Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 323

Articles about everything from Jill Biden’s faith to Yale Law School’s failings to an analysis of American divorce to a common-sense argument against pornography. Enjoy!

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.

323 is 17 · 19, which are two of my favorite numbers. I particularly delight in using them on the microwave.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Evangelical Elites, Fighting Each Other (David French, The Dispatch): “…the older culture war categories are being supplemented and sometimes supplanted by a new confrontation between liberalism and illiberalism. While illiberal right and illiberal left snarl at anyone not in their tribes, the liberal right and the liberal left are forming new relationships and new alliances.” An excellent piece, and the first comment is also worth reading (it’s by French himself about something he  meant to include in the article).
  2. Jill Biden paid a surprise visit to the woman who helped her regain faith in God (Jada Yuan, Washington Post): “For five years after the death of her son, Jill Biden says, she lost her faith in God. She ‘felt betrayed, broken’ when Beau died of brain cancer at 46, and she had stopped going to church or even praying, she told the congregants of Brookland Baptist Church late Sunday afternoon. But she found her way back, and over the weekend traveled nearly 500 miles to surprise the woman who’d helped her get there.” I was deeply moved by this story.
  3. A Worrisome Peek Inside Yale Law’s Diversity Bureaucracy (Conor Friedersforf, The Atlantic): “[Oddly,] the diversity administrators spent many hours on this low-stakes drama among high-IQ adults, affording outsiders an unusual peek at their methods and a related series of crucial mistakes, most stemming from an inability or unwillingness to see how the interests of students diverge from the interests and incentives of their office.”
  4. Two articles discussing the research suggesting conservatives are happier than liberals:
    • From the left: Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals. Discuss. (Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times): “Ultimately, though, this line of inquiry raises an even broader question: whether liberals and conservatives function on fundamentally different moral planes.”
    • From the right: Friends and Ex-Friends (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I admit to being skeptical of any attempt to quantify happiness, which is a subjective judgment. Nevertheless, if it is true that conservatives are happier on balance than liberals, I think it has to do with two basic things. First, conservatives tend to accept that the world will never be perfect, and find it easier to live with imperfections.… Second, conservatives tend to care less about political crusading.… I don’t know any ordinary conservatives who would cut off a friend over their liberal politics.”
  5. The Naked Truth: Porn is Bad For You (Katherine Dee, The American Mind): “Common sense is vitally useful, especially in personal decision-making. So, here’s what I know. I know that immersion in, or even just regular usage of, anything has an impact on a person’s psychology.”
  6. The Evolution of Divorce (W. Bradford Wilcox, National Affairs): “In the case of divorce, as in so many others, the worst consequences of the social revolution of the 1960s and ’70s are now felt disproportionately by the poor and less educated, while the wealthy elites who set off these transformations in the first place have managed to reclaim somewhat healthier and more stable habits of married life. This imbalance leaves our cultural and political elites less well attuned to the magnitude of social dysfunction in much of American society, and leaves the most vulnerable Americans — especially children living in poor and working-class communities — even worse off than they would otherwise be.” The author is a sociologist at UVA.
  7. Is College Worth It? A Comprehensive Return on Investment Analysis (Preston Cooper, FreeOpp): “The analysis reveals that a student’s choice of program is perhaps the most important financial decision he or she will ever make. Most bachelor’s degree programs in engineering, computer science, economics, and nursing increase lifetime earnings by $500,000 or more, even after subtracting the costs of college. But most programs in fields such as art, music, philosophy, religion, and psychology leave students financially worse off than if they had never gone to college at all.” Search the table at We Calculated Return On Investment For 30,000 Bachelor’s Degrees. Find Yours. (Preston Cooper, FreeOpp)

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 Planet of Cops (Freddie de Boer, personal blog): “The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats. Go to any space concerned with social justice and what will you find? Endless surveillance. Everybody is to be judged. Everyone is under suspicion. Everything you say is to be scoured, picked over, analyzed for any possible offense. Everyone’s a detective in the Division of Problematics, and they walk the beat 24/7…. I don’t know how people can simultaneously talk about prison abolition and restoring the idea of forgiveness to literal criminal justice and at the same time turn the entire social world into a kangaroo court system.” First shared in volume 161.

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 322

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 322nd installment, and today I learned that 322 is the 12th Lucas number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The State of Evangelical Leadership (Mark Galli, Substack): “This tendency has only gotten worse, as now the mark of a successful evangelical writer is to get published regularly in the Times, Atlantic, and so forth. What’s interesting about such pieces is that (a) such writers make a point that affirms the view of the secular publication (on topics like environmental care, racial injustice, sexual abuse, etc.) and (b) they preach in such pieces that evangelicals should take the same point of view. However, their writing doesn’t reach the masses of evangelicals who take a contrary view and don’t give a damn what The New York Times says. If these writers are really interested in getting those evangelicals to change their minds, the last place they should be is in the mainstream press. Better to try to get such a column published in the most popular Pentecostal outlet, Charisma. Ah, but that would do nothing to enhance the prestige of evangelicals among the culture’s elite.”
    1. This is a SUPER interesting article that makes good points… but the author somehow avoided looking in a mirror while writing it. He was the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today!
    • Follow-up: Falling from Grace into Mercy— or Elite Evangelicalism, Part 2 (Mark Galli, Substack): “But one thing about retirement is the time one has to reflect on one’s career, and I see more clearly how much I was willing to go along to get along, and how much I was part of the system.… I don’t think there is much hope in reforming many things that course through the veins of elite evangelicals.”
  2. Two of the most distressing news items I’ve seen in some time.
  3. Hunting the Satanists (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “…the worldview of QAnon and Yale’s diversity office are surprisingly similar. Both see a world in which Satan, literal or metaphorical, is an active force in the world corrupting individuals and institutions. Satan is powerful but hidden. He only reveals his influence when the corrupted slip-up and by the incorrect use of a word, phrase, or gesture reveal their true natures. Since Satan is powerful and hidden the good people must constantly monitor everyone.” An astutely observed parallel.
  4. It’s Time for a Better and Smarter Alliance Against Porn (David French, The Dispatch): “One of the most fascinating developments of modern times has been the way in which American ideas and American conduct frequently contradict each other. The world of ideas mostly (though not exclusively) has moved left, quickly. Ideas move from progressive fringe to mainstream with stunning speed.… But in the world of conduct, something else is happening. Social conservative lifestyles are making a comeback. Divorce rates are down. Teen pregnancy is down. Abortion rates (abortions per 1,000 women) and ratios (abortions per 1,000 pregnancies) are way down. Single parenting has stabilized, and the percentage of children living with both parents is inching up.”
  5. Please Don’t Give Up On Having Kids Because Of Climate Change (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “If you think privileged modern Americans shouldn’t have children now because of quality-of-life issues [related to climate change], you implicitly believe that nobody in the Third World, or nobody before 1900, should ever have had children.”
  6. Two tidbits from China:
    • Terror & tourism: Xinjiang eases its grip, but fear remains (Dake Kang, AP News): “Anytime I tried to chat with someone, the minders would draw in close, straining to hear every word. It’s hard to know why Chinese authorities have shifted to subtler methods of controlling the region. It may be that searing criticism from the West, along with punishing political and commercial sanctions, have pushed authorities to lighten up. Or it may simply be that China judges it has come far enough in its goal of subduing the Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities to relax its grip.”
    • The Triumph and Terror of Wang Huning (N.S. Lyons, Palladium Magazine): “Wang recorded his observations in a memoir that would become his most famous work: the 1991 book America Against America. In it, he marvels at homeless encampments in the streets of Washington DC, out-of-control drug crime in poor black neighborhoods in New York and San Francisco, and corporations that seemed to have fused themselves to and taken over responsibilities of government.… Americans can, he says, perceive that they are faced with ‘intricate social and cultural problems,’ they ‘tend to think of them as scientific and technological problems’ to be solved separately. This gets them nowhere, he argues, because their problems are in fact all inextricably interlinked and have the same root cause: a radical, nihilistic individualism at the heart of modern American liberalism.”
      • Surprisingly engrossing. One of China’s key leaders has accurately diagnosed certain challenges their nation is facing but his solutions are lacking (and evil). And he seems to have come to many of his convictions by visiting America and witnessing our cultural folly.
  7. Don’t Let Religious Liberty Claims Mask Bad Faith Arguments (Daniel Bennett, Christianity Today): “Religious liberty is too important to let it get misused. It’s not a waiver to avoid all inconveniences in life or, worse, a tool to make political statements. For religious liberty to survive political and legal scrutiny in the future, we must safeguard exemptions against abuse.” The author is a political science professor at John Brown University.

