Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 283

perspectives on a day students will cover in their US History classes

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. WHAT HAPPENED
    • Madness on Capitol Hill (Andrew McCormick, The Nation): “For all the violence in the air, the mood was less coup and more college football tailgate. Pop songs blared from speakers. Somewhere, snare drums went rat-a-tat-tat. And the chants were so loud they rumbled in your chest.” This is the most vivid article I have come upon so far.

    • ‘Is This Really Happening?’: The Siege of Congress, Seen From the Inside (various, Politico): “One member at one point, a Democrat, Steve Cohen, yelled over towards the Republican side of the room and said, ‘Call Trump and tell him to call this off.’ And then a little bit later on, a lawmaker sitting on the Republican side shot back and said something along the lines of, ‘I bet you liberals are glad now you didn’t defund the police.’”This is amazing. And reading this I have a much more positive view of the frontline police response than I had gleaned from previous reporting. The issue was higher in the command structure.

    • Let me tell you about my experience at yesterday’s Trump Rally. (Not The Bee): “Again, pictures never do a crowd justice, but I went to a Big 10 college football school, I know what tens of thousands of people looks like, and this was that at least.”

    •  ‘What else could I do?’ NJ Rep. Kim helps clean up Capitol (Mike Catalini, AP News): “‘When you see something you love that’s broken you want to fix it. I love the Capitol. I‘m honored to be there,’ he said. ‘This building is extraordinary and the rotunda in particular is just awe-inspiring. How many countless generations have been inspired in that room? It really broke my heart and I just felt compelled to do something. … What else could I do?’” A profile of the man behind a photo you’ve no doubt seen.

  2. WHAT HAPPENED IN CONTEXT
    • America’s History of Political Violence (Darel E. Paul, First Things): “Early reactions to the incursion tended toward the catastrophic, and more than one journalist spoke of a ‘coup,’ the death of the Republic, and ‘civil war.’ By evening calmer heads and cooler emotions began to emerge as the rioters were arrested and dispersed, revealing less a Bolshevik storming of the Winter Palace than a LARPing event by QAnon paranoids.” The author is a professor of political science at Williams College.

    •  The Five Crises of the American Regime (Michael Lind, Tablet Magazine): “In the past eight months, two Capitol Hills have fallen. Two shocking events symbolize the abdication of authority by America’s ruling class, an abdication that has led to what can be described, not without exaggeration, as the slow-motion disintegration of the United States of America in its present form.… What is the meaning of these dystopian scenes? Many Democrats claim that Republicans are destroying the republic. Many Republicans claim the reverse. They are both correct.” The author is a professor in the UT Austin school of public affairs. This is the most comprehensive (and to my mind, largely correct) analysis I’ve come across.

    • Violence in the Capitol, Dangers in the Aftermath (Glenn Greenwald, Substack): “One need not dismiss the lamentable actions of yesterday to simultaneously reject efforts to apply terms that are plainly inapplicable: attempted coup, insurrection, sedition.… That the only person shot was a protester killed by an armed agent of the state by itself makes clear how irresponsible these terms are.” 

  3. THEOLOGICAL/RELIGIOUS COMMENTARY
    • Christian Leaders Pray for Peace and Safety Amid Capitol Mob (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “Pastor Rick Warren called the attack ‘domestic terrorism,’ while Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore condemned their actions as ‘immoral, unjust, dangerous, and inexcusable’ and called on the president to direct his supporters to ‘stop this dangerous and anti-constitutional anarchy.’ ”There’s a wide roundup of voices here.

    • Like A Fire Shut Up In My Bones (Paul Shult, Lutherans For Racial Justice): “My thoughts I share with you are shaped by my calling as a pastor. I am not a political science major, a lawyer, a public policy expert, or a business owner. I don’t want to argue politics, which is very difficult because so much in our nation and in Christianity has become politicized. So, here are my thoughts around just a few things I think are important to consider — perhaps they can be helpful to some.” The author pastors a church near campus that several of our students have attended (one of them brought this article to my attention).

    • The Gospel in a Democracy Under Assault (Russell Moore, Gospel Coalition): “Countries can fall. I hope this one doesn’t. But, either way, let’s not fall with it.”

    • Illegitimate Times (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “So it is looking as though one way or another we are going to have to learn how to live under a government we believe to be at bottom illegitimate. And that looks to be the case no matter what happens today, actually, which happens to be January 6, the day when Congress ratifies the votes of the Electoral College. If Biden is confirmed, which seems likely, a very large number of Americans will believe he got there by fraudulent means. And if Trump is confirmed—by some sort of extraordinary long shot—that irregular process, whatever it was, will be considered by a very large number of Americans to have been fraudulent in a very different way. And even though a larger number of Christians will be in the first group, our numbers in both groups will not be insignificant.” Please note, this is from before the events in question! I share it because it contains some very unusual insights.

  4. APOLOGETICALLY INTERESTING
    • Why Religious Couples Thrive in a Pandemic (Liz HoChing & Spencer James, Real Clear Religion): “It is no surprise therefore that home-worshipping couples were significantly more likely to be highly satisfied with their sexual relationship, compared with couples in a shared secular relationship. Women in shared home-worshipping relationships were found to be twice as likely to be sexually satisfied from the international data, and three-times as likely to be sexually satisfied from data gathered in the United States. These are numbers that cannot be ignored.”
      • There are many interesting quotes I could have chosen. I pick this one because it is something I commonly see come up in research and yet so contrary to the prevailing narrative in our culture. And also because most of you are yet to pick your spouse — this is a reminder to pick someone who shares your vibrant faith in the Lord.
    • Standing By: The Spatial Organization of Coercive Institutions in China (Adam Y. Liu and Charles Chang, Social Science Research): “We find that police stations are more likely to be located within walking distance of foreign religious sites (churches) than other sites (temples), even after controlling for the estimated population within 1km of each site and a set of key site attributes.” The authors are scholars at the National University of Singapore and at Yale, respectively.
    • Interesting tidbits from the article itself (the above is from the abstract):
      • “…among all major religions in China, Christianity has since the late 19th century been persistently viewed by the Chinese state—the incumbent atheistic party state in particular—as the most threatening to social order and state power.”
      • “…one of the most consistent and surprising social scientific findings is the extent of the involvement of religious groups in large scale social and political movements.”
      • “Scholars find that the participatory and civic attitudes embedded in Christianity make its believers more likely to engage in collective contention.”
      • “In a sharp contrast, the party state sees other religions, such as Buddhism, as not only non-threatening, but also conducive to strengthening its grip on power. In some instances, local officials have even supported the construction of non-Western religious sites as an explicit way to counter the growing influence of Christianity in their jurisdictions.”
    • Let me be clear: I lack the expertise to evaluate their findings. What I find fascinating is the matter-of-fact way these scholars refer to a consensus in their field about Christianity. It is interesting to read this in conjunction with the news about this week.
  5. UNRELATED THINGS
    • Rev. William Barber on Greed, Poverty and Evangelical Politics (David Marchese, New York Times): “Very few religious leaders are able to inspire political action on the part of large numbers of people who don’t share their church, their denomination or their faith. Yet the Rev. Dr. William Barber, senior pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., has done just that.” This is an interesting (and at times perplexing) interview.
    • some problems don’t have solutions, or the demand game (Freddie DeBoer, personal blog): “Here’s the reality with pornography: it may very well be very bad, and there is probably nothing that we can do about it. Technology changed the world and made something for which their is huge demand effortlessly easy to transmit and receive. And that’s that; that’s the story of pornography. Some problems don’t have solutions.” The author, an atheist socialist, inadvertently comes close to agreeing with Jesus that “the poor you will have with you always.”
    • Inside RZIM, Staff Push Leaders to Take Responsibility for Scandal (Daniel Silliman, Christianity Today): “At an online all-staff meeting in mid-October, however, RZIM speaker Sam Allberry, who officiated at Zacharias’s graveside service, asked why ‘ministry teammates’ had been included in the official denial. They had not been consulted before leadership crafted the unsigned statement denying the claims. ‘Why are you putting words in my mouth?’ said Allberry, according to people who attended the meeting. ‘Frankly, I believe these women and find their allegations to be credible.’”
      • This makes me very sad. Also, there’s a personal caution in here. One of the details is that Zacharias lied about smaller things. If you ever see me lying or exaggerating (except for obvious humor), please call me on it. I’d rather be embarrassed socially in the moment than lay the foundation for ruin later.
    • The Awokening Will Not Bring an End to the Nightmare (Musa al-Gharbi, Interfaith Youth Core) : “…the whites who seem most eager to condemn ‘ideological racism’ (i.e. people saying, thinking or feeling the ‘wrong’ things about minorities), and who are most ostentatious in demonstrating their own ‘wokeness,’ also tend to be the people who benefit the most from what sociologists describe as ‘institutional’ or ‘systemic’ racism. Consequently, the places in America with the highest concentrations of whites who are ‘with it’ also happen to be the most unequal places in the country.” The author is a sociologist at Columbia.
    • Making policy for a low-trust world (Matthew Yglesias, substack): “The correct way to respond to a low-trust environment is not to double down on proceduralism, but to commit yourself to the ‘it does exactly what it says on the tin’ principle and implement policies that have the following characteristics: It’s easy for everyone, whether they agree with you or disagree with you, to understand what it is you say you are doing. It’s easy for everyone to see whether or not you are, in fact, doing what you said you would do. It’s easy for you and your team to meet the goal of doing the thing that you said you would do.”
    • Like Preacher-Politicians Before Him, Senator Raphael Warnock Will Keep His Pulpit (Adelle Banks, Christianity Today): “ ‘It’s unusual for a pastor to get involved in something as messy as politics, but I see this as a continuation of a life of service: first as an agitator, then an advocate, and hopefully next as a legislator’” Warnock said as he was closing in on the top spot of a wide-open primary. ‘I say I’m stepping up to my next calling to serve, not stepping down from the pulpit.’ ” I did not know this history, and after reading it I am pleased to inform you that if I am elected to the US Senate I will continue to minister with Chi Alpha at Stanford.
    • The Real Problem with 4‑Letter Words (Karen Swallow Prior, Gospel Coalition): “Cursing falls into different categories. Strictly speaking, profanities are words that desacralize what is holy. Words misusing the names of God and his judgments are profane; the worst of these are blasphemy.While profanities are related to the divine, obscenities are related to the human. This category of words serves to coarsen bodily functions (whether sexual or excretory).… Another category of curse words consists of those the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker calls ‘abusive.’ ”
    • California’s Donor-Disclosure Law Threatens Religious Charities (John Bursch, Real Clear Religion): “Not once has the attorney general given a convincing reason for collecting donors’ names and addresses en masse. His office has effectively regulated charities for decades without that information. In 10 years, the attorney general only used donor lists in five out of 540 investigations. And even in those five, he could have obtained the same information through targeted subpoenas or audits, all without risking the massive disclosure of sensitive information from all registered charities.”
    • The New Strain: How Bad Is It? (Brendan Foht and Ari Schulman, The New Atlantis): “The steps that most need to be taken in response to the new strain are the same ones that should have been taken for the last year anyway, but that our government has proved largely unable or unwilling to take. An effective regime of testing, tracing, and isolating, for example, has been needed throughout the pandemic, but never really implemented.” One of the authors posted on Twitter: “In the course of working on this piece, my concern about the new Covid strain went from about a 4 to an 8.5, with the remaining 1.5 composed mostly of generalized skepticism and motivated disbelief.”

