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 the 299th installment of these emails. 299 is, I am told, the most pieces into which a simple object (like a cube or a sphere — something without a weird structure) can be split using 12 straight cuts.
Things Glen Found Interesting
- Why You’re Christian (David Perrell, personal blog): “…I’m a tepid non-believer myself.… [However] I realized that society’s most passionate critics, most of whom claim to be secular, usually have the most Christian values of all. They’ve studied in elite universities, they live in major cities, and they’re proud members of the intelligentsia. Human rights, a centerpiece of their moral outlook, is inconsistent with the rest of their worldview. Though they pride themselves on evidence-based thinking, they’re intellectually bankrupt on the topic of human rights.”
- Related (at least in my mind): What Became of Atheism, Part One: Wearing the Uniform (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “…if God exists then that is the single most important fact in the history of creation and nothing else can take its crown, ever. If a being exists, of whatever nature, who created reality, exists within all of reality, set reality’s physical and moral rules, watches over all of reality, judges all of us on how devout and moral we are, and determines reward and punishment based on that judgement, that clearly is the truth that trumps all other truths. Strange to let it slip out of the debate quietly in the night. But then I suppose that’s culture war; sooner or later the only question that remains is who is on what side of the line, and all the rest dissolves.”
- Justice-related thoughts:
- ‘The Voice of Your Brother’s Blood Is Crying to Me From the Ground’ (David French, The Dispatch): “…we can articulate three truths of simple, individual justice. First, a grave wrong creates a moral and spiritual cry for redress. Second, it is the role of government to provide that redress. And third, the government must be impartial, treating ‘great and small’ alike. All too many Americans are completely unaware of the extent to which the present structures and habits of American law fail to meet those basic obligations, especially when injustice is visited upon the citizen by the state.”
- Chauvin Was Convicted. Something Is Still Very Wrong. (Elizabeth Bruenig, New York Times): “Forgiveness doesn’t feel particularly triumphant. It’s a gift no one wants to be in the position to give; it releases a wrongdoer from moral debt — for their own good and the common good, not for the sake of the wronged.… But I want to live in a world where it is possible to forgive and to be forgiven. In fact, I think it’s necessary.”
- The Real Reason to End the Death Penalty (Paul Graham, Substack): “But in practice the debate about the death penalty is not about whether it’s ok to kill murderers. It’s about whether it’s ok to kill innocent people, because at least 4% of people on death row are innocent.” I find this a really interesting line of argument. Clearly we want to have a 100% accuracy rate in all criminal convictions. But is 96% accuracy outrageously intolerable? To the extent that it becomes a persuasive argument against the death penalty isn’t that then also an argument against imprisonment? Or virtually any punishment?
- Unjust Secular Justice (Matthew Schmitz,First Things): “While in the colonial era most cases went to trial (and most trials lasted a stunningly short thirty minutes), more and more are now resolved by a plea bargain. Nowhere is our abandonment of colonial ideas of criminal justice more apparent than in no-contest pleas that allow defendants to receive lighter sentences without any admission of guilt.” This is an older book review (2013) but is quite good.
- Outrage Overload (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “Modern policing—or even policing qua policing—owes far less to slave patrolling than NASA owes to Hitler’s rocket program. And yet no one talks about the troubling Nazi roots of modern space exploration, or asks Elon Musk if he’s exorcised the ghost of Werner Von Braun from SpaceX. I have seen this slave patrol thing brought up countless times in interviews, and not once have I seen an interviewer say, ‘Really?’ never mind, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ It’s as batty as any conspiracy theory, and it’s a deliberate attempt to heap innuendo on policing in lieu of making an intelligent argument. And that’s what frustrates me to no end. It’s the job of journalists to call out B.S. when it’s being thrown in their faces.”
