Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 210

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 208

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. I Pray for Refugees Because I Was One. And God Was Faithful. (Sunday Htoo, Christianity Today): “When I was in the jungle and running for my life, I felt that I would be safe. I felt that someone I did not know was praying for me. Someone is running for their life right now in Burma, or another country torn by war. Please pray for him, for her, for the children, for the elderly, and for a woman who may be pregnant. Your prayer is full of meaning.” If you ignore every other article to which I link this week, read this.
    • Relevant: Migrant children describe neglect at Texas border facility (Cedar Attanasio, Garance Burke and Martha Mendoza, AP News): “‘In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,’ said Holly Cooper, who co‐directs University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth…. the Border Patrol is holding 15,000 people, and the agency considers 4,000 to be at capacity.”
    • Also: Is it Christian or illegal to aid migrants? A hung Tucson jury, a fork in the road of faith (Brian McLaren, USA Today): “religious liberty means the freedom to save refugees in the desert.” I met McLaren once and had a nice conversation with him. There is zero chance he remembers me. There are parts of this op‐ed with which I strenuously disagree, recommended nonetheless.
  2. The Illiberal Right Throws a Tantrum (Adam Serwer, The Atlantic): “The American creed has no more devoted adherents than those who have been historically denied its promises, and no more fair‐weather friends than those who have taken them for granted.”
    • In response: Is The Religious Right Privileged? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Politically, liberalism has imposed via the judiciary, the least democratic branch, a constitutional right to abortion, a form of lethal violence that the church opposes for the same reasons it opposes infanticide — and after 50 years of small‐d democratic activism by pro‐lifers, the pro‐choice side seems to be hardening into a view that such activism is as un‐American as racism. Legally, elite liberalism is increasingly embracing arguments that would make it difficult or impossible for the church to operate hospitals and adoption agencies today, and perhaps colleges and grammar schools tomorrow. And in its internal life, beneath the post‐Protestant tendency I’ve just described, progressive politics is also nurturing a fashionable occultism, whose rituals may be practiced somewhat ironically or performatively but whose anti‐Catholicism seems quite sincere.”
    • Related: Two Painful Truths of America’s Religious Culture War (David French, National Review): “Here are two painful truths: Secular government is breaking its promise of liberty, and the American church is breaking its promise of virtue.”
  3. What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane (William Langewiesche, The Atlantic): “The idea that a sophisticated machine, with its modern instruments and redundant communications, could simply vanish seems beyond the realm of possibility. It is hard to permanently delete an email, and living off the grid is nearly unachievable even when the attempt is deliberate. A Boeing 777 is meant to be electronically accessible at all times…. All sorts of theorists have made claims, amplified by social media, that ignore the satellite data, and in some cases also the radar tracks, the aircraft systems, the air‐traffic‐control record, the physics of flight, and the basic contours of planetary geography. ” Recommended by a student (and, it seems, half the internet — this is widely considered a must‐read article). The author is a professional pilot and a veteran journalist
  4. ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ has become the unofficial anthem of the anti‐extradition protest movement (Kenneth Tan, Shanghaiist): “Alarmed by reports of police brutality, many church groups galvanized to participate in peace protests, calling on the authorities to stop the violence. Their presence on the front lines of the protests were helpful in making the demonstrations look more like an outdoor worship service rather than the ‘organized riots’ the government said it had to crack down on to bring back law and order.”
    • Related: A new kind of Hong Kong activism emerges as protesters mobilize without any leaders (Alice Su, LA Times): “This time around, protesters are deliberately leaderless, Leung said. ‘It looks quite organized and well‐disciplined. But I’m quite sure you cannot find anyone managing the whole thing,’ Leung said, adding that the protesters’ logistical practices — bringing supplies, setting up medical stations, rapid mass communication — were ‘in‐built’ from the last few years of practice. ‘It’s just like a machine or a self‐learning AI that can run by themselves,’ he said.”
    • Related: check out this drone footage of the protests (3 minutes, YouTube).
  5. Reparations came up in the House of Representatives on Juneteenth. Here are two testimonies that caught a lot of attention:
    • Read Ta‐Nehisi Coates’s Testimony on Reparations (Olivia Paschal & Madeleine Carlisle, The Atlantic): “The typical black family in this country has one‐tenth the wealth of the typical white family. Black women die in childbirth at four times the rate of white women. And there is, of course, the shame of this land of the free boasting the largest prison population on the planet, of which the descendants of the enslaved make up the largest share. The matter of reparations is one of making amends and direct redress, but it is also a question of citizenship.” (or watch the five minute video on YouTube)
    • My Testimony On Reparations (Coleman Hughes, Quillette): “But the people who were owed for slavery are no longer here, and we’re not entitled to collect on their debts. Reparations, by definition, are only given to victims. So the moment you give me reparations, you’ve made me into a victim without my consent. Not just that: you’ve made one‐third of black Americans—who consistently poll against reparations—into victims without their consent, and black Americans have fought too long for the right to define themselves to be spoken for in such a condescending manner.” (or watch the six minute video on YouTube)
    • Somewhat, kinda related: ‘Affirmative Action Is Not About Equality. It’s About Covering Ass.’ (Evan Goldstein,Chronicle Review): “What happened is that I went through a trauma. I was accused of assaulting a woman with whom I was having an extramarital affair. I was publicly humiliated. I had to withdraw an appointment as undersecretary of education in the last years of Reagan’s second term. I was a crack‐cocaine addict; it almost killed me. My wife at the time, God bless her, stayed with me, and we subsequently had two fine sons. But at the time, I was dying. I found Jesus. I got my life together. They stuck with me at the Kennedy School, but I just couldn’t bear the feeling of condescension.” This is an interview with Glenn Loury, who was the first black tenured econ professor at Harvard. He is now an economist at Brown.
  6. Ideology and Facts Collide at Oberlin College (Daniel McGraw, Quillette): “It slowly became evident that this case was not about free expression and assembly or racial injustice and civil rights. It was about something more banal. A cowardly college administration picked on a small and vulnerable business in an attempt to fend off accusations of racism it was facing from its own students.”
    • Honestly, this Twitter thread about it is even better. Jaw‐dropping details. Read it first and then the above article if you want a more well‐rounded narrative.
  7. How Should Christians Have Sex? (Katelyn Beaty, New York Times): “I long for more robust categories of right and wrong besides consent — a baseline, but only that — and more than a general reminder not to be a jerk. I can get that from Dan Savage, but I also want to know what Jesus thinks.”

