Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 320

delicious news nuggets of particular interest to thoughtful Christians and people connected to Stanford

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 320, which is 28 + 26.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Mistakes We Cannot Make Again (David French, The Dispatch): “…if people of faith are to be concerned about justice (and they are!), then justice is rarely more immediate and important than when confronting both the scourge of crime and the tragedy of excess enforcement and mass incarceration.”
  2. A Cog in the College Admissions Scandal Speaks Out (Billy Witz, New York Times): “Vandemoer, unlike the others accused in the plot, did not personally gain in the transactions. He handed checks totaling $770,000 from Singer to Stanford development officers, who planned to use the money for new boats.… So as he told his story to Stanford’s investigators, he wondered why no one had ever come to him when the indictments came down, noting that even federal prosecutors had acknowledged he did not enrich himself from the scheme. It reinforced the notion that he was simply an asset — a nameless, expendable cog in a corporation with a $29 billion endowment.” Recommended by a student. Stanford does not come off looking good at all.
  3. Stanford students are more likely to wear masks on bicycles than helmets (Maxwell Meyer, Stanford Review): “In April of this year, I witnessed something on the Stanford campus that will be seared into my memory forever: a student on a bicycle, wearing flip-flops, AirPods in ear, going the wrong way through a roundabout in an active construction zone, with no helmet. But like any good follower of science, the student was wearing a disposable blue face mask — for safety, I guess.” Should he desire to, Meyer will become a well-known national commentator someday. He’s quite good.
  4. Why I Am a Conspiracy Theorist (Hans Boersma, First Things): “When rulers mandate vaccine passports and establish elaborate electronic systems to police compliance, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see how the same system might be used—and in the eyes of many should be used—to regulate carbon emissions, expenditures, and even opinions. After all, it’s not just the coronavirus that is dangerous. So are climate change, social inequality, and certain moral and religious convictions. Technologically, traveling from vaccine passports to a social credit system—the kind that China already has in place—takes no time at all.… This is not an argument against vaccination per se. It is an argument to take conspiracy theorists—David foremost among them—seriously.” The author is an Anglican theologian.
  5. The Public Continues to Underestimate COVID’s Age Discrimination (David Wallace-Wells, NY Magazine): “After 18 months of public-health guidance promoting universal vigilance, I think hardly any American has a clear view of just how dramatic these differentials are. All else being equal, an unvaccinated 66-year old is about 30 times more likely to die, given a confirmed case, than an unvaccinated 36-year-old, and someone over 85 is over 10,000 times more at risk of dying than a child under 10.… a vaccinated 80-year-old has about the same mortality risk as an unvaccinated 50-year-old, and an unvaccinated 30-year-old has a lower risk than a vaccinated 45-year-old.”
  6. Inside the Church That Preaches ‘Wives Need to Be Led with a Firm Hand’ (Sarah Stankorb, Vice): “Mother Kirk can be a joyous, faithful community. But the conservative congregation also is at odds with Moscow’s more liberal population (surrounding Latah county voted for President Biden in 2020). Depending upon whom you ask, the town either hosts a Calvinist utopia or a patriarchal cult in which women must submit or face discipline at home and at church. At the center of it all is notoriously controversial Douglas Wilson, the firebrand pastor who has been presiding over his Mother Kirk fiefdom for more than 40 years.” Many of the details in this story are very bad.
    • A Taste of November in the Air (Doug Wilson, personal blog): “Incidentally, in case you are curious, I haven’t read the Vice piece because I did read the questions that the writer sent to Nancy and to me while ‘researching,’ and the said questions were all more loaded than the entrees at Tater’s, Home of the Grand Stuffed Potato Buffet. Way too many bacon bits.… If you read anything that unsettles you, and you would like particular answers to specific questions, we have made them readily available. On the top of this page, over to the right, we have a box called Critical Questions.” Wilson’s response to the Vice piece. 
  7. Unpopulism (David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick, New York Times): “In elite circles, including Capitol Hill, people often misunderstand American public opinion in a specific way. They imagine that the median voter resembles a type of political moderate who is quite common in those elite circles — somebody who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative.… In the rest of the country, however, this ideological combination is not so common, polls show. If anything, more Americans can accurately be described as the opposite — socially conservative and economically liberal. That’s true across racial groups, including among Black and Hispanic voters.” Not paywalled.

