Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 368

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 368, which is apparently how many ways there are to tile a 4×15 rectangle with the pentominoes.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Gradually, then Suddenly (Lawrence Freedman, Substack): “It would of course be premature to pronounce a complete Ukrainian victory in the war because of one successful and unexpected breakthrough. But what has happened over the past few days is of historic importance. This offensive has overturned much of what was confidently assumed about the course of the war.… Russia is losing but it has not yet lost. It still occupies a large chunk of Ukrainian territory and still has substantial military assets in the country.”
    • Good news from Ukraine. The author is professor emeritus of war studies at King’s College in London. He’s not some rando popping off.
  2. An Icon, Not An Idol (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “The Crown represents something from the ancient past, a logically indefensible but emotionally salient symbol of something called a nation, something that gives its members meaning and happiness. However shitty the economy, or awful the prime minister, or ugly the discourse, the monarch is able to represent the nation all the time. In a living, breathing, mortal person. The importance of this in a deeply polarized and ideological world, where fellow citizens have come to despise their opponents as enemies, is hard to measure. But it matters that divisive figures such as Boris Johnson or Margaret Thatcher were never required or expected to represent the entire nation. It matters that in times of profound acrimony, something unites.”
  3. No Longer Struggling To Believe (John W. Kennedy, AG News): “The first week on campus in Conway, Schiefer went to a Chi Alpha gathering — on accident. She saw a flyer advertising an event with a band. She appreciated the music, but no so much the lyrics. Jesus kept popping up in the words of the choruses. ‘It’s not that I hated Christians,’ says the straightforward Schiefer. ‘I just thought they were stupid.’ Still, Schiefer left the initial meeting with a nagging sensation that she had a void in her life. That first semester, several of her dormmates who treated her with respect regularly went to Chi Alpha gatherings and they invited her along. Soon she began attending every Monday night. ‘I found friendship before faith,’ Schiefer says. ‘My classmates weren’t intimidated by my lack of faith or my asking questions.’ ”
  4. Ex-Alien Judge Speaks Out in Favor of Using the Statutory Term “Alien” Rather Than “Noncitizen” (Eugene Volokh, Reason): “Defenders of ‘noncitizen’ sometimes claim that this word is interchangeable with alien because everyone is a citizen of somewhere, sans the unusual case of the individual who has somehow been rendered stateless. This contention is not an accurate excuse. For one, monarchies exist. A Spanish born person is a ‘subject’ of the Kingdom of Spain, albeit he may have democratic rights. One born in Saudi Arabia is similarly a ‘subject’ of the House of Saud. Even more, a person born in American Samoa or Swains Island is a U.S. national, but not a citizen; he or she cannot vote in federal elections nor hold federal office. These distinctions matter. Words matter. Our federal immigration statutes concern themselves with aliens. This word is not a pejorative nor an insult. I certainly did not consider it an insult to be referred to as an alien in my deportation proceedings.” Fascinating.
  5. The Debate Over Muslim College Students Getting Secret Marriages (Emma Green, The New Yorker): “Mohajir tries to be direct in her book. She writes that ‘there appears to be a profound rise in the prevalence of secret marriages among Muslim Americans, especially polygynous secret marriages,’ in which men take more than one wife. ‘I personally have a major, visceral reaction to polygamy,’ Quraishi-Landes, the Wisconsin scholar, who also edited the book, said. ‘I was, like, ‘I don’t want to normalize secret polygamy. I don’t like that.’ Mohajir replied, ‘Look, the whole book is about real-life relationships. And if people are really in a real-life polygamous relationship, here’s how we can help them make it healthy and not abusive.’ ”
    • I had heard of secret marriages, but I hadn’t considered that secret marriages among young Muslim men would almost certainly be polygamous.
  6. How the Media Fell for A Racism Sham (Jesse Singal, Bari Weiss’s Substack): “For millions of people watching this story unfold, this was yet another example of the ineradicable stain of American racism, of just how little progress we’ve really made. Except it didn’t happen.… All the journalists who credulously reported on this event were wrong—and it was an embarrassing kind of wrong, because the red flags were large, numerous, and flapping loudly. Richardson and her family members reported that racial slurs had been hurled with abandon, loudly and repeatedly, in a crowded gym filled with more than 5,000 people. But the journalists covering this incident never stopped to notice how odd it was that none of these vile slurs were captured by any of the thousands of little handheld cameras in the gym at the time, nor on the bigger cameras recording the match. Nor did they find it strange that in the days following the incident, not a single other eyewitness came forward—none of Richardson’s black teammates, and none of the players for either team.”
    • I’ve been following this story, waiting for a thorough well-put together piece. This is it. It illuminates something very sad about contemporary media.
  7. Blunt Vietnam Marine Tells You Exactly What Happened To Him (Bill Ehrhart, YouTube): sixteen minutes. Recommended by a student — extremely interesting. In the comments the filmmaker recommends watching Magnificent Vietnam Green Beret Tells What Happened To Him (David Christian, YouTube, one hour long!) to hear an equally articulate but differing perspective. I have watched excerpts from it and can confirm he’s a good storyteller and disagrees with the first gent quite strongly. Both recommended if you have the time and are interested in war/foreign policy.

