Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 115

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 Most Shortsighted Attack on Free Speech in Modern U.S. History (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Under a legal regime where hate speech was not considered free speech, Trump and Sessions could likely punish words used by members of Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Do you think he’d police their speech more or less vigorously than white supremacists?”
  2. Everyone’s Suspicious of Atheists — Even Other Atheists (Thomas MacMillan, NY Mag): “According to a new study published last week in Nature, people all over the world connect immorality with atheism. In fact, the moral prejudice against atheists is so strong that it holds even in countries like the Netherlands, where most people aren’t religious. Even atheists themselves, according to the study, are inclined to see nonbelievers as more wicked than the faithful.” The Nature paper is Global evidence of extreme intuitive moral prejudice against atheists.
  3. I Won’t Make Jesus Bow Down to Xi Jinping (Derek Lam, New York Times): “Of Hong Kong’s six major religions, five are already firmly under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. Judging by recent events, the party is very close to completing its mission of bringing Christianity under its thumb.”
  4. The Drive For Perfect Children Gets A Little Scary (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg View): “If you could directly alter your kids’ genetic profile, what would you want? It’s hard to know how the social debate would turn out after years of back and forth, but I was dismayed to read one recent research paper by psychologists Rachel M. Latham and Sophie von Stumm. The descriptive title of that work, based on survey evidence, is ‘Mothers want extraversion over conscientiousness or intelligence for their children.’ Upon reflection, maybe that isn’t so surprising, because parents presumably want children who are fun to spend time with.”
  5. Mathematical mystery of ancient Babylonian clay tablet solved (Phys.org): “Plimpton 322 predates Hipparchus by more than 1000 years,” says Dr Wildberger. “It opens up new possibilities not just for modern mathematics research, but also for mathematics education. With Plimpton 322 we see a simpler, more accurate trigonometry that has clear advantages over our own.” The academic paper is Plimpton 322 is Babylonian exact sexagesimal trigonometry (Historia Mathematica). Another reminder that our ancestors were pretty clever.
  6. Robert E. Lee opposed Confederate monuments (Lisa Desjardins, PBS NewsHour):  “But while he was alive, Lee stressed his belief that the country should move past the war. He swore allegiance to the Union and publicly decried southern separatism, whether militant or symbolic.”
  7. This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley  My lawsuit failed. Others won’t. (Ellan Pao, The Cut): “Before suing, I’d consulted other women who had sued big, powerful companies over harassment and discrimination, and they all gave me pretty much the same advice: ‘Don’t do it.’ One woman told me, ‘It’s a complete mismatch of resources. They don’t fight fair. Even if you win, it will destroy your reputation.’”
  8. James Kennedy Ministries Sues SPLC over Hate Map (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): see also Politico’s June article Has a Civil Rights Stalwart Lost Its Way? (short answer: yes, yes it has)

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

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

To Change The World, Week Nine

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

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through To Change The World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2017. The reading schedule is online at https://xastanford.org/summer-reading

After being so descriptive in the last three chapters it’s nice to see Hunter getting prescriptive in this week’s readings. He puts the religious right, the religious left, and the neo-Anabaptist tradition on blast. I really enjoyed these closing chapters of his essay on power.

Most people think that what matters is the ideological direction of one’s politics. Are you conservative? Are you liberal? These differences occupy most of our attention and argument. What is never challenged is the proclivity to think of the Christian faith and its engagement with the culture around it in political terms. (page 168)
This is tragic because politics promises far more than it is able to deliver. Hunter observes:
There are no comprehensive political solutions to the deterioration of “family values,” the desire for equity, or the challenge of achieving consensus and solidarity in a cultural context of fragmentation and polarization. There are no real political solutions to the absence of decency or the spread of vulgarity. But because the state is a clumsy instrument and finally rooted in coercion, it will always fail to adequately or directly address the human elements of these problems; the elements that make them poignant in the first place. As a rule, when the state does become involved in such matters, its actions can often create more problems through unintended consequences, not fewer. (page 171)
This reminds me of something my dad used to tell me: some of the scariest words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” Unintended consequences abound for both the policy preferences of the left (minimum wage, family leave policy, zoning regulations) and the right (the war on drugs, tough-on-crime laws, immigration reform). It’s actually kind of fun to google. If you have some time I highly recommend it.

