Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 356

from the week abortion fell

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 356, which is a happy number (something I learned about only today). A happy number is a number whose digits when squared sum to 1 if the process is repeated long enough. 356 takes six iterations.

  1. 356 ==> 32+52+62 = 9+25+36 = 70.
  2. 70 ==> 72+02 = 49.
  3. 49 ==> 42+92 = 16+81 = 97.
  4. 97 ==> 92+72 = 81+49 = 130
  5. 130 ==> 12+32+02 = 1+9+0 = 10
  6. 10 ==> 12 + 02 = 1

I got way more into that than I expected.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The huge news today is that abortion is no longer a constitutional right in America. I expect deeper analyses to appear by next week — most columnists appear to be saving their big pieces for the Sunday papers. Send recommendations my way!
    • What changed from Justice Alito’s draft opinion to final ruling on Roe (Kelly Hooper, Politico): “…Alito did add to his original opinion, with a fierce rebuttal of the court’s liberal dissenters, plus a direct shot at Chief Justice John Roberts in the final text. Roberts was the only conservative justice on the court to side with its three liberals, making the final vote 5–4 in the decision to strike down Roe and give states the green light to ban abortion.”
    • Supreme Court overturns constitutional right to abortion (Amy Howe, SCOTUSblog): “Stare decisis, Alito stressed, ‘is not a straitjacket’ when a ruling is grievously incorrect.… Notably, the dissenters finished by noting only that they dissented, omitting the word ‘respectfully’ that commonly accompanies the dissent.”
      • A good summary of the opinion. The author used to teach at Stanford Law School. That last sentence is important.
    • From the right: The Land is Bright (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “Some desire to downplay this victory or even to lament the manner of it. We should not. Federal law in America once recognized a right to kill unborn children. Now it does not. Our feelings should be unambiguous: it is a great good that over half the states in our union are soon likely to have laws granting sweeping protections to the unborn. And we can just say that it is good.”
    • From the left: Which rights are next on the Supreme Court’s chopping block? (Ian Millhouser, Vox): “In any event, the future of rights other than abortion will likely need to be litigated. There is no doubt that Thomas would happily light many existing rights on fire. And there is little doubt that Alito, based on his Obergefell dissent, would also happily tear down same-sex marriage. But it takes five votes to strip away an existing constitutional right, and it remains to be seen whether Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — conservatives who sometimes break with Alito’s most aggressive attempts to drive the law to the right — will support mass rollbacks of existing rights.”
      • Millhouser is often hyperbolic and fails to read ideas he disagrees with fairly, but this is a pretty good summary.
    • From the right: The Supreme Court strikes down Roe and Casey (Albert Mohler, World): “…pro-life Americans have learned not to assume anything and to wait to see any decision in the black and white of plain text. Well, we have the plain text. It is explosive. It is earthshaking.… It is an answer to prayer.”
      • The author is a seminary president and also the president of the Evangelical Theological Society.
    • From the left: Getting Real About the Post-‘Roe’ World (Scott Lemieux, The American Prospect): “The theory went that Republican elites didn’t really want to overrule Roe, but were merely pretending to for the sake of pandering to their base. This narrative was always false; the survival of Roe was always a highly contingent fluke, the product of several mistakes by Republican presidents.”
    • From the right: The Long Battle to Overturn Roe (Ed Whelan, National Review): “There are at least two large reasons that the long battle to overturn Roe has succeeded. First, pro-lifers did not heed Casey’s command that they give up on working to defend the lives of unborn human beings, and they remained a powerful political force in the Republican party, all the more so as nearly all Democrats had abandoned the pro-life cause. Second, the conservative legal movement grew and flourished, thanks in large part to the Federalist Society and to Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas.”
    • From the left: Republicans Are Willing to Pay a Political Price to Ban Abortion. It’s Up to Democrats to Make Them Pay It. (Josh Barro, Substack): “After the draft decision leaked, Democrats brought a wish-list bill to the floor of both chambers that even pro-choice Republicans — even Sen. Susan Collins — were able to comfortably vote against on the grounds that it was too extreme, more expansive than Casey. Democrats need to break the agenda into pieces.… Unlike a catch-all bill, there are many individual ideas about protecting abortion rights that are very broadly popular — bringing them to the floor puts Republicans in the position of either voting for policies to protect abortion rights, or going home to defend votes that are actually hard to defend in election campaigns.”
      • Both parties should do this on a whole host of issues. Politics would change quickly if our leaders governed this way. Barro is right about the shrewd strategy, but I think it unlikely that his party will heed him.
  2. Made in America: Goods Exports by State (Raul Amoros, Visual Capitalist): “Texas has been the top exporting state in the U.S. for an incredible 20 years in a row. Last year, Texas exported $375 billion worth of goods, which is more than California ($175 billion), New York ($85 billion), and Louisiana ($77 billion) combined. The state’s largest manufacturing export category is petroleum and coal products, but it’s also important to mention that Texas led the nation in tech exports for the ninth straight year. California was the second highest exporter of goods in 2021 with a total value of $175 billion, an increase of 12% from the previous year.”
    • Surprises here, recommended by an alumnus. Emphasis in the original.
  3. Mike Pence and the Christian Conflict on January 6 (David French, The Dispatch): “A healthy national culture both condemns cowardice and honors valor, even when valor is simply part of the job. And we should do both with an immense measure of humility. How many of us have proven our own courage under similar circumstances? Pence faced threats to his family, threats to himself, threats to his power, and threats to the rest of his career. How many of us have prevailed in the face of such pressure?  To scorn courage in such circumstances further incentivizes cowardice. At least the cowardly retain their political power and their political home.”
  4. In Defense of Political Escalation (Abigail Shrier, Bari Weiss’ Substack): “If our ultimate goal is returning to a normalcy in which government agencies and corporations treat all Americans fairly regardless of viewpoint, how are we to achieve this? At a minimum, we must acknowledge that these institutions are already weaponized and their artillery points only in one direction: against the opponents of the left.”
    • To my knowledge Shrier is not religious and is in no way conservative, but she is articulating an argument that I see frequently on the right (most famously in the French/Ahmari dustup). It animates Trumpism and is one of the reasons DeSantis is so popular on the right and that American conservatives have such a fascination with Orban in Hungary.
  5. Pentecostals’ Political Warfare (Miguel Petrosky, The Revealer): “Issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, and even fears of creeping ‘Marxism,’ have long been of concern to some factions of American conservatism. But in parts of the Pentecostal and charismatic world, these issues contain cosmic implications for the country’s relationship with God. In the Hebrew Scriptures, each of Israel’s kings either ‘did what was right’ or ‘did what was evil’ in the eyes of God—with either blessings or curses for the kingdom. Since Pentecostals view themselves as being a continuation of the biblical narrative, they are certain God will judge America by the issues they view as straying from the Bible.”
  6. Leaked Audio From 80 Internal TikTok Meetings Shows That US User Data Has Been Repeatedly Accessed From China (Emily Baker-White, BuzzFeed News): “Lawmakers’ fear that the Chinese government will be able to get its hands on American data through ByteDance is rooted in the reality that Chinese companies are subject to the whims of the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party, which has been cracking down on its homegrown tech giants over the last year. The risk is that the government could force ByteDance to collect and turn over information as a form of ‘data espionage.’ There is, however, another concern: that the soft power of the Chinese government could impact how ByteDance executives direct their American counterparts to adjust the levers of TikTok’s powerful ‘For You’ algorithm, which recommends videos to its more than 1 billion users. Sen. Ted Cruz, for instance, has called TikTok ‘a Trojan horse the Chinese Communist Party can use to influence what Americans see, hear, and ultimately think.’ ”
  7. Quest to Conquer a Disease (Amy Lynn Smith, AG News): “Gibson met Hong as he ate lunch with another intern in the student union. Hong asked to join them, and afterward Gibson and Hong began meeting for tea or coffee every week. Gibson learned that Hong, the night before he introduced himself, had a dream in which a man encouraged Hong to meet people on campus. Hong later came to recognize the man in the dream as Jesus. A friendship developed between Hong and Gibson.”
    • This is about two of our alumni: Dan Gibson, who did his ministry training with Chi Alpha Stanford several years ago, and Guosong “Frank” Hong who did his PhD here and is now a professor.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How To Ask Your Mentors For Help (Derek Sivers): this is super‐short and very good. Excerpting it would ruin it. Read the whole thing. First shared in volume 224.

