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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 243

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. Recovering Friendship (Devorah Goldman, Public Discourse): “And then you go at it, hammer and tongs, far into the night, night after night; or walking through fine country that neither gives a glance to, each learning the weight of the other’s punches, and often more like mutually respectful enemies than friends. Actually (though it never seems so at the time) you modify one another’s thought; out of this perpetual dogfight a community of mind and a deep affection emerge.”
  2. In God We Divide (Thomas Edsall, New York Times): “The more religiously engaged a white voter is, the more likely he or she will be a Republican; the less religious the voter, the more likely to be a Democrat. But, as we shall see it’s not that simple: The deeper you go, the more complex it gets.”
    • Note the adjective “white” in the first sentence — almost all discussion about the politics of religious people focuses on white voters. The piece later acknowledges voters of color but doesn’t explore how their faith influences their votes. Instead non-white evangelicals are usually treated as though faith is irrelevant to their political views, which is absurd. All that to say: the article has interesting insights but bear in mind its crippling limitation.
  3. Is Joshua’s Altar on Mount Ebal in Israel Myth? Or Reality? (Ralph Hawkins, Logos): “When I was working on my doctoral dissertation about the Ebal site, I spent a week with Zertal. One morning while we were driving to the site, he told me his critics had accused him of trying to prove the Bible. They said he imposed a cultic interpretation onto the stone structure he had found. He explained, though, that he had been born and raised in Ein Shemer, Israeli kibbutz that was affiliated with a secular movement. He said he had grown up believing that the Bible was full of myths. When he did his graduate work in archaeology, he did it at Tel Aviv, the most liberal university in Israel, where those views were reinforced. He insisted he had not embarked on his excavation at Mount Ebal in order to prove the Bible. What he found there, however, had a profound effect on him. He said, ‘I became a believer at Mount Ebal.’”
    • I love stories like this. Archaeology and the Bible is fascinating to me.
  4. Christianity & Coronavirus
    • When Corona Makes Us More Like The New Testament (Andrew Wilson, Think Theology): “In a number of curious ways, the Coronavirus outbreak is making us more like the New Testament church.” See also Sam Allberry’s Twitter thread about God’s Purposes In Pandemic. It reminds me of Numbers 11:18–20.
    • Coronavirus, Courage, and the Second Temptation of Christ (David French, The Dispatch): “Shun performative recklessness. Do not presume that our faith makes us immune to the laws of biology and viral transmission. At the same time, believers should not shrink from purposeful and sacrificial personal risk. There may come a time when you must care for those who are sick. Do so without reservation, but do so prudently with the knowledge that you should not impute your risks to others.”
    • Canceled Mission Trips Expected to Have Long-Term Fallout (David Roach, Christianity Today): “Approximately 20 percent of all US-based international mission work each year is done by short-term volunteers, according to an analysis by sociologist of religion Robert Wuthnow. That translates to 1.6 million US church members annually going on international mission trips and doing work valued at $1.1 billion (not counting preparation time and travel days).”
    • Church as a Non-Essential Service (Matthew Schmitz, First Things): “Judging by the response of many religious leaders, church is a non-essential service. We are capable of taking prudent measures to keep our supermarkets open, but not our sanctuaries. Coronavirus has shown what we value. In Pennsylvania, beer distributors are deemed essential. In San Francisco and New York, cannabis dispensaries are.” This is actually a contribution to an online dustup but I find it more interesting than the dispute itself.
    • Digital Communion: History, Theology, and Practices (John Dyer, personal blog): “A few weeks ago, I posted a graphic that attempts to show that the elements of a service that are transactional or broadcast oriented are usually the easiest to move online, but the relational parts of church are often the most challenging—and most overlooked—elements of digital church.”
    • In Leviticus, an unexpected lesson in surviving quarantine (Rachel Sharansky Danziger, Forward): “Before, I could never understand why we should learn in so much detail about every little ritual in the Tabernacle, and who does what, and when. Now, as I work hard to make our newly claustrophobic home into a place of calm and productivity, I understand the book’s insistence on such details.” A Jewish perspective.
  5. General Coronavirus Commentary
