Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 309

in which I provide my views on sermon originality

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.

TIL that the number 309 is is the smallest number whose 5th power contains every digit at least once. 3095=2,817,036,000,549. I’m really stunned that someone figured that out.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. ‘Sermongate’ Prompts a Quandary: Should Pastors Borrow Words From One Another? (Ruth Graham, New York Times): “In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin wrote of his admiration of a young Presbyterian preacher much respected for his preaching, which was apparently delivered extemporaneously. When a doctrinal dispute erupted in the congregation, however, an adversary recognized that a passage delivered by the preacher had been lifted from an uncredited source. Franklin stuck by the plagiarist. ‘I rather approved his giving us good sermons composed by others,’ he wrote, ‘than bad ones of his own manufacture.’ ”
    • The appropriate principles seem so obvious to me:
    • Never present someone else’s personal stories as though they happened to you. It’s hard to call that anything other than lying.
    • If you gain an insight from someone else, why would you deprive your hearers of that good insight? USE IT. Credit it in the way that seems most appropriate, but a sermon is not a written resource people are going to cite nor one that people are going to track down your references on. I don’t even think plagiarism is the right term in this conversation: there’s no standard way to cite other sermons nor should there be. People who get a bee in their bonnet about this seem so odd to me.
    • In fact, you should always assume that the messages I deliver have been enriched by insights from others. I love God’s Word and I love my students too much to just give them my own limited observations. My own practice: I copy and paste the text into a Word document. Then I begin typing my insights and constructing a rough outline. Then I consult scholarly and sermonic resources and revise my outline/notes when I realize I’ve misunderstood something or that I missed an important point. Typically that means I read two or three commentaries and will sometimes skim one or two sermons from preachers I respect. If someone’s phrasing is so good I adopt it, I usually add, “I heard a pastor say” or “an academic commentary really helped me out on this point” and sometimes will even give the precise source. But not always. Sometimes citing something verbally breaks up the flow too much. Sometimes after an especially fact-laden message I will send out an email roundup of the most important sources (that tends to happen after apologetic sermons when I’m appealing to extrascriptural facts).
    • It gets complicated with insights I gleaned years ago and have preached multiple times since. Sometimes I don’t even remember that it wasn’t original to me (whether clever phrasing or an entire sermon outline). That’s how learning works! I’m not trying to deceive anyone, but I am 100% confident that I word some things a certain way because someone else worded it that way to me and I thought, “that’s perfect” and now that I’ve said it 70 times I just know that’s how I think about the subject.
    • If you ever want to know if something I said is original to me, just ask. If I quoted someone else (and remember that I have), I’ll be thrilled to point you to a resource that helped me!
  2. What Makes a Cult a Cult? (Zoë Heller, New Yorker): “The good news is that rational objections to flaws in cult doctrine or to hypocrisies on the part of a cult leader do have a powerful impact if and when they occur to the cult members themselves. The analytical mind may be quietened by cult-think, but it is rarely deadened altogether. Especially if cult life is proving unpleasant, the capacity for critical thought can reassert itself.” The focus here is on way-out-there cults. Interesting nonetheless, even given the author’s blind spots (I think it would have been a stronger article if she had mentioned a few secular beliefs as parallels).
  3. Our Unequal Polygamous Past (Conn Carroll, Institute for Family Studies): “This brief history of human sexual relations shows us three things: 1) we are hardwired to form monogamous pair bonds; 2) the privileged among us will always try to monopolize more mates; and 3) we can check the privilege of the powerful by enforcing monogamous cultural norms.”
  4. Wokeness:
    • As a Gay Child in a Christian Cult, I Was Taught to Hate Myself. Then I Joined the Church of Social Justice—and Nothing Changed (Ben Appel, Quillette): “For years, I feared homophobic right-wing evangelicals. But these days, I’m equally wary of the progressive activists who push a distinctly homophobic agenda that denies the biological reality of sex—and who claim that what we are attracted to isn’t male or female bodies per se, but rather male or female gender identities. This outlook effectively imagines away the existence of homosexuality, which, in the real world, is of course rooted in physical attraction based on biological attributes.”
