Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 203

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Heart of the Evangelical Crisis (Mark Galli, Christianity Today): “My next thought was, ‘Well, if I call myself a Christian, I should have greater love and desire to know God more deeply. Perhaps I should pray for that.’ And that’s when something occurred to me with great force: I wasn’t sure I wanted that. I recognize that was an odd admission for a person who claimed to be a good Christian. But there it was. I didn’t think I really wanted to love God more. The reasons for that are complex and will be touched on later, but the bottom line was: I really didn’t want to love God.” First essay in a series.
  2. Abortion in America, explained in 10 facts (Anna North, Vox): “Even though the abortion rate has declined, the procedure remains commonplace. According to a 2017 analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, 23.7 percent of women in the United States will have an abortion by the age of 45. Nineteen percent will have one by age 30, and 4.6 percent will have one by age 20.”
    • Debunking 9 Myths Surrounding Alabama’s Abortion Law (Carole Novielli, Live Action): “This bill, HB314, was sponsored by a female lawmaker, Representative Terri Collins, and was signed into law by female Governor Kay Ivey. Pro‐life organizations are led by women. The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, on the other hand, was imposed by all men.”
    • Alabama and Georgia Are Throwing Down the Gauntlet against Roe. Good. (David French, National Review): difficult to excerpt. A good summary of the legal strategy the southern states are pursuing.
    • I’m an anti‐abortion Christian. But Alabama’s ban will do more harm than good. (Katherine Kelaidis, Vox): “Draconian bans on abortion — and frankly anything other than liberal access to abortions along with comprehensive sex education and access to contraception — fail to protect human life, both in the womb and outside of it. This, in itself, should be intolerable to any Christian, particularly one who views abortion as morally suspect.”
    • Why some anti‐abortion conservatives think Alabama’s abortion law goes too far (Jane Coaston, Vox): “A 2018 Gallup poll found that just 29 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all circumstances, but that outweighs the 18 percent of Americans who believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. The vast majority of Americans think abortion should be legal, with restrictions of some kind (abortions being permitted only within the first three months of pregnancy, for example).”
    • That latest Pat Robertson juridical quote: Journalists may want to note these interesting facts (Terry Mattingly, GetReligion): “Robertson is (a) making a comment about legal questions linked to this Alabama law and, (b) also about the political realities surrounding it. Thus, I am asking: Should journalists consider adding one or two sentences to their reports noting that Robertson is (a) a graduate of Yale Law School and (b) someone who grew up in Washington, D.C., as the son of a U.S. Senator? How many readers know these two facts about this famous religious leader?” Wait. What? I had no idea.
    • Most Abortion‐Minded Women Aren’t Calculating Killers. They’re Afraid (Maria Baer, Gospel Coalition): the whole thing is worth reading — this bit caught my attention but isn’t really close to her main point: “Evil often begets more evil. While many who support so‐called abortion rights believe they’re serving needy women, they’re overlooking one critical reality: Women are often brought—reluctantly—to the abortion doctor. These women are compelled toward abortion not by their own empowering, my‐body‐is‐my‐own sense of autonomy, but by another person seeking control. Angry boyfriends, angry husbands, angry mothers, angry employers—these are so often the wind at the back of an abortion‐minded woman.”
  3. Too many men: China and India battle with the consequences of gender imbalance (Simon Denyer & Annie Gowen,South China Morning Post): this article is a year old, it’s long but good. “Nothing like this has happened in human history. A combination of cultural preferences, government decree and modern medical technology in the world’s two largest countries has created a gender imbalance on a continental scale. Men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India…. In any given age group, a proportion of men will fail to find brides, but they will stay in the marriage market, competing with younger men to marry younger women. The disproportion keeps growing. By 2050, French demographer Christophe Guilmoto estimates, there could be between 150 to 190 men for every 100 women in China’s marriage market.”
  4. A few brief observations about thinking clearly:
    • Accounting Identities and the Implicit Theory of Inertia (Nick Rowe, Worthwhile Canadian Initiative): “Animals can be divided into Carnivores and Non‐Carnivores: A = C + NC. Therefore, if we add some wolves to an island of sheep, the number of animals on that island will increase. It’s easy to see why that argument might not be right. Wolves kill sheep. But if you didn’t know that fact about wolves and sheep, the argument looks very appealing. But the equation A = C + NC tells us absolutely nothing about the world; it’s an accounting identity that is true by definition. The only thing it tells you is how I have chosen to divide up the world into parts. And I can choose an infinite number of different ways to divide the world up into parts.” This is an important insight.
    • Why Do Experiments Make People Uneasy? (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “One factor which comes out of respondent comments is that the experiment forces people to reckon with the idea that even experts don’t know what the right thing to do is and that confession of ignorance bothers people. (This is also one reason why people may prefer pundits who always ‘know’ the right thing to do even when they manifestly do not).”
    • Our first instinct is far too often wrong (Tim Harford, Financial Times): “In a multiple‐choice test, you sometimes write down an answer and then have second thoughts. Is it wise to stay with your first instincts, or better to switch? Most people would advise that the initial answer is usually better than the doubt‐plagued second guess…. Researchers have been studying this question since the 1920s. They have overwhelmingly concluded both that individual answer changes are more likely to be from wrong to right, and that students who change their answers tend to improve their scores.”
    • The Big Story You Don’t Read About (David Brooks, New York Times): “How did we in our business get in the spot where we spend 90 percent of our coverage on the 10 percent of our lives influenced by politics and 10 percent of our coverage on the 90 percent of our lives influenced by relationship, community and the places we live in every day?”
  5. When Male Runners Lose to Women (Leyland Cecco, The Walrus): “Studies are starting to show that male and female bodies respond differently to fatigue: during long periods of exercise, the brain monitors and triages the body’s output, regulating feelings of exhaustion to ensure the runner doesn’t overextend themselves. If the central nervous system senses the activity is becoming too intense, it reduces the muscle’s output…. ‘It turns out women have a slightly, it seems, better resistance to that kind of fatigue.’”
  6. The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity (Neil Shenvi & Pat Sawyer, Gospel Coalition): “Christianity provides us with an overarching metanarrative that runs from creation to redemption: We are creatures made in God’s image, who have sinned against him, who need to be rescued through the atoning work of Jesus, and who are called to love both God and neighbor. In contrast, critical theory is associated with a metanarrative that runs from oppression to liberation: We are members either of a dominant group or of a marginalized group with respect to a given identity marker. As such, we either need to divest ourselves of power and seek to liberate others, or we need to acquire power and liberate ourselves by dismantling all structures and institutions that subjugate and oppress. In critical theory, the greatest sin is oppression, and the greatest virtue is the pursuit of liberation.”
    • Related (at least in my mind): Christians Cannot Be Mistreated (George Yancey, Patheos): “I believe that some individuals are unable to see anti‐Christian discrimination no matter what evidence is presented to them. For them the cultural narrative that Christians are the dominant group is simply too powerful for them to consider alternative information.” The author, whose work I have featured before, is a sociologist at the University of North Texas.
  7. The ‘3.5% Rule’: How A Small Minority Can Change The World (David Robson, BBC): “Looking at hundreds of campaigns over the last century, Chenoweth found that nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns. And although the exact dynamics will depend on many factors, she has shown it takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.”

