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.