Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 364

a mix of links more rarified and more spicy than normal

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, the 364th installment, can also be expressed as the sum of consecutive primes: 11 + 13 + 17 + 19 + 23 + 29 + 31 + 37 + 41 + 43 + 47 + 53

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. One Manner of Law (Marilynne Robinson, Harpers): “Almost fifty years ago, I learned by pure accident that a code of law was drawn up in Massachusetts in 1641 that substantially anticipated the Bill of Rights. I happened to read a letter to the editor in the New York Times that mentioned the Massachusetts Body of Liberties. I had a PhD by then and was supposedly an Americanist by training, yet I was learning of this for the first time. When I finally read these laws, I wondered why the narrative of American history did not begin with them.”
  2. The Girls Who Resisted Boko Haram (Jonathon Van Maren, First Things): “While the world demanded their return, the captive girls were under relentless pressure to convert to Islam and marry militants chosen for them. They were threatened with beheading or brutal slavery if they refused. Many of the girls, paralyzed with fear, succumbed. Others buckled under the brainwashing of a militant assigned to inculcate them into the doctrines of Islam. He forced the ‘daughters of infidels’ to take hours-long classes in which they memorized the Quran. The girls were told that if they married, they would receive homes, slaves, and honor. In secret, the girls shared Bible passages and prayed fervently together for strength and rescue. They sang hymns into their hands and cups of water to stifle the sound.”
  3. Why I Left Academia (Since You’re Wondering) (William Deresiewicz, Quillette): “…it wasn’t so much that I wanted to be treated differently than everybody as that I wanted everybody to be treated differently. I wanted the rules to change; I played by the ones that I thought we should have. I insisted on behaving as if I existed in an environment that valued teaching as much as scholarship and intellectualism as much as specialization. Where opening the eyes of a hundred undergraduates was worth as much as supervising one more dissertation, and publishing an essay in a periodical that’s read by tens of thousands was as valuable as adding one more item to the pile of disregarded studies.” This is quite good, more relevant to the humanities than to the sciences. 
  4. I Didn’t Want It to Be True, but the Medium Really Is the Message (Ezra Klein, New York Times): “Americans are capitalists, and we believe nothing if not that if a choice is freely made, that grants it a presumption against critique. That is one reason it’s so hard to talk about how we are changed by the mediums we use. That conversation, on some level, demands value judgments. This was on my mind recently, when I heard Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist who’s been collecting data on how social media harms teenagers, say, bluntly, ‘People talk about how to tweak it — oh, let’s hide the like counters. Well, Instagram tried — but let me say this very clearly: There is no way, no tweak, no architectural change that will make it OK for teenage girls to post photos of themselves, while they’re going through puberty, for strangers or others to rate publicly.’ ”
    • Related: When Bots Write Your Love Story (Samuel D. James, Substack): “That machines are telling us particular stories about our world is one of the main reasons I keep coming back time and again to digital culture, epistemology, and theology. Our default posture toward the Internet is still, to this day, a posture of intuitive belief: to genuinely accept that what we see on the screen is a piece of ‘real life,’ representative of someone who is really somewhere. And in many cases, of course, this is more or less true. But there are also very real cases where the intensity or the vividness of what we see online is disproportionate to its weight or validity outside.”
    • Related: Speech Without Accountability: Reckoning with Anonymous Christian Trolls (Patrick Miller, Mere Orthodoxy): “…there is at least one clear analog to anon speech in the Bible that I have not yet touched on: the speech of the serpent in Eden. He was the first character in Genesis to conceal his identity in order to critique a person—God himself. The first anon words in human history set human history on fire.”
      • This piece is far too long, rambles needlessly, and at one point says something I think very silly. Nonetheless, I read to the end with interest. The best parts were the reflections on anonymous/disguised speech in the Bible.
    • Related: The Seat of Mockers (Brian Mattson, Substack): “The defenders and practitioners of smash-mouth incendiary rhetoric insist that we must do this so as to adequately combat the world and the infiltration of worldliness into the church. It seems to me that in reality, it is the world and the infiltration of worldliness into the church.” This is quite good, and I found it by following a link in the preceding point.
  5. Some links related to the ongoing sexual revolution, mostly critical:
    • Christians Volunteering Pronouns? (Andrew T. Walker, American Reformer): “We should name the pronoun issue for what it is: A language game. Language is about naming reality. Pronouns of any sort are instruments that individuals use to wield power. Pronouns possess power only because the culture we live in deems one’s chosen individual identity to be absolutely central to who one is. Pronouns serve the subjective self, so if one rejects another’s chosen pronouns, it is doubtlessly interpreted as rejecting the person’s attempt at self-description and self-autonomy. That’s what this is all fundamentally about—creating a private field of reality defined by the wishes and fantasies of individuals who know they can provoke submission for fear of cancellation. We should be clear-eyed about this and refuse to go along with it.”
    • Zoophilia: The Last Taboo Will Fall (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Seriously, how do you stop legalizing zoophilia, especially in a popular culture in which internal barriers within the masses will have been broken down by widespread hardcore pornography? ‘What does my neighbor’s habit of being cornholed by his German shepherd have to do with my marriage?’ say the nitwit libertarians. ‘Animals can’t consent!’ squeal the nitwit liberals, though I hope they have the sense not to say so with their mouth full of ham.”
      • This is a well-documented piece and the updates at the end are very much worth reading, especially the Scalia quote.
    • I Regret Being A Slut (Bridget Phetasy, Substack): “I know regretting most of my sexual encounters is not something a sex-positive feminist who used to write a column for Playboy is supposed to admit. And for years, I didn’t. Let me be clear, being a ‘slut’ and sleeping with a lot of men is not the only behavior I regret. Even more damaging was what I told myself in order to justify the fact that I was disposable to these men: I told myself I didn’t care. I didn’t care when a man ghosted me. I didn’t care when he left in the middle of the night or hinted that he wanted me to leave. The walks of shame. The blackouts. The anxiety. The lie I told myself for decades was: I’m not in pain—I’m empowered. Looking back, it isn’t a surprise that I lied to myself. Because from a young age, sex was something I was lied to about.” This is in no way a Christian article — but it is interesting.
    • Monkeypox And The Face Of Gay Promiscuity (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I remember being told by the media that gay men were vastly more promiscuous than straight men because society compelled them to be. Normalize homosexuality and grant same-sex marriage, and that would change. I never believed it because I knew perfectly well that gay men were insanely promiscuous not because they were gay, but because they were men. An ordinary male unrestrained by religious or moral scruple, and faced with a wide variety of willing partners who demand no emotional commitment, or even to know one’s name, before having sex — that man will likely behave exactly as most gay men do.”
      • WARNING — the picture in the link is jarring. The comments at the end are quite interesting and not at all what most observers would expect — Dreher really does appreciate his audience even when they disagree with him.
  6. ‘Disturbing’: Experts troubled by Canada’s euthanasia laws (Maria Cheng, Washington Post): “Canada prides itself on being liberal and accepting, said David Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Britain, ‘but what’s happening with euthanasia suggests there may be a darker side.’”
  7. As India marks its first 75 years, Gandhi is downplayed, even derided (Gerry Shih, Washington Post): “Today, at rallies of Hindu nationalist hard-liners, Gandhi is routinely vilified as feeble in his tactics against the British and overly conciliatory to India’s Muslims, who broke off and formed their own state, Pakistan, on Aug. 14, 1947. On social media and online forums, exaggerations and falsehoods abound about Gandhi’s alleged betrayal of Hindus. And in popular films and the political mainstream, Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru — the first prime minister — are sidelined, while nationalists who advocated the force of arms have been elevated.”

