Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 165

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. Our Hope Is Coming (Steven Longoria, Denison Forum): “The world we live in would tell us that hope is closely tied to doubt. To say ‘I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow’ carries with it a fear that it will likely rain…. Biblical hope is something entirely different. It conveys a state of confidence, security, and lack of worry.” Steven is an alumnus of our ministry who is currently studying at Dallas Theological Seminary. Go, Steven!
  2. 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.” Recommended.
  3. #ChurchToo
    • What Would Jesus Do? Clean House In The Catholic Church. (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “[Congregants] do not expect the church to be perfect; even St. Peter, after all, denied Christ three times. But they do expect to find the reflection of Christ there. According to news reports, the church hierarchy in Pennsylvania and beyond has already denied Christ’s gospel three times: once when it sheltered predators in silence; once when it failed to remove everyone who was involved in covering up any crime; and again when two of the six dioceses involved tried to shut down the grand jury investigation that produced the report. Now they face the same choice Peter did.” Straight fire.
    • Why Men Like Me Should Not Be Priests (Daniel Mattson, First Things): “Most of the horrific abuse detailed in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report involved adolescent boys and young men. This isn’t pedophilia…. If the Church wants to avoid sex scandals, it must stop ordaining the sorts of men who have the hardest time remaining chaste.” This article is full of details I did not know. Fascinating and no doubt a lightning rod for controvery.
    • How the Willow Creek Church Scandal Has Stunned the Evangelical World (Laurie Goodstein, New York Times): “The sudden resignation of Willow Creek Community Church’s top leaders following sexual harassment allegations against Rev. Bill Hybels, their founding pastor, has shaken evangelicals far from the church’s base in the Chicago suburbs. There are few bigger names in the evangelical world than Mr. Hybels, and few churches more influential than Willow Creek. Christians worldwide looked to it as a model of smart leadership.”
    • These two scandals are especially interesting when juxtaposed. The Roman Catholic Church is the most hierarchical of denominations with authority flowing down from the Pope. Willow Creek is a nondenominational congregation and is completely independent of external authority. They represent two extremes of church governance and the revelation of their moral failures demonstrate that the problem of sin is not solved by rules. See Colossians 2:20–23.
    • Related: Evangelical Purity Culture Taught Me to Rationalize My Sexual Assault (Becca Andrews, Mother Jones): “I understood my role: I was a sexual gatekeeper. Men, we were taught, are burdened by God with insatiable lust. Women, of course, are not, so it makes sense that we are expected to create the boundaries. We are responsible for what we wear, but more broadly, we are tasked with defining consent, as thorny as that may seem…. The stakes are high in purity culture. Every slipup is a strike against any hope of a successful marriage.” Although interesting, the article doesn’t quite make the case that the title implies.
    • For the record: never keep a criminal matter private because you fear your report will hurt the public perception of a religious body, political entity, or any other institution. Souls are eternal, organizations are not. Individuals are more important than institutions. This is true even of denominations and individual congregations — Jesus died for the Church and not for a brand. 1 Corinthians 6:1–7 tells us to forbear in civil matters, but when it comes to criminal matters Romans 13:1–7 is the relevant passage.
  4. Social Injustice and the Gospel (John MacArthur, Grace To You): “I am convinced the only long-term solution to every brand of ethnic animus is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Christ alone are the barriers and dividing walls between people groups broken down, the enmity abolished, and differing cultures and ethnic groups bound together in one new people (Ephesians 2:14–15). The black leaders with whom I ministered during the civil rights movement shared that conviction. The evangelicals who are saying the most and talking the loudest these days about what’s referred to as ‘social justice’ seem to have a very different perspective.” This is apparently the first in a series.
  5. “Let The Whorehouse Burn!” (Christopher Caldwell, The Weekly Standard): “‘As of this evening,’ said Pierre Moscovici in Luxembourg in June, ‘the Greek crisis is over.’ Moscovici, a French Socialist politician who serves as the economics commissioner of the European Union, was making quite a claim…. Today, despite what Pierre Moscovici and his colleagues said in Luxembourg, Greek debt, at 179 percent, is higher still. The latest E.U. deal requires Greece to run large budget surpluses until the year 2060 to repay the debts brought on by the E.U.’s own mismanagement. The country is in some respects worse off than it was when Greek protesters mobbed the parliament in May 2010, howling, ‘Let the whorehouse burn!’”
  6. Norway’s hidden scandal (Tim Whewell, BBC): “His conviction puts the spotlight back on a system which has been heavily criticised by some parents – and by leading Norwegian professionals in the childcare field – for being too quick to put children into care, splitting families unnecessarily. The disgraced psychiatrist has had his professional licence revoked, meaning he cannot work in the same field again. But parents who’ve lost custody of children in cases he was involved in believe all his previous decisions should be reviewed.” This is outrageous.
  7. Colorado Defies the Supreme Court, Renews Persecution of a Christian Baker (David French, National Review): “On the very day that Phillips won his case at the Supreme Court, a person emailed with yet another deliberately offensive design request: “I’m thinking a three-tiered white cake. Cheesecake frosting. And the topper should be a large figure of Satan, licking a 9″ black Dildo. I would like the dildo to be an actual working model, that can be turned on before we unveil the cake. I can provide it for you if you don’t have the means to procure one yourself.” And finally, two days later, a person identifying as ‘Autumn Marie’ visited Phillips’s shop and requested a cake featuring a pentagram. According to ADF, ‘Phillips believes that person was Autumn Scardina.’ Rather than recognizing Scardina’s conduct as nothing more than a bad-faith campaign of harassment, Aubrey Elenis, the director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, found on June 28 ‘probable cause’ to believe that Phillips violated Scardina’s civil rights….”
    • Related: When opposition to religious liberty becomes silly, petty, and vindictive (Andrew T. Walker. Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission): “When our creative director walked into my office to notify me [that our ministry was being discriminated against by a company], my first response was to smile. Why? Because the ERLC had been the victim of discrimination, and I knew an opportunity like this meant the ERLC could pursue the moral high ground. What progressivism does to dissenters, we would not do to them…. No lawsuit was necessary. No media storm was called for. We have zero desire to force the discriminating company to agree with us or comply with our demands. No one was holding the other hostage to their ideological expectations. The power of choice and the freedom of viewpoint diversity allowed two actors to pursue a pathway of pluralism.”

