Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 252

There was an abundance of sad news this week, which matches this month, which matches this year.

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 Bible tells us to weep with those who weep, and this is a good week for that. I’ve had to share articles about similar wickedness too many times, beginning all the way back in volume 4.
    • I think this 8 minute Facebook video by my friend Jamil Stell is good. He filmed it a few hours before George Floyd’s death, which is why he doesn’t reference it. Jamil, who spoke at our fall retreat four years ago, is the Chi Alpha director at Cal State Stanislaus.
    • I Specifically Requested The Opposite of This (Imgur) — if a picture is worth 1,000 words, a picture with a great caption is an entire treatise.
    • The Sorrows of Minneapolis: A Prayer for Our City (John Piper, Desiring God): difficult to excerpt, quite good.
    • When the Law Doesn’t Contain All the Answers (Bob Driscoll, The Dispatch): “The law, even applied correctly, doesn’t remedy what we know is wrong. We can hope that the George Floyd killing can provide some insight into the feeling of frustration in many minority communities surrounding policing issues, because we can see, or at least sense, the depth of the problem. Assuming the system properly tries and convicts the kneeling officer of some serious offense, will you feel any better about George Floyd’s death? I won’t.”
    • George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “The rest of the country knows George Floyd from several minutes of cell phone footage captured during his final hours. But in Houston’s Third Ward, they know Floyd for how he lived for decades—a mentor to a generation of young men and a ‘person of peace’ ushering ministries into the area.”
    • Did George Floyd and Then-Officer Derek Chauvin Work Together in Minneapolis? (Snopes): “So while it’s true that Floyd and Chauvin worked at the club at the same time, it’s unknown, and unlikely, according to the former owner of the building where the club was located, that the two men knew each other.”
    • Cooped up: A shameful Central Park encounter demands all New Yorkers be better people (Robert A. George, NY Daily News) : “In the latest episode of the everyday-fresh-hell that is New York City under quarantine, one white female, Amy Cooper, was caught on video calling the cops on one black male, Christian Cooper. Sorry, folks, I’d encourage everyone to push back on the reflexive instinct to make this into a story about racism as it’s more a modern parable of bad behavior between two individuals.” Super-interesting.
    • White People Behaving Badly (Zaid Jilani, Arc Digital): “The truth is, measured explicit and implicit racial bias has rapidly declined, interracial crimes are rare, and whites are actually underrepresented compared to their share of the population in the FBI’s index of hate crimes. No racial group has a monopoly on hate, whatever anecdotes elevated to news coverage may lead us to believe.”
    • Anger Is Justified, Riots Never Are (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “Riots are bad. Riots are never a coherent or moral response to injustice, they just multiply injustices and the rioters themselves often suffer more in the long run…. Riots dissuade individuals, families, and businesses from staying in or joining a community. Who wants to raise their kids in the neighborhood where the police station had to be evacuated before it was set ablaze?” Some research on the effects of riots The Economic Aftermath of the 1960s Riots in American Cities: Evidence from Property Values (Collins & Margo, Journal of Economic History on JSTOR) and this Twitter thread by a Princeton professor.
    • A differing perspective: What the news doesn’t show about protests in Minneapolis and Louisville (Jason Johnson, Vox): “Nighttime coverage will seldom show a full city map demonstrating that, two blocks over from a street that looks like a ‘city engulfed in flames,’ there’s a CVS still open for business. The press flocking to dramatic images as a protest metaphor is not a new phenomenon.” The author is a professor of politics and journalism at Morgan State University.
    • George Floyd protests: Photos show uprisings across America (Jen Kirby and Kainaz Amaria, Vox): striking images.
  2. About China:
    • The Infinite Heartbreak of Loving Hong Kong (Wilfred Chan, The Nation): “Something profound has been lost. It is not democracy, because Hong Kong was never democratic. It is not autonomy, because Hong Kong never enjoyed self-determination. It is certainly not the will to resist; as I write this, activists are already planning a full calendar of mass protests, determined to fight until the bitter end. What is lost is the feeling that Hong Kong’s future could be an open question.”
    • Pompeo declares Hong Kong no longer autonomous from China (Carol Morello, Washington Post): “‘Hong Kong and its dynamic, enterprising, and free people have flourished for decades as a bastion of liberty, and this decision gives me no pleasure,’ [Pompeo] added. ‘But sound policymaking requires a recognition of reality. While the United States once hoped that free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself.’”
    • What to Make of Secretary Pompeo Decertifying Hong Kong Autonomy (Julian Ku, Lawfare): “Although Pompeo’s dramatic announcement drew headlines around the world, his decision should not have surprised observers, given the new requirements on any such certification imposed by Congress in November 2019.”
    • ‘All-out combat’ feared as India, China engage in border standoff (Saif Khalid, Al Jazeera): “A video shot by an Indian soldier and shared on social media showed soldiers from both nations engaged in fistfights and stone-pelting at the de facto border, known as Line of Actual Control (LAC). The incident, which continued until the next day, resulted in 11 soldiers being injured on both sides.” The headline seems a bit over-the-top. I talked with a friend who has some relevant expertise and he is not that concerned. Still worth keeping an eye on. 
    • China-India border: Clashes raise fears of broader confrontation as Beijing pursues sovereignty claims on all fronts (Anna Fifield and Joanna Slater, Washington Post): “The relationship between the two countries remains tense, exacerbated by efforts from both capitals to stoke nationalist sentiment. The obvious place for this to erupt is at the point where the two countries bump up against each other.” 
  3. ‘AKA Jane Roe’ and the humiliation of the pro-life movement (Karen Swallows Prior, Religion News Service): “Even before the film aired, headline after headline heaped humiliation on pro-lifers. The Los Angeles Times reported that McCorvey had been paid to change her mind. This was misleading: McCorvey wasn’t paid to change her mind — she was paid to speak at pro-life events after she claimed she had changed her position.”
    • Related: FX documentary on Norma McCorvey omits key Catholic sources who knew her best (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “Also, the documentary is coy about one important thing. To get access to McCorvey, surely they had to pay up too? We call that ‘checkbook journalism’ and ethical news organizations don’t offer money to their interviewees. When pressed by the Washington Post, the film’s producer admitted he paid her a ‘modest licensing fee’ for use of family photos and documentary footage.” 
  4. Pandemic Perspectives:
    • Conservatives who refuse to wear masks undercut a central claim of their beliefs (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “[Refusing to wear masks] also undercuts a more central claim of conservatism: that big, coercive government programs are unnecessary because private institutions could provide many benefits that we think of as ‘public goods.’ For that to be true, the civic culture would have to be such that individuals are willing to make serious sacrifices for the common good, and especially to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
    • Reopening churches safely: What pastors in Utah, Georgia have learned (Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News): “The Rev. Leroy Davis wants his church to feel as safe as Costco. The service will hopefully be a little more personal, he said, but the environment should seem just as clean.“
    • The Regulatory State Is Failing Us (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “It is important not to make this a partisan conflict. I do not view the administrative state as extra-constitutional. That said, it has become far too inflexible, and not sufficiently focused on outcomes. It is time we woke up and realized that we have a system that simply is not working.”
    • COVID-19 Has Exposed Critical Weaknesses in Global Higher Education (Christos Makridis and Soula Parassidis): “While publicly available data does not seem to exist to identify the source of the increasing proliferation of degree programs, many students have been funneled into degree programs without an accurate representation of what they are going to learn and their post-graduation labor market prospects.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry. 
  5. Have Pentecostals Outgrown Their Name? (Daniel Silliman, Christianity Today): “Names can be tricky. What do you call a Pentecostal who isn’t called a Pentecostal? The question sounds like a riddle, but it’s a real challenge for scholars. They have struggled for years to settle on the best term for the broad and diverse movement of Christians who emphasize the individual believer’s relationship to the Holy Spirit and talk about being Spirit-filled, Spirit-baptized, or Spirit-empowered.”
  6. Conn. transgender policy found to violate Title IX (ESPN): “Connecticut’s policy allowing transgender girls to compete as girls in high school sports violates the civil rights of athletes who have always identified as female, the U.S. Education Department has determined in a decision that could force the state to change course to keep federal funding and influence others to do the same.”

