Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 222

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 has been a crazy week for me, so a shorter list than normal. Enjoy!

  1. More on Botham Jean, Amber Guyger, and forgiveness:
    • Botham Jean’s Brother’s Offer of Forgiveness Went Viral. His Mother’s Calls for Justice Should Too. (Dorena Williamson, Christianity Today): “When a black person extends radical forgiveness, we see the grace of the gospel. But when we ignore a black person’s call for justice, we cheapen that grace. Both are acting like the God we serve; we need to listen to them both.” Recommended by an alumnus.
    • Pastor Delonte Gholston’s Facebook post. “I agreed with so much of what this brother said and did because what he did is deeply rooted in the truth of the gospel. What I despise is the ways that the powers love to use stories like these to tell people who are being actively oppressed, ‘why don’t you just forgive like them?’” Recommended by an alumnus.
    • Amber Guyger’s Judge Gave Her a Bible and a Hug. Did That Cross a Line? (Sarah Mervosh and Nicholas Bogel‐Burroughs, New York Times): Deborah Rhode, an expert in legal ethics and the director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford Law School, said she believed that Judge Kemp’s behavior stayed within ethical bounds, especially because it came after the sentencing had ended. ‘All the judge did is express some bonds of common humanity, and I don’t think we should be punishing judges for that,’ she said. ‘If anything, our legal system has suffered from an absence of adequate compassion.’”
    • Why a Judge Says She Gave Amber Guyger a Bible, a Hug and Hope of Redemption (Sarah Mervosh, New York Times): ““‘She asked me if I thought her life could have purpose,’ Judge Kemp recalled. “I said, “I know that it can.” She said, “I don’t know where to start, I don’t have a Bible.”’ Judge Kemp said she thought of the Bible in her chambers. “I said, “Well, hold on, I’ll get you a Bible.”’”
    • Don’t Misunderstand the ‘White Christian’ Reaction to Brandt Jean’s Act of Forgiveness (David French, National Review): “The moment went so viral not because forgiveness was expected or white innocence was presumed. The moment went viral because the guilt was so obvious, and rage was so understandable. The moment went so viral because it was shocking. Brandt Jean demonstrated a level of grace that most Christians (white or otherwise) simply couldn’t comprehend, and they couldn’t comprehend it because the horror inflicted on his brother was so obvious and so thoroughly unjustifiable.”
    • Botham Jean’s neighbor, a key witness in Amber Guyger trial, shot to death in Dallas (Dallas News): “A key witness in Amber Guyger’s murder trial was shot and killed Friday evening at an apartment complex near Dallas’ Medical District, authorities said.” 👀 Reality is entirely too much like a movie script lately.
  2. And some thoughts on China, Hong Kong, and freedom.
    • The China Cultural Clash (Ben Thompson, Stratechery): “The problem from a Western perspective is that the links Clinton was so sure would push in only one direction — towards political freedom — turned out to be two‐way streets: China is not simply resisting Western ideals of freedom, but seeking to impose their own.”
    • I Can See Clearly Now (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “I thought this day was coming, but I didn’t expect it to come so soon. I don’t believe Beijing expected it to come so soon either: the Chinese authorities were playing a long game, biding their time and building their power, and I do not think they were relishing an immediate confrontation with Western capitalism. But the Hong Kong protests forced their hand. Beijing clearly perceives these protests as an existential threat, and have decided that the moment has come to go all‐in. They have pushed all their chips into the center of the table … and the capitalists immediately folded like a Chinese‐made lawn chair.”
    • In related news: US announces visa restrictions on China for Xinjiang abuses (Jennifer Hansler, CNN): “The move comes as the State Department has increased its public condemnation of China’s arbitrary detention of up to two million Uyghurs in ‘in internment camps designed to erase religious and ethnic identities.’”
  3. Upcoming book leaves scientific possibility for existence of ‘Adam and Eve’ (USA Today): “…a leading public scholar — Joshua Swamidass, a physician and genome scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri — is making a bold new attempt to reconcile the biblical story of Adam and Eve with what we know about the genetic ancestry of the human race…. [He] makes an audacious claim: A de novo‐created Adam and Eve could very well be universal human ancestors who lived in the Middle East in the last 6,000–10,000 years. This is not the first attempt to reconcile the Garden of Eden story with science, but rarely does someone with Swamidass’ credentials do what most scientists would deem unthinkable: Take the story seriously. However, some atheist scientists are taking Swamidass seriously.” The author is a biology professor at the City University of New York.

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 Philosopher Redefining Equality (Nathan Heller, New Yorker): “When she was three, her mother asked, ‘Why do you allow your brother to talk for you?’—why didn’t she speak for herself? ‘Until now, it simply was not necessary,’ Elizabeth said. It was the first full sentence that she had ever uttered.” I think that’s the best first sentence I’ve ever heard of. A tad long, but recommended. First shared in volume 189.

