Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 284

a small collection because it’s too overwhelming otherwise

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.

I made an extra effort to keep this to seven entries today, otherwise it would have been thirty (no joke — that’s what I began culling from).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Only the Church Can Truly Defeat a Christian Insurrection (David French, The Dispatch): “I would bet that most of my readers would instantly label the exact same event Islamic terrorism if Islamic symbols filled the crowd, if Islamic music played in the loudspeakers, and if members of the crowd shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ as they charged the Capitol.”
  2. The Roman Road from Insurrection (Russell Moore, personal blog): “If the world rejects us because of Christ and him crucified, so much the worse for the world. If the world rejects us because they think Christ is just a mascot for what we would already be supporting or doing even if Jesus were still dead, then God have mercy on us.”
    • The author is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. A few years ago I remember telling one of our international students that if he wanted a healthy Christian perspective on American politics, Russell Moore needed to be one of his go-to reads.
  3. Everything Is Broken (Alana Newhouse, Tablet Magazine): “Being on a ship nearly 4 million square miles in area along with 330 million other people and realizing the entire hull is pockmarked with holes is terrifying.” Wide-ranging.
  4. The Great Unraveling (Bari Weiss, SubStack): “I don’t know the answer. But I know that you have to be sort of strange to stand apart and refuse to join Team Red or Team Blue. These strange ones are the ones who think that political violence is wrong, that mob justice is never just and the presumption of innocence is always right. These are the ones who are skeptical of state and corporate power, even when it is clamping down on people they despise.”
  5. We Need a New Media System (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “The flaw in the system is that even the biggest news companies now operate under the assumption that at least half their potential audience isn’t listening. This leads to all sorts of problems, and the fact that the easiest way to keep your own demographic is to feed it negative stories about others is only the most obvious. On all sides, we now lean into inflammatory caricatures, because the financial incentives encourage it.”
  6. ‘Our souls are dead’: how I survived a Chinese ‘re-education’ camp for Uighurs (Gulbahar Haitiwaji with Rozenn Morgat, The Guardian): “Women like me, who emerged from the camps, are no longer who we once were. We are shadows; our souls are dead. I was made to believe that my loved ones, my husband and my daughter, were terrorists. I was so far away, so alone, so exhausted and alienated, that I almost ended up believing it. My husband, Kerim, my daughters Gulhumar and Gulnigar – I denounced your ‘crimes’ I begged forgiveness from the Communist party for atrocities that neither you nor I committed.”
    • I think this ranks among the great evils of history and it is happening right now. I am shocked I don’t see higher levels of outrage and public responses to it on the international stage.
  7. Why Has Israel Succeeded At COVID Vaccination? (Elad Gil, personal blog): “Many countries and states have been too focused on ‘fairness’ and ‘equity’ so have frozen their vaccination efforts in place, or put in place large fines for ‘misused virus’. Remember — everyone will eventually get vaccinated. The more shots in arms, the better, with an emphasis on the old and comorbid. And also remember, we are in the middle of a ‘once in a century pandemic’- it is more important to move fast to save lives than to create and enforce complex rules.”
    • The author is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and is, far as I can tell, completely correct. The failure of the states and the federal government on this issue is astounding. The entire pandemic has been a demonstration of our bipartisan political incompetence.

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 Pint‐Size Nation off the English Coast (Ian Urbina, The Atlantic): “Though no country formally recognizes Sealand, its sovereignty has been hard to deny. Half a dozen times, the British government and assorted other groups, backed by mercenaries, have tried and failed to take over the platform by force.” First shared in volume 217.

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 283

perspectives on a day students will cover in their US History classes

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. WHAT HAPPENED
    • Madness on Capitol Hill (Andrew McCormick, The Nation): “For all the violence in the air, the mood was less coup and more college football tailgate. Pop songs blared from speakers. Somewhere, snare drums went rat-a-tat-tat. And the chants were so loud they rumbled in your chest.” This is the most vivid article I have come upon so far.

    • ‘Is This Really Happening?’: The Siege of Congress, Seen From the Inside (various, Politico): “One member at one point, a Democrat, Steve Cohen, yelled over towards the Republican side of the room and said, ‘Call Trump and tell him to call this off.’ And then a little bit later on, a lawmaker sitting on the Republican side shot back and said something along the lines of, ‘I bet you liberals are glad now you didn’t defund the police.’”This is amazing. And reading this I have a much more positive view of the frontline police response than I had gleaned from previous reporting. The issue was higher in the command structure.

    • Let me tell you about my experience at yesterday’s Trump Rally. (Not The Bee): “Again, pictures never do a crowd justice, but I went to a Big 10 college football school, I know what tens of thousands of people looks like, and this was that at least.”

    •  ‘What else could I do?’ NJ Rep. Kim helps clean up Capitol (Mike Catalini, AP News): “‘When you see something you love that’s broken you want to fix it. I love the Capitol. I‘m honored to be there,’ he said. ‘This building is extraordinary and the rotunda in particular is just awe-inspiring. How many countless generations have been inspired in that room? It really broke my heart and I just felt compelled to do something. … What else could I do?’” A profile of the man behind a photo you’ve no doubt seen.

  2. WHAT HAPPENED IN CONTEXT
    • America’s History of Political Violence (Darel E. Paul, First Things): “Early reactions to the incursion tended toward the catastrophic, and more than one journalist spoke of a ‘coup,’ the death of the Republic, and ‘civil war.’ By evening calmer heads and cooler emotions began to emerge as the rioters were arrested and dispersed, revealing less a Bolshevik storming of the Winter Palace than a LARPing event by QAnon paranoids.” The author is a professor of political science at Williams College.

    •  The Five Crises of the American Regime (Michael Lind, Tablet Magazine): “In the past eight months, two Capitol Hills have fallen. Two shocking events symbolize the abdication of authority by America’s ruling class, an abdication that has led to what can be described, not without exaggeration, as the slow-motion disintegration of the United States of America in its present form.… What is the meaning of these dystopian scenes? Many Democrats claim that Republicans are destroying the republic. Many Republicans claim the reverse. They are both correct.” The author is a professor in the UT Austin school of public affairs. This is the most comprehensive (and to my mind, largely correct) analysis I’ve come across.

    • Violence in the Capitol, Dangers in the Aftermath (Glenn Greenwald, Substack): “One need not dismiss the lamentable actions of yesterday to simultaneously reject efforts to apply terms that are plainly inapplicable: attempted coup, insurrection, sedition.… That the only person shot was a protester killed by an armed agent of the state by itself makes clear how irresponsible these terms are.” 

  3. THEOLOGICAL/RELIGIOUS COMMENTARY
    • Christian Leaders Pray for Peace and Safety Amid Capitol Mob (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “Pastor Rick Warren called the attack ‘domestic terrorism,’ while Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore condemned their actions as ‘immoral, unjust, dangerous, and inexcusable’ and called on the president to direct his supporters to ‘stop this dangerous and anti-constitutional anarchy.’ ”There’s a wide roundup of voices here.

    • Like A Fire Shut Up In My Bones (Paul Shult, Lutherans For Racial Justice): “My thoughts I share with you are shaped by my calling as a pastor. I am not a political science major, a lawyer, a public policy expert, or a business owner. I don’t want to argue politics, which is very difficult because so much in our nation and in Christianity has become politicized. So, here are my thoughts around just a few things I think are important to consider — perhaps they can be helpful to some.” The author pastors a church near campus that several of our students have attended (one of them brought this article to my attention).

    • The Gospel in a Democracy Under Assault (Russell Moore, Gospel Coalition): “Countries can fall. I hope this one doesn’t. But, either way, let’s not fall with it.”

    • Illegitimate Times (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “So it is looking as though one way or another we are going to have to learn how to live under a government we believe to be at bottom illegitimate. And that looks to be the case no matter what happens today, actually, which happens to be January 6, the day when Congress ratifies the votes of the Electoral College. If Biden is confirmed, which seems likely, a very large number of Americans will believe he got there by fraudulent means. And if Trump is confirmed—by some sort of extraordinary long shot—that irregular process, whatever it was, will be considered by a very large number of Americans to have been fraudulent in a very different way. And even though a larger number of Christians will be in the first group, our numbers in both groups will not be insignificant.” Please note, this is from before the events in question! I share it because it contains some very unusual insights.

