Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 308

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

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 307

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

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 304

fascinating links — enjoy

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

This is the 304th installment, an interesting number because it is the sum of consecutive primes. 304 = 41 + 43 + 47 + 53 + 59 + 61

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Sinning in the Rain: Weather Shocks, Church Attendance and Crime (Jonathan Moreno-Medina, The Review of Economics and Statistics): “Based on a panel between 1980 and 2016, I find that one more Sunday with precipitation at the time of church increases yearly drug-related, alcohol-related and white-collar crimes.” Fascinating. The author is a Ph.D. candidate in econ at Duke.
  2. America Loses Religion, Somewhat (Lyman Stone, National Review): “Americans today are more likely to be part of a religious community than they were in 1800; the change over time can be characterized neither by a gradual decline from a religiously pristine past nor by the onward march of rational thinking.”
  3. Some thoughts on race in America:
    • When Our Forefathers Fail (David French, The Dispatch): “Humanity has not transformed its fundamental nature in the last 100 years. A nation full of people no better than us can do great good. A nation full of people no worse than us can commit great evil. Remembering our nation’s virtues helps give us hope. Remembering our sin gives us humility. Remembering both gives us the motivation and the inspiration necessary to repair our land.”
    • T. D. Jakes on How White Evangelicals Lost Their Way (Emma Green, The Atlantic): ‘Where I’ve tried to focus is on the white pastors who spoke out and tried to say something positive that was misunderstood. And I literally got on the phone with some of them and encouraged them to keep talking. Their immediate reaction was “I got it wrong; I’m not going to broach that subject again. I’m going to stay away from it. I’m just not going to talk about it.” And if we do that, we’ll never get better. We have to keep talking.’ The title is pretty misleading — that’s definitely not the vibe you pick up from the article itself.
    • What Happens When Doctors Can’t Speak Freely? (Katie Herzog, Bari Weiss’ Substack): “‘Whole research areas are off-limits,’ he said, adding that some of what is being published in the nation’s top journals is ‘shoddy as hell.’  Here, he was referring in part to a study published last year in the Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. The study was covered all over the news, with headlines like ‘Black Newborns More Likely to Die When Looked After by White Doctors’ (CNN), ‘The Lack of Black Doctors is Killing Black Babies’ (Fortune), and ‘Black Babies More Likely to Survive when Cared for by Black Doctors’ (The Guardian). Despite these breathless headlines, the study was so methodologically flawed that, according to several of the doctors I spoke with, it’s impossible to extrapolate any conclusions about how the race of the treating doctor impacts patient outcomes at all. And yet very few people were willing to publicly criticize it.”
    • Those Who Didn’t Make the List (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “I absolutely believe that we can theoretically build admissions systems that increase diversity and inclusion, including specifically for Black and Hispanic applicants, without perpetuating other kinds of injustice. I just have zero faith our actually-existing universities and employers will put them together. Why do good when it’s so much easier to appear to be good?”
  4. COVID perspectives:
    • Why the Lab Leak Theory Matters (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “First, to the extent that the United States is engaged in a conflict of propaganda and soft power with the regime in Beijing, there’s a pretty big difference between a world where the Chinese regime can say, We weren’t responsible for Covid but we crushed the virus and the West did not, because we’re strong and they’re decadent, and a world where this was basically their Chernobyl except their incompetence and cover-up sickened not just one of their own cities but also the entire globe.”
    • Media Groupthink and the Lab-Leak Theory (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “If the lab-leak theory is finally getting the respectful attention it always deserved, it’s mainly because Joe Biden authorized an inquiry and Anthony Fauci admitted to doubts about the natural-origin claim. In other words, the right president and the right public-health expert have blessed a certain line of inquiry. Yet the lab-leak theory, whether or not it turns out to be right, was always credible. Even if Tom Cotton believed it.”
    • The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins (Katherine Eban, Vanity Fair): “A months long Vanity Fair investigation, interviews with more than 40 people, and a review of hundreds of pages of U.S. government documents, including internal memos, meeting minutes, and email correspondence, found that conflicts of interest, stemming in part from large government grants supporting controversial virology research, hampered the U.S. investigation into COVID-19’s origin at every step. In one State Department meeting, officials seeking to demand transparency from the Chinese government say they were explicitly told by colleagues not to explore the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s gain-of-function research, because it would bring unwelcome attention to U.S. government funding of it.” Long, detailed.
  5. A Dangerous State of Affairs (Kevin Williamson, National Review): “In Dallas, a recent class for those seeking a license to carry was well attended in spite of the fact that Texas is about to implement ‘constitutional carry,’ under which no license would be required to carry a firearm that the carrier is legally eligible to own. Middle-aged African Americans made up almost exactly one half of that class. Black buyers account for about one in five of the guns sold nationwide in recent years, and Hispanic buyers a similar share. And about one in five buyers last year were first-time buyers.”
  6. Woke Institutions is Just Civil Rights Law (Richard Hanania, Substack): “The US seems to elect some of the most conservative politicians in the Western world, but has perhaps the wokest institutions. Civil rights law makes all major institutions subject to the will of left-wing bureaucrats, activists, and judges at the expense of normal citizens.”
  7. I read two surprisingly complementary articles about abortion this week:
    • Abortion as an Instrument of Eugenics (Michael Stokes Paulsen, Harvard Law Review): “If the intuition of the wrongness of trait-selection abortion has moral salience — the intuition that it is simply wrong to kill a fetus for reasons of race, sex, or disability — it is because of the implicit recognition of the humanity of the fetus. If killing a fetus because she is female (or Black, or disabled) is thought horrible, it can only be because the human fetus is thought to possess moral status as human — because ‘it’ is a baby girl or a baby boy, a member of the human family.” The author is a law professor at the University of St. Thomas. The article itself is very long. Unless you are in law school, reading the introduction, section IV, and the conclusion is probably enough.
    • Dawkins is wrong – grossly wrong – about Down’s syndrome (Simon Barnes, Tortoise): “[Dawkins] is in the position of the brilliant philosopher telling us that the table at which we are sitting does not exist.”