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 When Children Say They’re Trans (Jesse Singal, The Atlantic): “ …to deny the possibility of a connection between social influences and gender‐identity exploration among adolescents would require ignoring a lot of what we know about the developing teenage brain—which is more susceptible to peer influence, more impulsive, and less adept at weighing long‐term outcomes and consequences than fully developed adult brains—as well as individual stories like Delta’s.” This is a long and balanced piece which has garnered outrage in some online circles. First shared in volume 157.

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 321

I always try to trim these to seven items. Cutting the 8th was brutal this week — so many good options!

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 321, which is not only a number but also a countdown.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Top Trans Doctors Blow the Whistle on ‘Sloppy’ Care (Abigail Shrier, Bari Weiss’s Substack): “[The] new orthodoxy has gone too far, according to two of the most prominent providers in the field of transgender medicine: Dr. Marci Bowers, a world-renowned vaginoplasty specialist who operated on reality-television star Jazz Jennings; and Erica Anderson, a clinical psychologist at the University of California San Francisco’s Child and Adolescent Gender Clinic. In the course of their careers, both have seen thousands of patients. Both are board members of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), the organization that sets the standards worldwide for transgender medical care. And both are transgender women. Earlier this month, Anderson told me she submitted a co-authored op-ed to The New York Times warning that many transgender healthcare providers were treating kids recklessly. The Times passed, explaining it was ‘outside our coverage priorities right now.’ ”
    • A sobering article, and also a tragic but unsurprising revelation about the New York Times editorial team.
  2. Highlights From The Comments On Modern Architecture (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “I might be the only person in the world who likes McMansions. They just look like nice, pleasant buildings made by people who want to vaguely enjoy the place where they live. Probably the least offensive thing people are making these days.”
    • Judging from the comments he really struck a chord with the “Whither Tartaria?” piece I linked two weeks ago. Fascinating stuff, highly recommended.
  3. What American Christians Hear at Church (Casey Cep, New Yorker): “Homiletics—the proper name for the art of preaching—is still taught in seminaries and divinity schools, but it is not often studied outside of those institutions. This is regrettable, since many more Americans attend church than subscribe to a newspaper.… Taking advantage of the technologies that have allowed churches to stream services and post them online, Pew has studied the length, language, and content of tens of thousands of sermons, by denomination and tradition, most recently for the nine Sundays before and the Sunday after last fall’s Presidential election.” Quite interesting.
  4. Slavery vs. White Supremacy (Van Gosse & Sean Wilentz, New York Review of Books): “Antislavery and anti-racist politics appeared only in the 1760s—and only in the American colonies. Those politics, hailed by later abolitionists as of world-historical importance, engaged blacks and whites, enslaved and free. Inspired by the Revolution’s egalitarianism, antislavery advocates overcame powerful opposition and enacted the first emancipations of their kind in history, in seven of the thirteen original states.… The United States, in short, was founded not on slavery and white supremacy but amid an unprecedented struggle over slavery and white supremacy, which the Constitution left open.” Illuminating letters between two history professors.
  5. ‘Some are just psychopaths’: Chinese detective in exile reveals extent of torture against Uyghurs (Rebecca Wright, Ivan Watson, Zahid Mahmood and Tom Booth, CNN): “ ‘Kick them, beat them (until they’re) bruised and swollen,’ Jiang said, recalling how he and his colleagues used to interrogate detainees in police detention centers. ‘Until they kneel on the floor crying.’ During his time in Xinjiang, Jiang said every new detainee was beaten during the interrogation process — including men, women and children as young as 14.” The details in this story are dark. I’ve seen other stories with testimonies from former prisoners, this one features one of the guards speaking up in addition to stories from prisoners.
  6. Trainings (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “Universities don’t usually create their own training modules — they buy products from companies that specialize in that kind of thing. And those companies want to save money by reusing their old code. So they extract the content of their Title IX courses and simply stuff new content into the existing frameworks. Easy-peasy. And the upper-level administrators of the university, who don’t want to spend any more money on such projects than they have to, accept the Frankenstein’s jury-rigged monster they’ve been handed. But that creates a big problem: the kind of structure needed to communicate to people the contours of a law and the expectations generated by that law is not the kind of structure needed to explore the moral development of a community.”
  7. Yale and the Education of Governing Elites (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “A program conceived to teach future elites how to wisely use state power has morphed into a program teaching them how to wisely oppose it. This transformation is one more illustration of Dashan’s thesis. At Yale we see the American predicament made concrete: an entrenched governing class that enjoys the privileges of elite status but refuses to prepare for the responsibilities of elite station.”