  4. APOLOGETICALLY INTERESTING
    • Why Religious Couples Thrive in a Pandemic (Liz HoChing & Spencer James, Real Clear Religion): “It is no surprise therefore that home-worshipping couples were significantly more likely to be highly satisfied with their sexual relationship, compared with couples in a shared secular relationship. Women in shared home-worshipping relationships were found to be twice as likely to be sexually satisfied from the international data, and three-times as likely to be sexually satisfied from data gathered in the United States. These are numbers that cannot be ignored.”
      • There are many interesting quotes I could have chosen. I pick this one because it is something I commonly see come up in research and yet so contrary to the prevailing narrative in our culture. And also because most of you are yet to pick your spouse — this is a reminder to pick someone who shares your vibrant faith in the Lord.
    • Standing By: The Spatial Organization of Coercive Institutions in China (Adam Y. Liu and Charles Chang, Social Science Research): “We find that police stations are more likely to be located within walking distance of foreign religious sites (churches) than other sites (temples), even after controlling for the estimated population within 1km of each site and a set of key site attributes.” The authors are scholars at the National University of Singapore and at Yale, respectively.
    • Interesting tidbits from the article itself (the above is from the abstract):
      • “…among all major religions in China, Christianity has since the late 19th century been persistently viewed by the Chinese state—the incumbent atheistic party state in particular—as the most threatening to social order and state power.”
      • “…one of the most consistent and surprising social scientific findings is the extent of the involvement of religious groups in large scale social and political movements.”
      • “Scholars find that the participatory and civic attitudes embedded in Christianity make its believers more likely to engage in collective contention.”
      • “In a sharp contrast, the party state sees other religions, such as Buddhism, as not only non-threatening, but also conducive to strengthening its grip on power. In some instances, local officials have even supported the construction of non-Western religious sites as an explicit way to counter the growing influence of Christianity in their jurisdictions.”
    • Let me be clear: I lack the expertise to evaluate their findings. What I find fascinating is the matter-of-fact way these scholars refer to a consensus in their field about Christianity. It is interesting to read this in conjunction with the news about this week.
  5. UNRELATED THINGS
    • Rev. William Barber on Greed, Poverty and Evangelical Politics (David Marchese, New York Times): “Very few religious leaders are able to inspire political action on the part of large numbers of people who don’t share their church, their denomination or their faith. Yet the Rev. Dr. William Barber, senior pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., has done just that.” This is an interesting (and at times perplexing) interview.
    • some problems don’t have solutions, or the demand game (Freddie DeBoer, personal blog): “Here’s the reality with pornography: it may very well be very bad, and there is probably nothing that we can do about it. Technology changed the world and made something for which their is huge demand effortlessly easy to transmit and receive. And that’s that; that’s the story of pornography. Some problems don’t have solutions.” The author, an atheist socialist, inadvertently comes close to agreeing with Jesus that “the poor you will have with you always.”
    • Inside RZIM, Staff Push Leaders to Take Responsibility for Scandal (Daniel Silliman, Christianity Today): “At an online all-staff meeting in mid-October, however, RZIM speaker Sam Allberry, who officiated at Zacharias’s graveside service, asked why ‘ministry teammates’ had been included in the official denial. They had not been consulted before leadership crafted the unsigned statement denying the claims. ‘Why are you putting words in my mouth?’ said Allberry, according to people who attended the meeting. ‘Frankly, I believe these women and find their allegations to be credible.’”
      • This makes me very sad. Also, there’s a personal caution in here. One of the details is that Zacharias lied about smaller things. If you ever see me lying or exaggerating (except for obvious humor), please call me on it. I’d rather be embarrassed socially in the moment than lay the foundation for ruin later.
    • The Awokening Will Not Bring an End to the Nightmare (Musa al-Gharbi, Interfaith Youth Core) : “…the whites who seem most eager to condemn ‘ideological racism’ (i.e. people saying, thinking or feeling the ‘wrong’ things about minorities), and who are most ostentatious in demonstrating their own ‘wokeness,’ also tend to be the people who benefit the most from what sociologists describe as ‘institutional’ or ‘systemic’ racism. Consequently, the places in America with the highest concentrations of whites who are ‘with it’ also happen to be the most unequal places in the country.” The author is a sociologist at Columbia.
    • Making policy for a low-trust world (Matthew Yglesias, substack): “The correct way to respond to a low-trust environment is not to double down on proceduralism, but to commit yourself to the ‘it does exactly what it says on the tin’ principle and implement policies that have the following characteristics: It’s easy for everyone, whether they agree with you or disagree with you, to understand what it is you say you are doing. It’s easy for everyone to see whether or not you are, in fact, doing what you said you would do. It’s easy for you and your team to meet the goal of doing the thing that you said you would do.”
    • Like Preacher-Politicians Before Him, Senator Raphael Warnock Will Keep His Pulpit (Adelle Banks, Christianity Today): “ ‘It’s unusual for a pastor to get involved in something as messy as politics, but I see this as a continuation of a life of service: first as an agitator, then an advocate, and hopefully next as a legislator’” Warnock said as he was closing in on the top spot of a wide-open primary. ‘I say I’m stepping up to my next calling to serve, not stepping down from the pulpit.’ ” I did not know this history, and after reading it I am pleased to inform you that if I am elected to the US Senate I will continue to minister with Chi Alpha at Stanford.
    • The Real Problem with 4‑Letter Words (Karen Swallow Prior, Gospel Coalition): “Cursing falls into different categories. Strictly speaking, profanities are words that desacralize what is holy. Words misusing the names of God and his judgments are profane; the worst of these are blasphemy.While profanities are related to the divine, obscenities are related to the human. This category of words serves to coarsen bodily functions (whether sexual or excretory).… Another category of curse words consists of those the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker calls ‘abusive.’ ”
    • California’s Donor-Disclosure Law Threatens Religious Charities (John Bursch, Real Clear Religion): “Not once has the attorney general given a convincing reason for collecting donors’ names and addresses en masse. His office has effectively regulated charities for decades without that information. In 10 years, the attorney general only used donor lists in five out of 540 investigations. And even in those five, he could have obtained the same information through targeted subpoenas or audits, all without risking the massive disclosure of sensitive information from all registered charities.”
    • The New Strain: How Bad Is It? (Brendan Foht and Ari Schulman, The New Atlantis): “The steps that most need to be taken in response to the new strain are the same ones that should have been taken for the last year anyway, but that our government has proved largely unable or unwilling to take. An effective regime of testing, tracing, and isolating, for example, has been needed throughout the pandemic, but never really implemented.” One of the authors posted on Twitter: “In the course of working on this piece, my concern about the new Covid strain went from about a 4 to an 8.5, with the remaining 1.5 composed mostly of generalized skepticism and motivated disbelief.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How Pornography Makes Us Less Human and Less Humane (Matthew Lee Anderson, The Gospel Coalition): “Beneath pornography is the supposition that the mere fact of our desire for a woman makes us worthy of her. And so, not being bound by any kind of norm, desire must proceed endlessly. It is no surprise that the industrialized, cheap‐and‐easy sex of pornography has answered and evoked an almost unrestrained sexual greed, which allows us to be gods and goddesses within the safety of our own fantasies. It is for deep and important reasons that the Ten Commandments use the economic language of ‘coveting’ to describe the badness of errant sexual desires.” First shared in volume 216.