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 Weathering the Storm: How Faith Affects Well-Being (Byron Johnson & Christos Makridis, Public Discourse): “First, and consistent with prior studies, active Christians exhibit 6 percent greater current life satisfaction and are 6 percentage points more likely to report that they are thriving—a measure from Gallup that combines respondent information on both current life satisfaction and expected future life satisfaction over the next five years. Second, and at least as important, we found that SWB is either acyclical or slightly countercyclical for active Christians, whereas it is strongly procyclical for (inactive) Christians and theists.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry. The study which this article summarizes is on SSRN: Does Religious Affiliation Protect People’s Well-being? Evidence from the Great Recession After Correcting for Selection Effects.  From volume 235.

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 341

a lot about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but don’t sleep on the rest — there’s good stuff!

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 341, which when rendered in base 2 (34110=1010101012) is apparently the smallest pseudoprime in that base.

Also, there’s a lot happening this week and I feel underinformed. These are the things that stood out to me from the less-than-I-would-have-liked that I did read.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine:
    • Just war theory and the Russo-Ukrainian war (Ed Feser, blog): “One of the striking features of the catastrophe in Ukraine is how unambiguously the principles of just war doctrine seem to apply. On the one hand, Russia’s invasion cannot be justified given the criteria of just war theory. On the other hand, NATO military action against Russia cannot be justified either.” The author, a Christian, is a philosophy professor at Pasadena City College.
    • We Are All Realists Now (Ryan Fedasiuk, Georgetown Security Studies Review): “After a sleepless night spent reading takes about every modern geopolitical issue under the sun I found, honestly, that I could not care less about any of them. Can people get to safety? Where are the medical facilities? How many refugees can the United States admit? — These are the questions that matter. War may be an object of academic study, but it is first and foremost a human catastrophe.” The author is pursuing his master’s at Georgetown. This is brief and quite good. Recommended by an alumnus.
    • Pausing at the Precipice (Tanner Greer, Scholar’s Stage): “This is a powerful framework for understanding foreign policy crises. Catastrophic misjudgment rests on the convergence of two elements: an emergent sense that there is a moral imperative to act paired with a breakdown in the formal decision-making processes designed to force policy makers to carefully weigh the potential consequences of their decisions.”
    • The Absence Of A Tragic Sense (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “…we have just entered into an extremely dangerous period of life on this planet. People who are thrilled over the moral clarity of the moment must have forgotten that the Cold War, with the terror of nuclear war hanging over our heads constantly, was a time of moral clarity too.”
    • We Have Never Been Here Before (Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times): “…today’s world is resting on two simultaneous extremes: Never have the leaders of two of the three most powerful nuclear nations — Putin and Xi — had more unchecked power and never have more people from one end of the world to the other been wired together with fewer and fewer buffers. So, what those two leaders decide to do with their unchecked power will touch virtually all of us directly or indirectly. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is our first real taste of how crazy and unstable this kind of wired world can get. It will not be our last.”
    • Ukraine war: ‘My city’s being shelled, but mum won’t believe me’ (Maria Korenyuk and Jack Goodman, BBC): “My parents understand that some military action is happening here. But they say: ‘Russians came to liberate you. They won’t ruin anything, they won’t touch you. They’re only targeting military bases’.”
