Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 295

A lot about Jesus and a little bit about the news cycle.

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

This volume 295, which is not a terribly interesting number. According to one website it is a “structured deltoidal hexacontahedral number” but that sounds silly and is even less interesting to me than the simple fact that 295 = 59 ⋅ 5.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Tennant on Aquinas’s Second Way (Ed Feser, personal blog): “…I don’t mean to be too hard on Tennant, specifically. There is nothing unique about his objections. On the contrary, variations on them are constantly raised against Aquinas by mainstream academic philosophers and by mainstream academics and intellectuals from other fields (not to mention countless amateurs). And yet they are all demonstrably based on egregious errors and misunderstandings. Which, while it tells you nothing about Aquinas, says much about what you should think of mainstream academic and intellectual opinion.” 
  2. From the Empty Tomb to Today’s Abuse: Believe Women (Amy Orr-Ewing, Gospel Coalition): “If we don’t believe women, then we have to dismiss the eyewitnesses to the Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection. If we won’t listen, we don’t have access to the evidence for the central truths of the Christian faith.”
  3. Is Christianity a White Man’s Religion? (Claude Atcho, Gospel Coalition): “[This] example and exhortation show how to disentangle rather than deconstruct. Through careful disentangling and patient recovery, we find that Christianity uniquely speaks to the concerns of Black people with experiential and historical foundations that have empowered our people for centuries.”
  4. He’s a Famous Evangelical Preacher, but His Kids Wish He’d Pipe Down (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times): “I told Rick Joyner that I thought his struggles with his children reflected a larger generation gap and dwindling of influence of the religious right. To my surprise, he agreed. ‘The church in America has been tremendously weakened,’ he acknowledged. If the Joyners are a microcosm of a nation divided, perhaps they also offer a ray of hope in their ability to bridge differences. They remain close and get together for holidays, even if gatherings are tense.” Really interesting.
  5. How America’s surveillance networks helped the FBI catch the Capitol mob (Drew Harwell & Craig Timberg, Washington Post): “Whenever you see this technology used on someone you don’t like, remember it’s also being used on a social movement you support,” said Evan Greer, director of the digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future. “Once in a while, this technology gets used on really bad people doing really bad stuff. But the rest of the time it’s being used on all of us, in ways that are profoundly chilling for freedom of expression.”
  6. Welcome to the Decade of Concern (Tanner Greer, Scholar’s Stage): “The 2020s will see both the growth of Chinese military power to new heights and a temporary nadir in American capacity to intervene in any conflict in China’s near abroad. The ‘temporary’ part of that equation is important. Historians of the First World War and the Pacific War trace the origins of those conflicts to pessimistic assessments of the changing balance of power. The belligerency of imperial Japan and Wilhelmine Germany rested on a belief that their position vis a vis their enemies could only decline with time. Any statesman who believes that a temporary military advantage over an enemy will soon erode will have a strong incentive to fight it out before erosion has begun.”
    • China-related: The cost of speaking up against China (Joel Gunter, BBC): “Some of those who spoke to the BBC — from the US, UK, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, and Turkey — provided screenshots of threatening WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook messages; others described in detail what had been said in phone and video calls. Everyone described some form of detention or harassment of their family members in Xinjiang by local police or state security officials.”
  7. On the Georgia voting law:
    • Positive: Why State Election Reform Bills Don’t Signal a New Jim Crow Era (Walter Olson, The Dispatch): “The law, widely portrayed as a horrendous venture into so-called voter suppression, actually contains many provisions that liberalize access to ballot methods that came in handy during the pandemic, such as early voting, as well as addressing the genuine problem of long lines at polling places.”
    • Negative: What Georgia’s Voting Law Really Does (Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein, New York Times): “Go page by page through Georgia’s new voting law, and one takeaway stands above all others: The Republican legislature and governor have made a breathtaking assertion of partisan power in elections, making absentee voting harder and creating restrictions and complications in the wake of narrow losses to Democrats.”
    • Positive: No, Georgia’s new voting law is not a return to Jim Crow (Henry Olsen, Washington Post): “No bill is perfect, and reasonable people can disagree about the balance between voter access and election integrity. But Democratic claims that this law amounts to racist voter suppression should be seen for what they are: overwrought partisan rhetoric that unnecessarily increases racial and political tensions.” The author is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center
    • Outraged: Voter Suppression Is Violence (Jamil Smith, Rolling Stone): “This neo-Jim Crow measure builds upon the mayhem that has already cost lives, not just at the Capitol, but also thanks to the malevolent governance of Republicans nationwide. After decades of working to erode the promise of the American experiment, or perhaps to simply reserve it for themselves, it appears that Republicans want to finish the job this year. This is why S.B. 202, and the laws surely to be modeled after it, are designed to ensure that white men with regressive politics will continue to hold power.”
    • Negative-ish: Fact check: What the new Georgia elections law actually does (Daniel Dale and Dianne Gallagher, CNN): “As critics have correctly said, the law imposes significant new obstacles to voting. It also gives the Republican-controlled state government new power to assert control over the conduct of elections in Democratic counties. The law does, however, contain some provisions that can be reasonably be described as pro-voting, and critics have not always described all of the text accurately.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • Lifeguard Earnings Here May Have You Practicing Your Strokes (Arden Dier, Newser): “According to Forbes, seven lifeguards made more than $300,000 in 2019, which was the most recent year for which data was available, while 82 lifeguards made more than $200,000. Thirty-one lifeguards made more than $50,000 in overtime pay, while three collected more than $100,000, per Forbes.”
  • John Morton (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): the trick is about nine minutes, although the video is longer due to ads at the end.
  • Chick-Fil‑A Drug Dealer (John Crist, YouTube): five minutes

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have From the happy news department: Christian Missions and the Spread of Democracy (Greg Scandlen, The Federalist): This is a summary of some rather wonderful research Robert Woodberry published in The American Political Science Review back in 2012: The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy. If it looks familiar it’s because I allude to it from time to time in my sermons and conversations. (first shared in volume 14)

