Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 211

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. American journalists have duty to report on tragedies in countries like Sudan. (Isaha Sesay, USA Today): “If the suffering of these girls and their parents is not enough to make us pay attention to what has happened in Chibok, there is something else to consider: the threat to global security. The fate of these girls is in many ways a reflection of the Nigerian federal government’s longstanding inability to maintain peace and stability in the northeast of the country. Americans should see the disappearance of the Chibok girls as a flare, illuminating the existence of an ‘ungoverned space’ that is fertile ground for a powerful terrorist group.”
  2. Facebook and Google track what porn you’re watching, even when you’re in incognito (Isobel Asher Hamilton, Business Insider): “Researchers from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Pennsylvania analyzed 22,484 pornography sites using a site called webXray to identify tracking tools feeding data back to third parties. ‘Our results indicate tracking is endemic on pornography websites: 93% of pages leak user data to a third‐party,’ the study concludes.”
    • Numbers 32:23 comes to mind: “be sure that your sin will find you out.”
    • An unexpected consequence of porn: Streaming online pornography produces as much CO2 as Belgium (Michael Le Page, NewScientist): “The transmission and viewing of online videos generates 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, or nearly 1 per cent of global emissions. On‐demand video services such as Netflix account for a third of this, with online pornographic videos generating another third.”
  3. An Epidemic of Disbelief (Barbara Bradley Hagerty, The Atlantic): “Historically, investigators had assumed that someone who assaults a stranger by the railroad tracks is nothing like the man who assaults his co‐worker or his girlfriend. But it turns out that the space between acquaintance rape and stranger rape is not a wall, but a plaza. When Cleveland investigators uploaded the DNA from the acquaintance‐rape kits, they were surprised by how often the results also matched DNA from unsolved stranger rapes. The task force identified dozens of mystery rapists this way.” Infuriating and highly recommended. 
  4. Oil‐patch evangelicals: How Christianity and crude fueled the rise of the American right (Darren Dochuk, Washington Post): “In the face of the Rockefellers’ progressive way, Texan oilers championed a theology of personal encounter with scripture and an active Higher Being. They heralded church autonomy and gospel teachings about prosperity and end times, a message that anticipated the violent disruptions of the oil age and the need to save souls and reap God’s — and the earth’s — riches before the world’s end.” The author is a history professor at Notre Dame and describes an aspect of modern evangelical history I had not heard before.
    • An interview with the above author: Anointed with Oil: Evangelicals and the Petroleum Industry (Thomas Kidd, The Gospel Coalition): “Oil historians may be surprised to hear it, but in some instances oil’s corporate structures evolved directly out of the theological commitments of its leaders.” The first piece felt a little hostile to me, whereas this one did not at all. 
  5. Stanford opposes bill that would let college athletes in California profit from endorsements (Ian Park, Stanford Daily): “The NCAA earns more than $1 billion in annual revenue from broadcasting rights and championships. In return, student‐athletes receive little to no compensation, other than scholarships. According to a study by Drexel University and the National College Players Association, scholarships aren’t enough for many student‐athletes, as surveyed athletes had to pay colleges scholarship shortfalls of as much as $17,000.”
    • In other and completely unrelated local news: SF does not have the highest rents in the Bay Area (Adam Brinklow, Curbed): “Menlo Park, home of Facebook, has the highest rents in the region, averaging $4,638 per month. Palo Alto also beat out SF with a startling $3,857 per month price tag.” 
    • Elsewhere in the article we learn that Redwood City rents average $1,956. I love Menlo Park, but there’s no way it is twice as nice as Redwood City. Sheesh!
  6. Trump vs. Dems: ‘Racist,’ ‘socialist’ lines drawn for 2020 (Lisa Mascaro, AP News): “With tweets and a vote, President Donald Trump and House Democrats established the sharp and emotionally raw contours of the 2020 election campaigns. In the process, they have created a fraught political frame: ‘racists’ vs. ‘socialists.’”
    • What Pelosi Versus the Squad Really Means (David Brooks, New York Times): “Liberalism arose out of the fact that political revolutions, while exciting at the outset, usually end up in brutality, dictatorship and blood. Working within the system is best. People who came of age in the past few decades did not grow up in an atmosphere of assumed liberalism. They often grew up in an atmosphere that critiques it.”
    • ‘It Makes Us Want to Support Him More’ (Peter Nicholas, The Atlantic): “A few conceded that Trump occasionally fires off an inappropriate tweet, but said his accomplishments in office overshadow any offense. If anything, they said, his language springs from an authenticity they find refreshing. None of the people I spoke with considered his comments about the congresswomen racist.”
    • People Who Have Screamed ‘Racism’ For Decades Wonder Why No One Is Listening To Them About Trump (Babylon Bee): this would normally go down in the amusing section because the headline is from a satire site, but this is one of those times where the Bee’s insight is relevant: “‘I mean, we compared John McCain to George Wallace,’ stated Democrat Maggie Wilkins, ‘and I’m not sure who to compare Trump to in order to show he’s an even more worser racist.’ Activists are considering coming up with other words to express that Trump is a worse kind of racist. They considered ‘white supremacist,’ but they’ve been using that a lot lately, so it would only mean to most people that Trump is as bad as the Betsy Ross flag. So they tried to invent a new term — double plus racist — to express how extra racist Trump is, but then remembered they already used that on Mitt Romney.”
  7. 5 Reasons to Disentangle Sexuality and Race (Rebecca McLaughlin, The Gospel Coalition): “Christian sexual ethics were as shocking to their original first‐century Greco‐Roman context as they are today. If Christians are to learn from history, the lesson must be this: hold fast to Scripture’s radical demands, whether the cultural tide is coming in or out. You won’t know which side of history you’re on until the last day.” Disclaimer: I know the author and have collaborated with her on events at Stanford.

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 When Children Say They’re Trans (Jesse Singal, The Atlantic): “ …to deny the possibility of a connection between social influences and gender‐identity exploration among adolescents would require ignoring a lot of what we know about the developing teenage brain—which is more susceptible to peer influence, more impulsive, and less adept at weighing long‐term outcomes and consequences than fully developed adult brains—as well as individual stories like Delta’s.” This is a long and balanced piece which has garnered outrage in some online circles. First shared in volume 157.

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 210

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.

