Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 251

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+ (Hannah Furness, The Telegraph): this is a real article. First shared in volume 151.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 250

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

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 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 248

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

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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

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

    Why Do You Send This Email?

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

    Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 247

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 246

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 Small World Network of College Classes: Implications for Epidemic Spread on a University Campus (Weeden & Cornwell, prepub): “If one chose a given student at random, that student is likely to attend class with a student who, in turn, attends class with any other randomly chosen student. Put differently, although it is unlikely that any two randomly chosen students would be enrolled in the same course, it is highly likely that they would be enrolled in different courses that both include the same third party.“
    • The authors, professors at Cornell, were curious about the potential for disease spread among undergrads at their school. Taking this in a completely different direction: the average student at Stanford is likely only one or two steps away from Chi Alpha. WOW! Invite your friends!
  2. General Coronavirus:
    • A Comic Strip Tour Of The Wild World Of Pandemic Modeling (Zach Weinersmith, Maggie Koerth, Laura Bronner and Jasmine Mithani, FiveThirtyEight): difficult to excerpt. It’s a comic strip.
    • Why can’t you go fishing during the pandemic? (Matthew Walter, The Week): “Common sense is exactly what has been lacking throughout this pandemic. This has been true of nearly everyone in a position of authority. Telling people that they cannot engage in ordinary, wholesome, totally risk-free activities is not, as Whitmer recently put it, ‘the best science.’ It is not any kind of science.”
    • When Coronavirus Lockdowns Go Too Far (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…officials micromanaging outdoor time and exercise — chivvying people out of parks if they’re doing the wrong thing (reading quietly instead of exercising, say) or closing an entire state’s worth of parks, as New Jersey’s governor chose to do last week — are cracking down on exactly the kind of creative and adaptive behaviors that a socially distanced society ought to be encouraging.”
    • When Will The Riots Begin? (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “From the point of view of the non-elites, the elites with their models and data and projections have shut the economy down. The news is full of pleas for New York, which always seemed like a suspicious den of urban inequity, but their hometown is doing fine. The church is closed, the bar is closed, the local plant is closed. Money is tight. Meanwhile the elites are laughing about binging Tiger King on Netflix.”
    • What does this economist think of epidemiologists? (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “…I have a few rude questions that nobody else seems willing to ask, and I genuinely do not know the answers to these: As a class of scientists, how much are epidemiologists paid? Is good or bad news better for their salaries? How smart are they? What are their average GRE scores? Are they hired into thick, liquid academic and institutional markets? And how meritocratic are those markets? What is their overall track record on predictions, whether before or during this crisis?”
      1. A response: From my email, a note about epidemiology (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “The quantitative modelers are generally much smarter than the people performing contact tracing or qualitative epidemiology studies. However, if I’m being completely honest, their intelligence is probably lower than the average engineering professor – and certainly below that of mathematicians and statisticians.”
      2. A response: A reply to Tyler Cown’s questions on Epidemiology: (an anonymous professor named Joseph, personal blog): “Epidemiologists are typically paid above average for academics, because of their links to medical schools. Those in departments of public health are shamefully underpaid. Since people want good news from them, there is some pressure to produce good news and most of our scandals come from over-optimistic forecasts.” 
    • Suspending WHO Funding Should Be Just the Beginning (Lyman Stone, The Dispatch): “…the WHO is simply not the organization of doctors many people envision. Of the 80 job listings currently on the WHO’s website, no more than four that I could identify apply to doctors at all. Even permanent career positions on the international professional payscale usually do not require more than a master’s degree in a health-related field. The WHO is currently hiring almost as many media and communication staffers as it is epidemiological staffers.”
    • Carta’s covid-19 layoff (Henry Ward, Medium): “It is important that all of you know I personally reviewed every list and every person. If you are one of those affected it is because I decided it. Your manager did not. For the majority of you it was quite the contrary. Your manager fought to keep you and I overrode them. They are blameless. If today is your last day, there is only one person to blame and it is me.” This is super-classy.
