Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 221

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, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Black Church After Christendom (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I don’t know about you, but I cannot recall the last time I witnessed more powerful public expressions of what it means to be a Christian than what Brandt Jean and Judge Tammy Kemp did in that courtroom. Guyger — again, a white woman — is going to prison to do time for her crime — but both Mr. Jean and Judge Kemp wanted her to know that there is hope for her, and redemption.”
    • There are lots of news sources that feature the video clip of Brandt Jean. I chose Dreher’s piece because he also focuses on the judge. Both of their actions inspire me.
    • I first saw video clips of Brandt Jean’s moving words surging on social media, and I almost immediately afterwards saw a backlash which I found perplexing. Some commenters even suggested that there is something racist about liking this video. I think the truth is much more wholesome — Christians love seeing costly acts of obedience to Christ. Witness the similar reactions Christians had to the gospel‐fueled testimony of Rachael Denhollander against Larry Nassar and to the Amish community’s forgiveness of a school shooter years ago. There were different racial dynamics but similar responses from Christians.
  2. The Internet Is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse. What Went Wrong? (Michael Keller and Gabriel Dance, The New York Times): “Pictures of child sexual abuse have long been produced and shared to satisfy twisted adult obsessions. But it has never been like this: Technology companies reported a record 45 million online photos and videos of the abuse last year…. the problem of child sexual abuse imagery faces a particular hurdle: It gets scant attention because few people want to confront the enormity and horror of the content, or they wrongly dismiss it as primarily teenagers sending inappropriate selfies.” WARNING — this is very disturbing. The reporters non‐gratuitously describe some of the content. If you suspect that the scene preceding “The predominant sound is the child screaming and crying” will bother you, it will.
    • I know some of our alumni who work in tech and in policy still receive my Friday emails. If that is you, you need to read the preceding article.
    • Related: Porn Culture and Political Courage (Terry Schelling, First Things): “The uncomfortable truth is that the rapid growth in child pornography is connected to the cultural normalization of online pornography as a whole.”
  3. I Spent Years Searching for Magic—I Found God Instead (Tara Isabella Burton, Catapult): “I wanted magic. I didn’t think too much about meaning. Or at least, as long as everything meant something, the specifics didn’t seem to matter. Basil could mean love. Thursdays could mean power. The full moon purity. Why not? The alternative was that nothing meant anything at all.” This is wonderfully written. Highly recommended.
  4. How Do Christians Fit Into the Two‐Party System? They Don’t (Tim Keller, New York Times): “I know of a man from Mississippi who was a conservative Republican and a traditional Presbyterian. He visited the Scottish Highlands and found the churches there as strict and as orthodox as he had hoped. No one so much as turned on a television on a Sunday. Everyone memorized catechisms and Scripture. But one day he discovered that the Scottish Christian friends he admired were (in his view) socialists. Their understanding of government economic policy and the state’s responsibilities was by his lights very left‐wing, yet also grounded in their Christian convictions. He returned to the United States not more politically liberal but, in his words, ‘humbled and chastened.’ He realized that thoughtful Christians, all trying to obey God’s call, could reasonably appear at different places on the political spectrum, with loyalties to different political strategies.”
    • Related: A Basic Primer on Rights and Obligations (Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition): “…the Bible doesn’t say much about rights. It does, however, frequently address obligations, so the key to formulating a biblical doctrine of rights is to flip the doctrine of obligation.”
  5. How Stanford Hides Conflicts of Interest (Daniel “Bob” Ferreira, Stanford Sphere): “We started by going through all 127 full‐time, non‐courtesy professors in Biology, Chemistry, Bioengineering, and Chemical Engineering, and we checked what Bloomberg, Crunchbase, and the SEC had on them. Then, we went on to verify whether this information was current—through company websites, mentions on their own public CVs, or media coverage. Finally, we removed faculty whose links to businesses had nothing to do with biotech.”
  6. Hong Kong: First Line of Defence against a Rising Fascist Power (Aaron Sarin, Quillette): “China’s government has only retained the name ‘Communist Party’ because to do otherwise would be a first step towards admitting the atrocities of the past. The severing of the link between Xi and Mao would make it possible to acknowledge that Mao was one of history’s worst villains. This would set a precedent for criticising authority that would inevitably lead to Xi’s own downfall. So the name stays, but in truth there is nothing ‘communist’ about this Communist Party (save its authoritarianism). In fact, Marxist students, activists, and social workers have been arrested and tortured since Xi took power, and universities have shut down Marxist societies.”
    • The Prophetic Voice of Hong Kong’s Protesters (Christianity Today): “Many Hong Kong Christians, while comprising less than 12 percent of the population, have played a prominent role in the protests—marching, singing hymns, holding prayer circles, and providing food and shelter to other demonstrators. (The Jesus People song ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ became an unexpected anthem of the protests, as participants sang the tune to calm confrontations with police.) For Christians there, the Chinese Communist Party may be the greatest existential threat to the Hong Kong church.”
  7. The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research (Martin A. Schwartz, Journal of Cell Science): “At some point, the conversation turned to why she had left graduate school. To my utter astonishment, she said it was because it made her feel stupid. After a couple of years of feeling stupid every day, she was ready to do something else. I had thought of her as one of the brightest people I knew and her subsequent career supports that view. What she said bothered me. I kept thinking about it; sometime the next day, it hit me. Science makes me feel stupid too. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to it. So used to it, in fact, that I actively seek out new opportunities to feel stupid.” The author is a professor at Yale. This essay is about a decade old but I only recently stumbled upon it.

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 America in one tweet:“We are living in an era of woke capitalism in which companies pretend to care about social justice to sell products to people who pretend to hate capitalism.” (Clay Routledge, Twitter) First shared in volume 186.