It’s good to be back after last week’s hiatus.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. AI Trained on Old Scientific Papers Makes Discoveries Humans Missed (Madeleine Gregory, Motherboard): “In a study published in Nature on July 3, researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used an algorithm called Word2Vec sift through scientific papers for connections humans had missed. Their algorithm then spit out predictions for possible thermoelectric materials, which convert heat to energy and are used in many heating and cooling applications.”
  2. Can Christian Compassion Influence How We Treat Migrants? (Alan Cross, The Bulwark): “Compassion is not inherited, either in individuals nor in nations. It must be cultivated and that cultivation often happens in trial when we are tested. America is being tested right now. How will we respond to the migrants coming to us desperate for help and refuge? How will we respond to the sight of Oscar and Valeria drowning and being found face down on the banks of Rio Grande in each other’s arms?”
    • Related: In the ‘battle at the border,’ evangelical leaders jostle for Trump‐era media relevancy (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “Unless you’ve been under a rock recently, you know much of the country is fixated on the mess at our border. What’s not as visible is how evangelical Christians are fighting among themselves over all of this.”
    • And yet: Republicans turn more negative toward refugees as number admitted to U.S. plummets (Hannah Hartig, Pew Research): “By more than two‐to‐one (68% to 25%), white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees. Other religious groups are more likely to say the U.S. does have this responsibility. And opinions among religiously unaffiliated adults are nearly the reverse of those of white evangelical Protestants: 65% say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, while just 31% say it does not.”
  3. Manly wedding rings for tough guys who are dudes (Dan Brooks, The Outline): “I don’t hunt, but I briefly considered buying a camouflage ring, partly to signal my deep commitment to irony and partly to get better service at the auto parts store.” I really enjoyed this essay, and I hope that many of you have need of wedding bands in the not‐too‐distant future.
  4. Evangelical Christians Face A Deepening Crisis (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “Coppock mentioned to me the powerful example of St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, who was willing to rebuke the Roman Emperor Theodosius for the latter’s role in massacring civilians as punishment for the murder of one of his generals. Ambrose refused to allow the Church to become a political prop, despite concerns that doing so might endanger him. Ambrose spoke truth to power. (Theodosius ended up seeking penance, and Ambrose went on to teach, convert, and baptize St. Augustine.) Proximity to power is fine for Christians, Coppock told me, but only so long as it does not corrupt their moral sense, only so long as they don’t allow their faith to become politically weaponized. Yet that is precisely what’s happening today.”
    • Recommended by an alumnus. I wish that the American church was more visibly dismayed at some of Trump’s obvious sins. I remind people of all political inclinations that you can support someone’s overall agenda and still rebuke them for acts of wickedness. In fact, being willing to do so makes your support more meaningful. So vote for whoever you want, and hold the leaders you support to a high standard.
  5. Taiwan’s Status is a Geopolitical Absurdity (Chris Horton, The Atlantic): “’Taiwan’s government is democratically elected—we have a president, we have a parliament,’ Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said plaintively at a briefing for foreign media earlier this year. At the time, his government was trying to be included in the World Health Assembly. (It was ultimately blocked by China.) ‘We issue visas, we issue passports,’ he said, practically pleading. ‘We have a military and a currency … Taiwan exists by itself; Taiwan is not a part of any other country.’”
  6. Robespierre’s America (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “The data confirm what one hears and experiences anecdotally all the time: In the proverbial land of the free, people live in mortal fear of a moral faux pas. Opinions that were considered reasonable and normal a few years ago are increasingly delivered in whispers. Professors fear their students. Publishers drop books at the slightest whiff of social‐media controversy.”
  7. Gay Rites Are Civil Rites (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “‘Civil religion’ is a surprising place for social justice to end up. Gay pride started at Stonewall as a giant ****-you to civil society. Homeless people, addicts, and sex workers told the police where they could shove their respectable values. But there was another major world religion that started with beggars, lepers, and prostitutes, wasn’t there? One that told the Pharisees where to shove their respectable values.”

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 a compelling series of articles on China by a history professor at Johns Hopkins (who also happens to be a Stanford grad): China’s Master Plan: A Global Military Threat, China’s Master Plan: Exporting an Ideology, China’s Master Plan: A Worldwide Web of Institutions and China’s Master Plan: How The West Can Fight Back (Hal Brand, Bloomberg). The money quote from the second article: “If the U.S. has long sought to make the world safe for democracy, China’s leaders crave a world that is safe for authoritarianism.” First shared in volume 156.

