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 257

a shorter collection of links than those I’ve shared recently

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. Stop Firing the Innocent (Yascha Mounk, The Atlantic): “Cafferty was punished for an offense he insists he did not commit. Shor was punished for doing something that most wouldn’t even consider objectionable. Wadi was punished for the sins of his daughter. What all of these rather different cases have in common is that none of the people who were deprived of a livelihood in the name of fighting racism appear to have been guilty of actually perpetuating racism.” The author is a political science professor at Johns Hopkins. 
    • This is an essential follow-up: punishing the innocent (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “…for those who want to effect social change by exposure and shaming, punishing the innocent is a feature of their system, not a bug. It increases fear, which increases discipline, not only of oneself but of others. And every employer who fires an employee because they’re afraid of a social-media mob draws us closer to a fully Panoptic society, a social tyranny with an efficiency beyond the dreams of totalitarian societies of the past.” This reminds me of the classic post Planet of Cops by Freddy deBoer.
  2. The Minneapolis street corner where George Floyd was killed has become a Christian revivalist site. (Ruth Graham, Slate): “‘I would describe this as revival and awakening,’ said Joshua Giles, a local pastor who has been coming to the site to pray and preach for several weeks. Giles, who is Black, said he has taken part in conversions and spontaneous baptisms there, and that at least one woman had been miraculously healed of persistent pain in her arm.”
    • I found the way Graham framed one minister’s criticism of the Black Lives Matter organization interesting. I don’t think it’s an unusual perspective — it was presented on Tuesday by sports anchor (and Columbia grad) Marcellus Wiley: https://twitter.com/SFY/status/1278064470435090438 (three minute video)
    • It’s also interesting to compare Worshippers Continue ‘Unity Revival’ at George Floyd Memorial Despite Pushback (Taylor Berglund, Charisma News). The reports largely align, I’m just fascinated by how reporters’ interests and contexts shape the questions they ask and the answers they emphasize. I am pretty sure both reporters are Christian, although I suspect they gravitate to different churches.
  3. Is Tim Scott the Most Influential Legislator in Congress? (Declan Garvey, The Dispatch): “To Scott, his blackness and his partisan affiliation makes perfect sense: He’s lived the American dream, rising from poverty to build a series of successful businesses. He’s a devout Christian committed to the preservation of religious liberty. But to interlopers projecting their own experiences and beliefs onto him, two of his three core identities are in direct contradiction with one another. Leaning too hard into one elicits accusations of being traitorous to the other.’” Utterly fascinating.
  4. How a Great Power Falls Apart (Charles King, Foreign Affairs): “Faced with a series of external shocks and internal crises, and pursued by more dynamic and adaptable competitors abroad, his country had far less life in it than anyone at the time could see. All countries end. Every society has its own rock bottom, obscured by darkness until impact is imminent. Already in the sixth century, Amalrik wrote, goats were grazing in the Roman Forum.” The author is an international relations Professor at Georgetown. Relevant for both America and China.
  5. Pastors on Social Media (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “… you are wrestling against principalities and powers, and those powers have keen eyes for your desire for a bigger audience and your church members’ affinity for other forms of social reinforcement. They want you to believe that other forms of wisdom are more reliable than God’s Word, other audiences more important than your humble congregation, other platforms more powerful for speaking, other kinds of impact you can make more lasting and significant. The second you begin to believe these things you have begun to compromise your calling as a pastor.” This is a fire hydrant of wisdom, and most of it is relevant to everyone.
  6. On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare (Mike Shellenberger, Quillette): “Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem. I may seem like a strange person to be saying all of this. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30.”
    • The author’s book is currently the #1 best seller in environmental science on Amazon. This article was originally published on Forbes (where he is a regular contributor) but they took it down in the ensuing controversy. Undeniably interesting. I don’t have expertise in this area, so if he’s wrong please point me to any better pieces you know of.
  7. The Ghost of Woodrow Wilson (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…unless the endgame of New Haven’s removal of Columbus is the expropriation of white property (Yale’s property, I suppose, especially) and its redistribution to the Pequots and Mohegans, then a consistent rejection of Columbus’s legacy isn’t what my city is embracing. Instead, it’s just doing the same thing as Princeton: keeping the inheritance, but repudiating the benefactor. Keeping the gains, but making a big show of pronouncing them ill gotten.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 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 255