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 Why Being a Foster Child Made Me a Conservative (Rob Henderson, New York Times): “Individuals have rights. But they also have responsibilities. For instance, when I say parents should prioritize their children over their careers, there is a sense of unease among my peers. They think I want to blame individuals rather than a nebulous foe like poverty. They are mostly right.” The author just graduated from Yale. Worth reading regardless of your political allegiances. First shared in volume 153.

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 249

The vindication of a vilified missionary, thoughts about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and pandemic perspectives.

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. A Missionary on Trial (Ariel Levy, The New Yorker): “According to a study published in 2017 in The American Journal for Clinical Nutrition, fourteen per cent of children treated for severe acute malnutrition at Mulago Hospital—Uganda’s best facility—died. The study notes that the over-all mortality rate in Africa for children with S.A.M. is between twenty and twenty-five per cent. During the years when Serving His Children functioned as an in-patient facility, its rate was eleven per cent.”
    • Recommended. If you want to dig deeper, last October a Ugandan television station did a twenty-minute story on this case which also discredited the missionary’s accusers. Proverbs 18:17 wins again.
    • I see a similar dynamic in some students who are feeling angst over their faith. Upon conversation, I often learn that they have been told untrue or misleading things about missions, the history of the church, and the present status of the church in the world. Always remember that critics might have motives beyond simply establishing the truth. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to them, but it does mean that you don’t treat their complaints as axioms. When this reporter flew to Uganda and talked to people on the ground she quickly learned that the internationally-accepted narrative was not right.
  2. Why We Opened a Christian University in Iraq Amid ISIS’ Genocide (Jayson Caspar, Christianity Today): “There was an unwritten understanding that the Christians would not overtly proselytize and share the gospel, but be indirect and not offend sharia law. But after ISIS and the lack of any real response from the Muslim world, Archbishop Warda says that this agreement is now finished. That as we go forward, we will no longer be shy. We are going to proclaim the gospel, proclaim the teachings of Christ, and whoever comes to us will come…. There may not be many Christians in Iraq. But as an old priest said once to me, ‘Well, remember Christ only had 12, and everyone wanted to kill them, too.’”
  3. Exquisite Scandal (Nancy Lemann, Lapham’s Quarterly): “The familiar theory at the trial was that the people of Louisiana would rather be entertained than served with ethics. Some would call this a Gallic attitude, to be blinded by charm at the expense of integrity, and indeed the culture of Louisiana is historically French Catholic. And as the Catholics might say, the fall from grace is inevitable, a mystery to be endured rather than a problem to be solved. And some in Louisiana would prefer a smart crook to an unintelligent opportunist masked as a crusader whose ambition blinds him to his own stupidity. Such a one could be just as dangerous, if not more so, than a crook.” As someone born in Louisiana, I very much enjoyed this article. 
  4. Gregory and Travis McMichael face murder charges in connection with Ahmaud Arbery case (Steve Almasy and Angela Barajas, CNN): “Two men involved in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Georgia, have been arrested and face murder and aggravated assault charges, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.”
    • It is amazing to me that it was not the video evidence that led to their arrest, but the public outcry in response to the video evidence. 
    • A Vigilante Killing in Georgia (David French, The Dispatch): “When white men grab guns and mount up to pursue and seize an unarmed black man in the street, they stand in the shoes of lynch mobs past.”
    • Thinking Christianly About the Ahmaud Arbery Lynching (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “If we are to be people who act justly and promote justice, which is that each person receives their rightful dues, then we must rightly discern what has happened in the case of Arbery. This was a lynching. It was an act that God hates. And so we must recognize that and we must call it by its name and speak out against it and against all such acts of injustice.”
    • Related in the abstract: How to Punish Voters (Josie Duffy Rice, New York Times): “It’s well known that voter suppression has taken the form of the closing of polling places, new restrictive voter ID laws, voter roll purges of thousands of eligible voters and nine-hour lines at the polls. But Ms. Pearson’s case is a reminder that it can also take the form of the aggressive prosecution of individual black voters for polling-place offenses — which in many cases appears motivated less by a sincere desire to address fraud than by a desire to intimidate.”
  5. Pandemic Perspectives
    • The Covid-19 Riddle: Why Does the Virus Wallop Some Places and Spare Others? (Hannah Beech, Alissa J. Rubin, Anatoly Kurmanaev and Ruth Maclean, New York Times): “The coronavirus has killed so many people in Iran that the country has resorted to mass burials, but in neighboring Iraq, the body count is fewer than 100. The Dominican Republic has reported nearly 7,600 cases of the virus. Just across the border, Haiti has recorded about 85.”
    • Coronavirus Could Disrupt Weather Forecasting (Henry Fountain, New York Times): “…data on temperature, wind and humidity from airplane flights, collected by sensors on the planes and transmitted in real time to forecasting organizations around the world, has been cut by nearly 90 percent in some regions.” I must confess I did not see that coming. At all. 
    • Google App Censoring Covid-19 Courses (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Google is a private entity. It has the right to control what goes out on its app platform. Whether Google is morally correct to exercise that right to suppress any unofficial pandemic information is a different question — and a very important one. Google owns YouTube — how long will they allow these courses to remain on YouTube?” These are courses by academics speaking within their areas of expertise.
    • Related: Who is Judy Mikovits in ‘Plandemic,’ the coronavirus conspiracy video just banned from social media? (Katie Shepherd, Washington Post): “The film is so questionable that social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo on Thursday scrubbed it from their sites. A Vimeo spokesperson, for example, said that the company ‘stands firm in keeping our platform safe from content that spreads harmful and misleading health information. The video in question has been removed … for violating these very policies.’” A friend sent me a link to her video but it was pulled down. I have no opinion about the video because I haven’t seen it. But I do have an opinion about it being pulled down. I dislike that intensely. I fear the risks of misinformation far less than I fear the risks of controlling information. 
    • A pastor in the Bronx thought he knew hardship. Then his church saw 13 coronavirus deaths. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “Promised Land, in the poorest congressional district in the nation, sees about 250 mostly African American and Latino worshipers on a normal weekend. Public housing units line the streets near the church in the Mott Haven neighborhood, where city officials estimate the poverty rate is about 44 percent.”
    • In Inner-City Black Churches: More Grief, Fewer Resources, Stronger Faith (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “Despite bearing the disproportionate impact of the outbreak, black believers have demonstrated particular spiritual endurance. In a Pew survey released last week, members of historically black churches were more likely than any other religious tradition to say their faith has been strengthened through the outbreak. More than half (56%) say their faith has become stronger, compared to 35 percent of all Christians and 24 percent of adults overall.”
    • Clinical Study Considers The Power Of Prayer To Combat COVID-19 (Tom Gjelten, NPR): “Half of the patients, randomly chosen, will receive a ‘universal’ prayer offered in five denominational forms, via Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. The other 500 patients will constitute the control group.” This study looks like a mess. How do they expect to keep the 500 in the control group from being prayed for? I am pretty sure that if you are hospitalized with Covid-19 someone is praying for you. And my theology leads me to believe those organic, heartfelt prayers offered by people who actually know the patients are going to be more significant than the “universal prayers” offered by the research participants. I expect this study will lead internet atheists to claim that all prayer has been debunked when at most it will show that scripted multifaith prayers offered on behalf of strangers do not move the heart of God. 
    • Food Banks Can’t Go On Like This (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Normally, ‘rescued’ food—items that would otherwise be thrown out as their sell-by date approaches—accounts for 97 percent of Feeding San Diego’s distributions. Until the pandemic, the group was receiving unpurchased food from 204 Starbucks locations every night of the year. Most of those stores are now closed. The organization normally gets excess food from 260 grocery stores too, but consumers have been stocking up enough lately that many shelves are picked clean.”
  6. The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (YouTube): seven moving minutes. Shared with me by a student’s father.