    • The Black Plague (Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, New Yorker): “The old African-American aphorism “When white America catches a cold, black America gets pneumonia” has a new, morbid twist: when white America catches the novel coronavirus, black Americans die.”
    • A different perspective: Do COVID-19 Racial Disparities Matter? (Coleman Hughes, Quillette): “In fact, blacks are more likely than whites to die of many diseases—not just this one. In other cases, the reverse is true. According to CDC mortality data, whites are more likely than blacks to die of chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver disease, and eight different types of cancer. The same thinking that attributes the racial disparity in COVID-19 deaths to systemic racism against blacks could be applied equally to argue the existence of systemic racism against whites.”
    • Wasted time: how San Francisco failed its homeless population amid coronavirus (Vivian Ho, The Guardian): “…many not-for-profit organizations that offered services to the unhoused were forced to close. Shelters that used to allow people to congregate during the day closed their doors. So did gyms with showers, businesses with public restrooms and even the public library, where the unhoused can stay dry from the rain.” Recommended by a student.
  3. Christianity & Coronavirus
    • The Coronavirus and the Will of God (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Because we are not Jesus, it is a very bad idea to walk around telling strangers how their suffering might display the works of God. But as friends, we can participate in others’ discernment and pattern-seeking, and we can try to discern purposes in our own life — suffering as punishment, suffering as refinement, suffering as a judgment on a nation or society, suffering as an opportunity, suffering as part of a story not our own.”
    • Ministry Leaders to ICE: Release Immigrants and Let Churches Help (Bekah McNeel, Christianity Today): “This week, evangelical leaders from nine major organizations wrote the Trump administration to urge officials to release detained immigrants during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly those who are elderly or at higher risk for contracting COVID-19.”
    • A Q&A for churches on government restrictions with a religious liberty attorney: Navigating the tension between church and state during a pandemic (Jeff Pickering, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission): “Ultimately, churches should approach religious freedom conflicts the same way they approach COVID-19: not with fear of suffering but with calm confidence in the goodness of God. Neither a global pandemic nor a local bureaucrat can silence the gospel.”
    • Justice Department takes church’s side in 1st Amendment suit (Colleen Long, Michael Balsamo And Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press): “The Justice Department took the rare step on Tuesday of weighing in on the side of a Mississippi Christian church where local officials had tried to stop Holy Week services broadcast to congregants sitting in their cars in the parking lot.…. Attorney Ryan Tucker of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the church, says there’s a Sonic Drive-In restaurant about 200 yards (180 meters) from the church where patrons are still allowed to roll down their windows and talk.”
    • Prominent Virginia pastor who said ‘God is larger than this dreaded virus’ dies of covid-19 (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “Earlier in the sermon, he said: ‘If I had to deliver my own eulogy, I’d say, ‘God is greater than any challenge you and I face.’ That would be my epitaph.’”
  4. Atheists are the Most Politically Active Group in the United States (Ryan P Burge, Religion In Public): “At every level on the education spectrum, atheists and agnostics are more politically active than Protestants or Catholics. More education leads to higher levels of political activity among all religious groups, but the relationship is even stronger for atheists than other groups. An atheist with a graduate degree participated in 2.1 political activities in the last year. It was 1.8 activities for agnostics. For Catholics and Protestants it’s between 1.3 and 1.4 activities. That’s not a small difference.”
  5. The Trump campaign wants to win the votes of evangelicals of color (Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein , Washington Post): “[Black and Latino evangelicals] have conservative beliefs on social issues such as same-sex marriage, which they oppose at rates just slightly lower than white evangelicals, and to some extent abortion, which would put them in the Republican camp. But they also tend to favor more legalized immigration, government sensitivity toward racial justice, and help for the poor, generally pushing them toward Democratic candidates.”
  6. The bloody decade: think America’s divided now? Try the 1970s (William Rosenau, Spectator): “In 1974 alone, there were 2,044 bombings in America, with 24 people killed. Violent extremist groups dotted the political landscape in a way they simply do not today.”
  7. Bloomberg News Killed Investigation, Fired Reporter, Then Sought To Silence His Wife (David Folkenflik. NPR): “Six years ago, Bloomberg News killed an investigation into the wealth of Communist Party elites in China, fearful of repercussions by the Chinese government.The company successfully silenced the reporters involved. And it sought to keep the spouse of one of the reporters quiet, too.”

