Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 414

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

This is volume 414, which is a multiple of 23.

A day late because I was traveling. Next week’s may be delayed as well.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The best predictor of happiness in America? Marriage (W. Bradford Wilcox and David Bass, Unherd): “This truth is borne out yet again in new research from the University of Chicago, which found that marriage is the ‘the most important differentiator’ of who is happy in America, and that falling marriage rates are a chief reason why happiness has declined nationally. The research, surveying thousands of respondents, revealed a startling 30-percentage-point happiness divide between married and unmarried Americans. This happiness boost held true for both men and women.… Other factors do matter — including income, educational achievement, race, and geography — but marital status is most influential when it comes to predicting happiness in the study.”
    • Related: More on Singleness, Marriage, and the Church (Samuel D. James, Substack): “…some readers took me to be saying that single people are in sin or not growing in their faith the way that married people are. Not so. There is a profound (subtle, perhaps, but profound) difference between saying that something has intrinsic value in the normative life of an individual or the church, and saying that this thing is compulsory.”
    • Very helpful followup to the article I shared last week.
  2. The Hard-Drug Decriminalization Disaster (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “…the sticky fact that proponents of decriminalization rarely confront is that addicts are not merely sick people trying to get well, like cancer sufferers in need of chemotherapy. They are people who often will do just about anything to get high, however irrational, self-destructive or, in some cases, criminal their behavior becomes. Addiction may be a disease, but it’s also a lifestyle — one that decriminalization does a lot to facilitate. It’s easier to get high wherever and however you want when the cops are powerless to stop you.”
    • Unlocked.
  3. She’s the One (Bryan Caplan, Substack): “Humans are good at hedonically adapting to most material conditions. You get used to your house, your car, your clothes, your granite countertop, and your money. What humans are bad at hedonically adapting to is… other people. If you spend a lot of time around humans whose company you enjoy, you will probably be happy. If you spend a lot of time around human whose company you detest, you will probably be unhappy. Over your lifetime, you will probably spend more time around your spouse than any other human. So while finding good friends and good co-workers is crucial for happiness, finding a good spouse is even more so.”
    • This is full of mostly-good advice for guys.
  4. What’s going on with the reports of a room-temperature superconductor? (John Timmer, Ars Technica): “The perfect time to write an article on those results would be when they’ve been confirmed by multiple labs. But these are not perfect times. Instead, rumors seem to be flying daily about possible confirmation, confusing and contradictory results, and informed discussions of why this material either should or shouldn’t work.”
    • Related: LK-99 Is the Superconductor of the Summer (Kenneth Chang, New York Times): “I truly don’t get the excitement about her preprint,” said Douglas Natelson, a professor of physics at Rice University in Houston. “That’s not to say that it’s wrong, just that theorists and computational materials folks very often produce preprints based on the latest claimed material of interest. There’s nothing exceptional in that.”
  5. You’re probably recycling plastic wrong. And it’s not your fault. (Robert Gebelhoff, Washington Post):  “Picture this: You finish a drink from a red Solo cup, and before throwing it out, you check the bottom of the cup to see the iconic recycling symbol. That means it can be tossed in the recycling bin, right? Wrong. Solo cups are made of polystyrene, a plastic that is very difficult to recycle.… Nowadays, the only plastic items that are consistently recycled are bottles and jugs made out of polyethylene terephthalate (which is labeled with a ‘1’) and high-density polyethylene (labeled with a ‘2’), as a survey of recycling facilities by Greenpeace shows. Recycling plants typically reject almost everything else, meaning it ends up in landfills.”
  6. He Held Up a Bank to Get His Own Money (Raja Abdulrahim, New York Times): “The central bank has not allowed depositors to withdraw more than a few hundred dollars a month since a financial collapse in 2019. So, like other desperate Lebanese before him — some of them similarly compelled by the need for medical treatment — Mr. al-Hajjar went to his bank in November, threatening to burn it down unless it gave him some of the $250,000 he had in his account. More than 12 hours later, he left with $25,000 in stacks of cash. ‘If you don’t go in and threaten to hurt them, they won’t give you anything,’ he said months later.”
    • Absolutely wild (and sad) story.
  7. California’s free prison calls are repairing estranged relationships and aiding rehabilitation (Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu & Helen Li, Los Angeles Times): “At a time when most consumers enjoy free or low-cost calling, prison phone calls at their peak in California cost more than $6 per 15 minutes via a private telecommunications provider. That allowed only hurried, superficial conversations between the siblings — with one eye always on the clock.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have On The Experience of Being Poor-ish, For People Who Aren’t (Anonymous, Substack): “When someone is telling me they are or have been poor and I’m trying to determine how poor exactly they were, there’s one evergreen question I ask that has never failed to give me a good idea of what kind of situation I’m dealing with. That question is: ‘How many times have they turned off your water?’.” Follow up: Being Poor-ish Revisited: Reader Questions These are both really good. From volume 291.

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 412

On Fridays (Saturdays when I feel ill on Friday) 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.

412 is the sum of twelve consecutive primes: 13 + 17 + 19 + 23 + 29 + 31 + 37 + 41 + 43 + 47 + 53 + 59