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 272

I cheated when numbering a few of these

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. A DC Church Shows How to Fight for Religious Freedom (David French, The Dispatch): “Late Friday night a federal district court judge in Washington, D.C., handed down a religious liberty ruling that I hope will echo throughout the nation…. It demonstrates how thoughtful Christians can engage in the public square and defend their liberty with conviction while also caring for their communities and demonstrating extraordinary patience with public officials. In other words, in one court case we’re watching what it’s like when Christian legal ends are pursued through Christian moral means.” Excellent news with typically insightful commentary by David French.
  2. Stop Being Shocked (Bari Weiss, Tablet): “The hatred we experience on campus has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s because Jews defy anti-racist ideology simply by existing. So it’s not so much that Zionism is racism. It’s that Jewishness is.“
    • Outstanding. There are SO MANY quotable bits in this essay. 
    • Why Is Wokeness Winning? (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “Critical theory was once an esoteric academic pursuit. Now it has become the core, underlying philosophy of the majority of American cultural institutions, universities, media, corporations, liberal churches, NGOs, philanthropies, and, of course, mainstream journalism.”
    • The Fundamentalist War on Wokeness is a War on Christian Love (Michael Bird, Patheos): “The whole anti-woke and anti-critical race theory trope strike me as not so much interested in opposing progressive authoritarianism and its divisive racial politics, as much as it serves to deny ethnic minorities have any grievances and white churches have any responsibility to do anything about it.” Bird is a respected evangelical theologian. 
  3. Some Stanford-related articles I saw:
    • The Prescience of Shelby Steele (Samuel Kronen, Quillette): “Shelby was the only sibling to reject the tenets of modern liberalism, and although he and his [twin] brother work on the same campus and occasionally pass each other (Shelby is at Stanford’s Hoover Institution), the two are not on speaking terms.” Not the most revealing excerpt, but probably the most interesting to this audience.
    • An open letter from a Stanford wrestling parent to the University president (Sarah Traxler, Stanford Daily): “When addressing the reasons that the 11 sports in particular are being discontinued, wrestling was cited only in the category of competing ‘without a full complement of scholarships.’ One over-looked reason for this is that wrestlers often come from lower income groups. As such, wrestling student-athletes often qualify for need-based financial aid, reducing the demand for the full complement of athletic-based scholarships.”
    • My Brief Spell as an Activist (Lucy Kross Wallace, Quillette): “This was my first intoxicating taste of empowerment born from victimhood. I was vindicated; exuberant. None of it had been my fault. All my doubts and self-hatred and guilt could be laid to rest. I had been the victim not only of circumstance and misfortune, but of oppression. The problem was simple, the solution equally so. I didn’t have to change—society did.” The author is a sophomore at Stanford.
  4. A reminder that there are some horrible things happening in this world:
    • How Turkey’s Military Adventures Decrease Freedom at Home (Garo Paylan, New York Times): “After a decades-long fitful truce, the conflict over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh — a breakaway Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan — between Azerbaijan and Armenia resumed last month, leading to a large military deployment, destruction of civilian centers and thousands of casualties. In this war, Turkey strongly supports Azerbaijan, with which it shares ethnic bonds, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed global calls for a cease-fire.” The author is a member of the Turkish Parliament. Recommended by an alumnus.
    • Azerbaijan’s assault against Armenia threatens democracy everywhere (Christos Makridis & Alex Galitsky, The Hill): “While Azerbaijan has attempted to shield itself from international scrutiny by riding on the presence of tense domestic politics in the United States and a global pandemic, we cannot ignore it any longer. The international community must recognize that failure to stand up for religious minorities anywhere is a threat to them everywhere. Inaction creates precedent and emboldens dictators.” One of the authors, Christos, is an alumnus of Chi Alpha.
    • China ambassador makes veiled threat to Hong Kong-based Canadians (Helen Davidson, The Guardian): “Canada is among several countries that suspended extradition agreements with Hong Kong in response to Beijing’s imposition of a sweeping national security law in June. Dozens of MPs recently called for Canada to offer ‘safe harbour’ to pro-democracy protesters fleeing Hong Kong, prompting the warning from Cong.”
    • Related from a few weeks ago: ‘You will be put into detention’: Former ABC bureau chief tells story of fleeing China for first time (Matthew Carney, Australia Broadcasting Corporation): “We were instructed to report to a facility in north Beijing and told to bring my daughter Yasmine, who was 14 at the time, as she was now part of the investigation. This felt like a line in the sand for me. I could not accept that they would involve my children. At the same time I was frightened. It felt like part of the Chinese playbook: to go after family members as a way to exact punishment and revenge.”
  5. ‘Handmaid’ reality: Deeply religious marriages have more spousal equality (New York Post): “Religious, home-worshipping couples also report greater relationship quality and stability, and they are three times more likely than less-religious peers to report a sexually satisfying relationship. The women don’t appear to be repressed; in fact, they’re generally more likely to say they’re happy and that their life has meaning and purpose.” And yet again research confirms Biblical precepts. Allow me to take his opportunity to offer a friendly pastoral reminder to marry another Christian, should you marry. 
    • Why Only Amy Coney Barrett Gets to Have It All (Katelyn Beaty, New York Times): “…to set the record straight, on handmaids and beyond, conservative Christians must do their part to imagine a broader and more humanizing vision for women’s place in the public square. Christianity has always contained a liberatory seed: one that tells women that the human desire to work, create and shape institutions is as important, even as holy, as their ability to bear children. If Christians don’t like the handmaid stereotypes, now is the time to be clear on all that Christian women can do and be.”
  6. How Christians Should Think About Voting (Michael & Melissa Wear, Substack): “When you vote in an election, with the exception of a write-in ballot, you are not voting for your dream candidate. Your vote is not an unmediated expression of your identity, your vote is a choice between options you did not choose yourself. If you view your vote as an unmediated, pure expression of your will, it can be debilitating.” The author is a former Obama White House staffer. The article itself is very nonpartisan. 
    • Latino, Evangelical and Politically Homeless (Jennifer Medina, New York Times): “When Pastor Rivera looks at his congregation of 200 families he sees a microcosm of the Latino vote in the United States: how complex it is, and how each party’s attempt to solidify crucial support can fall short. There are not clear ideological lines here between liberals and conservatives. People care about immigration, but are equally concerned about religious liberty and abortion.”
    • Putting this one here is kind of cheating, but I like having only 7 major topics. This is political enough that I’m justifying it to myself. The 1619 Chronicles (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “Journalists are, most often, in the business of writing the first rough draft of history, not trying to have the last word on it. We are best when we try to tell truths with a lowercase t, following evidence in directions unseen, not the capital‑T truth of a pre-established narrative in which inconvenient facts get discarded.”
    • How the 1619 Project took over 2020 (Sarah Ellison, Washington Post): “Hannah-Jones has fiercely defended the 1619 Project. But today, she acknowledges that for all the experts she consulted, she should have sat down with additional scholars with particular focus on colonial history, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, to better reflect the contention in the field.”
  7. Forget What Gender Activists Tell You. Here’s What Medical Transition Looks Like (Scott Newgent, Quillette): “I write all this as a 47-year-old transgender man who transitioned five years ago. I’m also a parent to three teenagers. Though I admire the good intentions of parents who seek to support their children, I have serious concerns about reckless acquiescence to a child’s Internet-mediated self-diagnosis. Many older transgender folks share these concerns, too.”