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 245

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. Some Easter thoughts:
    • Godforsaken For Us (Fred Sanders, The Scriptorium Daily): “The words of Jesus here make prominent the name God (Eli, Eli). Jesus cries the name of God humanly from a human place. One reason he does [not call God Father], I think, is that what is being enacted here on the cross is the Divine-Human encounter over sin. The one who has taken the place of the sinner is being punished by exile, precisely as a human, precisely by God. To put this in the background and reach out instead for Father-Son language in the paraphrased telling of this story is to tacitly accept the proposition that what is happening on the cross reveals more about the Trinity (God in himself) than about the incarnation (God meeting man) or the atonement (sin meeting justice).”
    • Christ Suffered for Our Sins, but He Didn’t Go to Hell for Them (Brad East interviewing Matthew Emerson, Christianity Today): “The biggest [misconception about what happened when Jesus died] is probably the idea that Christ, during his descent, went to hell and was tormented there.”
  2. Christianity and Coronavirus:
    • Uncertainty and the Christian (Ephraim Radner, First Things): “Uncertainty is at the center of the Christian vocation. Uncertainty may not comprehensively describe that vocation, but it defines it in an essential way. Many Christians will and do reject this claim, I realize. ‘We know with certainty all that is important to know!’ they will say. God is in control; God is good; God rewards the faithful; Jesus is Lord, and in him death and sin are defeated; the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church, and heaven awaits us. These are indeed Big Picture certainties. But the Big Picture isn’t all there is to God’s reality or to the Christian’s life. Small pictures are the bits that make up the Big Picture’s mosaic.” The author is a professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College in Canada.
    • Coronavirus Searches Lead Millions to Hear About Jesus (David Roach, Christianity Today): “Millions of worried people who have turned to Google with their anxiety over COVID-19 have ended up connecting with Christian evangelists in their search results—leading to a spike in online conversions in March.”
    • The Men and Women Who Run Toward the Dying (Bari Weiss, New York Times): “Before the plague hit, the primary job of hospital chaplains was tending to patients and their families. Now the emphasis has shifted to caring for their own colleagues.”
    • Charismatic Christians who believe in the power of faith healings are trying them over the phone  (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “‘I pray for people on the phone, and there is no difference in the spirit realm,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re touching or not. It’s not about me, it’s about God and releasing his spirit to take control over the elements of the body and speak life into them and to the disease.’”
    • During the Coronavirus Outbreak, I Miss Singing at Church (Tish Harrison Warren, New York Times): “We must embrace social distancing, for as long is as needed, to protect our health care system and the very real, fleshy bodies of millions of people.But we also need to collectively notice that something profound is lost by having to interact with the world and our neighbors in mostly disembodied, digital ways. This is something to lament and to grieve. And like all grief, it exposes the value and glory of the thing that was lost.”
  3. General Coronavirus:
    • What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage (Will Oremus, Medium): “In short, the toilet paper industry is split into two, largely separate markets: commercial and consumer. The pandemic has shifted the lion’s share of demand to the latter. People actually do need to buy significantly more toilet paper during the pandemic — not because they’re making more trips to the bathroom, but because they’re making more of them at home. With some 75% of the U.S. population under stay-at-home orders, Americans are no longer using the restrooms at their workplace, in schools, at restaurants, at hotels, or in airports.”
    • Even Now, Criminal Defendants Have Rights (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Consider a poor person arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Normally he would be arraigned and receive a public defender within 48 hours of arrest. Now he could sit in jail for a week without an attorney before getting the opportunity to tell his side of things to a judge.”
    • Apple and Google will make tracking technology to fight coronavirus (Adam Clark Estes and Shirin Ghaffary, Vox): “Apple and Google plan to build contact-tracing functionality into the operating systems of the phones themselves, which might sound a little tricky for folks who worry about being tracked without their consent. As the New York Times points out, by building the tool directly into the operating system, Apple and Google effectively ensure that the contact-tracing system can run 24 hours a day, rather than only when a particular app is open.”
      • How Privacy-Friendly Contact Tracing Can Help Stop the Spread of Covid-19 (Jason Kottke, personal blog): contains a comic that explains the idea very clearly.
      • Why Bluetooth apps are bad at discovering new cases of COVID-19 (Casey Newton, The Verge): “‘If I am in the wide open, my Bluetooth and your Bluetooth might ping each other even if you’re much more than six feet away,’ Mostashari said. ‘You could be through the wall from me in an apartment, and it could ping that we’re having a proximity event. You could be on a different floor of the building and it could ping. You could be biking by me in the open air and it could ping.’” This is a pretty solid criticism.
    • In the Fog of Coronavirus, There Are No Experts (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “[In the movie ‘Contagion’] only institutions can be trusted; outsider ‘knowledge’ leads only to the grave. That’s the movie; the reality has been otherwise. In our actual pandemic, most of the institutions that we associate with public health expertise and trusted medical authority have failed more catastrophically than Trump has.”
    • I’m Concerned About “US”: A Black Doctor’s Plea for Racial COVID19 Data (Rebekah Fenton, Medium): “I noticed a trend among the obituaries I read. They feature high numbers of Black people. They look like me, like my family’s friend. A family in Chicago has lost two sisters, Patricia and Wanda Frieson, to coronavirus at 61 and 63. Arnold Obey, an avid marathon runner and retired principal in New York, died at 73. But the ages of Black and brown victims were also lower than I expected. Dez-Ann Romain at 36. Dave Edwards at 48. Kious Kelly, an assistant nurse manager, at 48.” Rebekah is an alumna of Chi Alpha.
    • Flatten The Curve (Ohio Department of Health, YouTube): thirty well-done seconds
  4. S/NC and the purpose of higher education (Thomas Slabon, Stanford Daily): “As a Ph.D. candidate in the philosophy department, I have TA’d or taught eight courses, and I want to let you in on an open secret of post-secondary educators: We all hate grading. Every. Single. One of us. Every TA you’ve ever had has contemplated grading piles of problem sets or papers with dread — and half the reason you had a TA in the first place was because your professor wanted to grade your work even less.” This is a wonderful essay.
  5. The Situation With Viktor Orban (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I count myself an admirer of many of the things Viktor Orban has done, especially his moves to protect Hungarian sovereignty, the particularity of its culture, and to resist migration being forced upon Hungary. This does not mean I support everything he does — I honestly don’t follow Orban closely enough to have an informed opinion — but I think on balance, he has been good for Hungary, and for Europe. I would have a lot more confidence for the future were I living in a country governed by Viktor Orban than by Angela Merkel.” I don’t know why I find this subject so fascinating. Maybe it’s just because Dreher does and I love reading his writing.

