Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 311

wide-ranging links with a focus on the pandemic

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues (although I skipped last week because I was on vacation and it was glorious). 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 the 311th installment. 311 is something called a permutable prime (aka absolute prime), which means that it is prime no matter how you reorder the digits. In other words because 311, 113, and 131 are all primes they are permutable primes. Nifty!

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The New Moral Code of America’s Elite (Elizabeth Bruenig, The Atlantic): “…it’s decent, if you have a problem with someone, to take it up with them before running it up the nearest flagpole. But this is something people with the right views and the best degrees, it seems, simply do not do; just as the distinction between tattling and whistleblowing—resting, as it does, on a sober evaluation of one’s own motives and the stakes at hand—is one they often fail to make.” THIS IS WILD and 100% worth using up a paywall view on.
  2. The German Experiment That Placed Foster Children with Pedophiles (Rachel Aviv, New Yorker): “Perhaps the politicians were receptive because the project seemed to be the opposite of the Nazis’ reproductive experiments, with their rigid emphasis on propagating certain kinds of families, or perhaps they were unconcerned because, in their opinion, the boys were already lost.” Actually insane.
  3. “These Bastards Will Never See Our Tears”: How Yulia Navalnaya Became Russia’s Real First Lady (Julia Ioffe, Vanity Fair): “She said, ‘I think there is no chance that they will let him out. He will be in jail for a long time,’ ” Grozev recalls. “You must understand how shocking this conversation was. She’s this wide-eyed, earnest, honest person. She says these things like they’re the most obvious things on earth, but she’s saying very nonobvious things. You have to process what she says before you realize that it’s obvious only in a certain universe.” That universe was the imagined future in which Russia is free and happy.
    • What an absolutely astounding lady. Recommended by a student.
  4. Call it Racism, Not ‘White Supremacy’ (Samuel D. James, Substack): “ ‘Whiteness is a system, not white skin’ is a perfectly plausible reality, but it has the laws of ordinary language working against it, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. My sense is that you can have the language of whiteness or you can have an audience that understands what you’re saying, but you can’t have both.”
  5. A whole passel of pandemic-related articles, all of which are extremely worthwhile.
    • The Noble Lies of COVID-19 (Kerrington Powell & Vinay Prasad, Slate): “Public health messaging is predicated on trust, which overcomes the enormous complexity of the scientific literature, creating an opportunity to communicate initiatives effectively. Still, violation of this trust renders the communication unreliable. When trust is shattered, messaging is no longer clear and straightforward, and instead results in the audience trying to reverse-engineer the statement based on their view of the speaker’s intent.”
    • The Myth of Panic (Tanner Greer, Palladium Magazine): “This is the great lesson of the 2020 coronavirus: We should have been allowed to fear. Alas, our leaders feared our fear more than they feared our deaths. ” The latter half (about the motivations of the ruling class) is particularly insightful. Recommended by an alumnus.
    • ‘I’m sorry, but it’s too late’ Alabama doctor on treating unvaccinated, dying COVID patients (Dennis Pillion, AL.com): “You kind of go into it thinking, ‘Okay, I’m not going to feel bad for this person, because they make their own choice,’” Cobia said. “But then you actually see them, you see them face to face, and it really changes your whole perspective, because they’re still just a person that thinks that they made the best decision that they could with the information that they have, and all the misinformation that’s out there. And now all you really see is their fear and their regret. And even though I may walk into the room thinking, ‘Okay, this is your fault, you did this to yourself,’ when I leave the room, I just see a person that’s really suffering, and that is so regretful for the choice that they made.” Sobering.
    • Let’s get more people vaccinated (Matt Yglesias, Substack): “Now if I went around tweeting all day ‘don’t take the vaccines unless you’re highly vulnerable, they’re experimental treatments the FDA hasn’t approved because they say they don’t have enough safety data yet’ people would (rightly) get very mad at me. Spreading that message would (rightly) be considered an anti-social and chaotic thing to be doing. But the message is true, and a good way to cut down on its spread would be to make it not be true, rather than trying to informally stigmatize saying it.”
    • The New COVID Panic (Susan Matthews, Slate): “The most important thing to realize is that breakthrough cases are going to continue to surface in our lives. ‘The goal was never to eradicate COVID from being annoying—it was to eradicate it from being a killer,’ said Dara Kass, an emergency medicine physician in New York. (She emphasized, again, that the vaccines are very good at doing the latter.) And so even while you have likely heard that breakthrough cases are ‘rare,’ that’s a subjective assessment that is probably worth adjusting upward.”
    • Are COVID Restrictions the New TSA? (Richard Hanania, Substack): “It’s like God was designing the easiest moral and utilitarian question possible. Here we have a situation where a disease 1) Spares children 2) Spares those who behave responsibly; and 3) Therefore has a burden that falls almost exclusively on those who behave irresponsibly.” This is an uneven essay but on the whole quite strong.
    • Good morning. Covid is more mysterious than we often admit. (David Leonhardt, New York Times): “Social distancing and especially vaccination can save lives. But much of the ebb and flow of a pandemic cannot be explained by changes in human behavior. That was true with influenza a century ago, and it is true with Covid now. An outbreak often fizzles mysteriously, like a forest fire that fails to jump from one patch of trees to another.” Super interesting!
  6. Inside a KKK murder plot: Grab him up, take him to the river (Jason Dearen, AP News): “A confidential informant had infiltrated the group, and his recordings provide a rare, detailed look at the inner workings of a modern klan cell and a domestic terrorism probe. That investigation would unearth another secret: An unknown number of klansmen were working inside the Florida Department of Corrections, with significant power over inmates, Black and white.” Odd capitalization decisions aside, a worthwhile story.
  7. The Illusion of Porn “Literacy” (Samuel D. James, First Things): “Education is about discernment, yes, but it is also moral formation. No teacher or administrator interested in keeping her career would advocate a curriculum that treated racism the way porn literacy treats smut, as a substance with which to become better acquainted and a more informed consumer. Likewise, any teacher who invited a CEO of Big Tobacco to give a lecture on why his career is satisfying would be sharply rebuked. What we as a society deem harmful and unjust is taught as such.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • Aliens and Pronouns (Dilbert): I am genuinely curious what the popular reaction to this strip will be. I wish I had access to his analytics! He’s going to learn some interesting things about our culture. People on Twitter will lose their minds… but Adams must be gambling that most people will find it funny.
  • Shark Fishing (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): nine minutes.
  • Strange Ways Airlines Cut Costs (QI, YouTube): four minutes

