Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 282

On Fridays (Saturday this week) 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. How Perfectionism Has Made the Pandemic Worse (Miles Kimball, personal blog): “I’ve noticed one regularity in how the US (and many other countries) have handled the pandemic: perfectionism has been getting in the way of a quick and powerful response. Every little bit would have helped reduce the reproduction ratio of the coronavirus, but only things that were big bits were allowed.” The author is an economist at UC Boulder.
    • Public health bodies may be talking at us, but they’re actually talking to each other (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “…when a large group acts as though a complicated problem is a no-brainer, that doesn’t mean the solution is obvious; it means something has gone badly wrong.”
    • My vaccine crackpottery: a confession (Scott Aaronson, personal blog): “I think [our failure] will be clear to future generations, who’ll write PhD theses exploring how it was possible that we invented multiple effective covid vaccines in mere days or weeks, but then simply sat on those vaccines for a year, ticking off boxes called ‘Phase I,’ ‘Phase II,’ etc. while civilization hung in the balance.” The author is a CS prof at UT Austin.
    • Small Number of Covid Patients Develop Severe Psychotic Symptoms (Pam Belluck, New York Times): “[she] had become infected with the coronavirus in the spring. She had experienced only mild physical symptoms from the virus, but, months later, she heard a voice that first told her to kill herself and then told her to kill her children.” Shared with me by a student who noted it is both interesting and freaky. This really highlights what a bullet we dodged with this pandemic — can you imagine a plague whose main effect was to make people violently psychotic? Society would end. Full-on zombie apocalypse.
  2. Rick Warren On The Year We Had (Cameron Strang, Relevant Magazine): “We have led over 16,000 people to Christ since March. We’re in revival. We’re averaging about 80 people a day coming to Christ—80 people a day.… Of those 16,000 people who have come to Christ, over 12,000 of them have come through personal, one-on-one witnessing by my members. Not led to Christ by my sermons. By one on one evangelizing.”
  3. East Africa fears second wave — of locust swarms (Navin Singh Khadka, BBC): “New swarms of desert locusts are threatening the livelihoods of millions of people in the Horn of Africa and Yemen despite a year of control efforts, the United Nations has warned.” This is the latest news concerning an article from August an alumnus recently shared with me: The Biblical locust plagues of 2020 (David Njagi, BBC): “In 2020, locusts have swarmed in large numbers in dozens of countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia, Eritrea, India, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia. When swarms affect several countries at once in very large numbers, it is known as a plague.”
  4. Why You Can’t Meet God Over Zoom (Esau McCaulley, New York Times): “The very inadequacy of church services, Zoom and otherwise, is a reminder we do not come into churches to encounter a life lesson on how to raise our children or to learn to be good Americans, whatever that means. Our aim is much more audacious. We are attempting to encounter God and, in so doing, find ourselves, possibly for the first time.” The author is a New Testament professor at Wheaton College.
    • This isn’t really a knock on McCaulley so much as an observation and a hope: many Christians who write for publications like the NYT lead with the negatives and slowly build to their point that “church isn’t so bad really and maybe someday you should check it out.” I wonder if that is a byproduct of the editorial process or if it is simply a selection effect in the sort of Christian intellectual who wants to (and is permitted to) write an op-ed for a culturally influential publication.
    • Thinking about this puts me in mind of Erica Campbell’s song I Luh God (YouTube, three minutes). It swept through our ministry a few years ago, I think because it scratched an itch in our students. Our students had dance parties to it after our worship services. She sang with confident joy: “I luh God, you don’t luh God? What’s wrong with chu?”
    • When we discuss the faith as though it were a series of syllogisms we’re being foolish. People’s questions need answers, certainly. But all the answers in the world will do no good if, at some level, people don’t hope Christianity is true. We must kindle hope before we go to the trouble of overcoming objections to hope.
    • I say all that to say this: if you ever write an op-ed for the New York Times, do apologetics without being apologetic. Bring as much joy to it as you can and let your writing be filled with winsome confidence. We need a whole flock of Christian intellectuals with the swagger of a G.K. Chesterton.
  5. Higher Education Risks No Longer Being Worth It – Here’s How to Change Course (Christos Makridis, Quillette): “For all the talk about racial equity in colleges, you would think that faculty would be working with local small business owners, especially minorities, to mentor and equip them to drive greater profitability and impact. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry.
  6. The Church Needs Prophets, But It Wants Lawyers (David French, The Dispatch): “American Christian culture is rife with congregants looking for lawyers, not prophets and not pastors. The church-shopping phenomenon puts us in churches that make us feel quite comfortable, and the sheer number of available congregations (especially in the South and parts of the Midwest) makes us quite mobile.”
    • I almost didn’t share this one because I thought it was more useful for ministry leaders, but after I had mentally deep-sixed it a student emailed me and said: “I think it could be useful for Christians who find themselves frustrated by and unable to support blanket criticism of the church and of organized religion from the left, but also dissatisfied by responses from the right that frame any criticism as part of a culture war and trivialize issues within the church as just a few bad examples. I think for me it also was helpful in thinking of how I might respond to non-Christians when these kinds of criticisms come up in conversation and how I can be both defend Christianity and the good parts of the church while acknowledging continued brokenness and need for improvement. It also happened to tie in nicely with a sermon I heard on Sunday about how Christians have no problem recognizing sin as the cause of brokenness in the world but often point to the sins of others, whether of peers, leaders, or past generations, instead of their own sin as the cause of that brokenness. In that sense I think it both helped me think about how to process the failings of prominent Christians and talk about them with non-believers as well as be reminded by these failings to remember that beyond defending the church, my response as an individual should also be to identify and root out sin in my own life even when the damage is not as obvious to my community.”
  7. WHAT HAPPENS ON JANUARY 6th (Ben Sasse, Facebook): “There is some voter fraud every election cycle – and the media flatly declaring from on high that ‘there is no fraud!’ has made things worse. It has heightened public distrust, because there are, in fact, documented cases of voter fraud every election cycle. But the crucial questions are: (A) What evidence do we have of fraud? and (B) Does that evidence support the belief in fraud on a scale so significant that it could have changed the outcome? We have little evidence of fraud, and what evidence we do have does not come anywhere close to adding up to a different winner of the presidential election.”
    • Sasse is one of the Nebraska senators and is also a former seminary president. Missouri senator Josh Hawley, who this seems to be aimed at, is also an outspoken believer on Capitol Hill. Hawley, incidentally, did his undergrad at Stanford. He graduated the year we were launching Chi Alpha, so our paths have never crossed.
    • Hawley doesn’t have a statement as comprehensive as Sasse’s, but here is an excerpt from his press release: “I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws. And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden.”
    • I generally avoid political posts like this because I find the minutia of politics uninteresting. In this case, the fact that two evangelicals who are normally political allies are having a substantive and public disagreement intrigues me.

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 Real Problem at Yale Is Not Free Speech (Natalia Dashan, Palladium): “The campus ‘free speech’ debate is just a side‐effect. So are debates about ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion.’ The real problems run much deeper. The real problems start with Marcus and me, and the masks we wear for each other…. In a world of masks and façades, it is hard to convey the truth. And this is how I ended up offering a sandwich to a man with hundreds of millions in a foreign bank account.” I liked this one a lot. First shared in volume 215.

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 281

interesting things from Christmas week 2020

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.

