Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 340

Lots of Ukraine/Russia links, plus more entertaining links than normal as a compensation.

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 340, which is cool because it’s a multiple of 17 and I really like the number 17.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. On Ukraine and Russia: a lot of links here, just open the interesting titles in new tabs.
    • To Stay and Serve: Why We Didn’t Flee Ukraine (Vasyl Ostryi, Gospel Coalition): “How should the church respond when there is a growing threat of war? When there is constant fear in society? I’m convinced that if the church is not relevant at a time of crisis, then it is not relevant in a time of peace.… while the church may not fight like the nation, we still believe we have a role to play in this struggle. We will shelter the weak, serve the suffering, and mend the broken. And as we do, we offer the unshakable hope of Christ and his gospel.” Respect.
    • We lack the ability to ideate and innovate on foreign policy (Melissa Wear, Substack): “Why is it that the media and experts marveled so much at the unprecedented sharing of intelligence on President Putin’s next moves? Because it was something new. And it’s no surprise it comes from the intelligence community. They and those in the military and defense are not as often cultivated under the banner of progress and peace and the End of History in typical IR and political sciences courses, narratives, and hallways of power.”
    • We’re All Ukrainians Now (David French, The Dispatch): “No one claims that Ukraine is a perfect country. Like many former Soviet republics, it has struggled to find its footing. It’s endured authoritarianism, and it battles corruption. But, in Lewis’s words, it is ‘not in the least aggressive.’ It ‘asks only to be let alone.’ As a nation that has endured its own aggressive attacks, how can we not empathize? How can we not do what we reasonably can to deter Russian aggression and help Ukrainians defend themselves?” 
    • Thoughts On Shitpost Diplomacy (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “The American diplomat who posted this meme should have known this. He or she was almost certainly a Foreign Service Officer in the Public Diplomacy cone; a public diplomat’s first charge is learning how to communicate persuasively to the people of the region stationed in. It is not that this officer lacked the raw intelligence to fulfill this role: four out of every five applicants fail the Foreign Service’s selective entrance tests. It is what this diplomat did after receiving his or her post that mattered. This diplomat did not study. Memes like these are the product of a culture that retweets more than it reads.”
    • On Ukraine (George Weigel, First Things): “For months now, the world press has described Russian troop deployments along Ukraine’s borders as spearheads of a possible invasion. The truth, however, is that Russia invaded Ukraine seven years ago, when it annexed Crimea and Russian ‘little green men’ ignited a war in eastern Ukraine that has taken over 14,000 lives and displaced over a million people. Whatever the current military developments, a Russian invasion of Ukraine has not been ‘imminent’; the invasion is ongoing.”
    • Amid War and Rumors of War, Ukraine Pastors Preach and Prepare (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “Preaching on the Sermon on the Mount’s injunction toward peacemaking, Kulakevych continued his laser-sharp focus on the possible Russian invasion. Five weeks ago, as the separatist conflict in the eastern Donbas region began to escalate, he surveyed the Bible for its teaching on ‘wars and rumors of war.’ He followed that with an application of ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’ and, on the next Sunday, a treatise on worry.”
    • Russia Keeps Punishing Evangelicals in Crimea (Kate Shellnutt and Forum 18, Christianity Today): “Since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014—one of the central points of conflict in the current clash between the two countries—Protestant Christians in the territory have faced greater government penalties for practicing their faith.”
    • Russia’s space agency warns US sanctions could ‘destroy’ cooperation on the International Space Station (Kristin Fisher, CNN): “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the International Space Station (ISS) from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or…Europe?” Rogozin said. “There is also the possibility of a 500-ton structure falling on India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, therefore all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?” Recommended by an alumnus.
    • Putin as a man of ideas (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “If you write books, whether good or bad ones, and wonder whether your work matters, I suggest the answer lies before you on your TV screen each evening. Russia is a nation of ideas, led by people who are obsessed with ideas. The rest of the world, most of all Europe, will need better ideas in turn.”
    • Putin’s spiritual destiny (Giles Fraser,  UnHerd): “Last year, on the anniversary of the baptism of the Rus, [Patriarch] Kirill preached to his people, urging them to stay true to Vladimir’s conversion and the blood of the orthodox martyrs. He told them to love ‘our homeland, our people, our rulers and our army’. The Western secular imagination doesn’t get this. It looks at Putin’s speech the other evening, and it describes him as mad — which is another way of saying we do not understand what is going on. And we show how little we understand by thinking that a bunch of sanctions is going to make a blind bit of difference. They won’t.”
