Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 242

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.

A lot of links this week. Can you tell I’m on lockdown in the Bay Area? Since some of you are, too, you’ll have time to read them! 😂

Kidding aside, I never assume anyone reads all of these. Skim the links and open the ones that interest you in new tabs, but be sure to open all the amusing stuff at the end — you need it.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Pandemic Visualizers:
  2. Christian Pandemic Perspectives:
    • The Emotional Impact Of Campus Closures (Michele Phoenix, personal blog): “There are few things in life as predictable as one’s college trajectory. From the dreaded freshman-fifteen to changes in academic majors or finding out last minute that you’re two credits short… It all plays out according to an established timeline. Then comes a virus that upends everything and predictability—one of the primary stabilizing factors of our lives—suddenly morphs into a whirlwind of shifting unknowns.”
      • Related: Unfinished narratives (Jessica de la Paz, Stanford Daily): “Everyday there’s another email, and with every email another string of hope we wear hanging around our necks is yanked off, and we’re left with a red impression of where it once was. My immigrant parents who fought tooth and nail for me and my brothers won’t get to see me walk across the stage to get my diploma. There will be no photos or laughter-filled reception.” Jessica is a Chi Alpha student. She is also quoted in this Wall Street Journal article: To Fight Coronavirus, Colleges Sent Students Home. Now Will They Refund Tuition?
    • In Coronavirus Pandemic, Christianity Has Ancient Lessons (Lyman Stone, Foreign Policy): “The modern world has suddenly become reacquainted with the oldest traveling companion of human history: existential dread and the fear of unavoidable, inscrutable death. No vaccine or antibiotic will save us for the time being. Because this experience has become foreign to modern people, we are, by and large, psychologically and culturally underequipped for the current coronavirus pandemic.” Side note: I have very much enjoyed the author on Twitter.
    • Responding to Pandemics: 4 Lessons from Church History (Glen Scrivener, Gospel Coalition): “Plagues intensify the natural course of life. They intensify our own sense of mortality and frailty. They also intensify opportunities to display countercultural, counterconditional love. The church rose to the challenge in the second century, winning both admirers and also converts.” Highly recommended. A longer version is available as a 45 minute YouTube video (which, full confession, I have not watched). 
    • Theological Reflections on the Pandemic (Brian Tabb, Gospel Coalition): “All people—rich and poor, young and old, religious and non-religious—are susceptible to sickness and are certain to die one day. Yet for followers of Jesus, sickness tests our faith, reveals our hope, and moves us to be zealous for good works.”
    • Plague and Providence: What Huldrych Zwingli Taught Me About Trusting God (Stephen Eccher, Gospel Coalition): “I first came across Huldrych Zwingli’s ‘Plague Song’ while studying the Protestant Reformation at the University of St. Andrews: ‘Help, Lord God, help in this trouble! I think death is at the door. Stand before me, Christ, for you have overcome him.’”
    • Does Religion Impact What People Are Afraid Of? (Ryan P. Burge, Religion in Public): “Among Protestants who never attend church, their total number of fears is no different than Catholics at just about sixteen. However, as a Protestant increases their frequency of worship attendance their total number of fears begins to decline. Among Protestants who attend more than once a week, the model predicts just 11.5 fears – which is statistically significant from both low attending Protestants and all Catholics.”
    • This is not the end of the world, according to Christians who study the end of the world (Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “Could this be a sign of the apocalypse? It sure might feel apocalyptic. But not if you ask Christian writers and pastors who have spent years focusing their message on the Book of Revelation — the New Testament’s final book.”
  3. General Pandemic Thinkpieces:
    • Buzz Aldrin has some advice for Americans in quarantine (Eric Berger, Ars Technica): “Buzz Aldrin knows a thing or two about quarantines. After returning from the Moon in 1969, Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins spent 21 days in quarantine to prevent the spread of any contagions they might have brought back from the lunar surface.” Very short. Mildly amusing.