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 Pornography Makes Us Less Human and Less Humane (Matthew Lee Anderson, The Gospel Coalition): “Beneath pornography is the supposition that the mere fact of our desire for a woman makes us worthy of her. And so, not being bound by any kind of norm, desire must proceed endlessly. It is no surprise that the industrialized, cheap‐and‐easy sex of pornography has answered and evoked an almost unrestrained sexual greed, which allows us to be gods and goddesses within the safety of our own fantasies. It is for deep and important reasons that the Ten Commandments use the economic language of ‘coveting’ to describe the badness of errant sexual desires.” First shared in volume 216.

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 282

On Fridays (Saturday this week) 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. How Perfectionism Has Made the Pandemic Worse (Miles Kimball, personal blog): “I’ve noticed one regularity in how the US (and many other countries) have handled the pandemic: perfectionism has been getting in the way of a quick and powerful response. Every little bit would have helped reduce the reproduction ratio of the coronavirus, but only things that were big bits were allowed.” The author is an economist at UC Boulder.
    • Public health bodies may be talking at us, but they’re actually talking to each other (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “…when a large group acts as though a complicated problem is a no-brainer, that doesn’t mean the solution is obvious; it means something has gone badly wrong.”
    • My vaccine crackpottery: a confession (Scott Aaronson, personal blog): “I think [our failure] will be clear to future generations, who’ll write PhD theses exploring how it was possible that we invented multiple effective covid vaccines in mere days or weeks, but then simply sat on those vaccines for a year, ticking off boxes called ‘Phase I,’ ‘Phase II,’ etc. while civilization hung in the balance.” The author is a CS prof at UT Austin.
    • Small Number of Covid Patients Develop Severe Psychotic Symptoms (Pam Belluck, New York Times): “[she] had become infected with the coronavirus in the spring. She had experienced only mild physical symptoms from the virus, but, months later, she heard a voice that first told her to kill herself and then told her to kill her children.” Shared with me by a student who noted it is both interesting and freaky. This really highlights what a bullet we dodged with this pandemic — can you imagine a plague whose main effect was to make people violently psychotic? Society would end. Full-on zombie apocalypse.
  2. Rick Warren On The Year We Had (Cameron Strang, Relevant Magazine): “We have led over 16,000 people to Christ since March. We’re in revival. We’re averaging about 80 people a day coming to Christ—80 people a day.… Of those 16,000 people who have come to Christ, over 12,000 of them have come through personal, one-on-one witnessing by my members. Not led to Christ by my sermons. By one on one evangelizing.”
  3. East Africa fears second wave — of locust swarms (Navin Singh Khadka, BBC): “New swarms of desert locusts are threatening the livelihoods of millions of people in the Horn of Africa and Yemen despite a year of control efforts, the United Nations has warned.” This is the latest news concerning an article from August an alumnus recently shared with me: The Biblical locust plagues of 2020 (David Njagi, BBC): “In 2020, locusts have swarmed in large numbers in dozens of countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia, Eritrea, India, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia. When swarms affect several countries at once in very large numbers, it is known as a plague.”
  4. Why You Can’t Meet God Over Zoom (Esau McCaulley, New York Times): “The very inadequacy of church services, Zoom and otherwise, is a reminder we do not come into churches to encounter a life lesson on how to raise our children or to learn to be good Americans, whatever that means. Our aim is much more audacious. We are attempting to encounter God and, in so doing, find ourselves, possibly for the first time.” The author is a New Testament professor at Wheaton College.
    • This isn’t really a knock on McCaulley so much as an observation and a hope: many Christians who write for publications like the NYT lead with the negatives and slowly build to their point that “church isn’t so bad really and maybe someday you should check it out.” I wonder if that is a byproduct of the editorial process or if it is simply a selection effect in the sort of Christian intellectual who wants to (and is permitted to) write an op-ed for a culturally influential publication.
    • Thinking about this puts me in mind of Erica Campbell’s song I Luh God (YouTube, three minutes). It swept through our ministry a few years ago, I think because it scratched an itch in our students. Our students had dance parties to it after our worship services. She sang with confident joy: “I luh God, you don’t luh God? What’s wrong with chu?”
    • When we discuss the faith as though it were a series of syllogisms we’re being foolish. People’s questions need answers, certainly. But all the answers in the world will do no good if, at some level, people don’t hope Christianity is true. We must kindle hope before we go to the trouble of overcoming objections to hope.
    • I say all that to say this: if you ever write an op-ed for the New York Times, do apologetics without being apologetic. Bring as much joy to it as you can and let your writing be filled with winsome confidence. We need a whole flock of Christian intellectuals with the swagger of a G.K. Chesterton.
  5. Higher Education Risks No Longer Being Worth It – Here’s How to Change Course (Christos Makridis, Quillette): “For all the talk about racial equity in colleges, you would think that faculty would be working with local small business owners, especially minorities, to mentor and equip them to drive greater profitability and impact. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry.
  6. The Church Needs Prophets, But It Wants Lawyers (David French, The Dispatch): “American Christian culture is rife with congregants looking for lawyers, not prophets and not pastors. The church-shopping phenomenon puts us in churches that make us feel quite comfortable, and the sheer number of available congregations (especially in the South and parts of the Midwest) makes us quite mobile.”
    • I almost didn’t share this one because I thought it was more useful for ministry leaders, but after I had mentally deep-sixed it a student emailed me and said: “I think it could be useful for Christians who find themselves frustrated by and unable to support blanket criticism of the church and of organized religion from the left, but also dissatisfied by responses from the right that frame any criticism as part of a culture war and trivialize issues within the church as just a few bad examples. I think for me it also was helpful in thinking of how I might respond to non-Christians when these kinds of criticisms come up in conversation and how I can be both defend Christianity and the good parts of the church while acknowledging continued brokenness and need for improvement. It also happened to tie in nicely with a sermon I heard on Sunday about how Christians have no problem recognizing sin as the cause of brokenness in the world but often point to the sins of others, whether of peers, leaders, or past generations, instead of their own sin as the cause of that brokenness. In that sense I think it both helped me think about how to process the failings of prominent Christians and talk about them with non-believers as well as be reminded by these failings to remember that beyond defending the church, my response as an individual should also be to identify and root out sin in my own life even when the damage is not as obvious to my community.”
  7. WHAT HAPPENS ON JANUARY 6th (Ben Sasse, Facebook): “There is some voter fraud every election cycle – and the media flatly declaring from on high that ‘there is no fraud!’ has made things worse. It has heightened public distrust, because there are, in fact, documented cases of voter fraud every election cycle. But the crucial questions are: (A) What evidence do we have of fraud? and (B) Does that evidence support the belief in fraud on a scale so significant that it could have changed the outcome? We have little evidence of fraud, and what evidence we do have does not come anywhere close to adding up to a different winner of the presidential election.”
    • Sasse is one of the Nebraska senators and is also a former seminary president. Missouri senator Josh Hawley, who this seems to be aimed at, is also an outspoken believer on Capitol Hill. Hawley, incidentally, did his undergrad at Stanford. He graduated the year we were launching Chi Alpha, so our paths have never crossed.
    • Hawley doesn’t have a statement as comprehensive as Sasse’s, but here is an excerpt from his press release: “I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws. And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden.”
    • I generally avoid political posts like this because I find the minutia of politics uninteresting. In this case, the fact that two evangelicals who are normally political allies are having a substantive and public disagreement intrigues me.