Again, the standalone stuff is up top and the current news items are 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. Why Ditching Instagram Earned me the Podium (Madison Fischer, personal blog): “I cared so much about what everyone thought of me that it became outsourced confidence…. Pride in my accomplishments made me content, and contentedness is poison to a young athlete who has to stay hungry if she wants to stay competitive.”
  2. The Financial Finish Line (Christina Darnell, Ministry Watch): “Giving has always been another bedrock principle for the Barnharts. The company committed to giving half of their profits to ministry. The other half goes to growing the business. The first year, they gave away $50,000. The next year, it was $150,000. It grew to $1 million a year—then $1 million a month.” An inspiring story.
  3. On Cultures That Build (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “In the 21st century, the main question in American social life is not ‘how do we make that happen?’ but ‘how do we get management to take our side?’ This is a learned response, and a culture which has internalized it will not be a culture that ‘builds.’”
    • Related: Why America’s Institutions Are Failing (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic): “Whatever the true cause for our failure, when I look at the twin catastrophes of this annus horribilis, the plague and the police protests, what strikes me is that America’s safekeeping institutions have forgotten how to properly see the threats of the 21st century and move quickly to respond to them. Those who deny history may be doomed to repeat it. But those who deny the present are just doomed.”
  4. Is There a Religious Left? (Casey Cep, New Yorker): “The daughter of a Baptist preacher who was once the dean of the Howard University School of Divinity, Newsome came by her faith and her preaching honestly, yet almost all of the publicity that followed her act of civil disobedience [taking down the Confederate flag] stripped her protest of its theological tenor. Such is the fate of much of the activism of the so-called religious left: if it is successful, it is subsumed by broader causes and coalitions; if it fails, it is forgotten.” 
  5. Race in America
    • Most US Pastors Speak Out in Response to George Floyd’s Death (David Roach, Christianity Today): “Nearly all US pastors (94%) agree that ‘the church has a responsibility to denounce racism,’ and most (62%) say their church has made a statement on the unrest stemming from the May 25 death of George Floyd, according to a Barna Church Pulse Poll released today. The poll, conducted over the past week, also found that 76 percent of pastors say the church should support peaceful protests occurring in response to Floyd’s killing.”
    • What the Bible Has to Say About Black Anger (Esau McCauley, New York Times): “Jesus experienced the reality of state-sponsored terror. That is why the black Christian has always felt a particular kinship with this crucified king from an oppressed ethnic group. The cross helps us make sense of the lynching tree.” The author is a New Testament professor at Wheaton. 
    • On the Unjust Death of George Floyd and Racism in America (Marco Rubio, The Public Discourse): “Like before, the latest unrest has given rise to voices arguing that the foundations of our republic are built on systemic racism and must therefore be brought down. The only difference is that this time claims like these don’t just come from the fringes of our politics. Like before, we also have voices who say that today race is a factor only in individual cases, distinct from our society at large. Both of these views are wrong.” This was a speech given on the floor of the Senate.
    • Racist Police Violence Reconsidered (John McWhorter, Quillette): “…these figures are not necessarily evidence of police racism. According to the Washington Post‘s database, over 95 percent of the people fatally shot by police officers in 2019 were male, and no serious-minded person argues that this is evidence of systemic misandry. So what, then, accounts for the disproportionate representation of black men among those killed by cops?” McWhorter is a professor of linguistics at Columbia. 
    • Stories and Data (Coleman Hughes, City Journal): “…the basic premise of Black Lives Matter—that racist cops are killing unarmed black people—is false. There was a time when I believed it.” The author is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
    • A Few Bad Apples? Racial Bias in Policing (Felipe Goncalves & Steven Mello, SSRN): “Using a bunching estimation design and data from the Florida Highway Patrol, we show that minorities are less likely to receive a discount on their speeding tickets than white drivers. Disaggregating this difference to the individual police officer, we find that 40% of officers explain all of the aggregate discrimination.” 40% is HUGE!
    • Why I Stopped Talking About Racial Reconciliation and Started Talking About White Supremacy (Erna Kim Hackett, Inheritance Magazine): “The term white supremacy labels the problem more accurately. It locates the problem on whiteness and its systems. It focuses on outcomes, not intentions. It is collective, not individual. It makes whiteness uncomfortable and responsible. And that is important.” Shared with me by a student.
  6. On American journalism:
    • The American Soviet Mentality (Izabella Tabarovsky, Tablet Magazine): “The mobs that perform the unanimous condemnation rituals of today do not follow orders from above. But that does not diminish their power to exert pressure on those under their influence. Those of us who came out of the collectivist Soviet culture understand these dynamics instinctively.” The author is a scholar with the Wilson Center.
    • Is There Still Room for Debate? (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “Liberalism is not just a set of rules. There’s a spirit to it. A spirit that believes that there are whole spheres of human life that lie beyond ideology — friendship, art, love, sex, scholarship, family. A spirit that seeks not to impose orthodoxy but to open up the possibilities of the human mind and soul.”
    • The American Press Is Destroying Itself (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “It isn’t the whole story, but it’s demonstrably true that violence, arson, and rioting are occurring. However, because it is politically untenable to discuss this in ways that do not suggest support, reporters have been twisting themselves into knots. We are seeing headlines previously imaginable only in The Onion, e.g., ‘27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests in London.’”
    • The woke revolution in American journalism has begun (Damon Linker, The Week): “In place of difficulty, complexity, and complication, today’s journalistic revolutionaries crave tidy moral lessons with clear villains and heroes. They champion simplicity, embrace moral uplift, and seek out evildoers to demonize.” See also his earlier column Don’t willfully ignore the complexity of what’s happening in America right now

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 254

The less timely stuff is up top this time and there are a lot of magic videos at the bottom.