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 221

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, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Black Church After Christendom (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I don’t know about you, but I cannot recall the last time I witnessed more powerful public expressions of what it means to be a Christian than what Brandt Jean and Judge Tammy Kemp did in that courtroom. Guyger — again, a white woman — is going to prison to do time for her crime — but both Mr. Jean and Judge Kemp wanted her to know that there is hope for her, and redemption.”
    • There are lots of news sources that feature the video clip of Brandt Jean. I chose Dreher’s piece because he also focuses on the judge. Both of their actions inspire me.
    • I first saw video clips of Brandt Jean’s moving words surging on social media, and I almost immediately afterwards saw a backlash which I found perplexing. Some commenters even suggested that there is something racist about liking this video. I think the truth is much more wholesome — Christians love seeing costly acts of obedience to Christ. Witness the similar reactions Christians had to the gospel‐fueled testimony of Rachael Denhollander against Larry Nassar and to the Amish community’s forgiveness of a school shooter years ago. There were different racial dynamics but similar responses from Christians.
  2. The Internet Is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse. What Went Wrong? (Michael Keller and Gabriel Dance, The New York Times): “Pictures of child sexual abuse have long been produced and shared to satisfy twisted adult obsessions. But it has never been like this: Technology companies reported a record 45 million online photos and videos of the abuse last year…. the problem of child sexual abuse imagery faces a particular hurdle: It gets scant attention because few people want to confront the enormity and horror of the content, or they wrongly dismiss it as primarily teenagers sending inappropriate selfies.” WARNING — this is very disturbing. The reporters non‐gratuitously describe some of the content. If you suspect that the scene preceding “The predominant sound is the child screaming and crying” will bother you, it will.
    • I know some of our alumni who work in tech and in policy still receive my Friday emails. If that is you, you need to read the preceding article.
    • Related: Porn Culture and Political Courage (Terry Schelling, First Things): “The uncomfortable truth is that the rapid growth in child pornography is connected to the cultural normalization of online pornography as a whole.”
  3. I Spent Years Searching for Magic—I Found God Instead (Tara Isabella Burton, Catapult): “I wanted magic. I didn’t think too much about meaning. Or at least, as long as everything meant something, the specifics didn’t seem to matter. Basil could mean love. Thursdays could mean power. The full moon purity. Why not? The alternative was that nothing meant anything at all.” This is wonderfully written. Highly recommended.
  4. How Do Christians Fit Into the Two‐Party System? They Don’t (Tim Keller, New York Times): “I know of a man from Mississippi who was a conservative Republican and a traditional Presbyterian. He visited the Scottish Highlands and found the churches there as strict and as orthodox as he had hoped. No one so much as turned on a television on a Sunday. Everyone memorized catechisms and Scripture. But one day he discovered that the Scottish Christian friends he admired were (in his view) socialists. Their understanding of government economic policy and the state’s responsibilities was by his lights very left‐wing, yet also grounded in their Christian convictions. He returned to the United States not more politically liberal but, in his words, ‘humbled and chastened.’ He realized that thoughtful Christians, all trying to obey God’s call, could reasonably appear at different places on the political spectrum, with loyalties to different political strategies.”
    • Related: A Basic Primer on Rights and Obligations (Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition): “…the Bible doesn’t say much about rights. It does, however, frequently address obligations, so the key to formulating a biblical doctrine of rights is to flip the doctrine of obligation.”
  5. How Stanford Hides Conflicts of Interest (Daniel “Bob” Ferreira, Stanford Sphere): “We started by going through all 127 full‐time, non‐courtesy professors in Biology, Chemistry, Bioengineering, and Chemical Engineering, and we checked what Bloomberg, Crunchbase, and the SEC had on them. Then, we went on to verify whether this information was current—through company websites, mentions on their own public CVs, or media coverage. Finally, we removed faculty whose links to businesses had nothing to do with biotech.”
  6. Hong Kong: First Line of Defence against a Rising Fascist Power (Aaron Sarin, Quillette): “China’s government has only retained the name ‘Communist Party’ because to do otherwise would be a first step towards admitting the atrocities of the past. The severing of the link between Xi and Mao would make it possible to acknowledge that Mao was one of history’s worst villains. This would set a precedent for criticising authority that would inevitably lead to Xi’s own downfall. So the name stays, but in truth there is nothing ‘communist’ about this Communist Party (save its authoritarianism). In fact, Marxist students, activists, and social workers have been arrested and tortured since Xi took power, and universities have shut down Marxist societies.”
    • The Prophetic Voice of Hong Kong’s Protesters (Christianity Today): “Many Hong Kong Christians, while comprising less than 12 percent of the population, have played a prominent role in the protests—marching, singing hymns, holding prayer circles, and providing food and shelter to other demonstrators. (The Jesus People song ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ became an unexpected anthem of the protests, as participants sang the tune to calm confrontations with police.) For Christians there, the Chinese Communist Party may be the greatest existential threat to the Hong Kong church.”
  7. The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research (Martin A. Schwartz, Journal of Cell Science): “At some point, the conversation turned to why she had left graduate school. To my utter astonishment, she said it was because it made her feel stupid. After a couple of years of feeling stupid every day, she was ready to do something else. I had thought of her as one of the brightest people I knew and her subsequent career supports that view. What she said bothered me. I kept thinking about it; sometime the next day, it hit me. Science makes me feel stupid too. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to it. So used to it, in fact, that I actively seek out new opportunities to feel stupid.” The author is a professor at Yale. This essay is about a decade old but I only recently stumbled upon it.

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 America in one tweet:“We are living in an era of woke capitalism in which companies pretend to care about social justice to sell products to people who pretend to hate capitalism.” (Clay Routledge, Twitter) First shared in volume 186.