As foretold, slightly delayed this week and will likely be a day off next week as well.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Applying Biblical principles in the workplace (Vann Ky, personal blog): “These principles have helped me develop work ethics and make an impact, not just at my current company but also when I was a college student.” Vann is an alumna.
  2. When You Can’t Just ‘Trust the Science’ (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Last month [the CDC’s] Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices produced a working document that’s a masterpiece of para-scientific effort, in which questions that are legitimately medical and scientific (who will the vaccine help the most), questions that are more logistical and sociological (which pattern of distribution will be easier to put in place) and moral questions about who deserves a vaccine are all jumbled up, assessed with a form of pseudo-rigor that resembles someone bluffing the way through a McKinsey job interview and then used to justify the conclusion that we should vaccinate essential workers before seniors … because seniors are more likely to be privileged and white.”
    • Why Did So Many Doctors Become Nazis? (Ashley K. Fernades, Tablet Magazine): “It is worthy of emphasis that although many professions (including law) were ‘taken in’ by Nazi philosophy, doctors and nurses had a peculiarly strong attraction to it. Robert N. Proctor (1988) notes that physicians joined the Nazi party in droves (nearly 50% by 1945), much higher than any other profession. Physicians were seven times more likely to join the SS than other employed German males.” The author is a physician and a bioethicist at The Ohio State University. 
    • Oregon Hospitals Didn’t Have Shortages. So Why Were Disabled People Denied Care? (Joseph Shapiro, NPR): “There’s no reason that these examples would occur more frequently in Oregon than in other states. But the fight for that anonymous woman with an intellectual disability peeled back the curtain on health care decision-making in Oregon in a way that did not happen in other states. That activism led to change in Oregon — including anti-discrimination legislation and new statewide policies.”
    • How Much Herd Immunity Is Enough? (Donald G. McNeil, New York Times): “In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.”
  3. The Death and Life of an Admissions Algorithm (Lilah Burke, Insider Higher Education): “For example, letters of recommendation containing the words ‘best,’ ‘award,’ ‘research’ or ‘Ph.D.’ are predictive of admission — and can lead to a higher score — while letters containing the words ‘good,’ ‘lass,’ ‘programming’ or ‘technology’ are predictive of rejection. A higher grade point average means an applicant is more likely to be accepted, as does the name of an elite college or university on the résumé. Within the system, institutions were encoded into the categories ‘elite,’ ‘good’ and ‘other,’ based on a survey of UT computer science faculty.”
    • Interestingly, the criticisms people made of the algorithm are not actually criticisms of the algorithm. They are criticisms of the admissions committee itself.
  4. An Advent Lament in the Pandemic (Michael Luo, The New Yorker): “The pandemic in 2020 has held a mirror to Christianity, just as the epidemics of antiquity did, but today’s reflection carries the potential to repulse rather than attract.”
    • Curiously, the specific examples he cites are mostly positive but he allows the negative example to color the entire piece. This is what I have seen as well — virtually all churches are acting responsibly but the public focus is on the ones that aren’t.
  5. Why Does It Matter that Jesus Was Born of a Virgin? (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “Even if professing Christians accept the virgin birth, many would have a hard time articulating why the doctrine really matters.”
  6. A Game Designer’s Analysis of QAnon (Reed Berkowitz, Medium): “When I saw QAnon, I knew exactly what it was and what it was doing. I had seen it before. I had almost built it before. It was gaming’s evil twin. A game that plays people.” Recommended by a student. Emphasis in original.
  7. 117 Witnesses Detail North Korea’s Persecution of Christians (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “Drawn from experiences stretching from 1990 to 2019, KFI’s report lists scores of violations. These include 36 instances of punishment meted out to family members, 36 instances of torture, and 20 executions. Women and girls represent 60 percent of the victims.… Christians total nearly 80 percent: 215 cases.” The 98 page report which inspired this article is Persecuting Faith:Documenting religious freedom violations in North Korea

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 Revolt of the Feminist Law Profs (Wesley Yang, Chronicle of Higher Education): “The sex bureaucracy, in other words, pivoted from punishing sexual violence to imposing a normative vision of ideal sex, to which students are held administratively accountable.” First shared in volume 214.

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 276

I really like the stories of the shamelessly sketchy judge near the end

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. Azerbaijan’s drones owned the battlefield in Nagorno-Karabakh — and showed future of warfare (Robyn Dixon, Washington Post): “In a matter of months, however, Nagorno-Karabakh has become perhaps the most powerful example of how small and relatively inexpensive attack drones can change the dimensions of conflicts once dominated by ground battles and traditional air power.”
  2. The U.S. Divorce Rate Has Hit a 50-Year Low (Wendy Wang, Institute for Family Studies): “Divorce in America has been falling fast in recent years, and it just hit a record low in 2019. For every 1,000 marriages in the last year, only 14.9 ended in divorce, according to the newly released American Community Survey data from the Census Bureau. This is the lowest rate we have seen in 50 years. It is even slightly lower than 1970, when 15 marriages ended in divorce per 1,000 marriages.”
  3. Gender Activists Are Trying to Cancel My Book. Why is Silicon Valley Helping Them? (Abigail Shrier, Quillette): “This is what censorship looks like in 21st-century America. It isn’t the government sending police to your home. It’s Silicon Valley oligopolists implementing blackouts and appeasing social-justice mobs, while sending disfavored ideas down memory holes. And the forces of censorship are winning. Not only because their efforts to censor leave almost no trace. They are winning because, thus far, most Americans have been content to surrender virtually every liberty in exchange for the luxury of having products delivered to their door.”
    • Related: How corporations can delete your existence (Gavin Haynes, Unherd): “In the banking system’s capacity to disable the individual without pro-actively doing them harm, there’s an echo of the elegance of the Chinese government’s social credit.”
  4. On the validity of the election:
    • Who’s covering this? Are charismatics and Pentecostals behind Trump’s refusal to concede? (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “…these folks are a subset — a movement among charismatics/pentecostals — of a Christian subset and not well known to the general public. However, when you have flocks of Republicans calling foul on the election and the president’s most high-profile pastor is having nightly prayer meetings because she is certain that prophets have decreed four more years for Trump, it’s time more reporters give a listen.”
    • How we can be confident that Trump’s voter fraud claims are baloney (Henry Olsen, Washington Post): “Mass voter fraud should be relatively easy to detect, even if it might be difficult to prove. Since we elect presidents through the electoral college, political operatives trying to nefariously produce a victory would focus on states critical to an electoral college majority…. None of these early warning signs of fraud appear in the results.”
    • The Presidential Election Was Legitimate. Conspiracies Are Not. (David French, The Dispatch): “The counting must continue and all legal challenges must be heard, but as of this moment there is nothing—absolutely nothing—that should cause Americans to believe that this election was illegitimate, and it is shameful and dangerous for anyone to suggest or allege otherwise.”
    • A Primer in Basic Electoral Skepticism (Douglas Wilson, blog): “We have reports that everything is fine and normal. We have reports of voter fraud. We do not know which reports are true. But we do know which reports are censored. And if that doesn’t tell you something, then you are not paying attention.”
    • Means, motive, and opportunity (Ed Feser, blog): “…some mainstream historians and journalists, including liberal ones, think that these states were indeed stolen from Nixon [in 1960]. For example, Kennedy biographer Seymour Hersh judges that the election was stolen. Historian Robert Dallek thinks that at least Illinois was stolen, via Daley’s political machine. Historian William Rorabaugh thinks that Nixon may have been cheated out of as many as 100,000 to 200,000 votes in Johnson’s corrupt Texas.” Wild stuff that I did not know. The author is a professor of philosophy at Pasadena City College. 
    • My own view: the election was valid and of course there was cheating. People cheat at cards, people cheat on their taxes. Why in the world wouldn’t people try to cheat in an election? But it seems unlikely to me that despite all the eyes on the process any cheating was significant enough to change the outcome of the election. Having said that, it is inevitable that people are skeptical. The media and the tech firms have made themselves so partisan that they have forfeited the trust which would be very handy for them to have right now.
  5. Lessons from the election
    • When Political Prophecies Don’t Come to Pass (Craig Keener, Christianity Today): “This year, many Christians have listened to leaders prophesy that Trump would again win the election. Some, such as Jeremiah Johnson, have continued to affirm that their prophecy will turn out to be true in the end. Others, such as Kris Vallotton, have publicly apologized. For now, many will decide that the prophecy was contingent, mistimed or, more likely, mistaken.” This is outstanding.
    • Why California Rejected Racial Preferences Again (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “As I understand the state’s history, the country’s history, and the world’s history, government officials cannot be trusted to factor race into decision making without treating people unjustly, and intergroup stigmas and resentments tend to increase when any group is given preferential treatment.”
    • May God Bless President Biden (David French, The Dispatch): “So here’s my simple prayer for President Biden: May God bless him and grant him the wisdom to know what’s just, the courage to do what’s just, and the stamina to withstand the rigors of the most difficult job in the world. May his virtuous plans prevail and may his unrighteous efforts fail. And may God protect him from all harm.” Amen.
    • A Moment Of Peril (Matt Yglesias, Substack): “But the broad reality remains that in order to obtain and wield political power, Democrats need to embrace candidates who are less reflective of the progressive worldview of young college graduates, and they need to run them in states that are less right-wing than Alabama or Montana.”
    • How 2020 Killed Off Democrats’ Demographic Hopes (Zack Stanton, Politico): “For years, the Democratic Party has operated under one immutable assumption: Long-term demographic trends would give the party something like a permanent majority as the country as a whole grows less white and more urban. President Donald Trump’s reliance on the politics of racial resentment would only quicken the process, solidifying support for Democrats among people of color. Then came November 3, 2020. And all those assumptions now seem like total nonsense.” An interview with David Shor. 
    • LatinX-plaining the election (Antonio Garcia-Martinez, The Pull Request): “The problem with basing a political platform on white guilt is that, at some point, you run out of either whites or guilt. Which is what happens in a truly majority-minority nation when non-whites (at least as currently defined) assume their equal place in the economic and political firmament.” The author normally writes about technology issues (hence the title of the newsletter).
  6. Secularization and the Tribulations of the American Working-Class (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “I praise the scholarship and courage of Brian N. Wheaton.”
    • Related: Getting Past the Gatekeepers (J. Budziszewski, personal blog): “Your gatekeepers want you to write a book more like the one they would have written. If you do make revisions, make them in such a way that the book becomes not less your own, but even more your own. That’s not pride. If God condescends to allow certain insights to the historians on your board, how wonderful! Let them write about them! Read and learn from them! But if He condescends to allow certain other insights to you, you should write about yours, not theirs.” The author is a professor of politics and philosophy at UT Austin. 
  7. COVID-related
    • Super-spreader wedding party shows COVID holiday dangers (Karen Kaplan, LA Times): “Only 55 people attended the Aug. 7 reception at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket. But one of those guests arrived with a coronavirus infection. Over the next 38 days, the virus spread to 176 other people. Seven of them died. None of the victims who lost their lives had attended the party.”
    • COVID-19 Mobility Network Modeling (Stanford): “Our model predicts that a small minority of ‘superspreader’ POIs [points of interest] account for a large majority of infections and that restricting maximum occupancy at each POI is more effective than uniformly reducing mobility.” Click on “Simulation” and play around with the Religious Organizations toggle. Recommended by a friend of the ministry, who drew my attention especially to figures 2d and 3c in the appendix of the paper.