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. What Unites Most Graduates of Selective Colleges? An Intact Family (Nicholas Zill & Brad Wilcox, Institute for Family Studies): “… even after controlling for parent education, family income, and student race and ethnicity, being raised by one’s married birth parents provides an additional boost to one’s chances of getting through Princeton.”
  2. What Christians Must Remember about Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control (Peter Feaver & William Inboden & Michael Singh, Providence): “Before embracing calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons, thoughtful Christians must confront two uncomfortable facts. First, we live in a fallen world in which the threats we face are changing, and arguably growing. Second, the envelope of peace and security in which free societies have thrived for the past eight decades is not self-sustaining—one need only view the recent decline of democracies and rise of authoritarian threats from Russia and China. One can detest nuclear weapons and still see their strategic value.” The authors are, respectively, a professor of political science at Duke, a professor of public policy at UT Austin, and a senior fellow at a thinktank.
  3. Peer Review (Rodney Brooks, personal blog): “I came to realize that the editor’s job was real, and it required me to deeply understand the topic of the paper, and the biases of the reviewers, and not to treat the referees as having the right to determine the fate of the paper themselves. As an editor I had to add judgement to the process at many steps along the way, and to strive for the process to improve the papers, but also to let in ideas that were new.” The author is a professor emeritus of robotics at MIT.
  4. JK Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues (JK Rowling, personal blog): “…I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it.”
  5. More on the NY Times tangle last week and what it reveals about our society
    • America is changing, and so is the media (Ezra Klein, Vox): “The news media likes to pretend that it simply holds up a mirror to America as it is. We don’t want to be seen as actors crafting the political debate, agents who make decisions that shape the boundaries of the national discourse. We are, of course. We always have been.”
    • The Still-Vital Case for Liberalism in a Radical Age (Jonathan Chait, NY Magazine): “…it is an error to jump from the fact that right-wing authoritarian racism is far more important to the conclusion that left-wing illiberalism is completely unimportant. One can oppose different evils, even those evils aligned against each other, without assigning them equal weight.”
    • Why everyone hates the mainstream media (Andrew Potter, Policy for Pandemics): “It’s not a coincidence that lawyers, journalists, and politicians are routinely ranked as the most disliked professions in the world. It’s because the law is not about justice, politics is not about democracy, and the news is not about information. But in each case, that is what emerges, by harnessing the status-conscious competitive natures of the participants.” The author is a former journalist and editor.
  6. Thoughts on race and racism:
    • George Floyd and Me (Shai Linn, Gospel Coalition): “Though I’m deeply grieved, I am not without hope. Personally, I have little confidence in our government or policymakers to change the systemic factors that contributed to the George Floyd situation. But my hope isn’t in the government. My hope is in the Lord.”
    • American Racism: We’ve Got So Very Far to Go (David French, The Dispatch): “If politically correct progressives are often guilty of over-racializing American public discourse, and they are, politically correct conservatives commit the opposite sin—and they filter out or angrily reject all the information that contradicts their thesis.”
    • This moment cries out for us to confront race in America (Condoleezza Rice, Washington Post): “Still, we simply must acknowledge that society is not color-blind and probably never will be. Progress comes when people treat one another with respect, as if we were color-blind. Unless and until we are honest that race is still an anchor around our country’s neck, that shadow will never be lifted. Our country has a birth defect: Africans and Europeans came to this country together — but one group was in chains.” She is, of course, a fellow believer and also a Stanford professor who will soon be the director of the Hoover Institution. 
    • Our Present Moment: Why Is It So Hard? (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “I’m thinking more broadly about why race in this country is so difficult, and in particular difficult even between people of good will, between people in your church of a different color. I’m thinking about people who agree on so many other things. And you sing the same songs and you really love Jesus together. And you read the same Bible, and you really are together for the gospel. So why is it so divisive?” Some really good thoughts in here.
  7. On the protests
