Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 265

lots about race and racial tension

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. Here are the things about race and racial tension that stood out to me.
    • Why Did the Police Shoot Jacob Blake? (Trevor Noah, The Daily Show): “I could tell you this story with my eyes closed by now. If I wanted to I could prerecord five of these segments and go on vacation and you would never know.” Ten worthwhile minutes.
    • The Kenosha shooting didn’t happen in a vacuum (Denise Lockwood, CNN): “I am reminded of what Rodney Prunty, the former executive director of the United Way of Racine County, said to me during an interview: ‘If you have a pond full of fish and a few of them die, you ask what’s wrong with the fish. But when the pond full of fish dies, we ask what’s wrong with the pond.’ In Wisconsin, it’s time we talked about what’s wrong with the pond.”
    • Riots in John Piper’s Neighborhood (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Gospel Coalition): “Piper’s people moved in without a master plan, which was both confusing (‘What should we do?’) and exactly what When Helping Hurts authors would later advise (start with building relationships, watching, and learning). Everyone ended up doing something different. But for decades, they’ve kept at it, working through disappointments and challenges, looting and riots, broken glass and homeless tent cities in the parks. They’re still doing it.” This is an outstanding story.
    • Feel Good or Do Good (George Yancey, Patheos): “To gain the support of real conviction we need the type of conversations where we listen to others as much as discuss our point of view with them. We connect with others and get at the core of why they disagree with us. We understand their arguments and consider how to deal with the issues they bring up. We admit the validity of those issues even if we disagree with them. Does this sound like anything that is happening with antiracism?” The author, who is black, is a sociologist at Baylor whom I have referenced several times
    • Rule of Law Imperiled (R. R. Reno, First Things): “The destruction of property is not just an attack on another’s possessions. It is a violation of justice. This is why rioting and looting affects far more than those whose stores are burned. Citizens begin to worry that they do not live in a society committed to justice. As we know from blacks who resent mistreatment by the police, which is also unjust, this worry can become explosive, even among those not personally affected.”
    • Kyle Rittenhouse, Populist Hero (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “If I were a polling firm, I would run a national poll asking people who have heard of Kyle Rittenhouse whether they think he’s a villain, a hero, or don’t know. That would tell us a lot about the mood of the country.”
  2. Unbecoming American (Johann N. Neem, Hedgehog Review): “A shared culture is not a totalizing one; indeed, it makes real pluralism possible by giving us something larger to share regardless of our many differences. Or so I believed. But when that shared world was redefined as white—and when white people, threatened by its loss, reclaimed it—I found myself an exile. A person losing his country. I felt myself unbecoming in more than one sense. On college campuses, including the one where I now teach, the left imposes new boundaries on thought and speech in its effort to challenge historical boundaries, while, in politics, the right embraces boundaries that we had hoped never to see again.” The author, a man of Indian descent, is a historian at Western Washington University. I really liked this article.
    • Follow-up interview: An Immigrant’s Plea: “Don’t Convert to Whiteness” (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “My biggest fear, actually, is violence. We forget that social order is fragile. You don’t have to look far to see how prevalent ethnic or religious violence is around the world. If we form tribes, we will respond in hateful ways to each other. Rightly or wrongly, people will feel beleaguered. We will get angrier and angrier. There will be less empathy.” I share his concern. 
  3. Advice For Students In a Time of Strife (a whole passel of Princeton professors, First Things): “Remember, as an American college or university student you are one of the luckiest—most privileged—people on planet earth. Do not fall into the trap of thinking of yourself as a victim or building an identity for yourself around that idea. You can avoid the trap while strongly standing up for your right to fair and equal treatment and boldly working for reform where there are double standards needing to be rectified.” Technically not a whole passel, which connotes a large but uncertain number. I count 16 signatories!
  4. China Secretly Built A Vast New Infrastructure To Imprison Muslims (Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing, and Christo Buschek, Buzzfeed): “Downloading WhatsApp, which is banned in China, maintaining ties with family abroad, engaging in prayer, and visiting a foreign website are all offenses for which Muslims have been sent to camps, according to previously leaked documents and interviews with former detainees. Because the government does not consider internment camps to be part of the criminal justice system and none of these behaviors are crimes under Chinese law, no detainees have been formally arrested or charged with a crime, let alone seen a day in court.” I’ve shared similar news this before. This article is fresh and especially damning.
    • Part 2: What They Saw: Ex-Prisoners Detail The Horrors Of China’s Detention Camps (Buzzfeed): “More than a dozen former detainees confirmed to BuzzFeed News that prisoners were divided into three categories, differentiated by uniform colors. Those in blue, like Parida and the majority of the people interviewed for this article, were considered the least threatening. Often, they were accused of minor transgressions, like downloading banned apps to their phones or having traveled abroad. Imams, religious people, and others considered subversive to the state were placed in the strictest group — and were usually shackled even inside the camp.”
    • Part 3: Blanked-Out Spots On China’s Maps Helped Us Uncover Xinjiang’s Camps (Buzzfeed): “Our breakthrough came when we noticed that there was some sort of issue with satellite imagery tiles loading in the vicinity of one of the known camps while using the Chinese mapping platform Baidu Maps. The satellite imagery was old, but otherwise fine when zoomed out — but at a certain point, plain light gray tiles would appear over the camp location…. We analyzed the masked locations by comparing them to up-to-date imagery from Google Earth, the European Space Agency’s Sentinel Hub, and Planet Labs.” This one will be particularly interesting to CS people. 
  5. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks about trusting the news (Twitter): “…when you see a FACT that is reported, cited, and verified by several reputable outlets, 99.999% it’s going to be true. HOWEVER! There is a big difference between a fact and the STORY. And the STORY (often the headline) that’s surrounding the fact is frequently stretched, mischaracterized, or dramatized to get you to click.” She and I have a remarkably similar perspective on the media.
    • Related: Given my time again, I wouldn’t choose journalism (Sarah Ditum, Unherd): “Being mad was important because the economics of this kind of content required fast output (since timeliness is critical) and high engagement (since this is how editors, and writers, measure success). I write quickly when I’m angry, and anger begets more anger, so people are more likely to share and react. Not everything I wrote when this was my main form of journalism was bad, but only some of it was good, and the worst of it had a dishonesty that made me feel ashamed…” 
  6. Do Pro-Lifers Who Reject Trump Have ‘Blood on their Hands’? (David French, The DIspatch): “Decades of data and decades of legal, political, and cultural developments have combined to teach us a few, simple realities about abortion in the United States: 1. Presidents have been irrelevant to the abortion rate; 2. Judges have been forces of stability, not change, in abortion law; 3. State legislatures have had more influence on abortion than Congress; 4. Even if Roe is overturned, abortion will be mostly unchanged in the U.S.; and 5. The pro-life movement has an enormous cultural advantage.“ Chock-full of insights. Despite the title, it is less about partisan politics and more about abortion in America.

