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
- Pandemics Aren’t New—Just Look at Plagues in the Bible (Karen Engle, Logos): “With coronavirus on everyone’s mind, questions abound of whether the word ‘pandemic’ appears in the Bible, too. The short answer is no—’pandemic’ is not in the Bible. However, the words “plague” and ‘pestilence’ are (no less than 122 times) and often reference individuals or nations afflicted with a terrible illness.”
- ‘Christianity Will Have Power’ (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “‘Trump’s an outsider, like the rest of us,’ he said. ‘We might not respect Trump, but we still love the guy for who he is. Is he a man of integrity? Absolutely not,’ he went on. ‘Does he stand up for some of our moral Christian values? Yes.’ The guys agreed. ‘I’m not going to say he’s a Christian, but he just doesn’t attack us,’ his friend Jason Mulder said.” Needlessly snarky at times, but one of the rare musings on evangelical Trump support in a prominent media source that gets a lot of things right.
- An interesting counter-perspective: Christians want power? Sioux Center pushes back on New York Times story (Lee Pitts, Religion Unplugged): “Our church small group [in Sioux Center] is more diverse than my small groups in Washington, D.C. We enjoy the company of three people from Mexico, a gentleman from Paraguay, a woman from Japan, an engineering professor from Ghana and a couple originally from that exotic place called South Carolina (that’s me). In fact, out of our 12-member small group, only two originally hail from Northwest Iowa. Meanwhile my D.C. small groups featured all upper middle-class White people mostly sporting advanced degrees and flashy jobs inside the Beltway. But the stereotype would reverse that. My Sioux Center small group should be all White and my D.C. one would surely be full of diversity, right? Wrong.” This article doesn’t really rebut many of the religious claims of the NY Times article, but it does undercut some of the cultural ones.
- Wokeness: old religion in a new bottle (Sean Collins, Spiked): “What we’re seeing now is an amplification of what I wrote about five years ago: an intense spiritual hunger that has no outlet. There’s no way to see people kneeling, or singing ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’, or swaying while they hold up candles, and avoid acknowledging that it’s driven by a spiritual desire. I perceived this when I wrote about Occupy Wall Street, and it’s become even more like this. It is an intense spiritual hunger that is manifesting itself more violently. Because to the post-Protestants, the world is an outrage and we are all sinners.”
- The interviewee, Joseph Bottum, authored and specifically references the very first article I ever shared way back in the first email of things I found interesting.
- How Megachurches Spent Coronavirus Relief Funds (Luke Scorziell, Christianity Today): “According to Vaughn’s accounting, the church spent 93 percent of the money on payroll. The additional 7 percent went to rent and utilities. The PPP rules say loans will be converted to grants if 75 percent of the funds are used for payroll and the rest for specified needs, including rent and utilities. The money helped with more than just paying the bills, however. Because Palm Valley’s staff didn’t have to worry about their job security, they were able to focus fully on caring for the church in the pandemic, Vaughn said.”
- Abolish the Police? Those Who Survived the Chaos in Seattle Aren’t So Sure (Nellie Bowles, New York Times): “Faizel Khan was being told by the news media and his own mayor that the protests in his hometown were peaceful, with ‘a block party atmosphere.’ But that was not what he saw through the windows of his Seattle coffee shop.”
- Related: replacing police with social workers (Jessica Crispin, personal blog): “If we do not have police, an armed squadron of men and women asked to intervene in situations we ourselves cannot manage, whether that be crime, acute mental illness, or violence, then who will we turn to in those situations? One such proposal is to replace police with social workers. But as my friend R. said to me as we discussed these ideas, ‘I don’t think these people have interacted with social workers.’ ” This is a perspective I had not heard before.
- Injustice, Outrage, and the Problem of Atheodicy (Public Square): “In a world without God, there is no ultimate purpose in the injustice. And there is no possibility of any ultimate providential redemption. It is just raw, rank, irrational injustice. And so what is the appropriate reaction? Outrage! (And perhaps also despair.)” The author is a law prof at the University of San Diego. Also, bear in mind that Public Square is the Mormon equivalent of First Things.
- Bill Gates on Covid: Most US Tests Are ‘Completely Garbage’ (Steven Levy, Wired): “The majority of all US tests are completely garbage, wasted. If you don’t care how late the date is and you reimburse at the same level, of course they’re going to take every customer. Because they are making ridiculous money, and it’s mostly rich people that are getting access to that. You have to have the reimbursement system pay a little bit extra for 24 hours, pay the normal fee for 48 hours, and pay nothing [if it isn’t done by then]. And they will fix it overnight.”
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- Evil Genius (Pearls Before Swine)
- I Can’t Take This Anymore (Pearls Before Swine)
- Comedians Against Comedy (Ryan Long, YouTube): two and a half minutes
- Christian Who Never Went To Church Before Pandemic Outraged Now That Government Says He Can’t (Babylon Bee)
- Nation’s Empty Churches To Become Spirit Halloween Stores (Babylon Bee)
- Now that’s a mask (Imgur)
- Experts Paint Eyes on Cow Butts—and It Works (Newser): this is real
- Running Is So Simple (Semi Rad)
- 10 Irrefutable Atheist Arguments That Will Explode Your Feeble Christian Brain (Babylon Bee): usually with the Bee the headline is enough, but you need to read the article for this one. It’s not really fair, but it’s definitely funny.
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Elisha and the She‐bears (Peter J Williams, Twitter): an insightful Twitter thread about a disturbing OT story. The author is the Warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge. First shared in volume 179.
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.