    • NIH Director: ‘We’re on an Exponential Curve’ (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “When I asked him how he sees faith now, in his late 60s, compared with how he saw things in his late 20s, he told me, ‘I think I’ve also arrived at a place where my faith has become a really strong support for dealing with life’s struggles. It took me awhile, I think—that sense that God is sufficient and that I don’t have to be strong in every circumstance.’” Francis Collins is a solid believer who we co-hosted to speak at Stanford around a decade ago. Good interview. Recommended by an alumnus.
    • A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data (John Ioannidis, Stat News): “The most valuable piece of information for answering those questions would be to know the current prevalence of the infection in a random sample of a population and to repeat this exercise at regular time intervals to estimate the incidence of new infections. Sadly, that’s information we don’t have.” The author is a Stanford professor of medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics.
    • China Is Avoiding Blame by Trolling the World (Shadi Hamid, The Atlantic): “A government is not a race. It’s a regime—and easily one of the worst and most brutal in our lifetime. Criticizing authoritarian regimes for what they do outside their own borders and to their own people is simply calling things as they are. To do otherwise is to forgo analysis and accuracy in the name of assuaging a regime that deserves no such consideration.”
      • Related: Don’t blame ‘China’ for the coronavirus — blame the Chinese Communist Party (Josh Rogin, Washington Post): “Let’s stop saying ‘Chinese virus’ — not because everyone who uses it is racist, but because it needlessly plays into the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to divide us and deflect our attention from their bad actions. Let’s just call it the ‘CCP virus.’ That’s more accurate and offends only those who deserve it.”
    • “Dishonesty…Is Always an Indicator of Weakness”: Tucker Carlson on How He Brought His Coronavirus Message to Mar-a-Lago (Joe Hagan, Vanity Fair): “I felt I had a moral obligation to be useful in whatever small way I could, and, you know, I don’t have any actual authority. I’m just a talk show host. But I felt—and my wife strongly felt—that I had a moral obligation to try and be helpful in whatever way possible. I’m not an adviser to the person or anyone else other than my children. And I mean that. And you can ask anybody in the White House or out how many times have I gone to the White House to give my opinion on things. Because I don’t do that. And in general I really disapprove of people straying too far outside their lanes and acting like just because they have solid ratings, they have a right to control public policy. I don’t believe that. I think it’s wrong.” Unexpectedly fascinating.
    • Coronalinks 3/19/20 (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “I’m usually pretty harsh on Bay Area governments here. So I want to give credit where credit is due: they’ve reacted to the coronavirus epidemic with a level of swiftness and ferocity they usually reserve for attempts to build new housing.” I am including the link entirely for that glorious line. The rest is worthwhile, but that line is majestic.
    • Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance (Tomsa Pueyo, Medium): “This is probably the single biggest, most important mistake people make when thinking about this stage: they think it will keep them home for months. This is not the case at all. In fact, it is likely that our lives will go back to close to normal.”
      • The author is quite critical of the USA. Maybe it’s because I live in Silicon Valley and am currently on lockdown, but I think we’re responding pretty aggressively. Honestly, I think we’re doing better than most countries around the world (definitely not Singapore, though — respect to that island technocracy). Also, America often takes a while to mobilize in response to great challenges but once we do the strength of our response is staggering. We engage in relentless and public self-criticism that leads us to overcompensate; for example, the news keep emphasizing that we are pitifully behind on test kits. It is true that we were inexcusably behind. However, our capacity for testing is exploding — precisely because everyone believes we are pitifully behind. There remain other areas in which we are still falling flat, and they are having bright spotlights trained upon them. So I’m cautiously optimistic. Things will be bad but not nearly as bad as they could have been. For all of her faults, America is still pretty amazing.
      • Also, the author inexplicably trusts China’s reports about their current levels of infection. Given extremely recent history, that is perplexing.
