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
- A Nation of Christians Is Not Necessarily a Christian Nation (David French, The Dispatch): “There are influential people and institutions in this country who’ve taken the position that orthodox expressions of Christian sexual morality represent nothing more than bigotry and hatred. But as much hostility as I’ve seen and experienced from some secular leftists in response to the public expression of my Christian values, nothing compares to hostility I’ve seen and experienced from self-identified Christians when I rooted my opposition to Donald Trump in the same Christian values that sometimes earned me scorn in the Ivy League.”
- Contra French on Christianity’s Decline (Ross Douthat, Substack): “In other words, in the history of the United States from the American Revolution to Martin Luther King Jr. you see two things happening together: the private practice of faith becomes pretty steadily more robust, and the government becomes more committed to what most of us, religious and not, now consider basic elements of justice and mercy. Over this multi-generational process, you could reasonably say that America remained manifestly imperfect but came closer, however lurchingly, to the combination of widespread personal faith and greater political justice that French argues characterizes the Christian society. That this happened, quite often, through conflict between Protestants (both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God, etc.) is undeniable but not, it seems to me, a particularly telling critique: In a heavily Protestant society how else would change come?” A very impressive response.
- America’s Christian History Is Broader Than Its White Protestant Past (David French, The Dispatch): “Because America is a majority Christian nation, American progress has depended on Christian action. But also because America is a majority Christian nation, American oppression has depended on Christian action as well. And a movement that’s disproportionately white and Christian needs to remember that sobering fact.” A solid surrejoinder, but I think I award the match point to Douthat even though I usually agree with French more.
- Pandemic stuff:
- One More Time: What Do You Want Us to Do About Covid that We Aren’t Doing Already? (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “I will not live in fear. And I suspect that this is at the heart of all of it — for complex sociological reasons, [our] elites are made up of people who suffer from anxiety and insecurity at vastly disproportionate rates, and they go through life needing their own feelings to be validated by everyone else. This is very scary for them, and if it’s not scary for some of the rest of us, they experience that as implied judgment.” This is very, very good once you get past the Syria stuff up top (which is helpful as a framing device, but goes on a little too long).
- Why UCSF COVID expert Bob Wachter will soon be ‘over’ the pandemic (Eric Ting, SF Gate): “I believe it’s likeliest that it peaks soon and comes down in February, and we’ll find ourselves in a world where the risk to fully vaccinated individuals is quite low, and it gets low for a few reasons. For one, everyone should have some immunity because with the unvaccinated, most if not all will have been infected by the time this wave ends. This variant of the virus, which is now dominant, is more mild on average. And the risk is lower for immunocompromised and high-risk individuals because of the increasing availability of medications that decrease the chance they’ll get super sick.” The interviewee is chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF.
- Dear Stanford: don’t force boosters on students (Monte Fischer, Stanford Daily): “When Paul Offit — director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, decades-long enemy of the anti-vax movement and co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine — tells his own twenty-something son not to get boosted, you might start to ask some questions about the wisdom of Stanford’s latest mandate.” The author is a PhD candidate in MS&E.
- Is the West Becoming Pagan Again? (Christopher Caldwell, New York Times): “Ms. Delsol’s ingenious approach is to examine the civilizational change underway in light of that last one 1,600 years ago. Christians brought what she calls a ‘normative inversion’ to pagan Rome. That is, they prized much that the Romans held in contempt and condemned much that the Romans prized, particularly in matters related to sex and family. Today the Christian overlay on Western cultural life is being removed, revealing a lot of pagan urges that it covered up. To state Ms. Delsol’s argument crudely, what is happening today is an undoing, but it is also a redoing. We are inverting the normative inversion. We are repaganizing.”
- New Math Research Group Reflects a Schism in the Field (Rachel Crowell, Scientific American): “A new organization called the Association for Mathematical Research (AMR) has ignited fierce debates in the math research and education communities since it was launched last October.… The AMR claims to have no position on social justice issues, and critics see its silence on those topics as part of a backlash against inclusivity efforts.… The controversy reflects a growing division between researchers who want to keep scientific and mathematical pursuits separate from social issues that they see as irrelevant to research and those who say even pure mathematics cannot be considered separately from the racism and sexism in its culture.”
- We need to be able to talk about trans athletes and women’s sports (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “Male puberty makes you taller, confers greater muscle and bone mass, larger heart and lung capacity relative to your size, and more hemoglobin. For cisgender men, this translates to roughly a 6 to 10 percent advantage over biological women in sports such as running and swimming, though the gap can be larger in other domains, and in a few sports female biology actually conveys some advantage. That 6 to 10 percent might sound modest, but at the elite level, where 1 percent to 2 percent differences can easily make the margin of victory, it’s overwhelming. Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah, the fastest woman in the world, would lose to America’s best high school boys, and the fastest pitch ever recorded by a woman would be unimpressive for many high school baseball teams.”
- The Bad Guys Are Winning (Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic): “As Vladimir Putin figured out a long time ago, mass arrests are unnecessary if you can jail, torture, or possibly murder just a few key people. The rest will be frightened into staying home. Eventually they will become apathetic, because they believe nothing can change.” Recommended by an alumna.
- Why the Catholic Church is Losing Latin America (Francis X. Rocca, Luciana Magalhaes & Samantha Pearson, The Wall Street Journal): “The rise of liberation theology in the 1960s and ’70s, a time when the Catholic Church in Latin America increasingly stressed its mission as one of social justice, in some cases drawing on Marxist ideas, failed to counter the appeal of Protestant faiths. Or, in the words of a now-legendary quip, variously attributed to Catholic and Protestant sources: ‘The Catholic Church opted for the poor and the poor opted for the Pentecostals.’ ” Recommended by a student.
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- A Game Of Chance (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): eight minutes.
- A Levitation Trick (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): seven minutes
- A Maze Trick (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): ten minutes
- A Mathematical Card Trick (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): the magician is a postdoc in mathematics at Indiana University
- I shared a flat with a monkey (Would I Like To You?, YouTube): four and a half minutes
- Is The Pandemic Really Over? (Pearls Before Swine)
- Thrift Stores Are The Weirdest Places On The Planet. (John Evans, YouTube): six minutes of comedy.
- The Far Side: this was not intended as a commentary on American politics, but it really fits.
- A Gorilla Suit In Space (New York Times) Several years old. Commentary on Reddit — here’s the original Twitter post where the astronaut first talked about it.
- Social Media (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 A (Not So) Secular Saint (James K.A. Smith, Los Angeles Review of Books): “Mill’s legacy was effectively ‘edited’ by his philosophical and political disciples, excising any hint of religious life. One would never know from the canon in our philosophy departments, for example, that Mill wrote an appreciative essay on ‘Theism.’” First shared in volume 190.
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.