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 Asymmetric Weapons Gone Bad (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Every day we do things that we can’t easily justify. If someone were to argue that we shouldn’t do the thing, they would win easily. We would respond by cutting that person out of our life, and continuing to do the thing.” This entire series of articles (this is the fourth, the others are linked at the top of it) is 100% worth reading. It’s a very interesting way to think about the limits of reason and the wisdom hidden in tradition. First shared in volume 206.

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 268

This installment can be titled “America In Decline, but the Bible Looking Pretty Solid. Also Australia.”

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.

After largely finishing this email I learned that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. I expect a TON of ink to be spilled on this and on whatever develops politically next week. Keep an eye out for thoughtful commentary and send it my way. Please do pray for her family and for our nation — an already tense election season just became even more fraught.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Does the Bible Pass the Bechdel Test? A Data-Driven Look at Women in the Story of Scripture (John Dyer, personal blog): “So does the Bible pass the Bechdel test? This short answer is: yes, there are scenes where two named women have a conversation not about a man. The longer answer is more complex, but also, I think, richer.” This is REALLY well done.
  2. Seven Deadly Sins, One Presidential Election (Bonnie Kristian, Christianity Today): “The seven deadly sins—wrath, sloth, pride, envy, greed, gluttony, and lust—as we now list them came to us in the Western church through Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, Pope Gregory the Great seven centuries prior, and a mystic named Evagrius two centuries before that…. The 2020 election gives occasion to deal with them all.”
  3. Ecological insights ignored:
    • They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen? (Elizabeth Weil, ProPublica): “Academics believe that between 4.4 million and 11.8 million acres burned each year in prehistoric California…. We live with a deathly backlog. In February 2020, Nature Sustainability published this terrifying conclusion: California would need to burn 20 million acres — an area about the size of Maine — to restabilize in terms of fire.”
    • Is Plastic Recycling A Lie? Oil Companies Touted Recycling To Sell More Plastic (Laura Sullivan, NPR): “All of these problems [with recycling] have existed for decades, no matter what new recycling technology or expensive machinery has been developed. In all that time, less than 10 percent of plastic has ever been recycled. But the public has known little about these difficulties.”
    • Neither article is giving us much new information — I have heard knowledgeable people say similar things for quite some time now. The fact that we have not changed is disappointing but not surprising: politicians (like most people) “listen to science” when the findings of scientists align with their self-interest. The continued existence of these and other glaring problems in American life make me sad.
  4. EXCLUSIVE: Education Department opens investigation into Princeton University after president deems racism ’embedded’ in the school (Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner): “The Department of Education has informed Princeton University that it is under investigation following the school president’s declaration that racism was ‘embedded’ in the institution.”
  5. Statistics, lies and the virus: five lessons from a pandemic (Tim Harford, personal blog): “You can appreciate, I hope, my obsession with these two contrasting accounts of statistics: one as a trick, one as a tool.… Scepticism has its place, but easily curdles into cynicism and can be weaponised into something even more poisonous than that. “ Very good insights from a British economist.
  6. Racism Is Real. But Is “Systemic Racism”? That Time I Was Published by Newsweek—For Two Hours (Matthew Franck, Public Discourse): “If everyone in general but no one in particular is to blame, the few remaining actual racists among us are let off the hook. They’re no worse than the rest of us. Of course, unlike all of us who are invited to affirm our collective guilt for the ‘system,’ the truly guilty won’t feel guilty.”
    • The author is the Associate Director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University. This one is included mostly for the drama of it being published and then unpublished by Newsweek. There is an unhealthy intellectual climate at many of our major publications.
  7. When you browse Instagram and find former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s passport number (Alex Hope, personal website): “The point of this story isn’t to say ‘wow Tony Abbott got hacked, what a dummy’. The point is that if someone famous can unknowingly post their boarding pass, anyone can.” Surprisingly entertaining and informative.

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 (Not So) Secular Saint (James K.A. Smith, Los Angeles Review of Books): “Mill’s legacy was effectively ‘edited’ by his philosophical and political disciples, excising any hint of religious life. One would never know from the canon in our philosophy departments, for example, that Mill wrote an appreciative essay on ‘Theism.’” First shared in volume 190.