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 261

Links to some encouraging stories, some horrifying stories, and some confusing stories. Because it be like that sometimes.

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. How I Rediscovered Faith (Malcolm Gladwell, Relevant Magazine): “I have always believed in God. I have grasped the logic of Christian faith. What I have had a hard time seeing is God’s power. I put that sentence in the past tense because something happened to me…” Shared with me by a student.
  2. Sweden, Which Never Had Lockdown, Sees COVID-19 Cases Plummet as Rest of Europe Suffers Spike (Soo Kim, Newsweek): “Amid fears over a potential second wave of the novel coronavirus across Europe, new infections in Sweden, where full lockdown measures were not implemented, have mostly declined since late June…. Meanwhile, other parts of Europe have reported large spikes in new cases over the same period, including Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands, which have seen increases between 40 and 200 percent over the last month, according to the latest WHO report Wednesday.” Huh. Reality is complicated and that’s why they make getting a PhD so arduous. 
  3. John Roberts: Inside his surprising streak of liberal wins (Joan Biskupic, CNN): “…CNN offers a rare glimpse behind the scenes at how justices on the Roberts court asserted their interests, forged coalitions and navigated political pressure and the coronavirus pandemic. The justices’ opinions are public, but their deliberations are private and usually remain secret.”
  4. Harvard Creates Managers Instead of Elites (Saffron Huang, Palladium Magazine): “At Harvard, the implicit signal we receive every day is that everything requires a manager. Our extracurriculars, despite varying club names, mostly revolve around administrative work and sending emails. Emails soliciting donations, emails inviting speakers to a conference, emails publicizing your magazine launch with ‘FREE DONUTS’ dominating the subject line. Granted, execution of mundane tasks is necessary for real work to be done. The skills of subtly bumping an unresponsive teammate, deftly achieving a friendly-but-professional tone, and creating Excel files worthy of a UI/UX designer will serve you well in corporate life…. Very few clubs create a generative and imaginative vision for your future self at work, or for what you should be working on. Although this is the stated purpose of a Harvard liberal arts education, campus culture has elevated managerialism above creation…. The result is a class that excels at being judged and excels at managing and executing defined tasks.” Quite interesting and very relevant to Stanford.
  5. The Supreme Court’s surprising decision on churches and the pandemic, explained (Ian Millhiser, Vox): “Unlike his fellow Republican justices, in other words, Roberts appears to believe that courts have a particularly strong duty to defer to democratically accountable officials during an historic public health crisis.” I found this analysis of Robert’s vote quite interesting. 
    • Obeying God Rather than Men? A Constitutional Scholar on What’s Really a Religious Liberty Issue (Ed Stetzer interviewing John Inazu, Christianity Today): “Be people of hope who are known for putting the interests of others above your own. Lament the costs of this virus to human life, mental health, and material well-being. Lament our inability to gather for worship. Pray for the end of this virus. But in the meantime, love your neighbors and seek the peace of the city, even if it feels costly.”
    • We Can’t Roll the Dice on Religious Liberty: Nevada, the Supreme Court, and Churches (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “Nevada won the injunction battle, but churches need to help the state back up and make the right choice. This is the line that every mainstream evangelical group said they would draw, and it has now been crossed.”
    • Christ, not Caesar, Is Head of the Church (John MacArthur, Grace To You): “History is full of painful reminders that government power is easily and frequently abused for evil purposes. Politicians may manipulate statistics and the media can cover up or camouflage inconvenient truths. So a discerning church cannot passively or automatically comply if the government orders a shutdown of congregational meetings—even if the reason given is a concern for public health and safety.”
    • A Time for Civil Disobedience? A Response to Grace Community Church’s Elders (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “We understand that we are not ancient Israel. And though in one sense all space is sacred for a Christian because all space is under Christ’s lordship, in another sense no space is sacred, at least in a Temple-like way; and the government’s authority also extends everywhere inside its borders.”
    • Further Reflections on Recent Conversations about Christian Freedom (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “…my article and our podcast tried to do one simple thing: remind fellow believers—as we all venture forward on our politically tumultuous landscape—of the crucial role of Christian freedom when we take these kinds of stances. On this and so many other issues, believers will come to different conclusions about the best path to take. And for the sake of maintaining unity, the unique authority of Scripture, and the gospel, we need to keep training our instincts to have a quick grasp for what belongs in the realm of freedom and what does not.”
    • Our Galvanizing Grandfather (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “Suffice it to say that the civil government does have legitimate authority around sacred things (circa sacra), but no authority whatever in sacred things (in sacris). And when the government abuses this basic distinction willy nilly, as our governments have been doing in their overt and discriminatory treatment of the church, it is time for the leadership of the church to take a stand. So with all of that running in the background, my purpose here this morning is simply to honor John MacArthur for his leadership in this.”
  6. Interview: Journalist Michael Tracey on Riots & Protests (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “…the divergence in opinion — between local black and minority populations about the ethical implications of the riots, and the activists/journalists who claim to speak on their behalf — is striking.”
  7. Are Christians Forbidden to Eat Blood? (David Closson, Gospel Coalition): “We can learn at least two things from the Jerusalem Council. First, on matters pertaining to the gospel, there is no room for compromise. The apostles and elders were firm and swift in their denunciation of those who sought to add works to the gospel. Salvation is by faith alone through grace alone; human effort is excluded. Second, grace should be extended for differences that aren’t central to the gospel.” People dunked on this article, but it’s good and deals with an important question that will occur to any Bible reader. 

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 259

This week contains some of the most fascinating articles I ever have passed along. Definitely worth skimming!