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 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). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 244

Theological perspectives on the pandemic, some interesting news tidbits, the state of Stanford athletic fandom, and a good reminder that Mormonism is not a Christian denomination.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Christian Coronavirus Perspectives
    • Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus (N.T. Wright, Time): “Supposing real human wisdom doesn’t mean being able to string together some dodgy speculations and say, ‘So that’s all right then?’ What if, after all, there are moments such as T. S. Eliot recognized in the early 1940s, when the only advice is to wait without hope, because we’d be hoping for the wrong thing? Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament.”
      • Please remember that authors do not usually pick the headlines for their articles. In this case especially the level of mismatch between the title and the article is striking.
    • Surprised by Hopelessness: A Response to NT Wright (Andy Davis, The Gospel Coalition): “Despite what T. S. Eliot says, Christians know exactly what to hope for. We’ve been clearly instructed by God’s prophetic Word, and therefore, we should be radiant with hope—an unshakable conviction that the future is indescribably bright. The world is ‘without hope and without God’ (Eph. 2:14); so when Christians radiate hope, the world notices and is moved to ask us to give a reason for the hope within us (1 Pet. 3:15).”
    • Like the Merchants of Babylon (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “The Bible tells us that God’s dealings with mankind are often mysterious, and so we should never rush to glib explanations. But His works are not absolutely inscrutable. When Jesus rebuked the people for misreading the collapse of the tower of Siloam, and for the incident where Pilate killed the men of Galilee (Luke 13:1–5), He rebuked them, not for reading meaning into the story, but for having read the wrong meaning into the story.”
    • How An Evil Virus Points to the Crushing Weight of the Fall (David French, The Dispatch): “Last night, my wife and I were walking through our neighborhood and saw a pastor friend in his backyard. We stopped him and had a lovely conversation while maintaining proper social distancing from the sidewalk. As we shared our own burdens and stresses, he made an important observation – this moment demonstrates so clearly our need for a savior. By that, he meant far, far more than the idea that we need some of that ‘old-time religion’ before we meet our maker. No, he meant that a broken world eagerly awaits the redemption declared in Revelations 21, when the Lord declares, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”
    • The Book of Common Prayer: Prayers for Plagues and Times of Great Sickness (Richard Beck, personal blog): “Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality; that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
    • The Apocalypse as an ‘Unveiling’: What Religion Teaches Us About the End Times (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “For people of many faiths, and even none at all, it can feel lately like the end of the world is near. Not only is there a plague, but hundreds of billions of locusts are swarming East Africa. Wildfires have ravaged Australia, killing an untold number of animals. A recent earthquake in Utah even shook the Salt Lake Temple to the top of its iconic spire, causing the golden trumpet to fall from the angel Moroni’s right hand.”
  2. General Coronavirus Commentary
    • Tips from someone with 50 years of social distancing experience (Rae Ellen Bichell, Minnesota Public Radio): “Keep track of something…. In the era of COVID-19, he suggests tracking what you can — or can’t — find at the grocery store. Or, better yet, participating in some citizen science, like a project called CoCoRaHS that tracks rainfall across the country.”
    • It’s Time to Face Facts, America: Masks Work (Ferris Jabr, Wired): “The collective evidence makes a strong case for universal mask wearing during a pandemic. Masks are not a substitute for other interventions; they must always be used in combination with social distancing and hand hygiene.” Recommended by a student. 
    • The Coronavirus and the Conservative Mind (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…the supposed conservative mind is more attuned to external threat and internal contamination, more inclined to support authority and hierarchy, and fear subversion and dissent. And so the political responses to the pandemic have put these psychological theories to a very interesting test.” This is an angle that never would have occurred to me but which is obviously worth exploring. 