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 220

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. My hope is that everyone will find at least one link intriguing enough to click through for more. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Does a Religious Upbringing Promote Generosity or Not? (Tyler J. VanderWeele, Psychology Today): “In 2015, a paper by Jean Decety and co‐authors reported that children who were brought up religiously were less generous. The paper received a great deal of attention, and was covered by over 80 media outlets including The Economist, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and Scientific American. As it turned out, however, the paper by Decety was wrong.” Recommended by an alumnus who noted, “it seemed up your alley.” A story which touches on religion, features a statistical screwup, and highlights media bias? Indeed it is! The author is an epidemiologist at Harvard whose writing I have highlighted before
  2. Is American Christianity on Its Last Legs? The Data Say Otherwise. (Bradley Wright, Christianity Today): “…evangelical Christianity is doing rather well for itself. Where it is not increasing, it is holding steady. As Stanton writes, ‘Churches that are faithfully preaching, teaching, and practicing Biblical truths and conservative theology are holding stable overall. In some areas, they are seeing growth.’ In contrast, the fortunes of mainline Protestantism in America are falling fast. Its long decline has been documented before, and Stanton updates our understanding of it. As he puts it, ‘people are leaving those churches like the buildings are on fire.’” The author is a sociologist at U Conn whose writing I have highlighted before.
  3. Looking back at the Snowden revelations (Matthew Green, personal blog): “One of the most important lessons we learned from the Snowden leaks was that the NSA very much prioritizes its surveillance mission, to the point where it is willing to actively insert vulnerabilities into encryption products and standards used on U.S. networks…. This kind of sabotage is, needless to say, something that not even the most paranoid security researchers would have predicted from our own intelligence agencies. Agencies that, ostensibly have a mission to protect U.S. networks.” The author is a professor at Johns Hopkins.
  4. Harvard’s Legacies Are Nothing to Be Proud Of (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg Opinion): “If you are wondering why Americans do not trust the current establishment, or why Americans are not so convinced that the Democratic Party actually will reverse income inequality, look no further than the Harvard admissions case.”
  5. Inside Stanford’s Last Fallout Shelter: a time capsule to Cold War politics and protests (Patrick Monreal, Stanford Daily): “At the height of the Cold War, Stanford and the Office of Civil Defense, a federal agency established by Franklin D. Roosevelt, designated as many as 56 fallout shelters on campus. The University managed these shelters, which collectively had a maximum occupancy of 49,269 people, as a part of emergency plans in the event of a nuclear strike or natural disaster.”
  6. Some diverse perspectives on maximizing your time at Stanford.
    • Classes for the College Contrarian: The Comprehensive Guide to Getting More out of Stanford (Annika Nordquist, Stanford Review): “Although Stanford’s dominance in STEM fields is universally acknowledged, it can be harder to find stellar humanities and social sciences classes, which don’t have the same structured curriculums and are more likely to suffer from severe grade inflation. This is not even to mention the difficulty of finding classes which represent opposing viewpoints and teach critical thought rather than academic orthodoxy.” Annika is involved in Chi Alpha. 
    • Eleven Must‐Take Classes This Fall (Stanford Sphere editorial board): “In our oldest recurring feature, we present below an alphabetized list of the most interesting classes of the fall.”
    • I propose a new rule at Stanford — all students shall be automatically enrolled in any courses which are recommended by both the Sphere and the Review 
    • How to Major in Unicorn (Max Read & Andrew Granato, New York Magazine): “Google was founded by two Stanford graduate students, Instagram by two Stanford alumni, Snapchat by a Stanford dropout. WhatsApp, Netflix, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Hewlett‐Packard were all founded by onetime Stanford students; the earliest investors in Facebook and Amazon were Stanford graduates. Even Elizabeth Holmes, symbol of Silicon Valley self‐delusion and fraud, was a student at Stanford when she dropped out to found Theranos. About the only two famous tech founders with no immediately apparent Stanford connection are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates — though is it a coincidence that each had a daughter attend the school?”
    • If Not Snapchat, What? A Guide to Stanford’s Non‐Tech Fiefdoms (Andrew Granato, New York Magazine): “An anecdote about the university that is positioning itself to take charge of the 21st century: Jackson Beard ’17, the former student body president, told me a story about how a cabinet member of hers tried to schedule a meeting with the head of the student health center to discuss school policy on involuntary psychiatric holds of students. After many delays, a meeting occurred where the administrator ‘just asked, straight up, “When do you two graduate?” He said, “I want to know when you’ll stop caring about this issue.”’” A remarkably brief summary of a very real Stanford dynamic.
    • An Optimist’s Guide to Finding Meaning at Stanford (Ibrahim Bharmal and Alina Utrata, Medium) “The best advice I ever got about picking a major was: plan out all the classes you want to take, and then see what major lets you take those classes. YOU HAVE TONS OF TIME! Spend freshman and sophomore year taking all the classes you’re interested in and expanding your horizons — even classes that don’t seem ‘useful’ to you.”
  7. The Danger of Reusing Natural Experiments (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “A correspondent writes to ask whether I was aware that Regulation SHO has been used by more than fifty other studies to test a variety of hypotheses. I was not! The problem is obvious. If the same experiment is used multiple times we should be imposing multiple hypothesis standards to avoid the green jelly bean problem, otherwise known as the false positive problem.” 

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 Facts Are Not Self‐Interpreting (Twitter) — this is a short, soundless video. Recommended. First shared in volume 184.

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 219

New students: if this is your first email from the Chi Alpha list, welcome! Every Friday I email out a compilation of articles about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. My hope is that everyone will find at least one link intriguing enough to click through for more.

