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 281

interesting things from Christmas week 2020

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Revolt of the Feminist Law Profs (Wesley Yang, Chronicle of Higher Education): “The sex bureaucracy, in other words, pivoted from punishing sexual violence to imposing a normative vision of ideal sex, to which students are held administratively accountable.” First shared in volume 214.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 279

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Blows to volleyball star Hayley Hodson’s head changed her life (Patrick Hruby, LA Times): “The family did not trust Stanford. School doctors, Hodson says, had diagnosed her foot pain as inflammation and told her that she wasn’t risking further injury by playing. Medical records show that an independent doctor subsequently reviewed MRI scans taken by Stanford and determined she had a stress fracture.” Hayley was a student in Chi Alpha.
  2. My White Privilege Didn’t Save Me. But God Did (Edie Wyatt, Quillette): “Not long after, I walked into a suburban Baptist church, full of strange, unfashionably dressed, conservative Christians. I was a Marxist, a feminist, foul-mouthed, a chain-smoker, and desperate. The love I received in that place is the reason that I will defend the rights of fundamentalist Christians to my dying breath.” This is amazing. If you only read one thing this week, make it this one. Reminder: titles are rarely chosen by the author and often do not reflect the essence of an article.
  3. A pastor’s life depends on a coronavirus vaccine. Now he faces skeptics in his church. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “Before the pandemic, the 45-year-old minister, who normally leads nearly 2,000 people, would stand by the entrance to shake hands and offer hugs. Now, before services, he stays secluded in a room offstage until it is time to preach while an armed church member who works for Homeland Security watches the door.”
  4. Americans’ Mental Health Ratings Sink to New Low (Megan Brenan, Gallup): “Although the majority of U.S. adults continue to rate their mental health as excellent (34%) or good (42%), and far fewer say it is only fair (18%) or poor (5%), the latest excellent ratings are eight points lower than Gallup has measured in any prior year.” 
    • Recommended by a student because of one very interesting statistic: the only group that showed an increase in mental health was weekly churchgoers (the weekly part matters — monthly churchgoers experienced a decline). I looked at the more detailed PDF and it was unclear to me how they asked about church attendance, and of course it is impossible to identify causation from a survey like this.
    • I found this comment by an economist on Twitter funny: “This is absolutely the least surprising thing ever. Church folks are like, “The pandemic sucks, but my church did these 57 things and I’m overwhelmed with people trying to find ways to support during these times.” Everybody else is like, ‘I’M SO ALONE’” 
  5. The Rise and Fall of Carl Lentz, the Celebrity Pastor of Hillsong Church (Ruth Graham, New York Times): “Soon the church’s cultural cachet grew outside Christian circles. ‘I knew people who came to church not because they were Christians but because they thought Carl was hot,’ said Heather McClanahan, who worked for the church in 2014 and 2015.”
    • The Crisis of Christian Celebrity (David French, The Dispatch): “The way I’ve put it in speeches to young Christians is simply this, ‘Make the easy choice so you don’t have to make the hard choice.’ Saying no to the extra drink is much easier than halting a drunken flirtation.”
  6. Prominent evangelicals are directing Trump’s sinking ship. That feeds doubts about religion. (Michael Gerson, Washington Post): “When prominent Christians affirm absurd political lies with religious fervor, nonbelievers have every reason to think: ‘Maybe Christians are prone to swallowing absurd religious lies as well. Maybe they are simply credulous about everything.’ If we should encounter someone who believes — honestly and adamantly believes — in both the existence of the Easter Bunny and in the resurrection of Christ, it would naturally raise questions about the quality of his or her believing faculties.”
  7. The coming war on the hidden algorithms that trap people in poverty (Karen Hao, MIT Technology Review): Not until they were standing in the courtroom in the middle of a hearing did the witness representing the state reveal that the government had just adopted a new algorithm. The witness, a nurse, couldn’t explain anything about it. “Of course not—they bought it off the shelf,” Gilman says. “She’s a nurse, not a computer scientist. She couldn’t answer what factors go into it. How is it weighted? What are the outcomes that you’re looking for? So there I am with my student attorney, who’s in my clinic with me, and it’s like, ‘Oh, am I going to cross-examine an algorithm?’”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

