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 350, and 350 is a very respectable number. I’m impressed.
Things Glen Found Interesting
- How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church (Tim Alberta, The Atlantic): “Having grown up just down the road, the son of the senior pastor at another church in town, I’ve spent my life watching evangelicalism morph from a spiritual disposition into a political identity. It’s heartbreaking. So many people who love the Lord, who give their time and money to the poor and the mourning and the persecuted, have been reduced to a caricature. But I understand why. Evangelicals—including my own father—became compulsively political, allowing specific ethical arguments to snowball into full-blown partisan advocacy, often in ways that distracted from their mission of evangelizing for Christ.”
- Being a Political Journalist Made Me a Better Christian (Jon Ward, Christianity Today): “But Christians cannot be the conscience of the state if we are not first the conscience of whichever political party we belong to. We have the difficult task of belonging to political parties and working for the good of the country through those institutions, while also standing apart from those parties to criticize them at times for their weaknesses, errors, and corruptions.” The entire essay is delightful.
- A controversy about how Christians should engage in the public square:
- How I Evolved on Tim Keller (James R. Wood, First Things): “If we assume that winsomeness will gain a favorable hearing, when Christians consistently receive heated pushback, we will be tempted to think our convictions are the problem. If winsomeness is met with hostility, it is easy to wonder, ‘Are we in the wrong?’ Thus the slide toward secular culture’s reasoning is greased. A ‘secular-friendly’ politics has problems similar to ‘seeker-friendly’ worship. An excessive concern to appeal to the unchurched is plagued by the accommodationist temptation.”
- A Critique of Tim Keller Reveals the Moral Devolution of the New Christian Right (The Dispatch, David French): “Yet even if the desperate times narrative were true, the desperate measures rationalization suffers from profound moral defects. The biblical call to Christians to love your enemies, to bless those who curse you, and to exhibit the fruit of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—does not represent a set of tactics to be abandoned when times are tough but rather a set of eternal moral principles to be applied even in the face of extreme adversity…
- Is it Time to Move Past Tim Keller? (Samuel D. James, Substack): “The question is not whether love of neighbor doesn’t work and should be forgotten, the question is what love of neighbor demands from us, and whether such love might look different when the presenting moral and spiritual needs of our neighbors might not be what they were a generation ago.”
- some thoughts on Tim Keller (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “Like Diogenes with his lantern, I’m looking for one critic of Tim Keller who shows some awareness that Christians are commanded by their Lord to act in certain ways and to refrain from acting in others. To think only in terms of what is effective or strategic is to fight on the Devil’s home ground.”
- This Article is Not About Tim Keller (James Wood, American Reformer): “How do we know what the future holds for the public’s perception of Christians and their attempts to love their neighbors through political action? We might be surprised what the judgments of history have in store. Not only do I question the certainty we can have in these assessments about how our political actions will impact our long-term gospel witness, but I also think this is a category error. Politics is not about minimizing offense in order to maximize openness to the evangelistic message. Politics is, rather, focused on the pursuit of justice and the just ordering of society.”
- Against longtermism (Phil Torres, Aeon): “…longtermism might be one of the most influential ideologies that few people outside of elite universities and Silicon Valley have ever heard about. I believe this needs to change because, as a former longtermist who published an entire book four years ago in defence of the general idea, I have come to see this worldview as quite possibly the most dangerous secular belief system in the world today.”
- Recommended by a student who thinks this is especially important for Silicon Valley people to hear. From Oct 2021.
- More on the Supreme Court and abortion
- How Roe Warped the Republic (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “And the way Roe was decided made this polarization worse. From the perspective of geography and class, a group of robed lawyers in Washington, D.C., demanding that the country simply accept their settlement on one of the gravest moral questions imaginable is the perfect primer for a populist revolt. What has happened in similar ways with other issues — immigration, most notably — happened with abortion first: The elite settlement failed to settle the issue, and the backlash encompassed not just the issue itself but elite legitimacy writ large.”
- Protest supporting Roe v. Wade takes over campus (Bryan Steven Monge Serrano, Stanford Daily): “About 250 students, faculty and staff came together to chant and march.” ]
- “Takes over campus” is an exaggeration. 250 people? There are classes larger than that. Having said that, the bulk of the student body at Stanford is undeniably on the pro-Roe side. I wonder if the small rally indicates a level of apathy or simply a desire to wait for the actual verdict to be released.
- Why I welcome the prospect of Roe v. Wade being overturned (Avi Shafran, NBC News): “Roe was a sledgehammer, and wrongly wielded. In the wake of its reversal, citizens in each state would be charged with using a scalpel to instead craft laws that treat nascent life with respect while accommodating the protection of women’s well-being.”
- Interesting thoughts from a Rabbi. He comes down in a different place than most people you have heard from.
- How Dare They! (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “What strikes me most in these takes is the underlying contempt for and suspicion of the democratic process — from many of the same people who insist they want to save it. How dare voters have a say on abortion rights! The issue — which divides the country today as much as it has for decades — is one that apparently cannot ever be put up for a vote. On this question, Democrats really do seem to believe that seven men alone should make that decision — once, in 1973. Women today, including one on SCOTUS? Not so much.”