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 220

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. My hope is that everyone will find at least one link intriguing enough to click through for more. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Does a Religious Upbringing Promote Generosity or Not? (Tyler J. VanderWeele, Psychology Today): “In 2015, a paper by Jean Decety and co‐authors reported that children who were brought up religiously were less generous. The paper received a great deal of attention, and was covered by over 80 media outlets including The Economist, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and Scientific American. As it turned out, however, the paper by Decety was wrong.” Recommended by an alumnus who noted, “it seemed up your alley.” A story which touches on religion, features a statistical screwup, and highlights media bias? Indeed it is! The author is an epidemiologist at Harvard whose writing I have highlighted before
  2. Is American Christianity on Its Last Legs? The Data Say Otherwise. (Bradley Wright, Christianity Today): “…evangelical Christianity is doing rather well for itself. Where it is not increasing, it is holding steady. As Stanton writes, ‘Churches that are faithfully preaching, teaching, and practicing Biblical truths and conservative theology are holding stable overall. In some areas, they are seeing growth.’ In contrast, the fortunes of mainline Protestantism in America are falling fast. Its long decline has been documented before, and Stanton updates our understanding of it. As he puts it, ‘people are leaving those churches like the buildings are on fire.’” The author is a sociologist at U Conn whose writing I have highlighted before.
  3. Looking back at the Snowden revelations (Matthew Green, personal blog): “One of the most important lessons we learned from the Snowden leaks was that the NSA very much prioritizes its surveillance mission, to the point where it is willing to actively insert vulnerabilities into encryption products and standards used on U.S. networks…. This kind of sabotage is, needless to say, something that not even the most paranoid security researchers would have predicted from our own intelligence agencies. Agencies that, ostensibly have a mission to protect U.S. networks.” The author is a professor at Johns Hopkins.
  4. Harvard’s Legacies Are Nothing to Be Proud Of (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg Opinion): “If you are wondering why Americans do not trust the current establishment, or why Americans are not so convinced that the Democratic Party actually will reverse income inequality, look no further than the Harvard admissions case.”
  5. Inside Stanford’s Last Fallout Shelter: a time capsule to Cold War politics and protests (Patrick Monreal, Stanford Daily): “At the height of the Cold War, Stanford and the Office of Civil Defense, a federal agency established by Franklin D. Roosevelt, designated as many as 56 fallout shelters on campus. The University managed these shelters, which collectively had a maximum occupancy of 49,269 people, as a part of emergency plans in the event of a nuclear strike or natural disaster.”
  6. Some diverse perspectives on maximizing your time at Stanford.
    • Classes for the College Contrarian: The Comprehensive Guide to Getting More out of Stanford (Annika Nordquist, Stanford Review): “Although Stanford’s dominance in STEM fields is universally acknowledged, it can be harder to find stellar humanities and social sciences classes, which don’t have the same structured curriculums and are more likely to suffer from severe grade inflation. This is not even to mention the difficulty of finding classes which represent opposing viewpoints and teach critical thought rather than academic orthodoxy.” Annika is involved in Chi Alpha. 
    • Eleven Must‐Take Classes This Fall (Stanford Sphere editorial board): “In our oldest recurring feature, we present below an alphabetized list of the most interesting classes of the fall.”
    • I propose a new rule at Stanford — all students shall be automatically enrolled in any courses which are recommended by both the Sphere and the Review 
    • How to Major in Unicorn (Max Read & Andrew Granato, New York Magazine): “Google was founded by two Stanford graduate students, Instagram by two Stanford alumni, Snapchat by a Stanford dropout. WhatsApp, Netflix, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Hewlett‐Packard were all founded by onetime Stanford students; the earliest investors in Facebook and Amazon were Stanford graduates. Even Elizabeth Holmes, symbol of Silicon Valley self‐delusion and fraud, was a student at Stanford when she dropped out to found Theranos. About the only two famous tech founders with no immediately apparent Stanford connection are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates — though is it a coincidence that each had a daughter attend the school?”
    • If Not Snapchat, What? A Guide to Stanford’s Non‐Tech Fiefdoms (Andrew Granato, New York Magazine): “An anecdote about the university that is positioning itself to take charge of the 21st century: Jackson Beard ’17, the former student body president, told me a story about how a cabinet member of hers tried to schedule a meeting with the head of the student health center to discuss school policy on involuntary psychiatric holds of students. After many delays, a meeting occurred where the administrator ‘just asked, straight up, “When do you two graduate?” He said, “I want to know when you’ll stop caring about this issue.”’” A remarkably brief summary of a very real Stanford dynamic.
    • An Optimist’s Guide to Finding Meaning at Stanford (Ibrahim Bharmal and Alina Utrata, Medium) “The best advice I ever got about picking a major was: plan out all the classes you want to take, and then see what major lets you take those classes. YOU HAVE TONS OF TIME! Spend freshman and sophomore year taking all the classes you’re interested in and expanding your horizons — even classes that don’t seem ‘useful’ to you.”
  7. The Danger of Reusing Natural Experiments (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “A correspondent writes to ask whether I was aware that Regulation SHO has been used by more than fifty other studies to test a variety of hypotheses. I was not! The problem is obvious. If the same experiment is used multiple times we should be imposing multiple hypothesis standards to avoid the green jelly bean problem, otherwise known as the false positive problem.” 

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 Facts Are Not Self‐Interpreting (Twitter) — this is a short, soundless video. Recommended. First shared in volume 184.

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 219

New students: if this is your first email from the Chi Alpha list, welcome! Every Friday I email out a compilation of articles about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. My hope is that everyone will find at least one link intriguing enough to click through for more.

