Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 169

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

This one is coming to you from Seoul. I’ve been super busy on this mission trip, so these are selected from a less wide range than normal.

  1. The Ideological Blindness at the Heart of Media Bias (David French, National Review): “It is consistently interesting to me that mainstream media outlets have somehow convinced themselves of two contradictory things at once: 1) They cannot fairly cover America without a newsroom that more or less looks like America, but 2) they can cover American without a newsroom that thinks like America.”
  2. God Doesn’t Turn A Blind Eye To Abuse, Neither Should The Church (Russell Moore, Gospel Coalition): “Many throughout the centuries have sought to protect the reputation of God by downplaying his wrath. To some degree, the impulse here is good, because many have a false view of God as an angry, sullen, punitive deity, not as the God of overflowing love Jesus revealed to us. God’s wrath isn’t a temper tantrum. On the other hand, those who point us away from the wrath of God do so at the peril of eclipsing God’s own revelation of himself as holy and just, the One who ‘does not leave the guilty unpunished’ (Ex. 34:7). At the cross, the apostle Paul wrote, God ‘condemned sin in the flesh’ (Rom. 8:3). This is important for us to know, especially those who have survived awful things…. At the cross, God’s wrath and God’s love come together. They don’t cancel one another out.”
  3. Remember those articles I shared about the horrific China crackdown on Muslims? Now they are turning their attention to Christians (although much less intensely — the situation with the Muslims has echoes of concentration camps).
    • China Bans Zion, Beijing’s Biggest House Church (Christianity Today): “Beijing authorities threatened to close Zion Church last month after the 1,500-member congregation, one of the Chinese capital’s largest house churches, refused to install surveillance cameras in its sanctuary. After services on Sunday, officials delivered on their threat to the unofficial Protestant congregation, which meets in a renovated hall in northern Beijing. Zion is now banned and its materials confiscated.…”
    • Group: Officials destroying crosses, burning bibles in China (AP News): “China’s government is ratcheting up a crackdown on Christian congregations in Beijing and several provinces, destroying crosses, burning bibles, shutting churches and ordering followers to sign papers renouncing their faith, according to pastors and a group that monitors religion in China.”
    • Church raided amid escalating crackdown (ChinaAid): “All across China, churches are facing pressures unprecedented since the reign of dictator Mao Zedong. In Henan, where a concentrated crackdown is occurring, seven ministers were arrested and then later released that evening…. Additionally, local officials in Wenzhou, Zhejiang distributed a form collecting information on the religious beliefs of middle school students and their parents. This could have dangerous repercussions, as Chinese regulations forbid parents from teaching religion to their children.”
    • China Mulls Major Restrictions on Online Ministries (Christianity Today): “Chinese Christians have one month to tell their government what they think of proposed new rules that ban the sharing of prayer, Bible reading, baptism, communion, and other forms of religious activity online.“
  4. Vice And Fire (Peter Hitchens, First Things): “As far as I can find out, ­Martin is a lapsed Roman Catholic and has quite banal views about how religion causes wars and God is a ‘giant invisible guy in the sky.’ I do not think he has set out to make an attack on Christianity. I do not think he especially likes it, but I suspect he has discarded it, and so he has written an account of a world in which it simply does not exist. His fantasy greatly disturbs me, because it helps to normalize the indifference to Christianity which is a far greater threat to it than active atheism.” This is an excellent critique of the hugely overrated Game Of Thrones.
  5. After Botham Jean’s shooting death, his Dallas church intent on seeking justice (Bobby Ross, Jr., The Christian Chronicle): “By all accounts, Botham Jean was a devoted man of faith with a ‘beautiful’ and ‘powerful’ singing voice. He was baptized at age 10 in his native St. Lucia and moved to the U.S. at age 19 to attend Harding University in Searcy, Ark., where he often led worship in chapel and served as a ministry intern with the College Church of Christ.”
    • Related: The Worst Police Shooting Yet (David French, National Review): “We ask police officers to be brave. We ask officers to face a much higher degree of danger than civilians. We ask them to show restraint even in the face of provocations and tense confrontations. There are countless among them who do all we ask, and more. But we also ask something else: that police officers be subject to the very laws they’re sworn to enforce.”
    • Related: End Qualified Immunity (David French, National Review): “A police officer killed a completely innocent man because of the officer’s inexcusable mistake. He escaped criminal prosecution. And then he even escaped civil liability — because of a little-known, judge-made legal doctrine called qualified immunity.” Note that French is writing about a different case in this article.
    • Related: Should Cops Be Immune From Lawsuits? (Matt Ford, The New Republic): “The problems with qualified immunity mirror a deeper and more disturbing trend in the law. Courts, which are supposed to be the great vindicators of Americans’ rights and liberties, are increasingly closed off to them.”
  6. California legislator shelves bill to ban paid ‘gay conversion therapy’ for adults (Melanie Mason, LA TImes): “The news of Low’s decision was lauded by opponents to the measure. Jonathan Keller, president of the socially conservative organization California Family Council, said his group was ‘inexpressibly grateful’ to Low for listening to religious communities.”
  7. Does Our Cultural Obsession With Safety Spell the Downfall of Democracy? (Thomas Chatterton Williams, New York Times): These are “‘the three Great Untruths’ of the current moment: ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker’; ‘always trust your feelings’; ‘life is a battle between good people and evil people.’” This is a review of two books and is quite insightful.

