Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 310

short and sweet this week

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 volume 310 — which in base 6 is rendered as the much cooler volume 1234.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Can Silicon Valley Find God? (Linda Kinstler, New York Times): “Over the course of my reporting, I often thought back to the experience of Rob Barrett, who worked as a researcher at IBM in the ’90s. One day, he was outlining the default privacy settings for an early web browser feature. His boss, he said, gave him only one instruction: ‘Do the right thing.’ It was up to Mr. Barrett to decide what the “right thing” was. That was when it dawned on him: ‘I don’t know enough theology to be a good engineer,’ he told his boss. He requested a leave of absence so he could study the Old Testament, and eventually he left the industry.” One of the interviewees, Sherol Chen, used to serve on our worship team. Interesting article!
  2. A horn-wearing ‘shaman.’ A cowboy evangelist. For some, the Capitol attack was a kind of Christian revolt. (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “For many, their religious beliefs were not tied to any specific church or denomination — leaders of major denominations and megachurches, and even President Donald Trump’s faith advisers, were absent that day. For such people, their faith is individualistic, largely free of structures, rules or the approval of clergy.… part of the mix, say experts on American religion, is the fact that the country is in a period when institutional religion is breaking apart, becoming more individualized and more disconnected from denominations, theological credentials and oversight.”
    • You may have heard me say it before: “If you think organized religion is bad, wait until you catch a glimpse of disorganized religion.”
  3. I tried to report scientific misconduct. How did it go? (Joe Hilgard, personal blog): “I was curious to see how the self-correcting mechanisms of science would respond to what seemed to me a rather obvious case of unreliable data and possible research misconduct. It turns out Brandolini’s Law still holds: ‘The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than to produce it.’ However, I was not prepared to be resisted and hindered by the self-correcting institutions of science itself.” Recommended by a student. The author is a psych prof at Illinois State.
  4. Anti-Racism is an Inter-White Struggle (Freddie deBoer, SubStack): “Anti-racism has become a kind of high-stakes poker game for educated white people: you risk losing your shirt at any time, but those who have the savvy and the guts to bluff their way to the top reap social and professional rewards.”
  5. Book Review: Crazy Like Us (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “…does naming and pointing to a mental health problem make it worse? This was clearest in Hong Kong, where a seemingly very low base rate of anorexia exploded as soon as people started launching mental health awareness campaigns saying that it was a common and important disease (as had apparently happened before in Victorian Europe and 70s/80s America). But it also showed up in the section on how increasing awareness of PTSD seems to be associated with more PTSD, and how debriefing trauma victims about how they might get PTSD makes them more likely to get it.”
  6. Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right? (Jason Zengerle, New York Times): “Sometimes it seems as if Hafer and his partners invent jobs at Black Rifle for veterans to do. A former Green Beret medic helps Black Rifle with events and outreach and was recently made the director of its newly formed charity organization. Four years ago, Black Rifle received a Facebook message from an Afghan Army veteran with whom Hafer once served; he wrote that he was now working at a gas station and living with his family in public housing in Charlottesville. ‘We honestly assumed he was dead,’ Hafer says. Black Rifle found a home for the man and his family in Utah, and he now does building and grounds maintenance at the company’s Salt Lake City offices. At those offices, I met a quiet, haunted-seeming man who had been a C.I.A.-contractor colleague of Hafer’s and who, for a time, lived in a trailer he parked on the office grounds. Later, I asked Hafer what, exactly, the man did for Black Rifle. ‘He just gets better,’ Hafer replied. ‘He gets better.’ ”
    • This was WAY more interesting than I expected.
  7. The History of Canada’s Residential Schools (Douglas Farrow, First Things): “How could this be? Who is responsible? Are the religious organizations who operated the residential schools the real culprits, as many suppose? A careful examination shows that supposition to be flawed. The tragedy, and the crimes it involved—crimes some are falsely characterizing as genocide—began with government-mandated violation of parental rights, an error gaining currency again today.” The author is a professor of theology and ethics at McGill University in Montreal.

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 Book Review: Seeing Like A State (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Peasants didn’t like permanent surnames. Their own system was quite reasonable for them: John the baker was John Baker, John the blacksmith was John Smith, John who lived under the hill was John Underhill, John who was really short was John Short. The same person might be John Smith and John Underhill in different contexts, where his status as a blacksmith or place of origin was more important. But the government insisted on giving everyone a single permanent name, unique for the village, and tracking who was in the same family as whom. Resistance was intense.” This is long and amazing. (first shared in volume 95)

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 307

my favorite article this week is about a guy who could quench flames by singing at them

