Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 309

in which I provide my views on sermon originality

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.

TIL that the number 309 is is the smallest number whose 5th power contains every digit at least once. 3095=2,817,036,000,549. I’m really stunned that someone figured that out.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. ‘Sermongate’ Prompts a Quandary: Should Pastors Borrow Words From One Another? (Ruth Graham, New York Times): “In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin wrote of his admiration of a young Presbyterian preacher much respected for his preaching, which was apparently delivered extemporaneously. When a doctrinal dispute erupted in the congregation, however, an adversary recognized that a passage delivered by the preacher had been lifted from an uncredited source. Franklin stuck by the plagiarist. ‘I rather approved his giving us good sermons composed by others,’ he wrote, ‘than bad ones of his own manufacture.’ ”
    • The appropriate principles seem so obvious to me:
    • Never present someone else’s personal stories as though they happened to you. It’s hard to call that anything other than lying.
    • If you gain an insight from someone else, why would you deprive your hearers of that good insight? USE IT. Credit it in the way that seems most appropriate, but a sermon is not a written resource people are going to cite nor one that people are going to track down your references on. I don’t even think plagiarism is the right term in this conversation: there’s no standard way to cite other sermons nor should there be. People who get a bee in their bonnet about this seem so odd to me.
    • In fact, you should always assume that the messages I deliver have been enriched by insights from others. I love God’s Word and I love my students too much to just give them my own limited observations. My own practice: I copy and paste the text into a Word document. Then I begin typing my insights and constructing a rough outline. Then I consult scholarly and sermonic resources and revise my outline/notes when I realize I’ve misunderstood something or that I missed an important point. Typically that means I read two or three commentaries and will sometimes skim one or two sermons from preachers I respect. If someone’s phrasing is so good I adopt it, I usually add, “I heard a pastor say” or “an academic commentary really helped me out on this point” and sometimes will even give the precise source. But not always. Sometimes citing something verbally breaks up the flow too much. Sometimes after an especially fact-laden message I will send out an email roundup of the most important sources (that tends to happen after apologetic sermons when I’m appealing to extrascriptural facts).
    • It gets complicated with insights I gleaned years ago and have preached multiple times since. Sometimes I don’t even remember that it wasn’t original to me (whether clever phrasing or an entire sermon outline). That’s how learning works! I’m not trying to deceive anyone, but I am 100% confident that I word some things a certain way because someone else worded it that way to me and I thought, “that’s perfect” and now that I’ve said it 70 times I just know that’s how I think about the subject.
    • If you ever want to know if something I said is original to me, just ask. If I quoted someone else (and remember that I have), I’ll be thrilled to point you to a resource that helped me!
  2. What Makes a Cult a Cult? (Zoë Heller, New Yorker): “The good news is that rational objections to flaws in cult doctrine or to hypocrisies on the part of a cult leader do have a powerful impact if and when they occur to the cult members themselves. The analytical mind may be quietened by cult-think, but it is rarely deadened altogether. Especially if cult life is proving unpleasant, the capacity for critical thought can reassert itself.” The focus here is on way-out-there cults. Interesting nonetheless, even given the author’s blind spots (I think it would have been a stronger article if she had mentioned a few secular beliefs as parallels).
  3. Our Unequal Polygamous Past (Conn Carroll, Institute for Family Studies): “This brief history of human sexual relations shows us three things: 1) we are hardwired to form monogamous pair bonds; 2) the privileged among us will always try to monopolize more mates; and 3) we can check the privilege of the powerful by enforcing monogamous cultural norms.”
  4. Wokeness:
    • As a Gay Child in a Christian Cult, I Was Taught to Hate Myself. Then I Joined the Church of Social Justice—and Nothing Changed (Ben Appel, Quillette): “For years, I feared homophobic right-wing evangelicals. But these days, I’m equally wary of the progressive activists who push a distinctly homophobic agenda that denies the biological reality of sex—and who claim that what we are attracted to isn’t male or female bodies per se, but rather male or female gender identities. This outlook effectively imagines away the existence of homosexuality, which, in the real world, is of course rooted in physical attraction based on biological attributes.”
    • If you hate the culture wars, blame liberals (Kevin Drum, personal blog): “It is not conservatives who have turned American politics into a culture war battle. It is liberals. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise since progressives have been bragging publicly about pushing the Democratic Party leftward since at least 2004. Now, I’m personally happy about most of this. But that doesn’t blind me to the fact that “personally happy” means nothing in politics. What matters is what the median voter feels, and Democrats have been moving further and further away from the median voter for years:” Interesting and very different from the message I usually hear, which blames polarization on conservatives who are said to have moved much more to the right than liberals have moved to the left.
    • Culture Wars are Long Wars (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “Cultural insurgents win few converts in their own cohort. They can, however, build up a system of ideas and institutions which will preserve and refine the ideals they hope their community will adopt in the future. The real target of these ideas are not their contemporaries, but their contemporaries’ children and grandchildren. Culture wars are fought for the hearts of the unborn. Future generations will be open to values the current generation rejects outright. This will not be apparent at first. Beneath the official comings and goings of the cohorts above, a new consensus forms in in the cohorts below. Ideas will fester among the young, but their impact will be hidden by the inability and inexperience of youth. But the youth do not stay young. Eventually a transition point arrives.” Emphasis in original.
    • What Happened To You? (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “[We have witnessed a] sudden, rapid, stunning shift in the belief system of the American elites. It has sent the whole society into a profound cultural dislocation. It is, in essence, an ongoing moral panic against the specter of ‘white supremacy,’ which is now bizarrely regarded as an accurate description of the largest, freest, most successful multiracial democracy in human history.”
    • The West’s cultural revolution is over (Ed West, UnHerd): “Life of Brian couldn’t be made 20 years earlier, and neither could it be made now; its satire of Jesus, a prophet of Islam, would risk upsetting Muslim sensibilities, which it’s fair to say people have become slightly wary of doing. At the very least it would need to cut out the scene pointing fun at a man who, absurdly to the filmmakers and audiences, identifies as a woman; absurd in 1979, as it had been in 1879 and 1779 and in every year before that, but a sacred idea in 2021. It’s sacred in the sense that its believers have captured the moral citadel where the most powerful ideas are protected by taboo, achieved either by emotional argument or intimidation (and both can be effective). This is not some dark new age of cancel culture, however, it’s just a return to normality.”
  5. Pandemic-related
    • Why Didn’t COVID-19 Kill the Constitution? (Jacob Sullum. Reason): “COVID-19 did not kill the Constitution. But the crisis made it vividly clear that we cannot count on politicians or bureaucrats to worry about limits on their authority, especially when they believe they are doing what is necessary to protect the public from a deadly danger. The task of enforcing those limits falls to judges who are willing to stick their necks out.”
    • What Are the Limits to Governmental Authority over the Church? (Ben Edwards, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary): “Christians/churches must submit to every government regulation unless it would mean disobeying God (i.e., cause them to sin) or the government is seeking to regulate something outside its sphere of authority.”
  6. On China
    • China Won’t Bury Us, Either (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “Garry Kasparov has a pithy way of summing up the past 18 months of tribulation. ‘China gave us the virus,’ the chess and human-rights champion told me over a recent breakfast. ‘And the free world gave us the vaccines.’ ”
    • Why a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be a catastrophe for China and the world (Jon Stokes, personal blog): “The world’s largest, most valuable tech companies are dependent either directly or indirectly on the steady output of TSMC’s fabs. If those fabs went offline or became unavailable in the west because they were controlled by PRC, it would immediately devastate the global economy. An unknowable number of large companies just wouldn’t be able to refill their inventories for an indeterminately long time.” This is about computer chips and how a Chinese invasion of Taiwan will be disastrous for that market (which touches on so many others) no matter how the invasion plays out. Very thoughtful.
  7. Scripps Spelling Bee 2021: Zaila Avant-garde Wins (Maggie Astor and Maria Cramer, New York Times): “Zaila, who just finished eighth grade in her hometown, Harvey, La., showed a prowess for spelling at 10, when her father, who had been watching finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on ESPN, asked her how to spell the winning word: marocain. Zaila spelled it perfectly. Then he asked her to spell the winning words going back to 1999. She spelled nearly all of them correctly and was able to tell him the books where she had seen them.” Read the whole thing — this kid is amazing at more than spelling! The interface is weird — you’ll have to click “Read more” just before the timeline.