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. If Satan Took Up Marriage Counseling  (Tim Challies, personal blog) : “If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want people to believe marriage is so risky that it is best to postpone it almost indefinitely, that it is so significant and perilous an undertaking that people should not even consider it until they have completed their education, begun a career, and become well established in life. He would especially want young people to anticipate it with a sense of dread instead of excitement.”
    • Recommended by a student. Well worth your time.
  2. Spirits of the Cloud: A Demonology of the Internet (Thomas Harmon, The American Mind): “…there is much wisdom that can be gained by turning to ancient sources to understand how these mysterious forces operate and how to resist them. In brief, they operate by preying on our imaginations and desires, which are oftentimes obscure even to us, especially when we try to penetrate the veil between present and future or between human and divine by some sort of magical or technical means. James Lindsay zeroes in on this aspect: ‘Demons influence people through their emotions and their interpretations of features of their lives.’ Since they are airy, and proud of their elevation over our earthiness, they have a weakness: humility and an embrace of our earthbound bodies (as a matter of fact, the word ‘humility’ is derived from a Latin word meaning ‘dirt’ or ‘earth’, humus).”
    • The author is a Catholic theologian.
  3. Many on dating apps are already in relationships or aren’t seeking actual dates, new study finds (Angela Yang, NBC News): “Hopeful swipers looking to find their next partners on dating apps have grown increasingly disillusioned in recent years, and a new study reveals the potential root of their difficulties: Many dating app users aren’t seeking romantic meetups at all. Half of nearly 1,400 Tinder users surveyed said they weren’t interested in actually finding dates, according to research published last month. Nearly two-thirds reported they were already in relationships, and some were married while they were using the app.”
    • Just meet someone cute and flirt with them in real life. Like, say, in your campus ministry or church.
  4. What’s Wrong With the “What’s Wrong With Men” Discourse (Conor Fitzgerald, Substack): “…men find therapy and the therapeutic worldview alien and unhelpful. Even the flimsiest male specimen has psychological needs related to accomplishment, strength, usefulness and capability; an atmosphere of unconditional empathy and unrestrained emotional disclosure can be poisonous to those things. Whatever the reason, men understand that therapy (the practice) is mostly just the medical codification of a typically female worldview as objectively true and correct. Most men aren’t going to be interested in joining a conversation conducted in that spirit.”
    • This is very well put. The whole essay is interesting. Ignore the typos and dig in!
    • Related: Gender crisis is really a marriage crisis (Inez Stepman, Tribune-Democrat): “…women with few or no ties to the opposite sex in the form of marriage and family are diverging sharply not only from the views of men, but also from those of their married sisters. Married men, unmarried men and married women are registering primarily the same political preferences, with only small gaps in voting patterns between them, while single women are running fast in the opposite direction from the rest. For example, a poll in the past round of midterms found married people of both sexes and single men all going for Republicans by majority margins within a handful of points of each other (52% to 59%). Single women, on the other hand, went strongly Democratic by a landslide of 68% to 31%.”
  5. Stanford President Will Resign After Report Found Flaws in His Research (Stephanie Saul, New York Times): “Dr. Tessier-Lavigne, 63, will relinquish the presidency at the end of August but remain at the university as a professor of biology.”
    • Tessier-Lavigne matter shows why running a lab is a full-time job (H. Holden Thorp, Science): “I had seen many researchers who had taken big administrative jobs struggle with overseeing their research group. Many incidents similar to those involving Tessier-Lavigne arose because the principal investigators were too busy attending to their other high-profile jobs. David Baltimore had to resign as president of Rockefeller University when scientific misconduct in his laboratory was uncovered (he later became the president of the California Institute of Technology, and like Tessier-Lavigne, was not found to have direct knowledge of the misconduct). In a different set of problematic interactions related to research, José Baselga resigned as head of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center because he failed to disclose (intentionally or not) industry relationships in papers published by his research group. These examples reflect how tending to a major administrative position and running a laboratory at the same time are simply too much for one person.”
    • Richard Saller to take over as interim president in September (Oriana Riley, Stanford Daily): “Stanford University is a huge operation with a $9 billion budget — about 10 times larger than the first Roman emperor Augustus had for the whole empire,” Saller wrote. “I have a steep learning curve ahead of me.”
  6. Religion as a Cultural and Political Identity (Ryan Burge, Substack): “People like the *idea* of religion, without the actual trappings of said religion. They are the kind of folks that talk about concepts like biblical values without every stepping foot inside a church. They want (primarily) Christian values to be protected, but they don’t actually want to spend much time understanding the theology around the values. For them, religion has become a social and cultural marker — not a spiritual one. It’s basically become another cudgel in the culture war. So, when the debate heats up over issues of sexuality, gender, or abortion these are the kind of folks who will post memes on Facebook that include references to scripture verses, despite the fact that they themselves never read the Bible.”
    • Emphasis in original.
  7. The Consuming Fire of Love (Peter J. Leithart, First Things): “God isn’t terrifying because he’s unloving. He’s terrifying because Love is terrifying—undiluted love, love that refuses compromise with evil, love that will not negotiate away the good of the beloved by allowing the beloved to set the terms of her love, love that promises a good and a future beyond all the beloved can ask or imagine.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The “Majority-Minority” Myth (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “Most demographic estimates of the ‘white’ population are based on the Census definition: ‘non-Hispanic white.’ But what of ‘Hispanic whites’ — those whose lineage may come from South or Latin America in ethnicity but who also identify racially and socially as white? If you include them in this category, America remains two-thirds ‘white’ all the way through 2060 and beyond.” A fascinating read. From volume 289

