Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 367

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

This is the 367th installment, notable because 367 is a prime number and also the largest number whose square is composed of strictly increasing digits: 3672 = 134689.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Socialism, Nationalism, and Tolkien (Alec Dent, The Dispatch): “In our time of unprecedented wealth and safety, the once-defeated foe of illiberalism has made a reappearence.… due largely to a lack of appreciation for how good we have things right now, a lack of understanding of how we got here, and a lack of understanding of how a radical overhaul of society would alter the world as we know it.”
  2. The Despotism of Isaias Afewerki (Alex de Waal, The Baffler): “…fighters protested the decision that they should continue to serve without pay for two more years. A group of disabled veterans marched—there’s no verb that conveys the determined collective motion of their wheelchairs, artificial limbs, and sticks—towards the capital to demand their pensions. They were shot at with live ammunition. Some were killed, others were arrested and disappeared.”
    • I’d heard before that Eritrea was worse than North Korea in some ways, but this article really drove it home. Wow.
  3. Why People Are Losing Faith In Public Institutions (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “…if you relied on the Post to tell you about the world you actually live in, it would not have occurred to you that there is any other side to the library story than the virtuous pink-haired queer librarian and her allies versus the mob of bigots. If you are on the Left, isn’t it in your interest to understand why people are so upset, even if you don’t agree with them? Isn’t it in your interest to at least think about why the people of a town would rather defund their library rather than see it used in this way?”
    • This one is wild and Dreher, as they say, has the receipts.
  4. Can an Atheist Be a Moral Realist? (J. Budziszewski, personal blog): “…I can’t see how you can be an atheist and a moral realist at the same time. It is like eating a cake and still having it. If naturalism is true, then aren’t we just meat bags full of water with no dignity? My friend says I am caricaturing his position. Am I missing something, or is he?”
    • This is well argued. The author is a professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas.
  5. Trump should fill Christians with rage. How come he doesn’t? (Michael Gerson, Washington Post): “I know that people inspired by [Jesus] have done great things in the past — building hospitals for the poor, improving the rights of women and children, militating against slavery, caring for the mentally disabled, working for a merciful welfare state, fighting prejudice, improving global health. But precisely because these things have happened, it is difficult for me to comprehend why so many American evangelicals have rejected the splendor and romance of their calling and settled for the cultural and political resentments of the hard right.”
    • Long and a bit rambly, nonetheless interesting.
  6. Publishing needs JK Rowling to be a monster (Victoria Smith, The Critic Magazine): “The trouble with JK Rowling is that she has done nothing wrong. Back in 2020, she wrote a carefully worded, compassionate piece about sex and gender.… This is a situation in which the punishment has created the crime and it’s one that is needed by members of the publishing industry who have spent years embracing the arguments of the most extreme trans activists while ignoring those of feminists. They need Rowling to be a monster. Otherwise they might have to respond, not just to what Rowling has written, but to the realities of the movement to which they have pledged allegiance.”
  7. Died: Queen Elizabeth II, British Monarch Who Put Her Trust in God (Dudley Delffs, Christianity Today): “The Queen’s love of the Bible and its gospel message led to her participation in the publication of a special book to commemorate her 90th birthday. Titled The Servant Queen and the King She Serves.… Her Majesty personally wrote the foreword, thanking readers for their prayers and good wishes. ‘I have been—and remain—very grateful to … God for His steadfast love. I have indeed seen His faithfulness,’ she wrote. The book was distributed to thousands of churches across the UK and throughout many Commonwealth countries prior to the Queen’s birthday in 2016. The book proved so popular that the Bible Society had to print another 150,000 copies to meet demand.”

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 Big Data+Small Bias « Small Data+Zero Bias (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Suppose you want to estimate who will win the 2016 US Presidential election. You ask 2.3 million potential voters whether they are likely to vote for Trump or not. The sample is in all ways demographically representative of the US voting population but potential Trump voters are a tiny bit less likely to answer the question, just .001 less likely to answer (note they don’t lie, they just don’t answer).” I was stunned. From volume 234.

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 364

a mix of links more rarified and more spicy than normal

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

This, the 364th installment, can also be expressed as the sum of consecutive primes: 11 + 13 + 17 + 19 + 23 + 29 + 31 + 37 + 41 + 43 + 47 + 53