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 350

Fewer main topics than normal, but a bunch of articles in the topics

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 350, and 350 is a very respectable number. I’m impressed.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church (Tim Alberta, The Atlantic): “Having grown up just down the road, the son of the senior pastor at another church in town, I’ve spent my life watching evangelicalism morph from a spiritual disposition into a political identity. It’s heartbreaking. So many people who love the Lord, who give their time and money to the poor and the mourning and the persecuted, have been reduced to a caricature. But I understand why. Evangelicals—including my own father—became compulsively political, allowing specific ethical arguments to snowball into full-blown partisan advocacy, often in ways that distracted from their mission of evangelizing for Christ.”
  2. Being a Political Journalist Made Me a Better Christian (Jon Ward, Christianity Today): “But Christians cannot be the conscience of the state if we are not first the conscience of whichever political party we belong to. We have the difficult task of belonging to political parties and working for the good of the country through those institutions, while also standing apart from those parties to criticize them at times for their weaknesses, errors, and corruptions.” The entire essay is delightful.
  3. A controversy about how Christians should engage in the public square:
    • How I Evolved on Tim Keller (James R. Wood, First Things): “If we assume that winsomeness will gain a favorable hearing, when Christians consistently receive heated pushback, we will be tempted to think our convictions are the problem. If winsomeness is met with hostility, it is easy to wonder, ‘Are we in the wrong?’ Thus the slide toward secular culture’s reasoning is greased. A ‘secular-friendly’ politics has problems similar to ‘seeker-friendly’ worship. An excessive concern to appeal to the unchurched is plagued by the accommodationist temptation.”
    • A Critique of Tim Keller Reveals the Moral Devolution of the New Christian Right (The Dispatch, David French): “Yet even if the desperate times narrative were true, the desperate measures rationalization suffers from profound moral defects. The biblical call to Christians to love your enemies, to bless those who curse you, and to exhibit the fruit of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—does not represent a set of tactics to be abandoned when times are tough but rather a set of eternal moral principles to be applied even in the face of extreme adversity…
    • Is it Time to Move Past Tim Keller? (Samuel D. James, Substack): “The question is not whether love of neighbor doesn’t work and should be forgotten, the question is what love of neighbor demands from us, and whether such love might look different when the presenting moral and spiritual needs of our neighbors might not be what they were a generation ago.”
    • some thoughts on Tim Keller (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “Like Diogenes with his lantern, I’m looking for one critic of Tim Keller who shows some awareness that Christians are commanded by their Lord to act in certain ways and to refrain from acting in others. To think only in terms of what is effective or strategic is to fight on the Devil’s home ground.”
    • This Article is Not About Tim Keller (James Wood, American Reformer): “How do we know what the future holds for the public’s perception of Christians and their attempts to love their neighbors through political action? We might be surprised what the judgments of history have in store. Not only do I question the certainty we can have in these assessments about how our political actions will impact our long-term gospel witness, but I also think this is a category error. Politics is not about minimizing offense in order to maximize openness to the evangelistic message. Politics is, rather, focused on the pursuit of justice and the just ordering of society.”
  4. Against longtermism (Phil Torres, Aeon): “…longtermism might be one of the most influential ideologies that few people outside of elite universities and Silicon Valley have ever heard about. I believe this needs to change because, as a former longtermist who published an entire book four years ago in defence of the general idea, I have come to see this worldview as quite possibly the most dangerous secular belief system in the world today.”
    • Recommended by a student who thinks this is especially important for Silicon Valley people to hear. From Oct 2021.
  5. More on the Supreme Court and abortion
    • How Roe Warped the Republic (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “And the way Roe was decided made this polarization worse. From the perspective of geography and class, a group of robed lawyers in Washington, D.C., demanding that the country simply accept their settlement on one of the gravest moral questions imaginable is the perfect primer for a populist revolt. What has happened in similar ways with other issues — immigration, most notably — happened with abortion first: The elite settlement failed to settle the issue, and the backlash encompassed not just the issue itself but elite legitimacy writ large.”
    • Protest supporting Roe v. Wade takes over campus (Bryan Steven Monge Serrano, Stanford Daily): “About 250 students, faculty and staff came together to chant and march.” ]
      • “Takes over campus” is an exaggeration. 250 people? There are classes larger than that. Having said that, the bulk of the student body at Stanford is undeniably on the pro-Roe side. I wonder if the small rally indicates a level of apathy or simply a desire to wait for the actual verdict to be released.
    • Why I welcome the prospect of Roe v. Wade being overturned (Avi Shafran, NBC News): “Roe was a sledgehammer, and wrongly wielded. In the wake of its reversal, citizens in each state would be charged with using a scalpel to instead craft laws that treat nascent life with respect while accommodating the protection of women’s well-being.”
      • Interesting thoughts from a Rabbi. He comes down in a different place than most people you have heard from.
    • How Dare They! (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “What strikes me most in these takes is the underlying contempt for and suspicion of the democratic process — from many of the same people who insist they want to save it. How dare voters have a say on abortion rights! The issue — which divides the country today as much as it has for decades — is one that apparently cannot ever be put up for a vote. On this question, Democrats really do seem to believe that seven men alone should make that decision — once, in 1973. Women today, including one on SCOTUS? Not so much.”
    • Pro-Life Ministries Have Been Caring For Women And Babies For Generations (Warren Cole Smith, Ministry Watch): “More than 2500 pro-life Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) are a compassionate army of staff, donors, and volunteers that number in the hundreds of thousands. They are committed to helping women make life-giving choices, and they often support these women for years after their babies are born. The total amount of money these organizations spend in support of women and babies is not known, but it likely exceeds $1 billion annually. We should also note that the vast majority of adoptions in this country are done by Christian families and through Christian adoption agencies.”
    • The Supreme Court Leak Was an Unplanned Complication for Pregnancy Centers (Emily Belz, Christianity Today): “I try to shield my team from it here,” she said, telling them not to get online and try to defend themselves. “I saw a post on Instagram: ‘I’ve never met a pro-life person who is addressing access to health care, accessible childcare, college education.’ Hundreds of people are commenting, ‘Yeah I’ve never met one of those.’ I’m thinking I’m going to lose my mind. We’re here! We’re getting women into housing same day, we’re getting them out of domestic violence same day, we’re getting them furniture the same day,” Marten continued. “For my team to go home every day and turn on the news and social media and get gaslit, saying, ‘If you really cared …’ It’s an emotional toll.”
  6. On China
    • China’s Bizarre Authoritarian-Libertarian COVID Strategy (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “On the one hand, China has confined millions of people to their homes, even to the extent of outlawing walking outside or having food delivered. Many thousands of other people have been taken from their homes and put into quarantine centers. On the other hand, vaccination is not mandatory! I can understand authoritarianism. I can understand libertarianism. I have difficulty understanding how jailing people, potentially without food, is ok but requiring vaccinations is not.”
    • Dramatic story of Kyrgyz Christian swept up in China’s Uyghur repression gets very little ink (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “While unimaginable horrors persisted in the camp, Joseph testified about how God worked in the hearts of the inmates around them. They had no privacy in any part of the complex, with cameras in their rooms and microphones for monitoring. Thus, 50 to 60 inmates filled the shower room every day and it was the only place where Joseph could share his faith. The water from the shower heads made enough noise to mask their conversations.  In the first few months, there was hardly anyone who would talk to him about God. Then the question began. ‘How could God let us be here in this place?’ they would ask. ‘How could God allow our children to be abandoned?’ ” Crazy details, especially if you follow the links in the article.
    • TikTok May Be More Dangerous Than It Looks (Ezra Klein, New York Times): “TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company. And Chinese companies are vulnerable to the whims and the will of the Chinese government.… TikTok’s real power isn’t over our data. It’s over what users watch and create. It’s over the opaque algorithm that governs what gets seen and what doesn’t. TikTok has been thick with videos backing the Russian narrative on the war in Ukraine. Media Matters, for instance, tracked an apparently coordinated campaign driven by 186 Russian TikTok influencers who normally post beauty tips, prank videos and fluff. And we know that China has been amplifying Russian propaganda worldwide. How comfortable are we with not knowing whether the Chinese Communist Party decided to weigh in on how the algorithm treats these videos?”
    • Why Chinese Culture Has Not Conquered Us All (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “Outside of its own borders, post-Deng China has a poor record selling the intangible. Chinese cultural influence is not commensurate with China’s economic power or geopolitical heft. For the last two decades observers of China have pondered this mystery. Why has China’s growing global prominence, prosperous commercialized economy, and huge global diaspora not led to cultural influence? Why have both China’s intellectual high culture and its expansive pop culture offerings failed to take root outside of the Sinosphere?” Very thoughtful, as I have come to expect from Greer.

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 Pint‐Size Nation off the English Coast (Ian Urbina, The Atlantic): “Though no country formally recognizes Sealand, its sovereignty has been hard to deny. Half a dozen times, the British government and assorted other groups, backed by mercenaries, have tried and failed to take over the platform by force.” 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 331

