Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 269

I share a few personal thoughts about criminal justice reform in this one. Just a few.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Some thoughts following the Breonna Taylor verdict:
    • Correcting the misinformation about Breonna Taylor (Radley Balko, Washington Post): “We could prevent the next Breonna Taylor. We could ban forced entry raids to serve drug warrants. We could hold judges accountable for signing warrants that don’t pass constitutional muster. We could demand that police officers wear body cameras during these raids to hold them accountable, and that they be adequately punished when they fail to activate them. We could do a lot to make sure there are no more Breonna Taylors. The question is whether we want to.”
    • From a month ago, but timely now: Supreme Court Precedent Killed Breonna Taylor (David French, The Dispatch): “Something (or some things) have to give, and those ‘things’ are no-knock raids and qualified immunity. Individual liberties should not be sacrificed on the altar of police drug raids, and victims of civil rights abuses should be entitled to receive compensation for their losses, including their injuries and wounds.”
    • My 2 cents: America’s justice system would be greatly improved if no-knock raids and qualified immunity were either eliminated or greatly constrained. And if we get rid of civil asset forfeiture at the same time — wow.
  2. Review: ‘Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World’ by Tom Holland (Tim Keller, Gospel Coalition): “…the shame-and-honor cultures of old, pagan Europe—of the Anglo-Saxons, the Franks, and the Germans—thought that the Christian ethic of forgiving one’s enemies and of honoring the poor and weak to be completely unworkable as a basis for society. These ideas would’ve never occurred to anyone unless they held to a universe with a single, personal God who created all beings in his image, and with a Savior who came and died in sacrificial love. The ideas only could’ve grown from such a worldview—they don’t make sense in a different one. If, instead, we believe we’re here by accident through a process of survival of the fittest, then there can be no moral absolutes, and life must be, if anything, about power and the mastery of others, not about love. That, declared Nietzsche, is the only way to live once you are truly willing to admit that the Christian God does not exist.”
  3. We Are All Algorithms Now (Andrew Sullivan, SubStack): “In the past, we might have turned to more reliable media for context and perspective. But the journalists and reporters and editors who are supposed to perform this function are human as well. And they are perhaps the ones most trapped in the social media hellscape…. The press could have been the antidote to the social media trap. Instead they chose to become the profitable pusher of the poison.“ This was written before news of RBG’s death and is even more timely now.
  4. Concerning the Supreme Court:
    • Leading Republican politicians have flip-flopped What Senate Republicans have said about filling a Supreme Court vacancy (one minute video, YouTube)
    • Leading Democratic politicians have flip-flopped What leading Democrats have said about filling a Supreme Court vacancy (two minute video, Twitter) 
    • A thought from the left: Down With Judicial Supremacy! (Jamelle Bouie, New York Times): “The Supreme Court has the power to interpret the Constitution and establish its meaning for federal, state and local government alike. But this power wasn’t enumerated in the Constitution and isn’t inherent in the court as an institution. Instead, the court’s power to interpret and bind others to that interpretation was constructed over time by political and legal actors throughout the system, from presidents and lawmakers to the judges and justices themselves.”
    • A thought from the right: How the G.O.P. Might Get to Yes on Replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Since I became opposed to abortion, sometime in my later teens, I have never regarded the Supreme Court with warmth, admiration or patriotic trust. What my liberal friends felt after Bush v. Gore or after Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation or in imagining some future ruling by Amy Coney Barrett, I have felt for my entire adult life.”
  5. On faith and politics:
    • How Faith Shapes My Politics (David Brooks, New York Times): “In a society that is growing radically more secular every day, I’d say we have more to fear from political dogmatism than religious dogmatism.” 
    • Related: This just in! Evangelicals are actually America’s least politicized group of churches (Richard Ostling, GetReligion): “…the emerging scenario appears to indicate a relatively small and unrepresentative band of evangelical partisans at the national level has — aided by massive amounts of news coverage — distorted the public image of grass-roots white evangelicalism.”
    • What are your Expectations of Jesus’ Local Church? (Adam Sinnett, church website): “Over the last six months the elders of DCC have received numerous questions, recommendations, and criticisms in relation to what we should be doing as a church in regards to: our pandemic response, the relationship between church and state, timing and content of communication, growing unemployment, the homelessness crisis, political partisanship, systemic injustice, police brutality, social protests, and more.”
    • Follow-up: Who Does What in the Life of the Church? (Adam Sinnet, church website): “If we think of the church primarily as ‘the leaders’ we’ll place the burden of responsibility for the life of the church on the pastors. If we think of the church primarily as ‘the people’, we’ll place the burden of responsibility on the individuals. If we think of the church primarily as an ‘institution’, we’ll place the burden of responsibility on the organization, its structures, and processes. Who then is responsible for fulfilling God’s purpose for his church? Is it the leaders, or the people, or the institution? Put simply, everyone is responsible, though in different ways.”
    • Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Sues to Not Forsake the Assembly (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “…the DC congregation’s legal fight is uniquely tied to its theological beliefs around how a church should gather. Dever has long resisted multi-site, multi-service models of church, though they are very popular among fellow Southern Baptists. The DC Baptist church does not stream services online, and hasn’t made an exception to that rule during the pandemic.”
    • Capitol Hill Baptist, a large evangelical church, sues DC Mayor Muriel Bowser over coronavirus restrictions (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “The vote Sunday at a members meeting to pursue litigation was 402 in favor, 35 against, members said, though church leaders would not confirm specific numbers.”
  6. Two random articles touching on race:
    • This Is How Biden Should Approach the Latino Vote (Ian Haney López and Tory Gavito, New York Times): “Progressives commonly categorize Latinos as people of color, no doubt partly because progressive Latinos see the group that way and encourage others to do so as well. Certainly, we both once took that perspective for granted. Yet in our survey, only one in four Hispanics saw the group as people of color.”
      • I am uninterested in the partisan angle of this op-ed, but the statistic I excerpted stood out to me. I wonder what percentage of Stanford students would have predicted it? I suspect the overwhelming majority of Stanford students would have bet on the opposite.
    • The Pretense That Princeton Is Racist (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “I object to the entire witch hunt of an investigation, which Republicans would recognize as a flagrant abuse of federal power were it aimed at Liberty University. No reasonable person could conclude that an onerous probe of Princeton for anti-Black racism is the best use, or even a good use, of scarce resources to safeguard civil rights. The decision to grapple with racism should not trigger a federal investigation, whether or not that grappling is totally honest.”
  7. Tea Time: The Christian Mission to Preserve Culture (Lyman Stone, The Plough): “As strange as it may seem for a white American missionary to be teaching an eight-year-old Chinese girl from the tea capital of the world how to pour tea, such I understood to be my Christian duty.”

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 Jesus, Mary, and Joe Jonas (Jonathan Parks‐Ramage, Medium): “How, in famously liberal Hollywood and among statistically progressive millennials, had good old‐fashioned evangelism [sic] gained popularity? In this context, a church like Reality L.A. seemed like something that could never work. But that evening, as I reflected on the troubled actress and the psychic brutalities inflicted by the entertainment industry, it occurred to me that I had underestimated Hollywood’s biggest product: lost souls.” First shared in volume 192

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 267

some apologetically-interesting links near the top — recommended!

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues.

