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 438

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 438, which is 666 in base 8. 👀

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Don’t Forget About Nigerian Christians (Samuel Sey, personal blog): “Over the last 15 years, More than 50,000 Nigerian Christians have been killed for their faith, 18,000 churches have been destroyed, and millions more have been displaced. In 2023, around 5,000 Christians were killed worldwide because of their faith—90% of them were Nigerians.  Nigeria is the deadliest country for Christians. Every Christian in northern (and some central states) Nigeria is probably grieving the loss of a spouse or a child (or both) from persecution.”
  2. As Kids, They Thought They Were Trans. They No Longer Do. (Pamela Paul, New York Times): “Studies show that around eight in 10 cases of childhood gender dysphoria resolve themselves by puberty and 30 percent of people on hormone therapy discontinue its use within four years, though the effects, including infertility, are often irreversible.… Trans activists often cite low regret rates for gender transition, along with low figures for detransition. But those studies, which often rely on self-reported cases to gender clinics, likely understate the actual numbers. None of the seven detransitioners I interviewed, for instance, even considered reporting back to the gender clinics that prescribed them medication they now consider to have been a mistake. Nor did they know any other detransitioners who had done so.”
    • Unlocked. The main point is horrifying and one I’ve shared many times in this channel before. A secondary point which is quite interesting is how intent the author is on making this the fault of her political opponents. Her audience needs to know that her tribe is still trustworthy despite massive mistakes on this issue. Partisanship poisons the things it touches.
  3. Birth rates are falling in the Nordics. Are family-friendly policies no longer enough? (Henry Mance, Financial Times): “…childlessness is also rising among those who are in a relationship. Many couples are waiting too long. ‘People call me a lot in Finland. [They say] ‘I’m 42, my partner has had three miscarriages and she says she will not continue. And I understand I will never be a father. I’m the only child of my parents, and there’s nobody left, and help me.’ Rotkirch is wary of an emphasis on fertility treatments. Women’s fertility drops in their late thirties and forties: society has to adapt. ‘If you do everything that typical ministers of finance tell you to do, you are 45 — you have a house and a doctorate and it’s too late. The idealised life course is really at odds with female reproductive biology.’”
  4. Some Israel/Hamas articles:
    • The UN’s Terrorism Teachers (Hillel C. Neuer, The Free Press): “UN Secretary General António Guterres said he was ‘horrified’ to discover that UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] employees participated in the invasion and massacre of October 7.… UNRWA employees have held Israeli hostages captive in their homes, using UNRWA facilities to move them from place to place.… It was only after Israel’s government provided evidence that 12 of the agency’s employees were actually involved in the October 7 massacre that UNRWA and the Biden administration took some action.”
      • Wowsers.
    • How Palestine Hijacked the U.S. Civil Rights Movement (Gil Troy, Tablet Magazine): “The differences between the Palestinian national movement and the American civil rights movement are obvious and fundamental. Palestinians have played no role in American history or the history of slavery. Palestinians played no role in the civil rights struggle. The Palestinian-Israeli clash, which is occurring a world away from America, is national not racial. Most Israelis are dark-skinned, while some Palestinians are light-skinned. Nonviolence fueled the civil rights struggle, while the Palestinian movement keeps perfecting new forms of political violence and terror-porn, from hijacking to suicide bombing.”
  5. The Meaningless Incoherence Of “LGBTQ+” (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “The trouble is that words have meanings, and the term ‘LGBTQ+’ — like the term ‘Hispanic’ or ‘Latino’ — is not like NATO. It doesn’t refer to a single, identifiable group, experience, or community. It refers to multiple ones. And each is distinct, discrete and often very different. When you examine its component parts, you realize that the Ls and Gs and Bs and Ts, let alone the Is and the +s, differ dramatically in basic things like psychology, lifestyle, income, geography, education, and politics.… We’re constantly told, of course, that all gays and lesbians have collectively co-opted and destigmatized the q‑word. But polling shows that only 3 — 4 percent of the entire LGBTQ+ world call themselves ‘queer’. So the MSM routinely uses a word for the entire ‘LGBTQ+’ world that 96 percent of this community rejects. It’s up there with ‘Latinx’ as an accurate descriptor.”
    • Sullivan is one of the most influential gay public intellectuals. There are a lot of things he and I disagree about, but I nearly always find his perspectives illuminating.
  6. Two articles about a weirdly intense controversy about Alistair Begg:
    • Throw-Away Culture is the Spirit of the Sexual Revolution, Too. (Samuel D. James, Substack): “A person who interprets their sexual desires to be some sort of immovable identity that must be verified and actualized is in a very lamentable state. But what about the person who interprets their quick temper, their suspicion of other Christians, and their desire to build a platform atop the ruins of others’, as likewise an immovable identity— ‘I just know what time it is’? Theirs is hardly better. The Christian life doesn’t work like that.”
    • Alistair Begg Meets the Politically Correct (Russell Moore, Christianity Today): “Might Begg be drawing the line in the wrong place—too much in the direction of showing grace? Sure. Might I be drawing it in the wrong place—too much in the direction of maintaining truth? Again, yes. He risks confusing people. I risk hurting people. That’s why I think we both attempt to sort these out with fear and trembling and a willingness to be corrected.”
  7. Religious people coped better with Covid-19 pandemic, research suggests (Fred Lewsey, Cambridge Research News): “Where mental health declined, it was around 60% worse on average for the non-religious compared to people of faith with typical levels of ‘religiosity’. Interestingly, the positive effects of religion were not found in areas with strictest lockdowns, suggesting access to places of worship might be even more important in a US context. The study also found significant uptake of online religious services, and a 40% lower association between Covid-19 and mental health for those who used them.”
    • How horrible the pandemic must have been for those without faith. I hated it and I’m a minister!

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 433

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 433, a prime number.