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 208

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. I Pray for Refugees Because I Was One. And God Was Faithful. (Sunday Htoo, Christianity Today): “When I was in the jungle and running for my life, I felt that I would be safe. I felt that someone I did not know was praying for me. Someone is running for their life right now in Burma, or another country torn by war. Please pray for him, for her, for the children, for the elderly, and for a woman who may be pregnant. Your prayer is full of meaning.” If you ignore every other article to which I link this week, read this.
    • Relevant: Migrant children describe neglect at Texas border facility (Cedar Attanasio, Garance Burke and Martha Mendoza, AP News): “‘In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,’ said Holly Cooper, who co‐directs University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth…. the Border Patrol is holding 15,000 people, and the agency considers 4,000 to be at capacity.”
    • Also: Is it Christian or illegal to aid migrants? A hung Tucson jury, a fork in the road of faith (Brian McLaren, USA Today): “religious liberty means the freedom to save refugees in the desert.” I met McLaren once and had a nice conversation with him. There is zero chance he remembers me. There are parts of this op‐ed with which I strenuously disagree, recommended nonetheless.
  2. The Illiberal Right Throws a Tantrum (Adam Serwer, The Atlantic): “The American creed has no more devoted adherents than those who have been historically denied its promises, and no more fair‐weather friends than those who have taken them for granted.”
    • In response: Is The Religious Right Privileged? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Politically, liberalism has imposed via the judiciary, the least democratic branch, a constitutional right to abortion, a form of lethal violence that the church opposes for the same reasons it opposes infanticide — and after 50 years of small‐d democratic activism by pro‐lifers, the pro‐choice side seems to be hardening into a view that such activism is as un‐American as racism. Legally, elite liberalism is increasingly embracing arguments that would make it difficult or impossible for the church to operate hospitals and adoption agencies today, and perhaps colleges and grammar schools tomorrow. And in its internal life, beneath the post‐Protestant tendency I’ve just described, progressive politics is also nurturing a fashionable occultism, whose rituals may be practiced somewhat ironically or performatively but whose anti‐Catholicism seems quite sincere.”
    • Related: Two Painful Truths of America’s Religious Culture War (David French, National Review): “Here are two painful truths: Secular government is breaking its promise of liberty, and the American church is breaking its promise of virtue.”
  3. What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane (William Langewiesche, The Atlantic): “The idea that a sophisticated machine, with its modern instruments and redundant communications, could simply vanish seems beyond the realm of possibility. It is hard to permanently delete an email, and living off the grid is nearly unachievable even when the attempt is deliberate. A Boeing 777 is meant to be electronically accessible at all times…. All sorts of theorists have made claims, amplified by social media, that ignore the satellite data, and in some cases also the radar tracks, the aircraft systems, the air‐traffic‐control record, the physics of flight, and the basic contours of planetary geography. ” Recommended by a student (and, it seems, half the internet — this is widely considered a must‐read article). The author is a professional pilot and a veteran journalist
  4. ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ has become the unofficial anthem of the anti‐extradition protest movement (Kenneth Tan, Shanghaiist): “Alarmed by reports of police brutality, many church groups galvanized to participate in peace protests, calling on the authorities to stop the violence. Their presence on the front lines of the protests were helpful in making the demonstrations look more like an outdoor worship service rather than the ‘organized riots’ the government said it had to crack down on to bring back law and order.”
    • Related: A new kind of Hong Kong activism emerges as protesters mobilize without any leaders (Alice Su, LA Times): “This time around, protesters are deliberately leaderless, Leung said. ‘It looks quite organized and well‐disciplined. But I’m quite sure you cannot find anyone managing the whole thing,’ Leung said, adding that the protesters’ logistical practices — bringing supplies, setting up medical stations, rapid mass communication — were ‘in‐built’ from the last few years of practice. ‘It’s just like a machine or a self‐learning AI that can run by themselves,’ he said.”
    • Related: check out this drone footage of the protests (3 minutes, YouTube).
  5. Reparations came up in the House of Representatives on Juneteenth. Here are two testimonies that caught a lot of attention:
    • Read Ta‐Nehisi Coates’s Testimony on Reparations (Olivia Paschal & Madeleine Carlisle, The Atlantic): “The typical black family in this country has one‐tenth the wealth of the typical white family. Black women die in childbirth at four times the rate of white women. And there is, of course, the shame of this land of the free boasting the largest prison population on the planet, of which the descendants of the enslaved make up the largest share. The matter of reparations is one of making amends and direct redress, but it is also a question of citizenship.” (or watch the five minute video on YouTube)
    • My Testimony On Reparations (Coleman Hughes, Quillette): “But the people who were owed for slavery are no longer here, and we’re not entitled to collect on their debts. Reparations, by definition, are only given to victims. So the moment you give me reparations, you’ve made me into a victim without my consent. Not just that: you’ve made one‐third of black Americans—who consistently poll against reparations—into victims without their consent, and black Americans have fought too long for the right to define themselves to be spoken for in such a condescending manner.” (or watch the six minute video on YouTube)
    • Somewhat, kinda related: ‘Affirmative Action Is Not About Equality. It’s About Covering Ass.’ (Evan Goldstein,Chronicle Review): “What happened is that I went through a trauma. I was accused of assaulting a woman with whom I was having an extramarital affair. I was publicly humiliated. I had to withdraw an appointment as undersecretary of education in the last years of Reagan’s second term. I was a crack‐cocaine addict; it almost killed me. My wife at the time, God bless her, stayed with me, and we subsequently had two fine sons. But at the time, I was dying. I found Jesus. I got my life together. They stuck with me at the Kennedy School, but I just couldn’t bear the feeling of condescension.” This is an interview with Glenn Loury, who was the first black tenured econ professor at Harvard. He is now an economist at Brown.
  6. Ideology and Facts Collide at Oberlin College (Daniel McGraw, Quillette): “It slowly became evident that this case was not about free expression and assembly or racial injustice and civil rights. It was about something more banal. A cowardly college administration picked on a small and vulnerable business in an attempt to fend off accusations of racism it was facing from its own students.”
    • Honestly, this Twitter thread about it is even better. Jaw‐dropping details. Read it first and then the above article if you want a more well‐rounded narrative.
  7. How Should Christians Have Sex? (Katelyn Beaty, New York Times): “I long for more robust categories of right and wrong besides consent — a baseline, but only that — and more than a general reminder not to be a jerk. I can get that from Dan Savage, but I also want to know what Jesus thinks.”

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 A One Parameter Equation That Can Exactly Fit Any Scatter Plot (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Overfitting is possible with just one parameter and so models with fewer parameters are not necessarily preferable even if they fit the data as well or better than models with more parameters.” Researchers take note. The underlying mathematics paper is well‐written and interesting: One Parameter Is Always Enough (Steven T. Piantadosi) — among other things, it points out that you can smuggle in arbitrarily large amounts of data into an equation through a single parameter because a number can have infinite digits. Obvious once stated, but I don’t know that it ever would have occurred to me. First shared in volume 154.