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 266

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. Do You ‘Believe in Science’…or Not? (Jacob Hess, Public Square): “…what if we’re witnessing the true nature of science in its full glory? Not as an oracle that speaks in some monolithic voice. But as an argument—between otherwise thoughtful and good-hearted people all seeking truth, but reading the data differently, defining terms differently, emphasizing different indicators in determining what is true and trustworthy, etc. If so, rather than waiting for Science to declare the truth of a matter—maybe we need to start doing something else: Thinking for ourselves.” This was a much better article than I expected.
  2. Academics Are Really, Really Worried About Their Freedom (John McWhorter, The Atlantic): “One professor notes, ‘Even with tenure and authority, I worry that students could file spurious Title IX complaints … or that students could boycott me or remove me as Chair.’ I have no reason to suppose that he is being dramatic, because exactly this, he says, happened to his predecessor.” The author is a linguistics professor at Columbia.
    • Related: The Denial of Cancel Culture (Eric Kaufmann, Quillette): “Academics don’t discriminate more than other educated professionals, and the Right discriminates as much as the Left, but the fact the Left outnumbers the Right 6:1 (9:1 among current [social sciences and humanities] staff) means that conservatives and Leavers experience a far higher discriminatory effect than the left-liberal majority. On a four-person hiring panel, a Leaver faces an 80 percent chance of discrimination.” The author is a professor of politics at Birkbeck College in the UK.
  3. Articles Related To Race, Racism and Related Topics
    • American Christianity’s White-Supremacy Problem (David Luo, New Yorker): “…Christian nationalism is not the same as personal religiosity. In fact, religious commitment—as measured by church attendance, prayer, and Scripture reading—tends to improve attitudes on race, serving as a progressive influence. This suggests the root of the white church’s problem may not be ‘Christianity proper,’ as Douglass put it, so much as the culture around white Christianity, which narrows and diminishes the American project.” This article covers a lot of ground and not all of it with equal insight (or perhaps fairness is the word I’m looking for), but as a whole well-done.
    • Black Christians Play a Crucial Role in Athlete Activism (Paul Putz , Christianity Today): “While some black Christian athletes have abstained from the recent wave of activism in stadiums and arenas—Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, for example, cited his understanding of the gospel when declining to fully participate in a pre-game racial justice ceremony—far more have played a leading role.”
    • I was the woman surrounded by BLM protesters at a D.C. restaurant. Here’s why I didn’t raise my fist. (Lauren Victor, Washington Post): “Last week, I went out to dinner in D.C. with a friend. As we sat outside at a neighborhood restaurant, a group of protesters surrounded our table and demanded that I raise my fist in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. I had marched repeatedly in the past several months in support of their cause, but I refused their demands. That interaction wound up in a viral video that within 48 hours had been viewed more than 12 million times.” This is fascinating.
    • ‘You’re Not Allowed To Film’: The Fight for Control Over Who Reports From Portland (Nancy Rommelmann, Reason): “I cannot say who came up with these anti-camera battle cries. But it’s easy to understand why protesters use them: to shape the narrative the country sees about the protests. And that narrative, in my estimation after many weeks covering street clashes in a city where I lived for 15 years, is 90 percent [mendacious nonsense].”
    • Don’t take your guns to town, son (Tim Carney, Washington Examiner): “In life, there are horrible situations in which there are no good decisions or where it is extremely easy to make the wrong decision. So when we can avoid these horrible situations, we ought to.”
      • This is an insight with wide-ranging application. It’s why you shouldn’t bring guns to a protest and also why there are some parties on campus you shouldn’t go to.
    • Police reforms inspired by George Floyd face defeat in CA (Editorial Board, Sacramento Bee): “The legislators who authored these crucial reforms deserve support and recognition for walking the walk. But Californians must also remember the names of any legislators who took a knee to honor Black Lives Matter in front of the cameras and then, behind the scenes, bowed down to police groups to kill much-needed reforms.”
  4. The Social Fabric of the US Is Fraying Severely, if Not Unravelling (Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept): “Why is virtually every metric of mental and spiritual disease — suicide, depression, anxiety disorders, addiction, and alcoholism — increasing significantly, rapidly, in the richest country on earth, one filled with advanced technologies and at least the pretense of liberal democracy?”
  5. Boycotts Can’t Be a Test of Moral Purity (Zephyr Teachout, The Atlantic): “We don’t ask people to boycott libraries in order to change library rules; we don’t ask people to boycott highways to ask for them to be safer; we don’t demand that you buy only bottled water while protesting water-utility governance.” The delightfully-named author is a law prof at Fordham. Recommended by a student.
  6. On presidential politics:
    • What You Should Know About the 2020 Democratic Party Platform (Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition): “Why should Christians care about a document that few non-politicians will ever read? Because of the influence the two major party platforms have on public policy. While the platform is not binding on the presidential nominee or any other politicians, political scientists have found that over the past 30 years lawmakers in Congress tend to vote in line with their party’s platform: 89 percent of the time for Republicans, and 79 percent of the time for Democrats.“
    • What You Should Know About the 2020 Republican Party Platform (Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition): “This article will provide, without commentary, an outline of the Republican platform as it relates to several social issues. Every statement is either a direct quote or a summary of the platform’s position.”

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. America in one tweet:“We are living in an era of woke capitalism in which companies pretend to care about social justice to sell products to people who pretend to hate capitalism.” (Clay Routledge, Twitter) First shared in volume 186.