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 Can I Learn To Receive – And Give – Criticism In Light Of The Cross? (Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ’s crucifixion. In other words, in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s judgment of me; and in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s justification of me. Both have a radical impact on how we take and give criticism.” This is based on a longer article (4 page PDF). (first shared in volume 63)

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 299

so many entertaining tidbits at the end — way more 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 is the 299th installment of these emails. 299 is, I am told, the most pieces into which a simple object (like a cube or a sphere — something without a weird structure) can be split using 12 straight cuts.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Why You’re Christian (David Perrell, personal blog): “…I’m a tepid non-believer myself.… [However] I realized that society’s most passionate critics, most of whom claim to be secular, usually have the most Christian values of all. They’ve studied in elite universities, they live in major cities, and they’re proud members of the intelligentsia. Human rights, a centerpiece of their moral outlook, is inconsistent with the rest of their worldview. Though they pride themselves on evidence-based thinking, they’re intellectually bankrupt on the topic of human rights.”
    • Related (at least in my mind): What Became of Atheism, Part One: Wearing the Uniform (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “…if God exists then that is the single most important fact in the history of creation and nothing else can take its crown, ever. If a being exists, of whatever nature, who created reality, exists within all of reality, set reality’s physical and moral rules, watches over all of reality, judges all of us on how devout and moral we are, and determines reward and punishment based on that judgement, that clearly is the truth that trumps all other truths. Strange to let it slip out of the debate quietly in the night. But then I suppose that’s culture war; sooner or later the only question that remains is who is on what side of the line, and all the rest dissolves.”
  2. Justice-related thoughts:
    • ‘The Voice of Your Brother’s Blood Is Crying to Me From the Ground’ (David French, The Dispatch): “…we can articulate three truths of simple, individual justice. First, a grave wrong creates a moral and spiritual cry for redress. Second, it is the role of government to provide that redress. And third, the government must be impartial, treating ‘great and small’ alike. All too many Americans are completely unaware of the extent to which the present structures and habits of American law fail to meet those basic obligations, especially when injustice is visited upon the citizen by the state.”
    • Chauvin Was Convicted. Something Is Still Very Wrong. (Elizabeth Bruenig, New York Times): “Forgiveness doesn’t feel particularly triumphant. It’s a gift no one wants to be in the position to give; it releases a wrongdoer from moral debt — for their own good and the common good, not for the sake of the wronged.… But I want to live in a world where it is possible to forgive and to be forgiven. In fact, I think it’s necessary.”
    • The Real Reason to End the Death Penalty (Paul Graham, Substack): “But in practice the debate about the death penalty is not about whether it’s ok to kill murderers. It’s about whether it’s ok to kill innocent people, because at least 4% of people on death row are innocent.” I find this a really interesting line of argument. Clearly we want to have a 100% accuracy rate in all criminal convictions. But is 96% accuracy outrageously intolerable? To the extent that it becomes a persuasive argument against the death penalty isn’t that then also an argument against imprisonment? Or virtually any punishment?
    • Unjust Secular Justice (Matthew Schmitz,First Things): “While in the colonial era most cases went to trial (and most trials lasted a stunningly short thirty minutes), more and more are now resolved by a plea bargain. Nowhere is our abandonment of colonial ideas of criminal justice more apparent than in no-contest pleas that allow defendants to receive lighter sentences without any admission of guilt.” This is an older book review (2013) but is quite good.
    • Outrage Overload (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “Modern policing—or even policing qua policing—owes far less to slave patrolling than NASA owes to Hitler’s rocket program. And yet no one talks about the troubling Nazi roots of modern space exploration, or asks Elon Musk if he’s exorcised the ghost of Werner Von Braun from SpaceX. I have seen this slave patrol thing brought up countless times in interviews, and not once have I seen an interviewer say, ‘Really?’ never mind, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ It’s as batty as any conspiracy theory, and it’s a deliberate attempt to heap innuendo on policing in lieu of making an intelligent argument. And that’s what frustrates me to no end. It’s the job of journalists to call out B.S. when it’s being thrown in their faces.”
  3. Where Two or Three Are Gathered (William J. Haun & Daniel L. Chen, Law & Liberty): “Over 40 amicus briefs lambasted this embrace of open-ended government surveillance—reflecting an ideological agreement so wide that NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and Wisconsin Right to Life joined the same brief. On the surface, widespread consensus in favor of associational privacy is surely welcome. But this agreement masks equally widespread, decades-long confusion over how and why the Constitution protects free association.” Quite good, a bit dry. The authors are lawyers with the Becket Fund.
  4. “Wokeness is a problem and we all know it” (Sean Illing interviewing James Carville, Vox): “We won the White House against a world-historical buffoon. And we came within 42,000 votes of losing. We lost congressional seats. We didn’t pick up state legislatures. So let’s not have an argument about whether or not we’re off-key in our messaging. We are. And we’re off because there’s too much jargon and there’s too much esoterica and it turns people off.” Carville is a legendary Democratic political strategist and he is in full-on old man rant mode here.
  5. ‘This Is a Catastrophe.’ In India, Illness Is Everywhere. (Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times): “New Delhi, India’s sprawling capital of 20 million, is suffering a calamitous surge. A few days ago, the positivity rate hit a staggering 36 percent — meaning more than one out of three people tested were infected. A month ago, it was less than 3 percent.”
    1. Related: ‘Death Is the Only Truth.’ Watching India’s Funeral Pyres Burn. (Aman Sethi, New York Times): “The Indian government has ordered Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to take down dozens of posts criticizing its handling of the pandemic. But the graphic images of mass cremations have cut through this wall of noise, misinformation and propaganda, capturing what epidemiologists call ‘excess mortality’ in gruesome detail.”
  6. Columbia Stone (T.A. Krasnican, Substack): “This public forgetfulness is the same indifference that in 1938 inspired Adolf Hitler, after issuing orders for his Nazi ‘death-head formations’ to ‘send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language,’ to write the famous phrase, ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’ Public ambivalence about human tragedy emboldened him.” Recommended by a student.
  7. Individualism is associated with happy countries, but not people (Zaid Jilani, Substack): “In a recently released study, team of researchers studied young adults across four countries — China, the United States, Russia, and Italy — starting with the hypothesis that levels of life satisfaction would be higher among individuals who have individualistic values. At the country level, this is indeed what they found. Countries with a higher index of individualistic values had more life satisfaction — that put America on top, followed by Italy, Russia, and then China. But an entirely different picture emerged when they looked at the individual level. There, they found that individualism had no impact on life satisfaction. Instead, life satisfaction was positively correlated with collectivism, regardless of the wider culture of the country.” My take: Americans are on average happier than the Chinese because of the freedoms which emerge from our individualism, but the happiest individuals in each country are those that freely choose to embrace family and community.

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 No Food Is Healthy. Not Even Kale. (Michael Ruhlman, Washington Post): People can be healthy. Food can be nutritious. This is a wonderful essay about how we misuse language to our detriment. If you’re surprised I included this, I believe that our culture has a quasi-religious relationship to health and to food, and I also believe that the use of language is profoundly moral and that our culture is a linguistic mess (to which I know of no finer guide than The Underground Grammarian). (first shared in volume 33)

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 295

A lot about Jesus and a little bit about the news cycle.

