Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 362

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.

362 feels like a number that should have lots of factors, but it’s only got the prime factors 2 and 181.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Exploring AI-Assisted Bible Study (John Dyer, personal blog): “I prompted GPT‑3 to generate text for each chapter in the Bible in each category. For example, the prompt to generate a prayer was: “Write 5 prayers inspired by John 3 in the Bible. Remember that the events described here are in the past. First include a short observation or lesson for each prayer, and then write a personal prayer related to the lesson.”  I reviewed the generated text to avoid (or at least minimize) unhelpful or heretical content. I accepted about 90% of GPT‑3’s suggestions on its first pass and regenerated the rest until it gave me something useful. It cost about $150 over six weeks to generate this content, which consists of 71,062 generations and 1.1 million words.”
    • This is the same guy who generated the AI Bible artwork I shared recently (these and other experiments of his are available at http://www.openbible.info/labs/).
  2. What an Overly Pessimistic View of America Gets Wrong (Yascha Mounk interviewing Eboo Patel, Persuasion): “If every institution founded by a faith community in your city disappeared overnight, preschools, hospitals, and universities would be gone. YMCAs would be gone, places where AA groups meet would be gone. Half of your social services would probably be gone. It feels to me that religious identity diversity should be at the center of our national conversation, and I’m curious as to why it’s not.” This conversation is full of wisdom and I highly recommend it.
  3. People Are Dating All Wrong, According to Data Science (Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Wired): “Good romantic partners are difficult to predict with data. Desired romantic partners are easy to predict with data. And that suggests that many of us are dating all wrong.”
    • From later in the article: “…how a person answered questions about themselves was roughly four times more predictive of their relationship happiness than all the traits of their romantic partner combined.”
  4. A Crucial Court Case Exposes the Darkness of America’s Worst Industry (David French, The Dispatch): “If someone wanted to create a system that was designed to facilitate the distribution of child pornography, videos of rape and other kinds of abuse, or revenge porn, it would be hard to construct a more efficient system than MindGeek’s. And the sheer amount of MindGeek’s traffic and the volume of the downloads demonstrates that Pornhub and other sites are injecting poison into American life at an industrial scale.”
    • A student recommended this piece from a month ago in addition to the above: The Fight to Hold Pornhub Accountable (Sheelah Kolhatkar, The New Yorker): “Pschorr was surprised by the lack of regulation in the U.S. ‘It was always interesting for me as a German to see that, in the U.S., you’d get I.D.’d if you went to a bar, and if you’re not twenty-one you get in big trouble,’ he said. ‘But if you want to consume porn all you have to do is click ‘Yes, I’m 18,’ and you’re in the realm of dirt.’ ” I found this article interesting because it portrays Christians both favorably and unfavorably in short order.
  5. How Did a Two-Time Killer Get Out to Be Charged Again at Age 83? (Rebecca Davis O’Brien & Ali Watkins, New York Times): “A homeless shelter worker and people close to Ms. Leyden questioned whether, despite her gender identity, Ms. Harvey should have been placed in a homeless shelter for women, given her history of attacking and murdering them.” Read that sentence slowly. Wow. And the last eight paragraphs are jaw dropping.
  6. A large new study offers clues about how lower-income children can rise up the economic ladder. (David Leonhardt, New York Times): “Churches and other religious organizations may have some lessons to teach other parts of society. Although many churches are socioeconomically homogeneous, those with some diversity tend to foster more cross-class interactions than most other social activities. Churchs [sic] have lower levels of what the researchers call socioeconomic ‘friending bias.’ ”
    • Sadly there isn’t more info on the religious dynamic, even though this section of the newsletter is called “How Churches Shine”
    • Although this is a NYT piece, it is not paywalled because it is from their morning newsletter.
  7. Nondenominational Churches Are Adding Millions of Members. Where Are They Coming From? (Ryan P. Burge, Christianity Today): “What is driving the growth of nondenominational churches? While in the past it resulted from a significant portion of individuals leaving a mainline tradition, now it looks like nondenominational congregations are increasing by taking in people who were raised Catholic—which is about a quarter of the general population.”

