Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 137

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. My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness. (Morgan Lee interviewing Rachael Denhollander, Christianity Today): “One of the areas where Christians don’t do well is in acknowledging the devastation of the wound. We can tend to gloss over the devastation of any kind of suffering but especially sexual assault, with Christian platitudes like God works all things together for good or God is sovereign. Those are very good and glorious biblical truths, but when they are misapplied in a way to dampen the horror of evil, they ultimately dampen the goodness of God. Goodness and darkness exist as opposites. If we pretend that the darkness isn’t dark, it dampens the beauty of the light.”
  2. Want to see a spat between two brilliant theologians?
    • The New Testament in the strange words of David Bentley Hart (N.T. Wright, The Christian Century): “When a theologian of the stature of David Bentley Hart offers a ‘pitilessly literal translation’ of the New Testament that is ‘not shaped by later theological and doctrinal history’ and aims to make ‘the familiar strange, novel, and perhaps newly compelling,’ we are eager to see the result. He promises to bring out the ‘wildly indiscriminate polyphony’ of the writers’ styles and emphases, converging on their ‘vibrant certainty that history has been invaded by God in Christ in such a way that nothing can stay as it was.’ But his two main claims (to be ‘literal’ and ‘undogmatic’) are not borne out, and the promise of displaying the strangeness of early Christian life disappears behind different kinds of strangeness.”
    • A Reply To N.T. Wright (David Bentley Hart, Eclectic Orthodoxy): “[A rebuttal] wherein, at long last, our author unburdens himself of a great number of complaints he has long wished to make against that pious man’s earnest but problematic approach to the New Testament, embellished with a few moments of sly mockery, but ultimately intended as a good-natured—albeit inflexible—expression of deep disagreement.”
    • Translating the N. T. Wright and David Bentley Hart Tussle  (Caleb Lindgren, Christianity Today): “While the verbal sparring is both sharp and entertaining (and perhaps off-putting to certain sensibilities), there is a valuable point at the heart of this debate—one that is worth noting as these two Bible scholarship heavy-hitters take swings at each other’s work.”
  3. Fake porn is the new fake news, and the internet isn’t ready (Nicole Lee, Engadget): “Motherboard recently uncovered a disturbing new trend on Reddit, in which users create AI-generated pornographic clips by swapping other people’s faces onto porn stars…. Needless to say, this has frightening consequences. Not only does this open the door for a horrifying new kind of revenge porn, where a vengeful ex could slap your face on an X‑rated video, it also opens a Pandora’s box of fears where nothing on the internet can ever be trusted.” The embedded (non-sketchy) gif is alarmingly realistic. The technology is already good enough that we’re at a tipping point, and it will only get more effective in the future.
  4. A Workout-Tracking App Accidentally Revealed The Location Of A Bunch Of Secret Military Bases And Soldiers’ Names (Digg): “Strava, a GPS-enabled mobile app that allows users to track their running, biking and swimming workouts, is attracting controversy after observers noticed that its global workout heatmap apparently revealed the location of secret military bases and the exercise habits of individual troops on those bases.” Oops. Technology has consequences. Remember that, you startuppy types.
  5. The Abortion Memo (David Brooks, New York Times): “I’m asking us to rethink our priorities. What does America need most right now? One of our talking points is that late-term abortions are extremely rare. If they are extremely rare, why are we giving them priority over all of our other issues combined?”
  6. The female price of male pleasure (Lili Loofbourow, The Week): “Because if you’re going to wax poetic about male pleasure, you had better be ready to talk about its secret, unpleasant, ubiquitous cousin: female pain. Research shows that 30 percent of women report pain during vaginal sex, 72 percent report pain during anal sex, and ‘large proportions’ don’t tell their partners when sex hurts.” First, fascinating because I had no idea. Second, because the author is so cocooned in assumptions stemming from the sexual revolution that she doesn’t seem to have considered whether this is a symptom of the whole thing being unhealthy and mistaken on key points.
  7. Showing Off To the Universe: Beacons For The Afterlife of Our Civilization (Steven Wolfram, personal blog): “There’s a thought experiment I’ve long found useful. Imagine a very advanced civilization, that’s able to move things like stars and planets around at will. What arrangement would they put them in? Maybe they’d want to make a ‘beacon of purpose’. And maybe—like Kant—one could think that would be achievable by setting up some ‘recognizable’ geometric pattern. Like how about an equilateral triangle? But no, that won’t do. Because for example the Trojan asteroids actually form an equilateral triangle with Jupiter and the Sun already, just as a result of physics. And pretty soon one realizes that there’s actually nothing the aliens could do to ‘prove their purpose’. The configuration of stars in the sky may look kind of random to us (except, of course, that we still see constellations in it). But there’s nothing to say that looked at in the right way it doesn’t actually represent some grand purpose.” A long but fascinating essay about how difficult it is to encode a message that unambiguously communicates intelligence. Relevance to natural theology should be obvious (although Wolfram, being an atheist, goes in a different direction).
  8. Some of our students and alumni have published things recently:
    • The One Lesson We Do Not Learn at Stanford (Hugh Zhang, The Stanford Review): “If we fail to develop the type of character needed to resist temptation when the stakes are so low, how can we be trusted to resist them when they are higher? What we do at Stanford is less harmful than the failings of the powerful. But it is only less harmful because our power is yet limited. When those in prominent positions act as we do, we rightly fear for society’s well being…. If we truly believe that the duty of a university is to prepare us for our responsibilities in the world beyond these idyllic palm trees, then the most important lesson we can learn here at Stanford is the age old lesson of integrity: the ability to do what is right even when no one is looking.”
    • Can I Help You? (Ryan Eberhardt, personal blog): “My friend Arjun committed suicide last September. I’m ‘over it’ in as much of a functional sense as possible, but I still think about him all the time. I miss him so much. He was among my best friends in high school…. I wish I could tell him about all the things I’m up to these days, brainstorm things for me to pursue after graduation, and ask for his advice. That will never happen again. But here’s the funny thing: I don’t know if I would be so eager to talk to him if he weren’t dead. Death has an interesting way of doing that.”
    • Reversing the Curse: A Spiritual Guide to Decoding Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN (Femi Olutade, Medium): “For those of you who are rooted in a faith tradition but can’t understand how a popular, ‘secular’ rap album can be a faithful witness to Jesus’s life and mission, Kendrick — and Jesus for that matter — may surprise you. For anyone who is still searching for how truth and justice emerge from the shadow of racism and oppression, I present to you the stories of hip hop and Judeo-Christian scriptures in the hope that you can find in them the kind of transformation that I have experienced.” Femi releasing this free online book bit by bit. Seth, who writes the forward is also one of our alumni.
    • Medical education systematically ignores the diversity of medical practice (Rebekah Fenton, KevinMD): “Medical education systematically ignores the diversity of medical practice during the classroom phase. Why do we only show rashes on Caucasian patients? Why do we only learn to recognize how men present with MIs? Why do we not address how obesity impacts exam findings? Medical education favors the white, thin, male patient. I’ve seen his chest X‑ray, I’ve examined his abdomen, I know his symptoms, and I’ve seen his rashes.”

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 Inside Graduate Admissions (Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschick): if you plan to apply to grad school, read this. There is one revealing anecdote about how an admissions committee treated an application from a Christian college student. My takeaway: the professors tried to be fair but found it hard to do, and their stated concerns were mostly about the quality of the institution rather than the faith of the applicant. Troubling nonetheless. (first shared in volume 32)

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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