Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 445

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 445, which feels like it ought to have many factors. But it’s just 89 * 5.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Harvard, M.I.T. and Systemic Antisemitism (David French, New York Times): “…what’s happening to Jewish students and faculty at several elite campuses is so comprehensive and all-consuming that it can only be described as systemic antisemitism.”
    • Recommended by a student. Worth reading. Unlocked.
  2. How To Save a Democracy (Quico Toro, Substack): “Watching videos of the protest now, what strikes you is that Bernardo Arévalo is seldom mentioned. K’iche’ leaders were at pains to emphasize they were not there to favor one politician or another. They were there to defend their votes. If Arévalo’s name was seldom uttered, the name of Jesus Christ was constantly invoked.”
    • A remarkable story. 
  3. Piety and Profanity: The Raunchy Christians Are Here (Ruth Graham, New York Times): “The partial embrace of vulgarity, Dr. Kobes Du Mez pointed out, is happening in a moment of deep conservative outrage, an often visceral disgust, at rising rates of nontraditional gender and sexual identities, particularly among young people. In that context, an indulgence in heterosexual lust, even if in poor taste, is becoming seen as not just benign, but maybe even healthy and noble. Part of the reason transgender identities are considered a threat is that they blur gender difference, Dr. Kobes Du Mez said. ‘Against that backdrop, it’s a wholesome thing for a boy to be lusting after a very sexy woman.’”
    • Unlocked.
  4. Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics co-author and University of Chicago Economics Professor) on His Career And Decision To Retire From Academic Economics (Jon Hartley, Capitalism and Freedom): “I had always been the smartest kid or close to the smartest kid, but then I got to MIT and I realized my God these people are incredible. Not just what they know but how they think. So, I knew from day one I was the odd man out. I mean I’m not even exaggerating when I say that there was a group of people in the in-crowd. Austan Goolsbee, my good friend Austan Goolsbee was one of the in-crowds. And Austan told me that maybe a month into our first year at MIT, the in-crowd sat down and they made a list of the five people most likely to fail out. And I was on that list of five.”
    • An absolutely delightful interview. The above link is to the transcript, but I recommend the audio version.
  5. The Policy Stakes in this Election Are High (Josh Barro, Substack): “This presidential election is not very interesting, but it is important. And some of the reasons it’s important are the banal reasons that every presidential election is important: You get different policy outcomes depending on who gets elected.”
    • Written from a center-left perspective. Even if you disagree with Barro on your preferred policy outcomes, I think he does a nice job of summarizing some of the most important differences (although he leaves off a few big ones about which the two administrations have different track records such as religious freedom, DEI issues, etc).
  6. Are Drunk People in New Orleans More Sensible Than Congress? (Ben Meets America, YouTube): four minutes. If the quality continues, I will probably be sharing most installments of this series.
  7. Which Cities are the Least Religious? (Ryan Burge, Substack): “The least religious cities are at the top and there are two clear winners here: San Francisco and Seattle. In both cases, about seven in ten adults are attending religious services less than once a year. But I think that San Francisco make take the crown for most secular — just 12% of folks in that city are attending church at least once a month.”
    • Emphasis removed for readability

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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 443

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, volume 443, is a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Four Ways of Looking at Christian Nationalism (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…to chart the supposed reach of Christian nationalism, a survey from the Public Religion Research Institute asks respondents whether they agree with the formulation ‘U.S. laws should be based on Christian values.’ But someone who says yes might just be agreeing with King’s ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’ or the Declaration of Independence, not endorsing a legal code based on Deuteronomy.”
    • Unlocked.
  2. Related: If It Were Me, I’d Try Not Helping the Christian Nationalists (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “A democratic life is not the highest thing or the best thing. But as a way of living amongst our neighbors and seeking to live a life of conscience under the law, it is a very good thing. The Christian Nationalists, with their strong man politics, support for revolutionary violence, and obsession with racial solidarity would destroy all of that. What worries me now, though, is not the Christian Nationalists themselves. Frankly, many of them are too reckless, undisciplined, and reactive to be able to accomplish the revolutionary change they seek. What worries me is that there are a great many socially conservative evangelical voters who love the democratic life who are constantly being called ‘Christian Nationalists’ by the likes of Heidi Przybyla for believing things that are utterly unremarkable in Christian history. If our secular media outlets continue to tell them that ‘Christian Nationalism’ is the belief in things virtually all Christians across history have believed, I fear they will listen. And they will find these ethno-nationalist totalitarian aspirants and, not realizing what they are doing, they will make common cause with them.”
    • This is one of the most helpful pieces I’ve seen on Christian Nationalism. It’s a bit long, but easily skimmable to zero in on the parts you find most interesting.
  3. What happened after a man got 217 coronavirus shots (Rachel Pannett, Washington Post): “Going into the study, the researchers had speculated that having so many shots could cause his immune system to become fatigued. Vaccines create immune memory cells that are on standby, ready to rapidly activate the body’s defenses in the event of an infection. But in fact, the researchers found that the man had more of these immune cells — known as T‑cells — than a control group that had received the standard three-dose vaccine regimen. They also did not detect any fatigue in these cells, which they said were just as effective as those of people who had received a typical number of coronavirus shots.”
  4. Albania to speed up EU accession using ChatGPT (Alice Taylor, Euractiv): “The Albanian government will use ChatGPT to translate thousands of pages of EU legal measures and provisions into shqip (Albanian language) and then integrate them into existing legal structures, following an agreement with the CEO of the parent company, OpenAI, Mira Murati, who was born in Albania.… on 13 December, at the EU summit in Brussels, he will present the project and a successful test of ‘the Albanian model of artificial intelligence for the interposition of the legislation totalling 280,000 pages of legal measures of the EU.’”
  5. I spend £8,500 a year to live on a train (Steve Charnok, Metro): “While the 17-year-old does indeed live on trains, he does so entirely legally. And with a surprising amount of comfort. Lasse travels 600 miles a day throughout Germany aboard Deutsche Bahn trains. He travels first class, sleeps on night trains, has breakfast in DB lounges and takes showers in public swimming pools and leisure centres, all using his unlimited annual railcard.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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 442

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 the 442nd edition of these emails. 442 is the sum of eight consecutive prime numbers: 41 + 43 + 47 + 53 + 59 + 61 + 67 + 71