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 307th installation, which I like because 307 is a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Enduring Lesson of the Galileo Myth (Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition): “While I first heard the story of Galileo in elementary school, it wasn’t until about a decade after I had graduated from college that I finally learned the truth. No doubt some people are just now hearing about it for the first time. How is that possible?”
    • Unless you have done some reading on Galileo, you almost certainly believe untrue things about what happened.
  2. Social Media, Identity, and the Church (Tim Keller, Life In The Gospel): “While extremists can only gain status and belonging on-line, moderates (rightly) fear saying something that will anger others and jeopardize their career or relationships. And so, while extremists’ fragile identities get a great deal of cover on the internet, moderates’ identities are threatened by it.”
  3. The Man Who Put Out Fires with Music (Ted Gioia, Substack): “This experiment excited such skepticism that Kellogg was enlisted to repeat it for a team of Berkeley scientists. The resulting public test on September 6, broadcast live over KGO, is one of the most remarkable events in the history of radio.”
    • I’ve actually heard (and used) the closing story before in a sermon, but there were details I didn’t know. It’s nice to have the full story. Coming once again to a sermon near you.
  4. Some articles about self-censorship and cancellation:
    • Why I’m Leaving Mumford & Sons (Winston Marshall, Medium): “The truth is that reporting on extremism at the great risk of endangering oneself is unquestionably brave. I also feel that my previous apology in a small way participates in the lie that such extremism does not exist, or worse, is a force for good.” Courage and class.
    • Meet the Censored: Bret Weinstein (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “This is a significant moment in the history of American media. If a show with the audience that Weinstein and Heying have can be put out of business this easily, it means that independent media going forward will either have to operate outside the major Internet platforms, or give up its traditional role as a challenger of mainstream narratives.”
    • The Enemies of the Open Society (Martin Gurri, Discourse Magazine): “In other words, this was a cultural rather than a political event. It concerned our ideals, not our rights: and the ideals of a great many important Americans appear at this time to be drifting away from the open society.”
    • The Books Are Already Burning (Abigail Shrier, Bari Weiss’s Substack): “But why do so few oppose the pressure, lies, and the corrupting force of these bullying campaigns? The silent supporters have each performed the same risk-benefit calculation and arrived at the same conclusion: Speaking up isn’t worth it.”
    • A Conversation with Daniel Elder, the Choral Music Composer Who Was Cancelled for Opposing Arson (Quillette): “The media prefers to focus on how horrible this experience was for me, but an important facet easily lost in this narrative is how free I’ve felt since I made the choice.… I say this as an encouragement to the silent majority all around us: If you’re willing to endure the painful trial of self, you will be better for it in the end. And, with enough of us, the world will be better, too.”
  5. Some articles on sexuality and sexual ethics.
    • A Peculiar Disapproval of Gay Pride (John Piper, Desiring God): “When a person becomes a Christian, he undergoes a transformation not just of what he disapproves, but of how he disapproves. There is nothing peculiarly Christian about the mere disapproval of any human behavior. Therefore, disapproval of sinful behaviors is no evidence of saving grace. Becoming a Christian is far more profound than changing what we disapprove of.”
    • How Should I Respond to a Colleague’s Same-Sex Wedding? (Charlie Self, The Gospel Coalition): “But even with a humble and loving spirit, prudent speech, and genuine love for the co-workers, there’s a risk of losing promotions and even employment. This is where faith must conquer fear, and holy love triumph over compromise. As these decisions are discerned, may they be bathed in blessing our co-workers with tearful intercession.” Charlie is a friend who has spoken at Chi Alpha before.
    • How Should I Address My Transgender Colleague? (Charlie Self, The Gospel Coalition): “As Christians, we want to tell the truth, and using the wrong pronouns isn’t truth-telling. On the other hand, insisting on using correct pronouns for a person who has asked you not to can come across as disrespectful and antagonistic.”
    • Homophobes don’t care about same-sex love. They object to the sex. (Brian Broome, Washington Post): “Love isn’t the problem. I don’t believe that homophobes object to whether same-sex couples love each other. No, it’s not the love. It’s the sex.”
  6. The Great Awokening (anonymous, Substack): “This brings us ultimately back to religion. You cannot fight something with nothing. You cannot fight a religious war just by being against that religion. You must fight it with a competing religion. And there is one that has deep roots here in America. Evangelical Protestantism, in its various iterations, is what founded the country. The woke will even admit it (when it is useful to accuse the Christians who built America of genocide). It formed the religious core of America ages ago and if wokeness will ever be combated it will again.”
  7. This is an older (1992) article shared with me by a student: Research Supports Bible’s Account of Red Sea Parting : Weather: Gulf of Suez’s geography would make it possible, meteorologist and oceanographer say. (Thomas H. Maugh II, LA Times): “Because of the peculiar geography of the northern end of the Red Sea, researchers report Sunday in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, a moderate wind blowing constantly for about 10 hours could have caused the sea to recede about a mile and the water level to drop 10 feet, leaving dry land in the area where many biblical scholars believe the crossing occurred.” I have not looked into the underlying research, but quite interesting.

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 Political Correctness (William Deresiewicz, The American Scholar): a long and thoughtful article. “Selective private colleges have become religious schools.… 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). 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 293