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. Fertility rate: ‘Jaw-dropping’ global crash in children being born (James Gallagher, BBC): “China, currently the most populous nation in the world, is expected to peak at 1.4 billion in four years’ time before nearly halving to 732 million by 2100. India will take its place.” From a long-term perspective, this is possibly the most significant news you will read this year. Some of you will still be alive when China’s population is half what it is now. And it’s not just China — many nations are on the same path (with only a few sizable ones headed in the opposite direction).
  2. The Coronavirus and the Right’s Scientific Counterrevolution (Ari Schulman, The New Republic): “That so many views tut-tutted as the irrational defiance of expert consensus actually became the expert consensus in the span of just a few weeks vividly suggests that we need to reexamine just how our culture talks about expertise. The problem is not mainly that the experts were wrong—that is to be expected. It is, rather, that our lead institutions and public information outlets continually treated the assurances of experts as neutral interpretations of settled science when they plainly were not.” Interesting throughout. This will likely enter my rotation of classics that I repost from time to time. 
    • Related: An Open Letter To My Fellow Christians (David Carreon, personal blog): “Large gatherings are dangerous with a spreading virus regardless of the reason for the assembly. Some resist the straightforward response to this out of idolatry of church attendance and the church building. Any good thing can become an idol. Gold is good but can be shaped into a golden calf (Exo 32:4). Sex is good but can we can also pervert it through fornication (1 Cor 6:9). A church building or even physical attendance at church can be mistaken for the Church itself. This, too, is idolatry.” David is a Stanford psychiatrist (and a friend of mine)
    • Related: Andy Stanley Explains Why His Megachurch Won’t Gather on Sundays Until 2021 (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “Here is where I think the church needs to think about this: As a local church, we have limited time, limited staff, and limited resources; it makes no sense to focus our staff time and resources on creating a subpar environment on Sunday morning for a nine and 11 o’clock service that only 20% of the people may attend. We decided to focus on the 100% of all of our church folks and their friends and the rest of the world that may show up later.“
  3. David Shor’s Unified Theory of the 2020 Election (Eric Levitz, New York Magazine): “Campaigns do want to win. But the people who work in campaigns tend to be highly ideologically motivated and thus, super-prone to convincing themselves to do things that are strategically dumb.” Super interesting — well worth reading.
  4. Disturbing video shows hundreds of blindfolded prisoners in Xinjiang (Matt Rivers, Max Foster and James Griffiths, CNN): “The video — which was posted online anonymously last week — shows hundreds of men, most of whom are dressed in purple and orange vests with the words ‘Kashgar Detention Center’ printed on them, seated in rows on the ground of what appears to be a large courtyard outside a train station. Their heads are shaved and their hands bound behind their backs. All of the men are wearing black blindfolds over their eyes and they are being watched over by dozens of police officers in SWAT uniforms.”’
    • Related: China cuts Uighur births with IUDs, abortion, sterilization (Associated Press): “While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor. The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of ‘demographic genocide.’”
  5. Sit With Negative Emotions, Don’t Push Them Away (Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic): “In sum, if we want a life full of deep meaning, true love, and emotional strength, it’s going to involve the risk (and often the reality) of discomfort, conflict, and loss. This means there will be sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. If we eliminate negative emotions and experiences from our lives, we will be poorer and weaker for having done so.” The author is a professor at Harvard, recommended by a friend.
  6. 10 Theses About Cancel Culture (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “The point of cancellation is ultimately to establish norms for the majority, not to bring the stars back down to earth…. The goal isn’t to punish everyone, or even very many someones; it’s to shame or scare just enough people to make the rest conform.”
    • The Willful Blindness of Reactionary Liberalism (Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic): “The tensions we’ve seen lately have been internal to liberalism for ages: between those who take the associative nature of liberal society seriously and those who are determined not to. It is the former group, the defenders of progressive identity politics, who in fact are protecting—indeed expanding—the bounds of liberalism. And it is the latter group, the reactionaries, who are most guilty of the illiberalism they claim has overtaken the American Left.” Written before the letter I shared last week, this is one of the best defenses of cancel culture.
    • The World That Twitter Made (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “I suspect an entire class of pundits has internalized the idea that [Twitter debate] is what public discussion is. Of course they don’t believe in free expression, civil debate, the spirit of liberalism, and all of that jazz. To this generation those things are just words. The public sphere they have known has always been a bare-knuckle brawl.”
    • Resignation Letter (Bari Weiss, personal website): “What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome.” Recommended by a student.
    • See You Next Friday (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “What has happened, I think, is relatively simple: A critical mass of the staff and management at New York Magazine and Vox Media no longer want to associate with me, and, in a time of ever tightening budgets, I’m a luxury item they don’t want to afford. And that’s entirely their prerogative.”
    • Illusion and Agreement in the Debate over Intolerance (Justin Weinberg, Daily Nous): “In short, I don’t think society has gotten more intolerant, but technology has facilitated, among other things, the expression of intolerance.”
    • A More Specific Letter on Justice and Open Debate (many authors, The Objective): “In truth, Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ people — particularly Black and trans people — can now critique elites publicly and hold them accountable socially; this seems to be the letter’s greatest concern. What’s perhaps even more grating to many of the signatories is that a critique of their long held views is persuasive.”
    • Liked tweets nearly cost me my university job (Mike McCulloch, Unherd): “To think that I could have lost my career to a single complaint about my liked tweets shows just how hysterical the present social mood is. Now more than ever, it is vital that we — and in particular the universities — stand up for enlightenment principles and replace fear with reason and fact.” The author is a math lecturer (similar to an assistant professor in the US) at the University of Plymouth. 
    • A Declaration of Independence by a Princeton Professor (Joshua T. Katz, Quillette): “I am friends with many people who signed the Princeton letter, which requests and in some places demands a dizzying array of changes, and I support their right to speak as they see fit. But I am embarrassed for them.” 
    • Attempted Putsch At Princeton (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I am a Princeton professor who signed the letter that you wrote about today. I am also a devout Christian and a daily reader of your blog.” Contains a letter from a Princeton prof with a different view than the one above, worth contrasting.
  7. My Time in Prison (George Cardinal Pell, First Things): “There is a lot of goodness in prisons. At times, I am sure, prisons may be hell on earth. I was fortunate to be kept safe and treated well. I was impressed by the professionalism of the warders, the faith of the prisoners, and the existence of a moral sense even in the darkest places.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 258

Is 650 a lot? it depends. Pennies? No. Murders? Yes. Coronavirus cases? Depends on where they spread.