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 313

a disturbingly high number of pandemic-related articles

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.

313 is the 65th prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Pandemic related
    • How the Pandemic Now Ends (Ed Yong, The Atlantic): “Here, then, is the current pandemic dilemma: Vaccines remain the best way for individuals to protect themselves, but societies cannot treat vaccines as their only defense.”
      • First, this is a free article that won’t use up a paywall click. Second, this is discouraging to read and makes me think Stanford is going to be way more restrictive than I was hoping come fall.
    • What We Lose When We Livestream Church (Collin Hansen, New York Times): “The very word we translate from Greek as ‘church’ in the New Testament suggests we must assemble in person. The church wasn’t just a bridge of 2,000 years until humanity reached Peak Zoom. It’s essential for the religion where God took on flesh and dwelt among us. It’s essential in a faith that believes Jesus physically rose from the dead and then sat down to enjoy a meal with his stunned friends.”
    • Covid incompetence (John Cochrane, personal blog): “Delta is the fourth wave of covid, and amazingly the US policy response is even more irresolute than the first time around. Our government is like a child, sent next door to get a cup of sugar, who gets as far as the front stoop and then wanders off following a puppy.”
      • The author is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
    • “What Do Full Hospitals Really Tell Us About COVID?” (Eugene Volokh, Reason): “The public argument for specialty hospitals is more expertise and lower costs because of efficiency. The real model was no emergency room, and thus no way for un- and under-insured people to get into the hospital. All of the financial benefits of being a hospital without any of the responsibilities. So we get women’s hospitals, orthopedic hospitals, etc., sucking the profitable work from community hospitals, without taking any of the burden of community care for the indigent.… The hospitals in Louisiana which take indigent patients and patients though the ER—pretty much all COVID patients—are slammed. The specialty hospitals have lots of staff and lots of beds and don’t have much in the way of COVID patients, if there are any at all.”
      • I did not know any of that. Really interesting. Written a law prof at Louisiana State University.
    • Porndemic? A Longitudinal Study of Pornography Use Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic in a Nationally Representative Sample of Americans (Grubbs et al, Archives of Sexual Behavior): “In general, pornography use trended downward over the pandemic, for both men and women. Problematic pornography use trended downward for men and remained low and unchanged in women.”
      • The excerpt is from the abstract. It’s a little surprising but also I think people are less likely to watch porn with their families around, which happened a lot during the pandemic. I do wonder how their findings cross-check with traffic stats from porn websites. It seems like an obvious way to do a simple check on their findings.
  2. The Gap Between Law and Morality (Helen Dale, Law & Liberty): “The planet’s two great legal systems developed in two European civilisations, Rome and England. Their wide provenance is not only due to both peoples conquering great empires. It’s also because they worked: they did things no other legal regime did before them, and those others are still incapable of doing now.… Incredibly, these developed independently of each other. The English common law did not borrow from Rome: when it first emerged, Roman law was lost.”
    • This is surprisingly engrossing. In the words of an alumnus, “This one was a sleeper hit. Started slow, blew me away by the end.”
  3. Why a Masculine Ministry Rose and Fell (David French, The Dispatch): “When countering a culture that often attacks traditional masculine inclinations as inherent vice, the answer isn’t to indulge traditional masculine inclinations as inherent virtue.… Driscoll, in all his toughness and swagger, tried to make men out of Christians. The church, however, should make Christians out of men.”
  4. Cornel West on Why the Left Needs Jesus (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “When I was in Charlottesville, looking at these sick white brothers in neo-Nazi parties and the Klan spitting and cussing and carrying on, I could see the hounds of hell raging on the battlefield of their souls. But I also know that there’s greed in me. There’s hatred in me. People say, ‘Oh, you’re so qualitatively different than those gangsters.’ I say, ‘No, I’ve got gangster in me. I was a gangster before I met Jesus. Now I’m a redeemed sinner with gangster proclivities.’ It is a very different way of looking at things than many of my secular comrades.”
  5. Criminal-Justice Reformers Chose the Wrong Slogan (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Before the public sours on criminal-justice reform more broadly—as it may amid rising fears about crime and disorder in cities—a new focus and rallying cry are needed. And given the spike in homicides that has afflicted the United States during the pandemic, disproportionately killing Black people, there’s an especially strong case for this overdue slogan: Solve All Murders. Precisely because Black lives matter, people who take Black lives shouldn’t get away with it.”
  6. Assemblies of God Growing with Pentecostal Persistence (Ryan P. Burge, Christianity Today): “It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why the Assemblies of God has continued to increase over the past 15 years. Research shows that membership of the Assemblies of God has become more politically conservative and more religiously active today than just a decade ago, but its own numbers indicate that it has achieved incredible racial diversity—44 percent of members in the United States are ethnic minorities.”
    • Since the Assemblies of God is the group with which I am ordained and is the parent organization of Chi Alpha, file under “articles that make me happy.”
  7. We Need to Build Our Way Out of This Mess (Eli Dourado, New York Times): “How did the most dynamic country on the planet become so sclerotic? We did it to ourselves. We enacted laws that privilege the status quo at the expense of change and progress. We liberally passed out veto rights to anyone with the money and wherewithal to hire a lawyer. If we want to reverse the damage and create a more prosperous future, we must make it easy to build.”
    • The author is an economist at Utah State University.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have a provocative read, In Defense of Flogging (Peter Moskos, Chronicle of Higher Education) — the author is a former police officer and now a criminologist at the City University of New York. This one was shared back before I started sending these emails in a blog post called Punishment.