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 Preacher And Politics: Seven Thoughts (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “I have plenty of opinions and convictions. But that’s not what I want my ministry to be about. That’s not to say I don’t comment on abortion or gay marriage or racism or other issues about the which the Bible speaks clearly. And yet, I’m always mindful that I can’t separate Blogger Kevin or Twitter Kevin or Professor Kevin from Pastor Kevin. As such, my comments reflect on my church, whether I intend them to or not. That means I keep more political convictions to myself than I otherwise would.” First shared in volume 150.

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 294

more on Atlanta, purity culture, and other interesting links

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 294, which is neat because 111152 — 2942 = 123,456,789. Numbers are fun!

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. On anti-Asian violence:
    • The Racism Virus: Anti-Asian Attacks Surge (NBC News, YouTube): fifty-two minutes, highly recommended by a student. From before the Atlanta shootings.
    • Race and False Hate Crime Narratives (Heather Mac Donald, Quillette): “Perhaps a revelation of anti-Asian animus will emerge, but for now, Long appears to have targeted presumed sex workers who happened, given the demographics of the massage trade in Atlanta, to be Asian. Long intended to target a business in Florida next that made pornography, he told police. The employees there were unlikely to be Asian.” The author is a Stanford Law School grad.
    • I am surprised at how divisive the question of motive has been. Regardless of motive in this specific case, I think it is clear that the Atlanta attacks were wicked and also that many Asian-Americans encounter prejudice that too often escalates into violence.
  2. On Christian sexual teachings:
    • Atlanta Suspect’s Fixation on Sex Is Familiar Thorn for Evangelicals (Ruth Graham, New York Times): “The evangelical culture he was raised in, he said, ‘teaches women to hate their bodies, as the source of temptation, and it teaches men to hate their minds, which lead them into lust and sexual immorality.’ ”
    • Why the Atlanta Massacre Triggered a Conversation About Purity Culture (David French, The Dispatch): “Placing responsibility for male purity on women harms women. It creates an impossible burden. You cannot oppress women enough to protect men from themselves. You can ban porn, ban explicit TV and movies of all types, put women in long dresses, prohibit makeup, and require courtship contracts, and you still will not solve the problem of sin.”
    • Never The Demons (Samuel D. James, Letter & Liturgy): “I’m all for interrogating the harmful effects of some church cultures, but I’m not sure why we don’t even linger over the news of a young man’s murdering eight people to ‘eliminate temptation’ long enough to see the demonic forces that Jesus clearly saw everywhere he went. And when that story is quickly followed by another mass murder in Colorado? The news cycle just resets, and the blood is on the hands of the GOP, or all Muslims, or purity culture, or cancel culture…name your ideological enemy, and you can find someone prominent laying horror at their feet. Never the demons.”
    • On purity culture and violence, briefly (Samuel D. James, Letter & Liturgy): “I think stories [like the NYT article] are frustrating because they offer genuine insight mixed with a journalistic framing that is deeply untrustworthy. Brad Onishi, Jeff Chu, and Samuel Perry—the three voices brought in to criticize evangelical purity culture—are all examples of LGBT-affirming post-evangelicalism. Because of this framing, the subtext of the article is that there are really only two choices for evangelical Christians: double down on hating women and empowering shooters like Robert Long, or abandon core evangelical doctrines. This is exactly the posture that defines nearly all anti-purity culture writing I see, which is why I get so frustrated by it, even when it makes genuinely helpful points…”
    • Questions for David French on the Connections between the Atlanta Killer and Purity Culture (Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition): “What is the connection between the killer and toxic purity theology and culture? The piece assumes a connection but never gets around to demonstrating one. And that leads to the weird experience of reading something where I agree with virtually every single word and yet find that the actual argument doesn’t hold together.”
    • How churches talk about sexuality can mean life or death. We saw that in Robert Long. (Rachel Denhollander, Washington Post): “Sexuality divorced from personhood is the foundation of objectification and violence. The evangelical community has yet to grapple with its own version of this same mind-set and the deep damage it has, and will continue, to do.”
  3. Christian Baker Sued Again for Refusing to Bake a Cake (Colleen Slevin, Associated Press @ Christianity Today): “Autumn Scardina attempted to order the birthday cake on the same day in 2017 that the high court announced it would hear baker Jack Phillips’s appeal in the wedding cake case. Scardina, an attorney, requested a cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside in honor of her gender transition.”
    • The Never-Ending Persecution of Jack Phillips (David Harsyani, National Review): “You may not be surprised to learn that Scardina hadn’t asked the most famous Christian baker in the nation to create a ‘transition’ cake by happenstance. Phillips’s lawyers suspect Scardina called — the name appeared on the caller ID — to request ‘an image of Satan smoking marijuana.’ Later, an email was sent to the shop requesting ‘a three-tiered white cake’ with a ‘large figure of Satan, licking a nine inch black Dildo … that can be turned on before we unveil the cake.’ ”
    • Colorado Baker Faces Long Line Of People Outside Waiting To Be Oppressed By Him (Babylon Bee): “Phillips had another busy day, but in the end, all his customers were satisfied, those who wanted cakes receiving beautiful cakes and those who wanted to get discriminated against getting discriminated against. Philips is now considering opening another branch just to not make people cakes, as he is apparently the only cakeshop in the country that does that, and it’s in high demand.” Normally I’d put a Babylon Bee article in the amusing section, but this one belongs here.
  4. Stanford’s silence doesn’t surprise wrestling champ: ‘Probably more mad at me’ (Ann Killion, SF Chronicle): “Stanford athletics did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Griffith’s national title. On Saturday the athletic department Twitter account @GoStanford tweeted, ‘Shane Griffith is a national champion. The redshirt sophomore completed his run at the NCAA championships atop the podium, Saturday, at the Enterprise Center.’ The dry message was notably missing the exclamation points and emojis that accompany almost every other post.”
  5. What It Takes To Go From Slavery To Freedom (Bari Weiss, Substack): “ ‘When you are a slave, you don’t have to think,’ Yeonmi told me. ‘In North Korea you can’t say I. You can just say we. We love the color red. Or we love kimchi. You know every answer. In North Korea, everything is determined for you before you are born, based on your family’s standing in the party. You don’t think: What do I study? Where do I live? Who do I marry? They decide.  I remember after I published my book one of my first interviews was with NPR and they asked me about freedom. I said freedom was painful and confusing. I think they were expecting me to say freedom was awesome.’ But the truth was more complicated. ‘It was so painful to be free. I sometimes thought in the beginning if there was a guarantee to go back to North Korea and not get executed and just live on frozen potatoes I might go back.’ ” WOW. What an interview. Coming someday to a sermon near you.
  6. The Burden of Proof (Jimmy Akin, personal blog): “Whenever two people disagree and one wants the other to change his view, then the person advocating the change always has to shoulder the burden of proof.” The central nugget is in the excerpt, but there’s more there (including an interesting Catholic perspective on Sola Scriptura).
  7. Why Are Fewer Young Adults Having Casual Sex? (Scott J. South & Lei Lei, Socius): “Among young women, the decline in the frequency of drinking alcohol explains about one quarter of the drop in the propensity to have casual sex. Among young men, declines in drinking frequency, an increase in computer gaming, and the growing percentage who coreside with their parents all contribute significantly to the decline in casual sex.” See also the “a while ago” link below.

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 Alcohol, Blackouts, and Campus Sexual Assault (Texas Monthly, Sarah Hepola): I think this is the most thoughtful secular piece I’ve read on the issue. “Consent and alcohol make tricky bedfellows. The reason I liked getting drunk was because it altered my consent: it changed what I would say yes to. Not just in the bedroom but in every room and corridor that led into the squinting light. Say yes to adventure, say yes to risk, say yes to karaoke and pool parties and arguments with men, say yes to a life without fear, even though such a life is never possible… We drink because it feels good. We drink because it makes us feel happy, safe, powerful. That it often makes us the opposite is one of alcohol’s dastardly tricks.” (first shared in volume 25

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.