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  Having Kids (Paul Graham, personal blog): “I remember perfectly well what life was like before. Well enough to miss some things a lot, like the ability to take off for some other country at a moment’s notice. That was so great. Why did I never do that? See what I did there? The fact is, most of the freedom I had before kids, I never used. I paid for it in loneliness, but I never used it.” First shared in volume 233.

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 362

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.

362 feels like a number that should have lots of factors, but it’s only got the prime factors 2 and 181.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Exploring AI-Assisted Bible Study (John Dyer, personal blog): “I prompted GPT‑3 to generate text for each chapter in the Bible in each category. For example, the prompt to generate a prayer was: “Write 5 prayers inspired by John 3 in the Bible. Remember that the events described here are in the past. First include a short observation or lesson for each prayer, and then write a personal prayer related to the lesson.”  I reviewed the generated text to avoid (or at least minimize) unhelpful or heretical content. I accepted about 90% of GPT‑3’s suggestions on its first pass and regenerated the rest until it gave me something useful. It cost about $150 over six weeks to generate this content, which consists of 71,062 generations and 1.1 million words.”
    • This is the same guy who generated the AI Bible artwork I shared recently (these and other experiments of his are available at http://www.openbible.info/labs/).
  2. What an Overly Pessimistic View of America Gets Wrong (Yascha Mounk interviewing Eboo Patel, Persuasion): “If every institution founded by a faith community in your city disappeared overnight, preschools, hospitals, and universities would be gone. YMCAs would be gone, places where AA groups meet would be gone. Half of your social services would probably be gone. It feels to me that religious identity diversity should be at the center of our national conversation, and I’m curious as to why it’s not.” This conversation is full of wisdom and I highly recommend it.
  3. People Are Dating All Wrong, According to Data Science (Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Wired): “Good romantic partners are difficult to predict with data. Desired romantic partners are easy to predict with data. And that suggests that many of us are dating all wrong.”
    • From later in the article: “…how a person answered questions about themselves was roughly four times more predictive of their relationship happiness than all the traits of their romantic partner combined.”
  4. A Crucial Court Case Exposes the Darkness of America’s Worst Industry (David French, The Dispatch): “If someone wanted to create a system that was designed to facilitate the distribution of child pornography, videos of rape and other kinds of abuse, or revenge porn, it would be hard to construct a more efficient system than MindGeek’s. And the sheer amount of MindGeek’s traffic and the volume of the downloads demonstrates that Pornhub and other sites are injecting poison into American life at an industrial scale.”
    • A student recommended this piece from a month ago in addition to the above: The Fight to Hold Pornhub Accountable (Sheelah Kolhatkar, The New Yorker): “Pschorr was surprised by the lack of regulation in the U.S. ‘It was always interesting for me as a German to see that, in the U.S., you’d get I.D.’d if you went to a bar, and if you’re not twenty-one you get in big trouble,’ he said. ‘But if you want to consume porn all you have to do is click ‘Yes, I’m 18,’ and you’re in the realm of dirt.’ ” I found this article interesting because it portrays Christians both favorably and unfavorably in short order.
  5. How Did a Two-Time Killer Get Out to Be Charged Again at Age 83? (Rebecca Davis O’Brien & Ali Watkins, New York Times): “A homeless shelter worker and people close to Ms. Leyden questioned whether, despite her gender identity, Ms. Harvey should have been placed in a homeless shelter for women, given her history of attacking and murdering them.” Read that sentence slowly. Wow. And the last eight paragraphs are jaw dropping.
  6. A large new study offers clues about how lower-income children can rise up the economic ladder. (David Leonhardt, New York Times): “Churches and other religious organizations may have some lessons to teach other parts of society. Although many churches are socioeconomically homogeneous, those with some diversity tend to foster more cross-class interactions than most other social activities. Churchs [sic] have lower levels of what the researchers call socioeconomic ‘friending bias.’ ”
    • Sadly there isn’t more info on the religious dynamic, even though this section of the newsletter is called “How Churches Shine”
    • Although this is a NYT piece, it is not paywalled because it is from their morning newsletter.
  7. Nondenominational Churches Are Adding Millions of Members. Where Are They Coming From? (Ryan P. Burge, Christianity Today): “What is driving the growth of nondenominational churches? While in the past it resulted from a significant portion of individuals leaving a mainline tradition, now it looks like nondenominational congregations are increasing by taking in people who were raised Catholic—which is about a quarter of the general population.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Problem Isn’t the ‘Merit,’ It’s the ‘Ocracy’ (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “The American system of government was built on the assumption that the most salient political divides would reflect geography, not ideology or class. The senator from Massachusetts would share bonds in common with the lay citizenry of Boston that he did not share with a senator from South Carolina. On the national sphere this would allow him to represent the interests of his constituents as if they were his own. This has proven more true at some times in American history than others; yet because of the way American politicians are elected, this sense of representing the interests of a geographically bounded group of people is more true in the political arena than in most others.” First shared in volume 232