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Letter To My Younger Self (Ryan Leaf, The Player’s Tribune): “Congratulations. You officially have it all — money, power and prestige. All the things that are important, right?… That’s you, young Ryan Leaf, at his absolute finest: arrogant, boorish and narcissistic. You think you’re on top of the world and that you’ve got all the answers. Well I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the truth is….” Such a gripping letter. Highly recommended. (first shared in volume 99)

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 310

short and sweet this week

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 310 — which in base 6 is rendered as the much cooler volume 1234.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Can Silicon Valley Find God? (Linda Kinstler, New York Times): “Over the course of my reporting, I often thought back to the experience of Rob Barrett, who worked as a researcher at IBM in the ’90s. One day, he was outlining the default privacy settings for an early web browser feature. His boss, he said, gave him only one instruction: ‘Do the right thing.’ It was up to Mr. Barrett to decide what the “right thing” was. That was when it dawned on him: ‘I don’t know enough theology to be a good engineer,’ he told his boss. He requested a leave of absence so he could study the Old Testament, and eventually he left the industry.” One of the interviewees, Sherol Chen, used to serve on our worship team. Interesting article!
  2. A horn-wearing ‘shaman.’ A cowboy evangelist. For some, the Capitol attack was a kind of Christian revolt. (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “For many, their religious beliefs were not tied to any specific church or denomination — leaders of major denominations and megachurches, and even President Donald Trump’s faith advisers, were absent that day. For such people, their faith is individualistic, largely free of structures, rules or the approval of clergy.… part of the mix, say experts on American religion, is the fact that the country is in a period when institutional religion is breaking apart, becoming more individualized and more disconnected from denominations, theological credentials and oversight.”
    • You may have heard me say it before: “If you think organized religion is bad, wait until you catch a glimpse of disorganized religion.”
  3. I tried to report scientific misconduct. How did it go? (Joe Hilgard, personal blog): “I was curious to see how the self-correcting mechanisms of science would respond to what seemed to me a rather obvious case of unreliable data and possible research misconduct. It turns out Brandolini’s Law still holds: ‘The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than to produce it.’ However, I was not prepared to be resisted and hindered by the self-correcting institutions of science itself.” Recommended by a student. The author is a psych prof at Illinois State.
  4. Anti-Racism is an Inter-White Struggle (Freddie deBoer, SubStack): “Anti-racism has become a kind of high-stakes poker game for educated white people: you risk losing your shirt at any time, but those who have the savvy and the guts to bluff their way to the top reap social and professional rewards.”
  5. Book Review: Crazy Like Us (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “…does naming and pointing to a mental health problem make it worse? This was clearest in Hong Kong, where a seemingly very low base rate of anorexia exploded as soon as people started launching mental health awareness campaigns saying that it was a common and important disease (as had apparently happened before in Victorian Europe and 70s/80s America). But it also showed up in the section on how increasing awareness of PTSD seems to be associated with more PTSD, and how debriefing trauma victims about how they might get PTSD makes them more likely to get it.”
  6. Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right? (Jason Zengerle, New York Times): “Sometimes it seems as if Hafer and his partners invent jobs at Black Rifle for veterans to do. A former Green Beret medic helps Black Rifle with events and outreach and was recently made the director of its newly formed charity organization. Four years ago, Black Rifle received a Facebook message from an Afghan Army veteran with whom Hafer once served; he wrote that he was now working at a gas station and living with his family in public housing in Charlottesville. ‘We honestly assumed he was dead,’ Hafer says. Black Rifle found a home for the man and his family in Utah, and he now does building and grounds maintenance at the company’s Salt Lake City offices. At those offices, I met a quiet, haunted-seeming man who had been a C.I.A.-contractor colleague of Hafer’s and who, for a time, lived in a trailer he parked on the office grounds. Later, I asked Hafer what, exactly, the man did for Black Rifle. ‘He just gets better,’ Hafer replied. ‘He gets better.’ ”
    • This was WAY more interesting than I expected.
  7. The History of Canada’s Residential Schools (Douglas Farrow, First Things): “How could this be? Who is responsible? Are the religious organizations who operated the residential schools the real culprits, as many suppose? A careful examination shows that supposition to be flawed. The tragedy, and the crimes it involved—crimes some are falsely characterizing as genocide—began with government-mandated violation of parental rights, an error gaining currency again today.” The author is a professor of theology and ethics at McGill University in Montreal.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Book Review: Seeing Like A State (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Peasants didn’t like permanent surnames. Their own system was quite reasonable for them: John the baker was John Baker, John the blacksmith was John Smith, John who lived under the hill was John Underhill, John who was really short was John Short. The same person might be John Smith and John Underhill in different contexts, where his status as a blacksmith or place of origin was more important. But the government insisted on giving everyone a single permanent name, unique for the village, and tracking who was in the same family as whom. Resistance was intense.” This is long and amazing. (first shared in volume 95)

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 309

in which I provide my views on sermon originality

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.