 

Hunter continues:

At best, the state’s role addressing human problems is partial and limited. It is not nearly as influential as the expectations most people have of it. It is true that laws are not neutral. They do reflect values. But laws cannot generate values, or instill values, or settle the conflict over values. (page 171)
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made a similar but more powerfully worded observation highlighting the other side of this dynamic at Western Michigan University back in 1963:
…while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also. (pdf source)
That’s one of my favorite quotes on religion and politics, so I’m glad I finally found a chance to drop it in. 😉

 

With that extremely important point in mind, Hunter’s reservation still stands:

Values cannot be achieved politically because politics is invariably about power—not only power, but finally about power. For politics to be about more than power, it depends on a realm that is independent of the political sphere. It depends on moral criteria, institutionalized and practiced in the social order, that are autonomous from the realm of politics. The problem is that the impulse toward politicization extends to the politicization of values. This means that the autonomy of moral criteria on which a higher practice of politics depends is increasingly lost. Today, most of the ideals and values that are discussed in public have acquired political content and connotation. Fairness? Equity? Justice? Liberty? These have come to have little or no meaning outside of the realm of politics. (page 172, emphasis in original)

And now he loads up the howitzers and launches a barrage on modern American Christianity. He gets positively sermonic in this section and I want you to know I am proud of myself for quoting so little of it. It took tremendous restraint to limit myself to three bombshells.

  1. For conservatives and progressives alike, Christianity far too comfortably legitimates the dominant political ideologies and far too uncritically justifies the prevailing macroeconomic structures and practices of our time. What is wrong with their critique is that it doesn’t go far enough, for the moral life and everyday social practices of the church are also far too entwined with the prevailing normative assumptions of American culture. Courtship and marriage, the formation and education of children, the mutual relationships and  obligations between the individual and community, vocation, leadership, consumption, leisure, “retirement” and the use of time in the final chapters of life—on these and other matters, Christianity has uncritically assimilated to the dominant ways of life in a manner dubious at the least.” (pages 184-185)
  2. …Christian believers [must] decouple the “public” from the “political.” Politics is always a crude simplification of public life and the common good is always more than its political expression. As we have seen, the expectations that people place on politics are unrealistic for most of the problems we face today are not resolvable through politics. That, however, is not the most serious problem. Far more grave is the way politicization has delimited the imaginative horizon through which the church and Christian believers think about engaging the world and the range of possibilities within which they actually act. Politics is just one way to engage the world and, arguably, not the highest, best, most effective, nor most humane way to do so. This does not mean that Christians shouldn’t “vote their values” or be active in political affairs. It is essential, however, to demythologize politics, to see politics for what it is and what it can and (p.186) cannot do and not place on it unrealistic expectations. It cannot realize the various mythic ideals that inspire different Christian communities, it cannot even reduce the tension that exists between the concrete realities of everyday life and the moral and spiritual ideals of the Kingdom of God. At best, politics can make life in this world a little more just and thus a little more bearable. (pages 185-186)
  3. Everything about [Jesus’] life, his teaching, and his death was a demonstration of a different kind of power—not just in relation to the spiritual realm and not just in relation to the ruling political authorities, but in the ordinary social dynamics of everyday life. It operated in complete obedience to God the Father, it repudiated the symbolic trappings of elitism, it manifested compassion concretely out of calling and vocation, and it served the good of all and not just the good of the community of faith. In short, in contrast to the kingdoms of this world, his kingdom manifests the power to bless, unburden, serve, heal, mend, restore, and liberate. (page 193)
Bonuses
Finally, some snippets that have special resonance for us in light of recent history (all things that happened after Hunter’s book was written):

First, one of Hunter’s observations illustrates why Brexit happened – the bureaucratic state is fundamentally non-democratic. That is hard to handle when it is constrained by your democratic elections. How much harder must it be when the bureaucracy stands above your electoral process as it does in the EU?