    • The protests started out looking like 1968. They turned into 1964. (Omar Wasow, Washington Post): “For a growing international movement trying to draw attention to the long history of racist and brutal policing, nonviolence in the face of police repression is an exceedingly difficult strategy to sustain. Evidence from the 1960s, however — and perhaps this month, too — suggests using such tactics to generate media coverage of a pressing social problem can be a powerful tool for building a coalition for social change.”
    • We often accuse the right of distorting science. But the left changed the coronavirus narrative overnight (Thomas Chatterton Williams, The Guardian): “Two weeks ago we shamed people for being in the street; today we shame them for not being in the street.”
    • Tribalism Comes for Pandemic Science (Yuval Levin, The New Atlantis): “These public health professionals are simply admitting that their views on the health risks of large gatherings depend on the political valence of those gatherings. Rather than compartmentalize their professional judgment from their political priorities — explaining the risks of large protests regardless of their political content and then separately and in a different context expressing whatever views they might have about that content — they openly deny not only the possibility but even the desirability of detached professional advice. This kind of attitude inevitably makes it much harder for the public to assess scientific claims about the pandemic through anything other than a political lens.”
    • The Growing CHAZm in Seattle (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “It took activists less than 24 hours to discover that even their make-believe Duchy of Grand Fenwoke relies on the basic building blocks of any polity. If Seattle’s supine and sausage-spined political leadership allows this experiment to continue, pretty soon you can expect the emergence of currency, taxes, even some kind of charter or constitution. It wouldn’t shock me if they ended up creating rudimentary courts or even a jail.” Goldberg is an expert at the meandering rant. 
    • Anarchy In Seattle (Christopher Rufo, City Journal): “The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone has set a dangerous precedent: armed left-wing activists have asserted their dominance of the streets and established an alternative political authority over a large section of a neighborhood. They have claimed de facto police power over thousands of residents and dozens of businesses—completely outside of the democratic process. In a matter of days, Antifa-affiliated paramilitaries have created a hardened border, established a rudimentary form of government based on principles of intersectional representation, and forcibly removed unfriendly media from the territory.”
    • A Dark Cloud For Democracy (Carl Trueman, First Things): “…this does not entirely explain why Minneapolis and not Hong Kong has grabbed the imagination of British youth. After all, Hong Kong is a much more recent part of the British narrative; one can watch the dismantling of Hong Kong’s constitution online and on the television; and an extremely good case can be made that the British government is more responsible for that mess and its potential amelioration than for the chaos in the Minneapolis police department. After all, the British can actually do something about it—as Boris Johnson’s pledge on immigration to the U.K. from Hong Kong indicates. So why Minneapolis, not Hong Kong?”
    • If we want better policing, we’re going to have to spend more, not less (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “Reform is thus more likely to stick if we co-opt the unions rather than trying to break them. Instead of ‘defund the police,’ what if we offloaded the nonjudicial parts of their work, like dealing with the homeless and the mentally ill, to social workers, and then ‘stuffed their mouths with gold’ to reform the policing part? We could offer a significant salary boost in exchange for accepting stricter standards and oversight, which wouldn’t just ease the political obstacles, but possibly attract higher-quality candidates to the police force.”
    • Most Americans Want Police Reform But Don’t Back ‘Defund The Police’ (Ariel Edwards-Levy and Kevin Robillard, Huffington Post): “A near-universal majority of Americans support at least some changes to policing in the United States following the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. There is majority support for proposals circulating in Congress to ban chokeholds and make it easier to track and charge officers accused of misconduct. But the idea of ‘defunding the police’ has little support from the public.”
    • Police Brutality: The Ferguson Effect (Robert Verbruggen, National Review): “There’s a temptation in some quarters to think this issue is like gay marriage or marijuana legalization, where there’s a turning point in public opinion and a rapid shift in policy and then everyone wonders what the big deal ever was. See, for example, Tim Alberta’s piece in Politico today, which bizarrely claims we may be seeing the ‘last stand’ of law-and-order Republicans and draws those two parallels explicitly. But crime isn’t like that. When the streets become unsafe, public opinion shifts back in favor of the folks who stand between the innocents and the bad guys.”

