Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 324

some pre-Halloween links

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 324, which is 182.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Empty Pews Are an American Public Health Crisis (Tyler J. VanderWeele and Brendan Case, Christianity Today): “Religious participation strongly promotes health and wellness. This means that Americans’ growing disaffection with organized religion isn’t just bad news for churches; it also represents a public health crisis, one that has been largely ignored but the effects of which are likely to increase in coming years.”
    • The authors are part of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard. I have quoted Tyler VanderWeele’s research several times in the past.
  2. Some perspectives on the American church:
    • J.D. Vance and the Great Challenge of Christian Malice (David French, The Dispatch): “The real crisis [in American Christian political engagement] is instead a crisis of the heart. Our orthodoxy is undermined by our actions, and our actions spring forth from the deepest parts of our being. At a time of rising antipathy, a Christian political community should blaze forth with a radiant countercultural embrace of kindness and grace. Instead, all too many of us have forgotten a fundamental truth. There are no ‘right people’ to hate.”
    • Why ‘Evangelical’ Is Becoming Another Word for ‘Republican’ (Ryan Burge, New York Times): “For instance, in 2008, just 16 percent of all self-identified evangelicals reported their church attendance as never or seldom. But in 2020, that number jumped to 27 percent. In 2008, about a third of evangelicals who never attended church said they were politically conservative. By 2019, that had risen to about 50 percent.… [also] more people are embracing the label who have no attachment to Protestant Christianity. For example, the share of Catholics who also identified as evangelicals (or born again) rose to 15 percent in 2018 from 9 percent in 2008. That same pattern appears with Muslims. In fact, there’s evidence that the share of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Orthodox Christianity and Hinduism who identify as evangelical is larger today than it was just a decade ago.”
    • The Evangelical Church Is Breaking Apart (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “Scott Dudley, the senior pastor at Bellevue Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, Washington, refers to this as ‘our idolatry of politics.’ He’s heard of many congregants leaving their church because it didn’t match their politics, he told me, but has never once heard of someone changing their politics because it didn’t match their church’s teaching. He often tells his congregation that if the Bible doesn’t challenge your politics at least occasionally, you’re not really paying attention to the Hebrew scriptures or the New Testament.”
    • Church Membership Is Not a One-Way Street (Alex Duke, Crossway): “Think of your church as a lightbulb hooked up to a dimmer switch in a dark room. Everything we do makes our witness brighter or darker. Practicing meaningful membership is one of the surest ways to turn that dimmer switch up; ignoring it is one of the surest ways to turn it down. Meaningful membership is more important than you think.”
  3. The Problem With Dave Chappelle (Samuel D. James, Substack): “Chappelle is not a hapless victim of a crushing ideological agenda; he’s not Barronelle Stutzman or James Eich. Chappelle is, like many before and many after him, a Robespierre of the very revolution that’s after him now. His fortune was made inside the same progressive sensibility that threatens him, and it is precisely Chappelle’s (and many other comedians) skill with which he dismissed any notion of the sacred that has taken root in the people who are walking out on his un-PC act.” Really solid insights here.
  4. The parenting problem the government can’t fix (Stephanie H. Murray, The Week): “There is a cultural weight dangling from the yoke of modern American parenthood — one that is probably beyond the government to alleviate.… Children are a personal choice and therefore a personal problem, many people seem to believe. Have as many as you want — just make sure they don’t bother the rest of us. The problem is that this credo is totally out of step with reality.… parenting is an inherently social occupation. Trying to cram it into an individualist framework, where the costs and consequences of children fall on parents and no one else, distorts the whole endeavor.”
    • I have long thought that disliking children is profoundly hypocritical. You were once a child who craved affection and understanding, how rude to reject children now that you have learned to navigate the world more effectively.
  5. Scientists Built an AI to Give Ethical Advice, But It Turned Out Super Racist (Tony Tran, Futurism): “And as is often the case, part of the reason Delphi’s answers can get questionable can likely be linked back to how it was created. The folks behind the project drew on some eyebrow-raising sources to help train the AI, including the ‘Am I the Asshole?’ subreddit, the ‘Confessions’ subreddit, and the ‘Dear Abby’ advice column, according to the paper the team behind Delphi published about the experiment. It should be noted, though, that just the situations were culled from those sources — not the actual replies and answers themselves.… the team behind Delphi used Amazon’s crowdsourcing service MechanicalTurk to find respondents to actually train the AI.”
  6. About Israel and Jewish people:
    • When Your Body Is Someone Else’s Haunted House (Dara Horn, Bari Weiss’ Substack): “Those girls were not stupid, and probably not even bigoted. But in their entirely typical and well-intentioned education, they had learned about Jews mainly because people had killed Jews. Like most people in the world, they had only encountered dead Jews: people whose sole attribute was that they had been murdered, and whose murders served a clear purpose, which was to teach us something. Jews were people who, for moral and educational purposes, were supposed to be dead.”
    • Whose Promised Land? A Journey Into a Divided Israel (Patrick Kingsley & Laetitia Vancon, New York Times): “‘I believe in the country as long as it doesn’t fight religion, as long as it doesn’t fight me,’ he said. In his view, the new government has undermined Israel’s Jewishness, undercutting the state’s legitimacy. ‘If it’s not a Jewish state, then we have no right to exist here,’ he said. ‘Our right to exist here is based on the fact that God gave us the land.’”
    • Palestine Isn’t Ferguson (Susie Linfield, The Atlantic): “Any useful analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires engaging with an unresolved, frustratingly complex, grievously resilient struggle between two national movements, each with a justified claim to the land. Once that effort is abandoned, a vacuum ensues. It is filled by the transformation of a country into a metaphor; by the rewriting (or ignoring) of history; by Manichean thinking; and by the conversion of language into a means of performance rather than a description of reality.”
  7. Learning From Our Defeat: The Skill of the Vulcans (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “…both of these relative non-entities were pulled aside from their regular positions and handed an additional responsibility— coordinator of the American effort in Afghanistan.Read that again: they were both given the same job at the same time. Yet the problem was worse than just duplication of effort and confused lines of authority. The two men were not even aware the other man was working the same portfolio!”

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 Dissolving the Fermi Paradox (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Imagine we knew God flipped a coin. If it came up heads, He made 10 billion alien civilization. If it came up tails, He made none besides Earth. Using our one parameter Drake Equation, we determine that on average there should be 5 billion alien civilizations. Since we see zero, that’s quite the paradox, isn’t it? No. In this case the mean is meaningless. It’s not at all surprising that we see zero alien civilizations, it just means the coin must have landed tails. SDO say that relying on the Drake Equation is the same kind of error.”  First shared in volume 159.

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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.