The state, by contrast, is where the real power resides. The state is a massive, relatively autonomous bureaucratic organization whose purpose is to administer innumerable discrete tasks that make the regime function. Decisions made are filtered through numerous, often unrelated bureaus staffed by professionals who have their own autonomous (and nondemocratic) decision-making authority. The tasks the state undertakes may be influenced by ideals or values provided by the political class, but those tasks do not embody those ideals.  (page 170)
And I thought this was a timely insight in light of the events in Charlottesville:
There is a basis in fact for the claims made by each of these groups. Yet an identity rooted in resentment and hostility is an inherently weak identity precisely because it is established negatively, by accentuating the boundaries between insiders and outsiders and the wrongs done by those outsiders. (page 173)
This also is germane:
The capacity to define reality varies extensively and those individuals and institutions that have more engage in a kind of “symbolic violence” (or forms of coercion that are effected without physical force) against those who have less. The ultimate expression of this symbolic violence is to so thoroughly define a situation that dissent or opposition becomes unimaginable. (page 178)

The public reaction to the president’s speech on Charlottesville is a good illustration of this. The following argument, by the way, is independent of my reaction to the events in Charlottesville – it is an attempt to show that the stuff Hunter is talking about is in the news constantly. In case you’re wondering, I preached against Nazi ideology and white supremacy in a church just this Sunday and I have said publicly since before the election I do not think Trump is fit to be president. Perhaps you agree with me, perhaps not. In either case, set your own feelings aside for a moment and consider the reaction to Trump’s statements as a sociological phenomenon. What made his perspective so outrageous? The symbolic violence Hunter describes. We live in a culture that has defined reality in such a way that his statements were outside the realm of acceptable public discourse. There is no acceptable reaction to neo-Nazis other than immediate denunciation. Anything else is literally unimaginable. Even to say something factually true – there is hate and violence on both sides – is incomprehensible to many Americans, especially those who have been the most formed by elite institutions. If you doubt “the violence on both sides” statement, by the way, consider this article from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/18/us/unmasking-antifa-anti-fascists-hard-left/index.html

Finally, one that is relevant to you as Stanford students. Always remember that Stanford’s highest value is Stanford. I have seen the university do absolutely outrageous things to students when the administration perceived a conflict between the good of the student and the good of the university. Hunter nails it:

Studies have shown that even voluntary organizations protect their organizational interests against the interests and needs of the very members they are supposed to serve. (page 179)
Good stuff. I can’t wait to begin reading Hunter’s final essay!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 114

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

First, let me say this has been a heartbreaking week. The racism on display in Charlottesville was wicked, and if unrepented of will lead its practitioners to hell. Most of this week’s links are related:

  1. Charlottesville: Race and Terror (VICE News, Youtube link). This video is worth watching, but be warned that this is disturbing footage. The first two minutes are compelling.
  2. White supremacy angers Jesus, but does it anger his church? (Russell Moore, Washington Post): “One of the many remarkable things about the picture we get of Jesus in the Gospels is how relatively calm he is. When his disciples are panicking in a life-threatening storm, Jesus is asleep. When villages reject the message, the apostles are angered but Jesus is not. Threatened with arrest and even execution, Jesus meets his accusers with tranquility. The Scriptures show us two things that make Jesus visibly angry: religious hypocrisy and racial supremacist ideology.”
  3. After Charlottesville, black pastors are confronting how political to get (Jeff Stein, Vox): “The bloodshed has reinvigorated those pastors’ calls for their fellow clergy to preach about political issues, rather than just salvation.”
  4. ‘Jews will not replace us’: Why white supremacists go after Jews (Yair Rosenberg, Washington Post): “When white supremacists are viciously attacking Jews as nonwhite impostors, then any anti-racists worthy of the name must be there to defend them. They cannot impose their own definitions of whiteness on Jews and sidestep their plight.”
  5. Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War? (Robin Wright, New Yorker): “Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.” In response, read Our House Divided (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…our divisions induce a particular anxiety because each of our two main factions reigns supreme in one particular arena. Conservatism is (somehow) politically dominant, with control of the legislative and executive branches and a remarkable power in the states. Meanwhile liberalism dominates the cultural commanding heights as never before, with not only academia and the media but also late-night television and sportswriting and even young-adult fiction more monolithically and — to conservatives — oppressively progressive. So both sides have reasons to feel threatened, disempowered and surrounded; both can feel as though they exist under a kind of enemy rule.”
  6. Political Parasites (Pete Spiliakos, First Things): “[Trump] is obdurate. He saw that his political enemies were calling for a condemnation and, in his defiance and arrogance, had to show them that they weren’t going to write his scripts.”
  7. The Rise of the Violent Left (Peter Beinart, The Atlantic): “If you believe the president of the United States is leading a racist, fascist movement that threatens the rights, if not the lives, of vulnerable minorities, how far are you willing to go to stop it?”
  8. Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement: Activists seek peace through violence (Sara Ganim and Chris Welch, CNN): “Antifa members also sometimes launch attacks against people who aren’t physically attacking them. The movement, Crow said, sees alt-right hate speech as violent, and for that, its activists have opted to meet violence with violence.”
  9. Extreme Protest Tactics Reduce Popular Support for Social Movements (Feinberg, Willer, and Kovacheff, SSRN working paper): One of the authors, Robb Willer, is a professor of sociology at Stanford. “The activist’s dilemma – wherein tactics that raise awareness also tend to reduce popular support – highlights a key challenge faced by social movements struggling to affect progressive change.”
  10. Trump Is More In Touch Than You Think (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “The news media have been seriously distorting public reaction to Trump’s handling of Charlottesville. Whether this is a matter of only seeing what they want to see, or a matter of the talking heads being concentrated among coastal elites of both parties, is a matter of conjecture.”
  11. Facing Our Legacy of Lynching (D. L. Mayfield, Christianity Today): “More than 4,000 African Americans were lynched between 1877 and the rise of the civil rights movement in the early 1950s. Lynching was a brutal public tactic for maintaining white supremacy, frequently used with the tacit blessing of government authorities. It was a part of my heritage I had never been taught…” Note that this piece is independent of the events in Charlottesville.

Things Glen Found Entertaining

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have This Is What Makes Republicans and Democrats So Different (Vox, Ezra Klein): I was skeptical of this piece based on the title, but it’s insightful. (first shared in volume 32)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

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

To Change The World, Week Eight

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

 

This week’s chapter focuses on the neo-Anabaptist strand in American Christianity.

When people are speaking about neo-Anabaptists, they generally have in mind people strongly influenced by theologians like John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwaus. They are best known for their commitment to pacifism, their focus on the problem of poverty and the need for justice, and their skepticism of non-church entities such as the state and the market – sort of a baptized blend of socialist and libertarian thought.

Hunter summarizes their basic critique of the church’s relation to culture like so:

“The problem today is that the American church is caught up in a dual allegiance to both Christ and the political economy of liberal democracy and consumer capitalism. Loyalty to this political economy is nothing less than idolatry.” (page 155)

And their pacifism is not just about non-warfare. It is usually much broader than that.

“For neo-Anabaptists, pacifism is the fundamental mark of Christian discipleship and the central ethical teaching of the gospel…. Anabaptists, of course, are perhaps best known historically for their pacifism in wartime. Yet war is not the central problematic but violence itself—broadly defined. This is why the state figures so prominently within the Anabaptist imagination. The state is the locus of self-legitimating violence and its very existence is defined by the exercise (or the threat of exercise) of coercion. Its power is always manifestly or latently coercive.” (pages 158, 159)

If that sounds awesome to you, you’re probably wondering why you’ve never heard of this perspective before. There’s a good reason:

[Neo-Anabaptism] is mainly known through its intellectual apologias; it plays out more in theology than in practice, more in political sensibilities than in institutional structures.” (page 150)

This seems almost inevitable given the instincts of neo-Anabaptist Christians. In Neo-Anabaptists and the Benedict Option, Jake Meador summarizes the predicament well:

To begin, the obvious problem for any religious tradition that defines itself in such essential opposition to the government but also, increasingly out of necessity, the modern market, is that if you preach repentance to Caesar (or the Wolf of Wall Street) and they say “OK, I repent,” you don’t know what to tell them.