Most of the list’s content isn’t remotely like this, so even if this isn’t your cup of tea be sure to stick around (although I’ve heard rumors that some people stay on our list just for this Friday email). Also pay attention to the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom — I really mean them. And I welcome your suggestions, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Legacy and Athlete Preferences at Harvard (Peter Arcidiacono, Josh Kinsler and Tyler Ransom, link is a PDF of a working paper): “The lawsuit Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard University provided an unprecedented look at how an elite school makes admissions decisions. Using publicly‐released reports, we examine the preferences Harvard gives for recruited athletes, legacies, those on the dean’s interest list, and children of faculty and staff (ALDCs). Among white admits, over 43% are ALDC. Among admits who are African American, Asian American, and Hispanic, the share is less than 16% each. Our model of admissions shows that roughly three quarters of white ALDC admits would have been rejected if they had been treated as white non‐ALDCs. Removing preferences for athletes and legacies would significantly alter the racial distribution of admitted students, with the share of white admits falling and all other groups rising or remaining unchanged.” The lead author is an econ professor at Duke.
  2. Too Much Dark Money in Almonds (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Everyone always talks about how much money there is in politics. This is the wrong framing. The right framing is Ansolabehere et al’s: why is there so little money in politics? But Ansolabehere focuses on elections, and the mystery is wider than that. Sure, during the 2018 election, candidates, parties, PACs, and outsiders combined spent about $5 billion – $2.5 billion on Democrats, $2 billion on Republicans, and $0.5 billion on third parties. And although that sounds like a lot of money to you or me, on the national scale, it’s puny. The US almond industry earns $12 billion per year. Americans spent about 2.5x as much on almonds as on candidates last year.” It builds to a surprising twist. Highly recommended.
  3. I normally avoid two links from one author, but every once in a while someone is on fire. Against Against Pseudoaddiction (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Let me confess: I think pseudoaddiction is real. In fact, I think it’s obviously real. I think everyone should realize it’s real as soon as it’s explained properly to them. I think we should be terrified that any of our institutions – media, academia, whatever – think they could possibly get away with claiming pseudoaddiction isn’t real. I think people should be taking to the streets trying to overthrow a medical system that has the slightest doubt about whether pseudoaddiction is real. If you can think of more hyperbolic statements about pseudoaddiction, I probably believe those too.” I am fully persuaded by this article. 
  4. ‘I Basically Just Made It Up’: Confessions of a Social Constructionist (Christopher Dummitt, Quillette): “In my defence, I wasn’t alone. Everyone was (and is) making it up. That’s how the gender‐studies field works. But it’s not much of a defence. I should have known better. If I were to retroactively psychoanalyze myself, I would say that, really, I did know better. And that’s why I was so angry and assertive about what I thought I knew. It was to hide the fact that, at a very basic level, I didn’t have proof for part of what I was saying. So I stuck to the arguments with fervor, and denounced alternative points of view.” The author is a historian at Trent University (in Canada). 
  5. The Christian Right Is Helping Drive Liberals Away From Religion (Amelia Thomson‐DeVeaux and Daniel Cox, FiveThirtyEight): “Researchers haven’t found a comprehensive explanation for why the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans has increased over the past few years — the shift is too large and too complex. But a recent swell of social science research suggests that even if politics wasn’t the sole culprit, it was an important contributor.”
    • Related: Not everybody wants thoughts and prayers after a disaster, according to a study of hurricane survivors (Allen Kim, CNN): “Thinking of sending your ‘thoughts and prayers’ to those affected by tragedy or a natural disaster? Well, not everyone wants them. While Christians value these gestures from religious people, some atheists and agnostics would pay money to avoid them, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” I am shocked at how allergic some people are to religion. The academic article upon which this news story was based is The value of thoughts and prayers (Linda Thunström and Shiri Noy, PNAS).
  6. World Vision Flips the Script on Child Sponsorship (Jeremy Weber, Christianity Today): “Almost 1,000 children in rural Guatemala gained sponsors this month from a megachurch in southern Indiana. But in this case, it was the indigenous children in need who pondered photos of smiling faces and chose one they felt a connection with. And it was the adult donors in the United States who nervously waited, wondering who would pick them.”
  7. The grandmaster diet: How to lose weight while barely moving (Aishwarya Kumar, ESPN): “Robert Sapolsky, who studies stress in primates at Stanford University, says a chess player can burn up to 6,000 calories a day while playing in a tournament, three times what an average person consumes in a day. Based on breathing rates (which triple during competition), blood pressure (which elevates) and muscle contractions before, during and after major tournaments, Sapolsky suggests that grandmasters’ stress responses to chess are on par with what elite athletes experience.”

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 Godspeed: The Pace Of Being Known (Vimeo): a student brought this 30 minute video to my attention and said it made her think about how she should be living in her dorm. Recommended. First shared in volume 181.

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.

Celebration of Discipline: Concluding Thoughts

book cover - Celebration Of Discipline

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer‐reading‐project‐2019. The schedule is online.

Our adventure through Celebration of Discipline the book is over. Now it’s time for Celebration of Discipline the reality TV show. We’ve got to live it or we wasted many hours this summer. 🙂

Foster covered twelve disciplines which are all helpful, but remember that three disciplines are core:

  • praying to God
  • meditating upon Scripture
  • participating in a worshiping community

Other disciplines are good, but these are leg day. It’s tempting to skip them, but over time it will be obvious that you did.