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 293

featuring several perspectives about the murders in Atlanta

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

This is volume 293 — a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Article related to violence against Asian-Americans:
    • Religion, Race, and the Atlanta Murders (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “There are so many threads to this knot that need to be slowly untangled. There are elements related to pornography, sex trafficking, religion, evangelicalism, Southern Baptists, and many others just outside our periphery. But neither the complexity of this event nor the tribalism of our cultural discourse must not allow us to avoid self-reflection and scrutiny. We must confront the reality that something is horribly wrong in our midst when a person kills to ‘eliminate’ temptation.”
    • We Need to Put a Name to This Violence (Jay Caspian Kang, New York Times): “There is no shared history between, say, Thai immigrants who saw images of one of their own attacked in San Francisco, and the Chinese-American population of Oakland alarmed by the assault in Chinatown.Asian-American identity is fractured and often incoherent because it assumes kinship between people who do not speak the same language, and, in many cases, dislike one another.” This was written before the Atlanta murders and is discussing the trend wave of violence more generally.
    • The Muddled History of Anti-Asian Violence (Hua Hsu, New Yorker): “Some have wondered if these horrific, viral videos constitute a wave, or if they were just random incidents. When your concerns have gone unrecognized for decades, it’s understandable why some within the Asian-American community remain so invested in using these highly visible moments as an opportunity to call attention to hate, even if the incidents seem more varied than that. The wave in question isn’t just two or three incidents.” Also written before the Atlanta shootings.
    • Racializing The Atlanta Massage Parlor Killings (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “It is striking to see how quickly our media has racialized the narrative of the horrific murders at the Georgia massage parlors. From what we know so far, the alleged murderer was a young man tormented by his compulsive sexual desires. He visited massage parlors in the past, and went to this one to kill the women he once depended on to gratify his desires. From all the available evidence, these killings were the misogynistic act of a sexually depraved man.” As is often the case with Dreher, some of the best material is in the updates at the end (usually a comment from a reader that Dreher thought significant).
    • When The Narrative Replaces The News (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “Mass killers, if they are motivated by bigotry or hate, tend to let the world know… This mass murderer in Atlanta actually denied any such motive, and, to repeat myself, there is no evidence for it — and that has been true from the very start.”
    • The Media Got It Wrong: Police Captain Didn’t Say the Atlanta Spa Killer Was Having a ‘Bad Day’ (Robby Soave, Reason): “A police officer excusing Long’s actions as merely the result of him having a ‘bad day’ would indeed be contemptible. But that’s not what Baker did. In fact, many of the people so infuriated about the quote were misled by Rupar’s edit of the video. The full video (the relevant section starts at about 13:50) makes clear that Baker was not providing his own commentary, but rather summarizing what Long had told the investigators.”
  2. Third Places and the Horizons of Male Friendships (Ryan McCormick, Mere Orthodoxy): “Generally speaking, typical male friendship is different from typical, contemporary female friendship. A failure to recognize the different ways that men and women form intimate bonds in friendship is what breeds so much confusion and leads to the misdiagnosis of ‘toxic masculinity.’” I will add one extra layer of diagnosis that the author didn’t address: many in our culture have a horror of male-only spaces. How are we surprised to discover a dearth of male friendships when we view the very existence of masculine communities as evidence of something amiss?
  3. The False and Exaggerated Claims Still Being Spread About the Capitol Riot (Glenn Greenwald, Substack): “Despite this alleged brutal murder taking place in one of the most surveilled buildings on the planet, filled that day with hundreds of cellphones taping the events, nobody saw video of it. No photographs depicted it. To this day, no autopsy report has been released. No details from any official source have been provided.”
    • Follow-up: As the Insurrection Narrative Crumbles, Democrats Cling to it More Desperately Than Ever (Glenn Greenwald, Substack): “As I detailed several weeks ago, so many of the most harrowing and widespread media claims about the January 6 riot proved to be total fabrications. A pro-Trump mob did not bash Office Brian Sicknick’s skull in with a fire extinguisher. No protester brought zip-ties with them as some premeditated plot to kidnap members of Congress (two rioters found them on a table inside). There’s no evidence anyone intended to assassinate Mike Pence, Mitt Romney or anyone else.”
    • Related: Two are charged in the assault of a Capitol Police officer who died after the Jan. 6 riot. (Katie Benner and Adam Goldman, New York Times): “The Justice Department has charged two men in the assault on Brian D. Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who died the day after he fought rioters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the case and court documents.… It is not clear whether Officer Sicknick died because of his exposure to the spray.”
  4. Covid’s Partisan Errors (David Leonhardt, New York Times): “ ‘Republicans consistently underestimate risks, while Democrats consistently overestimate them.’  …The reasons for these ideological biases aren’t completely clear, but they are not shocking. Conservatives tend to be more hostile to behavior restrictions and to scientific research. And liberals sometimes overreact to social problems.”
  5. Timing the SARS-CoV‑2 index case in Hubei province (Science, Jonathan Pekar et al):  “Empirical observation throughout the SARS-CoV‑2 pandemic has shown the outsized role of superspreading events in the propagation of SARS-CoV‑2, wherein the average infected person does not transmit the virus. Our results suggest the same dynamics likely influenced the initial establishment of SARS-CoV‑2 in humans, as only 29.7% of simulated epidemics from the primary analysis went on to establish self-sustaining epidemics. The remaining 70.3% of epidemics went extinct.… Furthermore, the large and highly connected contact networks characterizing urban areas seem critical to the establishment of SARS-CoV‑2. When we simulated epidemics where the number of connections was reduced by 50% or 75% (without rescaling per-contact transmissibility), to reflect emergence in a rural community, the epidemics went extinct 94.5% or 99.6% of the time, respectively.”
    • This is really interesting. The researchers are largely at UCSD. One implication is that there are a LOT more animal-to-human COVID-like infections that simply never make the leap to becoming widespread. Kind of like music: there are a ton of great musicians who just never catch their big break. Without superspreaders, this kind of pandemic appears unlikely. I hope researchers can find a way to address whatever causes someone to be a superspreader.
  6. Raising Beef Cattle (Tom Blanton, Quillette): “It is by cherry-picking images of the times of confinement from around the world that the gruesome image of ‘factory farms’ is created. Often the images are taken from countries that don’t have the humanitarian regulations that most Western nations have.… If those genuinely concerned for the suffering of animals could find it within themselves to recognize that it is not immoral to slaughter animals humanely for food, they would find many allies for the cause of reducing animal suffering amongst the people who raise and work with these animals on a daily basis.”
  7. Could It Be… Genes? (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “This is an article about how family influences children without a consideration of the most direct and powerful way. The words ‘gene’ and ‘genes’ and ‘genetic’ do not appear in this paper. Neither do ‘heritable’ or ‘heredity’ or ‘hereditary.’ The concept of the transfer of genetic information from parent to offspring simply does not exist in this mental space… in a paper about how families influence the characteristics of their children. I would call this odd, but it’s par for the course in social science research.”

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 On Obstinacy In Belief (C.S. Lewis, The Sewanee Review): this is a rewarding essay from way back in 1955. (first shared in volume 6)

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 291

fascinating links from a variety of 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.

This is volume 291, which is not a very interesting number. It’s 3 · 97, which I guess is something.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Inside Xinjiang’s Prison State (Ben Mauk, New Yorker): “On his second day of detention, a member of the camp administration came to see him. Kokteubai asked when he would learn what he was accused of doing. He was surprised to learn that he wouldn’t be questioned at all. ‘If you hadn’t committed a crime, you wouldn’t have ended up here,’ the administrator told him. ‘So there is something you are here for.’ ” The graphics interfere with the reading experience, but it’s worthwhile.
  2. On The Experience of Being Poor-ish, For People Who Aren’t (Anonymous, Substack): “When someone is telling me they are or have been poor and I’m trying to determine how poor exactly they were, there’s one evergreen question I ask that has never failed to give me a good idea of what kind of situation I’m dealing with. That question is: ‘How many times have they turned off your water?’.” Follow up: Being Poor-ish Revisited: Reader Questions These are both really good.
  3. David Shor on Why Trump Was Good for the GOP and How Dems Can Win in 2022 (Eric Levitz, New York Magazine): “But when I look at the 2020 election, I see that we ran against the most unpopular Republican ever to run for president — and we ran literally the most popular figure in our party whose last name is not Obama — and we only narrowly won the Electoral College. If Biden had done 0.3 percent worse, then Donald Trump would have won reelection…” This is extraordinarily fascinating in a very nonpartisan way (although the interviewee is extremely partisan).
  4. In pandemic news:
    • 5 Pandemic Mistakes We Keep Repeating (Zeynep Tufekci, The Atlantic): “One of the most important problems undermining the pandemic response has been the mistrust and paternalism that some public-health agencies and experts have exhibited toward the public.… And yet, from the beginning, a good chunk of the public-facing messaging and news articles implied or claimed that vaccines won’t protect you against infecting other people or that we didn’t know if they would, when both were false.” Watching people reject accurate information about the pandemic because high-status people rail against it has been like watching my skeptical friends reject the gospel because of peer pressure. IT’S GOOD NEWS — BELIEVE IT! The author is a sociologist at UNC.
    • Pandemic Approaches: The Differences Between Florida, California (Noel King, Greg Allen, & Eric Westervelt, NPR): “In December, California had a spike, and Governor Gavin Newsom reimposed a stay-at-home order and a business lockdown order that was recently lifted. At the same time, cases were spiking in Florida. But everything stayed open, including schools. So which approach works?” Spoiler: Florida is looking pretty good.
    • Stop Saying We Can’t Go Back to Normal After Vaccines (Bonnie Kristian, Reason): “Normalcy is the whole point of vaccination, and these vaccines can get us there. So when public health advice says “no” to normalcy even after vaccination, it misleads the public and wildly undersells the vaccines. A year into this, that’s cruel and dispiriting.… there must be a firm end date to those public measures for everyone. I can’t say exactly when it should be, nor do I think a single national date would make sense. I’m envisioning something like six weeks after vaccines have become available (as in, you can easily get an appointment) to all who want them in a given city, county, or state.”
    • Not Gathering with the Church Hurts You Spiritually (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “Jesus designed Christianity and the progress of our discipleship to center around gatherings. The math is therefore simple: Gathering with the church is spiritually good for you. Not physically gathering with the church spiritually hurts you.”
    • The Secret Life of a Coronavirus (Carl Zimmer, New York Times): “With scientists adrift in an ocean of definitions, philosophers have rowed out to offer lifelines.” What a glorious sentence. Also, I began the article sympathetic to the idea that viruses are alive and we draw our boundaries too tightly, which is what the author wants me to believe. But his arguments were so weak that I’ve flipped to: “not alive, merely interactive.”
    • The rise of the noxious contract (David B. Grusky et al, Stanford Center On Poverty and Inequality): “We observed that many people ‘compare downward’ by emphasizing their privilege relative to those less fortunate, that others ‘look outward’ in recognition that times of crisis require banding together, and that yet others ‘look inward’ as they cope with unusually stressful challenges. Although many ways of coping are therefore in play, none of them entail invidious comparisons that then lead to resentment or conflict.” An analysis of whether people who have to work in-person are resentful of those who telecommute. Spoiler: not so much. Recommended by a student.
  5. On Ryan Anderson’s book being dropped by Amazon:
    • Ryan T. Anderson Was Made For This Moment (Rod Dreher interviewing Ryan T. Anderson, The American Conservative): “…most everyone agrees that a hospital shouldn’t refuse to treat someone for Covid because they identify as LGBT. But, thank God, that doesn’t seem to have actually ever happened. Still when people hear about a law that bans LGBT discrimination, that’s what they have in mind. They don’t realize what it means for sex-reassignment procedures in general, let alone what it means for children with gender dysphoria in particular. So activists pull on people’s heartstrings by saying we need a law banning truly unjust discrimination (which is virtually non-existent) and then that law isn’t nuanced and measured, but a radical bill imposing a radical ideology. A law that is sold as a shield protecting vulnerable minorities ends up being a sword to persecute people who don’t embrace a new sexual orthodoxy.”
    • Book Banning in an Age of Amazon (Abigail Shrier, Substack): “Remember where you were in February of 2021. Congress fought over a second impeachment of an ex-president. The states debated whether forced truancy would make life easier for America’s teachers. And earth’s largest bookseller—(Internal motto: ‘Work Hard. Have Fun. Make history.’)—began quietly deleting books.”
  6. Killing The SAT Means Hurting Minorities (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “There’s a reason why white Hollywood celebs cheat the system. It’s the only way their less gifted kids can win out over the disadvantaged. Want to maximize privilege? Make admissions dependent solely on teacher recommendations, school grades, and personal essays. Want to minimize it? Abolish legacy admissions, and use the SAT.” I genuinely do not understand how this is controversial. The data is clear and overwhelming.
  7. Elevating the Role of Faith-Inspired Impact in the Social Sector (Jeri Eckhart Queenan, Peter Grunert, and Devin Murphy, The Bridgespan Group): “Giving to religiously affiliated organizations (which includes donations to congregations) represents nearly one-third of all giving in the United States. Roughly a third of the 50 largest nonprofits in the country have a faith orientation. And, 40 percent of international nongovernmental organizations are faith-inspired.” Recommended by a student.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas (Joseph Bottum, The Weekly Standard): many modern political ideas are derived from Christian theological concepts. (first shared in volume 1)

