Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 291

fascinating links from a variety of perspectives

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.

This is volume 291, which is not a very interesting number. It’s 3 · 97, which I guess is something.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Inside Xinjiang’s Prison State (Ben Mauk, New Yorker): “On his second day of detention, a member of the camp administration came to see him. Kokteubai asked when he would learn what he was accused of doing. He was surprised to learn that he wouldn’t be questioned at all. ‘If you hadn’t committed a crime, you wouldn’t have ended up here,’ the administrator told him. ‘So there is something you are here for.’ ” The graphics interfere with the reading experience, but it’s worthwhile.
  2. On The Experience of Being Poor-ish, For People Who Aren’t (Anonymous, Substack): “When someone is telling me they are or have been poor and I’m trying to determine how poor exactly they were, there’s one evergreen question I ask that has never failed to give me a good idea of what kind of situation I’m dealing with. That question is: ‘How many times have they turned off your water?’.” Follow up: Being Poor-ish Revisited: Reader Questions These are both really good.
  3. David Shor on Why Trump Was Good for the GOP and How Dems Can Win in 2022 (Eric Levitz, New York Magazine): “But when I look at the 2020 election, I see that we ran against the most unpopular Republican ever to run for president — and we ran literally the most popular figure in our party whose last name is not Obama — and we only narrowly won the Electoral College. If Biden had done 0.3 percent worse, then Donald Trump would have won reelection…” This is extraordinarily fascinating in a very nonpartisan way (although the interviewee is extremely partisan).
  4. In pandemic news:
    • 5 Pandemic Mistakes We Keep Repeating (Zeynep Tufekci, The Atlantic): “One of the most important problems undermining the pandemic response has been the mistrust and paternalism that some public-health agencies and experts have exhibited toward the public.… And yet, from the beginning, a good chunk of the public-facing messaging and news articles implied or claimed that vaccines won’t protect you against infecting other people or that we didn’t know if they would, when both were false.” Watching people reject accurate information about the pandemic because high-status people rail against it has been like watching my skeptical friends reject the gospel because of peer pressure. IT’S GOOD NEWS — BELIEVE IT! The author is a sociologist at UNC.
    • Pandemic Approaches: The Differences Between Florida, California (Noel King, Greg Allen, & Eric Westervelt, NPR): “In December, California had a spike, and Governor Gavin Newsom reimposed a stay-at-home order and a business lockdown order that was recently lifted. At the same time, cases were spiking in Florida. But everything stayed open, including schools. So which approach works?” Spoiler: Florida is looking pretty good.
    • Stop Saying We Can’t Go Back to Normal After Vaccines (Bonnie Kristian, Reason): “Normalcy is the whole point of vaccination, and these vaccines can get us there. So when public health advice says “no” to normalcy even after vaccination, it misleads the public and wildly undersells the vaccines. A year into this, that’s cruel and dispiriting.… there must be a firm end date to those public measures for everyone. I can’t say exactly when it should be, nor do I think a single national date would make sense. I’m envisioning something like six weeks after vaccines have become available (as in, you can easily get an appointment) to all who want them in a given city, county, or state.”
    • Not Gathering with the Church Hurts You Spiritually (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “Jesus designed Christianity and the progress of our discipleship to center around gatherings. The math is therefore simple: Gathering with the church is spiritually good for you. Not physically gathering with the church spiritually hurts you.”
    • The Secret Life of a Coronavirus (Carl Zimmer, New York Times): “With scientists adrift in an ocean of definitions, philosophers have rowed out to offer lifelines.” What a glorious sentence. Also, I began the article sympathetic to the idea that viruses are alive and we draw our boundaries too tightly, which is what the author wants me to believe. But his arguments were so weak that I’ve flipped to: “not alive, merely interactive.”
    • The rise of the noxious contract (David B. Grusky et al, Stanford Center On Poverty and Inequality): “We observed that many people ‘compare downward’ by emphasizing their privilege relative to those less fortunate, that others ‘look outward’ in recognition that times of crisis require banding together, and that yet others ‘look inward’ as they cope with unusually stressful challenges. Although many ways of coping are therefore in play, none of them entail invidious comparisons that then lead to resentment or conflict.” An analysis of whether people who have to work in-person are resentful of those who telecommute. Spoiler: not so much. Recommended by a student.
  5. On Ryan Anderson’s book being dropped by Amazon:
    • Ryan T. Anderson Was Made For This Moment (Rod Dreher interviewing Ryan T. Anderson, The American Conservative): “…most everyone agrees that a hospital shouldn’t refuse to treat someone for Covid because they identify as LGBT. But, thank God, that doesn’t seem to have actually ever happened. Still when people hear about a law that bans LGBT discrimination, that’s what they have in mind. They don’t realize what it means for sex-reassignment procedures in general, let alone what it means for children with gender dysphoria in particular. So activists pull on people’s heartstrings by saying we need a law banning truly unjust discrimination (which is virtually non-existent) and then that law isn’t nuanced and measured, but a radical bill imposing a radical ideology. A law that is sold as a shield protecting vulnerable minorities ends up being a sword to persecute people who don’t embrace a new sexual orthodoxy.”
    • Book Banning in an Age of Amazon (Abigail Shrier, Substack): “Remember where you were in February of 2021. Congress fought over a second impeachment of an ex-president. The states debated whether forced truancy would make life easier for America’s teachers. And earth’s largest bookseller—(Internal motto: ‘Work Hard. Have Fun. Make history.’)—began quietly deleting books.”
  6. Killing The SAT Means Hurting Minorities (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “There’s a reason why white Hollywood celebs cheat the system. It’s the only way their less gifted kids can win out over the disadvantaged. Want to maximize privilege? Make admissions dependent solely on teacher recommendations, school grades, and personal essays. Want to minimize it? Abolish legacy admissions, and use the SAT.” I genuinely do not understand how this is controversial. The data is clear and overwhelming.
  7. Elevating the Role of Faith-Inspired Impact in the Social Sector (Jeri Eckhart Queenan, Peter Grunert, and Devin Murphy, The Bridgespan Group): “Giving to religiously affiliated organizations (which includes donations to congregations) represents nearly one-third of all giving in the United States. Roughly a third of the 50 largest nonprofits in the country have a faith orientation. And, 40 percent of international nongovernmental organizations are faith-inspired.” Recommended by a student.

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 The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas (Joseph Bottum, The Weekly Standard): many modern political ideas are derived from Christian theological concepts. (first shared in volume 1)

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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