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. Churches Emerge as Major Source of Coronavirus Cases (Kate Conger, Jack Healy and Lucy Tompkins, New York Times): “More than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, with many of them erupting over the last month as Americans resumed their pre-pandemic activities, according to a New York Times database.” 
    • Are Churches “A Major Source of Coronavirus Cases?” (Tim Challies, personal blog): “If I have $3,000,000 in the bank and you give me another $650, you’d hardly be in the position to claim that you had made a major contribution to my wealth. Similarly, adding 650 cases to America’s total caseload of 3 million is no more than a blip that leaves 99.98% attributable to other causes.”
    • Churches, Coronavirus, and the New York Times (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “It is strange (at best) to use words like ‘major’ and ‘erupted’ when describing 650 cases. On that point, the headline is misleading. Having 650 cases in my county might be news, but 650 nationally out of three million cases is a headline looking for a story. The real story is this: churches are gathering and remarkably few infections are taking place.”
  2. America’s Racial Progress (David French, National Review): “There are two things that I believe to be true. First, that America has a long history of brutal and shameful mistreatment of racial minorities — with black Americans its chief victims. And second, that America is a great nation, and that American citizens (and citizens of the world) should be grateful for its founding. Perhaps no nation has done more good for more people than the United States. It was and is a beacon of liberty and prosperity in a world long awash in tyranny and poverty.”
  3. A Letter on Justice and Open Debate (many signatories, Harpers): “The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other.”
    • Prominent Artists and Writers Warn of an ‘Intolerant Climate’ (Jennifer Schuessler and Elizabeth A. Harris, New York Times): “‘We’re not just a bunch of old white guys sitting around writing this letter,’ Mr. Williams, who is African-American, said. ‘It includes plenty of Black thinkers, Muslim thinkers, Jewish thinkers, people who are trans and gay, old and young, right wing and left wing.’”
    • ending the charade (Freddie deBoer, personal blog): “Please, think for a minute and consider: what does it say when a completely generic endorsement of free speech and open debate is in and of itself immediately diagnosed as anti-progressive, as anti-left?”(emphasis in original)
  4. Lazarus Chakwera: Malawi’s president who ‘argued with God’ (BBC): “In the unmistakable cadence of a preacher, Malawi’s new President, Lazarus Chakwera, appealed for unity in his country shortly after he was sworn in on Sunday. The day of the week seemed fitting as the former head of the Malawi Assemblies of God, one of the largest Christian denominations in the country, treated the stage like a pulpit to inspire fervour with his words.”
  5. Slate Star Codex and Silicon Valley’s War Against the Media (Gideon Lewis-Kraus, New Yorker): “The division between the Grey and Blue tribes is often rendered in the simplistic terms of a demographic encounter between white, nerdily entitled men in hoodies on one side and diverse, effete, artistic snobs on the other.” Interesting throughout. 
  6. Christianity’s Covert Success (Mark Tooley, Providence) “I quote an Indian professor who says that Christianity proceeds in two ways, through conversion—which is obvious, that’s how people tend to think Christianity precedes—but he then says, through secularization. And I think he’s absolutely right. And I think that the assumption of people in the West that the secular is somehow neutral, that if you’re secular, you’ve somehow escaped the bounds of cultural contingency, couldn’t be more wrong.”
  7. On Religion, the Supreme Court Protects the Right to Be Different (Michael McConnell, New York Times): “The court may be political, but its politics is of the middle, and of a particular kind of middle, one that is committed to pluralism and difference rather than to the advancement of particular moral stances.” The author is a Stanford law prof.

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 Planet of Cops (Freddie de Boer, personal blog): “The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats. Go to any space concerned with social justice and what will you find? Endless surveillance. Everybody is to be judged. Everyone is under suspicion. Everything you say is to be scoured, picked over, analyzed for any possible offense. Everyone’s a detective in the Division of Problematics, and they walk the beat 24/7…. I don’t know how people can simultaneously talk about prison abolition and restoring the idea of forgiveness to literal criminal justice and at the same time turn the entire social world into a kangaroo court system.” First shared in volume 161.