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 an eye‐opening (and dismaying) article, What The Media Gets Wrong About Israel (Mattie Friedman, The Atlantic). (first shared back in volume 5): “one of the most important aspects of the media‐saturated conflict between Jews and Arabs is also the least covered: the press itself. The Western press has become less an observer of this conflict than an actor in it, a role with consequences for the millions of people trying to comprehend current events, including policymakers who depend on journalistic accounts to understand a region where they consistently seek, and fail, to productively intervene.”

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 202

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The First Rule of Social‐Media Censorship Is That There Are No Rules (David French, National Review): “The great value of viewpoint neutrality is that it comports with our sense of fundamental fairness. It hearkens back to the image of the blindfolded Lady Justice, holding her scales, indifferent to the power or privilege of her petitioners. Twitter and Facebook have removed the blindfold, thrown away the scales, and chosen to wield only the sword.”
    • Related but less aggressive: Facebook’s Unintended Consequence (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “The deeper problem is the overwhelming concentration of technical, financial and moral power in the hands of people who lack the training, experience, wisdom, trustworthiness, humility and incentives to exercise that power responsibly.”
    • Related but with a different emphasis: The Big Tech Threat (Josh Hawley, First Things): “My thesis is that the evidence strongly suggests there is something deeply troubling, maybe even deeply wrong, with the entire social media economy. My thesis is that it does not represent a source of strength for America’s tomorrow, but is rather a source of peril.” A transcript of a speech given by a US Senator who is a Stanford grad and who was speaking at the Hoover Institution.
  2. We Are Taking Religious Freedom Too Far (Margaret Renkl, New York Times): “Religious faith is a private matter between a believer and God. But how a believer lives in community with other people is something different altogether. It’s time to stop giving believers a pass just because their beliefs happen to run counter to the laws of the nation they live in.”
    • In response: A New York Times Op‐Ed Is Very Wrong About Religious Liberty (David French, National Review): “She formulates religious liberty like this: ‘In this country, citing religious or spiritual convictions is often a surefire way to get out of doing something you’re required by law to do.’ This is a common framing on the left. Essentially, it’s an argument that religious freedom is an intrusion into the law and that religious people are engaged in a form of special pleading — seeking rights and exemptions unavailable to other Americans. In reality, the First Amendment is supreme, and when states seek to intrude on religious liberty, they’re trying to get out of something they’re required by law to do. Respecting the First Amendment is the default obligation of the federal government and every state and local government in the United States.”
    • Related but on a different topic: Health and Human Services and the Religious‐Liberty War (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “The conflict between religious liberty, LGBTQ rights, and abortion access is about to intensify. In the coming weeks or months, HHS is expected to issue a revised version of Rule 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which extended nondiscrimination protections to transgender people and women who have terminated pregnancies. The Supreme Court is also slated to consider civil‐rights protections for LGBTQ individuals in several high‐profile upcoming cases; while those cases mostly involve protections provided under employment law, they similarly pit religious liberty against LGBTQ rights.”
  3. Agapáo and Philéo by the Sea of Tiberias (Ron Belgau, Spiritual Friendship): “After breakfast, Peter and Jesus had a conversation which raises an interesting question about how to understand the verbs for love—agapáo and philéo—used in the original Greek…. The passage is difficult to translate because although English has always had separate nouns for ‘love’ and ‘friendship,’ no English speaker prior to Mark Zuckerberg used ‘friend’ as a verb. Translators, therefore, must either translate both words as ‘love,’ which loses a potential nuance in the original, or else must try to somehow make the difference apparent in English.” This is the most satisfying explanation of this passage I have heard.
  4. American churches must reject literalism and admit we got it wrong on gay people (Oliver Thomas, USA Today): “Churches will continue hemorrhaging members and money at an alarming rate until we muster the courage to face the truth: We got it wrong on gays and lesbians. This shouldn’t alarm or surprise us. We have learned some things that the ancients — including Moses and Paul — simply did not know. Not even Jesus…”
    • The author is a retired American Baptist minister.
    • In response: Oliver Thomas @USATODAY Says the American Church Got it Wrong on Gay People—And He’s Right (Michael Kruger, personal blog): “In this way, Thomas is right. The church is killing itself, if by the ‘church’ one means the mainline denominations who have abandoned biblical authority. Indeed, statistics have shown, plainly and incontrovertibly, that the mainline denominations are dying and the bible‐believing ones are growing.”
    • In response: No, Christianity Doesn’t Need To Endorse Homosexuality To Grow (Glenn Stanton, The Federalist): “When same‐sex‐attracted Christians go to church, they are not choosing the pews of churches Thomas is calling us to become. Again, it’s just the opposite. Research conducted jointly at Columbia University and the University of California at Los Angeles by scholars who are not shy about supporting gay politics found that gay‐ and lesbian‐identified people are 2.5 times more likely to attend churches that took a more conservative view on Christianity (including homosexuality) than the so‐called ‘welcoming and affirming’ congregations that celebrate it.”
  5. What’s wrong with America? I debate Ben Shapiro.(Sean Illing, Vox): “There are basically two visions of American history. One is that America was founded on great moral principles that we failed to live up to historically and we’ve been striving to fulfill. The other is that America is rooted in racism, bigotry, sexism, and homophobia, and that these great moral principles were the founders merely flattering themselves.”
    • This is a very good exchange. Whichever side you’re sympathetic to, you’ll enjoy reading this interview.
  6. Why God Is a He (Dennis Prager, YouTube): five minutes. It’s an interesting way to approach the issue. As a Christian I would make a different argument connected to the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus as a male, but Prager is an observant Jew and so that line of thinking is unavailable to him.
  7. Are All Republicans Biblical Literalists? Are All Democrats Heretics?(Ryan Burge, Religion in Public): “With the release of the 2018 wave of the General Social Survey data, I think that it’s time to take stock of how a person’s view of the Bible is related to their political affiliation. Are there biblical literalists who are Democrats? How many Republicans don’t put much stock in the Bible? And, how has the view of the Bible changed over time?”
    • tl;dr — Roughly ¼ of Democrats and ⅓ of Republicans believe the Bible is the literal word of God. Roughly half of each party think the Bible is inspired but not always to be taken literally. The remainder in each party believe that the Bible is just ancient fables.