    • Why Telling People They Don’t Need Masks Backfired (Zeynep Tufekci, New York Times): “It used to be said that back in the Soviet Union, if there was a line, you first got in line and then figured out what the line was for — people knew that there were going to be shortages and that the authorities often lied, so they hoarded.” The author is a professor at UNC. Recommended by a student.
    • We’re not going back to normal (Gideon Lichfield, MIT Technology Review): “…one can imagine a world in which, to get on a flight, perhaps you’ll have to be signed up to a service that tracks your movements via your phone. The airline wouldn’t be able to see where you’d gone, but it would get an alert if you’d been close to known infected people or disease hot spots. There’d be similar requirements at the entrance to large venues, government buildings, or public transport hubs. There would be temperature scanners everywhere, and your workplace might demand you wear a monitor that tracks your temperature or other vital signs.” Shared by a concerned student.
  4. Non-pandemic (YES!!!!):
    • Book Review: Hoover (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Herbert Hoover is the first student at Stanford. Not just a member of the first graduating class. Literally the first student. He arrives at the dorms two months early to get a head start on various money-making schemes, including distributing newspapers, delivering laundry, tending livestock, and helping other students register. He would later sell some of these businesses to other students and start more, operating a constant churn of enterprises throughout his college career. His academics remain mediocre, and he continues to have few friends – until he tries out for the football team in sophomore year. He has zero athletic talent and fails miserably, but the coach (whose eye for talent apparently transcends athletics) spots potential in Hoover and asks him to come on as team manager. In this role, Hoover is an unqualified success. He turns the team’s debt into a surplus, and starts the Big Game – a UC Berkeley vs. Stanford football match played on Thanksgiving which remains a beloved Stanford football tradition.” Long but good (if you are interested in Stanford, presidential history, or clever thoughts).
      • Related: Scott Alexander on Herbert Hoover (Scott Sumner, The Library of Economics and Liberty): “Hoover was not the most talented person to ever become President, but he was probably the most competent. Unfortunately, his areas of competence did not dovetail with the problems facing the US during the early 1930s. Hoover was very good at organizing large endeavors, but the problems faced by the US during the early 1930s were macroeconomic in nature. Unfortunately, being a good administrator doesn’t have much correlation with understanding macroeconomics.”
    • ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ at the Museum of the Bible are all forgeries (Michael Greshko, National Geographic): “Loll insisted on independence. Not only would the Museum of the Bible have no say on the team’s findings, her report would be final—and would have to be released to the public. The Museum of the Bible agreed to the terms. ‘Honestly, I’ve never worked with a museum that was so up-front,’ Loll says.”
      • The Museum of the Bible comes off looking pretty good in this article. I feel bad for them.
    • Porn Restriction for Realists (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “…a world where the tube-sites are gone and people must go back to paying for their porn is a significant improvement over the world we live in now. This world is possible: it existed two decades ago. Technological change is part of what happened, but only part. Just as important in the creation of the new, porn-flushed world we live are legal protections given to websites like PornHub and X Hamster which allow them to dodge liability for the theft their business model is based on. It also allows them to dodge liability for much worse sins.”
    • Learning From History: How Congress Can Protect Both Rights and Beliefs (Don Bonker, RealClearReligion): “Back in 1984, I received an unexpected call from Senator Mark Hatfield (R‑OR), a highly regarded Republican who chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. I wondered, why would he call a young Democrat who had no significant position and little influence in the halls of Congress?”

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 Everything That’s Wrong Of Raccoons (Mallory Ortberg, The Toast): “Once when my dog died a passel of raccoons showed up in the backyard as if to say ‘Now that he’s gone, we own the night,’ and they didn’t flinch when I yelled at them, and I found it disrespectful to 1) me personally and 2) the entire flow of the food chain. Don’t disrespect me if you can’t eat me, you false-night-dogs.” (first shared in volume 97)

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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