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 295, which is not a terribly interesting number. According to one website it is a “structured deltoidal hexacontahedral number” but that sounds silly and is even less interesting to me than the simple fact that 295 = 59 ⋅ 5.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Tennant on Aquinas’s Second Way (Ed Feser, personal blog): “…I don’t mean to be too hard on Tennant, specifically. There is nothing unique about his objections. On the contrary, variations on them are constantly raised against Aquinas by mainstream academic philosophers and by mainstream academics and intellectuals from other fields (not to mention countless amateurs). And yet they are all demonstrably based on egregious errors and misunderstandings. Which, while it tells you nothing about Aquinas, says much about what you should think of mainstream academic and intellectual opinion.” 
  2. From the Empty Tomb to Today’s Abuse: Believe Women (Amy Orr-Ewing, Gospel Coalition): “If we don’t believe women, then we have to dismiss the eyewitnesses to the Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection. If we won’t listen, we don’t have access to the evidence for the central truths of the Christian faith.”
  3. Is Christianity a White Man’s Religion? (Claude Atcho, Gospel Coalition): “[This] example and exhortation show how to disentangle rather than deconstruct. Through careful disentangling and patient recovery, we find that Christianity uniquely speaks to the concerns of Black people with experiential and historical foundations that have empowered our people for centuries.”
  4. He’s a Famous Evangelical Preacher, but His Kids Wish He’d Pipe Down (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times): “I told Rick Joyner that I thought his struggles with his children reflected a larger generation gap and dwindling of influence of the religious right. To my surprise, he agreed. ‘The church in America has been tremendously weakened,’ he acknowledged. If the Joyners are a microcosm of a nation divided, perhaps they also offer a ray of hope in their ability to bridge differences. They remain close and get together for holidays, even if gatherings are tense.” Really interesting.
  5. How America’s surveillance networks helped the FBI catch the Capitol mob (Drew Harwell & Craig Timberg, Washington Post): “Whenever you see this technology used on someone you don’t like, remember it’s also being used on a social movement you support,” said Evan Greer, director of the digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future. “Once in a while, this technology gets used on really bad people doing really bad stuff. But the rest of the time it’s being used on all of us, in ways that are profoundly chilling for freedom of expression.”
  6. Welcome to the Decade of Concern (Tanner Greer, Scholar’s Stage): “The 2020s will see both the growth of Chinese military power to new heights and a temporary nadir in American capacity to intervene in any conflict in China’s near abroad. The ‘temporary’ part of that equation is important. Historians of the First World War and the Pacific War trace the origins of those conflicts to pessimistic assessments of the changing balance of power. The belligerency of imperial Japan and Wilhelmine Germany rested on a belief that their position vis a vis their enemies could only decline with time. Any statesman who believes that a temporary military advantage over an enemy will soon erode will have a strong incentive to fight it out before erosion has begun.”
    • China-related: The cost of speaking up against China (Joel Gunter, BBC): “Some of those who spoke to the BBC — from the US, UK, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, and Turkey — provided screenshots of threatening WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook messages; others described in detail what had been said in phone and video calls. Everyone described some form of detention or harassment of their family members in Xinjiang by local police or state security officials.”
  7. On the Georgia voting law:
    • Positive: Why State Election Reform Bills Don’t Signal a New Jim Crow Era (Walter Olson, The Dispatch): “The law, widely portrayed as a horrendous venture into so-called voter suppression, actually contains many provisions that liberalize access to ballot methods that came in handy during the pandemic, such as early voting, as well as addressing the genuine problem of long lines at polling places.”
    • Negative: What Georgia’s Voting Law Really Does (Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein, New York Times): “Go page by page through Georgia’s new voting law, and one takeaway stands above all others: The Republican legislature and governor have made a breathtaking assertion of partisan power in elections, making absentee voting harder and creating restrictions and complications in the wake of narrow losses to Democrats.”
    • Positive: No, Georgia’s new voting law is not a return to Jim Crow (Henry Olsen, Washington Post): “No bill is perfect, and reasonable people can disagree about the balance between voter access and election integrity. But Democratic claims that this law amounts to racist voter suppression should be seen for what they are: overwrought partisan rhetoric that unnecessarily increases racial and political tensions.” The author is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center
    • Outraged: Voter Suppression Is Violence (Jamil Smith, Rolling Stone): “This neo-Jim Crow measure builds upon the mayhem that has already cost lives, not just at the Capitol, but also thanks to the malevolent governance of Republicans nationwide. After decades of working to erode the promise of the American experiment, or perhaps to simply reserve it for themselves, it appears that Republicans want to finish the job this year. This is why S.B. 202, and the laws surely to be modeled after it, are designed to ensure that white men with regressive politics will continue to hold power.”
    • Negative-ish: Fact check: What the new Georgia elections law actually does (Daniel Dale and Dianne Gallagher, CNN): “As critics have correctly said, the law imposes significant new obstacles to voting. It also gives the Republican-controlled state government new power to assert control over the conduct of elections in Democratic counties. The law does, however, contain some provisions that can be reasonably be described as pro-voting, and critics have not always described all of the text accurately.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • Lifeguard Earnings Here May Have You Practicing Your Strokes (Arden Dier, Newser): “According to Forbes, seven lifeguards made more than $300,000 in 2019, which was the most recent year for which data was available, while 82 lifeguards made more than $200,000. Thirty-one lifeguards made more than $50,000 in overtime pay, while three collected more than $100,000, per Forbes.”
  • John Morton (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): the trick is about nine minutes, although the video is longer due to ads at the end.
  • Chick-Fil‑A Drug Dealer (John Crist, YouTube): five minutes

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have From the happy news department: Christian Missions and the Spread of Democracy (Greg Scandlen, The Federalist): This is a summary of some rather wonderful research Robert Woodberry published in The American Political Science Review back in 2012: The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy. If it looks familiar it’s because I allude to it from time to time in my sermons and conversations. (first shared in volume 14)

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 294

more on Atlanta, purity culture, and other interesting links

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 294, which is neat because 111152 — 2942 = 123,456,789. Numbers are fun!

