Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 185

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

In case you’re wondering: I just don’t find stories about the Russia investigation or the government shutdown interesting. I think they’re important, but few people are writing things about them that catch my attention. Recommendations are welcome.

Also, one of you mentioned that you sometimes can’t open the links. If you, being a broke college student, ever can’t access an article because of a paywall, try putting in front of the link. I did it for the first article as an example. Having said that, please support journalism once you are able.

  1. Is Marijuana as Safe as We Think? (Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker): “The authors assumed that alcohol use among students would be a predictor of violent behavior, and that marijuana use would predict the opposite. In fact, those who used only marijuana were three times more likely to be physically aggressive than abstainers were; those who used only alcohol were 2.7 times more likely to be aggressive. Observational studies like these don’t establish causation. But they invite the sort of research that could.”
    • This Reporter Took a Deep Look Into the Science of Smoking Pot. What He Found Is Scary. (Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones): “I smoked plenty of weed in high school and so did all my friends, and none of us jumped off a balcony or killed anyone—we could barely get off the couch. But the marijuana sold today is not what we smoked, which at 1 percent to 2 percent THC was the equivalent of smoking oregano. Today’s weed is insanely more potent, as are products like “wax” and “shatter”—forms of butane hash oil designed to be vaped or dabbed that come pretty close to 100 percent THC. And these high-potency products usually contain very little CBD oil, the ingredient in cannabis that’s supposed to account for many of its supposed health benefits.”
  2. Is Sunscreen the New Margarine? (Rowan Jacobsen, Outside): “People of color rarely get melanoma. The rate is 26 per 100,000 in Caucasians, 5 per 100,000 in Hispanics, and 1 per 100,000 in African Americans. On the rare occasion when African Americans do get melanoma, it’s particularly lethal—but it’s mostly a kind that occurs on the palms, soles, or under the nails and is not caused by sun exposure. At the same time, African Americans suffer high rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, internal cancers, and other diseases that seem to improve in the presence of sunlight, of which they may well not be getting enough. Because of their genetically higher levels of melanin, they require more sun exposure to produce compounds like vitamin D, and they are less able to store that vitamin for darker days. They have much to gain from the sun and little to fear.”
  3. Leaving Religion at Home: Engaging Religious Thought and Action in American Society (Nathalie Kiersznowski, Stanford Politics): “People’s beliefs about the world will inevitably influence their positions on issues like morality, politics, dress, gender, sex and more. Similarly, politicians will naturally support legislation in accordance with their values, religious or not. Many politicians, like Vice President Mike Pence, have faced criticism for allowing religion to shape their political decisions. It would be unwarranted, though, to expect Pence to act ‘un-Christian’ or ‘non-religious’ exclusively at his place of work. The notion of having both a ‘secular public self’ and a ‘religious private self’ is impossible: any private value system will influence decisions throughout all areas of life.”
  4. The case for going to bed at 2:30 am (Kate Shellnut, Vox): “My faith doused our cultural preference for early birds with biblical backing, too, making me feel even guiltier. Within American evangelicalism, many expect faithful Christians to dedicate the ‘first fruits’ of each day to ‘quiet time’ with the Lord (prayers, devotional reading, Bible study). Researchers even found people to be more ‘spiritually aware’ early in the mornings. Faced with these expectations, I really did question whether my habits were sinful: Was I being selfish by staying up late? Was I putting productivity over the natural patterns of work and rest?”
  5. China’s Gulag for Muslims (Mustafa Akyol, New York Times): “…Russia’s gulags are long gone, as is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that operated them. But now another dictatorship, ruled by another Communist Party, is operating a new chain of prisons that evoke memory of the gulags — more modern, more high-tech, but no less enslaving.”
    • Where Did the One Million Figure for Detentions in Xinjiang’s Camps Come From? (Jessica Batke, ChinaFile): “Two key studies independently arrived around the one million mark, by using limited data samples to estimate what percentage of the ethnic minority Muslim population is detained. Both studies arrive at a detention rate of 10 percent —at least in some areas of Xinjiang—suggesting that just over one million of the region’s 11 million ethnic Uighur population could be in the camps.”
  6. Conquerors of the Courts (David Montgomery, Washington Post): “The society itself lobbies for no policies; it never signs amicus briefs or represents clients in cases. No one at Federalist Society headquarters in Washington dictated Barnett’s moves or told him how to advocate for what positions. It’s just that at a few gatherings made possible by the Federalist Society that Barnett happened to attend, synapses fired, a corner of the hive mind engaged, and Barnett took it from there. Multiply that chemistry tens of thousands of times over the past 36 years and you have the Federalist Society’s true source of power.”
  7. Elected leaders who weaponize religion are playing a dangerous game (Tulsi Gabbard, The Hill): “While I absolutely believe in the separation of church and state as a necessity to the health of our nation, no American should be asked to renounce his or her faith or membership in a faith-based, service organization in order to hold public office.” Gabbard is a Democratic congresswoman representing Hawaii.

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 unfortunately date-specific Reading The Whole Bible in 2016: A FAQ (Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor): “There are about 775,000 words in the Bible. Divided by 365, that’s 2,123 words a day. The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute. So 2,123 words/day divided by 225 words/minute equals 9.4 minutes a day.” This article is full of good advice for what could be the best commitment you make all year. Do it! (first shared in volume 31 — useful for any year)

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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