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 Real Problem at Yale Is Not Free Speech (Natalia Dashan, Palladium): “The campus ‘free speech’ debate is just a side‐effect. So are debates about ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion.’ The real problems run much deeper. The real problems start with Marcus and me, and the masks we wear for each other…. In a world of masks and façades, it is hard to convey the truth. And this is how I ended up offering a sandwich to a man with hundreds of millions in a foreign bank account.” I liked this one a lot. First shared in volume 215.

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 279

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. Blows to volleyball star Hayley Hodson’s head changed her life (Patrick Hruby, LA Times): “The family did not trust Stanford. School doctors, Hodson says, had diagnosed her foot pain as inflammation and told her that she wasn’t risking further injury by playing. Medical records show that an independent doctor subsequently reviewed MRI scans taken by Stanford and determined she had a stress fracture.” Hayley was a student in Chi Alpha.
  2. My White Privilege Didn’t Save Me. But God Did (Edie Wyatt, Quillette): “Not long after, I walked into a suburban Baptist church, full of strange, unfashionably dressed, conservative Christians. I was a Marxist, a feminist, foul-mouthed, a chain-smoker, and desperate. The love I received in that place is the reason that I will defend the rights of fundamentalist Christians to my dying breath.” This is amazing. If you only read one thing this week, make it this one. Reminder: titles are rarely chosen by the author and often do not reflect the essence of an article.
  3. A pastor’s life depends on a coronavirus vaccine. Now he faces skeptics in his church. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “Before the pandemic, the 45-year-old minister, who normally leads nearly 2,000 people, would stand by the entrance to shake hands and offer hugs. Now, before services, he stays secluded in a room offstage until it is time to preach while an armed church member who works for Homeland Security watches the door.”
  4. Americans’ Mental Health Ratings Sink to New Low (Megan Brenan, Gallup): “Although the majority of U.S. adults continue to rate their mental health as excellent (34%) or good (42%), and far fewer say it is only fair (18%) or poor (5%), the latest excellent ratings are eight points lower than Gallup has measured in any prior year.” 
    • Recommended by a student because of one very interesting statistic: the only group that showed an increase in mental health was weekly churchgoers (the weekly part matters — monthly churchgoers experienced a decline). I looked at the more detailed PDF and it was unclear to me how they asked about church attendance, and of course it is impossible to identify causation from a survey like this.
    • I found this comment by an economist on Twitter funny: “This is absolutely the least surprising thing ever. Church folks are like, “The pandemic sucks, but my church did these 57 things and I’m overwhelmed with people trying to find ways to support during these times.” Everybody else is like, ‘I’M SO ALONE’” 
  5. The Rise and Fall of Carl Lentz, the Celebrity Pastor of Hillsong Church (Ruth Graham, New York Times): “Soon the church’s cultural cachet grew outside Christian circles. ‘I knew people who came to church not because they were Christians but because they thought Carl was hot,’ said Heather McClanahan, who worked for the church in 2014 and 2015.”
    • The Crisis of Christian Celebrity (David French, The Dispatch): “The way I’ve put it in speeches to young Christians is simply this, ‘Make the easy choice so you don’t have to make the hard choice.’ Saying no to the extra drink is much easier than halting a drunken flirtation.”
  6. Prominent evangelicals are directing Trump’s sinking ship. That feeds doubts about religion. (Michael Gerson, Washington Post): “When prominent Christians affirm absurd political lies with religious fervor, nonbelievers have every reason to think: ‘Maybe Christians are prone to swallowing absurd religious lies as well. Maybe they are simply credulous about everything.’ If we should encounter someone who believes — honestly and adamantly believes — in both the existence of the Easter Bunny and in the resurrection of Christ, it would naturally raise questions about the quality of his or her believing faculties.”
  7. The coming war on the hidden algorithms that trap people in poverty (Karen Hao, MIT Technology Review): Not until they were standing in the courtroom in the middle of a hearing did the witness representing the state reveal that the government had just adopted a new algorithm. The witness, a nurse, couldn’t explain anything about it. “Of course not—they bought it off the shelf,” Gilman says. “She’s a nurse, not a computer scientist. She couldn’t answer what factors go into it. How is it weighted? What are the outcomes that you’re looking for? So there I am with my student attorney, who’s in my clinic with me, and it’s like, ‘Oh, am I going to cross-examine an algorithm?’”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

QI’s Gift-Wrapping Life Hack! (QI, YouTube): mind blown in less than three minutes

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Tourist Journalism Versus the Working Class (Kevin Mims, Quillette): “To university‐educated media professionals like Carole Cadwalladr, James Bloodworth, and John Oliver, an Amazon warehouse must seem like the Black Hole of Calcutta. But I’ve done low‐paying manual labor for most of my working life, and rarely have I appreciated a job as much as my role as an Amazon associate.” I learned many things from this article. First shared in volume 212, with a follow-up shared the next week: How (and Why) to KISSASS (Kevin Mims, Quillette): “…if you’re not a member of the professional class, the key to getting your personal essays published in prominent publications is KISSASS—Keep It Short, Sad, And Simple, Stupid.”

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 274

I’d be happy that this is the last week I’ll share “how to think about voting” articles, except next week I’ll have to share election thinkpieces.