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. On anti-Asian violence:
    • The Racism Virus: Anti-Asian Attacks Surge (NBC News, YouTube): fifty-two minutes, highly recommended by a student. From before the Atlanta shootings.
    • Race and False Hate Crime Narratives (Heather Mac Donald, Quillette): “Perhaps a revelation of anti-Asian animus will emerge, but for now, Long appears to have targeted presumed sex workers who happened, given the demographics of the massage trade in Atlanta, to be Asian. Long intended to target a business in Florida next that made pornography, he told police. The employees there were unlikely to be Asian.” The author is a Stanford Law School grad.
    • I am surprised at how divisive the question of motive has been. Regardless of motive in this specific case, I think it is clear that the Atlanta attacks were wicked and also that many Asian-Americans encounter prejudice that too often escalates into violence.
  2. On Christian sexual teachings:
    • Atlanta Suspect’s Fixation on Sex Is Familiar Thorn for Evangelicals (Ruth Graham, New York Times): “The evangelical culture he was raised in, he said, ‘teaches women to hate their bodies, as the source of temptation, and it teaches men to hate their minds, which lead them into lust and sexual immorality.’ ”
    • Why the Atlanta Massacre Triggered a Conversation About Purity Culture (David French, The Dispatch): “Placing responsibility for male purity on women harms women. It creates an impossible burden. You cannot oppress women enough to protect men from themselves. You can ban porn, ban explicit TV and movies of all types, put women in long dresses, prohibit makeup, and require courtship contracts, and you still will not solve the problem of sin.”
    • Never The Demons (Samuel D. James, Letter & Liturgy): “I’m all for interrogating the harmful effects of some church cultures, but I’m not sure why we don’t even linger over the news of a young man’s murdering eight people to ‘eliminate temptation’ long enough to see the demonic forces that Jesus clearly saw everywhere he went. And when that story is quickly followed by another mass murder in Colorado? The news cycle just resets, and the blood is on the hands of the GOP, or all Muslims, or purity culture, or cancel culture…name your ideological enemy, and you can find someone prominent laying horror at their feet. Never the demons.”
    • On purity culture and violence, briefly (Samuel D. James, Letter & Liturgy): “I think stories [like the NYT article] are frustrating because they offer genuine insight mixed with a journalistic framing that is deeply untrustworthy. Brad Onishi, Jeff Chu, and Samuel Perry—the three voices brought in to criticize evangelical purity culture—are all examples of LGBT-affirming post-evangelicalism. Because of this framing, the subtext of the article is that there are really only two choices for evangelical Christians: double down on hating women and empowering shooters like Robert Long, or abandon core evangelical doctrines. This is exactly the posture that defines nearly all anti-purity culture writing I see, which is why I get so frustrated by it, even when it makes genuinely helpful points…”
    • Questions for David French on the Connections between the Atlanta Killer and Purity Culture (Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition): “What is the connection between the killer and toxic purity theology and culture? The piece assumes a connection but never gets around to demonstrating one. And that leads to the weird experience of reading something where I agree with virtually every single word and yet find that the actual argument doesn’t hold together.”
    • How churches talk about sexuality can mean life or death. We saw that in Robert Long. (Rachel Denhollander, Washington Post): “Sexuality divorced from personhood is the foundation of objectification and violence. The evangelical community has yet to grapple with its own version of this same mind-set and the deep damage it has, and will continue, to do.”
  3. Christian Baker Sued Again for Refusing to Bake a Cake (Colleen Slevin, Associated Press @ Christianity Today): “Autumn Scardina attempted to order the birthday cake on the same day in 2017 that the high court announced it would hear baker Jack Phillips’s appeal in the wedding cake case. Scardina, an attorney, requested a cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside in honor of her gender transition.”
    • The Never-Ending Persecution of Jack Phillips (David Harsyani, National Review): “You may not be surprised to learn that Scardina hadn’t asked the most famous Christian baker in the nation to create a ‘transition’ cake by happenstance. Phillips’s lawyers suspect Scardina called — the name appeared on the caller ID — to request ‘an image of Satan smoking marijuana.’ Later, an email was sent to the shop requesting ‘a three-tiered white cake’ with a ‘large figure of Satan, licking a nine inch black Dildo … that can be turned on before we unveil the cake.’ ”
    • Colorado Baker Faces Long Line Of People Outside Waiting To Be Oppressed By Him (Babylon Bee): “Phillips had another busy day, but in the end, all his customers were satisfied, those who wanted cakes receiving beautiful cakes and those who wanted to get discriminated against getting discriminated against. Philips is now considering opening another branch just to not make people cakes, as he is apparently the only cakeshop in the country that does that, and it’s in high demand.” Normally I’d put a Babylon Bee article in the amusing section, but this one belongs here.
  4. Stanford’s silence doesn’t surprise wrestling champ: ‘Probably more mad at me’ (Ann Killion, SF Chronicle): “Stanford athletics did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Griffith’s national title. On Saturday the athletic department Twitter account @GoStanford tweeted, ‘Shane Griffith is a national champion. The redshirt sophomore completed his run at the NCAA championships atop the podium, Saturday, at the Enterprise Center.’ The dry message was notably missing the exclamation points and emojis that accompany almost every other post.”
  5. What It Takes To Go From Slavery To Freedom (Bari Weiss, Substack): “ ‘When you are a slave, you don’t have to think,’ Yeonmi told me. ‘In North Korea you can’t say I. You can just say we. We love the color red. Or we love kimchi. You know every answer. In North Korea, everything is determined for you before you are born, based on your family’s standing in the party. You don’t think: What do I study? Where do I live? Who do I marry? They decide.  I remember after I published my book one of my first interviews was with NPR and they asked me about freedom. I said freedom was painful and confusing. I think they were expecting me to say freedom was awesome.’ But the truth was more complicated. ‘It was so painful to be free. I sometimes thought in the beginning if there was a guarantee to go back to North Korea and not get executed and just live on frozen potatoes I might go back.’ ” WOW. What an interview. Coming someday to a sermon near you.
  6. The Burden of Proof (Jimmy Akin, personal blog): “Whenever two people disagree and one wants the other to change his view, then the person advocating the change always has to shoulder the burden of proof.” The central nugget is in the excerpt, but there’s more there (including an interesting Catholic perspective on Sola Scriptura).
  7. Why Are Fewer Young Adults Having Casual Sex? (Scott J. South & Lei Lei, Socius): “Among young women, the decline in the frequency of drinking alcohol explains about one quarter of the drop in the propensity to have casual sex. Among young men, declines in drinking frequency, an increase in computer gaming, and the growing percentage who coreside with their parents all contribute significantly to the decline in casual sex.” See also the “a while ago” link below.

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 Alcohol, Blackouts, and Campus Sexual Assault (Texas Monthly, Sarah Hepola): I think this is the most thoughtful secular piece I’ve read on the issue. “Consent and alcohol make tricky bedfellows. The reason I liked getting drunk was because it altered my consent: it changed what I would say yes to. Not just in the bedroom but in every room and corridor that led into the squinting light. Say yes to adventure, say yes to risk, say yes to karaoke and pool parties and arguments with men, say yes to a life without fear, even though such a life is never possible… We drink because it feels good. We drink because it makes us feel happy, safe, powerful. That it often makes us the opposite is one of alcohol’s dastardly tricks.” (first shared in volume 25