QI’s Gift-Wrapping Life Hack! (QI, YouTube): mind blown in less than three minutes

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Tourist Journalism Versus the Working Class (Kevin Mims, Quillette): “To university‐educated media professionals like Carole Cadwalladr, James Bloodworth, and John Oliver, an Amazon warehouse must seem like the Black Hole of Calcutta. But I’ve done low‐paying manual labor for most of my working life, and rarely have I appreciated a job as much as my role as an Amazon associate.” I learned many things from this article. First shared in volume 212, with a follow-up shared the next week: How (and Why) to KISSASS (Kevin Mims, Quillette): “…if you’re not a member of the professional class, the key to getting your personal essays published in prominent publications is KISSASS—Keep It Short, Sad, And Simple, Stupid.”

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 273

Honestly, there are too many political articles in this one.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. How does Google’s monopoly hurt you? Try these searches. (Geoffrey Fowler, Washington Post): “Googling didn’t used to require so much … scrolling. On some searches, it’s like Where’s Waldo but for information. Without us even realizing it, the Internet’s most-used website has been getting worse. On too many queries, Google is more interested in making search lucrative than a better product for us.”
  2. A shadowy AI service has transformed thousands of women’s photos into fake nudes: ‘Make fantasy a reality’ (Drew Harwell, Washington Post): “An artificial intelligence service freely available on the Web has been used to transform more than 100,000 women’s images into nude photos without the women’s knowledge or consent, triggering fears of a new wave of damaging ‘deepfakes’ that could be used for harassment or blackmail. Users of the automated service can anonymously submit a photo of a clothed woman and receive an altered version with the clothing removed.” Well, that’s not terrifying at all. 
  3. Of Course We’re Not a Democracy (Mike Lee, First Things): “Our system of government is best described as a constitutional republic. Power is not found in mere majorities, but in carefully balanced power.” The author is a US Senator (R — Utah).
  4. Should the Professional Be Political? (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “The Coinbase decision captured the attention of CEOs, tech workers, and members of the media who are asking themselves a timely question: What role, if any, should political activism play in the workplace? If Coinbase’s approach doesn’t lead to a staff exodus or legal setbacks or some other unforeseen harm, it is likely to be adopted at other companies––probably for the better––because it is well suited to helping workplaces stay diverse and inclusive in a polarized moment.”
  5. Election-related articles
    • My favorite political ad of 2020 (Twitter): 30 seconds, and I am quite serious. 
    • The Spiritual Blessing of Political Homelessness (David French, The Dispatch): “More and more, thoughtful (mainly young) Christians say to me, ‘I’m pro-life, I believe in religious freedom and free speech, I think we should welcome immigrants and refugees, and I desperately want racial reconciliation. Where do I fit in?’ The answer is clear. Nowhere. And that truth is a blessing, if you embrace it.”
    • Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin (John Piper, Desiring God): “Actually, this is a long-overdue article attempting to explain why I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.” 
    • Could Trump Be A Christ-Figure: A Response to John Piper About Trump (C. Michael Patton, Credo House): “I don’t know if Trump is who the media says he is, I can only go off what I hear him say and see him do. Take away the accusations of xenophobia, racism, and misogyny and what do you have? An alleged sordid past with women (me too) and a present of enacting the policies I agree with.” The title is so provocative and I almost didn’t read it, but I found it genuinely interesting. The title is over-the-top, though.
    • Why Most Evangelical Christians are Political Conservatives (JP Moreland, personal blog): “Suffice it to say that, when carefully examined, the texts show that the state is not to be in the business of showing compassion or providing positive rights for its citizens through its use of coercive power (e.g. taxation). These are matters of individual moral responsibility and obligation for the people of God (and various charities). Rather, the state is the protector of negative rights.” The link is to a short blog entry that contains a link to a 20 page PDF. The excerpt is from the PDF. The author is a philosopher at Biola University and brought up some points about the Old Testament I had never considered before. 
    • 2020 Polls: Voters Have Never Been More Divided by Gender (Eric Levitz, NY Magazine): “And today, young women in the U.S. aren’t just unprecedentedly single; they also appear to be unprecedentedly uninterested in heterosexuality: According to private polling shared with Intelligencer by Democratic data scientist David Shor, roughly 30 percent of American women under 25 identify as LGBT; for women over 60, that figure is less than 5 percent.” 👀👀👀