the Christmas Eve edition

Merry Christmas! 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 331, a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Mark Lowry, Did You Know Your Mary Song Would Be Controversial? (Bob Smietana, Christianity Today): “He added that most of the questions he had did not make their way into the song—only the ones that rhymed made it.”
  2. Kidnapped Missionaries Made Daring Escape from Their Captors, Fled for Their Lives on Foot at Night (Steve Warren, CBN News): “ ‘After much discussion and prayer, they became solidly united that God seemed to be leading them [to escape]. He said they sought specific signs from God, and He confirmed over and over that the timing wasn’t right yet. Then, the night of Wednesday, December 15 arrived. When they sensed the timing was right, they found a way to open the door that was closed and blocked, filed silently to the path that they had chosen to follow, and quickly left the place that they were held despite the fact that numerous guards were close by,’ Showalter said.”
  3. COVID related news
    • Media Ignores GOOD NEWS On Pandemic (Breaking Points, YouTube): thirteen encouraging minutes. The title is a little clickbaity, but I guess they gotta pay the bills.
    • The F.D.A. clears Pfizer’s Covid pills for high-risk patients 12 and older. (Rebecca Robbins and Carl Zimmer, New York Times): “Within a week of authorization, Pfizer is expected to deliver to the United States enough of its pills to cover 65,000 Americans. At current infection rates, that would be enough supply for less than one day if it were given to half of people in the United States who test positive for the virus. Pfizer is expected to deliver to the United States another 200,000 treatment courses in January and then another 150,000 treatment courses in February. The pace of deliveries is expected to increase sharply after that.” This is tremendous news.
    • Professional Sports Are Learning to Live With COVID. We’re Next. (Will Leitch, NY Mag): “The leagues are now admitting what most of us are realizing but wary of saying out loud: COVID is just a part of our lives now, and if we don’t learn to live with it, we’re never going to be able to do anything.”
    • The Vaccine Moment, part three (Paul Kingsnorth, Substack): “It’s fair to say that the ‘conspiracy theorists’ have had a good pandemic.”
    • Covid Panic is a Site of Inter-Elite Competition (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “Rare and fatal events sometimes occur; that’s life. When you can you mitigate the risk. Death from a car accident is far more likely for me than death from Covid. It’s still rare, but there’s a risk, and putting on a seatbelt is a reasonable mitigation tactic. Simply never getting in a car, though, would not be reasonable. The risk reduction would not outweigh the considerable costs. So I don’t make that bargain. And thus with Covid. I’m vaccinated, I mask in most indoor settings, and if I develop symptoms I’ll immediately seek a test and quarantine myself. Those are acceptable tradeoffs, for me. As a now triple-vaxxed person who has had the virus previously I am intent on living my life as normally as possible, which includes not unduly worrying about it or demanding others do so. And I would argue that expecting otherwise from me would make you functionally an anti-vaxxer.”
    • Why the Supreme Court Hasn’t Ruled (For Now) on Vaccine Mandates (Mark Movsesian, The Public Discourse): “The Court has not explained its reasons in these cases. But the justices’ caution is not surprising, for a few reasons. First, religious exemption claims generally pose hard questions, which are particularly troublesome in this context. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified divisions about the value of religion and religious freedom in our country, and the justices might wish to avoid doing something to provoke further conflict. Second, the Maine and New York lawsuits are currently at the preliminary injunction stage, and the factual records in the cases are still unclear. The Court might reasonably think that it should allow the lower courts an opportunity to consider the claims further before it issues any rulings. Finally, the Court might think that state and local governments will themselves see the prudence of offering religious exemptions, as many already have done, considering the difficulties vaccine mandates have created for healthcare and other services.”
  4. COVID-adjacent but really about the FDA
    • The FDA Has Punted Decisions About Luvox Prescription To The Deepest Recesses Of The Human Soul (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “As a psychiatrist, I’m not supposed to say flippant things like ‘we give SSRIs out like candy’. We do careful risk-benefit analysis and when appropriate we screen patients for various risk factors. But after we do all that stuff, we give them to 10% of Americans, compared to 12% of Americans who got candy last Halloween. So you can draw your own conclusion about how severe we think the risks are.”
    • This Scientist Created a Rapid Test Just Weeks Into the Pandemic. Here’s Why You Still Can’t Get It. (Lydia DePillis, ProPublica): “American medical device regulators have never been enthusiastic about letting people test themselves. In the 1980s, the FDA banned home tests for HIV on the grounds that people who tested positive might do harm to themselves if they did not receive simultaneous counseling. In the 2010s, the agency cracked down on home genetic testing kits, concerned that people might make rash medical decisions as a result.”