We have some new members on our mailing list — welcome! I’d like to direct you to the disclaimers at the end of this email — they really do matter and I really do mean them.

I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way!

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Unconscious Learning Underlies Belief in God – Stronger Beliefs in People Who Can Unconsciously Predict Complex Patterns (Sci Tech Daily): “Individuals who can unconsciously predict complex patterns, an ability called implicit pattern learning, are likely to hold stronger beliefs that there is a god who creates patterns of events in the universe, according to neuroscientists at Georgetown University.” Shocker: people who see reality clearly are more likely to perceive God’s hand at work in reality. 
  2. Redeeming Condos, Presbyterians Buy NYC Building for $30 Million (Kathryn Watson, Christianity Today): “In a study of 22 US cites—including Grand Rapids, Detroit, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Seattle—Hartson and Williams looked at mailing list data to identify addresses that were labeled as churches in 2003 but not in 2018. They identified approximately 200 church buildings that had been flipped for commercial or residential use. In the same cities, in the same 15 years, they found about 2,000 commercial spaces that had been turned into houses of worship. While there are many sacred spaces becoming secular, it seems more are converting the other way.” 👀 — I did not know this and am very encouraged by it. 
  3. On politics:
    • No Longer Human (George Yancey, Patheos): “In one way it really does not matter if Trump or Biden wins the presidency. Either way you will have a substantial percentage of individuals who will feel displaced. They will be tempted to create an us versus them mentality in which they can envision the election victors as enemies of the state who must be defeated at all costs. ” The author is a sociologist at Baylor. 
    • Related — two articles highlighting how the right is afraid of the left in America:
      1. Ideology Binds And Blinds (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “As I see it, the ‘major threat of the far left’ to us on the right — the major threat, not the only threat — is that in power, they will go pedal to the medal on a soft totalitarian ‘social justice’ regime that would punish dissenters by costing them their livelihoods, and ruining their churches and other institutions.”
      2. On Not Accepting Stolen Elections (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “Don’t take your eye off the ball. Who is going to be rioting in late November after the election? Well, who’s rioting now? This is not a trick question.”
    • And it’s not just one-sided. Here are two articles highlighting how the left is afraid of the right in America:
      1. The Left Secretly Preps for MAGA Violence After Election Day (Sam Stein, The Daily Beast): “‘I don’t know what the strategy is when armed right-wing militia dudes show up in polling places,’ the same source said. ‘This [Kyle] Rittenhouse guy is being lionized on the right, right now. If it is being unleashed that you can shoot people and be a hero, I don’t know what preparation we can possibly do for that.’”
      2. We Don’t Know How to Warn You Any Harder. America is Dying. (umair haque, Medium): “There is a crucial lesson there. America already has an ISIS, a Taliban, an SS waiting to be born.A group of young men willing to do violence at the drop of a hat, because they’ve been brainwashed into hating. The demagogue has blamed hated minorities and advocates of democracy and peace for those young men’s stunted life chances, and they believe him. That’s exactly what an ISIS is, what a Taliban is, what an SS is. The only thing left to do by an authoritarian is to formalize it.”
  4. Democratic Change Still Works (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “…look at the mountain of evidence that change through the civic process is not only possible, but a recurring reality, and that it began long before Floyd’s death.” I believe much of our current cultural conflict can be understood in terms of the Tocqueville Paradox, which I have also heard referred to as “The Paradox of Rising Expectations.”
  5. On racism:
    • Princeton’s President Is Wrong. The University Is Not Systemically Racist (Sergiu Klainerman, Newsweek): “Unable to identify specific cases of racism, these warriors for social injustice are advancing their agenda by claiming instead that all American institutions, including Princeton, are structurally and systemically racist (‘SSR’). That is to say, that they are racist even as they manifestly do everything imaginable to promote under-represented groups. Princeton, for example, has had for years an extraordinarily large number of administrators (by some counts, over 65) dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion.” The author is a professor of mathematics at Princeton.
    • Scholastics contra racism (Ed Feser, personal blog): “The falsity and evil of racism, and thus of those institutions, clearly follows from standard Scholastic [theological] thinking about human nature and natural law.”
    • Book Review: How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi(Bill Melone, Mere Orthodoxy): “But recent criticism of social justice advocacy and the Black Lives Matter movement has failed to criticize the best of antiracist thinking, and is much the lesser for it. This is particularly true when that criticism does not engage seriously with the work of Ibram X. Kendi.”
    • No, racism isn’t a ‘creation of white people’ (David Abulafia, The Spectator): “It is therefore a sad and horrible truth that every continent has experienced racist persecutions before as well as after the age of the European empires. Quite possibly the first Homo Sapiens played a big role in the disappearance of the Neanderthals.” The author is a history professor at Cambridge.
  6. Christian musician Sean Feucht held defiant Seattle worship protest after concert was banned (Julia Duin, Religion News Service): “Sean Feucht, 37, the rally organizer, laughed about the conflict with city officials while welcoming the crowd of 800 to 900 people. ‘Welcome to Seattle’s largest worship protest,’ he said at the beginning of a two-hour set. ‘Turn to each other and say, “Welcome to the protest.” In this city, that makes it a legal gathering.’”
  7. Christians, Gun Rights, and the American Social Compact (David French, The Dispatch): “The distinctive Christian presence has to include modeling the responsible, virtuous exercise of the rights its political movements seek to secure. It has to include using its voice and power to advocate for that responsibility and to oppose recklessness. Simply put, the republic was not designed to thrive if those who are religious are not also moral.” 

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 Philosopher Redefining Equality (Nathan Heller, New Yorker): “When she was three, her mother asked, ‘Why do you allow your brother to talk for you?’—why didn’t she speak for herself? ‘Until now, it simply was not necessary,’ Elizabeth said. It was the first full sentence that she had ever uttered.” I think that’s the best first sentence I’ve ever heard of. The article is a tad long, but recommended. First shared in volume 189.