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 299

so many entertaining tidbits at the end — way more than normal

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 the 299th installment of these emails. 299 is, I am told, the most pieces into which a simple object (like a cube or a sphere — something without a weird structure) can be split using 12 straight cuts.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Why You’re Christian (David Perrell, personal blog): “…I’m a tepid non-believer myself.… [However] I realized that society’s most passionate critics, most of whom claim to be secular, usually have the most Christian values of all. They’ve studied in elite universities, they live in major cities, and they’re proud members of the intelligentsia. Human rights, a centerpiece of their moral outlook, is inconsistent with the rest of their worldview. Though they pride themselves on evidence-based thinking, they’re intellectually bankrupt on the topic of human rights.”
    • Related (at least in my mind): What Became of Atheism, Part One: Wearing the Uniform (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “…if God exists then that is the single most important fact in the history of creation and nothing else can take its crown, ever. If a being exists, of whatever nature, who created reality, exists within all of reality, set reality’s physical and moral rules, watches over all of reality, judges all of us on how devout and moral we are, and determines reward and punishment based on that judgement, that clearly is the truth that trumps all other truths. Strange to let it slip out of the debate quietly in the night. But then I suppose that’s culture war; sooner or later the only question that remains is who is on what side of the line, and all the rest dissolves.”
  2. Justice-related thoughts:
    • ‘The Voice of Your Brother’s Blood Is Crying to Me From the Ground’ (David French, The Dispatch): “…we can articulate three truths of simple, individual justice. First, a grave wrong creates a moral and spiritual cry for redress. Second, it is the role of government to provide that redress. And third, the government must be impartial, treating ‘great and small’ alike. All too many Americans are completely unaware of the extent to which the present structures and habits of American law fail to meet those basic obligations, especially when injustice is visited upon the citizen by the state.”
    • Chauvin Was Convicted. Something Is Still Very Wrong. (Elizabeth Bruenig, New York Times): “Forgiveness doesn’t feel particularly triumphant. It’s a gift no one wants to be in the position to give; it releases a wrongdoer from moral debt — for their own good and the common good, not for the sake of the wronged.… But I want to live in a world where it is possible to forgive and to be forgiven. In fact, I think it’s necessary.”
    • The Real Reason to End the Death Penalty (Paul Graham, Substack): “But in practice the debate about the death penalty is not about whether it’s ok to kill murderers. It’s about whether it’s ok to kill innocent people, because at least 4% of people on death row are innocent.” I find this a really interesting line of argument. Clearly we want to have a 100% accuracy rate in all criminal convictions. But is 96% accuracy outrageously intolerable? To the extent that it becomes a persuasive argument against the death penalty isn’t that then also an argument against imprisonment? Or virtually any punishment?
    • Unjust Secular Justice (Matthew Schmitz,First Things): “While in the colonial era most cases went to trial (and most trials lasted a stunningly short thirty minutes), more and more are now resolved by a plea bargain. Nowhere is our abandonment of colonial ideas of criminal justice more apparent than in no-contest pleas that allow defendants to receive lighter sentences without any admission of guilt.” This is an older book review (2013) but is quite good.