A reminder as the year draws to a close: this weekly roundup of links is an overflow of the donor-funded ministry I do with Chi Alpha at Stanford University. If you’re so inclined, consider an end-of-year donation.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Some Christmas content:
    • Losing Our Grip on Christmas (Mike Glenn, Substack): “In America, Christianity isn’t attacked as much as it is usurped. When Christians say, ‘We’d like to celebrate Christmas,’ the world says, ‘That’s a great idea. Would you like for us to stay open late so you can buy everyone you love a gift?’ Suddenly, there’s no time to worship. There’s no time to pray. We’re too busy shopping.”
    • A Harmony of the Birth of Jesus: Matthew and Luke (Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition): “Here is a simple chronology to show how the events of Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2 fit together and what each of the gospel authors emphasize. Matthew tells things more through the eyes of Joseph and Luke (who perhaps interviewed Mary) tells the events largely through her eyes.”
    • Bethlehem Cancels Christmas, But Local Pastors Still Expect a Holy Night (Sophia Lee, Christianity Today): “The words people once associated with Christmas were Santa, tree, gifts, carols—all ‘romanticized’ traditions from the West, Isaac said. Today, he thinks of words from the Christmas story of the Bible: Caesar, census, massacre, and refugee in Egypt—relevant to Palestinians who have to register to travel outside the West Bank and who seek safety in Egypt.”
    • There’s No Christmas Lunch Like a Korean American Church Lunch (Eric Kim, New York Times): “…59 percent of Korean Americans identify as Christian. But that number used to be even higher. For decades, church lunches have been pivotal spaces for Korean immigrants as they established themselves in the United States, and these meals continue to flourish as hubs of community bonding for many who are the first generation to arrive here. More than just a meal, they are a key opportunity for conversation, gossip and fellowship.”
      • I liked a lot about this article, but I found it very New-York-Timesy to say that most Korean-Americans are Christian and then to tell stories about how those who have left the church nonetheless remember it and its food fondly.
  2. The Problem With Everything Being Pornified (Freya India, Substack): “…I find it so frustrating to see some progressives downplay the dangers of all this. Those that dismiss anyone concerned about the pornification of everything as a stuffy conservative. And somehow can’t see how the continual loosening of sexual norms might actually empower predatory men, and put pressure on vulnerable girls? That seems delusional to me. Let’s just say I have little patience for those on the left who loudly celebrate women sexualising themselves online, selling it as fun, feminist and risk-free, but are then horrified to hear about 12 year-olds doing the same thing. C’mon. No wonder they want to. But I also find it frustrating to see some on the right approach this with what seems like a complete lack of compassion. I don’t think it helps to relentlessly ridicule and blame young women for sexualising themselves online. I don’t think it’s fair either. We can’t give girls Instagram at 12 and then be surprised when as young women they base their self-worth on the approval of strangers.”
  3. Artificial intelligence can find your location in photos, worrying privacy experts (Geoff Brumfiel, NPR): “The project, known as Predicting Image Geolocations (or PIGEON, for short) was designed by three Stanford graduate students in order to identify locations on Google Street View.… [ACLU’s] Stanley worries that companies might soon use AI to track where you’ve traveled, or that governments might check your photos to see if you’ve visited a country on a watchlist. Stalking and abuse are also obvious threats, he says. In the past, Stanley says, people have been able to remove GPS location tagging from photos they post online. That may not work anymore.”
  4. In Gaza, Israelis Display Tunnel Wide Enough to Handle Cars (Ronen Bergman, New York Times): “Two military officials interviewed after the tour say that recently gathered intelligence indicated that Israel has grossly underestimated the size of the underground network. The system, which the army previously estimated was about 60 miles long, is now believed to be closer to 250 miles long, they said.”
  5. William Wilberforce: Abolitionist, Reformer, Evangelical (Richard Turnbull, Religion & Liberty Online): “What unites these disparate individuals? Perhaps three things. First, a passion for a true and lively faith that transforms the heart. Secondly, a holistic view of God’s love for the world that saw no contradiction between personal faith and a transformed society. Thirdly, a tenacity that drove these individuals never to give up, never to give up for Christ.”
    • A solid summary of a consequential Christian’s impact. The author is the former principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.
  6. A Tik-Tok-ing Timebomb: How TikTok’s Global Platform Anomalies Align with the Chinese Communist Party’s Geostrategic Objectives (National Contagion Research Institute): “We then expanded our research into topics relevant to the Chinese Government’s geopolitical interests: 1) Ukraine-Russia War; 2) Kashmir Independence; 3) Israel-Hamas War. The conclusions of our research are clear: Whether content is promoted or muted on TikTok appears to depend on whether it is aligned or opposed to the interests of the Chinese Government. As the summary data graph below illustrates, the percentages of TikTok posts out of Instagram posts are consistently range-bound for general political and pop-culture topics, but completely out-of-bounds for topics sensitive to the Chinese Government.”
    • The link is to a 18 page PDF. The research was conducted in conjunction with Rutgers University. I, for one, am shocked. Who could have predicted such a thing from a country otherwise devoted to free speech and free markets?
  7. Why Antisemitism Sprouted So Quickly on Campus (Jonathan Haidt, Substack): “Common enemy identity politics is arguably the worst way of thinking one could possibly teach to young people in a multi-ethnic democracy such as the United States. It is, of course, the ideological drive behind most genocides. On a more mundane level, it can in theory be used to create group cohesion on teams and in organizations, and yet the current academic version of it plunges organizations into eternal conflict and dysfunction. As long as this way of thinking is taught anywhere on campus, identity-based hatred will find fertile ground.”
    • Haidt is a social psychologist at NYU.

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 432

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 432, a number pleasant to look at because of the smoothly decreasing digits. Also, 432 = 4 · 33 · 22, which is kinda cool.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Why Two Parents Are the Ultimate Privilege (Bari Weiss, Substack): “Two parents combined have more resources than one. Two parents in a home bring in the earnings—or at least the earnings capacity—of two adults. And so, in a very straightforward way, we see that kids growing up in single-mother homes are five times more likely to live in poverty than kids growing up in married parent homes. (Kids in single-father homes are three times as likely to live in poverty.) Some of that reflects the fact that people with lower levels of education or income are more likely to become single parents. But even if you compare across moms of the same education group, you see that kids who grow up in a household with two parents have household incomes that are about twice as high. That means that those parents are paying for things like a nicer house in a safe neighborhood with good school districts. But they also spend more time with their kids. We see that kids who grow up with married parents have more parental time invested in them: reading to your kid, talking to your kid, driving your kids to activities. If there are two parents in the household, there’s just more time capacity.”
    • The interviewee, Melissa Kearney, is an economist at the University of Maryland.
    • This part near the end also caught my attention: “You write that you would speak to your fellow scholars about your plans for writing this book, and they would say things along the lines of, ‘I tend to agree about all of this, but are you sure you want to be out there saying this publicly?’ How many areas of research, inquiry, and basic curiosity about the most important things in our lives and culture are third rail now? If it’s taboo to write a book saying two parents in a house are better materially than one, what else is off-limits, and what can we do to combat that?”
  2. Some links related to academia, congressional testimony, and speech in general:
    • You Could Not Pay Me Enough to Be a College Administrator (Dan Drezner, Substack): “Why are these horrible, no-win positions? Because the primary job of any college dean or university president is to deal with the most spoiled, entitled, pig-headed interest groups imaginable. First, there are the students…”
    • Freedom of speech for university staff? (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “Freedom of speech for university staff is a harder question than for students or faculty. Students will move on, and a lot of faculty hate each other anyway, and don’t have to work together very much. Plus the protection of tenure was (supposedly?) designed to support freedom of speech and opinion, even ‘perceived to be offensive’ opinions. As for students, we want them to be experimenting with different opinions in their youth, even if some of those opinions are bad or stupid. Staff in these regards are different.”
    • What the University Presidents Got Right and Wrong About Antisemitic Speech (David French, New York Times): “I’m a former litigator who spent much of my legal career battling censorship on college campuses, and the thing that struck me about the presidents’ answers wasn’t their legal insufficiency but rather their stunning hypocrisy. And it’s that hypocrisy, not the presidents’ understanding of the law, that has created a campus crisis.”
    • Penn’s Leadership Resigns Amid Controversies Over Antisemitism (Stephanie Saul and Alan Blinder, New York Times): “The president of the University of Pennsylvania, M. Elizabeth Magill, resigned on Saturday, four days after her testimony at a congressional hearing in which she seemed to evade the question of whether students who called for the genocide of Jews should be disciplined.… Ms. Magill, a former Stanford Law School dean and University of Virginia provost, had come to the university as part of a wave of women to lead Ivy League colleges.”
  3. Some reflections on the war between Israel and Hamas:
    • Who’s a ‘Colonizer’? How an Old Word Became a New Weapon (Roger Cohen, New York Times): “The clash over purported Israeli colonialism is part of something larger, a profound movement in people’s minds. The Palestinian national struggle has become the cause of the justice-seeking dispossessed throughout the world. At the same time, the quest of the Jews to find refuge in a national homeland as the only answer to being the perennial outcast has become a battle to demonstrate that, far from being colonialist, Israel is a diverse nation largely formed by a gathering-in of the persecuted.”
      • Covers a lot of ground, broadly helpful.
    • What Justice Requires in Gaza (Jack Omer-Jackaman, Persuasion): “How much injustice can a war contain before it is no longer a just war? History is certainly replete with wars we consider just on the whole, but which were littered with gross violations of human rights and decency. What was true on October 7th is true today: Hamas is a mass-raping, civilian-slaughtering, baby-kidnapping evil, whose defeat should be supported by all friends of Israel and all friends of Palestine. But I cannot be silent when my own reason and my own heart conclude that Gazan civilians are not being sufficiently protected. In the failure of Israeli strikes to distinguish between civilian and terrorist, and in the hampering of humanitarian aid efforts, too much of this war is being fought unjustly.”
  4. In 2024, the Tension Between Macroculture and Microculture Will Turn into War (Ted Gioia, Substack): “The clash has reached some kind of brutal tipping point. I believe it’s about to turn into war. The fact that 2024 is an election year will escalate the conflict. Just wait and see. But even right now you can feel the ground shaking.… [alternative platforms are outperforming Hollywood.] This seems impossible. A single individual living in Greenville, North Carolina defeats enormous global businesses with tens of thousands of employees and decades of experience—and does it repeatedly every month. But that’s exactly what’s happening.”
    • Fascinating stats in here.
    • Related (at least to me): When the New York Times lost its way (James Bennet, The Economist): “This is a bit of a paradox. The new newsroom ideology seems idealistic, yet it has grown from cynical roots in academia: from the idea that there is no such thing as objective truth; that there is only narrative, and that therefore whoever controls the narrative – whoever gets to tell the version of the story that the public hears – has the whip hand. What matters, in other words, is not truth and ideas in themselves, but the power to determine both in the public mind. By contrast, the old newsroom ideology seems cynical on its surface. It used to bug me that my editors at the Times assumed every word out of the mouth of any person in power was a lie. And the pursuit of objectivity can seem reptilian, even nihilistic, in its abjuration of a fixed position in moral contests. But the basis of that old newsroom approach was idealistic: the notion that power ultimately lies in truth and ideas, and that the citizens of a pluralistic democracy, not leaders of any sort, must be trusted to judge both.”
    • This one is very long but I found it compelling.
  5. Conservatives are suing law firms over diversity efforts. It’s working. (Julian Mark and Taylor Telford, Washington Post): “Kenji Yoshino, a law professor and director of the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at New York University, said targeting law firms is effective because it can serve as a warning to other industries. ‘If you sue a law firm, then the law firm gets up to speed very, very quickly on what is permissible and what’s impermissible,’ Yoshino said, noting that many law firms advise Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and nonprofits. ‘It’s a way of getting the message out about people needing to flip over their policies in a wide variety of domains — not just fellowships, but hiring, recruiting retreats and the like.’”
    • Interesting. I don’t remember having seen this strategy (sue law firms to bring about broader cultural change) used by either the left or the right before. Is it an innovation or am I just not remembering something in history?
  6. How 1 in 4 Countries Restrict Religious Conversion (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “The USCIRF report grouped the laws into four categories. First, anti-proselytizing laws restrict witnessing of one’s faith in 29 nations, including in Indonesia, Israel, and Russia. In Morocco, for example, it is illegal to cause a Muslim to question his or her religion. The second category of interfaith marriage is restricted in 25 nations, including in Jordan, the Philippines, and Singapore. In Qatar, for example, if a wife converts to Islam but the husband does not, a judge may annul their marriage. Identification document laws—the third category—in 7 nations restrict the right of an individual to formally convert to another religion, including in Iraq, Malaysia, and Turkey. Myanmar, for example, requires converts to submit an application and be subject to questioning about the genuineness of the conversion. And finally, apostasy laws in 7 nations make conversion illegal, including in Brunei, Mauritania, and Saudi Arabia. In Yemen, for example, the punishment is death.”
  7. A Korean Sect Targeted New Zealand Christians. Did Churches Respond Effectively? (Willliam Chong, Christianity Today): “Shincheonji instructors eventually convinced their recruits that God permits lying if it is done for ‘God’s will.’ Before Josh’s sessions commenced in January 2019, his mentor warned him to keep them a secret, pointing to Abraham’s silence before heading out to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22. Josh concocted a story about teaching private guitar lessons three mornings a week, a lie he told his parents, his girlfriend, and Student Life colleagues. When church leaders and a campus staff worker confronted Josh with evidence that he was attending Shincheonji classes, his Shincheonji instructors gave him step-by-step instructions on how to deny his involvement. They even gave Josh pre-written letters expressing ‘inexplicable hurt and confusion’ about his family and friends’ accusations and claiming that he was no longer involved in Shincheonji activities. Josh sent the letter to the church yet continued his classes, and in May 2019 he ‘passed over’ into the group.”
    • Related: Escaping High-Control Religious Groups (William Chong, Christianity Today): “[If a friend is in a cult,] try to maintain the relationship and communication at all costs. Making direct statements like ‘You’re in a cult!’ or ‘You’re deceived!’ are not helpful. Cult members have often been warned that ‘a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’ (Matt. 10:36), so to confront their group will be to fulfill prophecies given to them by their leaders and further prove the group to be correct. It’s important not to drive them further into the group. Ask yourself what need the group is fulfilling in your loved one’s life.”

