Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 439

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 439, which is not only a prime number and the sum of three consecutive primes (139 + 149 + 151), but also the sum of nine consecutive primes (31 + 37 + 41 + 43 + 47 + 53 + 59 + 61 + 67). Which is, you know, a lotta primes.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. How Digital Apps Are Changing How We Read the Bible (John Dyer, Text & Canon): “I asked both groups to read the book of Jude and then tell me (1) what the point of the book was, and (2) how it made them feel. Interestingly, two opposite trends emerged. The print readers said they felt Jude was about God’s judgment while the phone readers tended to emphasize God’s faithfulness. But then, on the second question, their answers seemed to split. The print readers, who felt the book was about God’s judgment, said they were encouraged by the reading. The phone readers on the other hand who said Jude was about God’s faithfulness, said after reading it that they felt discouraged and confused. So what can account for that difference? Why is a judgmental God encouraging and a faithful God discouraging?”
  2. The Grand Canyon-Sized Chasm Between Elites and Ordinary Americans (Rob K. Henderson, Substack): “Perhaps the most striking divergence between elite and non-elite opinion: Although the majority of ordinary voters oppose the strict rationing of meat, electricity, and gas to fight climate change, 89% of Ivy graduates and 77% of elites overall are in favor of it.”
  3. What Happened When My Church Encountered Negative World (Patrick Miller, Mere Orthodoxy): “You can tell our church’s story in a way that makes us the victims of the progressives, but that’s not our full story. Nor is it the story of most non-coastal churches that refused to go pro-Trump or pro-Biden in 2020. Pastors at such churches will tell you the same story: The negative world bows before golden donkeys and elephants.”
  4. Sarah Isgur’s Majority Report (Kelefah Sanneh, The New Yorker): “Through the eyes of Isgur and French, the American legal system generally appears to be a place where smart people assess good-faith arguments and compose thoughtful essays explaining their decisions. Their underlying contention is that the Supreme Court is good, even, or perhaps especially, in its current incarnation.… In an era of aggrieved political discourse, Isgur is something unusual: a commentator who truly seems to love the government institution she covers.”
    • Advisory Opinions is one of my favorite podcasts and I’m not remotely a lawyer. Isgur and French are amazing.
  5. The Devil’s Face in Gaza (Gerald McDermott, First Things): “The minister of tourism, a rabbi, told an Israeli Christian leader, ‘We hope you send missionaries to the Arabs here.’ The Christian was shocked: ‘Don’t you hate missionaries?’ The government minister replied, ‘If you teach them what you believe, we will have peace in the Middle East.’”
  6. Some Stanford news:
    • Sit-in on Islamophobia replaces pro-Israel tent in White Plaza (Dilan Gohill, Stanford Daily): “Organizers set up the Sit-in to Stop Islamophobia on the White Plaza lawn — a space previously occupied by the Blue and White Tent. Tent organizers told The Daily they made an indefinite reservation through Cardinal Engage. According to Feigelis, University administration told the Sit-In to Stop Islamophobia that the space was reserved for the Blue and White Tent. He said as long as the sit-in refuses to relocate, the tent cannot reassemble. The Daily has reached out to the University for comment. ‘We did not move your stuff — the wind destroyed it, you cleaned it up. We saw an open space, we set up here, we’re happy to coexist.’ El Boudali said. He added that organizers set up in White Plaza due to its high traffic.”
    • Stanford students protest new ban on overnight sit-in camping (Lauren Irwin, The Hill): “Stanford said its level of concern has risen to a point that it can no longer support overnight activities.”
    • Read the official Stanford statement: Preserving free speech and safety on White Plaza (Stanford News): “Moving forward, any tents, tables, chairs, or other similar items will need to be removed from White Plaza between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Any overnight displays and/or camping items left unoccupied are subject to removal for health and safety reasons. Students who violate the no-camping policy will be subject to a disciplinary referral to the Office of Community Standards and may also be cited for trespass for failing to comply with a university directive.”
    • And not exactly Stanford news, but not not Stanford news: Law schools must adopt free speech policies to maintain ABA accreditation (Lexi Lonas, The Hill): “The new standard requires schools to adopt a policy that would allow faculty, students and staff ‘to communicate ideas that may be controversial or unpopular, including through robust debate, demonstrations or protests,’ and would forbid activities that disrupt or impinge on free speech. But it wouldn’t impose specific policy language,’”’ the statement added.”
  7. The Political Preferences of LLMs (David Rozado, Substack): “When probed with questions/statements with political connotations most conversational LLMs tend to generate responses that are diagnosed by most political test instruments as manifesting preferences for left-of-center viewpoints. This does not appear to be the case for base (i.e. foundation) models upon which LLMs optimized for conversation with humans are built. Though not conclusive, our results provide supporting evidence for the intriguing hypothesis that the embedding of political preferences into LLMs might be happening mostly post-pretraining. Namely, during the supervised fine-tuning (SFT) and/or Reinforcement Learning (RL) stages of the conversational LLMs training pipeline.”
    • In other words, the AI tools we see appear to have political preferences trained into them by the companies that are creating them, although it is not clear to what extent this is deliberately being done.
    • The author is a professor of data science in New Zealand —

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • History of Japan (Bill Wurz, YouTube): nine amazing minutes — genuinely worth your time if you have any interest in Japan at all. Or in how to teach history using video. He leaves a bunch out and definitely throws his opinion around, but it’s hard to see how he could have done anything else in nine minutes. Really good.

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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