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The State of the Culture, 2024 (Ted Gioia, Substack): “The tech platforms aren’t like the Medici in Florence, or those other rich patrons of the arts. They don’t want to find the next Michelangelo or Mozart. They want to create a world of junkies—because they will be the dealers. Addiction is the goal.”
    • Highly recommended. Includes an anecdote about a Stanford undergrad near the end.
  2. Men Are From Mercury, Women Are From Neptune (David French, New York Times): “…if there are pre-existing political differences between men and women — and it’s true that in aggregate men are more conservative than women — then those differences will be exacerbated as men spend more time with men, and women spend more time with women. The more that men and women live separate lives, the more we would expect to see separate beliefs.”
    • Recommended to me by a student, and I highly recommend it to you.
  3. My Mom’s Rules For Cults (Ben Landau-Taylor, Substack): “…when I was 25 years old I told my parents I was moving to San Francisco to join a new-wave radical movement and a self-development psychology I‑swear-we’re-not-a-cult group. And she sat me down and gave me three things to check before I went: 1. Are the members of the group in contact with their families? 2. How does the group react when members are close with friends who don’t share the group’s beliefs and ideology? Is this discouraged? Is it seen as normal and healthy? 3. How does the group relate to former members who have left? Are they old friends who are welcome at parties, or are they vile traitors, or what? In my experience this is the best and fastest way to tell the difference…”
  4. ‘I Said, ‘What’s Your Plan About Marriage and Dating?’ And There Was Silence.’ (Jane Coaston, New York Times): “I was talking to a graduate student recently. He had a very clear sense of his plan for schooling and work, and then I said, ‘What’s your plan about marriage and dating?’ And there was silence. He didn’t really have a plan. I think that’s part of the challenge — that people are not being intentional enough about seeking opportunities to meet, date and marry young adults in their world.”
    • An interview with Brad Wilcox, who is often cited in these updates. Recommended by a student.
  5. The Rise of the Non-Christian Evangelical (Ryan Burge, Substack): “Nine percent of Republican Jews self-identify as evangelical, compared to 3% of Democratic Jews. For Muslims, the gap is huge: 32% vs 11%. It’s also fairly large for Buddhists (16% vs 6%) and Hindus (18% vs 10%). You can even see it among nothing in particulars. 19% of the Republicans are evangelicals; it’s just 9% of the Democrats.”
    • Wild and interesting.
  6. The Takeover (Neetu Arnold, Tablet Magazine): “…even in the vanishingly rare event that universities attempt to cultivate an environment of academic freedom and free speech on campus, it will never fully apply to sponsored international students from countries with authoritarian governments. In many ways, this defeats the main purpose of having international students on American campuses in the first place: the free and open cultural exchange that occurs between them and American students. What kind of skewed cultural education will American students receive about Saudi Arabia and China if their friends from those countries aren’t even allowed to criticize their own governments, and if the main source of teaching and scholarship on such countries comes out of ‘centers’ funded by those governments?”
    • This is an odd article. Lots of interesting stats framed strangely, but definitely interesting.
  7. Academia’s “Pretendian” Problem Stems From a Few Very Obvious and Basic Realities (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “You’ve created a fiercely competitive process in which a segment of people are given a very large advantage, there are few if any objective markers that can disprove that someone is a member of that segment, and you’ve declared it offensive to question whether someone really is a member of that segment, outside of very specific scenarios. (When I was in academia people spoke very darkly about the concept of ever questioning someone’s indigenous identity, called it the act of a colonizer, etc etc.) The obvious question is… what did you think was going to happen? Humanities and social sciences departments have, through the conditions described above, rung the dinner bell for people pretending to have indigenous heritage. They now act shocked when such people show up. I find it disingenuous and untoward. This behavior is the product of the incentives that you yourself built.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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 439

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 439, which is not only a prime number and the sum of three consecutive primes (139 + 149 + 151), but also the sum of nine consecutive primes (31 + 37 + 41 + 43 + 47 + 53 + 59 + 61 + 67). Which is, you know, a lotta primes.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. How Digital Apps Are Changing How We Read the Bible (John Dyer, Text & Canon): “I asked both groups to read the book of Jude and then tell me (1) what the point of the book was, and (2) how it made them feel. Interestingly, two opposite trends emerged. The print readers said they felt Jude was about God’s judgment while the phone readers tended to emphasize God’s faithfulness. But then, on the second question, their answers seemed to split. The print readers, who felt the book was about God’s judgment, said they were encouraged by the reading. The phone readers on the other hand who said Jude was about God’s faithfulness, said after reading it that they felt discouraged and confused. So what can account for that difference? Why is a judgmental God encouraging and a faithful God discouraging?”
  2. The Grand Canyon-Sized Chasm Between Elites and Ordinary Americans (Rob K. Henderson, Substack): “Perhaps the most striking divergence between elite and non-elite opinion: Although the majority of ordinary voters oppose the strict rationing of meat, electricity, and gas to fight climate change, 89% of Ivy graduates and 77% of elites overall are in favor of it.”
  3. What Happened When My Church Encountered Negative World (Patrick Miller, Mere Orthodoxy): “You can tell our church’s story in a way that makes us the victims of the progressives, but that’s not our full story. Nor is it the story of most non-coastal churches that refused to go pro-Trump or pro-Biden in 2020. Pastors at such churches will tell you the same story: The negative world bows before golden donkeys and elephants.”
  4. Sarah Isgur’s Majority Report (Kelefah Sanneh, The New Yorker): “Through the eyes of Isgur and French, the American legal system generally appears to be a place where smart people assess good-faith arguments and compose thoughtful essays explaining their decisions. Their underlying contention is that the Supreme Court is good, even, or perhaps especially, in its current incarnation.… In an era of aggrieved political discourse, Isgur is something unusual: a commentator who truly seems to love the government institution she covers.”
    • Advisory Opinions is one of my favorite podcasts and I’m not remotely a lawyer. Isgur and French are amazing.
  5. The Devil’s Face in Gaza (Gerald McDermott, First Things): “The minister of tourism, a rabbi, told an Israeli Christian leader, ‘We hope you send missionaries to the Arabs here.’ The Christian was shocked: ‘Don’t you hate missionaries?’ The government minister replied, ‘If you teach them what you believe, we will have peace in the Middle East.’”
  6. Some Stanford news:
    • Sit-in on Islamophobia replaces pro-Israel tent in White Plaza (Dilan Gohill, Stanford Daily): “Organizers set up the Sit-in to Stop Islamophobia on the White Plaza lawn — a space previously occupied by the Blue and White Tent. Tent organizers told The Daily they made an indefinite reservation through Cardinal Engage. According to Feigelis, University administration told the Sit-In to Stop Islamophobia that the space was reserved for the Blue and White Tent. He said as long as the sit-in refuses to relocate, the tent cannot reassemble. The Daily has reached out to the University for comment. ‘We did not move your stuff — the wind destroyed it, you cleaned it up. We saw an open space, we set up here, we’re happy to coexist.’ El Boudali said. He added that organizers set up in White Plaza due to its high traffic.”
    • Stanford students protest new ban on overnight sit-in camping (Lauren Irwin, The Hill): “Stanford said its level of concern has risen to a point that it can no longer support overnight activities.”
    • Read the official Stanford statement: Preserving free speech and safety on White Plaza (Stanford News): “Moving forward, any tents, tables, chairs, or other similar items will need to be removed from White Plaza between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Any overnight displays and/or camping items left unoccupied are subject to removal for health and safety reasons. Students who violate the no-camping policy will be subject to a disciplinary referral to the Office of Community Standards and may also be cited for trespass for failing to comply with a university directive.”
    • And not exactly Stanford news, but not not Stanford news: Law schools must adopt free speech policies to maintain ABA accreditation (Lexi Lonas, The Hill): “The new standard requires schools to adopt a policy that would allow faculty, students and staff ‘to communicate ideas that may be controversial or unpopular, including through robust debate, demonstrations or protests,’ and would forbid activities that disrupt or impinge on free speech. But it wouldn’t impose specific policy language,’”’ the statement added.”
  7. The Political Preferences of LLMs (David Rozado, Substack): “When probed with questions/statements with political connotations most conversational LLMs tend to generate responses that are diagnosed by most political test instruments as manifesting preferences for left-of-center viewpoints. This does not appear to be the case for base (i.e. foundation) models upon which LLMs optimized for conversation with humans are built. Though not conclusive, our results provide supporting evidence for the intriguing hypothesis that the embedding of political preferences into LLMs might be happening mostly post-pretraining. Namely, during the supervised fine-tuning (SFT) and/or Reinforcement Learning (RL) stages of the conversational LLMs training pipeline.”
    • In other words, the AI tools we see appear to have political preferences trained into them by the companies that are creating them, although it is not clear to what extent this is deliberately being done.
    • The author is a professor of data science in New Zealand — https://drozado.github.io/