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 Every Place Has Detractors. Consider Where They’re Coming From.(Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View): “There is grave danger in judging a neighborhood, or a culture, by the accounts of those who chose to leave it. Those people are least likely to appreciate the good things about where they came from, and the most likely to dwell on its less attractive qualities.” Bear this in mind when listening to conversion testimonies (both secular and religious). This serendipitously happened to be next in the sequence of older links. It fits very well with the above article about evangelical purity culture. (first shared in volume 62)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 164

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. Two contrasting perspectives on who is really winning in America, both independently published by smart people in the same high-profile magazine:
    • Why the Left Is So Afraid of Jordan Peterson (Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic): “There are many legitimate reasons to disagree with him on a number of subjects, and many people of good will do. But there is no coherent reason for the left’s obliterating and irrational hatred of Jordan Peterson. What, then, accounts for it? It is because the left, while it currently seems ascendant in our houses of culture and art, has in fact entered its decadent late phase, and it is deeply vulnerable.”
    • Conservatives Are Scared, Even Under Trump (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “While liberal activist groups paint President Donald Trump’s Washington as an unmitigated forward march of conservative victories, conservative activist groups—including Weber’s—don’t necessarily perceive things the same way. Rather, some of these groups see the next few years under Trump as a brief window of opportunity to create defenses against a culture that is moving away from them. In parts of the conservative movement, the long-game strategy is to defend their position by devolving power away from the federal government and the Supreme Court, using the momentum of the Trump years to batten down the hatches against the inevitable cultural storms ahead.”
  2. Final text of Jewish nation-state law, approved by the Knesset early on July 19 (Raoul Wootliff, Times of Israel): “The law for the first time enshrines Israel as ‘the national home of the Jewish people.’ The law becomes one of the so-called Basic Laws, which, like a constitution, guide Israel’s legal system and are usually more difficult to repeal than regular laws.” Unlike most articles, this includes the full (translated) text of the law, and it is worth reading if you’ve only seen it excerpted. It’s not long.
    • I believe this is the Israeli law that infuriated Stanford student Hamzeh Daoud (see last week’s installment for details).
    • Israel’s New Law: A Tale of Two Nation-States (Robert Nicholson, Providence): “The Palestine Basic Law (2003) defines Palestine as part of the Arab world and Arab unity as a singular goal of the Palestinian people. The law also defines Arabic as Palestine’s official language, Jerusalem as its official capital, and Islam as its official religion. This basic law serves as a temporary constitution for the Palestinian Authority until a sovereign State of Palestine is established. In the meantime, the law governs daily life inside the West Bank and to some extent Gaza. On July 19 the Israeli Knesset passed a similar basic law.” This was incredibly helpful context to me.
    • Under the Law: Israeli Christians Worry About Secondary Status in Jewish Nation-State (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “‘This law outlines that Israel’s democratic values are secondary for non-Jews,’ said Shadia Qubti, a Palestinian evangelical living in Nazareth. ‘It sends a clear message that my language is not welcome and consequently, neither is my cultural and ethnic identity.’”
  3. A Better Way to Ban Alex Jones (David French, New York Times): “The good news is that tech companies don’t have to rely on vague, malleable and hotly contested definitions of hate speech to deal with conspiracy theorists like Mr. Jones. The far better option would be to prohibit libel or slander on their platforms…. Private corporations can ban whoever they like. But if companies like Facebook are eager to navigate speech controversies in good faith, they would do well to learn from the centuries of legal developments in American law. When creating a true marketplace of ideas, why not let the First Amendment be your guide?”
    • His follow-up: A First Amendment Peace Plan for the Twitter Wars (David French, National Review): “As I dug down into objections to my proposed First Amendment framework, I often found that the objections were ultimately based on a desire to discriminate on the basis of viewpoint, on a desire to use the power of the platform to privilege some voices and suppress others.”
  4. A Kind of Homelessness: Evangelicals of Color in the Trump Era (Melani McAlister, Religion & Politics): “Yet the headlines about ‘evangelical’ support for the president and his agenda mean that evangelicals of color can seem to be an invisible community—rarely acknowledged by journalists even when they go to the same churches or claim a similar theology. White evangelicals are numerically dominant—although declining—but their opinions disproportionately dominate U.S. media reporting on how theologically conservative Protestants think, vote, and believe. At one level, the racial difference is eminently predictable. Surely the whiteness of white evangelicals is crucial to understanding their political beliefs and their voting patterns. As Janelle Wong shows in her new book, Immigrants, Evangelicals, and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change, although evangelicals of any given race are more conservative than the general population of that race, evangelicals of color overall are far less conservative than white evangelicals. Indeed, they are less conservative than white people overall.” The author is a professor of American Studies and International Affairs at George Washington University.
  5. How Trump Radicalized ICE (Franklin Foer, The Atlantic): “By the beginning of Barack Obama’s second term, immigration had become one of the highest priorities of federal law enforcement: Half of all federal prosecutions were for immigration-related crimes. In 2012, Congress appropriated $18 billion for immigration enforcement. It spent $14 billion for all the other major criminal law-enforcement agencies combined: the FBI; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Secret Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and the U.S. Marshals Service.” ICE is much, much bigger than I realized. This is a really important article.
  6. Oh, The Humanities! (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…the years since the Great Recession have been ‘brutal for almost every major in the humanities.’ They’ve also been bad for ‘social science fields that most closely resemble humanistic ones — sociology, anthropology, international relations and political science.’ Meanwhile the sciences and engineering have gained at the expense of humanism…”
  7. Bethel Church Survives Redding Carr Fire, But Still Faces Heat (Griffin Paul Jackson, Christianity Today): “For Bethel’s part, staff said the church could not act as an evacuation zone because of its proximity to the blaze and because there is a single entry and exit point to the campus, which is itself surrounded by brush. The Red Cross said Bethel offered to be an evacuation site, but was turned down because of the campus’s nearness to the fire…. The church has, however, flexed its considerable ministry muscle and financial resources, encouraging donations to aid relief efforts. Bethel is also partnering with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army in response to the Carr fire, Farrelly said.”
    • Related: Osteen’s church was similarly criticized after Hurricane Harvey, also with what seem to me to be scant factual grounds. Discussed back in volume 116.
    • Also (tenuously) related: California’s Devastating Fires Are Man-Caused — But Not In The Way They Tell Us (Chuck DeVore, Forbes): “ In the 1850s and 1860s, the typical Sierra landscape was of open fields of grass punctuated by isolated pine stands and a few scattered oak trees. The first branches on the pine trees started about 20 feet up—lower branches having been burned off by low-intensity grassfires. California’s Native American population had for years shaped this landscape with fire to encourage the grasslands and boost the game animal population. As the Gold Rush remade modern California, timber was harvested and replanted. Fires were suppressed because they threatened homes as well as burned up a valuable resource. The landscape filled in with trees, but the trees were harvested every 30 to 50 years. In the 1990s, however, that cycle began to be disrupted with increasingly burdensome regulations. The timber harvest cycle slowed, and, in some areas, stopped completely, especially on the almost 60% of California forest land owned by the federal government.”