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 207

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. Eleven arrests, double the tear gas fired during Occupy movement and 81 injured: police chief paints disturbing picture of Hong Kong extradition bill protests (Ng Kang‐chung & Christy Leung, South China Morning Post): “In a postmortem on Thursday of the clashes between officers and protesters who had surrounded the Legislative Council building and administrative headquarters the day before, Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai‐chung said more than 150 rounds of tear gas had been fired – almost double that on the first day of the Occupy demonstrations – and about 20 beanbag rounds, as well as ‘several’ rounds of rubber bullets.” See also these related photos from AP.
    • What Hong Kong’s Freedom Means to the World (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg Opinion): “Circa 2019, Hong Kong is a study in the creeping power and increasing sophistication of autocracy. While it is possible there could be a Tiananmen‐like massacre in the streets of Hong Kong, it is more likely that its mainland overlords will opt for more subtle ways of choking off Hong Kong’s remaining autonomy and freedoms.”
    • Hong Kong and the Future of Freedom (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union ‘the focus of evil in the modern world,’ one prominent liberal writer denounced him as ‘primitive.’ But it was such rhetoric that gave courage to dissidents and dreamers on the other side of the wall. What’s really primitive is to look upon the oppression of others and, whether out of deficient sympathy or excessive sophistication, remain silent.”
  2. The Politics of Dystopia (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Liberalism has never done as well as it thinks at resolving its own crises. America’s gravest moral evil, chattel slavery, was defeated by an authoritarian president in a religious civil war, not by proceduralism or constitutional debate. The crisis of the 1930s ended happily for liberalism because a reactionary imperialist withstood Adolf Hitler and a revolutionary Bolshevik crushed him. The liberal peace that followed may depend on fear of the atomic bomb.”
    • Related: A High‐School Porn Star’s Cry for Help (Caitlyn Flanagan, The Atlantic): “The problem is that there are some very old human impulses that must now contend with porn. One of them is the tendency of deeply troubled teenage girls to act out sexually as a kind of distress signal, an attempt to get the attention of adults who may not be getting the message that they’re in a crisis.”
    • Related? JON STEWART Goes OFF On Congress (YouTube): a remarkable nine‐minute clip. The next day the bill was passed in committee and now awaits a full vote.
  3. The restaurant owner who asked for 1‐star Yelp reviews (Zachary Crockett, The Hustle): “In 2014, chef Davide Cerretini advertised a special that would forever change his fate: Anyone who left his restaurant a 1‐star review on Yelp would get 25% off a pizza.” This is fascinating.
  4. Her Evangelical Megachurch Was Her World. Then Her Daughter Said She Was Molested by a Minister. (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “Ms. Bragg said that all she wanted was a church home that would care for her family. Evangelicals in Dallas are enamored with the Village, with Mr. Chandler and with all the church represents, she said recently. She started to cry.”
  5. A Sociologist of Religion on Protestants, Porn, and the “Purity Industrial Complex” (Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker): “What I found is that, whatever we think pornography is doing, those effects tend to be amplified when we’re talking about conservative Protestants. It seems to be uniquely harmful to conservative Protestants’ mental health, their sense of self, their own identities—certainly their intimate relationships—in ways that don’t tend to be as harmful for people who don’t have that kind of moral problem with it.” Chotiner is interviewing Samuel Perry, a sociologist at the University of Oklahoma.
  6. The Rise Of Progressive Occultism (Tara Isabella Burton, The American Interest): “For an increasing number of left‐leaning millennials—more and more of whom do not belong to any organized religion—occult spirituality isn’t just a form of personal practice, self‐care with more sage. Rather, it’s a metaphysical canvas for the American culture wars in the post‐Trump era: pitting the self‐identified Davids of seemingly secular progressivism against the Goliath of nationalist evangelical Christianity.”
    • The article ends with an amazing quote: “Back in 1992, Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson warned of the dangers of feminism, predicting that it would induce ‘women to leave their husbands.…practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.’ Many of today’s witches would happily agree.” 👀
  7. Is Christianity losing to Islam? (Paul Seabright, Asia Times): “On a world scale – whatever populists may say – Christianity is not struggling; it is in more vigorous shape than it has ever been. And the marketplace is where most of the religious action is going to take place in this century. As in many other marketplaces, there are large returns to economies of scale for those who can work out how to exploit them. That is why corporate religion is here to stay – and why we should expect it to consolidate its dominance.” The author is an economics professor in France.