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 287

you wouldn’t believe how many awesome links I cut this week

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

This is volume 287, a number which is the sum of consecutive primes thrice over (287 = 89 + 97 + 101 = 47 + 53 + 59 + 61 + 67 = 17 + 19 + 23 + 29 + 31 + 37 + 41 + 43 + 47).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Science of Reasoning With Unreasonable People (Adam Grant, New York Times): “Social scientists have found that asking people how their preferred political policies might work in practice, rather than asking why they favor those approaches, was more effective in opening their minds. As people struggled to explain their ideal tax legislation or health care plan, they grasped the complexity of the problem and recognized gaps in their knowledge.” The author is a professor at Penn’s Wharton School.
  2. Peloton makes toning your glutes feel spiritual. But should Jesus be part of the experience? (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): ‘Nick Stoker, 41, a London businessman, triggered hundreds of comments on the Peloton Reddit page in April when he posted that he took a “Sundays with Love” ride and thought he was getting pandemic-era “spiritual inspiration and uplifting music,” but actually got something more about God and Christianity. The ride should have been labeled as Christian, he argued. “I don’t want my children listening to these sort of messages.”’
  3. Thoughts about Christianity and America
    • Discerning the Difference Between Christian Nationalism and Christian Patriotism (David French, The Dispatch): “I love this country, but I love it with eyes wide open. The aspirations of our founding have long been tempered by the brutal realities of our fallen nature. The same nation that stormed Normandy’s beaches to destroy a fascist empire simultaneously sustained a segregationist regime within its own borders. Our virtues do not negate our vices, and our vices do not negate our virtues. America isn’t 1619 or 1776. It’s 1619 and 1776.”
    • Betraying Your Church—And Your Party (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “On January 6, as an armed mob invaded the House of Representatives, Kinzinger said he could feel a darkness descend over the Capitol. One of his friends in Congress, the Oklahoma Republican Markwayne Mullin, heard the same thing from members of the Capitol Police. Kinzinger doesn’t doubt that the devil is at work in American politics. He just suspects that the enemy might be lurking in his own house.”
    • It’s Time to Talk About Violent Christian Extremism (Zack Stanton interviewing Elizabeth Neumann, Politico): “Here’s the thing, and I will do my best to explain it from a secular perspective: There’s text in the New Testament where the Apostle Paul is admonishing a church he helped establish: ‘You should be mature adults now in your faith, but I’m still having to feed you with milk.’ He’s basically saying, you should be 18, but you’re still nursing, and we need you to get it together.… One of my questions is: Are we seeing in the last four years one of the consequences of that failure? They didn’t mature [in their faith], and they’re very easily led astray by what scripture calls ‘false teachers.’ My thesis here is that if we had a more scripturally based set of believers in this country — if everybody who calls themselves a ‘Christian’ had actually read through, I don’t know, 80 percent of the Bible — they would not have been so easily deceived.” The interviewee is an evangelical Christian who has served as a Deputy Chief of Staff in the Department of Homeland Security. Extremely interesting.
  4. The challenge of China:
    • Biden’s Nightmare May Be China (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times): “Dealing with Mitch McConnell will be a piece of cake for President Biden compared with dealing with Xi. Biden’s challenge will be to constrain a Chinese leader who has been oppressive in Hong Kong, genocidal in the Xinjiang region, obdurate on trade, ruthless on human rights and insincere on everything, while still cooperating with China on issues like climate change, fentanyl and North Korea (which many experts expect to resume missile launches this year).”
    • ‘Their goal is to destroy everyone’: Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape (Matthew Hill, David Campanale and Joel Gunter, BBC): “It was unlikely that Xi or other top party officials would have directed or authorised rape or torture,” Parton said, but they would “certainly be aware of it. I think they prefer at the top just to turn a blind eye. The line has gone out to implement this policy with great sternness, and that is what is happening.” That left “no real constraints”, he said. “I just don’t see what the perpetrators of these acts would have to hold them back.” I don’t know how this isn’t front page news almost every day. We want to say everyone is as evil as Hitler EXCEPT THE PEOPLE RUNNING ACTUAL CONCENTRATION CAMPS.
    • And thoughts on Taiwan, which is not China
      • Understanding Taiwanese Nationalism: A Historical Primer in Bullet Points (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “As someone who has lived years in both Taiwan and in China I can also give a more anecdotal assessment: the differences between the two countries and their respective cultures (to say nothing of their political systems) is clear. They are simply not the same people.”
      • China and the Question of Taiwan (Aaron Sarin, Quillette): “Historian James A. Millward points out that many in his discipline have implicitly accepted the Party line on Taiwanese history. They will refer, for example, to the Qing dynasty’s ‘recapture of Taiwan in 1683,’ even though, as Millward explains, ‘no China-based state—not even an imperial dynasty—ha[d] ever ruled the island before.’ Here we see the success of the CCP’s propaganda, even outside China. The truth is that Taiwan was a Qing acquisition, and that is the sole basis for Beijing’s claims today.”
      • Fork The Government (Planet Money, NPR): “As countries around the world struggle to handle the coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan stands out as a relative success story… so far. Since April, only one locally transmitted case has been reported. There have been only seven deaths — in the entire country. There are a lot of reasons why Taiwan has been able to keep its infection and death rates so low. For one, it’s an island. Also, it’s dealt with a respiratory virus epidemic before. But Taiwan has also been taking a relatively experimental approach to the pandemic with technology. Like working with civic hackers to code its way out of the pandemic.” This is a podcast episode.
  5. Things related to the credibility crisis in our culture:
    • Nationalism, prejudice, and FDA regulation (Scott Sumner, EconLib): “You say people shouldn’t be allowed to take a vaccine unless experts find it to be safe and effective? OK, the UK experts did just that. You say that only the opinion of US experts counts because our experts are clearly the best? Really, where is the scientific study that shows that our experts are the best? I thought you said we needed to ‘trust the scientists’? Now you are saying we must trust the nationalists?” The author is an economist at George Mason University.
    • WebMD, And The Tragedy Of Legible Expertise (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “I can’t tell you how many times over the past year all the experts, the CDC, the WHO, the New York Times, et cetera, have said something (or been silent about something in a suggestive way), and then some blogger I trusted said the opposite, and the blogger turned out to be right. I realize this kind of thing is vulnerable to selection bias, but it’s been the same couple of bloggers throughout, people who I already trusted and already suspected might be better than the experts in a lot of ways.”
    • Where Have All the Great Works Gone? (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “It was obvious to even those who disliked Nietzche that he was a seminal figure in Western thought; it was obvious even to those who disagreed with Ibsen that he claimed a similar place in Western literature, and so forth. Their ideas might be argued against, but their genius and their influence was undeniable.  Is there anyone who died in the last decade you could make that sort of claim for?  How about for the last two decades?  The last three?  Or is there anyone at all who is still living today that might be described this way? In the realm of science, perhaps. But in the world of social, historical, ethical, and political thought, no one comes to mind.”
    • Social Justice, Austerity, and the Humanities Death Spiral (Geoff Shullenberger, Chronicle of Higher Education): “How are humanities disciplines pushing back against the existential threats they face? Obviously, one can find a variety of arguments against cutbacks and the devaluation of humanistic study. On the other hand, faculty members within these fields sometimes make what looks like a case against their own value. For example, the Chicago announcement states that ‘English as a discipline has a long history of providing aesthetic rationalizations for colonization, exploitation, extraction, and anti-Blackness.’ Those who make funding decisions might well ask why such a discipline deserves to continue existing.” The author teaches English at NYU. It was difficult choosing which bit to excerpt — definitely worth reading if you aspire to academia.
    • The Generalizability Crisis (Tal Yarkoni, PsyArxiv): “Most theories and hypotheses in psychology are verbal in nature, yet their evaluation overwhelmingly relies on inferential statistical procedures. The validity of the move from qualitative to quantitative analysis depends on the verbal and statistical expressions of a hypothesis being closely aligned—that is, that the two must refer to roughly the same set of hypothetical observations. Here I argue that many applications of statistical inference in psychology fail to meet this basic condition.” The author is a psychology prof at UT Austin. Recommended by a student. I lack the expertise to evaluate it but find it intutively plausible.
  6. Rise of the Barstool conservatives (Matthew Walther, The Week): “What Trump recognized was that there are millions of Americans who do not oppose or even care about abortion or same-sex marriage, much less stem-cell research or any of the other causes that had animated traditional social conservatives. Instead he correctly intuited that the new culture war would be fought over very different (and more nebulous) issues: vague concerns about political correctness and ‘SJWs,’ opposition to the popularization of so-called critical race theory, sentimentality about the American flag and the military, the rights of male undergraduates to engage in fornication while intoxicated without fear of the Title IX mafia.” I think there’s some truth here, but I think he underplays the importance of abortion in Trump’s appeal. He nonetheless puts his finger on an important part of the way Trump’s coalition was forged and the shape of American politics moving forward.
  7. On GameStop:
    • In the GameStop Frenzy, What If We’re All the 1 Percent? (Michael J. Rhodes, Christianity Today): “…we shouldn’t confuse fighting for a better seat at the blackjack table with confronting an economy addicted to gambling.… Jesus doesn’t tell his flock to beat the rich fool at his own game. He invites them to live an economic life free from greed or fear, storing up treasure in heaven by giving generously to the poor (Luke 12:33).” The author is an Old Testament professor at Carey Baptist College. Worthwhile article.
    • The Insiders’ Game (David Sacks, Persuasion): “If there is a Big Lie in American politics right now, it is the idea that censorship of social media is necessary to save democracy.… What the insiders fear is not the end of democracy, but the end of their control over it, and the loss of the benefits they extract from it. Ultimately, the battle over speech is just one aspect of a broader war for power amid a growing political realignment that is not Left versus Right, but rather insider versus outsider.” The author was on the founding team at PayPal.
    • Calling Wall Street’s Bluff (Josh Hawley, First Things): “Now the experts tell us that the true price on the market changes every day, because the fundamentals are always changing, even though they’re fundamental.… Naturally, people are somewhat suspicious of this whole system. Every so often it seems to crash the entire economy. But even when it’s supposedly working, something seems off.” Stanford alumnus Josh Hawley is, of course, the controversial Senator from Missouri.

