Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 180

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.

This week was especially hard for me to put together. I stumbled upon so much insightful writing this week! I had to ruthlessly eliminate some that I really liked, so I hope you enjoy these gems that survived my ruthless winnowing process.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Slain missionary John Chau prepared much more than we thought, but are missionaries still fools? (Ed Stetzer, Washington Post): “…Mary Ho, who leads All Nations (the agency that sent Chau on missions), indicated that he was heavily vaccinated and even quarantined before going on the mission. The Washington Post reported Tuesday night that Chau also undertook linguistic and medical training to prepare for the outreach. These new reports at a minimum challenge the simplistic image of an adventure-seeking zealot willing to recklessly risk the lives of a remote group of islanders.” By far the best article I’ve read on this subject.
  2. Liberal Parents, Radical Children (David Brooks, New York Times): “In the age of social media, virtue is not defined by how compassionately you act. Virtue is defined by how vehemently you react to that which you find offensive. Virtue involves the self-display of a certain indignant sensibility, and anybody who doesn’t display that sensibility is morally suspect.” An insightful column — this excerpt does not do it justice.
    • Related but not obviously: The Question Without A Solution (Alan Jacobs, The Weekly Standard): “You read all this with a feeling of rising horror, and not just because of the physical and mental and spiritual suffering. You feel that horror also because it becomes increasingly difficult, as the story progresses, to imagine how the even the worst of the pain could have been avoided. Not one man, or woman, knew a prudent remedy.” Haunting and highly recommended.
    • More clearly related: Debate ends when we label views we simply disagree with as ‘hatred’ (Kenan Malik, The Guardian): “‘It is better to debate a question without settling it,’ observed the 18th-century French writer Joseph Joubert, ‘than to settle a question without debating it.’ How naive that sounds today.”
  3. My New Vagina Won’t Make Me Happy (Andrea Long Chu, New York Times): “Until the day I die, my body will regard the vagina as a wound;as a result, it will require regular, painful attention to maintain. This is what I want, but there is no guarantee it will make me happier. In fact, I don’t expect it to.”
    • See also this response piece: The New York Times Reveals Painful Truths about Transgender Lives (Ryan T. Anderson, Public Discourse): “Why should a doctor perform surgery when it won’t make the patient happy, it won’t accomplish its intended goal, it won’t improve the underlying condition, it might make the underlying condition worse, and it might increase the likelihood of suicide?” Anderson was mentioned in Chu’s op-ed.
  4. American Exorcism (Mike Mariani, The Atlantic): “If neither the mental-health evaluation nor a subsequent physical exam turns up a standard explanation for the person’s affliction, the priest starts to take the case more seriously. At this point he may begin looking for what the Church considers the classic signs of demonic possession: facility in a language the person has never learned; physical strength beyond his or her age or condition; access to secret knowledge; and a vehement aversion to God and sacred objects, including crucifixes and holy water.”
  5. What If The Placebo Effect Isn’t A Trick? (Gary Greenberg, New York Times Magazine): “The findings of the I.B.S. study were in keeping with a hypothesis Kaptchuk had formed over the years: that the placebo effect is a biological response to an act of caring; that somehow the encounter itself calls forth healing and that the more intense and focused it is, the more healing it evokes.”
  6. For Californians living in their cars, a church parking lot can briefly be home (Kimberly Winston, Washington Post): “As they often do in hard times, houses of worship stepped in. In Chico, a hub for Paradise refugees, churches have opened their buildings and parking lots as temporary shelters. But while those churches have been lauded, congregations in other areas that open their parking lots to those they sometimes refer to as ‘vehicle residents’ face hurdles and hostility. Many Bay Area municipalities, including the tech centers of San Francisco and San Jose, have outlawed sleeping in a car parked on the street overnight, while neighbors speak out against having the homeless next door.”
  7. A Time To Fast (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Over one hundred years ago researchers demonstrated that calorie restriction in rats increased lifespan, sometimes by as much as 50%. Since that time, the finding has been replicated and extended to primates. A few humans have taken up the diet but for most of us easy access to delicious food trumps willpower. A new paper in Science reviews the literature on calorie restriction and also offers some evidence that less restrictive regimes such as intermittent fasting may have similar effects.” A secular perspective on the benefits of certain types of fasting (this is a summary of an article in the journal Science).

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 Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas (Joseph Bottum, The Weekly Standard): many modern political ideas are derived from Christian theological concepts. (first shared in volume 1)

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.

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