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 20 Arguments For God’s Existence (Peter Kreeft, personal website): “You may be blessed with a vivid sense of God’s presence; and that is something for which to be profoundly grateful. But that does not mean you have no obligation to ponder these arguments. For many have not been blessed in that way. And the proofs are designed for them—or some of them at least—to give a kind of help they really need. You may even be asked to provide help.” I was reminded of this by a conversation with an alumnus. The author is a philosophy professor at Boston College. (first shared in volume 116)

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 201

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The alleged synagogue shooter was a churchgoer who articulated Christian theology, prompting tough questions for evangelical pastors (Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post va SF Gate): “Before he allegedly walked into a synagogue in Poway, California and opened fire, John Earnest appears to have written a seven‐page letter spelling out his core beliefs: That Jewish people, guilty in his view of faults ranging from killing Jesus to controlling the media, deserved to die. That his intention to kill Jews would glorify God…. Earnest, 19, was a member of an OPC congregation. His father was an elder. He attended regularly. And in the manifesto, the writer spewed not only invective against Jews and racial minorities, but also cogent Christian theology he heard in the pews.”
    • Kinism, Cultural Marxism, and the Synagogue Shooter (Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition): “Several years ago a friend of mine, a Presbyterian minister, asked me to speak to his congregation about cultural issues. During the discussion, an older couple asked me a question about separation of ethnic groups, specifically white Americans from blacks and Jews. I told them I must have misunderstood their question, because what they were talking about could be mistaken for promoting a view called kinism. The wife replied, ‘And what’s wrong with kinism?’”
    • Why white nationalism tempts white Christians (Jemar Tisby, Religion News Service): “I absolutely do not believe that pastors in the OPC or any similar denomination are regularly spewing anti‐Semitism and racism from the pulpit or on any other occasion. But the rigid exclusion of discussions of racial injustice from the regular preaching and teaching in these churches means that white nationalists are seldom challenged in their beliefs.”
    • a Twitter thread in which Duke Kwon talks about this
  2. https://scite.ai/ — this is a cool concept. Enter a research paper and it will algorithmically assess whether subsequent research supports or undermines the conclusions. For example: https://scite.ai/reports/10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.1615
  3. As churches are demolished at home, Chinese Christians find religious freedom in Kenya (Jenni Marsh, CNN): “Kenya is not a place you’d expect to find an underground church. Christianity is the lifeblood of the nation’s politics and societal fabric, and is celebrated in huge, rambunctious services attended by thousands of dancing and singing worshipers. But, in the northern stretches of the sprawling, traffic‐choked capital of 4 million people, an underground Chinese house church is exactly what May Li, wife of a Malaysian‐Chinese pastor, helps to lead — illustrating just how far the Communist Party’s religious crackdown has traveled. Li and other Chinese Christians in this story did not want to use their real names for fear of being punished by the government when they return to China. The Chinese embassy in Nairobi has already reached out to the leaders of some Chinese Christian groups in the city and asked them to desist, says Li. Her service tries to stay below the radar.”
  4. The Belt and Road is about domestic interest groups, not development (Andrew Batson, personal blog): “The broader point here is that looking at the Belt and Road through the lens of ‘grand strategy’ or ‘geopolitics,’ as so many commentators do, or even portraying it as some kind of new philosophy of economic development, is quite misleading. All of these grand concepts are justifications invented after the fact for a pattern of actions that was already well underway before Xi Jinping made his 2013 speech about the Belt and Road. The Belt and Road is really the expansion of a specific part of China’s domestic political economy to the rest of the world.”
  5. Ro Khanna and the tensions of Silicon Valley liberalism (Ezra Klein, Vox): “Pelosi invited me to her house,” Khanna recalls. “And when I asked her not to make an endorsement, she said, ‘Absolutely not. I stand for my incumbents.’ So I get very discouraged, and Pelosi could see that. As I’m leaving the room, she said, ‘Ro, let me tell you something. If I had waited around, I’d have never been speaker of the House. Power is never given. It’s always taken.’”
  6. Is Times Columnist David Brooks a Christian or a Jew? (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post via the Salt Lake Tribune): “In the world of national columnists, David Brooks is a star. But in the past few years, The New York Times writer and author has whipped up fascination among a certain subset of readers for a specific, gossipy reason: They wonder if the Jewish writer has become a Christian.”
    • Related: David Brooks’s Conversion Story (Benjamin Wallace‐Wells, The New Yorker): “For Brooks, this carried the clarity of revelation, and soon he let it be known, among his acquaintances, that he was experiencing religious curiosity. An informal competition opened for David Brooks’s soul. He received, by his own estimation, three hundred gifts of spiritual books, ‘only one hundred of which were different copies of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.’ ”
  7. Terrorists in Burkina Faso Execute Six at Pentecostal Church (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “A dozen gunmen on motorcycles stormed the courtyard of the Sirgadji church after worship, fatally shooting its longtime pastor as well as five other congregants after demanding they convert to Islam, according to a statement sent to CT by the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso, Michel Ouédraogo.”