    • A response: No Families, No Children, No Future (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “There is nothing remotely normal about that number. It is a sign of a deeply decadent culture — that is, a culture that lacks the wherewithal to survive. The most important thing that a generation can do is produce the next generation. No families, no children, no future.”
    • How fascist is President Trump? There’s still a formula for that. (John McNeill, Washington Post): “In a federal, decentralized state with constitutional checks and balances, it’s harder to govern as a fascist than to run as one. Trump’s political outlook and behavior bear many similarities to those of fascist leaders, but he has not ruled like an authentic fascist.” Recommended by an alumnus. The author is a history professor at Georgetown. 
    • ICE Detainees in Georgia Say They Had Unneeded Surgeries (Caitlin Dickerson, Seth Freed Wessler and Miriam Jordan, New York Times): “Immigrants detained at an ICE-contracted center in Georgia said they had invasive gynecology procedures that they later learned might have been unnecessary.” About a month old, recommended by an alumnus.
    • In a year of political anger, undecided voters inspire a special kind of scorn (Maura Judkis, Washington Post): “With so much on the line, the Undecideds have become more mystifying — and frustrating — than ever. Nobody believes they are real. Oh, and everyone hates them.”
  6. The Real Causes of Human Sex Differences (David C. Geary>, Quillette): “People have many stereotypes about boys and men and girls and women and most of them are accurate and, if anything, underestimate the magnitude of actual sex differences.The key question is whether these stereotyped beliefs create a self-fulfilling prophecy or are largely a description of sex differences that children and adults have observed in their day-to-day life.” The author is an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Missouri 
  7. Global things to remember in prayer:
    • Nigerian forces killed 12 peaceful protesters, Amnesty says (Sam Olukoya And Lekan Oyekanmi, Associated Press): “At least 56 people have died during two weeks of widespread demonstrations against police violence, including 38 on Tuesday, the group said…. citing eyewitnesses, video footage and hospital reports.”
    • Nigeria Is Murdering Its Citizens (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, New York Times): “The Nigerian state has turned on its people. The only reason to shoot into a crowd of peaceful citizens is to terrorize: to kill some and make the others back down. It is a colossal and unforgivable crime.”
    • Turks and Armenians Reconcile in Christ. Can Azeris Join Them? (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “Beytel became a Christian in 2000. But it was not until 2009 when he met Jacob Pursley, an American minister to Turkey, that he began to wrestle with his share in the national responsibility. The spiritual growth of the church is hindered by the unconfessed sin of genocide, Pursley implored the believers. He urged Turkish Christians to seek reconciliation with Armenians, on behalf of the nation.”
    • Azerbaijan Evangelicals: Conflict with Armenians Is Not a Religious War (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today):“Originally a ‘Muslim atheist’ from a well-educated family, he was saved in 1991 after following a beautiful girl and her mysterious leather-bound book to a Bible study. Within a year, he was assistant pastor, and in 1997 he was ordained a minister in the Greater Grace Christian movement.” Including entirely for that luminous excerpt. 
    • Biden and Big Tech have Poland and Hungary in their crosshairs (Gladden Pappin, Newsweek): “The real reason that Poland and Hungary have been demonized in the United States is that they represent a successful alternative to the failed American combination of industrial and family collapse.” The author is a professor of politics at the University of Dallas. I don’t have strong opinions about European politics, but I am struck by how passionate some Americans are about them.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Artificial Intelligence and Magical Thinking (Ed Feser, personal blog): “Building a computer is precisely analogous to putting together a bit of magical sleight of hand. It is a clever exercise in simulation, nothing more. And the convincingness of the simulation is as completely irrelevant in the one case as it is in the other. Saying ‘Gee, AI programs can do such amazing things. Maybe it really is intelligence!’ is like saying ‘Gee, Penn and Teller do such amazing things. Maybe it really is magic!’” Feser is one of my favorite philosophers. First shared in volume 197, and I recall a CS major telling me how much he disagreed with it.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 264