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. White Christian America built a faith-based safety net. What happens when it’s gone? (Bob Smietana, Religion News Service): “‘The average American doesn’t realize all the things that churches do to make society less awful,’ [professor Burge] said. Churches and other religious groups tutor kids, feed hungry people, shelter the homeless and do a great deal of good, often under the radar, he said. As religious groups shrink, those services could be lost. Burge fears younger Americans, in particular, don’t see organized religion as useful. But ‘it’s one of those things where you don’t know what you had till it is gone.’”
  2. The Sins That Cry Out to Heaven (Eduardo Andino, First Things): “The Christian tradition speaks of four peccata clamantia, or sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance: murder, sodomy, oppression of the poor, and defrauding workers of their wages…. This is not an arbitrary collection of sins.”
  3. Voting & Faith
    • Meet the Evangelicals Who Won’t Vote for Trump, Biden, or Anybody at All (Megan Fowler, Christianity Today): “Like many Christian nonvoters before her, she saw the act of casting a ballot as a sign of approval for a political power structure that in many ways opposed the way of Christ. She couldn’t do it. If Jesus brought about his kingdom by laying down his rights and spurning political power, Kennedy wanted to follow his example.”
    • Of Course Evangelicals Should Vote for Trump (Paula White-Cain, Christianity Today): “I’ve seen [Donald Trump] firsthand as a father, a husband, a leader, a businessman and now the President of the United States of America. I also recognize most people have secondhand information that mischaracterizes the man I know.”
    • The Christian Case for Joe Biden (Josh Dickson, Christianity Today): “As the National Faith Engagement Director for the Biden Campaign, I spend my days talking to people of faith about why I believe Joe is the clear moral choice in this election. But I haven’t always been a Democrat. Like many Christians, I grew up Republican.”
    • A Tale of Two Evangelicalisms (Joel Halldorf, Breaking Ground): “In the story of Swedish modernity, the democratic welfare state transformed an unjust and elitist society into a more just one. But the founding myth of United States is not a story about freedom through the state, but freedom from the state.”
  4. On the media:
    • What Do Foreign Correspondents Think of the U.S.? (The New Yorker, YouTube): thirteen minutes. I found the first half more interesting than the last half. It picked back up in the last two minutes.
    • What I Wish My Christian Friends Knew About the News Media (Rob Vaughn, Religion Unplugged): “Are my friends wrong to see the mainstream media as rotten and ridden with ‘fake news’? Yes. At least in significant ways, they have that wrong. Sure, we make mistakes. We have blind spots and faulty assumptions. But many of the criticisms are off the mark: they misunderstand what journalism is about; they feed a growing sense that there is no agreed upon reality and set of facts to which we can all refer; and, as a Christian I fear they reflect poorly on people who say they love the truth.”
    • My Resignation From The Intercept (Glenn Greenwald, Substack): “Today I sent my intention to resign from The Intercept, the news outlet I co-founded in 2013 with Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, as well as from its parent company First Look Media. The final, precipitating cause is that The Intercept’s editors, in violation of my contractual right of editorial freedom, censored an article I wrote this week, refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all New-York-based Intercept editors involved in this effort at suppression.” This is sad. 
    • How The Intercept Abandoned Its Truth-Seeking Mission—And Lost Its Best Journalist (Zaid Jilani, Quillette): “Greenwald is a controversial figure, but my sense of him is that he’s extremely principled. Although he’s unabashedly a man of the liberal-Left—having spent years advocating for left-wing causes from animal rights to anti-war activism—he has developed an impressive (some would call it inflexible) commitment to what he sees as basic fairness. He doesn’t care about the letter next to a politician’s name: Greenwald believes everyone in power should be held accountable at all times.”
    • Two Religion Reporters Cover Where Faith and Politics Meet (Will Dudding, New York Times): “I think [religion and politics] seem inseparable partly because it’s election season, and as journalists we tend to view things through that lens ourselves. For ordinary believers, the connection is not always so clear. Some people clearly draw a connection between their faith and their views on national politics; others definitely don’t. I try to keep that in mind as a reporter and not force every story into a political frame.”
  5. Lots of Overnight Tragedies, No Overnight Miracles (Morgan Housel, The Collaborative Fund): “An important thing that explains a lot of things is that good news takes time but bad news happens instantly.” Recommended by the parent of an alumnus.
  6. Americans Have Lost Sight of What ‘Fascism’ Means (Shadi Hamid, The Atlantic): “Words matter because they help order our understanding of politics both at home and abroad. If Cotton is a fascist, then we don’t know what fascism is. And if we don’t know what fascism is, then we will struggle to identify it when it threatens millions of lives—which is precisely what is happening today in areas under Beijing’s control.” Recommended by a student.
  7. The man who wants to help you out of debt – at any cost (J Oliver Conroy, The Guardian): “Ramsey has made clear that he regards people like me as over-educated, pencil-necked idiots. From a financial point of view, I am in some ways his worst nightmare. I have more than $80,000 in student debt, most of it from a master’s degree in journalism. I work at a famously liberal newspaper whose columnists like to advocate for all the sorts of bleeding-heart economic policies he hates.” I’m always fascinated by newspaper articles about high-profile Christians. 

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 From Midwest Drug Dealer to The Farm: Jason Spyres Shares His Inspiring Story (Yasmin Samrai, Stanford Review): “To justify his criminal behaviour, he told himself that though selling pot was illegal, it wasn’t immoral. This theory came crashing down when two gangs broke into his house, split his head open, and robbed him. When Spyres discovered that the burglars had nearly mistaken his house for his neighbor’s, he realized that selling drugs put other people’s safety in jeopardy. ‘I was shocked and sickened with myself,’ he recalled. ‘I was part of a black market and my actions had unintended consequences.’” What a wild story. First shared in volume 204.

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 261

Links to some encouraging stories, some horrifying stories, and some confusing stories. Because it be like that sometimes.

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. How I Rediscovered Faith (Malcolm Gladwell, Relevant Magazine): “I have always believed in God. I have grasped the logic of Christian faith. What I have had a hard time seeing is God’s power. I put that sentence in the past tense because something happened to me…” Shared with me by a student.
  2. Sweden, Which Never Had Lockdown, Sees COVID-19 Cases Plummet as Rest of Europe Suffers Spike (Soo Kim, Newsweek): “Amid fears over a potential second wave of the novel coronavirus across Europe, new infections in Sweden, where full lockdown measures were not implemented, have mostly declined since late June…. Meanwhile, other parts of Europe have reported large spikes in new cases over the same period, including Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands, which have seen increases between 40 and 200 percent over the last month, according to the latest WHO report Wednesday.” Huh. Reality is complicated and that’s why they make getting a PhD so arduous. 
  3. John Roberts: Inside his surprising streak of liberal wins (Joan Biskupic, CNN): “…CNN offers a rare glimpse behind the scenes at how justices on the Roberts court asserted their interests, forged coalitions and navigated political pressure and the coronavirus pandemic. The justices’ opinions are public, but their deliberations are private and usually remain secret.”
  4. Harvard Creates Managers Instead of Elites (Saffron Huang, Palladium Magazine): “At Harvard, the implicit signal we receive every day is that everything requires a manager. Our extracurriculars, despite varying club names, mostly revolve around administrative work and sending emails. Emails soliciting donations, emails inviting speakers to a conference, emails publicizing your magazine launch with ‘FREE DONUTS’ dominating the subject line. Granted, execution of mundane tasks is necessary for real work to be done. The skills of subtly bumping an unresponsive teammate, deftly achieving a friendly-but-professional tone, and creating Excel files worthy of a UI/UX designer will serve you well in corporate life…. Very few clubs create a generative and imaginative vision for your future self at work, or for what you should be working on. Although this is the stated purpose of a Harvard liberal arts education, campus culture has elevated managerialism above creation…. The result is a class that excels at being judged and excels at managing and executing defined tasks.” Quite interesting and very relevant to Stanford.
  5. The Supreme Court’s surprising decision on churches and the pandemic, explained (Ian Millhiser, Vox): “Unlike his fellow Republican justices, in other words, Roberts appears to believe that courts have a particularly strong duty to defer to democratically accountable officials during an historic public health crisis.” I found this analysis of Robert’s vote quite interesting. 
    • Obeying God Rather than Men? A Constitutional Scholar on What’s Really a Religious Liberty Issue (Ed Stetzer interviewing John Inazu, Christianity Today): “Be people of hope who are known for putting the interests of others above your own. Lament the costs of this virus to human life, mental health, and material well-being. Lament our inability to gather for worship. Pray for the end of this virus. But in the meantime, love your neighbors and seek the peace of the city, even if it feels costly.”
    • We Can’t Roll the Dice on Religious Liberty: Nevada, the Supreme Court, and Churches (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “Nevada won the injunction battle, but churches need to help the state back up and make the right choice. This is the line that every mainstream evangelical group said they would draw, and it has now been crossed.”
    • Christ, not Caesar, Is Head of the Church (John MacArthur, Grace To You): “History is full of painful reminders that government power is easily and frequently abused for evil purposes. Politicians may manipulate statistics and the media can cover up or camouflage inconvenient truths. So a discerning church cannot passively or automatically comply if the government orders a shutdown of congregational meetings—even if the reason given is a concern for public health and safety.”
    • A Time for Civil Disobedience? A Response to Grace Community Church’s Elders (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “We understand that we are not ancient Israel. And though in one sense all space is sacred for a Christian because all space is under Christ’s lordship, in another sense no space is sacred, at least in a Temple-like way; and the government’s authority also extends everywhere inside its borders.”
    • Further Reflections on Recent Conversations about Christian Freedom (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “…my article and our podcast tried to do one simple thing: remind fellow believers—as we all venture forward on our politically tumultuous landscape—of the crucial role of Christian freedom when we take these kinds of stances. On this and so many other issues, believers will come to different conclusions about the best path to take. And for the sake of maintaining unity, the unique authority of Scripture, and the gospel, we need to keep training our instincts to have a quick grasp for what belongs in the realm of freedom and what does not.”
    • Our Galvanizing Grandfather (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “Suffice it to say that the civil government does have legitimate authority around sacred things (circa sacra), but no authority whatever in sacred things (in sacris). And when the government abuses this basic distinction willy nilly, as our governments have been doing in their overt and discriminatory treatment of the church, it is time for the leadership of the church to take a stand. So with all of that running in the background, my purpose here this morning is simply to honor John MacArthur for his leadership in this.”
  6. Interview: Journalist Michael Tracey on Riots & Protests (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “…the divergence in opinion — between local black and minority populations about the ethical implications of the riots, and the activists/journalists who claim to speak on their behalf — is striking.”
  7. Are Christians Forbidden to Eat Blood? (David Closson, Gospel Coalition): “We can learn at least two things from the Jerusalem Council. First, on matters pertaining to the gospel, there is no room for compromise. The apostles and elders were firm and swift in their denunciation of those who sought to add works to the gospel. Salvation is by faith alone through grace alone; human effort is excluded. Second, grace should be extended for differences that aren’t central to the gospel.” People dunked on this article, but it’s good and deals with an important question that will occur to any Bible reader. 