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 207

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. Eleven arrests, double the tear gas fired during Occupy movement and 81 injured: police chief paints disturbing picture of Hong Kong extradition bill protests (Ng Kang‐chung & Christy Leung, South China Morning Post): “In a postmortem on Thursday of the clashes between officers and protesters who had surrounded the Legislative Council building and administrative headquarters the day before, Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai‐chung said more than 150 rounds of tear gas had been fired – almost double that on the first day of the Occupy demonstrations – and about 20 beanbag rounds, as well as ‘several’ rounds of rubber bullets.” See also these related photos from AP.
    • What Hong Kong’s Freedom Means to the World (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg Opinion): “Circa 2019, Hong Kong is a study in the creeping power and increasing sophistication of autocracy. While it is possible there could be a Tiananmen‐like massacre in the streets of Hong Kong, it is more likely that its mainland overlords will opt for more subtle ways of choking off Hong Kong’s remaining autonomy and freedoms.”
    • Hong Kong and the Future of Freedom (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union ‘the focus of evil in the modern world,’ one prominent liberal writer denounced him as ‘primitive.’ But it was such rhetoric that gave courage to dissidents and dreamers on the other side of the wall. What’s really primitive is to look upon the oppression of others and, whether out of deficient sympathy or excessive sophistication, remain silent.”
  2. The Politics of Dystopia (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Liberalism has never done as well as it thinks at resolving its own crises. America’s gravest moral evil, chattel slavery, was defeated by an authoritarian president in a religious civil war, not by proceduralism or constitutional debate. The crisis of the 1930s ended happily for liberalism because a reactionary imperialist withstood Adolf Hitler and a revolutionary Bolshevik crushed him. The liberal peace that followed may depend on fear of the atomic bomb.”
    • Related: A High‐School Porn Star’s Cry for Help (Caitlyn Flanagan, The Atlantic): “The problem is that there are some very old human impulses that must now contend with porn. One of them is the tendency of deeply troubled teenage girls to act out sexually as a kind of distress signal, an attempt to get the attention of adults who may not be getting the message that they’re in a crisis.”
    • Related? JON STEWART Goes OFF On Congress (YouTube): a remarkable nine‐minute clip. The next day the bill was passed in committee and now awaits a full vote.
  3. The restaurant owner who asked for 1‐star Yelp reviews (Zachary Crockett, The Hustle): “In 2014, chef Davide Cerretini advertised a special that would forever change his fate: Anyone who left his restaurant a 1‐star review on Yelp would get 25% off a pizza.” This is fascinating.
  4. Her Evangelical Megachurch Was Her World. Then Her Daughter Said She Was Molested by a Minister. (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “Ms. Bragg said that all she wanted was a church home that would care for her family. Evangelicals in Dallas are enamored with the Village, with Mr. Chandler and with all the church represents, she said recently. She started to cry.”
  5. A Sociologist of Religion on Protestants, Porn, and the “Purity Industrial Complex” (Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker): “What I found is that, whatever we think pornography is doing, those effects tend to be amplified when we’re talking about conservative Protestants. It seems to be uniquely harmful to conservative Protestants’ mental health, their sense of self, their own identities—certainly their intimate relationships—in ways that don’t tend to be as harmful for people who don’t have that kind of moral problem with it.” Chotiner is interviewing Samuel Perry, a sociologist at the University of Oklahoma.
  6. The Rise Of Progressive Occultism (Tara Isabella Burton, The American Interest): “For an increasing number of left‐leaning millennials—more and more of whom do not belong to any organized religion—occult spirituality isn’t just a form of personal practice, self‐care with more sage. Rather, it’s a metaphysical canvas for the American culture wars in the post‐Trump era: pitting the self‐identified Davids of seemingly secular progressivism against the Goliath of nationalist evangelical Christianity.”
    • The article ends with an amazing quote: “Back in 1992, Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson warned of the dangers of feminism, predicting that it would induce ‘women to leave their husbands.…practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.’ Many of today’s witches would happily agree.” 👀
  7. Is Christianity losing to Islam? (Paul Seabright, Asia Times): “On a world scale – whatever populists may say – Christianity is not struggling; it is in more vigorous shape than it has ever been. And the marketplace is where most of the religious action is going to take place in this century. As in many other marketplaces, there are large returns to economies of scale for those who can work out how to exploit them. That is why corporate religion is here to stay – and why we should expect it to consolidate its dominance.” The author is an economics professor in France.

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 Why Being a Foster Child Made Me a Conservative (Rob Henderson, New York Times): “Individuals have rights. But they also have responsibilities. For instance, when I say parents should prioritize their children over their careers, there is a sense of unease among my peers. They think I want to blame individuals rather than a nebulous foe like poverty. They are mostly right.” The author just graduated from Yale. Worth reading regardless of your political allegiances. First shared in volume 153.

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 206

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. 30 Years After Tiananmen, a Chinese Military Insider Warns: Never Forget (Chris Buckley, New York Times): “…Ms. Jiang’s decision to challenge the silence carries an extra political charge because she is not only an army veteran but also the daughter of the military elite. Her father was a general, and she was born and raised in military compounds. She proudly enlisted in the People’s Liberation Army about 50 years ago, and in photos from her time as a military journalist, she stands beaming in her green army uniform, a notebook in hand and camera hanging from her neck.”
  2. Clarence Thomas’s Dangerous Idea (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “And in any other area of policy Thomas’s point about how legal abortion appears, in the aggregate, to act in racist and eugenic ways would be taken as an indicator that something more than just emancipation is at work. ”
  3. If you have not been following it, a remarkable argument has developed in the world of religious conservative intelligentsia. The quickness with which others have jumped into shows that there’s a real division here.
    • Against David French‐ism (Sohrab Ahmari, First Things): “Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.”
    • What Sohrab Ahmari Gets Wrong (David French, National Review): “I firmly believe that the defense of these political and cultural values must be conducted in accordance with scriptural admonitions to love your enemies, to bless those who persecute you, with full knowledge that the ‘Lord’s servant’ must be ‘kind to everyone, able to teach, and patiently endure evil.’”
    • What A Clash Between Conservatives Reveals (Alan Jacobs, The Atlantic): “It’s important to note that Ahmari sees the differences between him and French as rooted, ultimately, in their different Christian traditions: Catholicism for Ahmari—who recently published a memoir of his conversion—and evangelical Protestantism. But whether this is indeed the heart of the matter, the dispute so far hasn’t fallen out that way. Some Catholics are with French, some Protestants with Ahmari.”
      • A follow‐up piece Jacobs published on his own blog, well worth reading on its own. Fair Play To You (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “Conscience exemptions ain’t what they used to be — about that there is surely no disagreement. The dispute is simply whether that’s good or bad.” This post contains a beautiful imaginary dialog which I highly commend to you — read that if you read nothing else.
    • The Ahmari/French debate: A reading list (Joe Carter, Acton Institute): the level of debate this has kicked off is amazing. Click here to see all the ins and outs.
  4. These Men Say the Boy Scouts’ Sex Abuse Problem Is Worse Than Anyone Knew (Eliana Dockterman, Time): “‘They were reporting…that they were a wholesome organization,’ says Tim Kosnoff, one of the attorneys, ‘when they were kicking out child molesters at the rate of one every two days for 100 years.’”
  5. Deepfake Propaganda Is Not A Real Problem (Russell Brandom, The Verge): “In any of these cases, attackers had the motive and the resources to produce a deepfake video. The technology is cheap, easily available, and technically straightforward. But given the option of fabricating video evidence, each group seems to have decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. Instead we saw news articles made up from whole cloth, or videos edited to take on a sinister meaning.”
  6. There was a controversy recently when Trump showed up at a church and the pastor prayed for him.
    • On Praying for the President (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “What’s remarkable about this prayer is not that it happened, but that it shows how thoroughly the Trump era has opened the way for cynicism and outrage over even mundane, predictable Christian behavior.”
    • David Platt Asks God to Grant Trump ‘All the Grace He Needs to Govern’ (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “Platt is in an interesting position. For years, he’s preached against the American focus on “self‐advancement, self‐esteem, and self‐sufficiency” and “individualism, materialism, and universalism.” And now he’s the pastor of a suburban Washington congregation full of Christians who work on the Hill, a place once deemed ‘a holy destination for GOP senators and Bush aides.’”
    • Prayer For The President (David Platt): this is Platt’s letter to the congregation explaining his actions. “At the end of my sermon at the 1:00 worship gathering, I stepped to the side for what I thought would be a couple of moments in quiet reflection as we prepared to take the Lord’s Supper. But I was immediately called backstage and told that the President of the United States was on his way to the church, would be there in a matter of minutes, and would like for us to pray for him.”
    • In case you’re wondering, I would 100% have done what Platt did. And I would have done it for Obama, Clinton, Bush, or whoever. I would have done it for Nero. I cannot understand how this is controversial or is being perceived as partisan.
  7. Asymmetric Weapons Gone Bad (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Every day we do things that we can’t easily justify. If someone were to argue that we shouldn’t do the thing, they would win easily. We would respond by cutting that person out of our life, and continuing to do the thing.” This entire series of articles (this is the fourth, the others are linked at the top of it) is 100% worth reading. It’s a very interesting way to think about the limits of reason and the wisdom hidden in tradition.