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 206

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. 30 Years After Tiananmen, a Chinese Military Insider Warns: Never Forget (Chris Buckley, New York Times): “…Ms. Jiang’s decision to challenge the silence carries an extra political charge because she is not only an army veteran but also the daughter of the military elite. Her father was a general, and she was born and raised in military compounds. She proudly enlisted in the People’s Liberation Army about 50 years ago, and in photos from her time as a military journalist, she stands beaming in her green army uniform, a notebook in hand and camera hanging from her neck.”
  2. Clarence Thomas’s Dangerous Idea (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “And in any other area of policy Thomas’s point about how legal abortion appears, in the aggregate, to act in racist and eugenic ways would be taken as an indicator that something more than just emancipation is at work. ”
  3. If you have not been following it, a remarkable argument has developed in the world of religious conservative intelligentsia. The quickness with which others have jumped into shows that there’s a real division here.
    • Against David French‐ism (Sohrab Ahmari, First Things): “Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.”
    • What Sohrab Ahmari Gets Wrong (David French, National Review): “I firmly believe that the defense of these political and cultural values must be conducted in accordance with scriptural admonitions to love your enemies, to bless those who persecute you, with full knowledge that the ‘Lord’s servant’ must be ‘kind to everyone, able to teach, and patiently endure evil.’”
    • What A Clash Between Conservatives Reveals (Alan Jacobs, The Atlantic): “It’s important to note that Ahmari sees the differences between him and French as rooted, ultimately, in their different Christian traditions: Catholicism for Ahmari—who recently published a memoir of his conversion—and evangelical Protestantism. But whether this is indeed the heart of the matter, the dispute so far hasn’t fallen out that way. Some Catholics are with French, some Protestants with Ahmari.”
      • A follow‐up piece Jacobs published on his own blog, well worth reading on its own. Fair Play To You (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “Conscience exemptions ain’t what they used to be — about that there is surely no disagreement. The dispute is simply whether that’s good or bad.” This post contains a beautiful imaginary dialog which I highly commend to you — read that if you read nothing else.
    • The Ahmari/French debate: A reading list (Joe Carter, Acton Institute): the level of debate this has kicked off is amazing. Click here to see all the ins and outs.
  4. These Men Say the Boy Scouts’ Sex Abuse Problem Is Worse Than Anyone Knew (Eliana Dockterman, Time): “‘They were reporting…that they were a wholesome organization,’ says Tim Kosnoff, one of the attorneys, ‘when they were kicking out child molesters at the rate of one every two days for 100 years.’”
  5. Deepfake Propaganda Is Not A Real Problem (Russell Brandom, The Verge): “In any of these cases, attackers had the motive and the resources to produce a deepfake video. The technology is cheap, easily available, and technically straightforward. But given the option of fabricating video evidence, each group seems to have decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. Instead we saw news articles made up from whole cloth, or videos edited to take on a sinister meaning.”
  6. There was a controversy recently when Trump showed up at a church and the pastor prayed for him.
    • On Praying for the President (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “What’s remarkable about this prayer is not that it happened, but that it shows how thoroughly the Trump era has opened the way for cynicism and outrage over even mundane, predictable Christian behavior.”
    • David Platt Asks God to Grant Trump ‘All the Grace He Needs to Govern’ (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “Platt is in an interesting position. For years, he’s preached against the American focus on “self‐advancement, self‐esteem, and self‐sufficiency” and “individualism, materialism, and universalism.” And now he’s the pastor of a suburban Washington congregation full of Christians who work on the Hill, a place once deemed ‘a holy destination for GOP senators and Bush aides.’”
    • Prayer For The President (David Platt): this is Platt’s letter to the congregation explaining his actions. “At the end of my sermon at the 1:00 worship gathering, I stepped to the side for what I thought would be a couple of moments in quiet reflection as we prepared to take the Lord’s Supper. But I was immediately called backstage and told that the President of the United States was on his way to the church, would be there in a matter of minutes, and would like for us to pray for him.”
    • In case you’re wondering, I would 100% have done what Platt did. And I would have done it for Obama, Clinton, Bush, or whoever. I would have done it for Nero. I cannot understand how this is controversial or is being perceived as partisan.
  7. Asymmetric Weapons Gone Bad (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Every day we do things that we can’t easily justify. If someone were to argue that we shouldn’t do the thing, they would win easily. We would respond by cutting that person out of our life, and continuing to do the thing.” This entire series of articles (this is the fourth, the others are linked at the top of it) is 100% worth reading. It’s a very interesting way to think about the limits of reason and the wisdom hidden in tradition.

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 Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+ (Hannah Furness, The Telegraph): this is a real article. First shared in volume 151.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 203