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 Sister… Show Mercy! (Dan Phillips, Team Pyro): “Sister, if there’s one thing you and I can certainly agree on, it’s this: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, and you don’t know what it’s like to be a man. We’re both probably wrong where we’re sure we’re right, try as we might. So let me try to dart a telegram from my camp over to the distaff side.” (first shared in volume 148)

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.

46 thoughts on my 46th birthday

Some thoughts from an aging man offered in the hope that a few of them help you.

Inspired by Kevin Kelly’s 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice, here are 46 thoughts which occur to me on my 46th birthday.

These are not the most important things I believe nor are they ranked. They’re what came to mind, and I offer them in the hope you’ll find at least one or two nuggets useful. Yes, I am aware that many of these are not original to me.

  1. Leaders should be examples and not exceptions. Don’t impose rules upon others you are not willing to follow yourself.
  2. When you’re looking for mentors, look for people at least a decade older than you who have succeeded in at least two different environments. Someone who succeeded once often has a hard time distinguishing what was luck versus what was wise. Someone who has succeeded more than once is more likely to have learned principles.
  3. Wisdom is wanting the right things, knowing how to get them, and pursuing them wholeheartedly.
  4. There are two ways to gain wisdom: from your own experience or from the experience of others. Do as much of the latter as you can. Read widely, talk to interesting people, and in general be a sponge for wisdom.
  5. Ask people who have what you want how they got it. For example, I see single people talking to each other all the time about how to tell if someone is right for them or not. That’s fine, but also ask someone who is happily married how they made their decision. I see new parents give one another advice on child rearing philosophies. I suppose that’s inevitable, but also ask the parents of admirable teenagers or grown children what they did.
  6. People on the left distrust big business. People on the right distrust big government. Maybe we should be suspicious of all big institutions and make sure they have proper checks and balances.
  7. Most people who disagree with you politically are reasonable people who have had different experiences than you.
  8. No matter what you believe (about religion, about politics, about some issue within your profession), there are people smarter and better-informed than you who disagree with you. That doesn’t mean you are wrong, but it does mean you should be humble.
  9. America really is a remarkable nation. Love it enough to keep improving it.
  10. The deliciousness of a cuisine is generally proportional to the number of people who eat that cuisine at home. This is why Chinese food is better than British food.
  11. The best handful of books on a subject can teach you most of what you need to know about it. You can often find great books on a subject by googling “SUBJECT syllabus” and skimming through four or five college syllabi and noting recurring titles.
  12. In college take professors not classes. Find the best professors and take whatever they are teaching.
  13. You are not obligated to finish a book simply because you began it. Give a book 100 pages minus your age to grab your attention.
  14. The consensus view of well-informed people is usually right, but when it is wrong it is hugely wrong.
  15. The cost of maintenance is far less than the cost of repair. Change the oil, brush your teeth, stay in shape, etc.  When relevant, put recurring maintenance tasks on your calendar.
  16. When a task is important, get the tools you need to do it right. Don’t just get by with something that sort of works.
  17. Just get started. Implement and iterate. Beginning on a grade B plan now is (usually) better than waiting to devise a grade A plan you can start on next year. If you just begin with an okay plan and improve it as you go along you’ll be doing something far superior a year from now than if you spent endless hours dreaming about The Best Way. The big exception is things that are not easily reversible (like tearing down a wall in a house – spend as much time thinking that one through as you need).
  18. Money is a tool. Like all tools, there are a lot of problems it can’t solve. But the problems it can solve it solves very effectively. Go read the Reddit personal finance wiki.
  19. Accept that writing is revising. It is okay if your first draft is horrible. Just get your thoughts down onto paper and then you can work to make them better.
  20. Life is the laboratory of philosophy. Just as in science, lots of theories sound good until they are put to the test. You will discover that some things can be thought but not lived and you should reject them.
  21. Be generous. Not only is it kind, it is prudent.
  22. A Christian is someone who believes in the resurrection of Jesus from the grave and lives in light of its implications. Realizing Jesus has risen changes everything.
  23. Everyone is amazing, at least potentially. If you can’t see the awesome (or the potential) in someone you probably don’t know them well enough yet.
  24. A failure to appreciate beauty is a moral failing. If you can’t see the beauty in something that many others can, try to figure out why. It may expose an area of potential growth.
  25. Beliefs drive behavior. If you want to change the way you act, first change the way you think.
  26. All behavior makes sense. If someone does something you don’t understand it is because they were thinking something you find incomprehensible. To them it seemed like their best option. Figuring out what they were thinking doesn’t necessarily excuse their behavior, but it does make it sensible.
  27. Root for your team to win, not for the other team to lose.
  28. Chesterton was right: no one should be allowed to remove a fence who cannot explain why it was put there in the first place.
  29. In your profession there are a handful of people you should stalk. You are looking for people who have the same basic strengths as you but who are operating at a higher level with them than you are. Read everything they’ve written, listen to every speech they’ve given, and talk to everyone who knows them. If befriending them is possible, go for it.
  30. Someday you will stand before the Judge, so don’t play the fool with Him now. Fear God like you fear electricity or fire — respect His power.
  31. Trying to be cool is like applying for an off-brand credit card. Even if you attain it, you can’t spend it anywhere it matters.
  32. For my fellow ministers: the purpose of a sermon is to help people believe, understand, and obey God’s Word. You probably naturally emphasize one of these – be sure to deliberately include the other two as well. Strive to preach so that your message is persuasive to a skeptic, comprehensible to a new believer, and applicable to daily life.
  33. A few years ago I heard someone say you should argue like you are right and listen like you are wrong. That’s pretty good advice.
  34. Bad news is like milk not wine; it does not improve with age. Open that bill, read that letter from the IRS, respond to that “we need to talk” text. You can only find the way out once you know where you’re starting from.
  35. Are you single? A first date is only an interview for a second date, so if in doubt ask them out. Have you been asked out? If in doubt, say yes. The question is not: “Do I think I could marry them?” The question is: “Do I find them interesting enough to want to spend a few hours with?” The threshold for going from date 1 to 2 is a little higher, and from 2 to 3 is higher yet.
  36. Footnotes are better than end notes. Side notes rule them all.
  37. There are a few books and authors you will see mentioned repeatedly by the authors you respect the most. Level up and begin reading the authors your authors are reading.
  38. Losing weight is very hard for some people, but don’t assume it is for you until you try it. Resolve that you will be okay with feeling hungry and set a simple rule that you follow ruthlessly. For me, I decided that I would not eat more than 600 calories at any meal and that I would only eat three meals a day with no snacks. It worked really well.
  39. One of the keys to a good beard is shaving your neck. Avoid neck hair.
  40. International students are amazing people. They left everything behind in pursuit of knowledge. Get to know them and be excellent hosts to them.
  41. Forgiveness is about erasing debts. If you forgive a loan, that means that you don’t expect it to be repaid. Likewise, to forgive an offense is to give up your expectation it will be made right. When you have a hard time forgiving someone, ask yourself what it is that you believe you are owed. You might discover you are still holding on to expectations (of an apology, of restitution, of changed behavior, of vengeance, of reconciliation, etc). Put your expectations behind you and move on. If you find you can’t, pray for God to help you. If you can’t even do that then pray, “Lord, I am not yet willing to forgive them. But I am willing to be made willing. Help me.”
  42. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. You can forgive someone without trusting them again.
  43. Not everyone should marry. Singleness is a noble lifestyle. However, most people will marry and who you marry will wind up being far more important than what you do for a living. Do you know what you call a CEO with a failing marriage? Miserable. If you spend a ton of energy and time preparing for a high-impact career while assuming that a good marriage will just happen you are being foolish.
  44. Calendars are better than to-do lists. When you get a task, put it on your calendar. If there’s no time on your calendar you’re just making a false promise by putting that task on your to-do list.
  45. Avoid temptation. When temptation does come your way, flee. Resisting temptation is a fool’s game. Just as flowing water wears down rock, so constant temptation can wear down the strongest willpower.
  46. We are supposed to worship God, love people, and use things. But we often worship things and use people or we idolize people and love things. Keep God first and everything else will fall to its proper place.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 202