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • History of Japan (Bill Wurz, YouTube): nine amazing minutes — genuinely worth your time if you have any interest in Japan at all. Or in how to teach history using video. He leaves a bunch out and definitely throws his opinion around, but it’s hard to see how he could have done anything else in nine minutes. Really good.

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 429

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 429, a sphenic number (i.e, a number with exactly three distinct prime factors).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Classical liberals are increasingly religious (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “Not too long ago, I was telling Ezra Klein that I had noticed a relatively new development in classical liberalism. If a meet an intellectual non-Leftist, increasingly they are Nietzschean, compared to days of yore. But if they are classical liberal instead, typically they are religious as well. That could be Catholic or Jewish or LDS or Eastern Orthodox, with some Protestant thrown into the mix, but Protestants coming in last. The person being religious is now a predictor of that same person having non-crazy political views. Classical liberalism thus, whether you like it or not, has become an essentially religious movement.”
    • Related: Why Tyler Cowen Doesn’t Meet Protestant Intellectuals (Aaron Renn, Substack): “You would think that after decades of bemoaning the ‘scandal of the evangelical mind,’ we would be heavily promoting the world class scientists and other intellectual figures we have. But that isn’t the case. I’m not a scientist but I’m not chopped liver either. I was a partner in a consulting firm, a senior fellow in a major think tank, and have written for and been cited in most of the major publications in the country (NYT, WSJ, Guardian, Atlantic, etc). But the institution that’s done the most to promote my work is the Catholic-centric First Things magazine. Undoubtedly the best career move I could make as a writer on culture, men’s issues, and public policy would be to convert to Catholicism. That would probably open doors to opportunities I will not otherwise get.”
      • Renn left out some important pieces of the puzzle. It also has to do with the way that decentralized church authority operates in the Protestant world and the lack of intersection between someone like me and someone like Andy Stanley. We just move in completely different circles. I’m not saying I’m the intellectual in this equation, by the way. I am saying I know a bunch. I have baptized people who are now professors at Stanford, but pick-your-favorite megachurch preacher has no idea that they exist. And that lack of intersection extends to groups like Veritas and the Trinity Forum which are doing the kind of work Renn describes, but independently of Saddleback Church or any other evangelical center of influence. Most influential preachers are niche celebrities who are also populist intellectuals, and that is a very different thing from an academic or institutional intellectual. There really isn’t any straightforward way to bring the two together. And I haven’t even talked about the role of Christian universities in this situation, their relationship to evangelical influencers, and their joint relationship to secular scholars. It would take a whole essay to bring all the pieces together, and I’m not sure it’s a good use of my time.
    • Related: She found meaning where she least expected it — her childhood faith (Rachel Martin, NPR): “Hurwitz: But I think what makes me nervous about the spiritual buffet is that what you’re saying is, ‘I’m going to take this thing from Buddhism that’s so me and this thing from Judaism that’s so me and this from Catholicism.’   Martin: One-hundred percent. That’s what I’m doing. Hurwitz: This is what so many of us do, and at the end of the day you’re reinforcing yourself. You’re kind of deifying yourself. Martin: Wow. Hurwitz: You’re saying, ‘What reinforces my preexisting beliefs?’ This is how we consume social media, right? But it’s not the purpose of these great spiritual traditions.”
    • Also related: Where Does Religion Come From? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Some sort of religious attitude is essentially demanded, in my view, by what we know about the universe and the human place within it, but every sincere searcher is likely to follow their own idiosyncratic path.”
      • A fascinating essay that wanders into weird places.
  2. How this Turing Award–winning researcher became a legendary academic advisor (Sheon Han, MIT Technology Review): “Former students describe Blum as unwaveringly positive, saying he had other ways besides criticism to steer them away from dead ends. ‘He is always smiling, but you can see he smiles wider when he likes something. And oh, we wanted that big smile,’ says Ronitt Rubinfeld, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. Behind the general positivity, Rubinfeld says, is a fine taste for interesting ideas. Students could trust they were being guided in the right direction. Come up with a boring idea? Blum, who is known for his terrible memory, would have mostly forgotten it by your next meeting.”
    • I quite liked this one.
  3. There’s another Christian movement that’s changing our politics. It has nothing to do with whiteness or nationalism (John Blake, CNN): “The Social Gospel was a Christian movement that emerged in late 19th-century America as a response to the obscene levels of inequality in a rapidly industrializing country.… The Social Gospel turned religion into a weapon for economic and political reform. Its message: saving people from slums was just as important as saving them from hell. At its peak, the movement’s leaders supported campaigns for eight-hour workdays, the breaking up of corporate monopolies and the abolition of child labor. They spoke from pulpits, lectured across the country and wrote best-selling books.… The Social Gospel movement is making a comeback. Some may argue it never left.”
  4. You Are the Last Line of Defense (Bari Weiss, The Free Press): “I am here because I know that in the fight for the West, I know who my allies are. And my allies are not the people who, looking at facile, external markers of my identity, one might imagine them to be. My allies are people who believe that America is good. That the West is good. That human beings—not cultures—are created equal and that saying so is essential to knowing what we are fighting for. America and our values are worth fighting for—and that is the priority of the day.”
  5. UK infant baptized before being forced off life support, father says ‘the devil’ was in the courtroom (Timothy H.J. Nerozzi, Fox News): “Dean Gregory, Indi’s father, said before her death that he was inspired to baptize his daughter by Christian legal volunteers who fought to keep her alive. Dean said he became convinced of the existence of the devil by his family’s treatment in the courtroom. ‘I am not religious and I am not baptized. But when I was in court, it felt like I had been dragged to hell,’ Dean Gregory said in a Nov. 6 interview with New Daily Compass. ‘I thought, if hell exists then heaven must exist. It was like the devil was there. I thought if there’s a devil then God must exist.’ ”
    • Heartbreaking. Recommended by a student.
  6. Some Israel/Hamas perspectives:
    • There Should Be More Public Pressure on Hamas (David French, New York Times): “I’m not naïve. I don’t for a moment believe that defeating Hamas and removing it from power solves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel cannot live up to its own democratic promise or its own liberal ideals if, for example, it indulges its own dangerous radicals. But I do know that placing more pressure on Israel than Hamas to end the conflict and save civilian lives is exactly backward. The international system depends on opposing the aggressor and punishing crimes. Protests that aim their demands more at Israel than Hamas impede justice, erode the international order and undermine the quest for a real and lasting peace.”
    • This War Did Not Start a Month Ago (Dalia Hatuqa, New York Times): “To many inside and outside this war, the brutality of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks was unthinkable, as have been the scale and ferocity of Israel’s reprisal. But Palestinians have been subject to a steady stream of unfathomable violence — as well as the creeping annexation of their land by Israel and Israeli settlers — for generations. If people are going to understand this latest conflict and see a path forward for everyone, we need to be more honest, nuanced and comprehensive about the recent decades of history in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank, particularly the impact of occupation and violence on the Palestinians.”
      • A fairly straightforward presentation of the Palestinian perspective.
    • The Struggle for Black Freedom Has Nothing to Do with Israel (Coleman Hughes, The Free Press): “There is yet another inconvenient fact for those who want to reduce the Israeli-Arab conflict to a competition between European settlers and people of color: the majority of Israeli Jews are not European. They are Mizrahi Jews—hailing from the Middle East and North Africa. What’s more, it is not the European Jews but the Mizrahi Jews—who are difficult to visually distinguish from Palestinians—that form most of the voting base of the right-wing parties that Israel’s critics consider to be the truly racist ones.”
    • Three articles from The Gospel Coalition about the various ways Christians think about the promises to Israel in the Old Testament. It’s worth sorting through your own perspective. These three essays are from well-respected Christian academics who present their positions concisely and well.
      • Why the Land Promises Belong to Ethnic Israel (Gerald McDermott, The Gospel Coalition): “First, if the land promise was ended with the coming of Jesus, then God is not trustworthy. For he promised to Abraham and his seed that the land would be theirs for an everlasting possession (Gen. 17:8). Second, if the land promise to Israel is broken, then so might be God’s promise to renew and restore the heavens and the earth. The land promise’s partial fulfillment—by bringing Jews from the four corners of the earth back to the land starting in the eighteenth century—is down payment on the promise of a new heaven and a new earth. Third, it is a deep theological reason why we should support Israel in this new war against the new Nazism.”
      • The Expected Universalization of the Old Testament Land Promises (G. K. Beale, The Gospel Coalition): “The land promises will be fulfilled in a physical form when all believers inherit the earth, but the inauguration of this fulfillment is mainly spiritual until the final consummation in a fully physical new heaven and earth. The physical way these land promises have begun fulfillment is that Christ himself introduced the new creation by his physical resurrection.… Therefore, none of the references to the promise of Israel’s land in the Old Testament appears to be related to the promises of ethnic Israel’s return to the promised land on this present earth.”
      • Israel’s Role in the Land Promise (Darrell Bock, The Gospel Coalition): “It’s often claimed the New Testament moves the land promise from being about Israel as a people in the land to being about God’s people in the world. That’s an oversimplification. The question is whether that universal expansion neuters the specific promise made to Israel of a people in a land.”
  7. The Imprudence of ‘Dump Them’ (Clare Coffey, Christianity Today): “As prudence has fallen out of favor as an aspiration, it’s hard not to see the hole it has left. On social media, we try to fill that hole with an endless proliferation of abstract rules to govern human decisions. We try to outsource the basis of individual judgment to overly simplistic moral equations, and more often than not, we find the math works out to ‘dump them.’ ”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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 410