TIL that the number 309 is is the smallest number whose 5th power contains every digit at least once. 3095=2,817,036,000,549. I’m really stunned that someone figured that out.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. ‘Sermongate’ Prompts a Quandary: Should Pastors Borrow Words From One Another? (Ruth Graham, New York Times): “In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin wrote of his admiration of a young Presbyterian preacher much respected for his preaching, which was apparently delivered extemporaneously. When a doctrinal dispute erupted in the congregation, however, an adversary recognized that a passage delivered by the preacher had been lifted from an uncredited source. Franklin stuck by the plagiarist. ‘I rather approved his giving us good sermons composed by others,’ he wrote, ‘than bad ones of his own manufacture.’ ”
    • The appropriate principles seem so obvious to me:
    • Never present someone else’s personal stories as though they happened to you. It’s hard to call that anything other than lying.
    • If you gain an insight from someone else, why would you deprive your hearers of that good insight? USE IT. Credit it in the way that seems most appropriate, but a sermon is not a written resource people are going to cite nor one that people are going to track down your references on. I don’t even think plagiarism is the right term in this conversation: there’s no standard way to cite other sermons nor should there be. People who get a bee in their bonnet about this seem so odd to me.
    • In fact, you should always assume that the messages I deliver have been enriched by insights from others. I love God’s Word and I love my students too much to just give them my own limited observations. My own practice: I copy and paste the text into a Word document. Then I begin typing my insights and constructing a rough outline. Then I consult scholarly and sermonic resources and revise my outline/notes when I realize I’ve misunderstood something or that I missed an important point. Typically that means I read two or three commentaries and will sometimes skim one or two sermons from preachers I respect. If someone’s phrasing is so good I adopt it, I usually add, “I heard a pastor say” or “an academic commentary really helped me out on this point” and sometimes will even give the precise source. But not always. Sometimes citing something verbally breaks up the flow too much. Sometimes after an especially fact-laden message I will send out an email roundup of the most important sources (that tends to happen after apologetic sermons when I’m appealing to extrascriptural facts).
    • It gets complicated with insights I gleaned years ago and have preached multiple times since. Sometimes I don’t even remember that it wasn’t original to me (whether clever phrasing or an entire sermon outline). That’s how learning works! I’m not trying to deceive anyone, but I am 100% confident that I word some things a certain way because someone else worded it that way to me and I thought, “that’s perfect” and now that I’ve said it 70 times I just know that’s how I think about the subject.
    • If you ever want to know if something I said is original to me, just ask. If I quoted someone else (and remember that I have), I’ll be thrilled to point you to a resource that helped me!
  2. What Makes a Cult a Cult? (Zoë Heller, New Yorker): “The good news is that rational objections to flaws in cult doctrine or to hypocrisies on the part of a cult leader do have a powerful impact if and when they occur to the cult members themselves. The analytical mind may be quietened by cult-think, but it is rarely deadened altogether. Especially if cult life is proving unpleasant, the capacity for critical thought can reassert itself.” The focus here is on way-out-there cults. Interesting nonetheless, even given the author’s blind spots (I think it would have been a stronger article if she had mentioned a few secular beliefs as parallels).
  3. Our Unequal Polygamous Past (Conn Carroll, Institute for Family Studies): “This brief history of human sexual relations shows us three things: 1) we are hardwired to form monogamous pair bonds; 2) the privileged among us will always try to monopolize more mates; and 3) we can check the privilege of the powerful by enforcing monogamous cultural norms.”
  4. Wokeness:
    • As a Gay Child in a Christian Cult, I Was Taught to Hate Myself. Then I Joined the Church of Social Justice—and Nothing Changed (Ben Appel, Quillette): “For years, I feared homophobic right-wing evangelicals. But these days, I’m equally wary of the progressive activists who push a distinctly homophobic agenda that denies the biological reality of sex—and who claim that what we are attracted to isn’t male or female bodies per se, but rather male or female gender identities. This outlook effectively imagines away the existence of homosexuality, which, in the real world, is of course rooted in physical attraction based on biological attributes.”
    • If you hate the culture wars, blame liberals (Kevin Drum, personal blog): “It is not conservatives who have turned American politics into a culture war battle. It is liberals. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise since progressives have been bragging publicly about pushing the Democratic Party leftward since at least 2004. Now, I’m personally happy about most of this. But that doesn’t blind me to the fact that “personally happy” means nothing in politics. What matters is what the median voter feels, and Democrats have been moving further and further away from the median voter for years:” Interesting and very different from the message I usually hear, which blames polarization on conservatives who are said to have moved much more to the right than liberals have moved to the left.
    • Culture Wars are Long Wars (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “Cultural insurgents win few converts in their own cohort. They can, however, build up a system of ideas and institutions which will preserve and refine the ideals they hope their community will adopt in the future. The real target of these ideas are not their contemporaries, but their contemporaries’ children and grandchildren. Culture wars are fought for the hearts of the unborn. Future generations will be open to values the current generation rejects outright. This will not be apparent at first. Beneath the official comings and goings of the cohorts above, a new consensus forms in in the cohorts below. Ideas will fester among the young, but their impact will be hidden by the inability and inexperience of youth. But the youth do not stay young. Eventually a transition point arrives.” Emphasis in original.
    • What Happened To You? (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “[We have witnessed a] sudden, rapid, stunning shift in the belief system of the American elites. It has sent the whole society into a profound cultural dislocation. It is, in essence, an ongoing moral panic against the specter of ‘white supremacy,’ which is now bizarrely regarded as an accurate description of the largest, freest, most successful multiracial democracy in human history.”
    • The West’s cultural revolution is over (Ed West, UnHerd): “Life of Brian couldn’t be made 20 years earlier, and neither could it be made now; its satire of Jesus, a prophet of Islam, would risk upsetting Muslim sensibilities, which it’s fair to say people have become slightly wary of doing. At the very least it would need to cut out the scene pointing fun at a man who, absurdly to the filmmakers and audiences, identifies as a woman; absurd in 1979, as it had been in 1879 and 1779 and in every year before that, but a sacred idea in 2021. It’s sacred in the sense that its believers have captured the moral citadel where the most powerful ideas are protected by taboo, achieved either by emotional argument or intimidation (and both can be effective). This is not some dark new age of cancel culture, however, it’s just a return to normality.”
  5. Pandemic-related
    • Why Didn’t COVID-19 Kill the Constitution? (Jacob Sullum. Reason): “COVID-19 did not kill the Constitution. But the crisis made it vividly clear that we cannot count on politicians or bureaucrats to worry about limits on their authority, especially when they believe they are doing what is necessary to protect the public from a deadly danger. The task of enforcing those limits falls to judges who are willing to stick their necks out.”
    • What Are the Limits to Governmental Authority over the Church? (Ben Edwards, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary): “Christians/churches must submit to every government regulation unless it would mean disobeying God (i.e., cause them to sin) or the government is seeking to regulate something outside its sphere of authority.”
  6. On China
    • China Won’t Bury Us, Either (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “Garry Kasparov has a pithy way of summing up the past 18 months of tribulation. ‘China gave us the virus,’ the chess and human-rights champion told me over a recent breakfast. ‘And the free world gave us the vaccines.’ ”
    • Why a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be a catastrophe for China and the world (Jon Stokes, personal blog): “The world’s largest, most valuable tech companies are dependent either directly or indirectly on the steady output of TSMC’s fabs. If those fabs went offline or became unavailable in the west because they were controlled by PRC, it would immediately devastate the global economy. An unknowable number of large companies just wouldn’t be able to refill their inventories for an indeterminately long time.” This is about computer chips and how a Chinese invasion of Taiwan will be disastrous for that market (which touches on so many others) no matter how the invasion plays out. Very thoughtful.
  7. Scripps Spelling Bee 2021: Zaila Avant-garde Wins (Maggie Astor and Maria Cramer, New York Times): “Zaila, who just finished eighth grade in her hometown, Harvey, La., showed a prowess for spelling at 10, when her father, who had been watching finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on ESPN, asked her how to spell the winning word: marocain. Zaila spelled it perfectly. Then he asked her to spell the winning words going back to 1999. She spelled nearly all of them correctly and was able to tell him the books where she had seen them.” Read the whole thing — this kid is amazing at more than spelling! The interface is weird — you’ll have to click “Read more” just before the timeline.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Preacher And Politics: Seven Thoughts (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “I have plenty of opinions and convictions. But that’s not what I want my ministry to be about. That’s not to say I don’t comment on abortion or gay marriage or racism or other issues about the which the Bible speaks clearly. And yet, I’m always mindful that I can’t separate Blogger Kevin or Twitter Kevin or Professor Kevin from Pastor Kevin. As such, my comments reflect on my church, whether I intend them to or not. That means I keep more political convictions to myself than I otherwise would.” First shared in volume 150.

