Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 200

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. The big news this week is the horrific attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Here are some of the responses that caught my interest:
    • Sri Lankan Sunday School Was ‘Willing to Die for Christ’ on Easter. Half Did. (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “During Sunday School, [Prabha] had talked to the children about the importance of repentance and receiving Jesus as Lord. Because a recent vehicle accident had claimed the lives of six Zion Church members, he had referred to that event and challenged the children, asking them if they would be willing to even die for Jesus. All the children had responded by putting their hands up and signalled their fresh dedication to Jesus by lighting a symbolic candle. For so many of those children it would be their final act of worship (2 Timothy 6:6–8).” WOW
    • Are Christians Privileged or Persecuted? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “But if the equation of traditional Christianity with privilege has some relevance to the actual Euro-American situation, when applied globally it’s a gross category error…. One of the basic facts of contemporary religious history is that Christians around the world are persecuted on an extraordinary scale — by mobs and pogroms in India, jihadists and United States-allied governments in the Muslim world, secular totalitarians in China and North Korea. Yet as an era-defining reality rather than an episodic phenomenon this reality is barely visible in the Western media, and rarely called by name and addressed head-on by Western governments and humanitarian institutions. (‘Islamophobia’ looms large; talk of ‘Christophobia’ is almost nonexistent.)”
    • When Christians Are Under Attack, Muslims and the Left Need to Defend Them (Mehdi Hasan): “I am a Muslim, and I consider myself to be on the left, but I’m embarrassed to admit that in both Muslim and left circles, the issue of Christian persecution has been downplayed and even ignored for far too long.”
    • Why Conservatives Are So Angry About Obama’s Reference to “Easter Worshippers” (Ruth Graham, Slate): “I would argue that it takes a true savant of exquisitely attuned grievance collection to read an individual reference to ‘Easter worshippers’ as an attempt to avoid acknowledging Christianity. Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar. ‘Easter’ has no other meaning.”
    • Sri Lanka attacks: St Anthony’s ‘church of miracles’ a symbol of hope (Ayeshea Perara, BBC): “Among those gathered outside the church is Prabath Buddhika. Although Mr Buddhika is Buddhist by religion, like many others, he is a strong believer in the power of St Anthony. ‘My house is right here,’ he said, adding that he’d been attending the church since he was a child and gone along with his family many times.”
    • Why Sri Lanka Was Probably Not Retaliation for Christchurch (Graeme Wood, The Atlantic): “The bombings in Sri Lanka were among the more spectacular in the history of terrorism, and they almost certainly took more planning than would have been possible in the past five weeks. (It may seem easy to get several guys to push detonator buttons all at once, in several different locations. But terrorists are often bumblers, and the more complicated the plan, the greater the chance of disruption.)”
  2. What About Capitalizing Pronouns Referring to God? (Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspectives Ministries): “I have had to fight to get Heaven capitalized in my books, arguing that it is a proper noun, and just as real a place as Saturn or France. I argue the same for capitalizing the New Earth—if we capitalize New England, why not the redeemed creation that Scripture calls the ‘New Earth’?”
    • This is a very thoughtful perspective on honoring God with your written words.
  3. Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind (Rachel Kushner, New York Times): “If prison, in its philosophical origin, was meant as a humane alternative to beatings or torture or death, it has transformed into a fixed feature of modern life, one that is not known, even by its supporters and administrators, for its humanity.”
  4. On Easter Sunday, Louisiana church looks to rebuild from fires (Ashley Cusick, Washington Post via SF Gate): “We got $1,000 from an atheist,” Toussaint said with a laugh. ‘He said he didn’t believe in God, but he don’t believe in burning buildings down, either.’”
  5. How angry pilots got the Navy to stop dismissing UFO sightings (Deanna Paul, Washington Post via SF Gate): “A recent uptick in sightings of unidentified flying objects — or as the military calls them, ‘unexplained aerial phenomena’ — prompted the Navy to draft formal procedures for pilots to document encounters, a corrective measure that former officials say is long overdue.”
    • This being 2019, this is somehow not the most interesting story in the news.
  6. And now for some stuff about the major American political parties, with particular attention to religious dynamics:
    • Franklin Graham and the High Cost of the Lost Evangelical Witness (David French, National Review): “The proper Evangelical position toward any president is not hard to articulate, though it is exceedingly difficult to hold to, especially in polarized times when one party seems set on limiting religious liberty and zealously defending abortion: We should pray for presidents, critique them when they’re wrong, praise them when they’re right, and never, ever impose partisan double standards.”
    • The Religious Composition of the Two Major Parties (Ryan Burge, Religion in Public): “…neither of the two major parties in the United States are dominated by one specific religious group. I know that tons of articles are written the link between evangelicals and Republicans, but the data indicates that over two thirds of Republicans today are not evangelicals. The same is essentially true for Democrats as well. The largest group for them (the nones) make up just three in ten Democrats today.”
    • Related: The Devout And The Nones (Mark Movsesian, First Things): “Consider, for example, the percentage of Americans who report that their religious affiliation is ‘Strong.’ This percentage has fluctuated a bit over the decades, but the most recent survey puts it at 34 percent, a number that has remained basically unchanged since 1975, when 35 percent of Americans reported a strong religious affiliation. Apparently, the rise of the Nones is not attributable to a decline in religious enthusiasm among the most strongly committed.”
    • Meet Stanford’s Congressional Freshmen (Jean Yung, Dave Sloane, & Timothy Weatherhead, Stanford Magazine): interesting brief profiles of the five Stanford alumni who were recently elected to the national legislature. Two Democratic representatives, two Republican representatives, and one Republican Senator.
    • Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too. (Joseph Cox and Jason Koebler, Motherboard): “When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.”
      • I get the impression the authors think this is evidence that Republicans really are white supremacists and that the algorithms see clearly without the social pressure that holds back truth-tellers. I suspect they have the exact opposite approach to machine learning when it delivers racist results. I’m spitballing here, but maybe the better response is distrust algorithms a little more whenever they confirm your biases. Just a thought.
  7. Half of Americans Say Evangelicals Are Discriminated Against (Griffin Paul Jackson, Christianity Today): “Americans’ perceptions of discrimination tend to be partisan. For instance, 7 in 10 Americans on the political right say evangelical Christians are subject to discrimination, while less than half as many (32%) left-leaning Americans agree.”

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 haveLetter To My Younger Self (Ryan Leaf, The Player’s Tribune): “Congratulations. You officially have it all — money, power and prestige. All the things that are important, right?… That’s you, young Ryan Leaf, at his absolute finest: arrogant, boorish and narcissistic. You think you’re on top of the world and that you’ve got all the answers. Well I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the truth is….” Such a gripping letter. Highly recommended. (first shared in volume 99)

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. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

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