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. One Manner of Law (Marilynne Robinson, Harpers): “Almost fifty years ago, I learned by pure accident that a code of law was drawn up in Massachusetts in 1641 that substantially anticipated the Bill of Rights. I happened to read a letter to the editor in the New York Times that mentioned the Massachusetts Body of Liberties. I had a PhD by then and was supposedly an Americanist by training, yet I was learning of this for the first time. When I finally read these laws, I wondered why the narrative of American history did not begin with them.”
  2. The Girls Who Resisted Boko Haram (Jonathon Van Maren, First Things): “While the world demanded their return, the captive girls were under relentless pressure to convert to Islam and marry militants chosen for them. They were threatened with beheading or brutal slavery if they refused. Many of the girls, paralyzed with fear, succumbed. Others buckled under the brainwashing of a militant assigned to inculcate them into the doctrines of Islam. He forced the ‘daughters of infidels’ to take hours-long classes in which they memorized the Quran. The girls were told that if they married, they would receive homes, slaves, and honor. In secret, the girls shared Bible passages and prayed fervently together for strength and rescue. They sang hymns into their hands and cups of water to stifle the sound.”
  3. Why I Left Academia (Since You’re Wondering) (William Deresiewicz, Quillette): “…it wasn’t so much that I wanted to be treated differently than everybody as that I wanted everybody to be treated differently. I wanted the rules to change; I played by the ones that I thought we should have. I insisted on behaving as if I existed in an environment that valued teaching as much as scholarship and intellectualism as much as specialization. Where opening the eyes of a hundred undergraduates was worth as much as supervising one more dissertation, and publishing an essay in a periodical that’s read by tens of thousands was as valuable as adding one more item to the pile of disregarded studies.” This is quite good, more relevant to the humanities than to the sciences. 
  4. I Didn’t Want It to Be True, but the Medium Really Is the Message (Ezra Klein, New York Times): “Americans are capitalists, and we believe nothing if not that if a choice is freely made, that grants it a presumption against critique. That is one reason it’s so hard to talk about how we are changed by the mediums we use. That conversation, on some level, demands value judgments. This was on my mind recently, when I heard Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist who’s been collecting data on how social media harms teenagers, say, bluntly, ‘People talk about how to tweak it — oh, let’s hide the like counters. Well, Instagram tried — but let me say this very clearly: There is no way, no tweak, no architectural change that will make it OK for teenage girls to post photos of themselves, while they’re going through puberty, for strangers or others to rate publicly.’ ”
    • Related: When Bots Write Your Love Story (Samuel D. James, Substack): “That machines are telling us particular stories about our world is one of the main reasons I keep coming back time and again to digital culture, epistemology, and theology. Our default posture toward the Internet is still, to this day, a posture of intuitive belief: to genuinely accept that what we see on the screen is a piece of ‘real life,’ representative of someone who is really somewhere. And in many cases, of course, this is more or less true. But there are also very real cases where the intensity or the vividness of what we see online is disproportionate to its weight or validity outside.”
    • Related: Speech Without Accountability: Reckoning with Anonymous Christian Trolls (Patrick Miller, Mere Orthodoxy): “…there is at least one clear analog to anon speech in the Bible that I have not yet touched on: the speech of the serpent in Eden. He was the first character in Genesis to conceal his identity in order to critique a person—God himself. The first anon words in human history set human history on fire.”
      • This piece is far too long, rambles needlessly, and at one point says something I think very silly. Nonetheless, I read to the end with interest. The best parts were the reflections on anonymous/disguised speech in the Bible.
    • Related: The Seat of Mockers (Brian Mattson, Substack): “The defenders and practitioners of smash-mouth incendiary rhetoric insist that we must do this so as to adequately combat the world and the infiltration of worldliness into the church. It seems to me that in reality, it is the world and the infiltration of worldliness into the church.” This is quite good, and I found it by following a link in the preceding point.
  5. Some links related to the ongoing sexual revolution, mostly critical:
    • Christians Volunteering Pronouns? (Andrew T. Walker, American Reformer): “We should name the pronoun issue for what it is: A language game. Language is about naming reality. Pronouns of any sort are instruments that individuals use to wield power. Pronouns possess power only because the culture we live in deems one’s chosen individual identity to be absolutely central to who one is. Pronouns serve the subjective self, so if one rejects another’s chosen pronouns, it is doubtlessly interpreted as rejecting the person’s attempt at self-description and self-autonomy. That’s what this is all fundamentally about—creating a private field of reality defined by the wishes and fantasies of individuals who know they can provoke submission for fear of cancellation. We should be clear-eyed about this and refuse to go along with it.”
    • Zoophilia: The Last Taboo Will Fall (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Seriously, how do you stop legalizing zoophilia, especially in a popular culture in which internal barriers within the masses will have been broken down by widespread hardcore pornography? ‘What does my neighbor’s habit of being cornholed by his German shepherd have to do with my marriage?’ say the nitwit libertarians. ‘Animals can’t consent!’ squeal the nitwit liberals, though I hope they have the sense not to say so with their mouth full of ham.”
      • This is a well-documented piece and the updates at the end are very much worth reading, especially the Scalia quote.
    • I Regret Being A Slut (Bridget Phetasy, Substack): “I know regretting most of my sexual encounters is not something a sex-positive feminist who used to write a column for Playboy is supposed to admit. And for years, I didn’t. Let me be clear, being a ‘slut’ and sleeping with a lot of men is not the only behavior I regret. Even more damaging was what I told myself in order to justify the fact that I was disposable to these men: I told myself I didn’t care. I didn’t care when a man ghosted me. I didn’t care when he left in the middle of the night or hinted that he wanted me to leave. The walks of shame. The blackouts. The anxiety. The lie I told myself for decades was: I’m not in pain—I’m empowered. Looking back, it isn’t a surprise that I lied to myself. Because from a young age, sex was something I was lied to about.” This is in no way a Christian article — but it is interesting.
    • Monkeypox And The Face Of Gay Promiscuity (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I remember being told by the media that gay men were vastly more promiscuous than straight men because society compelled them to be. Normalize homosexuality and grant same-sex marriage, and that would change. I never believed it because I knew perfectly well that gay men were insanely promiscuous not because they were gay, but because they were men. An ordinary male unrestrained by religious or moral scruple, and faced with a wide variety of willing partners who demand no emotional commitment, or even to know one’s name, before having sex — that man will likely behave exactly as most gay men do.”
      • WARNING — the picture in the link is jarring. The comments at the end are quite interesting and not at all what most observers would expect — Dreher really does appreciate his audience even when they disagree with him.
  6. ‘Disturbing’: Experts troubled by Canada’s euthanasia laws (Maria Cheng, Washington Post): “Canada prides itself on being liberal and accepting, said David Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Britain, ‘but what’s happening with euthanasia suggests there may be a darker side.’”
  7. As India marks its first 75 years, Gandhi is downplayed, even derided (Gerry Shih, Washington Post): “Today, at rallies of Hindu nationalist hard-liners, Gandhi is routinely vilified as feeble in his tactics against the British and overly conciliatory to India’s Muslims, who broke off and formed their own state, Pakistan, on Aug. 14, 1947. On social media and online forums, exaggerations and falsehoods abound about Gandhi’s alleged betrayal of Hindus. And in popular films and the political mainstream, Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru — the first prime minister — are sidelined, while nationalists who advocated the force of arms have been elevated.”

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  Having Kids (Paul Graham, personal blog): “I remember perfectly well what life was like before. Well enough to miss some things a lot, like the ability to take off for some other country at a moment’s notice. That was so great. Why did I never do that? See what I did there? The fact is, most of the freedom I had before kids, I never used. I paid for it in loneliness, but I never used it.” First shared in volume 233.

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 363

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

This is number 363, which can be represented as 31 + 3+ 3+ 3+ 35

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Why aren’t smart people happier? (Adam Mastroianni, Substack): “My grandma does not know how to use the ‘input’ button on her TV’s remote control, but she does know how to raise a family full of good people who love each other, how to carry on through a tragedy, and how to make the perfect pumpkin pie.… Excluding this kind of intelligence from our definitions doesn’t just hurt our grandmas—it hurts us too. If you don’t value the ability to solve poorly defined problems, you’ll never get more of it. You won’t seek out people who have that ability and try to learn from them, nor will you listen to them when they have something important to say. You’ll spend your whole life trying to solve problems with cleverness when what you really need is wisdom.”
  2. New York City’s Largest Evangelical Church Plans Billion-Dollar Development (Emily Belz, Christianity Today): “On 10.5 acres of church land, the proposed village would include thousands of units of affordable housing, a trade school, a supermarket, a performing arts center, 24/7 childcare for night-shift workers, senior living facilities, and other amenities designed to revitalize the East New York neighborhood.”
    • But I thought churches were leeches on society exploiting their tax-exempt status without helping their communities! I’m sure someone told me that once. 
  3. When mixing faith with furries, things can get hairy (Riley Farrell, Religion News Service): “…Christians in the furry community are cautious about who knows about both their furry and faithful selves. Christian furries interviewed for this story, including leaders of the group that calls itself the Christian Furry Fellowship, asked to be anonymous, fearing ‘doxxing’ from within the largely secular furry community for their Christian identity and ostracization from their professional lives for their furry hobby.”
    • This was by far the most unexpected article I read this week. There’s a lot happening here. I draw your attention to my disclaimers.
  4. Fact-Checking Randall Balmer’s Urban Legend on the Real Origin of the Religious Right (Jonathan Whitehead, The Gospel Coalition): “By the early 1970s, Evangelicals, Catholics, and other religious voters had discovered that politics would not leave them alone. Then their concerns about abortion, government overreach in schools, secular humanism at the FCC, and an unresponsive ‘born again’ President all merged into a single outlet, creating a torrent of Republican voters in 1978 and beyond.”
    • I posted a debunking of this claim a while ago, but this one is quite good. And the claim gets repeated enough in certain circles that debunkings should be repeated as well.
  5. There Is a Secular Case for Life (David French, The Dispatch): “Amidst a squadron of religious conservative lawyers, there was a single atheist progressive. He was bearded, disheveled, and quiet, but when he spoke everyone fell silent. Everyone leaned forward to hear what he had to say. His name was Nat Hentoff. He was a writer for the Village Voice; he’d published in Playboy. He was a progressive civil libertarian. He was also one of the most persuasive pro-life voices in the land.”
  6. Yearning for a Banana Republic (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “When serious people talk seriously about changing a regime, they’re talking about changing the system of government. Regime change in Iraq meant getting rid of a totalitarian, terroristic dictatorship, not simply replacing Saddam Hussein with a more pliable and cooperative tyrant. America’s regime isn’t on any ballot. Symbolically, it is the ballot. More properly, it is the constitutional system that requires our leaders to be elected.”
    • This is straight fire. Not especially partisan but definitely political. Goldberg is a tremendous wordsmith.
  7. 1st synthetic mouse embryos — complete with beating hearts and brains — created with no sperm, eggs or womb (Nicoletta Lanese, Live Science): “To achieve this feat, the researchers used only stem cells and a spinning device filled with shiny glass vials.”
    • The title is, I think, poorly worded. These are not embryos assembled from raw materials; rather, the researchers successfully morphed a stem cell into an embryo. Which is also amazing!