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 290

links containing both good and bad news for evangelicals

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 290, which is an interesting number because it is both the product of three primes (= 2 ⋅ 5 ⋅ 29) as well as the sum of consecutive primes (= 67 + 71+ 73 +79).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Evangelicals in America: The Stats May Surprise You (Ryan Burge, Gospel Coalition): “…after looking at the data for the last 10 years as a quantitative social scientist, I can say with certainty that although there are clear reasons for concern, evangelical presence in the United States is stronger than ever before.” The author is a political science professor at Eastern Illinois University and also a pastor in a non-evangelical denomination.
  2. Religious Community and Human Flourishing (Tyler J. VanderWeele, Psychology Today): “In some cases, our results closely replicated past work. For example, we found that, even after controlling for the factors above, individuals who attended religious services weekly or more were 16% less likely to become depressed, and saw a 29% reduction in smoking and 34% reduction in heavy drinking. These results match reasonably closely results from several prior studies, including the prior meta-analyses mentioned above. Somewhat strikingly, but again in line with prior analysis, weekly service attendees were 26% less likely to die during the follow-up period.” VanderWeele , himself a Christian, is an epidemiologist at Harvard and I have shared some of his work before.
  3. When Amazon Erased My Book (Ryan T. Anderson, First Things): “Amazon never informed me or my publisher that it was removing my book. And Amazon’s representatives haven’t responded to our inquiries about it. Perhaps they’re citing a religious objection to selling my book? Or maybe they only sell books with which they agree? (If so, they have a lot of explaining to do about why they carry Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.) If there’s a religious or speech objection, let’s hear it.” His book is quite good and is still available at Barnes & Noble. Amazon, however, sells 5/6 of the books in America. Being delisted by them seriously affects the marketplace of ideas.
    • Damnatio memoriae (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “But to me, the most interesting point for reflection is this: The censors at Amazon clearly believe there is only one reason to read a book. You read a book because you agree with it and want it to confirm what you already believe. Imagine, for instance, a transgender activist who wants to understand the position held by Ryan Anderson and people like him in order better to refute it. That person can’t get a copy of the book through Amazon any more than a sympathetic reader like me can.”  The author is an English professor at Baylor whose writing I have featured before.
  4. Not all ‘anti-racist’ ideas are good ones. The left isn’t being honest about this. (Matthew Yglesias, Washington Post): “More broadly, identifying a racial gap and declaring it to be racist is often insufficient. Such an approach impedes actually thinking about problems — particularly in media, academic and nonprofit circles, where the accusation of racism can carry severe consequences. And so to avoid controversy, people avoid important debates rather than risking offense.”
  5. The Covid Emergency Must End (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “A major setback is always possible, but right now, the conditions for the end of the emergency seem likely to arrive sometime in the summer, not at Christmastime.”
    • School Closures Have Failed America’s Children (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times): “Yes, it’s hard to open schools during a pandemic. But private schools mostly managed to, and that’s true not only of rich boarding schools but also of strapped Catholic schools. As a nation, we fought to keep restaurants and malls open — but we didn’t make schools a similar priority, so needy children were left behind”
  6. 1 in 6 Gen Z adults are LGBT. And this number could continue to grow. (Samantha Schmidt, Washington Post): “Research from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law has similarly found that a key driver of the growth in the LGBT community has been a surge in bisexual women and girls. Bisexual women make up the largest group of LGBT adults — about 35 percent, according to a Williams Institute analysis of data from three population-based surveys. More than one in 10 U.S. high school youth identifies as lesbian, gay or bisexual. And among them, 75 percent are female and 77 percent identify as bisexual.” The cheerleading aside, it’s a very interesting article — especially if you think about other ways to frame it.
    • Another perspective on the same data: Two Sexes. Infinite Genders. (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “It turns out that in 2020, only 1.4 percent of US adults are gay men, and only 0.7 percent are lesbians. So all the gays and lesbians amount to a little over 2 percent of the country’s adults. And that seems about right to me. The surprise, however, is that there are now almost as many people identifying as ‘trans’ as ‘lesbian’.… Bisexuals, at 54.6 percent of all ‘LGBT’ identifiers, are now a majority, and in Gen Z, clock in at 72 percent! The qualification to this is that only 3.7 percent of bisexuals live with someone of the same sex while over 30 percent live with someone of the opposite sex.”
  7. Inside a Battle Over Race, Class and Power at Smith College (Michael Powell, New York Times): “The story highlights the tensions between a student’s deeply felt sense of personal truth and facts that are at odds with it.” What is super-weird to me is that I’ve seen people on social media say, “See? It’s more complicated than critics are making it out to be.” But… it’s not. Reading the details merely fills in the outline of the story I had picked up from other sources.

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 two articles from back in the 90’s, political scientist J. Budziszewski wrote them back-to-back for First Things, The Problem With Liberalism and The Problem With Conservativism, and if you never have before I encourage you to read them both. Especially read the one that describes your team. (first shared in a non-Friday blog post)