These three are the generative disciplines, and therefore the core disciplines. They beget the others. When we pray, the Spirit may speak to us to begin a fast. When we read the Word, a verse might cause us to begin serving someone. When we gather with God’s people to worship and hear a sermon, we might feel compelled to confess a sin. If you practice these three regularly the others will come over time, but you can practice solitude and simplicity for a lifetime and never move beyond that.

So keep those front and center as you explore other spiritual disciplines. And remember why you are doing them. It’s not because they feel good (although sometimes they will). You do the disciplines because you want the outcome: godliness. In 1 Timothy 4:7b Paul says, “train yourself to be godly.” Peter likewise teaches that we should therefore “make every effort” in our pursuit of a godly life (2 Peter 1:3–8). We make every effort — we train ourselves — by means of the disciplines.

Finally, remember this phrase: “trying without training leads to frustration.” May these next few months be fruitful as you train for godliness!

P.S. Here are the results of my survey about which chapter people found most helpful: tied for first place were the chapters on prayer and fasting, honorable mention goes to the chapter on solitude which was only one vote shy. Other chapters received some love as well, but those three were far ahead. So if you’re behind on the reading, maybe jump straight to those chapters for maximum benefit. And don’t forget that I’ve posted my commentary on each chapter at https://xastanford.org/summer-reading

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 218

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. “We May Have To Shoot Down This Aircraft” (Garrett Graff, Politico): “We can’t see the aircraft. We don’t know where it is because we don’t have any radars pointing into the U.S. Anything in the United States was considered friendly by definition.” A gripping account of the Flight 93 story.
  2. Active Learning Works But Students Don’t Like It (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “A carefully done study that held students and teachers constant shows that students learn more in active learning classes but they dislike this style of class and think they learn less. It’s no big surprise–active learning is hard and makes the students feel stupid. It’s much easier to sit back and be entertained by a great lecturer who makes everything seem simple.”
  3. How Evangelicals Invented Liberals’ Favorite Legal Doctrine (Matthew Lee Anderson, The Federalist): “…within the many ironies of history, the social and political instruments a perfectionist movement deploys may be easily co‐opted for ends and purposes never imagined in their development. That is, if late‐twentieth‐century evangelical activists sowed the wind, today’s activists have reaped the whirlwind.” I love articles that present a topic I think I know something about and proceed to show me something I had never known before.
  4. A Famous Argument Against Free Will Has Been Debunked (Bahar Gholipour, The Atlantic): “It would be quite an achievement for a brain signal 100 times smaller than major brain waves to solve the problem of free will. But the story of the Bereitschaftspotential has one more twist: It might be something else entirely.”
  5. Viktor Orban Among The Christians (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Orban is what Trump’s biggest fans wish he was (but isn’t), and what Trump’s enemies think him to be (but isn’t). If Donald Trump had the smarts and skills of Viktor Orban, the political situation in the US would be much, much different — for better or for worse, depending on your point of view.” I don’t have much interest in Hungarian politics, but this fascinated me. 
  6. When the Culture War Comes for the Kids (George Packer, The Atlantic): “I asked myself if I was moving to the wrong side of a great moral cause because its tone was too loud, because it shook loose what I didn’t want to give up. It took me a long time to see that the new progressivism didn’t just carry my own politics further than I liked. It was actually hostile to principles without which I don’t believe democracy can survive.” This article came highly recommended, but it only got interesting to me about halfway through — and then wow.
  7. Conservatives Clash on the Goal of Government (Jonathan Leeman, Providence): “There is no neutrality. The public square is a battleground of gods. Our culture wars are wars of religion. For the time being, liberalism keeps us from picking up sixteenth‐century swords for those wars, which is no small achievement. But don’t assume it won’t control us with the subtler tools of a twenty‐first century legal totalitarianism.” Insightful reflections on how Christians should form their political positions.

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 Elisha and the She‐bears (Peter J Williams, Twitter): an insightful Twitter thread about a disturbing OT story. The author is the Warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge. First shared in volume 179.

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.

Celebration of Discipline: Celebration

book cover - Celebration Of Discipline

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer‐reading‐project‐2019. The schedule is online.

I hope this summer has been a blessing to you! Today we come to the final discipline — the discipline of celebration (which is an inversion of the book’s title, and this does not seem to be accidental).

Celebration as Foster describes it is a joy‐filled approach to daily living that we share with others. He is not primarily referring to events like worship services or parties. He has in mind things like laughing with your friends in the cafeteria or turning chores into games. When we consistently and authentically live with joy, everything (including worship services and parties) get better. But when we do not live this way, even the spiritual disciplines we have been studying can become horrible things:

Celebration is central to all the Spiritual Disciplines. Without a joyful spirit of festivity the Disciplines become dull, death‐breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees. Every Discipline should be characterized by carefree gaiety and a sense of thanksgiving.

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 191

This is, no doubt, why Foster entitled his book Celebration of Discipline. The spiritual disciplines must themselves be both sources of joy and expressions of joy. This does not mean turn from fasting to feasting the moment we get hungry, or that when generosity is a challenge that we instead turn to greed. Of course the disciplines will be hard at times — that is why we call them disciplines!

But if our practice of the spiritual disciplines is nothing but duty without delight, we have badly missed the mark. In this regard the spiritual disciplines are no different than the physical disciplines — exercising is hard at times but people endure it because they enjoy what comes on the other side of the pain (and exercise itself is sometimes fun). And so our spiritual disciplines must be a celebration. But since the spiritual disciplines are woven into our everyday lives, they can only be marked by celebration if our everyday lives are marked by celebration.