Christianity For Modern Pagans: Vanity of Human Reason, of Dogmatism, and of the Philosophers

why Christianity has such a countercultural perspective on sex

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through an annotated translation of Pascal’s Pensees called Christianity For Modern Pagans, I’ll post the thoughts I’m emailing the students here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2020. The reading schedule is online.

This week we’re talking about chapters 7–9, the vanity of human reason, of dogmatism, and of the philosophers.

The thing that stood out most to me is the skepticism that Pascal applies to reason. Recall that he is one of the greatest scientists in history and that his pioneering work laid the foundation for many fields of study. He knows well what reason can achieve, and as a result he also realizes its limitations.

…demonstration is not the only instrument for convincing us. How few things can be demonstrated! Proofs only convince the mind; habit provides the strongest proofs and those that are most believed…. We must resort to habit once the mind has seen where the truth lies, in order to steep and stain ourselves in that belief…, for it is too much trouble to have the proofs always present before us…. When we believe only by the strength of our conviction and the automaton is inclined to believe the opposite, that is not enough. We must therefore make both parts of us believe: the mind by reasons, which need to be seen only once in a lifetime, and the automaton by habit.

Pascal, Pensee 821 (pages 99–100)

This is brilliant, although the translation feels clumsy to me. Kreeft’s commentary on this is helpful:

…once reason has convinced us to believe, we require the aid of good habits to overcome bad habitual tendencies in the opposite direction. Therefore we must act as if we believed, go to church and so forth, thus habituating the automaton to obey what reason has discovered to be true. Habit is not an honest substitute for reason, but it is an honest and needed servant to reason. If we try to fight against irrationality with reason alone, we will lose. We need cruder weapons too.

Kreeft’s commentary on Pensee 821, page 100

This is one reason that Christian community is often so instrumental in someone’s conversion. Reason, like a map, can guide people to Christ but only if they actually follow the directions. Other parts of their self must be engaged for the journey to take place, and these parts are most commonly called forth through relationships.

It also occurs to me that this may be a good way to explain why Christianity has such a countercultural perspective on sex. Sex engages the whole person and can either do so in a way that reinforces the gospel message or in a way that undermines it (see Ephesians 5:31–32 and 1 Cor 6:12–20). Paul lays this out in Romans 1:18–27

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Romans 1:18–27 (NIV)

When people reject the knowledge of God, they must build lives to reinforce that rejection of God. Paul says they do it using idols and sex, and he adds that they suffer for it. Of course they do. They are living based on a false conception of human nature, which makes it inevitable that there will be needless pain. Paula recently had a plate shatter in the microwave. We had both assumed it was microwave-safe, but because we were wrong the shattering was inevitable. The cause of the damage was the interaction of invisible things (the microwaves and the molecular structure of the plate), but the resulting damage was easily observed. Sadly, our culture (and many lives within it) are shattering and the reasons are invisible to many people.

Other thoughts from these chapters that stood out to me:

To reason is to rely on reason, and to rely on reason is an act of faith, not of reason. Therefore reason presupposes faith… Indeed, how could reason itself be validated? There are only three possibilities: (1) by something subrational, like animal instinct (which is obviously absurd: How can the inferior validate the superior?); or (2) by something rational, by a piece of reasoning (which is also absurd: How can the part justify the whole? All reason is on trial; how dare the one piece of reasoning you use to justify all reasoning be exempt from trial?); or (3) by something superrational, by faith in God (which is the only possibility left).

Kreeft’s commentary on Pensee 131, pages 110–111

FWIW, I think Kreeft’s inclusion of God in the third point is valid but it’s really something he should argue for. I think many skeptics would counter that something like the platonic laws of logic could stand in for God in option 3, which is true but doesn’t get them as far away from God as they think. Having read other things by Kreeft, I believe he has had this argument before and is merely announcing checkmate when it is still not obvious to his opponent that the game is over.

You can think skepticism, but you can’t live it.

Kreeft’s commentary on Pensee 131, page 111

Philosophers and theologians do not practice what they preach any better than the rest of us–less, if they preach better than the rest of us.

Kreeft’s commentary on Pensee 142, page 117

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 225

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.

