Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 331

the Christmas Eve edition

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

This is volume 331, a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Mark Lowry, Did You Know Your Mary Song Would Be Controversial? (Bob Smietana, Christianity Today): “He added that most of the questions he had did not make their way into the song—only the ones that rhymed made it.”
  2. Kidnapped Missionaries Made Daring Escape from Their Captors, Fled for Their Lives on Foot at Night (Steve Warren, CBN News): “ ‘After much discussion and prayer, they became solidly united that God seemed to be leading them [to escape]. He said they sought specific signs from God, and He confirmed over and over that the timing wasn’t right yet. Then, the night of Wednesday, December 15 arrived. When they sensed the timing was right, they found a way to open the door that was closed and blocked, filed silently to the path that they had chosen to follow, and quickly left the place that they were held despite the fact that numerous guards were close by,’ Showalter said.”
  3. COVID related news
    • Media Ignores GOOD NEWS On Pandemic (Breaking Points, YouTube): thirteen encouraging minutes. The title is a little clickbaity, but I guess they gotta pay the bills.
    • The F.D.A. clears Pfizer’s Covid pills for high-risk patients 12 and older. (Rebecca Robbins and Carl Zimmer, New York Times): “Within a week of authorization, Pfizer is expected to deliver to the United States enough of its pills to cover 65,000 Americans. At current infection rates, that would be enough supply for less than one day if it were given to half of people in the United States who test positive for the virus. Pfizer is expected to deliver to the United States another 200,000 treatment courses in January and then another 150,000 treatment courses in February. The pace of deliveries is expected to increase sharply after that.” This is tremendous news.
    • Professional Sports Are Learning to Live With COVID. We’re Next. (Will Leitch, NY Mag): “The leagues are now admitting what most of us are realizing but wary of saying out loud: COVID is just a part of our lives now, and if we don’t learn to live with it, we’re never going to be able to do anything.”
    • The Vaccine Moment, part three (Paul Kingsnorth, Substack): “It’s fair to say that the ‘conspiracy theorists’ have had a good pandemic.”
    • Covid Panic is a Site of Inter-Elite Competition (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “Rare and fatal events sometimes occur; that’s life. When you can you mitigate the risk. Death from a car accident is far more likely for me than death from Covid. It’s still rare, but there’s a risk, and putting on a seatbelt is a reasonable mitigation tactic. Simply never getting in a car, though, would not be reasonable. The risk reduction would not outweigh the considerable costs. So I don’t make that bargain. And thus with Covid. I’m vaccinated, I mask in most indoor settings, and if I develop symptoms I’ll immediately seek a test and quarantine myself. Those are acceptable tradeoffs, for me. As a now triple-vaxxed person who has had the virus previously I am intent on living my life as normally as possible, which includes not unduly worrying about it or demanding others do so. And I would argue that expecting otherwise from me would make you functionally an anti-vaxxer.”
    • Why the Supreme Court Hasn’t Ruled (For Now) on Vaccine Mandates (Mark Movsesian, The Public Discourse): “The Court has not explained its reasons in these cases. But the justices’ caution is not surprising, for a few reasons. First, religious exemption claims generally pose hard questions, which are particularly troublesome in this context. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified divisions about the value of religion and religious freedom in our country, and the justices might wish to avoid doing something to provoke further conflict. Second, the Maine and New York lawsuits are currently at the preliminary injunction stage, and the factual records in the cases are still unclear. The Court might reasonably think that it should allow the lower courts an opportunity to consider the claims further before it issues any rulings. Finally, the Court might think that state and local governments will themselves see the prudence of offering religious exemptions, as many already have done, considering the difficulties vaccine mandates have created for healthcare and other services.”
  4. COVID-adjacent but really about the FDA
    • The FDA Has Punted Decisions About Luvox Prescription To The Deepest Recesses Of The Human Soul (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “As a psychiatrist, I’m not supposed to say flippant things like ‘we give SSRIs out like candy’. We do careful risk-benefit analysis and when appropriate we screen patients for various risk factors. But after we do all that stuff, we give them to 10% of Americans, compared to 12% of Americans who got candy last Halloween. So you can draw your own conclusion about how severe we think the risks are.”
    • This Scientist Created a Rapid Test Just Weeks Into the Pandemic. Here’s Why You Still Can’t Get It. (Lydia DePillis, ProPublica): “American medical device regulators have never been enthusiastic about letting people test themselves. In the 1980s, the FDA banned home tests for HIV on the grounds that people who tested positive might do harm to themselves if they did not receive simultaneous counseling. In the 2010s, the agency cracked down on home genetic testing kits, concerned that people might make rash medical decisions as a result.”
  5. Also COVID-adjacent but really about Facebook: Rapid Response: Open letter from The BMJ to Mark Zuckerberg (Fiona Godlee & Kamran Abbasi, The BMJ): “We are aware that The BMJ is not the only high quality information provider to have been affected by the incompetence of Meta’s fact checking regime.… Rather than investing a proportion of Meta’s substantial profits to help ensure the accuracy of medical information shared through social media, you have apparently delegated responsibility to people incompetent in carrying out this crucial task.”
  6. Why the **** Do You Trust Harvard? (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “Harvard exists to make sure our society is not equal. That is Harvard’s function. You get that they just want to make it easier to turn down the poor but brilliant children of Asian immigrants, right? You understand that what Harvard and its feckless peers would like is to admit fewer students whose Korean parents clear $40,000 a year from their convenience stores, right? And you think, what, they’re going to be walking around Brownsville, handing out admissions letters to kids with holes in their pockets and a dream in their hearts? To the extent that any Black students are added to the mix by these policies, it’s going to be the Jaden and Willow Smiths of the world. If you think Harvard has any actual, genuine desire to fill its campus with more poor American-born descendants of African slaves you are out of your fucking mind.” Language warning, in case that was not obvious from the title. Also, much more correct than many people would like to believe
  7. Foreign Drones Tip the Balance in Ethiopia’s Civil War (Declan Walsh, New York Times): “Mr. Singer, the drone expert, said the experimentation with drone warfare in Ethiopia and Libya has parallels with the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, when outside powers used the fight to test new military technologies and to gauge international reaction to determine what they could get away with. ‘It’s a combination of war and battle lab,’ he said.”

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 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) First shared in volume 186.

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 280

I think this is the first time two of the articles are by alumni. Maybe someday it will be all seven!

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

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. 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.”
  7. 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

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.

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.