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 308

there are a few articles touching on faith in unexpected ways this week

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 the 308th installation of this series, and the number 308 is a heptagonal pyramidal number. Pyramidal numbers describe the number of objects required to form a pyramid of a certain height with a given number of sides (in this case, a seven layer pyramid with a heptagonal base).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Academia and faith:
    • Dr. Karin Öberg: Planetary Formation, Faith-Shaping Books, and the Beauty of an Intelligible Universe (Raquel Sequeira, BioLogos): “I feel like there are so many stories of Christians that have had a great struggle in academia and for whom living out their faith has been problematic in different ways. While these people do exist and those struggles are real, I want people to know that this is not always the case. I have had a smooth and joyful journey being very open about my faith at the very secular place that Harvard is.”
    • The turning tide of intellectual atheism (Jonathon Van Maren, MercatorNet): “Not so long ago, the atheists who retreated to their Darwinian towers and bricked themselves up to fire arrows at the faithful wanted to be there. Their intellectual silos were a refuge from faith because they didn’t want Christianity to be true. They hated it and thought we’d be better off without it.… [but v]iewing Western civilisation with its Christian soul cut out, many are now willing to say: ‘We need Christ.’ What they are unable, thus far, to say, is: ‘I need Christ.’ But the political must become personal. Peterson appears to understand that—and is awestruck by the reality of it.” 
  2. When the Aliens Come, Will Their Arrival Destroy Our Faith? (David French, The Dispatch): “…a surprising number of theologians and Christian thinkers have openly considered the possibility of alien intelligence, including in books and essays. The good folks at Biologos have pondered the question. And surveying the literature, there is an interesting amount of consensus about both the key Christian questions and the Christian conclusions about alien life.” David French agrees with me, which is always a happy outcome.
  3. Where Did the Coronavirus Come From? What We Already Know Is Troubling. (Zeynep Tufekci, New York Times): “Nearly every SARS case since the original epidemic has been due to lab leaks — six incidents in three countries, including twice in a single month from a lab in Beijing.” This article is unlocked — you won’t use up your NYT articles reading it.
  4. What Bari Weiss Won’t Tell You About Human Rights and China (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “Perhaps there could be greater trade barriers between the United States and China — but there’s a real risk that doing so could cause major damage to the international economy. And that’s precisely the problem, right? When the fight to treating people with respect and dignity by extending them basic freedoms is such a challenge to the world economic system, you have to acknowledge that there’s something wrong with what that system defines as valuable.”
  5. My Conversation With Winston Marshall (Bari Weiss, Substack): “One of the things that I have noticed is that an inordinate number of people who have been willing to tell the truth and stand up to the new illiberalism, are religious. And I wondered if you could just tell us a little bit more about how your faith guided you through this decision or maybe to put it another way, maybe it’s that your faith anchors you in values that are so much bigger and more eternal than the idiot winds that feel like they’re sweeping through our politics every day.”
  6. A Scholarly Screw-Up of Biblical Proportions (Ariel Sabar, Chronicle of Higher Education): “What should a journal do after publishing a blockbuster paper marred by fraudulent evidence, failed peer review, and undisclosed conflicts of interest? If you’re Harvard Theological Review, the answer appears to be nothing.”
  7. Book Announcement: We Have Never Been Woke (Musa al-Gharbi, personal website): “…the Americans who are the primary producers and consumers of content on antiracism, socialism, feminism, etc. also happen to be among the primary beneficiaries of gendered, racialized and other forms of inequality – and not passive beneficiaries. We are active participants in exploiting and reproducing inequalities. And yet, it is difficult for us to ‘see’ how we contribute to the problem — precisely because of our deeply felt commitments to social justice. So we expropriate blame to others… often people who benefit far less from the system than we do, and exert far less influence over it.” The author is a sociologist at Columbia, and this book looks like it will be straight fire.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Dealing With Nuisance Lust (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “Minimize the seriousness of this, but not so that you can feel good about indulging yourself. Minimize the seriousness of it so that you can walk away from a couple of big boobs without feeling like you have just fought a cosmic battle with principalities and powers in the heavenly places, for crying out loud. Or, if you like, in another strategy of seeing things rightly, you could nickname these breasts of other woman as the ‘principalities and powers.’ Whatever you do, take this part of life in stride like a grown-up. Stop reacting like a horny and conflicted twelve-year-old boy.” (first shared in volume 148)