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 338

more eclectic than normal

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

This is the 338th installment. 338, I am told, is the smallest number for which both the number of divisors and the sum of its prime factors is a perfect number. An odd honor, but one I am pleased to acknowledge.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Romance:
    • Reverse friend zone: many romantic relationships start off just as friends. In fact, most people prefer it this way (Tibi Puiu, ZME Science): “When participants were asked about their original intentions for initiating the friendship that went on to evolve romantically, only 30% said they were sexually attracted to the partner from the very beginning. In 70% of cases, neither of the two parties in the relationship originally had feelings, with attraction blossoming at a later time.”
    • Too Risky to Wed in Your 20s? Not if You Avoid Cohabiting First (Brad Wilcox and Lyman Stone, Wall Street Journal): “In analyzing reports of marriage and divorce from more than 50,000 women in the U.S. government’s National Survey of Family Growth (NFSG), we found that there is a group of women for whom marriage before 30 is not risky: women who married directly, without ever cohabiting prior to marriage. In fact, women who married between 22 and 30, without first living together, had some of the lowest rates of divorce in the NSFG.”#justsaying
  2. Stephen Colbert Explains The Relationship Between His Comedy and His Faith (Twitter): I think I would really like Stephen Colbert if I met him in person.
  3. Stanford related:
    • Are semesters or quarters better? (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “In fact I think the quarter system doesn’t go far enough. I think we should have many more one- and two-week classes, or five-week classes, as well. Understandably that is more difficult to manage operationally, but I don’t see any reason why it should be impossible. Companies solve more complex scheduling problems than that all the time. If I think of GMU, either the undergraduate majors, or the graduate students, should in my opinion have had some classroom time with almost every single instructor. So much of life and productivity is about matching!”
    • I went to every library on campus so you don’t have to (Annie Reller, Stanford Daily): “Below is my ranking of the libraries on campus. Please keep in mind that I have specific criteria when going to libraries: comfy chairs, ambiance and lighting. I am a humanities major, so desks are less necessary as I do most of my work on my laptop.”
  4. Why Isn’t There a Replication Crisis in Math? (Jay Daigle, blog): “Many papers have errors, yes—but our major results generally hold up, even when the intermediate steps are wrong! Our errors can usually be fixed without really changing our conclusions.… But isn’t it…weird…that our results hold up when our methods don’t? How does that even work? We get away with it becuase we can be right for the wrong reasons—we mostly only try to prove things that are basically true.” Emphasis in original. The author is a math professor at George Washington University.
  5. Hackers:
    • North Korea Hacked Him. So He Took Down Its Internet (Andy Greenberg, Wired): “But responsibility for North Korea’s ongoing internet outages doesn’t lie with US Cyber Command or any other state-sponsored hacking agency. In fact, it was the work of one American man in a T‑shirt, pajama pants, and slippers, sitting in his living room night after night, watching Alien movies and eating spicy corn snacks—and periodically walking over to his home office to check on the progress of the programs he was running to disrupt the internet of an entire country.” What an absolute legend.
    • How A Lone Hacker Shredded the Myth of Crowdsourcing (Mark Harris, Medium): “Myself and others in the social sciences community tend to think of such massive acts of sabotage as anomalies, but are they?” wondered Cebrian. To settle the question, Cebrian analyzed his (and other) crowdsourcing contests with the help of Victor Naroditskiy, a game theory expert at the University of Southampton. The results shocked him. “The expected outcome is for everyone to attack, regardless of how difficult an attack is,” says Cebrian. “It is actually rational for the crowd to be malicious, especially in a competition environment. And I can’t think of any engineering or game theoretic or economic incentive to stop it.” Recommended by a student.
  6. Ukraine Gave Up a Giant Nuclear Arsenal 30 Years Ago. Today There Are Regrets. (William J. Broad, New York Times): “We gave away the capability for nothing,” said Andriy Zahorodniuk, a former defense minister of Ukraine. Referring to the security assurances Ukraine won in exchange for its nuclear arms, he added: “Now, every time somebody offers us to sign a strip of paper, the response is, ‘Thank you very much. We already had one of those some time ago.’”
    • If Russia does invade Ukraine, I think the biggest global consequence might be that nuclear powers become even more committed to maintaining their arsenals and non-nuclear powers strive even harder to join the club.
  7. The Canadian truckers:
    • Sympathetic: What the Truckers Want (Rupa Subramanya, Bari Weiss’s Substack): “It was ironic, she said that she could serve but couldn’t dine at the restaurant where she worked.”
    • Concerned: Dispatch from the Ottawa Front: Sloly is telling you all he’s in trouble. Who’s listening? (Matt Gurney, Substack): “This is a complicated protest and a complicated event. It has layers. Are there good, frustrated people just trying to be heard in the crowd? Yes. Are there bad people in the crowd, including some who’ve waved hate symbols and harassed or attacked others? Yes. Are there people taking careful care of the roads, sweeping up trash and shovelling ice and snow off the sidewalk? Yes. Are there hard men milling about, keeping a wary eye on anyone who seems out of place? Yes. Is it a place where some people are having good-natured fun? Yes. Is it a place some other people would rightly be afraid to go? Yes. And so on. But it’s even more complicated than it looks.”

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 Religion’s health effects should make doubting parishioners reconsider leaving (John Siniff and Tyler J. VanderWeele, USA Today): “Simply from a public health perspective, the continuing diminution of religious upbringing in America would be bad for health. This is not proselytizing; this is science.” The Harvard epidemiology professor  last made an appearance here back in volume 65. First shared in volume 195.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 283

perspectives on a day students will cover in their US History classes

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. WHAT HAPPENED
    • Madness on Capitol Hill (Andrew McCormick, The Nation): “For all the violence in the air, the mood was less coup and more college football tailgate. Pop songs blared from speakers. Somewhere, snare drums went rat-a-tat-tat. And the chants were so loud they rumbled in your chest.” This is the most vivid article I have come upon so far.

    • ‘Is This Really Happening?’: The Siege of Congress, Seen From the Inside (various, Politico): “One member at one point, a Democrat, Steve Cohen, yelled over towards the Republican side of the room and said, ‘Call Trump and tell him to call this off.’ And then a little bit later on, a lawmaker sitting on the Republican side shot back and said something along the lines of, ‘I bet you liberals are glad now you didn’t defund the police.’”This is amazing. And reading this I have a much more positive view of the frontline police response than I had gleaned from previous reporting. The issue was higher in the command structure.

    • Let me tell you about my experience at yesterday’s Trump Rally. (Not The Bee): “Again, pictures never do a crowd justice, but I went to a Big 10 college football school, I know what tens of thousands of people looks like, and this was that at least.”

    •  ‘What else could I do?’ NJ Rep. Kim helps clean up Capitol (Mike Catalini, AP News): “‘When you see something you love that’s broken you want to fix it. I love the Capitol. I‘m honored to be there,’ he said. ‘This building is extraordinary and the rotunda in particular is just awe-inspiring. How many countless generations have been inspired in that room? It really broke my heart and I just felt compelled to do something. … What else could I do?’” A profile of the man behind a photo you’ve no doubt seen.

  2. WHAT HAPPENED IN CONTEXT
    • America’s History of Political Violence (Darel E. Paul, First Things): “Early reactions to the incursion tended toward the catastrophic, and more than one journalist spoke of a ‘coup,’ the death of the Republic, and ‘civil war.’ By evening calmer heads and cooler emotions began to emerge as the rioters were arrested and dispersed, revealing less a Bolshevik storming of the Winter Palace than a LARPing event by QAnon paranoids.” The author is a professor of political science at Williams College.

    •  The Five Crises of the American Regime (Michael Lind, Tablet Magazine): “In the past eight months, two Capitol Hills have fallen. Two shocking events symbolize the abdication of authority by America’s ruling class, an abdication that has led to what can be described, not without exaggeration, as the slow-motion disintegration of the United States of America in its present form.… What is the meaning of these dystopian scenes? Many Democrats claim that Republicans are destroying the republic. Many Republicans claim the reverse. They are both correct.” The author is a professor in the UT Austin school of public affairs. This is the most comprehensive (and to my mind, largely correct) analysis I’ve come across.

    • Violence in the Capitol, Dangers in the Aftermath (Glenn Greenwald, Substack): “One need not dismiss the lamentable actions of yesterday to simultaneously reject efforts to apply terms that are plainly inapplicable: attempted coup, insurrection, sedition.… That the only person shot was a protester killed by an armed agent of the state by itself makes clear how irresponsible these terms are.” 

  3. THEOLOGICAL/RELIGIOUS COMMENTARY
    • Christian Leaders Pray for Peace and Safety Amid Capitol Mob (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “Pastor Rick Warren called the attack ‘domestic terrorism,’ while Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore condemned their actions as ‘immoral, unjust, dangerous, and inexcusable’ and called on the president to direct his supporters to ‘stop this dangerous and anti-constitutional anarchy.’ ”There’s a wide roundup of voices here.