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 410, which happens to be the HTTP status code for a resource being permanently gone.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. How elite schools like Stanford became fixated on the AI apocalypse (Nitasha Tiku, Washington Post): “Students who join the AI safety community sometimes get more than free boba. Just as EA conferences once meant traveling the world and having one-on-one meetings with wealthy, influential donors, Open Philanthropy’s new university fellowship offers a hefty direct deposit: undergraduate leaders receive as much as $80,000 a year, plus $14,500 for health insurance, and up to $100,000 a year to cover group expenses.”
    • Bro — what? Stanford won’t even let us pay for a guest speaker with outside funds. It’s not clear that the undergrad students leaders at Stanford are making $80k a year, but it’s not clear that they’re not, either. Some student somewhere is, and that’s wild.
  2. Where’s Waldo? How to Mathematically Prove You Found Him Without Revealing Where He Is (Jack Murtagh, Scientific American):  “Amazingly, every claim that I can prove to you with a traditional mathematical proof can also be proved in zero knowledge. Take your favorite result in math, and you could in principle prove it to a friend while showing them bupkes about how it works. This is a profound discovery about the nature of proof itself. Certainty does not require understanding.”
    • Zero-knowledge proofs are wild. That last sentence “certainty does not require understanding” helped me realize that there are interesting parallels to how people come to faith.
      • It is usually an interactive process. God begins to draw someone repeatedly.
      • It is a probabilistic process. Things keep happening to the soon-to-be convert that don’t make sense. I mean, sure they could have happened by chance because anything can happen by chance. But they keep happening in a way that is exceedingly improbable.
      • The new convert’s confidence in God far exceeds their understanding of God.
    • God — the original zero-knowledge prover. To wax Aristotelian, He is the unproved prover.
  3. Pastor Douša’s case shows the U.S. is not immune to authoritarian crackdowns on dissent (Scott Welder, Protect Democracy): “…DHS retaliated against Pastor Douša for ministering to migrants and refugees in Mexico in December 2018 by restricting her Trusted Traveler privileges; subjecting her to extra screening at the southern border; and telling Mexican authorities, falsely, that there was ‘a great possibility’ that she did not have ‘adequate documentation to be in Mexico’ and suggesting that the Mexican government ‘deny [her] entry to Mexico’ and ‘send [her] back to the United States.’ A CBP official later admitted that the request to Mexican authorities was ‘creative writing,’ ‘without any basis.’ But DHS’s actions made it more difficult for Pastor Douša to continue her ministry, eventually causing her to limit her activities in the United States and to end her ministry in Mexico altogether.”
  4. On some of the recent Supreme Court decisions:
    • Why the Champions of Affirmative Action Had to Leave Asian Americans Behind (Jay Caspian Kang, The New Yorker): “Asian Americans, the group whom the suit was supposedly about, have been oddly absent from the conversations that have followed the ruling. The repetitiveness of the affirmative-action debate has come about, in large part, because both the courts and the media have mostly ignored the Asian American plaintiffs and chosen, instead, to relitigate the same arguments about merit, white supremacy, and privilege. During the five years I spent covering this case, the commentators defending affirmative action almost never disproved the central claim that discrimination was taking place against Asian Americans, even as they dismissed the plaintiffs as pawns who had been duped by a conservative legal activist. They almost always redirected the conversation to something else—often legacy admissions.”
    • On Race and Academia (John McWhorter, New York Times): “As an academic who is also Black, I have seen up close, over decades, what it means to take race into account. I talked about some of these experiences in interviews and in a book I wrote in 2000, but I’ve never shared them in an article like this one. The responses I’ve seen to the Supreme Court’s decision move me to venture it. The culture that a policy helps put into place can be as important as the policy itself. And in my lifetime, racial preferences in academia — not merely when it comes to undergraduate admissions but also moving on to grad school and job applications and teaching careers — have been not only a set of formal and informal policies but also the grounds for a culture of perceptions and assumptions.”
      • This is a very raw and vulnerable piece. Recommended. His Ph.D. is from Stanford.
    • Covering the 303 Creative decision: Why do reporters keep ignoring the fine print? (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “I wish reporters would be honest in admitting that much of the anger expressed over the verdict stems from how Lorie Smith outwitted her opponents by filing suit first, rather than enduring  a string of lawsuits like what Jack Phillips is having to endure. I’m looking for that investigative piece on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that, after having been reproved twice now by the Supreme Court, hasn’t changed its ways at all. Where is that New Yorker take-out on Autumn Scardina, the transgender attorney whose personal vendetta against Phillips just never ends because the courts have given her a free pass? I’m waiting.”
    • My Win at the Supreme Court Is a Win for All Americans (Lorie Smith, Real Clear Religion): “I can’t say everything everyone wants me to. I can’t pretend to agree with every idea presented to me. None of us can. None of us should have to. Each of us should be free to pursue truth, hold to our faith, respectfully speak our beliefs, and thoughtfully live them out day by day, without the government telling us what to believe or say. If that’s the freedom you want – for yourself, for your family and friends, for all of those who share your ideas and convictions – then my victory is a victory for you. Whatever you may think of me and my beliefs, we’re all freer today than we were yesterday. I hope you find that cause for celebration.”
      • The author is the victorious plaintiff in the gay wedding website case.
    • The state’s authority does not extend to the human mind (Kristen Waggoner, World): “The decision means that government officials cannot misuse the law to compel speech or exclude from the marketplace people whose beliefs it dislikes.That’s a win for all Americans—whether one shares Lorie’s beliefs or holds different beliefs. Each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what messages we will communicate—in our words, in our art, in our voice—without interference from the government. The state’s authority does not extend to the human mind.”
      • The author is the lawyer who argued this case before the Supreme Court. She is an Assemblies of God layperson, btw.
  5. Christians: More Like Jesus or Pharisees? (Barna Research Group): “In this nationwide study of self-identified Christians, the goal was to determine whether Christians have the actions and attitude of Jesus as they interact with others or if they are more akin to the beliefs and behaviors of Pharisees, the self-righteous sect of religious leaders described in the New Testament.… The findings reveal that most self-identified Christians in the U.S. are characterized by having the attitudes and actions researchers identified as Pharisaical. Just over half of the nation’s Christians—using the broadest definition of those who call themselves Christians—qualify for this category (51%). They tend to have attitudes and actions that are characterized by self-righteousness.”
    • This research is a decade old, but quite interesting. Recommended by a student.
    • I do have some reservations about the methodology. Some of the questions are just wrong. For example, categorizing “I listen to others to learn their story before telling them about my faith” being Christlike rather than Pharisaical isn’t really a Biblical stance, it’s just a personal opinion. It may be a shrewd strategy and overall commendable, but I don’t see Jesus listening to a lot of stories in the Bible. It’s a poorly chosen question for this scale. Quibbles like that aside, I think the overall vibe probably solid.
  6. Living on a prayer? How attending worship can improve your physical and mental health. (Phil McGraw and John White, USA Today): “Despite the proven health benefits, religiosity is on the decline in America. The fastest-growing religious segment of the U.S. population is now ‘nones’ − those who profess no religion. We’re not here to evangelize, but as a doctor and a mental health professional, it’s important to note that a decline of religion and spirituality seems to be associated with potentially negative health effects.”
    • I love that the authors are Dr. Phil and the chief medical officer at WebMD. To the average American they’ve probably got more credibility than any medical association or even the NIH, FDA, and CDC.
  7. How to Do Great Work (Paul Graham, personal blog): “Four steps: choose a field, learn enough to get to the frontier, notice gaps, explore promising ones. This is how practically everyone who’s done great work has done it, from painters to physicists.… What should you do if you’re young and ambitious but don’t know what to work on? What you should not do is drift along passively, assuming the problem will solve itself. You need to take action. But there is no systematic procedure you can follow. When you read biographies of people who’ve done great work, it’s remarkable how much luck is involved. They discover what to work on as a result of a chance meeting, or by reading a book they happen to pick up. So you need to make yourself a big target for luck, and the way to do that is to be curious. Try lots of things, meet lots of people, read lots of books, ask lots of questions.”
    • This is super-long but worthwhile. He rambles and is mistaken at points, but his core insights are solid and important.