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 Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+ (Hannah Furness, The Telegraph): this is a real article. First shared in volume 151.

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 205

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. #MeToo Comes For Martin Luther King (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I wish none of this were true, and perhaps we will learn when the recordings are eventually released that these claims are not true, but I very much doubt it. David Garrow’s reputation as a civil rights movement historian is beyond reproach, and as a Democratic Socialist, Garrow cannot be said to have political motives for trying to discredit King. “ This is very sad. I knew King was adulterous, but these allegations go far beyond that.
  2. Christopher Hitchens and his Christian friends (Jonathon Van Maren, The Bridgehead): “Christopher Hitchens is remembered by the godless as a man who truly hated Christians and wanted to utterly destroy Christianity. In public, in front of his admirers, he maintained that position even as the grave yawned at him. But as was always the case with Christopher Hitchens, there was quite a bit more to the story.”
  3. These two stories are very different and yet very similar.
    • Losing Religion and Finding Ecstasy in Houston (Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker): “I wonder if I would have stayed religious if I had grown up in a place other than Houston and a time other than now. I wonder how different I would be if I had been able to find the feeling of devoted self‐destruction only through God. Instead, I have confused religion with drugs, drugs with music, music with religion. I can’t tell whether my inclination toward ecstasy is a sign that I still believe in God, or if it was only because of that ecstatic tendency that I ever believed at all.”
      • Tolentino has a way with words and her article, though sad, is entertainingly written. Over at GetReligion, Douglas LeBlanc offers the observation: “Tolentino’s childhood experiences apparently left her thinking that the main point of Christianity is to live in an unbreakable bubble of bliss. If that’s the case, Ecstasy makes perfect sense as the most tempting substitute for God.”
    • Comedian Pete Holmes was a good Christian guy. Then his wife left him, and things got weird. (Daniel Burke, CNN): “…I thought that the lines were to God were closed, but they aren’t. We were taught that God spoke directly to his prophets and the authors of the New Testament, and then Paul, and then it was over. And then I took mushrooms, and I was like, ‘It ain’t over!’”
  4. Can We Believe? (Andrew Klavan, City Journal): “In any case, scientists used to accuse religious people of inventing a ‘God of the Gaps’—that is, using religion to explain away what science had not yet uncovered. But multiverses and simulations seem very much like a Science of the Gaps, jerry‐rigged nothings designed to circumvent the simplest explanation for the reality we know.”
    • This is the same Andrew Klavan who spoke on campus recently. I was unable to attend his talk (being busy preaching at the same time), but everyone I know who went found it quite compelling despite the controversy surrounding it.
  5. See the World Like a Title IX Bureaucrat (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “[The Princeton students’ proposals] illustrate an underappreciated tension in the approach of today’s student activists, who simultaneously express outrage at the bad behavior of administrative bureaucracies and fight to expand their size and power… Princeton bureaucrats have been focused on campus sexual assault for a quarter century now. And in the telling of the student activists, they’ve yet to meet even minimal ethical and procedural standards. So why pour millions more into the same hierarchies, expanding the might, measured in total staff, of their leaders?”
  6. Five Insights Christianity Brings to Politics (Michael Matheson Miller, Law & Liberty): “It is important to note that a Christian vision of government is not simply a secular vision of government with religion sprinkled on top. Secularism is not neutral. A Christian vision of government is grounded in key theological and philosophical ideas about the nature of God and reality, the importance of justice, the value of freedom, the role of the family, and a rich understanding of the human person as created in the image of God, made for flourishing, and called to an eternal destiny.” This article is a particularly Catholic way of thinking about this subject (one of several Catholic approaches, I should add).
    • On a different political note: The man who predicted Trump’s victory says Democrats may have to impeach him to have a chance in 2020 (Chris Cillizza, CNN): “Lichtman, a professor at American University in Washington, DC, was the most prominent voice predicting Donald Trump’s victory in the run‐up to the 2016 election. When Trump won, it marked the 9th(!) straight presidential election where Lichtman had correctly predicted the Electoral College winner. (That’s all the way back to 1984, for you math wizards.)”
      • Caveat lector. There are a lot of pundits, and at least one of them being right about the last 9 elections by chance isn’t that improbable (unless I’m missing something there are only 512 different outcomes if you are only considering the two major parties). Interesting nonetheless.
  7. Self‐censorship on Campus Is Bad for Science (Launa Marjola, The Atlantic): “Sadly, students do not seem to realize that their good intentions may lead them to resist learning scientific facts, and can even harm their own goal of helping women and ethnic minorities.” The author is a biology professor at Williams College.

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 If I Were 22 Again (John Piper, Desiring God): “There have been about 18,340 days since I turned 22, and I think I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have eaten. I have certainly read my Bible on more of those days that I have watched television or videos.… Read your Bible every day of your life. If you have time for breakfast, never say that you don’t have time for God’s word.” This whole thing is really good. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 151.

