Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 420

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 420, a number with cultural significance and also two interesting mathematical properties. 420 = 101 + 103 + 107 + 109 = 20 x 21. In other words, it is both the sum of consecutive primes and also the product of two consecutive numbers.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. We Are Repaganizing (Louise Perry, First Things): “The supremely strange thing about Christianity in anthropological terms is that it takes a topsy-turvy attitude toward weakness and strength. To put it crudely, most cultures look at the powerful and the wealthy and assume that they must be doing something right to have attained such might. The poor are poor because of some failing of their own, whether in this life or the last. The smallness and feebleness of women and children is a sign that they must be commanded by men. The suffering of slaves is not an argument against slavery, but an argument against allowing oneself to be enslaved. Most cultures—perfectly logically—glorify warriors and kings, not those at the bottom of the heap. But Christianity takes a perverse attitude toward status and puts that perversity at the heart of the theology. ‘God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong’ is a baffling and alarming claim to anyone from a society untouched by the strangeness of the Jesus movement.”
    • This is a remarkable essay about Christianity by a non-Christian. 10/10 recommend.
  2. Ross Douthat’s Theories of Persuasion (Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker): “This is not conspiracy-adjacent, but I think that nice secular people like you and Sam are sort of blind to some obvious supernatural realities about the world. I think lots of people have good reasons to end up in that kind of territory. And the question I don’t know the answer to is: Why is it so natural once you’re in that territory to go all the way to where R.F.K. is?” He continued, “I spend a lot of my own intellectual energy trying not to let my sort of eccentric views blind me to the fact that the establishment still gets a lot of boring, obvious things right.”
    • I found this interview/profile of Douthat charming.
  3. Singleness Is Not a Sin (Lyman Stone, Christianity Today): “Marriage is instituted for mutual service by spouses and joint service to the next generation. Celibacy is instituted for service to the church (not as a requirement for church service but as a possible aid to it). Widows likewise are commanded to be hospitable and helpful to younger people. Unless singleness is clearly defined as a state that has some purpose oriented toward the good of the neighbor (not just incidentally beneficial but purposively so), it is difficult to understand what possible endorsement the status can be given. It is not sinful, but it is not good.”
  4. Let’s Have a Talk About Education and Religious Attendance (Ryan Burge, Substack): “I just don’t know how you look at all this data that I’ve brought to bear and conclude that there’s not a positive relationship between education and religious attendance. You most certainly cannot conclude that it’s a negative relationship. That finds basically no support in this data at all. There’s some evidence that the relationship may not be statistically significant, but for me, the regression clears that up. People who are more educated are more likely to be attending a religious service in the local house of worship this weekend than those with a high school diploma or less. That’s what the preponderance of evidence tells me.”
    • A deeper dive than you often find on this topic. Emphasis in original.
  5. ‘O Slay the Wicked’: How Christians Sing Curses (Greg Morse, Desiring God): “Do we ever say anything uncomfortable in the presence of evil — or worse, do we even care? The psalmists did. We accuse them of cruelty; they accuse us of a twisted sentimentality. We accuse them of not considering man; they accuse us of not considering God.”
    • Recommended by a student.
  6. Before You Share Your Faith! How to Be ‘Evangelism Ready’ (Matt Smethurst, The Gospel Coalition): a 16 minute podcast recommended by a student. I liked the content, the delivery was less gripping than I expected. Worthwhile.
  7. Book Review: Elon Musk (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “I think Elon Musk is 1‑in‑1,000 level intelligent — which is great, but means there are still 300,000 people in America smarter than he is. I think he wins by being 1‑in-10,000,000 intense.”
    • This review is full of fascinating stories. 10/10 recommend if you have any interest whatsoever in Elon Musk.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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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.

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