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 287

you wouldn’t believe how many awesome links I cut this week

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

This is volume 287, a number which is the sum of consecutive primes thrice over (287 = 89 + 97 + 101 = 47 + 53 + 59 + 61 + 67 = 17 + 19 + 23 + 29 + 31 + 37 + 41 + 43 + 47).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Science of Reasoning With Unreasonable People (Adam Grant, New York Times): “Social scientists have found that asking people how their preferred political policies might work in practice, rather than asking why they favor those approaches, was more effective in opening their minds. As people struggled to explain their ideal tax legislation or health care plan, they grasped the complexity of the problem and recognized gaps in their knowledge.” The author is a professor at Penn’s Wharton School.
  2. Peloton makes toning your glutes feel spiritual. But should Jesus be part of the experience? (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): ‘Nick Stoker, 41, a London businessman, triggered hundreds of comments on the Peloton Reddit page in April when he posted that he took a “Sundays with Love” ride and thought he was getting pandemic-era “spiritual inspiration and uplifting music,” but actually got something more about God and Christianity. The ride should have been labeled as Christian, he argued. “I don’t want my children listening to these sort of messages.”’
  3. Thoughts about Christianity and America
    • Discerning the Difference Between Christian Nationalism and Christian Patriotism (David French, The Dispatch): “I love this country, but I love it with eyes wide open. The aspirations of our founding have long been tempered by the brutal realities of our fallen nature. The same nation that stormed Normandy’s beaches to destroy a fascist empire simultaneously sustained a segregationist regime within its own borders. Our virtues do not negate our vices, and our vices do not negate our virtues. America isn’t 1619 or 1776. It’s 1619 and 1776.”
    • Betraying Your Church—And Your Party (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “On January 6, as an armed mob invaded the House of Representatives, Kinzinger said he could feel a darkness descend over the Capitol. One of his friends in Congress, the Oklahoma Republican Markwayne Mullin, heard the same thing from members of the Capitol Police. Kinzinger doesn’t doubt that the devil is at work in American politics. He just suspects that the enemy might be lurking in his own house.”
    • It’s Time to Talk About Violent Christian Extremism (Zack Stanton interviewing Elizabeth Neumann, Politico): “Here’s the thing, and I will do my best to explain it from a secular perspective: There’s text in the New Testament where the Apostle Paul is admonishing a church he helped establish: ‘You should be mature adults now in your faith, but I’m still having to feed you with milk.’ He’s basically saying, you should be 18, but you’re still nursing, and we need you to get it together.… One of my questions is: Are we seeing in the last four years one of the consequences of that failure? They didn’t mature [in their faith], and they’re very easily led astray by what scripture calls ‘false teachers.’ My thesis here is that if we had a more scripturally based set of believers in this country — if everybody who calls themselves a ‘Christian’ had actually read through, I don’t know, 80 percent of the Bible — they would not have been so easily deceived.” The interviewee is an evangelical Christian who has served as a Deputy Chief of Staff in the Department of Homeland Security. Extremely interesting.
  4. The challenge of China:
    • Biden’s Nightmare May Be China (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times): “Dealing with Mitch McConnell will be a piece of cake for President Biden compared with dealing with Xi. Biden’s challenge will be to constrain a Chinese leader who has been oppressive in Hong Kong, genocidal in the Xinjiang region, obdurate on trade, ruthless on human rights and insincere on everything, while still cooperating with China on issues like climate change, fentanyl and North Korea (which many experts expect to resume missile launches this year).”
    • ‘Their goal is to destroy everyone’: Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape (Matthew Hill, David Campanale and Joel Gunter, BBC): “It was unlikely that Xi or other top party officials would have directed or authorised rape or torture,” Parton said, but they would “certainly be aware of it. I think they prefer at the top just to turn a blind eye. The line has gone out to implement this policy with great sternness, and that is what is happening.” That left “no real constraints”, he said. “I just don’t see what the perpetrators of these acts would have to hold them back.” I don’t know how this isn’t front page news almost every day. We want to say everyone is as evil as Hitler EXCEPT THE PEOPLE RUNNING ACTUAL CONCENTRATION CAMPS.
    • And thoughts on Taiwan, which is not China
      • Understanding Taiwanese Nationalism: A Historical Primer in Bullet Points (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “As someone who has lived years in both Taiwan and in China I can also give a more anecdotal assessment: the differences between the two countries and their respective cultures (to say nothing of their political systems) is clear. They are simply not the same people.”
      • China and the Question of Taiwan (Aaron Sarin, Quillette): “Historian James A. Millward points out that many in his discipline have implicitly accepted the Party line on Taiwanese history. They will refer, for example, to the Qing dynasty’s ‘recapture of Taiwan in 1683,’ even though, as Millward explains, ‘no China-based state—not even an imperial dynasty—ha[d] ever ruled the island before.’ Here we see the success of the CCP’s propaganda, even outside China. The truth is that Taiwan was a Qing acquisition, and that is the sole basis for Beijing’s claims today.”
      • Fork The Government (Planet Money, NPR): “As countries around the world struggle to handle the coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan stands out as a relative success story… so far. Since April, only one locally transmitted case has been reported. There have been only seven deaths — in the entire country. There are a lot of reasons why Taiwan has been able to keep its infection and death rates so low. For one, it’s an island. Also, it’s dealt with a respiratory virus epidemic before. But Taiwan has also been taking a relatively experimental approach to the pandemic with technology. Like working with civic hackers to code its way out of the pandemic.” This is a podcast episode.
  5. Things related to the credibility crisis in our culture:
    • Nationalism, prejudice, and FDA regulation (Scott Sumner, EconLib): “You say people shouldn’t be allowed to take a vaccine unless experts find it to be safe and effective? OK, the UK experts did just that. You say that only the opinion of US experts counts because our experts are clearly the best? Really, where is the scientific study that shows that our experts are the best? I thought you said we needed to ‘trust the scientists’? Now you are saying we must trust the nationalists?” The author is an economist at George Mason University.
    • WebMD, And The Tragedy Of Legible Expertise (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “I can’t tell you how many times over the past year all the experts, the CDC, the WHO, the New York Times, et cetera, have said something (or been silent about something in a suggestive way), and then some blogger I trusted said the opposite, and the blogger turned out to be right. I realize this kind of thing is vulnerable to selection bias, but it’s been the same couple of bloggers throughout, people who I already trusted and already suspected might be better than the experts in a lot of ways.”
    • Where Have All the Great Works Gone? (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “It was obvious to even those who disliked Nietzche that he was a seminal figure in Western thought; it was obvious even to those who disagreed with Ibsen that he claimed a similar place in Western literature, and so forth. Their ideas might be argued against, but their genius and their influence was undeniable.  Is there anyone who died in the last decade you could make that sort of claim for?  How about for the last two decades?  The last three?  Or is there anyone at all who is still living today that might be described this way? In the realm of science, perhaps. But in the world of social, historical, ethical, and political thought, no one comes to mind.”
    • Social Justice, Austerity, and the Humanities Death Spiral (Geoff Shullenberger, Chronicle of Higher Education): “How are humanities disciplines pushing back against the existential threats they face? Obviously, one can find a variety of arguments against cutbacks and the devaluation of humanistic study. On the other hand, faculty members within these fields sometimes make what looks like a case against their own value. For example, the Chicago announcement states that ‘English as a discipline has a long history of providing aesthetic rationalizations for colonization, exploitation, extraction, and anti-Blackness.’ Those who make funding decisions might well ask why such a discipline deserves to continue existing.” The author teaches English at NYU. It was difficult choosing which bit to excerpt — definitely worth reading if you aspire to academia.
    • The Generalizability Crisis (Tal Yarkoni, PsyArxiv): “Most theories and hypotheses in psychology are verbal in nature, yet their evaluation overwhelmingly relies on inferential statistical procedures. The validity of the move from qualitative to quantitative analysis depends on the verbal and statistical expressions of a hypothesis being closely aligned—that is, that the two must refer to roughly the same set of hypothetical observations. Here I argue that many applications of statistical inference in psychology fail to meet this basic condition.” The author is a psychology prof at UT Austin. Recommended by a student. I lack the expertise to evaluate it but find it intutively plausible.
  6. Rise of the Barstool conservatives (Matthew Walther, The Week): “What Trump recognized was that there are millions of Americans who do not oppose or even care about abortion or same-sex marriage, much less stem-cell research or any of the other causes that had animated traditional social conservatives. Instead he correctly intuited that the new culture war would be fought over very different (and more nebulous) issues: vague concerns about political correctness and ‘SJWs,’ opposition to the popularization of so-called critical race theory, sentimentality about the American flag and the military, the rights of male undergraduates to engage in fornication while intoxicated without fear of the Title IX mafia.” I think there’s some truth here, but I think he underplays the importance of abortion in Trump’s appeal. He nonetheless puts his finger on an important part of the way Trump’s coalition was forged and the shape of American politics moving forward.
  7. On GameStop:
    • In the GameStop Frenzy, What If We’re All the 1 Percent? (Michael J. Rhodes, Christianity Today): “…we shouldn’t confuse fighting for a better seat at the blackjack table with confronting an economy addicted to gambling.… Jesus doesn’t tell his flock to beat the rich fool at his own game. He invites them to live an economic life free from greed or fear, storing up treasure in heaven by giving generously to the poor (Luke 12:33).” The author is an Old Testament professor at Carey Baptist College. Worthwhile article.
    • The Insiders’ Game (David Sacks, Persuasion): “If there is a Big Lie in American politics right now, it is the idea that censorship of social media is necessary to save democracy.… What the insiders fear is not the end of democracy, but the end of their control over it, and the loss of the benefits they extract from it. Ultimately, the battle over speech is just one aspect of a broader war for power amid a growing political realignment that is not Left versus Right, but rather insider versus outsider.” The author was on the founding team at PayPal.
    • Calling Wall Street’s Bluff (Josh Hawley, First Things): “Now the experts tell us that the true price on the market changes every day, because the fundamentals are always changing, even though they’re fundamental.… Naturally, people are somewhat suspicious of this whole system. Every so often it seems to crash the entire economy. But even when it’s supposedly working, something seems off.” Stanford alumnus Josh Hawley is, of course, the controversial Senator from Missouri.