    • Russian Degradation and Ukrainian Hope: The Example of Christian Higher Education (Perry Glanzer, The Gospel Coalition): “Russian political leaders continually exalt corruption, dysfunction, and the pursuit of power. This leads them to undermine burgeoning efforts to rebuild civil society, improve religious liberty, or expand religious education. Unfortunately, the dominant Russian Orthodox Church makes things worse. Former communists largely control the Russian Orthodox Church, and they use this power to support a Russian version of Christian nationalism—making the church an instrument of the state. In Ukraine I have found hope and courage among educators and Christians trying to build civil society in the context of religious freedom in ways that some political leaders supported.” This was unexpectedly interesting. The author is an education prof at Baylor.
    • How Putin Wants Russians to See the War in Ukraine (Masha Gessen, The New Yorker): “While news channels around the world broadcast special reports from Ukrainian cities that are being bombarded by the Russian military, Russian newscasts on state-controlled channels, which have a monopoly on broadcast television, are short and uneventful.” Recommended by a student.
    • The West’s Green Delusions Empowered Putin (Michael Shellenberger, Bari Weiss’ Substack): “Green campaigns have succeeded in destroying German energy independence—they call it Energiewende, or ‘energy turnaround’—by successfully selling policymakers on a peculiar version of environmentalism. It calls climate change a near-term apocalyptic threat to human survival while turning up its nose at the technologies that can help address climate change most and soonest: nuclear and natural gas.… Germany has trapped itself. It could burn more coal and undermine its commitment to reducing carbon emissions. Or it could use more natural gas, which generates half the carbon emissions of coal, but at the cost of dependence on imported Russian gas. Berlin was faced with a choice between unleashing the wrath of Putin on neighboring countries or inviting the wrath of Greta Thunberg. They chose Putin.” Those last two sentences…
    • When the Man Meets the Moment (David French, The Dispatch): “The future is opaque. The fog of war has descended over the battlefield. Much is unknown, but this much is clear: An ordinary man has answered the call of an extraordinary time, and he has sparked hope in his own people and in a cynical and weary west.”
    • A Tale of Two Masculinities (Andrew T. Walker, World): “…compare the rival masculinities of Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin. Zelenskyy’s common grace demonstration of healthy masculinity exudes leadership, courage, resolve, and sacrifice. He does not tell you of his courage; he simply shows it. And then there is the so-called ‘manliness’ of Putin, who boasts of a masculinity with ridiculous photos of himself riding horses while shirtless.”
    • ‘Yes, He Would’: Fiona Hill on Putin and Nukes (Maura Reynolds, Politico): “Putin is increasingly operating emotionally and likely to use all the weapons at his disposal, including nuclear ones. It’s important not to have any illusions — but equally important not to lose hope.” Not the main point of the piece, but my favorite part is when she says sanctions won’t be enough and then suggests stronger sanctions. Overall a mixed article but worth reading if you’re interested in the subject.
    • Ukrainian sailor in Majorca tried to sink yacht of Russian boss (BBC): “He told a judge that he regretted nothing and would do it again.” Recommended by an alumnus.
    • Former Miss Grand Ukraine joins fight against Russian invasion (Patrick Reilly, New York Post): “[Anastasia Lenna] had previously worked as a model and a public relations manager in Turkey, according to her Miss Grand International profile, a whole world away from the violence of the battlefield. She also speaks five languages and has worked as a translator.”
  2. Supreme Court:
    • Ketanji Brown Jackson Thanks God for Supreme Court Nomination (Jack Jenkins, Christianity Today): “Jackson did not mention a specific faith tradition in her remarks, so it was not immediately clear whether she would alter the religious makeup of the Supreme Court, which currently consists primarily of Catholic and Jewish justices (Justice Neil Gorsuch was raised Catholic but attended an Episcopal Church in Colorado).… Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley noted Jackson had served on the board of Montrose Christian School. The Maryland school, which has since been closed, operated under a statement of faith that declared ‘we should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death’ and outlined a belief that marriage exists only between a man and a woman. In responding to Hawley, who said he agreed with the statements, Jackson distanced herself from the school’s beliefs. She said she did not ‘necessarily agree with all of the statements,’ and was not previously aware of their existence.”
