Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 336

I was quarantined this week, so I had an extra-large pile of stuff to sift through. Enjoy these gems!

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.

I’m a simple man, and I appreciate that volume 336 is comprised of digits easily put into an equation: 3 + 3 = 6.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. This Innovative Christian Homeless Shelter Is Rising To California’s Housing Challenge (Liza Vandenboom Ashley, Religion Unplugged): “…Orange County Rescue Mission [is] an innovative Christian homeless shelter based in Tustin with several other locations. The Tustin campus, known as the Village of Hope, runs without government funding or private debt and employs an organizational and aesthetic ethos that more closely resembles a college campus than a homeless shelter.” This is an uplifting read. Recommended.
  2. Christ and cocaine: Rio’s gangs of God blend faith and violence (Tom Phillips, The Guardian): “Drug lords, some regular churchgoers, have incorporated Christian symbols into their ultra-violent trade. Packets of cocaine, handguns and uniforms are emblazoned with the Star of David – a reference to the Pentecostal belief that the return of Jews to Israel represents progress towards the second coming. Gang-commissioned graffiti offers spiritual guidance and heavenly praise.” Recommended by an alumnus. What a wild story! Seeing their blind spots, my main takeaway is to wonder what my blind spots are.
  3. Nothing Sacred: These Apps Reserve The Right To Sell Your Prayers (Emily Baker-White, BuzzFeed): “It is common for free apps to profit from sharing their users’ data and to be vague about exactly how and with whom they share it, but users feel like Pray.com’s data practices are at odds with the deeply personal nature of prayer itself. Jenny, a recent college graduate who prayed about the infidelity of a romantic partner in the app, said ‘there is an expectation of privacy’ among Christians sharing prayers.”
    • From later in the article: “At least one government has taken an interest in prayer app data, too — the US military bought extensive location data mined from Muslim prayer apps back in 2020 for use in special forces operations.”
  4. PDF: So Long, And No Thanks for the Externalities: The Rational Rejection of Security Advice by Users (Cormac Herley, Microsoft): “For example, much of the advice concerning passwords is outdated and does little to address actual treats, and fully 100% of certificate error warnings appear to be false positives. Further, if users spent even a minute a day reading URLs to avoid phishing, the cost (in terms of user time) would be two orders of magnitude greater than all phishing losses. Thus we find that most security advice simply offers a poor cost-benefit tradeoff to users and is rejected.” Recommended by a student.
  5. Superhero Secret Identities Aren’t Possible with Today’s Computing Technologies (Jason Hong, Communications of the ACM): “Superheroes have to worry about having their identity being revealed, but the rest of us in the real world have to worry about just how much information about us is out there, how widely available many of these technologies are, and how both of these can be easily abused—sometimes accidentally, sometimes intentionally—by advertisers, governments, employers, stalkers, criminals, and more.” I enjoyed this.
  6. On Russia/Ukraine:
    • US Blunders, Ukraine’s War (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Putin or no Putin, no Russian leader could allow Ukraine to join NATO, any more than any American leader could allow Mexico to join a defensive alliance formed out of opposition to American power. Every American president since James Monroe has upheld the so-called Monroe Doctrine, which claims the entire Western hemisphere as a zone of American influence. By what crackpot logic can we advance and defend that claim, but expect Russia, another great power, to acquiesce to Ukraine, a border state to Russia, joining NATO?”
    • Russia as the “Great Satan” in the Liberal Imagination (Richard Hanania, Substack): “…the US foreign policy establishment believes that every country in Europe should eventually be part of the EU and NATO, and none should be allowed to get close to Russia or adopt a ‘nondemocratic’ form of government, with “democracy” again being defined as making internal decisions that reflect the policy outcomes that State Department officials wish a Democratic president would implement at home.”
    • Defend Chernobyl During an Invasion? Why Bother, Some Ukrainians Ask. (Andrew Kramer & Tyler Hicks, New York Times): “Mr. Prishepa said he would prefer that Ukraine set up the defensive lines further south, giving the irradiated zone over to whomever might want it. ‘It’s a wasteland,’ he said. ‘No crop will ever grow here.’ ” Recommended by an alumnus.
  7. Pandemic perspectives:
    • I Had COVID. Am I Done Now? (Emily Oster, Substack): “I think part of what has made this transition difficult, even if we say we have accepted it, is the residual fear of the unknown that has been hard to shake. It’s not unknown to as many of us as before. I spent the past two years taking a million PCR and rapid tests, which were all negative. When I finally got a positive result last week, I felt a bit of loss and defeat but also a bit of release. Maybe it’s the same for others.“The author is an economist at Brown University.
    • Why Are We Boosting Kids? (David Zweig, Bari Weiss’s Substack): “Monica Gandhi, a doctor and an infectious-disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, was blunt in her assessment. ‘I am not giving my 12 and 14-year-old boys boosters,’ she told me. Dr. Gandhi is not the only expert to publicly state an intention to not comply with the CDC’s recommendation. Dr. Paul Offit is the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, and is considered one the country’s top authorities on pediatric vaccine policy. He recently said that getting boosted would not be worth the risk for the average healthy 17-year-old boy, and he advised his son, who is in his 20s, not to get a third dose.”
    • Society has a trust problem. More censorship will only make it worse. (Hamish McKenzie, Chris Best & Jairaj, Substack): “…as we face growing pressure to censor content published on Substack that to some seems dubious or objectionable, our answer remains the same: we make decisions based on principles not PR, we will defend free expression, and we will stick to our hands-off approach to content moderation. While we have content guidelines that allow us to protect the platform at the extremes, we will always view censorship as a last resort, because we believe open discourse is better for writers and better for society.” Bravo to Substack.
    • The Folly of Pandemic Censorship (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “Censors have a fantasy that if they get rid of all the Berensons and Mercolas and Malones, and rein in people like Joe Rogan, that all the holdouts will suddenly rush to get vaccinated. The opposite is true. If you wipe out critics, people will immediately default to higher levels of suspicion. They will now be sure there’s something wrong with the vaccine. If you want to convince audiences, you have to allow everyone to talk, even the ones you disagree with. You have to make a better case.” Parts of this are straight fire.
    • How an Anonymous Reporting System Made Yale a COVID ‘Surveillance State’ (Aaron Sibarium, Washington Free Beacon): “At Yale, those lost social connections have killed more people than COVID-19. In September 2020, a Yale freshman told the Yale Daily News that the isolation of the pandemic had made her worried about her mental health. In March 2021, she committed suicide in her dorm. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been no reported COVID deaths among Yale’s students, faculty, or staff.” The article describes a few absolutely bonkers encounters.
    • The NYT’s polarizing pandemic pundit (Joanne Kenen, Politico): “Other public health experts Nightlyinterviewed — some of whom are sources for New York Times health journalists or have media gigs of their own — didn’t want to be quoted, or said they were too busy taking care of patients, ciao. One well-known research scientist, who is part of this critical conversation but who admires Leonhardt overall, wouldn’t even praise him on the record.”