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 202

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The First Rule of Social‐Media Censorship Is That There Are No Rules (David French, National Review): “The great value of viewpoint neutrality is that it comports with our sense of fundamental fairness. It hearkens back to the image of the blindfolded Lady Justice, holding her scales, indifferent to the power or privilege of her petitioners. Twitter and Facebook have removed the blindfold, thrown away the scales, and chosen to wield only the sword.”
    • Related but less aggressive: Facebook’s Unintended Consequence (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “The deeper problem is the overwhelming concentration of technical, financial and moral power in the hands of people who lack the training, experience, wisdom, trustworthiness, humility and incentives to exercise that power responsibly.”
    • Related but with a different emphasis: The Big Tech Threat (Josh Hawley, First Things): “My thesis is that the evidence strongly suggests there is something deeply troubling, maybe even deeply wrong, with the entire social media economy. My thesis is that it does not represent a source of strength for America’s tomorrow, but is rather a source of peril.” A transcript of a speech given by a US Senator who is a Stanford grad and who was speaking at the Hoover Institution.
  2. We Are Taking Religious Freedom Too Far (Margaret Renkl, New York Times): “Religious faith is a private matter between a believer and God. But how a believer lives in community with other people is something different altogether. It’s time to stop giving believers a pass just because their beliefs happen to run counter to the laws of the nation they live in.”
    • In response: A New York Times Op‐Ed Is Very Wrong About Religious Liberty (David French, National Review): “She formulates religious liberty like this: ‘In this country, citing religious or spiritual convictions is often a surefire way to get out of doing something you’re required by law to do.’ This is a common framing on the left. Essentially, it’s an argument that religious freedom is an intrusion into the law and that religious people are engaged in a form of special pleading — seeking rights and exemptions unavailable to other Americans. In reality, the First Amendment is supreme, and when states seek to intrude on religious liberty, they’re trying to get out of something they’re required by law to do. Respecting the First Amendment is the default obligation of the federal government and every state and local government in the United States.”
    • Related but on a different topic: Health and Human Services and the Religious‐Liberty War (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “The conflict between religious liberty, LGBTQ rights, and abortion access is about to intensify. In the coming weeks or months, HHS is expected to issue a revised version of Rule 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which extended nondiscrimination protections to transgender people and women who have terminated pregnancies. The Supreme Court is also slated to consider civil‐rights protections for LGBTQ individuals in several high‐profile upcoming cases; while those cases mostly involve protections provided under employment law, they similarly pit religious liberty against LGBTQ rights.”
  3. Agapáo and Philéo by the Sea of Tiberias (Ron Belgau, Spiritual Friendship): “After breakfast, Peter and Jesus had a conversation which raises an interesting question about how to understand the verbs for love—agapáo and philéo—used in the original Greek…. The passage is difficult to translate because although English has always had separate nouns for ‘love’ and ‘friendship,’ no English speaker prior to Mark Zuckerberg used ‘friend’ as a verb. Translators, therefore, must either translate both words as ‘love,’ which loses a potential nuance in the original, or else must try to somehow make the difference apparent in English.” This is the most satisfying explanation of this passage I have heard.
  4. American churches must reject literalism and admit we got it wrong on gay people (Oliver Thomas, USA Today): “Churches will continue hemorrhaging members and money at an alarming rate until we muster the courage to face the truth: We got it wrong on gays and lesbians. This shouldn’t alarm or surprise us. We have learned some things that the ancients — including Moses and Paul — simply did not know. Not even Jesus…”
    • The author is a retired American Baptist minister.
    • In response: Oliver Thomas @USATODAY Says the American Church Got it Wrong on Gay People—And He’s Right (Michael Kruger, personal blog): “In this way, Thomas is right. The church is killing itself, if by the ‘church’ one means the mainline denominations who have abandoned biblical authority. Indeed, statistics have shown, plainly and incontrovertibly, that the mainline denominations are dying and the bible‐believing ones are growing.”
    • In response: No, Christianity Doesn’t Need To Endorse Homosexuality To Grow (Glenn Stanton, The Federalist): “When same‐sex‐attracted Christians go to church, they are not choosing the pews of churches Thomas is calling us to become. Again, it’s just the opposite. Research conducted jointly at Columbia University and the University of California at Los Angeles by scholars who are not shy about supporting gay politics found that gay‐ and lesbian‐identified people are 2.5 times more likely to attend churches that took a more conservative view on Christianity (including homosexuality) than the so‐called ‘welcoming and affirming’ congregations that celebrate it.”
  5. What’s wrong with America? I debate Ben Shapiro.(Sean Illing, Vox): “There are basically two visions of American history. One is that America was founded on great moral principles that we failed to live up to historically and we’ve been striving to fulfill. The other is that America is rooted in racism, bigotry, sexism, and homophobia, and that these great moral principles were the founders merely flattering themselves.”
    • This is a very good exchange. Whichever side you’re sympathetic to, you’ll enjoy reading this interview.
  6. Why God Is a He (Dennis Prager, YouTube): five minutes. It’s an interesting way to approach the issue. As a Christian I would make a different argument connected to the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus as a male, but Prager is an observant Jew and so that line of thinking is unavailable to him.
  7. Are All Republicans Biblical Literalists? Are All Democrats Heretics?(Ryan Burge, Religion in Public): “With the release of the 2018 wave of the General Social Survey data, I think that it’s time to take stock of how a person’s view of the Bible is related to their political affiliation. Are there biblical literalists who are Democrats? How many Republicans don’t put much stock in the Bible? And, how has the view of the Bible changed over time?”
    • tl;dr — Roughly ¼ of Democrats and ⅓ of Republicans believe the Bible is the literal word of God. Roughly half of each party think the Bible is inspired but not always to be taken literally. The remainder in each party believe that the Bible is just ancient fables.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 200

