Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 249

The vindication of a vilified missionary, thoughts about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and pandemic perspectives.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. A Missionary on Trial (Ariel Levy, The New Yorker): “According to a study published in 2017 in The American Journal for Clinical Nutrition, fourteen per cent of children treated for severe acute malnutrition at Mulago Hospital—Uganda’s best facility—died. The study notes that the over-all mortality rate in Africa for children with S.A.M. is between twenty and twenty-five per cent. During the years when Serving His Children functioned as an in-patient facility, its rate was eleven per cent.”
    • Recommended. If you want to dig deeper, last October a Ugandan television station did a twenty-minute story on this case which also discredited the missionary’s accusers. Proverbs 18:17 wins again.
    • I see a similar dynamic in some students who are feeling angst over their faith. Upon conversation, I often learn that they have been told untrue or misleading things about missions, the history of the church, and the present status of the church in the world. Always remember that critics might have motives beyond simply establishing the truth. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to them, but it does mean that you don’t treat their complaints as axioms. When this reporter flew to Uganda and talked to people on the ground she quickly learned that the internationally-accepted narrative was not right.
  2. Why We Opened a Christian University in Iraq Amid ISIS’ Genocide (Jayson Caspar, Christianity Today): “There was an unwritten understanding that the Christians would not overtly proselytize and share the gospel, but be indirect and not offend sharia law. But after ISIS and the lack of any real response from the Muslim world, Archbishop Warda says that this agreement is now finished. That as we go forward, we will no longer be shy. We are going to proclaim the gospel, proclaim the teachings of Christ, and whoever comes to us will come…. There may not be many Christians in Iraq. But as an old priest said once to me, ‘Well, remember Christ only had 12, and everyone wanted to kill them, too.’”
  3. Exquisite Scandal (Nancy Lemann, Lapham’s Quarterly): “The familiar theory at the trial was that the people of Louisiana would rather be entertained than served with ethics. Some would call this a Gallic attitude, to be blinded by charm at the expense of integrity, and indeed the culture of Louisiana is historically French Catholic. And as the Catholics might say, the fall from grace is inevitable, a mystery to be endured rather than a problem to be solved. And some in Louisiana would prefer a smart crook to an unintelligent opportunist masked as a crusader whose ambition blinds him to his own stupidity. Such a one could be just as dangerous, if not more so, than a crook.” As someone born in Louisiana, I very much enjoyed this article. 
  4. Gregory and Travis McMichael face murder charges in connection with Ahmaud Arbery case (Steve Almasy and Angela Barajas, CNN): “Two men involved in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Georgia, have been arrested and face murder and aggravated assault charges, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.”
    • It is amazing to me that it was not the video evidence that led to their arrest, but the public outcry in response to the video evidence. 
    • A Vigilante Killing in Georgia (David French, The Dispatch): “When white men grab guns and mount up to pursue and seize an unarmed black man in the street, they stand in the shoes of lynch mobs past.”
    • Thinking Christianly About the Ahmaud Arbery Lynching (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “If we are to be people who act justly and promote justice, which is that each person receives their rightful dues, then we must rightly discern what has happened in the case of Arbery. This was a lynching. It was an act that God hates. And so we must recognize that and we must call it by its name and speak out against it and against all such acts of injustice.”
    • Related in the abstract: How to Punish Voters (Josie Duffy Rice, New York Times): “It’s well known that voter suppression has taken the form of the closing of polling places, new restrictive voter ID laws, voter roll purges of thousands of eligible voters and nine-hour lines at the polls. But Ms. Pearson’s case is a reminder that it can also take the form of the aggressive prosecution of individual black voters for polling-place offenses — which in many cases appears motivated less by a sincere desire to address fraud than by a desire to intimidate.”
  5. Pandemic Perspectives
    • The Covid-19 Riddle: Why Does the Virus Wallop Some Places and Spare Others? (Hannah Beech, Alissa J. Rubin, Anatoly Kurmanaev and Ruth Maclean, New York Times): “The coronavirus has killed so many people in Iran that the country has resorted to mass burials, but in neighboring Iraq, the body count is fewer than 100. The Dominican Republic has reported nearly 7,600 cases of the virus. Just across the border, Haiti has recorded about 85.”
    • Coronavirus Could Disrupt Weather Forecasting (Henry Fountain, New York Times): “…data on temperature, wind and humidity from airplane flights, collected by sensors on the planes and transmitted in real time to forecasting organizations around the world, has been cut by nearly 90 percent in some regions.” I must confess I did not see that coming. At all. 
    • Google App Censoring Covid-19 Courses (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Google is a private entity. It has the right to control what goes out on its app platform. Whether Google is morally correct to exercise that right to suppress any unofficial pandemic information is a different question — and a very important one. Google owns YouTube — how long will they allow these courses to remain on YouTube?” These are courses by academics speaking within their areas of expertise.
    • Related: Who is Judy Mikovits in ‘Plandemic,’ the coronavirus conspiracy video just banned from social media? (Katie Shepherd, Washington Post): “The film is so questionable that social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo on Thursday scrubbed it from their sites. A Vimeo spokesperson, for example, said that the company ‘stands firm in keeping our platform safe from content that spreads harmful and misleading health information. The video in question has been removed … for violating these very policies.’” A friend sent me a link to her video but it was pulled down. I have no opinion about the video because I haven’t seen it. But I do have an opinion about it being pulled down. I dislike that intensely. I fear the risks of misinformation far less than I fear the risks of controlling information. 
    • A pastor in the Bronx thought he knew hardship. Then his church saw 13 coronavirus deaths. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “Promised Land, in the poorest congressional district in the nation, sees about 250 mostly African American and Latino worshipers on a normal weekend. Public housing units line the streets near the church in the Mott Haven neighborhood, where city officials estimate the poverty rate is about 44 percent.”
    • In Inner-City Black Churches: More Grief, Fewer Resources, Stronger Faith (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “Despite bearing the disproportionate impact of the outbreak, black believers have demonstrated particular spiritual endurance. In a Pew survey released last week, members of historically black churches were more likely than any other religious tradition to say their faith has been strengthened through the outbreak. More than half (56%) say their faith has become stronger, compared to 35 percent of all Christians and 24 percent of adults overall.”
    • Clinical Study Considers The Power Of Prayer To Combat COVID-19 (Tom Gjelten, NPR): “Half of the patients, randomly chosen, will receive a ‘universal’ prayer offered in five denominational forms, via Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. The other 500 patients will constitute the control group.” This study looks like a mess. How do they expect to keep the 500 in the control group from being prayed for? I am pretty sure that if you are hospitalized with Covid-19 someone is praying for you. And my theology leads me to believe those organic, heartfelt prayers offered by people who actually know the patients are going to be more significant than the “universal prayers” offered by the research participants. I expect this study will lead internet atheists to claim that all prayer has been debunked when at most it will show that scripted multifaith prayers offered on behalf of strangers do not move the heart of God. 
    • Food Banks Can’t Go On Like This (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Normally, ‘rescued’ food—items that would otherwise be thrown out as their sell-by date approaches—accounts for 97 percent of Feeding San Diego’s distributions. Until the pandemic, the group was receiving unpurchased food from 204 Starbucks locations every night of the year. Most of those stores are now closed. The organization normally gets excess food from 260 grocery stores too, but consumers have been stocking up enough lately that many shelves are picked clean.”
  6. The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (YouTube): seven moving minutes. Shared with me by a student’s father.

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 Sister… Show Mercy! (Dan Phillips, Team Pyro): “Sister, if there’s one thing you and I can certainly agree on, it’s this: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, and you don’t know what it’s like to be a man. We’re both probably wrong where we’re sure we’re right, try as we might. So let me try to dart a telegram from my camp over to the distaff side.” (first shared in volume 148)

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 248

One of the best explanations of religious liberty I have read, along with articles about the pandemic, UFOs, the Chinese Communist Party, and a fascinating interview with a pastor.

