Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 425

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 425, the sum of 3 consecutive primes. 425 = 137 + 139 + 149

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. I’m going to start today’s roundup off with an explanation of why this email is the way it is. First read this brief article by Nate Silver: It’s easy to screw up on breaking news. But you have to admit when you do. (Nate Silver, Substack): “This morning, Gallup published its annual poll on trust in the media. Overall, only 32 percent of Americans say they trust the mass media ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ to ‘report the news fully, accurately and fairly’ — tied with 2016 for a record low. ”
    • Silver’s article made me reflect on how I think about modern journalism and then made me want to explain it. First, I do believe journalists try to get things right. Places like the NYT and the Washington Post rarely publish false information and generally correct falsehoods when they become aware of them. The more specific a claim is the more likely it is to be true.
    • Journalists do, however, frequently fail to report true information they are not interested in or excited about. This is rarely a conscious choice — it’s just a byproduct of the way they think about reality. This comes up especially on so-called “culture war” issues. Many top-notch reporters are simultaneously unaware of and strangely incurious about many of the facts and stories around transgenderism, marriage, religious liberty, and so on.
    • In fact, newsrooms are so ideologically monocultural that there are often massive holes in what is reported. Not only are reporters blind to inconvenient facts, they are often blind to entire stories and trends. An excellent historical example of this is whenever the 60s and 70s are remembered. America legit experienced a Great Awakening (the Jesus People movement) that happened in parallel with the Sexual Revolution. We only ever talk about the second not because reporters/commentators are suppressing knowledge of the Jesus People but because they genuinely are not even aware that they existed or that what happened then is still shaping our culture today.
    • And so when I want a fact, I turn to someplace like the NYT, WaPo, WSJ, Reuters or to a credible expert who writes directly to the public (Ryan Burge is a good example of this). But when I want an analysis, I look for credible, sane voices both within and without the confines of the media establishment. I frequently look to places like Substack or niche websites like Mere Orthodoxy or to mainstream media commentators like Ross Douthat or David French or Megan McArdle who have a track record of synthesizing information accurately and forming opinions wisely.
    • And when I’m reading something, I often ask, “Does this perspective seem plausible in light of my experience?” Especially when it is a claim about evangelicalism or charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity — I likely know more about that world than 98% of the staff of the New York Times (and after reading some articles I think I know more about it than all their staff put together). Sometimes they take an oddball church or religious leader and put their story forward as representative when it is not at all.
    • Anyway, there is probably a lot more to say about modern media, but what I just said is pretty much why this weekly update features the mix of content that it does: mainstream media sources for facts and a diverse array of experts for analysis, all filtered through evangelical sensibilities.
    • A related thought on news consumption: periodicity (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “The more unstable a situation is, the more rapidly it changes, the less valuable minute-by-minute reporting is. I don’t know what happened to the hospital in Gaza, but if I wait until the next issue of the Economist shows up I will be better informed about it than people who have been rage-refreshing their browser windows for the past several days, and I will have suffered considerably less emotional stress.… If you’re reading the news several times a day, you’re not being informed, you’re being stimulated.”
  2. Moving on, here are some articles that give context for the Israel war on Hamas:
    • Palestinian right of return matters (Matt Yglesias, Substack): “Because it seems to me that whatever you personally think about [the Palestinian right of return], it is absolutely central to how the Arab world and diaspora Jews and secular Israelis all view the conflict. Which in turn means that it’s central to the collapse of the Two-State Solution as a political construct and to the collapse of the peace camp in Israeli politics that might have been inclined make a deal that was favorable to Palestinian interests. There is, in fact, a whole school of thought associated with Bill Clinton and American negotiator Dennis Ross that holds the right of return almost single-handedly responsible for scuttling the Camp David talks and preventing the emergence of an independent Palestine. Of course, many other well-informed people deny that’s the case or believe it’s an oversimplification. But even if you think it is factually incorrect to say the resolution of this conflict hinges on the right of return, its centrality to so many of the narratives around this issue makes it an important concept to understand.”
    • The Forgotten History of the Term “Palestine” (Douglas J. Feith, Mosaic): “The term ‘Palestine’ was used for millennia without a precise geographic definition. That’s not uncommon—think of ‘Transcaucasus’ or ‘Midwest.’ No precise definition existed for Palestine because none was required. Since the Roman era, the name lacked political significance. No nation ever had that name.”
      • This is from back in 2021. Super interesting stuff.