    • If you hate the culture wars, blame liberals (Kevin Drum, personal blog): “It is not conservatives who have turned American politics into a culture war battle. It is liberals. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise since progressives have been bragging publicly about pushing the Democratic Party leftward since at least 2004. Now, I’m personally happy about most of this. But that doesn’t blind me to the fact that “personally happy” means nothing in politics. What matters is what the median voter feels, and Democrats have been moving further and further away from the median voter for years:” Interesting and very different from the message I usually hear, which blames polarization on conservatives who are said to have moved much more to the right than liberals have moved to the left.
    • Culture Wars are Long Wars (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “Cultural insurgents win few converts in their own cohort. They can, however, build up a system of ideas and institutions which will preserve and refine the ideals they hope their community will adopt in the future. The real target of these ideas are not their contemporaries, but their contemporaries’ children and grandchildren. Culture wars are fought for the hearts of the unborn. Future generations will be open to values the current generation rejects outright. This will not be apparent at first. Beneath the official comings and goings of the cohorts above, a new consensus forms in in the cohorts below. Ideas will fester among the young, but their impact will be hidden by the inability and inexperience of youth. But the youth do not stay young. Eventually a transition point arrives.” Emphasis in original.
    • What Happened To You? (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “[We have witnessed a] sudden, rapid, stunning shift in the belief system of the American elites. It has sent the whole society into a profound cultural dislocation. It is, in essence, an ongoing moral panic against the specter of ‘white supremacy,’ which is now bizarrely regarded as an accurate description of the largest, freest, most successful multiracial democracy in human history.”
    • The West’s cultural revolution is over (Ed West, UnHerd): “Life of Brian couldn’t be made 20 years earlier, and neither could it be made now; its satire of Jesus, a prophet of Islam, would risk upsetting Muslim sensibilities, which it’s fair to say people have become slightly wary of doing. At the very least it would need to cut out the scene pointing fun at a man who, absurdly to the filmmakers and audiences, identifies as a woman; absurd in 1979, as it had been in 1879 and 1779 and in every year before that, but a sacred idea in 2021. It’s sacred in the sense that its believers have captured the moral citadel where the most powerful ideas are protected by taboo, achieved either by emotional argument or intimidation (and both can be effective). This is not some dark new age of cancel culture, however, it’s just a return to normality.”
  5. Pandemic-related
    • Why Didn’t COVID-19 Kill the Constitution? (Jacob Sullum. Reason): “COVID-19 did not kill the Constitution. But the crisis made it vividly clear that we cannot count on politicians or bureaucrats to worry about limits on their authority, especially when they believe they are doing what is necessary to protect the public from a deadly danger. The task of enforcing those limits falls to judges who are willing to stick their necks out.”
    • What Are the Limits to Governmental Authority over the Church? (Ben Edwards, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary): “Christians/churches must submit to every government regulation unless it would mean disobeying God (i.e., cause them to sin) or the government is seeking to regulate something outside its sphere of authority.”
  6. On China
    • China Won’t Bury Us, Either (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “Garry Kasparov has a pithy way of summing up the past 18 months of tribulation. ‘China gave us the virus,’ the chess and human-rights champion told me over a recent breakfast. ‘And the free world gave us the vaccines.’ ”
    • Why a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be a catastrophe for China and the world (Jon Stokes, personal blog): “The world’s largest, most valuable tech companies are dependent either directly or indirectly on the steady output of TSMC’s fabs. If those fabs went offline or became unavailable in the west because they were controlled by PRC, it would immediately devastate the global economy. An unknowable number of large companies just wouldn’t be able to refill their inventories for an indeterminately long time.” This is about computer chips and how a Chinese invasion of Taiwan will be disastrous for that market (which touches on so many others) no matter how the invasion plays out. Very thoughtful.
  7. Scripps Spelling Bee 2021: Zaila Avant-garde Wins (Maggie Astor and Maria Cramer, New York Times): “Zaila, who just finished eighth grade in her hometown, Harvey, La., showed a prowess for spelling at 10, when her father, who had been watching finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on ESPN, asked her how to spell the winning word: marocain. Zaila spelled it perfectly. Then he asked her to spell the winning words going back to 1999. She spelled nearly all of them correctly and was able to tell him the books where she had seen them.” Read the whole thing — this kid is amazing at more than spelling! The interface is weird — you’ll have to click “Read more” just before the timeline.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 305