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  Evangelicalism’s Silent Majority (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “One of my big takeaways from reporting on evangelical communities is that, contrary to some stereotypes, evangelicals are some of the most globally minded people in America. They donate to charities that do extensive aid work overseas. They’re exposed to other countries through mission work or humanitarian trips.” First shared in volume 232. (sadly, this is paywalled)

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 362

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.

362 feels like a number that should have lots of factors, but it’s only got the prime factors 2 and 181.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Exploring AI-Assisted Bible Study (John Dyer, personal blog): “I prompted GPT‑3 to generate text for each chapter in the Bible in each category. For example, the prompt to generate a prayer was: “Write 5 prayers inspired by John 3 in the Bible. Remember that the events described here are in the past. First include a short observation or lesson for each prayer, and then write a personal prayer related to the lesson.”  I reviewed the generated text to avoid (or at least minimize) unhelpful or heretical content. I accepted about 90% of GPT‑3’s suggestions on its first pass and regenerated the rest until it gave me something useful. It cost about $150 over six weeks to generate this content, which consists of 71,062 generations and 1.1 million words.”
    • This is the same guy who generated the AI Bible artwork I shared recently (these and other experiments of his are available at http://www.openbible.info/labs/).
  2. What an Overly Pessimistic View of America Gets Wrong (Yascha Mounk interviewing Eboo Patel, Persuasion): “If every institution founded by a faith community in your city disappeared overnight, preschools, hospitals, and universities would be gone. YMCAs would be gone, places where AA groups meet would be gone. Half of your social services would probably be gone. It feels to me that religious identity diversity should be at the center of our national conversation, and I’m curious as to why it’s not.” This conversation is full of wisdom and I highly recommend it.
  3. People Are Dating All Wrong, According to Data Science (Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Wired): “Good romantic partners are difficult to predict with data. Desired romantic partners are easy to predict with data. And that suggests that many of us are dating all wrong.”
    • From later in the article: “…how a person answered questions about themselves was roughly four times more predictive of their relationship happiness than all the traits of their romantic partner combined.”
  4. A Crucial Court Case Exposes the Darkness of America’s Worst Industry (David French, The Dispatch): “If someone wanted to create a system that was designed to facilitate the distribution of child pornography, videos of rape and other kinds of abuse, or revenge porn, it would be hard to construct a more efficient system than MindGeek’s. And the sheer amount of MindGeek’s traffic and the volume of the downloads demonstrates that Pornhub and other sites are injecting poison into American life at an industrial scale.”
    • A student recommended this piece from a month ago in addition to the above: The Fight to Hold Pornhub Accountable (Sheelah Kolhatkar, The New Yorker): “Pschorr was surprised by the lack of regulation in the U.S. ‘It was always interesting for me as a German to see that, in the U.S., you’d get I.D.’d if you went to a bar, and if you’re not twenty-one you get in big trouble,’ he said. ‘But if you want to consume porn all you have to do is click ‘Yes, I’m 18,’ and you’re in the realm of dirt.’ ” I found this article interesting because it portrays Christians both favorably and unfavorably in short order.
  5. How Did a Two-Time Killer Get Out to Be Charged Again at Age 83? (Rebecca Davis O’Brien & Ali Watkins, New York Times): “A homeless shelter worker and people close to Ms. Leyden questioned whether, despite her gender identity, Ms. Harvey should have been placed in a homeless shelter for women, given her history of attacking and murdering them.” Read that sentence slowly. Wow. And the last eight paragraphs are jaw dropping.
  6. A large new study offers clues about how lower-income children can rise up the economic ladder. (David Leonhardt, New York Times): “Churches and other religious organizations may have some lessons to teach other parts of society. Although many churches are socioeconomically homogeneous, those with some diversity tend to foster more cross-class interactions than most other social activities. Churchs [sic] have lower levels of what the researchers call socioeconomic ‘friending bias.’ ”
    • Sadly there isn’t more info on the religious dynamic, even though this section of the newsletter is called “How Churches Shine”
    • Although this is a NYT piece, it is not paywalled because it is from their morning newsletter.
  7. Nondenominational Churches Are Adding Millions of Members. Where Are They Coming From? (Ryan P. Burge, Christianity Today): “What is driving the growth of nondenominational churches? While in the past it resulted from a significant portion of individuals leaving a mainline tradition, now it looks like nondenominational congregations are increasing by taking in people who were raised Catholic—which is about a quarter of the general population.”

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 Isn’t the ‘Merit,’ It’s the ‘Ocracy’ (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “The American system of government was built on the assumption that the most salient political divides would reflect geography, not ideology or class. The senator from Massachusetts would share bonds in common with the lay citizenry of Boston that he did not share with a senator from South Carolina. On the national sphere this would allow him to represent the interests of his constituents as if they were his own. This has proven more true at some times in American history than others; yet because of the way American politicians are elected, this sense of representing the interests of a geographically bounded group of people is more true in the political arena than in most others.” First shared in volume 232