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 Too Much Dark Money in Almonds (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Everyone always talks about how much money there is in politics. This is the wrong framing. The right framing is Ansolabehere et al’s: why is there so little money in politics? But Ansolabehere focuses on elections, and the mystery is wider than that. Sure, during the 2018 election, candidates, parties, PACs, and outsiders combined spent about $5 billion – $2.5 billion on Democrats, $2 billion on Republicans, and $0.5 billion on third parties. And although that sounds like a lot of money to you or me, on the national scale, it’s puny. The US almond industry earns $12 billion per year. Americans spent about 2.5x as much on almonds as on candidates last year.” It builds to a surprising twist. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 219.

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 284

a small collection because it’s too overwhelming otherwise

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 made an extra effort to keep this to seven entries today, otherwise it would have been thirty (no joke — that’s what I began culling from).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Only the Church Can Truly Defeat a Christian Insurrection (David French, The Dispatch): “I would bet that most of my readers would instantly label the exact same event Islamic terrorism if Islamic symbols filled the crowd, if Islamic music played in the loudspeakers, and if members of the crowd shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ as they charged the Capitol.”
  2. The Roman Road from Insurrection (Russell Moore, personal blog): “If the world rejects us because of Christ and him crucified, so much the worse for the world. If the world rejects us because they think Christ is just a mascot for what we would already be supporting or doing even if Jesus were still dead, then God have mercy on us.”
    • The author is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. A few years ago I remember telling one of our international students that if he wanted a healthy Christian perspective on American politics, Russell Moore needed to be one of his go-to reads.
  3. Everything Is Broken (Alana Newhouse, Tablet Magazine): “Being on a ship nearly 4 million square miles in area along with 330 million other people and realizing the entire hull is pockmarked with holes is terrifying.” Wide-ranging.
  4. The Great Unraveling (Bari Weiss, SubStack): “I don’t know the answer. But I know that you have to be sort of strange to stand apart and refuse to join Team Red or Team Blue. These strange ones are the ones who think that political violence is wrong, that mob justice is never just and the presumption of innocence is always right. These are the ones who are skeptical of state and corporate power, even when it is clamping down on people they despise.”
  5. We Need a New Media System (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “The flaw in the system is that even the biggest news companies now operate under the assumption that at least half their potential audience isn’t listening. This leads to all sorts of problems, and the fact that the easiest way to keep your own demographic is to feed it negative stories about others is only the most obvious. On all sides, we now lean into inflammatory caricatures, because the financial incentives encourage it.”
  6. ‘Our souls are dead’: how I survived a Chinese ‘re-education’ camp for Uighurs (Gulbahar Haitiwaji with Rozenn Morgat, The Guardian): “Women like me, who emerged from the camps, are no longer who we once were. We are shadows; our souls are dead. I was made to believe that my loved ones, my husband and my daughter, were terrorists. I was so far away, so alone, so exhausted and alienated, that I almost ended up believing it. My husband, Kerim, my daughters Gulhumar and Gulnigar – I denounced your ‘crimes’ I begged forgiveness from the Communist party for atrocities that neither you nor I committed.”
    • I think this ranks among the great evils of history and it is happening right now. I am shocked I don’t see higher levels of outrage and public responses to it on the international stage.
  7. Why Has Israel Succeeded At COVID Vaccination? (Elad Gil, personal blog): “Many countries and states have been too focused on ‘fairness’ and ‘equity’ so have frozen their vaccination efforts in place, or put in place large fines for ‘misused virus’. Remember — everyone will eventually get vaccinated. The more shots in arms, the better, with an emphasis on the old and comorbid. And also remember, we are in the middle of a ‘once in a century pandemic’- it is more important to move fast to save lives than to create and enforce complex rules.”
    • The author is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and is, far as I can tell, completely correct. The failure of the states and the federal government on this issue is astounding. The entire pandemic has been a demonstration of our bipartisan political incompetence.

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 Pint‐Size Nation off the English Coast (Ian Urbina, The Atlantic): “Though no country formally recognizes Sealand, its sovereignty has been hard to deny. Half a dozen times, the British government and assorted other groups, backed by mercenaries, have tried and failed to take over the platform by force.” First shared in volume 217.