more sublists than normal

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

305 is apparently the 5th ‘hexagonal prism number’, which totally sounds made up and I am slightly skeptical of. This is because 305 = (n + 1)(3n2 + 3n + 1) where n=4 (presumably the first hexagonal prism number is 1, when n=0).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Fading of Forgiveness (Tim Keller, Cardus): “In other words, we no longer ground our values in the sacred. We simply treat the values themselves as sacred.… When the moral norms are detached from faith in a just God, it detaches them also from faith in a merciful and forgiving God. In such a ‘secular religion,’ deviation from norms is simply unforgiveable.” Full of insights.
  2. Loving the Foreigners—Even When They Have a Deadly Disease (Hwee Hwee Tan, Christianity Today): “While migrant workers had long lived challenging lives in Singapore, it was their unique vulnerability during the circuit-breaker period that really woke up local Christians to the need to help them—in both the short and long term.”
  3. A crisis inside America’s largest evangelical denomination:
    • Russell Moore’s Warnings Should Bring a Reckoning (David French, The Dispatch): “Christians, let me ask you a question. When the #MeToo movement launched… did you think, ‘Stop obsessing over scandal. Most members of the media and most folks in Hollywood are good people’? Or did you think that multiple powerful American institutions were beset with deep cultural and spiritual problems? .… #MeToo did reveal moral rot. But let’s flip it all around. When you heard about corruption and sexual misconduct at America’s largest Christian university, what did you think? What did you think when you read about the sexual scandal at Hillsong or when you learned about Ravi Zacharias’ record of abuse and his ministry’s terrible mistreatment of whistleblowers? Did you pause to consider the larger implications of a decade of sexual predation at one of America’s largest Christian camps or the camp’s efforts to intimidate and coerce victims into silence?” I don’t often tip my hand, but FYI Moore and French are two of my favorite evangelical cultural commentators. If they ever agree on something, you can be pretty sure that is my position as well.
    • The Scandal Rocking the Evangelical World (Pete Wehner, The Atlantic): “And the rot that has been so powerfully and so painfully exposed by Russell Moore is not an indictment of Jesus any more than the failures of the religious authorities in first-century Palestine were. A theologian recently reminded me that the Church is not the hope of the world; its purpose is to be a witness to the hope of the world, even if that witness is often imperfect. But those of us of the Christian faith do seem to be overdoing the imperfect part.”
    • Where Did All the Evangelical Prophets Go? (Samuel D. James, Substack): “The godlessness of the left maps very cleanly onto the evangelical church’s radar because its institutions and leaders are watching for it all the time, but the godlessness of the right is obviously not yet something someone can talk about confidently, expecting their denomination or ecclesiastical support system to back them on.” Some good insights here.
  4. The future of America:
    • A calm perspective: Are We Destined for a Trump Coup in 2024? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Then keep in mind, too, that in the event of a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024, Biden, not Trump, will enjoy the presidency’s powers; Kamala Harris, not Mike Pence, will preside over the electoral count; and Trump will be four years older, unlikely to run a fourth time, and therefore somewhat less intimidating in defeat.”
    • Alarmed from the left: 9/11 and 1/6 (Timothy Snyder, Substack): “The scenario then goes like this. The Republicans win back the House and Senate in 2022, in part thanks to voter suppression. The Republican candidate in 2024 loses the popular vote by several million and the electoral vote by the margin of a few states. State legislatures, claiming fraud, alter the electoral count vote. The House and Senate accept that altered count. The losing candidate becomes the president. We no longer have ‘democratically elected government.’ And people are angry. No one is seeking to hide that this is the plan.”  The author is a historian at Yale.
    • Alarmed from the right: Our Increasingly Unrecognizable Civilization (Mark Steyn, Imprimis): “…one notices that America is farther down this road than any other country in the Western world. In other words, at this moment of crisis for Western Civilization, or for what we used to call Christendom, the leading country of the free world is pulling the wrong way.” Sent my way by a friend of the ministry.
  5. A few thoughts on depression (Noah Smith, Substack): “For some reason, human company helps. In fact, it is the single thing that helps the most. But not the kind of company a sad person needs. What a depressed person needs is simply to talk to people, not about their problems or their negative thoughts or their depression, but about anything else — music, animals, science. The most helpful topic of conversation, I’ve found, is absurdity — just talking about utterly ridiculous things, gross things, vulgar offensive things, bizarre things. Shared activities, like going on a hike or playing sports, are OK, but talking is much, much more important.”
  6. Once a Bastion of Free Speech, the A.C.L.U. Faces an Identity Crisis (Michael Powell, New York Times): “I got the sense it was more important for A.C.L.U. staff to identify with clients and progressive causes than to stand on principle,” he said in a recent interview. “Liberals are leaving the First Amendment behind.”
  7. Some snapshots of academia:
    • The Native Scholar Who Wasn’t (Sarah Viren, New York Times): “Of the 1,500 university educators listed as Native American at the time, said Bill Cross, who helped found the American Indian/Alaska Native Professors Association, “we’re looking realistically at one-third of those being Indians.”
    • Gripped by ‘Dinner Party-gate,’ Yale Law Confronts a Venomous Divide (Sarah Lyell and Stephanie Saul, New York Times): “At the law school, the episode has exposed bitter divisions in a top-ranked institution struggling to adapt at a moment of roiling social change. Students regularly attack their professors, and one another, for their scholarship, professional choices and perceived political views. In a place awash in rumor and anonymous accusations, almost no one would speak on the record.”