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 265

lots about race and racial tension

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. Here are the things about race and racial tension that stood out to me.
    • Why Did the Police Shoot Jacob Blake? (Trevor Noah, The Daily Show): “I could tell you this story with my eyes closed by now. If I wanted to I could prerecord five of these segments and go on vacation and you would never know.” Ten worthwhile minutes.
    • The Kenosha shooting didn’t happen in a vacuum (Denise Lockwood, CNN): “I am reminded of what Rodney Prunty, the former executive director of the United Way of Racine County, said to me during an interview: ‘If you have a pond full of fish and a few of them die, you ask what’s wrong with the fish. But when the pond full of fish dies, we ask what’s wrong with the pond.’ In Wisconsin, it’s time we talked about what’s wrong with the pond.”
    • Riots in John Piper’s Neighborhood (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Gospel Coalition): “Piper’s people moved in without a master plan, which was both confusing (‘What should we do?’) and exactly what When Helping Hurts authors would later advise (start with building relationships, watching, and learning). Everyone ended up doing something different. But for decades, they’ve kept at it, working through disappointments and challenges, looting and riots, broken glass and homeless tent cities in the parks. They’re still doing it.” This is an outstanding story.
    • Feel Good or Do Good (George Yancey, Patheos): “To gain the support of real conviction we need the type of conversations where we listen to others as much as discuss our point of view with them. We connect with others and get at the core of why they disagree with us. We understand their arguments and consider how to deal with the issues they bring up. We admit the validity of those issues even if we disagree with them. Does this sound like anything that is happening with antiracism?” The author, who is black, is a sociologist at Baylor whom I have referenced several times
    • Rule of Law Imperiled (R. R. Reno, First Things): “The destruction of property is not just an attack on another’s possessions. It is a violation of justice. This is why rioting and looting affects far more than those whose stores are burned. Citizens begin to worry that they do not live in a society committed to justice. As we know from blacks who resent mistreatment by the police, which is also unjust, this worry can become explosive, even among those not personally affected.”
    • Kyle Rittenhouse, Populist Hero (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “If I were a polling firm, I would run a national poll asking people who have heard of Kyle Rittenhouse whether they think he’s a villain, a hero, or don’t know. That would tell us a lot about the mood of the country.”
  2. Unbecoming American (Johann N. Neem, Hedgehog Review): “A shared culture is not a totalizing one; indeed, it makes real pluralism possible by giving us something larger to share regardless of our many differences. Or so I believed. But when that shared world was redefined as white—and when white people, threatened by its loss, reclaimed it—I found myself an exile. A person losing his country. I felt myself unbecoming in more than one sense. On college campuses, including the one where I now teach, the left imposes new boundaries on thought and speech in its effort to challenge historical boundaries, while, in politics, the right embraces boundaries that we had hoped never to see again.” The author, a man of Indian descent, is a historian at Western Washington University. I really liked this article.
    • Follow-up interview: An Immigrant’s Plea: “Don’t Convert to Whiteness” (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “My biggest fear, actually, is violence. We forget that social order is fragile. You don’t have to look far to see how prevalent ethnic or religious violence is around the world. If we form tribes, we will respond in hateful ways to each other. Rightly or wrongly, people will feel beleaguered. We will get angrier and angrier. There will be less empathy.” I share his concern. 
  3. Advice For Students In a Time of Strife (a whole passel of Princeton professors, First Things): “Remember, as an American college or university student you are one of the luckiest—most privileged—people on planet earth. Do not fall into the trap of thinking of yourself as a victim or building an identity for yourself around that idea. You can avoid the trap while strongly standing up for your right to fair and equal treatment and boldly working for reform where there are double standards needing to be rectified.” Technically not a whole passel, which connotes a large but uncertain number. I count 16 signatories!
  4. China Secretly Built A Vast New Infrastructure To Imprison Muslims (Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing, and Christo Buschek, Buzzfeed): “Downloading WhatsApp, which is banned in China, maintaining ties with family abroad, engaging in prayer, and visiting a foreign website are all offenses for which Muslims have been sent to camps, according to previously leaked documents and interviews with former detainees. Because the government does not consider internment camps to be part of the criminal justice system and none of these behaviors are crimes under Chinese law, no detainees have been formally arrested or charged with a crime, let alone seen a day in court.” I’ve shared similar news this before. This article is fresh and especially damning.
    • Part 2: What They Saw: Ex-Prisoners Detail The Horrors Of China’s Detention Camps (Buzzfeed): “More than a dozen former detainees confirmed to BuzzFeed News that prisoners were divided into three categories, differentiated by uniform colors. Those in blue, like Parida and the majority of the people interviewed for this article, were considered the least threatening. Often, they were accused of minor transgressions, like downloading banned apps to their phones or having traveled abroad. Imams, religious people, and others considered subversive to the state were placed in the strictest group — and were usually shackled even inside the camp.”
    • Part 3: Blanked-Out Spots On China’s Maps Helped Us Uncover Xinjiang’s Camps (Buzzfeed): “Our breakthrough came when we noticed that there was some sort of issue with satellite imagery tiles loading in the vicinity of one of the known camps while using the Chinese mapping platform Baidu Maps. The satellite imagery was old, but otherwise fine when zoomed out — but at a certain point, plain light gray tiles would appear over the camp location…. We analyzed the masked locations by comparing them to up-to-date imagery from Google Earth, the European Space Agency’s Sentinel Hub, and Planet Labs.” This one will be particularly interesting to CS people. 
  5. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks about trusting the news (Twitter): “…when you see a FACT that is reported, cited, and verified by several reputable outlets, 99.999% it’s going to be true. HOWEVER! There is a big difference between a fact and the STORY. And the STORY (often the headline) that’s surrounding the fact is frequently stretched, mischaracterized, or dramatized to get you to click.” She and I have a remarkably similar perspective on the media.
    • Related: Given my time again, I wouldn’t choose journalism (Sarah Ditum, Unherd): “Being mad was important because the economics of this kind of content required fast output (since timeliness is critical) and high engagement (since this is how editors, and writers, measure success). I write quickly when I’m angry, and anger begets more anger, so people are more likely to share and react. Not everything I wrote when this was my main form of journalism was bad, but only some of it was good, and the worst of it had a dishonesty that made me feel ashamed…” 
  6. Do Pro-Lifers Who Reject Trump Have ‘Blood on their Hands’? (David French, The DIspatch): “Decades of data and decades of legal, political, and cultural developments have combined to teach us a few, simple realities about abortion in the United States: 1. Presidents have been irrelevant to the abortion rate; 2. Judges have been forces of stability, not change, in abortion law; 3. State legislatures have had more influence on abortion than Congress; 4. Even if Roe is overturned, abortion will be mostly unchanged in the U.S.; and 5. The pro-life movement has an enormous cultural advantage.“ Chock-full of insights. Despite the title, it is less about partisan politics and more about abortion in America.

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 Facts Are Not Self‐Interpreting (Twitter) — this is a short, soundless video. Recommended. First shared in volume 184.

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 264

substantive pieces this week, plus religious arguments for and against both Biden and Trump

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.

As always, just skim and open the links that seem interesting to you in new tabs.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Challenge of Marxism (Yoram Hazony, Quillette): “Not very long ago, most of us living in free societies knew that Marxism was not compatible with democracy…. Indeed, the entire purpose of democratic government, with its plurality of legitimate parties, is to avoid the violent reconstitution of society that Marxist political theory regards as the only reasonable aim of politics.”
  2. The particle collection that fancied itself a physicist (Ed Feser, personal blog): “Democritus’s point is that if the atomist says both that atoms are all that exist and that color, sweetness, etc. and the other qualities of conscious experience are not to be found in the atoms, then we have a paradox.” Feser, as I’ve mentioned before, is one of my favorite philosophers.
  3. Anti-racist Arguments Are Tearing People Apart (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “I made a series of rapid assumptions about what I was watching. I surmised that Broshi was a college-educated, upper-middle-class progressive who sits on some sort of education council in the public-school system and owns copies of White Fragility and How to Be an Antiracist. I surmised that she was calling someone out. And I surmised that her white, male target was offscreen rolling his eyes. All of which turned out to be correct.” This is amazing.
    • Related: Why we cannot ignore Institutional Racism (George Yancey, Patheos): “Pretend that we are going to have a mile race a year from now. I tell a third of the class about the race and hire a trainer for them. For another third of the class I tell them about the race six months later but do not hire them a trainer. But I do advise them that they may want to work on their own to get ready for the race. The last third of the class I call them the morning of the race and tell them that it is time to run. Assuming that the class is randomly divided into thirds, we know what will happen in the race do we not?”
    • Related: Black and White evangelicals once talked about ‘racial reconciliation.’ Then Trump came along. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “…despite shared Christian beliefs and commitment to religious observance, White evangelicals are among the most strongly Republican constituencies, while Black Protestants tend to vote Democratic. And that divide appears to have grown harder to bridge since Trump took office.”
    • Colleges aren’t reporting anti-Semitism as a crime (Aiden Pink, Forward): “A Forward analysis comparing news reports of campus antisemitism between 2016 and 2018 to the filings for those years found that fewer than half of the incidents that could have been reported as hate crimes actually were. Out of a total of 158 incidents at 64 schools, 93 — including antisemitic vandalism at brand-name schools known for vibrant Jewish communities like Harvard, Princeton, MIT, UCLA and the University of Maryland — were left out of the federal filings.” Stanford comes off looking pretty good in this article. 
  4. The American Misunderstanding of Natural Rights (Cameron Hilditch, National Review): “Our inheritance of human rights was built to reflect the fact that we are all living images of a particular crucified criminal from Galilee, who proclaimed that we are each and all more than what Caesar would make of us. If we care to enjoy the rights bequeathed to us by this tradition throughout the coming years, decades, and centuries, then we can no longer avoid publicly discussing the inextricable nature of religious and political ideas.” 
    • Related: Is American Christian Jurisprudence a Thing? (Steven D. Smith, Law & Liberty): “Taken together, these assumptions generate an overall attitude toward the project of law that resists opposing extremes: on the one hand, an excessive or deconstructive cynicism—one that would reduce the law to simply a manifestation of power based on class, race, or gender—and on the other hand a dangerous utopianism that would use law to achieve perfect justice but end up destroying human freedom.” The author is a law professor at the University of San Diego. 
    • Related. Ish. The end of secularism is nigh (Tom Holland, UnHerd): “That there existed things called ‘religions’ — ‘Hinduism’, ‘Islam’, ‘Judaism’ ­— and that these functioned in a dimension distinct from entire spheres of human activity — spheres called ‘secular’ in English — was not a conviction native to anywhere except for Western Europe.”
  5. China’s Artificial Intelligence Surveillance State Goes Global (Ross Andersen, The Atlantic): “In the early aughts, the Chinese telecom titan ZTE sold Ethiopia a wireless network with built-in backdoor access for the government. In a later crackdown, dissidents were rounded up for brutal interrogations, during which they were played audio from recent phone calls they’d made. Today, Kenya, Uganda, and Mauritius are outfitting major cities with Chinese-made surveillance networks.” I think horrifying might be the best word for this article. 
  6. On presidential politics and Christianity:
    • From the right: Letter to an Anti-Trump Christian Friend (Wayne Grudem, TownHall): “In every column that I’ve published in support of Trump, I have explicitly registered my disapproval of his character flaws and previous immoral behavior. I support him because of the policies he has enacted and will enact, and in spite of his character flaws (which I don’t think rise to a level that would disqualify him from being president; more on this below).” The author is a professor at Phoenix Seminary.
    •  From the left: The Joe Biden that I know is a man of faith (Chris Coons, Fox News): “For Democrats like Joe and me, taking care of the planet isn’t just about rising sea levels and extreme weather, it’s also about protecting and honoring God’s creation. For Democrats like Joe and me, fighting for civil rights and equality isn’t just about political correctness, it’s about loving our neighbor and recognizing that all of us are created equal in the eyes of God.” The author is a US Senator.
    • A criticism of the right: Why Evangelicals Support Trump—and Why They Shouldn’t (George Yancey, The Bulwark): “Many evangelical Christians see Trump as someone who will save them from Christianophobia. And while I understand and respect the nature of these Christians’ fears—in fact, I share them—I believe that Trump is not only not a solution to these issues but in the long run he will make things worse.” The author is a professor at Baylor.
    • A criticism of the left: Devout Catholics and Secular Progressives (Robert George, First Things): this one is difficult to excerpt. Very well done. The author is a 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 Godspeed: The Pace Of Being Known (Vimeo): a student brought this 30 minute video to my attention and said it made her think about how she should be living in her dorm (sadly irrelevant for that purpose at the moment). First shared in volume 181.

