Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 237

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. “My Gang Is Jesus” (Alex Cuadros, Harpers Magazine): “A year ago, I flew to Rio and followed Martins around for a few weeks as he preached. I hoped to reconcile two competing narratives of the evangelical church’s role in the favelas. For the country’s poor, all but neglected by the state, churches serve not only as a source of spiritual salvation but as a haven of last resort—a place to find community, job tips, and counseling, or simply to gather and sing without fear of violence. Yet stories of crooked pastors abound in the new Brazil; in recent years, several have been caught transporting weapons for the drug trade. While many gang members find in Jesus the courage to quit this life, others seem to have internalized a skewed set of biblical lessons, even committing acts of violence in Jesus’ name.”
  2. Religious Liberty: Not Just for Social Conservatives (David French, The Dispatch): “The beauty of civil liberties case law is that each lawful exercise of liberty reinforces another. So it is with this case. Progressives will likely cheer that these four activists will escape punishment for saving immigrant lives. And which cases helped them win? One of them was Hobby Lobby—an assertion of religious freedom by Christian conservatives against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, a cause that many progressives despised.”
  3. Loving to Know (N.T. Wright, First Things): “The scientist may be fascinated by the way a cancer cell grows, but that fascination will increase his determination to stop it in its tracks. The historian may be intrigued by the causes of the First World War, but she may well hope that her investigation of the complex tangle of motivations will help us spot future warning signs. And the parent who enjoys watching the child climbing a tree will, as a matter of love, simultaneously affirm the child’s freedom and seek to mitigate any clear danger. Love is always on the lookout.” This article is a little uneven but very insightful at places.
  4. Educated Fools (Thomas Geoghegan, The New Republic): “Meritocracy has its own deep state—with secrets unknown even to those of us who are part of it. And the worst thing is the way it can taunt the working class with the ideals of the Enlightenment, when it is we meritocratic liberals who have the greatest interest in limiting its spread. We think we’re acting in such good faith in pushing for college and even community college education. But real salvation can be offered only to a few, on a retail, not a wholesale, basis: Instead of raising people up collectively, we’re being careful to do it one diploma at a time.
”
    • The author’s blindness to the continued existence of churches stood out to me. “There is no foothold left in big cities, or anyplace else where the global winners live, for high school graduates to exercise even a tiny bit of power. There’s no church to slot into as a deacon…” (emphasis added) Fact check: churches are flourishing in big cities.
  5. Nigeria is a killing field of defenseless Christians (Religion Unplugged): “The list of Nigerian Christians slaughtered, shot dead, hacked to death, strangled and tortured to death, grows by the day. From villages in the arid Northern Nigeria to hamlets in the lush Savannah South, wailing, mourning, and curses pierce the air, while tears fall from tired eyes.”
    • Related: All Across Nigeria, Christians Marched Sunday to Protest Persecution (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “Adeboye and his congregation, one of the largest in the world, answered the call issued by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for a three-day fast this past weekend, concluding in a prayer walk. Based on reports from its state chapters and local media, CAN estimates 5 million people marched in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states on Sunday.”
  6. The Enemies of Writing (George Packer, The Atlantic): “Fear breeds self-censorship, and self-censorship is more insidious than the state-imposed kind, because it’s a surer way of killing the impulse to think, which requires an unfettered mind. A writer can still write while hiding from the thought police. But a writer who carries the thought police around in his head, who always feels compelled to ask: Can I say this? Do I have a right? Is my terminology correct? Will my allies get angry? Will it help my enemies? Could it get me ratioed on Twitter?—that writer’s words will soon become lifeless.”
  7. 11 Reasons Not to Become Famous (or “A Few Lessons Learned Since 2007”) (Tim Ferriss, personal blog): “In that short span of time, my monthly blog audience had exploded from a small group of friends (20–30?) to the current size of Providence, Rhode Island (180,–200,000 people). Well, let’s dig into that. What do we know of Providence? Here’s one snippet from Wikipedia, and bolding is mine: ‘Compared to the national average, Providence has an average rate of violent crime and a higher rate of property crime per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2010, there were 15 murders, down from 24 in 2009. In 2010, Providence fared better regarding violent crime than most of its peer cities. Springfield, Massachusetts, has approximately 20,000 fewer residents than Providence but reported 15 murders in 2009, the same number of homicides as Providence but a slightly higher rate per capita.’ The point is this: you don’t need to do anything wrong to get death threats, rape threats, etc. You just need a big enough audience. Think of yourself as the leader of a tribe or the mayor of a city. The averages will dictate that you get a certain number of crazies, con artists, extortionists, possible (or actual) murderers, and so on.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). 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 233

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.