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 world will only get weirder (Steven Coast, personal blog): “We fixed all the main reasons aircraft crash a long time ago. Sometimes a long, long time ago. So, we are left with the less and less probable events.” The piece is a few years old so the examples are dated, but it remains very intriguing. (first shared in volume 67)

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 300

some of the articles have higher-quality arguments than the norm

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 300, which is how many Spartans it takes to fend off a Persian army.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. When Men Behave Badly — A Review (Rob Henderson, Quillette): “Intriguingly, men and women converge in their answers when asked what percentage of men would be willing to commit rape. Women estimate that about one-third of men would commit rape if there were no consequences, and about one-third of men report that they would commit rape if they believed they could get away with it.” The author is a PhD candidate at Cambridge reviewing a book by a professor at UT Austin. Extremely interesting throughout. Highly recommended.
  2. Proof That Political Privilege Is Harmful for Christianity (Nilay Saiya, Christianity Today): “In a peer-reviewed study published this month in the journal Sociology of Religion, my coauthor and I challenge the perceived wisdom that education and affluence spell Christianity’s demise. In our statistical analysis of a global sample of 166 countries from 2010 to 2020, we find that the most important determinant of Christian vitality is the extent to which governments give official support to Christianity through their laws and policies. However, it is not in the way devout believers might expect.”
  3. The Redemption of Justin Bieber (Zach Baron, GQ): “And then there is God. If you ask Chance the Rapper why he and his friend seem so happy in an industry that tends to grind people to dust, he will answer without hesitation. ‘Both of us, our secret sauce is Jesus,’ Chance says. ‘Justin doesn’t fake the funk. He goes to Jesus with his problems, he goes to Jesus with his successes. He calls me just to talk about Jesus.’ ”
  4. In Deciding Fulton v. Philadelphia, the Supreme Court Should Remember That Foster Care Is for the Children (James Dwyer, National Review): “But foster care is not a public accommodation nor a service to ‘the public.’ Children are not generic goods for sale (like donuts or cups of coffee), to which everyone has an equal right. Instead, when the government is making decisions on behalf of foster children, it is obligated to act only in that child’s best interest.” The author is a law prof at William and Mary and this article is really good.
  5. Pandemic-related:
    • COVID-19 Rewired Our Brains (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “At some point, the pandemic — the provisional and practical judgments in favor of caution that can justify restrictive behaviors — became an unshakeable moral purpose. Actual weighing of risks went out the window: There’s a deadly disease out there; my actions can contribute to the end of the disease or to its spreading in perpetuity. ” This articulates something I’ve dimly felt. Very good.
    • The Liberals Who Can’t Quit Lockdown (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “But personal decisions during the coronavirus crisis are fraught because they seem symbolic of people’s broader value systems. When vaccinated adults refuse to see friends indoors, they’re working through the trauma of the past year, in which the brokenness of America’s medical system was so evident. When they keep their kids out of playgrounds and urge friends to stay distanced at small outdoor picnics, they are continuing the spirit of the past year, when civic duty has been expressed through lonely asceticism. For many people, this kind of behavior is a form of good citizenship. That’s a hard idea to give up.”