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 200

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The big news this week is the horrific attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Here are some of the responses that caught my interest:
    • Sri Lankan Sunday School Was ‘Willing to Die for Christ’ on Easter. Half Did. (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “During Sunday School, [Prabha] had talked to the children about the importance of repentance and receiving Jesus as Lord. Because a recent vehicle accident had claimed the lives of six Zion Church members, he had referred to that event and challenged the children, asking them if they would be willing to even die for Jesus. All the children had responded by putting their hands up and signalled their fresh dedication to Jesus by lighting a symbolic candle. For so many of those children it would be their final act of worship (2 Timothy 6:6–8).” WOW
    • Are Christians Privileged or Persecuted? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “But if the equation of traditional Christianity with privilege has some relevance to the actual Euro‐American situation, when applied globally it’s a gross category error…. One of the basic facts of contemporary religious history is that Christians around the world are persecuted on an extraordinary scale — by mobs and pogroms in India, jihadists and United States‐allied governments in the Muslim world, secular totalitarians in China and North Korea. Yet as an era‐defining reality rather than an episodic phenomenon this reality is barely visible in the Western media, and rarely called by name and addressed head‐on by Western governments and humanitarian institutions. (‘Islamophobia’ looms large; talk of ‘Christophobia’ is almost nonexistent.)”
    • When Christians Are Under Attack, Muslims and the Left Need to Defend Them (Mehdi Hasan): “I am a Muslim, and I consider myself to be on the left, but I’m embarrassed to admit that in both Muslim and left circles, the issue of Christian persecution has been downplayed and even ignored for far too long.”
    • Why Conservatives Are So Angry About Obama’s Reference to “Easter Worshippers” (Ruth Graham, Slate): “I would argue that it takes a true savant of exquisitely attuned grievance collection to read an individual reference to ‘Easter worshippers’ as an attempt to avoid acknowledging Christianity. Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar. ‘Easter’ has no other meaning.”
    • Sri Lanka attacks: St Anthony’s ‘church of miracles’ a symbol of hope (Ayeshea Perara, BBC): “Among those gathered outside the church is Prabath Buddhika. Although Mr Buddhika is Buddhist by religion, like many others, he is a strong believer in the power of St Anthony. ‘My house is right here,’ he said, adding that he’d been attending the church since he was a child and gone along with his family many times.”
    • Why Sri Lanka Was Probably Not Retaliation for Christchurch (Graeme Wood, The Atlantic): “The bombings in Sri Lanka were among the more spectacular in the history of terrorism, and they almost certainly took more planning than would have been possible in the past five weeks. (It may seem easy to get several guys to push detonator buttons all at once, in several different locations. But terrorists are often bumblers, and the more complicated the plan, the greater the chance of disruption.)”
  2. What About Capitalizing Pronouns Referring to God? (Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspectives Ministries): “I have had to fight to get Heaven capitalized in my books, arguing that it is a proper noun, and just as real a place as Saturn or France. I argue the same for capitalizing the New Earth—if we capitalize New England, why not the redeemed creation that Scripture calls the ‘New Earth’?”
    • This is a very thoughtful perspective on honoring God with your written words.
  3. Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind (Rachel Kushner, New York Times): “If prison, in its philosophical origin, was meant as a humane alternative to beatings or torture or death, it has transformed into a fixed feature of modern life, one that is not known, even by its supporters and administrators, for its humanity.”
  4. On Easter Sunday, Louisiana church looks to rebuild from fires (Ashley Cusick, Washington Post via SF Gate): “We got $1,000 from an atheist,” Toussaint said with a laugh. ‘He said he didn’t believe in God, but he don’t believe in burning buildings down, either.’”
  5. How angry pilots got the Navy to stop dismissing UFO sightings (Deanna Paul, Washington Post via SF Gate): “A recent uptick in sightings of unidentified flying objects — or as the military calls them, ‘unexplained aerial phenomena’ — prompted the Navy to draft formal procedures for pilots to document encounters, a corrective measure that former officials say is long overdue.”
    • This being 2019, this is somehow not the most interesting story in the news.
  6. And now for some stuff about the major American political parties, with particular attention to religious dynamics:
    • Franklin Graham and the High Cost of the Lost Evangelical Witness (David French, National Review): “The proper Evangelical position toward any president is not hard to articulate, though it is exceedingly difficult to hold to, especially in polarized times when one party seems set on limiting religious liberty and zealously defending abortion: We should pray for presidents, critique them when they’re wrong, praise them when they’re right, and never, ever impose partisan double standards.”
    • The Religious Composition of the Two Major Parties (Ryan Burge, Religion in Public): “…neither of the two major parties in the United States are dominated by one specific religious group. I know that tons of articles are written the link between evangelicals and Republicans, but the data indicates that over two thirds of Republicans today are not evangelicals. The same is essentially true for Democrats as well. The largest group for them (the nones) make up just three in ten Democrats today.”
    • Related: The Devout And The Nones (Mark Movsesian, First Things): “Consider, for example, the percentage of Americans who report that their religious affiliation is ‘Strong.’ This percentage has fluctuated a bit over the decades, but the most recent survey puts it at 34 percent, a number that has remained basically unchanged since 1975, when 35 percent of Americans reported a strong religious affiliation. Apparently, the rise of the Nones is not attributable to a decline in religious enthusiasm among the most strongly committed.”
    • Meet Stanford’s Congressional Freshmen (Jean Yung, Dave Sloane, & Timothy Weatherhead, Stanford Magazine): interesting brief profiles of the five Stanford alumni who were recently elected to the national legislature. Two Democratic representatives, two Republican representatives, and one Republican Senator.
    • Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too. (Joseph Cox and Jason Koebler, Motherboard): “When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.”
      • I get the impression the authors think this is evidence that Republicans really are white supremacists and that the algorithms see clearly without the social pressure that holds back truth‐tellers. I suspect they have the exact opposite approach to machine learning when it delivers racist results. I’m spitballing here, but maybe the better response is distrust algorithms a little more whenever they confirm your biases. Just a thought.
  7. Half of Americans Say Evangelicals Are Discriminated Against (Griffin Paul Jackson, Christianity Today): “Americans’ perceptions of discrimination tend to be partisan. For instance, 7 in 10 Americans on the political right say evangelical Christians are subject to discrimination, while less than half as many (32%) left‐leaning Americans agree.”

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 haveLetter 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 199

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

If you’ve been following the news, articles about the Mueller report are conspicuous by their absence in this week’s email. Apologies if you were hoping for something on that, but I find it difficult to overstate how uninterested I am in this news cycle.