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 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 428

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 428 and I, being an easily amused man, am pleased that 4*2=8.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot: How Rivals Became Friends (Joel J. Miller, Rabbit Room): “Did Charles Williams know what would happen when he invited his mutuals, C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot, to tea? One suspects. Lewis had long registered disapproval of Eliot’s work. But surely they’d get on in person, no? No. It was 1945 and the trio convened at the Mitre Hotel in Oxford. The first words out of Eliot’s mouth? ‘Mr. Lewis,’ he exclaimed, ‘you are a much older man than you appear in photographs!’ The meeting deteriorated from there.”
  2. Abundance: The Deepest Reality (Bethany Lorden, Stanford Review): “It is true, I have never lacked food or shelter or any necessity; yet every day, I see the most privileged people in the world live as though they are impoverished. As students, we hoard our time, fear our midterms, and dread the future. But what if the blessings that landed us at Stanford continue into our future? What if our classes were not a burden, but a gift of learning? What if our lives and our society mirror nature, where alpine sunflowers reemerge every spring on the harshest tundra, where a square foot of dry prairie nourishes three dozen species of plants, where no tree or animal dies without sustaining new life?”
    • Disclaimer: Bethany is a student in Chi Alpha. Also, I especially liked this bit: “R&DE seems to assume that student satisfaction is a zero-sum game: the website states that ‘Direct swaps between students are not permitted, as the housing assignment process is meant to be equitable, and not based on who you know.’ If a roommate switch makes one student better off, then the trade must have exploited another. Yet by dealing with relationships as if they were a limited resource, R&DE has made them so. Instead of creating community (by definition, a network ‘based on who you know’), R&DE has made everyone ‘equitably’ miserable.”
  3. Why I Ran Away from Philosophy Because of Sam Bankman-Fried (Ted Gioia, Substack): “It’s true, of course, that a philosophical system is not disproved if its advocates are criminals and tyrants—but this linkage must be a cause for alarm and suspicion. The burden of proof is on those who want to separate a person’s core principles from the results they produce in actual life.”
    • I sometimes bag on utilitarianism generally (and sometimes specifically the effective altruism movement). This essay may help you see why. Utilitarian/consequentialist ethical systems are just wrong. Not merely wrong in the sense of being incorrect, but also wrong in the sense of being immoral.
  4. Some Israel / Hamas war articles:
    • Behind Hamas’s Bloody Gambit to Create a ‘Permanent’ State of War (Ben Hubbard and Maria Abi-Habib, The New York Times): “Thousands have been killed in Gaza, with entire families wiped out. Israeli airstrikes have reduced Palestinian neighborhoods to expanses of rubble, while doctors treat screaming children in darkened hospitals with no anesthesia. Across the Middle East, fear has spread over the possible outbreak of a broader regional war. But in the bloody arithmetic of Hamas’s leaders, the carnage is not the regrettable outcome of a big miscalculation. Quite the opposite, they say: It is the necessary cost of a great accomplishment — the shattering of the status quo and the opening of a new, more volatile chapter in their fight against Israel.”
      • Unlocked and well worth reading.
    • “No parent is going to do that”: Shafai family from Massachusetts trapped in Gaza told they can leave without their children (Christina Hager, CBS News): “They had the names of my brother and his wife on the list, but they didn’t have the kids,” said Hani Shafai. His brother Hazem and his wife Sanaa were excited to see their names on a list customs authorities put out naming people who could cross into Egypt to safety. The problem was, there was no mention of their three children. “They were told they can cross, but they have to leave the kids behind. And, as you know, no parent is going to do that, and he said no,” said Hani Shafai.
      • Bro. Database errors happen, I get it. But it seems to me this is the kind of situation where instead of turning them away you ask them to step to the side, offer them some water and snacks, and have someone investigate to figure out what happened so they can leave with their kids.
    • Inside a Gaza bedroom, soldiers searching for tunnels find how low Hamas can go (Emanuel Fabian, Times of Israel): “In terms of its size, where it led and what it was intended for, the tunnel was much like the other 90 found in the area. What set it apart, though, was its location. The shaft had been uncovered by soldiers of the Combat Engineering Corps’ 614th Battalion as they carried out a second round of sweeps in a single-family home — with an outdoor swimming pool — in an upscale beachside neighborhood. Inside a bedroom scattered with brightly colored clothes, underneath one of three child-sized beds, soldiers had found a portal to where monsters were hiding.”
    • The “Genocide” Canard Against Israel (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “…if Israel were interested in the “genocide” of Palestinian Arabs, it has had the means to accomplish it for a very long time. And yet, for some reason, the Arab population of Israel and the occupied territories has exploded since 1948, and the Arabs in Israel proper have voting rights, and a key presence in the Knesset.… And real genocide is happening elsewhere in the world right now as well, but it receives a fraction of the attention. In Darfur, between 2003 and 2005, around 200,000 members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups were murdered in a clear case of genocide that has recently revived. This year, some 180,000 civilians have fled to Chad, pursued by the Janjaweed — the Einsatzgruppen of central Africa. If your view is derived from critical race theory, you should be particularly concerned about this genocide, since it is directed at black Africans by Islamist Arabs. But the campus left is uninterested.”
    • ‘I Feel a Human Deterioration’ (Lulu Garcia-Navarro, New York Times): “And when I see people watching the horrible tragedy that is happening here as if it were a Super Bowl of victimhood, in which you support one team and really don’t care about the other, empathy becomes very, very selective. You see only some pain. You don’t want to see other pain.”
  5. Died: Frank Borman, Apollo 8 Astronaut Who Broadcast Genesis from Space (Daniel Silliman, Christianity Today): “On December 24, as a camera showed the lunar surface passing below a window, the three astronauts read the Scripture from a piece of paper. Borman went last, closing with verses 9 and 10: ‘And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.’ Then he said, ‘From the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth.’ ”
  6. Critical Grace Theory (Carl Trueman, First Things): “Isaiah, Paul, and Augustine are far better sources of social criticism than Horkheimer, Marcuse, or Crenshaw. Yes, the world is imperfect and unjust and filled with strife. Sadly, such are the wages of sin. Acknowledging the fall of man does not entail a passive acceptance of injustice or evil. The doctrine of original sin does not entail the conclusion that nothing can ever be improved and that efforts of social reform are pointless. But a recognition that sin underlies unjust social systems means that our critical theorizing must be shaped by our belief in God’s grace and the healing power of forgiveness, both for ourselves and for others. No critical theory that fails to place these theological truths at the center of its analysis and proposals is compatible with Christianity.”
  7. How Early Morning Classes Change Academic Trajectories: Evidence from a Natural Experiment (Anthony LokTing Yim, SSRN): “Using a natural experiment which randomized class times to students, this study reveals that enrolling in early morning classes lowers students’ course grades and the likelihood of future STEM course enrollment. There is a 79% reduction in pursuing the corresponding major and a 26% rise in choosing a lower-earning major, predominantly influenced by early morning STEM classes. To understand the mechanism, I conducted a survey of undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory course, some of whom were assigned to a 7:30 AM section.”
    • Disclosure: I only skimmed the article. I find it plausible enough to pass on and am not skeptical enough of its claims to feel motivated to read it thoroughly. The author is an economist at Brigham Young University, and the study is about students at Purdue University.
    • Bottom line: avoid early morning classes.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • God vs Nothing (Pete Holmes, YouTube): one minute, language is a bit crude but this is brilliant at points
  • Hardball Questions For The Next Debate (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “Hello, and welcome to the third Republican primary debate. To shore up declining voter interest, we’ve decided to make things more interesting tonight. In this first round, each candidate will have to avoid using a specific letter of the alphabet in their answer. If they slip up, they forfeit their remaining time, and the next candidate in line gets the floor. Our candidates who have qualified today are Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and Donald Trump.”
    • This gets increasingly absurd and amusing and I actually laughed out loud at the end.
  • “Octobunk” stacks up fun at Stanford (Anna Yang, Stanford Daily): “In the early hours of Oct. 20, a group of around 20 freshmen assembled on the Oval, ready to begin the construction of the ‘Octobunk.’ Their plan was to stack eight dorm beds on top of each other in the Oval, making a tower that created a large bunk bed. Nearly 100 students showed up to observe the event at around 2 a.m. — a combination of people who had heard of the tremendous feat by word-of-mouth, or people who had simply been walking past.”
    • This is glorious and the students who organized it should automatically be elected to ASSU and only displaced by people who spark equal or greater joy.

