Glen Davis
Glen, an ordained Assemblies of God minister, is the adviser to Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at Stanford University. He blogs and maintains a database of quotes.

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Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 351

Fri, May 20th 2022

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.

This is the 351st installment. 351 is, I am told, the smallest number such that it and its surrounding numbers are all products of 4 or more primes (in the case of 351=3·3·3·13).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. My College Students Are Not OK  (Jonathan Malesic, New York Times): “Higher education is now at a turning point. The accommodations for the pandemic can either end or be made permanent. The task won’t be easy, but universities need to help students rebuild their ability to learn. And to do that, everyone involved — students, faculties, administrators and the public at large — must insist on in-person classes and high expectations for fall 2022 and beyond.” The author has a PhD in religious studies and was a tenured theology prof, but now teaches writing at another university. His personal journey seems interesting.
  2. MIT, Harvard scientists find AI can recognize race from X‑rays — and nobody knows how (Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe): “Ghassemi and her colleagues remain baffled, but she suspects it has something to do with melanin, the pigment that determines skin color. Perhaps X‑rays and CT scanners detect the higher melanin content of darker skin, and embed this information in the digital image in some fashion that human users have never noticed before. It’ll take a lot more research to be sure.”
  3. Pandemic news, not great this week:
    • The Covid Capitulation (Eric Topol, Substack): “To recap, we have a highly unfavorable picture of: (1) accelerated evolution of the virus; (2) increased immune escape of new variants; (2) progressively higher transmissibility and infectiousness; (4) substantially less protection from transmission by vaccines and boosters; (5) some reduction on vaccine/booster protection against hospitalization and death; (6) high vulnerability from infection-acquired immunity only; and (7) likelihood of more noxious new variants in the months ahead” The author is a professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Institute.
    • Permanent Pandemic (Justin E. H. Smith, Harper’s Magazine): “That the political is always biopolitical, in at least this general sense, may be a fact that recedes from view in those rare moments when things are functioning smoothly. At such times, the various documents that governments make us fill out and sign, or fill out on our behalf when we are born, married, arrested, or dead; the various licenses we get renewed; and the accreditations we collect come to appear as ends in themselves rather than as part of a vast apparatus that limits what we can do with our own bodies.” The author is a philosophy professor at the University of Paris.
    • The new Covid equilibrium (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “I know many of you like to say ‘No worse than the common cold!’ Well, the thing is…the common cold imposes considerable costs on the world. Imagine a new common cold, which you catch a few times a year, with some sliver of the population getting some form of Long Covid. One 2003 estimate suggested that the common cold costs us $40 billion a year, and in a typical year I don’t get a cold even once.… Even under mild conceptions of current Covid, it is entirely plausible to believe that the costs of Covid will run into the trillions over the next ten years.”
    • With Plunging Enrollment, a ‘Seismic Hit’ to Public Schools (Shawn Hubler, New York Times): “No overriding explanation has emerged yet for the widespread drop-off. But experts point to two potential causes: Some parents became so fed up with remote instruction or mask mandates that they started home-schooling their children or sending them to private or parochial schools that largely remained open during the pandemic. And other families were thrown into such turmoil by pandemic-related job losses, homelessness and school closures that their children simply dropped out.”
  4. Abortion-related:
    • Roe draft is a reminder that religion’s role in politics is older than the republic (Ron Elving, NPR): “The question arises: Since when did so much of our politics have to do with religion? And the answer is, since the beginning – and even before. Religion was a driving and determinative force in politics on this continent even before the ‘United States’ had been formed.And it has been brought to bear in widely disparate causes. Religion has been invoked to condemn slavery and segregation, to ban alcohol and the teaching of evolutionary science and to bolster anti-war movements.”
    • When an Abortion Is Pro-Life (Matthew Loftus, New York Times): “I view my work as a physician as part of a battle against brokenness in the physical health of my patients, a battle whose tide was turned when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The Bible teaches that our physical bodies will one day be resurrected as Christ’s was, mysteriously transformed but somehow also continuous with our present flesh and blood — like a seed is transformed into a plant. I teach and work alongside local health professionals so that we can care holistically for people in need, following in the footsteps of Jesus, the healer.… Here, I think the exception proves the rule: Ending a child’s life before birth is so wrong that only saving another life could be worth it.” This is a remarkable op-ed.