I once read an essay which claimed you could understand most of the problems in the modern world if you simply grasped that Muslims do not know how to exist as a minority and Christians do not know how to exist as a majority. This latter point is what Meador is driving at. The neo-Anabaptists are good at critiquing existing structures but less skilled at crafting superior structures.

The neo-Anabaptists claim their message is prophetic but in its net effect (that is, in what people both inside and outside of the tradition hear), it is overwhelmingly a message of anger, disparagement, and negation. (page 165)

As a Pentecostal, I found this bit interesting:

The concept of “principalities and powers” bears some further reflection because of its importance to the neo-Anabaptist tradition. The concept refers to the institutional or systemic patterns of thought, behavior, and relationship that govern our lives and the spiritual realm that animates them. They were originally part of the created order and as such, were good. They were intended to mediate the creative purposes of God in the world, but like us they are now fallen. Rather than reflecting truth, they became adversaries of the truth. Rather than serving the aim of human flourishing, they came to dominate, coerce, and enslave humankind by claiming for themselves absolute power. They are “the rulers of this age” (1 Cor. 2:6). The power they wield is, at its source and in its consequences, demonic in character. (page 157)

Whether you consider yourself conservative or liberal, I encourage you to carefully reflect on these last three chapters (on the religious right, the religious left, and the neo-Anabaptists), seeking to gain sympathy for the positions you shy away from.

Which reminds me: I forgot to send the Christian critique of liberalism with last week’s readings. Sorry! Read the linked essay “The Problem With Liberalism” by J. Budziszewski, a Christian political philosopher at the University of Texas. In case you missed it, I sent his companion essay on conservatism with the chapter notes two weeks ago. My hope is that these critiques by Budziszewski will complement the readings from Hunter so that whether you lean left or right you’ll both find a chapter that describes your views fairly while also encountering a thoughtful critique of your tribe.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 113

