Fridays (Saturday this week) 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
- How Perfectionism Has Made the Pandemic Worse (Miles Kimball, personal blog): “I’ve noticed one regularity in how the US (and many other countries) have handled the pandemic: perfectionism has been getting in the way of a quick and powerful response. Every little bit would have helped reduce the reproduction ratio of the coronavirus, but only things that were big bits were allowed.” The author is an economist at UC Boulder.
- Public health bodies may be talking at us, but they’re actually talking to each other (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “…when a large group acts as though a complicated problem is a no-brainer, that doesn’t mean the solution is obvious; it means something has gone badly wrong.”
- My vaccine crackpottery: a confession (Scott Aaronson, personal blog): “I think [our failure] will be clear to future generations, who’ll write PhD theses exploring how it was possible that we invented multiple effective covid vaccines in mere days or weeks, but then simply sat on those vaccines for a year, ticking off boxes called ‘Phase I,’ ‘Phase II,’ etc. while civilization hung in the balance.” The author is a CS prof at UT Austin.
- Small Number of Covid Patients Develop Severe Psychotic Symptoms (Pam Belluck, New York Times): “[she] had become infected with the coronavirus in the spring. She had experienced only mild physical symptoms from the virus, but, months later, she heard a voice that first told her to kill herself and then told her to kill her children.” Shared with me by a student who noted it is both interesting and freaky. This really highlights what a bullet we dodged with this pandemic — can you imagine a plague whose main effect was to make people violently psychotic? Society would end. Full-on zombie apocalypse.
- Rick Warren On The Year We Had (Cameron Strang, Relevant Magazine): “We have led over 16,000 people to Christ since March. We’re in revival. We’re averaging about 80 people a day coming to Christ—80 people a day.… Of those 16,000 people who have come to Christ, over 12,000 of them have come through personal, one-on-one witnessing by my members. Not led to Christ by my sermons. By one on one evangelizing.”
- East Africa fears second wave — of locust swarms (Navin Singh Khadka, BBC): “New swarms of desert locusts are threatening the livelihoods of millions of people in the Horn of Africa and Yemen despite a year of control efforts, the United Nations has warned.” This is the latest news concerning an article from August an alumnus recently shared with me: The Biblical locust plagues of 2020 (David Njagi, BBC): “In 2020, locusts have swarmed in large numbers in dozens of countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia, Eritrea, India, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia. When swarms affect several countries at once in very large numbers, it is known as a plague.”
- Why You Can’t Meet God Over Zoom (Esau McCaulley, New York Times): “The very inadequacy of church services, Zoom and otherwise, is a reminder we do not come into churches to encounter a life lesson on how to raise our children or to learn to be good Americans, whatever that means. Our aim is much more audacious. We are attempting to encounter God and, in so doing, find ourselves, possibly for the first time.” The author is a New Testament professor at Wheaton College.
- This isn’t really a knock on McCaulley so much as an observation and a hope: many Christians who write for publications like the NYT lead with the negatives and slowly build to their point that “church isn’t so bad really and maybe someday you should check it out.” I wonder if that is a byproduct of the editorial process or if it is simply a selection effect in the sort of Christian intellectual who wants to (and is permitted to) write an op-ed for a culturally influential publication.
- Thinking about this puts me in mind of Erica Campbell’s song I Luh God (YouTube, three minutes). It swept through our ministry a few years ago, I think because it scratched an itch in our students. Our students had dance parties to it after our worship services. She sang with confident joy: “I luh God, you don’t luh God? What’s wrong with chu?”
- When we discuss the faith as though it were a series of syllogisms we’re being foolish. People’s questions need answers, certainly. But all the answers in the world will do no good if, at some level, people don’t hope Christianity is true. We must kindle hope before we go to the trouble of overcoming objections to hope.
- I say all that to say this: if you ever write an op-ed for the New York Times, do apologetics without being apologetic. Bring as much joy to it as you can and let your writing be filled with winsome confidence. We need a whole flock of Christian intellectuals with the swagger of a G.K. Chesterton.
- Higher Education Risks No Longer Being Worth It – Here’s How to Change Course (Christos Makridis, Quillette): “For all the talk about racial equity in colleges, you would think that faculty would be working with local small business owners, especially minorities, to mentor and equip them to drive greater profitability and impact. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry.
- The Church Needs Prophets, But It Wants Lawyers (David French, The Dispatch): “American Christian culture is rife with congregants looking for lawyers, not prophets and not pastors. The church-shopping phenomenon puts us in churches that make us feel quite comfortable, and the sheer number of available congregations (especially in the South and parts of the Midwest) makes us quite mobile.”
- I almost didn’t share this one because I thought it was more useful for ministry leaders, but after I had mentally deep-sixed it a student emailed me and said: “I think it could be useful for Christians who find themselves frustrated by and unable to support blanket criticism of the church and of organized religion from the left, but also dissatisfied by responses from the right that frame any criticism as part of a culture war and trivialize issues within the church as just a few bad examples. I think for me it also was helpful in thinking of how I might respond to non-Christians when these kinds of criticisms come up in conversation and how I can be both defend Christianity and the good parts of the church while acknowledging continued brokenness and need for improvement. It also happened to tie in nicely with a sermon I heard on Sunday about how Christians have no problem recognizing sin as the cause of brokenness in the world but often point to the sins of others, whether of peers, leaders, or past generations, instead of their own sin as the cause of that brokenness. In that sense I think it both helped me think about how to process the failings of prominent Christians and talk about them with non-believers as well as be reminded by these failings to remember that beyond defending the church, my response as an individual should also be to identify and root out sin in my own life even when the damage is not as obvious to my community.”
- WHAT HAPPENS ON JANUARY 6th (Ben Sasse, Facebook): “There is some voter fraud every election cycle – and the media flatly declaring from on high that ‘there is no fraud!’ has made things worse. It has heightened public distrust, because there are, in fact, documented cases of voter fraud every election cycle. But the crucial questions are: (A) What evidence do we have of fraud? and (B) Does that evidence support the belief in fraud on a scale so significant that it could have changed the outcome? We have little evidence of fraud, and what evidence we do have does not come anywhere close to adding up to a different winner of the presidential election.”
- Sasse is one of the Nebraska senators and is also a former seminary president. Missouri senator Josh Hawley, who this seems to be aimed at, is also an outspoken believer on Capitol Hill. Hawley, incidentally, did his undergrad at Stanford. He graduated the year we were launching Chi Alpha, so our paths have never crossed.
- Hawley doesn’t have a statement as comprehensive as Sasse’s, but here is an excerpt from his press release: “I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws. And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden.”
- I generally avoid political posts like this because I find the minutia of politics uninteresting. In this case, the fact that two evangelicals who are normally political allies are having a substantive and public disagreement intrigues me.
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- Farewell, 2020 (Pearls Before Swine)
- Quarantine Books (Imgur)
- New Calvinist Video Game Just 40 Hours Of Non-Interactive Cutscenes (Babylon Bee)
- Predestination (Pearls Before Swine)
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Real Problem at Yale Is Not Free Speech (Natalia Dashan, Palladium): “The campus ‘free speech’ debate is just a side‐effect. So are debates about ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion.’ The real problems run much deeper. The real problems start with Marcus and me, and the masks we wear for each other…. In a world of masks and façades, it is hard to convey the truth. And this is how I ended up offering a sandwich to a man with hundreds of millions in a foreign bank account.” I liked this one a lot. First shared in volume 215.
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.