Some people struggle to believe that God wants them to live this way. They have a hard time experiencing joy without guilt. Some pleasures, of course, are sinful. But there are people who are suspicious of even wholesome pleasures. If that’s you, I urge you to remember that enjoying life is not only pleasant but wise. Ecclesiastes makes this point repeatedly: “a person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil” (Ecc 2:24–25), “there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live” (Ecc 3:12–13), “there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work” (Ecc 3:22), “when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil — this is a gift of God” (Ecc 5:18–20), “go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved of what you do” (Ecc 9:7–10), “you who are young be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth… banish anxiety from your heart” (Ecc 11:9–10).

Perhaps, on the other hand, you do believe this but have a hard time putting it into practice. Maybe you even feel guilty that you don’t enjoy life more. Foster has good advice:

God has established a created order full of excellent and good things, and it follows naturally that as we give our attention to those things we will be happy. That is God’s appointed way to joy. If we think we will have joy only by praying and singing psalms, we will be disillusioned. But if we fill our lives with simple good things and constantly thank God for them, we will be joyful, that is, full of joy. And what about our problems? When we determine to dwell on the good and excellent things in life, we will be so full of those things that they will tend to swallow our problems. The decision to set the mind on the higher things of life an act of the will. That is why celebration is a Discipline. It is not something that falls on our heads. It is the result of a consciously chosen way of thinking and living.

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 195

If you struggle to live with joy, choose to fill your life with “simple good things” and thank God for them. Are you broke? Take walks in beautiful places. Watch funny videos online. Invite friends to come hang out at your place. Do you have some spare cash? Buy foods that you really enjoy eating. Buy the premium version of an app that you already like using. Purchase tickets to an event.

And always remember that the goal is to cultivate a truly joyful spirit. We’re not trying to live by hype; joy that lasts has a foundation. I appreciated Foster’s warning in this regard:

Often we try to pump up people with joy when in reality nothing has happened in their lives. God has not broken into the routine experiences of their daily existence. Celebration comes with the common ventures of life are redeemed. It is important to avoid the kind of celebrations that really celebrate nothing. Worse yet is to pretend to celebrate when the spirit of celebration is not in us.

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 193

And with that, I close. We’re officially done with the book, but I’ll send one more summary email next week. Thanks for reading along!

In the meanwhile, I have a question for you: which chapter did you find most helpful? Reply and let me know — I’ll share the results anonymously with everyone!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 217

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 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.” I just found this blog and am loving it.
  2. When Faith Comes Up, Students Avert Their Eyes (Michael Roth, The Atlantic): “As a nonbeliever myself, I am not trying to convert any student to any religion. Yet how to discuss religious faith in class poses a major challenge for nonreligious colleges and universities. How can such an institution claim to educate students about ideas, culture, and ways of life if students, professors, or both are uncomfortable when talking about something that’s been central to humanity throughout recorded history?” Roth is a historian and the president of Wesleyan University. Recommended by an alumnus.
  3. The Pint‐Size Nation off the English Coast (Ian Urbina, The Atlantic): “Though no country formally recognizes Sealand, its sovereignty has been hard to deny. Half a dozen times, the British government and assorted other groups, backed by mercenaries, have tried and failed to take over the platform by force.” Recommended by a student. Very entertaining.
  4. Elite Failure Has Brought Americans to the Edge of an Existential Crisis (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic): “What Americans young and old are abandoning is not so much the promise of family, faith, and national pride as the trust that America’s existing institutions can be relied on to provide for them.”
    • Usefully read alongside The End of the Roman Empire Wasn’t That Bad (James Fallows, The Atlantic): “Governmental ‘failure’ comes down to an inability to match a society’s resources to its biggest opportunities and needs. This is the clearest standard by which current U.S. national governance fails. In principle, almost nothing is beyond America’s capacities. In practice, almost every big task seems too hard. Yet for our own era’s counterparts to duchies and monasteries—for state and local governments, and for certain large private organizations, including universities and some companies—the country is still mainly functional, in exactly the areas where national governance has failed.”
    • Related: How Universities Have Been Part of the Problem (And Can Be Part of the Solution) for America’s Civic Crises (Musa al‐Gharbi, Heterodox Academy): “Students are taught to really hone their critical capacities at university – but what of their affirmative ones? Put another way, there is a big focus on identifying problems, criticizing, problematizing, deconstructing, highlighting differences, etc. – but much less on coming up with practical solutions, or explaining what works, what is good (and why), or acknowledging what the people we engage are right about, or building consensus through the things we share in common. These are not skills that are prioritized in higher education today.” The author is a sociologist at Columbia. Recommended by an alumnus. Also see his companion piece Academic and Political Elitism at Inside Higher Ed.
  5. Can Jesus Close the Wage Gap? Inside Hillsong’s Instagram‐Fueled Women’s Movement (Hayley Phelan, Elle): “This year’s theme, ‘Be Found in the New,’ is taken from the Book of Revelation. But if you didn’t know that, the pamphlet could be an Urban Outfitters catalog or an Everlane lookbook—a sign of both Hillsong’s cultural fluency and marketers’ awareness of consumer fatigue. A new sofa or cute leggings are just the window dressing in a life of purpose—a way to transcend exhaustion, loneliness, and low self‐esteem, and step into a world of our own making. Which, when you get right down to it, sounds a lot like religion.”
  6. Five Things They Don’t Tell You About Slavery (Rich Lowry, National Review): “None of the other societies tainted by slavery produced the Declaration of Independence, a Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton, the U.S. Constitution, or a tradition of liberty that inspired people around the world for centuries. If we don’t keep that in mind, as well as the broader context of slavery, we aren’t giving this country — or history — its due.” The title is not great but the article is quite interesting. 
  7. Homelessness and the high cost of living (Christos Makridis, The Hill): “…economists have reached a consensus that the primary driver behind increasing housing prices and rental rates is the presence of, and increase in, land use restrictions. Put simply, land use restrictions, or housing market regulations more generally, place restrictions on the types of structures that can be built — that either implicitly or explicitly raise the cost for developers.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry.