Most of the list’s content isn’t remotely like this, so even if this isn’t your cup of tea be sure to stick around (although I’ve heard rumors that some people stay on our list just for this Friday email). Also pay attention to the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom — I really mean them. And I welcome your suggestions, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Legacy and Athlete Preferences at Harvard (Peter Arcidiacono, Josh Kinsler and Tyler Ransom, link is a PDF of a working paper): “The lawsuit Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard University provided an unprecedented look at how an elite school makes admissions decisions. Using publicly‐released reports, we examine the preferences Harvard gives for recruited athletes, legacies, those on the dean’s interest list, and children of faculty and staff (ALDCs). Among white admits, over 43% are ALDC. Among admits who are African American, Asian American, and Hispanic, the share is less than 16% each. Our model of admissions shows that roughly three quarters of white ALDC admits would have been rejected if they had been treated as white non‐ALDCs. Removing preferences for athletes and legacies would significantly alter the racial distribution of admitted students, with the share of white admits falling and all other groups rising or remaining unchanged.” The lead author is an econ professor at Duke.
  2. Too Much Dark Money in Almonds (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Everyone always talks about how much money there is in politics. This is the wrong framing. The right framing is Ansolabehere et al’s: why is there so little money in politics? But Ansolabehere focuses on elections, and the mystery is wider than that. Sure, during the 2018 election, candidates, parties, PACs, and outsiders combined spent about $5 billion – $2.5 billion on Democrats, $2 billion on Republicans, and $0.5 billion on third parties. And although that sounds like a lot of money to you or me, on the national scale, it’s puny. The US almond industry earns $12 billion per year. Americans spent about 2.5x as much on almonds as on candidates last year.” It builds to a surprising twist. Highly recommended.
  3. I normally avoid two links from one author, but every once in a while someone is on fire. Against Against Pseudoaddiction (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Let me confess: I think pseudoaddiction is real. In fact, I think it’s obviously real. I think everyone should realize it’s real as soon as it’s explained properly to them. I think we should be terrified that any of our institutions – media, academia, whatever – think they could possibly get away with claiming pseudoaddiction isn’t real. I think people should be taking to the streets trying to overthrow a medical system that has the slightest doubt about whether pseudoaddiction is real. If you can think of more hyperbolic statements about pseudoaddiction, I probably believe those too.” I am fully persuaded by this article. 
  4. ‘I Basically Just Made It Up’: Confessions of a Social Constructionist (Christopher Dummitt, Quillette): “In my defence, I wasn’t alone. Everyone was (and is) making it up. That’s how the gender‐studies field works. But it’s not much of a defence. I should have known better. If I were to retroactively psychoanalyze myself, I would say that, really, I did know better. And that’s why I was so angry and assertive about what I thought I knew. It was to hide the fact that, at a very basic level, I didn’t have proof for part of what I was saying. So I stuck to the arguments with fervor, and denounced alternative points of view.” The author is a historian at Trent University (in Canada). 
  5. The Christian Right Is Helping Drive Liberals Away From Religion (Amelia Thomson‐DeVeaux and Daniel Cox, FiveThirtyEight): “Researchers haven’t found a comprehensive explanation for why the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans has increased over the past few years — the shift is too large and too complex. But a recent swell of social science research suggests that even if politics wasn’t the sole culprit, it was an important contributor.”
    • Related: Not everybody wants thoughts and prayers after a disaster, according to a study of hurricane survivors (Allen Kim, CNN): “Thinking of sending your ‘thoughts and prayers’ to those affected by tragedy or a natural disaster? Well, not everyone wants them. While Christians value these gestures from religious people, some atheists and agnostics would pay money to avoid them, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” I am shocked at how allergic some people are to religion. The academic article upon which this news story was based is The value of thoughts and prayers (Linda Thunström and Shiri Noy, PNAS).
  6. World Vision Flips the Script on Child Sponsorship (Jeremy Weber, Christianity Today): “Almost 1,000 children in rural Guatemala gained sponsors this month from a megachurch in southern Indiana. But in this case, it was the indigenous children in need who pondered photos of smiling faces and chose one they felt a connection with. And it was the adult donors in the United States who nervously waited, wondering who would pick them.”
  7. The grandmaster diet: How to lose weight while barely moving (Aishwarya Kumar, ESPN): “Robert Sapolsky, who studies stress in primates at Stanford University, says a chess player can burn up to 6,000 calories a day while playing in a tournament, three times what an average person consumes in a day. Based on breathing rates (which triple during competition), blood pressure (which elevates) and muscle contractions before, during and after major tournaments, Sapolsky suggests that grandmasters’ stress responses to chess are on par with what elite athletes experience.”

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 Godspeed: The Pace Of Being Known (Vimeo): a student brought this 30 minute video to my attention and said it made her think about how she should be living in her dorm. Recommended. First shared in volume 181.

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 218

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. “We May Have To Shoot Down This Aircraft” (Garrett Graff, Politico): “We can’t see the aircraft. We don’t know where it is because we don’t have any radars pointing into the U.S. Anything in the United States was considered friendly by definition.” A gripping account of the Flight 93 story.
  2. Active Learning Works But Students Don’t Like It (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “A carefully done study that held students and teachers constant shows that students learn more in active learning classes but they dislike this style of class and think they learn less. It’s no big surprise–active learning is hard and makes the students feel stupid. It’s much easier to sit back and be entertained by a great lecturer who makes everything seem simple.”
  3. How Evangelicals Invented Liberals’ Favorite Legal Doctrine (Matthew Lee Anderson, The Federalist): “…within the many ironies of history, the social and political instruments a perfectionist movement deploys may be easily co‐opted for ends and purposes never imagined in their development. That is, if late‐twentieth‐century evangelical activists sowed the wind, today’s activists have reaped the whirlwind.” I love articles that present a topic I think I know something about and proceed to show me something I had never known before.
  4. A Famous Argument Against Free Will Has Been Debunked (Bahar Gholipour, The Atlantic): “It would be quite an achievement for a brain signal 100 times smaller than major brain waves to solve the problem of free will. But the story of the Bereitschaftspotential has one more twist: It might be something else entirely.”
  5. Viktor Orban Among The Christians (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Orban is what Trump’s biggest fans wish he was (but isn’t), and what Trump’s enemies think him to be (but isn’t). If Donald Trump had the smarts and skills of Viktor Orban, the political situation in the US would be much, much different — for better or for worse, depending on your point of view.” I don’t have much interest in Hungarian politics, but this fascinated me. 
  6. When the Culture War Comes for the Kids (George Packer, The Atlantic): “I asked myself if I was moving to the wrong side of a great moral cause because its tone was too loud, because it shook loose what I didn’t want to give up. It took me a long time to see that the new progressivism didn’t just carry my own politics further than I liked. It was actually hostile to principles without which I don’t believe democracy can survive.” This article came highly recommended, but it only got interesting to me about halfway through — and then wow.
  7. Conservatives Clash on the Goal of Government (Jonathan Leeman, Providence): “There is no neutrality. The public square is a battleground of gods. Our culture wars are wars of religion. For the time being, liberalism keeps us from picking up sixteenth‐century swords for those wars, which is no small achievement. But don’t assume it won’t control us with the subtler tools of a twenty‐first century legal totalitarianism.” Insightful reflections on how Christians should form their political positions.

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 Elisha and the She‐bears (Peter J Williams, Twitter): an insightful Twitter thread about a disturbing OT story. The author is the Warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge. First shared in volume 179.