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 Too Much Dark Money in Almonds (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Everyone always talks about how much money there is in politics. This is the wrong framing. The right framing is Ansolabehere et al’s: why is there so little money in politics? But Ansolabehere focuses on elections, and the mystery is wider than that. Sure, during the 2018 election, candidates, parties, PACs, and outsiders combined spent about $5 billion – $2.5 billion on Democrats, $2 billion on Republicans, and $0.5 billion on third parties. And although that sounds like a lot of money to you or me, on the national scale, it’s puny. The US almond industry earns $12 billion per year. Americans spent about 2.5x as much on almonds as on candidates last year.” It builds to a surprising twist. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 219.

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 283

perspectives on a day students will cover in their US History classes

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. WHAT HAPPENED
    • Madness on Capitol Hill (Andrew McCormick, The Nation): “For all the violence in the air, the mood was less coup and more college football tailgate. Pop songs blared from speakers. Somewhere, snare drums went rat-a-tat-tat. And the chants were so loud they rumbled in your chest.” This is the most vivid article I have come upon so far.

    • ‘Is This Really Happening?’: The Siege of Congress, Seen From the Inside (various, Politico): “One member at one point, a Democrat, Steve Cohen, yelled over towards the Republican side of the room and said, ‘Call Trump and tell him to call this off.’ And then a little bit later on, a lawmaker sitting on the Republican side shot back and said something along the lines of, ‘I bet you liberals are glad now you didn’t defund the police.’”This is amazing. And reading this I have a much more positive view of the frontline police response than I had gleaned from previous reporting. The issue was higher in the command structure.

    • Let me tell you about my experience at yesterday’s Trump Rally. (Not The Bee): “Again, pictures never do a crowd justice, but I went to a Big 10 college football school, I know what tens of thousands of people looks like, and this was that at least.”

    •  ‘What else could I do?’ NJ Rep. Kim helps clean up Capitol (Mike Catalini, AP News): “‘When you see something you love that’s broken you want to fix it. I love the Capitol. I‘m honored to be there,’ he said. ‘This building is extraordinary and the rotunda in particular is just awe-inspiring. How many countless generations have been inspired in that room? It really broke my heart and I just felt compelled to do something. … What else could I do?’” A profile of the man behind a photo you’ve no doubt seen.

  2. WHAT HAPPENED IN CONTEXT
    • America’s History of Political Violence (Darel E. Paul, First Things): “Early reactions to the incursion tended toward the catastrophic, and more than one journalist spoke of a ‘coup,’ the death of the Republic, and ‘civil war.’ By evening calmer heads and cooler emotions began to emerge as the rioters were arrested and dispersed, revealing less a Bolshevik storming of the Winter Palace than a LARPing event by QAnon paranoids.” The author is a professor of political science at Williams College.

    •  The Five Crises of the American Regime (Michael Lind, Tablet Magazine): “In the past eight months, two Capitol Hills have fallen. Two shocking events symbolize the abdication of authority by America’s ruling class, an abdication that has led to what can be described, not without exaggeration, as the slow-motion disintegration of the United States of America in its present form.… What is the meaning of these dystopian scenes? Many Democrats claim that Republicans are destroying the republic. Many Republicans claim the reverse. They are both correct.” The author is a professor in the UT Austin school of public affairs. This is the most comprehensive (and to my mind, largely correct) analysis I’ve come across.

    • Violence in the Capitol, Dangers in the Aftermath (Glenn Greenwald, Substack): “One need not dismiss the lamentable actions of yesterday to simultaneously reject efforts to apply terms that are plainly inapplicable: attempted coup, insurrection, sedition.… That the only person shot was a protester killed by an armed agent of the state by itself makes clear how irresponsible these terms are.” 

  3. THEOLOGICAL/RELIGIOUS COMMENTARY
    • Christian Leaders Pray for Peace and Safety Amid Capitol Mob (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “Pastor Rick Warren called the attack ‘domestic terrorism,’ while Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore condemned their actions as ‘immoral, unjust, dangerous, and inexcusable’ and called on the president to direct his supporters to ‘stop this dangerous and anti-constitutional anarchy.’ ”There’s a wide roundup of voices here.

    • Like A Fire Shut Up In My Bones (Paul Shult, Lutherans For Racial Justice): “My thoughts I share with you are shaped by my calling as a pastor. I am not a political science major, a lawyer, a public policy expert, or a business owner. I don’t want to argue politics, which is very difficult because so much in our nation and in Christianity has become politicized. So, here are my thoughts around just a few things I think are important to consider — perhaps they can be helpful to some.” The author pastors a church near campus that several of our students have attended (one of them brought this article to my attention).

    • The Gospel in a Democracy Under Assault (Russell Moore, Gospel Coalition): “Countries can fall. I hope this one doesn’t. But, either way, let’s not fall with it.”

    • Illegitimate Times (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “So it is looking as though one way or another we are going to have to learn how to live under a government we believe to be at bottom illegitimate. And that looks to be the case no matter what happens today, actually, which happens to be January 6, the day when Congress ratifies the votes of the Electoral College. If Biden is confirmed, which seems likely, a very large number of Americans will believe he got there by fraudulent means. And if Trump is confirmed—by some sort of extraordinary long shot—that irregular process, whatever it was, will be considered by a very large number of Americans to have been fraudulent in a very different way. And even though a larger number of Christians will be in the first group, our numbers in both groups will not be insignificant.” Please note, this is from before the events in question! I share it because it contains some very unusual insights.