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 some thoughts about slavery and the Bible – Does The Bible Support Slavery? (a lecture given by the warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge University, the link is to the video with notes) and Does God Condone Slavery In The Bible? (Part One – Old Testament) and also Part Two – New Testament (longer pieces from Glenn Miller at Christian Thinktank). All three are quite helpful. (first shared in volume 76)

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 168

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Most Momentous Place? (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “The old city of Jerusalem is astonishingly small for a city with so many momentous places. One can walk from Christianity’s holiest site to the holiest site of Judaism, pausing to look at one of the holiest sites of Islam, in less time than it takes to walk from my office on the campus of George Mason University to the campus Starbucks.” Short and provocative.
  2. Australia’s new Pentecostal prime minister: Try to guess how the press is receiving him (Ira Rifkin, GetReligion): “…the new prime minister, Scott Morrison, is an outspoken, politically conservative Pentecostal Christian. This mixing of religion and politics may be old-hat at this point for Americans. But it’s an entirely new experience for Australians.”
  3. My nephew tried to school me on cultural appropriation. It didn’t end well.(Jack VanNoord, Chicago Tribune): fictional, amusing, and makes a serious point about global cultural exchange. “Most weeks, his less-woke friends go out for Taco Tuesdays, but not Kyle. No more hummus. No more bagels. No mo’ pho. Poor Kyle. Living the unappropriated life is tough business. Whenever it rains, Kyle gets soaked. No more umbrellas for him. Chinese. Kyle has stopped binge watching ‘The Walking Dead’ once I mentioned the word for, and the concept of, zombies were appropriated from West Africa. Kyle was taking a summer math course at the community college. But he dropped out. It was just too hard. His homework was taking all evening. He was doing all his assignments using Roman numerals since Arabic numerals are … well, Arabic.”
  4. The Religious Typology (Pew Research Center): “ a new Pew Research Center analysis looks at beliefs and behaviors that cut across many denominations – important traits that unite people of different faiths, or that divide people who have the same religious affiliation – producing a new and revealing classification, or typology, of religion in America.”
  5. A Prison That’s Also a Loony Bin (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “A transgender prisoner has admitted sexually assaulting inmates at a women’s jail. Karen White, 51, who was born male but now identifies as a woman, has pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual touching at New Hall Prison, Wakefield.” The story is astounding.
  6. Better Dead Than Disabled? (Charles Camosy, Commonweal): “prolifers are not imagining things: arguments in favor of the autonomous moral and legal choice to commit infanticide are easy to find…. [for example, a] 2012 article by moral philosophers Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, which appeared in the respected Journal of Medical Ethics, was provocatively titled ‘After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?’”
  7. Diary of a Concussion: What I Learned About Head Injuries By Having One (Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge): “To have your personality altered by brain trauma seems to upset people more than having it altered by, for instance, emotional trauma. I don’t know why this is! …. If I thought I was my brain, probably I would have found the injury more upsetting. But I didn’t and don’t believe that; my self is an interaction between my body and my brain.” This is a year old but I just stumbled upon it. Super interesting.