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 256

FYI, I offer some of my own thoughts on police towards the end.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Rebel Physicist Trying to Fix Quantum Mechanics (Bob Henderson, New York Times): “Bassi is a practicing Catholic and a believer in God, something he says is ‘unusual’ but ‘not rare” among his colleagues at the university. Einstein called his own belief that reality could be understood ‘religion,’ and I wondered if there’s a connection between Bassi’s religious faith and that in what has become essentially a far-right position in physics.” I have no opinion on the underlying scientific controversy, but Bassi sounds like a fascinating person.
  2. What the Tentmaking Business Was Really Like for the Apostle Paul (Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “[It] cost the Apostle Paul to write his letters, including the securing of materials and the hiring of a secretary to make a copy for himself. After extensive research and calculation, he determined that on the low side it would have cost him at least $2,000 in today’s currency to write 1 Corinthians. (And that doesn’t include the cost of sending someone like Titus on a long journey to deliver it.)” Short and fascinating.
  3. The Tempting of Neil Gorsuch (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “We may officially have three branches of government, but Americans seem to accept that it’s more like 2.25: A presidency that acts unilaterally whenever possible, a high court that checks the White House and settles culture wars, and a Congress that occasionally bestirs itself to pass a budget.”
  4. Religious Americans Have Less Positive Attitudes Toward Science, But This Does Not Extend to Other Cultures (Jonathon McPhetres, Jonathan Jong & Miron Zuckerman, Social Psychological and Personality Science): “It is commonly claimed that science and religion are logically and psychologically at odds with one another. However, previous studies have mainly examined American samples…” Raw data at https://osf.io/t7w6x/ DOI 10.1177/1948550620923239. The authors are professors at MIT, Oxford, and the University of Rochester.
  5. “He’s the Chosen One to Run America”: Inside the Cult of Trump, His Rallies Are Church and He Is the Gospel (Jeff Sharlet, Vanity Fair): “Nonbelievers roll their eyes over what they see as the gobsmacking hypocrisy of Trump as a tribune of family values, the dopiness of the rubes who consider him a moral man. Nonbelievers, in other words, miss the point. They lack gnosis. Very few believers deny Trump’s sordid past. Some turn to the old Christian ready-made of redemption: Their man was lost, but now he’s found. Others love him precisely because he is a sinner—if a man of such vast, crass, and open appetites can embody the nation (and really, who is more American—vast, crass, and open—than Trump), then you too, student of porn, monster truck lover, ultimate fighter in your dreams and games, can claim an anointing.” The title filled me with low expectations, but the article has some interesting reflections on Gnosticism in modern America. 
  6. On religious liberty:
    • The True Extent of Religious Liberty in America, Explained (David French, The Dispatch): “Yes, it is true that in some respects religious liberty is ‘under siege.’ There are activists and lawmakers who want to push back at multiple doctrines and some radicals even dream of revoking tax exemptions from religious organizations that maintain traditional teachings on sex and gender. But if the siege is real, then so is the citadel. People of faith in the United States of America enjoy more liberty and more real political power than any faith community in the developed world.” This is really good.
    • No Longer a Luxury – Religious Liberty is a National Security Priority (Christos Makridis, Providence): “…increases in religious liberty are associated with robust increases in human flourishing even after controlling for differences in gross domestic product, the labor force, and measures of economic freedom. For example, moving a country that ranks in religious liberty along the lines of Russia to one that ranks closer to the United States amounts to an 11 percent increase in the share of individuals who say that they are thriving.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry. 
    • Torah Is the Air We Breathe (Gil Student, First Things): “But our spiritually impoverished society views religious practices as merely cultural expressions. It views religious services as equivalent to yoga classes and book club meetings. It does not see religion as essential, and therefore cannot understand that Jews don’t serve God as part of our lives; rather, we live to serve God.”
  7. On race, police, and protests
    • Above the Law: The Data Are In on Police, Killing, and Race (Lyman Stone, The Public Discourse): “…police killings have made up about one out of every twelve violent deaths of Americans between 2010 and 2018. That’s including American military deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere during that window. Indeed, more Americans died at the hands of police officers during that period (about 14,400) than died while on active military duty (about 9,400). Police violence in America is extraordinary in its intensity. It is disproportionate to the actual threats facing police officers, and it has risen significantly in recent years without apparent justification.”
    • Jewish businesses in Los Angeles ransacked in riots, but only Israeli and Jewish media care (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “The Oregonian called riot-plagued Portland ‘a city of plywood.’ Since then, images have emerged of a darker narrative, with rioters targeting Jewish businesses. Israeli newspapers ran with this angle this past Saturday, but by the end of the day, there was nothing about the Jewish vandalism to be found on the New York Times website. Usually the Times is pretty up on anti-Semitism, but it was easier to find a piece about Anna Wintour than any mentions of vandalized Jews.”
    • How Jesus became white — and why it’s time to cancel that (Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service): “Anderson said that it has been common for people to depict Jesus as a member of their culture or their ethnic group. ‘If a person thinks that’s the only possible representation of Jesus, then that’s where the problem starts,’ he said.” It’s almost like portraying God visually leads to trouble. I wish God had thought to warn against that.
    • Reflections from a Christian scholar on Social Justice, Critical Race Theory, Marxism, and Biblical Ethics (Kelly Hamren, Facebook): “I have two English degrees (B.A. and M.A.) from a Christian university and a Ph.D. in literature and criticism from a state university. In my field, Marxism is one of the most commonly studied and most influential perspectives, and Critical Race Theory is also a significant force and gaining momentum.… my studies have convinced me that the sufferings and deaths of millions are not only correlated with but largely caused by the Marxist-Leninist agenda, and I am therefore deeply opposed to Marxism as a framework. I hope that, knowing this, those patient enough to read these notes will acquit me of being a closet Marxist covering a secular agenda with a veneer of Bible verses.” The author is an English professor at Liberty University.
    • Law professor’s response to student offended by their shirt (Patricia Leary, Imgur): “Premise: You are not paying for my opinion. Critique: You are not paying me to pretend I don’t have one.” Two comments: first, this is a few years old. Second, initially looks made-up but checks out. The author is a professor at Whittier Law School: Law professor responds to students who complained about her Black Lives Matter shirt (Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed) 
    • The New Truth (Jacob Siegel, Tablet Magazine): “What we are witnessing, in the rapidly transforming norms around race, sex, and gender, is not an argument at all but a revolution in moral sentiment. In all revolutions, the new thing struggling to be born makes use of the old system in order to overthrow it. At present, institutions like the university, the press, and the medical profession preserve the appearance of reason, empiricism, and argument while altering, through edict and coercion, the meaning of essential terms in the moral lexicon, like fairness, equality, friendship, and love.”
    • History Shows Free Speech Is The Loser In Mob Action (Jonathan Turley, personal blog): “What will be left when objectionable public art and academics are scrubbed from view? The silence that follows may be comforting to those who want to remove images or ideas that cause unease. History has shown, however, that orthodoxy is never satisfied with silence. It demands speech. Once all the offending statues are down, and all the offending professors are culled, the appetite for collective suppression will become a demand for collective expression.” The author is a law professor at George Washington University.
    • Of Statues and Symbolic Murder (Wilfred M. McClay, First Things): “…a great many of the foot soldiers in this movement are young, white, suburban, middle-class and college-educated; and that they are working out their salvation with fear and trembling and a deadly earnestness. The ‘white privilege’ of which these young people complain is a projection onto others of the very condition that they suspect and fear in themselves. Hence the convulsive rage, complete with copious gutter profanity, which we have all seen in videos of them. People in the grip of such powerful psychological forces will go a long way to expiate for their existential sins and rid themselves of their demons. They are easily mobilized by others. According to Pew estimates, only one out of six Black Lives Matter activists is actually black.”
      1. Related to the last sentence: George Floyd Protester Demographics: Insights Across 4 Major US Cities (MobileWalla report) has bar charts based on surveilling the cell phones of people at the protests and inferring their demographics the way marketers do. 
    • A Minneapolis Neighborhood Vowed to Check Its Privilege. It’s Already Being Tested. (Caitlin Dickerson, New York Times): “The impulse many white Powderhorn Park residents have to seek help from community groups rather than from the police is being felt in neighborhoods across the country. But some are finding the commitment hard to stand by when faced with the complex realities of life. While friends, neighbors and even family members in Powderhorn Park agree to avoid calling the police at all costs, it has been harder to establish where to draw the line.” Read through to the insane final story. 
    • I don’t often insert my own commentary in these emails, but in this case I’d like to highlight a Biblical perspective.
      1. The Bible teaches that one of the reasons that God gives governments authority is for them to use violence in the pursuit of justice. Romans 13:4 is key: “the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
      2. We have freedom in how we choose to do that as a society — the Bible does not require that we use police or that we build prisons. Having said that, if we abolish domestic law enforcement then the only alternatives I see are the military, private businesses that offer protection for a fee, sanctioned vigilantism, or mob justice. These are not appealing options. Some combination of unbundling police work, reducing criminal laws while rethinking the sanctions for violating them, and increasing police pay while imposing higher standards for police conduct seems like a better path forward.

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 248

One of the best explanations of religious liberty I have read, along with articles about the pandemic, UFOs, the Chinese Communist Party, and a fascinating interview with a pastor.

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.