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 What Thomas Jefferson Could Never Understand About Jesus (Vinson Cunningham, New Yorker): “In the years before emancipation, the best arguments against slavery were also arguments about God.… Jefferson’s Jesus is an admirable sage, fit bedtime reading for seekers of wisdom. But those who were weak, or suffering, or in urgent trouble, would have to look elsewhere.” This is quite an article. From volume 286.

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 409

Read it for the amusing bits at the end.

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 409, a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Religion Has Become a Luxury Good (Ryan Burge, Substack): “More educated people are more likely to claim a religious affiliation on surveys. It’s true in every single wave of the Cooperative Election Study. It’s also the case in the Nationscape survey, which is 477K respondents. They even have 4,000 people with doctoral degrees in their sample. The most likely to be non-religious? Those who didn’t finish high school. As education increases, so does religious affiliation. The group with the highest level of religious affiliation are those with a master’s degree.” Emphasis in original.
  2. When the Sermon Fizzles Instead of Sizzles (Tim Challies, personal blog): “But who’s to say that, in the mind of God, the power of the preaching is entirely in the hands of the preacher? Who’s to say that the pastor’s task is to prepare the sermon while the congregation’s task is merely to prepare their own hearts to hear it? What if preaching is powerless not because of the pastor’s lack of preparation but because of the church’s lack of prayer? What if poor preaching is not the consequence of any failure on the pastor’s part but on the congregation’s?”
  3. Why I’m Not a Liberal Catholic (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “But I just don’t see how you can look at the modern world, writ large, and its most developed precincts especially — the world of sex education via ubiquitous pornography, faltering marriage rates, collapsing birthrates, the alienation of the sexes from one another, the rising existential angst attending all these trends and the creep of euthanasia as a ‘merciful’ solution — and say that clearly what the church needs to do at this historical moment is water down or just talk less about its teachings on sex and marriage and family, rather than find a way to reassert them or offer them anew.”
    • The whole thing is specifically about the Roman Catholic Church, but is relevant to Protestant Christianity as well.
    • While we’re on the subject The 5 Minute Case for Protestantism (Gavin Ortlund, YouTube): five minutes
  4. Is There An Illusion Of Moral Decline? (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “…I’ve been reading the biases and heuristics literature for fifteen years now, and developed the following heuristic: if a researcher finds that ordinary people are biased about how many marshmallows to take in a rigged experiment, this is probably an interesting and productive line of research. But if a researcher finds that ordinary people are biased about their most foundational real-life beliefs, probably those ordinary people are being completely sensible, and it’s the researcher who’s trying to shoehorn their reasoning into some mode it was never intended to address.”
  5. ‘Exhausted’ pastors suffering decline in overall health, respect, friendship: study (Jon Brown, Fox News): “Pastors who reported that their mental and emotional health was below average spiked from 3% in 2015 to 10% in 2022, and those who said they were in excellent mental and emotional health cratered from 39% in 2015 to 11% last year.”
    • This corresponds with what I am hearing anecdotally. Which is bizarre to me, because ministry is awesome and rewarding
  6. Saudi Arabia Wants Tourists. It Didn’t Expect Christians. (Vivian Nereim, Yahoo News): “No one in the conservative Islamic kingdom had planned for the Christians. Yet Christians of many stripes — including Baptists, Mennonites and others who call themselves ‘children of God’ — were among the first people to use the new Saudi tourist visas. Since then, they have grown steadily in numbers, drawn by word of mouth and viral YouTube videos arguing that Saudi Arabia, not Egypt, is the site of Mount Sinai, the peak where Jewish and Christian Scriptures describe God revealing the Ten Commandments.”
  7. The recent Supreme Court decisions:
    • I don’t have any articles about the Supreme Court decision in favor of the web designer who refuses to design websites for gay marriages, simply because I haven’t read anything very good about it. Most articles seem to misunderstand both the case and the decision entirely. It was a wonderful outcome and should be praised — the government cannot compel you to say something you do not believe or to celebrate something you do not approve. Suggestions for thoughtful articles welcome, even those with which you think I will disagree.
    • Affirmative Action Thoughts in an Inelegant List Format (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “…we demand that our education system be both a ladder of success, a sorting system that creates a hierarchy of excellence, and a great equalizer, a way to make society more equitable. These are flatly contradictory purposes. They are directly antagonistic to each other.”
    • Burn Down the Admissions System (Yascha Mounk, Persuasion): “Whenever I think of the role that personal statements play in America’s landscape of higher education, I remember a classmate of mine at Cambridge. He came from an aristocratic family, grew up in London, and attended Eton. He was, in other words, about as privileged as you can be in the United Kingdom. But when it came time to apply for admission to a prestigious scholarship that would send him to Harvard, he wrote movingly about how his passion for public policy was awakened when he grew up among the ravages of the troubles in Northern Ireland; at one point, he suggested, his house was even bombed. (Those who knew him realized that this was one of his family’s ancestral castles, not his primary family home, a fact he obviously omitted from his application.)  These kinds of absurdities are not a bug of the strange American reverence for personal statements; they are a feature of it.”