    • Like A Fire Shut Up In My Bones (Paul Shult, Lutherans For Racial Justice): “My thoughts I share with you are shaped by my calling as a pastor. I am not a political science major, a lawyer, a public policy expert, or a business owner. I don’t want to argue politics, which is very difficult because so much in our nation and in Christianity has become politicized. So, here are my thoughts around just a few things I think are important to consider — perhaps they can be helpful to some.” The author pastors a church near campus that several of our students have attended (one of them brought this article to my attention).

    • The Gospel in a Democracy Under Assault (Russell Moore, Gospel Coalition): “Countries can fall. I hope this one doesn’t. But, either way, let’s not fall with it.”

    • Illegitimate Times (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “So it is looking as though one way or another we are going to have to learn how to live under a government we believe to be at bottom illegitimate. And that looks to be the case no matter what happens today, actually, which happens to be January 6, the day when Congress ratifies the votes of the Electoral College. If Biden is confirmed, which seems likely, a very large number of Americans will believe he got there by fraudulent means. And if Trump is confirmed—by some sort of extraordinary long shot—that irregular process, whatever it was, will be considered by a very large number of Americans to have been fraudulent in a very different way. And even though a larger number of Christians will be in the first group, our numbers in both groups will not be insignificant.” Please note, this is from before the events in question! I share it because it contains some very unusual insights.

  4. APOLOGETICALLY INTERESTING
    • Why Religious Couples Thrive in a Pandemic (Liz HoChing & Spencer James, Real Clear Religion): “It is no surprise therefore that home-worshipping couples were significantly more likely to be highly satisfied with their sexual relationship, compared with couples in a shared secular relationship. Women in shared home-worshipping relationships were found to be twice as likely to be sexually satisfied from the international data, and three-times as likely to be sexually satisfied from data gathered in the United States. These are numbers that cannot be ignored.”
      • There are many interesting quotes I could have chosen. I pick this one because it is something I commonly see come up in research and yet so contrary to the prevailing narrative in our culture. And also because most of you are yet to pick your spouse — this is a reminder to pick someone who shares your vibrant faith in the Lord.
    • Standing By: The Spatial Organization of Coercive Institutions in China (Adam Y. Liu and Charles Chang, Social Science Research): “We find that police stations are more likely to be located within walking distance of foreign religious sites (churches) than other sites (temples), even after controlling for the estimated population within 1km of each site and a set of key site attributes.” The authors are scholars at the National University of Singapore and at Yale, respectively.
    • Interesting tidbits from the article itself (the above is from the abstract):
      • “…among all major religions in China, Christianity has since the late 19th century been persistently viewed by the Chinese state—the incumbent atheistic party state in particular—as the most threatening to social order and state power.”
      • “…one of the most consistent and surprising social scientific findings is the extent of the involvement of religious groups in large scale social and political movements.”
      • “Scholars find that the participatory and civic attitudes embedded in Christianity make its believers more likely to engage in collective contention.”
      • “In a sharp contrast, the party state sees other religions, such as Buddhism, as not only non-threatening, but also conducive to strengthening its grip on power. In some instances, local officials have even supported the construction of non-Western religious sites as an explicit way to counter the growing influence of Christianity in their jurisdictions.”
    • Let me be clear: I lack the expertise to evaluate their findings. What I find fascinating is the matter-of-fact way these scholars refer to a consensus in their field about Christianity. It is interesting to read this in conjunction with the news about this week.
  5. UNRELATED THINGS
    • Rev. William Barber on Greed, Poverty and Evangelical Politics (David Marchese, New York Times): “Very few religious leaders are able to inspire political action on the part of large numbers of people who don’t share their church, their denomination or their faith. Yet the Rev. Dr. William Barber, senior pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., has done just that.” This is an interesting (and at times perplexing) interview.
    • some problems don’t have solutions, or the demand game (Freddie DeBoer, personal blog): “Here’s the reality with pornography: it may very well be very bad, and there is probably nothing that we can do about it. Technology changed the world and made something for which their is huge demand effortlessly easy to transmit and receive. And that’s that; that’s the story of pornography. Some problems don’t have solutions.” The author, an atheist socialist, inadvertently comes close to agreeing with Jesus that “the poor you will have with you always.”
    • Inside RZIM, Staff Push Leaders to Take Responsibility for Scandal (Daniel Silliman, Christianity Today): “At an online all-staff meeting in mid-October, however, RZIM speaker Sam Allberry, who officiated at Zacharias’s graveside service, asked why ‘ministry teammates’ had been included in the official denial. They had not been consulted before leadership crafted the unsigned statement denying the claims. ‘Why are you putting words in my mouth?’ said Allberry, according to people who attended the meeting. ‘Frankly, I believe these women and find their allegations to be credible.’”
      • This makes me very sad. Also, there’s a personal caution in here. One of the details is that Zacharias lied about smaller things. If you ever see me lying or exaggerating (except for obvious humor), please call me on it. I’d rather be embarrassed socially in the moment than lay the foundation for ruin later.
    • The Awokening Will Not Bring an End to the Nightmare (Musa al-Gharbi, Interfaith Youth Core) : “…the whites who seem most eager to condemn ‘ideological racism’ (i.e. people saying, thinking or feeling the ‘wrong’ things about minorities), and who are most ostentatious in demonstrating their own ‘wokeness,’ also tend to be the people who benefit the most from what sociologists describe as ‘institutional’ or ‘systemic’ racism. Consequently, the places in America with the highest concentrations of whites who are ‘with it’ also happen to be the most unequal places in the country.” The author is a sociologist at Columbia.
    • Making policy for a low-trust world (Matthew Yglesias, substack): “The correct way to respond to a low-trust environment is not to double down on proceduralism, but to commit yourself to the ‘it does exactly what it says on the tin’ principle and implement policies that have the following characteristics: It’s easy for everyone, whether they agree with you or disagree with you, to understand what it is you say you are doing. It’s easy for everyone to see whether or not you are, in fact, doing what you said you would do. It’s easy for you and your team to meet the goal of doing the thing that you said you would do.”
    • Like Preacher-Politicians Before Him, Senator Raphael Warnock Will Keep His Pulpit (Adelle Banks, Christianity Today): “ ‘It’s unusual for a pastor to get involved in something as messy as politics, but I see this as a continuation of a life of service: first as an agitator, then an advocate, and hopefully next as a legislator’” Warnock said as he was closing in on the top spot of a wide-open primary. ‘I say I’m stepping up to my next calling to serve, not stepping down from the pulpit.’ ” I did not know this history, and after reading it I am pleased to inform you that if I am elected to the US Senate I will continue to minister with Chi Alpha at Stanford.
    • The Real Problem with 4‑Letter Words (Karen Swallow Prior, Gospel Coalition): “Cursing falls into different categories. Strictly speaking, profanities are words that desacralize what is holy. Words misusing the names of God and his judgments are profane; the worst of these are blasphemy.While profanities are related to the divine, obscenities are related to the human. This category of words serves to coarsen bodily functions (whether sexual or excretory).… Another category of curse words consists of those the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker calls ‘abusive.’ ”
    • California’s Donor-Disclosure Law Threatens Religious Charities (John Bursch, Real Clear Religion): “Not once has the attorney general given a convincing reason for collecting donors’ names and addresses en masse. His office has effectively regulated charities for decades without that information. In 10 years, the attorney general only used donor lists in five out of 540 investigations. And even in those five, he could have obtained the same information through targeted subpoenas or audits, all without risking the massive disclosure of sensitive information from all registered charities.”
    • The New Strain: How Bad Is It? (Brendan Foht and Ari Schulman, The New Atlantis): “The steps that most need to be taken in response to the new strain are the same ones that should have been taken for the last year anyway, but that our government has proved largely unable or unwilling to take. An effective regime of testing, tracing, and isolating, for example, has been needed throughout the pandemic, but never really implemented.” One of the authors posted on Twitter: “In the course of working on this piece, my concern about the new Covid strain went from about a 4 to an 8.5, with the remaining 1.5 composed mostly of generalized skepticism and motivated disbelief.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How Pornography Makes Us Less Human and Less Humane (Matthew Lee Anderson, The Gospel Coalition): “Beneath pornography is the supposition that the mere fact of our desire for a woman makes us worthy of her. And so, not being bound by any kind of norm, desire must proceed endlessly. It is no surprise that the industrialized, cheap‐and‐easy sex of pornography has answered and evoked an almost unrestrained sexual greed, which allows us to be gods and goddesses within the safety of our own fantasies. It is for deep and important reasons that the Ten Commandments use the economic language of ‘coveting’ to describe the badness of errant sexual desires.” First shared in volume 216.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 277