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 216

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. No, really. I mean them and they matter. I welcome your suggestions, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Cops Who Abused Photoshop (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): this is outrageous. Difficult to excerpt, but well worth reading. Recommended by a student.
  2. How Pornography Makes Us Less Human and Less Humane (Matthew Lee Anderson, The Gospel Coalition): “Beneath pornography is the supposition that the mere fact of our desire for a woman makes us worthy of her. And so, not being bound by any kind of norm, desire must proceed endlessly. It is no surprise that the industrialized, cheap‐and‐easy sex of pornography has answered and evoked an almost unrestrained sexual greed, which allows us to be gods and goddesses within the safety of our own fantasies. It is for deep and important reasons that the Ten Commandments use the economic language of ‘coveting’ to describe the badness of errant sexual desires.” Many insights in this essay.
    1. Related: In the Face of Sexual Temptation, Repression Is a Sure‐Fire Failure (Rachel Gilson, Christianity Today): “Repression and avoidance are ultimately human‐centered responses. They stuff desire, suffocate it, banish it, and yet rarely succeed at engendering true purity. By contrast, Christian asceticism reminds us that we are not stronger than desire and then invites us to cast our gaze toward the One who is. It asks the Christian to follow the sight line of desire—like looking down the barrel of a gun—and train it on what all desire is ultimately satisfied by: the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).”
    2. Related What Genetics Is Teaching Us About Sexuality (Steven M. Phelps and Robbee Wedow, New York Times): “…genetic differences account for roughly one‐third of the variation in same‐sex behavior.” The authors are professors (one of biology at UT Austin and the other of sociology at Harvard). They are also both gay men. They are reflecting on research published in the journal Science: Large‐scale GWAS reveals insights into the genetic architecture of same‐sex sexual behavior (which Wedow coauthored).
  3. What Majority‐World Missions Really Looks Like (Dorcas Cheng‐Tozun, Christianity Today): “In 2015, 9 of the top 20 sending countries—including Brazil, the Philippines, China, India, Nigeria, and South Africa—were in the majority world (also referred to as the developing world), with a total of 101,000 international missionaries.” For context, the combined total is close to the number sent from the USA.
  4. Why do Chinese people like their government? (Kaiser Kuo, SupChina): “It’s the rare person who can truly separate, at both an intellectual and an emotional level, criticism of his or her country from criticism of his or her country’s government — especially if that government is not, at present, terribly embattled and is delivering basic public goods in a reasonably competent manner.”
    1. Related: 9 questions about the Hong Kong protests you were too embarrassed to ask (Jen Kirby, Vox): “”What began as a targeted protest against a controversial extradition bill in June has transformed into what feels like a battle for the future of Hong Kong. Protesters are not just fighting their local government. They’re challenging one of the most powerful countries on earth: China.
    2. Related: Hong Kong Democracy Activists Arrested Ahead Of Planned March (Emily Feng & Scott Neuman, NPR): “Joshua Wong, Hong Kong’s most famous pro‐democracy leader, was arrested on Friday along with fellow activists and politicians in what appeared to be a coordinated sweep by the city’s police ahead of a mass anti‐government march that had been planned for the weekend.”
    3. Related: The One United Struggle For Freedom (David Brooks, New York Times): “Many suspect America will never step in to help. The American right no longer believes in spreading democracy to foreigners. The American left embraces a national narrative that emphasizes slavery and oppression, not that America is a beacon or an example. Neither party any longer sees America as a vanguard nation whose very mission is to advance universal democracy and human dignity.”
    4. Related: China’s Spies Are On The Offensive (Mike Giglio, The Atlantic): “Espionage and counterespionage have been essential tools of statecraft for centuries, of course, and U.S. and Chinese intelligence agencies have been battling one another for decades. But what these recent cases suggest is that the intelligence war is escalating—that China has increased both the scope and the sophistication of its efforts to steal secrets from the U.S.” Recommended by a student.
  5. Why Everything They Say About The Amazon, Including That It’s The ‘Lungs Of The World,’ Is Wrong (Michael Shellenberger, Forbes): “‘What is happening in the Amazon is not exceptional,’ said Coutinho. ‘Take a look at Google web searches search for ‘Amazon’ and ‘Amazon Forest’ over time. Global public opinion was not as interested in the ‘Amazon tragedy’ when the situation was undeniably worse. The present moment does not justify global hysteria.’ And while fires in Brazil have increased, there is no evidence that Amazon forest fires have.” I found this article quite informative.
  6. The Trump Administration Sides With Nurses Who Object to Abortion (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “Beyond its outcome, this case is a signal of the Trump administration’s priorities: It sees religious freedom and conscience protections as central parts of American civil rights, and officials plan to enforce those laws.”
    1. Related: By their tweets you will know them: The Democrats’ continuing God gap (Ryan Burge, Religion News Service): “While the Nones have grown dramatically over the last 20 years, it’s still important to realize that more than six in ten Americans identify as a Christian, according to the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. If Democrats want to win back the White House, it would behoove them to reach out to those Christian voters. However, at least on social media, Democratic candidates fail to do so.”
    2. Related: Democratic Party embraces nonreligious voters, criticizes ‘religious liberty’ in new resolution (Caleb Parke, Fox News): “The Democratic National Committee (DNC) passed a resolution Saturday praising the values of ‘religiously unaffiliated’ Americans as the ‘largest religious group within the Democratic Party.’ The resolution, which was unanimously passed at the DNC’s summer meeting on Aug. 24 in San Francisco, Calif., was championed by the Secular Coalition of America, an organization that lobbies on behalf of atheists, agnostics, and humanists on public policy.”
    3. Related: Michael Wear’s commentary on Twitter: “I just want to be clear. This is both politically stupid, but also, just stupid on a fundamental level that transcends electoral politics.” (Wear was an Obama staffer)
  7. Let’s have open borders for people and closed borders for capital (Jeff Spross, The Week): “…human beings aren’t the only things that cross borders: goods, services, and financial capital do it all the time as well. A better response to Trump might not be to debate whether borders should be enforced, but rather enforced against what? Specifically, the left‐progressive position on borders should be something like: maximum enforcement against the movement of financial capital, moderate enforcement against goods and services, and minimal enforcement against people.”
    1. Related: Christianity and Capitalism Reconsidered (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “[the claim] that capitalism makes us wealthier, lets us live longer, and improves our ethics — could be right and even so Christianity and capitalism might not be compatible. Maybe God doesn’t want us to be richer and longer‐lived, and maybe there are certain matters of faithfulness that transcend what most people call ‘ethics.’”