Also, next week will be volume 200. Should I do anything special? Suggestions are welcome.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Is Religious Decline Inevitable in the United States? (Ryan Burge, Christianity Today): “The results are unambiguous: those with the least amount of education are consistently the most likely to identify as religiously unaffiliated. The far right bar in the graph, indicating those with a graduate level education are almost always the group that is the most likely to be religiously affiliated.”
  2. The new religion: why trying to be perfect is doomed to fail (Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian): “It’s one thing to seek salvation in God, or to stop seeking salvation; but the attempt to engineer your own salvation is doomed to fail. We’re flawed and finite, so we lack the capacity to work, parent or romance our way to perfection. Try to do so and you’ll only end up struggling to exert ever more control over your life – whereas deep relationships, and other meaningful experiences, require giving up control.”
  3. Now We’re Talking: The Exceptional Life of Paul Coates (Wil S. Hylton, Huffington Post): “There weren’t white cats in hoods, burning crosses and beating up on black people, but if you walked through town, the moment you got to the black side, the sidewalks would disappear, the streets would disappear, and now you’re walking in dirt. So the racism was subtle—but as your consciousness expands, the subtlety melts away and the racism becomes more rancid to the eyes and nose.” This is a fascinating interview with Ta‐Nehisi Coates’ father.
  4. Missionaries are supposed to suffer … So am I allowed to buy an air conditioner? (Amy Medina, A Life Overseas): “If God has called you to work among the upper‐class in India, then you’ll need to live like them, in a luxury apartment. If God has called you to work among the coastal tribes of Tanzania, then you’ll need to live like them, in a simple cinder‐block house with a pit toilet. Each life has its set of challenges. Each life has its set of blessings.”
  5. Broke Millennials Are Flocking to Financial Guru Dave Ramsey. Is His Advice Any Good? (Kristen Bahler, Money): “[Young adults are] an audience that marketers stake their entire budgets on, and he’s speaking to them in all the wrong ways. He quotes scripture and Ronald Reagan. He calls young people ‘snowflakes.’ He has absolutely no chill, whatsoever. But for a growing swath of millennials—a generation we’re told is too fragile, too godless, too politically correct—his word is gospel.”
  6. Listening at the Great Awokening (Areo, Darel E. Paul): “…this spring the Great Awokening finally came to my home institution, Williams College. Administrators and other campus leaders have encouraged white members of the college community like myself to listen. Over the past two months, I have striven to do exactly that…. Listening to these views from multiple campuses helped me realize that what seems to be a local discourse responding to local issues is actually a local manifestation of an international social, political and ideological phenomenon.” The author is a professor of Political Science at Williams College.
    • Related: The End of Empathy (Hanna Rosin, NPR): “…new research has scrambled notions of how empathy works as a force in the world. For example, we often think of terrorists as shockingly blind to the suffering of innocents. But Breithaupt and other researchers think of them as classic examples of people afflicted with an ‘excess of empathy. They feel the suffering of their people.’”
  7. The Gospel of AI: Evangelicals Want Tech to Remain Good News (Griffin Paul Jackson, Christianity Today): “[The document], composed by experts in business, public policy, tech, ethics, and biblical theology, consists of 12 articles, each offering biblical affirmations and denials about human nature and various implications for the future of artificial intelligence. The document emphasizes God’s power as the author of life and humans’ special role as image‐bearers. It mostly focuses on conceptual and theoretical frameworks for using AI but also explicitly decries the use of AI for sexual pleasure as well as ‘manipulative and coercive’ data collection.”
    • See the full document: Artificial Intelligence: An Evangelical Statement of Principles: “In light of existential questions posed anew by the emergent technology of artificial intelligence (AI), we affirm that God has given us wisdom to approach these issues in light of Scripture and the gospel message. Christians must not fear the future or any technological development because we know that God is, above all, sovereign over history, and that nothing will ever supplant the image of God in which human beings are created. We recognize that AI will allow us to achieve unprecedented possibilities, while acknowledging the potential risks posed by AI if used without wisdom and care.”

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 198

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Chinese city offers US$1,500 reward to help snare foreign religious leaders (Mimi Lau, South China Morning Post): “Under the new reward scheme in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, informants can earn between 5,000 and 10,000 yuan for tips leading to the arrest of a non‐Chinese religious leader, according to a statement on the department’s website. Other payments include 3,000 to 5,000 yuan for information leading to the closure of a foreign religious group, and between 100 and 3,000 yuan for tips about locally organised gatherings and their leaders.”
    • Related: Hong Kong Pastor Facing Prison Preaches the Sermon of His Life (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “For decades, I have preached numerous sermons. Little could I anticipate that the one message which preparation took me the longest time and the most heartfelt prayer, and which probably would reach the largest audience, is precisely this one delivered from the defendant’s dock.”
  2. Pastoring A Purple Church: ‘I Absolutely Bite My Tongue Sometimes’ (Tom Gjelten, NPR): “The promotion of discourse over discord may strengthen civic culture in an era of political polarization, but for Edmonston, the mission is more a reflection of Presbyterian theology than it is a commitment to democratic process.”
    • There is a lot to like in this article, but I feel compelled to add that what binds a church together is a commitment to Christ. It is okay to be divided over political issues. It is much less okay to be divided over substantive Scriptural issues. This story confuses the two.
  3. The Brand Is Belief (Kieran Dahl, Topic Magazine): “C3’s theology would appear to be at odds with how the church presents and markets itself. Isn’t humility one of Jesus’s biggest lessons for humanity? Isn’t social media inherently narcissistic?.… C3 feels like an algorithmically curated brand that happens to love Jesus—the Airbnb of religion.”
    • I love articles showing how outsiders view churches. Some of what the author stumbles over I find puzzling — like thinking that the name of the church’s discipleship class ‘Growth Track’ is a capitulation to culture. Interesting throughout.
  4. The Happiness Recession (Brad Wilcox & Lyman Stone, The Atlantic): “In 2018, happiness among young adults in America fell to a record low. The share of adults ages 18 to 34 reporting that they were ‘very happy’ in life fell to 25 percent—the lowest level that the General Social Survey, a key barometer of American social life, has ever recorded for that population. Happiness fell most among young men—with only 22 percent of young men (and 28 percent of young women) reporting that they were ‘very happy’ in 2018.”
    • Reacting to this article, David French offers this observation, “For generations, key elements of our cultural and academic elite have been arguing essentially the opposite — that liberation from religion and liberation from marriage were prerequisites to true human flourishing. If you asked an early era sexual revolutionary for his prediction for a culture with profoundly less religious practice, less marriage, and many fewer moral restraints on sexual practice, I sincerely doubt that he’d respond that he believed that culture would be less happy, with people having less sex.” It Turns Out That Sexual Liberation Isn’t All That Liberating (David French, National Review).
  5. Case Report of gastroparesis healing: 16 years of a chronic syndrome resolved after proximal intercessory prayer (Romez, Zaritzky & Brown, Complementary Therapies In Medicine): a miraculous healing account as reported in a journal. I found this bit amusing: “A noteworthy observation is that studies showing positive effects of prayer have typically involved intercessors who either professed either 1) being ‘born again’ Christians (with a commitment to daily devotional prayer and active fellowship with their local church) or 2) faith in healing.”
  6. Democrats Have to Decide Whether Faith Is an Asset for 2020 (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “The real evidence of Democrats’ approach to faith will come in campaign dollars and infrastructure, which will likely be developed slightly later in the election cycle; on their handling of contested issues like abortion, which is crucially important to many religious voters; and their ability to tap religious networks for volunteers.”
  7. Donald Trump Changed The New York Times. Is It Forever? (Peter Boyer, Esquire): “A Monmouth University poll taken last year found that 77 percent of Americans believe that traditional news outlets report ‘fake news’—a significant leap from the year before.” This is an interesting and disheartening article.