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 266

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. Do You ‘Believe in Science’…or Not? (Jacob Hess, Public Square): “…what if we’re witnessing the true nature of science in its full glory? Not as an oracle that speaks in some monolithic voice. But as an argument—between otherwise thoughtful and good-hearted people all seeking truth, but reading the data differently, defining terms differently, emphasizing different indicators in determining what is true and trustworthy, etc. If so, rather than waiting for Science to declare the truth of a matter—maybe we need to start doing something else: Thinking for ourselves.” This was a much better article than I expected.
  2. Academics Are Really, Really Worried About Their Freedom (John McWhorter, The Atlantic): “One professor notes, ‘Even with tenure and authority, I worry that students could file spurious Title IX complaints … or that students could boycott me or remove me as Chair.’ I have no reason to suppose that he is being dramatic, because exactly this, he says, happened to his predecessor.” The author is a linguistics professor at Columbia.
    • Related: The Denial of Cancel Culture (Eric Kaufmann, Quillette): “Academics don’t discriminate more than other educated professionals, and the Right discriminates as much as the Left, but the fact the Left outnumbers the Right 6:1 (9:1 among current [social sciences and humanities] staff) means that conservatives and Leavers experience a far higher discriminatory effect than the left-liberal majority. On a four-person hiring panel, a Leaver faces an 80 percent chance of discrimination.” The author is a professor of politics at Birkbeck College in the UK.
  3. Articles Related To Race, Racism and Related Topics
    • American Christianity’s White-Supremacy Problem (David Luo, New Yorker): “…Christian nationalism is not the same as personal religiosity. In fact, religious commitment—as measured by church attendance, prayer, and Scripture reading—tends to improve attitudes on race, serving as a progressive influence. This suggests the root of the white church’s problem may not be ‘Christianity proper,’ as Douglass put it, so much as the culture around white Christianity, which narrows and diminishes the American project.” This article covers a lot of ground and not all of it with equal insight (or perhaps fairness is the word I’m looking for), but as a whole well-done.
    • Black Christians Play a Crucial Role in Athlete Activism (Paul Putz , Christianity Today): “While some black Christian athletes have abstained from the recent wave of activism in stadiums and arenas—Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, for example, cited his understanding of the gospel when declining to fully participate in a pre-game racial justice ceremony—far more have played a leading role.”
    • I was the woman surrounded by BLM protesters at a D.C. restaurant. Here’s why I didn’t raise my fist. (Lauren Victor, Washington Post): “Last week, I went out to dinner in D.C. with a friend. As we sat outside at a neighborhood restaurant, a group of protesters surrounded our table and demanded that I raise my fist in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. I had marched repeatedly in the past several months in support of their cause, but I refused their demands. That interaction wound up in a viral video that within 48 hours had been viewed more than 12 million times.” This is fascinating.
    • ‘You’re Not Allowed To Film’: The Fight for Control Over Who Reports From Portland (Nancy Rommelmann, Reason): “I cannot say who came up with these anti-camera battle cries. But it’s easy to understand why protesters use them: to shape the narrative the country sees about the protests. And that narrative, in my estimation after many weeks covering street clashes in a city where I lived for 15 years, is 90 percent [mendacious nonsense].”
    • Don’t take your guns to town, son (Tim Carney, Washington Examiner): “In life, there are horrible situations in which there are no good decisions or where it is extremely easy to make the wrong decision. So when we can avoid these horrible situations, we ought to.”
      • This is an insight with wide-ranging application. It’s why you shouldn’t bring guns to a protest and also why there are some parties on campus you shouldn’t go to.
    • Police reforms inspired by George Floyd face defeat in CA (Editorial Board, Sacramento Bee): “The legislators who authored these crucial reforms deserve support and recognition for walking the walk. But Californians must also remember the names of any legislators who took a knee to honor Black Lives Matter in front of the cameras and then, behind the scenes, bowed down to police groups to kill much-needed reforms.”
  4. The Social Fabric of the US Is Fraying Severely, if Not Unravelling (Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept): “Why is virtually every metric of mental and spiritual disease — suicide, depression, anxiety disorders, addiction, and alcoholism — increasing significantly, rapidly, in the richest country on earth, one filled with advanced technologies and at least the pretense of liberal democracy?”
  5. Boycotts Can’t Be a Test of Moral Purity (Zephyr Teachout, The Atlantic): “We don’t ask people to boycott libraries in order to change library rules; we don’t ask people to boycott highways to ask for them to be safer; we don’t demand that you buy only bottled water while protesting water-utility governance.” The delightfully-named author is a law prof at Fordham. Recommended by a student.
  6. On presidential politics:
    • What You Should Know About the 2020 Democratic Party Platform (Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition): “Why should Christians care about a document that few non-politicians will ever read? Because of the influence the two major party platforms have on public policy. While the platform is not binding on the presidential nominee or any other politicians, political scientists have found that over the past 30 years lawmakers in Congress tend to vote in line with their party’s platform: 89 percent of the time for Republicans, and 79 percent of the time for Democrats.“
    • What You Should Know About the 2020 Republican Party Platform (Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition): “This article will provide, without commentary, an outline of the Republican platform as it relates to several social issues. Every statement is either a direct quote or a summary of the platform’s position.”

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. America in one tweet:“We are living in an era of woke capitalism in which companies pretend to care about social justice to sell products to people who pretend to hate capitalism.” (Clay Routledge, Twitter) First shared in volume 186.

