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.
396 is apparently the number of 3x3 sliding puzzle positions that require exactly 11 moves to solve starting with a hole in the center. I have not verified that claim.
Things Glen Found Interesting
- The Global Transformation of Christianity Is Here (Tish Harrison Warren, The New York Times): “Multiple scholars point to Western Europe as an example of what’s to come in the United States. Today, the three largest Protestant churches in Paris are Afro-Caribbean evangelical megachurches of a charismatic or Pentecostal bent. A study last year examined Chinese churches in Britain that were experiencing exponential growth, sometimes doubling or tripling in size in a few years. Last April, the Italian Chinese Theological Seminary opened in Rome to train Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking pastors. Some of the largest megachurches in metro London are led by Africans, including Kingsway International Christian Center, which is led by a Nigerian, Matthew Ashimolowo, and is most likely the largest church in Europe.”
- I have unlocked this one.
- The school shooting in Nashville was the defining news event of the week. This story is a tragedy featuring three hot-button topics: trans issues, Christian persecution, and guns. A lot more is going to come out about this and people on the left and the right are going to lose their minds trying to spin it. If you see something that thoughtfully explores one or more of these elements let me know. Here are some reflections on it that I have found interesting so far.
- Presbyterian School Mourns 6 Dead in Nashville Shooting (Daniel Silliman and Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “At Woodmont Baptist, not long after they heard the sirens whir by, pastors and staff read reports of a shooting at Covenant. When they saw on Twitter that their church was named as the reunification site, they didn’t question it—they just put on their nametags, met police in the parking lot, and prepared to open their doors to buses of surviving children and parents desperate to see their kids safe and sound, senior pastor Nathan Parker told CT. The children gathered in the fellowship hall, where the student minister handed out coloring sheets and began processing the shooting with them.”
- Heavily Armed Assailant Kills Six at Christian School (Emily Cochrane, Ben Shpigel, Michael Levenson and Jesus Jiménez, New York Times): “Chief Drake said that the assailant was ‘at one point a student’ at the school.… There was confusion about the gender identity of the assailant in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Chief Drake said the shooter identified as transgender. Officials used “she” and “her” to refer to the shooter, but, according to a social media post and a LinkedIn profile, the shooter appeared to identify as male in recent months.… Chief Drake said it was too early to discuss a possible motive for the shooting, though he confirmed that the attack was targeted.”
- Heeding the Nashville shooter’s own voice: Do journalists want the ‘manifesto’ released? (Terry Mattingly, GetReligion): “Under normal circumstances, journalists would be doing everything that they can to answer the ‘why’ question in this case, including calling for the release of Hale’s manifesto text and other materials linked to the attack. But these are not normal circumstances.… Unless I have missed something, the AP coverage — the news material that will appear in most local newspapers — have made zero references to the shooter’s own social-media materials. Under normal circumstances, these online sources are one of the first places that reporters raised in the Internet era go for insights into this kind of story.”
- At a loss for words (Joshua Katz, The New Criterion): “I am sorry, therefore, that TheNew York Times, in its above-the-fold front-page story yesterday, names the shooter before the victims.… Until we know more about the killer, it would be unwise to speak of her motives, though it is obviously noteworthy that a standard database of mass shootings in the United States since 1966 does not record a single female shooter at a K–12 school. (Bizarrely, the main article in the Times ignores this fact, instead stating that the shooting was ‘unusual’ because Covenant is a private elementary school rather than a public high school.)”
- Author sound familiar? Katz was a professor at Princeton and is now a fellow at AEI and he’s been mentioned in these weekly roundups before.
- In the Face of Tragedy, Petitioning God Is an Act of Faith (David French, New York Times): “It is a terrible sign of our polarized times that the very concept of prayer in the midst of tragedy has itself become contentious. ‘Spare us your prayers,’ some will say. ‘We demand action.’ But what if people need prayer? What if grieving neighbors are desperate for prayer?… For the faithful believer, prayer isn’t a substitute for action, it’s a prerequisite for action. It grounds us before we move to serve others. It grounds us before we speak in the public square.”
- I’ve unlocked the paywall on this one. Well worth your time.
- Nashville’s Satanic Theophany (Rod Dreher, Substack): “Listen to me: this has been the strategy of LGBT advocates for more than twenty years now: convince the normies that if they don’t give the activists what they want, that they will have blood on their hands. At the turn of the century, activists convinced schools that in order to combat bullying — a worthy endeavor — they had to teach gay ideology. You might have thought, ‘Really? Why isn’t it enough to teach that bullying is wrong, and to punish bullies?’ The question itself reveals the real motivation behind the campaign.”
- Dreher recently moved entirely to Substack.
- Not about the shooting at all, but relevant to thinking about issues surrounding transgender ideology. Understanding the Sex Binary (Colin Wright, City Journal): “When biologists claim that ‘sex is binary,’ they mean something straightforward: there are only two sexes. This statement is true because an individual’s sex is defined by the type of gamete (sperm or ova) their primary reproductive organs (i.e., gonads) are organized, through development, to produce. Males have primary reproductive organs organized around the production of sperm; females, ova. Because there is no third gamete type, there are only two sexes that a person can be. Sex is therefore binary.”
