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.
I didn’t think I’d be able to send the email this week because I’m preaching in rural Alaska without reliable WiFi, but I was able to grab a bit this morning. As a result, this edition feels a bit bigger than normal to me — compiling the list is quick because whenever I read a good article I throw it on the pile, but editing it down takes time I don’t have today. So here you go. Enjoy!
Things Glen Found Interesting
- First, a bit about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I’ve had less time than normal for reading this week, so I am certain there are interesting and insightful articles I never stumbled upon. Send me things you think I missed! Of one thing I am convinced: the level of fury on both sides over this nomination is off-the-charts, and both sides seem to underestimate just how outraged the other side is.
- Only the Truth Can Save Us Now (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “even more than before the hearings, my feeling after over eight hours in purgatory is that I still really want to know the truth. And surprisingly, I left the long day of testimony convinced that for all the years that have passed since the summer of 1982, the truth might actually be accessible, and there are obvious questions and avenues of inquiry, unpursued by both parties, that could bring us closer to understanding which of the two witnesses were telling the real truth.”
- I Know Brett Kavanaugh, but I Wouldn’t Confirm Him (Benjamin Wittes, The Atlantic): “Faced with credible allegations of serious misconduct against him, Kavanaugh behaved in a fashion unacceptable in a justice, it seems preponderantly likely he was not candid with the Senate Judiciary Committee on important matters, and the risk of Ford’s allegations being closer to the truth than his denial of them is simply too high to place him on the Supreme Court…. As much as I admire Kavanaugh, my conscience would not permit me to vote for him.” This makes the most thoughtful case against Kavanaugh. See last week’s edition for a similar piece that comes to the opposite conclusion.
- The Rachel Mitchell Memo -“A ‘he said, she said’ case is incredibly difficult to prove. But this case is even weaker than that. Dr. Ford identified other witnesses to the event, and those witnesses either refuted her allegations or failed to corroborate them….I do not think that a reasonable prosecutor would bring this case based on the evidence before the Committee. Nor do I believe that this evidence is sufficient to satisfy the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard.” This is the report written by the sex-crimes prosecutor who interviewed Dr. Ford on the Republicans’ behalf in the Senate hearing.
- A Non-scandalous, Non-ideological Case Against Brett Kavanaugh (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “I do worry about a Supreme Court where literally all nine members received their respective legal education at either Harvard or Yale Law.”
- Conservative Women Are Angry About Kavanaugh—And They Think Other Voters Are, Too (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “These women are infuriated with the way the sexual-assault allegations against the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have been handled. They are not convinced by Ford or any other woman who has come forward. They resent the implication that all women should support the accusers. And they believe that this scandal will ultimately hurt the cause of women who have been sexually assaulted. Above all, these women, and the women they know, are ready to lash out against Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.”
- The Pernicious Double Standards Around Brett Kavanaugh’s Drinking (Megan Garber, The Atlantic): “There’s been a lot of talk about double standards of late—rightfully so—and here is one more: the assumption that alcohol is one thing for men and another for women.” This one comes recommended by an alumnus. For the record, you should not get drunk regardless of your gender. Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”
- Poll: Amid Kavanaugh Confirmation Battle, Democratic Enthusiasm Edge Evaporates (Domenico Montanaro, NPR): “While Democrats and Republicans are now equally enthusiastic about the midterms, the story is very different for key Democratic base groups and independents. While 82 percent of Democrats say the midterms are very important, that’s true of just 60 percent of people under 30, 61 percent of Latinos and 65 percent of independents.”
- On the broader implications of the Ford/Kavanaugh drama.
- Six Broader Insights From the Kavanaugh Saga So Far (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg): “Most men are not abusers, yet very large numbers of women have been abused. So if a man is an abuser, there is a good chance he has abused a fair number of women. That means many well-meaning men experience sexual abuse as a relatively rare phenomenon. They haven’t done it, and most of their male friends haven’t either. At the same time, most women have abuse, rape or #MeToo stories, and they experience these phenomena as relatively common and often life-altering. Probably they also have heard multiple such stories from their female friends. This structural asymmetry of perspectives is crucial to understanding the discourse and the often fundamental differences in opinion.”