featuring several perspectives about the murders in Atlanta

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 volume 293 — a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Article related to violence against Asian-Americans:
    • Religion, Race, and the Atlanta Murders (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “There are so many threads to this knot that need to be slowly untangled. There are elements related to pornography, sex trafficking, religion, evangelicalism, Southern Baptists, and many others just outside our periphery. But neither the complexity of this event nor the tribalism of our cultural discourse must not allow us to avoid self-reflection and scrutiny. We must confront the reality that something is horribly wrong in our midst when a person kills to ‘eliminate’ temptation.”
    • We Need to Put a Name to This Violence (Jay Caspian Kang, New York Times): “There is no shared history between, say, Thai immigrants who saw images of one of their own attacked in San Francisco, and the Chinese-American population of Oakland alarmed by the assault in Chinatown.Asian-American identity is fractured and often incoherent because it assumes kinship between people who do not speak the same language, and, in many cases, dislike one another.” This was written before the Atlanta murders and is discussing the trend wave of violence more generally.
    • The Muddled History of Anti-Asian Violence (Hua Hsu, New Yorker): “Some have wondered if these horrific, viral videos constitute a wave, or if they were just random incidents. When your concerns have gone unrecognized for decades, it’s understandable why some within the Asian-American community remain so invested in using these highly visible moments as an opportunity to call attention to hate, even if the incidents seem more varied than that. The wave in question isn’t just two or three incidents.” Also written before the Atlanta shootings.
    • Racializing The Atlanta Massage Parlor Killings (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “It is striking to see how quickly our media has racialized the narrative of the horrific murders at the Georgia massage parlors. From what we know so far, the alleged murderer was a young man tormented by his compulsive sexual desires. He visited massage parlors in the past, and went to this one to kill the women he once depended on to gratify his desires. From all the available evidence, these killings were the misogynistic act of a sexually depraved man.” As is often the case with Dreher, some of the best material is in the updates at the end (usually a comment from a reader that Dreher thought significant).
    • When The Narrative Replaces The News (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “Mass killers, if they are motivated by bigotry or hate, tend to let the world know… This mass murderer in Atlanta actually denied any such motive, and, to repeat myself, there is no evidence for it — and that has been true from the very start.”
    • The Media Got It Wrong: Police Captain Didn’t Say the Atlanta Spa Killer Was Having a ‘Bad Day’ (Robby Soave, Reason): “A police officer excusing Long’s actions as merely the result of him having a ‘bad day’ would indeed be contemptible. But that’s not what Baker did. In fact, many of the people so infuriated about the quote were misled by Rupar’s edit of the video. The full video (the relevant section starts at about 13:50) makes clear that Baker was not providing his own commentary, but rather summarizing what Long had told the investigators.”
  2. Third Places and the Horizons of Male Friendships (Ryan McCormick, Mere Orthodoxy): “Generally speaking, typical male friendship is different from typical, contemporary female friendship. A failure to recognize the different ways that men and women form intimate bonds in friendship is what breeds so much confusion and leads to the misdiagnosis of ‘toxic masculinity.’” I will add one extra layer of diagnosis that the author didn’t address: many in our culture have a horror of male-only spaces. How are we surprised to discover a dearth of male friendships when we view the very existence of masculine communities as evidence of something amiss?
  3. The False and Exaggerated Claims Still Being Spread About the Capitol Riot (Glenn Greenwald, Substack): “Despite this alleged brutal murder taking place in one of the most surveilled buildings on the planet, filled that day with hundreds of cellphones taping the events, nobody saw video of it. No photographs depicted it. To this day, no autopsy report has been released. No details from any official source have been provided.”
    • Follow-up: As the Insurrection Narrative Crumbles, Democrats Cling to it More Desperately Than Ever (Glenn Greenwald, Substack): “As I detailed several weeks ago, so many of the most harrowing and widespread media claims about the January 6 riot proved to be total fabrications. A pro-Trump mob did not bash Office Brian Sicknick’s skull in with a fire extinguisher. No protester brought zip-ties with them as some premeditated plot to kidnap members of Congress (two rioters found them on a table inside). There’s no evidence anyone intended to assassinate Mike Pence, Mitt Romney or anyone else.”
    • Related: Two are charged in the assault of a Capitol Police officer who died after the Jan. 6 riot. (Katie Benner and Adam Goldman, New York Times): “The Justice Department has charged two men in the assault on Brian D. Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who died the day after he fought rioters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the case and court documents.… It is not clear whether Officer Sicknick died because of his exposure to the spray.”
  4. Covid’s Partisan Errors (David Leonhardt, New York Times): “ ‘Republicans consistently underestimate risks, while Democrats consistently overestimate them.’  …The reasons for these ideological biases aren’t completely clear, but they are not shocking. Conservatives tend to be more hostile to behavior restrictions and to scientific research. And liberals sometimes overreact to social problems.”
  5. Timing the SARS-CoV‑2 index case in Hubei province (Science, Jonathan Pekar et al):  “Empirical observation throughout the SARS-CoV‑2 pandemic has shown the outsized role of superspreading events in the propagation of SARS-CoV‑2, wherein the average infected person does not transmit the virus. Our results suggest the same dynamics likely influenced the initial establishment of SARS-CoV‑2 in humans, as only 29.7% of simulated epidemics from the primary analysis went on to establish self-sustaining epidemics. The remaining 70.3% of epidemics went extinct.… Furthermore, the large and highly connected contact networks characterizing urban areas seem critical to the establishment of SARS-CoV‑2. When we simulated epidemics where the number of connections was reduced by 50% or 75% (without rescaling per-contact transmissibility), to reflect emergence in a rural community, the epidemics went extinct 94.5% or 99.6% of the time, respectively.”
    • This is really interesting. The researchers are largely at UCSD. One implication is that there are a LOT more animal-to-human COVID-like infections that simply never make the leap to becoming widespread. Kind of like music: there are a ton of great musicians who just never catch their big break. Without superspreaders, this kind of pandemic appears unlikely. I hope researchers can find a way to address whatever causes someone to be a superspreader.
  6. Raising Beef Cattle (Tom Blanton, Quillette): “It is by cherry-picking images of the times of confinement from around the world that the gruesome image of ‘factory farms’ is created. Often the images are taken from countries that don’t have the humanitarian regulations that most Western nations have.… If those genuinely concerned for the suffering of animals could find it within themselves to recognize that it is not immoral to slaughter animals humanely for food, they would find many allies for the cause of reducing animal suffering amongst the people who raise and work with these animals on a daily basis.”
  7. Could It Be… Genes? (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “This is an article about how family influences children without a consideration of the most direct and powerful way. The words ‘gene’ and ‘genes’ and ‘genetic’ do not appear in this paper. Neither do ‘heritable’ or ‘heredity’ or ‘hereditary.’ The concept of the transfer of genetic information from parent to offspring simply does not exist in this mental space… in a paper about how families influence the characteristics of their children. I would call this odd, but it’s par for the course in social science research.”

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 Obstinacy In Belief (C.S. Lewis, The Sewanee Review): this is a rewarding essay from way back in 1955. (first shared in volume 6)

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 285

another fairly brief roundup

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.