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 361

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

This is volume 361, which is also the number of intersections on a Go board.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Actually Good AI-Generated Bible Art with DALL·E 2 (John Dyer, personal blog): “The GPT‑3 prompts I used evolved over time, but this one is emblematic: Suggest 5 unique concept ideas for a work of visual art inspired by Luke 14:7–11 (do not pick the place of honor) in the Bible. Include art direction and a specific medium and artist to emulate. Include artists from a variety of eras, styles, and media. Try for an unusual perspective. Title, year, medium. Description.”
    • Some of these are stunning. Recommended.
  2. Religion Is Dying? Don’t Believe It (Byron R. Johnson & Jeff Levin, Wall Street Journal): “Data from five recent U.S. population surveys point to the vibrancy, ubiquity and growth of religion in the U.S. Americans are becoming more religious, and religious institutions are thriving. Consistent with some previous studies but contrary to widely held assumptions, many people who report no religious affiliation—and even many self-identified atheists and agnostics—exhibit substantial levels of religious practice and belief.”
    • The authors are professors of social science and epidemiology, respectively. I one hundred percent believe this report. The so-called “rise of the nones” is mostly the result of confirmation bias by secular academics and journalists who find religiously committed people annoying.
    • This WSJ article (which I think is paywalled) is based on the freely available scholarly article: Are Religious “Nones” Really Not Religious?: Revisiting Glenn, Three Decades Later (Levin et al, Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion): “The use of words and phrases such as none, no religion, and not religious to describe this group of unaffiliated individuals is thus inappropriate, inaccurate, and misleading.”
  3. Which Sins Are Feeding Your Sin of Lust? (David Powlison, Crossway): “Tom concentrated all his attention on one marquee sin that surfaced sporadically, defining and energizing all his guilty feelings. But that narrowing of attention served to mask far more serious, pervasive sins. As a pastor, friend, or other counselor, you don’t want to concentrate all your energies in the same place Tom did. There were other, deeper opportunities for grace and truth to rewrite the script of this man’s life.”
  4. A Media-Fueled Social Panic Over Unmarked Graves (Jonathan Kay, Quillette): “It’s now been 14 months since the original announcement was made about presumed graves in Kamloops, and no physical evidence has been unearthed. No graves. No corpses. No human remains.… I’ve been in journalism for a quarter century, and have witnessed plenty of bizarre controversies within my trade. But I’ve never witnessed anything similar to this phenomenon. It’s like one of those case-studies in mass hysteria and popular delusion that you read about in history books.”
    • This is not a claim that bad things didn’t happen. It’s more of a claim that the specific bad things that are alleged didn’t happen or that they didn’t happen on the scale widely reported.
  5. China related:
  6. NHS will SHUT its controversial Tavistock transgender clinic for children after damning report warned it was ‘not safe’ (John Ely and Laurence Dollimore, The Daily Mail): “It follows an announcement last month that every child treated for gender dysphoria in the last decade will have their medical records scrutinised to see if NHS care is causing them more harm than good.”
  7. Hot Takes Don’t Belong in Church (Chris Nye, Christianity Today): “So long as we are creating a palatable statement for social media or Sunday’s sermon, we are not praying, worshiping, or organizing ourselves for meaningful action. But in today’s culture, the appearance of morality is more important than moral actions, and speaking is more highly valued than praying.”
    • This is full of good points. Chris is an acquaintance of mine.

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 This Cultural Moment (podcast): I listened to this podcast about following Jesus in the post-Christian world upon the recommendation of some alumni and a student. It’s quite good. Definitely start with episode 1. First shared in volume 231.

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 356

from the week abortion fell

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

This is volume 356, which is a happy number (something I learned about only today). A happy number is a number whose digits when squared sum to 1 if the process is repeated long enough. 356 takes six iterations.

  1. 356 ==> 32+52+62 = 9+25+36 = 70.
  2. 70 ==> 72+02 = 49.
  3. 49 ==> 42+92 = 16+81 = 97.
  4. 97 ==> 92+72 = 81+49 = 130
  5. 130 ==> 12+32+02 = 1+9+0 = 10
  6. 10 ==> 12 + 02 = 1