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 First Rule of Social-Media Censorship Is That There Are No Rules (David French, National Review): “The great value of viewpoint neutrality is that it comports with our sense of fundamental fairness. It hearkens back to the image of the blindfolded Lady Justice, holding her scales, indifferent to the power or privilege of her petitioners. Twitter and Facebook have removed the blindfold, thrown away the scales, and chosen to wield only the sword.”
    • Related but less aggressive: Facebook’s Unintended Consequence (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “The deeper problem is the overwhelming concentration of technical, financial and moral power in the hands of people who lack the training, experience, wisdom, trustworthiness, humility and incentives to exercise that power responsibly.”
    • Related but with a different emphasis: The Big Tech Threat (Josh Hawley, First Things): “My thesis is that the evidence strongly suggests there is something deeply troubling, maybe even deeply wrong, with the entire social media economy. My thesis is that it does not represent a source of strength for America’s tomorrow, but is rather a source of peril.” A transcript of a speech given by a US Senator who is a Stanford grad and who was speaking at the Hoover Institution.
  2. We Are Taking Religious Freedom Too Far (Margaret Renkl, New York Times): “Religious faith is a private matter between a believer and God. But how a believer lives in community with other people is something different altogether. It’s time to stop giving believers a pass just because their beliefs happen to run counter to the laws of the nation they live in.”
    • In response: A New York Times Op-Ed Is Very Wrong About Religious Liberty (David French, National Review): “She formulates religious liberty like this: ‘In this country, citing religious or spiritual convictions is often a surefire way to get out of doing something you’re required by law to do.’ This is a common framing on the left. Essentially, it’s an argument that religious freedom is an intrusion into the law and that religious people are engaged in a form of special pleading — seeking rights and exemptions unavailable to other Americans. In reality, the First Amendment is supreme, and when states seek to intrude on religious liberty, they’re trying to get out of something they’re required by law to do. Respecting the First Amendment is the default obligation of the federal government and every state and local government in the United States.”
    • Related but on a different topic: Health and Human Services and the Religious-Liberty War (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “The conflict between religious liberty, LGBTQ rights, and abortion access is about to intensify. In the coming weeks or months, HHS is expected to issue a revised version of Rule 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which extended nondiscrimination protections to transgender people and women who have terminated pregnancies. The Supreme Court is also slated to consider civil-rights protections for LGBTQ individuals in several high-profile upcoming cases; while those cases mostly involve protections provided under employment law, they similarly pit religious liberty against LGBTQ rights.”
  3. Agapáo and Philéo by the Sea of Tiberias (Ron Belgau, Spiritual Friendship): “After breakfast, Peter and Jesus had a conversation which raises an interesting question about how to understand the verbs for love—agapáo and philéo—used in the original Greek…. The passage is difficult to translate because although English has always had separate nouns for ‘love’ and ‘friendship,’ no English speaker prior to Mark Zuckerberg used ‘friend’ as a verb. Translators, therefore, must either translate both words as ‘love,’ which loses a potential nuance in the original, or else must try to somehow make the difference apparent in English.” This is the most satisfying explanation of this passage I have heard.
  4. American churches must reject literalism and admit we got it wrong on gay people (Oliver Thomas, USA Today): “Churches will continue hemorrhaging members and money at an alarming rate until we muster the courage to face the truth: We got it wrong on gays and lesbians. This shouldn’t alarm or surprise us. We have learned some things that the ancients — including Moses and Paul — simply did not know. Not even Jesus…”
    • The author is a retired American Baptist minister.
    • In response: Oliver Thomas @USATODAY Says the American Church Got it Wrong on Gay People—And He’s Right (Michael Kruger, personal blog): “In this way, Thomas is right. The church is killing itself, if by the ‘church’ one means the mainline denominations who have abandoned biblical authority. Indeed, statistics have shown, plainly and incontrovertibly, that the mainline denominations are dying and the bible-believing ones are growing.”
    • In response: No, Christianity Doesn’t Need To Endorse Homosexuality To Grow (Glenn Stanton, The Federalist): “When same-sex-attracted Christians go to church, they are not choosing the pews of churches Thomas is calling us to become. Again, it’s just the opposite. Research conducted jointly at Columbia University and the University of California at Los Angeles by scholars who are not shy about supporting gay politics found that gay- and lesbian-identified people are 2.5 times more likely to attend churches that took a more conservative view on Christianity (including homosexuality) than the so-called ‘welcoming and affirming’ congregations that celebrate it.”
  5. What’s wrong with America? I debate Ben Shapiro.(Sean Illing, Vox): “There are basically two visions of American history. One is that America was founded on great moral principles that we failed to live up to historically and we’ve been striving to fulfill. The other is that America is rooted in racism, bigotry, sexism, and homophobia, and that these great moral principles were the founders merely flattering themselves.”
    • This is a very good exchange. Whichever side you’re sympathetic to, you’ll enjoy reading this interview.
  6. Why God Is a He (Dennis Prager, YouTube): five minutes. It’s an interesting way to approach the issue. As a Christian I would make a different argument connected to the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus as a male, but Prager is an observant Jew and so that line of thinking is unavailable to him.
  7. Are All Republicans Biblical Literalists? Are All Democrats Heretics?(Ryan Burge, Religion in Public): “With the release of the 2018 wave of the General Social Survey data, I think that it’s time to take stock of how a person’s view of the Bible is related to their political affiliation. Are there biblical literalists who are Democrats? How many Republicans don’t put much stock in the Bible? And, how has the view of the Bible changed over time?”
    • tl;dr — Roughly ¼ of Democrats and ⅓ of Republicans believe the Bible is the literal word of God. Roughly half of each party think the Bible is inspired but not always to be taken literally. The remainder in each party believe that the Bible is just ancient fables.