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 Problem Isn’t the ‘Merit,’ It’s the ‘Ocracy’ (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “The American system of government was built on the assumption that the most salient political divides would reflect geography, not ideology or class. The senator from Massachusetts would share bonds in common with the lay citizenry of Boston that he did not share with a senator from South Carolina. On the national sphere this would allow him to represent the interests of his constituents as if they were his own. This has proven more true at some times in American history than others; yet because of the way American politicians are elected, this sense of representing the interests of a geographically bounded group of people is more true in the political arena than in most others.” First shared in volume 232

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 228

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. A Tale of Two Churches (Batya Ungar-Sargon, NY Review of Books): “To many religious people, there’s no such thing as coincidence: Pastor Jay and Pastor Derrick felt acutely the prophetic nature of their union taking place just the day before the shooting. It felt as though, in the midst of the chaos and the confusion, God was using them to write a better story. The Lord had guided them to their merger at exactly the right time to redirect the anger and pain in the community to a higher, holy purpose.”
    • This my must-read link of the week. SO GOOD. I almost cried.
    • Kind of related but only marginally: Praying for Hong Kong Can Be Politically Disruptive—Even in America  (D Cheng, Christianity Today): “Different origins among ethnic Chinese immigrants can foster different political views, with more Christians from China supporting the policies of the Chinese government, and those from elsewhere often more critical of the Chinese Communist Party.”
  2. ‘Absolutely No Mercy’: Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detentions of Muslims (Austin Ramzy and Chris Buckley, NY Times): “…one of the most significant leaks of government papers from inside China’s ruling Communist Party in decades. They provide an unprecedented inside view of the continuing clampdown in Xinjiang, in which the authorities have corralled as many as a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others into internment camps and prisons over the past three years.” Recommended by a student.
  3. More Pregnancy, Less Crime (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “More generally, however, there are policy implication if we think beyond the immediate results. First, these results show that crime isn’t simply a product of family background, poverty and neglect. Crime is a choice.”
    • The original study: Family Formation and Crime (Maxim Massenkoff and Evan K. Rose, job market paper, pdf link): “Our event-study analysis indicates that pregnancy triggers sharp declines in crime rivaling any known intervention.”
    • Somewhat related: The Dating Market (Tyro Partners, pdf link): “With the advent of online dating, women in prime reproductive age are in the dominant position in the dating market for the first time in human history.This comes with huge social ramifications.” The authors are hedge fund guys. Interesting throughout and at times quite amusing. I especially commend to you the chart at the bottom of the page 5 contrasted with the chart at the top of page 6.
  4. Thread on the protests in Iran (Shay Khatiri, Twitter): “During its first 24 hours, it’s already been the most violent protests in decades, if not ever. 1979 revolution did not reach this level of violence.”
    • Amnesty Says At Least 106 Killed In Iran Protests (John Gambrell, Associated Press): “Days of protests in Iran over rising fuel prices and a subsequent government crackdown have killed at least 106 people across the Islamic Republic, Amnesty International said Tuesday, citing ‘credible reports.’”
  5. Why Some People Are Impossibly Talented (David Robson, BBC): “…influential scientists are much more likely to have diverse interests outside their primary area of research than the average scientist, for instance. Studies have found that Nobel Prize-winning scientists are about 25 times more likely to sing, dance or act than the average scientist. They are also 17 times more likely to create visual art, 12 times more likely to write poetry and four times more likely to be a musician.”
  6. 2019 Religious Freedom Index (Becket Law): “If America is becoming less religious, as some polls indicate, does that necessarily mean it is also becoming less supportive of religious liberty protections? Are we, in fact, divided on questions of religious freedom?… With a current score of 67, the 2019 Index indicates strong support for religious freedom protections. ”
  7. Why Did the Wall Fall, 30 Years Ago? (George Weigel, First Things): “Getting this history straight is important, not just as a matter of intellectual hygiene but for the future. Public officials who do not grasp the centrality of religious freedom to the collapse of European communism and the emergence of new democracies in central and eastern Europe are unlikely to appreciate the centrality of religious freedom to free and virtuous 21st-century societies and to 21st-century democracy.”