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 265

lots about race and racial tension

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. Here are the things about race and racial tension that stood out to me.
    • Why Did the Police Shoot Jacob Blake? (Trevor Noah, The Daily Show): “I could tell you this story with my eyes closed by now. If I wanted to I could prerecord five of these segments and go on vacation and you would never know.” Ten worthwhile minutes.
    • The Kenosha shooting didn’t happen in a vacuum (Denise Lockwood, CNN): “I am reminded of what Rodney Prunty, the former executive director of the United Way of Racine County, said to me during an interview: ‘If you have a pond full of fish and a few of them die, you ask what’s wrong with the fish. But when the pond full of fish dies, we ask what’s wrong with the pond.’ In Wisconsin, it’s time we talked about what’s wrong with the pond.”
    • Riots in John Piper’s Neighborhood (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Gospel Coalition): “Piper’s people moved in without a master plan, which was both confusing (‘What should we do?’) and exactly what When Helping Hurts authors would later advise (start with building relationships, watching, and learning). Everyone ended up doing something different. But for decades, they’ve kept at it, working through disappointments and challenges, looting and riots, broken glass and homeless tent cities in the parks. They’re still doing it.” This is an outstanding story.
    • Feel Good or Do Good (George Yancey, Patheos): “To gain the support of real conviction we need the type of conversations where we listen to others as much as discuss our point of view with them. We connect with others and get at the core of why they disagree with us. We understand their arguments and consider how to deal with the issues they bring up. We admit the validity of those issues even if we disagree with them. Does this sound like anything that is happening with antiracism?” The author, who is black, is a sociologist at Baylor whom I have referenced several times
    • Rule of Law Imperiled (R. R. Reno, First Things): “The destruction of property is not just an attack on another’s possessions. It is a violation of justice. This is why rioting and looting affects far more than those whose stores are burned. Citizens begin to worry that they do not live in a society committed to justice. As we know from blacks who resent mistreatment by the police, which is also unjust, this worry can become explosive, even among those not personally affected.”
    • Kyle Rittenhouse, Populist Hero (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “If I were a polling firm, I would run a national poll asking people who have heard of Kyle Rittenhouse whether they think he’s a villain, a hero, or don’t know. That would tell us a lot about the mood of the country.”
  2. Unbecoming American (Johann N. Neem, Hedgehog Review): “A shared culture is not a totalizing one; indeed, it makes real pluralism possible by giving us something larger to share regardless of our many differences. Or so I believed. But when that shared world was redefined as white—and when white people, threatened by its loss, reclaimed it—I found myself an exile. A person losing his country. I felt myself unbecoming in more than one sense. On college campuses, including the one where I now teach, the left imposes new boundaries on thought and speech in its effort to challenge historical boundaries, while, in politics, the right embraces boundaries that we had hoped never to see again.” The author, a man of Indian descent, is a historian at Western Washington University. I really liked this article.
    • Follow-up interview: An Immigrant’s Plea: “Don’t Convert to Whiteness” (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “My biggest fear, actually, is violence. We forget that social order is fragile. You don’t have to look far to see how prevalent ethnic or religious violence is around the world. If we form tribes, we will respond in hateful ways to each other. Rightly or wrongly, people will feel beleaguered. We will get angrier and angrier. There will be less empathy.” I share his concern. 
  3. Advice For Students In a Time of Strife (a whole passel of Princeton professors, First Things): “Remember, as an American college or university student you are one of the luckiest—most privileged—people on planet earth. Do not fall into the trap of thinking of yourself as a victim or building an identity for yourself around that idea. You can avoid the trap while strongly standing up for your right to fair and equal treatment and boldly working for reform where there are double standards needing to be rectified.” Technically not a whole passel, which connotes a large but uncertain number. I count 16 signatories!
  4. China Secretly Built A Vast New Infrastructure To Imprison Muslims (Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing, and Christo Buschek, Buzzfeed): “Downloading WhatsApp, which is banned in China, maintaining ties with family abroad, engaging in prayer, and visiting a foreign website are all offenses for which Muslims have been sent to camps, according to previously leaked documents and interviews with former detainees. Because the government does not consider internment camps to be part of the criminal justice system and none of these behaviors are crimes under Chinese law, no detainees have been formally arrested or charged with a crime, let alone seen a day in court.” I’ve shared similar news this before. This article is fresh and especially damning.
    • Part 2: What They Saw: Ex-Prisoners Detail The Horrors Of China’s Detention Camps (Buzzfeed): “More than a dozen former detainees confirmed to BuzzFeed News that prisoners were divided into three categories, differentiated by uniform colors. Those in blue, like Parida and the majority of the people interviewed for this article, were considered the least threatening. Often, they were accused of minor transgressions, like downloading banned apps to their phones or having traveled abroad. Imams, religious people, and others considered subversive to the state were placed in the strictest group — and were usually shackled even inside the camp.”
    • Part 3: Blanked-Out Spots On China’s Maps Helped Us Uncover Xinjiang’s Camps (Buzzfeed): “Our breakthrough came when we noticed that there was some sort of issue with satellite imagery tiles loading in the vicinity of one of the known camps while using the Chinese mapping platform Baidu Maps. The satellite imagery was old, but otherwise fine when zoomed out — but at a certain point, plain light gray tiles would appear over the camp location…. We analyzed the masked locations by comparing them to up-to-date imagery from Google Earth, the European Space Agency’s Sentinel Hub, and Planet Labs.” This one will be particularly interesting to CS people. 
  5. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks about trusting the news (Twitter): “…when you see a FACT that is reported, cited, and verified by several reputable outlets, 99.999% it’s going to be true. HOWEVER! There is a big difference between a fact and the STORY. And the STORY (often the headline) that’s surrounding the fact is frequently stretched, mischaracterized, or dramatized to get you to click.” She and I have a remarkably similar perspective on the media.
    • Related: Given my time again, I wouldn’t choose journalism (Sarah Ditum, Unherd): “Being mad was important because the economics of this kind of content required fast output (since timeliness is critical) and high engagement (since this is how editors, and writers, measure success). I write quickly when I’m angry, and anger begets more anger, so people are more likely to share and react. Not everything I wrote when this was my main form of journalism was bad, but only some of it was good, and the worst of it had a dishonesty that made me feel ashamed…” 
  6. Do Pro-Lifers Who Reject Trump Have ‘Blood on their Hands’? (David French, The DIspatch): “Decades of data and decades of legal, political, and cultural developments have combined to teach us a few, simple realities about abortion in the United States: 1. Presidents have been irrelevant to the abortion rate; 2. Judges have been forces of stability, not change, in abortion law; 3. State legislatures have had more influence on abortion than Congress; 4. Even if Roe is overturned, abortion will be mostly unchanged in the U.S.; and 5. The pro-life movement has an enormous cultural advantage.“ Chock-full of insights. Despite the title, it is less about partisan politics and more about abortion in America.

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 Facts Are Not Self‐Interpreting (Twitter) — this is a short, soundless video. Recommended. First shared in volume 184.

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 264

substantive pieces this week, plus religious arguments for and against both Biden and Trump

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.

As always, just skim and open the links that seem interesting to you in new tabs.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Challenge of Marxism (Yoram Hazony, Quillette): “Not very long ago, most of us living in free societies knew that Marxism was not compatible with democracy…. Indeed, the entire purpose of democratic government, with its plurality of legitimate parties, is to avoid the violent reconstitution of society that Marxist political theory regards as the only reasonable aim of politics.”
  2. The particle collection that fancied itself a physicist (Ed Feser, personal blog): “Democritus’s point is that if the atomist says both that atoms are all that exist and that color, sweetness, etc. and the other qualities of conscious experience are not to be found in the atoms, then we have a paradox.” Feser, as I’ve mentioned before, is one of my favorite philosophers.
  3. Anti-racist Arguments Are Tearing People Apart (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “I made a series of rapid assumptions about what I was watching. I surmised that Broshi was a college-educated, upper-middle-class progressive who sits on some sort of education council in the public-school system and owns copies of White Fragility and How to Be an Antiracist. I surmised that she was calling someone out. And I surmised that her white, male target was offscreen rolling his eyes. All of which turned out to be correct.” This is amazing.
    • Related: Why we cannot ignore Institutional Racism (George Yancey, Patheos): “Pretend that we are going to have a mile race a year from now. I tell a third of the class about the race and hire a trainer for them. For another third of the class I tell them about the race six months later but do not hire them a trainer. But I do advise them that they may want to work on their own to get ready for the race. The last third of the class I call them the morning of the race and tell them that it is time to run. Assuming that the class is randomly divided into thirds, we know what will happen in the race do we not?”
    • Related: Black and White evangelicals once talked about ‘racial reconciliation.’ Then Trump came along. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “…despite shared Christian beliefs and commitment to religious observance, White evangelicals are among the most strongly Republican constituencies, while Black Protestants tend to vote Democratic. And that divide appears to have grown harder to bridge since Trump took office.”
    • Colleges aren’t reporting anti-Semitism as a crime (Aiden Pink, Forward): “A Forward analysis comparing news reports of campus antisemitism between 2016 and 2018 to the filings for those years found that fewer than half of the incidents that could have been reported as hate crimes actually were. Out of a total of 158 incidents at 64 schools, 93 — including antisemitic vandalism at brand-name schools known for vibrant Jewish communities like Harvard, Princeton, MIT, UCLA and the University of Maryland — were left out of the federal filings.” Stanford comes off looking pretty good in this article. 
  4. The American Misunderstanding of Natural Rights (Cameron Hilditch, National Review): “Our inheritance of human rights was built to reflect the fact that we are all living images of a particular crucified criminal from Galilee, who proclaimed that we are each and all more than what Caesar would make of us. If we care to enjoy the rights bequeathed to us by this tradition throughout the coming years, decades, and centuries, then we can no longer avoid publicly discussing the inextricable nature of religious and political ideas.” 
    • Related: Is American Christian Jurisprudence a Thing? (Steven D. Smith, Law & Liberty): “Taken together, these assumptions generate an overall attitude toward the project of law that resists opposing extremes: on the one hand, an excessive or deconstructive cynicism—one that would reduce the law to simply a manifestation of power based on class, race, or gender—and on the other hand a dangerous utopianism that would use law to achieve perfect justice but end up destroying human freedom.” The author is a law professor at the University of San Diego. 
    • Related. Ish. The end of secularism is nigh (Tom Holland, UnHerd): “That there existed things called ‘religions’ — ‘Hinduism’, ‘Islam’, ‘Judaism’ ­— and that these functioned in a dimension distinct from entire spheres of human activity — spheres called ‘secular’ in English — was not a conviction native to anywhere except for Western Europe.”
  5. China’s Artificial Intelligence Surveillance State Goes Global (Ross Andersen, The Atlantic): “In the early aughts, the Chinese telecom titan ZTE sold Ethiopia a wireless network with built-in backdoor access for the government. In a later crackdown, dissidents were rounded up for brutal interrogations, during which they were played audio from recent phone calls they’d made. Today, Kenya, Uganda, and Mauritius are outfitting major cities with Chinese-made surveillance networks.” I think horrifying might be the best word for this article. 
  6. On presidential politics and Christianity:
    • From the right: Letter to an Anti-Trump Christian Friend (Wayne Grudem, TownHall): “In every column that I’ve published in support of Trump, I have explicitly registered my disapproval of his character flaws and previous immoral behavior. I support him because of the policies he has enacted and will enact, and in spite of his character flaws (which I don’t think rise to a level that would disqualify him from being president; more on this below).” The author is a professor at Phoenix Seminary.
    •  From the left: The Joe Biden that I know is a man of faith (Chris Coons, Fox News): “For Democrats like Joe and me, taking care of the planet isn’t just about rising sea levels and extreme weather, it’s also about protecting and honoring God’s creation. For Democrats like Joe and me, fighting for civil rights and equality isn’t just about political correctness, it’s about loving our neighbor and recognizing that all of us are created equal in the eyes of God.” The author is a US Senator.
    • A criticism of the right: Why Evangelicals Support Trump—and Why They Shouldn’t (George Yancey, The Bulwark): “Many evangelical Christians see Trump as someone who will save them from Christianophobia. And while I understand and respect the nature of these Christians’ fears—in fact, I share them—I believe that Trump is not only not a solution to these issues but in the long run he will make things worse.” The author is a professor at Baylor.
    • A criticism of the left: Devout Catholics and Secular Progressives (Robert George, First Things): this one is difficult to excerpt. Very well done. The author is a professor at Princeton. 