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 361

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 361, which is also the number of intersections on a Go board.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Actually Good AI-Generated Bible Art with DALL·E 2 (John Dyer, personal blog): “The GPT‑3 prompts I used evolved over time, but this one is emblematic: Suggest 5 unique concept ideas for a work of visual art inspired by Luke 14:7–11 (do not pick the place of honor) in the Bible. Include art direction and a specific medium and artist to emulate. Include artists from a variety of eras, styles, and media. Try for an unusual perspective. Title, year, medium. Description.”
    • Some of these are stunning. Recommended.
  2. Religion Is Dying? Don’t Believe It (Byron R. Johnson & Jeff Levin, Wall Street Journal): “Data from five recent U.S. population surveys point to the vibrancy, ubiquity and growth of religion in the U.S. Americans are becoming more religious, and religious institutions are thriving. Consistent with some previous studies but contrary to widely held assumptions, many people who report no religious affiliation—and even many self-identified atheists and agnostics—exhibit substantial levels of religious practice and belief.”
    • The authors are professors of social science and epidemiology, respectively. I one hundred percent believe this report. The so-called “rise of the nones” is mostly the result of confirmation bias by secular academics and journalists who find religiously committed people annoying.
    • This WSJ article (which I think is paywalled) is based on the freely available scholarly article: Are Religious “Nones” Really Not Religious?: Revisiting Glenn, Three Decades Later (Levin et al, Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion): “The use of words and phrases such as none, no religion, and not religious to describe this group of unaffiliated individuals is thus inappropriate, inaccurate, and misleading.”
  3. Which Sins Are Feeding Your Sin of Lust? (David Powlison, Crossway): “Tom concentrated all his attention on one marquee sin that surfaced sporadically, defining and energizing all his guilty feelings. But that narrowing of attention served to mask far more serious, pervasive sins. As a pastor, friend, or other counselor, you don’t want to concentrate all your energies in the same place Tom did. There were other, deeper opportunities for grace and truth to rewrite the script of this man’s life.”
  4. A Media-Fueled Social Panic Over Unmarked Graves (Jonathan Kay, Quillette): “It’s now been 14 months since the original announcement was made about presumed graves in Kamloops, and no physical evidence has been unearthed. No graves. No corpses. No human remains.… I’ve been in journalism for a quarter century, and have witnessed plenty of bizarre controversies within my trade. But I’ve never witnessed anything similar to this phenomenon. It’s like one of those case-studies in mass hysteria and popular delusion that you read about in history books.”
    • This is not a claim that bad things didn’t happen. It’s more of a claim that the specific bad things that are alleged didn’t happen or that they didn’t happen on the scale widely reported.
  5. China related:
  6. NHS will SHUT its controversial Tavistock transgender clinic for children after damning report warned it was ‘not safe’ (John Ely and Laurence Dollimore, The Daily Mail): “It follows an announcement last month that every child treated for gender dysphoria in the last decade will have their medical records scrutinised to see if NHS care is causing them more harm than good.”
  7. Hot Takes Don’t Belong in Church (Chris Nye, Christianity Today): “So long as we are creating a palatable statement for social media or Sunday’s sermon, we are not praying, worshiping, or organizing ourselves for meaningful action. But in today’s culture, the appearance of morality is more important than moral actions, and speaking is more highly valued than praying.”
    • This is full of good points. Chris is an acquaintance of mine.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have This Cultural Moment (podcast): I listened to this podcast about following Jesus in the post-Christian world upon the recommendation of some alumni and a student. It’s quite good. Definitely start with episode 1. First shared in volume 231.

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 360

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.

360 is, of course, the number of degrees in a circle. It’s also due north on a compass.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The God Gap Helps Explain a ‘Seismic Shift’ in American Politics (David French, Substack): “Countless political and cultural issues don’t have a clear ‘Christian’ policy solution, yet when a party’s members perceive it to be the party of American Christianity, then the platform is wrongly infused with religious fervor, even on issues (like tax rates, gun policy, environmental policy, foreign policy, and countless others) where the correct religious answer is far from clear.”
    • The excerpt is not the main point, which is also good. Highly recommended.
  2. I’m a Scam Prevention Expert, and I Got Scammed (Natasha Lupinia, personal website): “This scam went against everything I thought I knew about social engineering attacks. The caller was professional, knowledgeable, patient, and easy to understand (connection issues notwithstanding). He had so much information about me already that, even knowing how easy it is to find sensitive information about people, I was inclined to take him at face value…”
    • Recommended by an alumnus.
  3. A cluster of links which touch on common college scenarios:
    • Pronouns: Progressivism’s Preposterous Plight (Farhana K, Traversing Tradition): “Without the ability to define a woman as female, for example, encroachment into women’s only spaces will become commonplace. There is no way for the state to protect the needs and wants of women, because nothing is essential to being a woman and no definitive feature of women that require such protections, because a woman is anyone who defines themselves as one. Yet for the Muslim woman who abides by the shar’i commands to veil from unrelated men and minimize physical contact, increasingly deconstructive attitudes to gender will pose a clash that few policymakers and members of the public have had the strength to accommodate.”
      • Interesting to see a Muslim perspective.
  4. The Great Fiction of AI (Josh Dzieza, The Verge): “…it might not be such a bad thing to have to apply a Turing test to everything I read, particularly in the more commercialized marketing-driven corners of the internet where AI text is most often deployed. The questions it made me ask were the sorts of questions I should be asking anyway: is this supported by facts, internally consistent, and original, or is it coasting on pleasant-sounding language and rehashing conventional wisdom?; how much human writing meets that standard?; how often am I reading with enough attention to notice? If this is the epistemic crisis AI-generated text is going to bring, maybe it’s a healthy one.”
    • I found this one super interesting and somewhat amazing.
  5. The Hypocrisy of Elites (Erik Torenberg, Substack): “…we see this everywhere: elites promote body positivity — the idea that being overweight is healthy — while being most obsessed with maintaining perfect health. Elites promote sexual independence and polyamory, yet themselves are most likely to be monogamous in stable long-term relationships. Elites complain about overpopulation and carbon footprint, but they’re the ones having the most kids and inflicting the largest carbon footprint.”
  6. The Fall of History as a Major–and as a Part of the Humanities (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “American culture has lost faith in history as a vehicle for understanding the human experience. Our high culture questions the very concept of shared human experience. It is hard for history—or any of the humanities—to flourish in a world that does not put much stock in the human. By adopting intersectional ideology as their own, the professional humanists have confirmed that they do not believe in the promise of their own discipline. And if they do not believe in it…. why should any 18 year old student?” This is an extraordinarily insightful essay.
  7. 33 Problems With Media in One Chart (Nick Routley, Visual Capitalist): recommended by an alumnus. I now know what astroturfing is.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate (Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic): “The argument for abortion, if made honestly, requires many words: It must evoke the recent past, the dire consequences to women of making a very simple medical procedure illegal. The argument against it doesn’t take even a single word. The argument against it is a picture…. The truth is that the best argument on each side is a damn good one, and until you acknowledge that fact, you aren’t speaking or even thinking honestly about the issue. You certainly aren’t going to convince anybody. Only the truth has the power to move.” First shared in volume 227. I know I shared this recently in light of the Dobbs decision, and it is definitely worth sharing again.