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 20 Arguments For God’s Existence (Peter Kreeft, personal website): “You may be blessed with a vivid sense of God’s presence; and that is something for which to be profoundly grateful. But that does not mean you have no obligation to ponder these arguments. For many have not been blessed in that way. And the proofs are designed for them—or some of them at least—to give a kind of help they really need. You may even be asked to provide help.” I was reminded of this by a conversation with an alumnus. The author is a philosophy professor at Boston College. (first shared in volume 116)

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 199

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

If you’ve been following the news, articles about the Mueller report are conspicuous by their absence in this week’s email. Apologies if you were hoping for something on that, but I find it difficult to overstate how uninterested I am in this news cycle.

Also, next week will be volume 200. Should I do anything special? Suggestions are welcome.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Is Religious Decline Inevitable in the United States? (Ryan Burge, Christianity Today): “The results are unambiguous: those with the least amount of education are consistently the most likely to identify as religiously unaffiliated. The far right bar in the graph, indicating those with a graduate level education are almost always the group that is the most likely to be religiously affiliated.”
  2. The new religion: why trying to be perfect is doomed to fail (Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian): “It’s one thing to seek salvation in God, or to stop seeking salvation; but the attempt to engineer your own salvation is doomed to fail. We’re flawed and finite, so we lack the capacity to work, parent or romance our way to perfection. Try to do so and you’ll only end up struggling to exert ever more control over your life – whereas deep relationships, and other meaningful experiences, require giving up control.”
  3. Now We’re Talking: The Exceptional Life of Paul Coates (Wil S. Hylton, Huffington Post): “There weren’t white cats in hoods, burning crosses and beating up on black people, but if you walked through town, the moment you got to the black side, the sidewalks would disappear, the streets would disappear, and now you’re walking in dirt. So the racism was subtle—but as your consciousness expands, the subtlety melts away and the racism becomes more rancid to the eyes and nose.” This is a fascinating interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ father.
  4. Missionaries are supposed to suffer … So am I allowed to buy an air conditioner? (Amy Medina, A Life Overseas): “If God has called you to work among the upper-class in India, then you’ll need to live like them, in a luxury apartment. If God has called you to work among the coastal tribes of Tanzania, then you’ll need to live like them, in a simple cinder-block house with a pit toilet. Each life has its set of challenges. Each life has its set of blessings.”
  5. Broke Millennials Are Flocking to Financial Guru Dave Ramsey. Is His Advice Any Good? (Kristen Bahler, Money): “[Young adults are] an audience that marketers stake their entire budgets on, and he’s speaking to them in all the wrong ways. He quotes scripture and Ronald Reagan. He calls young people ‘snowflakes.’ He has absolutely no chill, whatsoever. But for a growing swath of millennials—a generation we’re told is too fragile, too godless, too politically correct—his word is gospel.”
  6. Listening at the Great Awokening (Areo, Darel E. Paul): “…this spring the Great Awokening finally came to my home institution, Williams College. Administrators and other campus leaders have encouraged white members of the college community like myself to listen. Over the past two months, I have striven to do exactly that…. Listening to these views from multiple campuses helped me realize that what seems to be a local discourse responding to local issues is actually a local manifestation of an international social, political and ideological phenomenon.” The author is a professor of Political Science at Williams College.
    • Related: The End of Empathy (Hanna Rosin, NPR): “…new research has scrambled notions of how empathy works as a force in the world. For example, we often think of terrorists as shockingly blind to the suffering of innocents. But Breithaupt and other researchers think of them as classic examples of people afflicted with an ‘excess of empathy. They feel the suffering of their people.’”
  7. The Gospel of AI: Evangelicals Want Tech to Remain Good News (Griffin Paul Jackson, Christianity Today): “[The document], composed by experts in business, public policy, tech, ethics, and biblical theology, consists of 12 articles, each offering biblical affirmations and denials about human nature and various implications for the future of artificial intelligence. The document emphasizes God’s power as the author of life and humans’ special role as image-bearers. It mostly focuses on conceptual and theoretical frameworks for using AI but also explicitly decries the use of AI for sexual pleasure as well as ‘manipulative and coercive’ data collection.”
    • See the full document: Artificial Intelligence: An Evangelical Statement of Principles: “In light of existential questions posed anew by the emergent technology of artificial intelligence (AI), we affirm that God has given us wisdom to approach these issues in light of Scripture and the gospel message. Christians must not fear the future or any technological development because we know that God is, above all, sovereign over history, and that nothing will ever supplant the image of God in which human beings are created. We recognize that AI will allow us to achieve unprecedented possibilities, while acknowledging the potential risks posed by AI if used without wisdom and care.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Preacher And Politics: Seven Thoughts (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “I have plenty of opinions and convictions. But that’s not what I want my ministry to be about. That’s not to say I don’t comment on abortion or gay marriage or racism or other issues about the which the Bible speaks clearly. And yet, I’m always mindful that I can’t separate Blogger Kevin or Twitter Kevin or Professor Kevin from Pastor Kevin. As such, my comments reflect on my church, whether I intend them to or not. That means I keep more political convictions to myself than I otherwise would.” First shared in volume 150.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Thanksgiving

Every year we host students in our home for Thanksgiving. Today we will have just shy of three dozen. They come from around the world and find it difficult to make it home for such a short break.