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 Are Satanists of the MS‐13 gang an under‐covered story on the religion beat? (Julia Duin, GetReligion): this is a fascinating bit of news commentary. My favorite bit: “How does one get out of MS‐13? An opinion piece in the New York Times this past April gives a surprising response: Go to a Pentecostal church.” Highly recommended. First shared in volume 158.

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 320

delicious news nuggets of particular interest to thoughtful Christians and people connected to Stanford

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 320, which is 28 + 26.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Mistakes We Cannot Make Again (David French, The Dispatch): “…if people of faith are to be concerned about justice (and they are!), then justice is rarely more immediate and important than when confronting both the scourge of crime and the tragedy of excess enforcement and mass incarceration.”
  2. A Cog in the College Admissions Scandal Speaks Out (Billy Witz, New York Times): “Vandemoer, unlike the others accused in the plot, did not personally gain in the transactions. He handed checks totaling $770,000 from Singer to Stanford development officers, who planned to use the money for new boats.… So as he told his story to Stanford’s investigators, he wondered why no one had ever come to him when the indictments came down, noting that even federal prosecutors had acknowledged he did not enrich himself from the scheme. It reinforced the notion that he was simply an asset — a nameless, expendable cog in a corporation with a $29 billion endowment.” Recommended by a student. Stanford does not come off looking good at all.
  3. Stanford students are more likely to wear masks on bicycles than helmets (Maxwell Meyer, Stanford Review): “In April of this year, I witnessed something on the Stanford campus that will be seared into my memory forever: a student on a bicycle, wearing flip-flops, AirPods in ear, going the wrong way through a roundabout in an active construction zone, with no helmet. But like any good follower of science, the student was wearing a disposable blue face mask — for safety, I guess.” Should he desire to, Meyer will become a well-known national commentator someday. He’s quite good.
  4. Why I Am a Conspiracy Theorist (Hans Boersma, First Things): “When rulers mandate vaccine passports and establish elaborate electronic systems to police compliance, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see how the same system might be used—and in the eyes of many should be used—to regulate carbon emissions, expenditures, and even opinions. After all, it’s not just the coronavirus that is dangerous. So are climate change, social inequality, and certain moral and religious convictions. Technologically, traveling from vaccine passports to a social credit system—the kind that China already has in place—takes no time at all.… This is not an argument against vaccination per se. It is an argument to take conspiracy theorists—David foremost among them—seriously.” The author is an Anglican theologian.
  5. The Public Continues to Underestimate COVID’s Age Discrimination (David Wallace-Wells, NY Magazine): “After 18 months of public-health guidance promoting universal vigilance, I think hardly any American has a clear view of just how dramatic these differentials are. All else being equal, an unvaccinated 66-year old is about 30 times more likely to die, given a confirmed case, than an unvaccinated 36-year-old, and someone over 85 is over 10,000 times more at risk of dying than a child under 10.… a vaccinated 80-year-old has about the same mortality risk as an unvaccinated 50-year-old, and an unvaccinated 30-year-old has a lower risk than a vaccinated 45-year-old.”
  6. Inside the Church That Preaches ‘Wives Need to Be Led with a Firm Hand’ (Sarah Stankorb, Vice): “Mother Kirk can be a joyous, faithful community. But the conservative congregation also is at odds with Moscow’s more liberal population (surrounding Latah county voted for President Biden in 2020). Depending upon whom you ask, the town either hosts a Calvinist utopia or a patriarchal cult in which women must submit or face discipline at home and at church. At the center of it all is notoriously controversial Douglas Wilson, the firebrand pastor who has been presiding over his Mother Kirk fiefdom for more than 40 years.” Many of the details in this story are very bad.
    • A Taste of November in the Air (Doug Wilson, personal blog): “Incidentally, in case you are curious, I haven’t read the Vice piece because I did read the questions that the writer sent to Nancy and to me while ‘researching,’ and the said questions were all more loaded than the entrees at Tater’s, Home of the Grand Stuffed Potato Buffet. Way too many bacon bits.… If you read anything that unsettles you, and you would like particular answers to specific questions, we have made them readily available. On the top of this page, over to the right, we have a box called Critical Questions.” Wilson’s response to the Vice piece. 
  7. Unpopulism (David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick, New York Times): “In elite circles, including Capitol Hill, people often misunderstand American public opinion in a specific way. They imagine that the median voter resembles a type of political moderate who is quite common in those elite circles — somebody who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative.… In the rest of the country, however, this ideological combination is not so common, polls show. If anything, more Americans can accurately be described as the opposite — socially conservative and economically liberal. That’s true across racial groups, including among Black and Hispanic voters.” Not paywalled.

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 a compelling series of articles on China by a history professor at Johns Hopkins (who also happens to be a Stanford grad): China’s Master Plan: A Global Military Threat, China’s Master Plan: Exporting an Ideology, China’s Master Plan: A Worldwide Web of Institutions and China’s Master Plan: How The West Can Fight Back (Hal Brand, Bloomberg). The money quote from the second article: “If the U.S. has long sought to make the world safe for democracy, China’s leaders crave a world that is safe for authoritarianism.” First shared in volume 156.