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 How To Pray A Psalm (Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): prayer life need a boost? Give this a try. (first shared in volume 69)

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.

The Screwtape Letters: Twenty-Six Through Thirty

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

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

We’re almost done. Next week’s readings will be very short indeed. You might even want to finish them off now — they will take you a few extra minutes at most.

These passages caught my eye this week:

In letter 27, the demon says of humans

…their kind of consciousness forces them to encounter the whole, self-consistent creative act as a series of successive events. Why that creative act leaves room for their free will is the problem of problems, the secret behind the Enemy’s nonsense about “Love”. How it does so is no problem at all; for the Enemy does not foresee the humans making their free contributions in a future, but sees them doing so in His unbounded Now. And obviously to watch a man doing something is not to make him do it. (Letter 27, pages 264–265)

I like this, but I’m not sure I agree with it completely. The last half I’m definitely on board with. The first half makes me hesitant. God rested on the seventh day, but Lewis makes the demon say that all of human history is the continuation of the act of creation. There’s a beautiful insight hidden in there, but I think the way Lewis worded it falls outside the bounds that Scripture permits. I’d be more comfortable with something along these lines, “Of course they can find an unbroken series of causes leading up to the condition they desired — the Enemy saw their request being made simultaneously with His answer to their prayer manifesting two weeks later even as He began forming the conditions that would lead to its answer a month before they even became aware of their need. There is a sense in which it is all Now to Him.”

Now that I’ve offered some writing advice to Lewis, I’m off to give some investing advice to Warren Buffet. But first, the next missive (letter 28).

Lewis has Screwtape offer a complaint about humans and time.

How valuable time is to us may be gauged by the fact that the Enemy allows us so little of it. The majority of the human race dies in infancy; of the survivors, a good many die in youth. It is obvious that to Him human birth is important chiefly as the qualification for human death, and death solely as the gate to that other kind of life. We are allowed to work only on a selected minority of the race, for what humans call a “normal life” is the exception. Apparently He wants some—but only a very few—of the human animals with which He is peopling Heaven to have had the experience of resisting us through an earthly life of sixty or seventy years. Well, there is our opportunity. The smaller it is, the better we must use it. (Letter 28, page 268)

Clearly, Lewis believes that infants and children go to heaven. I share this belief. As David said of his dead son in 2 Samuel 2:23, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Elsewhere in the letter we see that this ticket to heaven for the young is so frustrating to demons that they sometimes endeavor to keep us alive, but I think that’s not quite right. After all, John 10:10 informs us that the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. Nonetheless, Lewis is on to something here.

This last excerpt (from letter 29) is my favorite for the week.

This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. (Letter 29, page 270)

This, this, a thousand times this. Act with courage. It takes courage to stand for Christ at Stanford. It takes courage to forgo a pleasure and risk giving offense because of a deep conviction. It takes courage to tell your friends certain truths.

Something that encourages me (literally encourages me — puts courage into me) is to reflect on this: Revelation 21:8 tells us that the cowardly are the first group thrown into hell. It’s a sobering thought.

And this related point at the end of the letter speaks directly to what I see as one of the chief failings in modern culture:

For remember, the act of cowardice is all that matters; the emotion of fear is, in itself, no sin and, though we enjoy it, does us no good. (Letter 29, page 271)

So many people today confuse feelings with action. For instance, they often seem to believe that feeling bad about something is the same thing as opposing it. “I saw those pictures of starving children and I felt bad. I should tweet about how horrible hunger is.” Do you know who is actually opposed to hunger? The people who send money or spend time to combat hunger.  On the last day, Jesus is not going to say, “As you felt it for the least of these, so you felt it for me.” Allow your feelings to inform your choices, but do not confuse the two.

Be a person of action and hell will hate you.