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 265

lots about race and racial tension

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Here are the things about race and racial tension that stood out to me.
    • Why Did the Police Shoot Jacob Blake? (Trevor Noah, The Daily Show): “I could tell you this story with my eyes closed by now. If I wanted to I could prerecord five of these segments and go on vacation and you would never know.” Ten worthwhile minutes.
    • The Kenosha shooting didn’t happen in a vacuum (Denise Lockwood, CNN): “I am reminded of what Rodney Prunty, the former executive director of the United Way of Racine County, said to me during an interview: ‘If you have a pond full of fish and a few of them die, you ask what’s wrong with the fish. But when the pond full of fish dies, we ask what’s wrong with the pond.’ In Wisconsin, it’s time we talked about what’s wrong with the pond.”
    • Riots in John Piper’s Neighborhood (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Gospel Coalition): “Piper’s people moved in without a master plan, which was both confusing (‘What should we do?’) and exactly what When Helping Hurts authors would later advise (start with building relationships, watching, and learning). Everyone ended up doing something different. But for decades, they’ve kept at it, working through disappointments and challenges, looting and riots, broken glass and homeless tent cities in the parks. They’re still doing it.” This is an outstanding story.
    • Feel Good or Do Good (George Yancey, Patheos): “To gain the support of real conviction we need the type of conversations where we listen to others as much as discuss our point of view with them. We connect with others and get at the core of why they disagree with us. We understand their arguments and consider how to deal with the issues they bring up. We admit the validity of those issues even if we disagree with them. Does this sound like anything that is happening with antiracism?” The author, who is black, is a sociologist at Baylor whom I have referenced several times
    • Rule of Law Imperiled (R. R. Reno, First Things): “The destruction of property is not just an attack on another’s possessions. It is a violation of justice. This is why rioting and looting affects far more than those whose stores are burned. Citizens begin to worry that they do not live in a society committed to justice. As we know from blacks who resent mistreatment by the police, which is also unjust, this worry can become explosive, even among those not personally affected.”
    • Kyle Rittenhouse, Populist Hero (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “If I were a polling firm, I would run a national poll asking people who have heard of Kyle Rittenhouse whether they think he’s a villain, a hero, or don’t know. That would tell us a lot about the mood of the country.”
  2. Unbecoming American (Johann N. Neem, Hedgehog Review): “A shared culture is not a totalizing one; indeed, it makes real pluralism possible by giving us something larger to share regardless of our many differences. Or so I believed. But when that shared world was redefined as white—and when white people, threatened by its loss, reclaimed it—I found myself an exile. A person losing his country. I felt myself unbecoming in more than one sense. On college campuses, including the one where I now teach, the left imposes new boundaries on thought and speech in its effort to challenge historical boundaries, while, in politics, the right embraces boundaries that we had hoped never to see again.” The author, a man of Indian descent, is a historian at Western Washington University. I really liked this article.
    • Follow-up interview: An Immigrant’s Plea: “Don’t Convert to Whiteness” (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “My biggest fear, actually, is violence. We forget that social order is fragile. You don’t have to look far to see how prevalent ethnic or religious violence is around the world. If we form tribes, we will respond in hateful ways to each other. Rightly or wrongly, people will feel beleaguered. We will get angrier and angrier. There will be less empathy.” I share his concern. 
  3. Advice For Students In a Time of Strife (a whole passel of Princeton professors, First Things): “Remember, as an American college or university student you are one of the luckiest—most privileged—people on planet earth. Do not fall into the trap of thinking of yourself as a victim or building an identity for yourself around that idea. You can avoid the trap while strongly standing up for your right to fair and equal treatment and boldly working for reform where there are double standards needing to be rectified.” Technically not a whole passel, which connotes a large but uncertain number. I count 16 signatories!
  4. China Secretly Built A Vast New Infrastructure To Imprison Muslims (Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing, and Christo Buschek, Buzzfeed): “Downloading WhatsApp, which is banned in China, maintaining ties with family abroad, engaging in prayer, and visiting a foreign website are all offenses for which Muslims have been sent to camps, according to previously leaked documents and interviews with former detainees. Because the government does not consider internment camps to be part of the criminal justice system and none of these behaviors are crimes under Chinese law, no detainees have been formally arrested or charged with a crime, let alone seen a day in court.” I’ve shared similar news this before. This article is fresh and especially damning.
    • Part 2: What They Saw: Ex-Prisoners Detail The Horrors Of China’s Detention Camps (Buzzfeed): “More than a dozen former detainees confirmed to BuzzFeed News that prisoners were divided into three categories, differentiated by uniform colors. Those in blue, like Parida and the majority of the people interviewed for this article, were considered the least threatening. Often, they were accused of minor transgressions, like downloading banned apps to their phones or having traveled abroad. Imams, religious people, and others considered subversive to the state were placed in the strictest group — and were usually shackled even inside the camp.”
    • Part 3: Blanked-Out Spots On China’s Maps Helped Us Uncover Xinjiang’s Camps (Buzzfeed): “Our breakthrough came when we noticed that there was some sort of issue with satellite imagery tiles loading in the vicinity of one of the known camps while using the Chinese mapping platform Baidu Maps. The satellite imagery was old, but otherwise fine when zoomed out — but at a certain point, plain light gray tiles would appear over the camp location…. We analyzed the masked locations by comparing them to up-to-date imagery from Google Earth, the European Space Agency’s Sentinel Hub, and Planet Labs.” This one will be particularly interesting to CS people. 
  5. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks about trusting the news (Twitter): “…when you see a FACT that is reported, cited, and verified by several reputable outlets, 99.999% it’s going to be true. HOWEVER! There is a big difference between a fact and the STORY. And the STORY (often the headline) that’s surrounding the fact is frequently stretched, mischaracterized, or dramatized to get you to click.” She and I have a remarkably similar perspective on the media.
    • Related: Given my time again, I wouldn’t choose journalism (Sarah Ditum, Unherd): “Being mad was important because the economics of this kind of content required fast output (since timeliness is critical) and high engagement (since this is how editors, and writers, measure success). I write quickly when I’m angry, and anger begets more anger, so people are more likely to share and react. Not everything I wrote when this was my main form of journalism was bad, but only some of it was good, and the worst of it had a dishonesty that made me feel ashamed…” 
  6. Do Pro-Lifers Who Reject Trump Have ‘Blood on their Hands’? (David French, The DIspatch): “Decades of data and decades of legal, political, and cultural developments have combined to teach us a few, simple realities about abortion in the United States: 1. Presidents have been irrelevant to the abortion rate; 2. Judges have been forces of stability, not change, in abortion law; 3. State legislatures have had more influence on abortion than Congress; 4. Even if Roe is overturned, abortion will be mostly unchanged in the U.S.; and 5. The pro-life movement has an enormous cultural advantage.“ Chock-full of insights. Despite the title, it is less about partisan politics and more about abortion in America.

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 Facts Are Not Self‐Interpreting (Twitter) — this is a short, soundless video. Recommended. First shared in volume 184.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 264