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 319

a brief roundup

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 319, which feels like it ought to be a prime number but really 319 = 11 · 29.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. A giant space rock demolished an ancient Middle Eastern city and everyone in it – possibly inspiring the Biblical story of Sodom (Christopher R. Moore, The Conversation): “As the inhabitants of an ancient Middle Eastern city now called Tall el-Hammam went about their daily business one day about 3,600 years ago, they had no idea an unseen icy space rock was speeding toward them at about 38,000 mph (61,000 kph). Flashing through the atmosphere, the rock exploded in a massive fireball about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) above the ground. The blast was around 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The shocked city dwellers who stared at it were blinded instantly. Air temperatures rapidly rose above 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius). Clothing and wood immediately burst into flames.”
    • No, it didn’t “inspire” the Bible story. The Bible story is inspired, though. Astounding regardless.
    • A bit of cold water: Sodom Destroyed by Meteor, Scientists Say. Biblical Archaeologists Not Convinced. (Gordon Govier, Christianity Today): “Archaeologists Steve Ortiz, director of Lipscomb University’s Lanier Center of Archaeology, agreed that while Tall el-Hammam is an important site, its destruction date is too late to fit the Sodom scenario. He dismissed the fireball hoopla to CT. ‘[Their] destruction does not look any different than any other destruction,’ he said. ‘We have Assyrian and Egyptian destructions at Gezer that looks just as dramatic.’ ”
  2. Why Covid regulations may be around longer than you think (Tim Harford, personal blog): “The US and most European countries had abandoned passports by the end of the 19th century. In many South American nations, freedom to travel without a passport was a constitutional right. So how did the passport come roaring back? The answer was the first world war.… Lloyd writes: ‘At the end of the war in 1918, the movement to abolish passports re-energised itself but it was now fighting against governments who had discovered how closely a population could be controlled and how easily this could be justified.’ ”
    1. The Extremely Weird Politics of Covid (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “In less than two years, we’ve gone from a world where it was normal for a left-leaning publication to run an essay gently celebrating the defiance of public health rules during a brutal outbreak of the plague, to a world where the defiance of public health rules during a less lethal pandemic is coded as incredibly right wing. I don’t know exactly why or exactly what it means. I just want people to acknowledge that it has happened and it’s really, really weird.” Accurate.
  3. My Confessions (Joshua Katz, First Things): “Though my faith in academia, which had been waning for years, is now largely gone, my faith in the power of God’s mysterious ways is ascendant. Because religion is still new to me, and because I grew up with the New York Times, which in the guise of news now instructs those aptly dubbed by John McWhorter ‘The Elect’ to despise religion, I find it remarkable—though I shouldn’t—that many of the people who have worked so hard to keep me going are religious.” The author is a professor of classics at Princeton.
  4. The 1619 Project and Living in Truth (Sean Wilentz, Opera Historica): “If it were a high school history paper, that discussion alone would have been grounds for failure. It’s rare, after all, to read a student get every single stated fact perfectly wrong, in support of a proposition for which there is no other evidence cited, on two of the most important topics in all of U.S. history, indeed, all of modern history, the causes of the American Revolution and the origins of antislavery. But this wasn’t a high school paper, it was the New York Times Magazine, and the author was, according to her contributor’s biography, a highly acclaimed journalist.” The author is a historian at Princeton. The article itself is a PDF, direct link here.
  5. The Scientist and the A.I.-Assisted, Remote-Control Killing Machine (Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi, New York Times): “The straight-out-of-science-fiction story of what really happened that afternoon and the events leading up to it, published here for the first time, is based on interviews with American, Israeli and Iranian officials, including two intelligence officials familiar with the details of the planning and execution of the operation, and statements Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s family made to the Iranian news media.”
  6. Everybody Hates the Jews (Bari Weiss, Substack): “In an era in which the past is mined by offense-archaeologists for the most minor of microaggressions, the very real macroaggressions taking place right now against Jews go ignored. Assaults on Hasidic Jews on the streets of Brooklyn, which have become a regular feature of life there, are overlooked or, sometimes, justified by the very activists who go to the mat over the ‘cultural appropriation’ of a taco.” A bit long, but sobering.
  7. Whither Tartaria? (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “So I think there’s a genuine mystery to be explained here: if people prefer traditional architecture by a large margin, how come we’ve stopped producing it?” Much better than the excerpt indicates.

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 Problem with Dull Knives: What’s the Defense Department got to do with Code for America? (Jennifer Pahlka, Medium): “I have a distinct memory of being a kid in the kitchen with my mom, awkwardly and probably dangerously wielding a knife, trying to cut some tough vegetable, and defending my actions by saying the knife was dull anyway. My mom stopped me and said firmly, ‘Jenny, a dull knife is much more dangerous than a sharp knife. You’re struggling and using much more force than you should, and that knife is going to end up God Knows Where.’ She was right, of course…. But having poor tools [for the military] doesn’t make us fight less; it makes us fight badly.” (some emphasis in the original removed). Highly recommended. First shared in volume 155.

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 318

First, a word to new students: welcome! This might be your first email from Chi Alpha and if so you might be a little confused.

For the last several years, I have been sharing articles/resources every Friday about broad cultural, societal and theological issues.

I was inspired by the tribe of Issachar from the time of King David. They 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.

Be sure to see the disclaimers at the bottom. Also, I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

All that having been said, here is 318th roundup of things I have found interesting (318, I am told, is the number of unlabeled partially ordered sets of 6 elements).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The American Crisis of Selective Empathy (David French, The Dispatch): “…America is experiencing an empathy crisis. But it’s not quite the crisis you might think. Our empathy can overflow for the people we love, for the people within our tribe—even when they make grave errors. But what about our empathy for ‘them,’ the people we distrust? Then empathy is in short supply. Indeed, in some cases, the very concept of empathy is under fire.”
    • Related: The Limits of My Empathy for Covid Deniers (Tressie McMillan Cottom, New York Times): “Because I value being a thinking person, I honor emotions like empathy, fear, joy and trust to guide me around the pitfalls of my ego. Ego makes for really sloppy analysis and writing. I am at a point where headlines about ill and dying Covid deniers do not pull at my empathy strings the way I want them to.”
  2. Norm Macdonald’s Spiritual Journey (Nic Rowan, First Things): “Macdonald may have only been dabbling in Christianity, but his criticisms of the post-Christian world were often incisive. He had no tolerance for scientism and laughed at atheists. He frequently lampooned the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, and Bill Maher. And he wasn’t afraid to make dark predictions about a future dominated by their successors.”
  3. Fired After Getting Vaccinated—And Encouraging Others to Do So (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “I was trying to use my platform to share the truth. You’re right that Christians should be people of the truth—not just that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, but also the truth about what is real. The question is: How do you get the truth to people? We live in a time where information is coming at us from all over. It’s not necessarily that people don’t want to believe the truth.” This is a solid interview. Darling comes off very well.
  4. Effect size is significantly more important than statistical significance. (Ben Recht, personal blog): “In either case we are talking about a difference of 15 cases between the treatment and control villages in a population of 32,000 individuals.… If the effect size is so small that we need sophisticated statistics, maybe that means the effect isn’t real. Using sophisticated statistical scaffolding clouds our judgement. We end up using statistical methods as a crutch, not to dig signals out of noise, but to convince ourselves of signals when there are none.” The author is a professor of machine learning and data analysis at Berkeley.
  5. Why America needs the Black church for its own survival (Charlie Date, Washington Post): “The difference between the Black church and any other Christian institution in America is that rather than abandoning Scripture as a tool of our oppression, we apply Scripture as God’s rule for our liberty and living. The difference is in how our social ethic is rooted in both righteousness and justice, not either righteousness or justice. The difference is that we’ve come to see Jesus and his power to sustain and flourish us from the margins without the benefit of large donors, political capital or ownership of media outlets.” The author is pastor of a prominent Black church in Chicago as well as a seminary professor.
  6. Roe Will Go (Robert P. George, First Things): “Let me offer a prediction, free of any face-saving hedge: Next year, the Supreme Court will hold that there is no constitutional right to elective abortions. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case pending before the court, it will return the issue to the states for the first time in forty-nine years. It will do so explicitly, calling out by name, and reversing in full, the two major cases that confected and then entrenched a constitutional right to elective abortion: Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). And the vote will be six to three.” The author is a law professor at Princeton.

