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
- I Pray for Refugees Because I Was One. And God Was Faithful. (Sunday Htoo, Christianity Today): “When I was in the jungle and running for my life, I felt that I would be safe. I felt that someone I did not know was praying for me. Someone is running for their life right now in Burma, or another country torn by war. Please pray for him, for her, for the children, for the elderly, and for a woman who may be pregnant. Your prayer is full of meaning.” If you ignore every other article to which I link this week, read this.
- Relevant: Migrant children describe neglect at Texas border facility (Cedar Attanasio, Garance Burke and Martha Mendoza, AP News): “‘In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,’ said Holly Cooper, who co‐directs University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth…. the Border Patrol is holding 15,000 people, and the agency considers 4,000 to be at capacity.”
- Also: Is it Christian or illegal to aid migrants? A hung Tucson jury, a fork in the road of faith (Brian McLaren, USA Today): “religious liberty means the freedom to save refugees in the desert.” I met McLaren once and had a nice conversation with him. There is zero chance he remembers me. There are parts of this op‐ed with which I strenuously disagree, recommended nonetheless.
- The Illiberal Right Throws a Tantrum (Adam Serwer, The Atlantic): “The American creed has no more devoted adherents than those who have been historically denied its promises, and no more fair‐weather friends than those who have taken them for granted.”
- In response: Is The Religious Right Privileged? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Politically, liberalism has imposed via the judiciary, the least democratic branch, a constitutional right to abortion, a form of lethal violence that the church opposes for the same reasons it opposes infanticide — and after 50 years of small‐d democratic activism by pro‐lifers, the pro‐choice side seems to be hardening into a view that such activism is as un‐American as racism. Legally, elite liberalism is increasingly embracing arguments that would make it difficult or impossible for the church to operate hospitals and adoption agencies today, and perhaps colleges and grammar schools tomorrow. And in its internal life, beneath the post‐Protestant tendency I’ve just described, progressive politics is also nurturing a fashionable occultism, whose rituals may be practiced somewhat ironically or performatively but whose anti‐Catholicism seems quite sincere.”
- Related: Two Painful Truths of America’s Religious Culture War (David French, National Review): “Here are two painful truths: Secular government is breaking its promise of liberty, and the American church is breaking its promise of virtue.”
- What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane (William Langewiesche, The Atlantic): “The idea that a sophisticated machine, with its modern instruments and redundant communications, could simply vanish seems beyond the realm of possibility. It is hard to permanently delete an email, and living off the grid is nearly unachievable even when the attempt is deliberate. A Boeing 777 is meant to be electronically accessible at all times…. All sorts of theorists have made claims, amplified by social media, that ignore the satellite data, and in some cases also the radar tracks, the aircraft systems, the air‐traffic‐control record, the physics of flight, and the basic contours of planetary geography. ” Recommended by a student (and, it seems, half the internet — this is widely considered a must‐read article). The author is a professional pilot and a veteran journalist
- ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ has become the unofficial anthem of the anti‐extradition protest movement (Kenneth Tan, Shanghaiist): “Alarmed by reports of police brutality, many church groups galvanized to participate in peace protests, calling on the authorities to stop the violence. Their presence on the front lines of the protests were helpful in making the demonstrations look more like an outdoor worship service rather than the ‘organized riots’ the government said it had to crack down on to bring back law and order.”
- Related: A new kind of Hong Kong activism emerges as protesters mobilize without any leaders (Alice Su, LA Times): “This time around, protesters are deliberately leaderless, Leung said. ‘It looks quite organized and well‐disciplined. But I’m quite sure you cannot find anyone managing the whole thing,’ Leung said, adding that the protesters’ logistical practices — bringing supplies, setting up medical stations, rapid mass communication — were ‘in‐built’ from the last few years of practice. ‘It’s just like a machine or a self‐learning AI that can run by themselves,’ he said.”
- Related: check out this drone footage of the protests (3 minutes, YouTube).