  5. Also COVID-adjacent but really about Facebook: Rapid Response: Open letter from The BMJ to Mark Zuckerberg (Fiona Godlee & Kamran Abbasi, The BMJ): “We are aware that The BMJ is not the only high quality information provider to have been affected by the incompetence of Meta’s fact checking regime.… Rather than investing a proportion of Meta’s substantial profits to help ensure the accuracy of medical information shared through social media, you have apparently delegated responsibility to people incompetent in carrying out this crucial task.”
  6. Why the **** Do You Trust Harvard? (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “Harvard exists to make sure our society is not equal. That is Harvard’s function. You get that they just want to make it easier to turn down the poor but brilliant children of Asian immigrants, right? You understand that what Harvard and its feckless peers would like is to admit fewer students whose Korean parents clear $40,000 a year from their convenience stores, right? And you think, what, they’re going to be walking around Brownsville, handing out admissions letters to kids with holes in their pockets and a dream in their hearts? To the extent that any Black students are added to the mix by these policies, it’s going to be the Jaden and Willow Smiths of the world. If you think Harvard has any actual, genuine desire to fill its campus with more poor American-born descendants of African slaves you are out of your fucking mind.” Language warning, in case that was not obvious from the title. Also, much more correct than many people would like to believe
  7. Foreign Drones Tip the Balance in Ethiopia’s Civil War (Declan Walsh, New York Times): “Mr. Singer, the drone expert, said the experimentation with drone warfare in Ethiopia and Libya has parallels with the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, when outside powers used the fight to test new military technologies and to gauge international reaction to determine what they could get away with. ‘It’s a combination of war and battle lab,’ he said.”

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 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 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 292

there is an absurdly long list of entertaining YouTube videos at 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.

This is volume 292, which is the number of ways you can break a dollar into two or more coins.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Growing My Faith in the Face of Death (Tim Keller, The Atlantic): “Most particularly for me as a Christian, Jesus’s costly love, death, and resurrection had become not just something I believed and filed away, but a hope that sustained me all day. I pray this prayer daily. Occasionally it electrifies, but ultimately it always calms: And as I lay down in sleep and rose this morning only by your grace, keep me in the joyful, lively remembrance that whatever happens, I will someday know my final rising, because Jesus Christ lay down in death for me, and rose for my justification.”
  2. The Empty Religions of Instagram (Leigh Stein, New York Times): “I have hardly prayed to God since I was a teenager, but the pandemic has cracked open inside me a profound yearning for reverence, humility and awe. I have an overdraft on my outrage account. I want moral authority from someone who isn’t shilling a memoir or calling out her enemies on social media for clout.”
  3. Do Liberals Care if Books Disappear? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “In the last stages of the same-sex marriage debate, I never encountered a flicker of private doubt from liberal friends. But in the gender-identity debate, there are pervasive liberal doubts about the current activist position. Yet without liberal objection, that position appears to set rules for what Amazon will sell.”
  4. The Miseducation of America’s Elites (Bari Weiss, City Journal): “So children learn how the new rules of woke work. The idea of lying in order to please a teacher seems like a phenomenon from the Soviet Union. But the high schoolers I spoke with said that they do versions of this, including parroting views they don’t believe in assignments so that their grades don’t suffer.… One English teacher in Los Angeles tacitly acknowledges the problem: she has the class turn off their videos on Zoom and asks each student to make their name anonymous so that they can have uninhibited discussions.”
    • Related: Private Schools Have Become Truly Obscene (Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic): “Private schools regularly make decisions that parents don’t understand. Like ancient peoples, the parents try to make sense of the clues. They decide that college admissions must be the god of private school—wrong—or that the god must be AP scores, or sports, or institutional reputation. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. The god of private school is money.“A little uneven but a viscerally fun read.
  5. Canceling Is Powerless (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “Politics is about power. Cancel mobs don’t have it, and they never will. You wanted reparations; you got Dr. Seuss. Maybe time to take a hard look at why.” His follow-up Perhaps We Cannot Do Both is also worthwhile.
  6. Why Reformed Evangelicalism Has Splintered: Four Approaches to Race, Politics, and Gender (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “By virtue of our upbringing, our experiences, our hurts, our personalities, our gifts, and our fears, we gravitate toward certain explanations and often think in familiar patterns when it comes to the most complicated and controversial issues. Why is it that by knowing what someone thinks about, say, mask wearing that you probably have a pretty good idea what they think about Christian Nationalism and systemic racism?” His breakdown of approaches is helpful even outside the Reformed tribe. You can see all four responses within Chi Alpha. Highly recommended if you want a framework for understanding why fellow believers disagree with you.
  7. Two articles about China:

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 Land of We All (Richard Mitchell, The Gift of Fire), an essay built on this insight: “Thinking can not be done corporately. Nations and committees can’t think. That is not only because they have no brains, but because they have no selves, no centers, no souls, if you like. Millions and millions of persons may hold the same thought, or conviction or suspicion, but each and every person of those millions must hold it all alone.” (first shared in volume 2)

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 257

a shorter collection of links than those I’ve shared recently

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. Stop Firing the Innocent (Yascha Mounk, The Atlantic): “Cafferty was punished for an offense he insists he did not commit. Shor was punished for doing something that most wouldn’t even consider objectionable. Wadi was punished for the sins of his daughter. What all of these rather different cases have in common is that none of the people who were deprived of a livelihood in the name of fighting racism appear to have been guilty of actually perpetuating racism.” The author is a political science professor at Johns Hopkins. 
    • This is an essential follow-up: punishing the innocent (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “…for those who want to effect social change by exposure and shaming, punishing the innocent is a feature of their system, not a bug. It increases fear, which increases discipline, not only of oneself but of others. And every employer who fires an employee because they’re afraid of a social-media mob draws us closer to a fully Panoptic society, a social tyranny with an efficiency beyond the dreams of totalitarian societies of the past.” This reminds me of the classic post Planet of Cops by Freddy deBoer.
  2. The Minneapolis street corner where George Floyd was killed has become a Christian revivalist site. (Ruth Graham, Slate): “‘I would describe this as revival and awakening,’ said Joshua Giles, a local pastor who has been coming to the site to pray and preach for several weeks. Giles, who is Black, said he has taken part in conversions and spontaneous baptisms there, and that at least one woman had been miraculously healed of persistent pain in her arm.”
    • I found the way Graham framed one minister’s criticism of the Black Lives Matter organization interesting. I don’t think it’s an unusual perspective — it was presented on Tuesday by sports anchor (and Columbia grad) Marcellus Wiley: https://twitter.com/SFY/status/1278064470435090438 (three minute video)
    • It’s also interesting to compare Worshippers Continue ‘Unity Revival’ at George Floyd Memorial Despite Pushback (Taylor Berglund, Charisma News). The reports largely align, I’m just fascinated by how reporters’ interests and contexts shape the questions they ask and the answers they emphasize. I am pretty sure both reporters are Christian, although I suspect they gravitate to different churches.
  3. Is Tim Scott the Most Influential Legislator in Congress? (Declan Garvey, The Dispatch): “To Scott, his blackness and his partisan affiliation makes perfect sense: He’s lived the American dream, rising from poverty to build a series of successful businesses. He’s a devout Christian committed to the preservation of religious liberty. But to interlopers projecting their own experiences and beliefs onto him, two of his three core identities are in direct contradiction with one another. Leaning too hard into one elicits accusations of being traitorous to the other.’” Utterly fascinating.
  4. How a Great Power Falls Apart (Charles King, Foreign Affairs): “Faced with a series of external shocks and internal crises, and pursued by more dynamic and adaptable competitors abroad, his country had far less life in it than anyone at the time could see. All countries end. Every society has its own rock bottom, obscured by darkness until impact is imminent. Already in the sixth century, Amalrik wrote, goats were grazing in the Roman Forum.” The author is an international relations Professor at Georgetown. Relevant for both America and China.
  5. Pastors on Social Media (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “… you are wrestling against principalities and powers, and those powers have keen eyes for your desire for a bigger audience and your church members’ affinity for other forms of social reinforcement. They want you to believe that other forms of wisdom are more reliable than God’s Word, other audiences more important than your humble congregation, other platforms more powerful for speaking, other kinds of impact you can make more lasting and significant. The second you begin to believe these things you have begun to compromise your calling as a pastor.” This is a fire hydrant of wisdom, and most of it is relevant to everyone.
  6. On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare (Mike Shellenberger, Quillette): “Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem. I may seem like a strange person to be saying all of this. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30.”
    • The author’s book is currently the #1 best seller in environmental science on Amazon. This article was originally published on Forbes (where he is a regular contributor) but they took it down in the ensuing controversy. Undeniably interesting. I don’t have expertise in this area, so if he’s wrong please point me to any better pieces you know of.
  7. The Ghost of Woodrow Wilson (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…unless the endgame of New Haven’s removal of Columbus is the expropriation of white property (Yale’s property, I suppose, especially) and its redistribution to the Pequots and Mohegans, then a consistent rejection of Columbus’s legacy isn’t what my city is embracing. Instead, it’s just doing the same thing as Princeton: keeping the inheritance, but repudiating the benefactor. Keeping the gains, but making a big show of pronouncing them ill gotten.”

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 Are Satanists of the MS‐13 gang an under‐covered story on the religion beat? (Julia Duin, GetReligion): this is a fascinating bit of news commentary. My favorite bit: “How does one get out of MS‐13? An opinion piece in the New York Times this past April gives a surprising response: Go to a Pentecostal church.” Highly recommended. First shared in volume 158.

