Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 116

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 flooding in Houston is crazy, and I say this as someone who grew up facing hurricanes in Louisiana on a regular basis. If you want to help, Convoy of Hope is our recommended disaster-relief organization. You can learn more about what they’re doing at Hurricane Harvey Response. So far they’ve served over forty thousand people. More hurricane reading:
    • All the rain that Hurricane Harvey dumped on Texas and Louisiana, in one massive water drop (Javier Zarracina & Brian Resnick, Vox): “…over six days, 27 trillion gallons of water fell over Texas…. That’s one million gallons of water for nearly every person who lives in Texas.” The infographic is stunning.
    • Houston flooding in historical perspective: no, zoning would not have stopped Harvey (Phil Magness, personal blog): “the very notion that Houston is a giant concrete-laden water retention pond is itself a pernicious myth peddled by unscrupulous urban planning activists and media outlets. In total acres, Houston has more parkland and green space than any other large city in America and ranks second overall to San Diego in park acreage per capita.” The author is an economic historian.
    • The Joel Osteen Fiasco Says A Lot About American Christianity (Laura Turner, Buzzfeed): I thought this article was mostly fair and was interesting throughout. This bit towards the end rang true to me: “[Lakewood Church spokesman Doug] Iloff offered a different version of events than the one shared by critics on social media. The church was never locked,’ he told me. ‘The people who showed up were let in; it’s just that very few people came.’ This, he says, was due to flooding around the building and the surrounding highways. And church leaders didn’t initially offer Lakewood as a shelter in part out of concern that it would flood during the weekend’s heaviest rains, Iloff said. ‘If we had let people in and that water had flooded, you would be writing a whole different story now.’” Related: Flood him with criticism: Let him who is without sin cast the first stone at Joel Osteen and his church (Bobby Ross, Jr, GetReligion), Was Joel Osteen’s Houston ‘Megachurch’ Affected By Hurricane Harvey? (Snopes). Based on the evidence I’ve seen, Lakewood Church not only acted defensibly but actually acted wisely and helpfully, which makes Here’s why people hate Joel Osteen (Kate Bowler, Washington Post) timely.
    • Hurricanes, Climate and the Capitalist Offset (Bret Stephens, NY Times): “Harvey truly is an astonishing storm, the likes of which few people can easily remember. Then again, as meteorologist Philip Klotzbach points out, it’s also only one of four Category 4 or 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the United States since 1970. By contrast, more than twice as many such storms made landfall between 1922 and 1969.” I did not know that.
  2. 20 Arguments For God’s Existence (Peter Kreeft, personal website): “You may be blessed with a vivid sense of God’s presence; and that is something for which to be profoundly grateful. But that does not mean you have no obligation to ponder these arguments. For many have not been blessed in that way. And the proofs are designed for them—or some of them at least—to give a kind of help they really need. You may even be asked to provide help.” I was reminded of this by a conversation with an alumnus. The author is a philosophy professor at Boston College.
  3. A Beating In Berkeley (Matt Labash, Weekly Standard): “One of them, Will Johnson, announces that he is a black American and a Christian. ‘This is not a neo-Nazi, white supremacist rally,’ he says. ‘I don’t know where they got that from. I actually called Nancy Pelosi’s office and asked her to change that. There’s no way I am a white supremacist.’” An amazing article. Well worth reading.
  4. Some Thoughts and Advice for Our Students and All Students (an open letter from some Harvard, Yale and Princeton professors): “Thinking for yourself means questioning dominant ideas even when others insist on their being treated as unquestionable. It means deciding what one believes not by conforming to fashionable opinions, but by taking the trouble to learn and honestly consider the strongest arguments to be advanced on both or all sides of questions—including arguments for positions that others revile and want to stigmatize and against positions others seek to immunize from critical scrutiny.” Interestingly, at least four of the signatories (nearly 20%) are people who have previously made an appearance in these emails.
  5. Wait, Do People Actually Know Just How Evil This Man Is? (Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs): “And I am worried that even those who detest Trump and are appalled by this pardon do not entirely appreciate the depth of Arpaio’s evil, or understand quite how indefensible what Donald Trump just has done is. Frankly I think even Trump may not fully realize the extent of the wrongdoing that he has just signaled his approval of.” Depressing reading.
  6. The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial (Venkatesh Rao, Ribbonfarm): “Premium mediocre is the finest bottle of wine at Olive Garden. Premium mediocre is cupcakes and froyo. Premium mediocre is ‘truffle’ oil on anything (no actual truffles are harmed in the making of ‘truffle’ oil), and extra-leg-room seats in Economy. Premium mediocre is cruise ships, artisan pizza, Game of Thrones, and The Bellagio. Premium mediocre is food that Instagrams better than it tastes…. premium mediocrity is creating an aura of exclusivity without actually excluding anyone.” The article is far too long. Read the first few paragraphs and you’ll get the idea.
  7. My IRB Nightmare (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “We, as the patient’s doctors, would make the diagnosis and write it down on the chart. But we (as study investigators) needed a full signed consent form before we were allowed to access the diagnosis we had just made.” This is simultaneously disturbing and entertaining, and so is the follow-up post.
  8. The Cost of Running Harvard (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): I assume broadly similar statistics are true of Stanford.

Things Glen Found Amusing

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Weight of Glory (C.S. Lewis): originally preached as a sermon and then printed in a theology magazine. Related: see the C. S. Lewis Doodle YouTube channel – it’s really good! (first shared in volume 36)

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.


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.

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