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. I Don’t Understand Christians Watching Game of Thrones (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “Does anyone really think that when Jesus warned against looking at a woman lustfully (Matt. 5:27), or when Paul told us to avoid every hint of sexual immorality and not even to speak of the things the world does in secret (Eph. 4:3-12), that somehow this meant, go ahead and watch naked men and women have (or pretend to have) sex?” I don’t always agree with everything I share here, but for the record I am 100% in agreement with the author. Softcore porn doesn’t cease to be softcore porn just because it has gripping dialog and cool special effects. For another (unpersuasive to me) perspective, read Seriously, ‘Game of Thrones’ made me a better Bible reader (Caryn Rivadeneira, Washington Post).
  2. Newsworthy Deaths (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): just a reminder that the view we have of  what’s happening in the world is always a distorted one.
  3. You’ve no doubt heard about the Google memo suggesting new ways to pursue gender diversity in tech which got the author fired. There has been a TON of fascinating commentary. Here are a few pieces that stood out to me.
    • Here’s the memo itself: Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber (James Damore). It’s short and easy to read. Definitely skim it if you’ve only heard other people describe it.
    • Google’s War Over The Sexes (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “I strongly suspect that more than a few Silicon Valley higher-ups agreed with the broad themes of Damore’s memo. But just as tech titans accept some censorship and oppression as the price of doing business in China, they accept performative progressivism as the price of having nice campuses in the most liberal state in the union and recruiting their employees from its most elite and liberal schools.” If you only read one thing this week, read this one. The last six or so paragraphs in particular are quite good.
    • I’m a woman in computer science. Let me ladysplain the Google memo to you. (Cynthia Lee, Vox): “At the outset, it must be conceded that, despite what some of the commentary has implied, the manifesto is not an unhinged rant. Its quasi-professional tone is a big part of what makes it so beguiling (to some) and also so dangerous.” The author is a CS lecturer at Stanford.
    • As a Woman in Tech, I Realized: These Are Not My People (Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View): “James Damore, an engineer at Google, wrote a memo suggesting that maybe there weren’t so many women at Google because women are less interested in sitting around and staring at code all day. The internet erupted. James Damore is no longer working at Google. As a woman working in the brotastic atmosphere of IT, I ultimately came to a conclusion similar to his.”
    • What the Google Engineer’s Manifesto Missed About Discrimination at Work (Paula England, Institute For Family Studies blog): “Damore’s memo missed one huge thing: Abundant and rigorous scientific studies—by sociologists, psychologists, and economists—have demonstrated that gender and race biases adversely affect women and people of color in the workplace.” The author is a sociology professor at NYU.
    • The Google Memo: Four Scientists Respond (Quillette Magazine): four scholars with relevant expertise largely back up the memo author’s claims about gender differences.
      1. Lee Jussim, professor of social psychology at Rutgers: “The author of the Google essay on issues related to diversity gets nearly all of the science and its implications exactly right.”
      2. David Schmitt, who has a Ph.D. in personality psychology: “In the case of personality traits, evidence that men and women may have different average levels of certain traits is rather strong…. But it is not clear to me how such sex differences are relevant to the Google workplace.”
      3. Geoffrey Miller, professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of New Mexico: “Graded fairly, his memo would get at least an A- in any masters’ level psychology course.”
      4. Debra W Soh, who has a Ph.D. in sexual neuroscience: “Within the field of neuroscience, sex differences between women and men—when it comes to brain structure and function and associated differences in personality and occupational preferences—are understood to be true, because the evidence for them (thousands of studies) is strong.”
    • The Google Memo: What Does the Research Say About Gender Differences? (Sean Stevens and Jonathan Haidt, Heterodox Academy): A summary of meta-analyses on the subject of gender differences. “Gender differences in math/science ability, achievement, and performance are small or nil…. Gender differences in interest and enjoyment of math, coding, and highly ‘systemizing’ activities are large.”
    • Googling Moral Purity (R.R. Reno, First Things):  “Our ruling class relies on ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ to legitimate its supereminence. This makes the attendant ideology sacrosanct. Any public dissent becomes explosive, because it threatens the legitimacy of our current social system, which is characterized by an increasing concentration of wealth and power among just a few at the tippy-top.”
    • Quote of the week goes to Rod Dreher: “Gender non-essentialists are the young earth creationists of the Left.” (source)
  4. Related in a weird way: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter (Kat Rosenfield, Vulture): “One author and former diversity advocate described why she no longer takes part: ‘I have never seen social interaction this [messed] up,’ she wrote in an email. ‘And I’ve been in prison.’”
  5. Why Are There No New Major Religions? (Joe Emont, The Atlantic): “State persecution, aided by religious authorities, is in fact a major reason why new faiths fail in parts of the world where government polices religious doctrine.” The author fails to acknowledge the potent new religion in North America that is a brew of environmentalism and sexual autonomy with New Age superstition thrown in. Also, he doesn’t really consider that maybe some religions are legitimized by miracles/divine sanction. Interesting stuff nonetheless.
  6. Hypepriests: The Grail-Wearing Pastors Who Dress Like Justin Bieber (Sam Schube, GQ): “I wish Justin Bieber the best. ‘Love Yourself’ is among the finest pop songs of this short century, and I find his Instagram account deeply charming in its utter lack of guile. But even if he weren’t Justin Bieber, he’d deserve the guidance, spiritual or otherwise, he’s seeking. We all deserve that. All I mean to say is this: It is rather remarkable that the men Justin Bieber has entrusted to deliver that guidance have decided to dress like Justin Bieber.”

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

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

To Change The World, Week Seven

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

I thought Hunter’s chapter on the religious left wasn’t as strong as his chapter on the religious right, although I appreciated that he highlighted the long history of a politically-engaged religious left. I am baffled when people act as though the politicization of the faith is exclusively a problem of the right. The religious left is FAR more political than the religious right. It’s not even close. It is not unusual to hear overtly political sermons in religious left congregations whereas it is vanishingly rare to hear political sermons in a religious right congregation.