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 Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis [pdf link] (Carol Hill, Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith): “Joseph and Joshua were each recorded as dying at age 110—a number considered ‘perfect’ by the Egyptians. In ancient Egyptian doctrine, the phrase ‘he died aged 110’ was actually an epitaph commemorating a life that had been lived selflessly and had resulted in outstanding social and moral benefit for others. And so for both Joseph and Joshua, who came out of the Egyptian culture, quoting this age was actually a tribute to their character. But, to be described as ‘dying at age 110’ bore no necessary relationship to the actual time of an individual’s life span.” You will not agree with everything in this article, but it is full of fascinating insights. (first shared in volume 51)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 163

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. China and its creepy facial recognition technology targets Uighur Muslims (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “China’s Muslims are akin to Germany’s Jews in the 1930s; a group of hapless people of a different religion that the government gets to experiment on. They’re already shoving roughly 800,000 Muslims into internment camps and other Muslims worldwide aren’t really noticing.” This is horrifying.
  2. There was quite the clamor recently about antisemitism at Stanford.
    • Stanford Student Threatens Violence against Pro-Israel Students (Dov Greenburg, National Review): “In mid July, Hamzeh Daoud, a student at Stanford University, publicly posted on Facebook: ‘I’m gonna physically fight Zionists on campus next year.’ If his meaning wasn’t clear enough, Hamzeh continued, ‘And after I abolish your ass I’ll go ahead and work every day for the rest of my life to abolish your petty ass ethno-supremacist, settler-colonial state.’ While not reflective of Stanford’s values, the sentiment of this hateful post reveals the state of contemporary life on campuses.”
    • Daoud resigns from Norcliffe RA position (Julia Ingram and Holden Foreman, Stanford Daily): “Hamzeh Daoud ’20 has resigned from his Resident Assistant position in Norcliffe House, he announced in a statement to The Daily on Friday afternoon.”
    • Op Ed: Statement from Hamzeh Daoud (Hamzeh Daoud, Stanford Daily): “After spending a few hours away from Facebook, I read over my post again and realized how infused it was with the same hatred that has caused my own family so much suffering. It was the antithesis of why I chose this path in life. A sloppy comment made during an emotion-filled reaction to yet another layer of trauma, the comment did not convey my values, who I am currently, or who I hope to become.”
    • I know some of you know Hamzeh, so this probably feels a good deal more personal than many of the articles I share. Please remember that what you put on social media actually matters. James 1:19 is a useful memory verse for everyone with a Facebook or Twitter account: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
  3. At Prayer Breakfast, Guests Seek Access to a Different Higher Power (Kenneth P. Vogel and Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “Some describe the gathering as similar to the World Economic Forum, except that Jesus is the organizing principle….With its relative lack of diplomatic protocols and press coverage, the prayer breakfast setting is ideal for foreign figures who might not otherwise be able to easily get face time with top American officials, because of unsavory reputations or a lack of an official government perch, according to lobbyists who help arrange such trips. They also contend that it is easier to secure visas when the breakfast is listed as a destination.”
  4. Jeff Sessions announces a religious liberty task force to combat “dangerous” secularism (Tara Isabella Burton, Vox): “In a bold speech delivered at the Justice Department’s Religious Liberty Summit, Sessions characterized the task force as a necessary step in facing down the prevailing forces of secularism. ‘A dangerous movement, undetected by many, is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom,’ he said, which ‘must be confronted and defeated.’”
    • Related: Why Jeff Sessions thinks Christians are under siege in America (Christopher Shea interviews Nelson Tebbe, Vox): One part stood out to me: “The Supreme Court has not decided a religious freedom case in a way that’s adverse to the interest of Christians for the past few terms. I can’t think of a single religious freedom case that they’ve lost.”
    • The above point is very muddled. The things that keep going to the Supreme Court are precisely the things we have a problem with. Do you know what we don’t have a problem with? Cannibalism. We’ve got cultural consensus on that. But religious liberty? That keeps going to the courts and getting successfully appealed to the very top because local and state governments keep trying to violate it. It is a simple fact that significant voices in our culture view religious liberty with reactions ranging from suspicion to hostility. Examples abound (including these two Vox articles).
  5. How Catholic Bishops Are Shaping Health Care In Rural America (Anna Maria Barry-Jester and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, FiveThirtyEight): “Best estimates suggest that one in six hospital beds and many of the nation’s largest nonprofit health systems are Catholic-owned or -affiliated. From 2001 to 2016, the number of Catholic-affiliated hospitals in the U.S. grew by 22 percent, even as the total number of hospitals in the U.S. shrunk, according to research by MergerWatch and the American Civil Liberties Union.”
    • A response: Standard Procedures (Leah Libresco Sargeant, First Things): “When she lays out my options, there really is just one option: the standard of reproductive care. But I have two reasons to say no: I am a Catholic and I am a statistician. It was faith and reason, the two ways of knowing that St. John Paul II called the ‘two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth,’ that led me to dig in my heels during my third miscarriage.” FYI: the author used to write for FiveThirtyEight.
    • Another response: What FiveThirtyEight gets wrong about Catholic hospitals (Stephanie Slade, America Magazine): “That the A.C.L.U. threw away its commitment to religious freedom in the name of abortion rights is bad enough. A journalistic enterprise as ostensibly sane and data-driven as FiveThirtyEightshould think twice before following the same path.”
  6. “Hypnotic Mass Phenomena” (Florian Schwab interview with Peter Thiel, Die Weltwoche): “The advanced technological civilization of the early 21st century is a complicated world where it is not possible for anybody to think through everything for themselves. You cannot be a polymath in quite the way people were in the 18th century enlightenments. You cannot be like Goethe. So there is some need to listen to experts, to defer to other people. And then, there is always the danger of that going too far and people not thinking critically. This happens in spades in Silicon Valley.”
  7. Spies Are More Common, and Boring, Than You Think (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg Opinion): “John Negroponte, former director of national intelligence, admitted in 2006 that the U.S. was deploying about 100,000 spies around the world. Given that the U.S. is the world’s technology and military leader, and yet has a relatively small share of global population, is it so crazy to think the number of people spying on us is larger than that?”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Weight of Glory (C.S. Lewis): It was originally preached as a sermon and then printed in a theology magazine. Related: see the C. S. Lewis Doodle YouTube channel – it’s really good! (first shared in volume 36)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 162