I got way more into that than I expected.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The huge news today is that abortion is no longer a constitutional right in America. I expect deeper analyses to appear by next week — most columnists appear to be saving their big pieces for the Sunday papers. Send recommendations my way!
    • What changed from Justice Alito’s draft opinion to final ruling on Roe (Kelly Hooper, Politico): “…Alito did add to his original opinion, with a fierce rebuttal of the court’s liberal dissenters, plus a direct shot at Chief Justice John Roberts in the final text. Roberts was the only conservative justice on the court to side with its three liberals, making the final vote 5–4 in the decision to strike down Roe and give states the green light to ban abortion.”
    • Supreme Court overturns constitutional right to abortion (Amy Howe, SCOTUSblog): “Stare decisis, Alito stressed, ‘is not a straitjacket’ when a ruling is grievously incorrect.… Notably, the dissenters finished by noting only that they dissented, omitting the word ‘respectfully’ that commonly accompanies the dissent.”
      • A good summary of the opinion. The author used to teach at Stanford Law School. That last sentence is important.
    • From the right: The Land is Bright (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “Some desire to downplay this victory or even to lament the manner of it. We should not. Federal law in America once recognized a right to kill unborn children. Now it does not. Our feelings should be unambiguous: it is a great good that over half the states in our union are soon likely to have laws granting sweeping protections to the unborn. And we can just say that it is good.”
    • From the left: Which rights are next on the Supreme Court’s chopping block? (Ian Millhouser, Vox): “In any event, the future of rights other than abortion will likely need to be litigated. There is no doubt that Thomas would happily light many existing rights on fire. And there is little doubt that Alito, based on his Obergefell dissent, would also happily tear down same-sex marriage. But it takes five votes to strip away an existing constitutional right, and it remains to be seen whether Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — conservatives who sometimes break with Alito’s most aggressive attempts to drive the law to the right — will support mass rollbacks of existing rights.”
      • Millhouser is often hyperbolic and fails to read ideas he disagrees with fairly, but this is a pretty good summary.
    • From the right: The Supreme Court strikes down Roe and Casey (Albert Mohler, World): “…pro-life Americans have learned not to assume anything and to wait to see any decision in the black and white of plain text. Well, we have the plain text. It is explosive. It is earthshaking.… It is an answer to prayer.”
      • The author is a seminary president and also the president of the Evangelical Theological Society.
    • From the left: Getting Real About the Post-‘Roe’ World (Scott Lemieux, The American Prospect): “The theory went that Republican elites didn’t really want to overrule Roe, but were merely pretending to for the sake of pandering to their base. This narrative was always false; the survival of Roe was always a highly contingent fluke, the product of several mistakes by Republican presidents.”
    • From the right: The Long Battle to Overturn Roe (Ed Whelan, National Review): “There are at least two large reasons that the long battle to overturn Roe has succeeded. First, pro-lifers did not heed Casey’s command that they give up on working to defend the lives of unborn human beings, and they remained a powerful political force in the Republican party, all the more so as nearly all Democrats had abandoned the pro-life cause. Second, the conservative legal movement grew and flourished, thanks in large part to the Federalist Society and to Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas.”
    • From the left: Republicans Are Willing to Pay a Political Price to Ban Abortion. It’s Up to Democrats to Make Them Pay It. (Josh Barro, Substack): “After the draft decision leaked, Democrats brought a wish-list bill to the floor of both chambers that even pro-choice Republicans — even Sen. Susan Collins — were able to comfortably vote against on the grounds that it was too extreme, more expansive than Casey. Democrats need to break the agenda into pieces.… Unlike a catch-all bill, there are many individual ideas about protecting abortion rights that are very broadly popular — bringing them to the floor puts Republicans in the position of either voting for policies to protect abortion rights, or going home to defend votes that are actually hard to defend in election campaigns.”
      • Both parties should do this on a whole host of issues. Politics would change quickly if our leaders governed this way. Barro is right about the shrewd strategy, but I think it unlikely that his party will heed him.
  2. Made in America: Goods Exports by State (Raul Amoros, Visual Capitalist): “Texas has been the top exporting state in the U.S. for an incredible 20 years in a row. Last year, Texas exported $375 billion worth of goods, which is more than California ($175 billion), New York ($85 billion), and Louisiana ($77 billion) combined. The state’s largest manufacturing export category is petroleum and coal products, but it’s also important to mention that Texas led the nation in tech exports for the ninth straight year. California was the second highest exporter of goods in 2021 with a total value of $175 billion, an increase of 12% from the previous year.”
    • Surprises here, recommended by an alumnus. Emphasis in the original.
  3. Mike Pence and the Christian Conflict on January 6 (David French, The Dispatch): “A healthy national culture both condemns cowardice and honors valor, even when valor is simply part of the job. And we should do both with an immense measure of humility. How many of us have proven our own courage under similar circumstances? Pence faced threats to his family, threats to himself, threats to his power, and threats to the rest of his career. How many of us have prevailed in the face of such pressure?  To scorn courage in such circumstances further incentivizes cowardice. At least the cowardly retain their political power and their political home.”
  4. In Defense of Political Escalation (Abigail Shrier, Bari Weiss’ Substack): “If our ultimate goal is returning to a normalcy in which government agencies and corporations treat all Americans fairly regardless of viewpoint, how are we to achieve this? At a minimum, we must acknowledge that these institutions are already weaponized and their artillery points only in one direction: against the opponents of the left.”
    • To my knowledge Shrier is not religious and is in no way conservative, but she is articulating an argument that I see frequently on the right (most famously in the French/Ahmari dustup). It animates Trumpism and is one of the reasons DeSantis is so popular on the right and that American conservatives have such a fascination with Orban in Hungary.
  5. Pentecostals’ Political Warfare (Miguel Petrosky, The Revealer): “Issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, and even fears of creeping ‘Marxism,’ have long been of concern to some factions of American conservatism. But in parts of the Pentecostal and charismatic world, these issues contain cosmic implications for the country’s relationship with God. In the Hebrew Scriptures, each of Israel’s kings either ‘did what was right’ or ‘did what was evil’ in the eyes of God—with either blessings or curses for the kingdom. Since Pentecostals view themselves as being a continuation of the biblical narrative, they are certain God will judge America by the issues they view as straying from the Bible.”
  6. Leaked Audio From 80 Internal TikTok Meetings Shows That US User Data Has Been Repeatedly Accessed From China (Emily Baker-White, BuzzFeed News): “Lawmakers’ fear that the Chinese government will be able to get its hands on American data through ByteDance is rooted in the reality that Chinese companies are subject to the whims of the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party, which has been cracking down on its homegrown tech giants over the last year. The risk is that the government could force ByteDance to collect and turn over information as a form of ‘data espionage.’ There is, however, another concern: that the soft power of the Chinese government could impact how ByteDance executives direct their American counterparts to adjust the levers of TikTok’s powerful ‘For You’ algorithm, which recommends videos to its more than 1 billion users. Sen. Ted Cruz, for instance, has called TikTok ‘a Trojan horse the Chinese Communist Party can use to influence what Americans see, hear, and ultimately think.’ ”
  7. Quest to Conquer a Disease (Amy Lynn Smith, AG News): “Gibson met Hong as he ate lunch with another intern in the student union. Hong asked to join them, and afterward Gibson and Hong began meeting for tea or coffee every week. Gibson learned that Hong, the night before he introduced himself, had a dream in which a man encouraged Hong to meet people on campus. Hong later came to recognize the man in the dream as Jesus. A friendship developed between Hong and Gibson.”
    • This is about two of our alumni: Dan Gibson, who did his ministry training with Chi Alpha Stanford several years ago, and Guosong “Frank” Hong who did his PhD here and is now a professor.

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 How To Ask Your Mentors For Help (Derek Sivers): this is super‐short and very good. Excerpting it would ruin it. Read the whole thing. First shared in volume 224.

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 348

A reminder not to be cool plus other provocations.

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.

348 is the sum of four consecutive primes: 79 + 83 + 89 + 97 = 348.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”… And other stupid statements (C. Michael Patton, Credo House): “ ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.’ While this may seem like sound reasoning at first glance, it fails in significant ways. Try using this phrase and switch out the modifier. What if I said, ‘physical claims require physical evidence.’ Or what about this: ‘miraculous claims require miraculous evidence’? How about ‘canine claims require canine evidence’? Of course, you would see the fallacy right away. The equivocation creates an apparent profundity that misdirects our senses. In every case claims just need evidence.”
  2. In Praise of the Boring, Uncool Church (Brett McCracken, Gospel Coalition): “It seems almost every ‘leader of Christian cool’—whether a tattooed celebrity pastor or a buzzy nightclub church—flames out and loses its footing fairly quickly. Which is not at all surprising. By their very nature, things that are cool are ephemeral. What’s fashionable is, by the necessity of the rules of fashion, quickly obsolete. This is one of many reasons why chasing cool is a fool’s errand for churches and pastors…”
  3. Unexpected negative impacts of COVID:
    • Report: 26 Million Americans Stopped Reading the Bible Regularly During COVID-19 (Adam MacInnis, Christianity Today): “Plake thinks the dramatic change shows how closely Bible reading—even independent Bible reading—is connected to church attendance. When regular services were interrupted by the pandemic and related health mandates, it impacted not just the corporate bodies of believers but also individuals at home.”
    • Researchers: COVID-19, Israel-Gaza war fueled antisemitism (Laurie Kellman, AP News): “The study compiled data from 22 countries. French authorities, for instance, reported a 36% jump in antisemitic incidents involving physical violence, from 44 to 60. The United Kingdom saw a 78% jump in incidents of assault, from 97 to 173. The number of antisemitic incidents in Canada rose 54%, from 173 to 266, the report said.… [In America] The Anti-Defamation League counted 2,717 antisemitic incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism in 2021, a 34% increase over the previous year. It was the highest number since the New York City-based group began tracking such incidents in 1979.”
  4. Red Flags for Faith-Based Liberty in Hong Kong (Susan Crabtree, Real Clear Politics): “Under President Xi Jinping, all religions have faced persecution.… For several years, the Christian church in Hong Kong was largely spared. But recent actions taken against Hong Kong’s Christian churches are chipping away at the religious freedom the city has enjoyed since the British established it as a colony in the early 1840s.”
  5. Tips From the Top: Do the Best Performers Really Give the Best Advice? (David E. Levari, Daniel T. Gilbert & Timothy D. Wilson, Psychological Science): “Although advice from the best-performing advisors was no more beneficial than advice from other advisors, participants believed that it had been—and they believed this despite the fact that they were told nothing about their advisors’ performance. Why? The best performers did not give better advice, but they did give more of it, and participants apparently mistook quantity for quality.” The researchers are at Harvard and UVA. I did not read the article itself because I found the abstract instantly plausible.
  6. John Adams’ Fear Has Come to Pass (David French, The Dispatch): “…the most polarized Americans are disproportionately white and college-educated on the left and disproportionately white and retired on the right. The people disproportionately driving polarization in the United States are not oppressed minorities, but rather some of the most powerful, most privileged, wealthiest people who’ve ever lived. They enjoy more freedom and opportunity than virtually any prior generation of humans, all while living under the protective umbrella of the most powerful military in the history of the planet.” Recommended by a student.
  7. A Political Scientist on Ukraine (Mike Mazarr, Twitter): “Very struck by recent analysis + reporting that highlights a risk–highly uncertain but not so far widely discussed–of a significant escalation of the Ukraine war in coming weeks. What it means, and what it implies for US policy, are not at all clear.”