    • Believe Science: Get Vaccinated. Then Relax. (Bari Weiss, Substack): “In other words, once we are stuck inside it is very hard to unstick ourselves. I’m trying to remind myself of this truth when I find myself wanting to berate friends who, fully vaccinated, look at me with crazy eyes when I suggest coming over for dinner. PTSD might be too strong a descriptor, but it’s not so far off either.”
    • Data Shows White Evangelicals And Catholics More Likely to Get Vaccine Than ‘Nones’ and General Public (Ryan Burge, Religion Unplugged): “…when the sample is broken down into the three of the largest religious groups: White evangelicals, White Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated, some disparities begin to emerge. It’s noteworthy that White Christians were significantly more likely to get the vaccine than the general public between January and April. In the latest wave of the survey, nearly 60% of White Catholics had been vaccinated and just about half of White evangelicals said the same. It was the religious “nones” that were lagging far behind, with only 31% indicating that they had received one dose.” That is definitely not the impression I’ve gotten from the media, but it is the impression I’ve gotten from my friends. The author is a professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University.
    • Patents are Not the Problem! (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Patents are not the problem. All of the vaccine manufacturers are trying to increase supply as quickly as possible. Billions of doses are being produced–more than ever before in the history of the world. Licenses are widely available.… Plastic bags are a bigger bottleneck than patents. The US embargo on vaccine supplies to India was precisely that the Biden administration used the DPA to prioritize things like bioreactor bags and filters to US suppliers and that meant that India’s Serum Institute was having trouble getting its production lines ready for Novavax. CureVac, another potential mRNA vaccine, is also finding it difficult to find supplies due to US restrictions (which means supplies are short everywhere).” Loosely related, but such a glorious rant I had to share it.
    • The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan? (Nicholas Wade, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists): “Science is supposedly a self-correcting community of experts who constantly check each other’s work. So why didn’t other virologists point out that the Andersen group’s argument was full of absurdly large holes? Perhaps because in today’s universities speech can be very costly. Careers can be destroyed for stepping out of line. Any virologist who challenges the community’s declared view risks having his next grant application turned down by the panel of fellow virologists that advises the government grant distribution agency.” Very thorough, very readable, very persuasive. There is a real chance humans are responsible for COVID and we need to investigate it.
  6. How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously (Gideon Lewis-Kraus, New Yorker): “Despite the fact that most adults carry around exceptionally good camera technology in their pockets, most U.F.O. photos and videos remain maddeningly indistinct, but the former Pentagon official implied that the government possesses stark visual documentation; Elizondo and Mellon have said the same thing.”
  7. I Became a Mother at 25, and I’m Not Sorry I Didn’t Wait (Elizabeth Bruenig, New York Times): “But what of having children — or getting married, for that matter — before establishing oneself? That is: What to say to the young person who might consider those kinds of commitments if not for the finality of it all, the sense that she may be making somebody else before knowing who she herself really is?”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Weight of Glory (C.S. Lewis): It was originally preached as a sermon and then printed in a theology magazine. Related: see the C. S. Lewis Doodle YouTube channel – it’s really good! (first shared in volume 36)

