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
- Concerning Coronavirus and Christianity:
- Love in the Time of Coronavirus — Andy Crouch (Andy Crouch, The Praxis Journal): “…while government at all levels can enforce a certain amount of behavior change, for example through quarantines and “lockdowns,” it is almost impossible for coercive authority to increase people’s capacity for love and service to others. This is the role of faith and above all, we believe, the Christian faith. Equipping Christians for moments like this is the role of Christian leaders.” THIS. READ THIS.
- What Martin Luther Teaches Us About Coronavirus (Emmy Yang, Christianity Today): “In a climate of fear surrounding the outbreak, I come back to Luther’s letter for guidance. As a medical student and a future physician, I have a clear vocational commitment to caring for the sick—whether they have coronavirus, tuberculosis, or influenza. Precautions I will take, yes. But I am reminded by Luther that they are individuals deserving of care all the same.”
- Here is an English translation of Luther’s original letter: Whether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague: “Since it is generally true of Christians that few are strong and many are weak, one simply cannot place the same burden upon everyone. A person who has a strong faith can drink poison and suffer no harm, Mark 16[:18], while one who has a weak faith would thereby drink to his death.”
- Wuhan Pastor: Pray with Us (anonymous, ChinaSource): “Thus, my brothers and sisters, I encourage you to be strong in Christ’s love. If we more deeply experience death in this pestilence, understanding the gospel, we may more deeply experience Christ’s love, and grow ever nearer to God.”
- How DC Churches Responded When the Government Banned Public Gatherings During the Spanish Flu of 1918 (Caleb Morell, 9 Marks): “During one of the worst epidemics to ever hit our country, churches respected the directives of the government for a limited time out of neighborly love and in order to protect public health. Even when churches began to disagree with the Commissioners’ perspective, they continued to abide by their orders.”
- Should Your Church Stop Meeting to Slow COVID-19? How 3 Seattle Churches Decided. (Daniel Chin, Christianity Today): “After working for WHO and then the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in China, my wife and I moved to Seattle in 2015 to lead the foundation’s work to control tuberculosis in several countries. For a quarter of a century, I’ve answered a calling as a follower of Christ to stop the spread of diseases and work to eliminate them, and now I heed that calling to speak to my brothers and sisters in Christ to take this epidemic seriously and respond.” The author is an evangelical and a physician who specializes in infectious diseases.
- Concerning Coronavirus More Generally:
- How Much Worse the Coronavirus Could Get, in Charts (Nicholas Kristof and Stuart A. Thompson, NY Times): “What’s at stake in this coronavirus pandemic? How many Americans can become infected? How many might die? The answers depend on the actions we take — and, crucially, on when we take them. Working with infectious disease epidemiologists, we developed this interactive tool that lets you see what may lie ahead in the United States and how much of a difference it could make if officials act quickly.” Note that this is not paywalled. Many prominent news organizations have kindly made their pandemic news freely available.
- Why it’s so hard to pin down the risk of dying from coronavirus (Marc Lipsitch, Washington Post): “Several estimates have suggested that the risk of dying, for those infected with covid-19 and showing its flu-like symptoms, is around 1 or 2 percent. Elderly adults have a considerably higher risk of both becoming infected and dying, as do people with compromised immune systems. The estimates might change as new data arrive, but the range of 1 to 2 percent for fatalities among the symptomatic seems to be the consensus for now. The overall fatality rate for people infected with covid-19 will be lower — possibly much lower — when we know how many people are infected but asymptomatic.” The author is a Harvard epidemiologist.
- COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planner (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Now here is the most important point. It’s the size of the group, not the number of carriers that most drives the result. For example, suppose our estimate of the number of carriers if off by a factor of 10–that is instead of 20,000 there are just 2000 carriers in the United States. In this case, the probability of at least one carrier at a big event of 100,000 drops not by a factor of ten but just to 45%. In other words, large events are a bad idea even in scenarios with just a small number of carriers.” (source code for the embedded graph is at https://github.com/jsweitz/covid-19-event-risk-planner) The code and the graph come from a biologist at Georgia Tech and the explanation comes from an economist at George Mason University.
- TrackCorona — COVID-19 Tracker and Live Map — one of the people running the website is a Stanford undergrad.
- Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now (Tomas Pueyo, Medium): “Countries that act fast can reduce the number of deaths by a factor of ten. And that’s just counting the fatality rate. Acting fast also drastically reduces the cases, making this even more of a no-brainer.”
- How China’s “Bat Woman” Hunted Down Viruses from SARS to the New Coronavirus (Jane Qiu, Scientific American): “Shi—a virologist who is often called China’s ‘bat woman’ by her colleagues because of her virus-hunting expeditions in bat caves over the past 16 years—walked out of the conference she was attending in Shanghai and hopped on the next train back to Wuhan.” This is a fascinating article.
