Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 331

the Christmas Eve edition

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

This is volume 331, a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have America in one tweet:“We are living in an era of woke capitalism in which companies pretend to care about social justice to sell products to people who pretend to hate capitalism.” (Clay Routledge, Twitter) First shared in volume 186.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 240

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. I often bury my perspective, but here is my two ¢ on the Coronavirus: America is responding to this disease so badly that I find it hard to believe. Given the amazingly competent people who populate this country, our collective ineptitude is staggering.
    • Dealing With a Once-In-A-Century Pathogen (Claire Lehmann, Quillette): “In early October 1918, when the Spanish flu hit the east coast of the United States, the health commissioner of St Louis, Max Starkloff, ordered the closure of schools, movie theaters, saloons, sporting events and other public gathering spots. While the measures were protested by some citizens, the quarantine went ahead. A month later, as the pandemic raged on, he ordered the closure of all business, with a few exceptions, such as banks. While drastic quarantine measures were being implemented in St Louis, the health commissioner of Philadelphia, Wilmer Krusen, gave permission for a parade for the war effort to go ahead in his city. It is reported that within 72 hours of the parade, every bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled, and in the week ending October 5th, 1918, 2,600 people in Philadelphia had died, with the figure almost doubling a week later. At the end of the outbreak, St Louis had the lowest recorded death rate in the US, while in Philadelphia mortuaries overflowed and ‘bodies [were] piled up on sidewalks.’”
    • Coronavirus: Links, Speculation, Open Thread (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “If we hadn’t let our culture reach the point where governments ban things by default and review at leisure, and where individual initiative is frowned upon in favor of waiting for official permission to do the right thing, we could have recovered from all of these mistakes. Hospitals would have used their existing tests which they already have more than enough of, doctors would have had permission to test suspicious cases at their discretion, and we would have had a chance to catch infections early before they could spread. If the government didn’t already regulate adrenaline, buspirone, insulin, and genetic testing to the point of near-unavailability, maybe people would have thought it was weirder, or raised more of a fuss, when they started doing it for coronavirus tests.”
    • Exclusive: The Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing (Robinson Meyer & Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic): “Testing is the first and most important tool in understanding the epidemiology of a disease outbreak. In the United States, a series of failures has combined with the decentralized nature of our health-care system to handicap the nation’s ability to see the severity of the outbreak in hard numbers.”
    • Before and after: coronavirus empties world’s busiest spaces  (Agence France-Presse, The Guardian): “Empty public squares, a highway with no cars on it and deserted holy sites – a series of striking satellite images have revealed the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on some of the world’s busiest spaces.”
    • Preparing Your Church For Coronavirus (Lyman Stone, The American Conservative): “Thus, Christians have two crucial duties. First, not to use plague, and the fear of the death of the body, as an excuse to abandon our God-given duties. We must care for the sick, both the sick in soul and in body. Where disease kills parents, we must care for the children. Where disease kills children, we must tend to the wounds of the family. Where disease spreads fear, we must be bold in faith. But we should not be idiots. We have a moral obligation to protect others by limiting the spread of disease. To ignore that duty murders our neighbors.” A bit long but excellent. 
  2. Men Too Easily Forgotten (Greg Morse, Desiring God): “Real men do not bully. Real men do not watch porn. Real men do not abuse women. Real men do not live at home after college playing video games in their parent’s basement. Amen to what real men are not, but what, then, is a real man? Can we not say more than just a male who doesn’t do bad? We need men who not only avoid evil but embody what is good. There is a profound difference. One sees manhood as an incurable illness of society to be managed; the other, a pillar to build civilization upon.” Recommended by a student.
  3. Low-Income College Students Are Being Taxed Like Trust-Fund Babies (Erica L. Green, New York Times): “In the past, a student from a household with a joint income of $50,000 who was awarded a scholarship that covered $11,500 in room and board would be taxed at their parents’ rate of 12 percent. Under the new law, that money would be taxed up to 35 percent.” This is a few months old, shared with me by a student. For the record, this is insane.
  4. The other way to lose a war (Ed Feser, personal blog): “Some critics like to chalk up prolonged American engagement in places like Afghanistan and Iraq to warmongering or realpolitik or some other sinister motivation. In my opinion, that is the reverse of the truth. The fault of those who advocate such engagement isn’t worldly cynicism, but otherworldly idealism.” Thoughtful and thought-provoking. Recommended. 
  5. My Same-Sex Attraction Has an Answer (Rachel Gilson, Christianity Today): “For people like me who experience same-sex attraction, the world begs us to believe that our authentic selves are only found in giving in. It promises hero status if we submit to our attractions. Our desires whisper, like a serpent in a garden, that there is no death in going against God’s Word.”
  6. The lure of ‘cool’ brain research is stifling psychotherapy  (Allen Frances, Aeon): “…I can affirm confidently that there are no neat answers in psychiatry. The best we can do is embrace an ecumenical four-dimensional model that includes all possible contributors to human functioning: the biological, the psychological, the social, and the spiritual. Reducing people to just one element – their brain functioning, or their psychological tendencies, or their social context, or their struggle for meaning – results in a flat, distorted image that leaves out more than it can capture.” The author was chair of the psychiatry department at Duke. 
  7. Let’s Deconstruct a Deconversion Story: The Case of Rhett and Link (Alisa Childers, Gospel Coalition): “Our cultural moment is a cauldron of information and celebrity worship in which the cult of personality can ferment and grow. With every hit of the ‘like’ button, the personalities we’ve subscribed to have become our authorities for truth.”
    • Red Flags in the Spiritual Deconstruction of My Old Friends Rhett and Link (Shelby Abbot, personal blog): “After they left staff with Cru, I kept in touch with the guys for a few years. But time and life happened, and my communication with them faded. Every now and then I’d send a message, but both Rhett and Link stopped reciprocating. I figured they probably changed their numbers and email addresses, or had too many DM’s from fans to find my random messages saying hello. [After hearing their] personal spiritual deconstruction stories. It suddenly made a lot sense to me why I never heard back from them.”