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

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Godspeed: The Pace Of Being Known (Vimeo): a student brought this 30 minute video to my attention and said it made her think about how she should be living in her dorm (sadly irrelevant for that purpose at the moment). First shared in volume 181.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 229

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Should Lebanon’s Christians Join Protests? Viral Sermons Argue Yes and No. (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “”For the past month, Lebanese evangelicals have debated Scripture, sharing sermons online. One viral effort urges believers to stay away from widespread demonstrations in submission to authority. Another licenses participation in the popular push for justice.”
    • I like this article because it helps us look at a contentious Biblical issue in a setting where most of us don’t have a strong bias one way or the other. Decide whose arguments you find most compelling, and then think about how they apply in your own setting.
  2. Most people are bad at arguing. These 2 techniques will make you better. (Brian Resnick, Vox): “1) If the argument you find convincing doesn’t resonate with someone else, find out what does…. 2) Listen. Your ideological opponents want to feel like they’ve been heard.”
  3. Seeing Like A Finite State Machine (Henry Farrell, Crooked Timber): “In short, there is a very plausible set of mechanisms under which machine learning and related techniques may turn out to be a disaster for authoritarianism, reinforcing its weaknesses rather than its strengths, by increasing its tendency to bad decision making, and reducing further the possibility of negative feedback that could help correct against errors.” The author is a political science professor at George Washington University.
  4. LGBT Rights-Religious Liberty Bill Proposed in Congress (Daniel Silliman, Christianity Today): “Congressman Chris Stewart doesn’t expect his bill to pass. But he is proposing the Fairness for All Act anyway. It’s a step of faith for Stewart, a Republican who represents Utah’s second district, and a marker on the bet that it’s possible to find a compromise that protects both religious liberty and LGBT rights.”
  5. How the Trump Cabinet’s Bible Teacher Became a Shadow Diplomat (Mattathias Schwartz, New York Times): “Seven years ago, Drollinger published a short book called ‘Rebuilding America: The Biblical Blueprint,’ which lays out his ambition to ‘to reach all the capitals of the world for Christ.’ Drollinger, like many evangelicals, refers to this God-given global remit as the Great Commission, a phrase popularized by the 19th-century missionary James Hudson Taylor; Drollinger traces its mandate to Jesus’ charge, as related by Matthew, to ‘make disciples of all the nations.’ A chart in ‘Rebuilding America’ diagrams the ‘influence path’ of a public servant as a baseball diamond, running through local government (first base), state government (second base) and national government (third base) and culminating in ‘international influence’ (home plate).” I shared another article about Drollinger back in volume 147.
  6. China’s Sovereignty Tripwire in Hong Kong (David P. Goldman, First Things): “China is a polyglot, multiethnic empire, not a nation-state. Infringement of its control over any part of its territory threatens the whole. Foreign intervention and regional divisions is the stuff of China’s historical nightmares. Any loss of sovereignty, in China’s experience, begins a slippery slope toward imperial crackup. Foreign invasion is still a living memory in China, and Beijing reads the worst into American intervention over Hong Kong.”
  7. The Salvation Army’s Actions Speak Louder Than Its Theology (Stephen L. Carter, Bloomberg): “Volunteers are significantly more likely than non-volunteers to be religious; and the religious are significantly more likely than the non-religious to volunteer. As religion declines, so does volunteering. If we put the religious volunteers out of business, a lot of people will suddenly be unhelped. We need all the volunteers we can get. And we cannot reasonably expect to replace them with paid labor. According to the Urban Institute, the 8.7 billion hours volunteered in the U.S. in 2016 were worth about $187.4 billion.” The author is a law professor at Yale.