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

I’m a little happy because the number 248 seems cool to me. If I ever reach 1248 I’ll think it’s even cooler.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Religious Liberty and the Common Good (National Affairs, William Haun): “Many of today’s progressives, conservatives, and libertarians [cannot] explain why religion in particular and religious exercise in particular should shape the common good, even when they go against the grain of secular visions adopted in law.” This is probably the most important link I’ve shared in quite a while. Not light reading but worthwhile. The author is a lawyer for the Becket Fund.
  2. Erwin McManus: The Peaceable Warrior (Paul J. Pastor, Outreach Magazine): “I talked to someone last Sunday who said, ‘I’m here because somebody invited me. I didn’t want to come.’ [Laughs] She actually said, ‘I’m mean, jaded and cynical. I don’t believe in God or religion. I think it’s all a sham.’ I said, ‘You’re really disappointed, aren’t you?’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because you like us,’ I said. ‘Yeah,’ she said, ‘I don’t know what to do with that.’ ” (the excerpt is actually from part 2 of the interview and the story gets even better). I only stumbled upon this slightly older article because it won a Maggie award for best interview of 2019.
  3. Coronavirus News & Perspectives
    • Comparing COVID-19 Deaths to Flu Deaths Is like Comparing Apples to Oranges (Jeremy Samuel Faust, Scientific American): “When reports about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV‑2 began circulating earlier this year and questions were being raised about how the illness it causes, COVID-19, compared to the flu, it occurred to me that, in four years of emergency medicine residency and over three and a half years as an attending physician, I had almost never seen anyone die of the flu. I could only remember one tragic pediatric case.” The author is an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Fascinating.
    • Photographer Takes Pics Of People In Public From 2 Perspectives And It Shows How Easily The Media Can Manipulate Reality (Liucija Adomaite and Denis Tymulis, Bored Panda): “‘The proximity of people has widely been debated in Denmark in the past weeks. Danish politicians and authorities have frequently referred to images which they believed to show members of the public behaving in disagreement with the general guidelines.’ As a national photo news agency that supplies visual coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, ‘we became aware that our contribution could be misread.’” A picture is worth 1000 words, not all of them honest.
    • Seattle’s Leaders Let Scientists Take the Lead. New York’s Did Not (Charles Duhigg ‚New Yorker): “Constantine told me, ‘Jeff recognized what he was asking for was impractical. He said if we advised social distancing right away there would be zero acceptance. And so the question was: What can we say today so that people will be ready to hear what we need to say tomorrow?’ In e‑mails and phone calls, the men began playing a game: What was the most extreme advice they could give that people wouldn’t scoff at? Considering what would likely be happening four days from then, what would they regret not having said?”
    • A Virginia preacher believed ‘God can heal anything.’ Then he caught coronavirus. (Peter Jamison, Washington Post): “In the days after Landon succumbed to covid-19, his death brought words of sympathy from people who knew him — and jeers from people who didn’t. The New York Post, the Daily Mail and an atheist blog published articles seizing on his March 13 Facebook post. Landon was posthumously attacked as a victim of misguided beliefs — in the assurances of his president and the protections of his God.”
    • Information Can Do What Lockdowns Can’t (Lyman Stone, The Public Discourse): “Americans, like people in almost every country, were quicker to understand the risks than most of the people who govern us. Alas, had our leaders taken the threat seriously a month earlier, and communicated the risks to Americans more explicitly, COVID could have been a flash in the pan. Instead, many thousands of Americans are going to die unnecessary deaths.”
    • Why Did YouTube Remove The Doctors’ Briefing? (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “…I absolutely believe that it’s wrong to censor what qualified medical professionals (read: not quacks) are saying about the crisis, which is so unique in our experience as a nation. A strong lockdown was necessary at first. If there is good medical evidence that the lockdown, and related public health strategies, might be doing more harm that good at this date, then let’s hear that argument.”
    • Related: The Inevitable Coronavirus Censorship Crisis is Here (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “The people who want to add a censorship regime to a health crisis are more dangerous and more stupid by leaps and bounds than a president who tells people to inject disinfectant. It’s astonishing that they don’t see this.”
    • With US Borders Closed by Covid-19, How Will I Afford Insulin? (James Stout, Undark): “During months when I teach as an adjunct professor and am covered by my university’s insurance plan, I stock up as much insulin as I can. During the remainder of the year, I do what thousands of others do: I cross the border to Mexico where, just 12 miles from my house in San Diego, I can buy the same medicine at one-tenth of the price.” Sent my way by a student.
  4. UFO Sightings: They Deserve to Be Taken More Seriously (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg): “The official release of some previously leaked UFO videos taken by U.S. navy pilots has sparked renewed interest in the bigger questions. For sure those flying objects are unidentified, but how much attention should we earthlings devote to this issue? I am struck by the contrast between those who see this as an important question and those who think the whole thing will turn out to be an error or some kind of optical illusion.”
  5. On the Chinese Communist Party: 
    • China Has a Post-Pandemic Dream for Hong Kong (Yi-Zheng Lian, New York Times): “But the recent developments actually are remarkable. For the first time, the traditional pan-dems are being treated as enemies just like the separatists. And for the first time, Beijing is violating the very letter of the Basic Law, which it itself has promulgated; the Chinese government typically only contorts the law and distorts its spirit.”
    • The End of the Harvard Century (Matteo N. Wong, Harvard Crimson): “Chinese officials regularly deliver complaints to universities hosting events on sensitive issues and even offer scholars money to modify research critical of China.… given Harvard’s status in the international academic hierarchy, Chinese authorities may be particularly interested in the University. ‘We’ve had Chinese citizens at Harvard, who are clearly doing the bidding of the Chinese state, coming and sitting in on talks and taking notes and reporting back,’ Perry says. She similarly suspects Chinese citizens of reporting on visiting Chinese scholars’ activities.” This article is quite long but fascinating.
    • America is awakening to China. This is a clarion call to seize the moment. (Mitt Romney, Washington Post): “China’s alarming military build-up is not widely discussed outside classified settings, but Americans should not take comfort in our disproportionately large military budget. The government of President Xi Jinping doesn’t report its actual defense spending. An apples-to-apples analysis demonstrates that China’s annual procurement of military hardware is nearly identical to ours; but because our military has missions around the world, this means that in the Pacific, where China concentrates its firepower, it will have military superiority.”
    • I was arrested in Hong Kong. It’s part of China’s larger plan.(Martin C. M. Lee , Washington Post): “Hong Kong people now face two plagues from China: the coronavirus and attacks on our most basic human rights. We can all hope a vaccine is soon developed for the coronavirus. But once Hong Kong’s human rights and rule of law are rolled back, the fatal virus of authoritarian rule will be here to stay.”
  6. My Native American father drew the Land O’Lakes maiden. She was never a stereotype. (Robert DesJarlait, Washington Post): “Mia’s vanishing has prompted a social media meme: ‘They Got Rid of The Indian and Kept the Land.’ That isn’t too far from the truth. Mia, the stereotype that wasn’t, leaves behind a landscape voided of identity and history. For those of us who are American Indian, it’s a history that is all too familiar.”
  7. By Biden’s Own Standards, He Is Guilty As Charged (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “On Friday’s Morning Joe, Biden laid out a simple process for judging him: Listen respectfully to Tara Reade, and then check for facts that prove or disprove her specific claim. The objective truth, Biden argued, is what matters. I agree with him. But this was emphatically not the standard Biden favored when judging men in college. If Biden were a student, under Biden rules, Reade could file a claim of assault, and Biden would have no right to know the specifics, the evidence provided, who was charging him, who was a witness, and no right to question the accuser.”
    • This article is about college Title IX proceedings using Tara Reade and Joe Biden as illustrations. If its inclusion comes off as partisan, bear in mind that the author intends to vote for Biden.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • Dolphins swim in bioluminescent waves in Newport Beach (YouTube): three minutes
  • Obviously Confused Amash Runs For President Even Though We Already Have Two Choices (Babylon Bee)
  • Unusually Heavy Call Volumes (Pearls Before Swine)
  • Latest Computer Model Predicts Between 0 And 12.6 Billion New COVID-19 Deaths By Summer (Babylon Bee)
  • Steve Harvey Gets Tie Stolen by Pickpocket Bob Arno (Steve Harvey Show, YouTube): seven minutes, recommended by a student
  • Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

    Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have the provocative read In Defense of Flogging (Peter Moskos, Chronicle of Higher Education) — the author is a former police officer and now a criminologist at the City University of New York. This one was shared back before I started sending these emails in a blog post called Punishment.

    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 247

Articles ranging from how to share your faith during the pandemic to Amish healthcare policies to the limitations of lockdowns. Enjoy!