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 358

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 358, a number whose base 3 representation ends in its base 7 representation. 3583 is 111021, and 3587 is 1021.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Culture War That More Christians Should Be Fighting (Tish Harrison Warren, New York Times): “But the people who debate the morality (or lack thereof) of Disney or Hobby Lobby rarely discuss how much paid time off these companies provide employees or whether they pay a living wage or what the wealth disparity is between their top and bottom earners or whether they have adequate maternity leave policies or how much a corporation financially gives back to a community.” Recommended by a student.
  2. The Surprising Case for Marrying Young (W. Bradford Wilcox, Institute for Family Studies): “Our analyses indicate that religious men and women who married in their twenties without cohabiting first — a pattern which describes Joey and Samantha’s path to the altar to a ‘T’ — have the lowest odds of divorce in America today.”
  3. I should have loved biology (James Somers, personal blog): “In the textbooks, astonishing facts were presented without astonishment. Someone probably told me that every cell in my body has the same DNA. But no one shook me by the shoulders, saying how crazy that was.”
  4. Concerning abortion and the Supreme Court:
    • Christians Should Rejoice Over Dobbs (Carl Trueman, First Things): “Nobody of whom I am aware, for example, regards the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945 as a morally ambiguous thing. No child freed that day was particularly concerned that his liberators were members of the Red Army, acting on Stalin’s orders. Yet the Red Army was engaged in a military action that, in the long term, would lead to the notorious Iron Curtain dividing Europe. Nobody regards the fall of Hitler as a morally ambiguous thing, even though it was only made possible by the Americans and the British striking a deal with Joseph Stalin. Yes, Trump is obnoxious, but he isn’t Stalin, and he did deliver on the abortion issue. Dobbs is a moment for joy.”
    • Here’s the Surprising Backstory of the Downfall of Roe v. Wade (Mark Hemingway, Real Clear Investigations): “…conservative activists have long argued the pro-life movement was a moral cause on par with the civil rights movement – and ignoring the strategies commonly used to get the Supreme Court’s attention would amount to unilateral disarmament in a lot of important legal battles.”
    • SCOTUS Justices ‘Prayed With’ Her — Then Cited Her Bosses to End Roe (Kara Voght & Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone): “In the shadow of the high court, across the street from its chambers, sits a cluster of unassuming row houses known only to the initiated as ‘Ministry Row.’ The strip is host to evangelical political groups that have spent the past several decades pushing Beltway conservatives to embrace the religious right’s political causes…”
    • In a Post-Roe World, We Can Avoid Pitting Mothers Against Babies (Leah Libresco Sargeant, New York Times): “The first person to see us was another ultrasound technician. Her voice got sharp when I asked if our baby had a heartbeat. ‘It’s not a baby, don’t talk like that,’ she told me, as I lay on the table. Her voice softened a little, ‘You don’t have to think of it that way.’ For her, part of providing care was denying there was any room for grief. But when the surgeon came in, he began by expressing his condolences. He talked about our options, he talked about our baby as a baby.”
    • There’s a follow-up at My Ectopic Pregnancies (Leah Libresco Sargeant, Substack): “I wanted to write about Camillian to describe not just what is allowed but what can be offered to parents who are losing their child when the doctors acknowledge their child as a child, rather than minimizing their loss.” This one is a sad reminder of how cruel people can be.
    • Angry about Roe, many journalists focus on crisis pregnancy centers as villains behind it all (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “Like, the CPCs have outwitted the abortion clinics when it comes to figuring out what many pregnant women really want and it’s clear the abortion facilities have suffered financial losses as a result. How about asking people at the latter hard questions about the clients they’ve lost to the CPCs and whose bad marketing decision that was? Hint: It might have to do with the free ultrasounds offered by the CPCs. Offering this service was a trend that began a decade or more ago and it really cried out for coverage. But, you know. That wasn’t news.”
    • ‘The Pro-Life Generation’: Young Women Fight Against Abortion Rights (Ruth Graham, New York Times): “Young women whose activism is not connected to religious belief are relative newcomers to the movement, where they make up a small but boisterous niche. Kristin Turner started a chapter of a youth climate group in her hometown, Redding, Calif. Her Instagram bio includes her pronouns (she/they) and support for Black Lives Matter. She describes herself as a feminist, an atheist and a leftist. At 20, she is also the communications director for Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, whose goals include educating the public about ‘the exploitative influence of the Abortion Industrial Complex through an anti-capitalist lens.’”
  5. Seeing Like a Finite State Machine (Henry Farrell, Crooked Timber): “In short, there is a very plausible set of mechanisms under which machine learning and related techniques may turn out to be a disaster for authoritarianism, reinforcing its weaknesses rather than its strengths, by increasing its tendency to bad decision making, and reducing further the possibility of negative feedback that could help correct against errors.” The author is a political scientist at Johns Hopkins and I hope he is correct.
  6. Why I’m Giving Up Tenure at UCLA (Joseph Manson, Bari Weiss’s Substack): “Gradually, one hire at a time, practitioners of ‘critical’ (i.e. leftist, postmodernist) anthropology, some of them lying about their beliefs during job interviews, came to comprise the department’s most influential clique. These militant faculty members recruited even more militant graduate students to work with them.”
  7. Transgender-related:
    • Transformation of a Transgender Teen (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Gospel Coalition): “Martin Luther King Jr. talks about the long arc of justice,” said Falls Church Anglican rector Sam Ferguson, who has spent time with multiple transitioning young adults and their families. “The Bible also envisions the long arc of redemption, which aims at the resurrection of the body. There is continuity—the end reflects the beginning. Our Creator doesn’t need to start over. If your child has an XY chromosome, then he’ll be raised from the dead as a male. We need to work along the arc of redemption, not against it.”
    • Pronouns and Cases Involving Transgender Parties (Eugene Volokh, Reason): “For a bit of the factual backstory, which may be relevant because it may illustrate how use of pronouns might color readers’ perspective: Petitioner C.G. was found to have sexually assaulted a 14-year-old boy (whom the opinion calls Alan, a pseudonym) who had been ‘diagnosed with autism’ and who was apparently working in school at three grades below his age level. At the time, C.G., who was 15 and who would a year later be 300–345 pounds and 6’4” or 6′5″, was apparently perceived by people, or at least by Alan, as male.” For a little more on the case: No First Amendment Right to Legal Name Change (Eugene Volokh, Reason).

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • Uh oh! (The Far Side)
  • Study Finds 92% Of Californians Who Flee The State Don’t Survive First Winter (Babylon Bee)
  • A Classic (The Far Side)
  • Magician Dan White Proves Fate Really Exists (The Tonight Show, YouTube): ten and a half minutes.
  • Frightening But 100% True Facts About Guns (Babylon Bee, YouTube): four minutes. The first part is the funniest, it drags a little at the end.
  • Truly Humbled to Be the Author of This Article (David Brooks, The Atlantic): “If you’ve spent any time on social media, and especially if you’re around the high-status world of the achievatrons, you are probably familiar with the basic rules of the form. The first rule is that you must never tweet about any event that could actually lead to humility. Never tweet: ‘I’m humbled that I went to a party, and nobody noticed me.’ Never tweet: ‘I’m humbled that I got fired for incompetence.’ The whole point of humility display is to signal that you are humbled by your own magnificent accomplishments. We can all be humbled by an awesome mountain or the infinitude of the night sky, but to be humbled by being in the presence of yourself—that is a sign of truly great humility.”

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How I Got Rich On The Other Hand (Derek Sivers, personal blog): “It’s not how much you have. It’s the difference between what you have and what you spend. If you have more than you spend, you’re rich. If you spend more than you have, you’re not. If you live cheaply, it’s easy to be free.” This is really simple and really true. Emphasis in the original. First shared in volume 226.

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 355

Two pieces critical of Stanford plus lots more.