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.

Disclaimer

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.

The Summer Reading Project: Listen

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through B.L.E.S.S. by Dave and Jon Ferguson, I’ll post my thoughts here. They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2021. The schedule is online.

There are a bunch of cool graphics like this at https://www.bless-book.org/

This week is the L in B.L.E.S.S. — Listen.

The chapter was good but unexceptional. Listen before you speak. Seek first to understand before you seek to be understood. God gave you two ears and one mouth — use them accordingly.

These are principles that we’ve all heard before. As in so many areas, the challenge is less in the knowing than in the doing. If we all lived according to what we knew, we’d be a lot buffer. Almost everyone knows how to live healthier than they are — they don’t need more information, they just need to convert their knowledge into action.

Likewise with listening — just do it. One way to force yourself to listen is to ask questions.

At Stanford the most common questions people ask are “What are you studying?” and “Where are you from?”

I like the suggestions that the brothers Ferguson offer for additional questions:

  • History: “Tell me your story.” “What’s different between here and where you grew up?”
  • Heart: “What’s your favorite _____?” (food, team, place to travel)
  • Habits: “What are you into?” “What do you like to do with your free time?” “When you don’t have classes anymore what do you look forward to doing?”
  • Hurts: “How are you doing with _____?”

So go forth with questions, and listen to the answers!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 307

my favorite article this week is about a guy who could quench flames by singing at them

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 the 307th installation, which I like because 307 is a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Enduring Lesson of the Galileo Myth (Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition): “While I first heard the story of Galileo in elementary school, it wasn’t until about a decade after I had graduated from college that I finally learned the truth. No doubt some people are just now hearing about it for the first time. How is that possible?”
    • Unless you have done some reading on Galileo, you almost certainly believe untrue things about what happened.
  2. Social Media, Identity, and the Church (Tim Keller, Life In The Gospel): “While extremists can only gain status and belonging on-line, moderates (rightly) fear saying something that will anger others and jeopardize their career or relationships. And so, while extremists’ fragile identities get a great deal of cover on the internet, moderates’ identities are threatened by it.”
  3. The Man Who Put Out Fires with Music (Ted Gioia, Substack): “This experiment excited such skepticism that Kellogg was enlisted to repeat it for a team of Berkeley scientists. The resulting public test on September 6, broadcast live over KGO, is one of the most remarkable events in the history of radio.”
    • I’ve actually heard (and used) the closing story before in a sermon, but there were details I didn’t know. It’s nice to have the full story. Coming once again to a sermon near you.
  4. Some articles about self-censorship and cancellation:
    • Why I’m Leaving Mumford & Sons (Winston Marshall, Medium): “The truth is that reporting on extremism at the great risk of endangering oneself is unquestionably brave. I also feel that my previous apology in a small way participates in the lie that such extremism does not exist, or worse, is a force for good.” Courage and class.
    • Meet the Censored: Bret Weinstein (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “This is a significant moment in the history of American media. If a show with the audience that Weinstein and Heying have can be put out of business this easily, it means that independent media going forward will either have to operate outside the major Internet platforms, or give up its traditional role as a challenger of mainstream narratives.”
    • The Enemies of the Open Society (Martin Gurri, Discourse Magazine): “In other words, this was a cultural rather than a political event. It concerned our ideals, not our rights: and the ideals of a great many important Americans appear at this time to be drifting away from the open society.”
    • The Books Are Already Burning (Abigail Shrier, Bari Weiss’s Substack): “But why do so few oppose the pressure, lies, and the corrupting force of these bullying campaigns? The silent supporters have each performed the same risk-benefit calculation and arrived at the same conclusion: Speaking up isn’t worth it.”
    • A Conversation with Daniel Elder, the Choral Music Composer Who Was Cancelled for Opposing Arson (Quillette): “The media prefers to focus on how horrible this experience was for me, but an important facet easily lost in this narrative is how free I’ve felt since I made the choice.… I say this as an encouragement to the silent majority all around us: If you’re willing to endure the painful trial of self, you will be better for it in the end. And, with enough of us, the world will be better, too.”
  5. Some articles on sexuality and sexual ethics.
    • A Peculiar Disapproval of Gay Pride (John Piper, Desiring God): “When a person becomes a Christian, he undergoes a transformation not just of what he disapproves, but of how he disapproves. There is nothing peculiarly Christian about the mere disapproval of any human behavior. Therefore, disapproval of sinful behaviors is no evidence of saving grace. Becoming a Christian is far more profound than changing what we disapprove of.”
    • How Should I Respond to a Colleague’s Same-Sex Wedding? (Charlie Self, The Gospel Coalition): “But even with a humble and loving spirit, prudent speech, and genuine love for the co-workers, there’s a risk of losing promotions and even employment. This is where faith must conquer fear, and holy love triumph over compromise. As these decisions are discerned, may they be bathed in blessing our co-workers with tearful intercession.” Charlie is a friend who has spoken at Chi Alpha before.
    • How Should I Address My Transgender Colleague? (Charlie Self, The Gospel Coalition): “As Christians, we want to tell the truth, and using the wrong pronouns isn’t truth-telling. On the other hand, insisting on using correct pronouns for a person who has asked you not to can come across as disrespectful and antagonistic.”
    • Homophobes don’t care about same-sex love. They object to the sex. (Brian Broome, Washington Post): “Love isn’t the problem. I don’t believe that homophobes object to whether same-sex couples love each other. No, it’s not the love. It’s the sex.”
  6. The Great Awokening (anonymous, Substack): “This brings us ultimately back to religion. You cannot fight something with nothing. You cannot fight a religious war just by being against that religion. You must fight it with a competing religion. And there is one that has deep roots here in America. Evangelical Protestantism, in its various iterations, is what founded the country. The woke will even admit it (when it is useful to accuse the Christians who built America of genocide). It formed the religious core of America ages ago and if wokeness will ever be combated it will again.”
  7. This is an older (1992) article shared with me by a student: Research Supports Bible’s Account of Red Sea Parting : Weather: Gulf of Suez’s geography would make it possible, meteorologist and oceanographer say. (Thomas H. Maugh II, LA Times): “Because of the peculiar geography of the northern end of the Red Sea, researchers report Sunday in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, a moderate wind blowing constantly for about 10 hours could have caused the sea to recede about a mile and the water level to drop 10 feet, leaving dry land in the area where many biblical scholars believe the crossing occurred.” I have not looked into the underlying research, but quite interesting.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have On Political Correctness (William Deresiewicz, The American Scholar): a long and thoughtful article. “Selective private colleges have become religious schools.… To attend those institutions is to be socialized, and not infrequently, indoctrinated into that religion…. I say this, by the way, as an atheist, a democratic socialist, a native northeasterner, a person who believes that colleges should not have sports teams in the first place—and in case it isn’t obvious by now, a card-carrying member of the liberal elite.” (first shared in volume 92)