Something to keep in mind is that neither the religious left nor the religious right are above the partisanship that dominates America.

Given the resources of the Democratic Party and the special interests that drive it, there is little question that progressive Christianity is instrumentalized (or used as a means to an end) by the Democratic Party in its quest for power, just as conservative Christianity has been used for quite some time by the Republican Party. (page 148)

Hunter explain what he considers to be the driving force of progressive politics: a particular conception of justice illustrated by the French Revolution’s call for liberty, equality, and fraternity.

The key word in the progressive lexicon, and arguably the paramount virtue, is justice. Justice, though, is defined as economic equity — the equality component. Within the contemporary left, there is a tension between the communitarian wing and the social libertarian wing, and the dividing line is far from clearcut. Over the course of the last two centuries, liberalism has had less to say about “fraternity,” though socialism has made this a central part of its agenda. In (p.133) contemporary America, most secular progressives define the “liberty” component in terms of individual autonomy and the freedom to choose one’s own lifestyle; that is, in terms of sexual identity and practice, relationships, entertainment, and so on. But religiously oriented progressives, Christians among them, tend to lean toward the communitarian side of this divide. For these, liberty is understood largely as liberation; often enough this means freedom for individuals and communities from poverty caused by economic domination and exploitation of the wealthy. As to community itself (the “fraternity” component), it is the idea of solidarity among equals — across the boundaries of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and social class. (page 132-133)

 

Hunter mentions that the religious left has less visibility now than in the past, but I think his description doesn’t do justice to the extent of the mainline collapse. These denominations are imploding at a crazy rate. Researcher Ed Stetzer puts it this way, “If the data continues along the same pattern, mainline Protestants have an expiration date when both trend lines cross zero in 2039. If the trend line continues, they have 23 Easters left.” (source)

Read that last sentence again. It’s stunning.

Those on the left and the right disagree about the reasons for the demise of the once-strong denominations. I think Rodney Stark put it well:

“The wreckage of the former Mainline denominations is strewn upon the shoal of a modernist theology that began to dominate the Mainline seminaries early in the nineteenth century. This theology presumed that advances in human knowledge had made faith outmoded… Eventually, Mainline theologians discarded nearly every doctrinal aspect of traditional Christianity.” (from America’s Blessings)

So due to their weakness, organizations on the religious left were not taken seriously by politicians and academics as they had once been.

Their political advocacy was also mostly ignored until the Republican presidential win in 2004. It was only then that the Democratic Party, for many decades tone-deaf to faith, recognized that it would not mobilize the American public and win elections until it learned to use the language and grammar of faith that has always informed the values and beliefs of most Americans. The problem was that most Democrats have been uncomfortable using the language of faith. From across the Democratic Party, many called for “soul-searching” and internal reform that would address the so-called God-gap.

I am sure at the time Hunter wrote this it seemed that the Democrats had learned the importance of welcoming people of faith, but although Barack Obama’s campaign did this very well Hilary Clinton’s campaign did this outrageously poorly. This is ironic because I believe Hilary Clinton to be far more personally pious than Barack Obama.

Emma Green interviewed Michael Wear about this in the Atlantic “Democrats Have A Religion Problem

“Barack Obama was the perfect transitional president from the old party to the new. He could speak in religious terms in a way that most white, secular liberals were not willing to confront him on. He “got away with” religious language and outreach that would get other Democratic politicians more robust critiques from the left. He was able to paper over a lot of the religious tensions in the party that other, less skilled politicians will not be able to paper over.”