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 355, which is 5 times 71. It’s also apparently the number of labeled topologies with 4 elements, but I think knowing that it is 5 · 71 is cooler.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Two fascinating articles about Stanford:
    • Stanford’s War on Social Life (Ginevra Davis, Palladium Magazine): “The University sent a clear message with its treatment of the Band. Spontaneous organizations, particularly when they could become chaotic, controversial, or otherwise a space for breaking rules, were now something to be controlled. Rather than treating freedom and spontaneity as strengths, the dynamic became one where students had to justify their projects and ideas while under suspicion from administrators. Student life was becoming dominated by restrictive bureaucracy.” I believe this is substantially correct.
    • How I Almost Didn’t Graduate From Stanford (Maxwell Meyer, Substack): “Apparently, in order to graduate from Stanford while not officially enrolled, I needed to be placed in a special 0‑unit ‘course’ that exists only on paper. And because Stanford requires booster vaccines in order to enroll in courses, the degree progress office was literally unable to place me in the fake course.”
  2. The Google engineer who thinks the company’s AI has come to life (Nitasha Tiku, Washington Post): “As he talked to LaMDA about religion, Lemoine, who studied cognitive and computer science in college, noticed the chatbot talking about its rights and personhood, and decided to press further. In another exchange, the AI was able to change Lemoine’s mind about Isaac Asimov’s third law of robotics.” Speculative and disputed.
  3. This traffic stop between a Black man and a White state trooper began with fear. It ended with a surprising act of kindness (John Blake, CNN): “Doty closed his ticket book and opened his car door. He walked back over to Wilkerson’s car and turned to Geddis. ‘Sir, do you mind if I ask what kind of cancer you have?’ ‘No, I don’t mind. I have colon cancer.’ Doty took a deep breath and looked at Geddis. ‘Can I pray for you?’ Doty said.” Heartwarming.
  4. In the world of medicine:
    • A turning point in cancer (Eric Topol, Substack): “The convergence of genomics of the cancer—be it from the person’s DNA or tumor directly or the blood (known as liquid biopsy)—matched with the appropriate therapy is leading to outcomes that are being described as ‘unheard-of’ by expert oncologists.”
    • The Battle Over Gender Therapy (Emily Bazelon, New York Times): “ ‘Being trans comes with goals — this is what to do,’ Butzen says. ‘It comes with a support network and a cause to fight for.’ Online, where the stakes start relatively low, teenagers in progressive communities can trade in a cisgender, heterosexual, white identity — the epitome of privilege and oppression — to join a community with a clear claim to being marginalized and deserving of protection.”
      • It is significant that this reporting is in New York Times. This is a long article and it was difficult to find a passage to excerpt. I am confident the journalist would not consider this a representative excerpt nor the one she considers most important.
  5. Professors Need the Power to Fire Diversity Bureaucrats (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “At present, sanctions in higher education flow in one direction: Diversity bureaucrats exert control over faculty members whose speech allegedly undermines inclusion. I propose giving faculty the power to investigate, sanction, and fire diversity officials if they undermine free speech. Administrative abuses will continue as long as bureaucrats can punish speech, even in flagrant violation of university policy, without any consequences.” I like this. I don’t think it’s structurally possible at most universities, but I like this.
  6. International perspective:
    • Five Blunt Truths About the War in Ukraine (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “The Russians are running out of precision-guided weapons. The Ukrainians are running out of Soviet-era munitions. The world is running out of patience for the war. The Biden administration is running out of ideas for how to wage it. And the Chinese are watching.… an army that cannot wage a high-tech war, relatively low on collateral damage, will wage a low-tech war, appallingly high on such damage. Ukraine, by its own estimates, is suffering 20,000 casualties a month. By contrast, the U.S. suffered about 36,000 casualties in Iraq over seven years of war. For all its bravery and resolve, Kyiv can hold off — but not defeat — a neighbor more than three times its size in a war of attrition.”
    • China’s military expansion is reaching a dangerous tipping point (Josh Rogin, Washington Post): “China is building the capability to use nuclear blackmail to deter a U.S. intervention if it invades Taiwan, following Russia’s model. China’s regional military presence is expanding, including a secret naval base in Cambodia and a secret military cooperation agreement with the Solomon Islands. China has developed new technologies, including hypersonic missiles and antisatellite lasers, to keep the U.S. military at bay in a Taiwan scenario. And now, China no longer recognizes the Taiwan Strait as international waters.”
  7. Elephant in the Zoom (Ryan Grim, The Intercept): “…Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and other reproductive health organizations had similarly been locked in knock-down, drag-out fights between competing factions of their organizations, most often breaking down along staff-versus-management lines. It’s also true of the progressive advocacy space across the board, which has, more or less, effectively ceased to function. The Sierra Club, Demos, the American Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change, the Movement for Black Lives, Human Rights Campaign, Time’s Up, the Sunrise Movement, and many other organizations have seen wrenching and debilitating turmoil in the past couple years.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research (Martin A. Schwartz, Journal of Cell Science): “At some point, the conversation turned to why she had left graduate school. To my utter astonishment, she said it was because it made her feel stupid. After a couple of years of feeling stupid every day, she was ready to do something else. I had thought of her as one of the brightest people I knew and her subsequent career supports that view. What she said bothered me. I kept thinking about it; sometime the next day, it hit me. Science makes me feel stupid too. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to it. So used to it, in fact, that I actively seek out new opportunities to feel stupid.” The author is a professor at Yale. First shared in volume 221.

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 353

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 353, the 71st prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. I saw this gem on Twitter: “I don’t wish to sound apocalyptic about this, but one has the sense that at present our society is simultaneously characterized by wildly disproportionate accountability for trivial transgressions and zero accountability for profound institutional failure.” (David Polansky, co-founder of LinkedIn)
  2. The Robber Baroness of Northern California (Maia Silber, New Yorker): “The university’s most vital purpose, Stanford explained in an address to its Board of Trustees a few years after her husband’s death, was the development of the student’s ‘soul germ.’ She urged the trustees to eschew classrooms in favor of shops and workshops that would ‘dignify labor’ by teaching future workers to ‘use their hands deftly and usefully.’ Stanford believed that, in addition to providing vocational training, the university should inculcate the values of faith, thrift, and abstinence of various kinds. She and her husband banned alcohol from the dormitories and capped the number of women undergraduates at five hundred.”
  3. 78 Minutes (Elizabeth Bruenig, The Atlantic): “I know it’s a statistical anomaly. I know it almost never happens. I know there are a million things I worry less about that happen with greater regularity and worse effects; but those things are unfortunate, and this is evil. Misfortune is awful, but this was something worse. This was torture. This was cruel. This was intentional. The distinction matters.”
  4. How did the IR community get Russia/Ukraine so wrong? (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “The IR community is risk-averse, and preserving of its academic reputations, and thus its members are less willing to make bold predictions than say pundits are. You might even think that is good, all things considered, but it will help explain the missed predictions here.” Many interesting considerations, follow-up at Data on IR scholars and their views on Russia/Ukraine.
  5. Born This Way? The Rise of LGBT as a Social and Political Identity (Eric Kaufmann, CSPI): “The youthful surge is mainly about LGBT identity, with considerably less change in sexual behavior. The rise is greatest for bisexuality, especially among females, with less change for gays and lesbians. The growth in LGBT identification shows no signs of slowing down among the young, but there is compelling evidence that gender nonconformity peaked around 2020 and declined in 2021. It appears less prevalent among teenagers than those in their early twenties.” Plus a fascinating Twitter thread by the author highlighting key details — so much data in this piece to contemplate. Spicy throughout.
  6. The Pope’s Secret Back Channel to Hitler (David Kertzer, The Atlantic): “As the head of a large international organization, his overriding aim in negotiations with Hitler’s emissary was protecting the institutional resources and prerogatives of the Roman Catholic Church in the Third Reich. If the only goal was to protect the welfare of the institutional Church, his efforts could well be judged a success. But for those who see the papacy as a position of great moral leadership, the revelations of Pius XII’s secret negotiations with Hitler must come as a sharp disappointment.” Recommended by an alumnus.
  7. We Need to Complicate the Negative World (Trevin Wax, Gospel Coalition): “…taking a stand for true Christianity has always been costly. Christian ministers lost their jobs in the 1960s for doing nothing more than allowing African Americans to attend worship! In some way or another, we’ve been in the negative world since the time of the New Testament, but the form of that hostility toward the faith changes depending on the place and the era. And the opportunities—where society smiles on aspects of Christianity—change too. We live in positive, neutral, and negative worlds simultaneously, depending on the issue.“This is quite 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 The New National American Elite (Michael Lind, Tablet Magazine): “from the American Revolution until the late 20th century, the American elite was divided among regional oligarchies. It is only in the last generation that these regional patriciates have been absorbed into a single, increasingly homogeneous national oligarchy, with the same accent, manners, values, and educational backgrounds from Boston to Austin and San Francisco to New York and Atlanta. This is a truly epochal development.” Lind is a professor at UT Austin in the school of public affairs, and I featured another article by him shortly before this one. First shared back in volume 286.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 352