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 Heart of the Evangelical Crisis (Mark Galli, Christianity Today): “My next thought was, ‘Well, if I call myself a Christian, I should have greater love and desire to know God more deeply. Perhaps I should pray for that.’ And that’s when something occurred to me with great force: I wasn’t sure I wanted that. I recognize that was an odd admission for a person who claimed to be a good Christian. But there it was. I didn’t think I really wanted to love God more. The reasons for that are complex and will be touched on later, but the bottom line was: I really didn’t want to love God.” First essay in a series.
  2. Abortion in America, explained in 10 facts (Anna North, Vox): “Even though the abortion rate has declined, the procedure remains commonplace. According to a 2017 analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, 23.7 percent of women in the United States will have an abortion by the age of 45. Nineteen percent will have one by age 30, and 4.6 percent will have one by age 20.”
    • Debunking 9 Myths Surrounding Alabama’s Abortion Law (Carole Novielli, Live Action): “This bill, HB314, was sponsored by a female lawmaker, Representative Terri Collins, and was signed into law by female Governor Kay Ivey. Pro‐life organizations are led by women. The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, on the other hand, was imposed by all men.”
    • Alabama and Georgia Are Throwing Down the Gauntlet against Roe. Good. (David French, National Review): difficult to excerpt. A good summary of the legal strategy the southern states are pursuing.
    • I’m an anti‐abortion Christian. But Alabama’s ban will do more harm than good. (Katherine Kelaidis, Vox): “Draconian bans on abortion — and frankly anything other than liberal access to abortions along with comprehensive sex education and access to contraception — fail to protect human life, both in the womb and outside of it. This, in itself, should be intolerable to any Christian, particularly one who views abortion as morally suspect.”
    • Why some anti‐abortion conservatives think Alabama’s abortion law goes too far (Jane Coaston, Vox): “A 2018 Gallup poll found that just 29 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all circumstances, but that outweighs the 18 percent of Americans who believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. The vast majority of Americans think abortion should be legal, with restrictions of some kind (abortions being permitted only within the first three months of pregnancy, for example).”
    • That latest Pat Robertson juridical quote: Journalists may want to note these interesting facts (Terry Mattingly, GetReligion): “Robertson is (a) making a comment about legal questions linked to this Alabama law and, (b) also about the political realities surrounding it. Thus, I am asking: Should journalists consider adding one or two sentences to their reports noting that Robertson is (a) a graduate of Yale Law School and (b) someone who grew up in Washington, D.C., as the son of a U.S. Senator? How many readers know these two facts about this famous religious leader?” Wait. What? I had no idea.
    • Most Abortion‐Minded Women Aren’t Calculating Killers. They’re Afraid (Maria Baer, Gospel Coalition): the whole thing is worth reading — this bit caught my attention but isn’t really close to her main point: “Evil often begets more evil. While many who support so‐called abortion rights believe they’re serving needy women, they’re overlooking one critical reality: Women are often brought—reluctantly—to the abortion doctor. These women are compelled toward abortion not by their own empowering, my‐body‐is‐my‐own sense of autonomy, but by another person seeking control. Angry boyfriends, angry husbands, angry mothers, angry employers—these are so often the wind at the back of an abortion‐minded woman.”
  3. Too many men: China and India battle with the consequences of gender imbalance (Simon Denyer & Annie Gowen,South China Morning Post): this article is a year old, it’s long but good. “Nothing like this has happened in human history. A combination of cultural preferences, government decree and modern medical technology in the world’s two largest countries has created a gender imbalance on a continental scale. Men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India…. In any given age group, a proportion of men will fail to find brides, but they will stay in the marriage market, competing with younger men to marry younger women. The disproportion keeps growing. By 2050, French demographer Christophe Guilmoto estimates, there could be between 150 to 190 men for every 100 women in China’s marriage market.”
  4. A few brief observations about thinking clearly:
    • Accounting Identities and the Implicit Theory of Inertia (Nick Rowe, Worthwhile Canadian Initiative): “Animals can be divided into Carnivores and Non‐Carnivores: A = C + NC. Therefore, if we add some wolves to an island of sheep, the number of animals on that island will increase. It’s easy to see why that argument might not be right. Wolves kill sheep. But if you didn’t know that fact about wolves and sheep, the argument looks very appealing. But the equation A = C + NC tells us absolutely nothing about the world; it’s an accounting identity that is true by definition. The only thing it tells you is how I have chosen to divide up the world into parts. And I can choose an infinite number of different ways to divide the world up into parts.” This is an important insight.
    • Why Do Experiments Make People Uneasy? (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “One factor which comes out of respondent comments is that the experiment forces people to reckon with the idea that even experts don’t know what the right thing to do is and that confession of ignorance bothers people. (This is also one reason why people may prefer pundits who always ‘know’ the right thing to do even when they manifestly do not).”
    • Our first instinct is far too often wrong (Tim Harford, Financial Times): “In a multiple‐choice test, you sometimes write down an answer and then have second thoughts. Is it wise to stay with your first instincts, or better to switch? Most people would advise that the initial answer is usually better than the doubt‐plagued second guess…. Researchers have been studying this question since the 1920s. They have overwhelmingly concluded both that individual answer changes are more likely to be from wrong to right, and that students who change their answers tend to improve their scores.”
    • The Big Story You Don’t Read About (David Brooks, New York Times): “How did we in our business get in the spot where we spend 90 percent of our coverage on the 10 percent of our lives influenced by politics and 10 percent of our coverage on the 90 percent of our lives influenced by relationship, community and the places we live in every day?”
  5. When Male Runners Lose to Women (Leyland Cecco, The Walrus): “Studies are starting to show that male and female bodies respond differently to fatigue: during long periods of exercise, the brain monitors and triages the body’s output, regulating feelings of exhaustion to ensure the runner doesn’t overextend themselves. If the central nervous system senses the activity is becoming too intense, it reduces the muscle’s output…. ‘It turns out women have a slightly, it seems, better resistance to that kind of fatigue.’”
  6. The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity (Neil Shenvi & Pat Sawyer, Gospel Coalition): “Christianity provides us with an overarching metanarrative that runs from creation to redemption: We are creatures made in God’s image, who have sinned against him, who need to be rescued through the atoning work of Jesus, and who are called to love both God and neighbor. In contrast, critical theory is associated with a metanarrative that runs from oppression to liberation: We are members either of a dominant group or of a marginalized group with respect to a given identity marker. As such, we either need to divest ourselves of power and seek to liberate others, or we need to acquire power and liberate ourselves by dismantling all structures and institutions that subjugate and oppress. In critical theory, the greatest sin is oppression, and the greatest virtue is the pursuit of liberation.”
    • Related (at least in my mind): Christians Cannot Be Mistreated (George Yancey, Patheos): “I believe that some individuals are unable to see anti‐Christian discrimination no matter what evidence is presented to them. For them the cultural narrative that Christians are the dominant group is simply too powerful for them to consider alternative information.” The author, whose work I have featured before, is a sociologist at the University of North Texas.
  7. The ‘3.5% Rule’: How A Small Minority Can Change The World (David Robson, BBC): “Looking at hundreds of campaigns over the last century, Chenoweth found that nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns. And although the exact dynamics will depend on many factors, she has shown it takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.”

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 an eye‐opening (and dismaying) article, What The Media Gets Wrong About Israel (Mattie Friedman, The Atlantic). (first shared back in volume 5): “one of the most important aspects of the media‐saturated conflict between Jews and Arabs is also the least covered: the press itself. The Western press has become less an observer of this conflict than an actor in it, a role with consequences for the millions of people trying to comprehend current events, including policymakers who depend on journalistic accounts to understand a region where they consistently seek, and fail, to productively intervene.”