    • Putin’s Attack on Ukraine Is a Religious War (John Schindler, Substack): “Every secular geostrategic challenge cited as a reason for Putin’s aggression – NATO expansion, Western military moves, oil and gas politics – existed in 2014, yet Putin then chose to limit his attacks on Ukraine to Crimea and the Southeast. What’s changed since then that makes his effort to subdue all Ukraine seem like a good idea in the Kremlin? The creation of an autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine in 2019, with official American backing, is the difference, and Moscow believes this was all a nefarious U.S. plot to divide world Orthodoxy at Russia’s expense. Clearly Putin has decided that reclaiming Ukraine and its capital, ‘the mother of Russian cities,’ for Russian Orthodoxy is worth a major war. Make no mistake, this is a religious war, even if almost nobody in the West realizes it.“This is in the mix. I don’t know what percentage of the mix it is, but it’s definitely in the mix.
    • War and dating apps (swipe left) (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “Ukrainian women in second city Kharkiv — just 20 miles from tyrannical Vladimir Putin’s vast invasion force — have been stunned by a salvo of admirers in uniform. Hunky Russian troops called Andrei, Alexander, Gregory, Michail and a bearded Chechen fighter nicknamed ‘Black’ were among dozens whose profiles popped up.” This is a link to a summary of an article from the Sun. The summary is enough, but if you click through you’ll see actual Tinder photos.
  2. I spent six months in a cult. They’re still here on campus. (Camille Williams, The Daily Northwestern): “So, you are probably wondering: how did I get out? …Some may call it a gut instinct; I call it the Holy Spirit within me squirming in revolt. After that conversation, I ran out of my bedroom and yelled to my mother, ‘I accidentally joined a cult.’ After she went from confused laughter to vowing to throw hands with these people, I finally started to feel this burden release.”
    • This is an article by a student in Chi Alpha at Northwestern. She was in Chi Alpha, got sucked into a cult, and then got out and returned to Chi Alpha.
  3. Gangsters want to be good people too (Chris Blattman, blog): “I remember meeting one gang leader on the streets of Chicago. We were standing in line at a nacho and ice cream truck (yes that exists) chatting. I was trying to understand how one of the violence reduction programs I was working on affected his operations. After all, we were trying to recruit away his best young men—his star dealers and shooters. We wanted to get them into other kinds of jobs. Surely he was frustrated. On the contrary. He was delighted. ‘I only do this for the boys,’ he said. ‘They need something to do. Your program is even better. I’m happy they’re going.’ In his mind, the violent drug-dealing was a public employment program, and he the administrator.”
  4. Some Canadian Convoy Aftermath:
    • Convoy Crackdown (Zvi Mowshowitz, Substack): “Family members having trouble living their lives is being treated not as a bug but as a feature. The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children, it seems. This extends as noted above to those who provide financial assistance to those engaging in disapproved activities, and that such retaliation will continue to happen after the activities in question cease, so not only is one without one’s money and other assets, and without the ability to spend what one does have, others may reasonably fear that helping you not end up on the street might land them in the same situation.” Emphasis in original.
    • Trudeau ends use of Emergencies Act, says ‘situation is no longer an emergency’ (Nick Boisvert, CBC): “The Senate was in the midst of debating the act on Wednesday but withdrew the motion shortly after Trudeau made his announcement.” I am glad the emergency measures have been lifted, but what should concern us all is that this is now on the table as an option for otherwise rights-based governments.
    • What Led to Canada’s Crisis (Nathan Pinkoski,First Things): “The crisis had its origins in material conditions unique to Canada. A combination of elite overproduction and Canada’s position in the shadow of the United States has produced an ideologically supercharged managerial class that has accelerated the adoption of a new kind of emergency politics.“The author is at the nearby Zephyr Institute.
  5. By Any Other Name (Helena, Substack): “UK NHS referral data shows a 4000% increase in pediatric gender service referrals (not a typo). So-called ‘gender dysphoria’, which was once a very rare diagnosis that described mostly prepubescent boys and adult men, is now most commonly diagnosed in teenage girls. Activists will argue that these explosive numbers are a result of increased societal acceptance, and that at long last trans people are coming out of hiding and living as their authentic selves. If this were true, one might expect to see comparable rates of transgender identity across all age groups and between both sexes, but its disproportionately adolescent females feeling that warm and fuzzy inclusive acceptance.” A very personal narrative. Long, recommended.
  6. The C.D.C. Isn’t Publishing Large Portions of the Covid Data It Collects (Apoorva Mandavilli, New York Times): “…the C.D.C. has been routinely collecting information since the Covid vaccines were first rolled out last year, according to a federal official familiar with the effort. The agency has been reluctant to make those figures public, the official said, because they might be misinterpreted as the vaccines being ineffective.” My level of confidence in our public health agencies cannot go much lower. And sadly, in an attempt to prevent people believing disapproved thoughts the CDC has inflamed conspiracy theorists. Outrageous.