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 Problem with Dull Knives: What’s the Defense Department got to do with Code for America? (Jennifer Pahlka, Medium): “I have a distinct memory of being a kid in the kitchen with my mom, awkwardly and probably dangerously wielding a knife, trying to cut some tough vegetable, and defending my actions by saying the knife was dull anyway. My mom stopped me and said firmly, ‘Jenny, a dull knife is much more dangerous than a sharp knife. You’re struggling and using much more force than you should, and that knife is going to end up God Knows Where.’ She was right, of course…. But having poor tools [for the military] doesn’t make us fight less; it makes us fight badly.” (some emphasis in the original removed). Highly recommended. First shared in volume 155.

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 253

Specific suggestions for police reform, various explainers and opinion pieces, and some weird news about TikTok and Christianity.

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. On the racial division in America:
    • How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change (Barack Obama, Medium): “Finally, the more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away. The content of that reform agenda will be different for various communities.” Emphasis in original.
    • Some specific policy proposals: “For those who are interested in research-based solutions to stop police violence, here’s what you need to know — based on the facts and data. A thread. (1/x)” (Samuel Sinyangwe, Twitter)
    • More specific policy proposals: How to Actually Fix America’s Police (Seth W. Stoughton, Jeffrey J. Noble & Geoffrey P. Alpert, The Atlantic): “‘Overcriminalization’ has been broadly discussed; there are so many laws that violations are ubiquitous. If everyone is a criminal, officers have almost unfettered discretion to pick and choose which laws to enforce and whom to stop, frisk, search, or arrest.” The authors have an interesting combination of expertise (a law prof, a criminology prof, and a former officer).
    • I Must Object: A Rebuttal to Brown Univ.’s Letter Decrying Pervasive Racism in US (Glenn C. Loury, City Journal): “I deeply resented the letter. First of all, what makes an administrator (even a highly paid one, with an exalted title) a ‘leader’ of this university? We, the faculty, are the only ‘leaders’ worthy of mention when it comes to the realm of ideas. Who cares what some paper-pushing apparatchik thinks? It’s all a bit creepy and unsettling. Why must this university’s senior administration declare, on behalf of the institution as a whole and with one voice, that they unanimously—without any subtle differences of emphasis or nuance—interpret contentious current events through a single lens?” Loury, who is black, is an econ professor at Brown. He did not come to play.
    • Efrem Smith: White Evangelicals Need to Humble Themselves (Bob Smietana, Christianity Today): “I’ve been encouraged, especially in the evangelical wing of the church, to see more pastors speaking out, being brokenhearted, calling for change. But then there’s also a significant segment of evangelicalism that is either silent or late to the party when it comes to the church calling for justice.”
    • A Nation on Fire Needs the Flames of the Spirit (Esau McCaulley, Christianity Today): “There is no other world in which to talk about Jesus than a world in which black men can have their necks stepped on for nine minutes.” The author is an Anglican priest and a professor of New Testament at Wheaton. 
    • Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LA Times): “…even though we do all the conventional things to raise public and political awareness — write articulate and insightful pieces in the Atlantic, explain the continued devastation on CNN, support candidates who promise change — the needle hardly budges.”
    • On Days of Disorder (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “Notice that this schema is value neutral: it describes both the football hooligan and the race rioter, 19th century Russian pogroms and 21st century Hong Kong street battles. In all of these a certain percentage of the participants plays the game for fairly mundane reasons: to revel in excitement or terror, lose themselves in a rare sense of solidarity, belonging, or power, or to simply gain the monetary rewards that come with theft and looting. The proportion of the population willing to join a riot to attain these things likely reflects the proportion of the population otherwise cut off from them in normal times. Few rioters are married men who must be at work at 8:00 AM the next morning.” This was quite good. Recommended.
    • Simplicity Is The Enemy & Bad Apples (Jonathan Last, The Bulwark): “What’s happening in America right now is large and complicated. We have a series of problems, some of which overlap, some of which do not. And attempts to solve them have, historically, been stymied by conflating them and believing that they are simple and connected.”
  2. On the pandemic:
    • The Treason of Epidemiologists (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “The simple fact is that whatever legislation we’re going to get, we’d still get if the protests stopped this morning. In fact, a reasonable person would conclude we’d be more likely to get it if they stopped now, because the more these things go on, the more opposition and resentment will grow.” 
    • Related: “A thread about how protesting during a pandemic was described when conservatives were doing it” (Matt Walsh, Twitter)
    • Surgisphere: governments and WHO changed Covid-19 policy based on suspect data from tiny US company (Melissa Davey, Stephanie Kirchgaessner & Sarah Boseley, The Guardian): “The World Health Organization and a number of national governments have changed their Covid-19 policies and treatments on the basis of flawed data from a little-known US healthcare analytics company, also calling into question the integrity of key studies published in some of the world’s most prestigious medical journals. A Guardian investigation can reveal the US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees appear to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has provided data for multiple studies on Covid-19 co-authored by its chief executive, but has so far failed to adequately explain its data or methodology.” This is actually nuts.
    • The C.D.C. Waited ‘Its Entire Existence for This Moment.’ What Went Wrong? (Eric Lipton, Abby Goodnough, Michael D. Shear, Megan Twohey, Apoorva Mandavilli,Sheri Fink & Mark Walker, New York Times): “…the C.D.C. is risk-averse, perfectionist and ill suited to improvising in a quickly evolving crisis — particularly one that shuts down the country and paralyzes the economy.”
  3. The Museum of the Bible is winning over some of its biggest critics: Jewish scholars (Menachem Wecker, Washington Post): “Mintz believes Jewish scholars who denounced evangelical tones in the museum may have done so because they don’t see eye-to-eye with its politically conservative owners. But, she notes, the museum itself caters to Jews. She cites a time when it arranged kosher food for an event in which her husband, an Orthodox rabbi, participated. ‘They were just nice about it,’ she says.”
  4. Christian TikTok videos are censored and deleted in the US, creators say (Liza Vandenboom, Religion Unplugged): “Christian content is often censored and removed from TikTok, according to several creators on the platform. The China-based social media app hosts short, snippy videos ranging from inspirational mini-speeches to musical and dance performances and is popular with teenagers and young adults. The platform reports over 800 million active users, with 30 million active users in the U.S. Researchers have grown concerned over the app’s reach and the possibility of it bringing Chinese-style censorship to mainstream U.S. audiences.” 
  5. Technocracy Is Impossible (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “Leaders should pay attention to scientists, dramatically more than the current Presidential administration does, but an immunologist will say one thing, an epidemiologist something slightly different, an economist something altogether other. The various sciences and academic disciplines will not speak with a single voice, indeed will not speak at all: individual scholars will speak, and what they say will arise from a combination of their scholarly expertise and their beliefs (derived from non-scientific sources) about what matters most in life, and a good political leader will have the general intelligence and moral discernment to sift the various messages he or she receives and make a decision based on all the relevant input.”
  6. There was a fight at the New York Times this week. I’m not actually that interested in the op-ed that provoked it, but I am quite interested in how the fight is playing out. The New York Times occupies a special place in the American media ecosystem and fights like this illuminate some of what is happening beneath the surface.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 251

Concerning the benefits of religion, the virtue of intellectual humility, perspectives on the pandemic, the global strategy of the Chinese Communist Party, and an unsettling account of governmental surveillance.