- An Age Divided By Sex (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “the culture war as we’ve known it since has not been a simple clash of conservatives who want to repress and liberals who want to emancipate. Rather it’s been an ongoing argument between two forces — feminists and religious conservatives — that both want to remoralize American society, albeit in very different ways.”
- The Meritocracy Against Itself (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “the whole meritocratic game… depends on a reproduction of privilege that pretends to be something else, something fair and open and all about hard work and just deserts. In this game the people whose privilege is particularly obvious, the boarding schoolers and New York toffs and Bethesda country clubbers, play a crucially important role. It’s not just that their parents pay full freight and keep the economics of tuition viable for everyone. It’s that the eliter-than-elite kids themselves help create a provisional inside-the-Ivy hierarchy that lets all the other privileged kids, the ones who are merely upper-upper middle class, feel the spur of resentment and ambition that keeps us running, keeps us competing, keeps us sharp and awful in all the ways that meritocracy requires.” This is not really about Kavanaugh, but it is certainly about the world most of you inhabit at Stanford.
- See this insightful response: Brett Kavanaugh and the Limits of Social-Class Privilege for Conservatives (David French, National Review): “The social battles of the elite college represent the squabbling of men and women at the tip of the privilege spear in the most powerful nation in the history of the planet. But as real as these petty resentments were and are, they pale in comparison to the most important thing. They miss the real roots of Ivy rage. Brett Kavanaugh’s true sin isn’t his connections, his popularity, or his prep school. His true sin is that he’s a conservative. And now he’s a particular kind of conservative — a conservative who matters, a conservative who will have the power (and might actually have the convictions) to threaten one or more of the most sacred elements of progressive jurisprudence. He can potentially affect the law and the culture in a profound way. So what we’re watching is the systematic revocation of his elite privilege.”
- One of the Best Speeches You Will Ever Hear from the Senate Floor (Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “I believe that we have a widespread legacy of sexual assault in this country. I believe we don’t have much of a shared sexual ethic right now—and we haven’t for quite some time—and I think horrible stuff has happened, and continues to happen. I’ve wept with the victims of sexual assault, and I believe the advocacy groups’ data that between one-fifth and one-third of American women have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. And given that most women have many other important women in their lives—a mom, and a daughter, sisters, and a couple of close friends—it means that the overwhelming majority of American women have been deeply affected, deeply hurt, by the tragedy of sexual violence.” The speech is by Ben Sasse, a former seminary president now serving as a senator from Nebraska.
- Rage Politics On The Left (R. R. Reno, First Things): “Of the utopian dreams of the 1960s, only the sexual revolution has attained cultural dominance. To a great degree, we as a society believe in the promises of that revolution: that sex can be safe; that men and women can enjoy sexual freedom to the same degree and in the same way; that sex need have nothing to do with children; that sex is purely private. These promises are backstopped by abortion, the constitutional status of which fuels the urgency surrounding the Kavanaugh appointment.”
- In a similar vein: Believability Is The Road To National Ruin (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “When politics becomes solely a matter of ‘I believe’ versus ‘I believe,’ it descends into a raw contest for power. Historically, it’s been fascists, not liberals, who tend to win such contests.”
- I was sexually assaulted and thought it was my fault. It’s past time for a 1980s reckoning. (Kirsten Powers, USA Today): “There is a problem, though, and it’s this: The culture failed to give us the language to describe such violations, and made us feel that talking about what happened to an authority figure would only make things worse for us. Fortunately for women, what happened in the 1980s isn’t staying in the 1980s. It’s a reckoning that is well overdue.”