Fun fact: 285 is the sum of consecutive squares (1+4+9+16…+81).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. We Will Get to Herd Immunity in 2021…One Way or Another (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “By July it will all be over. The only question is how many people have to die between now and then? Youyang Gu, whose projections have been among the most accurate, projects that the United States will have reached herd immunity by July, with about half of the immunity coming from vaccinations and half from infections. Long before we reach herd immunity, however, the infection and death rates will fall. Gu is projecting that by March infections will be half what they are now and by May about one-tenth the current rate. The drop will catch people by surprise just like the increase. We are not good at exponentials.” I hope this is right!
    • Related: United Kingdom vs United States Vaccine Fight (Polimath, Substack): “The United States has vaccinated more individuals by far than any other country in the world. One in four of all COVID vaccinations in the world have taken place in the United States. The three countries that are doing the best per-capita (Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain) are all incredibly small and dense.” This is short and encouraging.
  2. Failed Trump Prophecies Offer a Lesson in Humility (Craig Keener, Christianity Today):  “The failed prophecies of Donald Trump’s reelection may have damaged the credibility of the US independent Charismatic wing of evangelicalism more than any event since the televangelist scandals of the 1980s. They have led some outsiders to criticize Christianity itself and rightly call us to introspection.“Keener is one of my favorite NT scholars.
  3. Two Worlds: So Much Prosperity, So Much Skepticism (Morgan Housel, Collaborative Fund): “I want to tell you two of the biggest economic stories that aren’t getting enough attention. One is that household finances might be in the best shape they’ve ever been in. Ever. That might sound crazy, and it’s easy to overlook because of the second story: Covid has dumped kerosene on wealth inequality in ways we’ve yet to fully grasp.”
  4. The Case For Wooden Pews (Yuval Levin, Deseret Magazine): “It is not exactly a crisis of belief in the teachings of traditional religion [that undermines faith], but rather a crisis of confidence in the institutions that claim to embody them. In other words, Americans aren’t losing their faith in God. Eighty-seven percent of the public expressed belief in God last year in Gallup’s figures, which is roughly the level pollsters have found for many decades. What Americans do have trouble believing, however, is that our institutions — our churches, seminaries, religious schools and charities — remain capable of forming trustworthy people who actually exhibit the integrity they preach.” Solid, although the title is misleading.
  5. Only Biblical Peacemaking Resolves Racial and Political Injustice (Justin Giboney, Christianity Today): “In 2020, the pandemic forced Americans to distance ourselves physically. Our politics, identities, and worldviews forced us further apart too. We watch the same occurrences and walk away not only with different opinions, but with a different set of facts. And yet, through social media, we’ve bridged our divides just enough to antagonize one another.” Highly recommended. The author is president of the AND Campaign.
  6. What Christian Citizens Owe Government Leaders (George P. Wood, Influence Magazine): “In this new year, with a new presidential administration, let us renew our commitment to praying for our government officials, to sharing the gospel with them, to obeying the law and respecting the lawgivers, and to holding them accountable while giving them our good example! These are the basic duties of Christian citizenship.” This is an excellent summary. Disclaimer: the author is an acquaintance of mine.
  7. Rise of the zombie ants: why hype is creeping into scientific papers. (Gemma Conroy, Nature Index): “The review found that nearly half of these studies uncovered inconsistencies between abstracts and their full text, with 19% citing major discrepancies. Two studies cited examples where non-significant results were framed in overly optimistic terms in the abstracts.”

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 Study Guide For Human Society, Part 1 (Tanner Greer, The Scholar’s Stage): “…there are two methods [for finding good history books I find useful]. The first is to Google syllabi. If you are interested in the history of the Roman Republic, Google ‘Roman Republic syllabus’ and see what pops up. Read a few courses and see what books are included. Alternatively, if you just read a book you thought was particularly good, put its title into Google and then the word ‘syllabus’ afterwards and see what other readings college professors have paired with that book in their courses.”  First shared in volume 217.

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 281

interesting things from Christmas week 2020

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

As foretold, slightly delayed this week and will likely be a day off next week as well.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Applying Biblical principles in the workplace (Vann Ky, personal blog): “These principles have helped me develop work ethics and make an impact, not just at my current company but also when I was a college student.” Vann is an alumna.
  2. When You Can’t Just ‘Trust the Science’ (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Last month [the CDC’s] Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices produced a working document that’s a masterpiece of para-scientific effort, in which questions that are legitimately medical and scientific (who will the vaccine help the most), questions that are more logistical and sociological (which pattern of distribution will be easier to put in place) and moral questions about who deserves a vaccine are all jumbled up, assessed with a form of pseudo-rigor that resembles someone bluffing the way through a McKinsey job interview and then used to justify the conclusion that we should vaccinate essential workers before seniors … because seniors are more likely to be privileged and white.”
    • Why Did So Many Doctors Become Nazis? (Ashley K. Fernades, Tablet Magazine): “It is worthy of emphasis that although many professions (including law) were ‘taken in’ by Nazi philosophy, doctors and nurses had a peculiarly strong attraction to it. Robert N. Proctor (1988) notes that physicians joined the Nazi party in droves (nearly 50% by 1945), much higher than any other profession. Physicians were seven times more likely to join the SS than other employed German males.” The author is a physician and a bioethicist at The Ohio State University. 
    • Oregon Hospitals Didn’t Have Shortages. So Why Were Disabled People Denied Care? (Joseph Shapiro, NPR): “There’s no reason that these examples would occur more frequently in Oregon than in other states. But the fight for that anonymous woman with an intellectual disability peeled back the curtain on health care decision-making in Oregon in a way that did not happen in other states. That activism led to change in Oregon — including anti-discrimination legislation and new statewide policies.”
    • How Much Herd Immunity Is Enough? (Donald G. McNeil, New York Times): “In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.”
  3. The Death and Life of an Admissions Algorithm (Lilah Burke, Insider Higher Education): “For example, letters of recommendation containing the words ‘best,’ ‘award,’ ‘research’ or ‘Ph.D.’ are predictive of admission — and can lead to a higher score — while letters containing the words ‘good,’ ‘lass,’ ‘programming’ or ‘technology’ are predictive of rejection. A higher grade point average means an applicant is more likely to be accepted, as does the name of an elite college or university on the résumé. Within the system, institutions were encoded into the categories ‘elite,’ ‘good’ and ‘other,’ based on a survey of UT computer science faculty.”
    • Interestingly, the criticisms people made of the algorithm are not actually criticisms of the algorithm. They are criticisms of the admissions committee itself.
  4. An Advent Lament in the Pandemic (Michael Luo, The New Yorker): “The pandemic in 2020 has held a mirror to Christianity, just as the epidemics of antiquity did, but today’s reflection carries the potential to repulse rather than attract.”
    • Curiously, the specific examples he cites are mostly positive but he allows the negative example to color the entire piece. This is what I have seen as well — virtually all churches are acting responsibly but the public focus is on the ones that aren’t.
  5. Why Does It Matter that Jesus Was Born of a Virgin? (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “Even if professing Christians accept the virgin birth, many would have a hard time articulating why the doctrine really matters.”
  6. A Game Designer’s Analysis of QAnon (Reed Berkowitz, Medium): “When I saw QAnon, I knew exactly what it was and what it was doing. I had seen it before. I had almost built it before. It was gaming’s evil twin. A game that plays people.” Recommended by a student. Emphasis in original.
  7. 117 Witnesses Detail North Korea’s Persecution of Christians (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “Drawn from experiences stretching from 1990 to 2019, KFI’s report lists scores of violations. These include 36 instances of punishment meted out to family members, 36 instances of torture, and 20 executions. Women and girls represent 60 percent of the victims.… Christians total nearly 80 percent: 215 cases.” The 98 page report which inspired this article is Persecuting Faith:Documenting religious freedom violations in North Korea