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 to Witness to a Distracted World (O. Alan Noble, Christianity Today): “Let me give you a scenario. I believe it’s entirely possible today to sit down with a non-believing friend and have a passionate, lengthy conversation about the gospel and never plant a seed deeply. Because as soon as you both rise from the table, he pulls out his phone and checks Facebook or responds to a text from his wife…. It was all a kind of rhetorical dance or game that we play. And the primary purpose of the dance is not to win over the other person but to define your identity. The game is called expressive individualism. And most of us play it.”
  2. A Global Guide To State-Sponsored Trolling (Michael Riley, Lauren Etter, and Bibhudatta Pradhan, Bloomberg): “‘People sometimes worry that Azerbaijan will shut down Facebook,’ said Katy Pearce, a communications professor at the University of Washington who has studied the platform’s use in that country. ‘Why would it? Facebook is the most effective tool of control the government has.’”
  3. Housing Costs Reduce The Returns To Education (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “The return to education, for example, has increased in the United States but it’s less well appreciated that in order to earn high wages college educated workers must increasingly live in expensive cities. One consequence is that the net college wage premium is not as large as it appears and inequality has been over-estimated.”
  4. The many deaths of liberalism (Daniel Cole and Aurelian Craiutu, Aeon): “The problem for anyone declaring the death of liberalism is that it has not one but several pillars and dimensions: legal, political, economic and moral (or religious). The weakening or disappearance of one or two liberal pillars or tenets would not be enough to declare liberalism as a whole dead.”
  5. Epistocracy: a political theorist’s case for letting only the informed vote (Sean Illing interviewing Jason Brennan, Vox): “I like to say I’m a fan of democracy, and I’m also a fan of Iron Maiden, but I think Iron Maiden has quite a few albums that are terrible — and I think democracy is kind of like this. It’s great, it’s the best system we have so far, but we shouldn’t accept that it can’t be improved.” The title is inaccurate — Brennan goes so far as to favor extending the right to vote to children.
  6. The Trump Administration Convenes the ‘Super Bowl’ of Religious Freedom (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “This ministerial, which is really just a fancy word for ‘big meeting,’ could be interpreted as the unveiling of an element of the Trump administration’s foreign-policy strategy. For the last three days, delegations from around the world have gathered to hear victims of religious persecution share their stories. American officials have declared in no uncertain terms that they believe the United States should evangelize religious liberty around the world, and that democracy is built on a foundation of freedom in faith.”
    • Related: Pence and Pompeo Make Big Religious Freedom Pledges (Morgan Lee, Christianity Today): “The Vice President called out countries across the globe, starting with Nicaragua where he accused the Ortega administration of ‘virtually waging war on the Catholic Church.’ He condemned China’s persecution of its Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims, and Christians, as well as the actions of its authoritarian neighbor: North Korea…. Pence also called out Iran. While acknowledging that its Christians, Jews, and Baha’i are all persecuted by its Shia government, he specifically singled out its Sunni Kurd population…. Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have been subject to intense persecution in recent years, were also recognized by Pence…. The Vice President also called for an end to anti-Semitic attacks in Western Europe.”
    • Related: Turkey Lets Andrew Brunson Leave Prison (Christianity Today)
    • Related: The World’s Next Religious Freedom Success Story: Uzbekistan? (Christianity Today): “‘That [panel was] different than anything you’ve ever heard from almost any place in the former Soviet Union,’ said Chris Seiple, president emeritus of the Institute for Global Engagement, who organized the panel and will lead a delegation to Uzbekistan this fall. ‘… They’re institutionalizing the process of change. That’s the key. The process is the goal.’”
  7. Is There Recourse When Fact Checkers Get It Wrong? (Kalev Leetaru, RealClearPolitics): “In short, through the business decision of a single Silicon Valley corporation, fact checkers have been elevated from helpful reference librarians into a position of ultimate arbitrator of truth in our online world, without the attendant checks and balances to mitigate abuse.”

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 No Food Is Healthy. Not Even Kale. (Michael Ruhlman, Washington Post): People can be healthy. Food can be nutritious. This is a wonderful essay about how we misuse language to our detriment. If you’re surprised I included this, I believe that our culture has a quasi-religious relationship to health and to food, and I also believe that the use of language is profoundly moral and that our culture is a linguistic mess (to which I know of no finer guide than The Underground Grammarian). (first shared in volume 33)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 161