- Pro-Life Ministries Have Been Caring For Women And Babies For Generations (Warren Cole Smith, Ministry Watch): “More than 2500 pro-life Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) are a compassionate army of staff, donors, and volunteers that number in the hundreds of thousands. They are committed to helping women make life-giving choices, and they often support these women for years after their babies are born. The total amount of money these organizations spend in support of women and babies is not known, but it likely exceeds $1 billion annually. We should also note that the vast majority of adoptions in this country are done by Christian families and through Christian adoption agencies.”
- The Supreme Court Leak Was an Unplanned Complication for Pregnancy Centers (Emily Belz, Christianity Today): “I try to shield my team from it here,” she said, telling them not to get online and try to defend themselves. “I saw a post on Instagram: ‘I’ve never met a pro-life person who is addressing access to health care, accessible childcare, college education.’ Hundreds of people are commenting, ‘Yeah I’ve never met one of those.’ I’m thinking I’m going to lose my mind. We’re here! We’re getting women into housing same day, we’re getting them out of domestic violence same day, we’re getting them furniture the same day,” Marten continued. “For my team to go home every day and turn on the news and social media and get gaslit, saying, ‘If you really cared …’ It’s an emotional toll.”
- On China
- China’s Bizarre Authoritarian-Libertarian COVID Strategy (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “On the one hand, China has confined millions of people to their homes, even to the extent of outlawing walking outside or having food delivered. Many thousands of other people have been taken from their homes and put into quarantine centers. On the other hand, vaccination is not mandatory! I can understand authoritarianism. I can understand libertarianism. I have difficulty understanding how jailing people, potentially without food, is ok but requiring vaccinations is not.”
- Dramatic story of Kyrgyz Christian swept up in China’s Uyghur repression gets very little ink (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “While unimaginable horrors persisted in the camp, Joseph testified about how God worked in the hearts of the inmates around them. They had no privacy in any part of the complex, with cameras in their rooms and microphones for monitoring. Thus, 50 to 60 inmates filled the shower room every day and it was the only place where Joseph could share his faith. The water from the shower heads made enough noise to mask their conversations. In the first few months, there was hardly anyone who would talk to him about God. Then the question began. ‘How could God let us be here in this place?’ they would ask. ‘How could God allow our children to be abandoned?’ ” Crazy details, especially if you follow the links in the article.
- TikTok May Be More Dangerous Than It Looks (Ezra Klein, New York Times): “TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company. And Chinese companies are vulnerable to the whims and the will of the Chinese government.… TikTok’s real power isn’t over our data. It’s over what users watch and create. It’s over the opaque algorithm that governs what gets seen and what doesn’t. TikTok has been thick with videos backing the Russian narrative on the war in Ukraine. Media Matters, for instance, tracked an apparently coordinated campaign driven by 186 Russian TikTok influencers who normally post beauty tips, prank videos and fluff. And we know that China has been amplifying Russian propaganda worldwide. How comfortable are we with not knowing whether the Chinese Communist Party decided to weigh in on how the algorithm treats these videos?”
- Why Chinese Culture Has Not Conquered Us All (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “Outside of its own borders, post-Deng China has a poor record selling the intangible. Chinese cultural influence is not commensurate with China’s economic power or geopolitical heft. For the last two decades observers of China have pondered this mystery. Why has China’s growing global prominence, prosperous commercialized economy, and huge global diaspora not led to cultural influence? Why have both China’s intellectual high culture and its expansive pop culture offerings failed to take root outside of the Sinosphere?” Very thoughtful, as I have come to expect from Greer.
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- Dunkin’ Donuts Opens New Sprinklin’ Donuts For Presbyterians (Babylon Bee): recommended by an alumnus
- Watch this 7‑year-old lose her shoe to begin the 200-meter dash, calmly put it back on, and then proceed to overtake the field for the win (Not The Bee): “So take it from Talaya, no matter how messed up your day is, you can always turn it around and make it work.” Amazing.
- Local Man Hoping To See Another 4 Weeks Of Use Out Of Already Flattened Tube Of Toothpaste (Babylon Bee)
- Selection Bias (xkcd)
- The Atheist (Bloom County)
- Unfortunate Parallels (Sinfest) — fact check: sadly truer than we’d like
- A Get Well Card (Pearls Before Swine)
- The Golden Age (SMBC)
- S.F. boba shop was a front for an international car-burglary operation, D.A. Boudin says (Megan Cassidy, San Francisco Chronicle): “An unassuming boba tea shop in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood is suspected to be a front for an international fencing operation, where street-level car burglars sell stolen goods before the property is shipped off to countries as far away as Vietnam and China, prosecutors said Tuesday.” Maybe less serious isn’t the right category for this article, but wow. A boba shop?
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Pint‐Size Nation off the English Coast (Ian Urbina, The Atlantic): “Though no country formally recognizes Sealand, its sovereignty has been hard to deny. Half a dozen times, the British government and assorted other groups, backed by mercenaries, have tried and failed to take over the platform by force.” First shared in volume 217.
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.