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 283

perspectives on a day students will cover in their US History classes

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. WHAT HAPPENED
    • Madness on Capitol Hill (Andrew McCormick, The Nation): “For all the violence in the air, the mood was less coup and more college football tailgate. Pop songs blared from speakers. Somewhere, snare drums went rat-a-tat-tat. And the chants were so loud they rumbled in your chest.” This is the most vivid article I have come upon so far.

    • ‘Is This Really Happening?’: The Siege of Congress, Seen From the Inside (various, Politico): “One member at one point, a Democrat, Steve Cohen, yelled over towards the Republican side of the room and said, ‘Call Trump and tell him to call this off.’ And then a little bit later on, a lawmaker sitting on the Republican side shot back and said something along the lines of, ‘I bet you liberals are glad now you didn’t defund the police.’”This is amazing. And reading this I have a much more positive view of the frontline police response than I had gleaned from previous reporting. The issue was higher in the command structure.

    • Let me tell you about my experience at yesterday’s Trump Rally. (Not The Bee): “Again, pictures never do a crowd justice, but I went to a Big 10 college football school, I know what tens of thousands of people looks like, and this was that at least.”

    •  ‘What else could I do?’ NJ Rep. Kim helps clean up Capitol (Mike Catalini, AP News): “‘When you see something you love that’s broken you want to fix it. I love the Capitol. I‘m honored to be there,’ he said. ‘This building is extraordinary and the rotunda in particular is just awe-inspiring. How many countless generations have been inspired in that room? It really broke my heart and I just felt compelled to do something. … What else could I do?’” A profile of the man behind a photo you’ve no doubt seen.

  2. WHAT HAPPENED IN CONTEXT
    • America’s History of Political Violence (Darel E. Paul, First Things): “Early reactions to the incursion tended toward the catastrophic, and more than one journalist spoke of a ‘coup,’ the death of the Republic, and ‘civil war.’ By evening calmer heads and cooler emotions began to emerge as the rioters were arrested and dispersed, revealing less a Bolshevik storming of the Winter Palace than a LARPing event by QAnon paranoids.” The author is a professor of political science at Williams College.

    •  The Five Crises of the American Regime (Michael Lind, Tablet Magazine): “In the past eight months, two Capitol Hills have fallen. Two shocking events symbolize the abdication of authority by America’s ruling class, an abdication that has led to what can be described, not without exaggeration, as the slow-motion disintegration of the United States of America in its present form.… What is the meaning of these dystopian scenes? Many Democrats claim that Republicans are destroying the republic. Many Republicans claim the reverse. They are both correct.” The author is a professor in the UT Austin school of public affairs. This is the most comprehensive (and to my mind, largely correct) analysis I’ve come across.

    • Violence in the Capitol, Dangers in the Aftermath (Glenn Greenwald, Substack): “One need not dismiss the lamentable actions of yesterday to simultaneously reject efforts to apply terms that are plainly inapplicable: attempted coup, insurrection, sedition.… That the only person shot was a protester killed by an armed agent of the state by itself makes clear how irresponsible these terms are.” 

  3. THEOLOGICAL/RELIGIOUS COMMENTARY
    • Christian Leaders Pray for Peace and Safety Amid Capitol Mob (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “Pastor Rick Warren called the attack ‘domestic terrorism,’ while Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore condemned their actions as ‘immoral, unjust, dangerous, and inexcusable’ and called on the president to direct his supporters to ‘stop this dangerous and anti-constitutional anarchy.’ ”There’s a wide roundup of voices here.

    • Like A Fire Shut Up In My Bones (Paul Shult, Lutherans For Racial Justice): “My thoughts I share with you are shaped by my calling as a pastor. I am not a political science major, a lawyer, a public policy expert, or a business owner. I don’t want to argue politics, which is very difficult because so much in our nation and in Christianity has become politicized. So, here are my thoughts around just a few things I think are important to consider — perhaps they can be helpful to some.” The author pastors a church near campus that several of our students have attended (one of them brought this article to my attention).

    • The Gospel in a Democracy Under Assault (Russell Moore, Gospel Coalition): “Countries can fall. I hope this one doesn’t. But, either way, let’s not fall with it.”

    • Illegitimate Times (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “So it is looking as though one way or another we are going to have to learn how to live under a government we believe to be at bottom illegitimate. And that looks to be the case no matter what happens today, actually, which happens to be January 6, the day when Congress ratifies the votes of the Electoral College. If Biden is confirmed, which seems likely, a very large number of Americans will believe he got there by fraudulent means. And if Trump is confirmed—by some sort of extraordinary long shot—that irregular process, whatever it was, will be considered by a very large number of Americans to have been fraudulent in a very different way. And even though a larger number of Christians will be in the first group, our numbers in both groups will not be insignificant.” Please note, this is from before the events in question! I share it because it contains some very unusual insights.

  4. APOLOGETICALLY INTERESTING
    • Why Religious Couples Thrive in a Pandemic (Liz HoChing & Spencer James, Real Clear Religion): “It is no surprise therefore that home-worshipping couples were significantly more likely to be highly satisfied with their sexual relationship, compared with couples in a shared secular relationship. Women in shared home-worshipping relationships were found to be twice as likely to be sexually satisfied from the international data, and three-times as likely to be sexually satisfied from data gathered in the United States. These are numbers that cannot be ignored.”
      • There are many interesting quotes I could have chosen. I pick this one because it is something I commonly see come up in research and yet so contrary to the prevailing narrative in our culture. And also because most of you are yet to pick your spouse — this is a reminder to pick someone who shares your vibrant faith in the Lord.
    • Standing By: The Spatial Organization of Coercive Institutions in China (Adam Y. Liu and Charles Chang, Social Science Research): “We find that police stations are more likely to be located within walking distance of foreign religious sites (churches) than other sites (temples), even after controlling for the estimated population within 1km of each site and a set of key site attributes.” The authors are scholars at the National University of Singapore and at Yale, respectively.
    • Interesting tidbits from the article itself (the above is from the abstract):
      • “…among all major religions in China, Christianity has since the late 19th century been persistently viewed by the Chinese state—the incumbent atheistic party state in particular—as the most threatening to social order and state power.”
      • “…one of the most consistent and surprising social scientific findings is the extent of the involvement of religious groups in large scale social and political movements.”
      • “Scholars find that the participatory and civic attitudes embedded in Christianity make its believers more likely to engage in collective contention.”
      • “In a sharp contrast, the party state sees other religions, such as Buddhism, as not only non-threatening, but also conducive to strengthening its grip on power. In some instances, local officials have even supported the construction of non-Western religious sites as an explicit way to counter the growing influence of Christianity in their jurisdictions.”
    • Let me be clear: I lack the expertise to evaluate their findings. What I find fascinating is the matter-of-fact way these scholars refer to a consensus in their field about Christianity. It is interesting to read this in conjunction with the news about this week.
  5. UNRELATED THINGS
    • Rev. William Barber on Greed, Poverty and Evangelical Politics (David Marchese, New York Times): “Very few religious leaders are able to inspire political action on the part of large numbers of people who don’t share their church, their denomination or their faith. Yet the Rev. Dr. William Barber, senior pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., has done just that.” This is an interesting (and at times perplexing) interview.
    • some problems don’t have solutions, or the demand game (Freddie DeBoer, personal blog): “Here’s the reality with pornography: it may very well be very bad, and there is probably nothing that we can do about it. Technology changed the world and made something for which their is huge demand effortlessly easy to transmit and receive. And that’s that; that’s the story of pornography. Some problems don’t have solutions.” The author, an atheist socialist, inadvertently comes close to agreeing with Jesus that “the poor you will have with you always.”
    • Inside RZIM, Staff Push Leaders to Take Responsibility for Scandal (Daniel Silliman, Christianity Today): “At an online all-staff meeting in mid-October, however, RZIM speaker Sam Allberry, who officiated at Zacharias’s graveside service, asked why ‘ministry teammates’ had been included in the official denial. They had not been consulted before leadership crafted the unsigned statement denying the claims. ‘Why are you putting words in my mouth?’ said Allberry, according to people who attended the meeting. ‘Frankly, I believe these women and find their allegations to be credible.’”
      • This makes me very sad. Also, there’s a personal caution in here. One of the details is that Zacharias lied about smaller things. If you ever see me lying or exaggerating (except for obvious humor), please call me on it. I’d rather be embarrassed socially in the moment than lay the foundation for ruin later.
    • The Awokening Will Not Bring an End to the Nightmare (Musa al-Gharbi, Interfaith Youth Core) : “…the whites who seem most eager to condemn ‘ideological racism’ (i.e. people saying, thinking or feeling the ‘wrong’ things about minorities), and who are most ostentatious in demonstrating their own ‘wokeness,’ also tend to be the people who benefit the most from what sociologists describe as ‘institutional’ or ‘systemic’ racism. Consequently, the places in America with the highest concentrations of whites who are ‘with it’ also happen to be the most unequal places in the country.” The author is a sociologist at Columbia.
    • Making policy for a low-trust world (Matthew Yglesias, substack): “The correct way to respond to a low-trust environment is not to double down on proceduralism, but to commit yourself to the ‘it does exactly what it says on the tin’ principle and implement policies that have the following characteristics: It’s easy for everyone, whether they agree with you or disagree with you, to understand what it is you say you are doing. It’s easy for everyone to see whether or not you are, in fact, doing what you said you would do. It’s easy for you and your team to meet the goal of doing the thing that you said you would do.”
    • Like Preacher-Politicians Before Him, Senator Raphael Warnock Will Keep His Pulpit (Adelle Banks, Christianity Today): “ ‘It’s unusual for a pastor to get involved in something as messy as politics, but I see this as a continuation of a life of service: first as an agitator, then an advocate, and hopefully next as a legislator’” Warnock said as he was closing in on the top spot of a wide-open primary. ‘I say I’m stepping up to my next calling to serve, not stepping down from the pulpit.’ ” I did not know this history, and after reading it I am pleased to inform you that if I am elected to the US Senate I will continue to minister with Chi Alpha at Stanford.
    • The Real Problem with 4‑Letter Words (Karen Swallow Prior, Gospel Coalition): “Cursing falls into different categories. Strictly speaking, profanities are words that desacralize what is holy. Words misusing the names of God and his judgments are profane; the worst of these are blasphemy.While profanities are related to the divine, obscenities are related to the human. This category of words serves to coarsen bodily functions (whether sexual or excretory).… Another category of curse words consists of those the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker calls ‘abusive.’ ”
    • California’s Donor-Disclosure Law Threatens Religious Charities (John Bursch, Real Clear Religion): “Not once has the attorney general given a convincing reason for collecting donors’ names and addresses en masse. His office has effectively regulated charities for decades without that information. In 10 years, the attorney general only used donor lists in five out of 540 investigations. And even in those five, he could have obtained the same information through targeted subpoenas or audits, all without risking the massive disclosure of sensitive information from all registered charities.”
    • The New Strain: How Bad Is It? (Brendan Foht and Ari Schulman, The New Atlantis): “The steps that most need to be taken in response to the new strain are the same ones that should have been taken for the last year anyway, but that our government has proved largely unable or unwilling to take. An effective regime of testing, tracing, and isolating, for example, has been needed throughout the pandemic, but never really implemented.” One of the authors posted on Twitter: “In the course of working on this piece, my concern about the new Covid strain went from about a 4 to an 8.5, with the remaining 1.5 composed mostly of generalized skepticism and motivated disbelief.”