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 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 210

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.

It’s good to be back after last week’s hiatus.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. AI Trained on Old Scientific Papers Makes Discoveries Humans Missed (Madeleine Gregory, Motherboard): “In a study published in Nature on July 3, researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used an algorithm called Word2Vec sift through scientific papers for connections humans had missed. Their algorithm then spit out predictions for possible thermoelectric materials, which convert heat to energy and are used in many heating and cooling applications.”
  2. Can Christian Compassion Influence How We Treat Migrants? (Alan Cross, The Bulwark): “Compassion is not inherited, either in individuals nor in nations. It must be cultivated and that cultivation often happens in trial when we are tested. America is being tested right now. How will we respond to the migrants coming to us desperate for help and refuge? How will we respond to the sight of Oscar and Valeria drowning and being found face down on the banks of Rio Grande in each other’s arms?”
    • Related: In the ‘battle at the border,’ evangelical leaders jostle for Trump-era media relevancy (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “Unless you’ve been under a rock recently, you know much of the country is fixated on the mess at our border. What’s not as visible is how evangelical Christians are fighting among themselves over all of this.”
    • And yet: Republicans turn more negative toward refugees as number admitted to U.S. plummets (Hannah Hartig, Pew Research): “By more than two-to-one (68% to 25%), white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees. Other religious groups are more likely to say the U.S. does have this responsibility. And opinions among religiously unaffiliated adults are nearly the reverse of those of white evangelical Protestants: 65% say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, while just 31% say it does not.”
  3. Manly wedding rings for tough guys who are dudes (Dan Brooks, The Outline): “I don’t hunt, but I briefly considered buying a camouflage ring, partly to signal my deep commitment to irony and partly to get better service at the auto parts store.” I really enjoyed this essay, and I hope that many of you have need of wedding bands in the not-too-distant future.
  4. Evangelical Christians Face A Deepening Crisis (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “Coppock mentioned to me the powerful example of St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, who was willing to rebuke the Roman Emperor Theodosius for the latter’s role in massacring civilians as punishment for the murder of one of his generals. Ambrose refused to allow the Church to become a political prop, despite concerns that doing so might endanger him. Ambrose spoke truth to power. (Theodosius ended up seeking penance, and Ambrose went on to teach, convert, and baptize St. Augustine.) Proximity to power is fine for Christians, Coppock told me, but only so long as it does not corrupt their moral sense, only so long as they don’t allow their faith to become politically weaponized. Yet that is precisely what’s happening today.”
    • Recommended by an alumnus. I wish that the American church was more visibly dismayed at some of Trump’s obvious sins. I remind people of all political inclinations that you can support someone’s overall agenda and still rebuke them for acts of wickedness. In fact, being willing to do so makes your support more meaningful. So vote for whoever you want, and hold the leaders you support to a high standard.
  5. Taiwan’s Status is a Geopolitical Absurdity (Chris Horton, The Atlantic): “’Taiwan’s government is democratically elected—we have a president, we have a parliament,’ Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said plaintively at a briefing for foreign media earlier this year. At the time, his government was trying to be included in the World Health Assembly. (It was ultimately blocked by China.) ‘We issue visas, we issue passports,’ he said, practically pleading. ‘We have a military and a currency … Taiwan exists by itself; Taiwan is not a part of any other country.’”
  6. Robespierre’s America (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “The data confirm what one hears and experiences anecdotally all the time: In the proverbial land of the free, people live in mortal fear of a moral faux pas. Opinions that were considered reasonable and normal a few years ago are increasingly delivered in whispers. Professors fear their students. Publishers drop books at the slightest whiff of social-media controversy.”
  7. Gay Rites Are Civil Rites (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “‘Civil religion’ is a surprising place for social justice to end up. Gay pride started at Stonewall as a giant ****-you to civil society. Homeless people, addicts, and sex workers told the police where they could shove their respectable values. But there was another major world religion that started with beggars, lepers, and prostitutes, wasn’t there? One that told the Pharisees where to shove their respectable values.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have a compelling series of articles on China by a history professor at Johns Hopkins (who also happens to be a Stanford grad): China’s Master Plan: A Global Military Threat, China’s Master Plan: Exporting an Ideology, China’s Master Plan: A Worldwide Web of Institutions and China’s Master Plan: How The West Can Fight Back (Hal Brand, Bloomberg). The money quote from the second article: “If the U.S. has long sought to make the world safe for democracy, China’s leaders crave a world that is safe for authoritarianism.” First shared in volume 156.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 199