Incidentally, 225 is a very cool number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Meet the Minnie Church (Ted Olsen, Christianity Today): “Cast Member Church is truly a church for Disney Cast Members. It’s not a church to attend on vacation. It’s not a church for Disney fans in Central Florida. It’s a church for a certain kind of employee from one company…. Walt Disney World has almost 70,000 employees—a population about the size of Canton, Ohio. It’s the largest single-site employer in the country. At 40 square miles, it’s about as big as Miami or San Francisco.” I did not think I would find this article interesting, but it’s thorough and explores some unexpected angles. 
  2. “This Should Be a Wake-up Call to the Whole World”: Inside the Hong Kong Protests (Jordan Ritter Conn, The Ringer): “The street goes quiet. The protesters crouch and face the police together, remaining still. They open their umbrellas and hold them aloft. Seconds later, the explosions begin.”
  3. Did Emma Sulkowicz Get Redpilled? At the very least, she’s found a new social set. (Sylvie McNamara, The Cut): “Sulkowicz is telling me about the “political journey” she’s lately been on, a listening tour of ideological positions that she’s always considered too right-wing to engage: centrists, conservatives, libertarians, and whatever Jordan Peterson is — various and sundry souls that Jezebelhas canceled, whose names chill dinner conversation across progressive New York. Sulkowicz hasn’t been redpilled; she’s still a feminist and an advocate for survivors of sexual assault. What’s changed is her posture.“ This article was fun to read and full of surprises.
  4. Have 1 in 5 Americans Been in a Consensual Non-Monogamous Relationship? (Charles Fain Lehman, Institute For Family Studies): “In promoting the show, the network tweeted out the eye-catching claim that ‘1 in 5 Americans have been involved in a consensually non-monogamous relationship at some point in their life.’ CBS is far from the only outlet to push the ‘one in five’ claim: it’s appeared in Rolling Stone, Quartz (as cited by NPR), Time, Men’s Health, and Psychology Today, among others. Where does that number come from?”
  5. The Global Protest Wave, Explained (Max Fisher and Amanda Taub, New York Times): “Only 20 years ago, 70 percent of protests demanding systemic political change got it — a figure that had been growing steadily since the 1950s. In the mid-2000s, that trend suddenly reversed. Worldwide, protesters’ success rate has since plummeted to only 30 percent, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard University political scientist who called the decline ‘staggering.’”
  6. And if you haven’t heard Kanye West is now professing Christ and people have opinions.
    1. Kanye West Airpool Karaoke (The Late Late Show with James Corden, YouTube): first some thoughts from the man himself, 20 minutes. Recommended by a student.
    2. ‘Jesus Is King’ and Kanye West is a tax collector (Esau McCaulley, Washington Post): “As an African American Christian trying to make sense of West’s decisions, I have repeatedly reflected on the stories of Jesus eating with tax collectors that upset many of his contemporaries.” The author is a professor at Wheaton. Recommended by an alumnus.
    3. Yeezus Follows Jesus (Nic Rowan, First Things): “I’m good with it. After all, perfectly nice people don’t become saints. God tends to prefer working with jackasses.”
    4. Kanye West’s Conversion Could Be a Cultural Wrecking Ball (Andrew Walker, National Review): “The Apostle Paul warns in the New Testament about vesting too much hope and confidence in new converts, fearing they would be puffed up with pride (something, let’s be honest, Kanye has no problem exuding). We need to let Kanye be a Christian Kanye without making him into a Christian celebrity.”
  7. 11 Places Where Persecuted Christians Need Our Prayers (Megan Fowler, Christianity Today): “Over 245 million Christians live in the 50 countries ranked on the World Watch List as worst for Christians. Between November 2017 and October 2018, 4,136 Christians were killed for their faith in these countries, over 1,266 churches or Christian buildings were attacked, and 2,625 believers were detained, arrested, sentenced, or imprisoned — many of them without a trial.”

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 Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas (Joseph Bottum, The Weekly Standard): many modern political ideas are derived from Christian theological concepts. (first shared in volume 1)