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Amish Health Care System (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “I’m fascinated by how many of today’s biggest economic problems just mysteriously failed to exist in the past. Our grandparents easily paid for college with summer jobs, raised three or four kids on a single income, and bought houses in their 20s or 30s and never worried about rent or eviction again. And yes, they got medical care without health insurance, and avoided the kind of medical bankruptcies we see too frequently today. How did this work so well? Are there ways to make it work today?”
    • I would say unexpectedly fascinating except nearly everything on Slate Star Codex is fascinating; in fact, the more esoteric the topic the better.
    • Follow-up: Employer Provided Health Insurance Delenda Est (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Most of my patients have insurance; most of them are well-off; most of them are intelligent enough that they should be able to navigate the bureaucracy. Listen to the usual debate around insurance, and you would expect them to be the winners of our system; the rich people who can turn their financial advantage into better care. And yet barely a day goes by without a reminder that it doesn’t work this way.”
  2. General Coronavirus News and Commentary 
    • Amid Pandemic, Hong Kong Arrests Major Pro-Democracy Figures (Elaine Yu and Austin Ramzy, NY Times): “The virus has halted protests around the world, forcing people to stay home and giving the authorities new laws for limiting public gatherings and detaining people with less fear of public blowback while many residents remained under lockdowns or observing limits on their movement. But the arrests on Saturday in Hong Kong, along with a renewed push for national security legislation in the city, could anger protesters and reinvigorate mass demonstrations that had tapered off.”
    • Lockdowns Don’t Work (Lyman Stone, The Public Discourse): “Lockdowns don’t work. These other policies—travel restrictions, large-assembly limits, centralized quarantine, mask requirements, and school cancellations—do work. Because COVID is an extremely severe disease that, if left unchecked, will kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, it is vitally important that policymakers focus their efforts on policies that do work (masks, central quarantines, travel restrictions, school cancellations, large-assembly limits), and avoid implementing draconian, unpopular policies that don’t work (lockdowns).”
    • Lockdown Socialism will collapse (Arnold Kling, personal blog): “you can stay in your residence, but paying rent or paying your mortgage is optional…. you can obtain groceries and shop on line, but having a job is optional…. if you own a small business, you don’t need revenue, because the government will keep sending checks.”
    • We Can’t Go on Like This Much Longer (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “…protests against our total shutdown, while puny now, will doubtless grow. The psychological damage — not counting the physical toll — caused by this deeply unnatural way of life is going to intensify. We remain human beings, a quintessentially social mammal, and we orient ourselves in time, looking forward to the future. When that future has been suspended, humans come undone.”
    • How not to say the wrong thing to health-care workers (Dorothy R. Novick, Washington Post): “…a person in any given circle should send love and compassion inward, to those in smaller circles, and process personal grief outward, to those in larger circles…. Comfort in, grief out.”
    • It’s Time To Build (Marc Andreesen, blog): “The things we build in huge quantities, like computers and TVs, drop rapidly in price. The things we don’t, like housing, schools, and hospitals, skyrocket in price. What’s the American dream? The opportunity to have a home of your own, and a family you can provide for. We need to break the rapidly escalating price curves for housing, education, and healthcare, to make sure that every American can realize the dream, and the only way to do that is to build.”
    • In response: Why We Can’t Build (Ezra Klein, Vox): “The institutions through which Americans build have become biased against action rather than toward it. They’ve become, in political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s term, ‘vetocracies,’ in which too many actors have veto rights over what gets built. That’s true in the federal government. It’s true in state and local governments. It’s even true in the private sector.”
    • How to Protect Civil Liberties in a Pandemic (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “In emergencies, [the executive director of the ACLU] reflected in an interview earlier this month, government officials justify new powers by pointing to the extraordinary challenges of the moment. Yet long after the emergency passes, they tend to assert those very same powers as if they are the new normal…. ‘We are still litigating powers in 2020 that were adopted in 2001.’”
  3. Christian Coronavirus News & Commentary
    • COVID-19 Is Not God’s Judgment (Jim Denison, Christianity Today): “…biblical judgments through disease are supernatural in origin. When God sent ‘boils’ on Egypt, they broke out instantly ‘on man and beast’ throughout the land. The ‘pestilence’ of Revelation will come by one of the ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse,’ not a wet market in Wuhan. Everything scientists can tell us about COVID-19 is that the virus evolved from other viruses. It is natural, not supernatural.” 
    • If Liquor Stores Are Essential, Why Isn’t Church? (Michael McConnel & Max Raskin, NY Times): “It is not for government officials to decide whether religious worship is essential; the First Amendment already decided that. The question is whether, and how, it may be conducted without undue risk to public health.” McConnell is a Stanford law prof.
    • Pandemic Evangelism: Spreading the Gospel, not the Virus (Peter Cushman, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary): “Step 1: Fervently Pray for the Lost… Step 2: Tell the Lost You’re Praying for Them… Step 3a: Tell the Lost about Christ: Recognizing Opportunities.” This is a series of blog posts which is not yet finished. The individual posts so far → step one, step two, step 3a.
    • Covid-19 has killed multiple bishops and pastors within the nation’s largest black Pentecostal denomination (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “The Church of God in Christ, the country’s biggest African American Pentecostal denomination, has taken a deep and painful leadership hit with reports of at least a dozen to up to 30 bishops and prominent clergy dying of covid-19…”
    • Under fire from many, Samaritan’s Purse finds an unlikely champion (Yonat Shimron, Religion News Service): “In the course of the past four weeks, Tilson, who is not religious and had never heard of Franklin Graham, the conservative Christian leader of Samaritan’s Purse, has become one of the field hospital’s most dedicated volunteers and champions.”
  4. Is the World Ignoring a Christian Genocide in Nigeria? (Lela Gilbert, Providence): “Those of us who track religious freedom violations and Christian persecution agree with those who increasingly speak of another genocide. Murderous incidents are acted out with accelerating frequency, perpetrated primarily by two terror groups—Boko Haram and Fulani jihadis. Tens of thousands of Nigerians have been slaughtered in the last decade. But their stories rarely appear in mainstream Western news reports.”
  5. Four articles more partisan than those I often share:
    • On the right: End the Globalization Gravy Train (J.D Vance, The American Mind): “Western Civilization was, in fact, built by figures—one in particular whose resurrection we just celebrated—who recognized that material consumption, while necessary and important, was hardly the only good worth pursuing.” 
    • On the left: Studying Fascist Propaganda by Day, Watching Trump’s Coronavirus Updates by Night (Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker): “[Yale professor Jason] Stanley isn’t, or isn’t mainly, a scholar of public policy; he is a philosopher of language. When he insinuates that Trump is a fascist—and you don’t have to be a philosopher of language to catch the insinuation—he means that Trump talks like a fascist, not necessarily that he governs like one.” Sent my way by a concerned alumnus.
    • On the right: Evangelicals Need More Pragmatism and Less Moralism (Daniel Strand, Providence): “Many evangelicals have expressed their disillusion at both political parties because neither seems to line up with their beliefs. Democrats seem antagonistic to Christian convictions, and Republicans rally to defend and support a president whose character would not exactly line up with Christian standards, let alone those of used car salesman—my apologies to used car salesmen. To all this, I say good.” The author is a professor of ethics at the USAF Air War College.
    • On the left: We Are Living In A Failed State (George Packer, The Atlantic): “When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.”
  6. The Decline of the Jury (Peter Hitchens, First Things): “For without a jury, any trial is simply a process by which the state reassures itself that it has got the right man. A group of state employees, none of them especially distinguished, are asked to confirm the views of other state employees. With a jury, the government cannot know the outcome and must prove its case. And so the faint, phantasmal ideal of the presumption of innocence takes on actual flesh and bones and stands in the path of power.”

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 an eye-opening (and dismaying) experience, read What The Media Gets Wrong About Israel (Mattie Friedman, The Atlantic). (first shared back in volume 5): “one of the most important aspects of the media-saturated conflict between Jews and Arabs is also the least covered: the press itself. The Western press has become less an observer of this conflict than an actor in it, a role with consequences for the millions of people trying to comprehend current events, including policymakers who depend on journalistic accounts to understand a region where they consistently seek, and fail, to productively intervene.”

