Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 319

a brief roundup

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 314

Afghanistan links at the bottom.

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

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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.