Enjoy the last little bit of reading!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 167

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 Catholic Church is facing a tremendous crisis, one potentially far bigger than any I have seen in my lifetime. There’s been a lot of ink spilled about it. Here are some pieces I found illuminating.
    • Protestants Should Care Deeply about the Catholic Catastrophe (David French, National Review): “The Church is like a navy, a collection of ships united in purpose and in destination. Each denomination is like a different ship in that navy, and while each crew is primarily tasked with the health and well-being of its own vessel, it’s also deeply invested in the strength of the fleet. Each vessel is more vulnerable as the fleet weakens. Each vessel is stronger surrounded by its protective armada. If the analogy holds, then one of the mightiest battleships in the fleet, the Catholic Church, is taking torpedoes left and right.”
    • A Catholic Civil War? (Matthew Schmitz, New York Times): “…the Catholic Church has been plunged into all-out civil war. On one side are the traditionalists, who insist that abuse can be prevented only by tighter adherence to church doctrine. On the other side are the liberals, who demand that the church cease condemning homosexual acts and allow gay priests to step out of the closet.” This may sound like hyperbole, but I believe it is accurate.
    • Catholics Face A Painful Question: Is It True? (Elizabeth Bruenig, Washington Post): “In his statements on Viganò’s testimony last Sunday, Francis invited journalists to use their skills and capacities to draw conclusions about the matter. And so, on Monday morning, I began to try.” This is sad. It seems the only person doing actual journalism on this for a major newspaper is… an opinion columnist. It stinks to high heaven that the major papers aren’t ferociously pursuing this.
    • What Did Pope Francis Know? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “this doesn’t mean that the pope should resign — not even if Viganò is fully vindicated. One papal resignation per millennium is more than enough. That cop-out should not be easily available to pontiffs confronted with scandals, including scandals of their own making, any more than it should be available to fathers.”
    • Answering Vigano’s Critics (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Again: if the allegations are false, you say, ‘They’re false.’ But that’s not what the Pope said. At all. If the Pope thinks he can ignore Vigano as he has ignored the dubia cardinals, he is gravely mistaken.”
    • Story of bombshell charges against Pope more surreal by the minute (John L. Allen, Jr., Crux): “If there’s one thing anyone who’s covered the Vatican for a long time ought to have learned by now, it’s never to say a particular story just can’t get anymore surreal, because trust me — it always can.”
  2. The School Shootings That Weren’t (Anya Kamenetz, Alexis Arnold, and Emily Cardinali, NPR): Difficult to excerpt the key data, so here’s the summary: schools reported 240 shootings in the 2015–2016 school year, but NPR followed up and was only able to verify 11. How did this happen? “the law of really, really big numbers. Temkin notes that ‘240 schools is less than half of 1 percent,’ of the schools in the survey. ‘It’s in the margin of error.’”
  3. There was a revealing kerfluffle at Brown University.
    • Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports (Lisa Littman, PLOS ONE): “The elevated number of friends per friendship group who became transgender-identified, the pattern of cluster outbreaks of transgender-identification in these friendship groups, the substantial percentage of friendship groups where the majority of the members became transgender-identified, and the peer group dynamics observed all serve to support the plausibility of social and peer contagion for ROGD [Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria]. The worsening of mental well-being and parent-child relationships and behaviors that isolate teens from their parents, families, non-transgender friends and mainstream sources of information are particularly concerning. More research is needed to better understand rapid-onset gender dysphoria, its implications, and scope.” The research paper in question.
    • Journal Looking Into Study on ‘Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria’ (Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed): “Brown University and PLOS ONE have distanced themselves from a controversial, peer-reviewed published study on ‘rapid-onset gender dysphoria,’ or gender identity issues that present not early and over a lifetime but quickly, in teenagers and young adults.” This is the neutral take.
    • New paper ignites storm over whether teens experience ‘rapid onset’ of transgender identity (Meredith Wadman, Science): “The actions by the journal and the university have infuriated some researchers who say the moves trample academic freedom, although the paper remains freely available. ‘This is a sad day for @BrownUniversity, and an indictment of the integrity of their academic and administrative leadership,’ Jeffrey Flier, a former dean of Harvard Medical School in Boston and a professor of medicine there, tweeted on Monday.” This is a slightly more feisty take.
    • Ryan T. Anderson on Twitter: “If this is the sort of censorship that takes place out in the open, just image what’s taking place behind closed doors. All because this research reached politically incorrect conclusion. But when lives are at stake, it’s more important to be correct than politically correct.” A feisty and I suspect very accurate take.
  4. The French, Coming Apart (Christopher Caldwell, City Journal): “Since Tocqueville, we have understood that our democratic societies are emulative. Nobody wants to be thought a bigot if the membership board of the country club takes pride in its multiculturalism. But as the prospect of rising in the world is hampered or extinguished, the inducements to ideological conformism weaken. Dissent appears. Political correctness grows more draconian. Finally the ruling class reaches a dangerous stage, in which it begins to lose not only its legitimacy but also a sense of what its legitimacy rested on in the first place.” This is a fascinating article that’s sort of about France, sort of about America, and mostly about Western modernity.
  5. China Is Treating Islam Like A Mental Illness (Sigal Samuel, The Atlantic): “The medical analogy is one way the government tries to justify its policy of large-scale internment: After all, attempting to inoculate a whole population against, say, the flu, requires giving flu shots not just to the already-afflicted few, but to a critical mass of people. In fact, using this rhetoric, China has tried to defend a system of arrest quotas for Uighurs. Police officers confirmed to Radio Free Asia that they are under orders to meet specific population targets when rounding up people for internment. In one township, police officials said they were being ordered to send 40 percent of the local population to the camps.” I’ve mentioned this before, but it truly is one of the scandals of the modern world.
  6. With Flowers In Their Hair (Andrew Ferguson, The Weekly Standard): “The seeds of the destruction of the Haight experiment could be found in its own antinomianism, in its original inspiration. Maybe the wholesale rejection of time-honored and time-tested values — monogamy, moderation, good manners, self-denial, self-control, the sanctity of private property, personal accountability to higher authorities, both material and spiritual — leads to squalor and misery. Maybe the project they’re celebrating in San Francisco this summer was doomed from the start.” Long and good.
  7. America Soured on My Multiracial Family (David French, The Atlantic): “There are three fundamental, complicating truths about adoption. First, every single adoption begins with profound loss. Through death, abandonment, or even loving surrender, a child suffers the loss of his or her mother and father. Second, the demographics of those in need of loving homes do not precisely match the demographics of those seeking a new child. Adoptive parents are disproportionately white. Adopted children are not. Thus, multiracial families are a natural and inevitable consequence of the adoption process. Third, American culture has long been obsessed with questions of race and identity.”