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. Religious services may lower risk of ‘deaths of despair’ (Chris Sweeney, Harvard Gazette): “After adjusting for numerous variables, the study showed that women who attended services at least once per week had a 68 percent lower risk of death from despair compared to those never attending services. Men who attended services at least once per week had a 33 percent lower risk of death from despair.” Those are HUGE reductions!
  2. Pandemic Perspectives
    • Amid the Coronavirus Crisis, a Regimen for Reëntry (Atul Gawande, The New Yorker): “But, in the face of enormous risks, American hospitals have learned how to avoid becoming sites of spread. When the time is right to lighten up on the lockdown and bring people back to work, there are wider lessons to be learned from places that never locked down in the first place.” This was quite good.
    • What African Nations Are Teaching the West About Fighting the Coronavirus (Jina Moore, The New Yorker): “Much of what Gercama encountered at the airport had been designed to prevent Ebola. Since 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan’s neighbor to the southwest, has been struggling with the disease. But local public-health officials’ quick repurposing of Ebola protocols and infrastructure impressed Gercama, as did the work of rapid-response teams, whom she twice witnessed respond to suspected coronavirus cases during the week she spent in the country.”
    • A Spectacularly Bad Washington Post Story on Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification Project (John Gruber, blog): “A Washington Post story today on Apple and Google’s joint effort on COVID-19 exposure notification project, from reporters Reed Albergotti and Drew Harwell, is the worst story I’ve seen in the Post in memory. It’s so atrociously bad — factually wrong and one-sided in opinion — that it should be retracted.” Ouch. Gruber backs it up. 
    • Coronavirus Crisis: Ron DeSantis Got Florida’s COVID-19 Strategy Right (Rich Lowry, National Review): “A couple of months ago, the media, almost as one, decided that Governor Ron DeSantis was a public menace who was going to get Floridians killed with his lax response to the coronavirus crisis…. The conventional wisdom has begun to change about Florida, as the disaster so widely predicted hasn’t materialized.”
    • As more states reopen, Georgia defies predictions of coronavirus resurgence. What’s the lesson for the rest of the country? (Andrew Romano, Yahoo News): “That’s the balance reopening needs to strike if it’s going to work: fewer official restrictions in exchange for more individual and community responsibility.”
    • A contrary perspective: It Sure Seems Like Florida And Georgia Lied About Their Infection Rates (Luis Prada, Cracked): “Florida and Georgia are petulant, entitled quarantine protesters embodied as states. Since this all started, both states have been frantically searching for an excuse to end their quarantines as fast as possible and get back to life as usual despite a rampaging virus that’s killing people.”
    • Mississippi church destroyed by arson was suing city over safer-at-home order (Arianna Poindexter, WLBT TV): “A Mississippi church at the center of an arson investigation is the same church currently in a battle with city leaders over a COVID-19 safer-at-home order. First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs was destroyed by what investigators believe is an arsonist. Investigators found graffiti on pavement in the church parking lot that reads, ‘Bet you stay home now you hypokrits (sic).’” 
    • Meet the ‘Gang Pastor’ Behind Cape Town’s Viral Coronavirus Cooperation (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “We regularly stop while we are working to invite people to follow Jesus. I’ve lost track, but maybe 5,000 to 10,000 have told us they’ve repented and are turning to follow Jesus. But I don’t call this success, it is just a small piece in the overall cause of what we Christians are called to do.”
    • Donald Trump Doesn’t Want Authority (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Great men and bad men alike seek attention as a means of getting power, but our president is interested in power only as a means of getting attention.”
  3. Uncertainty (Howard Marks, Oaktree Capital): “The people who are always sure are no more helpful than the people who are never sure. The real expert’s confidence is reason-based and proportional to the weight of the evidence.” Shared by an alumnus’ father.
  4. China’s Plans to Win Control of the Global Order (Tanner Greer, Tablet Magazine): “As Beijing sees it, China’s success depends on discrediting the tenets of liberal capitalism so that notions like individual freedom and constitutional democracy come to be seen as the relics of an obsolete system.” I found this piece to be very insightful.
    • Related: In China’s Crisis, Xi Sees a Crucible to Strengthen His Rule (Steven Lee Myers and Chris Buckley, New York Times): “Mr. Xi, shaped by his years of adversity as a young man, has seized on the pandemic as an opportunity in disguise — a chance to redeem the party after early mistakes let infections slip out of control, and to rally national pride in the face of international ire over those mistakes. And the state propaganda machine is aggressively backing him up, touting his leadership in fighting the pandemic.”
    • Related: Xi’s Regime Recasts China as the Good Samaritan during Pandemic (Alan Dowd, Providence): “Add it all up—the PR spin, the propaganda push, the pallets of aid, the preening—and in a very real sense, Xi Jinping’s regime is offering a new, twisted version of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In Xi’s retelling, the roadside robbers who assault the traveler later return to rescue him—and somehow expect to be hailed as heroes.”
    • An explosive summer of discontent is brewing in Hong Kong (Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post): “On Tuesday, Hong Kong authorities extended pandemic-related rules limiting public gatherings to effectively ban, for the first time, a June 4 vigil marking the anniversary of China’s massacre of student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.”
    • China Pushes for New Hong Kong Security Law (Keith Bradsher and Austin Ramzy, New York Times): “The legislative push in Beijing marks the most aggressive step by the party to exert its influence over the former British colony since it was reclaimed by China in 1997.”
    • Seriously — pray for Hong Kong.
  5. A Mississippi pastor with eight kids and no professional music background won ‘The Voice’ — and made show history (Emily Yahr, Washington Post): ““‘I’ve literally never performed. I just sing at church,’ Tilghman explained, introducing himself as a pastor. This sparked an attempt to prove who was the biggest church fan; Legend revealed his grandfather was a pastor, and Jonas one-upped him by boasting his father was a pastor.”
  6. Under the Rainbow Banner (Darel Paul, First Things): “In June 1999, President Bill Clinton declared the first national Pride Month. Twenty years later, June is as teeming with rainbows as December is with reindeer. The Pride flag flies above embassies, state capitols, and stadiums. Rainbow stripes adorn city crosswalks.”
    • In response: Queer Times (Carl Trueman, First Things): “The debate over LGBTQ issues is not a debate about sexual behavior. I suspect it is not really at this point a debate with the L, the G, or the B. It is the T and the Q that are carrying the day, and we need to understand that the debate is about the radical abolition of metaphysics and metanarratives and any notion of cultural stability that might rest thereupon.”
  7. Since I Met Edward Snowden, I’ve Never Stopped Watching My Back (Barton Gellman, The Atlantic): “Someone had taken control of my iPad, blasting through Apple’s security restrictions and acquiring the power to rewrite anything that the operating system could touch. I dropped the tablet on the seat next to me as if it were contagiou” Recommended by a student. Gripping and disturbing.