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 Eat, Pray, Code: Rule of St. Benedict Becomes Tech Developer’s Community Guidelines (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “SQLite—a database management engine used in most major browsers, smart phones, Adobe products, and Skype—adopted a code of ethics pulled directly from the biblical precepts set by the venerated sixth‐century monk.” This article blew my mind. First shared in volume 175.

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 259

This week contains some of the most fascinating articles I ever have passed along. Definitely worth skimming!

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. Fertility rate: ‘Jaw-dropping’ global crash in children being born (James Gallagher, BBC): “China, currently the most populous nation in the world, is expected to peak at 1.4 billion in four years’ time before nearly halving to 732 million by 2100. India will take its place.” From a long-term perspective, this is possibly the most significant news you will read this year. Some of you will still be alive when China’s population is half what it is now. And it’s not just China — many nations are on the same path (with only a few sizable ones headed in the opposite direction).
  2. The Coronavirus and the Right’s Scientific Counterrevolution (Ari Schulman, The New Republic): “That so many views tut-tutted as the irrational defiance of expert consensus actually became the expert consensus in the span of just a few weeks vividly suggests that we need to reexamine just how our culture talks about expertise. The problem is not mainly that the experts were wrong—that is to be expected. It is, rather, that our lead institutions and public information outlets continually treated the assurances of experts as neutral interpretations of settled science when they plainly were not.” Interesting throughout. This will likely enter my rotation of classics that I repost from time to time. 
    • Related: An Open Letter To My Fellow Christians (David Carreon, personal blog): “Large gatherings are dangerous with a spreading virus regardless of the reason for the assembly. Some resist the straightforward response to this out of idolatry of church attendance and the church building. Any good thing can become an idol. Gold is good but can be shaped into a golden calf (Exo 32:4). Sex is good but can we can also pervert it through fornication (1 Cor 6:9). A church building or even physical attendance at church can be mistaken for the Church itself. This, too, is idolatry.” David is a Stanford psychiatrist (and a friend of mine)
    • Related: Andy Stanley Explains Why His Megachurch Won’t Gather on Sundays Until 2021 (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “Here is where I think the church needs to think about this: As a local church, we have limited time, limited staff, and limited resources; it makes no sense to focus our staff time and resources on creating a subpar environment on Sunday morning for a nine and 11 o’clock service that only 20% of the people may attend. We decided to focus on the 100% of all of our church folks and their friends and the rest of the world that may show up later.“
  3. David Shor’s Unified Theory of the 2020 Election (Eric Levitz, New York Magazine): “Campaigns do want to win. But the people who work in campaigns tend to be highly ideologically motivated and thus, super-prone to convincing themselves to do things that are strategically dumb.” Super interesting — well worth reading.
  4. Disturbing video shows hundreds of blindfolded prisoners in Xinjiang (Matt Rivers, Max Foster and James Griffiths, CNN): “The video — which was posted online anonymously last week — shows hundreds of men, most of whom are dressed in purple and orange vests with the words ‘Kashgar Detention Center’ printed on them, seated in rows on the ground of what appears to be a large courtyard outside a train station. Their heads are shaved and their hands bound behind their backs. All of the men are wearing black blindfolds over their eyes and they are being watched over by dozens of police officers in SWAT uniforms.”’
    • Related: China cuts Uighur births with IUDs, abortion, sterilization (Associated Press): “While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor. The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of ‘demographic genocide.’”
  5. Sit With Negative Emotions, Don’t Push Them Away (Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic): “In sum, if we want a life full of deep meaning, true love, and emotional strength, it’s going to involve the risk (and often the reality) of discomfort, conflict, and loss. This means there will be sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. If we eliminate negative emotions and experiences from our lives, we will be poorer and weaker for having done so.” The author is a professor at Harvard, recommended by a friend.
  6. 10 Theses About Cancel Culture (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “The point of cancellation is ultimately to establish norms for the majority, not to bring the stars back down to earth…. The goal isn’t to punish everyone, or even very many someones; it’s to shame or scare just enough people to make the rest conform.”
    • The Willful Blindness of Reactionary Liberalism (Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic): “The tensions we’ve seen lately have been internal to liberalism for ages: between those who take the associative nature of liberal society seriously and those who are determined not to. It is the former group, the defenders of progressive identity politics, who in fact are protecting—indeed expanding—the bounds of liberalism. And it is the latter group, the reactionaries, who are most guilty of the illiberalism they claim has overtaken the American Left.” Written before the letter I shared last week, this is one of the best defenses of cancel culture.
    • The World That Twitter Made (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “I suspect an entire class of pundits has internalized the idea that [Twitter debate] is what public discussion is. Of course they don’t believe in free expression, civil debate, the spirit of liberalism, and all of that jazz. To this generation those things are just words. The public sphere they have known has always been a bare-knuckle brawl.”
    • Resignation Letter (Bari Weiss, personal website): “What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome.” Recommended by a student.
    • See You Next Friday (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “What has happened, I think, is relatively simple: A critical mass of the staff and management at New York Magazine and Vox Media no longer want to associate with me, and, in a time of ever tightening budgets, I’m a luxury item they don’t want to afford. And that’s entirely their prerogative.”
    • Illusion and Agreement in the Debate over Intolerance (Justin Weinberg, Daily Nous): “In short, I don’t think society has gotten more intolerant, but technology has facilitated, among other things, the expression of intolerance.”
    • A More Specific Letter on Justice and Open Debate (many authors, The Objective): “In truth, Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ people — particularly Black and trans people — can now critique elites publicly and hold them accountable socially; this seems to be the letter’s greatest concern. What’s perhaps even more grating to many of the signatories is that a critique of their long held views is persuasive.”
    • Liked tweets nearly cost me my university job (Mike McCulloch, Unherd): “To think that I could have lost my career to a single complaint about my liked tweets shows just how hysterical the present social mood is. Now more than ever, it is vital that we — and in particular the universities — stand up for enlightenment principles and replace fear with reason and fact.” The author is a math lecturer (similar to an assistant professor in the US) at the University of Plymouth. 
    • A Declaration of Independence by a Princeton Professor (Joshua T. Katz, Quillette): “I am friends with many people who signed the Princeton letter, which requests and in some places demands a dizzying array of changes, and I support their right to speak as they see fit. But I am embarrassed for them.” 
    • Attempted Putsch At Princeton (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I am a Princeton professor who signed the letter that you wrote about today. I am also a devout Christian and a daily reader of your blog.” Contains a letter from a Princeton prof with a different view than the one above, worth contrasting.
  7. My Time in Prison (George Cardinal Pell, First Things): “There is a lot of goodness in prisons. At times, I am sure, prisons may be hell on earth. I was fortunate to be kept safe and treated well. I was impressed by the professionalism of the warders, the faith of the prisoners, and the existence of a moral sense even in the darkest places.”