    • That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief (Scott Berinato, Harvard Business Review): “There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, ‘I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,’ or ‘I cried last night.’ When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.”
      • Pastoral aside: this is (some of) you. Paula and I have both talked to people who have been mourning without realizing what they were doing. You are grieving. A few days ago I uploaded a two-minute video reflecting on Psalm 137:1 which touches on this.
    • Leisure in a Time of Coronavirus (Nathan Schlueter, Public Discourse): “Schools are closed. Sports and music lessons are cancelled. Everyone is at home. What are you going to do? Instead of allowing coronavirus control your life, why not plan for leisure? Use this time to do the things you are always wishing you had the time to do—or do better. Now you have that time, so do those things.”
    • Face Masks: Much More Than You Wanted To Know (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Some people with swine flu travelled on a plane from New York to China, and many fellow passengers got infected. Some researchers looked at whether passengers who wore masks throughout the flight stayed healthier. The answer was very much yes. They were able to track down 9 people who got sick on the flight and 32 who didn’t. 0% of the sick passengers wore masks, compared to 47% of the healthy passengers. Another way to look at that is that 0% of mask-wearers got sick, but 35% of non-wearers did. This was a significant difference, and of obvious applicability to the current question.”
    • The Fog of Pandemic (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic): “The U.S. is fighting a war with extreme uncertainties. It may be weeks before we know whether we are flattening the coronavirus curve, and months before we know what kind of economy we’ll have in the second half of this year.”
    • When can we let up? Exploring how to relax coronavirus lockdowns (Stat News): “The approach getting the most support is one that experts have long doubted could work with a respiratory virus: aggressive case finding, contact tracing, community surveillance, isolation of cases, and quarantining of contacts. Both Singapore and South Korea used that, allowing them to make tactical decisions about schools (mostly open in both countries) and public movement, sparing them from shutting down to the extent that the U.S. and many countries in Europe have.”
    • Coronavirus Pandemic: We Need the Skeptics (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “When a bad thing happens to a good person, we are tempted to rage at God. When innumerable bad things happen to half of everyone we know, we rage at each other.”
    • On Coronavirus, Reason To Hope (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): This week we saw FDA approval of new testing systems from Roche and from Abbott labs that run tests ten times faster than current methods. To give you an idea of what this means, Roche brags that their Cobas 8800 machine can process over 3000 tests per day. Until today, Louisiana hadn’t had a total of 3000 people tested. Roche is now making and shipping 400,000 test kits per week in the US, while Abbott is making a million of their test kits each week. Those systems will be coming online this coming week…. And there are more companies in the process of getting approval. In two weeks, we should be able to test 150,000 – 200,000 Americans daily, and that means that we don’t all need to stay home anymore.”
      • You can see the number of tests administered so far at The COVID Tracking Project — this is one of the best indicators to keep an eye on because it determines the reliability of every other statistic.
    • The World After Coronavirus (Yuval Noah Harari, Financial Times): “But temporary measures have a nasty habit of outlasting emergencies, especially as there is always a new emergency lurking on the horizon. My home country of Israel, for example, declared a state of emergency during its 1948 War of Independence, which justified a range of temporary measures from press censorship and land confiscation to special regulations for making pudding (I kid you not). The War of Independence has long been won, but Israel never declared the emergency over, and has failed to abolish many of the ‘temporary’ measures of 1948 (the emergency pudding decree was mercifully abolished in 2011).”
    • Safety Protocols and Zones of Quarantine (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “In other words, this part of the virus response should transition to a health and safety regulatory concern that is important, but handled like most of the others. For example, poor food hygiene can also kill you, but governments generally don’t respond by deciding which cuisines are essential and which are not. Rather, anyone willing to follow the safety rules can put up any menu they want. So it should be for economic activities of all kinds.”