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 346

strong articles this week — more recommended than normal

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

This, volume 346, is the 5th Franel number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Spiritually uplifting:
    • Fire Upon The Earth (Charles Chaput, First Things): “Too many people who claim to be Christian simply don’t know Jesus Christ. They don’t really believe in the gospel. They feel embarrassed by their religion and out of step with the times. They may keep their religion for its comfort value, or adjust it to fit their doubts. It doesn’t reshape their lives, because it isn’t real. And because it isn’t real, it has no transforming effect on their behavior, no social force, and few public consequences. Their faith, whatever it once was, is now dead.” THIS IS STRAIGHT FIRE. The excerpt does not do it justice.
    • The Man On The Middle Cross (Alistair Begg, YouTube): one and a half minutes.
    • It’s Friday… But Sunday’s a Coming! (YouTube): three and a half minutes
  2. Recalled Experiences Surrounding Death: More Than Hallucinations? (Neuroscience News): “The recalled experiences surrounding death are not consistent with hallucinations, illusions or psychedelic drug induced experiences, according to several previously published studies. Instead, they follow a specific narrative arc involving a perception of: (a) separation from the body with a heightened, vast sense of consciousness and recognition of death; (b) travel to a destination; © a meaningful and purposeful review of life, involving a critical analysis of all actions, intentions and thoughts towards others; a perception of (d) being in a place that feels like “home”, and (e) a return back to life.” The original research: https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nyas.14740
  3. Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid (Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic): “The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.” This is quite good. Haidt is a social psychologist at NYU and is someone who seems to be faith-adjacent: he’s near Christianity but not there yet.
  4. LGBTQ related
    • What I wish I’d known when I was 19 and had sex reassignment surgery (Corinna Cohn, Washington Post): “Surgery unshackled me from my body’s urges, but the destruction of my gonads introduced a different type of bondage. From the day of my surgery, I became a medical patient and will remain one for the rest of my life.” I am impressed that the Washington Post published this op-ed.
    • How to Make Sense of the New L.G.B.T.Q. Culture War (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “If conservatives had predicted just before Obergefell v. Hodges that soon a fifth of young adults would identify as L.G.B.T.Q., prominent voices would deploy terms like ‘pregnant person’ and ‘menstruator’ in place of ‘woman,’ and natal males would be winning women’s track and swimming competitions, they would have been treated as hysterics.” This is a strong essay. Highly recommended and worth using up one of your paywall accesses.
    • Victory: Shawnee State agrees professors can’t be forced to speak contrary to their beliefs (Alliance Defending Freedom): “As part of the settlement, the university has agreed that Meriwether has the right to choose when to use, or avoid using, titles or pronouns when referring to or addressing students. Significantly, the university agreed Meriwether will never be mandated to use pronouns, including if a student requests pronouns that conflict with his or her biological sex.” In addition, “the university agreed to pay $400,000 in damages and Meriwether’s attorneys’ fees.”
  5. Pandemic related
    • The Accuracy of Authorities (Robin Hanson, blog): “The best estimates of a maximally accurate source would be very frequently updated and follow a random walk, which implies a large amount of backtracking. And authoritative sources like WHO are often said to be our most accurate sources. Even so, such sources do not tend to act this way. They instead update their estimates rarely, and are especially reluctant to issue estimates that seem to backtrack. Why?” There is solid wisdom in this post.
    • Faith, Science, and Francis Collins (Dhruv Khullar, New Yorker): “In May, 2021, after helping to lead the federal pandemic response for more than a year, during which he woke up most mornings at four-thirty, Collins escaped for a weekend to a rented barn in Loudoun County, Virginia. He brought his guitar and a Bible that he has had for decades; horses and goats kept him company. Collins gazed out at the blue sky and rolling hills. He wrote, prayed, and ultimately decided to leave his post as the director of the N.I.H. Collins told me that he prays not to ask God to change his circumstances, but to ask God what he himself should do.”
    • A Warning From Shanghai (Jay Battacharya, Bari Weiss’s Substack): “Yet the soul searching [of the attack on me and other researchers] should have caused among public health officials has largely failed to occur. Instead, the lesson seems to be: Dissent at your own risk. I do not practice medicine—I am a professor specializing in epidemiology and health policy at Stanford Medical School. But many friends who do practice have told me how they have censored their thoughts about Covid lockdowns, vaccines, and recommended treatment to avoid the mob.”
  6. The Law that Banned Everything (Richard Hanania, Substack): “If everything is potentially illegal, and government does not have the resources to go after everything, then the government basically has arbitrary power to do whatever it wants under civil rights law.” This was an absolutely fascinating interview. The interviewee is a law professor at the University of San Diego.
  7. A primer on the Stanford budget (Tim Mackenzie, Stanford Daily) “… this year’s operating budget says ‘the buffers serve as a financial reserve in the event of an earthquake or other disaster.’ In other words, Stanford has nearly $4 billion in a rainy-day fund. In the 2019–2020 budget, the last pre-COVID budget, Tier I and Tier II Buffers stood at $1.4 billion and $1.0 billion, respectively. The buffers actually grew by more than a billion dollars during the ongoing pandemic. Meanwhile, hundreds of workers were laid off and subcontracted workers went months without promised pay. Apparently, a global pandemic does not reach the threshold of ‘earthquake or other disaster’ required to utilize financial reserves to resist changes in university operations when challenged with market uncertainty.” Recommended by a student.

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 For the classic selection next week: Against Against Billionaire Philanthropy (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “I worry the movement against billionaire charity is on track to damage charity a whole lot more than it damages billionaires.” This is a very interesting essay, and he has a follow‐up, Highlights From The Comments on Billionaire Philanthropy, which thoughtfully responds to criticisms. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 213.