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

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 262

Honestly, this week’s collection of articles has some of the best I’ve seen in some time.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory (Tim Keller, Gospel In Life): “In the Bible Christians have an ancient, rich, strong, comprehensive, complex, and attractive understanding of justice. Biblical justice differs in significant ways from all the secular alternatives, without ignoring the concerns of any of them. Yet Christians know little about biblical justice, despite its prominence in the Scriptures.” The read of the week.
  2. The Church Forests of Ethiopia (YouTube): nine minutes. This commentary by Rod Dreher was what brought the video to my attention. Watch the video before you read the commentary. These forests are a beautiful picture of the way the Church blesses the world around it, and what the Church must do to thrive in the environment we find ourselves in.
  3. Listen to Thomas Sowell (Coleman Hughes, City Journal): “…people predictably line up on opposite sides of political issues that seemingly have nothing in common. For instance, knowing someone’s position on climate change somehow allows you to predict their views on taxing the rich, gun control, and abortion. It’s tempting to dismiss this as mere political tribalism. But Sowell contends that more is at work: that there are two fundamental ways of thinking about the social world, two sets of basic assumptions about human nature, and two conflicting ‘visions,’ from which most political disagreements follow.” Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
  4. Some reflections on the media:
    • The Truth Is Paywalled But The Lies Are Free (Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs): “You want ‘Portland Protesters Burn Bibles, American Flags In The Streets,’ ‘The Moral Case Against Mask Mandates And Other COVID Restrictions,’ or an article suggesting the National Institutes of Health has admitted 5G phones cause coronavirus—they’re yours. You want the detailed Times reports on neo-Nazis infiltrating German institutions, the reasons contact tracing is failing in U.S. states, or the Trump administration’s undercutting of the USPS’s effectiveness—well, if you’ve clicked around the website a bit you’ll run straight into the paywall.”
      • This is a good article. For the record, I agree with his assessment of the New York Times: it often contains the facts, but sometimes incorrectly framed with foolish inferences built upon them. That burning Bibles and flags thing Robinson knocks, though? That really happened: Did Portland Protesters Burn Bibles and American Flags? (Snopes)
    • How the Media Could Get the Election Story Wrong (Ben Smith, New York Times): “The coronavirus crisis means that states like Pennsylvania may be counting mail-in ballots for weeks, while President Trump tweets false allegations about fraud. And the last barriers between American democracy and a deep political crisis may be television news and some version of that maddening needle on The New York Times website.”
      • This is terrifying and is 100% worth using up one of your paywall articles for.
    • How the Media Led the Great Racial Awakening (Zach Goldberg, Tablet): “During this same period, while exotic new phrases were entering the discourse, universally recognizable words like ‘racism’ were being radically redefined. Along with the new language came ideas and beliefs animating a new moral-political framework to apply to public life and American society.”
  5. On the divisions in America:
    • To unite the country, we need honesty and courage (Robert George and Cornell West, Boston Globe): “Honesty and courage alone can save our wounded, disunited country now. We need the honesty and courage to speak the truth — including painful truths that unsettle not only our foes but also our friends and, most especially, ourselves.” The authors (both Christian) are professors at Princeton and Harvard, respectively. 
    • Remembering John Lewis, and the Political Theology that Changed a Nation (David French, The Dispatch): “What looks inevitable in hindsight was anything but certain. In fact, if you were placing contemporary bets on a political outcome, would you guess that some version of a three-century status quo would prevail, or that the civil rights movement would achieve a legal revolution nearly on par with emancipation itself? At the same time, can we even recall a modern Christian political movement so consistent with the upside-down logic of biblical Christianity?”
    • This is Not The American Cultural Revolution (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “Americans are extremely fond of exaggerating the threat their political enemies pose. Histrionics about Donald Trump ending American democracy are everywhere to be found; readers will no doubt remember the protestors who claimed that Dick Cheney was the second coming of Hitler, or that Barack Obama was a stealth authoritarian socialist.” This is a reassuring essay.
    • Secularism Cannot Sustain Liberty, a Response to Greg Forster (Al Mohler, Law & Liberty): “I believe that the project of civilization in the West, and in the English-speaking world in particular, has brought the greatest flowering of liberties and the greatest opportunities for human flourishing in human history. I also believe that this civilizational project has arrived at this moment of maximum danger after decades of both neglect and mounting opposition. The most fundamental problem is the loss of the intellectual and moral preconditions that make the project of ordered liberty possible.”
    • Could America split up? (Damon Linker, The Week): “I often catch myself pondering exactly what it is that keeps our country together. What do we hold in common? What do we share?” 
  6. Churches and the pandemic:
    • How Two California Megachurches Kept Worshiping (Kate Shellnutt and Nicole Shanks, Christianity Today): “Two California churches were so eager to meet last weekend that when their services began, worshipers erupted in applause. In Sun Valley, congregants filling Grace Community Church’s 3,500-seat sanctuary rose and cheered, some documenting the moment with their iPhones, when pastor John MacArthur opened the second week in a row of in-person services…. An hour away in Riverside, California, worshippers at Harvest Christian Fellowship were greeted with cheeky pink and purple signs that said, ‘Smile with your eyes (and wear a mask)’ and ‘Just leave room for your Bible—and another 5½ feet.’ It was the third Sunday that Harvest met in a white tent half the size of a football field to comply with state orders restricting indoor worship.”
    • Should Churches in California Defy Government Restrictions? A Response to John MacArthur (Gavin Ortlund, personal blog): “To my mind, there are at least four biblical values that should inform our decision-making in this situation: 1. the importance of worship (Hebrews 10:25), 2. love for neighbor (Mark 12:31), 3. obedience to government (Romans 13:1–7), and 4. maintaining a good witness (Colossians 4:5–6). What concerns me about defying the state order right now is that it seems to prioritize 1 at the expense of 2–4.”
    • Masking and Masks: A Hypothetical Interview (Doug Wilson, personal blog): “A free people should be jealous of their liberty. And one of the best ways to be jealous of your liberty is to require the government, whenever it exercises its authority coercively, to be able to give a very specific reason. A general reason is not good enough. The law should prohibit stealing, for example, and when the cops arrest a thief, they should be able to say that they arrested him because he was ‘stealing.’ Negative prohibitions are the foundation of civic liberty, and broad, general feel-good directives are the foundation of tyranny.“ I am not opposed to mandatory masks, but this is a good defense of the opposition. 
  7. Concerning China:
    • The TikTok War (Ben Thompson, Stratechery): “TikTok’s algorithm, unmoored from the constraints of your social network or professional content creators, is free to promote whatever videos it likes, without anyone knowing the difference. TikTok could promote a particular candidate or a particular issue in a particular geography, without anyone — except perhaps the candidate, now indebted to a Chinese company — knowing. You may be skeptical this might happen, but again, China has already demonstrated a willingness to censor speech on a platform banned in China; how much of a leap is it to think that a Party committed to ideological dominance will forever leave a route directly into the hearts and minds of millions of Americans untouched?”
    • Books pulled from the library shelves, songs banned…it’s the new normal in Hong Kong (Louisa Lim, The Guardian): “Put simply, within a single month, Beijing has dismantled a partially free society and is trying to use its new law to enforce global censorship on speech regarding Hong Kong.”
    • Christians Worry Hong Kong’s New Law Will Hamper Missions (D. Cheng, Christianity Today): “…Christians living outside of China now wonder: Is it still safe for them to communicate openly with friends and colleagues in Hong Kong? For years, the territory has served as a staging ground for ministry organizations operating across the region. But now, will they face pressure or persecution, as those in the mainland do? If they are critical of Beijing on social media or in an article such as this, will they be denied entry to Hong Kong—or worse, detained and possibly imprisoned upon landing in Hong Kong?”
    • ‘Clean Up This Mess’: The Chinese Thinkers Behind Xi’s Hard Line (Chris Buckley, New York Times): “While China’s Communist Party has long nurtured legions of academics to defend its agenda, these authoritarian thinkers stand out for their unabashed, often flashily erudite advocacy of one-party rule and assertive sovereignty, and their turn against the liberal ideas that many of them once embraced.”
    • Trump Administration Penalizes Chinese Officials for Hong Kong Crackdown (Pranshu Verma and Edward Wong, New York Times): “The action is another in a series of measures the Trump administration has taken in recent months to ratchet up pressure on Beijing. Last month, the administration imposed sanctions on the Chinese government, including a senior member of the Communist Party, over human rights abuses against the largely Muslim Uighur minority.”

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 What Is It Like to Be a Man? (Phil Christman, The Hedgehog Review): “I live out my masculinity most often as a perverse avoidance of comfort: the refusal of good clothes, moisturizer, painkillers; hard physical training, pursued for its own sake and not because I enjoy it; a sense that there is a set amount of physical pain or self‐imposed discipline that I owe the universe.” Very well‐written. Everyone will likely find parts they resonate with and parts they reject. The author is a lecturer at the University of Michigan and based on his CV seems to be a fairly devoted Episcopalian. First shared in volume 178.

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 260

From naked protestors in Portland to slavery in China to theological reflections on conspiracy theories.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. China’s Xinjiang Province a Moral Quandary for the West (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “The attempt to place modern slaves in the supply chain of Western luxury goods is an attempt to implicate and morally geld Western nations who would criticize or punish the Chinese Communist Party for its crimes.”
  2. USS University (Scott Galloway, personal blog): “There is a dangerous conflation of the discussion about K‑12 and university reopenings. The two are starkly different. There are strong reasons to reopen K‑12, and there are stronger reasons to keep universities shuttered.“ The author is a business prof at NYU. Recommended by an alumnus.
    • Related: Colleges Are Getting Ready to Blame Their Students (Julia Marcus and Jessica Gold, The Atlantic): “Students will get infected, and universities will rebuke them for it; campuses will close, and students will be blamed for it. Relying on the self-control of young adults, rather than deploying the public-health infrastructure needed to control a disease that spreads easily among people who live, eat, study, and socialize together, is not a safe reopening strategy—and yelling at students for their dangerous behavior won’t help either.” The authors are professors at Harvard and Washington University, respectively. 
    • Vaguely related: Your State’s COVID Numbers In Context (PoliMath, Substack): “Headlines are allergic to context and the high-population states get all the attention because they show big numbers (because they are big states). When a smaller state gets any reporting, it is entirely outside any context. In Washington, it was reported that we had 754 new cases and 7 new deaths. Is that a lot? How does that compare to other states?” Very detailed and insightful. 
  3. Coronavirus, Conspiracy Theories, and the Ninth Commandment (David French, The Dispatch): “Christian teaching about our lives in our workplaces is not primarily about how to obtain a promotion, how to invest our money, or how to start a business. In other words, it’s not about the objectives of economic engagement, though those objectives are important. Instead, the focus is on ministering to colleagues, cultivating faith in adversity, and generally learning how to be salt and light even in sometimes hostile or intimidating environments. [But we don’t do this with politics.]” Recommended by an alumnus, this one was really good.
  4. 8 facts about religion and government in the United States (Dalia Fahmy, Pew Research Center): “While the U.S. Constitution does not mention God, every state constitution references either God or the divine. God also appears in the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance and on U.S. currency.” Recommended by a student.
  5. Where is the national news coverage of current surge of vandalism at Catholic churches? (Clemente Lisi, GetReligion): “Who’s responsible for this anti-Catholic violence? Is it Muslim terrorists? Neo-Nazis? Left-wing radicals? Are these isolated incidents or part of a coordinated attack? We don’t know because the elite newsrooms with the talent and resources to handle this kind of investigation are missing in action, in this case.… One has to wonder how these incidents would have been covered had they been mosques? What about public schools? Or say Planned Parenthood facilities?”
    • Related: Roman Catholics: The Original Abolitionists (Paul Kengor, Crisis Magazine): “Last weekend, one of Serra’s mission churches in California went up in flames, with the cause of the fire not yet known. In the last few days, a statue of Mary was set on fire in Boston and another was vandalized in Brooklyn (among others). As to what Mary has to do with the modern anti-statue-racism movement is anyone’s guess. Nonetheless, if the issue is (rightly so) a just condemnation of slavery and racism, and if one is genuinely seeking accurate history, then today’s activists ought to look back in admiration at the impressive track record of the Roman Catholic Church.” The author is a professor of political science at Grove City College. The history of the Catholic Church on the issue of slavery is better than the Protestant church.
  6. What You Need To Know About The Battle of Portland (Robert Evans, Bellingcat): “I reported on the fighting in Mosul back in 2017, and what happened that night in the streets of Portland was, of course, not nearly as brutal or dangerous as actual combat. Yet it was about as close as you can get without using live ammunition.“ A significant qualifier at the end of that sentence, interesting nonetheless.
    • Portland’s protests were supposed to be about black lives. Now, they’re white spectacle. (E.D. Mondainé, Washington Post): “We welcome our white brothers and sisters in this struggle. In fact, we need them. But I must ask them to remain humbly attuned to the opportunity of this moment — and to reflect on whether any actions they take will truly help establish justice, or whether they are simply for show.” The author is president of the Portland branch of the NAACP.
    • Out of Portland tear gas, an apparition emerges, capturing the imagination of protesters (Los Angeles Times): “She emerged as an apparition from clouds of tear gas as federal agents fired pepper balls at angry protesters in the early Saturday darkness. A woman wearing nothing but a black face mask and a stocking cap strode toward a dozen heavily armed agents attired in camouflage fatigues, lined up across a downtown Portland street.” Portland gonna port.
    • Tangentially Related: American Crime and the Baltimore Model (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “Idealists may hope these changes will eliminate police brutality as communities find better ways to prevent crime than deterrence and force. But on the hunch that human nature hasn’t changed, that isn’t going to happen. Criminals, fearing less, will continue to prey on others. Police, fearing more, will hold back from doing their jobs. Those with means to leave their neighborhoods, will. Those without the means will suffer.”
  7. A new intelligentsia is pushing back against wokeness (Batya Ungar-Sargon, Forward): “The anti-woke Black intelligentsia is leading a counter-culture to a woke hegemony and the online culture that popularized it. But their views hew more closely to those of most Black Americans than the new antiracism. Polling has long indicated that white liberals express radically more liberal views on racial and social issues than their Black and Latino neighbors.” Very interesting interviews.
    • Related: The Left is Now the Right (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “Things we once despised about the right have been amplified a thousand-fold on the flip. Conservatives once tried to legislate what went on in your bedroom; now it’s the left that obsesses over sexual codicils, not just for the bedroom but everywhere. Right-wingers from time to time made headlines campaigning against everything from The Last Temptation of Christ to ‘Fuck the Police,’ though we laughed at the idea that Ice Cube made cops literally unsafe… today Matt Yglesias signing a group letter with Noam Chomsky is considered threatening.”
    • Related: When Wokes and Racists Actually Agree on Everything (Ryan Long Comedy, YouTube) : two minutes of brilliance