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). 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 153

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. Federal Agencies Lost Track of Nearly 1,500 Migrant Children Placed With Sponsors (Ron Nixon, New York Times): “…the agency had lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children it placed with sponsors in the United States, raising concerns they could end up in the hands of human traffickers or be used as laborers by people posing as relatives.” This is an article from April about kids who arrive alone at the border, but I can’t help but think of it when I hear stories about new policies separating kids from their families at the border. If I am reading this correctly, they lost track of 20% of the minors they placed. Outrageously unacceptable. 
  2. The Wrath of God Poured Out — The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention (Albert Mohler, personal blog): this is pure fire. I pray leaders in the Assemblies of God will act with similar courage should it become necessary.  
  3. What Our Identity Searches Really Reveal (Eric Parker, Gospel Coalition): “the most significant question in understanding personal identity is not ‘Who am I?’ but ‘Whose am I?’… This one turn of phrase might be the most significant turn of thought we could ever make. But since many of us haven’t made that turn of thought, we inhabit constructed identities rather than received identities.”
  4. China’s social credit system has blocked people from taking 11 million flights and 4 million train trips (Tara Francis Chan, Business Insider): “a former official, Hou Yunchun, is quoted as saying the system needs to be improved so ‘discredited people become bankrupt.’”
  5. Why Being a Foster Child Made Me a Conservative (Rob Henderson, New York Times): “Individuals have rights. But they also have responsibilities. For instance, when I say parents should prioritize their children over their careers, there is a sense of unease among my peers. They think I want to blame individuals rather than a nebulous foe like poverty. They are mostly right.” The author just graduated from Yale. Worth reading regardless of your political allegiances.
  6. Marriage name game: What kind of guy would take his wife’s last name? (Phys.org): “[The study] found that among men with less than a high school degree, 10.3 percent reported changing their surname. Among men with a high school degree but no college, it was 3.6 percent, and among men with any college, only 2 percent. None of the men surveyed who had an advanced degree changed their name.”
  7. The Racism Treadmill (Coleman Hughes, Quillette): “In an economy increasingly based on cognitive labor, it’s hard to imagine a cultural feature more harmful than a socially-enforced taboo on academic striving. But worries about the harm caused by the ‘acting white’ epithet have been met with skepticism by progressives.” The author is an undergrad at Columbia University. 

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it).

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 7

In the time of King David, the Bible says that 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.

To that end, I share articles/resources I have found helpful recently in thinking about broader cultural and societal issues (be sure to see the disclaimer at the bottom). May these give you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar. Past emails are archived at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links

  1. From the people-are-awesome department: Is This New Swim Stroke The Fastest Yet? (Regan Penaluna, Nautilus): how are we still discovering stuff like this?
  2. From the leviathan-is-scary department:
  3. From the methodology matters department: Tallying Right-Wing Terror vs Jihad (Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View) — I am not super-interested in the topic itself, but I found this piece fascinating as an example of how important research methodology is. Hone your craft!
  4. From the grace abounds department: An Evangelical Revival In The Heart of New York (Liz Robbins, New York Times): this is about an event hosted by Luis Palau, not an eruption of piety in the Big Apple, although the article notes that the number of evangelicals in NYC has increased by 20% since 2000. This related story adds fascinating details: Saturday’s Big Evangelism Event In Central Park Fueled By Community Service With A Blessing From A Gay Mayor In Portlandia (Pauline Dolle, A Journey Through NYC Religions).

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.