- Steelmanning the NIMBYs (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “San Francisco is easy to hate. Even a lot of the people who already live there hate it. They hate the streets piled with discarded needles and human waste. They hate the traffic (fifth worst in the world) and the crime (third most property crime in the US). They hate living five people to a three-bedroom apartment. They hate having aggressive people scream incomprehensible things at them on the sidewalk. They hate the various mutually hostile transit systems that interlock in a system I would call byzantine except that at least you could get around medieval Constantinople without checking whether the Muni and CalTrain were mysteriously failing to connect to each other today. They hate that everyone else in the city hates them, from visible KILL ALL TECHIES graffiti on their commute to work, to a subtle mood of seething resentment from everyone they meet. They hate the omnipresent billboards expecting them to have strong opinions on apps. I’m not saying everyone in San Francisco hates it. There are people who like all sorts of things. Some people like being tied up, whipped, and electrocuted by strangers. And a disproportionate number of these people live in San Francisco. I am just saying this isn’t a coincidence.”
- Steelmanning refers to the opposite of attacking a straw man argument. Instead of making your opponent’s argument weaker, you strengthen it as much as you can.
- Counterpoint: YIMBY! (Scott Sumner, EconLib): “Think of it this way. Lots of parents don’t let their kids play outside by themselves, because other parents don’t let their kids play outside. If you choose to be the exception, then (unlike during the 1960s) your kid is the only one available for pedophiles to prey upon. Lots of the anti-NIMBY feeling comes from a false perception of what the real estate market would look like if complete laissez-faire were adopted, based on the current distorted market.”
- The Disappearing Conservative Professor (Jon A. Shields, National Affairs): “Professors are even less tolerant of evangelicals, whom they associate with social conservatism. Nearly 60% of anthropologists, 50% of literature professors, 39% of political scientists and sociologists, 34% of philosophy professors, and 29% of historians say they would be less inclined to hire evangelicals. Yancey further found that female professors expressed more anti-conservative bias than men, perhaps in part because female professors tend to be more progressive than their male peers.” The author is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna.
- The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies (Jordan Robertson and Michael Rieey, Bloomberg): “Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design. Amazon reported the discovery to U.S. authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community. Elemental’s servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships. And Elemental was just one of hundreds of Supermicro customers. During the ensuing top-secret probe, which remains open more than three years later, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines. Multiple people familiar with the matter say investigators found that the chips had been inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China.”
- This bit made me chuckle: “Two of Elemental’s biggest early clients were the Mormon church, which used the technology to beam sermons to congregations around the world, and the adult film industry, which did not.”
- How Do Christians Fit Into the Two-Party System? They Don’t (Tim Keller, New York Times): “Christians are pushed toward two main options. One is to withdraw and try to be apolitical. The second is to assimilate and fully adopt one party’s whole package in order to have your place at the table. Neither of these options is valid.”
- Are You a Young Evangelical? We Want to Hear From You Ahead of the Midterm Elections (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “If you are an evangelical born after 1980, I’d love to hear about the relationship between your faith and politics today. And if you grew up evangelical and your views are shifting, feel free to share that, too. We may publish a selection of the responses.” Take a few minutes and respond to this — you might get printed in the New York Times.
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- How To Live Your Life (Pearls Before Swine)
- Rise of the Machines (SMBC)
- Everyone Waits Patiently For FBI Investigation That Will Definitely End All Controversy (Babylon Bee)
- Scientists Predict Globe Will Warm Significantly When Jesus Returns (Babylon Bee)
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Book Review: Seeing Like A State (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Peasants didn’t like permanent surnames. Their own system was quite reasonable for them: John the baker was John Baker, John the blacksmith was John Smith, John who lived under the hill was John Underhill, John who was really short was John Short. The same person might be John Smith and John Underhill in different contexts, where his status as a blacksmith or place of origin was more important. But the government insisted on giving everyone a single permanent name, unique for the village, and tracking who was in the same family as whom. Resistance was intense.” This is long and amazing. (first shared in volume 95)
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). 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.