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 260

From naked protestors in Portland to slavery in China to theological reflections on conspiracy theories.

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. China’s Xinjiang Province a Moral Quandary for the West (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “The attempt to place modern slaves in the supply chain of Western luxury goods is an attempt to implicate and morally geld Western nations who would criticize or punish the Chinese Communist Party for its crimes.”
  2. USS University (Scott Galloway, personal blog): “There is a dangerous conflation of the discussion about K‑12 and university reopenings. The two are starkly different. There are strong reasons to reopen K‑12, and there are stronger reasons to keep universities shuttered.“ The author is a business prof at NYU. Recommended by an alumnus.
    • Related: Colleges Are Getting Ready to Blame Their Students (Julia Marcus and Jessica Gold, The Atlantic): “Students will get infected, and universities will rebuke them for it; campuses will close, and students will be blamed for it. Relying on the self-control of young adults, rather than deploying the public-health infrastructure needed to control a disease that spreads easily among people who live, eat, study, and socialize together, is not a safe reopening strategy—and yelling at students for their dangerous behavior won’t help either.” The authors are professors at Harvard and Washington University, respectively. 
    • Vaguely related: Your State’s COVID Numbers In Context (PoliMath, Substack): “Headlines are allergic to context and the high-population states get all the attention because they show big numbers (because they are big states). When a smaller state gets any reporting, it is entirely outside any context. In Washington, it was reported that we had 754 new cases and 7 new deaths. Is that a lot? How does that compare to other states?” Very detailed and insightful. 
  3. Coronavirus, Conspiracy Theories, and the Ninth Commandment (David French, The Dispatch): “Christian teaching about our lives in our workplaces is not primarily about how to obtain a promotion, how to invest our money, or how to start a business. In other words, it’s not about the objectives of economic engagement, though those objectives are important. Instead, the focus is on ministering to colleagues, cultivating faith in adversity, and generally learning how to be salt and light even in sometimes hostile or intimidating environments. [But we don’t do this with politics.]” Recommended by an alumnus, this one was really good.
  4. 8 facts about religion and government in the United States (Dalia Fahmy, Pew Research Center): “While the U.S. Constitution does not mention God, every state constitution references either God or the divine. God also appears in the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance and on U.S. currency.” Recommended by a student.
  5. Where is the national news coverage of current surge of vandalism at Catholic churches? (Clemente Lisi, GetReligion): “Who’s responsible for this anti-Catholic violence? Is it Muslim terrorists? Neo-Nazis? Left-wing radicals? Are these isolated incidents or part of a coordinated attack? We don’t know because the elite newsrooms with the talent and resources to handle this kind of investigation are missing in action, in this case.… One has to wonder how these incidents would have been covered had they been mosques? What about public schools? Or say Planned Parenthood facilities?”
    • Related: Roman Catholics: The Original Abolitionists (Paul Kengor, Crisis Magazine): “Last weekend, one of Serra’s mission churches in California went up in flames, with the cause of the fire not yet known. In the last few days, a statue of Mary was set on fire in Boston and another was vandalized in Brooklyn (among others). As to what Mary has to do with the modern anti-statue-racism movement is anyone’s guess. Nonetheless, if the issue is (rightly so) a just condemnation of slavery and racism, and if one is genuinely seeking accurate history, then today’s activists ought to look back in admiration at the impressive track record of the Roman Catholic Church.” The author is a professor of political science at Grove City College. The history of the Catholic Church on the issue of slavery is better than the Protestant church.
  6. What You Need To Know About The Battle of Portland (Robert Evans, Bellingcat): “I reported on the fighting in Mosul back in 2017, and what happened that night in the streets of Portland was, of course, not nearly as brutal or dangerous as actual combat. Yet it was about as close as you can get without using live ammunition.“ A significant qualifier at the end of that sentence, interesting nonetheless.
    • Portland’s protests were supposed to be about black lives. Now, they’re white spectacle. (E.D. Mondainé, Washington Post): “We welcome our white brothers and sisters in this struggle. In fact, we need them. But I must ask them to remain humbly attuned to the opportunity of this moment — and to reflect on whether any actions they take will truly help establish justice, or whether they are simply for show.” The author is president of the Portland branch of the NAACP.
    • Out of Portland tear gas, an apparition emerges, capturing the imagination of protesters (Los Angeles Times): “She emerged as an apparition from clouds of tear gas as federal agents fired pepper balls at angry protesters in the early Saturday darkness. A woman wearing nothing but a black face mask and a stocking cap strode toward a dozen heavily armed agents attired in camouflage fatigues, lined up across a downtown Portland street.” Portland gonna port.
    • Tangentially Related: American Crime and the Baltimore Model (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “Idealists may hope these changes will eliminate police brutality as communities find better ways to prevent crime than deterrence and force. But on the hunch that human nature hasn’t changed, that isn’t going to happen. Criminals, fearing less, will continue to prey on others. Police, fearing more, will hold back from doing their jobs. Those with means to leave their neighborhoods, will. Those without the means will suffer.”
  7. A new intelligentsia is pushing back against wokeness (Batya Ungar-Sargon, Forward): “The anti-woke Black intelligentsia is leading a counter-culture to a woke hegemony and the online culture that popularized it. But their views hew more closely to those of most Black Americans than the new antiracism. Polling has long indicated that white liberals express radically more liberal views on racial and social issues than their Black and Latino neighbors.” Very interesting interviews.
    • Related: The Left is Now the Right (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “Things we once despised about the right have been amplified a thousand-fold on the flip. Conservatives once tried to legislate what went on in your bedroom; now it’s the left that obsesses over sexual codicils, not just for the bedroom but everywhere. Right-wingers from time to time made headlines campaigning against everything from The Last Temptation of Christ to ‘Fuck the Police,’ though we laughed at the idea that Ice Cube made cops literally unsafe… today Matt Yglesias signing a group letter with Noam Chomsky is considered threatening.”
    • Related: When Wokes and Racists Actually Agree on Everything (Ryan Long Comedy, YouTube) : two minutes of brilliance

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 Dissolving the Fermi Paradox (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Imagine we knew God flipped a coin. If it came up heads, He made 10 billion alien civilization. If it came up tails, He made none besides Earth. Using our one parameter Drake Equation, we determine that on average there should be 5 billion alien civilizations. Since we see zero, that’s quite the paradox, isn’t it? No. In this case the mean is meaningless. It’s not at all surprising that we see zero alien civilizations, it just means the coin must have landed tails. SDO say that relying on the Drake Equation is the same kind of error.”  First shared in volume 159.