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. Trevor Responds To Criticism From The French Ambassador (Trevor Noah, YouTube): this is a witty and insightful 8 minute reflection on the interplay between ethnic heritage and national identity and the ways that Americans process things differently than the French.
  2. The New York Yankees Are A Moral Abomination (David Bentley Hart, New York Times): “Really, how does a Yankees fan’s pride in all those purchased championships differ from the self-delusion of a man staggering out of a bawdy house at dawn, complimenting himself on his magnificent powers of seduction?” A funny piece of cultural commentary in the New York Times written by a theologian? Yes, please. This column is about way more than baseball.
  3. Uncomfortable Questions in the Wake of Russia Indictment 2.0 and Trump’s Press Conference With Putin (Jack Goldsmith, Lawfare): “It is no response to say that the United States doesn’t meddle in foreign elections, because it has in the past—at least as recently as Bill Clinton’s intervention in the Russian presidential election of 1996 and possibly as recently as the Hillary Clinton State Department’s alleged intervention in Russia’s 2011 legislative elections. And during the Cold War the United States intervened in numerous foreign elections, more than twice as often as the Soviet Union.” The author is a professor at Harvard Law School. The whole thing is fascinating.
  4. Free Speech, Censorship, Hate Speech, Twitter (Steven Brust, personal blog): “Here’s the thing: every defense, every analogy I’ve seen to justify asking twitter to shut down hate speech, has come down, in the last analysis, to a defense of property rights. And yet, the most casual observation ought to tell you that we are now locked in a battle between property rights and human rights. If you must resort to a defense of property rights to bolster your argument, I beg to submit that you should either take another look at what you’re defending, or stop calling yourself a progressive.” A socialist defense of free speech.
    • Related: I Was the Mob Until the Mob Came for Me (Barrett Wilson, Quillette): “In my previous life, I was a self-righteous social justice crusader. I would use my mid-sized Twitter and Facebook platforms to signal my wokeness on topics such as LGBT rights, rape culture, and racial injustice…. Then one day, suddenly, I was accused of some of the very transgressions I’d called out in others. I was guilty, of course: There’s no such thing as due process in this world.”
    • Also related: 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.” This is an older piece but I saw it for the first time recently.
  5. For Some Gang Members In El Salvador, The Evangelical Church Offers A Way Out (Emily Green, NPR): “Becoming a devoted member of an evangelical church at a young age is the only way many adolescent boys are able to avoid being roped into a gang, Cruz says. And it’s also the only way for them to get out of a gang if they’re in it, short of leaving the country.”
  6. Sanctuary amid housing crisis (Wendy Lee, San Francisco Chronicle): “With no end in sight to soaring housing costs, several Bay Area faith organizations have become a sanctuary of sorts — not just channeling donations and distributing food, but also offering a safe place for people living in cars or RVs. The arrangement has sometimes grated on neighbors, but for pastors, it’s simply an extension of their mission to serve humanity.”
  7. Balding Out (Christopher Balding, personal blog): “In China, there are very few people who I witness live a testament of their belief. Who knows if the Party member is a member because he believes in Marxism, Communism, Xi-ism, or simply wants a better apartment? Who knows if the person who claims to be a believer in democracy but complies with the Party actually believes that or just tells the foreigner? Foreigners in China in positions of influence who claim to believe in human rights but collaborate with the Party to deny Chinese citizens rights need to answer for their actions. I have little idea what people in China believe but I know that if the Party ever falls, there will be more than a billion more people claiming they were closet democracy advocates.” An American professor reflects on China as he prepares to leave. Very interesting, a bit rambly.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have This Is What Makes Republicans and Democrats So Different (Vox, Ezra Klein): the title made me skeptical, but there are some good insights in this article (first shared in volume 32 back in 2016).

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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 160

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. Democrats Are Wrong About Republicans. Republicans Are Wrong About Democrats. (Perry Bacon Jr., FiveThirtyEight): “Blacks made up about a quarter of the Democratic Party, but Republicans estimated the share at 46 percent. Republicans thought 38 percent of Democrats were gay, lesbian or bisexual, while the actual number was about 6 percent. Democrats estimated that 44 percent of Republicans make more than $250,000 a year. The actual share was 2 percent. People also overstated the numbers of these stereotypical groups within their own party — Democrats thought 29 percent of their fellow Democrats were gay, lesbian or bisexual — but they weren’t off by as much as members of the other party.”
  2. The Socialist Network (Gilad Edelman, Washington Monthly): “At the heart of the split between liberals and socialists, at least in theory, is the question of what to do about capitalism. Liberals tend to see it as something that needs to be fixed. Socialists see it as something to be defeated. They say they do, anyway. As we’ve seen, the Millennial socialist intellectuals aren’t really calling for government takeover of industry.”
  3. Affirming Disadvantage (John McWhorter, The American Interest): “Do I oppose affirmative action? Not at all. But I suggest that what we now ‘affirm’ is disadvantage suffered by all kinds of people.” The author is a linguistics professor at Columbia. He earned his Ph.D. at Stanford, btw.
  4. Culture War As Class War: How Gay Rights Reinforce Elite Power (Darel E. Paul, First Things): “Privileging the normalization of homosexuality rather than, say, racial integration allows elites to have their diversity cake and eat it, too.” The author is a professor of political science at Williams College.
  5. If You Care About NATO You Should Care About German Military Readiness (David French, National Review): “…Germany’s military made headlines when it used broomsticks instead of machine guns during a NATO exercise because of a shortage of equipment. The lack of real weapons in the European Union’s most populous nation was seen as symptomatic of how underfunded its military has long been.” This is scary.
  6. Learning From ‘The Final Pagan Generation’ (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): this is a long and illuminating post. “Understand that we, like the final pagan generation [in ancient Rome], might think we are fighting for tolerance, but our opponents are fighting for victory. We have to change our tactics.” (emphasis removed)
  7. President Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to be a Supreme Court Justice. I’ve got a lot of links here — just pick one or two.
    • It Took a Village to Raise Kavanaugh (David Brooks, New York Times): “Kavanaugh is the product of a community. He is the product of a conservative legal infrastructure that develops ideas, recruits talent, links rising stars, nurtures genius, molds and launches judicial nominees…. If you emphasize professional excellence first, if you gain a foothold in society’s mainstream institutions, if you build a cohesive band of brothers and sisters, you can transform the landscape of your field.”
    • As Trump picks Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, evangelicals rejoice: ‘I will vote for him again’ (Julie Zauzmer, Washington Post): “Many evangelical pastors and activists said they would have been pleased with any of the names reported to be on Trump’s shortlist for the nomination. After all, that was the gambit that won Trump so many evangelical votes in 2016: He made the unusual move of releasing, before he was even president, a list of judges he would consider for the Supreme Court if elected. And evangelicals liked what they saw.”
    • Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, explained (Dylan Matthews, Vox): “Kavanaugh continued to compile a legal record that would lead to Durbin’s description of him as ‘the Zelig or Forrest Gump of Republican politics. You show up at every scene of the crime … whether it is Elián González or the Starr Report, you are there.’”
    • Will Brett Kavanaugh Pass the Religious Right’s New Litmus Test? (Sarah Posner, The Nation): “Even without the Trump-appointed Kennedy successor, the Court had already expanded ‘religious freedom’ to include previously unimagined religious rights.” This is an extremely misleading article, but interesting in the misunderstandings it reveals.
    • You’ll Hate This Post On Brett Kavanaugh And Free Speech (Ken White, Popehat): “Kavanaugh has been an appellate judge for 12 years and has written many opinions on free speech issues. They trend very protective of free speech, both in substance and in rhetoric.”
    • Judge Kavanaugh and the Second Amendment (David Kopel, Volokh Conspiracy): “Judge Kavanaugh’s text, history, and tradition methodology for Second Amendment cases will not please people who believe that all gun control is impermissible, nor will it please advocates who want to make the Second Amendment a second-class right.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

I thought the Babylon Bee was exceptionally funny this week. Maybe I was just feeling giggly.