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 Revolt of the Feminist Law Profs (Wesley Yang, Chronicle of Higher Education): “The sex bureaucracy, in other words, pivoted from punishing sexual violence to imposing a normative vision of ideal sex, to which students are held administratively accountable.” First shared in volume 214.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 266

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. America in one tweet:“We are living in an era of woke capitalism in which companies pretend to care about social justice to sell products to people who pretend to hate capitalism.” (Clay Routledge, Twitter) First shared in volume 186.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 256

FYI, I offer some of my own thoughts on police towards the end.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Rebel Physicist Trying to Fix Quantum Mechanics (Bob Henderson, New York Times): “Bassi is a practicing Catholic and a believer in God, something he says is ‘unusual’ but ‘not rare” among his colleagues at the university. Einstein called his own belief that reality could be understood ‘religion,’ and I wondered if there’s a connection between Bassi’s religious faith and that in what has become essentially a far-right position in physics.” I have no opinion on the underlying scientific controversy, but Bassi sounds like a fascinating person.
  2. What the Tentmaking Business Was Really Like for the Apostle Paul (Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “[It] cost the Apostle Paul to write his letters, including the securing of materials and the hiring of a secretary to make a copy for himself. After extensive research and calculation, he determined that on the low side it would have cost him at least $2,000 in today’s currency to write 1 Corinthians. (And that doesn’t include the cost of sending someone like Titus on a long journey to deliver it.)” Short and fascinating.
  3. The Tempting of Neil Gorsuch (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “We may officially have three branches of government, but Americans seem to accept that it’s more like 2.25: A presidency that acts unilaterally whenever possible, a high court that checks the White House and settles culture wars, and a Congress that occasionally bestirs itself to pass a budget.”
  4. Religious Americans Have Less Positive Attitudes Toward Science, But This Does Not Extend to Other Cultures (Jonathon McPhetres, Jonathan Jong & Miron Zuckerman, Social Psychological and Personality Science): “It is commonly claimed that science and religion are logically and psychologically at odds with one another. However, previous studies have mainly examined American samples…” Raw data at https://osf.io/t7w6x/ DOI 10.1177/1948550620923239. The authors are professors at MIT, Oxford, and the University of Rochester.
  5. “He’s the Chosen One to Run America”: Inside the Cult of Trump, His Rallies Are Church and He Is the Gospel (Jeff Sharlet, Vanity Fair): “Nonbelievers roll their eyes over what they see as the gobsmacking hypocrisy of Trump as a tribune of family values, the dopiness of the rubes who consider him a moral man. Nonbelievers, in other words, miss the point. They lack gnosis. Very few believers deny Trump’s sordid past. Some turn to the old Christian ready-made of redemption: Their man was lost, but now he’s found. Others love him precisely because he is a sinner—if a man of such vast, crass, and open appetites can embody the nation (and really, who is more American—vast, crass, and open—than Trump), then you too, student of porn, monster truck lover, ultimate fighter in your dreams and games, can claim an anointing.” The title filled me with low expectations, but the article has some interesting reflections on Gnosticism in modern America. 
  6. On religious liberty:
    • The True Extent of Religious Liberty in America, Explained (David French, The Dispatch): “Yes, it is true that in some respects religious liberty is ‘under siege.’ There are activists and lawmakers who want to push back at multiple doctrines and some radicals even dream of revoking tax exemptions from religious organizations that maintain traditional teachings on sex and gender. But if the siege is real, then so is the citadel. People of faith in the United States of America enjoy more liberty and more real political power than any faith community in the developed world.” This is really good.
    • No Longer a Luxury – Religious Liberty is a National Security Priority (Christos Makridis, Providence): “…increases in religious liberty are associated with robust increases in human flourishing even after controlling for differences in gross domestic product, the labor force, and measures of economic freedom. For example, moving a country that ranks in religious liberty along the lines of Russia to one that ranks closer to the United States amounts to an 11 percent increase in the share of individuals who say that they are thriving.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry. 
    • Torah Is the Air We Breathe (Gil Student, First Things): “But our spiritually impoverished society views religious practices as merely cultural expressions. It views religious services as equivalent to yoga classes and book club meetings. It does not see religion as essential, and therefore cannot understand that Jews don’t serve God as part of our lives; rather, we live to serve God.”
  7. On race, police, and protests
    • Above the Law: The Data Are In on Police, Killing, and Race (Lyman Stone, The Public Discourse): “…police killings have made up about one out of every twelve violent deaths of Americans between 2010 and 2018. That’s including American military deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere during that window. Indeed, more Americans died at the hands of police officers during that period (about 14,400) than died while on active military duty (about 9,400). Police violence in America is extraordinary in its intensity. It is disproportionate to the actual threats facing police officers, and it has risen significantly in recent years without apparent justification.”
    • Jewish businesses in Los Angeles ransacked in riots, but only Israeli and Jewish media care (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “The Oregonian called riot-plagued Portland ‘a city of plywood.’ Since then, images have emerged of a darker narrative, with rioters targeting Jewish businesses. Israeli newspapers ran with this angle this past Saturday, but by the end of the day, there was nothing about the Jewish vandalism to be found on the New York Times website. Usually the Times is pretty up on anti-Semitism, but it was easier to find a piece about Anna Wintour than any mentions of vandalized Jews.”
    • How Jesus became white — and why it’s time to cancel that (Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service): “Anderson said that it has been common for people to depict Jesus as a member of their culture or their ethnic group. ‘If a person thinks that’s the only possible representation of Jesus, then that’s where the problem starts,’ he said.” It’s almost like portraying God visually leads to trouble. I wish God had thought to warn against that.
    • Reflections from a Christian scholar on Social Justice, Critical Race Theory, Marxism, and Biblical Ethics (Kelly Hamren, Facebook): “I have two English degrees (B.A. and M.A.) from a Christian university and a Ph.D. in literature and criticism from a state university. In my field, Marxism is one of the most commonly studied and most influential perspectives, and Critical Race Theory is also a significant force and gaining momentum.… my studies have convinced me that the sufferings and deaths of millions are not only correlated with but largely caused by the Marxist-Leninist agenda, and I am therefore deeply opposed to Marxism as a framework. I hope that, knowing this, those patient enough to read these notes will acquit me of being a closet Marxist covering a secular agenda with a veneer of Bible verses.” The author is an English professor at Liberty University.
    • Law professor’s response to student offended by their shirt (Patricia Leary, Imgur): “Premise: You are not paying for my opinion. Critique: You are not paying me to pretend I don’t have one.” Two comments: first, this is a few years old. Second, initially looks made-up but checks out. The author is a professor at Whittier Law School: Law professor responds to students who complained about her Black Lives Matter shirt (Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed) 
    • The New Truth (Jacob Siegel, Tablet Magazine): “What we are witnessing, in the rapidly transforming norms around race, sex, and gender, is not an argument at all but a revolution in moral sentiment. In all revolutions, the new thing struggling to be born makes use of the old system in order to overthrow it. At present, institutions like the university, the press, and the medical profession preserve the appearance of reason, empiricism, and argument while altering, through edict and coercion, the meaning of essential terms in the moral lexicon, like fairness, equality, friendship, and love.”
    • History Shows Free Speech Is The Loser In Mob Action (Jonathan Turley, personal blog): “What will be left when objectionable public art and academics are scrubbed from view? The silence that follows may be comforting to those who want to remove images or ideas that cause unease. History has shown, however, that orthodoxy is never satisfied with silence. It demands speech. Once all the offending statues are down, and all the offending professors are culled, the appetite for collective suppression will become a demand for collective expression.” The author is a law professor at George Washington University.
    • Of Statues and Symbolic Murder (Wilfred M. McClay, First Things): “…a great many of the foot soldiers in this movement are young, white, suburban, middle-class and college-educated; and that they are working out their salvation with fear and trembling and a deadly earnestness. The ‘white privilege’ of which these young people complain is a projection onto others of the very condition that they suspect and fear in themselves. Hence the convulsive rage, complete with copious gutter profanity, which we have all seen in videos of them. People in the grip of such powerful psychological forces will go a long way to expiate for their existential sins and rid themselves of their demons. They are easily mobilized by others. According to Pew estimates, only one out of six Black Lives Matter activists is actually black.”
      1. Related to the last sentence: George Floyd Protester Demographics: Insights Across 4 Major US Cities (MobileWalla report) has bar charts based on surveilling the cell phones of people at the protests and inferring their demographics the way marketers do. 
    • A Minneapolis Neighborhood Vowed to Check Its Privilege. It’s Already Being Tested. (Caitlin Dickerson, New York Times): “The impulse many white Powderhorn Park residents have to seek help from community groups rather than from the police is being felt in neighborhoods across the country. But some are finding the commitment hard to stand by when faced with the complex realities of life. While friends, neighbors and even family members in Powderhorn Park agree to avoid calling the police at all costs, it has been harder to establish where to draw the line.” Read through to the insane final story. 
    • I don’t often insert my own commentary in these emails, but in this case I’d like to highlight a Biblical perspective.
      1. The Bible teaches that one of the reasons that God gives governments authority is for them to use violence in the pursuit of justice. Romans 13:4 is key: “the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
      2. We have freedom in how we choose to do that as a society — the Bible does not require that we use police or that we build prisons. Having said that, if we abolish domestic law enforcement then the only alternatives I see are the military, private businesses that offer protection for a fee, sanctioned vigilantism, or mob justice. These are not appealing options. Some combination of unbundling police work, reducing criminal laws while rethinking the sanctions for violating them, and increasing police pay while imposing higher standards for police conduct seems like a better path forward.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 238

