Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 429

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 429, a sphenic number (i.e, a number with exactly three distinct prime factors).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Classical liberals are increasingly religious (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “Not too long ago, I was telling Ezra Klein that I had noticed a relatively new development in classical liberalism. If a meet an intellectual non-Leftist, increasingly they are Nietzschean, compared to days of yore. But if they are classical liberal instead, typically they are religious as well. That could be Catholic or Jewish or LDS or Eastern Orthodox, with some Protestant thrown into the mix, but Protestants coming in last. The person being religious is now a predictor of that same person having non-crazy political views. Classical liberalism thus, whether you like it or not, has become an essentially religious movement.”
    • Related: Why Tyler Cowen Doesn’t Meet Protestant Intellectuals (Aaron Renn, Substack): “You would think that after decades of bemoaning the ‘scandal of the evangelical mind,’ we would be heavily promoting the world class scientists and other intellectual figures we have. But that isn’t the case. I’m not a scientist but I’m not chopped liver either. I was a partner in a consulting firm, a senior fellow in a major think tank, and have written for and been cited in most of the major publications in the country (NYT, WSJ, Guardian, Atlantic, etc). But the institution that’s done the most to promote my work is the Catholic-centric First Things magazine. Undoubtedly the best career move I could make as a writer on culture, men’s issues, and public policy would be to convert to Catholicism. That would probably open doors to opportunities I will not otherwise get.”
      • Renn left out some important pieces of the puzzle. It also has to do with the way that decentralized church authority operates in the Protestant world and the lack of intersection between someone like me and someone like Andy Stanley. We just move in completely different circles. I’m not saying I’m the intellectual in this equation, by the way. I am saying I know a bunch. I have baptized people who are now professors at Stanford, but pick-your-favorite megachurch preacher has no idea that they exist. And that lack of intersection extends to groups like Veritas and the Trinity Forum which are doing the kind of work Renn describes, but independently of Saddleback Church or any other evangelical center of influence. Most influential preachers are niche celebrities who are also populist intellectuals, and that is a very different thing from an academic or institutional intellectual. There really isn’t any straightforward way to bring the two together. And I haven’t even talked about the role of Christian universities in this situation, their relationship to evangelical influencers, and their joint relationship to secular scholars. It would take a whole essay to bring all the pieces together, and I’m not sure it’s a good use of my time.
    • Related: She found meaning where she least expected it — her childhood faith (Rachel Martin, NPR): “Hurwitz: But I think what makes me nervous about the spiritual buffet is that what you’re saying is, ‘I’m going to take this thing from Buddhism that’s so me and this thing from Judaism that’s so me and this from Catholicism.’   Martin: One-hundred percent. That’s what I’m doing. Hurwitz: This is what so many of us do, and at the end of the day you’re reinforcing yourself. You’re kind of deifying yourself. Martin: Wow. Hurwitz: You’re saying, ‘What reinforces my preexisting beliefs?’ This is how we consume social media, right? But it’s not the purpose of these great spiritual traditions.”
    • Also related: Where Does Religion Come From? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Some sort of religious attitude is essentially demanded, in my view, by what we know about the universe and the human place within it, but every sincere searcher is likely to follow their own idiosyncratic path.”
      • A fascinating essay that wanders into weird places.
  2. How this Turing Award–winning researcher became a legendary academic advisor (Sheon Han, MIT Technology Review): “Former students describe Blum as unwaveringly positive, saying he had other ways besides criticism to steer them away from dead ends. ‘He is always smiling, but you can see he smiles wider when he likes something. And oh, we wanted that big smile,’ says Ronitt Rubinfeld, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. Behind the general positivity, Rubinfeld says, is a fine taste for interesting ideas. Students could trust they were being guided in the right direction. Come up with a boring idea? Blum, who is known for his terrible memory, would have mostly forgotten it by your next meeting.”
    • I quite liked this one.
  3. There’s another Christian movement that’s changing our politics. It has nothing to do with whiteness or nationalism (John Blake, CNN): “The Social Gospel was a Christian movement that emerged in late 19th-century America as a response to the obscene levels of inequality in a rapidly industrializing country.… The Social Gospel turned religion into a weapon for economic and political reform. Its message: saving people from slums was just as important as saving them from hell. At its peak, the movement’s leaders supported campaigns for eight-hour workdays, the breaking up of corporate monopolies and the abolition of child labor. They spoke from pulpits, lectured across the country and wrote best-selling books.… The Social Gospel movement is making a comeback. Some may argue it never left.”
