Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 139

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. Illiberal Democracy (Kyle Harper, First Things): “The fact that democracy at its outset was so flatly illiberal shows that the modern synthesis of liberalism and democracy is not inevitable or necessary.” Harper is a professor of classics at the University of Oklahoma reviewing a book by Stanford classics professor Ober.
  2. How much to spend on an engagement ring (Ramit Sethi, personal blog): “Look at your own financial situation to decide what you can comfortably afford. I asked more than 1,500 of my readers, and depending on income, people typically spent between 4% and 8% of their yearly income.” Sethi is a Stanford grad who is obsessed with personal finance. Gentlemen: read this post even if you’re not in a relationship right now. It’s information you will almost certainly need someday.
    • Related: Planning a Wedding? Say Yes to the Guests and Spend Less on the Dress (Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades, Institute For Family Studies): “the evidence suggests that the types of weddings associated with lower likelihood of divorce are those that are relatively inexpensive but are high in attendance.” The authors are professors at the University of Denver.
    • Also related and better than the title makes it sound: The Burdensome Myth of Romantic Love (David C. Dollahite and Betsy VanDenBerghe, First Things):  “…in order for a relationship to flourish, existential needs should be met outside it. In study after study, the most successful marriages tend to unite religious couples whose shared beliefs conduce to stability and satisfaction. These marriages not only buck the trends of divorce, abuse, neglect, violence, and dysfunction, but also benefit from the incentive religion offers for couples to work together for something outside the self.”
  3. We All Live on Campus Now  (Andrew Sullivan, NY Magazine): “When elite universities shift their entire worldview away from liberal education as we have long known it toward the imperatives of an identity-based ‘social justice’ movement, the broader culture is in danger of drifting away from liberal democracy as well. If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large.” What happens on campus doesn’t stay on campus. On the plus side, this is why campus ministry can change the world.
  4. How the National Prayer Breakfast sparked an unusual meeting between Muslims and evangelicals (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “The first time I met an imam in my neighborhood, we’re five minutes into the conversation, and he said: ‘Do you think I’m going to hell?’ I said: ‘That’s what my tradition teaches, yes.’ He said: ‘Good, I think you’re going to hell, too, so now we can have an honest conversation.’” The article also draws a useful distinction between interfaith and multifaith activities.
  5. Oh God, That’s Me: The Horror In The Mirror (Rolf Degen, Google Plus): “When adults who have never before seen their own reflection are confronted with a mirror for the first time, they go through an unsettling experience…” Degen is a science journalist, although this isn’t a fully worked out piece of journalism.
  6. Here’s What North Korea Lets You See When You Travel There (Fabian Muir, Buzzfeed): “It has occurred to me that perhaps some people feel certain images are contrived because their composition makes them feel like tableaux. Such skepticism riles me since it’s difficult not to take it personally when an individual who has never even visited North Korea believes they know more on the topic than someone who has completed a two-year project and studied every text available.” The top comment is insightful.
  7. Let’s Ban Porn (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…we are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that serve misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, most young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut.” Tyler Cowen is sympathetic but worries about unintended consequences: Should We Censor Porn? (Marginal Revolution).
    • Also from Douthat’s column: “So if you want better men by any standard, there is every reason to regard ubiquitous pornography as an obstacle — and to suspect that between virtual reality and creepy forms of customization, its influence is only likely to get worse. But unlike many structural forces with which moralists of the left and right contend, porn is also just a product — something made and distributed and sold, and therefore subject to regulation and restriction if we so desire. The belief that it should not be restricted is a mistake; the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition.”

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 No Food Is Healthy. Not Even Kale. (Michael Ruhlman, Washington Post): People can be healthy. Food can be nutritious. This is a wonderful essay about how we misuse language to our detriment. If you’re surprised I included this, I believe that our culture has a quasi-religious relationship to health and to food, and I also believe that the use of language is profoundly moral and that our culture is a linguistic mess (to which I know of no finer guide than The Underground Grammarian). (first shared in volume 33)

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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