After assembling them, I realized the first link is about the friend zone and the final link is about manly wedding rings.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. How To Get Out Of The Friend Zone (Aaron Renn, The Masculinist): “Friendships between men and women have the characteristic that they often evolve into asymmetry of intent, which is exploitative if it persists…. remember, just as no woman is under any obligation to go out on a date with a man such as you, you are under no obligation to be a friend to women.”
    • Every once in a while I like to toss out something sure to rile people up, just to make sure you’re all paying attention. 
  2. God Mode Activated: Meet the Gamers Bringing Jesus to Twitch (Christopher Hutton, Medium): “Dustin Phillips is a blond-haired, bearded children’s pastor in Texas who also serves as GMA’s CEO. On Twitch, he goes by the handle PastorDoostyn and is known as the “demon-slaying pastor.” He preaches the gospel to his 1,400 followers while streaming games like Doom and Pokemon.“ Recommended by a student who was no doubt procrastinating on finals. 
  3. Boy Scouts Face At Least 82,000 Sex Abuse Claims (Ministry Watch): “Today is the deadline set by a bankruptcy court for filing a sex-abuse claim against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). The number of claims so far filed now exceed 82,000, far more than the 9,000 claims filed in Catholic Church cases.”
    • Some of you have heard me say this before: the sexual abuse scandal in the church is horrific, yet it will be dwarfed by what we uncover about sexual abuse in public schools and in youth organizations. The churches deserve rebuke for their handling of the wickedness in their ranks; sadly, I doubt that you will hear nearly as much about the far more massive scandals lurking in nonreligious institutions.
  4. Andy Stanley on Evangelicals After Trump (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “In the Gospels, Jesus calls on his followers to go out, teach his message, and baptize people. Stanley has organized his life around this imperative, called ‘the Great Commission.’ The question for evangelicals, now, is whether the undeniable association between Trump and their version of Christianity will make that work harder. ‘Has this group of people who have somehow become “evangelical leaders”’ aligned with Trump ‘hurt the Church’s ability to reach people outside the Church? Absolutely,’ Stanley said. But he’s not overly worried: A year or two from now, he said, ‘all that goes away.’ New leaders will rise up. The Trump era of evangelical history will fade. Stanley chuckled. ‘And this will just be, for a lot of people, a bad dream.’”
    • Related: The Cultural Consequences of Very, Very Republican Christianity (David French, The Dispatch): “What’s the cultural effect of a very, very Republican Christianity? It’s way too simple to say that it impairs the ability of Christians to reach their friends and neighbors. In some places it enhances the church’s appeal and integrates Christians within their community. In other places it creates a host of challenges and needlessly alienates Christians from their fellow citizens.” Insightful.
  5. Victimhood or Development? (Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, Shelby Steele and Eli Steele, Quillette): “Again, the biggest mistake we made is to buy into the idea that our victimization by racism was our source of power rather than our self, our skills, our talents, our development. As victims, we had won a great civil rights movement. The downside is it seduced us.” A fascinating conversation to eavesdrop on. You can also watch it on video.
  6. Madison Cawthorn, the GOP’s young star, arrives in Washington (Matthew Kassel, Jewish Insider): “He… seemed to believe that evangelism was a calling on par with public service. ‘If all you are is friends with other Christians, then how are you ever going to lead somebody to Christ?’ Cawthorn mused. ‘If you’re not wanting to lead somebody to Christ, then you’re probably not really a Christian.’”
    • I share that article to provide context for this article: Newly Elected GOP Congressman Madison Cawthorn Has Tried to Convert Jews to Christianity (Pilar Melendez, The Daily Beast): “Madison Cawthorn, the North Carolina Republican who will become the youngest member of Congress in history, has admitted he tried to convert Jews and Muslims to Christianity.” The journalist seems genuinely shocked.
    • Contrast that with Convert Me If You Can (David Harsyani, National Review): “To be honest, I’m often surprised at how shy Christians are at [evangelism]. As a heathen, though, I am flattered by the attention. And as a person in possession of free will, I am also unconcerned.” 
  7. Pastor John MacArthur and California church closings: Why isn’t this a national story? (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “Indoor worship services are banned in California, a state of megachurches. You don’t have to be a religion expert to know that restriction wasn’t going to fly, especially when stores and other businesses had no similar restrictions…. Again, religious folks see a chasm between how they’re treated and how other protestors are treated. And in-person nude dancing is a form of protected cultural expression, as opposed to public worship?”