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.

Disclaimer

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.

The Summer Reading Project: Begin With Prayer

Chapter 3 of B.L.E.S.S. is the B — Begin with prayer.

I liked this chapter a lot — it was full of practical tips and inspiring stories.

One nugget I especially appreciated:

I reached into my computer bag and pulled out my journal and Bible. After spending some time reading and reflecting, my routine was to first write the word “B.L.E.S.S.” and then list the people for whom I would simply pray for a few minutes.

Next, I drew a straight black line across the bottom of the page in my journal, paused, and then listened for God. This is how I’ve learned to pray every day. Drawing that horizontal line became a ritual that transitioned my mind from talking to God to listening to Him. Often when I listen, nothing comes to mind–but if something or someone does I write it down.

Dave Ferguson, B.L.E.S.S. pages 35–36

I love how simple that habit is — just draw a line and listen!

a simple neighbor map — draw a tic-tac-toe grid, put yourself in the center, and write your neighbors’ names in the squares around you

Towards the end of the chapter, there is a simple tool called the “Who Is My Neighbor?” map. Just draw a tic-tac-toe grid and put yourself at the center. Now identify the eight people who are closest to you in some context and write their names in the other squares (you could do it for your dorm, for your labmates, or for your teammates). Voila — you now have a prayer list.

So far I’m loving this book. It is Biblical, practical, and easy to read!

Bonus: the chapter also contained this banger quote:

Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.