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 From Midwest Drug Dealer to The Farm: Jason Spyres Shares His Inspiring Story (Yasmin Samrai, Stanford Review): “To justify his criminal behaviour, he told himself that though selling pot was illegal, it wasn’t immoral. This theory came crashing down when two gangs broke into his house, split his head open, and robbed him. When Spyres discovered that the burglars had nearly mistaken his house for his neighbor’s, he realized that selling drugs put other people’s safety in jeopardy. ‘I was shocked and sickened with myself,’ he recalled. ‘I was part of a black market and my actions had unintended consequences.’” What a wild story. First shared in volume 204 

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 339

some of these links are quite spicy — consume with care

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 338

more eclectic 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 338th installment. 338, I am told, is the smallest number for which both the number of divisors and the sum of its prime factors is a perfect number. An odd honor, but one I am pleased to acknowledge.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Romance:
    • Reverse friend zone: many romantic relationships start off just as friends. In fact, most people prefer it this way (Tibi Puiu, ZME Science): “When participants were asked about their original intentions for initiating the friendship that went on to evolve romantically, only 30% said they were sexually attracted to the partner from the very beginning. In 70% of cases, neither of the two parties in the relationship originally had feelings, with attraction blossoming at a later time.”
    • Too Risky to Wed in Your 20s? Not if You Avoid Cohabiting First (Brad Wilcox and Lyman Stone, Wall Street Journal): “In analyzing reports of marriage and divorce from more than 50,000 women in the U.S. government’s National Survey of Family Growth (NFSG), we found that there is a group of women for whom marriage before 30 is not risky: women who married directly, without ever cohabiting prior to marriage. In fact, women who married between 22 and 30, without first living together, had some of the lowest rates of divorce in the NSFG.”#justsaying
  2. Stephen Colbert Explains The Relationship Between His Comedy and His Faith (Twitter): I think I would really like Stephen Colbert if I met him in person.
  3. Stanford related:
    • Are semesters or quarters better? (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “In fact I think the quarter system doesn’t go far enough. I think we should have many more one- and two-week classes, or five-week classes, as well. Understandably that is more difficult to manage operationally, but I don’t see any reason why it should be impossible. Companies solve more complex scheduling problems than that all the time. If I think of GMU, either the undergraduate majors, or the graduate students, should in my opinion have had some classroom time with almost every single instructor. So much of life and productivity is about matching!”
    • I went to every library on campus so you don’t have to (Annie Reller, Stanford Daily): “Below is my ranking of the libraries on campus. Please keep in mind that I have specific criteria when going to libraries: comfy chairs, ambiance and lighting. I am a humanities major, so desks are less necessary as I do most of my work on my laptop.”
  4. Why Isn’t There a Replication Crisis in Math? (Jay Daigle, blog): “Many papers have errors, yes—but our major results generally hold up, even when the intermediate steps are wrong! Our errors can usually be fixed without really changing our conclusions.… But isn’t it…weird…that our results hold up when our methods don’t? How does that even work? We get away with it becuase we can be right for the wrong reasons—we mostly only try to prove things that are basically true.” Emphasis in original. The author is a math professor at George Washington University.