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 Eat, Pray, Code: Rule of St. Benedict Becomes Tech Developer’s Community Guidelines (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “SQLite—a database management engine used in most major browsers, smart phones, Adobe products, and Skype—adopted a code of ethics pulled directly from the biblical precepts set by the venerated sixth‐century monk.” This article blew my mind. First shared in volume 175.

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 213

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. Several articles related to the mass shootings:
  2. Conservative Christians have a porn problem, studies show, but not the one you think (Jana Riess, Religion News Service): “Drawing on numerous studies, Perry finds that, despite the statistical finding that conservative Christians are less likely to use porn, the perception within evangelical churches is that this has become an enormous problem for the faithful.”
  3. What Ails the Right Isn’t (Just) Racism (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Put another way, the right is correct that crying wolf matters. And the left is correct that The Boy Who Cried Wolf ends with a wolf feasting on folks who concluded that they shouldn’t worry about wolves because one kid fibbed.” I found this far more interesting than the title led me to anticipate.
  4. Against Against Billionaire Philanthropy (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “I worry the movement against billionaire charity is on track to damage charity a whole lot more than it damages billionaires.” This is a very interesting essay, and he has a follow‐up, Highlights From The Comments on Billionaire Philanthropy, which thoughtfully responds to criticisms. Highly recommended.
  5. How (and Why) to KISSASS (Kevin Mims, Quillette): “…if you’re not a member of the professional class, the key to getting your personal essays published in prominent publications is KISSASS—Keep It Short, Sad, And Simple, Stupid.” This is a follow‐up to an article I shared previously and I found it fascinating.
  6. Carol Swain Worked to Hold Politicians Accountable. Then She Felt God Call Her to Run. (David Roach, Christianity Today): “For Swain, change has been a recurring theme in her life. She went from low‐income single mother to Ivy League academic, from Democrat to Republican media commentator, and from Jehovah’s Witness turned non‐churchgoer to committed follower of Christ.” What a fascinating lady.
  7. Why I’m Not A Liberal (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “Because liberalism is based on individual rights, it naturally favors the individual asserting his rights against traditional social subjects, whether they be the community, the family, or even his own marriage. If a classically liberal system has no effect on the values of society, it is an astonishing coincidence that wherever liberal political arrangements emerge, a new liberal understanding of marriage eventually replaces the previous Christian understandings as the legal and social reality.” This essay covers a lot of ground.

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 Dissolving the Fermi Paradox (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Imagine we knew God flipped a coin. If it came up heads, He made 10 billion alien civilization. If it came up tails, He made none besides Earth. Using our one parameter Drake Equation, we determine that on average there should be 5 billion alien civilizations. Since we see zero, that’s quite the paradox, isn’t it? No. In this case the mean is meaningless. It’s not at all surprising that we see zero alien civilizations, it just means the coin must have landed tails. SDO say that relying on the Drake Equation is the same kind of error.”  First shared in volume 159.

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 212

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. Tourist Journalism Versus the Working Class (Kevin Mims, Quillette): “To university‐educated media professionals like Carole Cadwalladr, James Bloodworth, and John Oliver, an Amazon warehouse must seem like the Black Hole of Calcutta. But I’ve done low‐paying manual labor for most of my working life, and rarely have I appreciated a job as much as my role as an Amazon associate.” I learned many things from this article.
  2. Sixteen and Evangelical (Laura Turner, Slate): “A world without God wouldn’t make sense to me. But it now makes sense to many of my friends. I finally understand that we never had a shared faith structure. We went to the same church, some of us for years. We heard the same sermons, slept in the same cabins at camp, read the same books of the Bible, listened to the same music. But we went home to different families.” The author is John & Nancy Ortberg’s daughter.
  3. Stanford University Reportedly Bans All Martial Arts Groups Without Warning Over Email (Jin Hyun, NextShark): “According to Choi, the university’s justification behind the shutdown can be summarized in four points: ‘the groups like to unofficially practice during dead week, they recruit professional, internationally renowned coaches to run their practices, they compete and regularly win national championships without University help, they participate heavily in the local community by teaching students, alumni, and community members.’”
    • Stanford often seems conflicted about whether its undergrads are future leaders to be empowered or liabilities to be micromanaged.
  4. As administrators walk back ‘insufficient’ response, police reveal noose may have been on campus since March (Elena Shao and Daniel Martinez‐Krams, Stanford Daily): “The new information comes amid criticism of University administrators’ response to the incident, and one day after they held a solidarity rally and town hall. A self‐care event is scheduled to take place Friday afternoon.” There have been a lot of articles about this — but this once grabbed me with the tidbit in the headline. SINCE MARCH?
  5. On Court Prophets and Wilderness Prophets  (Timothy Dalrymple, Christianity Today): “Whether you view Trump as a David or an Antipas, whether you serve at the court of the resplendent king or stand over against the court from the wilderness, one thing Nathan and John the Baptist held in common was that both were willing to condemn unrighteousness in their rulers—even if it cost them everything.”
    • Also political: The Democratic Party Is Actually Three Parties (Thomas Edsall, New York Times): “What the data demonstrates is that the group containing the largest proportion of minority voters is the most skeptical of some of the most progressive policies embraced by Democratic candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris.” Perhaps the most interesting part of this op‐ed is when he talks about the unintended consequences of favoring small donors over large donors.
  6. In Hong Kong Protests, Faces Become Weapons (Paul Mozur, New York Times): “The police officers wrestled with Colin Cheung in an unmarked car. They needed his face. They grabbed his jaw to force his head in front of his iPhone. They slapped his face. They shouted, ‘Wake up!’ They pried open his eyes. It all failed: Mr. Cheung had disabled his phone’s facial‐recognition login with a quick button mash as soon as they grabbed him.”
  7. Canada’s bizarre trans‐waxing controversy (Brendan O’Neill, Spiked): “Yaniv says if the case is lost then a dangerous precedent will be set for trans people. In truth, the real danger is if Yaniv wins the case, because that would set a precedent whereby the law could require that women must touch penises or risk losing their jobs. It would be profoundly misogynistic.” The language in this piece is vulgar at times but in my estimation not recklessly so. Rod Dreher sums things up pithily with the headline: From ‘Bake My Cake’ to ‘Wax My Testicles’ (The American Conservative)
    • Related: Liberals’ astonishingly radical shift on gender (Damon Linker, The Week): “Slaves everywhere presumably know that they are unfree, even if they accept the legitimacy of the system and the master that keeps them enslaved. But what is this bondage we couldn’t even begin to perceive in 2009 that in under a decade has become a burden so onerous that it produces a demand for the overturning of well‐settled rules and assumptions, some of which (‘the gender binary’) go all the way back to the earliest origins of human civilization?”