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 427

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.

427 feels kinda prime-ish, but it’s not. 427 = 61*7.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. ‘Gender-Affirming Care Is Dangerous. I Know Because I Helped Pioneer It.’ (Riittakerttu Kaltiala, The Free Press): “Soon after our hospital began offering hormonal interventions for these patients, we began to see that the miracle we had been promised was not happening. What we were seeing was just the opposite. The young people we were treating were not thriving. Instead, their lives were deteriorating. We thought, what is this? Because there wasn’t a hint in studies that this could happen.”
  2. More Israel/Gaza perspectives:
    • The Decolonization Narrative Is Dangerous and False (Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Atlantic): “The decolonization narrative… holds that Israel is an ‘imperialist-colonialist’ force, that Israelis are ‘settler-colonialists,’ and that Palestinians have a right to eliminate their oppressors. (On October 7, we all learned what that meant.) It casts Israelis as ‘white’ or ‘white-adjacent’ and Palestinians as ‘people of color.’ This ideology, powerful in the academy but long overdue for serious challenge, is a toxic, historically nonsensical mix of Marxist theory, Soviet propaganda, and traditional anti-Semitism from the Middle Ages and the 19th century. But its current engine is the new identity analysis, which sees history through a concept of race that derives from the American experience.”
      • Long but good. The author, who is Jewish, is well-known for his history books (perhaps the best way to describe him is as a non-academic historian).
    • Whose Genocide Is It Anyway? (Zachary R. Goldsmith, Quillette): “Since the year 2000, the population of Gaza has nearly doubled; it boasts the 39th highest birthrate among the world’s countries, and the average life expectancy is nearly 76 years of age (the average life expectancy in the US is just over 77 years of age). If Israel is intent on committing genocide in Gaza, it is doing a very poor job.… Since the Middle Ages, Jews have been accused of murdering children and using their blood for ritual purposes. This blood libel lives on today in a new form, as the Jews of the state of Israel are accused of purposefully killing children in a campaign of genocide.”
    • Hamas’ Bid for Revolutionary Legitimacy (Damir Marusic, Substack): “…for revolutionary movements, violence is a political act. Like any number of revolutionary movements, Hamas knew exactly what it was doing. But in my initial read of its cynical calculation, I didn’t give them their due. They weren’t merely trying to torpedo a deal that could be their undoing. They were making a bid for full political legitimacy among Palestinians.”
      • The author is an editor at the Washington Post.
    • Stop helping Hamas win its disinformation war (Sam Wineburg, Times of Israel): “Along with my colleagues at Stanford University, I have spent the last seven years studying how people learn to make better decisions about what to believe online.… Here are four guidelines for seeing through the fog and staying sane in the midst of this current information war.”
      • The author is an emeritus professor of education at Stanford.
    • What Happens When There Aren’t Enough Jews to Lynch? (Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, The Free Press): “…a flight from Tel Aviv was landing on Sunday evening at the airport in the city of Makhachkala. Hundreds of people stormed the airport to greet that flight—of 45 passengers, 15 were Israeli, many of them children. ‘Allahu Akbar,’ they shout in videos that have emerged online, some men waving Palestinian flags. On the tarmac, they attack an airport employee, who desperately explains: ‘There are no passengers here anymore,’ and then exclaims, ‘I am Muslim!’ Some of the rioters demanded to examine the passports of arriving passengers, seemingly trying to identify those who were Israeli, and others searched cars as they were leaving. Another video emerged of two young boys at the airport, proudly declaring that they came to ‘kill Jews’ with knives.”
      • Antisemitism is surging globally and it is terrifying to watch.
    • The Israel-Hamas War Will Reshape Western Politics (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “These [decades-old American] groupings still exist — evangelicals are still very pro-Israel, the Democratic president is a Zionist liberal, the progressive movement is pro-Palestinian — but in the current crisis you can see a more complex alignment taking shape, with implications that extend beyond the Israeli-Palestinian question alone.”
  3. Just the Facts on ‘Geofencing’ (Maggie MacFarland Phillips, Real Clear Policy): “Data brokers, including SafeGraph, insist that their information is anonymized. But it is precisely the lack of specificity that worries critics. ‘There’s no particular individual who the government is suspicious of,’ Adam Schwartz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told RealClearInvestigations. ‘It’s a dragnet.’ Moreover, there is no guarantee that the data collected through geofencing stays anonymous. ‘It is often very easy to take supposedly de-identified data and re-identify a person,’ said Schwartz, ‘And it’s very, very easy to do that with location data.’”
  4. Movies, Moral Revulsion, and a Post-Christian Age (Samuel D. James, Substack): “It seems to me that the idea that you can elicit moral revulsion merely by depicting evil assumes two things. First, it assumes that the realm of the visual can be manipulated to bypass titillation and proceed straight to condemnation. Second, it assumes an audience who possess a moral imagination that would both motivate and equip them to do this. The first assumption could be false. The second assumption absolutely is. Secular society, aided by the liturgical effect of the Internet and the pornographic nature of the Web, has long been feeding itself on images of the morally outrageous.”
    • Christians were famously hostile towards mass entertainment a few decades ago. The next generation of evangelicals rebelled against that and too often became uncritically accepting of all forms of entertainment. We need to get to place of rejecting what needs to be rejected and allowing freedom otherwise. There are shows you should not watch and songs you should not jam out to. And you should be willing to tell people why, “Yeah, I didn’t watch Game of Thrones once I realized how pornographic it was.” Or in a paper about a film you had to watch for a class, “The director made a mistake including [whatever it is]: it doesn’t advance the plot or enhance the theme. It actually undermines the purpose of the work and seems to have been included mostly to appeal to a certain intellectual demographic, thereby making the film’s message needlessly inaccessible to those not already predisposed to agree with it.”

