Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 262

Honestly, this week’s collection of articles has some of the best I’ve seen in some time.

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. A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory (Tim Keller, Gospel In Life): “In the Bible Christians have an ancient, rich, strong, comprehensive, complex, and attractive understanding of justice. Biblical justice differs in significant ways from all the secular alternatives, without ignoring the concerns of any of them. Yet Christians know little about biblical justice, despite its prominence in the Scriptures.” The read of the week.
  2. The Church Forests of Ethiopia (YouTube): nine minutes. This commentary by Rod Dreher was what brought the video to my attention. Watch the video before you read the commentary. These forests are a beautiful picture of the way the Church blesses the world around it, and what the Church must do to thrive in the environment we find ourselves in.
  3. Listen to Thomas Sowell (Coleman Hughes, City Journal): “…people predictably line up on opposite sides of political issues that seemingly have nothing in common. For instance, knowing someone’s position on climate change somehow allows you to predict their views on taxing the rich, gun control, and abortion. It’s tempting to dismiss this as mere political tribalism. But Sowell contends that more is at work: that there are two fundamental ways of thinking about the social world, two sets of basic assumptions about human nature, and two conflicting ‘visions,’ from which most political disagreements follow.” Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
  4. Some reflections on the media:
    • The Truth Is Paywalled But The Lies Are Free (Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs): “You want ‘Portland Protesters Burn Bibles, American Flags In The Streets,’ ‘The Moral Case Against Mask Mandates And Other COVID Restrictions,’ or an article suggesting the National Institutes of Health has admitted 5G phones cause coronavirus—they’re yours. You want the detailed Times reports on neo-Nazis infiltrating German institutions, the reasons contact tracing is failing in U.S. states, or the Trump administration’s undercutting of the USPS’s effectiveness—well, if you’ve clicked around the website a bit you’ll run straight into the paywall.”
      • This is a good article. For the record, I agree with his assessment of the New York Times: it often contains the facts, but sometimes incorrectly framed with foolish inferences built upon them. That burning Bibles and flags thing Robinson knocks, though? That really happened: Did Portland Protesters Burn Bibles and American Flags? (Snopes)
    • How the Media Could Get the Election Story Wrong (Ben Smith, New York Times): “The coronavirus crisis means that states like Pennsylvania may be counting mail-in ballots for weeks, while President Trump tweets false allegations about fraud. And the last barriers between American democracy and a deep political crisis may be television news and some version of that maddening needle on The New York Times website.”
      • This is terrifying and is 100% worth using up one of your paywall articles for.
    • How the Media Led the Great Racial Awakening (Zach Goldberg, Tablet): “During this same period, while exotic new phrases were entering the discourse, universally recognizable words like ‘racism’ were being radically redefined. Along with the new language came ideas and beliefs animating a new moral-political framework to apply to public life and American society.”
  5. On the divisions in America:
    • To unite the country, we need honesty and courage (Robert George and Cornell West, Boston Globe): “Honesty and courage alone can save our wounded, disunited country now. We need the honesty and courage to speak the truth — including painful truths that unsettle not only our foes but also our friends and, most especially, ourselves.” The authors (both Christian) are professors at Princeton and Harvard, respectively. 
    • Remembering John Lewis, and the Political Theology that Changed a Nation (David French, The Dispatch): “What looks inevitable in hindsight was anything but certain. In fact, if you were placing contemporary bets on a political outcome, would you guess that some version of a three-century status quo would prevail, or that the civil rights movement would achieve a legal revolution nearly on par with emancipation itself? At the same time, can we even recall a modern Christian political movement so consistent with the upside-down logic of biblical Christianity?”
    • This is Not The American Cultural Revolution (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “Americans are extremely fond of exaggerating the threat their political enemies pose. Histrionics about Donald Trump ending American democracy are everywhere to be found; readers will no doubt remember the protestors who claimed that Dick Cheney was the second coming of Hitler, or that Barack Obama was a stealth authoritarian socialist.” This is a reassuring essay.
    • Secularism Cannot Sustain Liberty, a Response to Greg Forster (Al Mohler, Law & Liberty): “I believe that the project of civilization in the West, and in the English-speaking world in particular, has brought the greatest flowering of liberties and the greatest opportunities for human flourishing in human history. I also believe that this civilizational project has arrived at this moment of maximum danger after decades of both neglect and mounting opposition. The most fundamental problem is the loss of the intellectual and moral preconditions that make the project of ordered liberty possible.”