    • Coronavirus maps and charts show COVID-19 symptoms, spread, death rate (Business Insider): “These 22 charts and graphics lay out what you need to know as the outbreak continues to progress.” Recommended by a student.
  3. This is only marginally about the coronavirus: An inside look at the hospital going up in Central Park (Tony Carnes, A Journey Through NYC Religions): “The heart of Central Park is Bethesda Fountain, which was built to commemorate the healing power of Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda in Israel. Frederic Law Olmsted, the park’s designer, hoped that the park would provide spiritual refreshment to urban masses from their travails. Now, a Christian ministry is realizing the symbolism in the 21st Century by erecting a critical care hospital at the park’s 97th Street Transverse and Fifth Avenue…. Samaritan’s Purse medical personnel use the twenty seconds while they wash their hands to pray for each of their patients by name. It is fitting that they do that at their present location.”
    • What a heartwarming story. Who could be opposed?
    • Oh, wait. De Blasio “Very Concerned” About Anti-Gay Evangelical Group Running Central Park Coronavirus Hospital (Jake Offenhartz, The Gothamist): “Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will keep a close eye on the Christian fundamentalist group operating a field hospital in Central Park, amid growing fears that some New Yorkers could face discrimination and substandard care from the religious organization.”
    • And New Yorkers Are Right to Be Skeptical of Evangelical-Run Coronavirus Ward in Central Park (Jonathan Merrit, The Daily Beast): “The vast majority of New Yorkers are not Christian, and if they find themselves wheezing for air due to COVID-19, they don’t want to be proselytized while receiving treatment. They too have reason to be skeptical of the organization’s makeshift hospital.” 
    • Some amusing comments I saw in response, “I think they’re actually afraid that the volunteers will give away Chick-Fil‑A sandwiches” and “If the mayor had been as concerned about the coronavirus as he is about the Christians then New York would look very different today.” Ouch.
  4. Donations: From Bribery to Benevolence (Jasmine Kerber, Stanford Daily): “A spectrum exists between bribery and benevolence, and donations fall in various places along that continuum. Operation Varsity Blues highlighted the most corrupt ‘donations’; former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe, not an altruistic contribution to athletics.” Jasmine is a student in Chi Alpha.
    • I shared an article that discussed philanthropy from a different perspective back in volume 213.
  5. At least the seats are red: Why is Stanford Stadium often empty? (Stanford Daily): “As national Heisman voters did not vote for Christian McCaffrey ’18 because they could not bother to watch his games, Stanford students would not bike over to Stanford Stadium for [his] games. ‘I will never forget this,’ McCaffrey told The Athletic. ‘My sophomore year against UCLA, I had a heck of a game. I biked back to my dorm, I’m kind of on a high horse. I walk in, and six or seven people asked where I was! I think I had something like 243 yards rushing, four touchdowns. And they didn’t know where I was!’”
  6. 3 Types of Skeptics (C. Michael Patton, Credo House): “1. Those who need answers…. 2. Those who don’t like the answers…. 3. Those who need healing.”
  7. Are Mormons Christians?: A Review of “The Saints of Zion: An Introduction to Mormon Theology” (Tim Miller, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary): “He makes clear that Mormons are not Christians, but does so by pointing out that this has been the claim of the Mormon church itself throughout history (despite recent attempts to argue differently).”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Book Review: Seeing Like A State (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Peasants didn’t like permanent surnames. Their own system was quite reasonable for them: John the baker was John Baker, John the blacksmith was John Smith, John who lived under the hill was John Underhill, John who was really short was John Short. The same person might be John Smith and John Underhill in different contexts, where his status as a blacksmith or place of origin was more important. But the government insisted on giving everyone a single permanent name, unique for the village, and tracking who was in the same family as whom. Resistance was intense.” This is long and amazing. (first shared in volume 95)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 243