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

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 426

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 426, and I am absurdly pleased that 4+2=6. In some regards I am very easy to amuse.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Keeping the Faith at Stanford (Isabella Griepp, The Stanford Review): “Staying true to your faith is a serious undertaking at a place like Stanford, but it can also be the most rewarding part of your time on campus. It is vital that you use your first quarter in college to get plugged into Christian community.”
    • The author is in Chi Alpha.
  2. How Rich Donors and Loose Rules Are Transforming College Sports (David A. Fahrenthold and Billy Witz, New York Times): “One player at Michigan State University now makes $750,000 a year, according to the group that pays him. At Ohio State University, some players not only get a paycheck — they get a free car lease to boot, courtesy of a donor collective.… The New York Times identified more than 120 collectives, including at least one for every school in each of the five major college football conferences. The average starter at a big-time football program now takes in about $103,000 a year, according to Opendorse, a company that processes payments to the players for the collectives.”
  3. 15 Reasons Why Mass Media Employees Act Like Propagandists (Caitlin Johnston, personal blog): “Just because a lot of the mass media’s propagandistic behavior can be explained without secret conspiracies doesn’t mean secret conspiracies aren’t happening. In 1977 Carl Bernstein published an article titled ‘The CIA and the Media’ reporting that the CIA had covertly infiltrated America’s most influential news outlets and had over 400 reporters who it considered assets in a program known as Operation Mockingbird. We are told that this sort of covert infiltration doesn’t happen anymore today, but that’s absurd.”
    • Recommended by an alumnus in response my commentary last week on how to think about journalism. Most of the 15 reasons seem to revolve around this insight: journalists respond to incentives and the system provides rewards that benefit them but not their readers/viewers. We should remain mindful of this.
  4. Two articles about manhood:
    • Understanding the Young Male Syndrome (Rob K Henderson, Substack): “In his cross-cultural research, the psychologist Martin J. Seager has found 3 consistent requirements to achieve the status of manhood in various societies around the world. First, the individual must be a fighter and a winner. Second, he must be a provider and protector. And third, he must maintain mastery and control of himself at all times. Across cultures, there seems to be an implicit understanding of what being a man is… Indeed, masculinity is widely considered to be an artificially induced status, achievable only through testing and careful instruction. Real men do not simply emerge like butterflies from their boyish cocoons. Rather, they must be carefully shaped, nurtured, counseled, and prodded into manhood.”
      • This is long and worth reading for anyone who has an interest in gender dynamics.
    • News Men Can Use (Aaron Renn, Substack): “I also do these practical posts because it’s important for those of us Christian lay people who have skills and knowledge to step up and share them. The truth is, pastors aren’t life coaches and often don’t know what they are talking about in areas outside of their core competency in preaching the Bible and theology. So it’s unfair and even dangerous to rely on them to be general purpose guides to life. That means lay people have to be willing to step up in the areas where they have real insight and experience.”
      • I cannot endorse the point Renn makes in this excerpt strongly enough. There’s a lot pastors don’t know. I get nervous when I hear a minister opining publicly on a topic I know the Bible says very little about.
      • When you look for pastors, look for those with enough humility to know that they are not an expert in things like business, law, politics, leadership, international relations, consulting, biology, astrophysics, investment banking, immigration policy, etc. There may be specific statements in some of those fields that pastors can make with God’s authority, but they are surely limited.
      • You want a pastor who speaks confidently where the Bible speaks clearly and speaks cautiously where the Bible is silent. But as a Christian layperson, you should feel empowered to speak confidently when you have relevant knowledge in your field of expertise.
  5. Two Christians — one on the left and one on the right.
    • On the left: Shawn Fain’s Old-Time Religion (Elizabeth Bruenig, The Atlantic): “ ‘One of the first things I do every day when I get up is I crack open my devotional for a daily reading, and I pray. Earlier this week, I was struck by the daily reading, which seemed to speak directly to the moment we find ourselves in,’ Fain explained in his speech. The commentary Fain read observed that great acts of faith are rarely born of careful calculation, and most often include an element of fear. ‘When I made the decision to run for president of our union, it was a test of my faith, because I sure as hell had doubts,’ Fain said. ‘So I told myself: Either you believe it’s possible to stand up and make a difference, or you don’t. And if you don’t believe, then shut up and stay on the sideline.’ ”
    • On the right: Evangelical Mike Johnson ‘Raised Up’ as House Speaker (Jack Jenkins, a Religion News Service wire story reprinted in Christianity Today): “Johnson has been tied to multiple Baptist churches over the years and currently attends Cypress Baptist Church in Benton, Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Baptist Message. He is also a former lawyer and communications staffer with the Alliance Defense Fund, which later became known as Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal firm.”
  6. What “Latino” Misses (Luis Parrales, Persuasion): “Latinos are proud of their ancestry, especially when it’s related to national origin. But most don’t accept the significance or the weight of ethnoracial identity that our discourse projects onto them. It’s an attitude that’s not exactly color-blind or post-racial; it simply recognizes how race, ethnicity, national origin (or whatever label we use to categorize people) often blend together.”
  7. More commentary on the Israel/Gaza war:
    • I Don’t See a Better Way Out (Ned Lazarus, The Atlantic): “I have dedicated much of my professional life to seeking peaceful change in this conflict, trying to listen to and understand Israelis and Palestinians and find ways to work toward peace or justice or coexistence or mutual understanding or anything better than what there is now.… I see no way out of the nightmare so long as Hamas continues to rule the Gaza Strip, and no viable way to remove it from power without an Israeli ground offensive.”
      • The author is a professor of international affairs at George Washington University.
    • The Problem of West Bank Settlements (Tomas Pueyo, Substack): “You can’t understand the Palestinian perspective without understanding the issue of settlements in the West Bank. It’s their biggest source of irritation, it makes many Palestinians’ lives insufferable, and it’s probably Israel’s most contentious policy. So let’s understand why Israel is there in the first place, why it’s building settlements there, and what will happen to them.”
      • Looking over his Substack, the author has written several articles about Israel and Palestine lately and they seem to be well-researched and are also trying to present the strongest, fairest arguments from both sides. Recommended.
    • Debunking Myths About Israel & Palestine (Gurwinder, Substack): “Israel must curb its fanatical elements — its bombs are hitting too many civilians, its settlement-building is out of control, its Supreme Court is under attack by its own government, and its ultra-orthodox citizens are rapidly outbreeding its secular ones. But Israel’s excesses are Hamas’s norms. Further, it’s the only liberal democracy in a sea of autocracies, and unlike all of them it’s willing to openly criticize itself and set high humanitarian standards even if it can’t always meet them.”
    • Holocaust Memorial Day (Antonin Scalia, C‑SPAN): eleven minutes of now-deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaking about the Holocaust and the highly-educated and refined society that produced it.
    • For Israel, There Are No Good Options Now (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “I wish I had some sane idea of what happens now. We can only grieve for all those innocents trapped in this hell. All I can say is that if Israel continues to wage war in Gaza with this level of civilian casualties, and continues to expand its footprint on the West Bank this aggressively at the same time, and responds to Western requests to take a pause and think things through with anger and defiance, it will be hard to sustain Western support indefinitely.”
    • A War Against the Jews (Michael Oren, Substack): “…dead Jews buy us only so much sympathy. In fact, there is probably a formula. Six million dead in the Holocaust procured us roughly 25 years of grace before the Europeans refused to refuel the U.S. planes bringing lifesaving munitions to Israel during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Fourteen hundred butchered Jews bought us a little less than two weeks’ worth of positive coverage.”
      • The author is a former Israeli politician and served as Israel’s ambassador to the US.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • Wrong Psalm (Tim Hawkins, YouTube): four amusing minutes
  • AI Humor (SMBC): the mouseover text on this one is actually wise
  • Self-Esteem (SMBC)
  • The Florida Man Games: including such gems as “EVADING ARREST OBSTACLE COURSE: Jump over fences, through back yards, and away from actual police officers to earn your freedom!” and “A CATALYTIC CONVERTER, 2 BIKES, AND A HANDFUL OF COPPER PIPES: RACE AGAINST TIME: Compete head to head in a race that lets you live a day in the life of a Florida man headline” 
  • A store let customers steal shoes — if they could outrun a pro sprinter (Kyle Melnick, Washington Post): “Some customers thoughtthe managers were joking, but they still took the chance. Most did not recognize Zeze — who has run the 100-meter dash in 9.99 seconds and the 200-meter dash in 19.97 seconds — or know he was a professional sprinter. Zeze wore a black polo and a band on his left arm that said ‘SECURITY.’ Zeze easily caught the first runner, who grabbed a pair ofblack shoes around 11:30 a.m. and ran away on a busy sidewalk. Zeze said he sprinted at about 35 percent of his maximum speed to catch most customers.”