I had hoped to include some stuff on Iran but that didn’t happen. Too much other interesting stuff came up.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Historian as Moralist (Yuval Levin, National Review): “Properly understood, the moralist calls society to its highest self, perhaps especially by helping a society understand the ways in which what it thinks are its strengths are actually its weaknesses. And an effective moralist would do this in an engaging and compelling way. The ablest moralist is thus almost inevitably a kind of intellectual.” This was much better than I expected.
  2. Scam Lures Speakers to Fake UK Church Conferences (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “This email scheme has become the “Nigerian prince” offer of the Christian speaking circuit, with hundreds of US Christian leaders invited to events at UK churches by scammers who hope to collect hundreds of dollars in visa fees ahead of the purported conferences.” What a niche scam! I wonder if this exists for other professions.
  3. China: Statement from Early Rain Covenant Church regarding Pastor Wang Yi’s severe sentence (Adam Ford, Disrn): “In Christ, we issue the following exhortation and protest against Pastor Wang Yi’s severe sentence. Do you government officials not know that this is a sin against God? Do you not know that this is an abuse of your authority (Rom. 13:3)? Even so, we do not hate you. On the contrary, our merciful and righteous God wants us to love you and to pray for you.”
  4. Having Kids (Paul Graham, personal blog): “I remember perfectly well what life was like before. Well enough to miss some things a lot, like the ability to take off for some other country at a moment’s notice. That was so great. Why did I never do that? See what I did there? The fact is, most of the freedom I had before kids, I never used. I paid for it in loneliness, but I never used it.” 
  5. The Big Farmer Bailout Was Never Debated (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “This is a telling example of how politics works–the process rather than the fundamental question determines much of the outcome.” Fascinating. 
  6. Too much transparency makes the world more opaque. (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “The demand for transparency seems so innocuous. Who could be against greater transparency? But transparency is inimical to privacy. And we care about privacy in part, because we can be more honest and truthful in private than in public.”
  7. 1776 Honors America’s Diversity in a Way 1619 Does Not (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “My own judgment diverges somewhat from the main rival factions in this debate. Like many critics, I hope the Times Magazine’s work succeeds in causing more Americans to recognize the remarkable faith that African Americans showed in our country’s promise even in eras when America least deserved it. Yet the core reframing that the 1619 Project advocates would unwittingly set back, rather than advance, the causes of equity and racial inclusion.”

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 No Food Is Healthy. Not Even Kale. (Michael Ruhlman, Washington Post): People can be healthy. Food can be nutritious. This is a wonderful essay about how we misuse language to our detriment. If you’re surprised I included this, I believe that our culture has a quasi-religious relationship to health and to food, and I also believe that the use of language is profoundly moral and that our culture is a linguistic mess (to which I know of no finer guide than The Underground Grammarian). (first shared in volume 33)