Hudson Taylor

👀 — that’s good!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 306

some really outstanding articles this week

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 306, which is an interesting number because 306 = 71 + 73 + 79 + 83 and is therefore the sum of consecutive primes.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. American Passover (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “Juneteenth is a good thing for all Americans, not just black Americans, to celebrate.… I’m at a loss to understand why celebrating the end of slavery is anything but good. In particular, I’m at a loss to understand why seeing white Americans celebrate the end of slavery is anything but good.”
  2. What We Learned Doing Fast Grants (Patrick Collison, Tyler Cowen, and Patrick Hsu, Future): “In our survey of the scientists who received Fast Grants, 78% said that they would change their research program ‘a lot’ if their existing funding could be spent in an unconstrained fashion. We find this number to be far too high: the current grant funding apparatus does not allow some of the best scientists in the world to pursue the research agendas that they themselves think are best. Scientists are in the paradoxical position of being deemed the very best people to fund in order to make important discoveries but not so trustworthy that they should be able to decide what work would actually make the most sense!” EXTREMELY worth reading.
  3. Why Has “Ivermectin” Become a Dirty Word? (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “A Catch-22 seemed to be ensnaring science. With the world desperate for news about an unprecedented disaster, Silicon Valley had essentially decided to disallow discussion of a potential solution — disallow calls for more research and more study — because not enough research and study had been done.”
    • This is ridiculous. Dig into it yourself — it’s crazytown. The prescient Lewis nailed it years ago: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” (from the underappreciated God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics)
  4. Christians, Beware the Blame Game (Carl Trueman, First Things): “By all means, call out the moral failings of Christians, congregations and denominations, left and right; but be specific, do so without slander and vitriol, and make a clear distinction between the church and the specific failings to which you allude in order to promote clear thinking. And remember—if your critique of Christians is not balanced by a Pauline emphasis on the church, the body of Christ, as the answer to the world’s problems, you ultimately offer no true Christian commentary on the contemporary scene. For as soon as you see the church herself as part of the problem, you have lost the gospel and deprived yourself and your audience of hope.”
  5. Some religious freedom news and commentary:
    • Four Things You Need to Know After a Huge Day at SCOTUS (David French, The Dispatch): “Very few comments about the Fulton case have emphasized a critical part of its ruling—that Philadelphia has very limited ability to force city contractors to contract away their First Amendment rights.… When the government expands—and government contracts and government funds touch more American lives and institutions—opposing partisans frequently demand that those funds come with ideological strings attached.” Sadly paywalled, but the best commentary on the ruling I’ve read. If you’re an avid news consumer, The Dispatch is well worth a subscription.
    • From the court, a vindication of faith-based service. From Alito, a blueprint for the future. (Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, SCOTUSblog): “At the end of the day, Fulton is an important rebuke to overzealous government officials who weaponize anti-discrimination laws against traditional religious belief. Brace yourself for the response of disgruntled progressives.”
    • Supreme Court Backs Catholic Agency in Case on Gay Rights and Foster Care (Adam Liptak, New York Times): “The decision, in the latest clash between antidiscrimination principles and claims of conscience, was a setback for gay rights and further evidence that religious groups almost always prevail in the current court.”
    • Justice Department says it can defend religious schools’ exemption from anti-LGBTQ discrimination laws (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “To others, including supporters of President Biden, the administration had no other option, since federal civil rights law regarding education — called Title IX — exempts religion. They noted the purpose of the department’s filing, which was to block conservative religious groups from becoming parties to the lawsuit, arguing the agency can defend the exemption on its own.”
    • A frank analysis of the dynamics: No, the Biden Administration Isn’t Betraying Its Support for LGBTQ Rights (Mark Joseph Stern, Slate): “The best way to prevent the federal judiciary from adopting CCCU’s extreme stance is to stop the organization from making it before a court in the first place. That is presumably one reason why the Justice Department strongly opposed the group’s request to intervene, insisting on Tuesday that the administration can defend the Title IX exemption just fine by itself. The DOJ’s latest filing does not imply that the agency is exceedingly enthusiastic about the exemption, but rather that the Biden administration can be trusted to support the law’s legality in court.”
  6. The Peril of Politicizing Science (Anna I. Krylov, The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters): “The Cold War is a distant memory and the country shown on my birth certificate and school and university diplomas, the USSR, is no longer on the map. But I find myself experiencing its legacy some thousands of miles to the west, as if I am living in an Orwellian twilight zone. I witness ever-increasing attempts to subject science and education to ideological control and censorship. Just as in Soviet times, the censorship is being justified by the greater good.” The author is a professor of chemistry at USC.
  7. Some Stanford news:
    • Stanford therapists allege ‘hostile climate’ for Jews in the workplace (Gabe Stutman, Jewish News of Northern California): “Two Jewish mental health professionals at Stanford’s on-campus counseling clinic have filed workplace discrimination complaints after what they call ‘severe and persistent’ anti-Jewish harassment from colleagues. Dr. Ronald Albucher, a psychiatrist and associate professor in the medical school, and Sheila Levin, a therapist specializing in eating disorders, describe being pressed into joining a ‘whiteness’ affinity group by staffers with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program, being told they were ‘privileged,’ and seeing antisemitic incidents downplayed.”
    • When the medalists aren’t the money-makers (Jasmine Kerber, Stanford Daily): “If athletic directors were rewarded for Olympic sports every bit as much as for football and men’s basketball, you would see different behavior,” Hogshead-Makar said.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have some thoughts about slavery and the Bible – Does The Bible Support Slavery? (a lecture given by the warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge University, the link is to the video with notes) and Does God Condone Slavery In The Bible? (Part One – Old Testament) and also Part Two – New Testament (longer pieces from Glenn Miller at Christian Thinktank). All three are quite helpful. (first shared in volume 76)

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Kicking Off the 2021 Summer Reading Project: B.L.E.S.S.

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through B.L.E.S.S. by Dave and Jon Ferguson, I’ll post my thoughts here. They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2021. The schedule is online.

Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson are brothers who planted Community Christian Church in Chicago. It’s grown large (the church was drawing 6,500 attendees before COVID) and they’ve written several books to help their congregants serve Christ more effectively. This summer we’re going to take a look at their book about evangelism: B.L.E.S.S.

B.L.E.S.S. is an acrostic built out of the five practices the book advocates: Begin with prayer, Listen, Eat, Serve, and Story.

This week, we’re looking at chapters 1 and 2. Dave describes his struggles trying to share his faith (although the book is co-authored, they wrote it in Dave’s voice to make it less confusing), shares encouraging data about how open people are to talking about God, and at the beginning of chapter two drops this gem about an email he received:

…Two teams of missionaries…went to Thailand. While both teams went with similar goals, they carried two distinctly different strategies.

The “Converters” group went with the sole intention of converting people and evangelizing. Their goal was to “save souls.”

The “Blessers” group explained their intention like this: “We are here to bless whoever God sends our way.”

The study followed both the “Converters” and the “Blessers” for two years. At the end of that time, the researchers discovered two key findings:

First, the presence of the “Blessers” in the community resulted in tremendous amounts of “social good.” It appeared, according to the study, that this group contributed to the betterment of society, community life, and the creation of social capital. The presence of the “Converters,” however, seemed to make no difference.

The second discovery–and this was very surprising–was that the “Blessers” saw forty-eight conversions while the “Converters” saw only one! The “Blessers” group saw almost fifty times as many conversions through being a blessing than the group that was only trying to convert the people around it.

B.L.E.S.S pages 17–18

I’ve never seen that study and can’t comment on its rigor, but it intuitively makes sense to me. A similar line of thinking led to the way I close our on-campus services each week. If you’re part of Chi Alpha, you’ve heard me say the following dozens of times:

“As you leave, remember you’re not just leaving a meeting. You’re leaving as part of a community, if you want to be. We’re Chi Alpha, a community of students earnestly following Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Our name reminds us of our mission: Chi Alpha stands for Christ’s Ambassadors because we represent a King and we do what ambassadors do. We make friends on our sovereign’s behalf and we advance His interests wherever we find ourselves. And since our King is in the blessing business, that makes it our business too. Go forth tonight with an eager expectation to see how God will use you to bless others. Go forth with faith in your heart, hope upon your countenance, and love upon your lips.”

Those aren’t just idle words I say, they express some of my deepest convictions about ministry. And so my hope is that reading this book together will help us become even more effective at being agents of blessing.