- Where Two or Three Are Gathered (William J. Haun & Daniel L. Chen, Law & Liberty): “Over 40 amicus briefs lambasted this embrace of open-ended government surveillance—reflecting an ideological agreement so wide that NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and Wisconsin Right to Life joined the same brief. On the surface, widespread consensus in favor of associational privacy is surely welcome. But this agreement masks equally widespread, decades-long confusion over how and why the Constitution protects free association.” Quite good, a bit dry. The authors are lawyers with the Becket Fund.
- “Wokeness is a problem and we all know it” (Sean Illing interviewing James Carville, Vox): “We won the White House against a world-historical buffoon. And we came within 42,000 votes of losing. We lost congressional seats. We didn’t pick up state legislatures. So let’s not have an argument about whether or not we’re off-key in our messaging. We are. And we’re off because there’s too much jargon and there’s too much esoterica and it turns people off.” Carville is a legendary Democratic political strategist and he is in full-on old man rant mode here.
- ‘This Is a Catastrophe.’ In India, Illness Is Everywhere. (Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times): “New Delhi, India’s sprawling capital of 20 million, is suffering a calamitous surge. A few days ago, the positivity rate hit a staggering 36 percent — meaning more than one out of three people tested were infected. A month ago, it was less than 3 percent.”
- Related: ‘Death Is the Only Truth.’ Watching India’s Funeral Pyres Burn. (Aman Sethi, New York Times): “The Indian government has ordered Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to take down dozens of posts criticizing its handling of the pandemic. But the graphic images of mass cremations have cut through this wall of noise, misinformation and propaganda, capturing what epidemiologists call ‘excess mortality’ in gruesome detail.”
- Columbia Stone (T.A. Krasnican, Substack): “This public forgetfulness is the same indifference that in 1938 inspired Adolf Hitler, after issuing orders for his Nazi ‘death-head formations’ to ‘send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language,’ to write the famous phrase, ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’ Public ambivalence about human tragedy emboldened him.” Recommended by a student.
- Individualism is associated with happy countries, but not people (Zaid Jilani, Substack): “In a recently released study, team of researchers studied young adults across four countries — China, the United States, Russia, and Italy — starting with the hypothesis that levels of life satisfaction would be higher among individuals who have individualistic values. At the country level, this is indeed what they found. Countries with a higher index of individualistic values had more life satisfaction — that put America on top, followed by Italy, Russia, and then China. But an entirely different picture emerged when they looked at the individual level. There, they found that individualism had no impact on life satisfaction. Instead, life satisfaction was positively correlated with collectivism, regardless of the wider culture of the country.” My take: Americans are on average happier than the Chinese because of the freedoms which emerge from our individualism, but the happiest individuals in each country are those that freely choose to embrace family and community.
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- The Road To Hell (Pearls Before Swine)
- All Scientists Forced To Retire After Realizing The Science Is Now Settled (Babylon Bee): “One scientist tried to insist that the science wasn’t settled, but he was labeled as a ‘science denier’ and kicked off social media.”
- Browser History (Non Sequitur)
- Johnson And Johnson Rolls Out New ‘No More Clots’ Vaccine (Babylon Bee)
- Dilbert Interrupts Women (Dilbert)
- Planned Parenthood Distances Themselves From Margaret Sanger By Continuing Her Legacy (Babylon Bee)
- ‘We Must Stop Eating Beef To Fight Climate Change,’ Says Scientist Who Looks Suspiciously Like Chick-Fil‑A Cow In A Lab Coat (Babylon Bee)
- Masks (Imgur)
- Magnus Carlsen’s Mind-Blowing Memory! World Chess Champion tested (YouTube): this is amazing. Four minutes.
- Types of Scientific Paper (xkcd): this has spawned many derivatives already and is quite funny. I’d love to see one for sermon types.
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have No Food Is Healthy. Not Even Kale. (Michael Ruhlman, Washington Post): People can be healthy. Food can be nutritious. This is a wonderful essay about how we misuse language to our detriment. If you’re surprised I included this, I believe that our culture has a quasi-religious relationship to health and to food, and I also believe that the use of language is profoundly moral and that our culture is a linguistic mess (to which I know of no finer guide than The Underground Grammarian). (first shared in volume 33)
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.