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 255

Again, the standalone stuff is up top and the current news items are 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. Why Ditching Instagram Earned me the Podium (Madison Fischer, personal blog): “I cared so much about what everyone thought of me that it became outsourced confidence…. Pride in my accomplishments made me content, and contentedness is poison to a young athlete who has to stay hungry if she wants to stay competitive.”
  2. The Financial Finish Line (Christina Darnell, Ministry Watch): “Giving has always been another bedrock principle for the Barnharts. The company committed to giving half of their profits to ministry. The other half goes to growing the business. The first year, they gave away $50,000. The next year, it was $150,000. It grew to $1 million a year—then $1 million a month.” An inspiring story.
  3. On Cultures That Build (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “In the 21st century, the main question in American social life is not ‘how do we make that happen?’ but ‘how do we get management to take our side?’ This is a learned response, and a culture which has internalized it will not be a culture that ‘builds.’”
    • Related: Why America’s Institutions Are Failing (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic): “Whatever the true cause for our failure, when I look at the twin catastrophes of this annus horribilis, the plague and the police protests, what strikes me is that America’s safekeeping institutions have forgotten how to properly see the threats of the 21st century and move quickly to respond to them. Those who deny history may be doomed to repeat it. But those who deny the present are just doomed.”
  4. Is There a Religious Left? (Casey Cep, New Yorker): “The daughter of a Baptist preacher who was once the dean of the Howard University School of Divinity, Newsome came by her faith and her preaching honestly, yet almost all of the publicity that followed her act of civil disobedience [taking down the Confederate flag] stripped her protest of its theological tenor. Such is the fate of much of the activism of the so-called religious left: if it is successful, it is subsumed by broader causes and coalitions; if it fails, it is forgotten.” 
  5. Race in America
    • Most US Pastors Speak Out in Response to George Floyd’s Death (David Roach, Christianity Today): “Nearly all US pastors (94%) agree that ‘the church has a responsibility to denounce racism,’ and most (62%) say their church has made a statement on the unrest stemming from the May 25 death of George Floyd, according to a Barna Church Pulse Poll released today. The poll, conducted over the past week, also found that 76 percent of pastors say the church should support peaceful protests occurring in response to Floyd’s killing.”
    • What the Bible Has to Say About Black Anger (Esau McCauley, New York Times): “Jesus experienced the reality of state-sponsored terror. That is why the black Christian has always felt a particular kinship with this crucified king from an oppressed ethnic group. The cross helps us make sense of the lynching tree.” The author is a New Testament professor at Wheaton. 
    • On the Unjust Death of George Floyd and Racism in America (Marco Rubio, The Public Discourse): “Like before, the latest unrest has given rise to voices arguing that the foundations of our republic are built on systemic racism and must therefore be brought down. The only difference is that this time claims like these don’t just come from the fringes of our politics. Like before, we also have voices who say that today race is a factor only in individual cases, distinct from our society at large. Both of these views are wrong.” This was a speech given on the floor of the Senate.
    • Racist Police Violence Reconsidered (John McWhorter, Quillette): “…these figures are not necessarily evidence of police racism. According to the Washington Post‘s database, over 95 percent of the people fatally shot by police officers in 2019 were male, and no serious-minded person argues that this is evidence of systemic misandry. So what, then, accounts for the disproportionate representation of black men among those killed by cops?” McWhorter is a professor of linguistics at Columbia. 
    • Stories and Data (Coleman Hughes, City Journal): “…the basic premise of Black Lives Matter—that racist cops are killing unarmed black people—is false. There was a time when I believed it.” The author is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
    • A Few Bad Apples? Racial Bias in Policing (Felipe Goncalves & Steven Mello, SSRN): “Using a bunching estimation design and data from the Florida Highway Patrol, we show that minorities are less likely to receive a discount on their speeding tickets than white drivers. Disaggregating this difference to the individual police officer, we find that 40% of officers explain all of the aggregate discrimination.” 40% is HUGE!
    • Why I Stopped Talking About Racial Reconciliation and Started Talking About White Supremacy (Erna Kim Hackett, Inheritance Magazine): “The term white supremacy labels the problem more accurately. It locates the problem on whiteness and its systems. It focuses on outcomes, not intentions. It is collective, not individual. It makes whiteness uncomfortable and responsible. And that is important.” Shared with me by a student.
  6. On American journalism:
    • The American Soviet Mentality (Izabella Tabarovsky, Tablet Magazine): “The mobs that perform the unanimous condemnation rituals of today do not follow orders from above. But that does not diminish their power to exert pressure on those under their influence. Those of us who came out of the collectivist Soviet culture understand these dynamics instinctively.” The author is a scholar with the Wilson Center.
    • Is There Still Room for Debate? (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “Liberalism is not just a set of rules. There’s a spirit to it. A spirit that believes that there are whole spheres of human life that lie beyond ideology — friendship, art, love, sex, scholarship, family. A spirit that seeks not to impose orthodoxy but to open up the possibilities of the human mind and soul.”
    • The American Press Is Destroying Itself (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “It isn’t the whole story, but it’s demonstrably true that violence, arson, and rioting are occurring. However, because it is politically untenable to discuss this in ways that do not suggest support, reporters have been twisting themselves into knots. We are seeing headlines previously imaginable only in The Onion, e.g., ‘27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests in London.’”
    • The woke revolution in American journalism has begun (Damon Linker, The Week): “In place of difficulty, complexity, and complication, today’s journalistic revolutionaries crave tidy moral lessons with clear villains and heroes. They champion simplicity, embrace moral uplift, and seek out evildoers to demonize.” See also his earlier column Don’t willfully ignore the complexity of what’s happening in America right now

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 compelling series of articles on China by a history professor at Johns Hopkins (who also happens to be a Stanford grad): China’s Master Plan: A Global Military Threat, China’s Master Plan: Exporting an Ideology, China’s Master Plan: A Worldwide Web of Institutions and China’s Master Plan: How The West Can Fight Back (Hal Brand, Bloomberg). The money quote from the second article: “If the U.S. has long sought to make the world safe for democracy, China’s leaders crave a world that is safe for authoritarianism.” First shared in volume 156.

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 253

Specific suggestions for police reform, various explainers and opinion pieces, and some weird news about TikTok and Christianity.