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 216

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. No, really. I mean them and they matter. I welcome your suggestions, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Cops Who Abused Photoshop (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): this is outrageous. Difficult to excerpt, but well worth reading. Recommended by a student.
  2. 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.” Many insights in this essay.
    1. Related: In the Face of Sexual Temptation, Repression Is a Sure-Fire Failure (Rachel Gilson, Christianity Today): “Repression and avoidance are ultimately human-centered responses. They stuff desire, suffocate it, banish it, and yet rarely succeed at engendering true purity. By contrast, Christian asceticism reminds us that we are not stronger than desire and then invites us to cast our gaze toward the One who is. It asks the Christian to follow the sight line of desire—like looking down the barrel of a gun—and train it on what all desire is ultimately satisfied by: the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).”
    2. Related What Genetics Is Teaching Us About Sexuality (Steven M. Phelps and Robbee Wedow, New York Times): “…genetic differences account for roughly one-third of the variation in same-sex behavior.” The authors are professors (one of biology at UT Austin and the other of sociology at Harvard). They are also both gay men. They are reflecting on research published in the journal Science: Large-scale GWAS reveals insights into the genetic architecture of same-sex sexual behavior (which Wedow coauthored).
  3. What Majority-World Missions Really Looks Like (Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, Christianity Today): “In 2015, 9 of the top 20 sending countries—including Brazil, the Philippines, China, India, Nigeria, and South Africa—were in the majority world (also referred to as the developing world), with a total of 101,000 international missionaries.” For context, the combined total is close to the number sent from the USA.
  4. Why do Chinese people like their government? (Kaiser Kuo, SupChina): “It’s the rare person who can truly separate, at both an intellectual and an emotional level, criticism of his or her country from criticism of his or her country’s government — especially if that government is not, at present, terribly embattled and is delivering basic public goods in a reasonably competent manner.”
    1. Related: 9 questions about the Hong Kong protests you were too embarrassed to ask (Jen Kirby, Vox): “”What began as a targeted protest against a controversial extradition bill in June has transformed into what feels like a battle for the future of Hong Kong. Protesters are not just fighting their local government. They’re challenging one of the most powerful countries on earth: China.
    2. Related: Hong Kong Democracy Activists Arrested Ahead Of Planned March (Emily Feng & Scott Neuman, NPR): “Joshua Wong, Hong Kong’s most famous pro-democracy leader, was arrested on Friday along with fellow activists and politicians in what appeared to be a coordinated sweep by the city’s police ahead of a mass anti-government march that had been planned for the weekend.”
    3. Related: The One United Struggle For Freedom (David Brooks, New York Times): “Many suspect America will never step in to help. The American right no longer believes in spreading democracy to foreigners. The American left embraces a national narrative that emphasizes slavery and oppression, not that America is a beacon or an example. Neither party any longer sees America as a vanguard nation whose very mission is to advance universal democracy and human dignity.”
    4. Related: China’s Spies Are On The Offensive (Mike Giglio, The Atlantic): “Espionage and counterespionage have been essential tools of statecraft for centuries, of course, and U.S. and Chinese intelligence agencies have been battling one another for decades. But what these recent cases suggest is that the intelligence war is escalating—that China has increased both the scope and the sophistication of its efforts to steal secrets from the U.S.” Recommended by a student.
  5. Why Everything They Say About The Amazon, Including That It’s The ‘Lungs Of The World,’ Is Wrong (Michael Shellenberger, Forbes): “‘What is happening in the Amazon is not exceptional,’ said Coutinho. ‘Take a look at Google web searches search for ‘Amazon’ and ‘Amazon Forest’ over time. Global public opinion was not as interested in the ‘Amazon tragedy’ when the situation was undeniably worse. The present moment does not justify global hysteria.’ And while fires in Brazil have increased, there is no evidence that Amazon forest fires have.” I found this article quite informative.
  6. The Trump Administration Sides With Nurses Who Object to Abortion (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “Beyond its outcome, this case is a signal of the Trump administration’s priorities: It sees religious freedom and conscience protections as central parts of American civil rights, and officials plan to enforce those laws.”
    1. Related: By their tweets you will know them: The Democrats’ continuing God gap (Ryan Burge, Religion News Service): “While the Nones have grown dramatically over the last 20 years, it’s still important to realize that more than six in ten Americans identify as a Christian, according to the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. If Democrats want to win back the White House, it would behoove them to reach out to those Christian voters. However, at least on social media, Democratic candidates fail to do so.”
    2. Related: Democratic Party embraces nonreligious voters, criticizes ‘religious liberty’ in new resolution (Caleb Parke, Fox News): “The Democratic National Committee (DNC) passed a resolution Saturday praising the values of ‘religiously unaffiliated’ Americans as the ‘largest religious group within the Democratic Party.’ The resolution, which was unanimously passed at the DNC’s summer meeting on Aug. 24 in San Francisco, Calif., was championed by the Secular Coalition of America, an organization that lobbies on behalf of atheists, agnostics, and humanists on public policy.”
    3. Related: Michael Wear’s commentary on Twitter: “I just want to be clear. This is both politically stupid, but also, just stupid on a fundamental level that transcends electoral politics.” (Wear was an Obama staffer)
  7. Let’s have open borders for people and closed borders for capital (Jeff Spross, The Week): “…human beings aren’t the only things that cross borders: goods, services, and financial capital do it all the time as well. A better response to Trump might not be to debate whether borders should be enforced, but rather enforced against what? Specifically, the left-progressive position on borders should be something like: maximum enforcement against the movement of financial capital, moderate enforcement against goods and services, and minimal enforcement against people.”
    1. Related: Christianity and Capitalism Reconsidered (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “[the claim] that capitalism makes us wealthier, lets us live longer, and improves our ethics — could be right and even so Christianity and capitalism might not be compatible. Maybe God doesn’t want us to be richer and longer-lived, and maybe there are certain matters of faithfulness that transcend what most people call ‘ethics.’”

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 Eat, Pray, Code: Rule of St. Benedict Becomes Tech Developer’s Community Guidelines (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “SQLite—a database management engine used in most major browsers, smart phones, Adobe products, and Skype—adopted a code of ethics pulled directly from the biblical precepts set by the venerated sixth‐century monk.” This article blew my mind. First shared in volume 175.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 208