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 246

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Small World Network of College Classes: Implications for Epidemic Spread on a University Campus (Weeden & Cornwell, prepub): “If one chose a given student at random, that student is likely to attend class with a student who, in turn, attends class with any other randomly chosen student. Put differently, although it is unlikely that any two randomly chosen students would be enrolled in the same course, it is highly likely that they would be enrolled in different courses that both include the same third party.“
    • The authors, professors at Cornell, were curious about the potential for disease spread among undergrads at their school. Taking this in a completely different direction: the average student at Stanford is likely only one or two steps away from Chi Alpha. WOW! Invite your friends!
  2. General Coronavirus:
    • A Comic Strip Tour Of The Wild World Of Pandemic Modeling (Zach Weinersmith, Maggie Koerth, Laura Bronner and Jasmine Mithani, FiveThirtyEight): difficult to excerpt. It’s a comic strip.
    • Why can’t you go fishing during the pandemic? (Matthew Walter, The Week): “Common sense is exactly what has been lacking throughout this pandemic. This has been true of nearly everyone in a position of authority. Telling people that they cannot engage in ordinary, wholesome, totally risk-free activities is not, as Whitmer recently put it, ‘the best science.’ It is not any kind of science.”
    • When Coronavirus Lockdowns Go Too Far (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…officials micromanaging outdoor time and exercise — chivvying people out of parks if they’re doing the wrong thing (reading quietly instead of exercising, say) or closing an entire state’s worth of parks, as New Jersey’s governor chose to do last week — are cracking down on exactly the kind of creative and adaptive behaviors that a socially distanced society ought to be encouraging.”
    • When Will The Riots Begin? (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “From the point of view of the non-elites, the elites with their models and data and projections have shut the economy down. The news is full of pleas for New York, which always seemed like a suspicious den of urban inequity, but their hometown is doing fine. The church is closed, the bar is closed, the local plant is closed. Money is tight. Meanwhile the elites are laughing about binging Tiger King on Netflix.”
    • What does this economist think of epidemiologists? (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “…I have a few rude questions that nobody else seems willing to ask, and I genuinely do not know the answers to these: As a class of scientists, how much are epidemiologists paid? Is good or bad news better for their salaries? How smart are they? What are their average GRE scores? Are they hired into thick, liquid academic and institutional markets? And how meritocratic are those markets? What is their overall track record on predictions, whether before or during this crisis?”
      1. A response: From my email, a note about epidemiology (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “The quantitative modelers are generally much smarter than the people performing contact tracing or qualitative epidemiology studies. However, if I’m being completely honest, their intelligence is probably lower than the average engineering professor – and certainly below that of mathematicians and statisticians.”
      2. A response: A reply to Tyler Cown’s questions on Epidemiology: (an anonymous professor named Joseph, personal blog): “Epidemiologists are typically paid above average for academics, because of their links to medical schools. Those in departments of public health are shamefully underpaid. Since people want good news from them, there is some pressure to produce good news and most of our scandals come from over-optimistic forecasts.” 
    • Suspending WHO Funding Should Be Just the Beginning (Lyman Stone, The Dispatch): “…the WHO is simply not the organization of doctors many people envision. Of the 80 job listings currently on the WHO’s website, no more than four that I could identify apply to doctors at all. Even permanent career positions on the international professional payscale usually do not require more than a master’s degree in a health-related field. The WHO is currently hiring almost as many media and communication staffers as it is epidemiological staffers.”
    • Carta’s covid-19 layoff (Henry Ward, Medium): “It is important that all of you know I personally reviewed every list and every person. If you are one of those affected it is because I decided it. Your manager did not. For the majority of you it was quite the contrary. Your manager fought to keep you and I overrode them. They are blameless. If today is your last day, there is only one person to blame and it is me.” This is super-classy.
    • The Black Plague (Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, New Yorker): “The old African-American aphorism “When white America catches a cold, black America gets pneumonia” has a new, morbid twist: when white America catches the novel coronavirus, black Americans die.”
    • A different perspective: Do COVID-19 Racial Disparities Matter? (Coleman Hughes, Quillette): “In fact, blacks are more likely than whites to die of many diseases—not just this one. In other cases, the reverse is true. According to CDC mortality data, whites are more likely than blacks to die of chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver disease, and eight different types of cancer. The same thinking that attributes the racial disparity in COVID-19 deaths to systemic racism against blacks could be applied equally to argue the existence of systemic racism against whites.”
    • Wasted time: how San Francisco failed its homeless population amid coronavirus (Vivian Ho, The Guardian): “…many not-for-profit organizations that offered services to the unhoused were forced to close. Shelters that used to allow people to congregate during the day closed their doors. So did gyms with showers, businesses with public restrooms and even the public library, where the unhoused can stay dry from the rain.” Recommended by a student.
  3. Christianity & Coronavirus
    • The Coronavirus and the Will of God (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Because we are not Jesus, it is a very bad idea to walk around telling strangers how their suffering might display the works of God. But as friends, we can participate in others’ discernment and pattern-seeking, and we can try to discern purposes in our own life — suffering as punishment, suffering as refinement, suffering as a judgment on a nation or society, suffering as an opportunity, suffering as part of a story not our own.”
    • Ministry Leaders to ICE: Release Immigrants and Let Churches Help (Bekah McNeel, Christianity Today): “This week, evangelical leaders from nine major organizations wrote the Trump administration to urge officials to release detained immigrants during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly those who are elderly or at higher risk for contracting COVID-19.”
    • A Q&A for churches on government restrictions with a religious liberty attorney: Navigating the tension between church and state during a pandemic (Jeff Pickering, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission): “Ultimately, churches should approach religious freedom conflicts the same way they approach COVID-19: not with fear of suffering but with calm confidence in the goodness of God. Neither a global pandemic nor a local bureaucrat can silence the gospel.”
    • Justice Department takes church’s side in 1st Amendment suit (Colleen Long, Michael Balsamo And Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press): “The Justice Department took the rare step on Tuesday of weighing in on the side of a Mississippi Christian church where local officials had tried to stop Holy Week services broadcast to congregants sitting in their cars in the parking lot.…. Attorney Ryan Tucker of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the church, says there’s a Sonic Drive-In restaurant about 200 yards (180 meters) from the church where patrons are still allowed to roll down their windows and talk.”
    • Prominent Virginia pastor who said ‘God is larger than this dreaded virus’ dies of covid-19 (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “Earlier in the sermon, he said: ‘If I had to deliver my own eulogy, I’d say, ‘God is greater than any challenge you and I face.’ That would be my epitaph.’”
  4. Atheists are the Most Politically Active Group in the United States (Ryan P Burge, Religion In Public): “At every level on the education spectrum, atheists and agnostics are more politically active than Protestants or Catholics. More education leads to higher levels of political activity among all religious groups, but the relationship is even stronger for atheists than other groups. An atheist with a graduate degree participated in 2.1 political activities in the last year. It was 1.8 activities for agnostics. For Catholics and Protestants it’s between 1.3 and 1.4 activities. That’s not a small difference.”
  5. The Trump campaign wants to win the votes of evangelicals of color (Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein , Washington Post): “[Black and Latino evangelicals] have conservative beliefs on social issues such as same-sex marriage, which they oppose at rates just slightly lower than white evangelicals, and to some extent abortion, which would put them in the Republican camp. But they also tend to favor more legalized immigration, government sensitivity toward racial justice, and help for the poor, generally pushing them toward Democratic candidates.”
  6. The bloody decade: think America’s divided now? Try the 1970s (William Rosenau, Spectator): “In 1974 alone, there were 2,044 bombings in America, with 24 people killed. Violent extremist groups dotted the political landscape in a way they simply do not today.”
  7. Bloomberg News Killed Investigation, Fired Reporter, Then Sought To Silence His Wife (David Folkenflik. NPR): “Six years ago, Bloomberg News killed an investigation into the wealth of Communist Party elites in China, fearful of repercussions by the Chinese government.The company successfully silenced the reporters involved. And it sought to keep the spouse of one of the reporters quiet, too.”