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 201

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 alleged synagogue shooter was a churchgoer who articulated Christian theology, prompting tough questions for evangelical pastors (Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post va SF Gate): “Before he allegedly walked into a synagogue in Poway, California and opened fire, John Earnest appears to have written a seven‐page letter spelling out his core beliefs: That Jewish people, guilty in his view of faults ranging from killing Jesus to controlling the media, deserved to die. That his intention to kill Jews would glorify God…. Earnest, 19, was a member of an OPC congregation. His father was an elder. He attended regularly. And in the manifesto, the writer spewed not only invective against Jews and racial minorities, but also cogent Christian theology he heard in the pews.”
    • Kinism, Cultural Marxism, and the Synagogue Shooter (Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition): “Several years ago a friend of mine, a Presbyterian minister, asked me to speak to his congregation about cultural issues. During the discussion, an older couple asked me a question about separation of ethnic groups, specifically white Americans from blacks and Jews. I told them I must have misunderstood their question, because what they were talking about could be mistaken for promoting a view called kinism. The wife replied, ‘And what’s wrong with kinism?’”
    • Why white nationalism tempts white Christians (Jemar Tisby, Religion News Service): “I absolutely do not believe that pastors in the OPC or any similar denomination are regularly spewing anti‐Semitism and racism from the pulpit or on any other occasion. But the rigid exclusion of discussions of racial injustice from the regular preaching and teaching in these churches means that white nationalists are seldom challenged in their beliefs.”
    • a Twitter thread in which Duke Kwon talks about this
  2. https://scite.ai/ — this is a cool concept. Enter a research paper and it will algorithmically assess whether subsequent research supports or undermines the conclusions. For example: https://scite.ai/reports/10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.1615
  3. As churches are demolished at home, Chinese Christians find religious freedom in Kenya (Jenni Marsh, CNN): “Kenya is not a place you’d expect to find an underground church. Christianity is the lifeblood of the nation’s politics and societal fabric, and is celebrated in huge, rambunctious services attended by thousands of dancing and singing worshipers. But, in the northern stretches of the sprawling, traffic‐choked capital of 4 million people, an underground Chinese house church is exactly what May Li, wife of a Malaysian‐Chinese pastor, helps to lead — illustrating just how far the Communist Party’s religious crackdown has traveled. Li and other Chinese Christians in this story did not want to use their real names for fear of being punished by the government when they return to China. The Chinese embassy in Nairobi has already reached out to the leaders of some Chinese Christian groups in the city and asked them to desist, says Li. Her service tries to stay below the radar.”
  4. The Belt and Road is about domestic interest groups, not development (Andrew Batson, personal blog): “The broader point here is that looking at the Belt and Road through the lens of ‘grand strategy’ or ‘geopolitics,’ as so many commentators do, or even portraying it as some kind of new philosophy of economic development, is quite misleading. All of these grand concepts are justifications invented after the fact for a pattern of actions that was already well underway before Xi Jinping made his 2013 speech about the Belt and Road. The Belt and Road is really the expansion of a specific part of China’s domestic political economy to the rest of the world.”
  5. Ro Khanna and the tensions of Silicon Valley liberalism (Ezra Klein, Vox): “Pelosi invited me to her house,” Khanna recalls. “And when I asked her not to make an endorsement, she said, ‘Absolutely not. I stand for my incumbents.’ So I get very discouraged, and Pelosi could see that. As I’m leaving the room, she said, ‘Ro, let me tell you something. If I had waited around, I’d have never been speaker of the House. Power is never given. It’s always taken.’”
  6. Is Times Columnist David Brooks a Christian or a Jew? (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post via the Salt Lake Tribune): “In the world of national columnists, David Brooks is a star. But in the past few years, The New York Times writer and author has whipped up fascination among a certain subset of readers for a specific, gossipy reason: They wonder if the Jewish writer has become a Christian.”
    • Related: David Brooks’s Conversion Story (Benjamin Wallace‐Wells, The New Yorker): “For Brooks, this carried the clarity of revelation, and soon he let it be known, among his acquaintances, that he was experiencing religious curiosity. An informal competition opened for David Brooks’s soul. He received, by his own estimation, three hundred gifts of spiritual books, ‘only one hundred of which were different copies of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.’ ”
  7. Terrorists in Burkina Faso Execute Six at Pentecostal Church (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “A dozen gunmen on motorcycles stormed the courtyard of the Sirgadji church after worship, fatally shooting its longtime pastor as well as five other congregants after demanding they convert to Islam, according to a statement sent to CT by the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso, Michel Ouédraogo.”

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 Sister… Show Mercy! (Dan Phillips, Team Pyro): “Sister, if there’s one thing you and I can certainly agree on, it’s this: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, and you don’t know what it’s like to be a man. We’re both probably wrong where we’re sure we’re right, try as we might. So let me try to dart a telegram from my camp over to the distaff side.” (first shared in volume 148)