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 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. First shared in volume 210.

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 166

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. God’s Mayor in Guatemala (Dale Hanson Bourke, Christianity Today): “In the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America, the countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala form a violent triad. The murder rate is higher in this region than in most active war zones. Gangs, cartels, and vigilantes impose their will, taking over or co-opting legitimate police forces and routinely terrorizing average citizens…. In the middle of this violence sits the town of San Cristóbal Acasaguastlán, a picturesque oasis of calm with a population of about 6,000 people. What sets this place apart are the efforts of Jeaneth Ordoñez, the Christian mayor who has united the townspeople in their quest to keep the municipality free of the violence and upheaval that surrounds them.”
  2. No alcohol safe to drink, global study confirms (Laurel Ives, BBC): “A large new global study published in the Lancet has confirmed previous research which has shown that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. The researchers admit moderate drinking may protect against heart disease but found that the risk of cancer and other diseases outweighs these protections.” The underlying research: Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 (The Lancet. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310–2)
  3. Christians to Science: Leave Animals the Way God Designed Them—Except Mosquitoes (Rebecca Randall, Christianity Today): “Messing with nature or God’s plan was a top concern for those opposed to engineering animal meat to be more nutritious (22%), bringing back an extinct species (23%), or making aquarium fish glow (18%). The reason cited most often to oppose creating glowing fish was simply that it is unnecessary and frivolous (48%).” Apparently I am an outlier. Make the fish glow, make meat more nutritious, and deal with mosquito-borne disease. I really like the way the Kenyan researcher quoted in the article encourages us to target the parasite and not the carrier. We are made in the image of God so that we can exercise dominion over Creation!
  4. The Peter Principle is a joke taken seriously. Is it true? (Tim Harford, Financial Times): “The authors of the paper discovered that the best salespeople were more likely to be promoted, and that they were then terrible managers. The better they had been in sales, the worse their teams performed once they arrived in a managerial role. What’s more, people were not promoted for behaviour that might seem correlated with managerial ability — in particular, those who collaborated with others were not rewarded for doing so. What mattered were sales, pure and simple.” It may be the case that you should dress for the job you want, but if you want to get promoted you had better rock the job you have.
  5. Gay Men Are Different, Says Gay Male Reader (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Well-meaning straight liberals just do not get it, and lots of gay men will not criticize anything gay men collectively do because they think it will result in both lots of anger from other gay men as well as the empowerment of ideological enemies who want to, say, ban gay marriage. Men and women are fundamentally different and a male-female sexual culture is not going to be the same as a male-male sexual culture.” I suspect this will considered controversial by one set of readers and common sense by another, and that the groups will not break down along predictable lines.
  6. How the internet has changed dating (The Economist): “…a 2013 study researchers from Harvard University and the University of Chicago showed that marriages that started online were less likely to end in break-up and were associated with higher levels of satisfaction than marriages of the same vintage between similar couples who had met offline: the difference was not huge, but it was statistically significant.”
  7. What Trump Knew and Voters Didn’t (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “…Trump voters went to the polls unaware that a sum exceeding most of their annual salaries was expended to keep that [Trump paid off a porn star] from them. Even if the payment had been totally legal, it would’ve constituted a deliberate, immoral, classically politician-like effort to mislead voters about the choice before them. But the payment was not legal. It violated campaign-finance laws—and it was not a merely accidental and technical violation of an overly complicated or controversial provision.” This article is a pretty good and succinct summary of the current debate about Trump.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How Can I Learn To Receive – And Give – Criticism In Light Of The Cross?(Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ’s crucifixion. In other words, in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s judgment of me; and in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s justification of me. Both have a radical impact on how we take and give criticism.” This is based on a longer article (4 page PDF). (first shared in volume 63)

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).

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.

The Four Loves: Eros

The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through three books by C. S. Lewis, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2018. The schedule is online.

I’m at a conference right now with a pretty packed schedule, so I’m dashing this email off quicker than normal. Apologies for typos or incoherent thoughts. 🙂

One thing I greatly appreciated in this chapter is Lewis’s discussion of how amusing human romance is. Not everyone gets this.

I remember I was once at a conference hosting a table discussion with students about romance and relationships and sex. I was making the point that sex is an objectively absurd thing. I was, if I may say so, on top of my game that day and they were roaring with laughter.

One of the students at my table suddenly stopped laughing and said, “I have a question. I just overheard the table host at the other table criticize us for laughing at sex. He said that we don’t understand how serious and sacred sex is. That laughing at it like this shows that we’re immature and we’re going to get ourselves into trouble because we don’t approach it with solemnity. What do you think about that?”

Everyone stopped laughing as though they had been slapped, for indeed they had been.

I cannot remember in detail how I went on to defend my thoughts that day (although I recall further and perhaps excessive ridicule of my critic’s perspective was deployed), but I am pleased to report that this chapter reveals that C.S. Lewis shared my perspective.

For I can hardly help regarding it as one of God’s jokes that a passion so soaring, so apparently transcendent, as Eros, should thus be linked in incongruous symbiosis with a bodily appetite which, like any other appetite, tactlessly reveals its connections with such mundane factors as weather, health, diet, circulation, and digestion. In Eros at times we seem to be flying; Venus gives us the sudden twitch that reminds us we are really captive balloons.

And later:

So the body. There’s no living with it till we recognise that one of its functions in our lives is to play the part of buffoon. Until some theory has sophisticated them, every man, woman and child in the world knows this. The fact that we have bodies is the oldest joke there is.

And again:

Nothing is falser than the idea that mockery is necessarily hostile. Until they have a baby to laugh at, lovers are always laughing at each other.

So here is my encouragement to you in your romantic journey: see the humor in it.

But romance is not just amusing — it is also profound. If it was only amusing it would not be worth so much energy and attention. It would be at most a hobby. Romance is far more than that. Lewis explains one of the spiritual dynamics at work in romantic love:

The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive wall of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being. Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival. It is even (well used) a preparation for that…. Can we be in this selfless liberation for a lifetime? Hardly for a week. Between the best possible lovers this high condition is intermittent. The old self soon turns out to be not so dead as he pretended—as after a religious conversion. In either he may be momentarily knocked flat; he will soon be up again; if not on his feet, at least on his elbow, if not roaring, at least back to his surly grumbling or his mendicant whine.

That’s it for this week. Next week: agape!

The Four Loves: Friendship

The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through three books by C. S. Lewis, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2018. The schedule is online.