  4. APOLOGETICALLY INTERESTING
    • Why Religious Couples Thrive in a Pandemic (Liz HoChing & Spencer James, Real Clear Religion): “It is no surprise therefore that home-worshipping couples were significantly more likely to be highly satisfied with their sexual relationship, compared with couples in a shared secular relationship. Women in shared home-worshipping relationships were found to be twice as likely to be sexually satisfied from the international data, and three-times as likely to be sexually satisfied from data gathered in the United States. These are numbers that cannot be ignored.”
      • There are many interesting quotes I could have chosen. I pick this one because it is something I commonly see come up in research and yet so contrary to the prevailing narrative in our culture. And also because most of you are yet to pick your spouse — this is a reminder to pick someone who shares your vibrant faith in the Lord.
    • Standing By: The Spatial Organization of Coercive Institutions in China (Adam Y. Liu and Charles Chang, Social Science Research): “We find that police stations are more likely to be located within walking distance of foreign religious sites (churches) than other sites (temples), even after controlling for the estimated population within 1km of each site and a set of key site attributes.” The authors are scholars at the National University of Singapore and at Yale, respectively.
    • Interesting tidbits from the article itself (the above is from the abstract):
      • “…among all major religions in China, Christianity has since the late 19th century been persistently viewed by the Chinese state—the incumbent atheistic party state in particular—as the most threatening to social order and state power.”
      • “…one of the most consistent and surprising social scientific findings is the extent of the involvement of religious groups in large scale social and political movements.”
      • “Scholars find that the participatory and civic attitudes embedded in Christianity make its believers more likely to engage in collective contention.”
      • “In a sharp contrast, the party state sees other religions, such as Buddhism, as not only non-threatening, but also conducive to strengthening its grip on power. In some instances, local officials have even supported the construction of non-Western religious sites as an explicit way to counter the growing influence of Christianity in their jurisdictions.”
    • Let me be clear: I lack the expertise to evaluate their findings. What I find fascinating is the matter-of-fact way these scholars refer to a consensus in their field about Christianity. It is interesting to read this in conjunction with the news about this week.
  5. UNRELATED THINGS
    • Rev. William Barber on Greed, Poverty and Evangelical Politics (David Marchese, New York Times): “Very few religious leaders are able to inspire political action on the part of large numbers of people who don’t share their church, their denomination or their faith. Yet the Rev. Dr. William Barber, senior pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., has done just that.” This is an interesting (and at times perplexing) interview.
    • some problems don’t have solutions, or the demand game (Freddie DeBoer, personal blog): “Here’s the reality with pornography: it may very well be very bad, and there is probably nothing that we can do about it. Technology changed the world and made something for which their is huge demand effortlessly easy to transmit and receive. And that’s that; that’s the story of pornography. Some problems don’t have solutions.” The author, an atheist socialist, inadvertently comes close to agreeing with Jesus that “the poor you will have with you always.”
    • Inside RZIM, Staff Push Leaders to Take Responsibility for Scandal (Daniel Silliman, Christianity Today): “At an online all-staff meeting in mid-October, however, RZIM speaker Sam Allberry, who officiated at Zacharias’s graveside service, asked why ‘ministry teammates’ had been included in the official denial. They had not been consulted before leadership crafted the unsigned statement denying the claims. ‘Why are you putting words in my mouth?’ said Allberry, according to people who attended the meeting. ‘Frankly, I believe these women and find their allegations to be credible.’”
      • This makes me very sad. Also, there’s a personal caution in here. One of the details is that Zacharias lied about smaller things. If you ever see me lying or exaggerating (except for obvious humor), please call me on it. I’d rather be embarrassed socially in the moment than lay the foundation for ruin later.
    • The Awokening Will Not Bring an End to the Nightmare (Musa al-Gharbi, Interfaith Youth Core) : “…the whites who seem most eager to condemn ‘ideological racism’ (i.e. people saying, thinking or feeling the ‘wrong’ things about minorities), and who are most ostentatious in demonstrating their own ‘wokeness,’ also tend to be the people who benefit the most from what sociologists describe as ‘institutional’ or ‘systemic’ racism. Consequently, the places in America with the highest concentrations of whites who are ‘with it’ also happen to be the most unequal places in the country.” The author is a sociologist at Columbia.
    • Making policy for a low-trust world (Matthew Yglesias, substack): “The correct way to respond to a low-trust environment is not to double down on proceduralism, but to commit yourself to the ‘it does exactly what it says on the tin’ principle and implement policies that have the following characteristics: It’s easy for everyone, whether they agree with you or disagree with you, to understand what it is you say you are doing. It’s easy for everyone to see whether or not you are, in fact, doing what you said you would do. It’s easy for you and your team to meet the goal of doing the thing that you said you would do.”
    • Like Preacher-Politicians Before Him, Senator Raphael Warnock Will Keep His Pulpit (Adelle Banks, Christianity Today): “ ‘It’s unusual for a pastor to get involved in something as messy as politics, but I see this as a continuation of a life of service: first as an agitator, then an advocate, and hopefully next as a legislator’” Warnock said as he was closing in on the top spot of a wide-open primary. ‘I say I’m stepping up to my next calling to serve, not stepping down from the pulpit.’ ” I did not know this history, and after reading it I am pleased to inform you that if I am elected to the US Senate I will continue to minister with Chi Alpha at Stanford.
    • The Real Problem with 4‑Letter Words (Karen Swallow Prior, Gospel Coalition): “Cursing falls into different categories. Strictly speaking, profanities are words that desacralize what is holy. Words misusing the names of God and his judgments are profane; the worst of these are blasphemy.While profanities are related to the divine, obscenities are related to the human. This category of words serves to coarsen bodily functions (whether sexual or excretory).… Another category of curse words consists of those the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker calls ‘abusive.’ ”
    • California’s Donor-Disclosure Law Threatens Religious Charities (John Bursch, Real Clear Religion): “Not once has the attorney general given a convincing reason for collecting donors’ names and addresses en masse. His office has effectively regulated charities for decades without that information. In 10 years, the attorney general only used donor lists in five out of 540 investigations. And even in those five, he could have obtained the same information through targeted subpoenas or audits, all without risking the massive disclosure of sensitive information from all registered charities.”
    • The New Strain: How Bad Is It? (Brendan Foht and Ari Schulman, The New Atlantis): “The steps that most need to be taken in response to the new strain are the same ones that should have been taken for the last year anyway, but that our government has proved largely unable or unwilling to take. An effective regime of testing, tracing, and isolating, for example, has been needed throughout the pandemic, but never really implemented.” One of the authors posted on Twitter: “In the course of working on this piece, my concern about the new Covid strain went from about a 4 to an 8.5, with the remaining 1.5 composed mostly of generalized skepticism and motivated disbelief.”

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 Pornography Makes Us Less Human and Less Humane (Matthew Lee Anderson, The Gospel Coalition): “Beneath pornography is the supposition that the mere fact of our desire for a woman makes us worthy of her. And so, not being bound by any kind of norm, desire must proceed endlessly. It is no surprise that the industrialized, cheap‐and‐easy sex of pornography has answered and evoked an almost unrestrained sexual greed, which allows us to be gods and goddesses within the safety of our own fantasies. It is for deep and important reasons that the Ten Commandments use the economic language of ‘coveting’ to describe the badness of errant sexual desires.” First shared in volume 216.

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 282

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.