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 Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+ (Hannah Furness, The Telegraph): this is a real article. First shared in volume 151.

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 250

Probably my favorite article in this bunch is the epidemiological analysis of the seven deadly sins. What a genius idea.

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.

Also, this is the 250th of these weekly roundups I have published. Even though last week was number 249, I was still surprised to type in 250 this week. Someday I’ll remember a special number is coming up and do something different for it. But not this day.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Are the Wages of Sin Really Death?: Moral and Epidemiologic Observations (David Lyle Jeffrey and Jeff Levin, Christian Scholar’s Review): “So, are the wages of sin really death? As far as population-health research suggests, the answer is a guarded yes.” The authors are professors at Baylor, one of epidemiology and the other of literature. 
  2. Kids’ TV has a porn problem (BrazyDay, Medium): “In a very real way, the ‘hypersexual and toxic’ culture that has sprung up around children’s TV cartoons is of companies’ own making. They actively allow it to happen simply by doing nothing — creating a lawless vacuum where anything goes and porn coexists with harmless fan creations.” This article was much better than I expected it to be. 
  3. How We Got the Bible (Dirk Jongkind,Desiring God): “…by understanding what God had done over the ages, we will see that it is reasonable and justified to trust that the Bible in our hands is a translation of the trustworthy words of Scripture.” The author is a research fellow in New Testament text and language at Tyndale House, Cambridge University. 
  4. The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months (The Guardian): “The kids agreed to work in teams of two, drawing up a strict roster for garden, kitchen and guard duty. Sometimes they quarrelled, but whenever that happened they solved it by imposing a time-out. Their days began and ended with song and prayer. Kolo fashioned a makeshift guitar from a piece of driftwood, half a coconut shell and six steel wires salvaged from their wrecked boat – an instrument Peter has kept all these years – and played it to help lift their spirits.“ Recommended by a student.
    • Fascinating Twitter thread in response by Tanner Greer: “Lord of the Flies is one of those novels that people remember wrong. People remember its central theme as ‘take away civilization, and we all turn into Hobbesian little monsters.’ But if you read the book as an adult, instead of an 8th grader speeding through, you find a different meaning.”
  5. Should Religious Conservatives Aspire to Notoriety? (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “You don’t go looking for power and prestige. You aspire to be faithful. If prestige finds you, then you allow yourself to be extruded into it and pray that God protect you from the spiritual dangers.” This is essay is part of a swarm of internet articles about the trajectory of the magazine First Things, but you don’t have to read anything else about that (or even care much about that) to find this essay worthwhile. 
  6. Pandemic Perspectives
    • “Our regulatory state is failing us” Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “When the CDC pooh-poohed masks early on, or botched their testing kit thereby delaying U.S. testing by weeks or maybe months, did the permanent staff of the CDC rise up and rebel and leak howling protests to the media, realizing that thousands of lives were at stake? That is surely what would happen if say the current FDA announced it was going to approve thalidomide.” This is a link to a search result on his blog, keep scrolling after you finish the main article to see several examples of what he is describing. 
    • Coronavirus Pandemic: A Plea for Generosity (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “There is a good reason to hesitate to judge, namely our ignorance. Plagues are a time for scapegoats and blame-shifting precisely because they deal out suffering such a seemingly unjust and random fashion. Our leaders say they will follow the science, but they can’t, really. With a heretofore-unseen virus such as this one, the science is more like inherited wisdom and intuition from previous, similar maladies, at least at the start. What follows is a confused rush to catch up through trial and error.“
    • The Risks — Know Them — Avoid Them (Erin Bromage, personal blog): “I regularly hear people worrying about grocery stores, bike rides, inconsiderate runners who are not wearing masks.… are these places of concern? Well, not really. Let me explain.” The author is a biology professor at U Mass who teaches courses on immunology and infectious disease. Recommended by an alumnus. 