- Also not about this shooting but concerning guns in general, the most informative thing I’ve seen is this debate between two pastors on guns that I shared back in volume 48 (you have to click through to see it since it’s multiple links). Many more related articles I’ve shared through the years can be found at https://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/archives/tag/guns
- The age of average (Alex Murrell, personal blog): “The interiors of our homes, coffee shops and restaurants all look the same. The buildings where we live and work all look the same. The cars we drive, their colours and their logos all look the same. The way we look and the way we dress all looks the same. Our movies, books and video games all look the same. And the brands we buy, their adverts, identities and taglines all look the same. But it doesn’t end there. In the age of average, homogeneity can be found in an almost indefinite number of domains. The Instagram pictures we post, the tweets we read, the TV we watch, the app icons we click, the skylines we see, the websites we visit and the illustrations which adorn them all look the same. The list goes on, and on, and on.”
- Highly recommended. The accompanying photos are striking.
- How Christian Is Christian Nationalism? (Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker): “If America was once better than it is now, why did our Christian forebears allow it to get worse? In answering this question, Wolfe sometimes sounds more like a critic of the faith than a defender of it.… Wolfe thinks that there is something ‘weird’ about the way in which the U.S. and other Western nations reject ethnic chauvinism—officially, anyway—in favor of an ‘ideology of universality.’ But this weird universality is part of what sets Christianity apart from most other creeds.”
- An insightful article in the New Yorker. The author is the son of a famous theologian.
- Hollywood’s Great Awakening (Olivia Reingold, The Free Press): “Made by Christian production house Kingdom Story Company and backed by mega distributor Lionsgate, [Jesus Revolution] earned back its $15 million budget the weekend it opened, when critics predicted it would gross closer to $6 or $7 million. That’s a triumphant performance compared to the weekend debuts of recent blockbusters, like 65, a sci-fi flick with a $91 million budget that made just $12.3 million, and M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller Knock at the Cabin, which brought in $14.1 million. Since its release on February 24, Jesus Revolution has grossed $49 million in ticket sales—besting many of this year’s Oscar nominees combined at U.S. box offices.”
- Some AI-related perspectives
- Existential risk, AI, and the inevitable turn in human history (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “I am reminded of the advent of the printing press, after Gutenberg. Of course the press brought an immense amount of good, enabling the scientific and industrial revolutions, among many other benefits. But it also created writings by Lenin, Hitler, and Mao’s Red Book. It is a moot point whether you can ‘blame’ those on the printing press, nonetheless the press brought (in combination with some other innovations) a remarkable amount of true, moving history. How about the Wars of Religion and the bloody 17th century to boot? Still, if you were redoing world history you would take the printing press in a heartbeat. Who needs poverty, squalor, and recurrences of Ghenghis Khan-like figures?”
- Response to Tyler Cowen’s Existential risk, AI, and the inevitable turn in human history (Zvi Mowshowitz, Substack): “If you create something with superior intelligence, that operates at faster speed, that can make copies of itself, what happens by default? That new source of intelligence will rapidly gain control of the future. It is very, very difficult to prevent this from happening even under ideal circumstances.”
- A rebuttal to the Cowen piece.
- Cowen defends his views (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): he is defending his views against a Scott Alexander piece which I didn’t find as interesting as the Mowshowitz piece I linked above. The rejoinder is broad enough to be useful on its own.
- It is interesting to think about AI risk as a Christian who believes in demons which seem to be smarter than humans and who are described several times in the Bible as running significant parts of this world.
- Free Will Is Real (Stuart T. Doyle, Skeptic): “Here I will try to convince you that free will is real and not an illusion. I’ll argue that far from being exemplars of rationality and skepticism, the main arguments against free will make unjustifiable logical leaps and are naïve in the light of cutting-edge scientific findings.Throughout the philosophical literature, resolving the question of whether or not we have free will has often revolved around two criteria for free will: (1) We must be the true sources of our own actions. (2) We must have the ability to do otherwise. I argue that humans meet both criteria through two concepts: scale and undecidability.”
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- If The Princess Bride Characters Were Churches (Twitter video)
- Effect Size (xckd)
- Amazon’s Alexa Is A Man (Dry Bar Comedy, YouTube): one minute
- Turing Test (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “The year is 2028, and this is Turing Test!, the game show that separates man from machine! Our star tonight is Dr. Andrea Mann, a generative linguist at University of California, Berkeley. She’ll face five hidden contestants, code-named Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Spirit. One will be a human telling the truth about their humanity. One will be a human pretending to be an AI. One will be an AI telling the truth about their artificiality. One will be an AI pretending to be human. And one will be a total wild card. Dr. Mann, you have one hour, starting now.” This is a fun read.
- Qualifications (xkcd)
- The Biggest Problem With Dating A Religious Person (Dry Bar Comedy, YouTube): five minutes. Uneven but quite funny at times.
- Can Pregnant Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt Do The Splits? (Would I Lie To You?, YouTube): five minutes
- 3 Lies to Escape a Southern Goodbye (Matt Mitchell, YouTube): three and a half minutes
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have On What Atheists Say There Is (M. Anthony Mills, Society of Catholic Scientists): “According to the atheist, the theist’s error is believing in one too many things. Yet, for the theist, the disagreement is not about the existence of one particular thing, but ‘about everything,’ as MacIntyre puts it.” The beginning and end are excellent. The middle muddles unless you have very precise philosophical interests. The author has a Ph.D. in philosophy. From volume 275.
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.