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 198

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 178

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. No — really. I mean them. Also, I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Cultural winsomeness will not be enough for Christians (Andrew T Walker, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission): “Chow is the very definition of class, dignity and civility. She’s a model for what faithful Christian discipleship looks like in the public square. There is no foaming-at-the-mouth hatred for anyone. She loves everyone; she just did not want to violate her conscience. What’s the lesson here? There are many. But to focus on just one, this story is a reminder that no amount of cultural sophistication or intelligence will absolve the Christian from being seen as a backward-thinking bigot.” This is correct.
    • Related: An interview with Isabella Chow (Allie Stuckey, Twitter) — this is a 4 minute video.
    • Kind of related: The State of Hate (David Montgomery, Washington Post): “In thinking about my interview, I was struck by just how little he had disputed the SPLC’s claims about the frankly disquieting positions he has taken. To some extent, it was similar to my experience at the FRC and ADF. They simply saw those positions as admirable, or at the very least defensible, expressions of truth — whereas, to the SPLC, they were expressions of hate.”
    • Vaguely related: David French on the price of public engagement (Twitter)
  2. What Is It Like to Be a Man? (Phil Christman, The Hedgehog Review): “I live out my masculinity most often as a perverse avoidance of comfort: the refusal of good clothes, moisturizer, painkillers; hard physical training, pursued for its own sake and not because I enjoy it; a sense that there is a set amount of physical pain or self-imposed discipline that I owe the universe.” Very well-written. Everyone will likely find parts they resonate with and parts they reject. The author is a lecturer at the University of Michigan and based on his CV seems to be a fairly devoted Episcopalian.
  3. Ask and You Shall Evangelize (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Gospel Coalition): “‘Modern selves are so internal,’ Keller said. ‘In the old days if you were convinced of the truth, you changed yourself. Now we adopt the truth as accessories that fit in with who we want to be.’” A good article on the nature of effective witness in contemporary Western society.
  4. Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex? (Kate Julian, The Atlantic): “I mentioned to several of the people I interviewed for this piece that I’d met my husband in an elevator, in 2001. (We worked on different floors of the same institution, and over the months that followed struck up many more conversations—in the elevator, in the break room, on the walk to the subway.) I was fascinated by the extent to which this prompted other women to sigh and say that they’d just love to meet someone that way. And yet quite a few of them suggested that if a random guy started talking to them in an elevator, they would be weirded out. ‘Creeper! Get away from me,’ one woman imagined thinking.” The article is vulgar in places and premised on flawed assumptions… and still manages to be fascinating and insightful.
    • Related: How the GOP Gave Up on Porn (Tim Alberta, Politico): “We know that the ubiquity of porn is a problem: Even as experts debate the science of addiction and the link between consumption and destructive behavior, there is surefire sociological evidence of its exacerbating influence on those most susceptible—people predisposed to violence, for instance, or misogyny or child abuse. There is also consensus that it has, in plenty of cases, contributed to abusive relationships and the fracturing of families. And that’s just where adults are concerned.”
  5. The Best Way To Save People From Suicide (Jason Cherkis, Huffington Post Highline): “Motto didn’t take long to write the first letter a patient would receive. He knew what he wanted to say, hitting upon two sentences—37 words—that felt just right: ‘It has been some time since you were here at the hospital, and we hope things are going well for you. If you wish to drop us a note we would be glad to hear from you.’” This is an engrossing article. Recommended.
  6. Overcoming Barriers to Women’s Advancement in Political Science (Amy Catalinac, PDF hosted at Harvard): “Of the political scientists of my generation I know well, successful ones do all of these things automatically, and those who have been less successful do many fewer of them.” Very straight talk on how to get a tenure-track job. From my outside vantage point, this seems like excellent advice for social scientists of either gender.
  7. The dramatic implosion of ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ is a lesson — and a warning (Christine Emba, Washington Post): “The next time we’re tempted toward too-formulaic thinking, we’ll know to take it with a grain of salt. After all, life is rarely so pure.”

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 an eye-opening (and dismaying) read: What The Media Gets Wrong About Israel (Mattie Friedman, The Atlantic). (first shared back in volume 5): “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.”

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 176