- $1 million plus in Emergent Ventures Prizes for coronavirus work (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “I believe that we should be using prizes to help innovate and combat the coronavirus. When are prizes better than grants? The case for prizes is stronger when you don’t know who is likely to make the breakthrough, you value the final output more than the process, there is an urgency to solutions (talent development is too slow), success is relatively easy to define, and efforts and investments are likely to be undercompensated. All of these apply to the threat from the coronavirus.”
- COVID-19 reduces economic activity, which reduces pollution, which saves lives. (Marshall Burke, G‑Feed): “…disruption is only likely to increase in coming days in regions where the epidemic is just beginning. Strangely, this disruption could also have unexpected health benefits — and these benefits could be quite large in certain parts of the world.” Reality is complicated.
- How social distancing for coronavirus could cause a loneliness epidemic (Ezra Klein, Vox): “Make no mistake: The rapid implementation of social distancing is necessary to flatten the coronavirus curve and prevent the current pandemic from worsening. But just as the coronavirus fallout threatens to cause an economic recession, it’s also going to cause what we might call a “social recession”: a collapse in social contact that is particularly hard on the populations most vulnerable to isolation and loneliness — older adults and people with disabilities or preexisting health conditions.”
- The effect of travel restrictions on the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak (Chinazzi et al, Science): “The travel quarantine around Wuhan has only modestly delayed the epidemic spread to other areas of Mainland China…. The model indicates that while the Wuhan travel ban was initially effective at reducing international case importations, the number of cases observed outside Mainland China will resume its growth after 2–3 weeks from cases that originated elsewhere.”
- Keep It Simple (Ed Feser, First Things): “Mathematics appears to describe a realm of entities with quasi-divine attributes. The series of natural numbers is infinite. That one and one equal two and two and two equal four could not have been otherwise. Such mathematical truths never begin being true or cease being true; they hold eternally and immutably. The lines, planes, and figures studied by the geometer have a kind of perfection that the objects of our experience lack. Mathematical objects seem immaterial and known by pure reason rather than through the senses.” This is a very interesting review of a book by William Lane Craig.
- Concerning Woody Allen:
- Woody Allen: Issues and Principles (Steven Brust, personal blog): “Presumption of innocence in the courts is the legal reflection of the principle that we need to be certain someone is guilty before inflicting punishment, that, ‘it is better 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man be punished.’ The principle pre-dates its legal reflection, which, in Western society, we can find in sixth Century Rome, as well as both Talmudic and Islamic law. The principle has always been fought for by the oppressed, and for good reason: it is the oppressed who are most vulnerable, and most likely to be abused both by the legal system and bourgeois public opinion. Those who want to chuck the presumption of innocence, whether in law or in the public arena, are doing the work of the oppressors.” The author is a socialist, which I mention because the next author is very conservative. When thoughtful people from diametrically opposed tribes call foul it is worth paying attention.
- The Woody Allen Witch Hunt (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “But we are not supposed to live in a society in which someone who has merely been accused of a horrible thing finds himself unable to publish a book telling his side of the story, or silenced because the cultural winds have shifted. Thirty years ago, or less, children who made accusations against powerful men were not believed. Women too. It is not progress to go from disbelieving women and children as a matter of course to believing them reflexively. We think we are advancing justice, but really we are just rearranging our prejudices.” The author is a very conservative, which I mention because the previous author is a socialist. When thoughtful people from diametrically opposed tribes call foul it is worth paying attention.
- How Many Nones Are There? Maybe More than We Thought (Ryan P. Burge, Religion In Public): “When you compare those who say they have “no religion” in the GSS, to those who say they are either atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular in the CCES, a significant difference emerges…. The upshot is this: the share of Americans who have no religious affiliation is nearly a third of the United States, not the 23.1% figure which comes from the GSS.”
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- The speed of this lava flow (Imgur): this feels like a metaphor for the pandemic
- Artificial Intelligence Worship Song Generator (John Dyer) — amusing and intriguing
- Chick-fil‑A Announces New Bottled Sauces That Still Won’t Open On Sunday (Babylon Bee)
- No Greater Love: Widow Puts Last Toilet Paper Roll In Offering Plate (Babylon Bee)
- Drug Cartels Switch To Producing Hand Sanitizer (Babylon Bee)
- Compilation Video (Dilbert):
- Solution (SMBC)
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Dealing With Nuisance Lust (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “Minimize the seriousness of this, but not so that you can feel good about indulging yourself. Minimize the seriousness of it so that you can walk away from a couple of big boobs without feeling like you have just fought a cosmic battle with principalities and powers in the heavenly places, for crying out loud. Or, if you like, in another strategy of seeing things rightly, you could nickname these breasts of other woman as the ‘principalities and powers.’ Whatever you do, take this part of life in stride like a grown-up. Stop reacting like a horny and conflicted twelve-year-old boy.” (first shared in volume 148)
Why Do You Send This Email?
In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.
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.