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 425

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 425, the sum of 3 consecutive primes. 425 = 137 + 139 + 149

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. I’m going to start today’s roundup off with an explanation of why this email is the way it is. First read this brief article by Nate Silver: It’s easy to screw up on breaking news. But you have to admit when you do. (Nate Silver, Substack): “This morning, Gallup published its annual poll on trust in the media. Overall, only 32 percent of Americans say they trust the mass media ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ to ‘report the news fully, accurately and fairly’ — tied with 2016 for a record low. ”
    • Silver’s article made me reflect on how I think about modern journalism and then made me want to explain it. First, I do believe journalists try to get things right. Places like the NYT and the Washington Post rarely publish false information and generally correct falsehoods when they become aware of them. The more specific a claim is the more likely it is to be true.
    • Journalists do, however, frequently fail to report true information they are not interested in or excited about. This is rarely a conscious choice — it’s just a byproduct of the way they think about reality. This comes up especially on so-called “culture war” issues. Many top-notch reporters are simultaneously unaware of and strangely incurious about many of the facts and stories around transgenderism, marriage, religious liberty, and so on.
    • In fact, newsrooms are so ideologically monocultural that there are often massive holes in what is reported. Not only are reporters blind to inconvenient facts, they are often blind to entire stories and trends. An excellent historical example of this is whenever the 60s and 70s are remembered. America legit experienced a Great Awakening (the Jesus People movement) that happened in parallel with the Sexual Revolution. We only ever talk about the second not because reporters/commentators are suppressing knowledge of the Jesus People but because they genuinely are not even aware that they existed or that what happened then is still shaping our culture today.
    • And so when I want a fact, I turn to someplace like the NYT, WaPo, WSJ, Reuters or to a credible expert who writes directly to the public (Ryan Burge is a good example of this). But when I want an analysis, I look for credible, sane voices both within and without the confines of the media establishment. I frequently look to places like Substack or niche websites like Mere Orthodoxy or to mainstream media commentators like Ross Douthat or David French or Megan McArdle who have a track record of synthesizing information accurately and forming opinions wisely.
    • And when I’m reading something, I often ask, “Does this perspective seem plausible in light of my experience?” Especially when it is a claim about evangelicalism or charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity — I likely know more about that world than 98% of the staff of the New York Times (and after reading some articles I think I know more about it than all their staff put together). Sometimes they take an oddball church or religious leader and put their story forward as representative when it is not at all.
    • Anyway, there is probably a lot more to say about modern media, but what I just said is pretty much why this weekly update features the mix of content that it does: mainstream media sources for facts and a diverse array of experts for analysis, all filtered through evangelical sensibilities.
    • A related thought on news consumption: periodicity (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “The more unstable a situation is, the more rapidly it changes, the less valuable minute-by-minute reporting is. I don’t know what happened to the hospital in Gaza, but if I wait until the next issue of the Economist shows up I will be better informed about it than people who have been rage-refreshing their browser windows for the past several days, and I will have suffered considerably less emotional stress.… If you’re reading the news several times a day, you’re not being informed, you’re being stimulated.”
  2. Moving on, here are some articles that give context for the Israel war on Hamas:
    • Palestinian right of return matters (Matt Yglesias, Substack): “Because it seems to me that whatever you personally think about [the Palestinian right of return], it is absolutely central to how the Arab world and diaspora Jews and secular Israelis all view the conflict. Which in turn means that it’s central to the collapse of the Two-State Solution as a political construct and to the collapse of the peace camp in Israeli politics that might have been inclined make a deal that was favorable to Palestinian interests. There is, in fact, a whole school of thought associated with Bill Clinton and American negotiator Dennis Ross that holds the right of return almost single-handedly responsible for scuttling the Camp David talks and preventing the emergence of an independent Palestine. Of course, many other well-informed people deny that’s the case or believe it’s an oversimplification. But even if you think it is factually incorrect to say the resolution of this conflict hinges on the right of return, its centrality to so many of the narratives around this issue makes it an important concept to understand.”
    • The Forgotten History of the Term “Palestine” (Douglas J. Feith, Mosaic): “The term ‘Palestine’ was used for millennia without a precise geographic definition. That’s not uncommon—think of ‘Transcaucasus’ or ‘Midwest.’ No precise definition existed for Palestine because none was required. Since the Roman era, the name lacked political significance. No nation ever had that name.”
      • This is from back in 2021. Super interesting stuff.
    • Hamas does not yet understand the depth of Israeli resolve (Haviv Rettig Gur, Times of Israel): “That enemy is not the Palestinian people, of course, even though support for terror attacks is widespread among Palestinians. The enemy is not exactly Hamas either, though Hamas is part of it. The enemy is the Palestinian theory of Israelis that makes the violence seen on October 7 seem to many of them a rational step on the road to liberation rather than, as Israelis judge it, yet another in a long string of self-inflicted disasters for the Palestinian cause.… A tragedy is about to unfold in Gaza made worse by the long learning curve it will take for Hamas to grasp the depth of Israeli resolve. It has robbed Israel of any other interest but its destruction. In the Israeli mind, any brutality Hamas can commit it will commit. And so it cannot be allowed to ever commit any act ever again.”
  3. Some Christian perspectives
    • Antisemitic Violence and Its Shameful Defense (Mike Cosper, Christianity Today): “To be horrified by the slaughter of Israeli innocents doesn’t require denying the suffering of the Palestinian people. And caring for Palestinian innocents doesn’t require being cold or numb to the horrors of antisemitism and Hamas. We can condemn Hamas while demanding accountability from Israeli leaders who have fomented violence, elevated right-wing extremists, and excused violations of international law. Indeed, Christians should be marked by our willingness to oppose all injustice and to care for Israeli and Palestinian victims alike. And while that includes understanding that Palestinians have suffered great injustices from the government of Israel—as well as neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, as well as Hamas and the Palestinian Authority itself—it must also include active rejection of antisemitism.”
    • Wither the Poisonous Plant of Hamas (Tamir Khouri, Christianity Today): “In this environment of hatred, racism, and violence, Hamas has exploited young people with false promises. With no horizon of hope, Hamas’s adherents in Palestine sank into darkness and helped Hamas victimize Israelis too. But it does not have to be this way. As Christians, we believe in the power of redemption. With real hope for the future of this land, these hateful movements will wither. For a lasting peace, we must respect the image of God in Israelis and Palestinians alike. Is it too much to ask that we don’t see this as a zero-sum game? Shouldn’t both Israelis and Palestinians live in the dignity God intended for us?”
      • The pseudonymous author is a Palestinian Christian who is an Israeli citizen.
  4. Some articles about modern academia:
    • Why Big Money Can’t Easily Change Campus Politics (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…donors should find ways to give money to the actual students — through the Hillel or other Jewish or Israeli student groups if you’re especially concerned with the Jewish place on campus, but more generally through political or religious groups that promise to work against the school’s dominant assumptions, or through student associations that seem to foster free debate, or through campus-adjacent institutions that serve students but are independent of the schools. But not with the goal of using such student groups as a means of conflict with the administration or the faculty. Rather, with the goal that such groups can become microcosms of the university you loved once and fear no longer exists, cells in a body yet to be restored, whose health and flourishing within the large world of Penn or Harvard or wherever is an end unto itself.”
      • Ross Douthat speaks nothing but truth throughout this essay. If you know any gazillionaires who want to influence the trajectories of elite universities have them read this essay and then tell them about Chi Alpha. Mention we’d like a building near campus.
    • The War Comes to Stanford (Pamela Paul, New York Times): “Alma Andino, a Jewish senior at Stanford University, spent the day of Hamas’s attacks against Israel crying and distraught. Like many Jews around the country, much of the weekend passed on the phone with family members, fearing for the safety of friends and extended family in Israel. Andino’s fellow students in Columbae, the social justice and antiwar residential house where she is a residential assistant, held her through her panic attacks. ‘I felt so powerless,’ she recalled when we spoke this week. On Monday, a friend asked if she’d seen the banner some of her housemates were preparing to hang on the front of Columbae, the house she considered to be her community and her home. The sheet bore the slogan ‘Zionism is genocide’ in red letters, styled to look as if they were dripping with blood.… For Alma Andino, events on campus have already reached a breaking point. After begging her housemates not to hang the banner, she said the group debated for hours, with the implication they would desist only if a suitable justification for Israel’s existence could be given. They told her they felt that as student activists, they needed to display a message that would put them on the right side of history. We should be advocating for marginalized communities, they said. ‘Except for Jews?’ Alma replied. The group scoffed.”
    • What Conservatives Misunderstand About Radicalism at Universities (Tyler Austin Harper, The Atlantic): “The tension bursting into view right now—between a majority of scholars, for whom ‘decolonization’ means putting fewer white Europeans on their syllabi, and a small minority who believe it entails anything-goes violent revolution—is the unwelcome and unsurprising result of universities wanting to cosplay rebellion while still churning out Wall Street–executive alumni who will one day pad endowments that are larger than Israel’s annual defense budget.”
      • The title makes this sound more partisan than it is. 100% worth a read and ponder.
    • Students for Pogroms in Israel (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Looking back on the Manson killings, Joan Didion wrote, ‘Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true. The tension broke that day. The paranoia was fulfilled.’ A few people I know believe last Saturday’s attack on Israel and the responses from leftist student groups mark the end of the ‘Great Awokening.’ Although it is too early to evaluate the accuracy of that hypothesis, campus politics have certainly transformed in recent days. Now we are left wondering whether what comes next is better or worse than what preceded it.”
      • He makes specific mention of Stanford at one point, although it is hardly his focus.
    • Moral controversies and academic public health: Notes on navigating and surviving academic freedom challenges (Tyler VanderWeele, Global Epidemiology): “I think that there needs to be more open discussion in academia, and in society, about these matters. Most people, even those who are deeply concerned, seem very uneasy discussing these issues, for fear of being attacked for simply raising them. Colleagues at Harvard, ranging from an expert in child development to a clinician providing mental health care for teenage girls, have told me that they are uncomfortable sharing their concerns on these matters in many or most settings at Harvard. An evolutionary biologist at Harvard likewise recently came under attack because she explicitly stated that sex was biological and binary, even though she also noted that we can nevertheless respect a person’s gender identity. The attack was sufficiently severe, and the administration’s response sufficiently weak, that she eventually felt she had no choice but to resign. Rather than open discussion, it seems we are often now relying on anonymous articles, or brave, and subsequently vilified, authors and whistle-blowers to raise alternative viewpoints. One may strongly disagree with their positions, but it is not unreasonable to raise the questions.”
      • I removed hyperlinked footnotes from this excerpt for readability. This is worth reading as a model of maturely and wisely responding to academic intolerance. Not many scholars have comported themselves with as much class as VanderWeele when their views came under attack. Also, I learned in this article that VanderWeele is Catholic. I had assumed he was an evangelical based on something I heard elsewhere.
  5. Thinking about the moral dimensions of the war
    • The Moral Questions at the Heart of the Gaza War (David French, New York Times): “This is the problem Israeli soldiers and commanders face. They must protect their citizens from savagery. They must comply with the laws of war. And they must make a series of moral choices, under extreme duress, that can define them and their nation — all while they face a terrorist enemy that appears to possess no conscience at all.”
      • Worth reading. As I mentioned when I shared French’s previous article, he is more qualified than any other columnist I know to weigh in on this.
    • This Way for the Genocide, Ladies and Gentlemen (Chris Hedges, ScheerPost): “I spent seven years reporting on the conflict, four of them as the Middle East Bureau Chief of The New York Times. I stood over the bodies of Israeli victims of bus bombings in Jerusalem by Palestinian suicide-bombers. I saw rows of corpses, including children, in the corridors in Dar Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. I watched Israeli soldiers taunt small boys who in response threw rocks and were then callously shot in the Khan Younis refugee camp. I sheltered from bombs dropped by Israeli warplanes. I climbed over the rubble of demolished Palestinian homes and apartment blocks along the border with Egypt. I interviewed the bloodied and dazed survivors. I heard the soul crushing wails of mothers keening over the corpses of their children.… it is not Israel’s assault on Gaza I fear most. It is the complicity of an international community that licenses Israel’s genocidal slaughter and accelerates a cycle of violence it may not be able to control.”
      • Recommended by an alumnus.
  6. Smartphones Have Turbocharged the Danger of Porn (Mary Harrington, Wall Street Journal): “It should come as no surprise that the personalized, tactile, portable smartphone would be the digital portal of choice for something as intimate as porn consumption. But of the new compulsive behaviors enabled by smartphones, few have as intense and immediate a reward cycle as porn—or as many far-reaching consequences.”
  7. Is It Wrong to Cure Blindness? (Francesca Block, The Free Press): “The National Institutes of Health, the $40 billion-endowed funding arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, recently took a stand against ableism by proposing a change to its mission statement, which promises to ‘enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.’ An advisory committee within the NIH took issue with the phrase ‘reduce… disability,’ writing in a 66-page report published last December that it ‘could be interpreted as perpetuating ableist beliefs that disabled people are flawed and need to be ‘fixed.’ ”
    • There are legit insane perspectives being normalized in the world right now. Curing blindness is an unequivocal good.