    • Outrage Overload (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “Modern policing—or even policing qua policing—owes far less to slave patrolling than NASA owes to Hitler’s rocket program. And yet no one talks about the troubling Nazi roots of modern space exploration, or asks Elon Musk if he’s exorcised the ghost of Werner Von Braun from SpaceX. I have seen this slave patrol thing brought up countless times in interviews, and not once have I seen an interviewer say, ‘Really?’ never mind, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ It’s as batty as any conspiracy theory, and it’s a deliberate attempt to heap innuendo on policing in lieu of making an intelligent argument. And that’s what frustrates me to no end. It’s the job of journalists to call out B.S. when it’s being thrown in their faces.”
  3. Where Two or Three Are Gathered (William J. Haun & Daniel L. Chen, Law & Liberty): “Over 40 amicus briefs lambasted this embrace of open-ended government surveillance—reflecting an ideological agreement so wide that NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and Wisconsin Right to Life joined the same brief. On the surface, widespread consensus in favor of associational privacy is surely welcome. But this agreement masks equally widespread, decades-long confusion over how and why the Constitution protects free association.” Quite good, a bit dry. The authors are lawyers with the Becket Fund.
  4. “Wokeness is a problem and we all know it” (Sean Illing interviewing James Carville, Vox): “We won the White House against a world-historical buffoon. And we came within 42,000 votes of losing. We lost congressional seats. We didn’t pick up state legislatures. So let’s not have an argument about whether or not we’re off-key in our messaging. We are. And we’re off because there’s too much jargon and there’s too much esoterica and it turns people off.” Carville is a legendary Democratic political strategist and he is in full-on old man rant mode here.
  5. ‘This Is a Catastrophe.’ In India, Illness Is Everywhere. (Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times): “New Delhi, India’s sprawling capital of 20 million, is suffering a calamitous surge. A few days ago, the positivity rate hit a staggering 36 percent — meaning more than one out of three people tested were infected. A month ago, it was less than 3 percent.”
    1. Related: ‘Death Is the Only Truth.’ Watching India’s Funeral Pyres Burn. (Aman Sethi, New York Times): “The Indian government has ordered Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to take down dozens of posts criticizing its handling of the pandemic. But the graphic images of mass cremations have cut through this wall of noise, misinformation and propaganda, capturing what epidemiologists call ‘excess mortality’ in gruesome detail.”
  6. Columbia Stone (T.A. Krasnican, Substack): “This public forgetfulness is the same indifference that in 1938 inspired Adolf Hitler, after issuing orders for his Nazi ‘death-head formations’ to ‘send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language,’ to write the famous phrase, ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’ Public ambivalence about human tragedy emboldened him.” Recommended by a student.
  7. Individualism is associated with happy countries, but not people (Zaid Jilani, Substack): “In a recently released study, team of researchers studied young adults across four countries — China, the United States, Russia, and Italy — starting with the hypothesis that levels of life satisfaction would be higher among individuals who have individualistic values. At the country level, this is indeed what they found. Countries with a higher index of individualistic values had more life satisfaction — that put America on top, followed by Italy, Russia, and then China. But an entirely different picture emerged when they looked at the individual level. There, they found that individualism had no impact on life satisfaction. Instead, life satisfaction was positively correlated with collectivism, regardless of the wider culture of the country.” My take: Americans are on average happier than the Chinese because of the freedoms which emerge from our individualism, but the happiest individuals in each country are those that freely choose to embrace family and community.