    • Hamas does not yet understand the depth of Israeli resolve (Haviv Rettig Gur, Times of Israel): “That enemy is not the Palestinian people, of course, even though support for terror attacks is widespread among Palestinians. The enemy is not exactly Hamas either, though Hamas is part of it. The enemy is the Palestinian theory of Israelis that makes the violence seen on October 7 seem to many of them a rational step on the road to liberation rather than, as Israelis judge it, yet another in a long string of self-inflicted disasters for the Palestinian cause.… A tragedy is about to unfold in Gaza made worse by the long learning curve it will take for Hamas to grasp the depth of Israeli resolve. It has robbed Israel of any other interest but its destruction. In the Israeli mind, any brutality Hamas can commit it will commit. And so it cannot be allowed to ever commit any act ever again.”
  3. Some Christian perspectives
    • Antisemitic Violence and Its Shameful Defense (Mike Cosper, Christianity Today): “To be horrified by the slaughter of Israeli innocents doesn’t require denying the suffering of the Palestinian people. And caring for Palestinian innocents doesn’t require being cold or numb to the horrors of antisemitism and Hamas. We can condemn Hamas while demanding accountability from Israeli leaders who have fomented violence, elevated right-wing extremists, and excused violations of international law. Indeed, Christians should be marked by our willingness to oppose all injustice and to care for Israeli and Palestinian victims alike. And while that includes understanding that Palestinians have suffered great injustices from the government of Israel—as well as neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, as well as Hamas and the Palestinian Authority itself—it must also include active rejection of antisemitism.”
    • Wither the Poisonous Plant of Hamas (Tamir Khouri, Christianity Today): “In this environment of hatred, racism, and violence, Hamas has exploited young people with false promises. With no horizon of hope, Hamas’s adherents in Palestine sank into darkness and helped Hamas victimize Israelis too. But it does not have to be this way. As Christians, we believe in the power of redemption. With real hope for the future of this land, these hateful movements will wither. For a lasting peace, we must respect the image of God in Israelis and Palestinians alike. Is it too much to ask that we don’t see this as a zero-sum game? Shouldn’t both Israelis and Palestinians live in the dignity God intended for us?”
      • The pseudonymous author is a Palestinian Christian who is an Israeli citizen.
  4. Some articles about modern academia:
    • Why Big Money Can’t Easily Change Campus Politics (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…donors should find ways to give money to the actual students — through the Hillel or other Jewish or Israeli student groups if you’re especially concerned with the Jewish place on campus, but more generally through political or religious groups that promise to work against the school’s dominant assumptions, or through student associations that seem to foster free debate, or through campus-adjacent institutions that serve students but are independent of the schools. But not with the goal of using such student groups as a means of conflict with the administration or the faculty. Rather, with the goal that such groups can become microcosms of the university you loved once and fear no longer exists, cells in a body yet to be restored, whose health and flourishing within the large world of Penn or Harvard or wherever is an end unto itself.”
      • Ross Douthat speaks nothing but truth throughout this essay. If you know any gazillionaires who want to influence the trajectories of elite universities have them read this essay and then tell them about Chi Alpha. Mention we’d like a building near campus.
    • The War Comes to Stanford (Pamela Paul, New York Times): “Alma Andino, a Jewish senior at Stanford University, spent the day of Hamas’s attacks against Israel crying and distraught. Like many Jews around the country, much of the weekend passed on the phone with family members, fearing for the safety of friends and extended family in Israel. Andino’s fellow students in Columbae, the social justice and antiwar residential house where she is a residential assistant, held her through her panic attacks. ‘I felt so powerless,’ she recalled when we spoke this week. On Monday, a friend asked if she’d seen the banner some of her housemates were preparing to hang on the front of Columbae, the house she considered to be her community and her home. The sheet bore the slogan ‘Zionism is genocide’ in red letters, styled to look as if they were dripping with blood.… For Alma Andino, events on campus have already reached a breaking point. After begging her housemates not to hang the banner, she said the group debated for hours, with the implication they would desist only if a suitable justification for Israel’s existence could be given. They told her they felt that as student activists, they needed to display a message that would put them on the right side of history. We should be advocating for marginalized communities, they said. ‘Except for Jews?’ Alma replied. The group scoffed.”
    • What Conservatives Misunderstand About Radicalism at Universities (Tyler Austin Harper, The Atlantic): “The tension bursting into view right now—between a majority of scholars, for whom ‘decolonization’ means putting fewer white Europeans on their syllabi, and a small minority who believe it entails anything-goes violent revolution—is the unwelcome and unsurprising result of universities wanting to cosplay rebellion while still churning out Wall Street–executive alumni who will one day pad endowments that are larger than Israel’s annual defense budget.”
      • The title makes this sound more partisan than it is. 100% worth a read and ponder.