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The big news this week is the horrific attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Here are some of the responses that caught my interest:
    • Sri Lankan Sunday School Was ‘Willing to Die for Christ’ on Easter. Half Did. (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “During Sunday School, [Prabha] had talked to the children about the importance of repentance and receiving Jesus as Lord. Because a recent vehicle accident had claimed the lives of six Zion Church members, he had referred to that event and challenged the children, asking them if they would be willing to even die for Jesus. All the children had responded by putting their hands up and signalled their fresh dedication to Jesus by lighting a symbolic candle. For so many of those children it would be their final act of worship (2 Timothy 6:6–8).” WOW
    • Are Christians Privileged or Persecuted? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “But if the equation of traditional Christianity with privilege has some relevance to the actual Euro‐American situation, when applied globally it’s a gross category error…. One of the basic facts of contemporary religious history is that Christians around the world are persecuted on an extraordinary scale — by mobs and pogroms in India, jihadists and United States‐allied governments in the Muslim world, secular totalitarians in China and North Korea. Yet as an era‐defining reality rather than an episodic phenomenon this reality is barely visible in the Western media, and rarely called by name and addressed head‐on by Western governments and humanitarian institutions. (‘Islamophobia’ looms large; talk of ‘Christophobia’ is almost nonexistent.)”
    • When Christians Are Under Attack, Muslims and the Left Need to Defend Them (Mehdi Hasan): “I am a Muslim, and I consider myself to be on the left, but I’m embarrassed to admit that in both Muslim and left circles, the issue of Christian persecution has been downplayed and even ignored for far too long.”
    • Why Conservatives Are So Angry About Obama’s Reference to “Easter Worshippers” (Ruth Graham, Slate): “I would argue that it takes a true savant of exquisitely attuned grievance collection to read an individual reference to ‘Easter worshippers’ as an attempt to avoid acknowledging Christianity. Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar. ‘Easter’ has no other meaning.”
    • Sri Lanka attacks: St Anthony’s ‘church of miracles’ a symbol of hope (Ayeshea Perara, BBC): “Among those gathered outside the church is Prabath Buddhika. Although Mr Buddhika is Buddhist by religion, like many others, he is a strong believer in the power of St Anthony. ‘My house is right here,’ he said, adding that he’d been attending the church since he was a child and gone along with his family many times.”
    • Why Sri Lanka Was Probably Not Retaliation for Christchurch (Graeme Wood, The Atlantic): “The bombings in Sri Lanka were among the more spectacular in the history of terrorism, and they almost certainly took more planning than would have been possible in the past five weeks. (It may seem easy to get several guys to push detonator buttons all at once, in several different locations. But terrorists are often bumblers, and the more complicated the plan, the greater the chance of disruption.)”
  2. What About Capitalizing Pronouns Referring to God? (Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspectives Ministries): “I have had to fight to get Heaven capitalized in my books, arguing that it is a proper noun, and just as real a place as Saturn or France. I argue the same for capitalizing the New Earth—if we capitalize New England, why not the redeemed creation that Scripture calls the ‘New Earth’?”
    • This is a very thoughtful perspective on honoring God with your written words.
  3. Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind (Rachel Kushner, New York Times): “If prison, in its philosophical origin, was meant as a humane alternative to beatings or torture or death, it has transformed into a fixed feature of modern life, one that is not known, even by its supporters and administrators, for its humanity.”
  4. On Easter Sunday, Louisiana church looks to rebuild from fires (Ashley Cusick, Washington Post via SF Gate): “We got $1,000 from an atheist,” Toussaint said with a laugh. ‘He said he didn’t believe in God, but he don’t believe in burning buildings down, either.’”
  5. How angry pilots got the Navy to stop dismissing UFO sightings (Deanna Paul, Washington Post via SF Gate): “A recent uptick in sightings of unidentified flying objects — or as the military calls them, ‘unexplained aerial phenomena’ — prompted the Navy to draft formal procedures for pilots to document encounters, a corrective measure that former officials say is long overdue.”
    • This being 2019, this is somehow not the most interesting story in the news.
  6. And now for some stuff about the major American political parties, with particular attention to religious dynamics:
    • Franklin Graham and the High Cost of the Lost Evangelical Witness (David French, National Review): “The proper Evangelical position toward any president is not hard to articulate, though it is exceedingly difficult to hold to, especially in polarized times when one party seems set on limiting religious liberty and zealously defending abortion: We should pray for presidents, critique them when they’re wrong, praise them when they’re right, and never, ever impose partisan double standards.”
    • The Religious Composition of the Two Major Parties (Ryan Burge, Religion in Public): “…neither of the two major parties in the United States are dominated by one specific religious group. I know that tons of articles are written the link between evangelicals and Republicans, but the data indicates that over two thirds of Republicans today are not evangelicals. The same is essentially true for Democrats as well. The largest group for them (the nones) make up just three in ten Democrats today.”
    • Related: The Devout And The Nones (Mark Movsesian, First Things): “Consider, for example, the percentage of Americans who report that their religious affiliation is ‘Strong.’ This percentage has fluctuated a bit over the decades, but the most recent survey puts it at 34 percent, a number that has remained basically unchanged since 1975, when 35 percent of Americans reported a strong religious affiliation. Apparently, the rise of the Nones is not attributable to a decline in religious enthusiasm among the most strongly committed.”
    • Meet Stanford’s Congressional Freshmen (Jean Yung, Dave Sloane, & Timothy Weatherhead, Stanford Magazine): interesting brief profiles of the five Stanford alumni who were recently elected to the national legislature. Two Democratic representatives, two Republican representatives, and one Republican Senator.
    • Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too. (Joseph Cox and Jason Koebler, Motherboard): “When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.”
      • I get the impression the authors think this is evidence that Republicans really are white supremacists and that the algorithms see clearly without the social pressure that holds back truth‐tellers. I suspect they have the exact opposite approach to machine learning when it delivers racist results. I’m spitballing here, but maybe the better response is distrust algorithms a little more whenever they confirm your biases. Just a thought.
  7. Half of Americans Say Evangelicals Are Discriminated Against (Griffin Paul Jackson, Christianity Today): “Americans’ perceptions of discrimination tend to be partisan. For instance, 7 in 10 Americans on the political right say evangelical Christians are subject to discrimination, while less than half as many (32%) left‐leaning Americans agree.”

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 198

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. Chinese city offers US$1,500 reward to help snare foreign religious leaders (Mimi Lau, South China Morning Post): “Under the new reward scheme in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, informants can earn between 5,000 and 10,000 yuan for tips leading to the arrest of a non‐Chinese religious leader, according to a statement on the department’s website. Other payments include 3,000 to 5,000 yuan for information leading to the closure of a foreign religious group, and between 100 and 3,000 yuan for tips about locally organised gatherings and their leaders.”
    • Related: Hong Kong Pastor Facing Prison Preaches the Sermon of His Life (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “For decades, I have preached numerous sermons. Little could I anticipate that the one message which preparation took me the longest time and the most heartfelt prayer, and which probably would reach the largest audience, is precisely this one delivered from the defendant’s dock.”
  2. Pastoring A Purple Church: ‘I Absolutely Bite My Tongue Sometimes’ (Tom Gjelten, NPR): “The promotion of discourse over discord may strengthen civic culture in an era of political polarization, but for Edmonston, the mission is more a reflection of Presbyterian theology than it is a commitment to democratic process.”
    • There is a lot to like in this article, but I feel compelled to add that what binds a church together is a commitment to Christ. It is okay to be divided over political issues. It is much less okay to be divided over substantive Scriptural issues. This story confuses the two.
  3. The Brand Is Belief (Kieran Dahl, Topic Magazine): “C3’s theology would appear to be at odds with how the church presents and markets itself. Isn’t humility one of Jesus’s biggest lessons for humanity? Isn’t social media inherently narcissistic?.… C3 feels like an algorithmically curated brand that happens to love Jesus—the Airbnb of religion.”
    • I love articles showing how outsiders view churches. Some of what the author stumbles over I find puzzling — like thinking that the name of the church’s discipleship class ‘Growth Track’ is a capitulation to culture. Interesting throughout.
  4. The Happiness Recession (Brad Wilcox & Lyman Stone, The Atlantic): “In 2018, happiness among young adults in America fell to a record low. The share of adults ages 18 to 34 reporting that they were ‘very happy’ in life fell to 25 percent—the lowest level that the General Social Survey, a key barometer of American social life, has ever recorded for that population. Happiness fell most among young men—with only 22 percent of young men (and 28 percent of young women) reporting that they were ‘very happy’ in 2018.”
    • Reacting to this article, David French offers this observation, “For generations, key elements of our cultural and academic elite have been arguing essentially the opposite — that liberation from religion and liberation from marriage were prerequisites to true human flourishing. If you asked an early era sexual revolutionary for his prediction for a culture with profoundly less religious practice, less marriage, and many fewer moral restraints on sexual practice, I sincerely doubt that he’d respond that he believed that culture would be less happy, with people having less sex.” It Turns Out That Sexual Liberation Isn’t All That Liberating (David French, National Review).
  5. Case Report of gastroparesis healing: 16 years of a chronic syndrome resolved after proximal intercessory prayer (Romez, Zaritzky & Brown, Complementary Therapies In Medicine): a miraculous healing account as reported in a journal. I found this bit amusing: “A noteworthy observation is that studies showing positive effects of prayer have typically involved intercessors who either professed either 1) being ‘born again’ Christians (with a commitment to daily devotional prayer and active fellowship with their local church) or 2) faith in healing.”
  6. Democrats Have to Decide Whether Faith Is an Asset for 2020 (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “The real evidence of Democrats’ approach to faith will come in campaign dollars and infrastructure, which will likely be developed slightly later in the election cycle; on their handling of contested issues like abortion, which is crucially important to many religious voters; and their ability to tap religious networks for volunteers.”
  7. Donald Trump Changed The New York Times. Is It Forever? (Peter Boyer, Esquire): “A Monmouth University poll taken last year found that 77 percent of Americans believe that traditional news outlets report ‘fake news’—a significant leap from the year before.” This is an interesting and disheartening article.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 196