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 Godspeed: The Pace Of Being Known (Vimeo): a student brought this 30 minute video to my attention and said it made her think about how she should be living in her dorm (sadly irrelevant for that purpose at the moment). First shared in volume 181.

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 263

this one is shorter 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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Pandemics Aren’t New—Just Look at Plagues in the Bible (Karen Engle, Logos): “With coronavirus on everyone’s mind, questions abound of whether the word ‘pandemic’ appears in the Bible, too. The short answer is no—’pandemic’ is not in the Bible. However, the words “plague” and ‘pestilence’ are (no less than 122 times) and often reference individuals or nations afflicted with a terrible illness.”
  2. ‘Christianity Will Have Power’ (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “‘Trump’s an outsider, like the rest of us,’ he said. ‘We might not respect Trump, but we still love the guy for who he is. Is he a man of integrity? Absolutely not,’ he went on. ‘Does he stand up for some of our moral Christian values? Yes.’ The guys agreed. ‘I’m not going to say he’s a Christian, but he just doesn’t attack us,’ his friend Jason Mulder said.” Needlessly snarky at times, but one of the rare musings on evangelical Trump support in a prominent media source that gets a lot of things right.
    • An interesting counter-perspective: Christians want power? Sioux Center pushes back on New York Times story (Lee Pitts, Religion Unplugged): “Our church small group [in Sioux Center] is more diverse than my small groups in Washington, D.C. We enjoy the company of three people from Mexico, a gentleman from Paraguay, a woman from Japan, an engineering professor from Ghana and a couple originally from that exotic place called South Carolina (that’s me). In fact, out of our 12-member small group, only two originally hail from Northwest Iowa. Meanwhile my D.C. small groups featured all upper middle-class White people mostly sporting advanced degrees and flashy jobs inside the Beltway. But the stereotype would reverse that. My Sioux Center small group should be all White and my D.C. one would surely be full of diversity, right? Wrong.” This article doesn’t really rebut many of the religious claims of the NY Times article, but it does undercut some of the cultural ones.
  3. Wokeness: old religion in a new bottle (Sean Collins, Spiked): “What we’re seeing now is an amplification of what I wrote about five years ago: an intense spiritual hunger that has no outlet. There’s no way to see people kneeling, or singing ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’, or swaying while they hold up candles, and avoid acknowledging that it’s driven by a spiritual desire. I perceived this when I wrote about Occupy Wall Street, and it’s become even more like this. It is an intense spiritual hunger that is manifesting itself more violently. Because to the post-Protestants, the world is an outrage and we are all sinners.”
  4. How Megachurches Spent Coronavirus Relief Funds (Luke Scorziell, Christianity Today): “According to Vaughn’s accounting, the church spent 93 percent of the money on payroll. The additional 7 percent went to rent and utilities. The PPP rules say loans will be converted to grants if 75 percent of the funds are used for payroll and the rest for specified needs, including rent and utilities. The money helped with more than just paying the bills, however. Because Palm Valley’s staff didn’t have to worry about their job security, they were able to focus fully on caring for the church in the pandemic, Vaughn said.”
  5. Abolish the Police? Those Who Survived the Chaos in Seattle Aren’t So Sure (Nellie Bowles, New York Times): “Faizel Khan was being told by the news media and his own mayor that the protests in his hometown were peaceful, with ‘a block party atmosphere.’ But that was not what he saw through the windows of his Seattle coffee shop.”
    • Related: replacing police with social workers (Jessica Crispin, personal blog): “If we do not have police, an armed squadron of men and women asked to intervene in situations we ourselves cannot manage, whether that be crime, acute mental illness, or violence, then who will we turn to in those situations? One such proposal is to replace police with social workers. But as my friend R. said to me as we discussed these ideas, ‘I don’t think these people have interacted with social workers.’ ” This is a perspective I had not heard before.
  6. Injustice, Outrage, and the Problem of Atheodicy (Public Square): “In a world without God, there is no ultimate purpose in the injustice. And there is no possibility of any ultimate providential redemption. It is just raw, rank, irrational injustice. And so what is the appropriate reaction? Outrage! (And perhaps also despair.)” The author is a law prof at the University of San Diego. Also, bear in mind that Public Square is the Mormon equivalent of First Things.
  7. Bill Gates on Covid: Most US Tests Are ‘Completely Garbage’ (Steven Levy, Wired): “The majority of all US tests are completely garbage, wasted. If you don’t care how late the date is and you reimburse at the same level, of course they’re going to take every customer. Because they are making ridiculous money, and it’s mostly rich people that are getting access to that. You have to have the reimbursement system pay a little bit extra for 24 hours, pay the normal fee for 48 hours, and pay nothing [if it isn’t done by then]. And they will fix it overnight.”

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 Elisha and the She‐bears (Peter J Williams, Twitter): an insightful Twitter thread about a disturbing OT story. The author is the Warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge. First shared in volume 179.

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 261

Links to some encouraging stories, some horrifying stories, and some confusing stories. Because it be like that sometimes.