I’m a little happy because the number 248 seems cool to me. If I ever reach 1248 I’ll think it’s even cooler.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Religious Liberty and the Common Good (National Affairs, William Haun): “Many of today’s progressives, conservatives, and libertarians [cannot] explain why religion in particular and religious exercise in particular should shape the common good, even when they go against the grain of secular visions adopted in law.” This is probably the most important link I’ve shared in quite a while. Not light reading but worthwhile. The author is a lawyer for the Becket Fund.
  2. Erwin McManus: The Peaceable Warrior (Paul J. Pastor, Outreach Magazine): “I talked to someone last Sunday who said, ‘I’m here because somebody invited me. I didn’t want to come.’ [Laughs] She actually said, ‘I’m mean, jaded and cynical. I don’t believe in God or religion. I think it’s all a sham.’ I said, ‘You’re really disappointed, aren’t you?’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because you like us,’ I said. ‘Yeah,’ she said, ‘I don’t know what to do with that.’ ” (the excerpt is actually from part 2 of the interview and the story gets even better). I only stumbled upon this slightly older article because it won a Maggie award for best interview of 2019.
  3. Coronavirus News & Perspectives
    • Comparing COVID-19 Deaths to Flu Deaths Is like Comparing Apples to Oranges (Jeremy Samuel Faust, Scientific American): “When reports about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV‑2 began circulating earlier this year and questions were being raised about how the illness it causes, COVID-19, compared to the flu, it occurred to me that, in four years of emergency medicine residency and over three and a half years as an attending physician, I had almost never seen anyone die of the flu. I could only remember one tragic pediatric case.” The author is an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Fascinating.
    • Photographer Takes Pics Of People In Public From 2 Perspectives And It Shows How Easily The Media Can Manipulate Reality (Liucija Adomaite and Denis Tymulis, Bored Panda): “‘The proximity of people has widely been debated in Denmark in the past weeks. Danish politicians and authorities have frequently referred to images which they believed to show members of the public behaving in disagreement with the general guidelines.’ As a national photo news agency that supplies visual coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, ‘we became aware that our contribution could be misread.’” A picture is worth 1000 words, not all of them honest.
    • Seattle’s Leaders Let Scientists Take the Lead. New York’s Did Not (Charles Duhigg ‚New Yorker): “Constantine told me, ‘Jeff recognized what he was asking for was impractical. He said if we advised social distancing right away there would be zero acceptance. And so the question was: What can we say today so that people will be ready to hear what we need to say tomorrow?’ In e‑mails and phone calls, the men began playing a game: What was the most extreme advice they could give that people wouldn’t scoff at? Considering what would likely be happening four days from then, what would they regret not having said?”
    • A Virginia preacher believed ‘God can heal anything.’ Then he caught coronavirus. (Peter Jamison, Washington Post): “In the days after Landon succumbed to covid-19, his death brought words of sympathy from people who knew him — and jeers from people who didn’t. The New York Post, the Daily Mail and an atheist blog published articles seizing on his March 13 Facebook post. Landon was posthumously attacked as a victim of misguided beliefs — in the assurances of his president and the protections of his God.”
    • Information Can Do What Lockdowns Can’t (Lyman Stone, The Public Discourse): “Americans, like people in almost every country, were quicker to understand the risks than most of the people who govern us. Alas, had our leaders taken the threat seriously a month earlier, and communicated the risks to Americans more explicitly, COVID could have been a flash in the pan. Instead, many thousands of Americans are going to die unnecessary deaths.”
    • Why Did YouTube Remove The Doctors’ Briefing? (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “…I absolutely believe that it’s wrong to censor what qualified medical professionals (read: not quacks) are saying about the crisis, which is so unique in our experience as a nation. A strong lockdown was necessary at first. If there is good medical evidence that the lockdown, and related public health strategies, might be doing more harm that good at this date, then let’s hear that argument.”
    • Related: The Inevitable Coronavirus Censorship Crisis is Here (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “The people who want to add a censorship regime to a health crisis are more dangerous and more stupid by leaps and bounds than a president who tells people to inject disinfectant. It’s astonishing that they don’t see this.”
    • With US Borders Closed by Covid-19, How Will I Afford Insulin? (James Stout, Undark): “During months when I teach as an adjunct professor and am covered by my university’s insurance plan, I stock up as much insulin as I can. During the remainder of the year, I do what thousands of others do: I cross the border to Mexico where, just 12 miles from my house in San Diego, I can buy the same medicine at one-tenth of the price.” Sent my way by a student.
  4. UFO Sightings: They Deserve to Be Taken More Seriously (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg): “The official release of some previously leaked UFO videos taken by U.S. navy pilots has sparked renewed interest in the bigger questions. For sure those flying objects are unidentified, but how much attention should we earthlings devote to this issue? I am struck by the contrast between those who see this as an important question and those who think the whole thing will turn out to be an error or some kind of optical illusion.”
  5. On the Chinese Communist Party: 
    • China Has a Post-Pandemic Dream for Hong Kong (Yi-Zheng Lian, New York Times): “But the recent developments actually are remarkable. For the first time, the traditional pan-dems are being treated as enemies just like the separatists. And for the first time, Beijing is violating the very letter of the Basic Law, which it itself has promulgated; the Chinese government typically only contorts the law and distorts its spirit.”
    • The End of the Harvard Century (Matteo N. Wong, Harvard Crimson): “Chinese officials regularly deliver complaints to universities hosting events on sensitive issues and even offer scholars money to modify research critical of China.… given Harvard’s status in the international academic hierarchy, Chinese authorities may be particularly interested in the University. ‘We’ve had Chinese citizens at Harvard, who are clearly doing the bidding of the Chinese state, coming and sitting in on talks and taking notes and reporting back,’ Perry says. She similarly suspects Chinese citizens of reporting on visiting Chinese scholars’ activities.” This article is quite long but fascinating.
    • America is awakening to China. This is a clarion call to seize the moment. (Mitt Romney, Washington Post): “China’s alarming military build-up is not widely discussed outside classified settings, but Americans should not take comfort in our disproportionately large military budget. The government of President Xi Jinping doesn’t report its actual defense spending. An apples-to-apples analysis demonstrates that China’s annual procurement of military hardware is nearly identical to ours; but because our military has missions around the world, this means that in the Pacific, where China concentrates its firepower, it will have military superiority.”
    • I was arrested in Hong Kong. It’s part of China’s larger plan.(Martin C. M. Lee , Washington Post): “Hong Kong people now face two plagues from China: the coronavirus and attacks on our most basic human rights. We can all hope a vaccine is soon developed for the coronavirus. But once Hong Kong’s human rights and rule of law are rolled back, the fatal virus of authoritarian rule will be here to stay.”
  6. My Native American father drew the Land O’Lakes maiden. She was never a stereotype. (Robert DesJarlait, Washington Post): “Mia’s vanishing has prompted a social media meme: ‘They Got Rid of The Indian and Kept the Land.’ That isn’t too far from the truth. Mia, the stereotype that wasn’t, leaves behind a landscape voided of identity and history. For those of us who are American Indian, it’s a history that is all too familiar.”
  7. By Biden’s Own Standards, He Is Guilty As Charged (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “On Friday’s Morning Joe, Biden laid out a simple process for judging him: Listen respectfully to Tara Reade, and then check for facts that prove or disprove her specific claim. The objective truth, Biden argued, is what matters. I agree with him. But this was emphatically not the standard Biden favored when judging men in college. If Biden were a student, under Biden rules, Reade could file a claim of assault, and Biden would have no right to know the specifics, the evidence provided, who was charging him, who was a witness, and no right to question the accuser.”
    • This article is about college Title IX proceedings using Tara Reade and Joe Biden as illustrations. If its inclusion comes off as partisan, bear in mind that the author intends to vote for Biden.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • Dolphins swim in bioluminescent waves in Newport Beach (YouTube): three minutes
  • Obviously Confused Amash Runs For President Even Though We Already Have Two Choices (Babylon Bee)
  • Unusually Heavy Call Volumes (Pearls Before Swine)
  • Latest Computer Model Predicts Between 0 And 12.6 Billion New COVID-19 Deaths By Summer (Babylon Bee)
  • Steve Harvey Gets Tie Stolen by Pickpocket Bob Arno (Steve Harvey Show, YouTube): seven minutes, recommended by a student
  • Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

    Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have the provocative read In Defense of Flogging (Peter Moskos, Chronicle of Higher Education) — the author is a former police officer and now a criminologist at the City University of New York. This one was shared back before I started sending these emails in a blog post called Punishment.

