Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 268

This installment can be titled “America In Decline, but the Bible Looking Pretty Solid. Also Australia.”

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.

After largely finishing this email I learned that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. I expect a TON of ink to be spilled on this and on whatever develops politically next week. Keep an eye out for thoughtful commentary and send it my way. Please do pray for her family and for our nation — an already tense election season just became even more fraught.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Does the Bible Pass the Bechdel Test? A Data-Driven Look at Women in the Story of Scripture (John Dyer, personal blog): “So does the Bible pass the Bechdel test? This short answer is: yes, there are scenes where two named women have a conversation not about a man. The longer answer is more complex, but also, I think, richer.” This is REALLY well done.
  2. Seven Deadly Sins, One Presidential Election (Bonnie Kristian, Christianity Today): “The seven deadly sins—wrath, sloth, pride, envy, greed, gluttony, and lust—as we now list them came to us in the Western church through Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, Pope Gregory the Great seven centuries prior, and a mystic named Evagrius two centuries before that…. The 2020 election gives occasion to deal with them all.”
  3. Ecological insights ignored:
    • They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen? (Elizabeth Weil, ProPublica): “Academics believe that between 4.4 million and 11.8 million acres burned each year in prehistoric California…. We live with a deathly backlog. In February 2020, Nature Sustainability published this terrifying conclusion: California would need to burn 20 million acres — an area about the size of Maine — to restabilize in terms of fire.”
    • Is Plastic Recycling A Lie? Oil Companies Touted Recycling To Sell More Plastic (Laura Sullivan, NPR): “All of these problems [with recycling] have existed for decades, no matter what new recycling technology or expensive machinery has been developed. In all that time, less than 10 percent of plastic has ever been recycled. But the public has known little about these difficulties.”
    • Neither article is giving us much new information — I have heard knowledgeable people say similar things for quite some time now. The fact that we have not changed is disappointing but not surprising: politicians (like most people) “listen to science” when the findings of scientists align with their self-interest. The continued existence of these and other glaring problems in American life make me sad.
  4. EXCLUSIVE: Education Department opens investigation into Princeton University after president deems racism ’embedded’ in the school (Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner): “The Department of Education has informed Princeton University that it is under investigation following the school president’s declaration that racism was ‘embedded’ in the institution.”
  5. Statistics, lies and the virus: five lessons from a pandemic (Tim Harford, personal blog): “You can appreciate, I hope, my obsession with these two contrasting accounts of statistics: one as a trick, one as a tool.… Scepticism has its place, but easily curdles into cynicism and can be weaponised into something even more poisonous than that. “ Very good insights from a British economist.
  6. Racism Is Real. But Is “Systemic Racism”? That Time I Was Published by Newsweek—For Two Hours (Matthew Franck, Public Discourse): “If everyone in general but no one in particular is to blame, the few remaining actual racists among us are let off the hook. They’re no worse than the rest of us. Of course, unlike all of us who are invited to affirm our collective guilt for the ‘system,’ the truly guilty won’t feel guilty.”
    • The author is the Associate Director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University. This one is included mostly for the drama of it being published and then unpublished by Newsweek. There is an unhealthy intellectual climate at many of our major publications.
  7. When you browse Instagram and find former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s passport number (Alex Hope, personal website): “The point of this story isn’t to say ‘wow Tony Abbott got hacked, what a dummy’. The point is that if someone famous can unknowingly post their boarding pass, anyone can.” Surprisingly entertaining and informative.

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 (Not So) Secular Saint (James K.A. Smith, Los Angeles Review of Books): “Mill’s legacy was effectively ‘edited’ by his philosophical and political disciples, excising any hint of religious life. One would never know from the canon in our philosophy departments, for example, that Mill wrote an appreciative essay on ‘Theism.’” First shared in volume 190.

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.