Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 448

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 448, an untouchable number. Which is an absolutely cool designation for a number to have.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Gossip is good, Stanford scientist suggests (Sarayu Pai, Stanford Daily): “Although gossiping is typically cast in a negative light, a study conducted by researchers from Stanford and the University of Maryland found that gossiping may be a beneficial practice, as long as information remains ‘reliable.’ Study co-author Michele Gelfand, who is a professor at the Graduate School of Business, estimates that people gossip an hour a day on average — defined as the ‘exchange [of] personal information about absent third parties.’ ”
    • Recommended to me by a student, who said “these people need a dose of the Kingdom principle of the week : gossip is corrosive!” [Glen’s note — the Kingdom principle of the week is a thing we do in our Chi Alpha, and “gossip is corrosive” is one of them]
    • Indeed they do, and this is useful launching point for a brief discourse on gossip. In this study, gossip is defined as “exchange [of] personal information about absent third parties.” But that’s not what we’re condemning when we condemn gossip! If someone tells you, “wow — that Caleb guy is super charming and handsome” and you reply, “You know he’s married, right?” then you’ve done nothing wrong — that’s not the sin of gossip. But if you spread a false negative rumor about Caleb “you know he does drugs, right?”, that is the sin of gossip. This study conflates those two very different conversations.
    • The sin of gossip can be described as bearing bad news behind someone’s back with a bad heart. The bad news can be bad in the sense of being untrue or it can be bad in the sense of unnecessary and unhelpful. For more on this helpful framing, check out What Is Gossip? Exposing a Common and Dangerous Sin (Matt Mitchell, Desiring God).
    • This is a recurring pattern, by the way: some researcher wants to study something interesting but needs to operationalize a variable in some unorthodox way to make the research feasible. Then they do their research and find something that would be counterintuitive relative to the original meaning of the word they’re using (although maybe not that surprising given their operationalization of the variable), and then the media repeats it as a commentary on the actual thing — a thing which the scientists never studied. In this case, the study didn’t actually analyze the sin of gossip, but nonetheless near the end of the article we learn that “some students with previously negative views of gossip report seeing it differently in light of this study.”
  2. Why We Fast (Ross Byrd, Mere Orthodoxy): “Fasting is no magic fix. In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite of a magic fix. It takes time, patience, and discipline—dare I say, suffering—to see its fruit. But the fruit is no less than the ability to see more of God. Here are three ways to understand Christian fasting: 1. Fasting makes space for God. 2. Fasting interrupts and reorients our unconscious patterns. 3. Fasting gives us eyes to see the unseen.”
    • Emphasis in original. Lots of good insights in this one.
  3. ‘Little Women’ and the Art of Breaking Grammatical Rules (John McWhorter, New York Times): “Curzan notes, for example, that the use of ‘literally’ to exaggerate is no recent anomaly but rather goes back to, for example, our ‘Little Women,’ in which Louisa May Alcott has it that at a gathering ‘the land literally flowed with milk and honey.’ The March girls, also, would have said ‘sneaked’ where, since just the 1970s, as Curzan charts, we have been increasingly likely to say ‘snuck.’ Are you a little irked by the youngs saying ‘based off of’ rather than ‘based on’? That one threw me when I started hearing my students saying it about 15 years ago; Curzan calms us down and demonstrates how ordinary and even logical it is. Curzan is also good on the use of ‘hopefully’ to mean ‘it is hoped.’ This became a punching bag only in the 1960s — until then, not even grammar scolds cared, too busy complaining that, for example, the ‘proper’ meaning of obnoxious is ‘subject to harm.’” Recommended by a student.
  4. Some more Israel/Hamas commentary
    • Fractured Are the Peacemakers (Sophia Lee, Christianity Today): “I spent a week in Israel and the West Bank meeting Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews who are pastors, youth leaders, YMCA leaders, tour guides, lawyers, and students. Many of them aren’t professional peace activists, but all of them, from what I could tell, take seriously Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and strive to embody his proclamation that ‘blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Matt. 5:9). The problem is, I spoke to about two dozen individuals about what peacemaking means and got almost two dozen different answers.” Unlocked.
    • Israel Has Created a New Standard for Urban Warfare. Why Will No One Admit It? (John Spencer, Newsweek): “In my long career studying and advising on urban warfare for the U.S. military, I’ve never known an army to take such measures to attend to the enemy’s civilian population, especially while simultaneously combating the enemy in the very same buildings. In fact, by my analysis, Israel has implemented more precautions to prevent civilian harm than any military in history—above and beyond what international law requires and more than the U.S. did in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
      • The author is the chair of urban war studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point. Recommended by a student.
    • There Shall Be None to Make Him Afraid: American Liberty and the Jews (Mike Cosper, Acton Institute): “Historically speaking, the emergence of anti-Semitism is always a sign of something poisonous taking root in a society. It doesn’t just spell danger for Jews; it spells danger for everyone. As Bari Weiss has put it, ‘What starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews.’ The rise of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and half a dozen Middle Eastern states was quickly followed by other forms of violence, tyranny, and authoritarianism.” This is a long and solid article that covers much more than anti-Semitism (although that is at its heart).
  5. Schools are using research to try to improve children’s learning – but it’s not working (Sally Riordan, The Conversation): “A series of randomised controlled trials, including one looking at how to improve literacy through evidence, have suggested that schools that use methods based on research are not performing better than schools that do not.”
    • British context, hence the spelling.
  6. The Anti-Fragile Brendan Eich (Andrew Beck, First Things): “I am not here to complain about cancel culture. Brendan Eich does not. He is too busy. He refuses to be defined by the evil done to him, or by the purported heterodoxy of his beliefs, but by the work he does and by his character, as known by those closest to him. Rather than taking to the airwaves and leaning into the role of martyr, as have so many others who have endured similar abuse, Eich never speaks publicly about the wrong done to him—not once even in private to me. Instead, he diligently pursues his vocation.”
  7. The Great Hypocrisy of the Pro-Life Movement (David French, New York Times): “The older I get, the more I’m convinced that we simply don’t know who we are — or what we truly believe — until our values carry a cost. For more than 40 years, the Republican Party has made the case that life begins at conception. Alabama’s Supreme Court agreed. Yet the Republican Party can’t live with its own philosophy. There is no truly pro-life party in the United States.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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.

Leave a Reply