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 Are Satanists of the MS‐13 gang an under‐covered story on the religion beat? (Julia Duin, GetReligion): this is a fascinating bit of news commentary. My favorite bit: “How does one get out of MS‐13? An opinion piece in the New York Times this past April gives a surprising response: Go to a Pentecostal church.” Highly recommended. First shared in volume 158.

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 211

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. American journalists have duty to report on tragedies in countries like Sudan. (Isaha Sesay, USA Today): “If the suffering of these girls and their parents is not enough to make us pay attention to what has happened in Chibok, there is something else to consider: the threat to global security. The fate of these girls is in many ways a reflection of the Nigerian federal government’s longstanding inability to maintain peace and stability in the northeast of the country. Americans should see the disappearance of the Chibok girls as a flare, illuminating the existence of an ‘ungoverned space’ that is fertile ground for a powerful terrorist group.”
  2. Facebook and Google track what porn you’re watching, even when you’re in incognito (Isobel Asher Hamilton, Business Insider): “Researchers from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Pennsylvania analyzed 22,484 pornography sites using a site called webXray to identify tracking tools feeding data back to third parties. ‘Our results indicate tracking is endemic on pornography websites: 93% of pages leak user data to a third‐party,’ the study concludes.”
    • Numbers 32:23 comes to mind: “be sure that your sin will find you out.”
    • An unexpected consequence of porn: Streaming online pornography produces as much CO2 as Belgium (Michael Le Page, NewScientist): “The transmission and viewing of online videos generates 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, or nearly 1 per cent of global emissions. On‐demand video services such as Netflix account for a third of this, with online pornographic videos generating another third.”
  3. An Epidemic of Disbelief (Barbara Bradley Hagerty, The Atlantic): “Historically, investigators had assumed that someone who assaults a stranger by the railroad tracks is nothing like the man who assaults his co‐worker or his girlfriend. But it turns out that the space between acquaintance rape and stranger rape is not a wall, but a plaza. When Cleveland investigators uploaded the DNA from the acquaintance‐rape kits, they were surprised by how often the results also matched DNA from unsolved stranger rapes. The task force identified dozens of mystery rapists this way.” Infuriating and highly recommended. 
  4. Oil‐patch evangelicals: How Christianity and crude fueled the rise of the American right (Darren Dochuk, Washington Post): “In the face of the Rockefellers’ progressive way, Texan oilers championed a theology of personal encounter with scripture and an active Higher Being. They heralded church autonomy and gospel teachings about prosperity and end times, a message that anticipated the violent disruptions of the oil age and the need to save souls and reap God’s — and the earth’s — riches before the world’s end.” The author is a history professor at Notre Dame and describes an aspect of modern evangelical history I had not heard before.
    • An interview with the above author: Anointed with Oil: Evangelicals and the Petroleum Industry (Thomas Kidd, The Gospel Coalition): “Oil historians may be surprised to hear it, but in some instances oil’s corporate structures evolved directly out of the theological commitments of its leaders.” The first piece felt a little hostile to me, whereas this one did not at all. 
  5. Stanford opposes bill that would let college athletes in California profit from endorsements (Ian Park, Stanford Daily): “The NCAA earns more than $1 billion in annual revenue from broadcasting rights and championships. In return, student‐athletes receive little to no compensation, other than scholarships. According to a study by Drexel University and the National College Players Association, scholarships aren’t enough for many student‐athletes, as surveyed athletes had to pay colleges scholarship shortfalls of as much as $17,000.”
    • In other and completely unrelated local news: SF does not have the highest rents in the Bay Area (Adam Brinklow, Curbed): “Menlo Park, home of Facebook, has the highest rents in the region, averaging $4,638 per month. Palo Alto also beat out SF with a startling $3,857 per month price tag.” 
    • Elsewhere in the article we learn that Redwood City rents average $1,956. I love Menlo Park, but there’s no way it is twice as nice as Redwood City. Sheesh!
  6. Trump vs. Dems: ‘Racist,’ ‘socialist’ lines drawn for 2020 (Lisa Mascaro, AP News): “With tweets and a vote, President Donald Trump and House Democrats established the sharp and emotionally raw contours of the 2020 election campaigns. In the process, they have created a fraught political frame: ‘racists’ vs. ‘socialists.’”
    • What Pelosi Versus the Squad Really Means (David Brooks, New York Times): “Liberalism arose out of the fact that political revolutions, while exciting at the outset, usually end up in brutality, dictatorship and blood. Working within the system is best. People who came of age in the past few decades did not grow up in an atmosphere of assumed liberalism. They often grew up in an atmosphere that critiques it.”
    • ‘It Makes Us Want to Support Him More’ (Peter Nicholas, The Atlantic): “A few conceded that Trump occasionally fires off an inappropriate tweet, but said his accomplishments in office overshadow any offense. If anything, they said, his language springs from an authenticity they find refreshing. None of the people I spoke with considered his comments about the congresswomen racist.”
    • People Who Have Screamed ‘Racism’ For Decades Wonder Why No One Is Listening To Them About Trump (Babylon Bee): this would normally go down in the amusing section because the headline is from a satire site, but this is one of those times where the Bee’s insight is relevant: “‘I mean, we compared John McCain to George Wallace,’ stated Democrat Maggie Wilkins, ‘and I’m not sure who to compare Trump to in order to show he’s an even more worser racist.’ Activists are considering coming up with other words to express that Trump is a worse kind of racist. They considered ‘white supremacist,’ but they’ve been using that a lot lately, so it would only mean to most people that Trump is as bad as the Betsy Ross flag. So they tried to invent a new term — double plus racist — to express how extra racist Trump is, but then remembered they already used that on Mitt Romney.”
  7. 5 Reasons to Disentangle Sexuality and Race (Rebecca McLaughlin, The Gospel Coalition): “Christian sexual ethics were as shocking to their original first‐century Greco‐Roman context as they are today. If Christians are to learn from history, the lesson must be this: hold fast to Scripture’s radical demands, whether the cultural tide is coming in or out. You won’t know which side of history you’re on until the last day.” Disclaimer: I know the author and have collaborated with her on events at Stanford.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have When Children Say They’re Trans (Jesse Singal, The Atlantic): “ …to deny the possibility of a connection between social influences and gender‐identity exploration among adolescents would require ignoring a lot of what we know about the developing teenage brain—which is more susceptible to peer influence, more impulsive, and less adept at weighing long‐term outcomes and consequences than fully developed adult brains—as well as individual stories like Delta’s.” This is a long and balanced piece which has garnered outrage in some online circles. First shared in volume 157.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 210