Now we turn to the second human love Lewis considers: philia (φιλία — friendship)

Even if you’ve gotten behind on the readings I encourage you to go through this chapter. While much has changed in the way we think about friendship nowadays (for instance, we value it more than did Lewis’s contemporaries), much has not. And the nature of friendship has changed not at all. Lewis’s insights will help you forge better friendships and be a better friend.

Three comments before we dive in:

On to the content! This is one of my favorite observations by Lewis:

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. (page 783)

In case you were wondering, Charles is Charles Williams (a novelist, poet, and editor at Oxford University Press) and Ronald is J. R. R. Tolkien (yes — that Tolkien). They along with Lewis were the central members of a literary discussion group called the Inklings. They would read their writings aloud to one another and critique each other. If you’re ever in Oxford you can visit the pub they used to meet in — The Eagle and Child.

Back to the main topic. This idea of two friends bringing things out of each other that allow me to appreciate each of them more is beautiful, and Lewis’s theological application of it is one that I have found helpful when thinking about the glory of heaven:

…the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah VI, 3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have. (page 783)

More practically, Lewis has some thoughts on how friendships begin:

Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” (page 785)

This is one reason why college is so exhilarating. You have so many more peers than you did in high school that you can easily find people who share your interests. Your friendships in Chi Alpha especially have the potential to become so satisfying because you’ve already got your faith in common, and on top of that Stanford itself, and on top of that your experience of Chi Alpha instead of another Christian community, and if you add on top of that just one more thing like a certain sport or a specific fandom or a shared sense of humor then the odds that a significant friendship will form are quite high. 

Not everyone acquires those friendships, of course. Some respond by looking for friends. Lewis points out why looking for friends directly is often counterproductive:

That is why those pathetic people who simply “want friends” can never make any. The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Where the truthful answer to the question Do you see the same truth? would be “I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth; I only want a Friend,” no Friendship can arise— though Affection of course may. There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers. (page 786)

So if you feel lonely — pursue something you’re interested in. And then chat with those around you who are engaged in the same pursuit. Friendship will often emerge. This will prove to be especially useful advice once you graduate and have to forge friendships without the aggressive help of Stanford Res Ed.

Lewis also addresses a perennial question among college students: can guys and girls can be just friends?

When the two people who thus discover that they are on the same secret road are of different sexes, the friendship which arises between them will very easily pass—may pass in the first half-hour—into erotic love. Indeed, unless they are physically repulsive to each other or unless one or both already loves elsewhere, it is almost certain to do so sooner or later. (page 786)

Lewis is correct, and at this juncture I refer you to one of my favorite YouTube videos: Why Men and Women Can’t Be Friends

Near the end of the chapter he gives us a helpful reminder:

…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends “You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” (pages 801–802)

Thank God for your friends!

Next week, romantic love…

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 152

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. Love, Again: on a celibate breakup and what happened after. (Wesley Hill, Comment Magazine): “For a long time, I found abstinence relatively easy. It’s not trendy to admit this, but I didn’t experience a sexless adulthood to be a fate worse than death, in part, perhaps, because I tried not to rev up my libido by seeing how close I could get to the line of intercourse without stepping over it…. What I didn’t realize, though, is that, for the intentionally abstinent, giving up sex is only part of the deal, and there’s more than one line you can step across.”
  2. Let’s Not Forget How Wrong Our Crime Data Are (Cathy O’Neil, Bloomberg): “A year after Trump was elected, the number of reported rapes among the Latino population of Houston declined by 40 percent, a strong indication that people became afraid to report the crimes. Police often don’t take rape victims’ reports seriously, a problem that is probably even worse for male victims. So how can we get a better understanding of the underlying rate of crime? Surveys typically don’t help: People who get away with committing serious offenses aren’t likely to admit it, even if they’re guaranteed anonymity. The one notable exception is marijuana use, which — though still illegal in most places — is mild and socially acceptable enough that people are willing to tell the truth. Hence, if we compare the reported rate of marijuana use to the arrest data, we can gain some insight into how useful the latter really is. The picture isn’t pretty. The latest government surveys, for example, suggest that black and white Americans use marijuana at about the same rate. Yet blacks get arrested about four times more often than whites — and 15 times more often in Manhattan, according to a recent New York Times analysis.” The author has her Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University.
  3. This week the US moved our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s modern instantiation. Violence ensued.
    • Israel faces outcry over Gaza killings during Jerusalem embassy protests (Oliver Holmes and Hazem Balousha, The Guardian): “Gaza has had its bloodiest day in years on Monday after Israeli forces shot and killed 58 Palestinians and wounded at least 1,200 as tens of thousands protested along the frontier against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.”
    • The Real Dispute Driving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Yossi Klein Halevi, The Atlantic): “Abbas’s speech only confirmed for many Israelis that this conflict isn’t primarily about redressing the Palestinian grievances over the consequences of the events of 1967—the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza—but of 1948: the creation of Israel. Even if we were to uproot every last settlement and withdraw to the 1967 lines, some Israelis say, it won’t bring us any closer to peace, because the real Palestinian grievance is Israel’s existence…. Israelis and Palestinians are caught in what could be called a “cycle of denial.” The Palestinian national movement denies Israel’s legitimacy, and Israel in turn denies the Palestinians’ national sovereignty. The cycle of denial has defined this shared existence since the creation of Israel 70 years ago.”
    • Pulling an article I first shared back in volume 5What The Media Gets Wrong About Israel (Matti Friedman, The Atlantic): “…one of the most important aspects of the media-saturated conflict between Jews and Arabs is also the least covered: the press itself. The Western press has become less an observer of this conflict than an actor in it, a role with consequences for the millions of people trying to comprehend current events, including policymakers who depend on journalistic accounts to understand a region where they consistently seek, and fail, to productively intervene.”
    • Israel’s Massacre of Palestinian Civilians Should Spark Horror—and Action (Ian S. Lustick, The Nation): “As documented by the Israeli military, there are now more Palestinians under the control of the Israeli state than there are Jews. Indeed, for all intents and purposes the Palestinians of Gaza and of the West Bank are already within the Jewish state. They are citizens of no other country, no other recognized state. As measured by how much impact the State of Israel has over the intimate details of their lives, and indeed over whether they will live at all, they are as much inhabitants of the State of Israel as black slaves were inhabitants of the United States or as Africans in the Bantustans were inhabitants of apartheid South Africa.” The author is a poli sci professor at Penn.
    • Israel Has the Right and Obligation to Defend Its Border with Deadly Force (David French, National Review): “What would you have Israel do when thousands of people march on the border, some armed, some not? What would you have Israel do when you know that terrorists are certainly mixed in that crowd, people who’d gladly shoot or stab Israeli civilians if they were ever to gain access to Israeli towns?”
  4. Basic Income, Not Basic Jobs: Against Hijacking Utopia (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex):  “I grudgingly forgive capitalism the misery it causes, because it’s the engine that lifts countries out of poverty. It’s a precondition for a free and prosperous society; attempts to overthrow it have so consistently led to poverty, tyranny, or genocide that we no longer believe its proponents’ earnest oaths that this time they’ve got it right. For right now, there’s no good alternative. But if we have a basic jobs guarantee, it will cause all the same misery, and I won’t forgive it.“ This is a long article — skim it. Overall a very strong argument.
  5. An atheist Muslim on what the left and right get wrong about Islam (Sean Illing, Vox): “I think the left has a blind spot when it comes to Islam and the right has a blind spot when it comes to Muslims.” This article is an interesting mix of insight and folly.
  6. Interesting observations from a political scientist (Corrinne McConaughy, Twitter): “How hard is it to reach into politics and say simultaneously that you are owed more and less than you have been given? Like, that’s a hard argument to make—so hard that the elites trying to explain this sort of tension keep whiffing past it.” She is a political scientist at George Washington University. I don’t know if she is a Christian, but the way she worded that bit was very gospelish.
  7. The Fall of The German Empire (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “And thinking about the European Union this way, as a Germanic empire as well as a liberal-cosmopolitan project, is a helpful way of understanding how it might ultimately fall…. if the test of Europe’s unity feels like a test for liberal democracy, it’s a mistake to see it only in those terms. It is also a struggle of nations against empire, of the Continent’s smaller countries against German mastery and Northern European interests, in which populist parties are being elected to resist policies the center sought to impose upon the periphery without a vote.”