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 world will only get weirder (Steven Coast, personal blog): “We fixed all the main reasons aircraft crash a long time ago. Sometimes a long, long time ago. So, we are left with the less and less probable events.” The piece is a few years old so the examples are dated, but it remains very intriguing. (first shared in volume 67)

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 those of any organization I work for or 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.

The Screwtape Letters: Twenty Through Twenty-Five

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

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

This week we’re looking at letters 20 to 25. Two passages caught my attention this week.

I was struck by how contemporary Lewis’s comments on sexual temptation in letter 20 seem, even though he wrote this book nearly 80 years ago.

We have engineered a great increase in the licence which society allows to the representation of the apparent nude (not the real nude) in art, and its exhibition on the stage or the bathing beach. It is all a fake, of course; the figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than nature allows a full-grown woman to be. Yet at the same time, the modern world is taught to believe that it is being “frank” and “healthy” and getting back to nature. As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something which does not exist—making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast! (letter 20, page 243)

It was indeed easy to forecast, but now we need merely look around. Sexual dysfunction plagues our society. A study that appeared this week (Pornography Use and Marriage Entry During Early Adulthood: Findings From a Panel Study of Young Americans in prepublication) found that “higher levels of pornography use in emerging adulthood were associated with a lower likelihood of marriage by the final survey wave for men, but not women.” Lewis called it.