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 198

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. Chinese city offers US$1,500 reward to help snare foreign religious leaders (Mimi Lau, South China Morning Post): “Under the new reward scheme in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, informants can earn between 5,000 and 10,000 yuan for tips leading to the arrest of a non‐Chinese religious leader, according to a statement on the department’s website. Other payments include 3,000 to 5,000 yuan for information leading to the closure of a foreign religious group, and between 100 and 3,000 yuan for tips about locally organised gatherings and their leaders.”
    • Related: Hong Kong Pastor Facing Prison Preaches the Sermon of His Life (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “For decades, I have preached numerous sermons. Little could I anticipate that the one message which preparation took me the longest time and the most heartfelt prayer, and which probably would reach the largest audience, is precisely this one delivered from the defendant’s dock.”
  2. Pastoring A Purple Church: ‘I Absolutely Bite My Tongue Sometimes’ (Tom Gjelten, NPR): “The promotion of discourse over discord may strengthen civic culture in an era of political polarization, but for Edmonston, the mission is more a reflection of Presbyterian theology than it is a commitment to democratic process.”
    • There is a lot to like in this article, but I feel compelled to add that what binds a church together is a commitment to Christ. It is okay to be divided over political issues. It is much less okay to be divided over substantive Scriptural issues. This story confuses the two.
  3. The Brand Is Belief (Kieran Dahl, Topic Magazine): “C3’s theology would appear to be at odds with how the church presents and markets itself. Isn’t humility one of Jesus’s biggest lessons for humanity? Isn’t social media inherently narcissistic?.… C3 feels like an algorithmically curated brand that happens to love Jesus—the Airbnb of religion.”
    • I love articles showing how outsiders view churches. Some of what the author stumbles over I find puzzling — like thinking that the name of the church’s discipleship class ‘Growth Track’ is a capitulation to culture. Interesting throughout.
  4. The Happiness Recession (Brad Wilcox & Lyman Stone, The Atlantic): “In 2018, happiness among young adults in America fell to a record low. The share of adults ages 18 to 34 reporting that they were ‘very happy’ in life fell to 25 percent—the lowest level that the General Social Survey, a key barometer of American social life, has ever recorded for that population. Happiness fell most among young men—with only 22 percent of young men (and 28 percent of young women) reporting that they were ‘very happy’ in 2018.”
    • Reacting to this article, David French offers this observation, “For generations, key elements of our cultural and academic elite have been arguing essentially the opposite — that liberation from religion and liberation from marriage were prerequisites to true human flourishing. If you asked an early era sexual revolutionary for his prediction for a culture with profoundly less religious practice, less marriage, and many fewer moral restraints on sexual practice, I sincerely doubt that he’d respond that he believed that culture would be less happy, with people having less sex.” It Turns Out That Sexual Liberation Isn’t All That Liberating (David French, National Review).
  5. Case Report of gastroparesis healing: 16 years of a chronic syndrome resolved after proximal intercessory prayer (Romez, Zaritzky & Brown, Complementary Therapies In Medicine): a miraculous healing account as reported in a journal. I found this bit amusing: “A noteworthy observation is that studies showing positive effects of prayer have typically involved intercessors who either professed either 1) being ‘born again’ Christians (with a commitment to daily devotional prayer and active fellowship with their local church) or 2) faith in healing.”
  6. Democrats Have to Decide Whether Faith Is an Asset for 2020 (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “The real evidence of Democrats’ approach to faith will come in campaign dollars and infrastructure, which will likely be developed slightly later in the election cycle; on their handling of contested issues like abortion, which is crucially important to many religious voters; and their ability to tap religious networks for volunteers.”
  7. Donald Trump Changed The New York Times. Is It Forever? (Peter Boyer, Esquire): “A Monmouth University poll taken last year found that 77 percent of Americans believe that traditional news outlets report ‘fake news’—a significant leap from the year before.” This is an interesting and disheartening article.

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 Everything That’s Wrong Of Raccoons (Mallory Ortberg, The Toast): “Once when my dog died a passel of raccoons showed up in the backyard as if to say ‘Now that he’s gone, we own the night,’ and they didn’t flinch when I yelled at them, and I found it disrespectful to 1) me personally and 2) the entire flow of the food chain. Don’t disrespect me if you can’t eat me, you false‐night‐dogs.” (first shared in volume 97)

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 196

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

This one is coming out early in the morning because I’m driving back from a mission trip and will be on the road the entire day. When I’m on a mission trip I usually do very brief video blogs (under a minute each) — you can see the ones for this trip here.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. China Shuts Down Another Big Beijing Church (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “Throughout its 26‐year history, Shouwang members have refused to come under Communist authority and persevered despite persecution, with their ‘underground’ services forced outside when evicted from their buildings in 2009 and with their founding pastor Jin Tianming under house arrest since 2011.”
    • Related: China’s Muslim gulag is tough to cover, but a few reporters aren’t giving up (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “One of the mosques in Kashgar, it added, has been transformed into a hookah lounge. A city that was once a world center for traditional Islamic and Central Asian architecture is now Disneyland meets Aladdin, (a fairytale that originally was set in China, by the way). It’s tough covering China and the journalists who try to do it well inevitably end up expelled.” This is a good summary of reporting on one of the most wicked government programs in the world right now. Highly recommended.
  2. A Case for the Electoral College (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Is there a case for a system that sometimes produces undemocratic outcomes? I think so, on two grounds. First, it creates incentives for political parties and candidates to seek supermajorities rather than just playing for 50.1 percent, because the latter play is a losing one more often than in a popular‐vote presidential system. Second, it creates incentives for political parties to try to break regional blocs controlled by the opposition, rather than just maximizing turnout in their own areas, because you win the presidency consistently only as a party of multiple regions and you can crack a rival party’s narrow majority by flipping a few states.”
  3. An Interview With Lisa Littman, Who Coined the Term ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria’ (Jonathan Kay, Quillette): “Although there have been speculations about my affiliations, I am not a religious or political conservative and I am not a radical feminist. No organizations funded my study. That means that I pay out‐of‐pocket for research‐related costs like printing, traveling to academic conferences, publication fees, etc. And because I do not earn my livelihood providing transition services or referrals for transition, and I have not personally (nor has my spouse or children) experienced gender dysphoria or transition, I have far fewer conflicts of interest than many of the current researchers in this field.” Fascinating interview.
  4. How the West Changed The World For the Better (Ben Shapiro, National Review): “Thanks to the West, billions of human beings no longer suffer in abject poverty; thanks to the West, democracy is seen as both the moral and the practical default position for aspiring governments; thanks to the West, individualism has been able to gain ground against the natural tribalism endemic to human beings. The history of the West isn’t a history of unalloyed greatness: It is replete with suffering and tyranny and slavery and misery. But all of those evils are present in every civilization historically. The question is why the West changed the world.”
    • A mostly‐negative review of a related book Shapiro just published: The Right Side of History—A Review (Jared Marcel Pollen, Quillette): “…Shapiro’s attempt to demonstrate that secular civilization needs to rekindle the Judeo‐Christian teachings upon which it is based, inadvertently shows us why we were right to leave them behind in the first place.” I have not read Shapiro’s book, but many of the specific criticisms Pollen makes are not very persuasive. For example, it is a conventional enough position among experts that modern science arose due to Christianity that I have had students tell me that they were taught it in history courses at Stanford.
  5. The Real Reasons American Evangelicals Support Israel (David French, National Review): “The [common media] explanation goes something like this — Evangelicals believe that the rebirth of Israel is hastening not just the second coming of Christ, but a particular kind of second coming, one that includes fire, fury, and war that will consume the Jewish people.… But the true narrative of American Christian support for Israel is substantially different. The intellectual and theological roots of Christian Zionism do not rest in end‐times prophesies but rather in Old Testament promises.”
    • One example of a much broader phenomenon. I very rarely recognize myself or my peers in media explanations of “why evangelicals believe ______ about _______.” Or even just “evangelicals believe ______”. I find this puzzling because it’s not as though we don’t have regular gatherings where we explain what we believe to anyone who will listen.
  6. Openly Gay, Openly Christian Buttigieg Challenges the Religious Right (Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine): “As Barack Obama once convincingly argued, doubt about what God wants people to do politically is an important part of an attitude of humility which used to be called ‘the fear of God.’” It is interesting how many of the Democrats seeking nomination are outspoken about their faith.
  7. Black and Evangelical: Why I Keep The Label (Brandon Washington, Christianity Today): “I too have been wounded by evangelicalism’s posture toward social ethics. But I have concluded that an exodus of ethnic minorities amounts to segregation of the movement and only contributes to the problem. So I remain.”

