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 352, which is (I am informed) the number of ways to place 9 queens on a 9×9 chessboard so that they cannot attack each other.
Things Glen Found Interesting
- The Southern Baptist abuse crisis:
- Southern Baptists Refused to Act on Abuse, Despite Secret List of Pastors (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “Guidepost Solutions, the third-party investigative firm, wants the 13-million-member denomination to create an online database of abusers, offer compensation for survivors, sharply limit non-disclosure agreements, and establish a new entity dedicated to responding to abuse. The directives in the 288-page report will sound familiar for survivors and advocates, who have been calling for those measures all along.”
- This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse (Russell Moore, Christianity Today): “Indeed, the very ones who rebuked me and others for using the word crisis in reference to Southern Baptist sexual abuse not only knew that there was such a crisis but were quietly documenting it, even as they told those fighting for reform that such crimes rarely happened among “people like us.” When I read the back-and-forth between some of these presidents, high-ranking staff, and their lawyers, I cannot help but wonder what else this can be called but a criminal conspiracy.”
- No Atheist Has Done This Much Damage to the Christian Faith (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “It’s nearly impossible to overstate how much damage these new revelations—these necessary and long-overdue revelations—are doing to the Christian witness. No atheist, no secularists or materialists, could inflict nearly as much damage to the Christian faith as these leaders within the Christian Church have done.“This is a general principle: skeptics rarely hurt the Church. Christians, though, hurt the Church all the time.
- Avoiding Financial And Governance Disasters (Warren Cole Smith, Ministry Watch): “…in some very important ways, sexual abuse and sexual harassment in the church are effects. They are consequences. They are fruits, not the root, of the problem.So what’s the cause? It’s pretty un-glamorous. It doesn’t generate as many headlines, and when it does generate a headline, that headline tends to be ignored, or quickly forgotten. And that cause is money. More specifically, the love of money.… So, at a minimum, I think we evangelicals should be spending as much time understanding and uncovering financial fraud as we spend on sexual abuse and toxic leadership.”
- How the ‘Apocalyptic’ Southern Baptist Report Almost Didn’t Happen (Bob Smietana, MinistryWatch): “In other words, the Executive Committee would be put in charge of investigating itself. Then-President J.D. Greear was ready to move on when Benkert stood up at a microphone with a motion of his own, based on another section of bylaw 29. ‘I would like the opportunity to make a motion to overrule the Committee on Order of Business at the appropriate time,’ he said. Benkert’s motion was met with applause. Then a second, and then almost all of the 15,000 local church delegates, known as messengers, raised their yellow voting cards in the air—far more than the two-thirds majority needed to overrule the committee.”
- In reference to the immediately preceding article: knowing how the system works is really important. I’ve seen shady stuff happen at some meetings but wasn’t quick enough to get to the floor or wasn’t sure enough of the rules to intervene. In a business meeting knowledge truly is power.
- In reference to the larger story, there are so many things happening here:
- This is an occasion for lamentation. I have long said that the Protestant sexual abuse crisis will dwarf the Catholic Church’s (because we tend to have less control/screening of ministers) and that both will be dwarfed by the public school crisis (which is yet to fully reveal itself but I believe will be far worse).
- The Southern Baptist executives genuinely had less control over the situation(s) than some of their critics allege, but they had far more control than they pretended and when they did act it was often to conceal wicked things.
- The fact that the SBC commissioned this report and made it public is very much to their credit and over time will loom larger in the remembrance of this.
- The scope of the abuse, while broad, appears to be less than I feared.
- The SBC legal team and the former executives come off looking like evil religious leaders written by a lazy hack writer. It’s staggeringly bad.
- This entire debacle is germane to the Tim Keller/winsomeness debate: do we operate according to the standards of our culture or the standards of the Kingdom? Christ demands another way, and if that opens us up to negative cultural consequences (whether electoral defeats or ruinous lawsuits) then so be it.
- The school shooting:
- A fourth-grader who survived the shooting says she smeared friend’s blood on herself to appear dead (Nora Neus, CNN): “Miah said she was scared the gunman would come back to kill her and a few other surviving friends. So, she put her hands in her friend’s blood, who laid next to her— and already looked dead—and then smeared it all over herself to appear dead.… She says afterwards, she overheard talk of police waiting outside the school. Recounting this during the interview, she started crying, saying she just didn’t understand why they didn’t come inside and get them.” Heartbreaking. Details are still coming out, and none of them are good.
- Texas school shooter Salvador Ramos once cut up his face with knives ‘just for fun,’ friends say (Yaron Steinbuch, New York Post): “The gunman who slaughtered 19 kids and two teachers at a Texas elementary school reportedly exhibited increasingly bizarre behavior leading up to the rampage – including cutting up his face with knives just ‘for fun,’ friends said.”
- Pass and Enforce Red Flag Laws. Now. (David French, The Dispatch): “Mass killings are their own thing. Mass shooters are frequently law-abiding, right up until the moment when they commit mass murder. Mass shootings are often meticulously planned, which means that they can circumvent common gun control laws. For example, the Buffalo shooter legally purchased the weapon he used and then illegally modified it to make it more lethal. So when we talk about common gun control proposals after mass shootings—whether we’re referring to expanded background checks, assault weapons bans, or limits on magazine capacity—the general rule is that none of those measures, even if implemented, would have actually prevented any recent mass shooting.” This is a thoughtful piece with a specific and constructive policy suggestion.