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 254

The less timely stuff is up top this time and there are a lot of magic videos 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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. What Unites Most Graduates of Selective Colleges? An Intact Family (Nicholas Zill & Brad Wilcox, Institute for Family Studies): “… even after controlling for parent education, family income, and student race and ethnicity, being raised by one’s married birth parents provides an additional boost to one’s chances of getting through Princeton.”
  2. What Christians Must Remember about Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control (Peter Feaver & William Inboden & Michael Singh, Providence): “Before embracing calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons, thoughtful Christians must confront two uncomfortable facts. First, we live in a fallen world in which the threats we face are changing, and arguably growing. Second, the envelope of peace and security in which free societies have thrived for the past eight decades is not self-sustaining—one need only view the recent decline of democracies and rise of authoritarian threats from Russia and China. One can detest nuclear weapons and still see their strategic value.” The authors are, respectively, a professor of political science at Duke, a professor of public policy at UT Austin, and a senior fellow at a thinktank.
  3. Peer Review (Rodney Brooks, personal blog): “I came to realize that the editor’s job was real, and it required me to deeply understand the topic of the paper, and the biases of the reviewers, and not to treat the referees as having the right to determine the fate of the paper themselves. As an editor I had to add judgement to the process at many steps along the way, and to strive for the process to improve the papers, but also to let in ideas that were new.” The author is a professor emeritus of robotics at MIT.
  4. JK Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues (JK Rowling, personal blog): “…I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it.”
  5. More on the NY Times tangle last week and what it reveals about our society
    • America is changing, and so is the media (Ezra Klein, Vox): “The news media likes to pretend that it simply holds up a mirror to America as it is. We don’t want to be seen as actors crafting the political debate, agents who make decisions that shape the boundaries of the national discourse. We are, of course. We always have been.”
    • The Still-Vital Case for Liberalism in a Radical Age (Jonathan Chait, NY Magazine): “…it is an error to jump from the fact that right-wing authoritarian racism is far more important to the conclusion that left-wing illiberalism is completely unimportant. One can oppose different evils, even those evils aligned against each other, without assigning them equal weight.”
    • Why everyone hates the mainstream media (Andrew Potter, Policy for Pandemics): “It’s not a coincidence that lawyers, journalists, and politicians are routinely ranked as the most disliked professions in the world. It’s because the law is not about justice, politics is not about democracy, and the news is not about information. But in each case, that is what emerges, by harnessing the status-conscious competitive natures of the participants.” The author is a former journalist and editor.
  6. Thoughts on race and racism:
    • George Floyd and Me (Shai Linn, Gospel Coalition): “Though I’m deeply grieved, I am not without hope. Personally, I have little confidence in our government or policymakers to change the systemic factors that contributed to the George Floyd situation. But my hope isn’t in the government. My hope is in the Lord.”
    • American Racism: We’ve Got So Very Far to Go (David French, The Dispatch): “If politically correct progressives are often guilty of over-racializing American public discourse, and they are, politically correct conservatives commit the opposite sin—and they filter out or angrily reject all the information that contradicts their thesis.”
    • This moment cries out for us to confront race in America (Condoleezza Rice, Washington Post): “Still, we simply must acknowledge that society is not color-blind and probably never will be. Progress comes when people treat one another with respect, as if we were color-blind. Unless and until we are honest that race is still an anchor around our country’s neck, that shadow will never be lifted. Our country has a birth defect: Africans and Europeans came to this country together — but one group was in chains.” She is, of course, a fellow believer and also a Stanford professor who will soon be the director of the Hoover Institution. 
    • Our Present Moment: Why Is It So Hard? (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “I’m thinking more broadly about why race in this country is so difficult, and in particular difficult even between people of good will, between people in your church of a different color. I’m thinking about people who agree on so many other things. And you sing the same songs and you really love Jesus together. And you read the same Bible, and you really are together for the gospel. So why is it so divisive?” Some really good thoughts in here.
  7. On the protests
    • The protests started out looking like 1968. They turned into 1964. (Omar Wasow, Washington Post): “For a growing international movement trying to draw attention to the long history of racist and brutal policing, nonviolence in the face of police repression is an exceedingly difficult strategy to sustain. Evidence from the 1960s, however — and perhaps this month, too — suggests using such tactics to generate media coverage of a pressing social problem can be a powerful tool for building a coalition for social change.”
    • We often accuse the right of distorting science. But the left changed the coronavirus narrative overnight (Thomas Chatterton Williams, The Guardian): “Two weeks ago we shamed people for being in the street; today we shame them for not being in the street.”
    • Tribalism Comes for Pandemic Science (Yuval Levin, The New Atlantis): “These public health professionals are simply admitting that their views on the health risks of large gatherings depend on the political valence of those gatherings. Rather than compartmentalize their professional judgment from their political priorities — explaining the risks of large protests regardless of their political content and then separately and in a different context expressing whatever views they might have about that content — they openly deny not only the possibility but even the desirability of detached professional advice. This kind of attitude inevitably makes it much harder for the public to assess scientific claims about the pandemic through anything other than a political lens.”
    • The Growing CHAZm in Seattle (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “It took activists less than 24 hours to discover that even their make-believe Duchy of Grand Fenwoke relies on the basic building blocks of any polity. If Seattle’s supine and sausage-spined political leadership allows this experiment to continue, pretty soon you can expect the emergence of currency, taxes, even some kind of charter or constitution. It wouldn’t shock me if they ended up creating rudimentary courts or even a jail.” Goldberg is an expert at the meandering rant. 
    • Anarchy In Seattle (Christopher Rufo, City Journal): “The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone has set a dangerous precedent: armed left-wing activists have asserted their dominance of the streets and established an alternative political authority over a large section of a neighborhood. They have claimed de facto police power over thousands of residents and dozens of businesses—completely outside of the democratic process. In a matter of days, Antifa-affiliated paramilitaries have created a hardened border, established a rudimentary form of government based on principles of intersectional representation, and forcibly removed unfriendly media from the territory.”
    • A Dark Cloud For Democracy (Carl Trueman, First Things): “…this does not entirely explain why Minneapolis and not Hong Kong has grabbed the imagination of British youth. After all, Hong Kong is a much more recent part of the British narrative; one can watch the dismantling of Hong Kong’s constitution online and on the television; and an extremely good case can be made that the British government is more responsible for that mess and its potential amelioration than for the chaos in the Minneapolis police department. After all, the British can actually do something about it—as Boris Johnson’s pledge on immigration to the U.K. from Hong Kong indicates. So why Minneapolis, not Hong Kong?”
    • If we want better policing, we’re going to have to spend more, not less (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “Reform is thus more likely to stick if we co-opt the unions rather than trying to break them. Instead of ‘defund the police,’ what if we offloaded the nonjudicial parts of their work, like dealing with the homeless and the mentally ill, to social workers, and then ‘stuffed their mouths with gold’ to reform the policing part? We could offer a significant salary boost in exchange for accepting stricter standards and oversight, which wouldn’t just ease the political obstacles, but possibly attract higher-quality candidates to the police force.”
    • Most Americans Want Police Reform But Don’t Back ‘Defund The Police’ (Ariel Edwards-Levy and Kevin Robillard, Huffington Post): “A near-universal majority of Americans support at least some changes to policing in the United States following the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. There is majority support for proposals circulating in Congress to ban chokeholds and make it easier to track and charge officers accused of misconduct. But the idea of ‘defunding the police’ has little support from the public.”
    • Police Brutality: The Ferguson Effect (Robert Verbruggen, National Review): “There’s a temptation in some quarters to think this issue is like gay marriage or marijuana legalization, where there’s a turning point in public opinion and a rapid shift in policy and then everyone wonders what the big deal ever was. See, for example, Tim Alberta’s piece in Politico today, which bizarrely claims we may be seeing the ‘last stand’ of law-and-order Republicans and draws those two parallels explicitly. But crime isn’t like that. When the streets become unsafe, public opinion shifts back in favor of the folks who stand between the innocents and the bad guys.”

