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 325, which I think is kind of cool since 3 + 2 = 5 (I am, as they say, easily amused).
Things Glen Found Interesting
- Some faith & politics content. The last two are a bit partisan.
- A Christian Defense of American Classical Liberalism (David French, The Dispatch): “There is no perfect form of government on this side of the new heavens and the new earth. But the alternatives to classical liberalism suffer by comparison to the imperfect system we possess. When post-liberals magnify the power of the state, they risk degrading the dignity of the individual. When they trust the wisdom of rulers, they neglect their own fallen nature. People are of incalculable worth, and we are stained with sin. Classical liberalism recognizes both realities. We disregard its protections at our profound peril.”
- The “Chop” and Liberalism’s Crisis of Meaning (Samuel D. James, Substack): “Without a coherent moral framework, contemporary progressivism has to constantly manufacture norms and enforce them not through shared community stigmas but by authority structures. The new norms, though, are not infused with meaning. Intersectionality is Christian theology with rigor mortis: the cold, clammy remains of long dead Protestant social ethic.” That final sentence… wow.
- The Cautionary Tale of Francis Collins (Justin Lee, First Things): “[Collins] showed that it was possible for an evangelical from a working-class background to rise to the heights of scientific and bureaucratic accomplishment. His presence in the halls of medical power was also a testament to the harmony of faith and reason. Collins has championed the compatibility of science and religion and encouraged Christians to accept theistic evolution through his bestselling 2006 book The Language of God and a spin-off organization, BioLogos. His witness is singular, and singularly powerful—if we don’t look too closely.” I have conflicted feelings about this article (I think it is unduly harsh on Dr. Collins), but it is a perspective I have encountered several times. I’m also not sure it belongs under the politics bullet point, but it’s at least adjacent.
- Faith trumps Trump in Virginia (Tony Carnes, A Journey Through NYC Religions): “Youngkin goes to an evangelical Episcopal church Holy Trinity Church and provides a retreat center for FOCUS (Fellowship of Christians in Universities & Schools), an evangelical outreach to prep school students. In UK Youngkin served on the executive committee of Holy Trinity Brompton (the home church of the Alpha course). The GOP Lt Governor-elect Winsome Sears is an African American who headed a homeless ministry for the Salvation Army (as well as being vice president of the Board of Education for Virginia, an elected official, and a Marine). Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares is a Latino Christian, a member of Galilee Episcopal Church, an evangelical leaning Episcopal church.” Brief but super interesting.
- Pence says James Madison and the Bible helped him certify election results against Trump’s wishes (Timothy Bella, Washington Post): “The former vice president, whose answer was met with applause from the Iowa City audience, denied that he was advised it would hurt his chances of running for president if he followed Trump’s plan. ‘Everything you’ve recited relative to me is false,’ he said to the audience member. Pence, referring to the oath he took to uphold the Constitution, also cited a Bible verse he said he leaned on: ‘Psalm 15 says he who keeps his oath even when it hurts.’ ”
- Pandemic restrictions were a blow to religious liberty (Christos Makridis, NY Post): “Of all the unequal impacts of the pandemic, the costs of state and local restrictions that fell squarely on religious households seem underappreciated. Although everyone felt the effects of national and state quarantines, and Americans struggled with mental health more broadly, my paper shows that religious adherents, especially Catholics or other Christians, experienced unique harm. Even more troubling is that the costs of shutdowns for places of worship were not limited to the congregants. Evidence from a Baylor University study led up by Byron Johnson shows that faith-based organizations shoulder the bulk of the homelessness burden in cities, caring for the least fortunate. In this sense, cutting off in-person worship simultaneously cuts off one of the primary ways that houses of worship serve their broader communities.”
- Christos, an economist at Arizona State, is an alumnus of our ministry. This op-ed is based on a scholarly paper he wrote: When Houses of Worship Go Empty: The Effects of State Restrictions on Well-being Among Religious Adherents (SSRN)
- Billionaire Seeks to Build Largely Windowless Dorm In ‘Social and Psychological Experiment’ (Aaron Gordon, Vice): “According to the Independent, 94 percent of dorm rooms in Munger Hall [at UCSB] will be tiny, windowless pods that open onto a central common area. And it will stuff so many students [4,500] into such a small space that Dennis McFadden, the architect who resigned from the university’s review committee, said in his resignation letter it ‘would qualify as the eighth densest neighborhood on the planet, falling just short of Dhaka, Bangladesh.’ McFadden said the university had provided no justification for ignoring established research that natural light and views of the outdoors are vital to healthy living, except to say they were bound to Munger’s vision.” Recommended by a student.
