men,’ take pride of place in our public culture—as recurrent episodes in a particular decades‐old front of the culture wars. That way, we could stop wasting our good faith on old, dead‐end conversations.”
    • A negative liberal reaction: The New York Times surrenders to the left on race (Damon Linker, The Week): “Throughout the issue of the NYTM, headlines make, with just slight variations, the same rhetorical move over and over again: ‘Here is something unpleasant, unjust, or even downright evil about life in the present‐day United States. Bet you didn’t realize that slavery is ultimately to blame.’ Lack of universal access to health care? High rates of sugar consumption? Callous treatment of incarcerated prisoners? White recording artists ‘stealing’ black music? Harsh labor practices? That’s right — all of it, and far more, follows from slavery.”
    • A complicated conservative reaction: How slavery doomed limited government in America (Philip Klein, Washington Examiner): “A number of conservatives reacted to the project by branding it as anti‐American. But I don’t think that’s fair, at least based on the lead essay I read from Nikole Hannah‐Jones. In fact, her piece is quite the opposite. Sure, it chronicles the brutality of the institution of slavery and the century of oppression, institutionalized discrimination, and racist terrorism that followed. Yet the piece is ultimately about how she reconciles that history with her patriotism and comes to understand her own father’s love of a country that treated him so poorly.”
    • A negative conservative reaction: How To Delegitimize A Nation (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “But who we imagine ourselves to be today shapes who we will become tomorrow. If The 1619 Project were merely about expanding our common understanding of the American origins, who could object? It arrives, though, in the midst of an epic culture war over who we are, and who we are going to be.”
    • Related: Black American History Should Give Evangelicals a Sense of Perspective — and Hope (David French, National Review): “If men and women have the opportunity to speak and possess the courage to tell the truth, they have hope that they can transform a nation. What was true for black Americans (including the black American church) in the most dire of circumstances is still true for contemporary Christians in far less trying times”
    • In response: In Defense Of Evangelical Cultural Pessimism (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “This, I think, is a distinction that makes a big difference re: French’s argument. You can’t cease to be black; you can cease to be Christian, or at least meaningfully Christian.” This piece is way too long but makes some good points.
  2. Don’t Use These Free‐Speech Arguments Ever Again (Ken White, The Atlantic): “If you’ve read op‐eds about free speech in America, or listened to talking heads on the news, you’ve almost certainly encountered empty, misleading, or simply false tropes about the First Amendment. Those tired tropes are barriers to serious discussions about free speech. Any useful discussion of what the law should be must be informed by an accurate view of what the law is.” White is best known under his internet alias Popehat. Recommended to me by a student.
  3. The Real Problem at Yale Is Not Free Speech (Natalia Dashan, Palladium): “The campus ‘free speech’ debate is just a side‐effect. So are debates about ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion.’ The real problems run much deeper. The real problems start with Marcus and me, and the masks we wear for each other…. In a world of masks and façades, it is hard to convey the truth. And this is how I ended up offering a sandwich to a man with hundreds of millions in a foreign bank account.” I liked this one a lot.
    • Related: ‘Luxury beliefs’ are the latest status symbol for rich Americans (Rob Henderson, New York Post): “…as trendy clothes and other products become more accessible and affordable, there is increasingly less status attached to luxury goods. The upper classes have found a clever solution to this problem: luxury beliefs. These are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class.”
  4. How Life Became an Endless, Terrible Competition (Daniel Markovits, The Atlantic): “Escaping the meritocracy trap will not be easy. Elites naturally resist policies that threaten to undermine their advantages. But it is simply not possible to get rich off your own human capital without exploiting yourself and impoverishing your inner life, and meritocrats who hope to have their cake and eat it too deceive themselves.” The author is a Yale law professor. I found his diagnosis more persuasive than his prognosis.
  5. The Coming Migration out of Sub‐Saharan Africa (Christopher Caldwell, National Review): “The population pressures emanating from the Middle East in recent decades, already sufficient to drive the European political system into convulsions, are going to pale beside those from sub‐Saharan Africa in decades to come.” Fascinating.
  6. Why Niceness Weakens Our Witness (Sharon Hodde Miller, Christianity Today): “We exist in a world that swings between sweetness and outrage, two behaviors that seem to be at odds with one another. In reality, they are two sides of the same coin: a lack of spiritual formation. When our civility isn’t rooted in something sturdy and deep, when our good behavior isn’t springing from the core of who we are but is instead merely a mask we put on, it is only a matter of time before the façade crumbles away and our true state is revealed: an entire generation of people who are really good at looking good.” I agree with the substance of this article, but the title bothers me. 
  7. Fact‐Checking Satire — Is Snopes Serious? (Bill Zeiser, RealClearPolitics): “the Bee’s founder and minority owner, Adam Ford, took particular exception to the tone of the Snopes assessment. In a lengthy Twitter thread, he called Snopes’ handling of the piece on Thomas ‘particularly egregious’ and ‘disturbing.’ He pointed to a subtitle that castigated the Bee for ‘fanning the flames of controversy’ and ‘muddying the details of a news story’ to the point that it was unclear if the piece qualified as satire. Ford complained that throughout the Snopes story, supposedly an ‘objective fact check,’ the assessment ‘veered towards pronouncing a moral judgment,’ seemingly accusing the satirical site of willful deception. It is certainly understandable how Ford could feel this way: Snopes referred to the Bee’s ‘ruse’ and offered that ‘the Babylon Bee has managed to fool readers with its brand of satire in the past.’”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How the State Serves Both Salvation and Religious Freedom (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “Two basic kinds of governments, then, show up in the Bible: those that shelter God’s people, and those that destroy them. Abimelech sheltered; Pharoah destroyed. The Assyrians destroyed; the Babylonians and Persians, ultimately, sheltered. Pilate destroyed; Festus sheltered. And depending on how you read Revelation, the history of government will culminate in a beastly slaughter of saintly blood. Romans 13 calls governments servants; Psalm 2 calls them imposters. Most governments contain both. But some are better than others.” First shared in volume 165