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake (David Brooks, The Atlantic): “If you want to summarize the changes in family structure over the past century, the truest thing to say is this: We’ve made life freer for individuals and more unstable for families. We’ve made life better for adults but worse for children. We’ve moved from big, interconnected, and extended families, which helped protect the most vulnerable people in society from the shocks of life, to smaller, detached nuclear families (a married couple and their children), which give the most privileged people in society room to maximize their talents and expand their options. The shift from bigger and interconnected extended families to smaller and detached nuclear families ultimately led to a familial system that liberates the rich and ravages the working-class and the poor.” Highly recommended.
  2. Will Somebody Please Hate My Enemies for Me? (David French, The Dispatch): “Here’s the end result—millions of Christians have not just decided to hire a hater to defend them from haters and to hire a liar to defend them from liars, they actively ignore, rationalize, minimize, or deny Trump’s sins.”
    • Not quite in response, but kinda related: Understanding Why Religious Conservatives Would Vote for Trump (Andrew Walker, National Review): “In my experience, huge numbers of religious conservatives are not proud about voting for Trump. They don’t need any more hot takes denouncing them as irredeemable hypocrites. Their consciences bear a discomfort governed by their love for America and the reputation of their faith. But if these religious conservatives have to choose between the dueling dumpster fires of either Trump or a possible Bernie Sanders presidency, they will vote overwhelmingly for Trump. And anyone who misunderstands this will continue projecting onto religious conservatives the usual tired bromides that refuse to reckon with a complicated situation.”
    • Definitely in response to both articles: Evangelicals Still Agonizing Over Trump (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “It’s not sexy to say it, but I don’t hate people who vote for Trump, I don’t hate people who vote against Trump, I don’t hate people who vote for Sanders, or anybody. I don’t believe we are facing a Twilight Of The Gods showdown between Good and Evil. I believe we are facing a particularly vivid, emotionally charged version of the usual choice between deeply flawed candidates. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t get worked up into spiting the Other, because if I put myself in their shoes, I can see why they would vote as they do, even if I think they’re wrong. Is this lukewarmness? OK, it’s lukewarmness. But politics are not my god, so I don’t care.” 
  3. Is Critical Race Theory Compatible with Christian Faith? (Gerald McDermott, Juicy Ecumenism): “Slavery and Jim Crow were evil and systemic. Racism is sin. But Christians must not allow their hatred for the sin of racism to so cloud their vision that they put their faith in a philosophy that has become a new religion for its devotees—a religion that in significant ways conflicts with historic Christian faith.” The author is a professor of divinity at Beeson.
  4. Generation Z and Religion: What New Data Show (Melissa Deckman, Religion In Public): “…it appears that the rate of younger Americans departing from organized religion is holding steady… As America heads ever more quickly into becoming a minority majority nation with respect to race/ethnicity, with White Christian America becoming a less dominant presence in society, scholars should pay more attention to how minority groups are starting to shift their religious behavior. My data suggest that these groups are looking very different from counterparts in older generations.” The author is a professor at Washington College. 
    • Is the rise of the nones slowing? Scholars say maybe (Yonat Shimron, Religion News): “There are a couple of possible explanations for the slowing of religious decline: The country’s growing racial diversity…. The culture war sorting is mostly over…. A changing social desirability bias”
    • The Decline of Religion May Be Slowing (Paul A. Djupe and Ryan P. Burge, Religion In Public): “This bombshell finding sent us running for other datasets. Like all good scientists, we trust, but verify. In this post, we run through evidence from the General Social Survey, 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (a RIP favorite), and the recent release of the Voter Study Group panel. The takeaway is that the finding is validated – the rate driving up the religious nones has appeared to be slowing to a crawl.”
    • Reasons to be Cautious About a Gen Z “Religious Rebound” (Joseph O. Baker, Religion In Public): “…if we look at religious salience, Gen Z is less likely to say they are ‘not religious’ (25.3%) compared to Millennials (28.4%), but Gen Z is also less likely to say they are ‘very religious’ (7.8%) compared to Millennials (10.2%). So, if anything, Gen Z is more ‘meh’ about religion.”
  5. What Can We Learn from the #MeToo Moments in Genesis? (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “The first book of the Bible is a picture of sin run amuck. Of course, we also find in Genesis a display of God’s creative power, his plan of redemption, and his sovereign mercy in blessing his undeserving people. But even amid this wonderful good news, we see plenty of examples of the corrupting effects of sin from Genesis 3 through the end of the book. In particular, Genesis is replete with examples of sexual sin.”
  6. Why Didn’t Ancient Rome have Dungeons and Dragons? (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Innovation doesn’t happen very often. How many people have ever invented a new way of doing anything? If stasis is the norm, then we should expect that many great ideas are routinely overlooked. For an economist this is an uncomfortable thought because we tend to think that profit opportunities are quickly exploited (no $500 bills on the ground). But while that is certainly true for choices within constraints it may not be true for choices that change constraints.”
  7. No One Can Explain Why Planes Stay in the Air (Ed Regis, Scientific American): “accounts of lift exist on two separate levels of abstraction: the technical and the nontechnical. They are complementary rather than contradictory, but they differ in their aims. One exists as a strictly mathematical theory, a realm in which the analysis medium consists of equations, symbols, computer simulations and numbers. There is little, if any, serious disagreement as to what the appropriate equations or their solutions are…. But by themselves, equations are not explanations, and neither are their solutions.” I had low expectations of this article, but it is pretty good.

