Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 181

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. America’s New Religions (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “The need for meaning hasn’t gone away, but without Christianity, this yearning looks to politics for satisfaction. And religious impulses, once anchored in and tamed by Christianity, find expression in various political cults. These political manifestations of religion are new and crude, as all new cults have to be. They haven’t been experienced and refined and modeled by millennia of practice and thought. They are evolving in real time. And like almost all new cultish impulses, they demand a total and immediate commitment to save the world.”
  2. Is the Protestant Work Ethic Real? (Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics): “The randomized controlled trial of a missionary project in the Philippines found that very poor people earned more money as a result of receiving religious instruction. Why? The researchers suspect there were two primary drivers: optimism and grit.”
    • The researchers in question wrote up their research in Randomizing Religion: The Impact of Protestant Evangelism on Economic Outcomes (Gharad T. Bryan, James J. Choi, Dean Karlan, NBER): “To study the causal impact of religiosity, we partnered with International Care Ministries (ICM), an evangelical Protestant anti-poverty organization that operates in the Philippines, to conduct an evaluation that randomly assigned invitations to attend Christian theology and values training.” The authors are affiliated with the London School of Economics, Yale, and Northwestern. The second author, Choi, is an evangelical Christian.
  3. Dutch Asylum Service Nears 1,000 Hours, With Evangelicals’ Support (Christianity Today): “A marathon worship service held by a church in the Netherlands to shield a family of asylum seekers has garnered worldwide attention. The feat has proved impressive for its longevity alone—now going on six weeks—but also represents a unique ecumenical moment among Christians in the tiny European nation.”
  4. Former Stanford postdoc criticized for creating the world’s first gene-edited babies (Elena Shao, Stanford Daily): “On Nov. 28, He Jianku — a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford from 2011–2012 — announced to hundreds of scientists, colleagues and journalists that he had created the world’s first genetically edited babies: twin girls with the pseudonyms Lulu and Nana whose DNA he claims to have altered to make them HIV-resistant.” FYI Bill Hurlburt, one of the Stanford bioethics experts interviewed in this article, is a solid believer.
  5. Godspeed: The Pace Of Being Known (Vimeo): a frosh brought this 30 minute video to my attention and said it made her think about how she should be living in her dorm. Recommended.
  6. I read two interesting profiles of famous Christians from the past this week:
    • Phillis Wheatley: An Evangelical and the First Published African American Female Poet (Thomas Kidd, Gospel Coalition): “Phillis Wheatley, the first published African American female poet and a devout Christian, died on December 5, 1784. We can’t be sure of her birthdate, because she was born in West Africa and sold into slavery by 1761.”
    • Evangelical retailer John Wanamaker built fortune by blending faith with business (Mark Kellner, Religion News Service): “Wanamaker, who also served four years as postmaster general of the United States, was foremost an evangelical Christian who melded faith and works, specifically the working of his retail empire. While building the first department store in Philadelphia, he also funded the growth of the city’s first megachurch, which featured a range of social services undergirded by a strong evangelistic outreach. He offered young male employees of his store guidance through a YMCA-like program aimed at promoting spiritual discipline. All employees could spend a summer vacation at a church-run resort, albeit with strict behavioral codes.”
  7. Have U.S. Protestants gone soft on alcohol? (Richard Ostling, Patheos): “…from 2007 to 2017 U.S. deaths attributed to alcohol increased 35 percent, and 67 percent among women (while teen deaths declined 16 percent). These fatalities well outnumber those from opioid overdoses that have roused such public concern…. Only 2 percent of evangelicals admitted they sometimes over-indulge.”

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 Land of We All (Richard Mitchell, The Gift of Fire), an essay  built on this insight: “Thinking can not be done corporately. Nations and committees can’t think. That is not only because they have no brains, but because they have no selves, no centers, no souls, if you like. Millions and millions of persons may hold the same thought, or conviction or suspicion, but each and every person of those millions must hold it all alone.” (first shared in volume 2)

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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One thought on “Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 181”

  1. Glen, this is really a comment to last week’s articles, but I think the email I sent you may not have arrived. If it did, and you simply haven’t seen it or responded, no big deal. Not trying to be “pushy” here 🙂 I’m copy/pasting my email below:


    The article about exorcisms and the demonic realm got me thinking about an episode of Mike Heiser’s podcast (highly recommended if you’re not a listener) where he interviews two ladies who work with trauma and mind-control victims to deal with the spiritual dimensions of their journey to healing. The two ladies are named Fern and Audrey, and I’ve got a link to the episode below, but if it doesn’t work, you could find it by searching for their names.

    As a side note, I always enjoy your “interesting things” emails, and look forward to them. They help me read more broadly than I otherwise might, especially serving the community I do, which celebrates neither intellectual curiosity, nor the complexities of our world. We’re not necessarily “backwards” here in that way of the southern pentecostal or baptist caricature that still endures, but there’s a blue-collar “just tell me what the Bible says and what I should do about it” mentality that eschews the need for a great deal of nuance and understanding. I am partly grateful for it, and partly frustrated by it.

    Anyway, blessings to you and your family. I think of you all often, pray for you less than I could, look forward to a reunion in this life or the next, and gladly serve God for the sake of the Gospel with you.

    your brother in Christ,
    Brian the couch sitter

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