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. Mass Shootings at Houses of Worship: Pittsburgh Attack Was Among the Deadliest (Sarah Mervosh, NY Times): “Mass shootings have become a recurring part of American life, and religious institutions a recurring setting. In each case, the shock is compounded by the violence at what is supposed to be a safe space for peace and healing.”
    • Related: If You Hate Jews, You Hate Jesus (Russell Moore, personal blog): “I will often hear Christians say, ‘Remember that Jesus was Jewish.’ That’s true enough, but the past tense makes it sound as though Jesus’ Jewishness were something he sloughed off at the resurrection. Jesus is alive now, enthroned in heaven…. When Jesus appeared before Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus, the resurrected Christ introduced himself as ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ (Acts 22:8). Jesus is Jewish, present tense.”
    • Related: Holiness & Dr. Cohen (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “What Dr. Cohen — who is a member of Tree of Life synagogue — and his Jewish staff showed is moral courage, but more than that, it is holiness.”
    • Related: The Jews of Pittsburgh Bury Their Dead (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “‘We, the Jews, are good at death,’ says Rabbi Seth Adelson, whose synagogue, Beth Shalom, is less than a mile from Tree of Life. ‘The customs that we fulfill at this time are really helpful for those who have suffered a loss.’ In the face of extraordinary tragedy—the deadliest attack on Jews in American history, according to the Anti-Defamation League—ordinary rituals help Jews grieve.”
  2. ‘God Is Going to Have to Forgive Me’: Young Evangelicals Speak Out (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “With just days left before the midterm elections — two years after President Trump won the White House with a record share of white, evangelical support — we asked young evangelicals to tell The Times about the relationship between their faith and their politics.” These are interesting interviews, although I suspect a skew in the sample.
  3. The Big and Small World of Bible Geography (David Barrett, The Gospel Coalition): “As I have studied and mapped the events of Scripture over the years, I have been struck by an intriguing paradox: The world of the Bible was at the same time very small and very large.” Recommended for the pictures even more than the text.
  4. What Progressives Can Learn From Michael Avenatti’s Mistake (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Insofar as Democrats are convinced that America is a white-supremacist patriarchy, that racism and sexism were the decisive factors costing Democrats the 2016 election, and that fascism is nigh, you can see how they would conclude that a Cory Booker or an Elizabeth Warren can’t really best Trump, or would face much longer odds than a white man, and that winning should be the priority. Conjure in your mind an institutionally racist, white-supremacist patriarchy. Does its popularly elected president look like Kamala Harris?” This is the most provocatively insightful thing I read this week.
    • Not really related, just similarly provocative: The Real Reason They Hate Trump (David Gelernter, Wall Street Journal): “The difference between citizens who hate Mr. Trump and those who can live with him—whether they love or merely tolerate him—comes down to their views of the typical American: the farmer, factory hand, auto mechanic, machinist, teamster, shop owner, clerk, software engineer, infantryman, truck driver, housewife.” The author is a professor of computer science at Yale..
  5. Free rent in Seattle, no catch: Landlords’ faith inspired a gift for tenants (Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times): “They’re also devout Pentecostal Christians. When Slaatthaug, a 74-year-old retired carpenter, does repairs at the building, he drives there in a Jeep with a 4‑foot-tall Bible on top. The Old Testament has a passage about the year of jubilee — every 50 years, debts are to be forgiven. So Slaatthaug and Bambrick are celebrating the family’s 50 years as property owners by doing something unheard of for a landlord: For the month of November, everyone in the 11-unit building goes rent-free.”
  6. Kissing Purity Culture Goodbye (Abigail Rine Favale, First Things): “Christianity does not offer mere prescriptions; it offers a worldview, one centered on a God who descended into our bodily nature and thereby vivified it. Within the context of this worldview, the sexual mores of Christianity become compelling, connected as they are to the cosmos as a whole. Removed from this context, they enslave.”
  7. Lack Of Attention To Chinese Interpol Chief’s Disappearance Shows The Khashoggi Furor’s Fakery (Ben Weingarten, The Federalist): “Why do certain individual victims of tyrannical regimes become cause célèbres, worthy of dramatically altering U.S. foreign policy, while others disappear into the ether? …concurrent with the Khashoggi affair, Meng, the president of Interpol, also disappeared, and may have succumbed to a similarly grim fate at the hands of Chinese henchmen. Let me repeat that: The president of Interpol, the world’s largest international police organization, disappeared.” I dislike the title of this piece and the way it frames a few things, but it raises a very important point.

