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 one is coming out extra-early today because my schedule has been and will continue to be absurdly busy for the next bit. Prayers appreciated!
Things Glen Found Interesting
- How lawyers are distorting religious freedom (Asma Uddin, Deseret News): “Last summer, the court decided Trump v. Hawaii (the travel ban case) only three weeks after it decided Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which involved a Christian baker who refused on religious grounds to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple…. The stark contrast in the court’s approach to anti-religious hostility raised the question: Does religious freedom apply equally to Muslims and Christians? But in all the panic and punditry that ensued, Americans overlooked a critical factor: The lawyers challenging the ban left out legal arguments under the Free Exercise Clause that, if not omitted, might have changed the outcome.” This is a very good (and somewhat discouraging) op-ed.
- Literature as Flattery (James McElroy, American Affairs Journal): “Contemporary American literature is creatively exhausted because free indirect style places the reader above the characters…. Characters have to be blind to the obvious for the story to work. We are told this style is all about engendering empathy, but in actuality it functions by creating stunted characters. The reader is trained to look down at others, and the writer becomes obsequious to the oh-so-intelligent readers’ egos, always telling them, ‘Look how smart you are.’”
- The APA Meeting: A Photo-Essay (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Were there really more than twice as many sessions on global warming as on obsessive compulsive disorder? Three times as many on immigration as on ADHD? As best I can count, yes. I don’t want to exaggerate this. There was still a lot of really meaty scientific discussion if you sought it out. But overall the balance was pretty striking…. If you want to model the APA, you could do worse than a giant firehose that takes in pharmaceutical company money at one end, and shoots lectures about social justice out the other.” This is funny, rambling, insightful commentary on the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting.
- Two Stanford stories:
- What I Learned When I Called Out an Anti-Semitic Cartoonist at Stanford Earlier This Month (Ari Hoffman, Mosaic): “Perhaps my most surprising realization was how few are those willing to speak publicly, under their own name. After my op-ed appeared, some individuals approached me to say they agreed with me but didn’t have the necessary eloquence to speak out. To them I would reply: what matters is not poetics but principles.” What I found fascinating about this article is how universal the principles he articulates are. If you are a Christian debating whether and how to speak out about an issue that grieves you, you will find helpful advice here.
- From Midwest Drug Dealer to The Farm: Jason Spyres Shares His Inspiring Story (Yasmin Samrai, Stanford Review): “To justify his criminal behaviour, he told himself that though selling pot was illegal, it wasn’t immoral. This theory came crashing down when two gangs broke into his house, split his head open, and robbed him. When Spyres discovered that the burglars had nearly mistaken his house for his neighbor’s, he realized that selling drugs put other people’s safety in jeopardy. ‘I was shocked and sickened with myself,’ he recalled. ‘I was part of a black market and my actions had unintended consequences.’” What a wild story.
- The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “The numbers in Iraq are especially stark: Before the American invasion, as many as 1.4 million Christians lived in the country. Today, fewer than 250,000 remain—an 80 percent drop in less than two decades.” Recommended by a student.
- Religious Men Can Be Devoted Dads, Too (W. Bradford Wilcox, Jason S. Carroll & Laurie DeRose, New York Times): “It turns out that feminism and faith both have high expectations of husbands and fathers, if for very different ideological reasons, and that both result in higher-quality marriages for women.”
- The title is funny and was probably not chosen by the authors (that’s usually the case in newspapers). This op-ed is a summary of some findings from their larger report The Ties That Bind: Is Faith a Global Force for Good or Ill in the Family? , where they discover, among other things, that “When it comes to relationship quality in heterosexual relationships, highly religious couples enjoy higher-quality relationships and more sexual satisfaction, compared to less/mixed religious couples and secular couples. For instance, women in highly religious relationships are about 50% more likely to report that they are strongly satisfied with their sexual relationship than their secular and less religious counterparts.”
- Why Christianity Quit Growing in Korea (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, The Gospel Coalition): “By 1970, 18 percent of the population was Christian; by 2000, it was 31 percent. (Those counts include Protestants and Catholics.) By 2006, South Korea was sending out more missionaries than any other country except the much-larger United States. By 2015, Seoul was behind only Houston and Dallas in number of megachurches—and Seoul’s were much larger…. And then, things stalled. Growth slowed way down, and church attendance began to shrink.” A long and very interesting article.
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- Infographic: How To Escape A Prayer Circle (Babylon Bee): click through for this one.
- Once Again I Have Fractured My Communication Device (Strange Planet)
- It Is Where I Collect The Filth Of My Friends (Strange Planet)
- Worthless Suggestions (Dilbert)
- Why Teenagers Are God’s Revenge (Jeff Allen, YouTube): four minutes. The first twenty seconds are the best.
- The America I Grew Up In (Jeff Allen, YouTube): five minutes.
- Mind2Mind show off their PSYCHIC POWERS! (Britain’s Got Talent, YouTube): five minutes
- Samsung deepfake AI could fabricate a video clip of you from a single photo (Joan Solsman, CNET): “Now Samsung has developed a new artificial intelligence system that can generate a fake clip by feeding it a little as one photo. The technology, of course, can be used for fun, like bringing a classic portrait to life. The Mona Lisa, whose enigmatic smile is animated in three different videos to demonstrate the new technology, exists solely as a single still image.” Well that’s not terrifying at all. Does this belong in this “less serious” section? I am unsure.
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have the provocative “In Defense of Flogging” (Peter Moskos, Chronicle of Higher Education) — the author is a former police officer and now a criminologist at the City University of New York. This one was first shared back before I started sending these emails in a blog post called Punishment.
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.
UPDATE: I mistakenly attributed the story about Jason Spyres to the Stanford Daily. It was actually in the Stanford Review. I’ve corrected the offending paragraph.