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 Everything That’s Wrong Of Raccoons (Mallory Ortberg, The Toast): “Once when my dog died a passel of raccoons showed up in the backyard as if to say ‘Now that he’s gone, we own the night,’ and they didn’t flinch when I yelled at them, and I found it disrespectful to 1) me personally and 2) the entire flow of the food chain. Don’t disrespect me if you can’t eat me, you false‐night‐dogs.” (first shared in volume 97)

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 197

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Artificial Intelligence and Magical Thinking (Ed Feser, personal blog): “Building a computer is precisely analogous to putting together a bit of magical sleight of hand. It is a clever exercise in simulation, nothing more. And the convincingness of the simulation is as completely irrelevant in the one case as it is in the other. Saying ‘Gee, AI programs can do such amazing things. Maybe it really is intelligence!’ is like saying ‘Gee, Penn and Teller do such amazing things. Maybe it really is magic!’” Feser is one of my favorite philosophers.
  2. Revealing religion: Understanding faith at Stanford (Melina Walling, Stanford Daily): “It’s my first day at Stanford: a whirlwind of unpacked suitcases, reshuffled notebooks and crumpled bedding. My roommate and I meet each other for the first time and choose our beds. Our parents all shake hands. Then, in the blink of an eye, we’re alone for the first time. I take a deep breath and ask my roommate the question I’ve been waiting to ask: Are you comfortable if I pray?” Two Chi Alphans are interviewed in this article, and I am very pleased with how they handled themselves. Good job, Connor & Naomi!
  3. They Had It Coming (Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic): “Sweet Christ, vindication! How long has it been? Years? No, decades. If hope is the thing with feathers, I was a plucked bird. Long ago, I surrendered myself to the fact that the horrible, horrible private‐school parents of Los Angeles would get away with their nastiness forever. But even before the molting, never in my wildest imaginings had I dared to dream that the arc of the moral universe could describe a 90‐degree angle and smite down mine enemies with such a hammer fist of fire and fury that even I have had a moment of thinking, Could this be a bit too much?” This is a wild ride of a read about the college admissions scandal.
  4. Denying the Neuroscience of Sex Differences (Larry Cahill, Quillette): “No one seems to have a problem accepting that, on average, male and female bodies differ in many, many ways. Why is it surprising or unacceptable that this is true for the part of our body that we call ‘brain’?” Cahill is a neuroscientist at UC Irvine.
  5. The Great Awokening (Matt Yglesias, Vox): “In the past five years, white liberals have moved so far to the left on questions of race and racism that they are now, on these issues, to the left of even the typical black voter. This change amounts to a ‘Great Awokening’ — comparable in some ways to the enormous religious foment in the white North in the years before the American Civil War.”
    • Related: The Democratic Party Is Radicalizing (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “Progressivism is wrecking the Democratic Party even as crude populism and ethnic nationalism have (for now) wrecked the Republican Party. Both are salvageable and both are worth saving, but that will require individuals who have identified with each party to fight to reclaim them; to show wisdom, decency, and courage in an age of extremism and intemperance.”
    • The author of the first piece, Yglesias, is a progressive. The author of the second article, Wehner, is a conservative. The two articles read together give an interesting take on the current state of the Democratic party.
  6. Harold Bloom: Anti‐Inkling? (Michael Winegrad, Jewish Review of Books): “According to Bloom’s famous theory of the ‘anxiety of influence,’ we don’t get to choose our influences. Moreover, a writer’s explicit designation of a major influence is usually a ruse, intended to hide (mostly from himself) the real influence at work.…. it starts to look as if it was actually the Inklings, and especially Lewis, who got under Bloom’s skin.”
  7. The Rapture and the Real World: Mike Pompeo Blends Beliefs and Policy (Edward Wong, New York Times): “…no secretary of state in recent decades has been as open and fervent as Mr. Pompeo about discussing Christianity and foreign policy in the same breath. That has increasingly raised questions about the extent to which evangelical beliefs are influencing American diplomacy.”