a heartbreaking 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 352, which is (I am informed) the number of ways to place 9 queens on a 9×9 chessboard so that they cannot attack each other.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Southern Baptist abuse crisis:
    • Southern Baptists Refused to Act on Abuse, Despite Secret List of Pastors (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “Guidepost Solutions, the third-party investigative firm, wants the 13-million-member denomination to create an online database of abusers, offer compensation for survivors, sharply limit non-disclosure agreements, and establish a new entity dedicated to responding to abuse. The directives in the 288-page report will sound familiar for survivors and advocates, who have been calling for those measures all along.”
    • This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse (Russell Moore, Christianity Today): “Indeed, the very ones who rebuked me and others for using the word crisis in reference to Southern Baptist sexual abuse not only knew that there was such a crisis but were quietly documenting it, even as they told those fighting for reform that such crimes rarely happened among “people like us.” When I read the back-and-forth between some of these presidents, high-ranking staff, and their lawyers, I cannot help but wonder what else this can be called but a criminal conspiracy.”
    • No Atheist Has Done This Much Damage to the Christian Faith (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “It’s nearly impossible to overstate how much damage these new revelations—these necessary and long-overdue revelations—are doing to the Christian witness. No atheist, no secularists or materialists, could inflict nearly as much damage to the Christian faith as these leaders within the Christian Church have done.“This is a general principle: skeptics rarely hurt the Church. Christians, though, hurt the Church all the time.
    • Avoiding Financial And Governance Disasters (Warren Cole Smith, Ministry Watch): “…in some very important ways, sexual abuse and sexual harassment in the church are effects. They are consequences. They are fruits, not the root, of the problem.So what’s the cause? It’s pretty un-glamorous. It doesn’t generate as many headlines, and when it does generate a headline, that headline tends to be ignored, or quickly forgotten. And that cause is money. More specifically, the love of money.… So, at a minimum, I think we evangelicals should be spending as much time understanding and uncovering financial fraud as we spend on sexual abuse and toxic leadership.”
    • How the ‘Apocalyptic’ Southern Baptist Report Almost Didn’t Happen (Bob Smietana, MinistryWatch): “In other words, the Executive Committee would be put in charge of investigating itself. Then-President J.D. Greear was ready to move on when Benkert stood up at a microphone with a motion of his own, based on another section of bylaw 29. ‘I would like the opportunity to make a motion to overrule the Committee on Order of Business at the appropriate time,’ he said. Benkert’s motion was met with applause. Then a second, and then almost all of the 15,000 local church delegates, known as messengers, raised their yellow voting cards in the air—far more than the two-thirds majority needed to overrule the committee.”
    • In reference to the immediately preceding article: knowing how the system works is really important. I’ve seen shady stuff happen at some meetings but wasn’t quick enough to get to the floor or wasn’t sure enough of the rules to intervene. In a business meeting knowledge truly is power.
    • In reference to the larger story, there are so many things happening here:
    • This is an occasion for lamentation. I have long said that the Protestant sexual abuse crisis will dwarf the Catholic Church’s (because we tend to have less control/screening of ministers) and that both will be dwarfed by the public school crisis (which is yet to fully reveal itself but I believe will be far worse).
    • The Southern Baptist executives genuinely had less control over the situation(s) than some of their critics allege, but they had far more control than they pretended and when they did act it was often to conceal wicked things.
    • The fact that the SBC commissioned this report and made it public is very much to their credit and over time will loom larger in the remembrance of this.
    • The scope of the abuse, while broad, appears to be less than I feared.
    •  The SBC legal team and the former executives come off looking like evil religious leaders written by a lazy hack writer. It’s staggeringly bad.
    • This entire debacle is germane to the Tim Keller/winsomeness debate: do we operate according to the standards of our culture or the standards of the Kingdom? Christ demands another way, and if that opens us up to negative cultural consequences (whether electoral defeats or ruinous lawsuits) then so be it.
  2. The school shooting:
    • A fourth-grader who survived the shooting says she smeared friend’s blood on herself to appear dead (Nora Neus, CNN): “Miah said she was scared the gunman would come back to kill her and a few other surviving friends. So, she put her hands in her friend’s blood, who laid next to her— and already looked dead—and then smeared it all over herself to appear dead.… She says afterwards, she overheard talk of police waiting outside the school. Recounting this during the interview, she started crying, saying she just didn’t understand why they didn’t come inside and get them.” Heartbreaking. Details are still coming out, and none of them are good.
    • Texas school shooter Salvador Ramos once cut up his face with knives ‘just for fun,’ friends say (Yaron Steinbuch, New York Post): “The gunman who slaughtered 19 kids and two teachers at a Texas elementary school reportedly exhibited increasingly bizarre behavior leading up to the rampage – including cutting up his face with knives just ‘for fun,’ friends said.”
    • Pass and Enforce Red Flag Laws. Now. (David French, The Dispatch): “Mass killings are their own thing. Mass shooters are frequently law-abiding, right up until the moment when they commit mass murder. Mass shootings are often meticulously planned, which means that they can circumvent common gun control laws. For example, the Buffalo shooter legally purchased the weapon he used and then illegally modified it to make it more lethal. So when we talk about common gun control proposals after mass shootings—whether we’re referring to expanded background checks, assault weapons bans, or limits on magazine capacity—the general rule is that none of those measures, even if implemented, would have actually prevented any recent mass shooting.” This is a thoughtful piece with a specific and constructive policy suggestion.
    • The Children Who Kill Children (Samuel D. James, First Things): “There are some who sneer at people, like me, who offer prayers in times like these. Prayer, they say, is non-action: an ineffective, meaningless piety meant to maintain the status quo on gun control. Yet it’s these same scoffers who instinctively pivot to the topic of gun control whenever a child takes the lives of other children, and their political rage is no less a religious recitation simply because they confuse Congress for God. An inability to talk about anything other than gun control threatens to deaden our lament and neutralize a vital conversation about why so many of our country’s most lost, most hateful people are boys with their whole lives ahead of them.” This is a strong article.
    • ‘The Onion’ has republished a grim headline about mass shootings 21 times since 2014 (Rachel Treisman, NPR): “There are a couple of inevitable responses to a mass shooting in America: funerals and fundraisers, prayers from politicians and the resurfacing of one particular article from satirical site The Onion. ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens’ has been republished 21 times in almost exactly eight years.” The repetition of this headline has probably shifted more hearts than any other argument I am aware of.
  3. Covid was liberalism’s endgame (Matthew B. Crawford, Unherd): “The innovation achieved here is in the way government conceives its subjects: not as citizens whose considered consent must be secured, but as particles to be steered through a science of behaviour management that relies on our pre-reflective cognitive biases.”
  4. A Commitment to Kindness Does Not Mean Surrendering Your Convictions (David French, The Dispatch): “Time and again I read about how bad things are now, how vile the left has become, and how a commitment to ‘winsomeness’ or kindness is simply inadequate to the moment. Even worse, it’s sometimes seen as evidence of weakness or fear—an effort curry favor with people who hate you.  But the conversation consistently misconstrues what commitments to civility and decency do and don’t mean—that civility is somehow a shorthand for surrender on matters of deep conviction. It is not. Or that a commitment to civility implies an aversion to conflict and a timidity in the face of opposition. It does not.”
  5. The LGBTsQewing of America (Alexander Zubatov, The American Conservative): “We have strongly suggestive evidence, moreover, that social cues can play causal roles in swaying impressionable teens to adopt new sexual identities.… The simple message such research conveys is something that those of us who have not lost touch with our childhood and our awkward teen years will find unsurprising, and indeed, even obvious: Most kids and teens are works in progress and undecided and confused about many key aspects of their lives.”
  6. In Partial, Grudging Defense Of The Hearing Voices Movement (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “I still remember a patient who asked me if I could cure his anxiety within a week. I told him absolutely not — medications take a few weeks to even kick in, and managing anxiety can be a lifelong process — and why did he need a cure in a week anyway? He said he was an inspirational speaker on the topic ‘How I Overcame My Anxiety’, and he had a speech scheduled next week, but was too anxious to work on it. I think about this person often.” Interesting throughout and the anecdote I excerpted is actually tangential to the main point.
  7. Why This Computer Scientist Says All Cryptocurrency Should “Die in a Fire” (Nathan Robinson interviewing Nicholas Weaver, Current Affairs): “Is it accurate to summarize what you were saying before as, essentially: There is no problem that cryptocurrency solves, and to the extent that it is functional, it does things worse than we can already do them with existing electronic payment systems. To the extent it has advantages, the advantage is doing crimes. And every other claim made for the superiority of cryptocurrency as currency falls apart if you scrutinize it.” This spicy meatball comes recommended by a student.
  8. Global religious persecution:
    • The faces from China’s Uyghur detention camps (John Sudworth, BBC): “The documents provide some of the strongest evidence to date for a policy targeting almost any expression of Uyghur identity, culture or Islamic faith — and of a chain of command running all the way up to the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.”
    • Nigerian Christians Protest Deborah’s Death (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “Two weeks ago, in Nigeria’s northwestern-most state of Sokoto, Deborah Samuel was beaten to death and set on fire by fellow students at Shehu Shagari College of Education. Officials and police intervened in vain.”