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 20 Arguments For God’s Existence (Peter Kreeft, personal website): “You may be blessed with a vivid sense of God’s presence; and that is something for which to be profoundly grateful. But that does not mean you have no obligation to ponder these arguments. For many have not been blessed in that way. And the proofs are designed for them—or some of them at least—to give a kind of help they really need. You may even be asked to provide help.” I was reminded of this by a conversation with an alumnus. The author is a philosophy professor at Boston College. (first shared in volume 116)

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 245

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Some Easter thoughts:
    • Godforsaken For Us (Fred Sanders, The Scriptorium Daily): “The words of Jesus here make prominent the name God (Eli, Eli). Jesus cries the name of God humanly from a human place. One reason he does [not call God Father], I think, is that what is being enacted here on the cross is the Divine-Human encounter over sin. The one who has taken the place of the sinner is being punished by exile, precisely as a human, precisely by God. To put this in the background and reach out instead for Father-Son language in the paraphrased telling of this story is to tacitly accept the proposition that what is happening on the cross reveals more about the Trinity (God in himself) than about the incarnation (God meeting man) or the atonement (sin meeting justice).”
    • Christ Suffered for Our Sins, but He Didn’t Go to Hell for Them (Brad East interviewing Matthew Emerson, Christianity Today): “The biggest [misconception about what happened when Jesus died] is probably the idea that Christ, during his descent, went to hell and was tormented there.”
  2. Christianity and Coronavirus:
    • Uncertainty and the Christian (Ephraim Radner, First Things): “Uncertainty is at the center of the Christian vocation. Uncertainty may not comprehensively describe that vocation, but it defines it in an essential way. Many Christians will and do reject this claim, I realize. ‘We know with certainty all that is important to know!’ they will say. God is in control; God is good; God rewards the faithful; Jesus is Lord, and in him death and sin are defeated; the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church, and heaven awaits us. These are indeed Big Picture certainties. But the Big Picture isn’t all there is to God’s reality or to the Christian’s life. Small pictures are the bits that make up the Big Picture’s mosaic.” The author is a professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College in Canada.
    • Coronavirus Searches Lead Millions to Hear About Jesus (David Roach, Christianity Today): “Millions of worried people who have turned to Google with their anxiety over COVID-19 have ended up connecting with Christian evangelists in their search results—leading to a spike in online conversions in March.”
    • The Men and Women Who Run Toward the Dying (Bari Weiss, New York Times): “Before the plague hit, the primary job of hospital chaplains was tending to patients and their families. Now the emphasis has shifted to caring for their own colleagues.”
    • Charismatic Christians who believe in the power of faith healings are trying them over the phone  (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “‘I pray for people on the phone, and there is no difference in the spirit realm,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re touching or not. It’s not about me, it’s about God and releasing his spirit to take control over the elements of the body and speak life into them and to the disease.’”
    • During the Coronavirus Outbreak, I Miss Singing at Church (Tish Harrison Warren, New York Times): “We must embrace social distancing, for as long is as needed, to protect our health care system and the very real, fleshy bodies of millions of people.But we also need to collectively notice that something profound is lost by having to interact with the world and our neighbors in mostly disembodied, digital ways. This is something to lament and to grieve. And like all grief, it exposes the value and glory of the thing that was lost.”
  3. General Coronavirus:
    • What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage (Will Oremus, Medium): “In short, the toilet paper industry is split into two, largely separate markets: commercial and consumer. The pandemic has shifted the lion’s share of demand to the latter. People actually do need to buy significantly more toilet paper during the pandemic — not because they’re making more trips to the bathroom, but because they’re making more of them at home. With some 75% of the U.S. population under stay-at-home orders, Americans are no longer using the restrooms at their workplace, in schools, at restaurants, at hotels, or in airports.”
    • Even Now, Criminal Defendants Have Rights (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Consider a poor person arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Normally he would be arraigned and receive a public defender within 48 hours of arrest. Now he could sit in jail for a week without an attorney before getting the opportunity to tell his side of things to a judge.”
    • Apple and Google will make tracking technology to fight coronavirus (Adam Clark Estes and Shirin Ghaffary, Vox): “Apple and Google plan to build contact-tracing functionality into the operating systems of the phones themselves, which might sound a little tricky for folks who worry about being tracked without their consent. As the New York Times points out, by building the tool directly into the operating system, Apple and Google effectively ensure that the contact-tracing system can run 24 hours a day, rather than only when a particular app is open.”
      • How Privacy-Friendly Contact Tracing Can Help Stop the Spread of Covid-19 (Jason Kottke, personal blog): contains a comic that explains the idea very clearly.
      • Why Bluetooth apps are bad at discovering new cases of COVID-19 (Casey Newton, The Verge): “‘If I am in the wide open, my Bluetooth and your Bluetooth might ping each other even if you’re much more than six feet away,’ Mostashari said. ‘You could be through the wall from me in an apartment, and it could ping that we’re having a proximity event. You could be on a different floor of the building and it could ping. You could be biking by me in the open air and it could ping.’” This is a pretty solid criticism.
    • In the Fog of Coronavirus, There Are No Experts (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “[In the movie ‘Contagion’] only institutions can be trusted; outsider ‘knowledge’ leads only to the grave. That’s the movie; the reality has been otherwise. In our actual pandemic, most of the institutions that we associate with public health expertise and trusted medical authority have failed more catastrophically than Trump has.”
    • I’m Concerned About “US”: A Black Doctor’s Plea for Racial COVID19 Data (Rebekah Fenton, Medium): “I noticed a trend among the obituaries I read. They feature high numbers of Black people. They look like me, like my family’s friend. A family in Chicago has lost two sisters, Patricia and Wanda Frieson, to coronavirus at 61 and 63. Arnold Obey, an avid marathon runner and retired principal in New York, died at 73. But the ages of Black and brown victims were also lower than I expected. Dez-Ann Romain at 36. Dave Edwards at 48. Kious Kelly, an assistant nurse manager, at 48.” Rebekah is an alumna of Chi Alpha.
    • Flatten The Curve (Ohio Department of Health, YouTube): thirty well-done seconds
  4. S/NC and the purpose of higher education (Thomas Slabon, Stanford Daily): “As a Ph.D. candidate in the philosophy department, I have TA’d or taught eight courses, and I want to let you in on an open secret of post-secondary educators: We all hate grading. Every. Single. One of us. Every TA you’ve ever had has contemplated grading piles of problem sets or papers with dread — and half the reason you had a TA in the first place was because your professor wanted to grade your work even less.” This is a wonderful essay.
  5. The Situation With Viktor Orban (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I count myself an admirer of many of the things Viktor Orban has done, especially his moves to protect Hungarian sovereignty, the particularity of its culture, and to resist migration being forced upon Hungary. This does not mean I support everything he does — I honestly don’t follow Orban closely enough to have an informed opinion — but I think on balance, he has been good for Hungary, and for Europe. I would have a lot more confidence for the future were I living in a country governed by Viktor Orban than by Angela Merkel.” I don’t know why I find this subject so fascinating. Maybe it’s just because Dreher does and I love reading his writing.

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 Letter To My Younger Self (Ryan Leaf, The Player’s Tribune): “Congratulations. You officially have it all — money, power and prestige. All the things that are important, right?… That’s you, young Ryan Leaf, at his absolute finest: arrogant, boorish and narcissistic. You think you’re on top of the world and that you’ve got all the answers. Well I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the truth is….” Such a gripping letter. Highly recommended. (first shared in volume 99)