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. How I Rediscovered Faith (Malcolm Gladwell, Relevant Magazine): “I have always believed in God. I have grasped the logic of Christian faith. What I have had a hard time seeing is God’s power. I put that sentence in the past tense because something happened to me…” Shared with me by a student.
  2. Sweden, Which Never Had Lockdown, Sees COVID-19 Cases Plummet as Rest of Europe Suffers Spike (Soo Kim, Newsweek): “Amid fears over a potential second wave of the novel coronavirus across Europe, new infections in Sweden, where full lockdown measures were not implemented, have mostly declined since late June…. Meanwhile, other parts of Europe have reported large spikes in new cases over the same period, including Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands, which have seen increases between 40 and 200 percent over the last month, according to the latest WHO report Wednesday.” Huh. Reality is complicated and that’s why they make getting a PhD so arduous. 
  3. John Roberts: Inside his surprising streak of liberal wins (Joan Biskupic, CNN): “…CNN offers a rare glimpse behind the scenes at how justices on the Roberts court asserted their interests, forged coalitions and navigated political pressure and the coronavirus pandemic. The justices’ opinions are public, but their deliberations are private and usually remain secret.”
  4. Harvard Creates Managers Instead of Elites (Saffron Huang, Palladium Magazine): “At Harvard, the implicit signal we receive every day is that everything requires a manager. Our extracurriculars, despite varying club names, mostly revolve around administrative work and sending emails. Emails soliciting donations, emails inviting speakers to a conference, emails publicizing your magazine launch with ‘FREE DONUTS’ dominating the subject line. Granted, execution of mundane tasks is necessary for real work to be done. The skills of subtly bumping an unresponsive teammate, deftly achieving a friendly-but-professional tone, and creating Excel files worthy of a UI/UX designer will serve you well in corporate life…. Very few clubs create a generative and imaginative vision for your future self at work, or for what you should be working on. Although this is the stated purpose of a Harvard liberal arts education, campus culture has elevated managerialism above creation…. The result is a class that excels at being judged and excels at managing and executing defined tasks.” Quite interesting and very relevant to Stanford.
  5. The Supreme Court’s surprising decision on churches and the pandemic, explained (Ian Millhiser, Vox): “Unlike his fellow Republican justices, in other words, Roberts appears to believe that courts have a particularly strong duty to defer to democratically accountable officials during an historic public health crisis.” I found this analysis of Robert’s vote quite interesting. 
    • Obeying God Rather than Men? A Constitutional Scholar on What’s Really a Religious Liberty Issue (Ed Stetzer interviewing John Inazu, Christianity Today): “Be people of hope who are known for putting the interests of others above your own. Lament the costs of this virus to human life, mental health, and material well-being. Lament our inability to gather for worship. Pray for the end of this virus. But in the meantime, love your neighbors and seek the peace of the city, even if it feels costly.”
    • We Can’t Roll the Dice on Religious Liberty: Nevada, the Supreme Court, and Churches (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “Nevada won the injunction battle, but churches need to help the state back up and make the right choice. This is the line that every mainstream evangelical group said they would draw, and it has now been crossed.”
    • Christ, not Caesar, Is Head of the Church (John MacArthur, Grace To You): “History is full of painful reminders that government power is easily and frequently abused for evil purposes. Politicians may manipulate statistics and the media can cover up or camouflage inconvenient truths. So a discerning church cannot passively or automatically comply if the government orders a shutdown of congregational meetings—even if the reason given is a concern for public health and safety.”
    • A Time for Civil Disobedience? A Response to Grace Community Church’s Elders (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “We understand that we are not ancient Israel. And though in one sense all space is sacred for a Christian because all space is under Christ’s lordship, in another sense no space is sacred, at least in a Temple-like way; and the government’s authority also extends everywhere inside its borders.”
    • Further Reflections on Recent Conversations about Christian Freedom (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “…my article and our podcast tried to do one simple thing: remind fellow believers—as we all venture forward on our politically tumultuous landscape—of the crucial role of Christian freedom when we take these kinds of stances. On this and so many other issues, believers will come to different conclusions about the best path to take. And for the sake of maintaining unity, the unique authority of Scripture, and the gospel, we need to keep training our instincts to have a quick grasp for what belongs in the realm of freedom and what does not.”
    • Our Galvanizing Grandfather (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “Suffice it to say that the civil government does have legitimate authority around sacred things (circa sacra), but no authority whatever in sacred things (in sacris). And when the government abuses this basic distinction willy nilly, as our governments have been doing in their overt and discriminatory treatment of the church, it is time for the leadership of the church to take a stand. So with all of that running in the background, my purpose here this morning is simply to honor John MacArthur for his leadership in this.”
  6. Interview: Journalist Michael Tracey on Riots & Protests (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “…the divergence in opinion — between local black and minority populations about the ethical implications of the riots, and the activists/journalists who claim to speak on their behalf — is striking.”
  7. Are Christians Forbidden to Eat Blood? (David Closson, Gospel Coalition): “We can learn at least two things from the Jerusalem Council. First, on matters pertaining to the gospel, there is no room for compromise. The apostles and elders were firm and swift in their denunciation of those who sought to add works to the gospel. Salvation is by faith alone through grace alone; human effort is excluded. Second, grace should be extended for differences that aren’t central to the gospel.” People dunked on this article, but it’s good and deals with an important question that will occur to any Bible reader. 

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 Eat, Pray, Code: Rule of St. Benedict Becomes Tech Developer’s Community Guidelines (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “SQLite—a database management engine used in most major browsers, smart phones, Adobe products, and Skype—adopted a code of ethics pulled directly from the biblical precepts set by the venerated sixth‐century monk.” This article blew my mind. First shared in volume 175.

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 260

From naked protestors in Portland to slavery in China to theological reflections on conspiracy theories.