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 Conservatives Clash on the Goal of Government (Jonathan Leeman, Providence): “There is no neutrality. The public square is a battleground of gods. Our culture wars are wars of religion. For the time being, liberalism keeps us from picking up sixteenth‐century swords for those wars, which is no small achievement. But don’t assume it won’t control us with the subtler tools of a twenty‐first century legal totalitarianism.” Insightful reflections on how Christians should form their political positions. First shared in volume 218.

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 346

strong articles this week — more recommended than normal

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

This, volume 346, is the 5th Franel number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Spiritually uplifting:
    • Fire Upon The Earth (Charles Chaput, First Things): “Too many people who claim to be Christian simply don’t know Jesus Christ. They don’t really believe in the gospel. They feel embarrassed by their religion and out of step with the times. They may keep their religion for its comfort value, or adjust it to fit their doubts. It doesn’t reshape their lives, because it isn’t real. And because it isn’t real, it has no transforming effect on their behavior, no social force, and few public consequences. Their faith, whatever it once was, is now dead.” THIS IS STRAIGHT FIRE. The excerpt does not do it justice.
    • The Man On The Middle Cross (Alistair Begg, YouTube): one and a half minutes.
    • It’s Friday… But Sunday’s a Coming! (YouTube): three and a half minutes
  2. Recalled Experiences Surrounding Death: More Than Hallucinations? (Neuroscience News): “The recalled experiences surrounding death are not consistent with hallucinations, illusions or psychedelic drug induced experiences, according to several previously published studies. Instead, they follow a specific narrative arc involving a perception of: (a) separation from the body with a heightened, vast sense of consciousness and recognition of death; (b) travel to a destination; © a meaningful and purposeful review of life, involving a critical analysis of all actions, intentions and thoughts towards others; a perception of (d) being in a place that feels like “home”, and (e) a return back to life.” The original research: https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nyas.14740
  3. Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid (Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic): “The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.” This is quite good. Haidt is a social psychologist at NYU and is someone who seems to be faith-adjacent: he’s near Christianity but not there yet.
  4. LGBTQ related
    • What I wish I’d known when I was 19 and had sex reassignment surgery (Corinna Cohn, Washington Post): “Surgery unshackled me from my body’s urges, but the destruction of my gonads introduced a different type of bondage. From the day of my surgery, I became a medical patient and will remain one for the rest of my life.” I am impressed that the Washington Post published this op-ed.
    • How to Make Sense of the New L.G.B.T.Q. Culture War (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “If conservatives had predicted just before Obergefell v. Hodges that soon a fifth of young adults would identify as L.G.B.T.Q., prominent voices would deploy terms like ‘pregnant person’ and ‘menstruator’ in place of ‘woman,’ and natal males would be winning women’s track and swimming competitions, they would have been treated as hysterics.” This is a strong essay. Highly recommended and worth using up one of your paywall accesses.
    • Victory: Shawnee State agrees professors can’t be forced to speak contrary to their beliefs (Alliance Defending Freedom): “As part of the settlement, the university has agreed that Meriwether has the right to choose when to use, or avoid using, titles or pronouns when referring to or addressing students. Significantly, the university agreed Meriwether will never be mandated to use pronouns, including if a student requests pronouns that conflict with his or her biological sex.” In addition, “the university agreed to pay $400,000 in damages and Meriwether’s attorneys’ fees.”
  5. Pandemic related
    • The Accuracy of Authorities (Robin Hanson, blog): “The best estimates of a maximally accurate source would be very frequently updated and follow a random walk, which implies a large amount of backtracking. And authoritative sources like WHO are often said to be our most accurate sources. Even so, such sources do not tend to act this way. They instead update their estimates rarely, and are especially reluctant to issue estimates that seem to backtrack. Why?” There is solid wisdom in this post.
    • Faith, Science, and Francis Collins (Dhruv Khullar, New Yorker): “In May, 2021, after helping to lead the federal pandemic response for more than a year, during which he woke up most mornings at four-thirty, Collins escaped for a weekend to a rented barn in Loudoun County, Virginia. He brought his guitar and a Bible that he has had for decades; horses and goats kept him company. Collins gazed out at the blue sky and rolling hills. He wrote, prayed, and ultimately decided to leave his post as the director of the N.I.H. Collins told me that he prays not to ask God to change his circumstances, but to ask God what he himself should do.”
    • A Warning From Shanghai (Jay Battacharya, Bari Weiss’s Substack): “Yet the soul searching [of the attack on me and other researchers] should have caused among public health officials has largely failed to occur. Instead, the lesson seems to be: Dissent at your own risk. I do not practice medicine—I am a professor specializing in epidemiology and health policy at Stanford Medical School. But many friends who do practice have told me how they have censored their thoughts about Covid lockdowns, vaccines, and recommended treatment to avoid the mob.”
  6. The Law that Banned Everything (Richard Hanania, Substack): “If everything is potentially illegal, and government does not have the resources to go after everything, then the government basically has arbitrary power to do whatever it wants under civil rights law.” This was an absolutely fascinating interview. The interviewee is a law professor at the University of San Diego.
  7. A primer on the Stanford budget (Tim Mackenzie, Stanford Daily) “… this year’s operating budget says ‘the buffers serve as a financial reserve in the event of an earthquake or other disaster.’ In other words, Stanford has nearly $4 billion in a rainy-day fund. In the 2019–2020 budget, the last pre-COVID budget, Tier I and Tier II Buffers stood at $1.4 billion and $1.0 billion, respectively. The buffers actually grew by more than a billion dollars during the ongoing pandemic. Meanwhile, hundreds of workers were laid off and subcontracted workers went months without promised pay. Apparently, a global pandemic does not reach the threshold of ‘earthquake or other disaster’ required to utilize financial reserves to resist changes in university operations when challenged with market uncertainty.” Recommended by a student.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have For the classic selection next week: Against Against Billionaire Philanthropy (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “I worry the movement against billionaire charity is on track to damage charity a whole lot more than it damages billionaires.” This is a very interesting essay, and he has a follow‐up, Highlights From The Comments on Billionaire Philanthropy, which thoughtfully responds to criticisms. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 213.