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 Dissolving the Fermi Paradox (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Imagine we knew God flipped a coin. If it came up heads, He made 10 billion alien civilization. If it came up tails, He made none besides Earth. Using our one parameter Drake Equation, we determine that on average there should be 5 billion alien civilizations. Since we see zero, that’s quite the paradox, isn’t it? No. In this case the mean is meaningless. It’s not at all surprising that we see zero alien civilizations, it just means the coin must have landed tails. SDO say that relying on the Drake Equation is the same kind of error.”  First shared in volume 159.

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 259

This week contains some of the most fascinating articles I ever have passed along. Definitely worth skimming!

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Fertility rate: ‘Jaw-dropping’ global crash in children being born (James Gallagher, BBC): “China, currently the most populous nation in the world, is expected to peak at 1.4 billion in four years’ time before nearly halving to 732 million by 2100. India will take its place.” From a long-term perspective, this is possibly the most significant news you will read this year. Some of you will still be alive when China’s population is half what it is now. And it’s not just China — many nations are on the same path (with only a few sizable ones headed in the opposite direction).
  2. The Coronavirus and the Right’s Scientific Counterrevolution (Ari Schulman, The New Republic): “That so many views tut-tutted as the irrational defiance of expert consensus actually became the expert consensus in the span of just a few weeks vividly suggests that we need to reexamine just how our culture talks about expertise. The problem is not mainly that the experts were wrong—that is to be expected. It is, rather, that our lead institutions and public information outlets continually treated the assurances of experts as neutral interpretations of settled science when they plainly were not.” Interesting throughout. This will likely enter my rotation of classics that I repost from time to time. 
    • Related: An Open Letter To My Fellow Christians (David Carreon, personal blog): “Large gatherings are dangerous with a spreading virus regardless of the reason for the assembly. Some resist the straightforward response to this out of idolatry of church attendance and the church building. Any good thing can become an idol. Gold is good but can be shaped into a golden calf (Exo 32:4). Sex is good but can we can also pervert it through fornication (1 Cor 6:9). A church building or even physical attendance at church can be mistaken for the Church itself. This, too, is idolatry.” David is a Stanford psychiatrist (and a friend of mine)
    • Related: Andy Stanley Explains Why His Megachurch Won’t Gather on Sundays Until 2021 (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “Here is where I think the church needs to think about this: As a local church, we have limited time, limited staff, and limited resources; it makes no sense to focus our staff time and resources on creating a subpar environment on Sunday morning for a nine and 11 o’clock service that only 20% of the people may attend. We decided to focus on the 100% of all of our church folks and their friends and the rest of the world that may show up later.“
  3. David Shor’s Unified Theory of the 2020 Election (Eric Levitz, New York Magazine): “Campaigns do want to win. But the people who work in campaigns tend to be highly ideologically motivated and thus, super-prone to convincing themselves to do things that are strategically dumb.” Super interesting — well worth reading.
  4. Disturbing video shows hundreds of blindfolded prisoners in Xinjiang (Matt Rivers, Max Foster and James Griffiths, CNN): “The video — which was posted online anonymously last week — shows hundreds of men, most of whom are dressed in purple and orange vests with the words ‘Kashgar Detention Center’ printed on them, seated in rows on the ground of what appears to be a large courtyard outside a train station. Their heads are shaved and their hands bound behind their backs. All of the men are wearing black blindfolds over their eyes and they are being watched over by dozens of police officers in SWAT uniforms.”’
    • Related: China cuts Uighur births with IUDs, abortion, sterilization (Associated Press): “While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor. The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of ‘demographic genocide.’”
  5. Sit With Negative Emotions, Don’t Push Them Away (Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic): “In sum, if we want a life full of deep meaning, true love, and emotional strength, it’s going to involve the risk (and often the reality) of discomfort, conflict, and loss. This means there will be sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. If we eliminate negative emotions and experiences from our lives, we will be poorer and weaker for having done so.” The author is a professor at Harvard, recommended by a friend.
  6. 10 Theses About Cancel Culture (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “The point of cancellation is ultimately to establish norms for the majority, not to bring the stars back down to earth…. The goal isn’t to punish everyone, or even very many someones; it’s to shame or scare just enough people to make the rest conform.”
    • The Willful Blindness of Reactionary Liberalism (Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic): “The tensions we’ve seen lately have been internal to liberalism for ages: between those who take the associative nature of liberal society seriously and those who are determined not to. It is the former group, the defenders of progressive identity politics, who in fact are protecting—indeed expanding—the bounds of liberalism. And it is the latter group, the reactionaries, who are most guilty of the illiberalism they claim has overtaken the American Left.” Written before the letter I shared last week, this is one of the best defenses of cancel culture.
    • The World That Twitter Made (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “I suspect an entire class of pundits has internalized the idea that [Twitter debate] is what public discussion is. Of course they don’t believe in free expression, civil debate, the spirit of liberalism, and all of that jazz. To this generation those things are just words. The public sphere they have known has always been a bare-knuckle brawl.”
    • Resignation Letter (Bari Weiss, personal website): “What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome.” Recommended by a student.
    • See You Next Friday (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “What has happened, I think, is relatively simple: A critical mass of the staff and management at New York Magazine and Vox Media no longer want to associate with me, and, in a time of ever tightening budgets, I’m a luxury item they don’t want to afford. And that’s entirely their prerogative.”
    • Illusion and Agreement in the Debate over Intolerance (Justin Weinberg, Daily Nous): “In short, I don’t think society has gotten more intolerant, but technology has facilitated, among other things, the expression of intolerance.”
    • A More Specific Letter on Justice and Open Debate (many authors, The Objective): “In truth, Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ people — particularly Black and trans people — can now critique elites publicly and hold them accountable socially; this seems to be the letter’s greatest concern. What’s perhaps even more grating to many of the signatories is that a critique of their long held views is persuasive.”
    • Liked tweets nearly cost me my university job (Mike McCulloch, Unherd): “To think that I could have lost my career to a single complaint about my liked tweets shows just how hysterical the present social mood is. Now more than ever, it is vital that we — and in particular the universities — stand up for enlightenment principles and replace fear with reason and fact.” The author is a math lecturer (similar to an assistant professor in the US) at the University of Plymouth. 
    • A Declaration of Independence by a Princeton Professor (Joshua T. Katz, Quillette): “I am friends with many people who signed the Princeton letter, which requests and in some places demands a dizzying array of changes, and I support their right to speak as they see fit. But I am embarrassed for them.” 
    • Attempted Putsch At Princeton (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I am a Princeton professor who signed the letter that you wrote about today. I am also a devout Christian and a daily reader of your blog.” Contains a letter from a Princeton prof with a different view than the one above, worth contrasting.
  7. My Time in Prison (George Cardinal Pell, First Things): “There is a lot of goodness in prisons. At times, I am sure, prisons may be hell on earth. I was fortunate to be kept safe and treated well. I was impressed by the professionalism of the warders, the faith of the prisoners, and the existence of a moral sense even in the darkest places.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How the State Serves Both Salvation and Religious Freedom (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “Two basic kinds of governments, then, show up in the Bible: those that shelter God’s people, and those that destroy them. Abimelech sheltered; Pharoah destroyed. The Assyrians destroyed; the Babylonians and Persians, ultimately, sheltered. Pilate destroyed; Festus sheltered. And depending on how you read Revelation, the history of government will culminate in a beastly slaughter of saintly blood. Romans 13 calls governments servants; Psalm 2 calls them imposters. Most governments contain both. But some are better than others.” First shared in volume 165