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 the State Serves Both Salvation and Religious Freedom (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “Two basic kinds of governments, then, show up in the Bible: those that shelter God’s people, and those that destroy them. Abimelech sheltered; Pharoah destroyed. The Assyrians destroyed; the Babylonians and Persians, ultimately, sheltered. Pilate destroyed; Festus sheltered. And depending on how you read Revelation, the history of government will culminate in a beastly slaughter of saintly blood. Romans 13 calls governments servants; Psalm 2 calls them imposters. Most governments contain both. But some are better than others.” First shared in volume 165

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 258

Is 650 a lot? it depends. Pennies? No. Murders? Yes. Coronavirus cases? Depends on where they spread.

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. Churches Emerge as Major Source of Coronavirus Cases (Kate Conger, Jack Healy and Lucy Tompkins, New York Times): “More than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, with many of them erupting over the last month as Americans resumed their pre-pandemic activities, according to a New York Times database.” 
    • Are Churches “A Major Source of Coronavirus Cases?” (Tim Challies, personal blog): “If I have $3,000,000 in the bank and you give me another $650, you’d hardly be in the position to claim that you had made a major contribution to my wealth. Similarly, adding 650 cases to America’s total caseload of 3 million is no more than a blip that leaves 99.98% attributable to other causes.”
    • Churches, Coronavirus, and the New York Times (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “It is strange (at best) to use words like ‘major’ and ‘erupted’ when describing 650 cases. On that point, the headline is misleading. Having 650 cases in my county might be news, but 650 nationally out of three million cases is a headline looking for a story. The real story is this: churches are gathering and remarkably few infections are taking place.”
  2. America’s Racial Progress (David French, National Review): “There are two things that I believe to be true. First, that America has a long history of brutal and shameful mistreatment of racial minorities — with black Americans its chief victims. And second, that America is a great nation, and that American citizens (and citizens of the world) should be grateful for its founding. Perhaps no nation has done more good for more people than the United States. It was and is a beacon of liberty and prosperity in a world long awash in tyranny and poverty.”
  3. A Letter on Justice and Open Debate (many signatories, Harpers): “The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other.”
    • Prominent Artists and Writers Warn of an ‘Intolerant Climate’ (Jennifer Schuessler and Elizabeth A. Harris, New York Times): “‘We’re not just a bunch of old white guys sitting around writing this letter,’ Mr. Williams, who is African-American, said. ‘It includes plenty of Black thinkers, Muslim thinkers, Jewish thinkers, people who are trans and gay, old and young, right wing and left wing.’”
    • ending the charade (Freddie deBoer, personal blog): “Please, think for a minute and consider: what does it say when a completely generic endorsement of free speech and open debate is in and of itself immediately diagnosed as anti-progressive, as anti-left?”(emphasis in original)
  4. Lazarus Chakwera: Malawi’s president who ‘argued with God’ (BBC): “In the unmistakable cadence of a preacher, Malawi’s new President, Lazarus Chakwera, appealed for unity in his country shortly after he was sworn in on Sunday. The day of the week seemed fitting as the former head of the Malawi Assemblies of God, one of the largest Christian denominations in the country, treated the stage like a pulpit to inspire fervour with his words.”
  5. Slate Star Codex and Silicon Valley’s War Against the Media (Gideon Lewis-Kraus, New Yorker): “The division between the Grey and Blue tribes is often rendered in the simplistic terms of a demographic encounter between white, nerdily entitled men in hoodies on one side and diverse, effete, artistic snobs on the other.” Interesting throughout. 
  6. Christianity’s Covert Success (Mark Tooley, Providence) “I quote an Indian professor who says that Christianity proceeds in two ways, through conversion—which is obvious, that’s how people tend to think Christianity precedes—but he then says, through secularization. And I think he’s absolutely right. And I think that the assumption of people in the West that the secular is somehow neutral, that if you’re secular, you’ve somehow escaped the bounds of cultural contingency, couldn’t be more wrong.”
  7. On Religion, the Supreme Court Protects the Right to Be Different (Michael McConnell, New York Times): “The court may be political, but its politics is of the middle, and of a particular kind of middle, one that is committed to pluralism and difference rather than to the advancement of particular moral stances.” The author is a Stanford law prof.

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 Planet of Cops (Freddie de Boer, personal blog): “The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats. Go to any space concerned with social justice and what will you find? Endless surveillance. Everybody is to be judged. Everyone is under suspicion. Everything you say is to be scoured, picked over, analyzed for any possible offense. Everyone’s a detective in the Division of Problematics, and they walk the beat 24/7…. I don’t know how people can simultaneously talk about prison abolition and restoring the idea of forgiveness to literal criminal justice and at the same time turn the entire social world into a kangaroo court system.” First shared in volume 161.

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 257

a shorter collection of links than those I’ve shared recently

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. Stop Firing the Innocent (Yascha Mounk, The Atlantic): “Cafferty was punished for an offense he insists he did not commit. Shor was punished for doing something that most wouldn’t even consider objectionable. Wadi was punished for the sins of his daughter. What all of these rather different cases have in common is that none of the people who were deprived of a livelihood in the name of fighting racism appear to have been guilty of actually perpetuating racism.” The author is a political science professor at Johns Hopkins. 
    • This is an essential follow-up: punishing the innocent (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “…for those who want to effect social change by exposure and shaming, punishing the innocent is a feature of their system, not a bug. It increases fear, which increases discipline, not only of oneself but of others. And every employer who fires an employee because they’re afraid of a social-media mob draws us closer to a fully Panoptic society, a social tyranny with an efficiency beyond the dreams of totalitarian societies of the past.” This reminds me of the classic post Planet of Cops by Freddy deBoer.
  2. The Minneapolis street corner where George Floyd was killed has become a Christian revivalist site. (Ruth Graham, Slate): “‘I would describe this as revival and awakening,’ said Joshua Giles, a local pastor who has been coming to the site to pray and preach for several weeks. Giles, who is Black, said he has taken part in conversions and spontaneous baptisms there, and that at least one woman had been miraculously healed of persistent pain in her arm.”
    • I found the way Graham framed one minister’s criticism of the Black Lives Matter organization interesting. I don’t think it’s an unusual perspective — it was presented on Tuesday by sports anchor (and Columbia grad) Marcellus Wiley: https://twitter.com/SFY/status/1278064470435090438 (three minute video)
    • It’s also interesting to compare Worshippers Continue ‘Unity Revival’ at George Floyd Memorial Despite Pushback (Taylor Berglund, Charisma News). The reports largely align, I’m just fascinated by how reporters’ interests and contexts shape the questions they ask and the answers they emphasize. I am pretty sure both reporters are Christian, although I suspect they gravitate to different churches.
  3. Is Tim Scott the Most Influential Legislator in Congress? (Declan Garvey, The Dispatch): “To Scott, his blackness and his partisan affiliation makes perfect sense: He’s lived the American dream, rising from poverty to build a series of successful businesses. He’s a devout Christian committed to the preservation of religious liberty. But to interlopers projecting their own experiences and beliefs onto him, two of his three core identities are in direct contradiction with one another. Leaning too hard into one elicits accusations of being traitorous to the other.’” Utterly fascinating.
  4. How a Great Power Falls Apart (Charles King, Foreign Affairs): “Faced with a series of external shocks and internal crises, and pursued by more dynamic and adaptable competitors abroad, his country had far less life in it than anyone at the time could see. All countries end. Every society has its own rock bottom, obscured by darkness until impact is imminent. Already in the sixth century, Amalrik wrote, goats were grazing in the Roman Forum.” The author is an international relations Professor at Georgetown. Relevant for both America and China.
  5. Pastors on Social Media (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “… you are wrestling against principalities and powers, and those powers have keen eyes for your desire for a bigger audience and your church members’ affinity for other forms of social reinforcement. They want you to believe that other forms of wisdom are more reliable than God’s Word, other audiences more important than your humble congregation, other platforms more powerful for speaking, other kinds of impact you can make more lasting and significant. The second you begin to believe these things you have begun to compromise your calling as a pastor.” This is a fire hydrant of wisdom, and most of it is relevant to everyone.
  6. On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare (Mike Shellenberger, Quillette): “Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem. I may seem like a strange person to be saying all of this. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30.”
    • The author’s book is currently the #1 best seller in environmental science on Amazon. This article was originally published on Forbes (where he is a regular contributor) but they took it down in the ensuing controversy. Undeniably interesting. I don’t have expertise in this area, so if he’s wrong please point me to any better pieces you know of.
  7. The Ghost of Woodrow Wilson (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…unless the endgame of New Haven’s removal of Columbus is the expropriation of white property (Yale’s property, I suppose, especially) and its redistribution to the Pequots and Mohegans, then a consistent rejection of Columbus’s legacy isn’t what my city is embracing. Instead, it’s just doing the same thing as Princeton: keeping the inheritance, but repudiating the benefactor. Keeping the gains, but making a big show of pronouncing them ill gotten.”