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. China’s Xinjiang Province a Moral Quandary for the West (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “The attempt to place modern slaves in the supply chain of Western luxury goods is an attempt to implicate and morally geld Western nations who would criticize or punish the Chinese Communist Party for its crimes.”
  2. USS University (Scott Galloway, personal blog): “There is a dangerous conflation of the discussion about K‑12 and university reopenings. The two are starkly different. There are strong reasons to reopen K‑12, and there are stronger reasons to keep universities shuttered.“ The author is a business prof at NYU. Recommended by an alumnus.
    • Related: Colleges Are Getting Ready to Blame Their Students (Julia Marcus and Jessica Gold, The Atlantic): “Students will get infected, and universities will rebuke them for it; campuses will close, and students will be blamed for it. Relying on the self-control of young adults, rather than deploying the public-health infrastructure needed to control a disease that spreads easily among people who live, eat, study, and socialize together, is not a safe reopening strategy—and yelling at students for their dangerous behavior won’t help either.” The authors are professors at Harvard and Washington University, respectively. 
    • Vaguely related: Your State’s COVID Numbers In Context (PoliMath, Substack): “Headlines are allergic to context and the high-population states get all the attention because they show big numbers (because they are big states). When a smaller state gets any reporting, it is entirely outside any context. In Washington, it was reported that we had 754 new cases and 7 new deaths. Is that a lot? How does that compare to other states?” Very detailed and insightful. 
  3. Coronavirus, Conspiracy Theories, and the Ninth Commandment (David French, The Dispatch): “Christian teaching about our lives in our workplaces is not primarily about how to obtain a promotion, how to invest our money, or how to start a business. In other words, it’s not about the objectives of economic engagement, though those objectives are important. Instead, the focus is on ministering to colleagues, cultivating faith in adversity, and generally learning how to be salt and light even in sometimes hostile or intimidating environments. [But we don’t do this with politics.]” Recommended by an alumnus, this one was really good.
  4. 8 facts about religion and government in the United States (Dalia Fahmy, Pew Research Center): “While the U.S. Constitution does not mention God, every state constitution references either God or the divine. God also appears in the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance and on U.S. currency.” Recommended by a student.
  5. Where is the national news coverage of current surge of vandalism at Catholic churches? (Clemente Lisi, GetReligion): “Who’s responsible for this anti-Catholic violence? Is it Muslim terrorists? Neo-Nazis? Left-wing radicals? Are these isolated incidents or part of a coordinated attack? We don’t know because the elite newsrooms with the talent and resources to handle this kind of investigation are missing in action, in this case.… One has to wonder how these incidents would have been covered had they been mosques? What about public schools? Or say Planned Parenthood facilities?”
    • Related: Roman Catholics: The Original Abolitionists (Paul Kengor, Crisis Magazine): “Last weekend, one of Serra’s mission churches in California went up in flames, with the cause of the fire not yet known. In the last few days, a statue of Mary was set on fire in Boston and another was vandalized in Brooklyn (among others). As to what Mary has to do with the modern anti-statue-racism movement is anyone’s guess. Nonetheless, if the issue is (rightly so) a just condemnation of slavery and racism, and if one is genuinely seeking accurate history, then today’s activists ought to look back in admiration at the impressive track record of the Roman Catholic Church.” The author is a professor of political science at Grove City College. The history of the Catholic Church on the issue of slavery is better than the Protestant church.
  6. What You Need To Know About The Battle of Portland (Robert Evans, Bellingcat): “I reported on the fighting in Mosul back in 2017, and what happened that night in the streets of Portland was, of course, not nearly as brutal or dangerous as actual combat. Yet it was about as close as you can get without using live ammunition.“ A significant qualifier at the end of that sentence, interesting nonetheless.
    • Portland’s protests were supposed to be about black lives. Now, they’re white spectacle. (E.D. Mondainé, Washington Post): “We welcome our white brothers and sisters in this struggle. In fact, we need them. But I must ask them to remain humbly attuned to the opportunity of this moment — and to reflect on whether any actions they take will truly help establish justice, or whether they are simply for show.” The author is president of the Portland branch of the NAACP.
    • Out of Portland tear gas, an apparition emerges, capturing the imagination of protesters (Los Angeles Times): “She emerged as an apparition from clouds of tear gas as federal agents fired pepper balls at angry protesters in the early Saturday darkness. A woman wearing nothing but a black face mask and a stocking cap strode toward a dozen heavily armed agents attired in camouflage fatigues, lined up across a downtown Portland street.” Portland gonna port.
    • Tangentially Related: American Crime and the Baltimore Model (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “Idealists may hope these changes will eliminate police brutality as communities find better ways to prevent crime than deterrence and force. But on the hunch that human nature hasn’t changed, that isn’t going to happen. Criminals, fearing less, will continue to prey on others. Police, fearing more, will hold back from doing their jobs. Those with means to leave their neighborhoods, will. Those without the means will suffer.”
  7. A new intelligentsia is pushing back against wokeness (Batya Ungar-Sargon, Forward): “The anti-woke Black intelligentsia is leading a counter-culture to a woke hegemony and the online culture that popularized it. But their views hew more closely to those of most Black Americans than the new antiracism. Polling has long indicated that white liberals express radically more liberal views on racial and social issues than their Black and Latino neighbors.” Very interesting interviews.
    • Related: The Left is Now the Right (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “Things we once despised about the right have been amplified a thousand-fold on the flip. Conservatives once tried to legislate what went on in your bedroom; now it’s the left that obsesses over sexual codicils, not just for the bedroom but everywhere. Right-wingers from time to time made headlines campaigning against everything from The Last Temptation of Christ to ‘Fuck the Police,’ though we laughed at the idea that Ice Cube made cops literally unsafe… today Matt Yglesias signing a group letter with Noam Chomsky is considered threatening.”
    • Related: When Wokes and Racists Actually Agree on Everything (Ryan Long Comedy, YouTube) : two minutes of brilliance

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

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 259

This week contains some of the most fascinating articles I ever have passed along. Definitely worth skimming!