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Inside Graduate Admissions (Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschick): if you plan to apply to grad school, read this. There is one revealing anecdote about how an admissions committee treated an application from a Christian college student. My takeaway: the professors tried to be fair but found it hard to do, and their stated concerns were mostly about the quality of the institution rather than the faith of the applicant. Troubling nonetheless. (first shared in volume 32)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 159

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. Police attacked me for stealing a car. It was my own. (Lawrence Crosby, Washington Post): “Every time I see the video from that October 2015 encounter, I experience fear, anger and terror. Fear that the color of my skin will make me out to be a criminal when I have broken no laws. Anger at the blatant disregard for human life and rights that the Constitution is supposed to guarantee to all citizens. Terror to have come — perhaps — within seconds of being shot by people sworn to serve and protect.” Lawrence is an alumnus of our Chi Alpha ministry. He just earned his Ph.D. at Northwestern in Materials Science and Engineering.
  2. Spiders Can Fly Hundreds of Miles Using Electricity (Ed Yong, The Atlantic): “They put the arachnids on vertical strips of cardboard in the center of a plastic box, and then generated electric fields between the floor and ceiling of similar strengths to what the spiders would experience outdoors.… Many of the spiders actually managed to take off, despite being in closed boxes with no airflow within them. And when Morley turned off the electric fields inside the boxes, the ballooning spiders dropped.”
  3. Dissolving the Fermi Paradox (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Imagine we knew God flipped a coin. If it came up heads, He made 10 billion alien civilization. If it came up tails, He made none besides Earth. Using our one parameter Drake Equation, we determine that on average there should be 5 billion alien civilizations. Since we see zero, that’s quite the paradox, isn’t it? No. In this case the mean is meaningless. It’s not at all surprising that we see zero alien civilizations, it just means the coin must have landed tails. SDO say that relying on the Drake Equation is the same kind of error.”
  4. Why Sexism and Racism Never Diminish–Even When Everyone Becomes Less Sexist and Racist (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “When strong sexism declines, for example, the Overton window shrinks on one end and expands on the other so that what was once not considered sexism at all (e.g. ‘men and women have different preferences which might explain job choice’) now becomes violently sexist.”
  5. Forget About It (Corey Robin, Harper’s Magazine): “Ever since the 2016 presidential election, we’ve been warned against normalizing Trump. That fear of normalization misstates the problem, though. It’s never the immediate present, no matter how bad, that gets normalized — it’s the not-so-distant past.”
  6. A Time of Reckoning (Mary Eberstadt, The Weekly Standard): “Over the years, a great many people have claimed that sex is merely a private act between individuals. They’ve been wrong. We know now that private acts have cumulative public effects. Individual choices, such as having children out of wedlock, have ended up expanding the modern welfare state, for example, as the government has stepped in to support children who lack fathers. The explosion of sexual activity thanks to contraception has been accompanied by levels of divorce, cohabitation, and abortion never before seen in history.”

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 Reading The Whole Bible in 2016: A FAQ (Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor): How much time each day would it take you to read the entire Bible in a year? “There are about 775,000 words in the Bible. Divided by 365, that’s 2,123 words a day. The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute. So 2,123 words/day divided by 225 words/minute equals 9.4 minutes a day.” This article is full of good advice for what could be the best commitment you make all year. Do it! (first shared in volume 31 — useful for any year)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

The Abolition of Man, Chapter 3 & Appendix

The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through three books by C. S. Lewis, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2018. The schedule is online.

I hope you’re enjoying the readings as much as I am. I had forgotten how prophetic Lewis is in this little volume.

If you’ve gotten a little behind, there is an excellent short summary of all three chapters by Arend Smilde at Lewisiana and a 13 page study guide by Dr. David Naugle at Dallas Baptist University.

I’ll content myself with three quotes that stood out to me:

When all that says ‘It is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want’ remains…. those who stand outside all judgements of value cannot have any ground for preferring one of their own impulses to another except the emotional strength of that impulse. (pages 723–724)

This insight alone explains SO MUCH about contemporary society. Strength of feeling overwhelms everything else in today’s moral discourse. In fact, emotion has become the new determiner of moral values for many people. Pick virtually any news story and you will see this playing out, especially when it comes to the debates surrounding the sexual revolution and its consequences.

It is not surprising that the sexual norms prevalent in our society are in direct contradiction to the old ones, because one of the functions of the Tao is to be a trellis upon which our emotions may grow. To revisit Lewis’s phrasing from the first chapter “Men Without Chests”, it used to be that the head (reason) shaped the chest (emotions trained by habit) and thereby governed the belly (desire). But in our time it often happens that the belly shapes the chest and thereby governs the head. Our wants have become self-authenticating and domineering.

My other favorite quote from this chapter addresses the limits of skepticism:

But you cannot go on ‘explaining away’ for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see. (page 730)

This reminds me of something Lewis said in the previous chapter:

The rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree: if the rebels could succeed they would find that they had destroyed themselves. The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary colour, or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in. (page 714)

Radical skepticism is self-defeating. If it succeeds it fails.

Something I often tell people is that they need to learn to doubt their doubts. Our academic culture conditions us to place doubt in a privileged position over trust, but doubt is not a neutral thing. Doubt needs a justification just as belief does, and when you are inclined to doubt (whether the word of a friend, a truth of a moral principle, or the accuracy of a claim) it is worth asking whether the reasons for and costs of doubting outweigh the reasons for and costs of trusting. Sometimes they will, and sometimes they will not.

Skepticism, incidentally, is different from asking questions. Skepticism is an entirely different thing than curiosity.

John 12:37 illustrates the difference: “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.” Unbelief, in this sense, is a choice. It is not that they did not have reason to believe in Jesus — it is that they did not want to believe in Jesus. Hebrews 3:12 warns us not to have “an evil, unbelieving heart.” But we must weigh that against Jude 1:22 which tells us to “be merciful to those who doubt”, against the praise given the Bereans for their “noble character” in Acts 17:11 for investigating the claims of the apostle Paul, and against the fact that Thomas is not condemned for his hesitation to believe in John 20:24–29. Putting them together, we see that God is not bothered by honest questions but He is opposed to motivated skepticism.

The latter is famously illustrated by Aldous Huxley in his book Ends and Means, “For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.”

I think there are many people in our culture like Huxley. I pray they learn to doubt their doubts before it is too late.