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 Are Satanists of the MS‐13 gang an under‐covered story on the religion beat? (Julia Duin, GetReligion): this is a fascinating bit of news commentary. My favorite bit: “How does one get out of MS‐13? An opinion piece in the New York Times this past April gives a surprising response: Go to a Pentecostal church.” Highly recommended. First shared in volume 158.

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 251

Concerning the benefits of religion, the virtue of intellectual humility, perspectives on the pandemic, the global strategy of the Chinese Communist Party, and an unsettling account of governmental surveillance.

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. Religious services may lower risk of ‘deaths of despair’ (Chris Sweeney, Harvard Gazette): “After adjusting for numerous variables, the study showed that women who attended services at least once per week had a 68 percent lower risk of death from despair compared to those never attending services. Men who attended services at least once per week had a 33 percent lower risk of death from despair.” Those are HUGE reductions!
  2. Pandemic Perspectives
    • Amid the Coronavirus Crisis, a Regimen for Reëntry (Atul Gawande, The New Yorker): “But, in the face of enormous risks, American hospitals have learned how to avoid becoming sites of spread. When the time is right to lighten up on the lockdown and bring people back to work, there are wider lessons to be learned from places that never locked down in the first place.” This was quite good.
    • What African Nations Are Teaching the West About Fighting the Coronavirus (Jina Moore, The New Yorker): “Much of what Gercama encountered at the airport had been designed to prevent Ebola. Since 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan’s neighbor to the southwest, has been struggling with the disease. But local public-health officials’ quick repurposing of Ebola protocols and infrastructure impressed Gercama, as did the work of rapid-response teams, whom she twice witnessed respond to suspected coronavirus cases during the week she spent in the country.”
    • A Spectacularly Bad Washington Post Story on Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification Project (John Gruber, blog): “A Washington Post story today on Apple and Google’s joint effort on COVID-19 exposure notification project, from reporters Reed Albergotti and Drew Harwell, is the worst story I’ve seen in the Post in memory. It’s so atrociously bad — factually wrong and one-sided in opinion — that it should be retracted.” Ouch. Gruber backs it up. 
    • Coronavirus Crisis: Ron DeSantis Got Florida’s COVID-19 Strategy Right (Rich Lowry, National Review): “A couple of months ago, the media, almost as one, decided that Governor Ron DeSantis was a public menace who was going to get Floridians killed with his lax response to the coronavirus crisis…. The conventional wisdom has begun to change about Florida, as the disaster so widely predicted hasn’t materialized.”
    • As more states reopen, Georgia defies predictions of coronavirus resurgence. What’s the lesson for the rest of the country? (Andrew Romano, Yahoo News): “That’s the balance reopening needs to strike if it’s going to work: fewer official restrictions in exchange for more individual and community responsibility.”
    • A contrary perspective: It Sure Seems Like Florida And Georgia Lied About Their Infection Rates (Luis Prada, Cracked): “Florida and Georgia are petulant, entitled quarantine protesters embodied as states. Since this all started, both states have been frantically searching for an excuse to end their quarantines as fast as possible and get back to life as usual despite a rampaging virus that’s killing people.”
    • Mississippi church destroyed by arson was suing city over safer-at-home order (Arianna Poindexter, WLBT TV): “A Mississippi church at the center of an arson investigation is the same church currently in a battle with city leaders over a COVID-19 safer-at-home order. First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs was destroyed by what investigators believe is an arsonist. Investigators found graffiti on pavement in the church parking lot that reads, ‘Bet you stay home now you hypokrits (sic).’” 
    • Meet the ‘Gang Pastor’ Behind Cape Town’s Viral Coronavirus Cooperation (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “We regularly stop while we are working to invite people to follow Jesus. I’ve lost track, but maybe 5,000 to 10,000 have told us they’ve repented and are turning to follow Jesus. But I don’t call this success, it is just a small piece in the overall cause of what we Christians are called to do.”
    • Donald Trump Doesn’t Want Authority (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Great men and bad men alike seek attention as a means of getting power, but our president is interested in power only as a means of getting attention.”
  3. Uncertainty (Howard Marks, Oaktree Capital): “The people who are always sure are no more helpful than the people who are never sure. The real expert’s confidence is reason-based and proportional to the weight of the evidence.” Shared by an alumnus’ father.
  4. China’s Plans to Win Control of the Global Order (Tanner Greer, Tablet Magazine): “As Beijing sees it, China’s success depends on discrediting the tenets of liberal capitalism so that notions like individual freedom and constitutional democracy come to be seen as the relics of an obsolete system.” I found this piece to be very insightful.
    • Related: In China’s Crisis, Xi Sees a Crucible to Strengthen His Rule (Steven Lee Myers and Chris Buckley, New York Times): “Mr. Xi, shaped by his years of adversity as a young man, has seized on the pandemic as an opportunity in disguise — a chance to redeem the party after early mistakes let infections slip out of control, and to rally national pride in the face of international ire over those mistakes. And the state propaganda machine is aggressively backing him up, touting his leadership in fighting the pandemic.”
    • Related: Xi’s Regime Recasts China as the Good Samaritan during Pandemic (Alan Dowd, Providence): “Add it all up—the PR spin, the propaganda push, the pallets of aid, the preening—and in a very real sense, Xi Jinping’s regime is offering a new, twisted version of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In Xi’s retelling, the roadside robbers who assault the traveler later return to rescue him—and somehow expect to be hailed as heroes.”
    • An explosive summer of discontent is brewing in Hong Kong (Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post): “On Tuesday, Hong Kong authorities extended pandemic-related rules limiting public gatherings to effectively ban, for the first time, a June 4 vigil marking the anniversary of China’s massacre of student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.”
    • China Pushes for New Hong Kong Security Law (Keith Bradsher and Austin Ramzy, New York Times): “The legislative push in Beijing marks the most aggressive step by the party to exert its influence over the former British colony since it was reclaimed by China in 1997.”
    • Seriously — pray for Hong Kong.
  5. A Mississippi pastor with eight kids and no professional music background won ‘The Voice’ — and made show history (Emily Yahr, Washington Post): ““‘I’ve literally never performed. I just sing at church,’ Tilghman explained, introducing himself as a pastor. This sparked an attempt to prove who was the biggest church fan; Legend revealed his grandfather was a pastor, and Jonas one-upped him by boasting his father was a pastor.”
  6. Under the Rainbow Banner (Darel Paul, First Things): “In June 1999, President Bill Clinton declared the first national Pride Month. Twenty years later, June is as teeming with rainbows as December is with reindeer. The Pride flag flies above embassies, state capitols, and stadiums. Rainbow stripes adorn city crosswalks.”
    • In response: Queer Times (Carl Trueman, First Things): “The debate over LGBTQ issues is not a debate about sexual behavior. I suspect it is not really at this point a debate with the L, the G, or the B. It is the T and the Q that are carrying the day, and we need to understand that the debate is about the radical abolition of metaphysics and metanarratives and any notion of cultural stability that might rest thereupon.”
  7. Since I Met Edward Snowden, I’ve Never Stopped Watching My Back (Barton Gellman, The Atlantic): “Someone had taken control of my iPad, blasting through Apple’s security restrictions and acquiring the power to rewrite anything that the operating system could touch. I dropped the tablet on the seat next to me as if it were contagiou” Recommended by a student. Gripping and disturbing.