    • Could America split up? (Damon Linker, The Week): “I often catch myself pondering exactly what it is that keeps our country together. What do we hold in common? What do we share?” 
  6. Churches and the pandemic:
    • How Two California Megachurches Kept Worshiping (Kate Shellnutt and Nicole Shanks, Christianity Today): “Two California churches were so eager to meet last weekend that when their services began, worshipers erupted in applause. In Sun Valley, congregants filling Grace Community Church’s 3,500-seat sanctuary rose and cheered, some documenting the moment with their iPhones, when pastor John MacArthur opened the second week in a row of in-person services…. An hour away in Riverside, California, worshippers at Harvest Christian Fellowship were greeted with cheeky pink and purple signs that said, ‘Smile with your eyes (and wear a mask)’ and ‘Just leave room for your Bible—and another 5½ feet.’ It was the third Sunday that Harvest met in a white tent half the size of a football field to comply with state orders restricting indoor worship.”
    • Should Churches in California Defy Government Restrictions? A Response to John MacArthur (Gavin Ortlund, personal blog): “To my mind, there are at least four biblical values that should inform our decision-making in this situation: 1. the importance of worship (Hebrews 10:25), 2. love for neighbor (Mark 12:31), 3. obedience to government (Romans 13:1–7), and 4. maintaining a good witness (Colossians 4:5–6). What concerns me about defying the state order right now is that it seems to prioritize 1 at the expense of 2–4.”
    • Masking and Masks: A Hypothetical Interview (Doug Wilson, personal blog): “A free people should be jealous of their liberty. And one of the best ways to be jealous of your liberty is to require the government, whenever it exercises its authority coercively, to be able to give a very specific reason. A general reason is not good enough. The law should prohibit stealing, for example, and when the cops arrest a thief, they should be able to say that they arrested him because he was ‘stealing.’ Negative prohibitions are the foundation of civic liberty, and broad, general feel-good directives are the foundation of tyranny.“ I am not opposed to mandatory masks, but this is a good defense of the opposition. 
  7. Concerning China:
    • The TikTok War (Ben Thompson, Stratechery): “TikTok’s algorithm, unmoored from the constraints of your social network or professional content creators, is free to promote whatever videos it likes, without anyone knowing the difference. TikTok could promote a particular candidate or a particular issue in a particular geography, without anyone — except perhaps the candidate, now indebted to a Chinese company — knowing. You may be skeptical this might happen, but again, China has already demonstrated a willingness to censor speech on a platform banned in China; how much of a leap is it to think that a Party committed to ideological dominance will forever leave a route directly into the hearts and minds of millions of Americans untouched?”
    • Books pulled from the library shelves, songs banned…it’s the new normal in Hong Kong (Louisa Lim, The Guardian): “Put simply, within a single month, Beijing has dismantled a partially free society and is trying to use its new law to enforce global censorship on speech regarding Hong Kong.”
    • Christians Worry Hong Kong’s New Law Will Hamper Missions (D. Cheng, Christianity Today): “…Christians living outside of China now wonder: Is it still safe for them to communicate openly with friends and colleagues in Hong Kong? For years, the territory has served as a staging ground for ministry organizations operating across the region. But now, will they face pressure or persecution, as those in the mainland do? If they are critical of Beijing on social media or in an article such as this, will they be denied entry to Hong Kong—or worse, detained and possibly imprisoned upon landing in Hong Kong?”
    • ‘Clean Up This Mess’: The Chinese Thinkers Behind Xi’s Hard Line (Chris Buckley, New York Times): “While China’s Communist Party has long nurtured legions of academics to defend its agenda, these authoritarian thinkers stand out for their unabashed, often flashily erudite advocacy of one-party rule and assertive sovereignty, and their turn against the liberal ideas that many of them once embraced.”
    • Trump Administration Penalizes Chinese Officials for Hong Kong Crackdown (Pranshu Verma and Edward Wong, New York Times): “The action is another in a series of measures the Trump administration has taken in recent months to ratchet up pressure on Beijing. Last month, the administration imposed sanctions on the Chinese government, including a senior member of the Communist Party, over human rights abuses against the largely Muslim Uighur minority.”

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 What Is It Like to Be a Man? (Phil Christman, The Hedgehog Review): “I live out my masculinity most often as a perverse avoidance of comfort: the refusal of good clothes, moisturizer, painkillers; hard physical training, pursued for its own sake and not because I enjoy it; a sense that there is a set amount of physical pain or self‐imposed discipline that I owe the universe.” Very well‐written. Everyone will likely find parts they resonate with and parts they reject. The author is a lecturer at the University of Michigan and based on his CV seems to be a fairly devoted Episcopalian. First shared in volume 178.

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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