Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 436

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 436, which isn’t an especially interesting number. It is, apparently, nontotient, but even after reading about totients I remain uninterested.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. From Vexing Uncertainty to Intellectual Humility (Michael Dickson, Schizophrenia Bulletin):  “I am a 55-year-old husband, father, friend, and professional philosopher. In 1992, as a graduate student at Cambridge University, a porter found me amongst the cows in the meadows of King’s College, after being there for 2 or 3 days. I was in bad physical shape, having eaten nothing, and apparently getting water from the river. He asked what I was doing. I replied: ‘I’m solving a problem about stochastic calculus.’ This statement was true, but did not answer his question. He took me to the hospital, where I remained for some weeks. It wasn’t the first time that I was psychotic, but it was, maybe, the first time that anybody noticed, the first time that I was unable to hide it from others, and therefore from myself.”
    • The author is a professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina. A remarkable (and fairly brief) article. 
  2. GovDocs to the Rescue! Debunking an Immigration Myth (Rosemary Meszaros and Katherine Pennavaria, Policy Commons): “No one’s family name was changed, altered, shortened, butchered, or ‘written down wrong’ at Ellis Island or any American port. That idea is an urban legend. Many names did get changed as immigrants settled into their new American lives, but those changes were made several years after arrival and were done by choice of someone in the family.”
  3. A Peaceful Solution on Taiwan Is Slipping Away (Michael Beckley, New York Times): “…Taiwan provokes China simply by being what it is: A prosperous and free society. Taiwan’s blooming national identity threatens China with the prospect of permanent territorial dismemberment; and Taiwan’s elections, rule of law and free press make a mockery of Beijing’s claim that Chinese culture is incompatible with democracy. America’s words can’t change any of that. Chinese law explicitly states that Beijing may use force if possibilities for peaceful unification are ‘completely exhausted.’ Because of politics in Taiwan and the United States, those possibilities are dwindling.”
    • The author is a political scientist at Tufts.
    • Related: Taiwan’s China-skeptic ruling-party candidate wins presidential election (Emily Feng, NPR): “For security reasons, Taiwan does not allow absentee voting, mandating that all voters cast their ballots in-person, on paper only. The physical ballots are then counted by hand at every polling station, a process that is completely open to the public.” The implication being that they are so worried about Chinese meddling that they engage in radical transparency. Wow.
  4. Xi Jinping Is Not Trying to Make Christianity More Chinese (Fenggang Yang, Christianity Today): “Throughout December, the authorities once again tried hard to contain and curb Christmas celebrations inside and outside churches, prohibited students and others from participating in Christmas activities, and detained some house church leaders to prevent them from organizing congregational gatherings. Yet most churches, both the officially sanctioned churches and unregistered house churches, held Christmas Eve and Christmas Day worship services. The online evangelistic galas by Beijing Zion Church and other house churches on Zoom and other platforms are of high artistic quality. Christians shared discreetly on social media that church leaders baptized a number of new believers despite the current ‘bitter winter’ for churches in China.”
    • I found this bit fascinating: “Many people in the West may not know that in the Chinese Communist political system, the party’s policy is superior to state laws and trumps the constitution. The Chinafication policy has led to the promulgation of a series of administrative regulations and measures, including the vastly expanded Regulations of Religious Affairs that took effect in 2018.”
    • The author is a professor of sociology at Purdue.
  5. You Need To Be Cringemaxxing (Mary Harrington, Substack): “There is no way in the world to make going to church cool, and the most cringe thing of all is trying. Here’s the thing though: data consistently show that the happiest people — those who feel that their lives are most filled with purpose and fulfilment — are not necessarily those with kids — it’s those who go to church. Those, in other words, who are not just to be indifferent to cool, but actively anti-cool. The first step to a happy and fulfilled life, it appears, is cringemaxxing.”
    • Some other vaguely-related life advice: Risk-Aversion Is Killing Romance (Freya India, Substack): “Sometimes it seems to me we’ve become so suspicious of each other’s intentions that we pathologise romance and commitment, and end up psychoanalysing to death behaviour that’s actually decent. Now we take everything that comes with real love—being affected by someone else’s emotions, putting your partner’s needs first, depending on them—and call it damage or anxious attachment or trauma. No! It’s called deep connection! And God, yes, wouldn’t it be much easier if it was a pathology, a disease, one we could diagnose and solve because it’s scary and it comes without guarantees. But it isn’t.”
  6. “How Do I Find the Main Point of a Psalm?” (John Piper, Desiring God): “So, the point is to look at the pieces very carefully, to fit them together in midsize units, to jot down the main points of the midsize units until you have them all on a half sheet of paper, and then to think and think, and pray and pray, and think and pray and think and pray, and to organize and draw lines, and to try to fit them all together until they fall into place and you see how these five, six, seven, eight, nine points of the midsize units are in a flow that make one big overarching point. You will be surprised, if you take up pencil and paper and do this, what you will see.”
    • Recommended by a student
  7. Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts (David Brooks, The New York Times): “…[sometimes I] find a problem so massive that I can’t believe I’ve ever written about anything else. This latter experience happened as I looked into the growing bureaucratization of American life. It’s not only that growing bureaucracies cost a lot of money; they also enervate American society. They redistribute power from workers to rule makers, and in so doing sap initiative, discretion, creativity and drive. Once you start poking around, the statistics are staggering.”
    • Related: No joke: Feds are banning humorous electronic messages on highways (AP News): “Among those that will be disappearing are messages such as ‘Use Yah Blinkah’ in Massachusetts; ‘Visiting in-laws? Slow down, get there late,’ from Ohio; ‘Don’t drive Star Spangled Hammered,’ from Pennsylvania; ‘Hocus pocus, drive with focus’ from New Jersey; and ‘Hands on the wheel, not your meal’ from Arizona.”
      • You think Stanford hates fun? Try the federal bureaucracy!

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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