    • The Long Crusade of Clarence and Ginni Thomas (Danny Hakim and Jo Becker, New York Times): “Ginni Lamp, as she was known then, was on a cheer squad for taller girls known as the Squires, brandishing a sword and a shield before football games. ‘She would march in front with that; she loved doing that,’ said Sue Norby, a classmate. ‘My other friends were on the pompom squad because they were so short, but Ginni was on a different squad because she was tall, with other tall girls. She was the warrior woman.’”
      • I have mentioned this before, but I am a sucker for stories about the Justices. They are all such fascinating people. Even ideological pieces like this reveal their idiosyncratic wonderfulness. Warning: this is very long.
  3. Covid Arithmetic for Anxious Parents (Bryan Caplan, blog): “The most ‘adult’ thing for parents and teachers to do on this March 1 [when Virginia lifts its school mask mandate] is walk kids through the Covid math. Even third-graders should be able to follow it. And if you really want to show your maturity, you should confess that for the last two years, most adults have been acting like children. Life gave us a math project, yet we acted like it was a poetry assignment.”
  4. Walking in the Purpose of God (Christos Makridis, XA Alumni): “Put simply, I never would have guessed what I’m doing now three years ago. While my engagement in the cryptocurrency and NFT sphere ‘might’ have been possible on paper, it wouldn’t have been nearly this rich and diversified absent my saying ‘yes’ to the Lord one step at a time and simply walking in obedience.” Christos is an alumnus of XA at Stanford.
  5. Study Examines Link Between Accountability to God and Psychological Well-Being (Neuroscience News): “Religious believers who embrace accountability to God (or another transcendent guide for life) experience higher levels of three of the four variables of psychological well-being – mattering to others, dignity and meaning in their lives, though not happiness – according to a study from researchers with Baylor University, Westmont College and Hope College.”
  6. Against alcohol, #6437 (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “…a sudden and unexpected nation-wide alcohol sales ban in South Africa… causally reduced injury-induced mortality in the country by at least 14% during the five weeks of the ban.” Links to a brief summary of some research with links to the original article.
  7. There’s No Crisis of Faith on Campus (Ryan Burge, Wall Street Journal): “Looked at in its entirety, the college experience may actually make students more sure of their religious beliefs after they graduate. This is the idea known to psychologists as the ‘inoculation effect’: When someone is confronted with weak attacks on their beliefs, they become more prepared to defend those beliefs when they come under serious attacks. This is essentially how a vaccine works: It gives an individual a weakened version of the virus, so that when the immune system encounters the real thing, it can easily fight off the villain. Similarly, challenging a young person to defend their beliefs in a supportive, open environment like college may leave them better prepared to hold firm to their convictions later in life.“The author, whom I have cited before, is a pastor and professor of political science at Eastern Washington University.

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 APA Meeting: A Photo‐Essay (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Were there really more than twice as many sessions on global warming as on obsessive compulsive disorder? Three times as many on immigration as on ADHD? As best I can count, yes. I don’t want to exaggerate this. There was still a lot of really meaty scientific discussion if you sought it out. But overall the balance was pretty striking…. If you want to model the APA, you could do worse than a giant firehose that takes in pharmaceutical company money at one end, and shoots lectures about social justice out the other.” This is funny, rambling, insightful commentary on the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting. 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.