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 What Is It Like to Be a Man? (Phil Christman, The Hedgehog Review): “I live out my masculinity most often as a perverse avoidance of comfort: the refusal of good clothes, moisturizer, painkillers; hard physical training, pursued for its own sake and not because I enjoy it; a sense that there is a set amount of physical pain or self‐imposed discipline that I owe the universe.” Very well‐written. Everyone will likely find parts they resonate with and parts they reject. The author is a lecturer at the University of Michigan and based on his CV seems to be a fairly devoted Episcopalian. First shared in volume 178.

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.

Celebration of Discipline: Guidance

book cover - Celebration Of Discipline

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer‐reading‐project‐2019. The schedule is online.

This chapter has three emphases: Foster talks about communities of believers seeking the will of God together (should our congregation buy this building or not?), he talks about individuals turning to the gathered body for advice (like that couple who asked the congregation to assess their readiness for marriage), and he talks about individuals turning to other individuals for spiritual counsel (seeing a spiritual director).

I’m just going to talk about the first one — when an entire group (such as a life group or a worship team) seeks the will of God together. When a group like that needs to make a decision we almost always do one of two things: we vote or we just leave everything up to the leader. There are times when each of those is appropriate (for example, when it is a routine decision), but there are also times when this is an inferior solution (for example, when passions are high and a wrong decision can destroy the entire community).

Foster describes an alternative:

“As a people they had decided to live under the direct rulership of the Spirit. They had rejected both human totalitarianism and anarchy. They had even rejected democracy, that is, majority rule. They had dared to live on the basis of Spirit‐rule; no fifty‐one percent vote, no compromises, but Spirit‐directed unity.”

Richard Foster, Celebration of Disciple, pages 178–179

And then a little later:

“[these groups] all operate on the basis on Spirit‐directed unity. Issues are approached with an assurance that the mind of the Spirit can be known. They gather in Christ’s name, believing that his will will be fleshed out in their midst. They do not seek compromise, but God‐given consensus.”

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 184

In other words, there are times when we realize that our community needs wisdom beyond human wisdom and that the issue is so important that we cannot leave it to one leader to seek the face of God for it. We must all do it together.

When we do that, Foster suggests, we must expect unity. I know several church leadership teams that follow this practice: if there is no unity then the team does not proceed. This means that even one voice can derail a plan that everyone else is in favor of. Whenever I’ve spoken to people about this practice, they can point to specific times one person vetoed a decision that enjoyed overwhelming support. At the time the rest of the team had been mildly to intensely annoyed, but it later became apparent that their friend’s refusal to express false consensus had saved the team much grief. In retrospect the entire team saw that God had protected them through the integrity of their friend and the integrity of their process.

Again, this should not be the way we usually make collective decisions. If a large community always does this they will inevitably find themselves held hostage by unstable people. Or if a church routinely does this they will find themselves in thrall to a handful of unbelievers who attend the church. And so for simple matters touching on everyone, take a quick vote. For decisions requiring an awareness of background knowledge or perhaps some special expertise, defer to the leaders.

But if doing this for every decision would be unwise, I would like to suggest that never doing it would be even less wise.

The next time you are part of a Christian group facing a significant decision, consider proposing this idea — “Let’s pray until we have unity on this issue and then do whatever God tells us.”