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 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.” (first shared in volume 148)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 175

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. Fewer Sex Partners Means a Happier Marriage (Olga Khazan, The Atlantic): “Nicholas Wolfinger, a sociologist at the University of Utah, has found that Americans who have only ever slept with their spouses are most likely to report being in a ‘very happy’ marriage. Meanwhile, the lowest odds of marital happiness—about 13 percentage points lower than the one-partner women—belong to women who have had six to 10 sexual partners in their lives.”
    • This article was inspired by the longer and even more fascinating Does Sexual History Affect Marital Happiness? (Nicholas Wolfinger, Institute for Family Studies): “For a combined sample of men and women, spouses reporting only one lifetime sexual partner are 7% more likely to be happy than are those with other partners in their past. This is larger than the five-percentage-point difference associated with a four-year college degree, larger than the six-point difference that comes with attending religious services several times a month or more, and larger than the boost that comes with having an income above the national median.”
  2. Eat, Pray, Code: Rule of St. Benedict Becomes Tech Developer’s Community Guidelines (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “SQLite—a database management engine used in most major browsers, smart phones, Adobe products, and Skype—adopted a code of ethics pulled directly from the biblical precepts set by the venerated sixth-century monk.” This article blew my mind.
  3. Finding ‘Common Good’ Among Evangelicals In The Political Season (Sarah McCammon, NPR): “On a recent evening in Houston, under the heavy branches of live oak trees, Doug Pagitt stood before a couple dozen people gathered on blue folding chairs on the Rice University campus. ‘You’ve heard it said that to be a true Christian, you must vote like a Republican,’ he said. ‘But we are here to be reminded that just ain’t so.’”
    • Related: Cory Booker could be a candidate for the ‘religious left’ (Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service): “Questions about religion can paralyze some politicians, but not [Democratic Senator] Cory Booker. If anything, the topic seems to relax him. Sitting in his spacious but spartan office on Capitol Hill in early October, the senator propped his sneakered feet up on his desk and waxed poetic about spiritual matters, bouncing between discussions of Jesus’ disciples, housing policy and his own religious practices.”
  4. The White House Says Socialism Is a Threat. It’s Right. (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg Opinion): “Who would have thought that an attack on socialism would be so controversial? But these days it is. The White House’s Council of Economic Advisers issued a report called ‘The Opportunity Costs of Socialism’ to a scathing reception on social media: ‘dreck,’ said the economist Justin Wolfers, while Paul Krugman referred to it as ‘amazingly dishonest.’ I’m here to tell you that I have read the entire report, and many of the sources it cites, and most of it is correct.” FYI: one of our alumni helped to write the report in question.
  5. The Caravan Is a Challenge to the Integrity of U.S. Borders (David Frum, The Atlantic): “If liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals will not do.” That sentence is one of the most honest things I’ve heard in the recent immigration debate. When deciding what immigration policy you deem best, recognize that you have to factor in how passionately otherwise apolitical people feel about this.
  6. A Christian Man Receives Justice (David French, National Review): “government officials demonstrated substantial intolerance in the name of ‘inclusion’ and rather than seeking solutions that allowed each member of the community to exercise their liberty (to enjoy rights to cakes and conscience, for example), they took sides against Christians, using their power to send a clear message: Traditional Christianity is incompatible with the progressive state. That is not a decision the Constitution empowers them to make.”
  7. The midterms are already hacked. You just don’t know it yet. (Benjamin Wofford, Vox): “The security expert at a big tech corporation, who spoke on background in order to speak frankly about election vulnerabilities, put it this way: ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the Pentagon’s [security measures], elections have probably moved from a 2 to a 3.’” Very alarming.

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

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