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 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.” First shared in volume 150

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 242

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.

A lot of links this week. Can you tell I’m on lockdown in the Bay Area? Since some of you are, too, you’ll have time to read them! 😂

Kidding aside, I never assume anyone reads all of these. Skim the links and open the ones that interest you in new tabs, but be sure to open all the amusing stuff at the end — you need it.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Pandemic Visualizers:
  2. Christian Pandemic Perspectives:
    • The Emotional Impact Of Campus Closures (Michele Phoenix, personal blog): “There are few things in life as predictable as one’s college trajectory. From the dreaded freshman-fifteen to changes in academic majors or finding out last minute that you’re two credits short… It all plays out according to an established timeline. Then comes a virus that upends everything and predictability—one of the primary stabilizing factors of our lives—suddenly morphs into a whirlwind of shifting unknowns.”
      • Related: Unfinished narratives (Jessica de la Paz, Stanford Daily): “Everyday there’s another email, and with every email another string of hope we wear hanging around our necks is yanked off, and we’re left with a red impression of where it once was. My immigrant parents who fought tooth and nail for me and my brothers won’t get to see me walk across the stage to get my diploma. There will be no photos or laughter-filled reception.” Jessica is a Chi Alpha student. She is also quoted in this Wall Street Journal article: To Fight Coronavirus, Colleges Sent Students Home. Now Will They Refund Tuition?
    • In Coronavirus Pandemic, Christianity Has Ancient Lessons (Lyman Stone, Foreign Policy): “The modern world has suddenly become reacquainted with the oldest traveling companion of human history: existential dread and the fear of unavoidable, inscrutable death. No vaccine or antibiotic will save us for the time being. Because this experience has become foreign to modern people, we are, by and large, psychologically and culturally underequipped for the current coronavirus pandemic.” Side note: I have very much enjoyed the author on Twitter.
    • Responding to Pandemics: 4 Lessons from Church History (Glen Scrivener, Gospel Coalition): “Plagues intensify the natural course of life. They intensify our own sense of mortality and frailty. They also intensify opportunities to display countercultural, counterconditional love. The church rose to the challenge in the second century, winning both admirers and also converts.” Highly recommended. A longer version is available as a 45 minute YouTube video (which, full confession, I have not watched). 
    • Theological Reflections on the Pandemic (Brian Tabb, Gospel Coalition): “All people—rich and poor, young and old, religious and non-religious—are susceptible to sickness and are certain to die one day. Yet for followers of Jesus, sickness tests our faith, reveals our hope, and moves us to be zealous for good works.”
    • Plague and Providence: What Huldrych Zwingli Taught Me About Trusting God (Stephen Eccher, Gospel Coalition): “I first came across Huldrych Zwingli’s ‘Plague Song’ while studying the Protestant Reformation at the University of St. Andrews: ‘Help, Lord God, help in this trouble! I think death is at the door. Stand before me, Christ, for you have overcome him.’”
    • Does Religion Impact What People Are Afraid Of? (Ryan P. Burge, Religion in Public): “Among Protestants who never attend church, their total number of fears is no different than Catholics at just about sixteen. However, as a Protestant increases their frequency of worship attendance their total number of fears begins to decline. Among Protestants who attend more than once a week, the model predicts just 11.5 fears – which is statistically significant from both low attending Protestants and all Catholics.”
    • This is not the end of the world, according to Christians who study the end of the world (Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “Could this be a sign of the apocalypse? It sure might feel apocalyptic. But not if you ask Christian writers and pastors who have spent years focusing their message on the Book of Revelation — the New Testament’s final book.”
  3. General Pandemic Thinkpieces:
    • Buzz Aldrin has some advice for Americans in quarantine (Eric Berger, Ars Technica): “Buzz Aldrin knows a thing or two about quarantines. After returning from the Moon in 1969, Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins spent 21 days in quarantine to prevent the spread of any contagions they might have brought back from the lunar surface.” Very short. Mildly amusing.
    • NIH Director: ‘We’re on an Exponential Curve’ (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “When I asked him how he sees faith now, in his late 60s, compared with how he saw things in his late 20s, he told me, ‘I think I’ve also arrived at a place where my faith has become a really strong support for dealing with life’s struggles. It took me awhile, I think—that sense that God is sufficient and that I don’t have to be strong in every circumstance.’” Francis Collins is a solid believer who we co-hosted to speak at Stanford around a decade ago. Good interview. Recommended by an alumnus.
    • A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data (John Ioannidis, Stat News): “The most valuable piece of information for answering those questions would be to know the current prevalence of the infection in a random sample of a population and to repeat this exercise at regular time intervals to estimate the incidence of new infections. Sadly, that’s information we don’t have.” The author is a Stanford professor of medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics.
    • China Is Avoiding Blame by Trolling the World (Shadi Hamid, The Atlantic): “A government is not a race. It’s a regime—and easily one of the worst and most brutal in our lifetime. Criticizing authoritarian regimes for what they do outside their own borders and to their own people is simply calling things as they are. To do otherwise is to forgo analysis and accuracy in the name of assuaging a regime that deserves no such consideration.”
      • Related: Don’t blame ‘China’ for the coronavirus — blame the Chinese Communist Party (Josh Rogin, Washington Post): “Let’s stop saying ‘Chinese virus’ — not because everyone who uses it is racist, but because it needlessly plays into the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to divide us and deflect our attention from their bad actions. Let’s just call it the ‘CCP virus.’ That’s more accurate and offends only those who deserve it.”