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 The Media Gets Wrong About Israel (Mattie Friedman, The Atlantic): “…one of the most important aspects of the media-saturated conflict between Jews and Arabs is also the least covered: the press itself. The Western press has become less an observer of this conflict than an actor in it, a role with consequences for the millions of people trying to comprehend current events, including policymakers who depend on journalistic accounts to understand a region where they consistently seek, and fail, to productively intervene.” This is an old article I share periodically, I think I first shared it way back in my fifth Friday email. Helpful in parsing media coverage in the current war.

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 424

lots of articles from an emotionally draining week

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 424, which is symmetrical and also the sum of 10 consecutive primes. 424 = 23 + 29 + 31 + 37 + 41 + 43 + 47 + 53 + 59 + 61.

Things Glen Found Interesting

Today’s roundup was difficult to assemble. First, there are the obvious emotional challenges of reading too much about the horrific raid by Hamas. If you are wondering whether you should dive deeply into original sources (Instagram stories from on the field, etc), no you should not. It will harm your soul. Second, there is a whole sea of information and opinions and I have a very small bucket. Third, it was a busy week (and today in particular was quite hectic for me). All that having been said, if you find other interesting stories about the unfolding situation in Israel, please send them my way.

  1. The best/most interesting stories I’ve seen about the Hamas attack on Israel.
    • ‘We’re Going to Die Here’ (Yair Rosenberg, The Atlantic): “First I’m hearing this gunfire from the fields. But then I hear it from the road, then I hear it from the neighborhood, and then I hear it outside my window. I’m in the room with my wife, and I hear the gunfire directly outside my window, as well as shouting. I understand Arabic. I understood exactly what was happening: that Hamas has infiltrated our kibbutz, that there are terrorists outside my window, and that I’m locked in my house and inside my safe room with two young girls, and I don’t know if anyone is going to come to save us.”
      • This is an amazing story. 100% worth reading.
    • The attacks on Israel, and the response. (Isaac Saul, Tangle): “Am I pro-Israel or pro-Palestine? I have no idea. I’m pro-not-killing-civilians. I’m pro-not-trapping-millions-of-people-in-open-air-prisons. I’m pro-not-shooting-grandmas-in-the-back-of-the-head. I’m pro-not-flattening-apartment-complexes. I’m pro-not-raping-women-and-taking-hostages. I’m pro-not-unjustly-imprisoning-people-without-due-process. I’m pro-freedom and pro-peace and pro- all the things we never see in this conflict anymore. Whatever this is, I want none of it.”
      • This is a well-done roundup featuring diverse viewpoints.
    • Darkness Visible (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “The more I’ve thought and read about Israel, the more it seems that its founding was both a moral necessity and a practical insanity. The moral necessity is proven by last weekend. If Jews can be subject to a medieval pogrom in their own country in 2023, what hope could they ever have without a country at all? The practical insanity lies in the simple fact that the state of Israel was created on land laden with deep religious symbolism, where much of the existing population did not give consent, and despite the early promise, no country for the Palestinians was ever constructed alongside it.”
      • A more comprehensive essay than many I’ve read so far.
    • What It Would Mean to Treat Hamas Like ISIS (David French, New York Times): “…Israel’s goal is not to punish Hamas but to defeat it — to remove it from power in Gaza the way the Iraqi military, the United States and their allies removed ISIS from Mosul, Falluja, Ramadi and every other city ISIS controlled in Iraq. That can’t be accomplished by air power alone. If removing Hamas from power is the goal, then that almost certainly means soldiers and tanks fighting in Gazan cities, block by block, house to house in an area of roughly two million people. The purpose of this newsletter is to give you a primer on both the military difficulty of the task and the humanitarian constraints on it, along with the limitations that are unique to Israel.”
      • Unlocked — a thorough article from an author with highly relevant expertise.
    • Hamas practiced in plain sight, posting video of mock attack weeks before border breach (Michael Beisecker &  Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press): “A slickly produced two-minute propaganda video posted to social media by Hamas on Sept. 12 shows fighters using explosives to blast through a replica of the border gate, sweep in on pickup trucks and then move building by building through a full-scale reconstruction of an Israeli town, firing automatic weapons at human-silhouetted paper targets. The Islamic militant group’s live-fire exercise dubbed operation ‘Strong Pillar’ also had militants in body armor and combat fatigues carrying out operations that included the destruction of mock-ups of the wall’s concrete towers and a communications antenna, just as they would do for real in the deadly attack last Saturday.”
    • As Deaths Soar in Gaza From Israeli Strikes, Egypt Offers Aid, but No Exit (Declan Walsh, New York Times): “Egypt has long insisted that Israel must solve the Palestinian issue within its borders, to keep alive aspirations for a future Palestinian state. Allowing large numbers of Gazans to cross over, even as refugees, would ‘revive the idea that Sinai is the alternative country for the Palestinians,’ said Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, a political scientist at Cairo University. A related scenario that worries Egypt is that it could end up as the de facto administrator of Gaza.”
      • Egypt, of course, is the only nation besides Israel that shares a border with the Gaza Strip. It is often overlooked by Americans because we don’t know our geography very well, but Egypt is equally involved in preventing the migration of the Palestinians in Gaza.
    • How Hamas breached Israel’s ‘Iron Wall’ (Samuel Granados, Ruby Mellen, Lauren Tierney, Artur Galocha, Cate Brown and Aaron Steckelberg, Washington Post): “The fence was breached at 29 points, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Though there wereIsraeli guard towers positioned every 500 feet along the perimeter of the wall at some points, the fighters appeared to encounter little resistance. The border was minimally staffed, it soon became apparent,with much of Israel’s military diverted to focus on unrest in the West Bank.”
      • Detailed and quite interesting. Also not very long to read.
    • The Progressives Who Flunked the Hamas Test (Helen Lewis, The Atlantic): “In the fevered world of social media, progressive activists have often sought to discredit hateful statements and unjust policies by describing them as ‘violence,’ even ‘genocide.’ This tendency seems grotesque if the same activists are not prepared to criticize Hamas, a group whose founding charter is explicitly genocidal… Fitting Israel into the intersectional framework has always been difficult, because its Jewish citizens are both historically oppressed—the survivors of an attempt to wipe them out entirely—and currently in a dominant position over the Palestinians, as demonstrated by the Netanyahu government’s decision to restrict power and water supplies to Gaza. The simplistic logic of pop intersectionality cannot reconcile this, and the subject caused schisms within the left long before Saturday’s attacks.”
      • This one is especially worth reading for university students. It highlights weaknesses in a perspective you are often taught from.
    • A wounded, weakened Israel is a fiercer one (Haviv Rettig Gur, The Times of Israel): “Hamas seemed to do everything possible to shift Israeli psychology from a comfortable faith in their own strength to a sense of dire vulnerability. And it will soon learn the scale of that miscalculation. A strong Israel may tolerate a belligerent Hamas on its border; a weaker one cannot. A safe Israel can spend much time and resources worrying about the humanitarian fallout from a Gaza ground war; a more vulnerable Israel cannot. A wounded, weakened Israel is a fiercer Israel. Hamas was once a tolerable threat. It just made itself an intolerable one, all while convincing Israelis they are too vulnerable and weak to respond with the old restraint.”
  2. Some theological/Christian perspectives:
    • The Way Out is Through: Peace Must Start with the End of Hamas (Marc LiVecche, Providence): “Israel must do everything possible to minimize the toil on the innocent, and to multiply hell on the monsters.”
      • The author is a research fellow at the Naval War College and is writing about just war theory as it applies to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
    • Amid Israel-Hamas War, Local Christians Seek Righteous Anger and Gospel Hope (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “Nothing about this situation is right or good,” said Lisa Loden, a Messianic Jewish member of the Bethlehem Institute of Peace and Justice. “But there is a strong desire to see the Lord use these events to draw people to himself.”
    • Israel’s 9/11: The Need for Moral Clarity (Bernard N. Howard and Ivan Mesa, The Gospel Coalition): “Moral clarity also allows for suitably one-sided prayer. It’s right to pray for the swift defeat of Hamas. The murderous operations room of Hamas will never provide good leadership for the Palestinians living in Gaza. We should by all means pray for both-sided things too: the salvation of people on both sides; the protection, healing, and comfort of people on both sides; and the growth of the church that lives inside the borders of both nations. Even as we pray for these both-sided things, let us boldly call on our God to thwart, frustrate, and defeat the one side that is hell-bent on terrorism.”
    • American Christians Should Stand with Israel under Attack (Russell Moore, Christianity Today): “Sometimes, especially in the early moments of any war, we may be uncertain about who is right and who is wrong. There is no such moral confusion here. Hamas—and its state sponsors—attacked innocent people, as they have done repeatedly in the past, this time employing a force and brutality previously unseen.… As Christians, we should pay special attention to violence directed toward Israel—just as we would pay special attention to a violent attack on a member of our extended family. After all, we are grafted on to the promise made to Abraham (Rom. 11:17). Our Lord Jesus was and is a Jewish man from Galilee.”
  3. Some Stanford-connected articles:
    • This Was Never Supposed to Happen (Amichai Magen, Persuasion): “Analysts keen to convey the magnitude of October 7th to American audiences have already tagged it Israel’s Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Neither label adequately captures the day’s true significance. A more accurate name might be something like ‘Israel’s civic Yom Kippur.’ Why? Because the very existence of the State of Israel was supposed to guarantee that a day like this would never happen. In the Yom Kippur War of October 1973—when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise assault—Israel lost some 2,700 soldiers, but it managed to effectively protect its civilian population. No Israeli towns or villages were ever breached. The social contract was honored, albeit at a terrible price. On October 7, 2023, it was primarily civilians who were killed, maimed, and kidnapped. This was the day when the IDF wasn’t there to defend the people it was created to protect.”
      • The author, himself Israeli, is a Visiting Professor and Fellow in Israel Studies at the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.
    • The impact of Hamas’ devastating attack (Matthew Wigler, Stanford Daily): “Like most Jews, I seek the peace and security of Israel as a Jewish state in the indigenous homeland of the Jewish people, a safe haven after millennia of persecution where Jews can finally claim control over their own destiny. Likewise, like most Jews, I also dream of a future of dignity and freedom for the Palestinian people, who, by the very same principles of self-determination, deserve a state of their own in a land that they too have called home for many centuries. However, Hamas’ ideology of hate and methods of terrorism are contrary to that vision.”
  4. Other interesting stuff not related to the war:
    • 5 Reasons Gen Z Is Primed for Spiritual Renewal (Kyle Richter & Patrick Miller, The Gospel Coalition): “Our last meeting of the year was bigger than the first. We started with 300 students and ended with 400. That never happens. Then in the fall of this year, it happened again: 500 students attended our first meeting; 600 showed up the next week. This doesn’t happen.But it did. And it’s not unique to us. As we talk to campus ministers and pastors from San Francisco to Jacksonville, Billings to Atlanta, DC to Dallas, we know we aren’t alone. Some will urge caution before drawing conclusions. Isn’t this the era of dechurching, deconstruction, and rising “nones”? But data lags behind reality and we don’t want the church to miss what may be happening.”
    • The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics (Jai, Substack): “The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics says that when you observe or interact with a problem in any way, you can be blamed for it. At the very least, you are to blame for not doing more. Even if you don’t make the problem worse, even if you make it slightly better, the ethical burden of the problem falls on you as soon as you observe it. In particular, if you interact with a problem and benefit from it, you are a complete monster. I don’t subscribe to this school of thought, but it seems pretty popular.”
      • A few years old, but really good.
    • Reproducibility trial: 246 biologists get different results from same data sets (Anil Oza, Nature): “In a massive exercise to examine reproducibility, more than 200 biologists analysed the same sets of ecological data — and got widely divergent results. The first sweeping study1 of its kind in ecology demonstrates how much results in the field can vary, not because of differences in the environment, but because of scientists’ analytical choices.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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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.