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 A One Parameter Equation That Can Exactly Fit Any Scatter Plot (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Overfitting is possible with just one parameter and so models with fewer parameters are not necessarily preferable even if they fit the data as well or better than models with more parameters.” Researchers take note. The underlying mathematics paper is well‐written and interesting: One Parameter Is Always Enough (Steven T. Piantadosi) — among other things, it points out that you can smuggle in arbitrarily large amounts of data into an equation through a single parameter because a number can have infinite digits. Obvious once stated, but I don’t know that it ever would have occurred to me. First shared in volume 154.

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 317

lots of pandemic and vaccination stuff

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 317 — a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Too Good To Check: A Play In Three Acts (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “Did you believe that? I mean, that’s also a pretty cool story, isn’t it? Right-wing news outlets accuse the so-called ‘liberal media’ of bias, then get hoist on their own petard? Seems a bit too cute. Have you clicked through to any of the links yet? No? Not even after I admitted I’m probably biased here?”
  2. On vaccinations
    • It’s Time to Stop Rationalizing and Enabling Evangelical Vaccine Rejection (David French, The Dispatch): “For the Christian believer, the pursuit of freedom is inseparable from the pursuit of virtue. We do not seek liberty simply to satisfy our desires or to appease our fears. In fact, when we pursue the freedom to make our neighbors sick, we violate the social compact and undermine our moral standing in politics, law, and culture. Christian libertinism becomes a long-term threat to religious liberty itself.”
      • Although I am vaccinated myself, I am more sympathetic to vaccine reluctants than French is. I definitely do not think it is a religious liberty issue, though. It seems to me that this is more a matter of personal autonomy and the reluctance is largely driven by self-inflicted damage from the authorities. The CDC (for example) has repeatedly said and done extraordinarily stupid things in this pandemic. Very often you would have been better off doing the opposite of what they advocated for. People noticed. And so now that the official advice is to receive the vaccine, people who are resistant are applying an understandable heuristic.
    • I’m a Former Pastor, and I Don’t Believe in ‘Religious Exemptions’ to Vaccine Mandates (Curtis Chang, New York Times): “Christians who request religious exemptions rarely even try to offer substantive biblical and theological reasoning. Rather, the drivers for evangelical resistance are nonreligious and are rooted in deep-seated suspicion of government and vulnerability to misinformation.… The biggest threat to any legitimate right is the illegitimate abuse of that right.” Recommended by a student. Curtis Chang used to pastor near here and although we’ve never met I emailed with him once about a book he had written.
    • NRB spokesman Dan Darling fired after pro-vaccine statements on ‘Morning Joe’ (Bob Smietana, Religion News Service): “Daniel Darling, senior vice president of communications for the National Religious Broadcasters, was fired Friday (Aug. 27) after refusing to recant his pro-vaccine statements, according to a source authorized to speak for Darling.”
    • The ACLU, Prior to COVID, Denounced Mandates and Coercive Measures to Fight Pandemics (Glenn Greenwald, Substack): “What makes the ACLU’s position so remarkable — besides the inherent shock of a civil liberties organization championing state mandates overriding individual choice — is that, very recently, the same group warned of the grave dangers of the very mindset it is now pushing. In 2008, the ACLU published a comprehensive report on pandemics which had one primary purpose: to denounce as dangerous and unnecessary attempts by the state to mandate, coerce, and control in the name of protecting the public from pandemics.”
  3. The pandemic more generally
    1. One in 5,000 (David Leonhardt, New York Times): “Here’s one way to think about a one-in-10,000 daily chance: It would take more than three months for the combined risk to reach just 1 percent… I will confess to one bit of hesitation about walking you through the data on breakthrough infections: It’s not clear how much we should be worrying about them. For the vaccinated, Covid resembles the flu and usually a mild one. Society does not grind to a halt over the flu.”
    2. New Details Emerge About Coronavirus Research at Chinese Lab (Sharon Lerner & Mara Hvistendahl, The Intercept): “The documents contain several critical details about the research in Wuhan, including the fact that key experimental work with humanized mice was conducted at a biosafety level 3 lab at Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment — and not at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as was previously assumed.” Recommended by a student
    3. New Studies Find Evidence Of ‘Superhuman’ Immunity To COVID-19 In Some Individuals (Michaleen Doucleff, NPR): “In fact, these antibodies were even able to deactivate a virus engineered, on purpose, to be highly resistant to neutralization. This virus contained 20 mutations that are known to prevent SARS-CoV‑2 antibodies from binding to it. Antibodies from people who were only vaccinated or who only had prior coronavirus infections were essentially useless against this mutant virus. But antibodies in people with the ‘hybrid immunity’ could neutralize it.”
  4. Steven Pinker Thinks Your Sense of Imminent Doom Is Wrong (David Marchese, New York Times): “Given that virtually every climate scientist believes that human activity is warming the planet, how could anyone deny it? The answer is, people don’t necessarily believe what scientists say because they correctly sense that within academia a person can get punished for unorthodox beliefs.”
    • Including entirely for that excerpt. What I find fascinating is that the journalist is dismissive of this idea, which is not only clearly true but at the root of much societal dysfunction. We have a crisis of confidence in our culture because our experts seem determined to demonstrate their untrustworthiness again and again. Journalists are even more to blame than academics, which is why I think it is so hard for this journalist to accept Pinker’s claim.
  5. Perspective: The moral utility of history (Jon Meacham, Deseret News): “As a matter of observable fact, the United States, through its sporadic adherence to its finest aspirations, is the most durable experiment in pluralistic republicanism the world has known. Other national revolutions have descended into dictatorship and persecution; ours has produced enviable, if fragile, democratic institutions. In the main, the America of the 21st century is, for all its shortcomings, freer and more accepting than it has ever been.” Recommended by an alumnus.
  6. On the Texas abortion law
    1. Texas’ Abortion Law Should Force America to Change Its Ways (Karen Swallow Prior, New York Times): “In America, of all the pregnancies that don’t end in miscarriage, nearly one in five is aborted; this is a society in which things are wildly off track. A world like this, spun by forces that lead to that many lives being undone, doesn’t happen by chance. It takes all of us. It takes a village to make abortion seem like the best choice. We can change our ways, though.” The author is an English professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
    2. The Pro-Life Movement Must Transcend Politics (David French, The Dispatch): “To be pro-life does not mean supporting every possible strategy, even if only temporarily successful (a Texas state court has already issued a broad injunction against the law), designed to ban or limit abortion. Strategies designed to ban abortion do not necessarily help end abortion, and ending abortion is the ultimate aim of the pro-life movement.”
    3. How a former SLS professor and Hoover fellow helped shape the Texas abortion ban (Sarina Deb and Georgia Rosenberg, Stanford Daily): “Jonathan Mitchell was a visiting professor at Stanford Law School and former fellow at the Hoover Institution when he theorized the legal mechanism which laid the groundwork for the controversial Texas abortion ban that went into effect last week. If states wanted to circumvent judicial review, Mitchell wrote in a 2018 law review article, they could delegate the power of enforcement to private citizens. That is exactly what S.B. 8 does.”
  7. Strategic Citing (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “[Scholars are more likely to cite other scholars who can help them out]… The finding is robust to controlling for self-citations, own-journal citations, and a variety of other possibilities. The authors also show that deceased authors get fewer citations than matched living authors. For example, living Nobel prize winners get more citations than dead ones even when they were awarded the prize jointly.”