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 Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+ (Hannah Furness, The Telegraph): this is a real article. First shared in volume 151.

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 249

The vindication of a vilified missionary, thoughts about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and pandemic perspectives.

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 Missionary on Trial (Ariel Levy, The New Yorker): “According to a study published in 2017 in The American Journal for Clinical Nutrition, fourteen per cent of children treated for severe acute malnutrition at Mulago Hospital—Uganda’s best facility—died. The study notes that the over-all mortality rate in Africa for children with S.A.M. is between twenty and twenty-five per cent. During the years when Serving His Children functioned as an in-patient facility, its rate was eleven per cent.”
    • Recommended. If you want to dig deeper, last October a Ugandan television station did a twenty-minute story on this case which also discredited the missionary’s accusers. Proverbs 18:17 wins again.
    • I see a similar dynamic in some students who are feeling angst over their faith. Upon conversation, I often learn that they have been told untrue or misleading things about missions, the history of the church, and the present status of the church in the world. Always remember that critics might have motives beyond simply establishing the truth. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to them, but it does mean that you don’t treat their complaints as axioms. When this reporter flew to Uganda and talked to people on the ground she quickly learned that the internationally-accepted narrative was not right.
  2. Why We Opened a Christian University in Iraq Amid ISIS’ Genocide (Jayson Caspar, Christianity Today): “There was an unwritten understanding that the Christians would not overtly proselytize and share the gospel, but be indirect and not offend sharia law. But after ISIS and the lack of any real response from the Muslim world, Archbishop Warda says that this agreement is now finished. That as we go forward, we will no longer be shy. We are going to proclaim the gospel, proclaim the teachings of Christ, and whoever comes to us will come…. There may not be many Christians in Iraq. But as an old priest said once to me, ‘Well, remember Christ only had 12, and everyone wanted to kill them, too.’”
  3. Exquisite Scandal (Nancy Lemann, Lapham’s Quarterly): “The familiar theory at the trial was that the people of Louisiana would rather be entertained than served with ethics. Some would call this a Gallic attitude, to be blinded by charm at the expense of integrity, and indeed the culture of Louisiana is historically French Catholic. And as the Catholics might say, the fall from grace is inevitable, a mystery to be endured rather than a problem to be solved. And some in Louisiana would prefer a smart crook to an unintelligent opportunist masked as a crusader whose ambition blinds him to his own stupidity. Such a one could be just as dangerous, if not more so, than a crook.” As someone born in Louisiana, I very much enjoyed this article. 
  4. Gregory and Travis McMichael face murder charges in connection with Ahmaud Arbery case (Steve Almasy and Angela Barajas, CNN): “Two men involved in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Georgia, have been arrested and face murder and aggravated assault charges, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.”
    • It is amazing to me that it was not the video evidence that led to their arrest, but the public outcry in response to the video evidence. 
    • A Vigilante Killing in Georgia (David French, The Dispatch): “When white men grab guns and mount up to pursue and seize an unarmed black man in the street, they stand in the shoes of lynch mobs past.”
    • Thinking Christianly About the Ahmaud Arbery Lynching (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “If we are to be people who act justly and promote justice, which is that each person receives their rightful dues, then we must rightly discern what has happened in the case of Arbery. This was a lynching. It was an act that God hates. And so we must recognize that and we must call it by its name and speak out against it and against all such acts of injustice.”
    • Related in the abstract: How to Punish Voters (Josie Duffy Rice, New York Times): “It’s well known that voter suppression has taken the form of the closing of polling places, new restrictive voter ID laws, voter roll purges of thousands of eligible voters and nine-hour lines at the polls. But Ms. Pearson’s case is a reminder that it can also take the form of the aggressive prosecution of individual black voters for polling-place offenses — which in many cases appears motivated less by a sincere desire to address fraud than by a desire to intimidate.”
  5. Pandemic Perspectives
    • The Covid-19 Riddle: Why Does the Virus Wallop Some Places and Spare Others? (Hannah Beech, Alissa J. Rubin, Anatoly Kurmanaev and Ruth Maclean, New York Times): “The coronavirus has killed so many people in Iran that the country has resorted to mass burials, but in neighboring Iraq, the body count is fewer than 100. The Dominican Republic has reported nearly 7,600 cases of the virus. Just across the border, Haiti has recorded about 85.”
    • Coronavirus Could Disrupt Weather Forecasting (Henry Fountain, New York Times): “…data on temperature, wind and humidity from airplane flights, collected by sensors on the planes and transmitted in real time to forecasting organizations around the world, has been cut by nearly 90 percent in some regions.” I must confess I did not see that coming. At all. 
    • Google App Censoring Covid-19 Courses (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Google is a private entity. It has the right to control what goes out on its app platform. Whether Google is morally correct to exercise that right to suppress any unofficial pandemic information is a different question — and a very important one. Google owns YouTube — how long will they allow these courses to remain on YouTube?” These are courses by academics speaking within their areas of expertise.
    • Related: Who is Judy Mikovits in ‘Plandemic,’ the coronavirus conspiracy video just banned from social media? (Katie Shepherd, Washington Post): “The film is so questionable that social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo on Thursday scrubbed it from their sites. A Vimeo spokesperson, for example, said that the company ‘stands firm in keeping our platform safe from content that spreads harmful and misleading health information. The video in question has been removed … for violating these very policies.’” A friend sent me a link to her video but it was pulled down. I have no opinion about the video because I haven’t seen it. But I do have an opinion about it being pulled down. I dislike that intensely. I fear the risks of misinformation far less than I fear the risks of controlling information. 
    • A pastor in the Bronx thought he knew hardship. Then his church saw 13 coronavirus deaths. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “Promised Land, in the poorest congressional district in the nation, sees about 250 mostly African American and Latino worshipers on a normal weekend. Public housing units line the streets near the church in the Mott Haven neighborhood, where city officials estimate the poverty rate is about 44 percent.”
    • In Inner-City Black Churches: More Grief, Fewer Resources, Stronger Faith (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “Despite bearing the disproportionate impact of the outbreak, black believers have demonstrated particular spiritual endurance. In a Pew survey released last week, members of historically black churches were more likely than any other religious tradition to say their faith has been strengthened through the outbreak. More than half (56%) say their faith has become stronger, compared to 35 percent of all Christians and 24 percent of adults overall.”
    • Clinical Study Considers The Power Of Prayer To Combat COVID-19 (Tom Gjelten, NPR): “Half of the patients, randomly chosen, will receive a ‘universal’ prayer offered in five denominational forms, via Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. The other 500 patients will constitute the control group.” This study looks like a mess. How do they expect to keep the 500 in the control group from being prayed for? I am pretty sure that if you are hospitalized with Covid-19 someone is praying for you. And my theology leads me to believe those organic, heartfelt prayers offered by people who actually know the patients are going to be more significant than the “universal prayers” offered by the research participants. I expect this study will lead internet atheists to claim that all prayer has been debunked when at most it will show that scripted multifaith prayers offered on behalf of strangers do not move the heart of God. 
    • Food Banks Can’t Go On Like This (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Normally, ‘rescued’ food—items that would otherwise be thrown out as their sell-by date approaches—accounts for 97 percent of Feeding San Diego’s distributions. Until the pandemic, the group was receiving unpurchased food from 204 Starbucks locations every night of the year. Most of those stores are now closed. The organization normally gets excess food from 260 grocery stores too, but consumers have been stocking up enough lately that many shelves are picked clean.”
  6. The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (YouTube): seven moving minutes. Shared with me by a student’s father.

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 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.” (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.

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.