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 How Pornography Makes Us Less Human and Less Humane (Matthew Lee Anderson, The Gospel Coalition): “Beneath pornography is the supposition that the mere fact of our desire for a woman makes us worthy of her. And so, not being bound by any kind of norm, desire must proceed endlessly. It is no surprise that the industrialized, cheap‐and‐easy sex of pornography has answered and evoked an almost unrestrained sexual greed, which allows us to be gods and goddesses within the safety of our own fantasies. It is for deep and important reasons that the Ten Commandments use the economic language of ‘coveting’ to describe the badness of errant sexual desires.” First shared in volume 216.

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 282

On Fridays (Saturday this week) 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. How Perfectionism Has Made the Pandemic Worse (Miles Kimball, personal blog): “I’ve noticed one regularity in how the US (and many other countries) have handled the pandemic: perfectionism has been getting in the way of a quick and powerful response. Every little bit would have helped reduce the reproduction ratio of the coronavirus, but only things that were big bits were allowed.” The author is an economist at UC Boulder.
    • Public health bodies may be talking at us, but they’re actually talking to each other (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “…when a large group acts as though a complicated problem is a no-brainer, that doesn’t mean the solution is obvious; it means something has gone badly wrong.”
    • My vaccine crackpottery: a confession (Scott Aaronson, personal blog): “I think [our failure] will be clear to future generations, who’ll write PhD theses exploring how it was possible that we invented multiple effective covid vaccines in mere days or weeks, but then simply sat on those vaccines for a year, ticking off boxes called ‘Phase I,’ ‘Phase II,’ etc. while civilization hung in the balance.” The author is a CS prof at UT Austin.
    • Small Number of Covid Patients Develop Severe Psychotic Symptoms (Pam Belluck, New York Times): “[she] had become infected with the coronavirus in the spring. She had experienced only mild physical symptoms from the virus, but, months later, she heard a voice that first told her to kill herself and then told her to kill her children.” Shared with me by a student who noted it is both interesting and freaky. This really highlights what a bullet we dodged with this pandemic — can you imagine a plague whose main effect was to make people violently psychotic? Society would end. Full-on zombie apocalypse.
  2. Rick Warren On The Year We Had (Cameron Strang, Relevant Magazine): “We have led over 16,000 people to Christ since March. We’re in revival. We’re averaging about 80 people a day coming to Christ—80 people a day.… Of those 16,000 people who have come to Christ, over 12,000 of them have come through personal, one-on-one witnessing by my members. Not led to Christ by my sermons. By one on one evangelizing.”
  3. East Africa fears second wave — of locust swarms (Navin Singh Khadka, BBC): “New swarms of desert locusts are threatening the livelihoods of millions of people in the Horn of Africa and Yemen despite a year of control efforts, the United Nations has warned.” This is the latest news concerning an article from August an alumnus recently shared with me: The Biblical locust plagues of 2020 (David Njagi, BBC): “In 2020, locusts have swarmed in large numbers in dozens of countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia, Eritrea, India, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia. When swarms affect several countries at once in very large numbers, it is known as a plague.”
  4. Why You Can’t Meet God Over Zoom (Esau McCaulley, New York Times): “The very inadequacy of church services, Zoom and otherwise, is a reminder we do not come into churches to encounter a life lesson on how to raise our children or to learn to be good Americans, whatever that means. Our aim is much more audacious. We are attempting to encounter God and, in so doing, find ourselves, possibly for the first time.” The author is a New Testament professor at Wheaton College.
    • This isn’t really a knock on McCaulley so much as an observation and a hope: many Christians who write for publications like the NYT lead with the negatives and slowly build to their point that “church isn’t so bad really and maybe someday you should check it out.” I wonder if that is a byproduct of the editorial process or if it is simply a selection effect in the sort of Christian intellectual who wants to (and is permitted to) write an op-ed for a culturally influential publication.
    • Thinking about this puts me in mind of Erica Campbell’s song I Luh God (YouTube, three minutes). It swept through our ministry a few years ago, I think because it scratched an itch in our students. Our students had dance parties to it after our worship services. She sang with confident joy: “I luh God, you don’t luh God? What’s wrong with chu?”
    • When we discuss the faith as though it were a series of syllogisms we’re being foolish. People’s questions need answers, certainly. But all the answers in the world will do no good if, at some level, people don’t hope Christianity is true. We must kindle hope before we go to the trouble of overcoming objections to hope.
    • I say all that to say this: if you ever write an op-ed for the New York Times, do apologetics without being apologetic. Bring as much joy to it as you can and let your writing be filled with winsome confidence. We need a whole flock of Christian intellectuals with the swagger of a G.K. Chesterton.
  5. Higher Education Risks No Longer Being Worth It – Here’s How to Change Course (Christos Makridis, Quillette): “For all the talk about racial equity in colleges, you would think that faculty would be working with local small business owners, especially minorities, to mentor and equip them to drive greater profitability and impact. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry.
  6. The Church Needs Prophets, But It Wants Lawyers (David French, The Dispatch): “American Christian culture is rife with congregants looking for lawyers, not prophets and not pastors. The church-shopping phenomenon puts us in churches that make us feel quite comfortable, and the sheer number of available congregations (especially in the South and parts of the Midwest) makes us quite mobile.”
    • I almost didn’t share this one because I thought it was more useful for ministry leaders, but after I had mentally deep-sixed it a student emailed me and said: “I think it could be useful for Christians who find themselves frustrated by and unable to support blanket criticism of the church and of organized religion from the left, but also dissatisfied by responses from the right that frame any criticism as part of a culture war and trivialize issues within the church as just a few bad examples. I think for me it also was helpful in thinking of how I might respond to non-Christians when these kinds of criticisms come up in conversation and how I can be both defend Christianity and the good parts of the church while acknowledging continued brokenness and need for improvement. It also happened to tie in nicely with a sermon I heard on Sunday about how Christians have no problem recognizing sin as the cause of brokenness in the world but often point to the sins of others, whether of peers, leaders, or past generations, instead of their own sin as the cause of that brokenness. In that sense I think it both helped me think about how to process the failings of prominent Christians and talk about them with non-believers as well as be reminded by these failings to remember that beyond defending the church, my response as an individual should also be to identify and root out sin in my own life even when the damage is not as obvious to my community.”
  7. WHAT HAPPENS ON JANUARY 6th (Ben Sasse, Facebook): “There is some voter fraud every election cycle – and the media flatly declaring from on high that ‘there is no fraud!’ has made things worse. It has heightened public distrust, because there are, in fact, documented cases of voter fraud every election cycle. But the crucial questions are: (A) What evidence do we have of fraud? and (B) Does that evidence support the belief in fraud on a scale so significant that it could have changed the outcome? We have little evidence of fraud, and what evidence we do have does not come anywhere close to adding up to a different winner of the presidential election.”
    • Sasse is one of the Nebraska senators and is also a former seminary president. Missouri senator Josh Hawley, who this seems to be aimed at, is also an outspoken believer on Capitol Hill. Hawley, incidentally, did his undergrad at Stanford. He graduated the year we were launching Chi Alpha, so our paths have never crossed.
    • Hawley doesn’t have a statement as comprehensive as Sasse’s, but here is an excerpt from his press release: “I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws. And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden.”
    • I generally avoid political posts like this because I find the minutia of politics uninteresting. In this case, the fact that two evangelicals who are normally political allies are having a substantive and public disagreement intrigues me.