    • A critique of the religious pro-life movement: The Religious Right and the Abortion Myth (Randall Balmer, Politico): “White evangelicals in the 1970s did not mobilize against Roe v. Wade, which they considered a Catholic issue. They organized instead to defend racial segregation in evangelical institutions, including Bob Jones University. To suggest otherwise is to perpetrate what I call the abortion myth, the fiction that the genesis of the Religious Right — the powerful evangelical political movement that has reshaped American politics over the past four decades — lay in opposition to abortion.”
    • But actually no: What everyone gets wrong about evangelicals and abortion (Gillian Frank & Neil J. Young, Washington Post): “Twelve years before the Roe decision, a young woman wrote to the leading U.S. evangelist, the Rev. Billy Graham, with the following question: ‘Through a young and foolish sin, I had an abortion. I now feel guilty of murder. How can I ever know forgiveness?’ Graham, whose syndicated newspaper column ‘My Answer’ reached millions of Americans, replied: ‘Abortion is as violent a sin against God, nature, and one’s self as one can commit.’ Graham telegraphed evangelicals’ unease with abortion, which would become increasingly political in the coming years.”
    • Really actually no: There’s been some discussion about how evangelicals in the U.S. didn’t start opposing abortion until the late 1970s – several years after Roe v. Wade in 1973. There’s a lot more nuance to that history. (Andrew Lewis, Twitter): an interesting thread from a professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati.
    • As in strongly no: Ballmer also misrepresented the legal aspects of this story (Jon Whitehead, Twitter)
  5. How Mary Whitehouse Waged War on Pornography (Jonathon Van Maren, First Things): “Whitehouse was mocked for predicting that sexual messaging would soon target children; it is now the norm for LGBT content to appear on children’s TV shows and in storybooks. She warned that films such as Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris crossed a line; it was later revealed that the rape scene in the movie deeply traumatized the scene’s young actress, who received vile treatment at the hands of older men. On the big cultural questions, Whitehouse was right and her critics were wrong.”
  6. Naomi Judd: ‘It’s scary to show that part of you that is the not so smart, not so together side’ (Terry Mattingly, GetReligion): “Naomi Judd thought she understood the ties that bind country-music stars and their audience – then one aggressive fan went and joined the Pentecostal church the Judd family called home. ‘It really burdened me,’ said Judd, after signing hundreds of her ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’ memoir back in 1993. ‘I just don’t sign autographs at church. The best way I can explain it to children … is to say, ‘Honey, Jesus is the star.’ ” What a great opening story.
  7. On the shootings:
    • Faith on the ground in Buffalo: Voice Buffalo executive director Denise Walden (Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service): “They are some of the matriarchs and the pillars of our community. They will be missed in ways that I don’t think I can do justice to describing, but who bring joy to this community. They’re the ones who help stand and hold this community together.”
    • The FAQs: What Christians Should Know About the ‘Great Replacement’ Theory (Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition): “The recent shooting in Buffalo is the fifth terrorist attack in the past five years in which a white supremacist gunman made reference to the Great Replacement conspiracy theory.… Christians should be the first to decry the racism and xenophobia of the theory, along with condemning the violence it has perpetuated.”
    • Doctor Who Fought Church Gunman Remembered as Kind Protector (Julie Watson, Ministry Watch): “The family and sports medicine physician was like family to the staff and he encouraged them to learn kung fu, telling them about the importance of knowing self-defense techniques. He also learned how to handle a gun for that same reason. That preparedness combined with Cheng’s serene disposition likely gave him a proclivity for acting heroically, according to active shooter experts.… Authorities credit Cheng’s quick action with saving perhaps dozens of lives at a celebratory luncheon for congregants and their former pastor at Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which worships at Geneva Presbyterian Church in the Orange County community of Laguna Woods.”
    • After Shooting, Churches Navigate China-Taiwan Tensions Under the Surface (Kate Shellnutt & Sean Cheng, Christianity Today): “As soon as they heard that a gunman attacked a Taiwanese church in California on Sunday, some Taiwanese correctly assumed political motives.… The shooting suspect, David Wenwei Chou, was born and raised in Taiwan but considers himself Chinese. (China currently claims Taiwan as its territory.) He left notes in Chinese in his car stating he did not believe Taiwan should be independent from China. Chinese social media circulated photos of Chou indicating that he was a leader of a Chinese pro-unification organization in Las Vegas.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have A Study Guide For Human Society, Part 1 (Tanner Greer, The Scholar’s Stage): “…there are two methods [for finding good history books] in particular I have often have useful. The first is to Google syllabi. If you are interested in the history of the Roman Republic, Google ‘Roman Republic syllabus’ and see what pops up. Read a few courses and see what books are included. Alternatively, if you just read a book you thought was particularly good, put its title into Google and then the word ‘syllabus’ afterwards and see what other readings college professors have paired with that book in their courses.”  First shared in volume 217.

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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.

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Paula Davis
Paula, a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God, also serves with Chi Alpha.

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