Blessing people is always good. When we bless people at a minimum they receive our love, and at maximum they receive both our love and God’s. In other words, the worst case scenario is that they are blessed, and the best case scenario is that they are both blessed and also transformed by God’s grace. There’s no bad outcome — it’s either good or it’s great!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 305

more sublists than normal

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.

305 is apparently the 5th ‘hexagonal prism number’, which totally sounds made up and I am slightly skeptical of. This is because 305 = (n + 1)(3n2 + 3n + 1) where n=4 (presumably the first hexagonal prism number is 1, when n=0).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Fading of Forgiveness (Tim Keller, Cardus): “In other words, we no longer ground our values in the sacred. We simply treat the values themselves as sacred.… When the moral norms are detached from faith in a just God, it detaches them also from faith in a merciful and forgiving God. In such a ‘secular religion,’ deviation from norms is simply unforgiveable.” Full of insights.
  2. Loving the Foreigners—Even When They Have a Deadly Disease (Hwee Hwee Tan, Christianity Today): “While migrant workers had long lived challenging lives in Singapore, it was their unique vulnerability during the circuit-breaker period that really woke up local Christians to the need to help them—in both the short and long term.”
  3. A crisis inside America’s largest evangelical denomination:
    • Russell Moore’s Warnings Should Bring a Reckoning (David French, The Dispatch): “Christians, let me ask you a question. When the #MeToo movement launched… did you think, ‘Stop obsessing over scandal. Most members of the media and most folks in Hollywood are good people’? Or did you think that multiple powerful American institutions were beset with deep cultural and spiritual problems? .… #MeToo did reveal moral rot. But let’s flip it all around. When you heard about corruption and sexual misconduct at America’s largest Christian university, what did you think? What did you think when you read about the sexual scandal at Hillsong or when you learned about Ravi Zacharias’ record of abuse and his ministry’s terrible mistreatment of whistleblowers? Did you pause to consider the larger implications of a decade of sexual predation at one of America’s largest Christian camps or the camp’s efforts to intimidate and coerce victims into silence?” I don’t often tip my hand, but FYI Moore and French are two of my favorite evangelical cultural commentators. If they ever agree on something, you can be pretty sure that is my position as well.
    • The Scandal Rocking the Evangelical World (Pete Wehner, The Atlantic): “And the rot that has been so powerfully and so painfully exposed by Russell Moore is not an indictment of Jesus any more than the failures of the religious authorities in first-century Palestine were. A theologian recently reminded me that the Church is not the hope of the world; its purpose is to be a witness to the hope of the world, even if that witness is often imperfect. But those of us of the Christian faith do seem to be overdoing the imperfect part.”
    • Where Did All the Evangelical Prophets Go? (Samuel D. James, Substack): “The godlessness of the left maps very cleanly onto the evangelical church’s radar because its institutions and leaders are watching for it all the time, but the godlessness of the right is obviously not yet something someone can talk about confidently, expecting their denomination or ecclesiastical support system to back them on.” Some good insights here.
  4. The future of America:
    • A calm perspective: Are We Destined for a Trump Coup in 2024? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Then keep in mind, too, that in the event of a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024, Biden, not Trump, will enjoy the presidency’s powers; Kamala Harris, not Mike Pence, will preside over the electoral count; and Trump will be four years older, unlikely to run a fourth time, and therefore somewhat less intimidating in defeat.”
    • Alarmed from the left: 9/11 and 1/6 (Timothy Snyder, Substack): “The scenario then goes like this. The Republicans win back the House and Senate in 2022, in part thanks to voter suppression. The Republican candidate in 2024 loses the popular vote by several million and the electoral vote by the margin of a few states. State legislatures, claiming fraud, alter the electoral count vote. The House and Senate accept that altered count. The losing candidate becomes the president. We no longer have ‘democratically elected government.’ And people are angry. No one is seeking to hide that this is the plan.”  The author is a historian at Yale.
    • Alarmed from the right: Our Increasingly Unrecognizable Civilization (Mark Steyn, Imprimis): “…one notices that America is farther down this road than any other country in the Western world. In other words, at this moment of crisis for Western Civilization, or for what we used to call Christendom, the leading country of the free world is pulling the wrong way.” Sent my way by a friend of the ministry.
  5. A few thoughts on depression (Noah Smith, Substack): “For some reason, human company helps. In fact, it is the single thing that helps the most. But not the kind of company a sad person needs. What a depressed person needs is simply to talk to people, not about their problems or their negative thoughts or their depression, but about anything else — music, animals, science. The most helpful topic of conversation, I’ve found, is absurdity — just talking about utterly ridiculous things, gross things, vulgar offensive things, bizarre things. Shared activities, like going on a hike or playing sports, are OK, but talking is much, much more important.”
  6. Once a Bastion of Free Speech, the A.C.L.U. Faces an Identity Crisis (Michael Powell, New York Times): “I got the sense it was more important for A.C.L.U. staff to identify with clients and progressive causes than to stand on principle,” he said in a recent interview. “Liberals are leaving the First Amendment behind.”
  7. Some snapshots of academia:
    • The Native Scholar Who Wasn’t (Sarah Viren, New York Times): “Of the 1,500 university educators listed as Native American at the time, said Bill Cross, who helped found the American Indian/Alaska Native Professors Association, “we’re looking realistically at one-third of those being Indians.”
    • Gripped by ‘Dinner Party-gate,’ Yale Law Confronts a Venomous Divide (Sarah Lyell and Stephanie Saul, New York Times): “At the law school, the episode has exposed bitter divisions in a top-ranked institution struggling to adapt at a moment of roiling social change. Students regularly attack their professors, and one another, for their scholarship, professional choices and perceived political views. In a place awash in rumor and anonymous accusations, almost no one would speak on the record.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The world will only get weirder (Steven Coast, personal blog): “We fixed all the main reasons aircraft crash a long time ago. Sometimes a long, long time ago. So, we are left with the less and less probable events.” The piece is a few years old so the examples are dated, but it remains very intriguing. (first shared in volume 67)

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.

Disclaimer

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.