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.

It’s good to be back after last week’s hiatus.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. AI Trained on Old Scientific Papers Makes Discoveries Humans Missed (Madeleine Gregory, Motherboard): “In a study published in Nature on July 3, researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used an algorithm called Word2Vec sift through scientific papers for connections humans had missed. Their algorithm then spit out predictions for possible thermoelectric materials, which convert heat to energy and are used in many heating and cooling applications.”
  2. Can Christian Compassion Influence How We Treat Migrants? (Alan Cross, The Bulwark): “Compassion is not inherited, either in individuals nor in nations. It must be cultivated and that cultivation often happens in trial when we are tested. America is being tested right now. How will we respond to the migrants coming to us desperate for help and refuge? How will we respond to the sight of Oscar and Valeria drowning and being found face down on the banks of Rio Grande in each other’s arms?”
    • Related: In the ‘battle at the border,’ evangelical leaders jostle for Trump‐era media relevancy (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “Unless you’ve been under a rock recently, you know much of the country is fixated on the mess at our border. What’s not as visible is how evangelical Christians are fighting among themselves over all of this.”
    • And yet: Republicans turn more negative toward refugees as number admitted to U.S. plummets (Hannah Hartig, Pew Research): “By more than two‐to‐one (68% to 25%), white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees. Other religious groups are more likely to say the U.S. does have this responsibility. And opinions among religiously unaffiliated adults are nearly the reverse of those of white evangelical Protestants: 65% say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, while just 31% say it does not.”
  3. Manly wedding rings for tough guys who are dudes (Dan Brooks, The Outline): “I don’t hunt, but I briefly considered buying a camouflage ring, partly to signal my deep commitment to irony and partly to get better service at the auto parts store.” I really enjoyed this essay, and I hope that many of you have need of wedding bands in the not‐too‐distant future.
  4. Evangelical Christians Face A Deepening Crisis (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “Coppock mentioned to me the powerful example of St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, who was willing to rebuke the Roman Emperor Theodosius for the latter’s role in massacring civilians as punishment for the murder of one of his generals. Ambrose refused to allow the Church to become a political prop, despite concerns that doing so might endanger him. Ambrose spoke truth to power. (Theodosius ended up seeking penance, and Ambrose went on to teach, convert, and baptize St. Augustine.) Proximity to power is fine for Christians, Coppock told me, but only so long as it does not corrupt their moral sense, only so long as they don’t allow their faith to become politically weaponized. Yet that is precisely what’s happening today.”
    • Recommended by an alumnus. I wish that the American church was more visibly dismayed at some of Trump’s obvious sins. I remind people of all political inclinations that you can support someone’s overall agenda and still rebuke them for acts of wickedness. In fact, being willing to do so makes your support more meaningful. So vote for whoever you want, and hold the leaders you support to a high standard.
  5. Taiwan’s Status is a Geopolitical Absurdity (Chris Horton, The Atlantic): “’Taiwan’s government is democratically elected—we have a president, we have a parliament,’ Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said plaintively at a briefing for foreign media earlier this year. At the time, his government was trying to be included in the World Health Assembly. (It was ultimately blocked by China.) ‘We issue visas, we issue passports,’ he said, practically pleading. ‘We have a military and a currency … Taiwan exists by itself; Taiwan is not a part of any other country.’”
  6. Robespierre’s America (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “The data confirm what one hears and experiences anecdotally all the time: In the proverbial land of the free, people live in mortal fear of a moral faux pas. Opinions that were considered reasonable and normal a few years ago are increasingly delivered in whispers. Professors fear their students. Publishers drop books at the slightest whiff of social‐media controversy.”
  7. Gay Rites Are Civil Rites (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “‘Civil religion’ is a surprising place for social justice to end up. Gay pride started at Stonewall as a giant ****-you to civil society. Homeless people, addicts, and sex workers told the police where they could shove their respectable values. But there was another major world religion that started with beggars, lepers, and prostitutes, wasn’t there? One that told the Pharisees where to shove their respectable values.”

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 a compelling series of articles on China by a history professor at Johns Hopkins (who also happens to be a Stanford grad): China’s Master Plan: A Global Military Threat, China’s Master Plan: Exporting an Ideology, China’s Master Plan: A Worldwide Web of Institutions and China’s Master Plan: How The West Can Fight Back (Hal Brand, Bloomberg). The money quote from the second article: “If the U.S. has long sought to make the world safe for democracy, China’s leaders crave a world that is safe for authoritarianism.” First shared in volume 156.