    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 247

Articles ranging from how to share your faith during the pandemic to Amish healthcare policies to the limitations of lockdowns. Enjoy!

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Amish Health Care System (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “I’m fascinated by how many of today’s biggest economic problems just mysteriously failed to exist in the past. Our grandparents easily paid for college with summer jobs, raised three or four kids on a single income, and bought houses in their 20s or 30s and never worried about rent or eviction again. And yes, they got medical care without health insurance, and avoided the kind of medical bankruptcies we see too frequently today. How did this work so well? Are there ways to make it work today?”
    • I would say unexpectedly fascinating except nearly everything on Slate Star Codex is fascinating; in fact, the more esoteric the topic the better.
    • Follow-up: Employer Provided Health Insurance Delenda Est (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Most of my patients have insurance; most of them are well-off; most of them are intelligent enough that they should be able to navigate the bureaucracy. Listen to the usual debate around insurance, and you would expect them to be the winners of our system; the rich people who can turn their financial advantage into better care. And yet barely a day goes by without a reminder that it doesn’t work this way.”
  2. General Coronavirus News and Commentary 
    • Amid Pandemic, Hong Kong Arrests Major Pro-Democracy Figures (Elaine Yu and Austin Ramzy, NY Times): “The virus has halted protests around the world, forcing people to stay home and giving the authorities new laws for limiting public gatherings and detaining people with less fear of public blowback while many residents remained under lockdowns or observing limits on their movement. But the arrests on Saturday in Hong Kong, along with a renewed push for national security legislation in the city, could anger protesters and reinvigorate mass demonstrations that had tapered off.”
    • Lockdowns Don’t Work (Lyman Stone, The Public Discourse): “Lockdowns don’t work. These other policies—travel restrictions, large-assembly limits, centralized quarantine, mask requirements, and school cancellations—do work. Because COVID is an extremely severe disease that, if left unchecked, will kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, it is vitally important that policymakers focus their efforts on policies that do work (masks, central quarantines, travel restrictions, school cancellations, large-assembly limits), and avoid implementing draconian, unpopular policies that don’t work (lockdowns).”
    • Lockdown Socialism will collapse (Arnold Kling, personal blog): “you can stay in your residence, but paying rent or paying your mortgage is optional…. you can obtain groceries and shop on line, but having a job is optional…. if you own a small business, you don’t need revenue, because the government will keep sending checks.”
    • We Can’t Go on Like This Much Longer (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “…protests against our total shutdown, while puny now, will doubtless grow. The psychological damage — not counting the physical toll — caused by this deeply unnatural way of life is going to intensify. We remain human beings, a quintessentially social mammal, and we orient ourselves in time, looking forward to the future. When that future has been suspended, humans come undone.”
    • How not to say the wrong thing to health-care workers (Dorothy R. Novick, Washington Post): “…a person in any given circle should send love and compassion inward, to those in smaller circles, and process personal grief outward, to those in larger circles…. Comfort in, grief out.”
    • It’s Time To Build (Marc Andreesen, blog): “The things we build in huge quantities, like computers and TVs, drop rapidly in price. The things we don’t, like housing, schools, and hospitals, skyrocket in price. What’s the American dream? The opportunity to have a home of your own, and a family you can provide for. We need to break the rapidly escalating price curves for housing, education, and healthcare, to make sure that every American can realize the dream, and the only way to do that is to build.”
    • In response: Why We Can’t Build (Ezra Klein, Vox): “The institutions through which Americans build have become biased against action rather than toward it. They’ve become, in political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s term, ‘vetocracies,’ in which too many actors have veto rights over what gets built. That’s true in the federal government. It’s true in state and local governments. It’s even true in the private sector.”
    • How to Protect Civil Liberties in a Pandemic (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “In emergencies, [the executive director of the ACLU] reflected in an interview earlier this month, government officials justify new powers by pointing to the extraordinary challenges of the moment. Yet long after the emergency passes, they tend to assert those very same powers as if they are the new normal…. ‘We are still litigating powers in 2020 that were adopted in 2001.’”
  3. Christian Coronavirus News & Commentary
    • COVID-19 Is Not God’s Judgment (Jim Denison, Christianity Today): “…biblical judgments through disease are supernatural in origin. When God sent ‘boils’ on Egypt, they broke out instantly ‘on man and beast’ throughout the land. The ‘pestilence’ of Revelation will come by one of the ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse,’ not a wet market in Wuhan. Everything scientists can tell us about COVID-19 is that the virus evolved from other viruses. It is natural, not supernatural.” 
    • If Liquor Stores Are Essential, Why Isn’t Church? (Michael McConnel & Max Raskin, NY Times): “It is not for government officials to decide whether religious worship is essential; the First Amendment already decided that. The question is whether, and how, it may be conducted without undue risk to public health.” McConnell is a Stanford law prof.
    • Pandemic Evangelism: Spreading the Gospel, not the Virus (Peter Cushman, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary): “Step 1: Fervently Pray for the Lost… Step 2: Tell the Lost You’re Praying for Them… Step 3a: Tell the Lost about Christ: Recognizing Opportunities.” This is a series of blog posts which is not yet finished. The individual posts so far → step one, step two, step 3a.
    • Covid-19 has killed multiple bishops and pastors within the nation’s largest black Pentecostal denomination (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “The Church of God in Christ, the country’s biggest African American Pentecostal denomination, has taken a deep and painful leadership hit with reports of at least a dozen to up to 30 bishops and prominent clergy dying of covid-19…”
    • Under fire from many, Samaritan’s Purse finds an unlikely champion (Yonat Shimron, Religion News Service): “In the course of the past four weeks, Tilson, who is not religious and had never heard of Franklin Graham, the conservative Christian leader of Samaritan’s Purse, has become one of the field hospital’s most dedicated volunteers and champions.”
  4. Is the World Ignoring a Christian Genocide in Nigeria? (Lela Gilbert, Providence): “Those of us who track religious freedom violations and Christian persecution agree with those who increasingly speak of another genocide. Murderous incidents are acted out with accelerating frequency, perpetrated primarily by two terror groups—Boko Haram and Fulani jihadis. Tens of thousands of Nigerians have been slaughtered in the last decade. But their stories rarely appear in mainstream Western news reports.”
  5. Four articles more partisan than those I often share:
    • On the right: End the Globalization Gravy Train (J.D Vance, The American Mind): “Western Civilization was, in fact, built by figures—one in particular whose resurrection we just celebrated—who recognized that material consumption, while necessary and important, was hardly the only good worth pursuing.” 
    • On the left: Studying Fascist Propaganda by Day, Watching Trump’s Coronavirus Updates by Night (Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker): “[Yale professor Jason] Stanley isn’t, or isn’t mainly, a scholar of public policy; he is a philosopher of language. When he insinuates that Trump is a fascist—and you don’t have to be a philosopher of language to catch the insinuation—he means that Trump talks like a fascist, not necessarily that he governs like one.” Sent my way by a concerned alumnus.
    • On the right: Evangelicals Need More Pragmatism and Less Moralism (Daniel Strand, Providence): “Many evangelicals have expressed their disillusion at both political parties because neither seems to line up with their beliefs. Democrats seem antagonistic to Christian convictions, and Republicans rally to defend and support a president whose character would not exactly line up with Christian standards, let alone those of used car salesman—my apologies to used car salesmen. To all this, I say good.” The author is a professor of ethics at the USAF Air War College.
    • On the left: We Are Living In A Failed State (George Packer, The Atlantic): “When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.”
  6. The Decline of the Jury (Peter Hitchens, First Things): “For without a jury, any trial is simply a process by which the state reassures itself that it has got the right man. A group of state employees, none of them especially distinguished, are asked to confirm the views of other state employees. With a jury, the government cannot know the outcome and must prove its case. And so the faint, phantasmal ideal of the presumption of innocence takes on actual flesh and bones and stands in the path of power.”