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 Why Being a Foster Child Made Me a Conservative (Rob Henderson, New York Times): “Individuals have rights. But they also have responsibilities. For instance, when I say parents should prioritize their children over their careers, there is a sense of unease among my peers. They think I want to blame individuals rather than a nebulous foe like poverty. They are mostly right.” At the time of writing, the author had just graduated from Yale. Worth reading regardless of your political allegiances. First shared in volume 153.

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 316

an unusual density of thoughtful articles about relationships and sex

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 316, which is cool because legendary Stanford CS professor Don Knuth wrote a book called 3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated in which he analyzes every chapter 3 verse 16 in the Bible as a means of bringing his academic expertise to bear upon his faith.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Curse of Ham: Getting It Horribly Wrong (Stephen Le Feuvre, The Gospel Coalition Africa): “In biblical Hebrew, the name ‘Cush’ seems to mean ‘Ethiopian’ or ‘blackness’. Black African nations seemingly developed from the offspring of Cush. But that is exactly where the so-called curse of Ham is misapplied. The curse never fell on Ham or on Cush. For whatever reason, not truly given in the text, it fell on Canaan. In Genesis 9:25 Noah pours out his anger, ‘Cursed be Canaan!’ There is no record of a biblical curse put on the descendants of Cush or the nations of Africa.”
    1. A slightly older article that I’m sharing this week for obvious reasons. If you’ve recently heard the phrase “Curse of Canaan” or “Curse of Ham” this article will help you sort out what it means.
  2. Why the UN’s Dire Climate Change Report Is Dedicated to an Evangelical Christian (Daniel Silliman, Christianity Today): “Houghton, who died of complications related to COVID-19 in 2020 at the age of 88, was the chief editor of the first three IPCC reports and an early, influential leader calling for action on climate change. His concerns about greenhouse gases, rising temperature averages, dying coral reefs, blistering heat waves, and increasingly extreme weather were informed by his training at as atmospheric physicist and his commitment to science. They also come out of his evangelical understanding of God, the biblical accounts of humanity’s relationship to creation, and what it means for a Christian to follow Christ.”
  3. A cluster of articles about relationships and sex:
    • Can Christian Singles Thrive? (Anna Broadway, Plough): “The global church has at least eighty-five million more women than men among adults thirty or older; the US church has twenty-five million more women. Even if some of those women have or find spouses outside the faith, that leaves millions who can’t ever marry – a reality the church has yet to face. Instead, most Christians I met around the world treated heterosexual marriage as the primary narrative axis in life.”
    • Is Nothing Sacred? Religion and Sex (Douglas T. Kenrick, Psychology Today): “Highly educated people often wait many years past puberty to settle down, as they delay starting a family for up to a decade while attending college and graduate school. Those individuals do not want strong prohibitions against premarital sexuality and birth control because it would mean they’d need to remain celibate for many years, and completely suppress their post-pubertal sexual urges until they get their Ph.D., M.D., or law degree, and then wait a little longer until they find a partner with whom to settle down. Weeden has suggested that the links between religion and reproductive strategy account for many of the heated moral conflicts between the religious right and the irreligious academic elitists on the left.” The author is a professor of social psychology at Arizona State and I think this is very insightful.
    • The Problem With Being Cool About Sex (Helen Lewis, The Atlantic): “Yet here is the conundrum facing feminist writers: Our enlightened values—less stigma regarding unwed mothers, the acceptance of homosexuality, greater economic freedom for women, the availability of contraception, and the embrace of consent culture—haven’t translated into anything like a paradise of guilt-free fun.” A very non-Christian perspective that unexpectedly aligns with important Christian convictions at a few points.
  4. Why Poetry Is So Crucial Right Now (Tish Harrison Warren, New York Times): “Both poetry and prayer remind us that there is more to say about reality than can be said in words though, in both, we use words to try to glimpse what is beyond words. And they both make space to name our deepest longings, lamentations, and loves.” The author is an Anglican priest and a NYT columnist. Recommended by an alumnus.
  5. When Migrants Come Knocking (Edmund Waldstein, Plough): “The nation-state combines the worst features of political and imperial communities. It lacks the advantages of a small community founded in friendship and mutual trust among citizens actually living a common life, but preserves the communal egoism and hatred of outsiders typical of such small communities. It lacks the capaciousness and ability to unite many nations typical of ancient empires, but has all of their militarism and libido dominandi.” A wide-ranging Christian perspective on refugees; recommended by an alumnus.
  6. Why I Voted For the Atheist President of Harvard’s Chaplain Group (Pete Williamson, Christianity Today): “Harvard has no ‘chief chaplain,’ and the president of the Harvard Chaplains does not direct spiritual life on campus. We are a decentralized, nonhierarchical community of independent chaplaincies, with about 40 chaplains spanning roughly 25 denominations, organizations, traditions, and religions.… Chaplain presidents are chosen not to reflect whose tradition is ascendant, nor as a reward to the most influential chaplain. They are not an indicator of a bold new vision for the Harvard Chaplains.”
  7. A Third Party Won’t Save Us (Alexander H. Cohen, Persuasion): “It’s true that some third parties have historically broken the mold, notably in the pre-Civil War era. The Republican Party itself began as an insurgent, anti-slavery third party. But the rules have changed. The Republican and Democratic parties have been in power so long that they have consciously designed a system that protects their dominance and discourages the organization of new third parties.” The author is a professor of political science at Clarkson University.

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 Sister… Show Mercy! (Dan Phillips, Team Pyro): “Sister, if there’s one thing you and I can certainly agree on, it’s this: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, and you don’t know what it’s like to be a man. We’re both probably wrong where we’re sure we’re right, try as we might. So let me try to dart a telegram from my camp over to the distaff side.” (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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 315

some extraordinarily interesting articles this week — highly recommended

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.