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 Dealing With Nuisance Lust (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “Minimize the seriousness of this, but not so that you can feel good about indulging yourself. Minimize the seriousness of it so that you can walk away from a couple of big boobs without feeling like you have just fought a cosmic battle with principalities and powers in the heavenly places, for crying out loud. Or, if you like, in another strategy of seeing things rightly, you could nickname these breasts of other woman as the ‘principalities and powers.’ Whatever you do, take this part of life in stride like a grown‐up. Stop reacting like a horny and conflicted twelve‐year‐old boy.” (first shared in volume 148)

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 186

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. America in one tweet:“We are living in an era of woke capitalism in which companies pretend to care about social justice to sell products to people who pretend to hate capitalism.” (Clay Routledge, Twitter)
  2. Engineers of the Soul: Ideology in Xi Jinping’s China (John Garnaut, Sinocism): “In classical Chinese statecraft there are two tools for gaining and maintaining control over “the mountains and the rivers”: The first is wu (weapons, violence — 武) and the second is wen (language, culture — 文). Chinese leaders have always believed that power derives from controlling both the physical battlefield and the cultural domain. You can’t sustain physical power without discursive power. Wu and wen go hand‐in‐hand.”
  3. A Strange Argument for the Commonplace (Cato Unbound, Agnes Callard): “We should not equalize the rich and poor, but rather endeavor to make the poor of tomorrow wealthier than the rich of today.” I’m including this link mostly because of that quote. Also because it has some commentary on Peter Singer which dovetails with a conversation I had earlier this week.
  4. Most Teenagers Drop Out of Church as Young Adults (Aaron Earls, Lifeway Research ): “Almost half (47 percent) of those who dropped out and attended college say moving to college played a role in their no longer attending church for at least a year…. Among all those who dropped out, 29 percent say they planned on taking a break from church once they graduated high school. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say their leaving wasn’t an intentional decision.”
    • The title is a bit misleading. Yes, a majority of young adults who previously attended church do stop attending church for at least one year between the ages of 18–22, but if you look at their underlying research about 70% eventually start attending again. Also, it doesn’t seem to ask whether any of these people were involved in an activity that they might not characterize as church (like Chi Alpha or Intervarsity). I know some of my Chi Alpha students are not currently worshiping with a Sunday morning congregation, but it would be wrong to infer that their faith has been put on pause.
  5. Have Aliens Found Us? A Harvard Astronomer on the Mysterious Interstellar Object ‘Oumuamua (Isaac Chotiner, New Yorker): “Last year, I wrote a paper about cosmology where there was an unusual result, which showed that perhaps the gas in the universe was much colder than we expected. And so we postulated that maybe dark matter has some property that makes the gas cooler. And nobody cares, nobody is worried about it, no one says it is not science. Everyone says that is mainstream—to consider dark matter, a substance we have never seen. That’s completely fine. It doesn’t bother anyone. But when you mention the possibility that there could be equipment out there that is coming from another civilization—which, to my mind, is much less speculative, because we have already sent things into space—then that is regarded as unscientific.”
    • I am skeptical, but I find the conversation fascinating. Related: an article on the Fermi paradox I shared back in volume 159 and an article on government investigation of UFO reports from volume 132.
  6. The marvel of the human dad (Anna Machin, Aeon): “But crucially, dad has not evolved to be the mirror to mum, a male mother, so to speak. Evolution hates redundancy and will not select for roles that duplicate each other if one type of individual can fulfil the role alone. Rather, dad’s role has evolved to complement mum’s.” Dr. Machin is a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford.
  7. The Virtue Signalers Won’t Change the World (John McWhorter, The Atlantic): “Just as the first and second waves of both feminism and antiracism transformed social structures, third‐wave antiracism may seem parallel to third‐wave feminism in moving on to a different form of abuse, psychological rather than institutional. But this focus on the psychological has morphed, of late, from a pragmatic mission to change minds into a witch hunt driven by the personal benefits of virtue signaling, obsessed with unconscious and subconscious bias. As noble as this culture of shaming genuinely seems to many, it’s a dead end.”
    • A useful, detailed follow‐up: The Perils of a Psychological Approach to Anti‐racism (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “If the phenomenon McWhorter described is real, we should be able to find leftists who intend to fight bias by calling out psychological harms, only to fall into ‘hypersensitivity, oversimplification, and even a degree of performance’ as participants signal virtue in ways that help no one.”