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. Fertility rate: ‘Jaw-dropping’ global crash in children being born (James Gallagher, BBC): “China, currently the most populous nation in the world, is expected to peak at 1.4 billion in four years’ time before nearly halving to 732 million by 2100. India will take its place.” From a long-term perspective, this is possibly the most significant news you will read this year. Some of you will still be alive when China’s population is half what it is now. And it’s not just China — many nations are on the same path (with only a few sizable ones headed in the opposite direction).
  2. The Coronavirus and the Right’s Scientific Counterrevolution (Ari Schulman, The New Republic): “That so many views tut-tutted as the irrational defiance of expert consensus actually became the expert consensus in the span of just a few weeks vividly suggests that we need to reexamine just how our culture talks about expertise. The problem is not mainly that the experts were wrong—that is to be expected. It is, rather, that our lead institutions and public information outlets continually treated the assurances of experts as neutral interpretations of settled science when they plainly were not.” Interesting throughout. This will likely enter my rotation of classics that I repost from time to time. 
    • Related: An Open Letter To My Fellow Christians (David Carreon, personal blog): “Large gatherings are dangerous with a spreading virus regardless of the reason for the assembly. Some resist the straightforward response to this out of idolatry of church attendance and the church building. Any good thing can become an idol. Gold is good but can be shaped into a golden calf (Exo 32:4). Sex is good but can we can also pervert it through fornication (1 Cor 6:9). A church building or even physical attendance at church can be mistaken for the Church itself. This, too, is idolatry.” David is a Stanford psychiatrist (and a friend of mine)
    • Related: Andy Stanley Explains Why His Megachurch Won’t Gather on Sundays Until 2021 (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “Here is where I think the church needs to think about this: As a local church, we have limited time, limited staff, and limited resources; it makes no sense to focus our staff time and resources on creating a subpar environment on Sunday morning for a nine and 11 o’clock service that only 20% of the people may attend. We decided to focus on the 100% of all of our church folks and their friends and the rest of the world that may show up later.“
  3. David Shor’s Unified Theory of the 2020 Election (Eric Levitz, New York Magazine): “Campaigns do want to win. But the people who work in campaigns tend to be highly ideologically motivated and thus, super-prone to convincing themselves to do things that are strategically dumb.” Super interesting — well worth reading.
  4. Disturbing video shows hundreds of blindfolded prisoners in Xinjiang (Matt Rivers, Max Foster and James Griffiths, CNN): “The video — which was posted online anonymously last week — shows hundreds of men, most of whom are dressed in purple and orange vests with the words ‘Kashgar Detention Center’ printed on them, seated in rows on the ground of what appears to be a large courtyard outside a train station. Their heads are shaved and their hands bound behind their backs. All of the men are wearing black blindfolds over their eyes and they are being watched over by dozens of police officers in SWAT uniforms.”’
    • Related: China cuts Uighur births with IUDs, abortion, sterilization (Associated Press): “While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor. The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of ‘demographic genocide.’”
  5. Sit With Negative Emotions, Don’t Push Them Away (Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic): “In sum, if we want a life full of deep meaning, true love, and emotional strength, it’s going to involve the risk (and often the reality) of discomfort, conflict, and loss. This means there will be sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. If we eliminate negative emotions and experiences from our lives, we will be poorer and weaker for having done so.” The author is a professor at Harvard, recommended by a friend.
  6. 10 Theses About Cancel Culture (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “The point of cancellation is ultimately to establish norms for the majority, not to bring the stars back down to earth…. The goal isn’t to punish everyone, or even very many someones; it’s to shame or scare just enough people to make the rest conform.”
    • The Willful Blindness of Reactionary Liberalism (Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic): “The tensions we’ve seen lately have been internal to liberalism for ages: between those who take the associative nature of liberal society seriously and those who are determined not to. It is the former group, the defenders of progressive identity politics, who in fact are protecting—indeed expanding—the bounds of liberalism. And it is the latter group, the reactionaries, who are most guilty of the illiberalism they claim has overtaken the American Left.” Written before the letter I shared last week, this is one of the best defenses of cancel culture.
    • The World That Twitter Made (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “I suspect an entire class of pundits has internalized the idea that [Twitter debate] is what public discussion is. Of course they don’t believe in free expression, civil debate, the spirit of liberalism, and all of that jazz. To this generation those things are just words. The public sphere they have known has always been a bare-knuckle brawl.”
    • Resignation Letter (Bari Weiss, personal website): “What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome.” Recommended by a student.
    • See You Next Friday (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “What has happened, I think, is relatively simple: A critical mass of the staff and management at New York Magazine and Vox Media no longer want to associate with me, and, in a time of ever tightening budgets, I’m a luxury item they don’t want to afford. And that’s entirely their prerogative.”
    • Illusion and Agreement in the Debate over Intolerance (Justin Weinberg, Daily Nous): “In short, I don’t think society has gotten more intolerant, but technology has facilitated, among other things, the expression of intolerance.”
    • A More Specific Letter on Justice and Open Debate (many authors, The Objective): “In truth, Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ people — particularly Black and trans people — can now critique elites publicly and hold them accountable socially; this seems to be the letter’s greatest concern. What’s perhaps even more grating to many of the signatories is that a critique of their long held views is persuasive.”
    • Liked tweets nearly cost me my university job (Mike McCulloch, Unherd): “To think that I could have lost my career to a single complaint about my liked tweets shows just how hysterical the present social mood is. Now more than ever, it is vital that we — and in particular the universities — stand up for enlightenment principles and replace fear with reason and fact.” The author is a math lecturer (similar to an assistant professor in the US) at the University of Plymouth. 
    • A Declaration of Independence by a Princeton Professor (Joshua T. Katz, Quillette): “I am friends with many people who signed the Princeton letter, which requests and in some places demands a dizzying array of changes, and I support their right to speak as they see fit. But I am embarrassed for them.” 
    • Attempted Putsch At Princeton (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I am a Princeton professor who signed the letter that you wrote about today. I am also a devout Christian and a daily reader of your blog.” Contains a letter from a Princeton prof with a different view than the one above, worth contrasting.
  7. My Time in Prison (George Cardinal Pell, First Things): “There is a lot of goodness in prisons. At times, I am sure, prisons may be hell on earth. I was fortunate to be kept safe and treated well. I was impressed by the professionalism of the warders, the faith of the prisoners, and the existence of a moral sense even in the darkest places.”

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 the State Serves Both Salvation and Religious Freedom (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “Two basic kinds of governments, then, show up in the Bible: those that shelter God’s people, and those that destroy them. Abimelech sheltered; Pharoah destroyed. The Assyrians destroyed; the Babylonians and Persians, ultimately, sheltered. Pilate destroyed; Festus sheltered. And depending on how you read Revelation, the history of government will culminate in a beastly slaughter of saintly blood. Romans 13 calls governments servants; Psalm 2 calls them imposters. Most governments contain both. But some are better than others.” First shared in volume 165

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.

Christianity For Modern Pagans: Vanity and the Vanity of Human Justice

Pascal diagnosed our modern dysfunctions 350 years ago.

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through an annotated translation of Pascal’s Pensees called Christianity For Modern Pagans, I’ll post the thoughts I’m emailing the students here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2020. The reading schedule is online.

One reason I appreciate reading writers from the distant past is that when they make an observation relevant to modern times it is usually more powerful than if it was uttered by one of our contemporaries.

It reminds me of an excerpt from C. S. Lewis’ introduction to a translation of Athanasius’ On The Incarnation of the Word of God:

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

C. S. Lewis

With that in mind, two of Pascal’s observations struck me as especially prescient:

The mind naturally believes and the will naturally loves, so that when there are no true objects for them they necessarily become attached to false ones.  

Pascal, Pensée 661 (page 77)

Hundreds of years ago, Pascal accurately diagnosed the modern American. Our deceptively secular age is full of religion, and for many people politics is their preferred form of worship. Look back over my Friday “Issachar” emails and you will see many examples of the religious dynamics in our cultural debates; in fact, the very first article I ever shared was Joseph Bottum’s The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas and this week I’m likely to share David French’s America Is in the Grips of a Fundamentalist Revival.

As your pastor I urge you: don’t participate in the crazy of whatever group you tend to vote with. You already have a religion, so you are free to treat politics as significant but not ultimate. Back in the 90’s, political scientist J. Budziszewski wrote two articles back-to-back for First Things, The Problem With Liberalism and The Problem With Conservativism. Read them both, especially read the one that describes your team. You won’t resonate with every critique in either article, but you will find much to think about.

Moving on, I also appreciated one of Pascal’s comments which is relevant to social media:

We are not satisfied with the life we have in ourselves and our own being. We want to lead an imaginary life in the eyes of others, and so we try to make an impression. We strive constantly to embellish and preserve our imaginary being, and neglect the real one.

Pascal, Pensée 806 (page 79)

Reading this Pensée brought to mind Madison Fischer’s assertion that ditching social media was key to her winning a medal as a competitive climber.

“I cared so much about what everyone thought of me that it became outsourced confidence…. I couldn’t step out of the reputation I forged online so I lived in a world of entitlement. Pride in my accomplishments made me content, and contentedness is poison to a young athlete who has to stay hungry if she wants to stay competitive.”

Madison Fischer

She realized that she faced a choice: actually become a more competitive climber or spend her time trying to look like what people thought a competitive climber should be.

In a similar manner, we can actually strive to be like Jesus or we can instead try to become what other people think a follower of Jesus should be. In other words, we can either follow Jesus or we can follow other people. We can follow Christ or a crowd.

This is about more than social media, but it’s definitely about social media as well. You probably know that I am on Facebook and Twitter, so clearly I’m not about to tell you to delete your accounts. But I do urge you to be aware of the temptations they create. Meditate on Matthew 6:1, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

Other tidbits I appreciated:

The atheist argues: “If there were a God, how could there be injustice?” To which Pascal replies: “If there is injustice, there must be true justice for it to be relative to and a defect of; and this true justice is not found on Earth or in man, therefore it must exist in Heaven and God.” Either there or nowhere; and if nowhere, then “everything is permissible”. But not everything is permissible. Therefore there must be a God.

Kreeft commenting on Pensée 697, page 94

And I particularly like this one. It’s true of babies, and it’s true of adults. Different trifles, same psychology.

A trifle consoles us because a trifle upsets us.

Pascal, Pensée 43 (page 75)