Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 190

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. Inside the Secret Facebook War For Mormon Hearts and Minds (Kevin Poulson, The Daily Beast): “We may be resigned to faceless corporations buying their way into our thoughts, but are we ready for a world where our neighbors and in-laws can do the same?” Genius and super-interesting.
  2. The scandal of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches:
    • Part One: Abuse of Faith (Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco, Houston Chronicle): “In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state. They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions. About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending.”
    • Part Two: Offend, then repeat (Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco, Houston Chronicle): ”No religion is immune to sexual misconduct in its ranks. But unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which is wrestling with its own sex-abuse scandal, Baptists don’t answer to a pope or bishop. Local church autonomy is a bedrock foundation of Baptist faith. There’s no diocese that assigns priests to a parish. Instead, each church is responsible for ordaining and hiring its own ministers.”
    • Part Three: Preying On Teens (Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco, Houston Chronicle): “More than 100 Southern Baptists described as former youth pastors or youth ministers are now in prison, are registered as sex offenders or have been charged with sex crimes, the newspapers found. Their most common targets were teenage girls and boys, though smaller children also were molested, sometimes in pastors’ studies and Sunday school rooms.”
    • Southern Baptists and the Scandal of Church Sexual Abuse (Russell Moore, personal blog): “Jesus does not cover up sin within the temple of his presence. He brings everything hidden to light. We should too. When we downplay or cover over what has happened in the name of Jesus to those he loves we are not “protecting” Jesus’ reputation. We are instead fighting Jesus himself. No church should be frustrated by the Houston Chronicle’s reporting, but should thank God for it. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be far less reticent than a newspaper series to uncover what should never have been hidden.” — he also wrote an op-ed for the New York Times a few days after this: Southern Baptists Face Their #MeToo Moment (Russell Moore, New York Times).
    • The Reality of Sexual Abuse Hits Home: What Happened? What Do We Do Now? (Al Mohler, personal blog): “Southern Baptists, by instinct, have practiced a form of moralism that views sexual misbehavior as an isolated event—deal with it and move on. This simplistic moralism reduces sexual abuse and glosses over the severity of the crime. Sexual abuse is not an isolated act of misbehavior; it leaves in its wake scarred victims as well as malicious victimizers. Abuse of this nature snowballs.” This article has some insightful commentary on the unique challenges facing the Southern Baptists because of their structure.
    • Evangelical Apocalypse (Dale M. Coulter, First Things): “As one denominational leader pointed out to me, ministers brought up on charges and dismissed from one denomination have simply gone to another for credentials. It’s not just laity who take advantage of evangelicalism’s big tent to move around. These open networks for ministerial movement from one part of evangelicalism to another allow sexual abusers to escape judgment and start over. We don’t need a database of sexual abusers for the Southern Baptist Convention, we need it for evangelicalism as a whole.” I don’t know how feasible that specific suggestion is, but I do know Coulter is pointing out a real and very hard-to-address problem.
    • In a different neck of the woods: Why Does the Catholic Church Keep Failing on Sexual Abuse? (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “O’Malley’s career, with all of its successes and frustrations, illuminates why the sex-abuse crisis has once again subsumed the Catholic Church—and why this institution, one of the world’s great moral authorities, has been incapable of solving one of the most morally straightforward problems of our time.”
  3. Bill Gates tweeted out a chart and sparked a huge debate about global poverty (Dylan Matthews, Vox): “Hickel argues that focusing on data showing declines in global poverty does political work on behalf of global capitalism, defending an inherently unjust global system that has failed residents of rich and poor nations alike. Pinker agrees that the data supports the idea that capitalism is working for the world’s poorest, and says that’s a decisive rebuttal of Hickel’s narrative of enduring persecution.”
  4. An African-American Woman Reflects on the Transgender Movement (Nuriddeen Knight, Public Discourse): “Paradoxically, the more our society tries to free itself from gender stereotypes, the more it becomes enslaved to them. By saying that people can be born in a body of the wrong gender, transgender activists are saying there is a set of feelings that are only allocated to women and another set for men. Therefore, they believe, those who feel things that do not conform to their sex’s acceptable set of feelings must outwardly change their gender to match their mind.”
  5. Trevor Noah on Liam Neeson’s Racist Confession (YouTube): much more thoughtful than anything else I have come across.
  6. A (Not So) Secular Saint (James K.A. Smith, Los Angeles Review of Books): “Mill’s legacy was effectively ‘edited’ by his philosophical and political disciples, excising any hint of religious life. One would never know from the canon in our philosophy departments, for example, that Mill wrote an appreciative essay on ‘Theism.’”
    • I am pretty sure I shared a similar link before, but I can’t find it searching my archives. Maybe I cut it at the last minute one week. Fascinating regardless.
  7. Science Is The Evangelical Trophy Wife (David Heddle, personal blog): “In many evangelical circles, science has become a trophy wife. Put her front and center, and show her beauty in, say, the form of Hubble nebulae photographs, with the requisite Psalm 19:1 caption, but do not ever let her speak, for she is likely to embarrass you. Her theological utility is only in the pleasant optics, not in the substance.” Beautiful title.

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 Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis [pdf link] (Carol Hill, Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith): “Joseph and Joshua were each recorded as dying at age 110—a number considered ‘perfect’ by the Egyptians. In ancient Egyptian doctrine, the phrase ‘he died aged 110’ was actually an epitaph commemorating a life that had been lived selflessly and had resulted in outstanding social and moral benefit for others. And so for both Joseph and Joshua, who came out of the Egyptian culture, quoting this age was actually a tribute to their character. But, to be described as ‘dying at age 110’ bore no necessary relationship to the actual time of an individual’s life span.” You will not agree with everything in this article, but it is full of fascinating insights. (first shared in volume 51)

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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