    • I Teach at an Elite College. Here’s a Look Inside the Racial Gaming of Admissions (Tyler Austin Harper, New York Times): “Nearly every college admissions tutoring job I took over the next few years would come with a version of the same behest. The Chinese and Korean kids wanted to know how to make their application materials seem less Chinese or Korean. The rich white kids wanted to know ways to seem less rich and less white. The Black kids wanted to make sure they came across as Black enough. Ditto for the Latino and Middle Eastern kids. Seemingly everyone I interacted with as a tutor — white or brown, rich or poor, student or parent — believed that getting into an elite college required what I came to call racial gamification.”
      • The author is a professor of environmental studies at Bates College and is himself black.
    • 10 Notes on the End of Affirmative Action (Coleman Hughes, Substack): “My personal view is that diversity is like love. When it happens naturally, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. But the moment it’s arranged, legislated, or mandated, you’ve somewhat missed the point.”

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 youth pastor interviewed about the stock market on MSNBC (Twitter): I’ve mentioned before that some Christians are too tentative when speaking about the gospel in high-profile media environments. Not this guy. He just throws down some Bible. He’s the youth pastor at Beachpoint Church in Orange County. From volume 286

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 406

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 406, which is also the name of a poem by John Boyle O’Reilly.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. A Church Grows in Brooklyn (Sheluyang Peng, The Free Press): “…Christianity is thriving if you know where to look. People say immigrants do the jobs that native-born Americans don’t want to do. Going to church is one of them. Over two-thirds of today’s immigrants to the United States are Christians, and prominent religious scholars forecast that immigrants will single-handedly reverse Christianity’s decline in America.”
  2. Please Don’t Ask If I Played a Sport in College (Gerald Higginbotham, SPSP): “…these opening questions were from an actual conversation I had while traveling after graduating from Stanford University in 2014. After a stranger struck up a conversation, I shared that I had just graduated with a major in psychology. On cue, the stranger asked their first follow-up question, the one that I was typically used to: ‘What sport did you play?’ Some may see this question as a compliment, but it is not—it is an assumption rooted in a longstanding stereotype about Black people.”
    • Gerald, now a professor at UVA, is an alumnus of our ministry.
  3. Blasphemy Then and Now (Carl Trueman, First Things): “Opponents of blasphemy then and of blasphemy now share something in common: a concern to protect that which is sacred. But that is where the similarity begins and ends. Old-style blasphemy involved desecrating God because it was God who was sacred. Today’s blasphemy involves suggesting that man is not all-powerful, that he cannot create himself in any way he chooses, that he is subject to limits beyond his choice and beyond his control.”
  4. Understanding the Tech Right (Richard Hanania, Substack): “In our current politics, one can simplify the world by saying that conservatives are in favor of hierarchy and against change, with liberals against hierarchy and for change. While this isn’t how things always work out in practice, and there are many nuances and qualifiers one could add, this is at least how each side perceives itself. The Tech Right combines the acceptance of inequality of the right with the openness to change of the left. The pro-change, anti-equality quadrant is the sweet spot for support for capitalism, so of course they tend to favor free market economic policies.”
  5. The Hillsong experiment is over. Christianity was never meant to be cool (Cherie Gilmour, The Age): “Perhaps now that Hillsong has been cast out of the Garden of Eden, the hundreds and thousands of people who are and have been members can find their way forward. The future of the church will depend on its next move. But for all saints and sinners alike who need grace, it’s worth remembering there was only one man who said, ‘Follow me’. And he wasn’t on Instagram.”
  6. Frequent marijuana users tend to be leaner and less likely to develop diabetes. But the pseudo-health benefits come at a price, experts say (Erin Prater, Yahoo Finance): “It’s well established that cannabis consumption is linked to lower BMI and improved cardiometabolic risk, the authors write. But their findings point to the ability of the drug to permanently disrupt organ function, “with potentially far-reaching consequences on physical and mental health,” Piomelli said. “Adolescent exposure to THC may promote an enduring ‘pseudo-lean’ state that superficially resembles healthy leanness but might, in fact, be rooted in … organ dysfunction,” the authors wrote.
  7. Redditor creates working anime QR codes using Stable Diffusion (Benj Edwards, Ars Technica): “The creator did not detail the exact technique used to create the novel codes in English, but… they apparently trained several custom Stable Diffusion ControlNet models (plus LoRA fine tunings) that have been conditioned to create different-styled results. Next, they fed existing QR codes into the Stable Diffusion AI image generator and used ControlNet to maintain the QR code’s data positioning despite synthesizing an image around it, likely using a written prompt.… This interesting use of Stable Diffusion is possible because of the innate error correction feature built into QR codes. This error correction capability allows a certain percentage of the QR code’s data to be restored if it’s damaged or obscured, permitting a level of modification without making the code unreadable.”
    • Wild stuff- that these codes work is very cool.