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 253

Specific suggestions for police reform, various explainers and opinion pieces, and some weird news about TikTok and Christianity.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. On the racial division in America:
    • How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change (Barack Obama, Medium): “Finally, the more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away. The content of that reform agenda will be different for various communities.” Emphasis in original.
    • Some specific policy proposals: “For those who are interested in research-based solutions to stop police violence, here’s what you need to know — based on the facts and data. A thread. (1/x)” (Samuel Sinyangwe, Twitter)
    • More specific policy proposals: How to Actually Fix America’s Police (Seth W. Stoughton, Jeffrey J. Noble & Geoffrey P. Alpert, The Atlantic): “‘Overcriminalization’ has been broadly discussed; there are so many laws that violations are ubiquitous. If everyone is a criminal, officers have almost unfettered discretion to pick and choose which laws to enforce and whom to stop, frisk, search, or arrest.” The authors have an interesting combination of expertise (a law prof, a criminology prof, and a former officer).
    • I Must Object: A Rebuttal to Brown Univ.’s Letter Decrying Pervasive Racism in US (Glenn C. Loury, City Journal): “I deeply resented the letter. First of all, what makes an administrator (even a highly paid one, with an exalted title) a ‘leader’ of this university? We, the faculty, are the only ‘leaders’ worthy of mention when it comes to the realm of ideas. Who cares what some paper-pushing apparatchik thinks? It’s all a bit creepy and unsettling. Why must this university’s senior administration declare, on behalf of the institution as a whole and with one voice, that they unanimously—without any subtle differences of emphasis or nuance—interpret contentious current events through a single lens?” Loury, who is black, is an econ professor at Brown. He did not come to play.
    • Efrem Smith: White Evangelicals Need to Humble Themselves (Bob Smietana, Christianity Today): “I’ve been encouraged, especially in the evangelical wing of the church, to see more pastors speaking out, being brokenhearted, calling for change. But then there’s also a significant segment of evangelicalism that is either silent or late to the party when it comes to the church calling for justice.”
    • A Nation on Fire Needs the Flames of the Spirit (Esau McCaulley, Christianity Today): “There is no other world in which to talk about Jesus than a world in which black men can have their necks stepped on for nine minutes.” The author is an Anglican priest and a professor of New Testament at Wheaton. 
    • Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LA Times): “…even though we do all the conventional things to raise public and political awareness — write articulate and insightful pieces in the Atlantic, explain the continued devastation on CNN, support candidates who promise change — the needle hardly budges.”
    • On Days of Disorder (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “Notice that this schema is value neutral: it describes both the football hooligan and the race rioter, 19th century Russian pogroms and 21st century Hong Kong street battles. In all of these a certain percentage of the participants plays the game for fairly mundane reasons: to revel in excitement or terror, lose themselves in a rare sense of solidarity, belonging, or power, or to simply gain the monetary rewards that come with theft and looting. The proportion of the population willing to join a riot to attain these things likely reflects the proportion of the population otherwise cut off from them in normal times. Few rioters are married men who must be at work at 8:00 AM the next morning.” This was quite good. Recommended.
    • Simplicity Is The Enemy & Bad Apples (Jonathan Last, The Bulwark): “What’s happening in America right now is large and complicated. We have a series of problems, some of which overlap, some of which do not. And attempts to solve them have, historically, been stymied by conflating them and believing that they are simple and connected.”
  2. On the pandemic:
    • The Treason of Epidemiologists (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “The simple fact is that whatever legislation we’re going to get, we’d still get if the protests stopped this morning. In fact, a reasonable person would conclude we’d be more likely to get it if they stopped now, because the more these things go on, the more opposition and resentment will grow.” 
    • Related: “A thread about how protesting during a pandemic was described when conservatives were doing it” (Matt Walsh, Twitter)
    • Surgisphere: governments and WHO changed Covid-19 policy based on suspect data from tiny US company (Melissa Davey, Stephanie Kirchgaessner & Sarah Boseley, The Guardian): “The World Health Organization and a number of national governments have changed their Covid-19 policies and treatments on the basis of flawed data from a little-known US healthcare analytics company, also calling into question the integrity of key studies published in some of the world’s most prestigious medical journals. A Guardian investigation can reveal the US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees appear to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has provided data for multiple studies on Covid-19 co-authored by its chief executive, but has so far failed to adequately explain its data or methodology.” This is actually nuts.
    • The C.D.C. Waited ‘Its Entire Existence for This Moment.’ What Went Wrong? (Eric Lipton, Abby Goodnough, Michael D. Shear, Megan Twohey, Apoorva Mandavilli,Sheri Fink & Mark Walker, New York Times): “…the C.D.C. is risk-averse, perfectionist and ill suited to improvising in a quickly evolving crisis — particularly one that shuts down the country and paralyzes the economy.”
  3. The Museum of the Bible is winning over some of its biggest critics: Jewish scholars (Menachem Wecker, Washington Post): “Mintz believes Jewish scholars who denounced evangelical tones in the museum may have done so because they don’t see eye-to-eye with its politically conservative owners. But, she notes, the museum itself caters to Jews. She cites a time when it arranged kosher food for an event in which her husband, an Orthodox rabbi, participated. ‘They were just nice about it,’ she says.”
  4. Christian TikTok videos are censored and deleted in the US, creators say (Liza Vandenboom, Religion Unplugged): “Christian content is often censored and removed from TikTok, according to several creators on the platform. The China-based social media app hosts short, snippy videos ranging from inspirational mini-speeches to musical and dance performances and is popular with teenagers and young adults. The platform reports over 800 million active users, with 30 million active users in the U.S. Researchers have grown concerned over the app’s reach and the possibility of it bringing Chinese-style censorship to mainstream U.S. audiences.” 
  5. Technocracy Is Impossible (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “Leaders should pay attention to scientists, dramatically more than the current Presidential administration does, but an immunologist will say one thing, an epidemiologist something slightly different, an economist something altogether other. The various sciences and academic disciplines will not speak with a single voice, indeed will not speak at all: individual scholars will speak, and what they say will arise from a combination of their scholarly expertise and their beliefs (derived from non-scientific sources) about what matters most in life, and a good political leader will have the general intelligence and moral discernment to sift the various messages he or she receives and make a decision based on all the relevant input.”
  6. There was a fight at the New York Times this week. I’m not actually that interested in the op-ed that provoked it, but I am quite interested in how the fight is playing out. The New York Times occupies a special place in the American media ecosystem and fights like this illuminate some of what is happening beneath the surface.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have A One Parameter Equation That Can Exactly Fit Any Scatter Plot (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Overfitting is possible with just one parameter and so models with fewer parameters are not necessarily preferable even if they fit the data as well or better than models with more parameters.” Researchers take note. The underlying mathematics paper is well‐written and interesting: One Parameter Is Always Enough (Steven T. Piantadosi) — among other things, it points out that you can smuggle in arbitrarily large amounts of data into an equation through a single parameter because a number can have infinite digits. Obvious once stated, but I don’t know that it ever would have occurred to me. First shared in volume 154.