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 Alcohol, Blackouts, and Campus Sexual Assault (Texas Monthly, Sarah Hepola): I think this is the most thoughtful secular piece I’ve read on the issue. “Consent and alcohol make tricky bedfellows. The reason I liked getting drunk was because it altered my consent: it changed what I would say yes to. Not just in the bedroom but in every room and corridor that led into the squinting light. Say yes to adventure, say yes to risk, say yes to karaoke and pool parties and arguments with men, say yes to a life without fear, even though such a life is never possible… We drink because it feels good. We drink because it makes us feel happy, safe, powerful. That it often makes us the opposite is one of alcohol’s dastardly tricks.” (first shared in volume 25)

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 166

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. God’s Mayor in Guatemala (Dale Hanson Bourke, Christianity Today): “In the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America, the countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala form a violent triad. The murder rate is higher in this region than in most active war zones. Gangs, cartels, and vigilantes impose their will, taking over or co-opting legitimate police forces and routinely terrorizing average citizens…. In the middle of this violence sits the town of San Cristóbal Acasaguastlán, a picturesque oasis of calm with a population of about 6,000 people. What sets this place apart are the efforts of Jeaneth Ordoñez, the Christian mayor who has united the townspeople in their quest to keep the municipality free of the violence and upheaval that surrounds them.”
  2. No alcohol safe to drink, global study confirms (Laurel Ives, BBC): “A large new global study published in the Lancet has confirmed previous research which has shown that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. The researchers admit moderate drinking may protect against heart disease but found that the risk of cancer and other diseases outweighs these protections.” The underlying research: Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 (The Lancet. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310–2)
  3. Christians to Science: Leave Animals the Way God Designed Them—Except Mosquitoes (Rebecca Randall, Christianity Today): “Messing with nature or God’s plan was a top concern for those opposed to engineering animal meat to be more nutritious (22%), bringing back an extinct species (23%), or making aquarium fish glow (18%). The reason cited most often to oppose creating glowing fish was simply that it is unnecessary and frivolous (48%).” Apparently I am an outlier. Make the fish glow, make meat more nutritious, and deal with mosquito-borne disease. I really like the way the Kenyan researcher quoted in the article encourages us to target the parasite and not the carrier. We are made in the image of God so that we can exercise dominion over Creation!
  4. The Peter Principle is a joke taken seriously. Is it true? (Tim Harford, Financial Times): “The authors of the paper discovered that the best salespeople were more likely to be promoted, and that they were then terrible managers. The better they had been in sales, the worse their teams performed once they arrived in a managerial role. What’s more, people were not promoted for behaviour that might seem correlated with managerial ability — in particular, those who collaborated with others were not rewarded for doing so. What mattered were sales, pure and simple.” It may be the case that you should dress for the job you want, but if you want to get promoted you had better rock the job you have.
  5. Gay Men Are Different, Says Gay Male Reader (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Well-meaning straight liberals just do not get it, and lots of gay men will not criticize anything gay men collectively do because they think it will result in both lots of anger from other gay men as well as the empowerment of ideological enemies who want to, say, ban gay marriage. Men and women are fundamentally different and a male-female sexual culture is not going to be the same as a male-male sexual culture.” I suspect this will considered controversial by one set of readers and common sense by another, and that the groups will not break down along predictable lines.
  6. How the internet has changed dating (The Economist): “…a 2013 study researchers from Harvard University and the University of Chicago showed that marriages that started online were less likely to end in break-up and were associated with higher levels of satisfaction than marriages of the same vintage between similar couples who had met offline: the difference was not huge, but it was statistically significant.”
  7. What Trump Knew and Voters Didn’t (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “…Trump voters went to the polls unaware that a sum exceeding most of their annual salaries was expended to keep that [Trump paid off a porn star] from them. Even if the payment had been totally legal, it would’ve constituted a deliberate, immoral, classically politician-like effort to mislead voters about the choice before them. But the payment was not legal. It violated campaign-finance laws—and it was not a merely accidental and technical violation of an overly complicated or controversial provision.” This article is a pretty good and succinct summary of the current debate about Trump.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How Can I Learn To Receive – And Give – Criticism In Light Of The Cross?(Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ’s crucifixion. In other words, in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s judgment of me; and in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s justification of me. Both have a radical impact on how we take and give criticism.” This is based on a longer article (4 page PDF). (first shared in volume 63)

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).