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. Recovering Friendship (Devorah Goldman, Public Discourse): “And then you go at it, hammer and tongs, far into the night, night after night; or walking through fine country that neither gives a glance to, each learning the weight of the other’s punches, and often more like mutually respectful enemies than friends. Actually (though it never seems so at the time) you modify one another’s thought; out of this perpetual dogfight a community of mind and a deep affection emerge.”
  2. In God We Divide (Thomas Edsall, New York Times): “The more religiously engaged a white voter is, the more likely he or she will be a Republican; the less religious the voter, the more likely to be a Democrat. But, as we shall see it’s not that simple: The deeper you go, the more complex it gets.”
    • Note the adjective “white” in the first sentence — almost all discussion about the politics of religious people focuses on white voters. The piece later acknowledges voters of color but doesn’t explore how their faith influences their votes. Instead non-white evangelicals are usually treated as though faith is irrelevant to their political views, which is absurd. All that to say: the article has interesting insights but bear in mind its crippling limitation.
  3. Is Joshua’s Altar on Mount Ebal in Israel Myth? Or Reality? (Ralph Hawkins, Logos): “When I was working on my doctoral dissertation about the Ebal site, I spent a week with Zertal. One morning while we were driving to the site, he told me his critics had accused him of trying to prove the Bible. They said he imposed a cultic interpretation onto the stone structure he had found. He explained, though, that he had been born and raised in Ein Shemer, Israeli kibbutz that was affiliated with a secular movement. He said he had grown up believing that the Bible was full of myths. When he did his graduate work in archaeology, he did it at Tel Aviv, the most liberal university in Israel, where those views were reinforced. He insisted he had not embarked on his excavation at Mount Ebal in order to prove the Bible. What he found there, however, had a profound effect on him. He said, ‘I became a believer at Mount Ebal.’”
    • I love stories like this. Archaeology and the Bible is fascinating to me.
  4. Christianity & Coronavirus
    • When Corona Makes Us More Like The New Testament (Andrew Wilson, Think Theology): “In a number of curious ways, the Coronavirus outbreak is making us more like the New Testament church.” See also Sam Allberry’s Twitter thread about God’s Purposes In Pandemic. It reminds me of Numbers 11:18–20.
    • Coronavirus, Courage, and the Second Temptation of Christ (David French, The Dispatch): “Shun performative recklessness. Do not presume that our faith makes us immune to the laws of biology and viral transmission. At the same time, believers should not shrink from purposeful and sacrificial personal risk. There may come a time when you must care for those who are sick. Do so without reservation, but do so prudently with the knowledge that you should not impute your risks to others.”
    • Canceled Mission Trips Expected to Have Long-Term Fallout (David Roach, Christianity Today): “Approximately 20 percent of all US-based international mission work each year is done by short-term volunteers, according to an analysis by sociologist of religion Robert Wuthnow. That translates to 1.6 million US church members annually going on international mission trips and doing work valued at $1.1 billion (not counting preparation time and travel days).”
    • Church as a Non-Essential Service (Matthew Schmitz, First Things): “Judging by the response of many religious leaders, church is a non-essential service. We are capable of taking prudent measures to keep our supermarkets open, but not our sanctuaries. Coronavirus has shown what we value. In Pennsylvania, beer distributors are deemed essential. In San Francisco and New York, cannabis dispensaries are.” This is actually a contribution to an online dustup but I find it more interesting than the dispute itself.
    • Digital Communion: History, Theology, and Practices (John Dyer, personal blog): “A few weeks ago, I posted a graphic that attempts to show that the elements of a service that are transactional or broadcast oriented are usually the easiest to move online, but the relational parts of church are often the most challenging—and most overlooked—elements of digital church.”
    • In Leviticus, an unexpected lesson in surviving quarantine (Rachel Sharansky Danziger, Forward): “Before, I could never understand why we should learn in so much detail about every little ritual in the Tabernacle, and who does what, and when. Now, as I work hard to make our newly claustrophobic home into a place of calm and productivity, I understand the book’s insistence on such details.” A Jewish perspective.
  5. General Coronavirus Commentary