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 345

spicy links this 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 345, which I am told is the average number of squirts from a cow’s udder needed to produce a gallon of milk. I have not verified this claim.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Growing Religious Fervor in the American Right: ‘This Is a Jesus Movement’ (Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham, New York Times): “…elements of Christian culture have long been present at political rallies. But worship, a sacred act showing devotion to God expressed through movement, song or prayer, was largely reserved for church. Now, many believers are importing their worship of God, with all its intensity, emotion and ambitions, to their political life.”
    • At the same time: “The sheer dominance of worship music within 21st-century evangelical culture means that the genre has been used outside church settings by the contemporary left as well. ‘Way Maker,’ for example, was sung at some demonstrations for racial justice in the summer of 2020.”
    • I have complicated feelings. I like seeing worship as part of all of life. I don’t like seeing worship get hijacked in pursuit of other agendas. Politics can be idolatrous enough without ACTUAL WORSHIP SONGS being in the mix.
  2. “Russia cannot afford to lose, so we need a kind of a victory”: Sergey Karaganov on what Putin wants (Bruno Maçães, The New Statesman): “…Russia cannot afford to ‘lose’, so we need a kind of a victory. And if there is a sense that we are losing the war, then I think there is a definite possibility of escalation. This war is a kind of proxy war between the West and the rest – Russia being, as it has been in history, the pinnacle of ‘the rest’ – for a future world order. The stakes of the Russian elite are very high – for them it is an existential war.”
    • I haven’t seen many perspectives from the Russian side. Quite interesting.
  3. Articles evaluating the contemporary sexual ethic:
    • Why ‘Consent’ Isn’t Enough for a Sexual Ethic (Trevix Wax, The Gospel Coalition): “The sexual revolution isn’t working. The utopia promised by blowing up old moral strictures hasn’t arrived. What’s more, in some cases the situation seems worse.”
    • Straight People Need Better Rules for Sex (Christine Emba, New York Times): “Getting rid of the old rules and replacing them with the norm of consent was supposed to make us happy. Instead, many people today feel a bit … lost.”
      • Lost. A good word, that. Better than the author knows.
  4. LGBTQ-related
    • Explaining the LGBT Explosion (Bryan Caplan, Substack): “While almost all studies find that genetics matters, virtually none asserts that the heritability of sexual orientation is even close to 100%. Ergo, homosexuality must, to some extent, be ‘acquired.’ While that hardly implies that any specific mechanism — such ‘recruitment’ or ‘media depictions’ — works, the idea that homosexuality can be spread is the unheralded scientific consensus.”
      • This seems trivially true to me, but I am sure it is a surprise (even an offensive surprise) to some people.
    • California city to give universal income to transgender, nonbinary residents regardless of earnings. (Houston Keene, Yahoo News): “Transgender residents in Palm Springs, California are eligible to receive a UBI of up to $900 per month solely for identifying as transgender or nonbinary — no strings attached.”
    • Who Is Looking Out For Gay Kids? (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “This unavoidable tension between messages that are good for trans kids and those that are good for gay kids is absent from the debate — in part because the woke conflate both experiences into the entirely ideological construct of being LGBTQIA++. But no one is LGBTQIA++. It’s literally impossible. And the difference between the gay and trans experience is vast, especially when it comes to biological sex.”
    • Researchers Found Puberty Blockers And Hormones Didn’t Improve Trans Kids’ Mental Health At Their Clinic. Then They Published A Study Claiming The Opposite (Jesse Singal, Substack): “I wanted to double-check this to be sure, so I reached out to one of the study authors. They wanted to stay on background, but they confirmed to me that there was no improvement over time among the kids who went on hormones or blockers.”
      • It’s like there is a concerted effort to make me a cranky middle-aged man who doesn’t trust the media. This article is long and probably only worth reading in detail if you knew you wanted to read it all as soon as you saw the headline.

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 Tourist Journalism Versus the Working Class (Kevin Mims, Quillette): “To university‐educated media professionals like Carole Cadwalladr, James Bloodworth, and John Oliver, an Amazon warehouse must seem like the Black Hole of Calcutta. But I’ve done low‐paying manual labor for most of my working life, and rarely have I appreciated a job as much as my role as an Amazon associate.” I learned many things from this article. First shared in volume 212, with a follow-up shared the next week: How (and Why) to KISSASS (Kevin Mims, Quillette): “…if you’re not a member of the professional class, the key to getting your personal essays published in prominent publications is KISSASS—Keep It Short, Sad, And Simple, Stupid.”

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.