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 Only Biblical Peacemaking Resolves Racial and Political Injustice (Justin Giboney, Christianity Today): “In 2020, the pandemic forced Americans to distance ourselves physically. Our politics, identities, and worldviews forced us further apart too. We watch the same occurrences and walk away not only with different opinions, but with a different set of facts. And yet, through social media, we’ve bridged our divides just enough to antagonize one another.” Highly recommended. The author is president of the AND Campaign. From volume 285.

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 404

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 404, which makes me happy that I’ve finally found it. If you know, you know.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Two articles for spiritual growth, both recommended by a student.
    • Roast What You Kill: Becoming a Man Who Follows Through (Greg Morse, Desiring God): “What a strange picture. The man woke up early. He prepared his tools. He lay in wait. He acted deliberately, forcefully. He took the prize, brought home the meat — but never cooked it. Perhaps he decided he had worked hard enough for one day. Perhaps he realized just how tired he felt. His enthusiasm died before the meal was prepared. He labored promisingly, for a time. He remained focused, for a while. His was hard but unfinished work. In the end, his plate is just as empty as that of the other sluggard, waking at his return.”
      • Recommended by a student who notes: “The author focuses on men, but I think a lot of his points apply to women too.”
    • 3 Reasons We Avoid Evangelism (Matt Smethurst, Gospel Coalition): “In a post-Christian age, we can’t presume any basic assumptions in those we’re trying to reach with the gospel. So we must take care to lean in and listen well, to climb into our neighbor’s way of seeing and inhabiting the world. Otherwise, we’ll be speaking about terms—even biblical ones—that’ll be simply misunderstood or rejected outright. ‘God loves you’ is great news, but meaningless if you don’t understand the nature of God (or for that matter, love).”
      • Recommended by the very same student
  2. Why this Jew is binge-watching The Chosen (and maybe you should too) (Faydra Shapiro. The Times of Israel): “I wish that Jews could understand that the New Testament is thoroughly Jewish – replete with Jewish categories and Jewish practices, Jewish controversies, Jewish scripture, and brimming with Jews – I think we could reclaim some of our own history. Because let’s face it, if we want to understand something about the Judaism of our ancestors in this specific period, the New Testament has some real value. And if Jews could feel more comfortable with the New Testament as comprising an important piece of Jewish cultural literature, we might be able to engage more deeply together as Jews and Christians.”
    • I’ve met Faydra twice and will probably meet her again this summer on the Passages trip.
  3. What Christian Nationalism Has Done to My State and My Faith Is a Sin (Susan Stubson, New York Times): “I am adrift in this unnamed sea, untethered from both my faith community and my political party as I try to reconcile evangelicals’ repeated endorsements of candidates who thumb their noses at the least of us. Christians are called to serve God, not a political party, to put our faith in a higher power, not in human beings. We’re taught not to bow to false idols. Yet idolatry is increasingly prominent and our foundational principles — humility, kindness and compassion — in short supply.”
    • A good read. Unlocked.
  4. When the Therapeutic God Isn’t Sufficient (John Carpenter, Mere Orthodoxy): “God’s people have to endure the catastrophes of the world. We can protest ‘it’s not fair, why should we taste the wormwood and the gall when we didn’t do what brought about the judgment?’ But it happens. People live materialistically, taking loans they can’t pay, getting houses too expensive for them. It’s greed; it’s materialism. Then the economy crashes, like it did in 2008. Is it only the greedy and materialistic who suffer? No. Many are swept along into unemployment and bankruptcy. Ethiopia made some horrible economic and political choices in the twentieth century. One result was that our daughter died and there was blood everywhere.”
    • This is quite good.
  5. The Price of Pot (Aaron Renn, Institute for Family Studies): “According to a new study from Columbia University researchers, recreational pot use in teens is associated with increased depression and increased suicidal thoughts. It’s also associated with higher levels of truancy and fighting, as well as lower grade point averages. It’s important to note that this study zeroed in on non-abusive recreational use, excluding people that researchers identified as having a drug problem.”
  6. I taught in San Francisco. Children are trained to be offended (James Vescovi, Newsweek): “The city’s troubles are in large part due to a mindset that seems to pervade life and that I encountered in schools, where I was a high school teacher. In a nutshell, adults are afraid to offend, while children seem trained to be offended.”
    • Recommended by a student. A different student, for those keeping track at home.
  7. Yet more praise for Tim Keller
    • 5 ways Tim Keller was the anti-celebrity celebrity pastor (Katelyn Beaty, Substack): “This might sound insulting, but I mean it in the best way: Tim Keller didn’t lead with his looks. His appearance and dress were pleasant, and pleasantly unremarkable. I loved this anecdote from Tyler Huckabee, that Keller declined doing a photoshoot for a magazine profile. (Free makeover and glossy images? Sign me up!) Huckabee said Keller just didn’t seem interested. Another way of saying this: Keller valued substance over style. He didn’t need to be dressed in luxury clothing for New Yorkers to find his message compelling.”
    • A Tale of Two New York City Pastors (Kara Bettis Carvalho, Christianity Today): “[In college I attended both Redeemer and Hillsong and] it was hard to miss the stark differences between both churches and their leaders: One formed me. The other entertained me.… The nefarious truth is that we, too, are often responsible for creating celebrity pastors. In college, was I hungry for Scripture and gospel-centered community? Yes. Was I also willing to be emotionally titillated, spiritually distracted and even entertained, and looking for a place to belong? Also, yes.”
    • The Far-Seeing Faith of Tim Keller (Michael Luo, New Yorker): “His limited preaching experience, in a small-town church in the Bible Belt, made him an unlikely fit for New York City. Within three years of its founding, however, Redeemer had swelled from fifty people to a thousand. By the mid-aughts, it had become a beacon, around the world, for pastors interested in ministering to cosmopolitan audiences. Unlike many suburban megachurches, with their soft-rock praise bands and user-friendly sermons, Redeemer’s services were almost defiantly staid, featuring traditional hymns and liturgy. But the sermons were wry and erudite, filled with literary allusions and philosophical references, and Keller was shrewd about urging his congregants to examine their ‘counterfeit gods’—their pursuit of totems like power, status, and wealth, which the city encouraged.”
    • Tim Keller Lives (Marvin Olasky, Religion and Liberty Online): “I had one-to-one talks with Keller only three times, so I hope you’ll read elsewhere about his influence via friendships. My wife and I did listen in person to his sermons from 2008 to 2011, and at first we did so anxiously. Listening to how he handled difficult Bible passages was like watching a shortstop ranging far to his right on a hard-hit ball: Will he be able to reach it? He has. He’s on the outfield grass: How can he possibly throw out the runner at first? He just did.”
      • As a preacher, I want to highlight this. Keller’s preaching was extraordinary. Listening to him preach was like watching a gold medalist compete. No. That’s not right, because listening to preaching isn’t passive. Listening to him preach was like being in the ring with a champion — when you weren’t busy getting pummeled you were in awe of his skill.
    • What Has Trump Cost American Christianity? (Ross Douhat, New York Times): “When religious conservatism made its peace with Donald Trump in 2016, the fundamental calculation was that the benefits of political power — or, alternatively, of keeping cultural liberalism out of full political power — outweighed the costs to Christian credibility inherent in accepting a heathen figure as a political champion and leader. The contrary calculation, made by the Christian wing of Never Trump, was that accepting Trump required moral compromises that American Christianity would ultimately suffer for, whatever Supreme Court seats or policy victories religious conservatives might gain.”
      • Does not go where you expect — this is actually an interesting reflection on Tim Keller. Recommended.