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 196

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 one is coming out early in the morning because I’m driving back from a mission trip and will be on the road the entire day. When I’m on a mission trip I usually do very brief video blogs (under a minute each) — you can see the ones for this trip here.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. China Shuts Down Another Big Beijing Church (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “Throughout its 26‐year history, Shouwang members have refused to come under Communist authority and persevered despite persecution, with their ‘underground’ services forced outside when evicted from their buildings in 2009 and with their founding pastor Jin Tianming under house arrest since 2011.”
    • Related: China’s Muslim gulag is tough to cover, but a few reporters aren’t giving up (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “One of the mosques in Kashgar, it added, has been transformed into a hookah lounge. A city that was once a world center for traditional Islamic and Central Asian architecture is now Disneyland meets Aladdin, (a fairytale that originally was set in China, by the way). It’s tough covering China and the journalists who try to do it well inevitably end up expelled.” This is a good summary of reporting on one of the most wicked government programs in the world right now. Highly recommended.
  2. A Case for the Electoral College (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Is there a case for a system that sometimes produces undemocratic outcomes? I think so, on two grounds. First, it creates incentives for political parties and candidates to seek supermajorities rather than just playing for 50.1 percent, because the latter play is a losing one more often than in a popular‐vote presidential system. Second, it creates incentives for political parties to try to break regional blocs controlled by the opposition, rather than just maximizing turnout in their own areas, because you win the presidency consistently only as a party of multiple regions and you can crack a rival party’s narrow majority by flipping a few states.”
  3. An Interview With Lisa Littman, Who Coined the Term ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria’ (Jonathan Kay, Quillette): “Although there have been speculations about my affiliations, I am not a religious or political conservative and I am not a radical feminist. No organizations funded my study. That means that I pay out‐of‐pocket for research‐related costs like printing, traveling to academic conferences, publication fees, etc. And because I do not earn my livelihood providing transition services or referrals for transition, and I have not personally (nor has my spouse or children) experienced gender dysphoria or transition, I have far fewer conflicts of interest than many of the current researchers in this field.” Fascinating interview.
  4. How the West Changed The World For the Better (Ben Shapiro, National Review): “Thanks to the West, billions of human beings no longer suffer in abject poverty; thanks to the West, democracy is seen as both the moral and the practical default position for aspiring governments; thanks to the West, individualism has been able to gain ground against the natural tribalism endemic to human beings. The history of the West isn’t a history of unalloyed greatness: It is replete with suffering and tyranny and slavery and misery. But all of those evils are present in every civilization historically. The question is why the West changed the world.”
    • A mostly‐negative review of a related book Shapiro just published: The Right Side of History—A Review (Jared Marcel Pollen, Quillette): “…Shapiro’s attempt to demonstrate that secular civilization needs to rekindle the Judeo‐Christian teachings upon which it is based, inadvertently shows us why we were right to leave them behind in the first place.” I have not read Shapiro’s book, but many of the specific criticisms Pollen makes are not very persuasive. For example, it is a conventional enough position among experts that modern science arose due to Christianity that I have had students tell me that they were taught it in history courses at Stanford.
  5. The Real Reasons American Evangelicals Support Israel (David French, National Review): “The [common media] explanation goes something like this — Evangelicals believe that the rebirth of Israel is hastening not just the second coming of Christ, but a particular kind of second coming, one that includes fire, fury, and war that will consume the Jewish people.… But the true narrative of American Christian support for Israel is substantially different. The intellectual and theological roots of Christian Zionism do not rest in end‐times prophesies but rather in Old Testament promises.”
    • One example of a much broader phenomenon. I very rarely recognize myself or my peers in media explanations of “why evangelicals believe ______ about _______.” Or even just “evangelicals believe ______”. I find this puzzling because it’s not as though we don’t have regular gatherings where we explain what we believe to anyone who will listen.
  6. Openly Gay, Openly Christian Buttigieg Challenges the Religious Right (Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine): “As Barack Obama once convincingly argued, doubt about what God wants people to do politically is an important part of an attitude of humility which used to be called ‘the fear of God.’” It is interesting how many of the Democrats seeking nomination are outspoken about their faith.
  7. Black and Evangelical: Why I Keep The Label (Brandon Washington, Christianity Today): “I too have been wounded by evangelicalism’s posture toward social ethics. But I have concluded that an exodus of ethnic minorities amounts to segregation of the movement and only contributes to the problem. So I remain.”

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 195

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Elite Colleges Constantly Tell Low‐Income Students That They Do Not Belong (Clint Smith, The Atlantic): “The privileged poor are students who come from low‐income backgrounds but attended wealthy private high schools, giving them a level of familiarity with and access to the social and cultural capital that tend to make people successful at elite universities. The doubly disadvantaged are students who arrive at these top institutions from neighborhood public schools, many of which are overcrowded and underfunded. They are schools where these students have excelled, but that are ill‐equipped to give them the sociocultural tools necessary to understand the nuances of how these elite colleges operate.”
    • Related: The Scandals of Meritocracy (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “The ‘more meritocracy’ argument against both legacies and racial quotas implicitly assumes that aptitude — some elixir of I.Q. and work ethic — is what our elite primarily lacks. But is that really our upper class’s problem?”
  2. Evangelicals Show No Decline, Despite Trump and Nones (Ryan Burge, Christianity Today): “The fact that evangelicals’ share of the population remains relatively stable over the last decade is striking given the continued rise of the nones. Evangelicals have been able to replace losses as fast as they are occurring, at least for now.”
  3. Religion’s health effects should make doubting parishioners reconsider leaving (John Siniff and Tyler J. VanderWeele, USA Today): “Simply from a public health perspective, the continuing diminution of religious upbringing in America would be bad for health. This is not proselytizing; this is science.” The Harvard epidemiology professor  last made an appearance here back in volume 65.
  4. Why The Bible Ain’t Woke (Toby Sumpter, personal blog): “…it is simply not enough to note that Jonathan Edwards, the puritans, or the founders of Southern Seminary owned slaves. Far more work must be done to demonstrate that these men sinned in their treatment of their slaves. And furthermore, even where sin can be clearly demonstrated, there must be a bright and shining light of demarcation between disqualifying sin and the endemic sins of the human race.” He has undeniably interesting things to say, but read his article in conjunction with the content from Peter Williams and Glenn Miller I shared back in volume 76.
  5. The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center (Bob Moser, New Yorker): “For those of us who’ve worked in the Poverty Palace, putting it all into perspective isn’t easy, even to ourselves. We were working with a group of dedicated and talented people, fighting all kinds of good fights, making life miserable for the bad guys. And yet, all the time, dark shadows hung over everything: the racial and gender disparities, the whispers about sexual harassment, the abuses that stemmed from the top‐down management, and the guilt you couldn’t help feeling about the legions of donors who believed that their money was being used, faithfully and well, to do the Lord’s work in the heart of Dixie. We were part of the con, and we knew it.”
  6. The need for intellectual diversity in psychological science: Our own studies of actively open‐minded thinking as a case study (Stanovich and Toplak, Cognition): “it is important that psychology maintain its credibility as a neutral arbiter—a credibility that has been vastly eroded in recent years by empirical evidence of the ideological bias in our science (Ceci and Williams, 2018, Crawford and Jussim, 2018, Duarte et al., 2015). There is a need for greater intellectual diversity in all areas of psychology, but particularly in those that interface with politics and sociocultural beliefs. Greater intellectual diversity in our own lab years ago might have prevented us from continuing to use items in our AOT scale that inflated negative correlations with religiosity.”
    • tl;dr — researchers realized that a well‐known psychological tool they developed years ago was biased against religious believers, and they concluded this probably happened because their lab was “overwhelmingly secular.” They humbly repented and wrote a paper about their mistake. Kudos to them.
  7. Atheism Is Inconsistent with the Scientific Method, Prizewinning Physicist Says (Lee Billings, Scientific American): “I honestly think atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. What I mean by that is, what is atheism? It’s a statement, a categorical statement that expresses belief in nonbelief.” This is from an interview with Marcelo Gleiser, Dartmouth physics prof. Recommended by a student.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Sadly, I got nothing this week. In lieu of awesome links, here’s a mediocre joke: “What’s the best thing to put in a cookie? Your teeth!”