    • No, the superspreader choir in Washington doesn’t prove church is dangerous (Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner): “It’s hard to blame the choir for not taking more precautions, as this was March 10, before stuff really hit the fan (and when our government was still telling people NOT to wear masks).”
      • This op-ed is based on a CDC investigation: “The March 10 choir rehearsal lasted from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. Several members arrived early to set up chairs in a large multipurpose room. Chairs were arranged in six rows of 20 chairs each, spaced 6–10 inches apart with a center aisle dividing left and right stages.”
    • Lockdown is over. Someone tell the government (Dominic Green, Spectator USA): “Every society has reacted to COVID-19 according to its principles or, if no principles were to hand, its habits. It has been America’s misfortune that its principles and habits are ill-suited to managing an epidemic.”
    • Take the Shutdown Skeptics Seriously (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “The general point is that minimizing the number of COVID-19 deaths today or a month from now or six months from now may or may not minimize the human costs of the pandemic when the full spectrum of human consequences is considered. The last global depression created conditions for a catastrophic world war that killed roughly 75 to 80 million people. Is that a possibility? The downside risks and costs of every approach are real, frightening, and depressing, no matter how little one thinks of reopening now.”
    • Coronavirus and The Myopia of American Exceptionalism (Brad Littlejohn, Mere Orthodoxy): “Rather than proving ourselves exceptional, we simply assume that we are. The ordinary rules do not apply to us, because we are America. We make things better here, we run things more efficiently here, we live more happily here, because we are America. There is no need to look at OECD rankings, because we already know that they are wrong if they show us anywhere but #1…. this way of thinking, far from making America great, is almost certain to make her the opposite. After all, the only way to improve is to learn, and the chief way we learn as human beings is from the examples of others.”
    • The Miracle of the Internet (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “The surge in traffic, on the internet as a whole and on AT&T’s part of the network, is extraordinary in a way that the phrase 20 percent increase doesn’t quite capture. AT&T’s network is carrying an extra 71 petabytes of data every day. How much is 71 petabytes? One comparison: Back at the end of 2014, AT&T’s total network traffic was 56 petabytes a day; in just a few weeks, AT&T has accommodated more new traffic every day than its total daily traffic six years ago. (During the pandemic, the AT&T network has been carrying about 426 petabytes a day—one petabyte is 1 million gigabytes.)”
    • Stanford’s $27.7 billion not enough to house students in need amid pandemic (Sheikh Srijon, Stanford Daily): “Harvard is allowing those on campus with demonstrated need to stay for the whole summer for only $200. MIT is offering free housing and meals. Duke is offering free housing and partial compensation for lost summer earnings to those with substantial financial aid.… Compare Stanford’s policy to these institutions’ policies. Though it has a $27.7 billion dollar endowment (as of October 2019), it is charging students nearly $6,000 for summer housing and meals in times of such financial uncertainty.”
  7. The New York Times Surrendered to an Outrage Mob. Journalism Will Suffer For It. (Pamela Paresky, Jonathan Haidt, Nadine Strossen And Steven Pinker, Politico): “…for the Times to ‘disappear’ passages of a published article into an inaccessible memory hole is an Orwellian act that, thanks to the newspaper’s actions, might now be seen as acceptable journalistic practice. It is all the worse when the editors’ published account of what they deleted is itself inaccurate. This does a disservice to readers, historians and journalists, who are left unable to determine for themselves what the controversy was about, and to Stephens, who is left unable to defend himself against readers’ worst suspicions.”

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 If I Were 22 Again (John Piper, Desiring God): “There have been about 18,340 days since I turned 22, and I think I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have eaten. I have certainly read my Bible on more of those days that I have watched television or videos.… Read your Bible every day of your life. If you have time for breakfast, never say that you don’t have time for God’s word.” This whole thing is really good. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 151.

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.