An even more illuminating read is by Ruth Graham at Slate: “Why Hillary Clinton Bombed With White Evangelical Voters” –

This election cycle, Christianity Today made multiple attempts to request an interview with Hillary Clinton, according to Kate Shellnutt, an editor there. The campaign never responded. Of course, campaigns turn down interview requests all the time. But the Clinton campaign was the only one that didn’t reply at all. And this wasn’t the only sign this year that the Democratic candidate had no interest in speaking to evangelical Christians. She spent little energy explaining her views on abortion to them and little time talking about religious freedom. She didn’t hire a full-time faith outreach director until June and had no one focused specifically on evangelical outreach. She didn’t give a major speech to the evangelical community and never met publicly with evangelical leaders. Religious publications reaching out to her campaign with questions were frequently met with silence. Some evangelical insiders are now asking: Why didn’t Hillary Clinton even try to get us to vote for her?

And in a candidate for understatement of the decade:

“For all of the diversity one can find among progressives, one of the central catalysts of solidarity over the years has been their hostility to the leaders, organizations, ideology, and agenda of the Christian Right.” (page 139)

This is true of my friends on the religious left. Their anger at the religious right is a thing to behold. From afar. I am convinced that some of them are quite prepared to punch you in the name of tolerance.

Again, I thought this chapter was less strong (although I imagine the information in it was newer to many of you).

 

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 112

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. ‘God’s ACLU’ Seeks Freedom For The Faithful (Tunku Varadarajan, Wall Street Journal): “The progressive or liberal approach is to equate free exercise of religion with the freedom to worship and to deny that it has anything to do with how a person organizes his life. The Becket Fund and others assert that most religions have complete codes governing not only worship but other aspects of conduct. This comprehensive Way of Life—which leads a devoutly Christian baker to decline to decorate a cake for a same-sex wedding, for instance—commands much more from believers than progressives will allow.” Becket is Chi Alpha’s pro bono legal team. The author is a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
  2. For Culturally Illiterate Science Reporters, Canaanite DNA Yields Occasion to Slap Bible Around (David Klinghoffer, Evolution News): Did you see all those headlines suggesting that a DNA study proved the Biblical accounts wrong? Yeah… don’t lose any sleep over that. When someone tells you that the Bible is wrong, don’t assume they actually know what the Bible says. See also a longer and more reflective post from an OT scholar Breaking News: Science Disproves The Bible (but I really like the short and punchy one that’s the main link).
  3. The ‘Prophets’ and ‘Apostles’ Leading the Quiet Revolution in American Religion (Bob Smietana, Christianity Today): “It’s very spontaneous. We went to a conference where a number of apostles were speaking and Bill Johnson was doing a Bible teaching. He had probably talked 20 or 30 minutes, and you could feel the restlessness in the room. He said, ‘I know you are just waiting for me to stop preaching because you want the power. But just hang with me here.’ People weren’t there to listen to him. What they wanted was for him to lay hands on them.” Interesting read that is not entirely fair but also fairly insightful. 
  4. Venezuela’s Unprecedented Collapse (Ricardo Hausmann, Project Syndicate). “Measured in the cheapest available calorie, the minimum wage declined from 52,854 calories per day to just 7,005 during the same period, a decline of 86.7% and insufficient to feed a family of five, assuming that all the income is spent to buy the cheapest calorie.” The author is a Harvard professor and former Venezuelan official.
  5. Why The Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming From Inside The White House (Michael Lewis, Vanity Fair): “The United States government might be the most complicated organization on the face of the earth. Two million federal employees take orders from 4,000 political appointees. Dysfunction is baked into the structure of the thing: the subordinates know that their bosses will be replaced every four or eight years, and that the direction of their enterprises might change overnight—with an election or a war or some other political event.” Fascinating and frightening, even once you factor in the author’s hostility to the Trump administration.
  6. Marriage Matters (W. Bradford Willcox, City Journal): “…young adults who follow three steps—getting at least a high school degree, then working full-time, and then marrying before having any children, in that order—are very unlikely to become poor.” The author is a sociologist at UVA.
  7. From the Enlightenment to the Dark Ages: How “new atheism” slid into the alt-right (Phil Torres, Salon): “As a philosopher — someone who cares deeply about intellectual honesty, verifiable evidence, critical thinking and moral thoughtfulness — I now find myself in direct opposition with many new atheist leaders. That is, I see my own advocacy for science, critical thought and basic morality as standing in direct opposition to their positions.”

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

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