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 150

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 Criminal Gang Used a Drone Swarm To Obstruct an FBI Hostage Raid (Patrick Tucker, Defense One): “Nefarious use of drones is likely to get worse before it gets better, according to several government officials who spoke on the panel. There is no easy or quick technological solution.” Fascinating stuff.
  2. The Sharp Sting of the Babylon Bee (Mark Hemingway, The Weekly Standard): “It’s safe to say that thus far, to the extent it has noticed, secular America is confounded by the success of the Babylon Bee.
  3. The Sexual Revolution’s Angry Children (Kay Hymowitz, City Journal): “What [older feminists] don’t factor into their judgment is that they benefited from the lingering cultural capital of earlier, more mannerly generations. Long‐established courtship norms don’t disappear overnight, after all…. The sexual revolution stripped young women of the social support they need to play gatekeeper, just as it deprived men of a positive vision, or even a reason, for self‐restraint. Recognizing those losses is where any reformation has to start.”
  4. Additional thoughts on the tragedy of Alfie Evans:
    • King Solomon, The False Mother, and Alfie Evans (Devorah Goldman, The Public Discourse): “Like King Solomon, the courts in England were presented with a straightforward question: To whom does this child belong? To Solomon, the true parent was unquestionably the one willing to sacrifice for the child, to safeguard his life even at the expense of never seeing him again.” 🔥 🔥 🔥
    • A more temperate, insightful argument: The Alfie Evans case shows liberal individualism has gone too far (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “[This case illustrates] the danger of letting the centuries‐long progress of liberal individualism go too far in breaking open the family and assigning its functions to the state… After all, the irrational, overpowering love of parent for child is the only reason most of us are alive, despite having spent the first years of our life vomiting, soiling ourselves and destroying everything we could reach. If that love can see us to a healthy adulthood, it can probably see us to a decent death.”
    • Alfie Evans and the Experts (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…a decent society allows families leeway to defy medical consensus: not only for the sake of parental rights and religious beliefs, not only because biases around race and class and faith creep into medical decision‐making, but also because in hard cases the official medical consensus often doesn’t come close to grasping all the possibilities, and letting people go their own way is often the only way to discover where it’s wrong.”
  5. The Redistribution of Sex (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…our widespread isolation and unhappiness and sterility might be dealt with by reviving or adapting older ideas about the virtues of monogamy and chastity and permanence and the special respect owed to the celibate. But this is not the natural response for a society like ours. Instead we tend to look for fixes that seem to build on previous revolutions, rather than reverse them.” An excellent follow‐up to last week’s bullet point 7.
  6. Three articles about evangelicals and politics:
    • The Preacher And Politics: Seven Thoughts (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “I have plenty of opinions and convictions. But that’s not what I want my ministry to be about. That’s not to say I don’t comment on abortion or gay marriage or racism or other issues about the which the Bible speaks clearly. And yet, I’m always mindful that I can’t separate Blogger Kevin or Twitter Kevin or Professor Kevin from Pastor Kevin. As such, my comments reflect on my church, whether I intend them to or not. That means I keep more political convictions to myself than I otherwise would.” I agree with Kevin’s seven points to an almost shocking extent. We’ve never met but it’s like we had a long, rambling conversation and both came to the same conclusions.
    • Trump’s latest appeal to evangelicals: a new office to protect religious liberty (Tara Isabella Burton, Vox): “Trump’s initiative seems to expand previous offices’ remit in a number of ways. For starters, the office isn’t just focusing on community‐based or charitable initiatives. According to the Religion News Service, it’s also charged with informing the administration of ‘any failures of the executive branch to comply with religious liberty protections under law.’ The Trump administration has consistently been a champion of religious liberty, particularly insofar as it pertains to evangelical Christian causes…. The reach of this office also seems broader than its predecessors. Unlike in other administrations, the office will work with all government agencies, even those without department‐specific faith‐based initiatives.”
    • An Open Letter to Trump’s Evangelical Defenders (David French, National Review): “We are not told that the ends of good policies justify silence in the face of sin. Indeed — and this message goes out specifically to the politicians and pundits who go on television and say things they do not believe (you know who you are) to protect this administration and to preserve their presence in the halls of the power — there is specific scripture that applies to you: ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!’”
  7. What Democrats Don’t Understand About Consumers (Morgan Ortagus & Christos Makridis, Fox Business): yup. That’s our own Christos. Here’s the part that stood out the most to me: “Christos Makridis is a PhD candidate at Stanford University, a Digital Fellow at the MIT Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy, and a non‐resident fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Cyber Security Initiative.” WHAAAT? If you didn’t catch that, he’s concurrently connected to Stanford, Harvard, and MIT.

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 Everything That’s Wrong Of Raccoons (Mallory Ortberg, The Toast): “Once when my dog died a passel of raccoons showed up in the backyard as if to say ‘Now that he’s gone, we own the night,’ and they didn’t flinch when I yelled at them, and I found it disrespectful to 1) me personally and 2) the entire flow of the food chain. Don’t disrespect me if you can’t eat me, you false‐night‐dogs.” (first shared in volume 97)

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.