    • Students for Pogroms in Israel (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Looking back on the Manson killings, Joan Didion wrote, ‘Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true. The tension broke that day. The paranoia was fulfilled.’ A few people I know believe last Saturday’s attack on Israel and the responses from leftist student groups mark the end of the ‘Great Awokening.’ Although it is too early to evaluate the accuracy of that hypothesis, campus politics have certainly transformed in recent days. Now we are left wondering whether what comes next is better or worse than what preceded it.”
      • He makes specific mention of Stanford at one point, although it is hardly his focus.
    • Moral controversies and academic public health: Notes on navigating and surviving academic freedom challenges (Tyler VanderWeele, Global Epidemiology): “I think that there needs to be more open discussion in academia, and in society, about these matters. Most people, even those who are deeply concerned, seem very uneasy discussing these issues, for fear of being attacked for simply raising them. Colleagues at Harvard, ranging from an expert in child development to a clinician providing mental health care for teenage girls, have told me that they are uncomfortable sharing their concerns on these matters in many or most settings at Harvard. An evolutionary biologist at Harvard likewise recently came under attack because she explicitly stated that sex was biological and binary, even though she also noted that we can nevertheless respect a person’s gender identity. The attack was sufficiently severe, and the administration’s response sufficiently weak, that she eventually felt she had no choice but to resign. Rather than open discussion, it seems we are often now relying on anonymous articles, or brave, and subsequently vilified, authors and whistle-blowers to raise alternative viewpoints. One may strongly disagree with their positions, but it is not unreasonable to raise the questions.”
      • I removed hyperlinked footnotes from this excerpt for readability. This is worth reading as a model of maturely and wisely responding to academic intolerance. Not many scholars have comported themselves with as much class as VanderWeele when their views came under attack. Also, I learned in this article that VanderWeele is Catholic. I had assumed he was an evangelical based on something I heard elsewhere.
  5. Thinking about the moral dimensions of the war
    • The Moral Questions at the Heart of the Gaza War (David French, New York Times): “This is the problem Israeli soldiers and commanders face. They must protect their citizens from savagery. They must comply with the laws of war. And they must make a series of moral choices, under extreme duress, that can define them and their nation — all while they face a terrorist enemy that appears to possess no conscience at all.”
      • Worth reading. As I mentioned when I shared French’s previous article, he is more qualified than any other columnist I know to weigh in on this.
    • This Way for the Genocide, Ladies and Gentlemen (Chris Hedges, ScheerPost): “I spent seven years reporting on the conflict, four of them as the Middle East Bureau Chief of The New York Times. I stood over the bodies of Israeli victims of bus bombings in Jerusalem by Palestinian suicide-bombers. I saw rows of corpses, including children, in the corridors in Dar Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. I watched Israeli soldiers taunt small boys who in response threw rocks and were then callously shot in the Khan Younis refugee camp. I sheltered from bombs dropped by Israeli warplanes. I climbed over the rubble of demolished Palestinian homes and apartment blocks along the border with Egypt. I interviewed the bloodied and dazed survivors. I heard the soul crushing wails of mothers keening over the corpses of their children.… it is not Israel’s assault on Gaza I fear most. It is the complicity of an international community that licenses Israel’s genocidal slaughter and accelerates a cycle of violence it may not be able to control.”
      • Recommended by an alumnus.
  6. Smartphones Have Turbocharged the Danger of Porn (Mary Harrington, Wall Street Journal): “It should come as no surprise that the personalized, tactile, portable smartphone would be the digital portal of choice for something as intimate as porn consumption. But of the new compulsive behaviors enabled by smartphones, few have as intense and immediate a reward cycle as porn—or as many far-reaching consequences.”
  7. Is It Wrong to Cure Blindness? (Francesca Block, The Free Press): “The National Institutes of Health, the $40 billion-endowed funding arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, recently took a stand against ableism by proposing a change to its mission statement, which promises to ‘enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.’ An advisory committee within the NIH took issue with the phrase ‘reduce… disability,’ writing in a 66-page report published last December that it ‘could be interpreted as perpetuating ableist beliefs that disabled people are flawed and need to be ‘fixed.’ ”
    • There are legit insane perspectives being normalized in the world right now. Curing blindness is an unequivocal good.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have What The Media Gets Wrong About Israel (Mattie Friedman, The Atlantic): “…one of the most important aspects of the media-saturated conflict between Jews and Arabs is also the least covered: the press itself. The Western press has become less an observer of this conflict than an actor in it, a role with consequences for the millions of people trying to comprehend current events, including policymakers who depend on journalistic accounts to understand a region where they consistently seek, and fail, to productively intervene.” This is an old article I share periodically, I think I first shared it way back in my fifth Friday email. Helpful in parsing media coverage in the current war.

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.

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