    • “Dishonesty…Is Always an Indicator of Weakness”: Tucker Carlson on How He Brought His Coronavirus Message to Mar-a-Lago (Joe Hagan, Vanity Fair): “I felt I had a moral obligation to be useful in whatever small way I could, and, you know, I don’t have any actual authority. I’m just a talk show host. But I felt—and my wife strongly felt—that I had a moral obligation to try and be helpful in whatever way possible. I’m not an adviser to the person or anyone else other than my children. And I mean that. And you can ask anybody in the White House or out how many times have I gone to the White House to give my opinion on things. Because I don’t do that. And in general I really disapprove of people straying too far outside their lanes and acting like just because they have solid ratings, they have a right to control public policy. I don’t believe that. I think it’s wrong.” Unexpectedly fascinating.
    • Coronalinks 3/19/20 (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “I’m usually pretty harsh on Bay Area governments here. So I want to give credit where credit is due: they’ve reacted to the coronavirus epidemic with a level of swiftness and ferocity they usually reserve for attempts to build new housing.” I am including the link entirely for that glorious line. The rest is worthwhile, but that line is majestic.
    • Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance (Tomsa Pueyo, Medium): “This is probably the single biggest, most important mistake people make when thinking about this stage: they think it will keep them home for months. This is not the case at all. In fact, it is likely that our lives will go back to close to normal.”
      • The author is quite critical of the USA. Maybe it’s because I live in Silicon Valley and am currently on lockdown, but I think we’re responding pretty aggressively. Honestly, I think we’re doing better than most countries around the world (definitely not Singapore, though — respect to that island technocracy). Also, America often takes a while to mobilize in response to great challenges but once we do the strength of our response is staggering. We engage in relentless and public self-criticism that leads us to overcompensate; for example, the news keep emphasizing that we are pitifully behind on test kits. It is true that we were inexcusably behind. However, our capacity for testing is exploding — precisely because everyone believes we are pitifully behind. There remain other areas in which we are still falling flat, and they are having bright spotlights trained upon them. So I’m cautiously optimistic. Things will be bad but not nearly as bad as they could have been. For all of her faults, America is still pretty amazing.
      • Also, the author inexplicably trusts China’s reports about their current levels of infection. Given extremely recent history, that is perplexing.
    • Why Telling People They Don’t Need Masks Backfired (Zeynep Tufekci, New York Times): “It used to be said that back in the Soviet Union, if there was a line, you first got in line and then figured out what the line was for — people knew that there were going to be shortages and that the authorities often lied, so they hoarded.” The author is a professor at UNC. Recommended by a student.
    • We’re not going back to normal (Gideon Lichfield, MIT Technology Review): “…one can imagine a world in which, to get on a flight, perhaps you’ll have to be signed up to a service that tracks your movements via your phone. The airline wouldn’t be able to see where you’d gone, but it would get an alert if you’d been close to known infected people or disease hot spots. There’d be similar requirements at the entrance to large venues, government buildings, or public transport hubs. There would be temperature scanners everywhere, and your workplace might demand you wear a monitor that tracks your temperature or other vital signs.” Shared by a concerned student.
  4. Non-pandemic (YES!!!!):
    • Book Review: Hoover (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Herbert Hoover is the first student at Stanford. Not just a member of the first graduating class. Literally the first student. He arrives at the dorms two months early to get a head start on various money-making schemes, including distributing newspapers, delivering laundry, tending livestock, and helping other students register. He would later sell some of these businesses to other students and start more, operating a constant churn of enterprises throughout his college career. His academics remain mediocre, and he continues to have few friends – until he tries out for the football team in sophomore year. He has zero athletic talent and fails miserably, but the coach (whose eye for talent apparently transcends athletics) spots potential in Hoover and asks him to come on as team manager. In this role, Hoover is an unqualified success. He turns the team’s debt into a surplus, and starts the Big Game – a UC Berkeley vs. Stanford football match played on Thanksgiving which remains a beloved Stanford football tradition.” Long but good (if you are interested in Stanford, presidential history, or clever thoughts).
      • Related: Scott Alexander on Herbert Hoover (Scott Sumner, The Library of Economics and Liberty): “Hoover was not the most talented person to ever become President, but he was probably the most competent. Unfortunately, his areas of competence did not dovetail with the problems facing the US during the early 1930s. Hoover was very good at organizing large endeavors, but the problems faced by the US during the early 1930s were macroeconomic in nature. Unfortunately, being a good administrator doesn’t have much correlation with understanding macroeconomics.”
    • ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ at the Museum of the Bible are all forgeries (Michael Greshko, National Geographic): “Loll insisted on independence. Not only would the Museum of the Bible have no say on the team’s findings, her report would be final—and would have to be released to the public. The Museum of the Bible agreed to the terms. ‘Honestly, I’ve never worked with a museum that was so up-front,’ Loll says.”
      • The Museum of the Bible comes off looking pretty good in this article. I feel bad for them.
    • Porn Restriction for Realists (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “…a world where the tube-sites are gone and people must go back to paying for their porn is a significant improvement over the world we live in now. This world is possible: it existed two decades ago. Technological change is part of what happened, but only part. Just as important in the creation of the new, porn-flushed world we live are legal protections given to websites like PornHub and X Hamster which allow them to dodge liability for the theft their business model is based on. It also allows them to dodge liability for much worse sins.”
    • Learning From History: How Congress Can Protect Both Rights and Beliefs (Don Bonker, RealClearReligion): “Back in 1984, I received an unexpected call from Senator Mark Hatfield (R‑OR), a highly regarded Republican who chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. I wondered, why would he call a young Democrat who had no significant position and little influence in the halls of Congress?”

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). 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.