Today’s number is 315, which is northwest when measured on a compass.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. OnlyFans and the Sexual Revolution (Samuel D. James, First Things): “If you look carefully, you can see how sobriquets such as ‘sex worker’ give away the game. The contemporary liberated social order is an order of workers: naked bodies laboring round the clock, sacrificing dignity and reputation for the opportunity to nibble the crumbs that fall from Big Tech’s table. Our civilization’s efforts to commodify sexuality cannot deliver what they promise. It is impossible to make sex a product or subscription; the closest thing is human trafficking, which, as it turns out, is a feature and not a bug of the adult content industry.” Straight fire.
  2. The World Is Catechizing Us Whether We Realize It or Not (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “It is worth remembering David Well’s famous definition: worldliness is whatever makes righteousness look strange and sin look normal. Here’s the reality facing every Christian in the West: the money, power, and prestige of the mainstream media, big time sports, big business, big tech, and almost all the institutions of education and entertainment are invested in making sin look normal.”
  3. Nike’s End of Men (Ethan Strauss, Substack): “For all the talk of a racial reckoning within major industries, Nike’s main problem is this: It’s a company built on masculinity, most specifically Michael Jordan’s alpha dog brand of it. Now, due to its own ambitions, scandals, and intellectual trends, Nike finds masculinity problematic enough to loudly reject.” This is WAY more interesting than I anticipated.
  4. Tetlock and the Taliban (Richard Hanania, Substack): “I have a PhD in political science with a focus on international relations. Most people in my position would tell you that you should give my opinions on my topic of expertise more weight because of my credentials. I believe if anything, you should hold my degree against me, as getting a PhD is probably the most inefficient way to understand a topic, and a person seeking that credential has shown that they don’t understand that. I think I’ve been right on Afghanistan and other American interventions because of good intellectual habits, including a genuine concern with what is true. But that has little to do with any training I got from political science.” This piece is quite good. I feel like I should add a disclaimer like, “Warning: academic heresy ahead.”
  5. ‘When My Satire Becomes Popular, I Must Ask, What Is the Problem?’ (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “[Popular satirists] can’t say, ‘I’m calling out power.’ No, you are power. Satirists must interrogate their own positionality. I try to say, ‘How am I implicated in this thing personally?’ Because satire never used to be popular.… So when my satire becomes popular, I must ask, What is the problem? Why are there so many people that are comfortable with my work?” A very perceptive interview with Elnathan John. Emphasis in original.
  6. Hospitals and Insurers Didn’t Want You to See These Prices. Here’s Why. (Sarah Kliff & Josh Katz, New York Times): “This year, the federal government ordered hospitals to begin publishing a prized secret: a complete list of the prices they negotiate with private insurers.… data from the hospitals that have complied hints at why the powerful industries wanted this information to remain hidden.” This is revealing and irritating.
  7. About Afghanistan:
    • We Must Learn From Our Defeat (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “We must learn the lessons of our failure with great urgency. American primacy has insulated America from the pains of our defeat. This will not be true for much longer. As I type these words my nation hurtles towards a dark and uncertain future. The challenge posed by an ambitious and revisionist Communist Party of China dwarfs any problem a movement of illiterate poppy farmers could create. We have wasted the profits of our imperium away; in this more feeble state we now confront the challenge of a century. We must not face it armed with the dysfunction of our past two decades. We must relearn how to be serious.”
    • US special operations vets carry out daring mission to save Afghan allies (James Gordon Meek, ABC News): “The Afghan operators, assets, interpreters and their families were known as ‘passengers’ and they were being guided remotely by ‘shepherds,’ who are, in most cases their loyal former U.S. special operations forces and CIA comrades and commanders, according to chat room communications viewed by ABC News.… Looking back at an effort that saved at least, by their count, 630 Afghan lives, Redman expressed deep frustration ‘that our own government didn’t do this. We did what we should do, as Americans.’ ” Amazing.
    • Three major networks devoted a full five minutes to Afghanistan in 2020 (Jim Lobe, Responsible Statecraft): “If the U.S. government was caught up short by the dramatic denouement of its 20-year war in Afghanistan, viewers of the three major networks must have been taken entirely by surprise. Out of a combined 14,000-plus minutes of the national evening news broadcast on CBS, ABC, and NBC last year, a grand total of five minutes were devoted to Afghanistan…”
    • Let’s Not Pretend That the Way We Withdrew From Afghanistan Was the Problem (Ezra Klein, New York Times): “I will not pretend that I know how we should have left Afghanistan. But neither do a lot of people dominating the airwaves right now. And the confident pronouncements to the contrary over the past two weeks leave me worried that America has learned little. We are still holding not just to the illusion of our control, but to the illusion of our knowledge.”
    • The economics of Taliban finance (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “An example of Islamist governance can be found on the stretch of road from Kabul to the Mile 78 border crossing in south-west Farah province that borders Iran. The road has more than 25 government checkpoints and a fee is charged at multiple points on the journey. By contrast, the Taliban who police the same road have far fewer checkpoints and give a receipt, so only a single payment is necessary.” Very interesting, summarizing a paywalled piece.

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 Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+ (Hannah Furness, The Telegraph): this is a real article. First shared in volume 151.

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 314

Afghanistan links at the bottom.

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.

314 is roughly π times 100, and that makes me happy.