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 Real Problem at Yale Is Not Free Speech (Natalia Dashan, Palladium): “The campus ‘free speech’ debate is just a side‐effect. So are debates about ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion.’ The real problems run much deeper. The real problems start with Marcus and me, and the masks we wear for each other…. In a world of masks and façades, it is hard to convey the truth. And this is how I ended up offering a sandwich to a man with hundreds of millions in a foreign bank account.” I liked this one a lot. First shared in volume 215.

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 280

I think this is the first time two of the articles are by alumni. Maybe someday it will be all seven!

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.

Next Friday is Christmas and a week later is New Year’s Day, so I’ll probably either skip the next two weeks or send something out on Thursday/Saturday.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Is Christmas a Pagan Rip-off? (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “…whatever the Christmas holiday has become today, it started as a copycat of well-established pagan holidays. If you like Christmas, you have Saturnalia and Sol Invictus to thank. That’s the story, and everyone from liberal Christians to conservative Christians to non-Christians seem to agree that it’s true. Except that it isn’t.”
  2. What I Saw At The Jericho March (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Let me repeat this: a black Evangelical pastor denounced witches and Marxists and blew a shofar to defend Donald Trump’s presidency. If you had gone back in history a decade and told the world that this would happen one day on the National Mall, they would have put you in an asylum. Now you would be forgiven for thinking that our country has become an asylum.” This is long and engrossing.
    • The Dangerous Idolatry of Christian Trumpism (David French, The Dispatch): “A significant segment of the Christian public has fallen for conspiracy theories, has mixed nationalism with the Christian gospel, has substituted a bizarre mysticism for reason and evidence, and rages in fear and anger against their political opponents—all in the name of preserving Donald Trump’s power.” 
    • The Cult of Christian Trumpism (Michael Horton, Gospel Coalition): “My public calling is not to bind Christian consciences to my own political positions. Rather, as a minister of the Word, I am joining others in sounding the alarm that a line has been crossed into rank spiritual adultery.” The author is a professor of theology.
    • A Defense Of Jericho March Criticism (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “The kind of crazy talk at the Jericho March rally is going to get us all targeted by the state, and by wokesters in institutions, but will not advance our cause one bit. Besides, as a conservative and a Christian whose writing in recent years has been dominated by anger and anxiety over the loss of religious and civil liberties in the face of wokeness, I can say without a doubt that I would not want to live in a country governed by the radical nationalism and emotivist Christianity of the Jericho Marchers.” A follow-up to the long and engrossing piece atop this section.
  3. Why the coronavirus vaccine may not be accessible for the people who need it most (Rebekah Fenton, Washington Post): “Government authorities should keep this in mind. The most respected members of a community may not be those with the most education or the fanciest titles. Churches, community organizations and health-outreach programs often know the needs of the people they serve, have long records of meeting them, and have established strong bonds of trust….. Public health officials should respect these leaders’ commitment to service and involve them at the planning stages, instead of just relying on them to spread the word after decisions are made.” Rebekah, a doctor in Chicago, is an alumnus of our ministry. 
    • The Elderly vs. Essential Workers: Who Should Get the Coronavirus Vaccine First? (Abby Goodnough and Jan Hoffman, New York Times): “Ultimately, the choice comes down to whether preventing death or curbing the spread of the virus and returning to some semblance of normalcy is the highest priority. ‘If your goal is to maximize the preservation of human life, then you would bias the vaccine toward older Americans,’ Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said recently. ‘If your goal is to reduce the rate of infection, then you would prioritize essential workers’…. The trade-off between the two is muddied by the fact that the definition of ‘essential workers’ used by the C.D.C. comprises nearly 70 percent of the American work force.”
    • A critical Twitter thread about vaccine rollout plans (David Algonquin, Twitter)
  4. Does Religious Affiliation Protect People’s Well-Being? Evidence from the Great Recession after Correcting for Selection Effects (Christos Makridis, Byron Johnson and Harold G. Koenig, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion): “Using Gallup’s U.S. Daily Poll between 2008 and 2017, we find that those who are engaged in their local church and view their faith as important to their lives have not only higher levels of subjective well-being, but also acyclical levels. We show that the acyclicality of subjective well-being among Christians is not driven by selection effects or the presence of greater social capital, but rather a sense of purpose over the business cycle independent of financial circumstances.” You should have access to the full text using your Stanford login. Christos is an alumnus of our ministry and is an economist in Washington, DC. 
  5. Like It Or Not, Keira Bell Has Opened Up a Real Conversation About Gender Dysphoria (Quillette): “In the debate about transitioning children who experience gender dysphoria, Ms. Bell’s case represents an important turning point. Ms. Bell, now 23, was 16 years old when she presented to the Tavistock Centre in London, which runs Britain’s Gender Identity Development Service. In a landmark ruling delivered earlier this month, a British court upheld her claim that she’d been rushed through gender reassignment without proper safeguards.” The author is unlisted, although this is perhaps simply a website error.
  6. Nuclear weapons agency breached amid massive cyber onslaught (Natasha Bertrand and Eric Wolff, Politico): “They found suspicious activity in networks belonging to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories in New Mexico and Washington, the Office of Secure Transportation at NNSA, and the Richland Field Office of the DOE. The hackers have been able to do more damage at FERC than the other agencies, and officials there have evidence of highly malicious activity, the officials said, but did not elaborate.”
    • Why the US government hack is literally keeping security experts awake at night (Brian Fung, CNN): “I woke up in the middle of the night last night just sick to my stomach,” said Theresa Payton, who served as White House Chief Information Officer under President George W. Bush. “On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m at a 9 — and it’s not because of what I know; it’s because of what we still don’t know.”
    • I Was the Homeland Security Adviser to Trump. We’re Being Hacked.(Thomas Bossart, New York Times): “The logical conclusion is that we must act as if the Russian government has control of all the networks it has penetrated. But it is unclear what the Russians intend to do next. The access the Russians now enjoy could be used for far more than simply spying.… Domestic and geopolitical tensions could escalate quite easily if they use their access for malign influence and misinformation — both hallmarks of Russian behavior.”
  7. Pornhub Removes Majority of Videos in a Victory for Exodus Cry (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “An announcement on Pornhub claims it has better policies than other platforms and blames Exodus Cry and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation for targeting the site. ’These are organizations dedicated to abolishing pornography, banning material they claim is obscene, and shutting down commercial sex work.’” Shared with me by an alumnus.

