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.
Next Friday is Christmas and a week later is New Year’s Day, so I’ll probably either skip the next two weeks or send something out on Thursday/Saturday.
Things Glen Found Interesting
- Is Christmas a Pagan Rip-off? (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “…whatever the Christmas holiday has become today, it started as a copycat of well-established pagan holidays. If you like Christmas, you have Saturnalia and Sol Invictus to thank. That’s the story, and everyone from liberal Christians to conservative Christians to non-Christians seem to agree that it’s true. Except that it isn’t.”
- What I Saw At The Jericho March (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Let me repeat this: a black Evangelical pastor denounced witches and Marxists and blew a shofar to defend Donald Trump’s presidency. If you had gone back in history a decade and told the world that this would happen one day on the National Mall, they would have put you in an asylum. Now you would be forgiven for thinking that our country has become an asylum.” This is long and engrossing.
- The Dangerous Idolatry of Christian Trumpism (David French, The Dispatch): “A significant segment of the Christian public has fallen for conspiracy theories, has mixed nationalism with the Christian gospel, has substituted a bizarre mysticism for reason and evidence, and rages in fear and anger against their political opponents—all in the name of preserving Donald Trump’s power.”
- The Cult of Christian Trumpism (Michael Horton, Gospel Coalition): “My public calling is not to bind Christian consciences to my own political positions. Rather, as a minister of the Word, I am joining others in sounding the alarm that a line has been crossed into rank spiritual adultery.” The author is a professor of theology.
- A Defense Of Jericho March Criticism (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “The kind of crazy talk at the Jericho March rally is going to get us all targeted by the state, and by wokesters in institutions, but will not advance our cause one bit. Besides, as a conservative and a Christian whose writing in recent years has been dominated by anger and anxiety over the loss of religious and civil liberties in the face of wokeness, I can say without a doubt that I would not want to live in a country governed by the radical nationalism and emotivist Christianity of the Jericho Marchers.” A follow-up to the long and engrossing piece atop this section.
- Why the coronavirus vaccine may not be accessible for the people who need it most (Rebekah Fenton, Washington Post): “Government authorities should keep this in mind. The most respected members of a community may not be those with the most education or the fanciest titles. Churches, community organizations and health-outreach programs often know the needs of the people they serve, have long records of meeting them, and have established strong bonds of trust….. Public health officials should respect these leaders’ commitment to service and involve them at the planning stages, instead of just relying on them to spread the word after decisions are made.” Rebekah, a doctor in Chicago, is an alumnus of our ministry.
- The Elderly vs. Essential Workers: Who Should Get the Coronavirus Vaccine First? (Abby Goodnough and Jan Hoffman, New York Times): “Ultimately, the choice comes down to whether preventing death or curbing the spread of the virus and returning to some semblance of normalcy is the highest priority. ‘If your goal is to maximize the preservation of human life, then you would bias the vaccine toward older Americans,’ Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said recently. ‘If your goal is to reduce the rate of infection, then you would prioritize essential workers’…. The trade-off between the two is muddied by the fact that the definition of ‘essential workers’ used by the C.D.C. comprises nearly 70 percent of the American work force.”
- A critical Twitter thread about vaccine rollout plans (David Algonquin, Twitter)
- Does Religious Affiliation Protect People’s Well-Being? Evidence from the Great Recession after Correcting for Selection Effects (Christos Makridis, Byron Johnson and Harold G. Koenig, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion): “Using Gallup’s U.S. Daily Poll between 2008 and 2017, we find that those who are engaged in their local church and view their faith as important to their lives have not only higher levels of subjective well-being, but also acyclical levels. We show that the acyclicality of subjective well-being among Christians is not driven by selection effects or the presence of greater social capital, but rather a sense of purpose over the business cycle independent of financial circumstances.” You should have access to the full text using your Stanford login. Christos is an alumnus of our ministry and is an economist in Washington, DC.
- Like It Or Not, Keira Bell Has Opened Up a Real Conversation About Gender Dysphoria (Quillette): “In the debate about transitioning children who experience gender dysphoria, Ms. Bell’s case represents an important turning point. Ms. Bell, now 23, was 16 years old when she presented to the Tavistock Centre in London, which runs Britain’s Gender Identity Development Service. In a landmark ruling delivered earlier this month, a British court upheld her claim that she’d been rushed through gender reassignment without proper safeguards.” The author is unlisted, although this is perhaps simply a website error.
- Nuclear weapons agency breached amid massive cyber onslaught (Natasha Bertrand and Eric Wolff, Politico): “They found suspicious activity in networks belonging to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories in New Mexico and Washington, the Office of Secure Transportation at NNSA, and the Richland Field Office of the DOE. The hackers have been able to do more damage at FERC than the other agencies, and officials there have evidence of highly malicious activity, the officials said, but did not elaborate.”
- Why the US government hack is literally keeping security experts awake at night (Brian Fung, CNN): “I woke up in the middle of the night last night just sick to my stomach,” said Theresa Payton, who served as White House Chief Information Officer under President George W. Bush. “On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m at a 9 — and it’s not because of what I know; it’s because of what we still don’t know.”
- I Was the Homeland Security Adviser to Trump. We’re Being Hacked.(Thomas Bossart, New York Times): “The logical conclusion is that we must act as if the Russian government has control of all the networks it has penetrated. But it is unclear what the Russians intend to do next. The access the Russians now enjoy could be used for far more than simply spying.… Domestic and geopolitical tensions could escalate quite easily if they use their access for malign influence and misinformation — both hallmarks of Russian behavior.”
- Pornhub Removes Majority of Videos in a Victory for Exodus Cry (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “An announcement on Pornhub claims it has better policies than other platforms and blames Exodus Cry and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation for targeting the site. ’These are organizations dedicated to abolishing pornography, banning material they claim is obscene, and shutting down commercial sex work.’” Shared with me by an alumnus.
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- A Christmas EDM Playlist (YouTube): about an hour long
- Centuries-Old Theological Debate Solved By Facebook Argument (Babylon Bee)
- Colin Mochrie Is Very Witty (Whose Line Is It Anyway, YouTube): one and a half minutes
- COVID, nerds, and the cool kid (Imgur)
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Against Against Billionaire Philanthropy (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “I worry the movement against billionaire charity is on track to damage charity a whole lot more than it damages billionaires.” This is a very interesting essay, and he has a follow‐up, Highlights From The Comments on Billionaire Philanthropy, which thoughtfully responds to criticisms. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 213.
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.
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.