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 339

some of these links are quite spicy — consume with care

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

This is volume 339, which is 3 · 113. I like numbers with only two factors (technically four, but you know what I mean — two interesting factors). They’re the silver medalists of the prime olympics. They almost made it, but no.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Women’s Tears Win in the Marketplace of Ideas (Richard Hanania, Substack): “…the ways in which public debate works when we take steps to make the most emotional and aggressive women comfortable have been overlooked. Things that we talk about as involving ‘young people,’ ‘college students,’ and ‘liberals’ are often gendered issues.” Long, provocative, and worth your time.
  2. The Canadian truckers:
    • Reality Honks Back (NS Lyons, Substack): “For our purposes here, let’s call these two classes the Physicals and the Virtuals, respectively.… That Trudeau’s government would choose to jettison any remaining illusion of Canada still being a liberal democracy just to harm their political class enemies isn’t too surprising. It’s their method of doing so that is particularly striking: control over digital financial assets is pretty much the ultimate leverage now available to the Virtuals. We should expect more use of this tool around the world anywhere the Physicals continue to revolt against their masters. And here the Virtuals have a significant advantage because they are free to use the maximum level of coercive force available in their natural domain, while the Physicals cannot – because, in the physical world, that would mean violence, which is something the protestors have rightly forsworn.”
      • Full of insight. The Virtual vs Physical framing is getting at something I haven’t seen discussed much elsewhere.
    • The plausible dystopia of a social credit system (Damon Linker, The Week): “For a recent and especially vivid example from a neighboring democracy, this week’s declaration of a national emergency in Canada has empowered banks to freeze and suspend the accounts of ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters without a court order and while enjoying protection from civil liability. That is precisely the kind of thing one would expect to see become normalized with the imposition of a social credit system. Add in facial recognition software that can identify individuals attending ‘dangerous’ protests and other public events and we’re left with a vision of the near-term future that can look pretty dystopian.”
  3. Lots of Studies Are Bad (Emily Oster, Substack): “My point isn’t that this paper is wrong in its conclusions, just that it’s largely uninformative. The authors begin with an interesting graph showing a limited relationship between the stringency of COVID restrictions and mortality. That deserved more study, but this paper isn’t helping us understand it much.”
    • Emily Oster, an economist at Brown, is not impressed with the Johns Hopkins study I shared earlier (and offers a similar critique of a pro-mask study).
  4. No, America is not on the brink of a civil war (Musa al-Gharbi, The Guardian): “Of course, a far more obvious and empirically plausible explanation is that respondents knew perfectly well what the correct answer was. However, they also had a sense of how that answer would be used in the media (‘Even Trump’s supporters don’t believe his nonsense!’), so they simply declined to give pollsters the response they seemed to be looking for. As a matter of fact, respondents regularly troll researchers in polling and surveys – especially when they are asked whether or not they subscribe to absurd or fringe beliefs, such as birtherism (a conspiracy that held that Barack Obama was born outside of the US and was legally ineligible to serve as president of the United States).”
    • The author is a sociologist at Columbia. The article is a few weeks old but quite good and not particularly time-sensitive.
  5. The Seeds of Political Violence Are Being Sown in Church (David French, The Dispatch): “Pentecostal Christianity, despite its immense size, is about as far from elite American culture as Mercury is from Mars. And this means it’s quite distant from elite Evangelical culture as well. Right-wing blue-check theologians and pastors who speak disdainfully of warnings about Christian nationalism because it’s not something they see in their churches never darken the door of a Pentecostal church.” I think French gets it a little wrong here (there is an important distinction between Pentecostal and charismatic churches, and even more significantly between denominational and nondenominational ones). Still, French used to be an Assemblies of God youth pastor(!) and so he is not speaking of something he doesn’t understand. Recommended.
  6. Why America Has So Few Doctors (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic): “Imagine you were planning a conspiracy to limit the number of doctors in America. Certainly, you’d make sure to have a costly, lengthy credentialing system. You would also tell politicians that America has too many doctors already. That way, you could purposefully constrain the number of medical-school students. You might freeze or slash funding for residencies and medical scholarships. You’d fight proposals to allow nurses to do the work of physicians. And because none of this would stop foreign-trained doctors from slipping into the country and committing the crime of helping sick people get better, you’d throw in some rules that made it onerous for immigrant doctors, especially from neighboring countries Mexico and Canada, to do their job.” The original title was better: Why Does the US Make it so Hard to be a Doctor?
  7. What do students’ beliefs about God have to do with grades and going to college? (Ilana Horwitz, The Conversation): “In interviews, religious teens over and over mention life goals of parenthood, altruism and serving God – priorities that I argue make them less intent on attending as highly selective a college as they could. This aligns with previous research showing that conservative Protestant women attend colleges that less selective than other women do because they do not tend to view college’s main purpose as career advancement.”
    • The author is a professor of Jewish studies at Tulane University. Overall interesting, although she doesn’t comment on two factors which I think are quite significant: religious students often view selective colleges as inimical to faith, and students are often torn between prestigious colleges and less selective religious colleges (I have personally spoken to several Stanford students who were torn between Stanford and Wheaton).
    • Related? Marriage Made Me Let Go of My Dreams. Good. (Esau McCaulley, New York Times): “Many believe that the purpose of marriage is self-actualization. We find the partner who will come alongside us and help us become what we have always dreamed we would be. Conversely, we may think that a potential spouse who would get in the way of our dreams is the wrong person for us. What if marriage is meant to be something else?” This is very good. Highly recommended.

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 Artificial Intelligence and Magical Thinking (Ed Feser, personal blog): “Building a computer is precisely analogous to putting together a bit of magical sleight of hand. It is a clever exercise in simulation, nothing more. And the convincingness of the simulation is as completely irrelevant in the one case as it is in the other. Saying ‘Gee, AI programs can do such amazing things. Maybe it really is intelligence!’ is like saying ‘Gee, Penn and Teller do such amazing things. Maybe it really is magic!’” Feser is one of my favorite philosophers. First shared in volume 197. I remember one CS grad student strongly disliking this article when I first shared. I share it again regardless

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 337

Some wild stories about Stanford in this one.