The other passage which stood out to me was from letter 21, and I confess it struck uncomfortably close to home:

Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered. Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. It is the unexpected visitor (when he looked forward to a quiet evening), or the friend’s talkative wife (turning up when he looked forward to a tete-а-tete with the friend), that throw him out of gear.… They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.… The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon his chattels. He is also, in theory, committed a total service of the Enemy; and if the Enemy appeared to him in bodily form and demanded that total service for even one day, he would not refuse.

That is so true. If God asks for fifteen minutes, I’ll give it to Him gladly regardless of what I am doing. But if someone chats with me for fifteen minutes while I’m trying to get a task done, I become impatient and irritable. Yet Jesus clearly said “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). I need to change.

Anyway, that’s some of what I got from this week’s readings. Only two weeks of reading remain!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 166

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. God’s Mayor in Guatemala (Dale Hanson Bourke, Christianity Today): “In the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America, the countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala form a violent triad. The murder rate is higher in this region than in most active war zones. Gangs, cartels, and vigilantes impose their will, taking over or co-opting legitimate police forces and routinely terrorizing average citizens…. In the middle of this violence sits the town of San Cristóbal Acasaguastlán, a picturesque oasis of calm with a population of about 6,000 people. What sets this place apart are the efforts of Jeaneth Ordoñez, the Christian mayor who has united the townspeople in their quest to keep the municipality free of the violence and upheaval that surrounds them.”
  2. No alcohol safe to drink, global study confirms (Laurel Ives, BBC): “A large new global study published in the Lancet has confirmed previous research which has shown that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. The researchers admit moderate drinking may protect against heart disease but found that the risk of cancer and other diseases outweighs these protections.” The underlying research: Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 (The Lancet. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310–2)
  3. Christians to Science: Leave Animals the Way God Designed Them—Except Mosquitoes (Rebecca Randall, Christianity Today): “Messing with nature or God’s plan was a top concern for those opposed to engineering animal meat to be more nutritious (22%), bringing back an extinct species (23%), or making aquarium fish glow (18%). The reason cited most often to oppose creating glowing fish was simply that it is unnecessary and frivolous (48%).” Apparently I am an outlier. Make the fish glow, make meat more nutritious, and deal with mosquito-borne disease. I really like the way the Kenyan researcher quoted in the article encourages us to target the parasite and not the carrier. We are made in the image of God so that we can exercise dominion over Creation!
  4. The Peter Principle is a joke taken seriously. Is it true? (Tim Harford, Financial Times): “The authors of the paper discovered that the best salespeople were more likely to be promoted, and that they were then terrible managers. The better they had been in sales, the worse their teams performed once they arrived in a managerial role. What’s more, people were not promoted for behaviour that might seem correlated with managerial ability — in particular, those who collaborated with others were not rewarded for doing so. What mattered were sales, pure and simple.” It may be the case that you should dress for the job you want, but if you want to get promoted you had better rock the job you have.
  5. Gay Men Are Different, Says Gay Male Reader (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Well-meaning straight liberals just do not get it, and lots of gay men will not criticize anything gay men collectively do because they think it will result in both lots of anger from other gay men as well as the empowerment of ideological enemies who want to, say, ban gay marriage. Men and women are fundamentally different and a male-female sexual culture is not going to be the same as a male-male sexual culture.” I suspect this will considered controversial by one set of readers and common sense by another, and that the groups will not break down along predictable lines.
  6. How the internet has changed dating (The Economist): “…a 2013 study researchers from Harvard University and the University of Chicago showed that marriages that started online were less likely to end in break-up and were associated with higher levels of satisfaction than marriages of the same vintage between similar couples who had met offline: the difference was not huge, but it was statistically significant.”
  7. What Trump Knew and Voters Didn’t (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “…Trump voters went to the polls unaware that a sum exceeding most of their annual salaries was expended to keep that [Trump paid off a porn star] from them. Even if the payment had been totally legal, it would’ve constituted a deliberate, immoral, classically politician-like effort to mislead voters about the choice before them. But the payment was not legal. It violated campaign-finance laws—and it was not a merely accidental and technical violation of an overly complicated or controversial provision.” This article is a pretty good and succinct summary of the current debate about Trump.