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

This one is coming out early in the morning because I’m driving back from a mission trip and will be on the road the entire day. When I’m on a mission trip I usually do very brief video blogs (under a minute each) — you can see the ones for this trip here.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. China Shuts Down Another Big Beijing Church (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “Throughout its 26‐year history, Shouwang members have refused to come under Communist authority and persevered despite persecution, with their ‘underground’ services forced outside when evicted from their buildings in 2009 and with their founding pastor Jin Tianming under house arrest since 2011.”
    • Related: China’s Muslim gulag is tough to cover, but a few reporters aren’t giving up (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “One of the mosques in Kashgar, it added, has been transformed into a hookah lounge. A city that was once a world center for traditional Islamic and Central Asian architecture is now Disneyland meets Aladdin, (a fairytale that originally was set in China, by the way). It’s tough covering China and the journalists who try to do it well inevitably end up expelled.” This is a good summary of reporting on one of the most wicked government programs in the world right now. Highly recommended.
  2. A Case for the Electoral College (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Is there a case for a system that sometimes produces undemocratic outcomes? I think so, on two grounds. First, it creates incentives for political parties and candidates to seek supermajorities rather than just playing for 50.1 percent, because the latter play is a losing one more often than in a popular‐vote presidential system. Second, it creates incentives for political parties to try to break regional blocs controlled by the opposition, rather than just maximizing turnout in their own areas, because you win the presidency consistently only as a party of multiple regions and you can crack a rival party’s narrow majority by flipping a few states.”
  3. An Interview With Lisa Littman, Who Coined the Term ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria’ (Jonathan Kay, Quillette): “Although there have been speculations about my affiliations, I am not a religious or political conservative and I am not a radical feminist. No organizations funded my study. That means that I pay out‐of‐pocket for research‐related costs like printing, traveling to academic conferences, publication fees, etc. And because I do not earn my livelihood providing transition services or referrals for transition, and I have not personally (nor has my spouse or children) experienced gender dysphoria or transition, I have far fewer conflicts of interest than many of the current researchers in this field.” Fascinating interview.
  4. How the West Changed The World For the Better (Ben Shapiro, National Review): “Thanks to the West, billions of human beings no longer suffer in abject poverty; thanks to the West, democracy is seen as both the moral and the practical default position for aspiring governments; thanks to the West, individualism has been able to gain ground against the natural tribalism endemic to human beings. The history of the West isn’t a history of unalloyed greatness: It is replete with suffering and tyranny and slavery and misery. But all of those evils are present in every civilization historically. The question is why the West changed the world.”
    • A mostly‐negative review of a related book Shapiro just published: The Right Side of History—A Review (Jared Marcel Pollen, Quillette): “…Shapiro’s attempt to demonstrate that secular civilization needs to rekindle the Judeo‐Christian teachings upon which it is based, inadvertently shows us why we were right to leave them behind in the first place.” I have not read Shapiro’s book, but many of the specific criticisms Pollen makes are not very persuasive. For example, it is a conventional enough position among experts that modern science arose due to Christianity that I have had students tell me that they were taught it in history courses at Stanford.
  5. The Real Reasons American Evangelicals Support Israel (David French, National Review): “The [common media] explanation goes something like this — Evangelicals believe that the rebirth of Israel is hastening not just the second coming of Christ, but a particular kind of second coming, one that includes fire, fury, and war that will consume the Jewish people.… But the true narrative of American Christian support for Israel is substantially different. The intellectual and theological roots of Christian Zionism do not rest in end‐times prophesies but rather in Old Testament promises.”
    • One example of a much broader phenomenon. I very rarely recognize myself or my peers in media explanations of “why evangelicals believe ______ about _______.” Or even just “evangelicals believe ______”. I find this puzzling because it’s not as though we don’t have regular gatherings where we explain what we believe to anyone who will listen.
  6. Openly Gay, Openly Christian Buttigieg Challenges the Religious Right (Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine): “As Barack Obama once convincingly argued, doubt about what God wants people to do politically is an important part of an attitude of humility which used to be called ‘the fear of God.’” It is interesting how many of the Democrats seeking nomination are outspoken about their faith.
  7. Black and Evangelical: Why I Keep The Label (Brandon Washington, Christianity Today): “I too have been wounded by evangelicalism’s posture toward social ethics. But I have concluded that an exodus of ethnic minorities amounts to segregation of the movement and only contributes to the problem. So I remain.”

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 Dealing With Nuisance Lust (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “Minimize the seriousness of this, but not so that you can feel good about indulging yourself. Minimize the seriousness of it so that you can walk away from a couple of big boobs without feeling like you have just fought a cosmic battle with principalities and powers in the heavenly places, for crying out loud. Or, if you like, in another strategy of seeing things rightly, you could nickname these breasts of other woman as the ‘principalities and powers.’ Whatever you do, take this part of life in stride like a grown‐up. Stop reacting like a horny and conflicted twelve‐year‐old boy.” (first shared in volume 148)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.