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 For an eye-opening (and dismaying) experience, read What The Media Gets Wrong About Israel (Mattie Friedman, The Atlantic). (first shared back in volume 5): “one of the most important aspects of the media-saturated conflict between Jews and Arabs is also the least covered: the press itself. The Western press has become less an observer of this conflict than an actor in it, a role with consequences for the millions of people trying to comprehend current events, including policymakers who depend on journalistic accounts to understand a region where they consistently seek, and fail, to productively intervene.”

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 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 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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 237

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. “My Gang Is Jesus” (Alex Cuadros, Harpers Magazine): “A year ago, I flew to Rio and followed Martins around for a few weeks as he preached. I hoped to reconcile two competing narratives of the evangelical church’s role in the favelas. For the country’s poor, all but neglected by the state, churches serve not only as a source of spiritual salvation but as a haven of last resort—a place to find community, job tips, and counseling, or simply to gather and sing without fear of violence. Yet stories of crooked pastors abound in the new Brazil; in recent years, several have been caught transporting weapons for the drug trade. While many gang members find in Jesus the courage to quit this life, others seem to have internalized a skewed set of biblical lessons, even committing acts of violence in Jesus’ name.”
  2. Religious Liberty: Not Just for Social Conservatives (David French, The Dispatch): “The beauty of civil liberties case law is that each lawful exercise of liberty reinforces another. So it is with this case. Progressives will likely cheer that these four activists will escape punishment for saving immigrant lives. And which cases helped them win? One of them was Hobby Lobby—an assertion of religious freedom by Christian conservatives against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, a cause that many progressives despised.”
  3. Loving to Know (N.T. Wright, First Things): “The scientist may be fascinated by the way a cancer cell grows, but that fascination will increase his determination to stop it in its tracks. The historian may be intrigued by the causes of the First World War, but she may well hope that her investigation of the complex tangle of motivations will help us spot future warning signs. And the parent who enjoys watching the child climbing a tree will, as a matter of love, simultaneously affirm the child’s freedom and seek to mitigate any clear danger. Love is always on the lookout.” This article is a little uneven but very insightful at places.
  4. Educated Fools (Thomas Geoghegan, The New Republic): “Meritocracy has its own deep state—with secrets unknown even to those of us who are part of it. And the worst thing is the way it can taunt the working class with the ideals of the Enlightenment, when it is we meritocratic liberals who have the greatest interest in limiting its spread. We think we’re acting in such good faith in pushing for college and even community college education. But real salvation can be offered only to a few, on a retail, not a wholesale, basis: Instead of raising people up collectively, we’re being careful to do it one diploma at a time.
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    • The author’s blindness to the continued existence of churches stood out to me. “There is no foothold left in big cities, or anyplace else where the global winners live, for high school graduates to exercise even a tiny bit of power. There’s no church to slot into as a deacon…” (emphasis added) Fact check: churches are flourishing in big cities.
  5. Nigeria is a killing field of defenseless Christians (Religion Unplugged): “The list of Nigerian Christians slaughtered, shot dead, hacked to death, strangled and tortured to death, grows by the day. From villages in the arid Northern Nigeria to hamlets in the lush Savannah South, wailing, mourning, and curses pierce the air, while tears fall from tired eyes.”
    • Related: All Across Nigeria, Christians Marched Sunday to Protest Persecution (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “Adeboye and his congregation, one of the largest in the world, answered the call issued by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for a three-day fast this past weekend, concluding in a prayer walk. Based on reports from its state chapters and local media, CAN estimates 5 million people marched in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states on Sunday.”
  6. The Enemies of Writing (George Packer, The Atlantic): “Fear breeds self-censorship, and self-censorship is more insidious than the state-imposed kind, because it’s a surer way of killing the impulse to think, which requires an unfettered mind. A writer can still write while hiding from the thought police. But a writer who carries the thought police around in his head, who always feels compelled to ask: Can I say this? Do I have a right? Is my terminology correct? Will my allies get angry? Will it help my enemies? Could it get me ratioed on Twitter?—that writer’s words will soon become lifeless.”
  7. 11 Reasons Not to Become Famous (or “A Few Lessons Learned Since 2007”) (Tim Ferriss, personal blog): “In that short span of time, my monthly blog audience had exploded from a small group of friends (20–30?) to the current size of Providence, Rhode Island (180,–200,000 people). Well, let’s dig into that. What do we know of Providence? Here’s one snippet from Wikipedia, and bolding is mine: ‘Compared to the national average, Providence has an average rate of violent crime and a higher rate of property crime per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2010, there were 15 murders, down from 24 in 2009. In 2010, Providence fared better regarding violent crime than most of its peer cities. Springfield, Massachusetts, has approximately 20,000 fewer residents than Providence but reported 15 murders in 2009, the same number of homicides as Providence but a slightly higher rate per capita.’ The point is this: you don’t need to do anything wrong to get death threats, rape threats, etc. You just need a big enough audience. Think of yourself as the leader of a tribe or the mayor of a city. The averages will dictate that you get a certain number of crazies, con artists, extortionists, possible (or actual) murderers, and so on.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How Can I Learn To Receive – And Give – Criticism In Light Of The Cross? (Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ’s crucifixion. In other words, in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s judgment of me; and in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s justification of me. Both have a radical impact on how we take and give criticism.” This is based on a longer article (4 page PDF). (first shared in volume 63)

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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.