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 How Can I Learn To Receive – And Give – Criticism In Light Of The Cross?(Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ’s crucifixion. In other words, in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s judgment of me; and in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s justification of me. Both have a radical impact on how we take and give criticism.” This is based on a longer article (4 page PDF). (first shared in volume 63)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

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

The Screwtape Letters: Thirteen Through Nineteen

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

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

Lewis is on such a roll! This week we’re looking at letters thirteen through nineteen, and insights abound. I fear that if I don’t constrain myself I’ll just cut and paste all of the text.

I’ll limit myself to two excerpts from Lewis along with some brief commentary on them.

The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it. Let him, if he has any bent that way, write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilizing the seeds which the Enemy plants in a human soul. Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will. As one of the humans has said, active habits are strengthened by repetition but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel. (Letter 13, page 223)

Wow. I had forgotten Lewis said this. This is so good! The author to which Screwtape is alluding is Joseph Butler and you can see the source of the quote at Lewisiana.

Lewis is driving at this: the longer you mean to do something the less likely you are to do it. So get off your good intentions and do something you know you are supposed to do. Obedience unlocks insight. The more you do the more you will understand and then the more opportunities for obedience you will have. It’s a virtuous cycle.

You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character. Some talents, I gather, he really has. Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be. No doubt they are in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point. The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue.…  The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. (Letter 14, page 225)

This reminds me of Romans 12:3, where Paul teaches us: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

That verse alone would change Stanford if it was taken seriously. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” Instead, Paul says, think of yourself with sober judgment. In other words, self-awareness and honesty lay the foundation for humility. Don’t overestimate your competence but also don’t downplay it. And when you evaluate yourself soberly, do it “in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” I take that to mean that instead of subjectively comparing ourselves to others, we should measure ourselves against the objective standards of God’s Word and ultimately against the person of Jesus. That’s a whole sermon, though, and that’s not the point of these updates. I just want to remind you that Lewis has some amazing insights and encourage you to finish the summer readings strong!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 165

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

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

The Screwtape Letters: Six Through Twelve

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

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

This week’s reading (letters six through twelve) was simultaneously short and full of insightful observations.

A few of Lewis’s comments stood out to me:

Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. (Letter Nine, page 210)

Lewis is spot-on here. Pleasure is a gift from God. As James 1:27 reminds us, “every good and perfect gift is from above.” Truly internalizing this is transformative. The pleasures of God are premium, grade A stuff. It is true that Satan is a skillful knockoff artist, and this means that the opportunities he lures us with can seem as good as (or even superior to) God’s pleasures at first, but at the end of the day they are still knockoffs. The pleasures they produce don’t last. Hebrews 11:25 calls them “the fleeting pleasures of sin.”

The upshot: few things disrupt Satan’s schemes for your life like a fierce love of wholesome pleasure. One of the best ways to resist temptation is to be full of godly joy.

Moving on, letter ten seems especially helpful to Stanford students.

[When trying to impress new, sophisticated friends] he will be silent when he ought to speak and laugh when he ought to be silent. He will assume, at first only by his manner, but presently by his words, all sorts of cynical and sceptical attitudes which are not really his. But if you play him well, they may become his. All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be. This is elementary. (Letter Ten, pages 212–213)

Boom! Not much to add to that except pray for all the frosh heading to Stanford in a few weeks.

Also of relevance to the Stanford culture:

But flippancy is the best [source of laughter] of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. (Letter Eleven, page 217)

Again, little commentary is needed. You will find it worthwhile, though, to pay attention to the things that are simply assumed to be false by your community. What Lewis calls flippancy is an indication that there might not be solid arguments against the opinion being mocked. Internet culture is especially prone to this sort of superficial commentary. Social media, in particular, incentivizes it. There may very well be good reasons that your community believes what it does about the good life, the problems facing society, the true religion, and right-thinking politics… but perhaps there are not. Seek out the non-flippant opinions before you allow the juvenile banter to sway you unduly.

Anyway, I hope you derived as much benefit from this week’s reading as I did. Enjoy the book!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 164

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

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