Side note: Huxley was a contemporary of Lewis — they actually died within hours of each other. There’s a fun little book premised upon this fact called Between Heaven and Hell by philosophy professor Peter Kreeft. It’s a clever dialog between Lewis, Huxley, and John F. Kennedy (who also died within hours of these two) as they await the afterlife and debate what is going to happen next.

That’s all for this week. Next week we begin reading The Four Loves!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 158

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.

Before I share this week’s links: yes, I am aware that Anthony Kennedy retired from the Supreme Court and think it is likely to be one of the most significant political developments of my lifetime. I don’t have any links about it because not much interesting has been written about it yet simply because Trump has not nominated a successor yet. Once he does, please let me know if you find anything fascinating about either his nominee or the process.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Suspect in Stanford church murder kills self (Palo Alto Daily News): this is a tragic and freaky story. A less horrific detail which amused me: “Crawford stayed on at Stanford until 1976, but he found ways to exact revenge against the university, Herhold said. ‘He began stealing stuff from offices,’ said Herhold, who added examples, including a human skull, a walking cane given to university founder Leland Stanford and rare books. ‘The kicker was he went down to a print shop and got a degree from Stanford,’ he said, using a blank Stanford diploma.”
  2. Ebola Deaths Rise As Patients Turn to Miracles Over Medicine (Griffin Paul Jackson, Christianity Today): “Two Ebola patients died last month after fleeing a hospital isolation ward so they could be taken to a prayer meeting, where they exposed up to 50 others.” Wow. Bad theology leads to tragedy. Somebody never taught them Leviticus 13:46. If you’re infectious, pay attention to the phrase “call for” in James 5:14–16 and ask the elders to come to you. Quarantine Laws and the Bible (Larry Ball, The Aquila Report) is worth reading in this regard.
  3. The Spanish Inquisition Was a Moderate Court by the Standard of Its Time (Ed Condon, National Review): “Because it was a serious court, meticulous case files and court records were kept. Libraries in Toledo, Salamanca, and other cities are home to thousands of such case files. In the second half of the 20th century, Henry Kamen and other historians were given access to them. What they discovered changed the scholarly understanding of the Inquisition. So, what of those dank dungeons and hot pokers? Well, for a start, the jails of the Inquisition were universally known to be hygienic and well maintained. They were neither built nor run as places of punishment. The standard of care that inmates received was high enough that prisoners held by the Crown would often petition to be moved to Inquisition jails. There are recorded cases of criminals committing public heresy with the express purpose of being held and tried by the Inquisition, rather than the secular courts.” This is not a fringe view among scholars, but is definitely contrary to the popular understanding of the Spanish Inquisition.
  4. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on her Catholic faith and the urgency of a criminal justice reform (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, America): “By nature, a society that forgives and rehabilitates its people is a society that forgives and transforms itself. That takes a radical kind of love, a secret of which is given in the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And let us not forget the guiding principle of “the least among us” found in Matthew: that we are compelled to care for the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick and, yes—the imprisoned.” This, of course, is the socialist candidate who unseated powerful incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary. She is almost certain to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
    • Related: Democratic Socialists of America Membership Surges After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Stunning Victory (Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast): “According to Lawrence Dreyfuss, a program associate for DSA, the organization saw a surge of 1,152 new memberships on Wednesday—about 35 times more sign-ups than on an average day. The last major membership bump DSA experienced was in the month following President Trump’s election, during which time they had about six times more sign-ups than in the previous month.” Note that the organization itself is still relatively small (40,000 members).
    • Possibly related: Democrats are losing the millennial vote and need to change message (Cas Mudde, The Guardian): “a recent Reuters/Ipsos mega poll of 16,000 respondents, found that the Democrats are losing ground with millennials. While millennials still prefer the Democratic party over the Republicans, that support is tanking. In just two years, it dropped sharply from 55% to 46%. Meanwhile, their support for Republicans has remained roughly stable in the past two years, falling from 28% to 27%.… their dislike of the Republicans should not be interpreted as a like of Democrats.” Caveats apply: this is based on the results of one poll.
    • Definitely related: Dear Democratic Socialists Who Think You’re Having a Moment: It’s Me, a Libertarian, Who’s Been Through This. (Robby Soave, Reason): “Democratic socialism, the ideology with which Ocasio-Cortez identifies, appears to be having a political moment. To which I say, as a libertarian who has been through the whole an-idea-whose-time-has-finally-come experience: good luck with that, comrades. The signs are easy to misread.”
  5. Right-to-work laws make unions work harder for their members (Christos Makridis, The Hill): “RTW [Right To Work] laws force unions to become more competitive. When unions are guaranteed a permanent income stream, they don’t need to work as hard to win the hearts and minds of their employees; that is, they face weaker incentives to provide valuable services. The adoption of RTW laws changes that by making union dues a voluntary contribution.” Yes, this is our very own recently-graduated Christos.
  6. Are Satanists of the MS-13 gang an under-covered story on the religion beat? (Julia Duin, GetReligion): this is a fascinating bit of news commentary. My favorite bit: “How does one get out of MS-13? An opinion piece in the New York Times this past April gives a surprising response: Go to a Pentecostal church.” Highly recommended.
  7. How The Democrats Lost Their Way On Immigration (Peter Beinert, The Atlantic): “Liberals must take seriously Americans’ yearning for social cohesion. To promote both mass immigration and greater economic redistribution, they must convince more native-born white Americans that immigrants will not weaken the bonds of national identity. This means dusting off a concept many on the left currently hate: assimilation.” Recommended by a student.