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

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Preacher And Politics: Seven Thoughts (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “I have plenty of opinions and convictions. But that’s not what I want my ministry to be about. That’s not to say I don’t comment on abortion or gay marriage or racism or other issues about the which the Bible speaks clearly. And yet, I’m always mindful that I can’t separate Blogger Kevin or Twitter Kevin or Professor Kevin from Pastor Kevin. As such, my comments reflect on my church, whether I intend them to or not. That means I keep more political convictions to myself than I otherwise would.” First shared in volume 150.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 131

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective (Puzhong Yao, American Affairs): “Certain beliefs are as ubiquitous among the people I went to school with as smog was in Shijiazhuang. The doctrines that shape the worldviews and cultural assumptions at elite Western institutions like Cambridge, Stanford, and Goldman Sachs have become almost religious. Nevertheless, I hope that the perspective of a candid Chinese atheist can be of some instruction to them.” This is quite funny in places, especially his experiences at the Stanford GSB.
  2. University evicts Christian club over leadership faith requirement (Caleb Parke, Fox News): “‘The [University of Iowa] knows that what it is doing to BLinC is unfair, illegal, and unconstitutional,’ the complaint prepared by the firm says, adding that, while BLinC only requires adherence to their beliefs for their leaders and not their members, university policy is that campus organizations can require members to believe a certain way.’” Read the actual legal complaint — it’s straight fire. I was especially tickled by paragraph 76.
  3. How Culture Affects Depression (Marianna Pogosyan, Psychology Today): “However, teaching people that this very complex social, cultural, and biological phenomenon is entirely biological can backfire. It encourages people to ignore environmental factors, and instead, essentialize depression as a characteristic of themselves and their biology.” An interview with a Georgetown psychology professor.
  4. The Warlock Hunt (Claire Berlinski, The American Interest): “Given the events of recent weeks, we can be certain of this: From now on, men with any instinct for self-preservation will cease to speak of anything personal, anything sexual, in our presence. They will make no bawdy jokes when we are listening. They will adopt in our presence great deference to our exquisite sensitivity and frailty. Many women seem positively joyful at this prospect. The Revolution has at last been achieved! But how could this be the world we want? Isn’t this the world we escaped?”
  5. Evangelicals and Domestic Violence: Are Christian Men More Abusive? (Brad Wilcox, Christianity Today):  “…churchgoing evangelical Protestant husbands were the least likely to be engaged in abusive behavior…. Although the empirical story of religion and domestic violence looks good for practicing believers, it’s much less rosy for others. My research suggests that the most violent husbands in America are nominal evangelical Protestants who attend church infrequently or not at all.” Brings to mind Rev 3:15–16 — be hot or cold, not lukewarm. The author is a sociologist at UVA.
  6. I read many articles about the Alabama election — these stood out.
    • Roy Moore and the Invisible Religious Right  (Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker): “…what was most notable about the pastors on Moore’s list was their obscurity. I found a list of the pastors of the thirty-six largest churches in Alabama, assembled this summer by the Web site of the Birmingham News; no pastor on that list appeared on Moore’s. I called leaders within the deeply conservative Southern Baptist Church—the largest denomination in Alabama and, for decades, the core of the religious right—and was told that not a single affiliated Southern Baptist pastor in the state was openly allied with Moore.”
