Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 295

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

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 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.