Since Thanksgiving in a novel cultural experience for many of them, I always give a quick explanation before the meal. For the curious, here’s what I’m planning to say today:


American Thanksgiving traces its roots back to 1621 when the European colonists of Plymouth Plantation celebrated their first harvest on the new continent. 45 colonists and 90 native Americans celebrated together for a three-day feast.

This became a custom in many colonies, but the schedule and the details of the celebration would vary from place to place. On October 3, 1789 George Washington called for the first Federal Thanksgiving with this proclamation. It’s a bit long so I’m going to read the highlights:

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be….

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually….

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

That proclamation regarded a single occurrence, not a yearly event. A few generations later on October 3, 1863 Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday which we still celebrate to this day.

I am a Christian, and so this day is very special to me because gratitude is at the heart of Christianity.

As the apostle tells us in 1 Thess 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (ESV)

And we do this because even when circumstances are bad, God is good. As we read in Psalm 107:1

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (ESV)

And so this Thanksgiving, join me as we offer thanks for the food.

Creator God, we are grateful for your provision of a universe for us to inhabit filled with wonderful things, including delicious food. Help us to enjoy it and the conversations that fill this room. Most of all, thank you for giving us Jesus as a savior and a Lord.  Today we declare with the Psalmist: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, ESV)

Now let us eat with grateful hearts!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 129

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 homeless who help themselves get a needed lift (Kevin Kelly, San Jose Mercury News): “LifeMoves, formerly known as InnVision Shelter Network, is a 44-year-old [Bay Area] nonprofit that specializes in getting individuals into temporary housing and on a path to permanent housing. It claims a 93 percent success rate of getting homeless families housed and self-sufficient, and a 72 percent success rate with individuals. There is just one caveat: People who receive assistance — referred to as clients — must demonstrate a willingness to better themselves.”
    • Related: 5 Harsh Realities Of Homeless Camps Nobody Talks About (Evan Symon, Cracked): “If you live in a major American city, you’ve probably seen your fair share of homeless camps. They usually crop up in empty lots, parks, and Big Rock Candy Mountains. City governments generally have them torn down and cleaned up whenever they can. Leaving aside whether or not that’s the right way to address homelessness, somebody has to do the work of cleaning those places up. Our source, Carol, did just that.”
  2. People for sale: Where lives are auctioned for $400 (Nima Elbagir, Raja Razek, Alex Platt and Bryony Jones, CNN). There is a text story at the link, but the embedded seven minute video is worth watching, especially the first four minutes. This is a horrifying development in the migrant crisis — slave auctions.
  3. How To Think About Vladimir Putin (Christopher Caldwell, Imprimis): “When Putin took power in the winter of 1999–2000, his country was defenseless. It was bankrupt. It was being carved up by its new kleptocratic elites, in collusion with its old imperial rivals, the Americans. Putin changed that…. Russian people not only tolerate him, they revere him. You can get a better idea of why he has ruled for 17 years if you remember that, within a few years of Communism’s fall, average life expectancy in Russia had fallen below that of Bangladesh. ” This is a slightly older article, and so his comments about Russia’s role in the U.S. election aren’t very current. His broader observations are worth pondering.
  4. The Supreme Court hears arguments about the Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding on Tuesday. Lots of people are writing about it.
      • Against the baker: The Christian Legal Army Behind ‘Masterpiece Cakeshop’ (Sarah Posner, The Nation): “On December 5, with the full force of the United States government behind it, ADF will be asking the Supreme Court to carve out yawning exemptions from civil-rights laws for conservative Christians.” (this is less about the case and more about the firm representing the baker — it’s a hit piece but is full of interesting info)
      • Against the baker: The Masterpiece Cakeshop Case Is Not About Religious Freedom (Jennifer Finney Boylan, New York Times): “But Masterpiece has nothing to do with religious freedom. It’s about enshrining a freedom to discriminate. Historically, religious exemptions from the law have occasionally been granted to protect the person who holds the belief. But this case is different, in that it gives an individual the right to harm someone else. And that’s what the Masterpiece case is about: It would give individuals the right to discriminate.” The author is an English professor at Barnard College.
      • Against the baker: The Gay Wedding Cake Case Isn’t About Free Speech (Andrew Koppelman, The American Prospect).”It is merely telling him that if he sells any products to heterosexual couples, he must sell the same products to same-sex couples. He is free to refuse to write ‘Support Gay Marriage’ on any cakes that he sells, so long as he refuses that to both gay and heterosexual customers. So this is an easy case. Phillips should lose.“ The author is a law professor at Northwestern. This is the strongest argument I have read against the Christian baker.
      • For the baker: Stop Misrepresenting Masterpiece Cakeshop (David French, National Review): “Phillips isn’t discriminating against a protected class. I’ll repeat this until I’m blue in the face. He serves gay customers.”
      • For the baker: The Christian Baker’s Unanswered Legal Argument: Why the Strongest Objections Fail (Sherif Girgis, Public Discourse): “Should an Islamophobic sect get to force Muslim caricaturists to sketch mocking images of the Prophet? Clearly not.” Disclaimer: Sherif was a roommate of one of our alumni and is an acquaintance of mine.
  5. Dueling perspectives on the family lives of blue state and red state Americans:
    • Blue States Practice the Family Values Red States Preach (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times): “The liberal impulse may be to gloat: Those conservatives thunder about ‘family values’ but don’t practice them. But there’s also perhaps a measure of hypocrisy in the blue states. As Cahn and Carbone put it: ‘Blue family values bristle at restrictions on sexuality, insistence on marriage or the stigmatization of single parents. Their secret, however, is that they encourage their children to simultaneously combine public tolerance with private discipline, and their children then overwhelmingly choose to raise their own children within two-parent families.’” Kristof is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist who was a Rhodes Scholar and is on the Board of Overseers for Harvard University.
    • No, Republicans Aren’t Hypocrites on Family Values W. Bradford Wilcox and Vijay Menon, Politico): “In other words, even though Southerners in general are at greater risk of family instability than Northerners, Republicans in the South enjoy markedly higher levels of family stability than their fellow citizens—a family stability advantage that puts them above Democrats and independents in the North. Another way to put this: It’s blue and purple Americans in the South who are really pulling down family stability in the South, not red Americans.” Wilcox is a sociology prof at UVA, where Minon is also a grad student.
  6. We Didn’t Become Christians Because Of The Hucksters (Michael Wear, Fathom): “If the world criticizes the pride of someone who claims the name of Christ—or who won the votes of those who do—point them to Jesus, who was born into poverty, who instructed his followers to take the low position, and humbled himself on the way to the cross…. There is nothing so wrong with the poor example of Christians that can’t be solved by proclaiming the perfect example of Christ.”
  7.  Stanford can take Junipero Serra’s name off its buildings, but it can’t purge him from its history (Charlotte Allen, LA Times): “The Main Quad, part of a master plan designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, imitates Serra’s missions (with some Romanesque touches). Besides the Mall and the boulevard, other campus streets are named after his friar-disciples (Lasuén and Francisco Palóu), as well as José de Gálvez, the inspector general for New Spain who facilitated Serra’s missionary work in Alta California. If the Stanford activists aim to obliterate Serra’s presence from their campus, they’ve got their work cut out for them.” I didn’t know Serra’s influence was so pervasive at Stanford.