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 No Food Is Healthy. Not Even Kale. (Michael Ruhlman, Washington Post): People can be healthy. Food can be nutritious. This is a wonderful essay about how we misuse language to our detriment. If you’re surprised I included this, I believe that our culture has a quasi-religious relationship to health and to food, and I also believe that the use of language is profoundly moral and that our culture is a linguistic mess (to which I know of no finer guide than The Underground Grammarian). (first shared in volume 33)

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 269

I share a few personal thoughts about criminal justice reform in this one. Just a few.

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. Some thoughts following the Breonna Taylor verdict:
    • Correcting the misinformation about Breonna Taylor (Radley Balko, Washington Post): “We could prevent the next Breonna Taylor. We could ban forced entry raids to serve drug warrants. We could hold judges accountable for signing warrants that don’t pass constitutional muster. We could demand that police officers wear body cameras during these raids to hold them accountable, and that they be adequately punished when they fail to activate them. We could do a lot to make sure there are no more Breonna Taylors. The question is whether we want to.”
    • From a month ago, but timely now: Supreme Court Precedent Killed Breonna Taylor (David French, The Dispatch): “Something (or some things) have to give, and those ‘things’ are no-knock raids and qualified immunity. Individual liberties should not be sacrificed on the altar of police drug raids, and victims of civil rights abuses should be entitled to receive compensation for their losses, including their injuries and wounds.”
    • My 2 cents: America’s justice system would be greatly improved if no-knock raids and qualified immunity were either eliminated or greatly constrained. And if we get rid of civil asset forfeiture at the same time — wow.
  2. Review: ‘Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World’ by Tom Holland (Tim Keller, Gospel Coalition): “…the shame-and-honor cultures of old, pagan Europe—of the Anglo-Saxons, the Franks, and the Germans—thought that the Christian ethic of forgiving one’s enemies and of honoring the poor and weak to be completely unworkable as a basis for society. These ideas would’ve never occurred to anyone unless they held to a universe with a single, personal God who created all beings in his image, and with a Savior who came and died in sacrificial love. The ideas only could’ve grown from such a worldview—they don’t make sense in a different one. If, instead, we believe we’re here by accident through a process of survival of the fittest, then there can be no moral absolutes, and life must be, if anything, about power and the mastery of others, not about love. That, declared Nietzsche, is the only way to live once you are truly willing to admit that the Christian God does not exist.”
  3. We Are All Algorithms Now (Andrew Sullivan, SubStack): “In the past, we might have turned to more reliable media for context and perspective. But the journalists and reporters and editors who are supposed to perform this function are human as well. And they are perhaps the ones most trapped in the social media hellscape…. The press could have been the antidote to the social media trap. Instead they chose to become the profitable pusher of the poison.“ This was written before news of RBG’s death and is even more timely now.
  4. Concerning the Supreme Court:
    • Leading Republican politicians have flip-flopped What Senate Republicans have said about filling a Supreme Court vacancy (one minute video, YouTube)
    • Leading Democratic politicians have flip-flopped What leading Democrats have said about filling a Supreme Court vacancy (two minute video, Twitter) 
    • A thought from the left: Down With Judicial Supremacy! (Jamelle Bouie, New York Times): “The Supreme Court has the power to interpret the Constitution and establish its meaning for federal, state and local government alike. But this power wasn’t enumerated in the Constitution and isn’t inherent in the court as an institution. Instead, the court’s power to interpret and bind others to that interpretation was constructed over time by political and legal actors throughout the system, from presidents and lawmakers to the judges and justices themselves.”
    • A thought from the right: How the G.O.P. Might Get to Yes on Replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Since I became opposed to abortion, sometime in my later teens, I have never regarded the Supreme Court with warmth, admiration or patriotic trust. What my liberal friends felt after Bush v. Gore or after Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation or in imagining some future ruling by Amy Coney Barrett, I have felt for my entire adult life.”
  5. On faith and politics:
    • How Faith Shapes My Politics (David Brooks, New York Times): “In a society that is growing radically more secular every day, I’d say we have more to fear from political dogmatism than religious dogmatism.” 
    • Related: This just in! Evangelicals are actually America’s least politicized group of churches (Richard Ostling, GetReligion): “…the emerging scenario appears to indicate a relatively small and unrepresentative band of evangelical partisans at the national level has — aided by massive amounts of news coverage — distorted the public image of grass-roots white evangelicalism.”
    • What are your Expectations of Jesus’ Local Church? (Adam Sinnett, church website): “Over the last six months the elders of DCC have received numerous questions, recommendations, and criticisms in relation to what we should be doing as a church in regards to: our pandemic response, the relationship between church and state, timing and content of communication, growing unemployment, the homelessness crisis, political partisanship, systemic injustice, police brutality, social protests, and more.”
    • Follow-up: Who Does What in the Life of the Church? (Adam Sinnet, church website): “If we think of the church primarily as ‘the leaders’ we’ll place the burden of responsibility for the life of the church on the pastors. If we think of the church primarily as ‘the people’, we’ll place the burden of responsibility on the individuals. If we think of the church primarily as an ‘institution’, we’ll place the burden of responsibility on the organization, its structures, and processes. Who then is responsible for fulfilling God’s purpose for his church? Is it the leaders, or the people, or the institution? Put simply, everyone is responsible, though in different ways.”
    • Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Sues to Not Forsake the Assembly (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “…the DC congregation’s legal fight is uniquely tied to its theological beliefs around how a church should gather. Dever has long resisted multi-site, multi-service models of church, though they are very popular among fellow Southern Baptists. The DC Baptist church does not stream services online, and hasn’t made an exception to that rule during the pandemic.”
    • Capitol Hill Baptist, a large evangelical church, sues DC Mayor Muriel Bowser over coronavirus restrictions (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “The vote Sunday at a members meeting to pursue litigation was 402 in favor, 35 against, members said, though church leaders would not confirm specific numbers.”
  6. Two random articles touching on race:
    • This Is How Biden Should Approach the Latino Vote (Ian Haney López and Tory Gavito, New York Times): “Progressives commonly categorize Latinos as people of color, no doubt partly because progressive Latinos see the group that way and encourage others to do so as well. Certainly, we both once took that perspective for granted. Yet in our survey, only one in four Hispanics saw the group as people of color.”
      • I am uninterested in the partisan angle of this op-ed, but the statistic I excerpted stood out to me. I wonder what percentage of Stanford students would have predicted it? I suspect the overwhelming majority of Stanford students would have bet on the opposite.
    • The Pretense That Princeton Is Racist (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “I object to the entire witch hunt of an investigation, which Republicans would recognize as a flagrant abuse of federal power were it aimed at Liberty University. No reasonable person could conclude that an onerous probe of Princeton for anti-Black racism is the best use, or even a good use, of scarce resources to safeguard civil rights. The decision to grapple with racism should not trigger a federal investigation, whether or not that grappling is totally honest.”
  7. Tea Time: The Christian Mission to Preserve Culture (Lyman Stone, The Plough): “As strange as it may seem for a white American missionary to be teaching an eight-year-old Chinese girl from the tea capital of the world how to pour tea, such I understood to be my Christian duty.”

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 Jesus, Mary, and Joe Jonas (Jonathan Parks‐Ramage, Medium): “How, in famously liberal Hollywood and among statistically progressive millennials, had good old‐fashioned evangelism [sic] gained popularity? In this context, a church like Reality L.A. seemed like something that could never work. But that evening, as I reflected on the troubled actress and the psychic brutalities inflicted by the entertainment industry, it occurred to me that I had underestimated Hollywood’s biggest product: lost souls.” First shared in volume 192

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 260

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 253

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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