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 Against Against Billionaire Philanthropy (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “I worry the movement against billionaire charity is on track to damage charity a whole lot more than it damages billionaires.” This is a very interesting essay, and he has a follow‐up, Highlights From The Comments on Billionaire Philanthropy, which thoughtfully responds to criticisms. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 213.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 279

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. Blows to volleyball star Hayley Hodson’s head changed her life (Patrick Hruby, LA Times): “The family did not trust Stanford. School doctors, Hodson says, had diagnosed her foot pain as inflammation and told her that she wasn’t risking further injury by playing. Medical records show that an independent doctor subsequently reviewed MRI scans taken by Stanford and determined she had a stress fracture.” Hayley was a student in Chi Alpha.
  2. My White Privilege Didn’t Save Me. But God Did (Edie Wyatt, Quillette): “Not long after, I walked into a suburban Baptist church, full of strange, unfashionably dressed, conservative Christians. I was a Marxist, a feminist, foul-mouthed, a chain-smoker, and desperate. The love I received in that place is the reason that I will defend the rights of fundamentalist Christians to my dying breath.” This is amazing. If you only read one thing this week, make it this one. Reminder: titles are rarely chosen by the author and often do not reflect the essence of an article.
  3. A pastor’s life depends on a coronavirus vaccine. Now he faces skeptics in his church. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “Before the pandemic, the 45-year-old minister, who normally leads nearly 2,000 people, would stand by the entrance to shake hands and offer hugs. Now, before services, he stays secluded in a room offstage until it is time to preach while an armed church member who works for Homeland Security watches the door.”
  4. Americans’ Mental Health Ratings Sink to New Low (Megan Brenan, Gallup): “Although the majority of U.S. adults continue to rate their mental health as excellent (34%) or good (42%), and far fewer say it is only fair (18%) or poor (5%), the latest excellent ratings are eight points lower than Gallup has measured in any prior year.” 
    • Recommended by a student because of one very interesting statistic: the only group that showed an increase in mental health was weekly churchgoers (the weekly part matters — monthly churchgoers experienced a decline). I looked at the more detailed PDF and it was unclear to me how they asked about church attendance, and of course it is impossible to identify causation from a survey like this.
    • I found this comment by an economist on Twitter funny: “This is absolutely the least surprising thing ever. Church folks are like, “The pandemic sucks, but my church did these 57 things and I’m overwhelmed with people trying to find ways to support during these times.” Everybody else is like, ‘I’M SO ALONE’” 
  5. The Rise and Fall of Carl Lentz, the Celebrity Pastor of Hillsong Church (Ruth Graham, New York Times): “Soon the church’s cultural cachet grew outside Christian circles. ‘I knew people who came to church not because they were Christians but because they thought Carl was hot,’ said Heather McClanahan, who worked for the church in 2014 and 2015.”
    • The Crisis of Christian Celebrity (David French, The Dispatch): “The way I’ve put it in speeches to young Christians is simply this, ‘Make the easy choice so you don’t have to make the hard choice.’ Saying no to the extra drink is much easier than halting a drunken flirtation.”
  6. Prominent evangelicals are directing Trump’s sinking ship. That feeds doubts about religion. (Michael Gerson, Washington Post): “When prominent Christians affirm absurd political lies with religious fervor, nonbelievers have every reason to think: ‘Maybe Christians are prone to swallowing absurd religious lies as well. Maybe they are simply credulous about everything.’ If we should encounter someone who believes — honestly and adamantly believes — in both the existence of the Easter Bunny and in the resurrection of Christ, it would naturally raise questions about the quality of his or her believing faculties.”
  7. The coming war on the hidden algorithms that trap people in poverty (Karen Hao, MIT Technology Review): Not until they were standing in the courtroom in the middle of a hearing did the witness representing the state reveal that the government had just adopted a new algorithm. The witness, a nurse, couldn’t explain anything about it. “Of course not—they bought it off the shelf,” Gilman says. “She’s a nurse, not a computer scientist. She couldn’t answer what factors go into it. How is it weighted? What are the outcomes that you’re looking for? So there I am with my student attorney, who’s in my clinic with me, and it’s like, ‘Oh, am I going to cross-examine an algorithm?’”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

QI’s Gift-Wrapping Life Hack! (QI, YouTube): mind blown in less than three minutes

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 278

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. Why Obama Fears for Our Democracy (Jeffrey Goldberg interviewing Barack Obama, The Atlantic) “You mentioned earlier that I’m in some ways a never-Trump conservative. That’s not quite right, but what is true is that temperamentally I am sympathetic to a certain strain of conservatism in the sense that I’m not just a materialist. I’m not an economic determinist. I think it’s important, but I think there are things other than stuff and money and income—the religious critique of modern society, that we’ve lost that sense of community.” There is an absurdly lengthy introduction. Skip down to “Our conversation has been edited for clarity and concision” about a fifth of the way down the page.
  2. The Children of Pornhub (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times): “The world has often been oblivious to child sexual abuse, from the Catholic Church to the Boy Scouts. Too late, we prosecute individuals like Jeffrey Epstein or R. Kelly. But we should also stand up to corporations that systematically exploit children. With Pornhub, we have Jeffrey Epstein times 1,000.” Kristof goes out of his way to make it clear that he is not condemning pornography itself, just abuse. I’ll go farther: pornography is vile and I think it is a national shame. If you watch porn, know that forgiveness and freedom are available in Christ and I a happy to talk with you about it.
  3. The Mass Murder of Nigerian Christians (Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rev. Johnnie Moore, Tablet Magazine): “Officials’ initial refusal to attribute the attack in Kaduna to Islamists—in any form—reflects a black hole of denial that is pronounced in Nigerian politics. This endemic self-censorship has now been absorbed by many professionals in the foreign policy establishment who have adopted a policy of not mentioning the religious components of these outrages at any cost, in order to prevent being accused of politicizing religion. This denial serves as an accelerant of religion-fueled conflict—until the facts and blood on the ground can no longer be denied.”
  4. Big Government’s Overlooked Americans (Nicholas Eberstadt, National Review): “How could American health authorities completely miss a domestic epidemic of such severity and duration? Even during the Cold War, remember, U.S. researchers were quicker to spot the advent of the health crisis for the working-age population of the Soviet Union: and this during the heyday of Soviet disinformation and strategic deception, long before glasnost. Whatever else may be said about this signal U.S. failure in disease prevention and control, it occasioned remarkably little reflection, self-criticism, and course correction on the part of America’s public-health apparatus.” 
  5. The Supreme Court Was Right to Block Cuomo’s Religious Restrictions (Michael W. McConnell and Max Raskin, New York Times): “In the beginning of the pandemic, no one knew what worked and what didn’t. Courts were understandably reluctant to second-guess. But we are now 10 months into the pandemic. Why are governments still picking and choosing among constitutional rights without explaining their reasoning?” McConnell is a Stanford law prof, Raskin a law prof at New York University.
  6. Denigrating Hoover (Victor Davis Hanson, Stanford Daily): “[Some Stanford students and faculty complain about Hoover, yet] Hoover scholars as a general rule do not fixate on Stanford, whether the University, its students or its professors, for their perceived lapses in judgement or controversies that often can arise at large campuses — such as the recent sensational allegations concerning admissions fraud; a recent Stanford affiliated visiting researcher arrested for allegedly hiding ties with the Chinese military; Department of Education allegations that Stanford had not properly and fully disclosed, as required, sizable gifts from Chinese government-related sources; sex scandal allegations at the business school; efforts to disrupt a campus speaker while spreading a grotesque anti-Semitic flyer; and general concern on the campus concerning a wave of anti-Semitic incidents.”
  7. Misaligned incentives and the scale of incarceration in the United States (Aurélie Ouss, Journal of Public Economics): “Typically, prison is paid for at the state level, but county employees (such as judges, prosecutors or probation officers) determine time spent in custody. I exploit a natural experiment that shifted the cost burden of juvenile incarceration from state to counties, keeping overall costs and responsibilities unchanged. This resulted in a stark drop in incarceration, and no increase in arrests, suggesting an over-use of prison when costs are not internalized. The large magnitude of the change suggests that misaligned incentives in criminal justice may be a significant contributor to the current levels of incarceration in the United States.” The author is a criminologist at U Penn. Found via Tyler Cowen.

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 An Epidemic of Disbelief (Barbara Bradley Hagerty, The Atlantic): “Historically, investigators had assumed that someone who assaults a stranger by the railroad tracks is nothing like the man who assaults his co‐worker or his girlfriend. But it turns out that the space between acquaintance rape and stranger rape is not a wall, but a plaza. When Cleveland investigators uploaded the DNA from the acquaintance‐rape kits, they were surprised by how often the results also matched DNA from unsolved stranger rapes. The task force identified dozens of mystery rapists this way.” Infuriating and highly recommended. First shared in volume 211.

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.