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 Great Unraveling (Bari Weiss, Substack): “I don’t know the answer. But I know that you have to be sort of strange to stand apart and refuse to join Team Red or Team Blue. These strange ones are the ones who think that political violence is wrong, that mob justice is never just and the presumption of innocence is always right. These are the ones who are skeptical of state and corporate power, even when it is clamping down on people they despise.” From volume 284.

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 399

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 399, a Harshad number. That means it is divisible by the sum of its digits. 3+9+9=21 and 399÷21 = 19.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Science is a strong-link problem (Adam Mastroianni, Substack): “There are two kinds of problems in the world: strong-link problems and weak-link problems. Weak-link problems are problems where the overall quality depends on how good the worst stuff is. You fix weak-link problems by making the weakest links stronger, or by eliminating them entirely.… Science is a strong-link problem. In the long run, the best stuff is basically all that matters, and the bad stuff doesn’t matter at all.”
    • Highly recommended, has application to multiple domains.
  2. The Myth of Sexual Experience (Jason S. Carroll & Brian J. Willoughby, Institute for Family Studies): “…we review a series of recent studies using different national datasets that show that having multiple sexual partners during the dating years leads to higher divorce rates in future marriages. We also report the findings of a new study that examined how sexual experience histories are associated with the quality of current marriage relationships. Overall, we found that ‘sexually inexperienced’ individuals, or the ones who have only had sex with their spouse, are the one’s mostly likely to be flourishing in marriage.  These ‘sexually inexperienced’ individuals report the highest levels of relationship satisfaction, relationship stability, sexual satisfaction, and emotional closeness with their spouses.”
    • The article ends with this wonderful line: “While the benefit of experience can be seen in many aspects of life, sexual inexperience appears to still be the best pathway to marital flourishing.”
    • The authors are professors at BYU.
  3. The Toxic Reality of a Post-Familial Society (Aaron M. Renn, Substack): “South Korea is a particularly interesting case study. It has the world’s lowest fertility rate, with a total fertility rate or TFR of 0.78 (2.1 is needed just to keep population constant). It has also developed particularly unhealthy gender relations, elements of which we see echoed in our own country. As here, these have even started to carry over into politics. What we see in South Korea is that post-familialism can produce unhappiness and dysfunctional social and political dynamics.”
    • Related: Stop Treating Women Like Men (Sophie Fujiwara, Stanford Review): “In college, we don’t differentiate between men and women when advising students about their careers, as if their life arcs will follow the same trajectory. The greatest privilege that high-earning, educated women have is the privilege of choice, but this notion of perfectly equal career trajectories disadvantages women.”
  4. When Ideology Drives Social Science (Michael Jindra & Arthur Sakamoto, The Chronicle of Higher Education): “In complex areas like the study of racial inequality, a fundamentalism has taken hold that discourages sound methodology and the use of reliable evidence about the roots of social problems. We are not talking about mere differences in interpretation of results, which are common. We are talking about mistakes so clear that they should cause research to be seriously questioned or even disregarded. A great deal of research… rigs its statistical methods in order to arrive at ideologically preferred conclusions.”
    • The authors are a cultural anthropologist at BU and a sociologist at Hong Kong Baptist University, respectively.
  5. I was a teenage evangelical missionary (Jon Ward, Yahoo News): “These leaders wanted a muscular faith that didn’t shrink back from a fight. They wanted a dramatic faith too, full of spectacle. They were all big personalities, which they used to compensate for their lack of training, expertise, and experience. Faith, for them, was not the act of extending one’s self beyond the realm of what could be known to trust in what one hoped could be true. They had more certainty than anything. Christianity was true, no questions asked. For them, faith was a belief that they could call down miracles from heaven to heal the sick or predict the future or change world events. Leaders like Engle and Ahn didn’t come across as charlatans. They were very sincere. But early on in their lives, they got locked into a particular type of faith ministry, and they built audiences and followings based on that brand and that kind of faith. At that point, their livelihoods and incomes became dependent on catering to those same types of Christians. Personal evolution or growth became constrained by their business model.”
  6. Something interesting is happening in Tulsa (Trevor Klee, Substack): “I visited Tulsa through Tulsa Tomorrow, a program that flies out young Jews to Tulsa for a weekend to try to get them to live there. So far, from their own numbers, they’ve flown out about 150 Jews over the last 6 years and about 70–80 have moved.”
    • A fascinating story, not very long.
  7. A Radical Experiment in Mental Health Care, Tested Over Centuries (Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Koba Ryckewaert, New York Times): “By the end of the 19th century, nearly 2,000 [people with mental health problems] lived among the Geelians, as the locals call themselves.… That has made Geel both something of a model for a particular paradigm of psychiatric care and an outlier, often regarded over the centuries with suspicion (including by The New York Times, which, in a headline from March 23, 1891, called Geel ‘a colony where lunatics live with peasants’ that had been ‘productive of misery and evil results’).”
    • Recommended by a student.

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 Q: What Is a Hole? A: We’re Not Sure! (Jason Kottke, personal website): “As for straws — reason tells me they only have one hole but I know in my heart they have two.”  From volume 276.

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.