Afghanistan links are at the bottom and are well worth reading, but other stuff is up top in case you’re overwhelmed already.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. A Guide to Finding Faith (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…the world in 2021, no less than the world in 1521 or 321, presents considerable evidence of an originating intelligence presiding over a law-bound world well made for our minds to understand, and at the same time a panoply of spiritual forces that seem to intervene unpredictably in our existence.” This is a wonderful thing to have printed in the New York Times.
  2. The Real College Scandal (Agnes Callard, The Point Magazine): “If I had to measure the worth of my classes in my students’ subsequent civic virtue or life satisfaction, I couldn’t afford to lose touch with most of them after graduation. I am sometimes saddened when I lose touch with them, but it never causes me to wonder whether their education was worthwhile.” Enthusiastically recommended by an alumnus.
  3. OpenAI Codex Live Demo (OpenAI, YouTube): thirty astounding minutes. This technology is going to change SO MUCH. I’m honestly blown away. Sign up for beta access at https://openai.com/join
  4. Unmarried Sex Is Worse Than You Think (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra & Collin Hansen, Gospel Coalition): “Americans talk a lot about sex. Anyone would think they’re having a lot of it.… Instead, the opposite has happened. Young people are having less sex—and are less happy—than the married, churchgoing generation before them.”
  5. Does Canada have a religion problem? (Ray Pennings, Substack): “In partnership with the Angus-Reid Institute, Cardus has been measuring Canadian spirituality. We asked about seven practices — belief in God’s existence, prayer, reading a scripture, participating in worship, believing in an afterlife, having religious experiences, teaching your kids about faith. We termed the 16 percent who do at least six of these ‘religiously committed’ and the 19 percent who do zero or one ‘non-believers.’ That leaves the 64 per cent of Canadians in the middle — neither devoutly religious, nor religiously indifferent. They’re a big chunk of the 86 per cent of Canadians who pray at least monthly.  But many religious Canadians, of various faiths, don’t necessarily feel it’s safe to be public about their beliefs.” The author is the co-founder of Cardus, a Canadian think tank. Recommended by a friend of the ministry.
  6. Who Tells Them Things They Don’t Want to Hear? (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “…I don’t think and have never suggested that crowdfunded media can replace the basic newsgathering function of newspapers and that the NYT in particular still serves a vital function in its fundamental reportorial duties. This is, in fact, precisely why I am so disturbed by the paper’s takeover by a fringe ideology embraced by a tiny sliver of the American public and by behind-the-scenes high school bullshit.”
    • These two lines at the end grabbed me, “It’s only integrity when it hurts, guys. Something you write is only brave when it pisses off all your friends and colleagues.
  7. Concerning Afghanistan, the working out of which has made me more ashamed of my country than I can put into words.
    • What We Got Wrong in Afghanistan (Mike Jason, The Atlantic): “We didn’t send the right people, prepare them well, or reward them afterward. We rotated strangers on tours of up to a year and expected them to build relationships, then replaced them. We were overly optimistic and largely made things up as we went along. We didn’t like oversight or tough questions from Washington, and no one really bothered to hold us accountable anyway.… We didn’t fight a 20-year war in Afghanistan; we fought 20 incoherent wars, one year at a time, without a sense of direction.” The author is an Army vet who served in Afghanistan. Recommended by a student. Brutal.
    • I Was Deeply Involved in War in Afghanistan for More Than a Decade. Here’s What We Must Learn (James Stavridis, Time): “The on-the-ground leaders in Afghanistan, mostly Army and Marine Corps, were overwhelmingly brave, thoughtful, and competent. But as we learned over the long years, we simply rotated them too frequently. If we had fought World War II by limiting General Eisenhower or Admiral Nimitz to one year tours of duty, the outcome would have been different, to say the least. We made the same mistake in Vietnam, where everyone was on a one year tour, and the outcome was a disaster. This was reflected up-and-down the chain of command, and the lack of continuity and sense of ‘I’ve just got to make it to my departure date’ hindered strategic coherency badly.” The author is a former commander of NATO. Recommended by a student.
    • National Humiliations (Mark Tooley, Providence): “And America like all great nations will endure and hopefully learn from its humiliations, whether 1941 or 1950 or 1975 or 2001 or today. All nations ultimately decide their own destinies mediated by divine judgment and mercy. Maybe Afghanistan’s collapse is a divine judgment on it and us. But there is mercy always available, accompanied by wisdom.”
      • The survey of history at the beginning is what caught my attention. Some of those disasters are barely on my historical radar.
    • Afghan Travesty (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “God knows how to humble great military powers. He has done it numerous times, and that is what you are seeing right now. What are we to make of that great patriotic vaunt, ‘these colors don’t run’? The reply is that they will run any and every time God determines that they will.” Theologically bracing.
    • Disaster in Afghanistan Will Follow Us Home (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “But didn’t we have to leave Afghanistan sometime? So goes a counterargument. Yes, though we’ve been in Korea for 71 years, at far higher cost, and the world is better off for it.”
    • Did America just lose Afghanistan because of WhatsApp? (Preston Byrne, personal blog): “The United States thought it was fighting an army. I suspect the reason we lost is because we were fighting a meme.”
    • The above dovetails nicely with a Tanner Greer essay: Fighting Like Taliban (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “War in Afghanistan often seemed like a game of pickup basketball, a contest among friends, a tournament where you never knew which team you’d be on when the next game got under way. Shirts today, skins tomorrow. On Tuesday, you might be part of a fearsome Taliban regiment, running into a minefield. And on Wednesday you might be manning a checkpoint for some gang of the Northern Alliance.”
    • Dishonor in Afghanistan (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “You can believe that getting out of Afghanistan is the right policy––again, I have friends whom I respect who believe that––while also understanding that this was a terrible way to get out of Afghanistan. We can all agree that it’s time to leave a party; that doesn’t automatically mean you should jump out the nearest window to make your exit.”
    • The Fall of Imperial America (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “As a friend of mine put it this morning, how many meetings to plan an orderly evacuation of Afghanistan did our military brass miss so they could attend diversity training? Again, we are an unserious country, and the world knows it. A friend of mine whose son is headed to West Point told me that in the boy’s packet of information that just came in there is a rainbow-flag diversity sticker. America might not know how to win actual wars, but it sure is going to equip its troops to win the culture war against traditional morality and old-fashioned American values.” Feisty.
    • What We Can Learn From Europe’s Refugee Crises (John Gustavsson, The Dispatch): “As a European with experience of working with economic and migration policy, and who witnessed what happened in my home country of Sweden, I have seen what works—and especially what doesn’t.”
      • Full of real talk. I am in favor of resettling virtually anyone who can get out (or who we can get out) of Afghanistan and putting them onto a path to citizenship (likewise for Hong Kong). I am also in favor of being thoughtful in the ways described in this article.
    • Today’s Taliban uses sophisticated social media practices that rarely violate the rules (Craig Timberg and Cristiano Lima, Washington Post): “…U.S. conservatives have been demanding to know why former president Donald Trump has been banned from Twitter while various Taliban figures have not. The answer, analysts said, may simply be that Trump’s posts for years challenged platform rules against hate speech and inciting violence. Today’s Taliban, by and large, does not.”
      • This illustrates a weakness in the West. We punish procedural violations more than we punish actual vice, in part because so many of our elites don’t have a moral compass that they view as true and binding. It’s OK if the Taliban uses social media to achieve actual evil as long as they don’t make us think about what they’re doing. Kind of like it’s okay for China to brutalize their own population as long as they don’t tweet about it and lie about doing it. Tech companies will boycott Georgia but not China; they will dismantle Parler but not TikTok.

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 If I Were 22 Again (John Piper, Desiring God): “There have been about 18,340 days since I turned 22, and I think I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have eaten. I have certainly read my Bible on more of those days that I have watched television or videos.… Read your Bible every day of your life. If you have time for breakfast, never say that you don’t have time for God’s word.” This whole thing is really good. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 151.

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.