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 216

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. No, really. I mean them and they matter. I welcome your suggestions, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Cops Who Abused Photoshop (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): this is outrageous. Difficult to excerpt, but well worth reading. Recommended by a student.
  2. How Pornography Makes Us Less Human and Less Humane (Matthew Lee Anderson, The Gospel Coalition): “Beneath pornography is the supposition that the mere fact of our desire for a woman makes us worthy of her. And so, not being bound by any kind of norm, desire must proceed endlessly. It is no surprise that the industrialized, cheap‐and‐easy sex of pornography has answered and evoked an almost unrestrained sexual greed, which allows us to be gods and goddesses within the safety of our own fantasies. It is for deep and important reasons that the Ten Commandments use the economic language of ‘coveting’ to describe the badness of errant sexual desires.” Many insights in this essay.
    1. Related: In the Face of Sexual Temptation, Repression Is a Sure‐Fire Failure (Rachel Gilson, Christianity Today): “Repression and avoidance are ultimately human‐centered responses. They stuff desire, suffocate it, banish it, and yet rarely succeed at engendering true purity. By contrast, Christian asceticism reminds us that we are not stronger than desire and then invites us to cast our gaze toward the One who is. It asks the Christian to follow the sight line of desire—like looking down the barrel of a gun—and train it on what all desire is ultimately satisfied by: the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).”
    2. Related What Genetics Is Teaching Us About Sexuality (Steven M. Phelps and Robbee Wedow, New York Times): “…genetic differences account for roughly one‐third of the variation in same‐sex behavior.” The authors are professors (one of biology at UT Austin and the other of sociology at Harvard). They are also both gay men. They are reflecting on research published in the journal Science: Large‐scale GWAS reveals insights into the genetic architecture of same‐sex sexual behavior (which Wedow coauthored).
  3. What Majority‐World Missions Really Looks Like (Dorcas Cheng‐Tozun, Christianity Today): “In 2015, 9 of the top 20 sending countries—including Brazil, the Philippines, China, India, Nigeria, and South Africa—were in the majority world (also referred to as the developing world), with a total of 101,000 international missionaries.” For context, the combined total is close to the number sent from the USA.
  4. Why do Chinese people like their government? (Kaiser Kuo, SupChina): “It’s the rare person who can truly separate, at both an intellectual and an emotional level, criticism of his or her country from criticism of his or her country’s government — especially if that government is not, at present, terribly embattled and is delivering basic public goods in a reasonably competent manner.”
    1. Related: 9 questions about the Hong Kong protests you were too embarrassed to ask (Jen Kirby, Vox): “”What began as a targeted protest against a controversial extradition bill in June has transformed into what feels like a battle for the future of Hong Kong. Protesters are not just fighting their local government. They’re challenging one of the most powerful countries on earth: China.
    2. Related: Hong Kong Democracy Activists Arrested Ahead Of Planned March (Emily Feng & Scott Neuman, NPR): “Joshua Wong, Hong Kong’s most famous pro‐democracy leader, was arrested on Friday along with fellow activists and politicians in what appeared to be a coordinated sweep by the city’s police ahead of a mass anti‐government march that had been planned for the weekend.”
    3. Related: The One United Struggle For Freedom (David Brooks, New York Times): “Many suspect America will never step in to help. The American right no longer believes in spreading democracy to foreigners. The American left embraces a national narrative that emphasizes slavery and oppression, not that America is a beacon or an example. Neither party any longer sees America as a vanguard nation whose very mission is to advance universal democracy and human dignity.”
    4. Related: China’s Spies Are On The Offensive (Mike Giglio, The Atlantic): “Espionage and counterespionage have been essential tools of statecraft for centuries, of course, and U.S. and Chinese intelligence agencies have been battling one another for decades. But what these recent cases suggest is that the intelligence war is escalating—that China has increased both the scope and the sophistication of its efforts to steal secrets from the U.S.” Recommended by a student.
  5. Why Everything They Say About The Amazon, Including That It’s The ‘Lungs Of The World,’ Is Wrong (Michael Shellenberger, Forbes): “‘What is happening in the Amazon is not exceptional,’ said Coutinho. ‘Take a look at Google web searches search for ‘Amazon’ and ‘Amazon Forest’ over time. Global public opinion was not as interested in the ‘Amazon tragedy’ when the situation was undeniably worse. The present moment does not justify global hysteria.’ And while fires in Brazil have increased, there is no evidence that Amazon forest fires have.” I found this article quite informative.
  6. The Trump Administration Sides With Nurses Who Object to Abortion (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “Beyond its outcome, this case is a signal of the Trump administration’s priorities: It sees religious freedom and conscience protections as central parts of American civil rights, and officials plan to enforce those laws.”
    1. Related: By their tweets you will know them: The Democrats’ continuing God gap (Ryan Burge, Religion News Service): “While the Nones have grown dramatically over the last 20 years, it’s still important to realize that more than six in ten Americans identify as a Christian, according to the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. If Democrats want to win back the White House, it would behoove them to reach out to those Christian voters. However, at least on social media, Democratic candidates fail to do so.”
    2. Related: Democratic Party embraces nonreligious voters, criticizes ‘religious liberty’ in new resolution (Caleb Parke, Fox News): “The Democratic National Committee (DNC) passed a resolution Saturday praising the values of ‘religiously unaffiliated’ Americans as the ‘largest religious group within the Democratic Party.’ The resolution, which was unanimously passed at the DNC’s summer meeting on Aug. 24 in San Francisco, Calif., was championed by the Secular Coalition of America, an organization that lobbies on behalf of atheists, agnostics, and humanists on public policy.”
    3. Related: Michael Wear’s commentary on Twitter: “I just want to be clear. This is both politically stupid, but also, just stupid on a fundamental level that transcends electoral politics.” (Wear was an Obama staffer)
  7. Let’s have open borders for people and closed borders for capital (Jeff Spross, The Week): “…human beings aren’t the only things that cross borders: goods, services, and financial capital do it all the time as well. A better response to Trump might not be to debate whether borders should be enforced, but rather enforced against what? Specifically, the left‐progressive position on borders should be something like: maximum enforcement against the movement of financial capital, moderate enforcement against goods and services, and minimal enforcement against people.”
    1. Related: Christianity and Capitalism Reconsidered (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “[the claim] that capitalism makes us wealthier, lets us live longer, and improves our ethics — could be right and even so Christianity and capitalism might not be compatible. Maybe God doesn’t want us to be richer and longer‐lived, and maybe there are certain matters of faithfulness that transcend what most people call ‘ethics.’”

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 Eat, Pray, Code: Rule of St. Benedict Becomes Tech Developer’s Community Guidelines (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “SQLite—a database management engine used in most major browsers, smart phones, Adobe products, and Skype—adopted a code of ethics pulled directly from the biblical precepts set by the venerated sixth‐century monk.” This article blew my mind. First shared in volume 175.

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.