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

This is volume 337, a prime number. In fact, the digits are prime even when rearranged (the other permutations of these digits being 373 and 733).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Why I do not expect a civil war in America (and what does worry me) (Chris Blattman, blog): “Most enemies prefer to loathe one another in peace. War is really costly. It kills, destroys economies, and weakens your country to enemies. As a result, all sides have huge incentives to avoid violence. That’s why most rivals don’t fight. For every thousand ethnic groups, gangs, religious sects, political factions or nations who hate one another, maybe one in a thousand end up in prolonged violence. Because it just doesn’t make sense.”
    • The author is an economist and political scientist at U Chicago. I like this article in part because he spends time talking about the absurd “democracy ratings” political scientists have been downgrading America in over the last few years.
  2. Pandemic-related news:
    • PDF: A Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on COVID-19 Mortality (Jonas Herby, Lars Jonung, and Steve H. Hanke, Studies in Applied Economics): “[The studies] were separated into three groups: lockdown stringency index studies, shelter-in-placeorder (SIPO) studies, and specific NPI studies. An analysis of each of these three groups support the conclusion that lockdowns have had little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality. More specifically, stringency index studies find that lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average. SIPOs were also ineffective, only reducing COVID-19 mortality by 2.9% on average. Specific NPI studies also find no broad-based evidence of noticeable effects on COVID-19 mortality. While this meta-analysis concludes that lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument.”
      • Lockdowns only achieved a .2% reduction in deaths? That’s one in five hundred. Wow. Some of the other stuff our society did was justified, but clearly lockdowns aren’t a tool we should use in the future.
    • Race-Based Rationing Is Real—And Dangerous (Shadi Hamid, The Atlantic): “The rationing rules in New York and elsewhere are not the product of anything resembling conventional political persuasion. No party would support—certainly not openly—the essentialization and instrumentalization of race in medicine. Few are willing to defend policies such as these on the merits, because what exactly would they say? Tellingly, these controversies have received limited coverage from mainstream outlets.” Recommended by a student.
    • COVID Affects Your Memory (Alex Gutentag, Tablet): “After spending four years checking every perceived authoritarian impulse from Donald Trump, the media suddenly called for strict enforcement of government decrees, denounced the noncompliant, punished dissenters, and advocated for Big Tech clampdowns on speech.… With the 2022 midterms in sight, the narrative is simply shifting without apology, and many of the arguments once made by ‘covidiots’ are now being backed by Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, and the familiar cast of journalists and experts.”
  3. Two revealing articles about Stanford:
    • “Racist, Triggering, Disrespectful” — Stanford RA slams unmasked white students (Stanford Review): “Late Sunday night, a Stanford student RA in the EVGR dormitory emailed the building’s 2,400 residents to warn against a ‘gross inequity’ that risked students ‘being killed or maimed for a lifetime.’ The danger in question? Maskless students— especially white ones.”
    • The teachers of White Plaza (Valerie Trapp, Stanford Daily): “He tried to respond and was cut off. ‘You’re a white guy,’ Waites said. ‘I can interrupt you.’ ‘And you’re a white woman.’ ‘Well, you’re copping out of the fact I’m saying that you’re racist, and you’re not saying you’re not a racist.’ ”
    • This isn’t all of campus life, but it’s not none of campus life.
  4. Some insights into academia:
    • How the job market works at top schools (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “At least pre-Covid, most of the faculty would get together and rate the graduate students (I am not sure how it has operated for the last two years, though I suspect the same, only over Zoom). Some but not all of the students would be designated as ‘should work at a top school.’ If you were not so rated, your chance of being hired at a top school was slim. Other schools, of course, would know not to pursue the top candidates, and would shoot lower, though some foolhardy places might try to lure them anyway. But basically if you were hiring at a high level, you would call the placement officer at a top school, and they would tier the candidates, based on where you were calling from, and recommend accordingly.”
    • Intellectual Freedom in Medieval Universities (James Hankins, First Things): “One reason [medieval universities flourished] is the lack of professional administrators, a feature of universities that lasted into modern times. (Harvard University—O the bliss of it!—as late as 1850 had only a single full-time administrator, the president, helped by a janitor, a cook, and two ushers.) It is a general principle of successful institutions that the people who run them are the ones most committed to their missions and most responsible for their success. A professional administrative class, by contrast, spends much of its time evading responsibility for failure and taking credit for other people’s achievements.” The author is a history professor at Harvard.
    • Going South: Life at the World’s Most Progressive University (David Benatar, Quillette): “Many universities have a problem—on this point there seems to be widespread agreement. The nature of that problem, however, remains bitterly contested. Liberals and conservatives worry that higher education has succumbed to regressive radicalism on matters related to race and gender. Those who self-identify as progressives and social justice activists, on the other hand, complain that universities are still governed by embedded structures of oppression, and that liberals and conservatives have succumbed to a moral panic in response to reasonable calls for reform.” The author is a professor of philosophy at the University of Cape Town.
  5. Men in the church:
    • Part one: Is Christianity doing more harm than good to American men? (Anthony Bradley, Acton): “It’s often thought that control of women, and especially women’s bodies, has been the obsession of Christian clergy down through the ages, but actually it has been the control of men and their bodies that has just as often characterized Christianity’s orientation. However, because that control has historically been mismanaged, ranging from feminization, to priests using the confessional to control husbands, to clergy falling prey to marrying church and politics, to clergy sex-abuse scandals, to recent stories of evangelical pastors abusing their power, men have become increasingly alienated from the very institution created to form them to be of benefit to others.” The author is a professor of Religious Studies at The King’s College in NYC. 
    • Part two: Saving men requires the leadership of laymen (Anthony Bradley, The Acton Institute): “American boys are often taught that marriage or work will be a cure for their loneliness and alienation, but many men find out the hard way that one can be married, gainfully employed, and still incredibly lonely. Men need local, lay-led confraternities that resonate with their deepest longings and their desire for communion with their fellows, formed by local common interests.”
  6. How Houses of Worship Became Hotbeds of Graft (Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, The New Republic): “In extreme cases, financial opacity in houses of worship can even become a security risk: It was that exact lack of transparency that may have cost human life at Goldstein’s synagogue in Poway. Though the synagogue had received $150,000 from the government because it “believed that it was at risk of an anti-Semitic attack on its congregants,” according to one of the congregants’ subsequent suits—court documents show that on the day of the attack, the building’s doors were unlocked and no guards, gates, or other security measures were in place. Instead of providing a necessary guard at the front of the synagogue, funds had allegedly been diverted elsewhere; the plaintiffs argue that this mistake may have cost the life of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in the shooting.”
  7. Concerning Francis Collins:
    • How The Federal Government Used Evangelical Leaders To Spread COVID Propaganda To Churches (Megan Basham, The Daily Wire): “Other than his proclamations that he is, himself, a believer, the NIH director espouses nearly no public positions that would mark him out as any different from any extreme Left-wing bureaucrat. He has not only defended experimentation on fetuses obtained by abortion, he has also directed record-level spending toward it. Among the priorities the NIH has funded under Collins — a University of Pittsburgh experiment that involved grafting infant scalps onto lab rats, as well as projects that relied on the harvested organs of aborted, full-term babies. Some doctors have even charged Collins with giving money to research that required extracting kidneys, ureters, and bladders from living infants.”
    • Evangelicals: Who Are The Good & The Bad? (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “What sticks in my craw is the seemingly unexamined assumption that if you don’t land where educated middle class elites do on any or all of these questions, that you must in some sense be a threat to the integrity of the Church. Perhaps educated middle class elite opinion is the real threat, you know?” A long article summarizing and interacting with two other articles.
    • I’m going to regret writing this (Erick Erikson, Substack): “..the NIH executive tells me it is important to understand that Collins does not approve and sanction all research and funding and of the funding Collins has directly overseen and approved, only a little would be controversial. The NIH is complex and while Collins guides the whole, he does not oversee or approve the entirety of the budget.“A sane take (and one I privately expressed earlier today without having seen this article).
    • Disclaimer: I loosely know Francis Collins and respect him. I do wish he had done a few things differently, but I am sure that if I had his job he would wish I had done a LOT of things differently and he would be right.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have An MIT Professor Meets the Author of All Knowledge (Rosalind Picard, Christianity Today): “I once thought I was too smart to believe in God. Now I know I was an arrogant fool who snubbed the greatest Mind in the cosmos—the Author of all science, mathematics, art, and everything else there is to know. Today I walk humbly, having received the most undeserved grace. I walk with joy, alongside the most amazing Companion anyone could ask for, filled with desire to keep learning and exploring.” First shared in volume 194.

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.