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 148

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. This college professor gives her students extra credit for going on dates (Lisa Bonos, Washington Post): “She sees conversations about dating as part of the big questions her classes tackle, such as: How should I live my life? What kinds of relationships help me to become the kind of person I want to be? If students don’t learn how to date while they’re in college, while surrounded by thousands of peers all in a similar stage in life, Cronin says, it only gets harder to build those skills after graduation.” The professor in question, Kerry Cronin, is a philosopher at Boston College.
    • She has these rules for a first date: “The student has to ask in person (“texting is the devil; stop it,” she says in one of her YouTube videos), and the recipient has to know it’s a date. And if they say they’re busy and to check back with them later, don’t. Just move on. ‘That’s a great skill to build, so that you can have a thicker skin,’ Cronin says. She believes that the person who asks, pays. And the first date shouldn’t cost more than $10, include drugs or alcohol, or last longer than 90 minutes…”
    • Those are good guidelines. Read them again.
  2. I think the following two articles will prove to be among the most controversial I’ve ever shared. I also think they both contain much practical wisdom that will prove relevant as the weather warms:
    • For the gents: 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.”
    • For the ladies: 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.”
    • I am aware that these two articles only deal with things from a male perspective. Sadly, I haven’t come across any insightful articles that help ladies deal with their own lust or give gentlemen advice on how to be helpful to them. Ladies, if you’ve read something you found truly helpful, let me know.
  3. Jesus, Take the Control Wheel: Southwest Pilot Saw Flying as Ministry (David Roach, Christianity Today): “Tammie Jo Shults—the pilot who guided Flight 1380 to the ground April 17 after a midflight engine failure shot debris through a window, killing one passenger—is a recognizable figure at the Texas Hill Country church, which averages 900 in worship…. Multiple media reports have cited a blog post in which Shults stated being a pilot gave her ‘the opportunity to witness for Christ on almost every flight.’” You can glorify God in almost any profession — make it your ambition.
  4. Five Great Books on African American Evangelical History (Thomas Kidd, The Gospel Coalition): “If I had to pick one African American church leader I wish more Christians knew about, it would probably be [Lemuel] Haynes. A Revolutionary War soldier, Haynes went on to become a pastor of a largely white church in New England, a critic of American slavery, and an advocate of the New Divinity theology of Jonathan Edwards’s successors.”
  5. Donald Trump, Tragic Hero (Victor Davis Hanson, National Review): “Tragic heroes, as they have been portrayed from Sophocles’ plays (e.g., Ajax, Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Philoctetes) to the modern western film, are not intrinsically noble. Much less are they likeable. Certainly, they can often be obnoxious and petty, if not dangerous, especially to those around them.” Hanson is a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
  6. The Facebook Trials: It’s Not “Our” Data (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “…I have hundreds of friends on Facebook, most of whom I don’t know well and have never met. But my Facebook friends are friends. We share common interests and, most of the time, I’m happy to see what they are thinking and doing and I’m pleased when they show interest in what I’m up to. If, before Facebook existed, I had been asked to list ‘my friends,’ I would have had a hard time naming ten friends, let alone hundreds. My Facebook friends didn’t exist before Facebook. My Facebook friendships are not simply my data—they are a unique co-creation of myself, my friends, and, yes, Facebook.”
  7. Google Will Now Answer Your Theological Questions (OpenBible.info): “Google just announced an AI-powered experiment called Talk to Books, which lets you enter a query and find passages in books that are semantically similar to your query, not merely passages that happen to match the keywords you chose. For theology- and Bible-related questions, it often presents an evangelical perspective, perhaps because U.S. evangelical publishers have been eager for Google to index their books.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • A Divided Country (Pearls Before Swine): this one actually made me laugh and not merely chortle sensibly.
  • Christ Chella (John Crist, Facebook): this is amazingly detailed and the more you know the evangelical culture the funnier it is

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have On Political Correctness (William Deresiewicz, The American Scholar): a long and thoughtful article. “Selective private colleges have become religious schools. The religion in question is not Methodism or Catholicism but an extreme version of the belief system of the liberal elite: the liberal professional, managerial, and creative classes, which provide a large majority of students enrolled at such places and an even larger majority of faculty and administrators who work at them. To attend those institutions is to be socialized, and not infrequently, indoctrinated into that religion…. I say this, by the way, as an atheist, a democratic socialist, a native northeasterner, a person who believes that colleges should not have sports teams in the first place—and in case it isn’t obvious by now, a card-carrying member of the liberal elite.” (first shared in volume 92)

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).

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.