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 world will only get weirder (Steven Coast, personal blog): “We fixed all the main reasons aircraft crash a long time ago. Sometimes a long, long time ago. So, we are left with the less and less probable events.” The piece is a few years old so the examples are dated, but it remains very intriguing. (first shared in volume 67

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 236

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. Behind the Great Firewall (Thomas Brown, Quillette): “The Chinese are proud of China, not just of 5,000 years of history and a globally recognized ancient culture, but of modern China. China the industry leader, China the protector of Chinese business, China the powerful and beautiful and rich. China the unapologetic. This is a story the Chinese want to hear and they don’t care if organizations seemingly determined to only tell the supposedly bad things about China are kept out.”
    • Related: Political and Practical Implications of the Wuhan Virus (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “The Chinese people have an interesting relationship with the Party propaganda and censorship system. Chinese are well aware that the government lies to them. What they often have difficulty discerning is what it decides to lie about. Sometimes it does not lie. Other times it simply leaves the truth unsaid.”
  2. Sunday Morning With Kanye (David French, The Dispatch): “As we made our way close to the stage, I was struck by something unusual. I didn’t see any merchandise for sale. There was no Kanye gear. There were no promotions for Kanye. There were no pictures of Kanye—at least not that I saw. If you’d just walked up, you’d have no clue that one of the world’s biggest stars was about to perform.”
  3. Wokeademia (John Cochrane, personal blog): “The game is no longer to advance candidates who are themselves ‘diverse.’ The game is to stock the faculty with people of a certified ideological stripe, who are committed to advancing this cause. Tom Sowell need not apply.” The author is an econ professor at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
  4. Why These Young American Christians Embraced Socialism (Sarah Ngu, Religion & Politics): “…their evangelical experiences pushed them to take the Bible seriously and read it literally—which meant they ended up concluding that being a Christian meant caring about the poor and distrusting the state (which, after all, killed Jesus).”
  5. On Killing Human Monsters (Mark LiVecchi, Providence): “‘The internal condition of God’s external expression of wrath,’ writes the theologian and rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, ‘is grief.’ To the best I can deduce, therein is communicated the complex disposition of the just warrior.… I do not rejoice that I worship a God who kills. I only rejoice that I worship a God who is willing to.” 
  6. What If We Don’t Have to Choose Between Evolution and Adam and Eve? (Rebecca Randall, Christianity Today): “If we keep straight what the science is actually saying, the story of Genesis could be true as literally as you could imagine it, with Adam being created by dust and God breathing into his nostrils and Eve being created from his rib. But evolution is happening outside the Garden, and there are people out there who God created in a different way and who end up intermingling with Adam and Eve’s descendants. It’s not actually in conflict with evolutionary science.” This is an interview with S. Joshua Swamidass, a computational biologist at Washington University in St. Louis. The book he wrote has been getting rave reviews.
  7. The Lost History of Western Civilization (Stanley Kurtz, The National Association of Scholars): “In January of 1987, students at Stanford University chanting ‘Hey hey, ho ho, Western Culture’s got to go,’ kicked off this culture war. The fissure that opened three decades ago at Stanford—between the new multicultural way, on the one hand, and traditional American conceptions of history and citizenship, on the other—has widened now into a chasm.” This is long and not for everyone. It caught my attention because Stanford plays a significant role in the narrative. The author has a Ph.D. from Harvard and has taught at both there and at U Chicago. He is currently a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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 Every Place Has Detractors. Consider Where They’re Coming From. (Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View): “There is grave danger in judging a neighborhood, or a culture, by the accounts of those who chose to leave it. Those people are least likely to appreciate the good things about where they came from, and the most likely to dwell on its less attractive qualities.” Bear this in mind when listening to conversion testimonies (both secular and religious). (first shared in volume 62)