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 244

Theological perspectives on the pandemic, some interesting news tidbits, the state of Stanford athletic fandom, and a good reminder that Mormonism is not a Christian denomination.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Christian Coronavirus Perspectives
    • Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus (N.T. Wright, Time): “Supposing real human wisdom doesn’t mean being able to string together some dodgy speculations and say, ‘So that’s all right then?’ What if, after all, there are moments such as T. S. Eliot recognized in the early 1940s, when the only advice is to wait without hope, because we’d be hoping for the wrong thing? Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament.”
      • Please remember that authors do not usually pick the headlines for their articles. In this case especially the level of mismatch between the title and the article is striking.
    • Surprised by Hopelessness: A Response to NT Wright (Andy Davis, The Gospel Coalition): “Despite what T. S. Eliot says, Christians know exactly what to hope for. We’ve been clearly instructed by God’s prophetic Word, and therefore, we should be radiant with hope—an unshakable conviction that the future is indescribably bright. The world is ‘without hope and without God’ (Eph. 2:14); so when Christians radiate hope, the world notices and is moved to ask us to give a reason for the hope within us (1 Pet. 3:15).”
    • Like the Merchants of Babylon (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “The Bible tells us that God’s dealings with mankind are often mysterious, and so we should never rush to glib explanations. But His works are not absolutely inscrutable. When Jesus rebuked the people for misreading the collapse of the tower of Siloam, and for the incident where Pilate killed the men of Galilee (Luke 13:1–5), He rebuked them, not for reading meaning into the story, but for having read the wrong meaning into the story.”
    • How An Evil Virus Points to the Crushing Weight of the Fall (David French, The Dispatch): “Last night, my wife and I were walking through our neighborhood and saw a pastor friend in his backyard. We stopped him and had a lovely conversation while maintaining proper social distancing from the sidewalk. As we shared our own burdens and stresses, he made an important observation – this moment demonstrates so clearly our need for a savior. By that, he meant far, far more than the idea that we need some of that ‘old-time religion’ before we meet our maker. No, he meant that a broken world eagerly awaits the redemption declared in Revelations 21, when the Lord declares, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”
    • The Book of Common Prayer: Prayers for Plagues and Times of Great Sickness (Richard Beck, personal blog): “Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality; that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
    • The Apocalypse as an ‘Unveiling’: What Religion Teaches Us About the End Times (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “For people of many faiths, and even none at all, it can feel lately like the end of the world is near. Not only is there a plague, but hundreds of billions of locusts are swarming East Africa. Wildfires have ravaged Australia, killing an untold number of animals. A recent earthquake in Utah even shook the Salt Lake Temple to the top of its iconic spire, causing the golden trumpet to fall from the angel Moroni’s right hand.”
  2. General Coronavirus Commentary
    • Tips from someone with 50 years of social distancing experience (Rae Ellen Bichell, Minnesota Public Radio): “Keep track of something…. In the era of COVID-19, he suggests tracking what you can — or can’t — find at the grocery store. Or, better yet, participating in some citizen science, like a project called CoCoRaHS that tracks rainfall across the country.”
    • It’s Time to Face Facts, America: Masks Work (Ferris Jabr, Wired): “The collective evidence makes a strong case for universal mask wearing during a pandemic. Masks are not a substitute for other interventions; they must always be used in combination with social distancing and hand hygiene.” Recommended by a student. 
    • The Coronavirus and the Conservative Mind (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…the supposed conservative mind is more attuned to external threat and internal contamination, more inclined to support authority and hierarchy, and fear subversion and dissent. And so the political responses to the pandemic have put these psychological theories to a very interesting test.” This is an angle that never would have occurred to me but which is obviously worth exploring. 
    • Coronavirus maps and charts show COVID-19 symptoms, spread, death rate (Business Insider): “These 22 charts and graphics lay out what you need to know as the outbreak continues to progress.” Recommended by a student.
  3. This is only marginally about the coronavirus: An inside look at the hospital going up in Central Park (Tony Carnes, A Journey Through NYC Religions): “The heart of Central Park is Bethesda Fountain, which was built to commemorate the healing power of Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda in Israel. Frederic Law Olmsted, the park’s designer, hoped that the park would provide spiritual refreshment to urban masses from their travails. Now, a Christian ministry is realizing the symbolism in the 21st Century by erecting a critical care hospital at the park’s 97th Street Transverse and Fifth Avenue…. Samaritan’s Purse medical personnel use the twenty seconds while they wash their hands to pray for each of their patients by name. It is fitting that they do that at their present location.”
    • What a heartwarming story. Who could be opposed?
    • Oh, wait. De Blasio “Very Concerned” About Anti-Gay Evangelical Group Running Central Park Coronavirus Hospital (Jake Offenhartz, The Gothamist): “Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will keep a close eye on the Christian fundamentalist group operating a field hospital in Central Park, amid growing fears that some New Yorkers could face discrimination and substandard care from the religious organization.”
    • And New Yorkers Are Right to Be Skeptical of Evangelical-Run Coronavirus Ward in Central Park (Jonathan Merrit, The Daily Beast): “The vast majority of New Yorkers are not Christian, and if they find themselves wheezing for air due to COVID-19, they don’t want to be proselytized while receiving treatment. They too have reason to be skeptical of the organization’s makeshift hospital.” 
    • Some amusing comments I saw in response, “I think they’re actually afraid that the volunteers will give away Chick-Fil‑A sandwiches” and “If the mayor had been as concerned about the coronavirus as he is about the Christians then New York would look very different today.” Ouch.
  4. Donations: From Bribery to Benevolence (Jasmine Kerber, Stanford Daily): “A spectrum exists between bribery and benevolence, and donations fall in various places along that continuum. Operation Varsity Blues highlighted the most corrupt ‘donations’; former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe, not an altruistic contribution to athletics.” Jasmine is a student in Chi Alpha.
    • I shared an article that discussed philanthropy from a different perspective back in volume 213.
  5. At least the seats are red: Why is Stanford Stadium often empty? (Stanford Daily): “As national Heisman voters did not vote for Christian McCaffrey ’18 because they could not bother to watch his games, Stanford students would not bike over to Stanford Stadium for [his] games. ‘I will never forget this,’ McCaffrey told The Athletic. ‘My sophomore year against UCLA, I had a heck of a game. I biked back to my dorm, I’m kind of on a high horse. I walk in, and six or seven people asked where I was! I think I had something like 243 yards rushing, four touchdowns. And they didn’t know where I was!’”
  6. 3 Types of Skeptics (C. Michael Patton, Credo House): “1. Those who need answers…. 2. Those who don’t like the answers…. 3. Those who need healing.”
  7. Are Mormons Christians?: A Review of “The Saints of Zion: An Introduction to Mormon Theology” (Tim Miller, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary): “He makes clear that Mormons are not Christians, but does so by pointing out that this has been the claim of the Mormon church itself throughout history (despite recent attempts to argue differently).”

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 Book Review: Seeing Like A State (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Peasants didn’t like permanent surnames. Their own system was quite reasonable for them: John the baker was John Baker, John the blacksmith was John Smith, John who lived under the hill was John Underhill, John who was really short was John Short. The same person might be John Smith and John Underhill in different contexts, where his status as a blacksmith or place of origin was more important. But the government insisted on giving everyone a single permanent name, unique for the village, and tracking who was in the same family as whom. Resistance was intense.” This is long and amazing. (first shared in volume 95)