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 If Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders, Fascists Will (David Frum, The Atlantic): “Demagogues don’t rise by talking about irrelevant issues. Demagogues rise by talking about issues that matter to people, and that more conventional leaders appear unwilling or unable to address: unemployment in the 1930s, crime in the 1960s, mass immigration now. Voters get to decide what the country’s problems are. Political elites have to devise solutions to those problems. If difficult issues go unaddressed by responsible leaders, they will be exploited by irresponsible ones.” I highlighted a piece by Frum with a similar theme back in issue 175. This is a very thoughtful article. First shared in volume 194.

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 161

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. Trevor Responds To Criticism From The French Ambassador (Trevor Noah, YouTube): this is a witty and insightful 8 minute reflection on the interplay between ethnic heritage and national identity and the ways that Americans process things differently than the French.
  2. The New York Yankees Are A Moral Abomination (David Bentley Hart, New York Times): “Really, how does a Yankees fan’s pride in all those purchased championships differ from the self-delusion of a man staggering out of a bawdy house at dawn, complimenting himself on his magnificent powers of seduction?” A funny piece of cultural commentary in the New York Times written by a theologian? Yes, please. This column is about way more than baseball.
  3. Uncomfortable Questions in the Wake of Russia Indictment 2.0 and Trump’s Press Conference With Putin (Jack Goldsmith, Lawfare): “It is no response to say that the United States doesn’t meddle in foreign elections, because it has in the past—at least as recently as Bill Clinton’s intervention in the Russian presidential election of 1996 and possibly as recently as the Hillary Clinton State Department’s alleged intervention in Russia’s 2011 legislative elections. And during the Cold War the United States intervened in numerous foreign elections, more than twice as often as the Soviet Union.” The author is a professor at Harvard Law School. The whole thing is fascinating.
  4. Free Speech, Censorship, Hate Speech, Twitter (Steven Brust, personal blog): “Here’s the thing: every defense, every analogy I’ve seen to justify asking twitter to shut down hate speech, has come down, in the last analysis, to a defense of property rights. And yet, the most casual observation ought to tell you that we are now locked in a battle between property rights and human rights. If you must resort to a defense of property rights to bolster your argument, I beg to submit that you should either take another look at what you’re defending, or stop calling yourself a progressive.” A socialist defense of free speech.
    • Related: I Was the Mob Until the Mob Came for Me (Barrett Wilson, Quillette): “In my previous life, I was a self-righteous social justice crusader. I would use my mid-sized Twitter and Facebook platforms to signal my wokeness on topics such as LGBT rights, rape culture, and racial injustice…. Then one day, suddenly, I was accused of some of the very transgressions I’d called out in others. I was guilty, of course: There’s no such thing as due process in this world.”
    • Also related: 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.” This is an older piece but I saw it for the first time recently.
  5. For Some Gang Members In El Salvador, The Evangelical Church Offers A Way Out (Emily Green, NPR): “Becoming a devoted member of an evangelical church at a young age is the only way many adolescent boys are able to avoid being roped into a gang, Cruz says. And it’s also the only way for them to get out of a gang if they’re in it, short of leaving the country.”
  6. Sanctuary amid housing crisis (Wendy Lee, San Francisco Chronicle): “With no end in sight to soaring housing costs, several Bay Area faith organizations have become a sanctuary of sorts — not just channeling donations and distributing food, but also offering a safe place for people living in cars or RVs. The arrangement has sometimes grated on neighbors, but for pastors, it’s simply an extension of their mission to serve humanity.”
  7. Balding Out (Christopher Balding, personal blog): “In China, there are very few people who I witness live a testament of their belief. Who knows if the Party member is a member because he believes in Marxism, Communism, Xi-ism, or simply wants a better apartment? Who knows if the person who claims to be a believer in democracy but complies with the Party actually believes that or just tells the foreigner? Foreigners in China in positions of influence who claim to believe in human rights but collaborate with the Party to deny Chinese citizens rights need to answer for their actions. I have little idea what people in China believe but I know that if the Party ever falls, there will be more than a billion more people claiming they were closet democracy advocates.” An American professor reflects on China as he prepares to leave. Very interesting, a bit rambly.

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 This Is What Makes Republicans and Democrats So Different (Vox, Ezra Klein): the title made me skeptical, but there are some good insights in this article (first shared in volume 32 back in 2016).

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.