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 Christian Missions and the Spread of Democracy (Greg Scandlen, The Federalist): This is a summary of some rather wonderful research Robert Woodberry published in The American Political Science Review back in 2012: The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy. If it looks familiar it’s because I allude to it from time to time in my sermons and conversations. (first shared in volume 14)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

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Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 157

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. These Harvard Kids Got the Lesson of Their Lives in the Heartland (Salena Zito, NY Post): “I have been a national political journalist for nearly 15 years. Whenever and wherever I travel in this country, I abide by a few simple rules: No planes, no interstates and no hotels. And definitely no chain restaurants…. Those simple rules are what intrigued students at the Harvard Institute of Politics (IOP) after hearing me speak at a Pizza and Politics event on the school’s campus last fall.”
  2. Don’t Quit the Republican Party. Stay and Fight (Michael Wear, Time Magazine): “The problem is that politics is not an individualistic endeavor. Independents tend to spurn institutions generally, and then feel vindicated when our institutions do not reflect their views. But while Independents think they are sending political parties a message, political parties do not hear them…. In essence, Independents actively minimize their impact on elections and party positions. When people leave (or fail to join) parties in protest, they starve those parties of ideological diversity, driving them to their extremes.”
    • On Twitter the author (a former Obama White House staffer) says “The headline is misleading. My argument is a caution against becoming an indy. If you read the article, I explicitly argue that if you believe the Democratic Party more closely aligns with your vision of what is best for our nation’s politics, you should become a Democrat.” In case you didn’t know, authors rarely choose their headlines (or even the titles of their books).
  3. 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.
  4. The Sin Of Silence (Joshua Pease, Washington Post): “Without a centralized theological body, evangelical policies and cultures vary radically, and while some church leaders have worked to prevent abuse and harassment, many have not. The causes are manifold: authoritarian leadership, twisted theology, institutional protection, obliviousness about the problem and, perhaps most shocking, a diminishment of the trauma sexual abuse creates — especially surprising in a church culture that believes strongly in the sanctity of sex…. Roger Canaff, a former New York state prosecutor who specialized in child sexual abuse, tells me that many worshipers he encountered felt persecuted by the secular culture around them — and disinclined to reach out to their persecutors for help in solving problems.”
  5. Contra Caplan On Arbitrary Deploring (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “This is my long-winded answer to a question several people asked on the last links post – why should we prioritize responding to China’s mass incarceration of the Uighurs? Aren’t there other equally bad things going on elsewhere in the world, like malaria? Yes. But I had optimistically thought we had mostly established a strong norm around ‘don’t put minorities in concentration camps’. Resources devoted to enforcing that norm won’t just solve the immediate problem in China, they’ll also help maintain a credible taboo against this kind of thing so it’s less likely to happen the next time.”
  6. The Handmaids of Capitalism (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Feminists were divided over surrogacy and commercialized fertility, but the opposition to both practices gradually dissolved, and now only eccentric conservatives notice the weird resemblances between California-style surrogacy practices and the handmaids and econowives of Gilead. They were divided over pornography, often bitterly — but over time the sex-positive side increasingly won out over the Andrea Dworkinish dissenters, even as the online realm was overrun with images and videos that more than justified her arguments. They were, and are, divided over prostitution, but it’s pretty clear that the version of feminism that supports the rights of sex workers to sell their bodies in the marketplace has the intellectual momentum.”
  7. More on border family separations, a policy that has been stopped by executive order after massive public outcry.
    • The Lesser Cruelty On Immigration (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “it would be useful for everyone if the Trump White House just admitted that this policy was conceived as a deterrent — traumatizing a certain number of families in the hopes of bringing greater order to the border in the long run. That admission would get us closer to the hard problem in migration policy. Some harshness, some deterrence, really is unavoidable in any immigration system that doesn’t simply dissolve borders. So policymakers are therefore obliged to choose tolerable cruelties over the intolerable one that we’re witnessing in action right now.”
    • Immigration: Was A.G. Sessions Right to Quote the Bible in Defense of Family Separation? (Bruce Ashford, personal blog): “Paul is saying, in effect, ‘Look, it’s true that Jesus is the ultimate Ruler of a cosmic Kingdom while Caesar is only the temporary ruler of a limited earthly kingdom. But that doesn’t mean you’re above the law. You should be a good citizen and obey the law except, of course, when God’s law conflicts with Caesar’s law.’”
    • A case study in the proper role of Christians in politics (Michael J. Gerson, Washington Post): “In the case of child separation, some of the most effective resistance has come from religious leaders — Catholic, Protestant mainline and even some evangelical Christian (see Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Franklin Graham). It was a case study in the proper and positive role that religion can play in our common life.”
    • Enforce the Border — Humanely (David Frum, The Atlantic): “Illegal immigrants are committing no moral wrong. They are doing what we might do in their place—as we, by defending borders, are doing what they would do if they were in ours. Like so many human institutions, borders are both arbitrary and indispensable. Without them, there are no nations. Without nations, there can be no democracy and no liberalism. John Lennon may imagine that without nations there will be only humanity. More likely, without nations there will only be tribes.”
    • Our Debate On Illegal Immigration Is A National Disaster (David Harsanyi, The Federalist): “The majority of kids in care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most often teenagers, are apprehended because they’re here without any parents. It’s a growing problem. In 2013, a little fewer than 40,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended by the Border Patrol. That was a historic high. In 2016 there were nearly 60,000. This year there are likely to be more than 80,000.”
    • American Families Shouldn’t Be Separated, Either (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg View): “Obviously, a case can be made for enforcing the border, but deliberate cruelty is never a good idea. Those children — innocent victims all of them — will likely be traumatized for life…. If you agree with me on this, I’d like to push you one step further. It’s horrible to forcibly separate lawbreaking parents from their young children, but we do that to American citizens, too. According to one 2010 study, more than 1.1 million men and 120,000 women in U.S. jails and prisons have children under the age of 17.” This is one of the most intriguing things I read this week.
    • The Rise of the Amnesty Thugs (David Brooks, New York Times): “For centuries, conservatives have repeated a specific critique against state power. Statism, conservatives have argued, has a tendency to become brutalist and inhumane because a bureaucracy can’t see or account for the complexity of reality. It tries to impose uniform rules on the organic intricacy of human relationships. Statist social engineering projects cause horrific suffering because in the mind of statists, the abstract rule is more important than the human being in front of them. The person must be crushed for the sake of the abstraction.” Astute insights in this op-ed. Recommended. Also, the title is slightly misleading.
    • A Twitter thread from an immigration attorney explaining how longstanding this problem has been

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 Alcohol, Blackouts, and Campus Sexual Assault (Texas Monthly, Sarah Hepola): I think this is the most thoughtful secular piece I’ve read on the issue. “Consent and alcohol make tricky bedfellows. The reason I liked getting drunk was because it altered my consent: it changed what I would say yes to. Not just in the bedroom but in every room and corridor that led into the squinting light. Say yes to adventure, say yes to risk, say yes to karaoke and pool parties and arguments with men, say yes to a life without fear, even though such a life is never possible… We drink because it feels good. We drink because it makes us feel happy, safe, powerful. That it often makes us the opposite is one of alcohol’s dastardly tricks.” (first shared in volume 25)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.