Things Glen Found Amusing

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Letter To My Younger Self (Ryan Leaf, The Player’s Tribune): “Congratulations. You officially have it all — money, power and prestige. All the things that are important, right?… That’s you, young Ryan Leaf, at his absolute finest: arrogant, boorish and narcissistic. You think you’re on top of the world and that you’ve got all the answers. Well I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the truth is….” Such a gripping letter. Highly recommended. (first shared in volume 99)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

Archives at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 116

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 flooding in Houston is crazy, and I say this as someone who grew up facing hurricanes in Louisiana on a regular basis. If you want to help, Convoy of Hope is our recommended disaster-relief organization. You can learn more about what they’re doing at Hurricane Harvey Response. So far they’ve served over forty thousand people. More hurricane reading:
    • All the rain that Hurricane Harvey dumped on Texas and Louisiana, in one massive water drop (Javier Zarracina & Brian Resnick, Vox): “…over six days, 27 trillion gallons of water fell over Texas…. That’s one million gallons of water for nearly every person who lives in Texas.” The infographic is stunning.
    • Houston flooding in historical perspective: no, zoning would not have stopped Harvey (Phil Magness, personal blog): “the very notion that Houston is a giant concrete-laden water retention pond is itself a pernicious myth peddled by unscrupulous urban planning activists and media outlets. In total acres, Houston has more parkland and green space than any other large city in America and ranks second overall to San Diego in park acreage per capita.” The author is an economic historian.
    • The Joel Osteen Fiasco Says A Lot About American Christianity (Laura Turner, Buzzfeed): I thought this article was mostly fair and was interesting throughout. This bit towards the end rang true to me: “[Lakewood Church spokesman Doug] Iloff offered a different version of events than the one shared by critics on social media. The church was never locked,’ he told me. ‘The people who showed up were let in; it’s just that very few people came.’ This, he says, was due to flooding around the building and the surrounding highways. And church leaders didn’t initially offer Lakewood as a shelter in part out of concern that it would flood during the weekend’s heaviest rains, Iloff said. ‘If we had let people in and that water had flooded, you would be writing a whole different story now.’” Related: Flood him with criticism: Let him who is without sin cast the first stone at Joel Osteen and his church (Bobby Ross, Jr, GetReligion), Was Joel Osteen’s Houston ‘Megachurch’ Affected By Hurricane Harvey? (Snopes). Based on the evidence I’ve seen, Lakewood Church not only acted defensibly but actually acted wisely and helpfully, which makes Here’s why people hate Joel Osteen (Kate Bowler, Washington Post) timely.
    • Hurricanes, Climate and the Capitalist Offset (Bret Stephens, NY Times): “Harvey truly is an astonishing storm, the likes of which few people can easily remember. Then again, as meteorologist Philip Klotzbach points out, it’s also only one of four Category 4 or 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the United States since 1970. By contrast, more than twice as many such storms made landfall between 1922 and 1969.” I did not know that.
  2. 20 Arguments For God’s Existence (Peter Kreeft, personal website): “You may be blessed with a vivid sense of God’s presence; and that is something for which to be profoundly grateful. But that does not mean you have no obligation to ponder these arguments. For many have not been blessed in that way. And the proofs are designed for them—or some of them at least—to give a kind of help they really need. You may even be asked to provide help.” I was reminded of this by a conversation with an alumnus. The author is a philosophy professor at Boston College.
  3. A Beating In Berkeley (Matt Labash, Weekly Standard): “One of them, Will Johnson, announces that he is a black American and a Christian. ‘This is not a neo-Nazi, white supremacist rally,’ he says. ‘I don’t know where they got that from. I actually called Nancy Pelosi’s office and asked her to change that. There’s no way I am a white supremacist.’” An amazing article. Well worth reading.
  4. Some Thoughts and Advice for Our Students and All Students (an open letter from some Harvard, Yale and Princeton professors): “Thinking for yourself means questioning dominant ideas even when others insist on their being treated as unquestionable. It means deciding what one believes not by conforming to fashionable opinions, but by taking the trouble to learn and honestly consider the strongest arguments to be advanced on both or all sides of questions—including arguments for positions that others revile and want to stigmatize and against positions others seek to immunize from critical scrutiny.” Interestingly, at least four of the signatories (nearly 20%) are people who have previously made an appearance in these emails.
  5. Wait, Do People Actually Know Just How Evil This Man Is? (Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs): “And I am worried that even those who detest Trump and are appalled by this pardon do not entirely appreciate the depth of Arpaio’s evil, or understand quite how indefensible what Donald Trump just has done is. Frankly I think even Trump may not fully realize the extent of the wrongdoing that he has just signaled his approval of.” Depressing reading.
  6. The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial (Venkatesh Rao, Ribbonfarm): “Premium mediocre is the finest bottle of wine at Olive Garden. Premium mediocre is cupcakes and froyo. Premium mediocre is ‘truffle’ oil on anything (no actual truffles are harmed in the making of ‘truffle’ oil), and extra-leg-room seats in Economy. Premium mediocre is cruise ships, artisan pizza, Game of Thrones, and The Bellagio. Premium mediocre is food that Instagrams better than it tastes…. premium mediocrity is creating an aura of exclusivity without actually excluding anyone.” The article is far too long. Read the first few paragraphs and you’ll get the idea.
  7. My IRB Nightmare (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “We, as the patient’s doctors, would make the diagnosis and write it down on the chart. But we (as study investigators) needed a full signed consent form before we were allowed to access the diagnosis we had just made.” This is simultaneously disturbing and entertaining, and so is the follow-up post.
  8. The Cost of Running Harvard (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): I assume broadly similar statistics are true of Stanford.

Things Glen Found Amusing

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

Archives at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links.

To Change The World, Week Six

To Change The World by James Davison Hunter
To Change The World

Today’s reading is about the religious right. I know some of you are conservative and some of you are liberal. Whichever camp you align with, I encourage you to read both this chapter and the next chapter (on the religious left) carefully, seeking to gain sympathy for the side you oppose. I also encourage you to read the attached essay “The Problem With Conservatism” by J. Budziszewski, a Christian political philosopher at the University of Texas. He has a companion essay about liberalism which I’ll send next week — so whether you are liberal or conservative you’ll find a chapter that describes your views fairly while also encountering a thoughtful critique of your tribe.