    • Roy Moore Had Lowest White Evangelical Support Of Any Alabama Republican In The 21st Century (Lyman Stone, The Federalist): “Exit polls from the Alabama Senate special election on Tuesday show that Roy Moore got 80 percent of the white evangelical vote, but nonetheless went down to defeat. This is shocking, because white evangelicals are a big share of Alabama’s population…. So if it’s a big voting bloc and they’re 80 percent for a candidate, shouldn’t that candidate win?”
    • For a critical take on the above claim: Is it possible that white evangelicals swung the Alabama election against Roy Moore? (Scott Clement, Washington Post): “Moore’s support among white evangelicals is historically low for a Republican. At the same time, the drop-off in Moore’s support among other white groups from previous elections (particularly non-evangelicals, white women and whites with college degrees) is far larger, indicating that evangelicals were far less likely than other typical Republican voters to alter their party support with Moore as a candidate.”
    • And more generally: Pro-life Voters and Pro-Choice Politicians (Michael Wear, personal blog): “The way some invoke conscience in politics reflects an odd morality that puts one’s conscience at risk for supporting a candidate who opposes Roe v. Wade, but rationalizes away moral responsibility for a candidate who intentionally seeks to disenfranchise African-Americans or restrict the right of worship for Muslims or wantonly breaks up families through deportation or mass incarceration. Perhaps abortion as a political issue carries greater moral weight than these other issues—an idea some pro-lifers seem a bit too eager to accept, I have to say—but is there no confluence of evil that can affect the voting calculation of the pro-life person who believes their conscience requires them to vote for whoever the pro-life candidate happens to be?” Wear, an evangelical, was an Obama White House staffer.
    • Also more generally: Why I Can No Longer Call Myself an Evangelical Republican (Peter Wehner, New York Times): “the events of the past few years — and the past few weeks — have shown us that the Republican Party and the evangelical movement (or large parts of them, at least), have become what I once would have thought of as liberal caricatures. Assume you were a person of the left and an atheist, and you decided to create a couple of people in a laboratory to discredit the Republican Party and white evangelical Christianity. You could hardly choose two more perfect men than Donald Trump and Roy Moore.” (this one came recommended by a student)
  7. Is AlphaZero really a scientific breakthrough in AI? (Jose Camacho Collados, Medium):  “I am a researcher in the broad field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), specialized in Natural Language Processing. I am also a chess International Master, currently the top player in South Korea although practically inactive for the last few years due to my full-time research position…. However, there are reasonable doubts about the validity of the overarching claims that arise from a careful reading of AlphaZero’s paper.”  I was recently hyping this to someone and clearly did not know as much about it as I thought. Interesting pushback.
  8. And last but not least : Want to raise employee morale? Treat every day as an experiment (Christos Makridis, Medium): our very own Christos continues to put his work out into the public square. Go, Christos!

Things Glen Found Amusing

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have a provocative read: In Defense of Flogging (Peter Moskos, Chronicle of Higher Education) — the author is a former police officer and now a criminologist at the City University of New York. This one was shared back before I started sending these emails in a blog post called Punishment.

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).

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.

Archives at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links.