  4. You Are the Last Line of Defense (Bari Weiss, The Free Press): “I am here because I know that in the fight for the West, I know who my allies are. And my allies are not the people who, looking at facile, external markers of my identity, one might imagine them to be. My allies are people who believe that America is good. That the West is good. That human beings—not cultures—are created equal and that saying so is essential to knowing what we are fighting for. America and our values are worth fighting for—and that is the priority of the day.”
  5. UK infant baptized before being forced off life support, father says ‘the devil’ was in the courtroom (Timothy H.J. Nerozzi, Fox News): “Dean Gregory, Indi’s father, said before her death that he was inspired to baptize his daughter by Christian legal volunteers who fought to keep her alive. Dean said he became convinced of the existence of the devil by his family’s treatment in the courtroom. ‘I am not religious and I am not baptized. But when I was in court, it felt like I had been dragged to hell,’ Dean Gregory said in a Nov. 6 interview with New Daily Compass. ‘I thought, if hell exists then heaven must exist. It was like the devil was there. I thought if there’s a devil then God must exist.’ ”
    • Heartbreaking. Recommended by a student.
  6. Some Israel/Hamas perspectives:
    • There Should Be More Public Pressure on Hamas (David French, New York Times): “I’m not naïve. I don’t for a moment believe that defeating Hamas and removing it from power solves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel cannot live up to its own democratic promise or its own liberal ideals if, for example, it indulges its own dangerous radicals. But I do know that placing more pressure on Israel than Hamas to end the conflict and save civilian lives is exactly backward. The international system depends on opposing the aggressor and punishing crimes. Protests that aim their demands more at Israel than Hamas impede justice, erode the international order and undermine the quest for a real and lasting peace.”
    • This War Did Not Start a Month Ago (Dalia Hatuqa, New York Times): “To many inside and outside this war, the brutality of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks was unthinkable, as have been the scale and ferocity of Israel’s reprisal. But Palestinians have been subject to a steady stream of unfathomable violence — as well as the creeping annexation of their land by Israel and Israeli settlers — for generations. If people are going to understand this latest conflict and see a path forward for everyone, we need to be more honest, nuanced and comprehensive about the recent decades of history in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank, particularly the impact of occupation and violence on the Palestinians.”
      • A fairly straightforward presentation of the Palestinian perspective.
    • The Struggle for Black Freedom Has Nothing to Do with Israel (Coleman Hughes, The Free Press): “There is yet another inconvenient fact for those who want to reduce the Israeli-Arab conflict to a competition between European settlers and people of color: the majority of Israeli Jews are not European. They are Mizrahi Jews—hailing from the Middle East and North Africa. What’s more, it is not the European Jews but the Mizrahi Jews—who are difficult to visually distinguish from Palestinians—that form most of the voting base of the right-wing parties that Israel’s critics consider to be the truly racist ones.”
    • Three articles from The Gospel Coalition about the various ways Christians think about the promises to Israel in the Old Testament. It’s worth sorting through your own perspective. These three essays are from well-respected Christian academics who present their positions concisely and well.
      • Why the Land Promises Belong to Ethnic Israel (Gerald McDermott, The Gospel Coalition): “First, if the land promise was ended with the coming of Jesus, then God is not trustworthy. For he promised to Abraham and his seed that the land would be theirs for an everlasting possession (Gen. 17:8). Second, if the land promise to Israel is broken, then so might be God’s promise to renew and restore the heavens and the earth. The land promise’s partial fulfillment—by bringing Jews from the four corners of the earth back to the land starting in the eighteenth century—is down payment on the promise of a new heaven and a new earth. Third, it is a deep theological reason why we should support Israel in this new war against the new Nazism.”
      • The Expected Universalization of the Old Testament Land Promises (G. K. Beale, The Gospel Coalition): “The land promises will be fulfilled in a physical form when all believers inherit the earth, but the inauguration of this fulfillment is mainly spiritual until the final consummation in a fully physical new heaven and earth. The physical way these land promises have begun fulfillment is that Christ himself introduced the new creation by his physical resurrection.… Therefore, none of the references to the promise of Israel’s land in the Old Testament appears to be related to the promises of ethnic Israel’s return to the promised land on this present earth.”
      • Israel’s Role in the Land Promise (Darrell Bock, The Gospel Coalition): “It’s often claimed the New Testament moves the land promise from being about Israel as a people in the land to being about God’s people in the world. That’s an oversimplification. The question is whether that universal expansion neuters the specific promise made to Israel of a people in a land.”
  7. The Imprudence of ‘Dump Them’ (Clare Coffey, Christianity Today): “As prudence has fallen out of favor as an aspiration, it’s hard not to see the hole it has left. On social media, we try to fill that hole with an endless proliferation of abstract rules to govern human decisions. We try to outsource the basis of individual judgment to overly simplistic moral equations, and more often than not, we find the math works out to ‘dump them.’ ”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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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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