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 253

Specific suggestions for police reform, various explainers and opinion pieces, and some weird news about TikTok and Christianity.

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. On the racial division in America:
    • How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change (Barack Obama, Medium): “Finally, the more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away. The content of that reform agenda will be different for various communities.” Emphasis in original.
    • Some specific policy proposals: “For those who are interested in research-based solutions to stop police violence, here’s what you need to know — based on the facts and data. A thread. (1/x)” (Samuel Sinyangwe, Twitter)
    • More specific policy proposals: How to Actually Fix America’s Police (Seth W. Stoughton, Jeffrey J. Noble & Geoffrey P. Alpert, The Atlantic): “‘Overcriminalization’ has been broadly discussed; there are so many laws that violations are ubiquitous. If everyone is a criminal, officers have almost unfettered discretion to pick and choose which laws to enforce and whom to stop, frisk, search, or arrest.” The authors have an interesting combination of expertise (a law prof, a criminology prof, and a former officer).
    • I Must Object: A Rebuttal to Brown Univ.’s Letter Decrying Pervasive Racism in US (Glenn C. Loury, City Journal): “I deeply resented the letter. First of all, what makes an administrator (even a highly paid one, with an exalted title) a ‘leader’ of this university? We, the faculty, are the only ‘leaders’ worthy of mention when it comes to the realm of ideas. Who cares what some paper-pushing apparatchik thinks? It’s all a bit creepy and unsettling. Why must this university’s senior administration declare, on behalf of the institution as a whole and with one voice, that they unanimously—without any subtle differences of emphasis or nuance—interpret contentious current events through a single lens?” Loury, who is black, is an econ professor at Brown. He did not come to play.
    • Efrem Smith: White Evangelicals Need to Humble Themselves (Bob Smietana, Christianity Today): “I’ve been encouraged, especially in the evangelical wing of the church, to see more pastors speaking out, being brokenhearted, calling for change. But then there’s also a significant segment of evangelicalism that is either silent or late to the party when it comes to the church calling for justice.”
    • A Nation on Fire Needs the Flames of the Spirit (Esau McCaulley, Christianity Today): “There is no other world in which to talk about Jesus than a world in which black men can have their necks stepped on for nine minutes.” The author is an Anglican priest and a professor of New Testament at Wheaton. 
    • Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LA Times): “…even though we do all the conventional things to raise public and political awareness — write articulate and insightful pieces in the Atlantic, explain the continued devastation on CNN, support candidates who promise change — the needle hardly budges.”
    • On Days of Disorder (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “Notice that this schema is value neutral: it describes both the football hooligan and the race rioter, 19th century Russian pogroms and 21st century Hong Kong street battles. In all of these a certain percentage of the participants plays the game for fairly mundane reasons: to revel in excitement or terror, lose themselves in a rare sense of solidarity, belonging, or power, or to simply gain the monetary rewards that come with theft and looting. The proportion of the population willing to join a riot to attain these things likely reflects the proportion of the population otherwise cut off from them in normal times. Few rioters are married men who must be at work at 8:00 AM the next morning.” This was quite good. Recommended.
    • Simplicity Is The Enemy & Bad Apples (Jonathan Last, The Bulwark): “What’s happening in America right now is large and complicated. We have a series of problems, some of which overlap, some of which do not. And attempts to solve them have, historically, been stymied by conflating them and believing that they are simple and connected.”
  2. On the pandemic:
    • The Treason of Epidemiologists (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “The simple fact is that whatever legislation we’re going to get, we’d still get if the protests stopped this morning. In fact, a reasonable person would conclude we’d be more likely to get it if they stopped now, because the more these things go on, the more opposition and resentment will grow.” 
    • Related: “A thread about how protesting during a pandemic was described when conservatives were doing it” (Matt Walsh, Twitter)
    • Surgisphere: governments and WHO changed Covid-19 policy based on suspect data from tiny US company (Melissa Davey, Stephanie Kirchgaessner & Sarah Boseley, The Guardian): “The World Health Organization and a number of national governments have changed their Covid-19 policies and treatments on the basis of flawed data from a little-known US healthcare analytics company, also calling into question the integrity of key studies published in some of the world’s most prestigious medical journals. A Guardian investigation can reveal the US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees appear to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has provided data for multiple studies on Covid-19 co-authored by its chief executive, but has so far failed to adequately explain its data or methodology.” This is actually nuts.
    • The C.D.C. Waited ‘Its Entire Existence for This Moment.’ What Went Wrong? (Eric Lipton, Abby Goodnough, Michael D. Shear, Megan Twohey, Apoorva Mandavilli,Sheri Fink & Mark Walker, New York Times): “…the C.D.C. is risk-averse, perfectionist and ill suited to improvising in a quickly evolving crisis — particularly one that shuts down the country and paralyzes the economy.”
  3. The Museum of the Bible is winning over some of its biggest critics: Jewish scholars (Menachem Wecker, Washington Post): “Mintz believes Jewish scholars who denounced evangelical tones in the museum may have done so because they don’t see eye-to-eye with its politically conservative owners. But, she notes, the museum itself caters to Jews. She cites a time when it arranged kosher food for an event in which her husband, an Orthodox rabbi, participated. ‘They were just nice about it,’ she says.”
  4. Christian TikTok videos are censored and deleted in the US, creators say (Liza Vandenboom, Religion Unplugged): “Christian content is often censored and removed from TikTok, according to several creators on the platform. The China-based social media app hosts short, snippy videos ranging from inspirational mini-speeches to musical and dance performances and is popular with teenagers and young adults. The platform reports over 800 million active users, with 30 million active users in the U.S. Researchers have grown concerned over the app’s reach and the possibility of it bringing Chinese-style censorship to mainstream U.S. audiences.” 
  5. Technocracy Is Impossible (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “Leaders should pay attention to scientists, dramatically more than the current Presidential administration does, but an immunologist will say one thing, an epidemiologist something slightly different, an economist something altogether other. The various sciences and academic disciplines will not speak with a single voice, indeed will not speak at all: individual scholars will speak, and what they say will arise from a combination of their scholarly expertise and their beliefs (derived from non-scientific sources) about what matters most in life, and a good political leader will have the general intelligence and moral discernment to sift the various messages he or she receives and make a decision based on all the relevant input.”
  6. There was a fight at the New York Times this week. I’m not actually that interested in the op-ed that provoked it, but I am quite interested in how the fight is playing out. The New York Times occupies a special place in the American media ecosystem and fights like this illuminate some of what is happening beneath the surface.

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.

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.