- The Children Who Kill Children (Samuel D. James, First Things): “There are some who sneer at people, like me, who offer prayers in times like these. Prayer, they say, is non-action: an ineffective, meaningless piety meant to maintain the status quo on gun control. Yet it’s these same scoffers who instinctively pivot to the topic of gun control whenever a child takes the lives of other children, and their political rage is no less a religious recitation simply because they confuse Congress for God. An inability to talk about anything other than gun control threatens to deaden our lament and neutralize a vital conversation about why so many of our country’s most lost, most hateful people are boys with their whole lives ahead of them.” This is a strong article.
- ‘The Onion’ has republished a grim headline about mass shootings 21 times since 2014 (Rachel Treisman, NPR): “There are a couple of inevitable responses to a mass shooting in America: funerals and fundraisers, prayers from politicians and the resurfacing of one particular article from satirical site The Onion. ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens’ has been republished 21 times in almost exactly eight years.” The repetition of this headline has probably shifted more hearts than any other argument I am aware of.
- Covid was liberalism’s endgame (Matthew B. Crawford, Unherd): “The innovation achieved here is in the way government conceives its subjects: not as citizens whose considered consent must be secured, but as particles to be steered through a science of behaviour management that relies on our pre-reflective cognitive biases.”
- A Commitment to Kindness Does Not Mean Surrendering Your Convictions (David French, The Dispatch): “Time and again I read about how bad things are now, how vile the left has become, and how a commitment to ‘winsomeness’ or kindness is simply inadequate to the moment. Even worse, it’s sometimes seen as evidence of weakness or fear—an effort curry favor with people who hate you. But the conversation consistently misconstrues what commitments to civility and decency do and don’t mean—that civility is somehow a shorthand for surrender on matters of deep conviction. It is not. Or that a commitment to civility implies an aversion to conflict and a timidity in the face of opposition. It does not.”
- The LGBTsQewing of America (Alexander Zubatov, The American Conservative): “We have strongly suggestive evidence, moreover, that social cues can play causal roles in swaying impressionable teens to adopt new sexual identities.… The simple message such research conveys is something that those of us who have not lost touch with our childhood and our awkward teen years will find unsurprising, and indeed, even obvious: Most kids and teens are works in progress and undecided and confused about many key aspects of their lives.”
- In Partial, Grudging Defense Of The Hearing Voices Movement (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “I still remember a patient who asked me if I could cure his anxiety within a week. I told him absolutely not — medications take a few weeks to even kick in, and managing anxiety can be a lifelong process — and why did he need a cure in a week anyway? He said he was an inspirational speaker on the topic ‘How I Overcame My Anxiety’, and he had a speech scheduled next week, but was too anxious to work on it. I think about this person often.” Interesting throughout and the anecdote I excerpted is actually tangential to the main point.
- Why This Computer Scientist Says All Cryptocurrency Should “Die in a Fire” (Nathan Robinson interviewing Nicholas Weaver, Current Affairs): “Is it accurate to summarize what you were saying before as, essentially: There is no problem that cryptocurrency solves, and to the extent that it is functional, it does things worse than we can already do them with existing electronic payment systems. To the extent it has advantages, the advantage is doing crimes. And every other claim made for the superiority of cryptocurrency as currency falls apart if you scrutinize it.” This spicy meatball comes recommended by a student.
- Global religious persecution:
- The faces from China’s Uyghur detention camps (John Sudworth, BBC): “The documents provide some of the strongest evidence to date for a policy targeting almost any expression of Uyghur identity, culture or Islamic faith — and of a chain of command running all the way up to the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.”
- Nigerian Christians Protest Deborah’s Death (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “Two weeks ago, in Nigeria’s northwestern-most state of Sokoto, Deborah Samuel was beaten to death and set on fire by fellow students at Shehu Shagari College of Education. Officials and police intervened in vain.”
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- Wishing Well (At Random Comics)
- Do We Need To? (Pearls Before Swine)
- Woke Jeopardy (Sinfest): ouch
- Beware (Gary Larson, The Far Side): heh
- I can’t stop watching the ‘hanger reflex’ freak people out (Annie Rauwerda, Input): “It seems too weird to be true and I can’t stop thinking about it. People on the internet are taking hangers, opening them up, and sandwiching their heads inside. Then, their heads turn to the side, seemingly without their control. There’s NO WAY this is real, I thought as I got up to get a hanger from the closet and try it on myself.”
- Pictionary Causes Problems (Dry Bar Comedy, YouTube): four minutes
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Conservatives Clash on the Goal of Government (Jonathan Leeman, Providence): “There is no neutrality. The public square is a battleground of gods. Our culture wars are wars of religion. For the time being, liberalism keeps us from picking up sixteenth‐century swords for those wars, which is no small achievement. But don’t assume it won’t control us with the subtler tools of a twenty‐first century legal totalitarianism.” Insightful reflections on how Christians should form their political positions. First shared in volume 218.
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.