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 298

surprisingly little from the news this week — just randomly interesting things

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 298, which is a fairly uninteresting number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. New Rule: Give It to Me Straight, Doc (Bill Maher, YouTube): eight minutes. This is a very good clip about COVID misinformation, although the language is not family-friendly. It goes in a direction I did not expect towards the end.
    • Related: Why do so many vaccinated people remain irrationally fearful? Listen to the professor’s story. (David Leonhardt, New York Times): “To take just one example, major media outlets trumpeted new government data last week showing that 5,800 fully vaccinated Americans had contracted Covid. That may sound like a big number, but it indicates that a vaccinated person’s chances of getting Covid are about one in 11,000.… A car trip is a bigger threat, to you and others. About 100 Americans are likely to die in car crashes today. The new federal data suggests that either zero or one vaccinated person will die today from Covid.”
  2. On Good Parties (Tara Isabella Burton, Breaking Ground): “A Good Party is a place where bonds of friendship, fostered in a spirit of both charity and joy, serve as the building blocks for communal life overall. The wedding feast, that abundant banquet of Christian life, is always prefigured in the convivial symposium of friendship. The kingdom of heaven, when it comes, will be a very Good Party. Good Parties don’t merely offer us the opportunity to gather with those we love. Rather, more importantly, they teach us how to love.” This is really quite something. I like it a lot.
  3. The Question That Dictates How Christians Approach Culture and Politics (David French, The Dispatch): “It’s becoming increasingly obvious that one explanation for profoundly different Christian approaches to politics and culture rests with different answers to the following question: Does the primary threat to the church come from within the church or without? Put differently, does the church stumble and fall primarily because of the sins of the church or because of the cultural and political headwinds directed against the church?”
    • In Here, Out There: On Assessing Spiritual Threats (Dan Darling, Substack): “At times when we are combating cultural ideas, we are not arguing with the world, but trying to equip the next generation of Christians whose faith will be challenged by ideas that run contrary to Scripture. Our people are inundated on every side by messages that are at odds with Jesus’ teachings. Pop culture, social media, friends, etc form a powerful influence on this cohort of young people.” Not a rebuttal, but a complement.
  4. It’s Time for Social Conservatives to Stop Fawning Over Hungary (Lyman Stone, The Public Discourse): “What made Hungary’s family policy work wasn’t the populism, but the boring technocracy of it. Flashy populist programs failed, while just pushing cash out the door to families (as is the norm in countries like Sweden, Denmark, or Norway, all of which have higher birth rates than Hungary) worked. American conservatives should learn from this: if you want a higher birth rate, you’re going to have to pay for it.” This was way more interesting than I anticipated.
  5. Why is Everything Liberal? (Richard Hanania, Substack): “In a democracy, every vote is supposed to be equal. If about half the country supports one side and half the country supports another, you may expect major institutions to either be equally divided, or to try to stay politically neutral. This is not what we find.” This is basically one really good observation expounded in detail. The author, a political scientist, is a research fellow at Columbia University.
  6. Reparations: A Critical Theological Review (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “With tax collectors and soldiers throughout the Gospels, there is no talk of restitution for imperial supremacy or extractive systems, nor any summons to dismantle the structures they inhabited, just the straightforward command to live a godly life, be generous to others, and repay what you have stolen.” Well done book reviews are amazing. This is as good as the best reviews by Scott Alexander.
  7. The Great Unsettling (Paul Kingsnorth, Substack): “We in the West invented this thing called ‘modernity’, and then we took it out into the world, whether the world wanted it or not. Once we called this process ‘the white man’s burden’ and exported it with dreadnoughts. Now we call it ‘development’ and export it via the World Bank.” Wide-ranging.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have This Is What Makes Republicans and Democrats So Different (Vox, Ezra Klein): the title made me skeptical, but there are some good insights in this article (first shared in volume 32 back in 2016).

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 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.