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 243

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Recovering Friendship (Devorah Goldman, Public Discourse): “And then you go at it, hammer and tongs, far into the night, night after night; or walking through fine country that neither gives a glance to, each learning the weight of the other’s punches, and often more like mutually respectful enemies than friends. Actually (though it never seems so at the time) you modify one another’s thought; out of this perpetual dogfight a community of mind and a deep affection emerge.”
  2. In God We Divide (Thomas Edsall, New York Times): “The more religiously engaged a white voter is, the more likely he or she will be a Republican; the less religious the voter, the more likely to be a Democrat. But, as we shall see it’s not that simple: The deeper you go, the more complex it gets.”
    • Note the adjective “white” in the first sentence — almost all discussion about the politics of religious people focuses on white voters. The piece later acknowledges voters of color but doesn’t explore how their faith influences their votes. Instead non-white evangelicals are usually treated as though faith is irrelevant to their political views, which is absurd. All that to say: the article has interesting insights but bear in mind its crippling limitation.
  3. Is Joshua’s Altar on Mount Ebal in Israel Myth? Or Reality? (Ralph Hawkins, Logos): “When I was working on my doctoral dissertation about the Ebal site, I spent a week with Zertal. One morning while we were driving to the site, he told me his critics had accused him of trying to prove the Bible. They said he imposed a cultic interpretation onto the stone structure he had found. He explained, though, that he had been born and raised in Ein Shemer, Israeli kibbutz that was affiliated with a secular movement. He said he had grown up believing that the Bible was full of myths. When he did his graduate work in archaeology, he did it at Tel Aviv, the most liberal university in Israel, where those views were reinforced. He insisted he had not embarked on his excavation at Mount Ebal in order to prove the Bible. What he found there, however, had a profound effect on him. He said, ‘I became a believer at Mount Ebal.’”
    • I love stories like this. Archaeology and the Bible is fascinating to me.
  4. Christianity & Coronavirus
    • When Corona Makes Us More Like The New Testament (Andrew Wilson, Think Theology): “In a number of curious ways, the Coronavirus outbreak is making us more like the New Testament church.” See also Sam Allberry’s Twitter thread about God’s Purposes In Pandemic. It reminds me of Numbers 11:18–20.
    • Coronavirus, Courage, and the Second Temptation of Christ (David French, The Dispatch): “Shun performative recklessness. Do not presume that our faith makes us immune to the laws of biology and viral transmission. At the same time, believers should not shrink from purposeful and sacrificial personal risk. There may come a time when you must care for those who are sick. Do so without reservation, but do so prudently with the knowledge that you should not impute your risks to others.”
    • Canceled Mission Trips Expected to Have Long-Term Fallout (David Roach, Christianity Today): “Approximately 20 percent of all US-based international mission work each year is done by short-term volunteers, according to an analysis by sociologist of religion Robert Wuthnow. That translates to 1.6 million US church members annually going on international mission trips and doing work valued at $1.1 billion (not counting preparation time and travel days).”
    • Church as a Non-Essential Service (Matthew Schmitz, First Things): “Judging by the response of many religious leaders, church is a non-essential service. We are capable of taking prudent measures to keep our supermarkets open, but not our sanctuaries. Coronavirus has shown what we value. In Pennsylvania, beer distributors are deemed essential. In San Francisco and New York, cannabis dispensaries are.” This is actually a contribution to an online dustup but I find it more interesting than the dispute itself.
    • Digital Communion: History, Theology, and Practices (John Dyer, personal blog): “A few weeks ago, I posted a graphic that attempts to show that the elements of a service that are transactional or broadcast oriented are usually the easiest to move online, but the relational parts of church are often the most challenging—and most overlooked—elements of digital church.”
    • In Leviticus, an unexpected lesson in surviving quarantine (Rachel Sharansky Danziger, Forward): “Before, I could never understand why we should learn in so much detail about every little ritual in the Tabernacle, and who does what, and when. Now, as I work hard to make our newly claustrophobic home into a place of calm and productivity, I understand the book’s insistence on such details.” A Jewish perspective.
  5. General Coronavirus Commentary
    • That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief (Scott Berinato, Harvard Business Review): “There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, ‘I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,’ or ‘I cried last night.’ When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.”
      • Pastoral aside: this is (some of) you. Paula and I have both talked to people who have been mourning without realizing what they were doing. You are grieving. A few days ago I uploaded a two-minute video reflecting on Psalm 137:1 which touches on this.
    • Leisure in a Time of Coronavirus (Nathan Schlueter, Public Discourse): “Schools are closed. Sports and music lessons are cancelled. Everyone is at home. What are you going to do? Instead of allowing coronavirus control your life, why not plan for leisure? Use this time to do the things you are always wishing you had the time to do—or do better. Now you have that time, so do those things.”
    • Face Masks: Much More Than You Wanted To Know (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Some people with swine flu travelled on a plane from New York to China, and many fellow passengers got infected. Some researchers looked at whether passengers who wore masks throughout the flight stayed healthier. The answer was very much yes. They were able to track down 9 people who got sick on the flight and 32 who didn’t. 0% of the sick passengers wore masks, compared to 47% of the healthy passengers. Another way to look at that is that 0% of mask-wearers got sick, but 35% of non-wearers did. This was a significant difference, and of obvious applicability to the current question.”
    • The Fog of Pandemic (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic): “The U.S. is fighting a war with extreme uncertainties. It may be weeks before we know whether we are flattening the coronavirus curve, and months before we know what kind of economy we’ll have in the second half of this year.”
    • When can we let up? Exploring how to relax coronavirus lockdowns (Stat News): “The approach getting the most support is one that experts have long doubted could work with a respiratory virus: aggressive case finding, contact tracing, community surveillance, isolation of cases, and quarantining of contacts. Both Singapore and South Korea used that, allowing them to make tactical decisions about schools (mostly open in both countries) and public movement, sparing them from shutting down to the extent that the U.S. and many countries in Europe have.”
    • Coronavirus Pandemic: We Need the Skeptics (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “When a bad thing happens to a good person, we are tempted to rage at God. When innumerable bad things happen to half of everyone we know, we rage at each other.”
    • On Coronavirus, Reason To Hope (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): This week we saw FDA approval of new testing systems from Roche and from Abbott labs that run tests ten times faster than current methods. To give you an idea of what this means, Roche brags that their Cobas 8800 machine can process over 3000 tests per day. Until today, Louisiana hadn’t had a total of 3000 people tested. Roche is now making and shipping 400,000 test kits per week in the US, while Abbott is making a million of their test kits each week. Those systems will be coming online this coming week…. And there are more companies in the process of getting approval. In two weeks, we should be able to test 150,000 – 200,000 Americans daily, and that means that we don’t all need to stay home anymore.”
      • You can see the number of tests administered so far at The COVID Tracking Project — this is one of the best indicators to keep an eye on because it determines the reliability of every other statistic.
    • The World After Coronavirus (Yuval Noah Harari, Financial Times): “But temporary measures have a nasty habit of outlasting emergencies, especially as there is always a new emergency lurking on the horizon. My home country of Israel, for example, declared a state of emergency during its 1948 War of Independence, which justified a range of temporary measures from press censorship and land confiscation to special regulations for making pudding (I kid you not). The War of Independence has long been won, but Israel never declared the emergency over, and has failed to abolish many of the ‘temporary’ measures of 1948 (the emergency pudding decree was mercifully abolished in 2011).”
    • Safety Protocols and Zones of Quarantine (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “In other words, this part of the virus response should transition to a health and safety regulatory concern that is important, but handled like most of the others. For example, poor food hygiene can also kill you, but governments generally don’t respond by deciding which cuisines are essential and which are not. Rather, anyone willing to follow the safety rules can put up any menu they want. So it should be for economic activities of all kinds.”

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 Preacher And Politics: Seven Thoughts (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “I have plenty of opinions and convictions. But that’s not what I want my ministry to be about. That’s not to say I don’t comment on abortion or gay marriage or racism or other issues about the which the Bible speaks clearly. And yet, I’m always mindful that I can’t separate Blogger Kevin or Twitter Kevin or Professor Kevin from Pastor Kevin. As such, my comments reflect on my church, whether I intend them to or not. That means I keep more political convictions to myself than I otherwise would.” First shared in volume 150

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 242

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.

A lot of links this week. Can you tell I’m on lockdown in the Bay Area? Since some of you are, too, you’ll have time to read them! 😂

