Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 433

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 433, a prime number.

A reminder as the year draws to a close: this weekly roundup of links is an overflow of the donor-funded ministry I do with Chi Alpha at Stanford University. If you’re so inclined, consider an end-of-year donation.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Some Christmas content:
    • Losing Our Grip on Christmas (Mike Glenn, Substack): “In America, Christianity isn’t attacked as much as it is usurped. When Christians say, ‘We’d like to celebrate Christmas,’ the world says, ‘That’s a great idea. Would you like for us to stay open late so you can buy everyone you love a gift?’ Suddenly, there’s no time to worship. There’s no time to pray. We’re too busy shopping.”
    • A Harmony of the Birth of Jesus: Matthew and Luke (Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition): “Here is a simple chronology to show how the events of Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2 fit together and what each of the gospel authors emphasize. Matthew tells things more through the eyes of Joseph and Luke (who perhaps interviewed Mary) tells the events largely through her eyes.”
    • Bethlehem Cancels Christmas, But Local Pastors Still Expect a Holy Night (Sophia Lee, Christianity Today): “The words people once associated with Christmas were Santa, tree, gifts, carols—all ‘romanticized’ traditions from the West, Isaac said. Today, he thinks of words from the Christmas story of the Bible: Caesar, census, massacre, and refugee in Egypt—relevant to Palestinians who have to register to travel outside the West Bank and who seek safety in Egypt.”
    • There’s No Christmas Lunch Like a Korean American Church Lunch (Eric Kim, New York Times): “…59 percent of Korean Americans identify as Christian. But that number used to be even higher. For decades, church lunches have been pivotal spaces for Korean immigrants as they established themselves in the United States, and these meals continue to flourish as hubs of community bonding for many who are the first generation to arrive here. More than just a meal, they are a key opportunity for conversation, gossip and fellowship.”
      • I liked a lot about this article, but I found it very New-York-Timesy to say that most Korean-Americans are Christian and then to tell stories about how those who have left the church nonetheless remember it and its food fondly.
  2. The Problem With Everything Being Pornified (Freya India, Substack): “…I find it so frustrating to see some progressives downplay the dangers of all this. Those that dismiss anyone concerned about the pornification of everything as a stuffy conservative. And somehow can’t see how the continual loosening of sexual norms might actually empower predatory men, and put pressure on vulnerable girls? That seems delusional to me. Let’s just say I have little patience for those on the left who loudly celebrate women sexualising themselves online, selling it as fun, feminist and risk-free, but are then horrified to hear about 12 year-olds doing the same thing. C’mon. No wonder they want to. But I also find it frustrating to see some on the right approach this with what seems like a complete lack of compassion. I don’t think it helps to relentlessly ridicule and blame young women for sexualising themselves online. I don’t think it’s fair either. We can’t give girls Instagram at 12 and then be surprised when as young women they base their self-worth on the approval of strangers.”
  3. Artificial intelligence can find your location in photos, worrying privacy experts (Geoff Brumfiel, NPR): “The project, known as Predicting Image Geolocations (or PIGEON, for short) was designed by three Stanford graduate students in order to identify locations on Google Street View.… [ACLU’s] Stanley worries that companies might soon use AI to track where you’ve traveled, or that governments might check your photos to see if you’ve visited a country on a watchlist. Stalking and abuse are also obvious threats, he says. In the past, Stanley says, people have been able to remove GPS location tagging from photos they post online. That may not work anymore.”
  4. In Gaza, Israelis Display Tunnel Wide Enough to Handle Cars (Ronen Bergman, New York Times): “Two military officials interviewed after the tour say that recently gathered intelligence indicated that Israel has grossly underestimated the size of the underground network. The system, which the army previously estimated was about 60 miles long, is now believed to be closer to 250 miles long, they said.”
  5. William Wilberforce: Abolitionist, Reformer, Evangelical (Richard Turnbull, Religion & Liberty Online): “What unites these disparate individuals? Perhaps three things. First, a passion for a true and lively faith that transforms the heart. Secondly, a holistic view of God’s love for the world that saw no contradiction between personal faith and a transformed society. Thirdly, a tenacity that drove these individuals never to give up, never to give up for Christ.”
    • A solid summary of a consequential Christian’s impact. The author is the former principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.
  6. A Tik-Tok-ing Timebomb: How TikTok’s Global Platform Anomalies Align with the Chinese Communist Party’s Geostrategic Objectives (National Contagion Research Institute): “We then expanded our research into topics relevant to the Chinese Government’s geopolitical interests: 1) Ukraine-Russia War; 2) Kashmir Independence; 3) Israel-Hamas War. The conclusions of our research are clear: Whether content is promoted or muted on TikTok appears to depend on whether it is aligned or opposed to the interests of the Chinese Government. As the summary data graph below illustrates, the percentages of TikTok posts out of Instagram posts are consistently range-bound for general political and pop-culture topics, but completely out-of-bounds for topics sensitive to the Chinese Government.”
    • The link is to a 18 page PDF. The research was conducted in conjunction with Rutgers University. I, for one, am shocked. Who could have predicted such a thing from a country otherwise devoted to free speech and free markets?
  7. Why Antisemitism Sprouted So Quickly on Campus (Jonathan Haidt, Substack): “Common enemy identity politics is arguably the worst way of thinking one could possibly teach to young people in a multi-ethnic democracy such as the United States. It is, of course, the ideological drive behind most genocides. On a more mundane level, it can in theory be used to create group cohesion on teams and in organizations, and yet the current academic version of it plunges organizations into eternal conflict and dysfunction. As long as this way of thinking is taught anywhere on campus, identity-based hatred will find fertile ground.”
    • Haidt is a social psychologist at NYU.

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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