- Munger rebuts: Munger on controversial UCSB dorm: Fake windows are better than real windows (CNN). He is totally and awesomely intransigent.
- What Happened to Matt Taibbi? (Ross Barkan, New York Magazine): “ ‘One of the moments that solidified in my mind the difficult path I’d have going forward in mainstream media, and that pushed me toward the decision to do Substack full-time, came when I did a campaign piece on Biden for Rolling Stone,’ Taibbi said. ‘I was noticing what everyone else saw, that the man was having trouble remembering things, among other issues. I called back some of the medical sources who were glad to violate the ‘Goldwater rule’ against diagnosing people from afar to talk to me about Trump being crazy, just to ask for their assessment of Biden. None responded, and one literally hung up on me. Even off the record they wouldn’t talk about it. It hit me in that moment that Trump had so fundamentally changed the business that even sources were behaving differently, and I’d have to adapt one way or the other.’ ”
- Katharine Birbalsingh is right: children do have original sin (Theo Hobson, The Spectator): “When my son was about six he heard something at school about slavery but was not quite clear what it was all about. So I spelled it out. I told him that a slave was someone that someone else owned and ordered around and probably mistreated. I waited for the proper response of moral horror to show on his innocent features. Instead he said, ‘Cool, I want one!’” What a phenomenal opening anecdote.
- Liberals Read, Conservatives Watch TV (Richard Hanania, Substack): “Conservative media perfecting the ‘infotainment’ genre of news commentary brought people into politics that a generation earlier would’ve paid more attention to professional wrestling or monster truck rallies instead. Liberalism has captured a combination of an overeducated class with more desire for status than intellectual curiosity along with mentally ill individuals who in the 1990s might have joined some apolitical subculture instead of becoming passionate about race and gender issues.” Very long and insightful article (9,000ish words)
- Survey: One-third of Jewish college students have experienced antisemitism (Yonat Shimron, Religion News): “…the most common form of antisemitism was offensive comments online. Only 1% of students were victims of antisemitic violence, and only 1% were threatened with violence. In all, the survey found 43% of Jewish college students had experienced and/or witnessed antisemitic activity in the past year. Among those who witnessed it, the most common experience was seeing swastikas around campus or vandalism to Jewish fraternities, sororities and cultural buildings.”
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- From 2019 but new to me: Magic: The Gathering is Turing Complete (Alex Churchill, Stella Biderman, Austin Herrick, arXiv:1904.09828 [cs.AI]): “In this paper we show that optimal play in real-world Magic is at least as hard as the Halting Problem, solving a problem that has been open for a decade. To do this, we present a methodology for embedding an arbitrary Turing machine into a game of Magic such that the first player is guaranteed to win the game if and only if the Turing machine halts. Our result applies to how real Magic is played, can be achieved using standard-size tournament-legal decks, and does not rely on stochasticity or hidden information.”
- Rookie Move: Christian Prays God Would Teach Him Patience (Babylon Bee)
- If Netflix Employees Worked at Regular Companies (Ryan Long, YouTube): three minutes
- International Card Magic (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): eight minutes
- A Monkey on Penn and Teller’s Fool Us (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): ten minutes.
- Reese Witherspoon says ‘Legally Blonde’ wasn’t allowed to film at Stanford University after school greenlit ‘Insecure’ to shoot on campus (Ashley Turner, Insider): “Reese Witherspoon recently shared that ‘Legally Blonde’ was initially supposed to be set on the campus of Stanford University after congratulating fellow alum, ‘Insecure’ creator Issa Rae, for securing permission to film on school grounds. The revelation came after Rae thanked Stanford for reversing their long-standing policy in a tweet on October 24.”
- Wirecutter (xkcd) — the mouseover text is what gets me
- RD&E announces “No-Heat November” to counteract Stanford investment in fossil fuels (Sosi Day, Stanford Daily) — this is satire and I found it very funny
- Magician Shin Lim’s Mind-Blowing Card Tricks (The Ellen Show, YouTube): seven minutes
- Curiosity (SMBC): this is painfully true
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How the State Serves Both Salvation and Religious Freedom (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “Two basic kinds of governments, then, show up in the Bible: those that shelter God’s people, and those that destroy them. Abimelech sheltered; Pharoah destroyed. The Assyrians destroyed; the Babylonians and Persians, ultimately, sheltered. Pilate destroyed; Festus sheltered. And depending on how you read Revelation, the history of government will culminate in a beastly slaughter of saintly blood. Romans 13 calls governments servants; Psalm 2 calls them imposters. Most governments contain both. But some are better than others.” First shared in volume 165.
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.