  5. Hackers:
    • North Korea Hacked Him. So He Took Down Its Internet (Andy Greenberg, Wired): “But responsibility for North Korea’s ongoing internet outages doesn’t lie with US Cyber Command or any other state-sponsored hacking agency. In fact, it was the work of one American man in a T‑shirt, pajama pants, and slippers, sitting in his living room night after night, watching Alien movies and eating spicy corn snacks—and periodically walking over to his home office to check on the progress of the programs he was running to disrupt the internet of an entire country.” What an absolute legend.
    • How A Lone Hacker Shredded the Myth of Crowdsourcing (Mark Harris, Medium): “Myself and others in the social sciences community tend to think of such massive acts of sabotage as anomalies, but are they?” wondered Cebrian. To settle the question, Cebrian analyzed his (and other) crowdsourcing contests with the help of Victor Naroditskiy, a game theory expert at the University of Southampton. The results shocked him. “The expected outcome is for everyone to attack, regardless of how difficult an attack is,” says Cebrian. “It is actually rational for the crowd to be malicious, especially in a competition environment. And I can’t think of any engineering or game theoretic or economic incentive to stop it.” Recommended by a student.
  6. Ukraine Gave Up a Giant Nuclear Arsenal 30 Years Ago. Today There Are Regrets. (William J. Broad, New York Times): “We gave away the capability for nothing,” said Andriy Zahorodniuk, a former defense minister of Ukraine. Referring to the security assurances Ukraine won in exchange for its nuclear arms, he added: “Now, every time somebody offers us to sign a strip of paper, the response is, ‘Thank you very much. We already had one of those some time ago.’”
    • If Russia does invade Ukraine, I think the biggest global consequence might be that nuclear powers become even more committed to maintaining their arsenals and non-nuclear powers strive even harder to join the club.
  7. The Canadian truckers:
    • Sympathetic: What the Truckers Want (Rupa Subramanya, Bari Weiss’s Substack): “It was ironic, she said that she could serve but couldn’t dine at the restaurant where she worked.”
    • Concerned: Dispatch from the Ottawa Front: Sloly is telling you all he’s in trouble. Who’s listening? (Matt Gurney, Substack): “This is a complicated protest and a complicated event. It has layers. Are there good, frustrated people just trying to be heard in the crowd? Yes. Are there bad people in the crowd, including some who’ve waved hate symbols and harassed or attacked others? Yes. Are there people taking careful care of the roads, sweeping up trash and shovelling ice and snow off the sidewalk? Yes. Are there hard men milling about, keeping a wary eye on anyone who seems out of place? Yes. Is it a place where some people are having good-natured fun? Yes. Is it a place some other people would rightly be afraid to go? Yes. And so on. But it’s even more complicated than it looks.”

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 Religion’s health effects should make doubting parishioners reconsider leaving (John Siniff and Tyler J. VanderWeele, USA Today): “Simply from a public health perspective, the continuing diminution of religious upbringing in America would be bad for health. This is not proselytizing; this is science.” The Harvard epidemiology professor  last made an appearance here back in volume 65. First shared in volume 195.