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 Inside Graduate Admissions (Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschick): if you plan to apply to grad school, read this. There is one revealing anecdote about how an admissions committee treated an application from a Christian college student. My takeaway: the professors tried to be fair but found it hard to do, and their stated concerns were mostly about the quality of the institution rather than the faith of the applicant. Troubling nonetheless. (first shared in volume 32)

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 185

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

In case you’re wondering: I just don’t find stories about the Russia investigation or the government shutdown interesting. I think they’re important, but few people are writing things about them that catch my attention. Recommendations are welcome.

Also, one of you mentioned that you sometimes can’t open the links. If you, being a broke college student, ever can’t access an article because of a paywall, try putting http://outline.com/ in front of the link. I did it for the first article as an example. Having said that, please support journalism once you are able.

  1. Is Marijuana as Safe as We Think? (Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker): “The authors assumed that alcohol use among students would be a predictor of violent behavior, and that marijuana use would predict the opposite. In fact, those who used only marijuana were three times more likely to be physically aggressive than abstainers were; those who used only alcohol were 2.7 times more likely to be aggressive. Observational studies like these don’t establish causation. But they invite the sort of research that could.”
    • This Reporter Took a Deep Look Into the Science of Smoking Pot. What He Found Is Scary. (Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones): “I smoked plenty of weed in high school and so did all my friends, and none of us jumped off a balcony or killed anyone—we could barely get off the couch. But the marijuana sold today is not what we smoked, which at 1 percent to 2 percent THC was the equivalent of smoking oregano. Today’s weed is insanely more potent, as are products like “wax” and “shatter”—forms of butane hash oil designed to be vaped or dabbed that come pretty close to 100 percent THC. And these high‐potency products usually contain very little CBD oil, the ingredient in cannabis that’s supposed to account for many of its supposed health benefits.”
  2. Is Sunscreen the New Margarine? (Rowan Jacobsen, Outside): “People of color rarely get melanoma. The rate is 26 per 100,000 in Caucasians, 5 per 100,000 in Hispanics, and 1 per 100,000 in African Americans. On the rare occasion when African Americans do get melanoma, it’s particularly lethal—but it’s mostly a kind that occurs on the palms, soles, or under the nails and is not caused by sun exposure. At the same time, African Americans suffer high rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, internal cancers, and other diseases that seem to improve in the presence of sunlight, of which they may well not be getting enough. Because of their genetically higher levels of melanin, they require more sun exposure to produce compounds like vitamin D, and they are less able to store that vitamin for darker days. They have much to gain from the sun and little to fear.”
  3. Leaving Religion at Home: Engaging Religious Thought and Action in American Society (Nathalie Kiersznowski, Stanford Politics): “People’s beliefs about the world will inevitably influence their positions on issues like morality, politics, dress, gender, sex and more. Similarly, politicians will naturally support legislation in accordance with their values, religious or not. Many politicians, like Vice President Mike Pence, have faced criticism for allowing religion to shape their political decisions. It would be unwarranted, though, to expect Pence to act ‘un‐Christian’ or ‘non‐religious’ exclusively at his place of work. The notion of having both a ‘secular public self’ and a ‘religious private self’ is impossible: any private value system will influence decisions throughout all areas of life.”
  4. The case for going to bed at 2:30 am (Kate Shellnut, Vox): “My faith doused our cultural preference for early birds with biblical backing, too, making me feel even guiltier. Within American evangelicalism, many expect faithful Christians to dedicate the ‘first fruits’ of each day to ‘quiet time’ with the Lord (prayers, devotional reading, Bible study). Researchers even found people to be more ‘spiritually aware’ early in the mornings. Faced with these expectations, I really did question whether my habits were sinful: Was I being selfish by staying up late? Was I putting productivity over the natural patterns of work and rest?”
  5. China’s Gulag for Muslims (Mustafa Akyol, New York Times): “…Russia’s gulags are long gone, as is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that operated them. But now another dictatorship, ruled by another Communist Party, is operating a new chain of prisons that evoke memory of the gulags — more modern, more high‐tech, but no less enslaving.”
    • Where Did the One Million Figure for Detentions in Xinjiang’s Camps Come From? (Jessica Batke, ChinaFile): “Two key studies independently arrived around the one million mark, by using limited data samples to estimate what percentage of the ethnic minority Muslim population is detained. Both studies arrive at a detention rate of 10 percent —at least in some areas of Xinjiang—suggesting that just over one million of the region’s 11 million ethnic Uighur population could be in the camps.”
  6. Conquerors of the Courts (David Montgomery, Washington Post): “The society itself lobbies for no policies; it never signs amicus briefs or represents clients in cases. No one at Federalist Society headquarters in Washington dictated Barnett’s moves or told him how to advocate for what positions. It’s just that at a few gatherings made possible by the Federalist Society that Barnett happened to attend, synapses fired, a corner of the hive mind engaged, and Barnett took it from there. Multiply that chemistry tens of thousands of times over the past 36 years and you have the Federalist Society’s true source of power.”
  7. Elected leaders who weaponize religion are playing a dangerous game (Tulsi Gabbard, The Hill): “While I absolutely believe in the separation of church and state as a necessity to the health of our nation, no American should be asked to renounce his or her faith or membership in a faith‐based, service organization in order to hold public office.” Gabbard is a Democratic congresswoman representing Hawaii.

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 unfortunately date‐specific Reading The Whole Bible in 2016: A FAQ (Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor): “There are about 775,000 words in the Bible. Divided by 365, that’s 2,123 words a day. The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute. So 2,123 words/day divided by 225 words/minute equals 9.4 minutes a day.” This article is full of good advice for what could be the best commitment you make all year. Do it! (first shared in volume 31 — useful for any year)

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.