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).

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.

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Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 148

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. This college professor gives her students extra credit for going on dates (Lisa Bonos, Washington Post): “She sees conversations about dating as part of the big questions her classes tackle, such as: How should I live my life? What kinds of relationships help me to become the kind of person I want to be? If students don’t learn how to date while they’re in college, while surrounded by thousands of peers all in a similar stage in life, Cronin says, it only gets harder to build those skills after graduation.” The professor in question, Kerry Cronin, is a philosopher at Boston College.
    • She has these rules for a first date: “The student has to ask in person (“texting is the devil; stop it,” she says in one of her YouTube videos), and the recipient has to know it’s a date. And if they say they’re busy and to check back with them later, don’t. Just move on. ‘That’s a great skill to build, so that you can have a thicker skin,’ Cronin says. She believes that the person who asks, pays. And the first date shouldn’t cost more than $10, include drugs or alcohol, or last longer than 90 minutes…”
    • Those are good guidelines. Read them again.
  2. I think the following two articles will prove to be among the most controversial I’ve ever shared. I also think they both contain much practical wisdom that will prove relevant as the weather warms:
    • For the gents: 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.”
    • For the ladies: Sister… Show Mercy! (Dan Phillips, Team Pyro): “Sister, if there’s one thing you and I can certainly agree on, it’s this: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, and you don’t know what it’s like to be a man. We’re both probably wrong where we’re sure we’re right, try as we might. So let me try to dart a telegram from my camp over to the distaff side.”
    • I am aware that these two articles only deal with things from a male perspective. Sadly, I haven’t come across any insightful articles that help ladies deal with their own lust or give gentlemen advice on how to be helpful to them. Ladies, if you’ve read something you found truly helpful, let me know.
  3. Jesus, Take the Control Wheel: Southwest Pilot Saw Flying as Ministry (David Roach, Christianity Today): “Tammie Jo Shults—the pilot who guided Flight 1380 to the ground April 17 after a midflight engine failure shot debris through a window, killing one passenger—is a recognizable figure at the Texas Hill Country church, which averages 900 in worship…. Multiple media reports have cited a blog post in which Shults stated being a pilot gave her ‘the opportunity to witness for Christ on almost every flight.’” You can glorify God in almost any profession — make it your ambition.
  4. Five Great Books on African American Evangelical History (Thomas Kidd, The Gospel Coalition): “If I had to pick one African American church leader I wish more Christians knew about, it would probably be [Lemuel] Haynes. A Revolutionary War soldier, Haynes went on to become a pastor of a largely white church in New England, a critic of American slavery, and an advocate of the New Divinity theology of Jonathan Edwards’s successors.”
  5. Donald Trump, Tragic Hero (Victor Davis Hanson, National Review): “Tragic heroes, as they have been portrayed from Sophocles’ plays (e.g., Ajax, Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Philoctetes) to the modern western film, are not intrinsically noble. Much less are they likeable. Certainly, they can often be obnoxious and petty, if not dangerous, especially to those around them.” Hanson is a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
  6. The Facebook Trials: It’s Not “Our” Data (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “…I have hundreds of friends on Facebook, most of whom I don’t know well and have never met. But my Facebook friends are friends. We share common interests and, most of the time, I’m happy to see what they are thinking and doing and I’m pleased when they show interest in what I’m up to. If, before Facebook existed, I had been asked to list ‘my friends,’ I would have had a hard time naming ten friends, let alone hundreds. My Facebook friends didn’t exist before Facebook. My Facebook friendships are not simply my data—they are a unique co-creation of myself, my friends, and, yes, Facebook.”
  7. Google Will Now Answer Your Theological Questions (OpenBible.info): “Google just announced an AI-powered experiment called Talk to Books, which lets you enter a query and find passages in books that are semantically similar to your query, not merely passages that happen to match the keywords you chose. For theology- and Bible-related questions, it often presents an evangelical perspective, perhaps because U.S. evangelical publishers have been eager for Google to index their books.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • A Divided Country (Pearls Before Swine): this one actually made me laugh and not merely chortle sensibly.
  • Christ Chella (John Crist, Facebook): this is amazingly detailed and the more you know the evangelical culture the funnier it is

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have On Political Correctness (William Deresiewicz, The American Scholar): a long and thoughtful article. “Selective private colleges have become religious schools. The religion in question is not Methodism or Catholicism but an extreme version of the belief system of the liberal elite: the liberal professional, managerial, and creative classes, which provide a large majority of students enrolled at such places and an even larger majority of faculty and administrators who work at them. To attend those institutions is to be socialized, and not infrequently, indoctrinated into that religion…. I say this, by the way, as an atheist, a democratic socialist, a native northeasterner, a person who believes that colleges should not have sports teams in the first place—and in case it isn’t obvious by now, a card-carrying member of the liberal elite.” (first shared in volume 92)

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).

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.