- Reparations came up in the House of Representatives on Juneteenth. Here are two testimonies that caught a lot of attention:
- Read Ta‐Nehisi Coates’s Testimony on Reparations (Olivia Paschal & Madeleine Carlisle, The Atlantic): “The typical black family in this country has one‐tenth the wealth of the typical white family. Black women die in childbirth at four times the rate of white women. And there is, of course, the shame of this land of the free boasting the largest prison population on the planet, of which the descendants of the enslaved make up the largest share. The matter of reparations is one of making amends and direct redress, but it is also a question of citizenship.” (or watch the five minute video on YouTube)
- My Testimony On Reparations (Coleman Hughes, Quillette): “But the people who were owed for slavery are no longer here, and we’re not entitled to collect on their debts. Reparations, by definition, are only given to victims. So the moment you give me reparations, you’ve made me into a victim without my consent. Not just that: you’ve made one‐third of black Americans—who consistently poll against reparations—into victims without their consent, and black Americans have fought too long for the right to define themselves to be spoken for in such a condescending manner.” (or watch the six minute video on YouTube)
- Somewhat, kinda related: ‘Affirmative Action Is Not About Equality. It’s About Covering Ass.’ (Evan Goldstein,Chronicle Review): “What happened is that I went through a trauma. I was accused of assaulting a woman with whom I was having an extramarital affair. I was publicly humiliated. I had to withdraw an appointment as undersecretary of education in the last years of Reagan’s second term. I was a crack‐cocaine addict; it almost killed me. My wife at the time, God bless her, stayed with me, and we subsequently had two fine sons. But at the time, I was dying. I found Jesus. I got my life together. They stuck with me at the Kennedy School, but I just couldn’t bear the feeling of condescension.” This is an interview with Glenn Loury, who was the first black tenured econ professor at Harvard. He is now an economist at Brown.
- Ideology and Facts Collide at Oberlin College (Daniel McGraw, Quillette): “It slowly became evident that this case was not about free expression and assembly or racial injustice and civil rights. It was about something more banal. A cowardly college administration picked on a small and vulnerable business in an attempt to fend off accusations of racism it was facing from its own students.”
- Honestly, this Twitter thread about it is even better. Jaw‐dropping details. Read it first and then the above article if you want a more well‐rounded narrative.
- How Should Christians Have Sex? (Katelyn Beaty, New York Times): “I long for more robust categories of right and wrong besides consent — a baseline, but only that — and more than a general reminder not to be a jerk. I can get that from Dan Savage, but I also want to know what Jesus thinks.”
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- My Boris Johnson Story (Jeremy Vine, Spectator): “Brilliant. The whole room is hooting and cheering. It no longer matters that Boris has no script, no plan, no idea of what event he is attending, and that he seems to be taking the whole thing off the top of his head. I realise that I am in the presence of genius.” Amazing and hilarious. You have to read to the end.
- GIANCARLO BERNINI on FOOL US — THE TIME MACHINE! (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): 10 minutes. I was particularly interested by the fact that the performer is both a Christian and a university student.
- Penn and Teller Fool Us Ondrej Psenicka (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): 10 minutes.
- Penn & Teller Fool Us Jan Reinder (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): 9 minutes
- Jesus Reminds Nation He Will One Day Burn All The American Flags And Also Everything Else (Babylon Bee)
- Harvard Teaches Incoming Students Valuable Life Lesson That People Can Never Change (Babylon Bee)
- Report: Internet Users Who Call For Attacking Other Countries Will Now Be Enlisted In The Military Automatically (Babylon Bee): this reminds me of Starship Troopers (the book).
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have A One Parameter Equation That Can Exactly Fit Any Scatter Plot (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Overfitting is possible with just one parameter and so models with fewer parameters are not necessarily preferable even if they fit the data as well or better than models with more parameters.” Researchers take note. The underlying mathematics paper is well‐written and interesting: One Parameter Is Always Enough (Steven T. Piantadosi) — among other things, it points out that you can smuggle in arbitrarily large amounts of data into an equation through a single parameter because a number can have infinite digits. Obvious once stated, but I don’t know that it ever would have occurred to me. First shared in volume 154.
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.