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 252

There was an abundance of sad news this week, which matches this month, which matches this year.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Bible tells us to weep with those who weep, and this is a good week for that. I’ve had to share articles about similar wickedness too many times, beginning all the way back in volume 4.
    • I think this 8 minute Facebook video by my friend Jamil Stell is good. He filmed it a few hours before George Floyd’s death, which is why he doesn’t reference it. Jamil, who spoke at our fall retreat four years ago, is the Chi Alpha director at Cal State Stanislaus.
    • I Specifically Requested The Opposite of This (Imgur) — if a picture is worth 1,000 words, a picture with a great caption is an entire treatise.
    • The Sorrows of Minneapolis: A Prayer for Our City (John Piper, Desiring God): difficult to excerpt, quite good.
    • When the Law Doesn’t Contain All the Answers (Bob Driscoll, The Dispatch): “The law, even applied correctly, doesn’t remedy what we know is wrong. We can hope that the George Floyd killing can provide some insight into the feeling of frustration in many minority communities surrounding policing issues, because we can see, or at least sense, the depth of the problem. Assuming the system properly tries and convicts the kneeling officer of some serious offense, will you feel any better about George Floyd’s death? I won’t.”
    • George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “The rest of the country knows George Floyd from several minutes of cell phone footage captured during his final hours. But in Houston’s Third Ward, they know Floyd for how he lived for decades—a mentor to a generation of young men and a ‘person of peace’ ushering ministries into the area.”
    • Did George Floyd and Then-Officer Derek Chauvin Work Together in Minneapolis? (Snopes): “So while it’s true that Floyd and Chauvin worked at the club at the same time, it’s unknown, and unlikely, according to the former owner of the building where the club was located, that the two men knew each other.”
    • Cooped up: A shameful Central Park encounter demands all New Yorkers be better people (Robert A. George, NY Daily News) : “In the latest episode of the everyday-fresh-hell that is New York City under quarantine, one white female, Amy Cooper, was caught on video calling the cops on one black male, Christian Cooper. Sorry, folks, I’d encourage everyone to push back on the reflexive instinct to make this into a story about racism as it’s more a modern parable of bad behavior between two individuals.” Super-interesting.
    • White People Behaving Badly (Zaid Jilani, Arc Digital): “The truth is, measured explicit and implicit racial bias has rapidly declined, interracial crimes are rare, and whites are actually underrepresented compared to their share of the population in the FBI’s index of hate crimes. No racial group has a monopoly on hate, whatever anecdotes elevated to news coverage may lead us to believe.”
    • Anger Is Justified, Riots Never Are (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “Riots are bad. Riots are never a coherent or moral response to injustice, they just multiply injustices and the rioters themselves often suffer more in the long run…. Riots dissuade individuals, families, and businesses from staying in or joining a community. Who wants to raise their kids in the neighborhood where the police station had to be evacuated before it was set ablaze?” Some research on the effects of riots The Economic Aftermath of the 1960s Riots in American Cities: Evidence from Property Values (Collins & Margo, Journal of Economic History on JSTOR) and this Twitter thread by a Princeton professor.
    • A differing perspective: What the news doesn’t show about protests in Minneapolis and Louisville (Jason Johnson, Vox): “Nighttime coverage will seldom show a full city map demonstrating that, two blocks over from a street that looks like a ‘city engulfed in flames,’ there’s a CVS still open for business. The press flocking to dramatic images as a protest metaphor is not a new phenomenon.” The author is a professor of politics and journalism at Morgan State University.
    • George Floyd protests: Photos show uprisings across America (Jen Kirby and Kainaz Amaria, Vox): striking images.
  2. About China:
    • The Infinite Heartbreak of Loving Hong Kong (Wilfred Chan, The Nation): “Something profound has been lost. It is not democracy, because Hong Kong was never democratic. It is not autonomy, because Hong Kong never enjoyed self-determination. It is certainly not the will to resist; as I write this, activists are already planning a full calendar of mass protests, determined to fight until the bitter end. What is lost is the feeling that Hong Kong’s future could be an open question.”
    • Pompeo declares Hong Kong no longer autonomous from China (Carol Morello, Washington Post): “‘Hong Kong and its dynamic, enterprising, and free people have flourished for decades as a bastion of liberty, and this decision gives me no pleasure,’ [Pompeo] added. ‘But sound policymaking requires a recognition of reality. While the United States once hoped that free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself.’”
    • What to Make of Secretary Pompeo Decertifying Hong Kong Autonomy (Julian Ku, Lawfare): “Although Pompeo’s dramatic announcement drew headlines around the world, his decision should not have surprised observers, given the new requirements on any such certification imposed by Congress in November 2019.”
    • ‘All-out combat’ feared as India, China engage in border standoff (Saif Khalid, Al Jazeera): “A video shot by an Indian soldier and shared on social media showed soldiers from both nations engaged in fistfights and stone-pelting at the de facto border, known as Line of Actual Control (LAC). The incident, which continued until the next day, resulted in 11 soldiers being injured on both sides.” The headline seems a bit over-the-top. I talked with a friend who has some relevant expertise and he is not that concerned. Still worth keeping an eye on. 
    • China-India border: Clashes raise fears of broader confrontation as Beijing pursues sovereignty claims on all fronts (Anna Fifield and Joanna Slater, Washington Post): “The relationship between the two countries remains tense, exacerbated by efforts from both capitals to stoke nationalist sentiment. The obvious place for this to erupt is at the point where the two countries bump up against each other.” 
  3. ‘AKA Jane Roe’ and the humiliation of the pro-life movement (Karen Swallows Prior, Religion News Service): “Even before the film aired, headline after headline heaped humiliation on pro-lifers. The Los Angeles Times reported that McCorvey had been paid to change her mind. This was misleading: McCorvey wasn’t paid to change her mind — she was paid to speak at pro-life events after she claimed she had changed her position.”
    • Related: FX documentary on Norma McCorvey omits key Catholic sources who knew her best (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “Also, the documentary is coy about one important thing. To get access to McCorvey, surely they had to pay up too? We call that ‘checkbook journalism’ and ethical news organizations don’t offer money to their interviewees. When pressed by the Washington Post, the film’s producer admitted he paid her a ‘modest licensing fee’ for use of family photos and documentary footage.” 
  4. Pandemic Perspectives:
    • Conservatives who refuse to wear masks undercut a central claim of their beliefs (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “[Refusing to wear masks] also undercuts a more central claim of conservatism: that big, coercive government programs are unnecessary because private institutions could provide many benefits that we think of as ‘public goods.’ For that to be true, the civic culture would have to be such that individuals are willing to make serious sacrifices for the common good, and especially to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
    • Reopening churches safely: What pastors in Utah, Georgia have learned (Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News): “The Rev. Leroy Davis wants his church to feel as safe as Costco. The service will hopefully be a little more personal, he said, but the environment should seem just as clean.“
    • The Regulatory State Is Failing Us (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “It is important not to make this a partisan conflict. I do not view the administrative state as extra-constitutional. That said, it has become far too inflexible, and not sufficiently focused on outcomes. It is time we woke up and realized that we have a system that simply is not working.”
    • COVID-19 Has Exposed Critical Weaknesses in Global Higher Education (Christos Makridis and Soula Parassidis): “While publicly available data does not seem to exist to identify the source of the increasing proliferation of degree programs, many students have been funneled into degree programs without an accurate representation of what they are going to learn and their post-graduation labor market prospects.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry. 
  5. Have Pentecostals Outgrown Their Name? (Daniel Silliman, Christianity Today): “Names can be tricky. What do you call a Pentecostal who isn’t called a Pentecostal? The question sounds like a riddle, but it’s a real challenge for scholars. They have struggled for years to settle on the best term for the broad and diverse movement of Christians who emphasize the individual believer’s relationship to the Holy Spirit and talk about being Spirit-filled, Spirit-baptized, or Spirit-empowered.”
  6. Conn. transgender policy found to violate Title IX (ESPN): “Connecticut’s policy allowing transgender girls to compete as girls in high school sports violates the civil rights of athletes who have always identified as female, the U.S. Education Department has determined in a decision that could force the state to change course to keep federal funding and influence others to do the same.”

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 Why Being a Foster Child Made Me a Conservative (Rob Henderson, New York Times): “Individuals have rights. But they also have responsibilities. For instance, when I say parents should prioritize their children over their careers, there is a sense of unease among my peers. They think I want to blame individuals rather than a nebulous foe like poverty. They are mostly right.” The author just graduated from Yale. Worth reading regardless of your political allegiances. First shared in volume 153.

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.