Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 244

Theological perspectives on the pandemic, some interesting news tidbits, the state of Stanford athletic fandom, and a good reminder that Mormonism is not a Christian denomination.

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. Christian Coronavirus Perspectives
    • Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus (N.T. Wright, Time): “Supposing real human wisdom doesn’t mean being able to string together some dodgy speculations and say, ‘So that’s all right then?’ What if, after all, there are moments such as T. S. Eliot recognized in the early 1940s, when the only advice is to wait without hope, because we’d be hoping for the wrong thing? Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament.”
      • Please remember that authors do not usually pick the headlines for their articles. In this case especially the level of mismatch between the title and the article is striking.
    • Surprised by Hopelessness: A Response to NT Wright (Andy Davis, The Gospel Coalition): “Despite what T. S. Eliot says, Christians know exactly what to hope for. We’ve been clearly instructed by God’s prophetic Word, and therefore, we should be radiant with hope—an unshakable conviction that the future is indescribably bright. The world is ‘without hope and without God’ (Eph. 2:14); so when Christians radiate hope, the world notices and is moved to ask us to give a reason for the hope within us (1 Pet. 3:15).”
    • Like the Merchants of Babylon (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “The Bible tells us that God’s dealings with mankind are often mysterious, and so we should never rush to glib explanations. But His works are not absolutely inscrutable. When Jesus rebuked the people for misreading the collapse of the tower of Siloam, and for the incident where Pilate killed the men of Galilee (Luke 13:1–5), He rebuked them, not for reading meaning into the story, but for having read the wrong meaning into the story.”
    • How An Evil Virus Points to the Crushing Weight of the Fall (David French, The Dispatch): “Last night, my wife and I were walking through our neighborhood and saw a pastor friend in his backyard. We stopped him and had a lovely conversation while maintaining proper social distancing from the sidewalk. As we shared our own burdens and stresses, he made an important observation – this moment demonstrates so clearly our need for a savior. By that, he meant far, far more than the idea that we need some of that ‘old-time religion’ before we meet our maker. No, he meant that a broken world eagerly awaits the redemption declared in Revelations 21, when the Lord declares, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”
    • The Book of Common Prayer: Prayers for Plagues and Times of Great Sickness (Richard Beck, personal blog): “Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality; that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
    • The Apocalypse as an ‘Unveiling’: What Religion Teaches Us About the End Times (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “For people of many faiths, and even none at all, it can feel lately like the end of the world is near. Not only is there a plague, but hundreds of billions of locusts are swarming East Africa. Wildfires have ravaged Australia, killing an untold number of animals. A recent earthquake in Utah even shook the Salt Lake Temple to the top of its iconic spire, causing the golden trumpet to fall from the angel Moroni’s right hand.”
  2. General Coronavirus Commentary
    • Tips from someone with 50 years of social distancing experience (Rae Ellen Bichell, Minnesota Public Radio): “Keep track of something…. In the era of COVID-19, he suggests tracking what you can — or can’t — find at the grocery store. Or, better yet, participating in some citizen science, like a project called CoCoRaHS that tracks rainfall across the country.”
    • It’s Time to Face Facts, America: Masks Work (Ferris Jabr, Wired): “The collective evidence makes a strong case for universal mask wearing during a pandemic. Masks are not a substitute for other interventions; they must always be used in combination with social distancing and hand hygiene.” Recommended by a student. 
    • The Coronavirus and the Conservative Mind (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…the supposed conservative mind is more attuned to external threat and internal contamination, more inclined to support authority and hierarchy, and fear subversion and dissent. And so the political responses to the pandemic have put these psychological theories to a very interesting test.” This is an angle that never would have occurred to me but which is obviously worth exploring. 
    • Coronavirus maps and charts show COVID-19 symptoms, spread, death rate (Business Insider): “These 22 charts and graphics lay out what you need to know as the outbreak continues to progress.” Recommended by a student.
  3. This is only marginally about the coronavirus: An inside look at the hospital going up in Central Park (Tony Carnes, A Journey Through NYC Religions): “The heart of Central Park is Bethesda Fountain, which was built to commemorate the healing power of Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda in Israel. Frederic Law Olmsted, the park’s designer, hoped that the park would provide spiritual refreshment to urban masses from their travails. Now, a Christian ministry is realizing the symbolism in the 21st Century by erecting a critical care hospital at the park’s 97th Street Transverse and Fifth Avenue…. Samaritan’s Purse medical personnel use the twenty seconds while they wash their hands to pray for each of their patients by name. It is fitting that they do that at their present location.”
    • What a heartwarming story. Who could be opposed?
    • Oh, wait. De Blasio “Very Concerned” About Anti-Gay Evangelical Group Running Central Park Coronavirus Hospital (Jake Offenhartz, The Gothamist): “Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will keep a close eye on the Christian fundamentalist group operating a field hospital in Central Park, amid growing fears that some New Yorkers could face discrimination and substandard care from the religious organization.”
    • And New Yorkers Are Right to Be Skeptical of Evangelical-Run Coronavirus Ward in Central Park (Jonathan Merrit, The Daily Beast): “The vast majority of New Yorkers are not Christian, and if they find themselves wheezing for air due to COVID-19, they don’t want to be proselytized while receiving treatment. They too have reason to be skeptical of the organization’s makeshift hospital.” 
    • Some amusing comments I saw in response, “I think they’re actually afraid that the volunteers will give away Chick-Fil‑A sandwiches” and “If the mayor had been as concerned about the coronavirus as he is about the Christians then New York would look very different today.” Ouch.
  4. Donations: From Bribery to Benevolence (Jasmine Kerber, Stanford Daily): “A spectrum exists between bribery and benevolence, and donations fall in various places along that continuum. Operation Varsity Blues highlighted the most corrupt ‘donations’; former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe, not an altruistic contribution to athletics.” Jasmine is a student in Chi Alpha.
    • I shared an article that discussed philanthropy from a different perspective back in volume 213.
  5. At least the seats are red: Why is Stanford Stadium often empty? (Stanford Daily): “As national Heisman voters did not vote for Christian McCaffrey ’18 because they could not bother to watch his games, Stanford students would not bike over to Stanford Stadium for [his] games. ‘I will never forget this,’ McCaffrey told The Athletic. ‘My sophomore year against UCLA, I had a heck of a game. I biked back to my dorm, I’m kind of on a high horse. I walk in, and six or seven people asked where I was! I think I had something like 243 yards rushing, four touchdowns. And they didn’t know where I was!’”
  6. 3 Types of Skeptics (C. Michael Patton, Credo House): “1. Those who need answers…. 2. Those who don’t like the answers…. 3. Those who need healing.”
  7. Are Mormons Christians?: A Review of “The Saints of Zion: An Introduction to Mormon Theology” (Tim Miller, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary): “He makes clear that Mormons are not Christians, but does so by pointing out that this has been the claim of the Mormon church itself throughout history (despite recent attempts to argue differently).”

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 Book Review: Seeing Like A State (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Peasants didn’t like permanent surnames. Their own system was quite reasonable for them: John the baker was John Baker, John the blacksmith was John Smith, John who lived under the hill was John Underhill, John who was really short was John Short. The same person might be John Smith and John Underhill in different contexts, where his status as a blacksmith or place of origin was more important. But the government insisted on giving everyone a single permanent name, unique for the village, and tracking who was in the same family as whom. Resistance was intense.” This is long and amazing. (first shared in volume 95)

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.

Leave a Reply