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 230

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Lesson To Unlearn (Paul Graham, personal blog): “The most damaging thing you learned in school wasn’t something you learned in any specific class. It was learning to get good grades.” Stanford students: if you feel attacked, you are. He is aiming at you. Worth pondering.
  2. The Christians I Know (Eboo Patel, Inside Higher Ed): “Too often when I talk about the importance of positively engaging religious identity in a progressive higher ed space, the first question that gets asked is this: ‘Christians hate gays and refugees and poor people, so why should I create a space for their identities?’ That’s the same view of Christians that bigots have of Muslims: knowing only the bad stuff. My hope is that people will remember that Christians often start and run the programs that provide direct service to those very people when they are suffering the most.”
  3. British Evangelicals Brace for Brexit (Ken Chitwood, Christianity Today): “The generally pro-remain stance of British evangelicals might be surprising to some. However, political scientist Andrea Hatcher of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, found British evangelicals are ‘less boundaried’ and generally ‘more internationalist in outlook’ than either their Anglican and Pentecostal peers or US evangelicals. They are also more willing to work across political divides.” I find this interesting for several reasons, one of which is the way the author separates Pentecostals from evangelicals. Is that a UK thing? In the USA Pentecostals are generally seen as a subset of evangelicals.
    • Related: The Beginning of the End of the United Kingdom (First Things): “It may seem hysterical to proclaim the end to a country that has basically existed in its present form—minus the Republic of Ireland, of course—since 1707. But the evidence is building by the day. In thirty years, it is far more likely than not that the United Kingdom will not exist. What will exist is an England that will be poorer, fractured between the London elite and the rest of the country, and possibly subject to demographic factionalism.”
    • Related: The Blundering Brilliance of Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “It is this aspect of Boris’s politics that some of his close allies insist has been misunderstood. He has done what no other conservative leader in the West has done: He has co-opted and thereby neutered the far right. The reactionary Brexit Party has all but collapsed since Boris took over. Anti-immigration fervor has calmed. The Tories have also moved back to the economic and social center under Johnson’s leadership. And there is a strategy to this. What Cummings and Johnson believe is that the E.U., far from being an engine for liberal progress, has, through its overreach and hubris, actually become a major cause of the rise of the far right across the Continent. By forcing many very different countries into one increasingly powerful Eurocratic rubric, the E.U. has spawned a nationalist reaction.” This one is long but really good. If you enjoy it, I super highly recommend a very amusing article about Boris Johnson I shared back in volume 208 (scroll down to the funny section).
  4. Religion, Retention, and Why We Stay or Go (Ryan Burge, Christianity Today): “What to make of all this? First, evangelicals are doing a good job of keeping people inside the tent…. The other thing worth pondering is that almost no one is moving toward Catholicism or mainline Protestant Christianity. Instead, the movement is all at the edges of the spectrum — evangelicals on one end, and the nones on the other.” The author is a professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and is himself an ex-evangelical. 
  5. A guide to having an actually happy Christmas (Tim Harford, personal blog): “Mr Mutz found that Christians felt happier at Christmas, while others felt less happy. Similarly Messrs Kasser and Sheldon found that people who spent more time with their families or engaging in religious practices tended to have a better time of things. Consumerism fared less well, according to Messrs Kasser and Sheldon; for all the money and effort buying and wrapping gifts, the activity ‘apparently contributes little to holiday joy’.”
  6. 200 Researchers, 5 Hypotheses, No Consistent Answers (Christie Aschwanden, Wired): “When various research teams designed their own means of testing the very same set of research questions, they came up with divergent, and in some cases opposing, results. The crowdsourced study is a dramatic demonstration of an idea that’s been widely discussed in light of the reproducibility crisis—the notion that subjective decisions researchers make while designing their studies can have an enormous impact on their observed results. Whether through p‑hacking or via the choices they make as they wander the garden of forking paths, researchers may intentionally or inadvertently nudge their results toward a particular conclusion.” I don’t think this is surprising to anyone who knows many scientists, but it’s definitely interesting.
  7. Are We in the Midst of a Transgender Murder Epidemic? (Willfred Reilly, Quillette): “The Human Rights Campaign maintains a year-by-year database containing every known case of a transgender individual being killed by violent means, and gives this number as 29 in 2017, 26 in 2018, and 22 in 2019. Not only do these figures not reflect a year-by-year increase in attacks on trans persons—they are remarkably consistent, and may be trending slightly downwards—they also indicate that the trans murder rate is significantly lower than the murder rate for Americans overall.” Any number of murders is too many. Still, I found this interesting because I hear the contrary so often. In light of the previous article, if you know opposing research I’d like to see it. The author is a professor of political science at Kentucky State University.

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 Reading The Whole Bible in 2016: A FAQ (Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor): How much time each day would it take you to read the entire Bible in a year? “There are about 775,000 words in the Bible. Divided by 365, that’s 2,123 words a day. The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute. So 2,123 words/day divided by 225 words/minute equals 9.4 minutes a day.” This article is full of good advice for what could be the best commitment you make all year. Do it! (first shared in volume 31 — useful for any year)

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.