Kidding aside, I never assume anyone reads all of these. Skim the links and open the ones that interest you in new tabs, but be sure to open all the amusing stuff at the end — you need it.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Pandemic Visualizers:
  2. Christian Pandemic Perspectives:
    • The Emotional Impact Of Campus Closures (Michele Phoenix, personal blog): “There are few things in life as predictable as one’s college trajectory. From the dreaded freshman-fifteen to changes in academic majors or finding out last minute that you’re two credits short… It all plays out according to an established timeline. Then comes a virus that upends everything and predictability—one of the primary stabilizing factors of our lives—suddenly morphs into a whirlwind of shifting unknowns.”
      • Related: Unfinished narratives (Jessica de la Paz, Stanford Daily): “Everyday there’s another email, and with every email another string of hope we wear hanging around our necks is yanked off, and we’re left with a red impression of where it once was. My immigrant parents who fought tooth and nail for me and my brothers won’t get to see me walk across the stage to get my diploma. There will be no photos or laughter-filled reception.” Jessica is a Chi Alpha student. She is also quoted in this Wall Street Journal article: To Fight Coronavirus, Colleges Sent Students Home. Now Will They Refund Tuition?
    • In Coronavirus Pandemic, Christianity Has Ancient Lessons (Lyman Stone, Foreign Policy): “The modern world has suddenly become reacquainted with the oldest traveling companion of human history: existential dread and the fear of unavoidable, inscrutable death. No vaccine or antibiotic will save us for the time being. Because this experience has become foreign to modern people, we are, by and large, psychologically and culturally underequipped for the current coronavirus pandemic.” Side note: I have very much enjoyed the author on Twitter.
    • Responding to Pandemics: 4 Lessons from Church History (Glen Scrivener, Gospel Coalition): “Plagues intensify the natural course of life. They intensify our own sense of mortality and frailty. They also intensify opportunities to display countercultural, counterconditional love. The church rose to the challenge in the second century, winning both admirers and also converts.” Highly recommended. A longer version is available as a 45 minute YouTube video (which, full confession, I have not watched). 
    • Theological Reflections on the Pandemic (Brian Tabb, Gospel Coalition): “All people—rich and poor, young and old, religious and non-religious—are susceptible to sickness and are certain to die one day. Yet for followers of Jesus, sickness tests our faith, reveals our hope, and moves us to be zealous for good works.”
    • Plague and Providence: What Huldrych Zwingli Taught Me About Trusting God (Stephen Eccher, Gospel Coalition): “I first came across Huldrych Zwingli’s ‘Plague Song’ while studying the Protestant Reformation at the University of St. Andrews: ‘Help, Lord God, help in this trouble! I think death is at the door. Stand before me, Christ, for you have overcome him.’”
    • Does Religion Impact What People Are Afraid Of? (Ryan P. Burge, Religion in Public): “Among Protestants who never attend church, their total number of fears is no different than Catholics at just about sixteen. However, as a Protestant increases their frequency of worship attendance their total number of fears begins to decline. Among Protestants who attend more than once a week, the model predicts just 11.5 fears – which is statistically significant from both low attending Protestants and all Catholics.”
    • This is not the end of the world, according to Christians who study the end of the world (Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “Could this be a sign of the apocalypse? It sure might feel apocalyptic. But not if you ask Christian writers and pastors who have spent years focusing their message on the Book of Revelation — the New Testament’s final book.”
  3. General Pandemic Thinkpieces:
    • Buzz Aldrin has some advice for Americans in quarantine (Eric Berger, Ars Technica): “Buzz Aldrin knows a thing or two about quarantines. After returning from the Moon in 1969, Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins spent 21 days in quarantine to prevent the spread of any contagions they might have brought back from the lunar surface.” Very short. Mildly amusing.
    • NIH Director: ‘We’re on an Exponential Curve’ (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “When I asked him how he sees faith now, in his late 60s, compared with how he saw things in his late 20s, he told me, ‘I think I’ve also arrived at a place where my faith has become a really strong support for dealing with life’s struggles. It took me awhile, I think—that sense that God is sufficient and that I don’t have to be strong in every circumstance.’” Francis Collins is a solid believer who we co-hosted to speak at Stanford around a decade ago. Good interview. Recommended by an alumnus.
    • A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data (John Ioannidis, Stat News): “The most valuable piece of information for answering those questions would be to know the current prevalence of the infection in a random sample of a population and to repeat this exercise at regular time intervals to estimate the incidence of new infections. Sadly, that’s information we don’t have.” The author is a Stanford professor of medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics.
    • China Is Avoiding Blame by Trolling the World (Shadi Hamid, The Atlantic): “A government is not a race. It’s a regime—and easily one of the worst and most brutal in our lifetime. Criticizing authoritarian regimes for what they do outside their own borders and to their own people is simply calling things as they are. To do otherwise is to forgo analysis and accuracy in the name of assuaging a regime that deserves no such consideration.”
      • Related: Don’t blame ‘China’ for the coronavirus — blame the Chinese Communist Party (Josh Rogin, Washington Post): “Let’s stop saying ‘Chinese virus’ — not because everyone who uses it is racist, but because it needlessly plays into the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to divide us and deflect our attention from their bad actions. Let’s just call it the ‘CCP virus.’ That’s more accurate and offends only those who deserve it.”
    • “Dishonesty…Is Always an Indicator of Weakness”: Tucker Carlson on How He Brought His Coronavirus Message to Mar-a-Lago (Joe Hagan, Vanity Fair): “I felt I had a moral obligation to be useful in whatever small way I could, and, you know, I don’t have any actual authority. I’m just a talk show host. But I felt—and my wife strongly felt—that I had a moral obligation to try and be helpful in whatever way possible. I’m not an adviser to the person or anyone else other than my children. And I mean that. And you can ask anybody in the White House or out how many times have I gone to the White House to give my opinion on things. Because I don’t do that. And in general I really disapprove of people straying too far outside their lanes and acting like just because they have solid ratings, they have a right to control public policy. I don’t believe that. I think it’s wrong.” Unexpectedly fascinating.
    • Coronalinks 3/19/20 (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “I’m usually pretty harsh on Bay Area governments here. So I want to give credit where credit is due: they’ve reacted to the coronavirus epidemic with a level of swiftness and ferocity they usually reserve for attempts to build new housing.” I am including the link entirely for that glorious line. The rest is worthwhile, but that line is majestic.
    • Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance (Tomsa Pueyo, Medium): “This is probably the single biggest, most important mistake people make when thinking about this stage: they think it will keep them home for months. This is not the case at all. In fact, it is likely that our lives will go back to close to normal.”
      • The author is quite critical of the USA. Maybe it’s because I live in Silicon Valley and am currently on lockdown, but I think we’re responding pretty aggressively. Honestly, I think we’re doing better than most countries around the world (definitely not Singapore, though — respect to that island technocracy). Also, America often takes a while to mobilize in response to great challenges but once we do the strength of our response is staggering. We engage in relentless and public self-criticism that leads us to overcompensate; for example, the news keep emphasizing that we are pitifully behind on test kits. It is true that we were inexcusably behind. However, our capacity for testing is exploding — precisely because everyone believes we are pitifully behind. There remain other areas in which we are still falling flat, and they are having bright spotlights trained upon them. So I’m cautiously optimistic. Things will be bad but not nearly as bad as they could have been. For all of her faults, America is still pretty amazing.
      • Also, the author inexplicably trusts China’s reports about their current levels of infection. Given extremely recent history, that is perplexing.
    • Why Telling People They Don’t Need Masks Backfired (Zeynep Tufekci, New York Times): “It used to be said that back in the Soviet Union, if there was a line, you first got in line and then figured out what the line was for — people knew that there were going to be shortages and that the authorities often lied, so they hoarded.” The author is a professor at UNC. Recommended by a student.
    • We’re not going back to normal (Gideon Lichfield, MIT Technology Review): “…one can imagine a world in which, to get on a flight, perhaps you’ll have to be signed up to a service that tracks your movements via your phone. The airline wouldn’t be able to see where you’d gone, but it would get an alert if you’d been close to known infected people or disease hot spots. There’d be similar requirements at the entrance to large venues, government buildings, or public transport hubs. There would be temperature scanners everywhere, and your workplace might demand you wear a monitor that tracks your temperature or other vital signs.” Shared by a concerned student.
  4. Non-pandemic (YES!!!!):
    • Book Review: Hoover (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Herbert Hoover is the first student at Stanford. Not just a member of the first graduating class. Literally the first student. He arrives at the dorms two months early to get a head start on various money-making schemes, including distributing newspapers, delivering laundry, tending livestock, and helping other students register. He would later sell some of these businesses to other students and start more, operating a constant churn of enterprises throughout his college career. His academics remain mediocre, and he continues to have few friends – until he tries out for the football team in sophomore year. He has zero athletic talent and fails miserably, but the coach (whose eye for talent apparently transcends athletics) spots potential in Hoover and asks him to come on as team manager. In this role, Hoover is an unqualified success. He turns the team’s debt into a surplus, and starts the Big Game – a UC Berkeley vs. Stanford football match played on Thanksgiving which remains a beloved Stanford football tradition.” Long but good (if you are interested in Stanford, presidential history, or clever thoughts).
      • Related: Scott Alexander on Herbert Hoover (Scott Sumner, The Library of Economics and Liberty): “Hoover was not the most talented person to ever become President, but he was probably the most competent. Unfortunately, his areas of competence did not dovetail with the problems facing the US during the early 1930s. Hoover was very good at organizing large endeavors, but the problems faced by the US during the early 1930s were macroeconomic in nature. Unfortunately, being a good administrator doesn’t have much correlation with understanding macroeconomics.”
    • ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ at the Museum of the Bible are all forgeries (Michael Greshko, National Geographic): “Loll insisted on independence. Not only would the Museum of the Bible have no say on the team’s findings, her report would be final—and would have to be released to the public. The Museum of the Bible agreed to the terms. ‘Honestly, I’ve never worked with a museum that was so up-front,’ Loll says.”
      • The Museum of the Bible comes off looking pretty good in this article. I feel bad for them.
    • Porn Restriction for Realists (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “…a world where the tube-sites are gone and people must go back to paying for their porn is a significant improvement over the world we live in now. This world is possible: it existed two decades ago. Technological change is part of what happened, but only part. Just as important in the creation of the new, porn-flushed world we live are legal protections given to websites like PornHub and X Hamster which allow them to dodge liability for the theft their business model is based on. It also allows them to dodge liability for much worse sins.”
    • Learning From History: How Congress Can Protect Both Rights and Beliefs (Don Bonker, RealClearReligion): “Back in 1984, I received an unexpected call from Senator Mark Hatfield (R‑OR), a highly regarded Republican who chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. I wondered, why would he call a young Democrat who had no significant position and little influence in the halls of Congress?”

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 Everything That’s Wrong Of Raccoons (Mallory Ortberg, The Toast): “Once when my dog died a passel of raccoons showed up in the backyard as if to say ‘Now that he’s gone, we own the night,’ and they didn’t flinch when I yelled at them, and I found it disrespectful to 1) me personally and 2) the entire flow of the food chain. Don’t disrespect me if you can’t eat me, you false-night-dogs.” (first shared in volume 97)

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.