    • That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief (Scott Berinato, Harvard Business Review): “There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, ‘I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,’ or ‘I cried last night.’ When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.”
      • Pastoral aside: this is (some of) you. Paula and I have both talked to people who have been mourning without realizing what they were doing. You are grieving. A few days ago I uploaded a two-minute video reflecting on Psalm 137:1 which touches on this.
    • Leisure in a Time of Coronavirus (Nathan Schlueter, Public Discourse): “Schools are closed. Sports and music lessons are cancelled. Everyone is at home. What are you going to do? Instead of allowing coronavirus control your life, why not plan for leisure? Use this time to do the things you are always wishing you had the time to do—or do better. Now you have that time, so do those things.”
    • Face Masks: Much More Than You Wanted To Know (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Some people with swine flu travelled on a plane from New York to China, and many fellow passengers got infected. Some researchers looked at whether passengers who wore masks throughout the flight stayed healthier. The answer was very much yes. They were able to track down 9 people who got sick on the flight and 32 who didn’t. 0% of the sick passengers wore masks, compared to 47% of the healthy passengers. Another way to look at that is that 0% of mask-wearers got sick, but 35% of non-wearers did. This was a significant difference, and of obvious applicability to the current question.”
    • The Fog of Pandemic (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic): “The U.S. is fighting a war with extreme uncertainties. It may be weeks before we know whether we are flattening the coronavirus curve, and months before we know what kind of economy we’ll have in the second half of this year.”
    • When can we let up? Exploring how to relax coronavirus lockdowns (Stat News): “The approach getting the most support is one that experts have long doubted could work with a respiratory virus: aggressive case finding, contact tracing, community surveillance, isolation of cases, and quarantining of contacts. Both Singapore and South Korea used that, allowing them to make tactical decisions about schools (mostly open in both countries) and public movement, sparing them from shutting down to the extent that the U.S. and many countries in Europe have.”
    • Coronavirus Pandemic: We Need the Skeptics (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “When a bad thing happens to a good person, we are tempted to rage at God. When innumerable bad things happen to half of everyone we know, we rage at each other.”
    • On Coronavirus, Reason To Hope (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): This week we saw FDA approval of new testing systems from Roche and from Abbott labs that run tests ten times faster than current methods. To give you an idea of what this means, Roche brags that their Cobas 8800 machine can process over 3000 tests per day. Until today, Louisiana hadn’t had a total of 3000 people tested. Roche is now making and shipping 400,000 test kits per week in the US, while Abbott is making a million of their test kits each week. Those systems will be coming online this coming week…. And there are more companies in the process of getting approval. In two weeks, we should be able to test 150,000 – 200,000 Americans daily, and that means that we don’t all need to stay home anymore.”
      • You can see the number of tests administered so far at The COVID Tracking Project — this is one of the best indicators to keep an eye on because it determines the reliability of every other statistic.
    • The World After Coronavirus (Yuval Noah Harari, Financial Times): “But temporary measures have a nasty habit of outlasting emergencies, especially as there is always a new emergency lurking on the horizon. My home country of Israel, for example, declared a state of emergency during its 1948 War of Independence, which justified a range of temporary measures from press censorship and land confiscation to special regulations for making pudding (I kid you not). The War of Independence has long been won, but Israel never declared the emergency over, and has failed to abolish many of the ‘temporary’ measures of 1948 (the emergency pudding decree was mercifully abolished in 2011).”
    • Safety Protocols and Zones of Quarantine (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “In other words, this part of the virus response should transition to a health and safety regulatory concern that is important, but handled like most of the others. For example, poor food hygiene can also kill you, but governments generally don’t respond by deciding which cuisines are essential and which are not. Rather, anyone willing to follow the safety rules can put up any menu they want. So it should be for economic activities of all kinds.”

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.