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 310

short and sweet 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 310 — which in base 6 is rendered as the much cooler volume 1234.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Can Silicon Valley Find God? (Linda Kinstler, New York Times): “Over the course of my reporting, I often thought back to the experience of Rob Barrett, who worked as a researcher at IBM in the ’90s. One day, he was outlining the default privacy settings for an early web browser feature. His boss, he said, gave him only one instruction: ‘Do the right thing.’ It was up to Mr. Barrett to decide what the “right thing” was. That was when it dawned on him: ‘I don’t know enough theology to be a good engineer,’ he told his boss. He requested a leave of absence so he could study the Old Testament, and eventually he left the industry.” One of the interviewees, Sherol Chen, used to serve on our worship team. Interesting article!
  2. A horn-wearing ‘shaman.’ A cowboy evangelist. For some, the Capitol attack was a kind of Christian revolt. (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “For many, their religious beliefs were not tied to any specific church or denomination — leaders of major denominations and megachurches, and even President Donald Trump’s faith advisers, were absent that day. For such people, their faith is individualistic, largely free of structures, rules or the approval of clergy.… part of the mix, say experts on American religion, is the fact that the country is in a period when institutional religion is breaking apart, becoming more individualized and more disconnected from denominations, theological credentials and oversight.”
    • You may have heard me say it before: “If you think organized religion is bad, wait until you catch a glimpse of disorganized religion.”
  3. I tried to report scientific misconduct. How did it go? (Joe Hilgard, personal blog): “I was curious to see how the self-correcting mechanisms of science would respond to what seemed to me a rather obvious case of unreliable data and possible research misconduct. It turns out Brandolini’s Law still holds: ‘The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than to produce it.’ However, I was not prepared to be resisted and hindered by the self-correcting institutions of science itself.” Recommended by a student. The author is a psych prof at Illinois State.
  4. Anti-Racism is an Inter-White Struggle (Freddie deBoer, SubStack): “Anti-racism has become a kind of high-stakes poker game for educated white people: you risk losing your shirt at any time, but those who have the savvy and the guts to bluff their way to the top reap social and professional rewards.”
  5. Book Review: Crazy Like Us (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “…does naming and pointing to a mental health problem make it worse? This was clearest in Hong Kong, where a seemingly very low base rate of anorexia exploded as soon as people started launching mental health awareness campaigns saying that it was a common and important disease (as had apparently happened before in Victorian Europe and 70s/80s America). But it also showed up in the section on how increasing awareness of PTSD seems to be associated with more PTSD, and how debriefing trauma victims about how they might get PTSD makes them more likely to get it.”
  6. Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right? (Jason Zengerle, New York Times): “Sometimes it seems as if Hafer and his partners invent jobs at Black Rifle for veterans to do. A former Green Beret medic helps Black Rifle with events and outreach and was recently made the director of its newly formed charity organization. Four years ago, Black Rifle received a Facebook message from an Afghan Army veteran with whom Hafer once served; he wrote that he was now working at a gas station and living with his family in public housing in Charlottesville. ‘We honestly assumed he was dead,’ Hafer says. Black Rifle found a home for the man and his family in Utah, and he now does building and grounds maintenance at the company’s Salt Lake City offices. At those offices, I met a quiet, haunted-seeming man who had been a C.I.A.-contractor colleague of Hafer’s and who, for a time, lived in a trailer he parked on the office grounds. Later, I asked Hafer what, exactly, the man did for Black Rifle. ‘He just gets better,’ Hafer replied. ‘He gets better.’ ”
    • This was WAY more interesting than I expected.
  7. The History of Canada’s Residential Schools (Douglas Farrow, First Things): “How could this be? Who is responsible? Are the religious organizations who operated the residential schools the real culprits, as many suppose? A careful examination shows that supposition to be flawed. The tragedy, and the crimes it involved—crimes some are falsely characterizing as genocide—began with government-mandated violation of parental rights, an error gaining currency again today.” The author is a professor of theology and ethics at McGill University in Montreal.

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 Book Review: Seeing Like A State (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Peasants didn’t like permanent surnames. Their own system was quite reasonable for them: John the baker was John Baker, John the blacksmith was John Smith, John who lived under the hill was John Underhill, John who was really short was John Short. The same person might be John Smith and John Underhill in different contexts, where his status as a blacksmith or place of origin was more important. But the government insisted on giving everyone a single permanent name, unique for the village, and tracking who was in the same family as whom. Resistance was intense.” This is long and amazing. (first shared in volume 95)

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.