Anyway, on to today’s insights. Hunter is fair and insightful in describing the Christian right:

“In the present world order, many if not most of the principles [politically conservative Christians] most esteem have come under fundamental challenge. There has been a challenge to heterosexuality, to monogamy, to marriage as a life-long commitment, to the sacred responsibility of parenting, to the authority and autonomy of the family. There has been a challenge to the sanctity of human life, most clearly in the earliest stages of life but also life at its most vulnerable and at its end. Not only has there been a challenge to the truths of the Christian faith and the traditions and scripture that express them, but there has been a challenge to the very concept of truth as well. And there has been a challenge to the moral authority of the church. These challenges have been expressed intellectually, educationally, and artistically, but also commercially, through advertising, and in the range of entertainment media. Not least, all of these challenges have also been expressed legally and politically.” (page 111)

I would be surprised if you have not heard similar sentiments in the lobby after church. In response,

Conservative Christians “defend a prominent role for religion in public life, a traditional nuclear family, and traditional morality.” (page 122)

Hunter deeply understands the perspective of conservative Christians. It makes me wonder what churches he has attended. Even in small things he gets their self-understanding. I think it would surprise many at Stanford to learn that most politically-engaged conservative evangelicals consider themselves to be the true activists who pursue human flourishing in the face of an unjust culture.

“In this view, the Tocquevillian legacy that celebrates the active role of religion in public extended into the modern age through the abolitionist movement, prohibition, and with the civil rights movement of the 1960s and it extends to the present in the movement against abortion, homosexuality, and the like. In their own view, conservative Christian activists are anything but strange. They are, rather, the “rightful heirs” of progressive Christianity.” (page 114)

Having said all of that, Hunter addresses something that I hear often: many conservative Christians are fed up with the Republican party because they feel taken for granted.

This is the problem with electoral politics in our time. Politicians cannot get nominated without the support of the grassroots activists, but they cannot get elected and govern without moving to the political center. It is inevitable that politicians who do get elected betray their most ardent supporters by moderating (p.126) their positions. Needless to say, this comes as a source of terrible frustration to the movement leaders. Movement leaders regularly and probably rightly accuse Republican politicians and officials of “just ignoring those that put them in office.” (page 125–126)

Having said that, as long as the Democratic party continues on their current trajectory it is difficult to imagine a large-scale drift of conservative Christians from Republican to Democrat. As I said in the runup to the election, I could not in good conscience vote for either Trump or Clinton and so I cast my ballot for a third party candidate. But I know many of my friends who voted for Trump as a way of preventing a Clinton victory. I think if I was to ask them why they would say something like this. “Sure, Trump is crazy and personally immoral, but Clinton is disciplined and devoted to promoting wickedness. I think America will be better off under the crazy sleazebag.”

It is difficult to overstate the centrality of the Supreme Court to the thinking of most of my conservative Christian friends. Hunter nails it with this paragraph:

If there is an epicenter of the problem, though, it is seen in the judicial system—“the last great bastion for liberalism.” Some have called “the secular-liberal takeover” of the judiciary the greatest assault representative self-government has ever faced; an assault that is “more dangerous and successful because it comes from within and aims to destroy not just our physical defenses, but the moral ideas, habits and practices that sustain our character as a free people.” The principal instrument for their assault has been “an abuse of the judicial system,” and in particular the Federal judiciary’s assertion of supreme and unchecked constitutional power. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court has arrogated to itself governmental power that the Tenth Amendment unambiguously reserves to the States, arbitrarily withdrawn the protection of the community from generations to come, interfered with the public celebration of religious festivals and observances determined by the people, and now seeks to remove all references to the Creator, God, (p.117) from public declarations adopted by the people. The campaign of “liberals and progressive forces” has been nothing less than “insidious.” The problem, then, is not just the fact that the courts are complicit in “trying to erase our Judeo- Christian heritage.” “The courts have also imposed immoral decisions on the American people.” The courts’ decisions liberalizing the practice of abortion and homosexuality are particularly galling since the majority of Americans oppose them. Cumulatively, these actions amount to “judicial tyranny.” (pages 116–117)

My friends who voted for Trump felt a huge sense of vindication when Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Trump could do everything else wrong and get the Supreme Court right and my friends would say, “I made a good call. Thank God Hilary Clinton is not president.”

I am very eager to see how he portrays the religious left in next week’s reading and then how he critiques them both afterwards.

Some Thoughts About The Election

This is an email I sent to the students in my ministry the morning following the 2016 presidential election:


I would like to say something to the despondent and the jubilant: the despondent should not be too despondent and the jubilant should not be too jubilant.

To The Despondent:

You just woke up and feel as though you woke up in a different country than the one you thought you lived in. You feel as though you don’t belong. I want to encourage you: this will pass. There are rarely permanent defeats in politics. You will get another try at the presidency in four years and at the legislative branch in two years. Remember when Obama rode into office? The Democrats had the House, the Senate, and the Executive Branch along with most state gubernatorial and legislative offices. The days of the Republican party seemed over, yet now the Republicans have usurped the Democrats in every one of those roles. Your turn will come again. Be patient.

A few practical pieces of advice for you in the meanwhile:

1) If you did not register to vote, do it now while you’re motivated. It will not take much time and is one of the few productive things you can actually do right now.

2) You may be tempted to blame the other side’s victory on the basest of motives. The other side is racist. The other side is misogynistic. The other side is driven by hate. Please hear this: they don’t think they are. “But they are — I know it!” Even if you are right that there are vile motives floating around inside their souls, you will not change their minds by pointing that out. Instead, you must understand your opponents in order to persuade them. If you are genuinely shocked that a large chunk of Americans are afraid of the Democratic party and what it would have done with four to eight more years of power, you need to read more widely.  Add to your reading list authors such as Mollie Hemingway, Ross Douthat, Thomas Sowell, Matthew Lee Anderson, Russell Moore, Rod Dreher, and David French. If you use Twitter, follow each of them. If you don’t, pay attention to their writings. They pop up from time to time in the Friday emails I send out — begin deliberately reading the entries you think you’ll disagree with. Also, consider watching Fox News from time to time.

3) Pray. This is something you will have a chance to do at Chi Alpha tonight. #justsaying

To The Jubilant:

It’s a good feeling when your side wins. Enjoy the moment, but recognize how ephemeral it is. Whenever one party sweeps into power across multiple branches of government, corruption and infighting ensues. Your team is likely in for a rough time two years from now in the midterm elections and will face a serious challenge four years down the road.

A few practical pieces of advice for you:

1) Recognize that some of your friends are genuinely terrified right now. People who are made in God’s image — some of whom are your brothers and sisters in Christ — are in pain. Be empathetic. Even if you think that their emotions are overblown, acknowledge that their emotions are real.

2) Prepare for disappointment. Politicians rarely deliver what you hoped for. The Democrats didn’t deliver immigration reform when Obama was in office even though the Democrats held the House and the Senate. The Republicans will almost certainly get bogged down on issues that later prove to be inconsequential and as a result will let some of your highest priorities slip out of their grasp. Two years is not that long and Republican officials will refuse to believe that’s probably all the time they have.

To Everyone:

Yesterday America elected a president for the next four years, but we know the King who reigns forever. So acknowledge the president, “but in your hearts revere Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15a).

Remember Philippians 3:20: “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Elections matter, but eternity matters more. Keep perspective today and always.

God bless and I hope to see you at worship tonight. I’ll talk more about these things there and we will pray.