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 208

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. I Pray for Refugees Because I Was One. And God Was Faithful. (Sunday Htoo, Christianity Today): “When I was in the jungle and running for my life, I felt that I would be safe. I felt that someone I did not know was praying for me. Someone is running for their life right now in Burma, or another country torn by war. Please pray for him, for her, for the children, for the elderly, and for a woman who may be pregnant. Your prayer is full of meaning.” If you ignore every other article to which I link this week, read this.
    • Relevant: Migrant children describe neglect at Texas border facility (Cedar Attanasio, Garance Burke and Martha Mendoza, AP News): “‘In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,’ said Holly Cooper, who co‐directs University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth…. the Border Patrol is holding 15,000 people, and the agency considers 4,000 to be at capacity.”
    • Also: Is it Christian or illegal to aid migrants? A hung Tucson jury, a fork in the road of faith (Brian McLaren, USA Today): “religious liberty means the freedom to save refugees in the desert.” I met McLaren once and had a nice conversation with him. There is zero chance he remembers me. There are parts of this op‐ed with which I strenuously disagree, recommended nonetheless.
  2. The Illiberal Right Throws a Tantrum (Adam Serwer, The Atlantic): “The American creed has no more devoted adherents than those who have been historically denied its promises, and no more fair‐weather friends than those who have taken them for granted.”
    • In response: Is The Religious Right Privileged? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Politically, liberalism has imposed via the judiciary, the least democratic branch, a constitutional right to abortion, a form of lethal violence that the church opposes for the same reasons it opposes infanticide — and after 50 years of small‐d democratic activism by pro‐lifers, the pro‐choice side seems to be hardening into a view that such activism is as un‐American as racism. Legally, elite liberalism is increasingly embracing arguments that would make it difficult or impossible for the church to operate hospitals and adoption agencies today, and perhaps colleges and grammar schools tomorrow. And in its internal life, beneath the post‐Protestant tendency I’ve just described, progressive politics is also nurturing a fashionable occultism, whose rituals may be practiced somewhat ironically or performatively but whose anti‐Catholicism seems quite sincere.”
    • Related: Two Painful Truths of America’s Religious Culture War (David French, National Review): “Here are two painful truths: Secular government is breaking its promise of liberty, and the American church is breaking its promise of virtue.”
  3. What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane (William Langewiesche, The Atlantic): “The idea that a sophisticated machine, with its modern instruments and redundant communications, could simply vanish seems beyond the realm of possibility. It is hard to permanently delete an email, and living off the grid is nearly unachievable even when the attempt is deliberate. A Boeing 777 is meant to be electronically accessible at all times…. All sorts of theorists have made claims, amplified by social media, that ignore the satellite data, and in some cases also the radar tracks, the aircraft systems, the air‐traffic‐control record, the physics of flight, and the basic contours of planetary geography. ” Recommended by a student (and, it seems, half the internet — this is widely considered a must‐read article). The author is a professional pilot and a veteran journalist
  4. ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ has become the unofficial anthem of the anti‐extradition protest movement (Kenneth Tan, Shanghaiist): “Alarmed by reports of police brutality, many church groups galvanized to participate in peace protests, calling on the authorities to stop the violence. Their presence on the front lines of the protests were helpful in making the demonstrations look more like an outdoor worship service rather than the ‘organized riots’ the government said it had to crack down on to bring back law and order.”
    • Related: A new kind of Hong Kong activism emerges as protesters mobilize without any leaders (Alice Su, LA Times): “This time around, protesters are deliberately leaderless, Leung said. ‘It looks quite organized and well‐disciplined. But I’m quite sure you cannot find anyone managing the whole thing,’ Leung said, adding that the protesters’ logistical practices — bringing supplies, setting up medical stations, rapid mass communication — were ‘in‐built’ from the last few years of practice. ‘It’s just like a machine or a self‐learning AI that can run by themselves,’ he said.”
    • Related: check out this drone footage of the protests (3 minutes, YouTube).
  5. Reparations came up in the House of Representatives on Juneteenth. Here are two testimonies that caught a lot of attention:
    • Read Ta‐Nehisi Coates’s Testimony on Reparations (Olivia Paschal & Madeleine Carlisle, The Atlantic): “The typical black family in this country has one‐tenth the wealth of the typical white family. Black women die in childbirth at four times the rate of white women. And there is, of course, the shame of this land of the free boasting the largest prison population on the planet, of which the descendants of the enslaved make up the largest share. The matter of reparations is one of making amends and direct redress, but it is also a question of citizenship.” (or watch the five minute video on YouTube)
    • My Testimony On Reparations (Coleman Hughes, Quillette): “But the people who were owed for slavery are no longer here, and we’re not entitled to collect on their debts. Reparations, by definition, are only given to victims. So the moment you give me reparations, you’ve made me into a victim without my consent. Not just that: you’ve made one‐third of black Americans—who consistently poll against reparations—into victims without their consent, and black Americans have fought too long for the right to define themselves to be spoken for in such a condescending manner.” (or watch the six minute video on YouTube)
    • Somewhat, kinda related: ‘Affirmative Action Is Not About Equality. It’s About Covering Ass.’ (Evan Goldstein,Chronicle Review): “What happened is that I went through a trauma. I was accused of assaulting a woman with whom I was having an extramarital affair. I was publicly humiliated. I had to withdraw an appointment as undersecretary of education in the last years of Reagan’s second term. I was a crack‐cocaine addict; it almost killed me. My wife at the time, God bless her, stayed with me, and we subsequently had two fine sons. But at the time, I was dying. I found Jesus. I got my life together. They stuck with me at the Kennedy School, but I just couldn’t bear the feeling of condescension.” This is an interview with Glenn Loury, who was the first black tenured econ professor at Harvard. He is now an economist at Brown.
  6. Ideology and Facts Collide at Oberlin College (Daniel McGraw, Quillette): “It slowly became evident that this case was not about free expression and assembly or racial injustice and civil rights. It was about something more banal. A cowardly college administration picked on a small and vulnerable business in an attempt to fend off accusations of racism it was facing from its own students.”
    • Honestly, this Twitter thread about it is even better. Jaw‐dropping details. Read it first and then the above article if you want a more well‐rounded narrative.
  7. How Should Christians Have Sex? (Katelyn Beaty, New York Times): “I long for more robust categories of right and wrong besides consent — a baseline, but only that — and more than a general reminder not to be a jerk. I can get that from Dan Savage, but I also want to know what Jesus thinks.”

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 A One Parameter Equation That Can Exactly Fit Any Scatter Plot (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Overfitting is possible with just one parameter and so models with fewer parameters are not necessarily preferable even if they fit the data as well or better than models with more parameters.” Researchers take note. The underlying mathematics paper is well‐written and interesting: One Parameter Is Always Enough (Steven T. Piantadosi) — among other things, it points out that you can smuggle in arbitrarily large amounts of data into an equation through a single parameter because a number can have infinite digits. Obvious once stated, but I don’t know that it ever would have occurred to me. First shared in volume 154.

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.