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. The religion in question is not Methodism or Catholicism but an extreme version of the belief system of the liberal elite: the liberal professional, managerial, and creative classes, which provide a large majority of students enrolled at such places and an even larger majority of faculty and administrators who work at them. 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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 194

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Related to the mosque attack in New Zealand:
    • Mass murderers crave publicity. Maybe giving them less would be helpful. (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “Many commentators, wondering why mass shootings became so common in the late 20th century, have pointed to various cultural and economic developments. They might better have pointed to cable news, which ensured that disaffected losers with hypertrophied egos and shriveled souls became the nonstop talk of the nation — in every nation, and most of the world’s 6,500 languages. The wall‐to‐wall coverage teaches men who may not be able to get a job or a girlfriend that, nonetheless, in something under an hour, they can become Genghis Khan.”
    • The New Zealand Attack and the Global Challenge of Far‐Right Extremism (Seth Jones, Center for Strategic and International Studies): “Based on the globalization of far‐right extremism, the Christchurch attack—and the attacker—needs to be understood as part of a growing international trend that requires more attention and greater investment from governments and the private sector.”
    • White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots (Adam Serwer, The Atlantic): “A popular myth of American history is that racism is the exclusive province of the South. The truth is that much of the nativist energy in the U.S. came from old‐money elites in the Northeast, and was also fueled by labor struggles in the Pacific Northwest, which had stirred a wave of bigotry that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.” (this is not directly related to the shooting but is timely)
  2. An MIT Professor Meets the Author of All Knowledge (Rosalind Picard, Christianity Today): “I once thought I was too smart to believe in God. Now I know I was an arrogant fool who snubbed the greatest Mind in the cosmos—the Author of all science, mathematics, art, and everything else there is to know. Today I walk humbly, having received the most undeserved grace. I walk with joy, alongside the most amazing Companion anyone could ask for, filled with desire to keep learning and exploring.”
  3. The Industrial Revolution of Shame (Salvatore Scibona, New York Times): “We are undergoing an industrial revolution in shame. New technologies have radically expanded our ability to make and distribute a product. The product is our judgment of one another. As in past industrial revolutions, the mass manufacture and use of a product previously available to just a few or in small amounts has given us the power to do harm at a previously unthinkable scale.”
  4. The Supreme Court Is Quietly Changing the Status of Religion in American Life (Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker): “What the conservatives are doing, in effect, is reading the establishment clause out of the Constitution, and turning almost every issue into a free‐exercise case. In this reading, any denial of government benefits to a church can be seen as discrimination which amounts to a denial of free exercise—and the conservatives are making the same move with respect to individuals.”
    • Related: The Court and the Cross (Linda Greenhouse, New York Times): “The appetite of the two newest justices, Mr. Kavanaugh and Mr. Gorsuch, for cases that would enlarge the constitutional playing field for religion appears nearly boundless.”
  5. If Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders, Fascists Will (David Frum, The Atlantic): “Demagogues don’t rise by talking about irrelevant issues. Demagogues rise by talking about issues that matter to people, and that more conventional leaders appear unwilling or unable to address: unemployment in the 1930s, crime in the 1960s, mass immigration now. Voters get to decide what the country’s problems are. Political elites have to devise solutions to those problems. If difficult issues go unaddressed by responsible leaders, they will be exploited by irresponsible ones.” I highlighted a piece by Frum with a similar theme back in issue 175. This is a very thoughtful article.
  6. The Scandalous Academy: Social Science in Service of Identity Politics (Scott Yenor, Public Discourse): “Let us not ignore the most disturbing finding: that men who have sex with men are expected to live twelve years less than those who do not. This mirrors other studies conducted in British Columbia (which see an eight‐ to twenty‐year difference) and Denmark (which sees a smaller difference of four to twelve years). M. Ryan Baker’s ‘Gay and Lesbian Health Disparities: Evidence and Recommendations’ in a 2008 issue of the Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice yielded similar results. To put that in perspective, smoking decreases life expectancy only ten years.” The author is a professor of political science at Boise State and the article is focused on biases and blind spots in the social sciences more than on the specific issue highlighted in the excerpt.
  7. No Hate Left Behind (Thomas Edsall, New York Times): “Just over 42 percent of the people in each party view the opposition as ‘downright evil.’ In real numbers, this suggests that 48.8 million voters out of the 136.7 million who cast ballots in 2016 believe that members of opposition party are in league with the devil.”
    • Related: Partisan Hate Is Becoming a National Crisis (David French, National Review): “I wonder where [partisan hatred] would be if our nation hadn’t been extraordinarily lucky in the last two years. Yes, lucky. Imagine our national culture if the congressional baseball shooter hadn’t been immediately confronted by two brave Capitol Police officers. Imagine a nation where the Charlottesville terrorist kept plowing through the ranks of protesters, or where the Trump superfan bomber actually succeeded in making functioning explosives.”

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 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.