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. On the racial division in America:
    • How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change (Barack Obama, Medium): “Finally, the more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away. The content of that reform agenda will be different for various communities.” Emphasis in original.
    • Some specific policy proposals: “For those who are interested in research-based solutions to stop police violence, here’s what you need to know — based on the facts and data. A thread. (1/x)” (Samuel Sinyangwe, Twitter)
    • More specific policy proposals: How to Actually Fix America’s Police (Seth W. Stoughton, Jeffrey J. Noble & Geoffrey P. Alpert, The Atlantic): “‘Overcriminalization’ has been broadly discussed; there are so many laws that violations are ubiquitous. If everyone is a criminal, officers have almost unfettered discretion to pick and choose which laws to enforce and whom to stop, frisk, search, or arrest.” The authors have an interesting combination of expertise (a law prof, a criminology prof, and a former officer).
    • I Must Object: A Rebuttal to Brown Univ.’s Letter Decrying Pervasive Racism in US (Glenn C. Loury, City Journal): “I deeply resented the letter. First of all, what makes an administrator (even a highly paid one, with an exalted title) a ‘leader’ of this university? We, the faculty, are the only ‘leaders’ worthy of mention when it comes to the realm of ideas. Who cares what some paper-pushing apparatchik thinks? It’s all a bit creepy and unsettling. Why must this university’s senior administration declare, on behalf of the institution as a whole and with one voice, that they unanimously—without any subtle differences of emphasis or nuance—interpret contentious current events through a single lens?” Loury, who is black, is an econ professor at Brown. He did not come to play.
    • Efrem Smith: White Evangelicals Need to Humble Themselves (Bob Smietana, Christianity Today): “I’ve been encouraged, especially in the evangelical wing of the church, to see more pastors speaking out, being brokenhearted, calling for change. But then there’s also a significant segment of evangelicalism that is either silent or late to the party when it comes to the church calling for justice.”
    • A Nation on Fire Needs the Flames of the Spirit (Esau McCaulley, Christianity Today): “There is no other world in which to talk about Jesus than a world in which black men can have their necks stepped on for nine minutes.” The author is an Anglican priest and a professor of New Testament at Wheaton. 
    • Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LA Times): “…even though we do all the conventional things to raise public and political awareness — write articulate and insightful pieces in the Atlantic, explain the continued devastation on CNN, support candidates who promise change — the needle hardly budges.”
    • On Days of Disorder (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “Notice that this schema is value neutral: it describes both the football hooligan and the race rioter, 19th century Russian pogroms and 21st century Hong Kong street battles. In all of these a certain percentage of the participants plays the game for fairly mundane reasons: to revel in excitement or terror, lose themselves in a rare sense of solidarity, belonging, or power, or to simply gain the monetary rewards that come with theft and looting. The proportion of the population willing to join a riot to attain these things likely reflects the proportion of the population otherwise cut off from them in normal times. Few rioters are married men who must be at work at 8:00 AM the next morning.” This was quite good. Recommended.
    • Simplicity Is The Enemy & Bad Apples (Jonathan Last, The Bulwark): “What’s happening in America right now is large and complicated. We have a series of problems, some of which overlap, some of which do not. And attempts to solve them have, historically, been stymied by conflating them and believing that they are simple and connected.”
  2. On the pandemic:
    • The Treason of Epidemiologists (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “The simple fact is that whatever legislation we’re going to get, we’d still get if the protests stopped this morning. In fact, a reasonable person would conclude we’d be more likely to get it if they stopped now, because the more these things go on, the more opposition and resentment will grow.” 
    • Related: “A thread about how protesting during a pandemic was described when conservatives were doing it” (Matt Walsh, Twitter)
    • Surgisphere: governments and WHO changed Covid-19 policy based on suspect data from tiny US company (Melissa Davey, Stephanie Kirchgaessner & Sarah Boseley, The Guardian): “The World Health Organization and a number of national governments have changed their Covid-19 policies and treatments on the basis of flawed data from a little-known US healthcare analytics company, also calling into question the integrity of key studies published in some of the world’s most prestigious medical journals. A Guardian investigation can reveal the US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees appear to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has provided data for multiple studies on Covid-19 co-authored by its chief executive, but has so far failed to adequately explain its data or methodology.” This is actually nuts.
    • The C.D.C. Waited ‘Its Entire Existence for This Moment.’ What Went Wrong? (Eric Lipton, Abby Goodnough, Michael D. Shear, Megan Twohey, Apoorva Mandavilli,Sheri Fink & Mark Walker, New York Times): “…the C.D.C. is risk-averse, perfectionist and ill suited to improvising in a quickly evolving crisis — particularly one that shuts down the country and paralyzes the economy.”
  3. The Museum of the Bible is winning over some of its biggest critics: Jewish scholars (Menachem Wecker, Washington Post): “Mintz believes Jewish scholars who denounced evangelical tones in the museum may have done so because they don’t see eye-to-eye with its politically conservative owners. But, she notes, the museum itself caters to Jews. She cites a time when it arranged kosher food for an event in which her husband, an Orthodox rabbi, participated. ‘They were just nice about it,’ she says.”
  4. Christian TikTok videos are censored and deleted in the US, creators say (Liza Vandenboom, Religion Unplugged): “Christian content is often censored and removed from TikTok, according to several creators on the platform. The China-based social media app hosts short, snippy videos ranging from inspirational mini-speeches to musical and dance performances and is popular with teenagers and young adults. The platform reports over 800 million active users, with 30 million active users in the U.S. Researchers have grown concerned over the app’s reach and the possibility of it bringing Chinese-style censorship to mainstream U.S. audiences.” 
  5. Technocracy Is Impossible (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “Leaders should pay attention to scientists, dramatically more than the current Presidential administration does, but an immunologist will say one thing, an epidemiologist something slightly different, an economist something altogether other. The various sciences and academic disciplines will not speak with a single voice, indeed will not speak at all: individual scholars will speak, and what they say will arise from a combination of their scholarly expertise and their beliefs (derived from non-scientific sources) about what matters most in life, and a good political leader will have the general intelligence and moral discernment to sift the various messages he or she receives and make a decision based on all the relevant input.”
  6. There was a fight at the New York Times this week. I’m not actually that interested in the op-ed that provoked it, but I am quite interested in how the fight is playing out. The New York Times occupies a special place in the American media ecosystem and fights like this illuminate some of what is happening beneath the surface.

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 202

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 First Rule of Social-Media Censorship Is That There Are No Rules (David French, National Review): “The great value of viewpoint neutrality is that it comports with our sense of fundamental fairness. It hearkens back to the image of the blindfolded Lady Justice, holding her scales, indifferent to the power or privilege of her petitioners. Twitter and Facebook have removed the blindfold, thrown away the scales, and chosen to wield only the sword.”
    • Related but less aggressive: Facebook’s Unintended Consequence (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “The deeper problem is the overwhelming concentration of technical, financial and moral power in the hands of people who lack the training, experience, wisdom, trustworthiness, humility and incentives to exercise that power responsibly.”
    • Related but with a different emphasis: The Big Tech Threat (Josh Hawley, First Things): “My thesis is that the evidence strongly suggests there is something deeply troubling, maybe even deeply wrong, with the entire social media economy. My thesis is that it does not represent a source of strength for America’s tomorrow, but is rather a source of peril.” A transcript of a speech given by a US Senator who is a Stanford grad and who was speaking at the Hoover Institution.
  2. We Are Taking Religious Freedom Too Far (Margaret Renkl, New York Times): “Religious faith is a private matter between a believer and God. But how a believer lives in community with other people is something different altogether. It’s time to stop giving believers a pass just because their beliefs happen to run counter to the laws of the nation they live in.”
    • In response: A New York Times Op-Ed Is Very Wrong About Religious Liberty (David French, National Review): “She formulates religious liberty like this: ‘In this country, citing religious or spiritual convictions is often a surefire way to get out of doing something you’re required by law to do.’ This is a common framing on the left. Essentially, it’s an argument that religious freedom is an intrusion into the law and that religious people are engaged in a form of special pleading — seeking rights and exemptions unavailable to other Americans. In reality, the First Amendment is supreme, and when states seek to intrude on religious liberty, they’re trying to get out of something they’re required by law to do. Respecting the First Amendment is the default obligation of the federal government and every state and local government in the United States.”
    • Related but on a different topic: Health and Human Services and the Religious-Liberty War (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “The conflict between religious liberty, LGBTQ rights, and abortion access is about to intensify. In the coming weeks or months, HHS is expected to issue a revised version of Rule 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which extended nondiscrimination protections to transgender people and women who have terminated pregnancies. The Supreme Court is also slated to consider civil-rights protections for LGBTQ individuals in several high-profile upcoming cases; while those cases mostly involve protections provided under employment law, they similarly pit religious liberty against LGBTQ rights.”
  3. Agapáo and Philéo by the Sea of Tiberias (Ron Belgau, Spiritual Friendship): “After breakfast, Peter and Jesus had a conversation which raises an interesting question about how to understand the verbs for love—agapáo and philéo—used in the original Greek…. The passage is difficult to translate because although English has always had separate nouns for ‘love’ and ‘friendship,’ no English speaker prior to Mark Zuckerberg used ‘friend’ as a verb. Translators, therefore, must either translate both words as ‘love,’ which loses a potential nuance in the original, or else must try to somehow make the difference apparent in English.” This is the most satisfying explanation of this passage I have heard.
  4. American churches must reject literalism and admit we got it wrong on gay people (Oliver Thomas, USA Today): “Churches will continue hemorrhaging members and money at an alarming rate until we muster the courage to face the truth: We got it wrong on gays and lesbians. This shouldn’t alarm or surprise us. We have learned some things that the ancients — including Moses and Paul — simply did not know. Not even Jesus…”
    • The author is a retired American Baptist minister.
    • In response: Oliver Thomas @USATODAY Says the American Church Got it Wrong on Gay People—And He’s Right (Michael Kruger, personal blog): “In this way, Thomas is right. The church is killing itself, if by the ‘church’ one means the mainline denominations who have abandoned biblical authority. Indeed, statistics have shown, plainly and incontrovertibly, that the mainline denominations are dying and the bible-believing ones are growing.”
    • In response: No, Christianity Doesn’t Need To Endorse Homosexuality To Grow (Glenn Stanton, The Federalist): “When same-sex-attracted Christians go to church, they are not choosing the pews of churches Thomas is calling us to become. Again, it’s just the opposite. Research conducted jointly at Columbia University and the University of California at Los Angeles by scholars who are not shy about supporting gay politics found that gay- and lesbian-identified people are 2.5 times more likely to attend churches that took a more conservative view on Christianity (including homosexuality) than the so-called ‘welcoming and affirming’ congregations that celebrate it.”
  5. What’s wrong with America? I debate Ben Shapiro.(Sean Illing, Vox): “There are basically two visions of American history. One is that America was founded on great moral principles that we failed to live up to historically and we’ve been striving to fulfill. The other is that America is rooted in racism, bigotry, sexism, and homophobia, and that these great moral principles were the founders merely flattering themselves.”
    • This is a very good exchange. Whichever side you’re sympathetic to, you’ll enjoy reading this interview.
  6. Why God Is a He (Dennis Prager, YouTube): five minutes. It’s an interesting way to approach the issue. As a Christian I would make a different argument connected to the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus as a male, but Prager is an observant Jew and so that line of thinking is unavailable to him.
  7. Are All Republicans Biblical Literalists? Are All Democrats Heretics?(Ryan Burge, Religion in Public): “With the release of the 2018 wave of the General Social Survey data, I think that it’s time to take stock of how a person’s view of the Bible is related to their political affiliation. Are there biblical literalists who are Democrats? How many Republicans don’t put much stock in the Bible? And, how has the view of the Bible changed over time?”
    • tl;dr — Roughly ¼ of Democrats and ⅓ of Republicans believe the Bible is the literal word of God. Roughly half of each party think the Bible is inspired but not always to be taken literally. The remainder in each party believe that the Bible is just ancient fables.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have 20 Arguments For God’s Existence (Peter Kreeft, personal website): “You may be blessed with a vivid sense of God’s presence; and that is something for which to be profoundly grateful. But that does not mean you have no obligation to ponder these arguments. For many have not been blessed in that way. And the proofs are designed for them—or some of them at least—to give a kind of help they really need. You may even be asked to provide help.” I was reminded of this by a conversation with an alumnus. The author is a philosophy professor at Boston College. (first shared in volume 116)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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