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 232

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’ve missed sending this email due to holiday travels for a while, and I’ve got nothing on Iran yet. Too much is happening and I’m in a remote place with limited internet access. Anything you find great please send my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Problem Isn’t the ‘Merit,’ It’s the ‘Ocracy’ (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “The American system of government was built on the assumption that the most salient political divides would reflect geography, not ideology or class. The senator from Massachusetts would share bonds in common with the lay citizenry of Boston that he did not share with a senator from South Carolina. On the national sphere this would allow him to represent the interests of his constituents as if they were his own. This has proven more true at some times in American history than others; yet because of the way American politicians are elected, this sense of representing the interests of a geographically bounded group of people is more true in the political arena than in most others.” Highly recommended.
  2. Decade in review: Marital norms erode (Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George, USA Today): “Law shapes culture; culture shapes beliefs; beliefs shape action. The law now effectively teaches that mothers and fathers are replaceable, that marriage is simply about consenting adult relationships, of whatever formation the parties happen to prefer. This undermines the truth that children deserve a mother and a father — one of each.”
    • Follow-up by Rod Dreher: Family, Memory, Power (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “If you’re one of those people with a habit of saying, nobody has ever explained how all this is going to hurt heterosexual me, this is a good basic place to start. Morality is an ecology. This is the equivalent of injecting something into the groundwater. It may be a good thing, or it may be a bad thing, but it does affect everybody. People who say it doesn’t are lying — perhaps to themselves.”
    • That follow-up inspired Professor George to reply: The Shame Of The Conformists (this is on Dreher’s blog): “Someone might say, ‘this is no time for recriminations.’ Well, I don’t agree. This is precisely the time for recriminations. Indeed, there was never a better time. Standing boldly for what is true and good and right and just is everybody’s job. It’s not just ‘other people’s’ job. Especially to my fellow Christians I say, it is OUR job. It comes with the Gospel territory. You say ‘it’s hard’? Of course, it’s hard. But who ever told you that Christian discipleship was not going to be hard? Or risky? Or costly? Not Jesus, that’s for sure. He told us–in the most explicit terms–that it was going to be hard–very hard–and risky, and costly. “
  3. Yes, Jesus Was a Refugee. He Still Is. (Tyler Huckabee, Relevant): “When most people talk about Jesus being a refugee, they’re not talking about Bethlehem but the family’s flight to Egypt. Some time after his birth, Herod got panicky about rumors of a new king and sent soldiers to kill all the newborns in Bethlehem. An angel warned Joseph and Mary to hightail it to Egypt where they could safely lay low. Egypt made for an ideal hiding place, connected to Judea via a well-traveled and relatively safe trade route known as the Via Maris. The argument for Mary and Joseph’s refugee status here is about as strong as it could be under the circumstances.”
  4. Biblical Archaeology’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2019 (Gordon Govier, Christianity Today): “…many of the mainstream media stories announcing these discoveries acknowledged that the Bible was right all along or right after all in these instances. Archaeologist Nelson Glueck’s declaration that ‘no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference’ still stands.”
  5. Some follow-ups to the Christianity Today article I shared last time calling for Trump’s removal from office:
    • The Flag in the Whirlwind: An Update from CT’s President (Tim Dalrymple, Christianity Today): “In a political landscape dominated by polarization, hostility, and misunderstanding, we believe it’s critical for Christians to model how to have a firm opinion and host free discussion at the same time. Evangelicals of different stripes cannot continue to shout one another down, bully those who disagree, or exclude one another and refuse to listen. We hold fast to our view that the wholehearted evangelical embrace of Trump has been enormously costly—but we are committed to irenic conversation with men and women of good faith who believe otherwise.”
      • Side note: the author was a gymnast at Stanford who was actively involved in campus ministry while here (his time preceded my tenure at Chi Alpha, to my knowledge we have never met or even been in the same ZIP code). There’s an article about his story back in volume 191
    • What It Would Take for Evangelicals to Turn on President Trump (Michael Luo, New Yorker): “…though greater religiosity is correlated with Christian-nationalist beliefs, once those beliefs are accounted for, Americans who engaged in more frequent religious practice—church attendance, prayer, and bible reading—were less likely than their less observant peers to subscribe to political views normally associated with Christian nationalism, such as believing that refugees from the Middle East pose a terrorist threat to the United States, or that illegal immigrants from Mexico are mostly dangerous criminals. In other words, Whitehead and Perry find that the threat to democratic pluralism is not evangelicalism itself but the culture around evangelicalism.”
    • Evangelicalism’s Silent Majority (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “One of my big takeaways from reporting on evangelical communities is that, contrary to some stereotypes, evangelicals are some of the most globally minded people in America. They donate to charities that do extensive aid work overseas. They’re exposed to other countries through mission work or humanitarian trips.”
    • Trump Should Not Be Removed from Office: A Response to Mark Galli and Christianity Today (Wayne Grudem, Townhall): “If evangelicals fail to support Donald Trump after he has delivered on so many issues important to Christian values, many people will conclude that we really do not care about conservative judges, the protection of the unborn, the protection of gender distinctions, religious freedom, conscience protections for Christians in the workplace, a strong enough military to protect us against threats from China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran, jobs,wages, economic opportunities for minorities, a secure border, Israel, affordable energy (especially for the poor), energy independence, the protection of property rights, expanding parental choice for schools, revitalizing NATO, protecting freedom of speech on campuses, and many other things. Galli dismisses these concerns with the label ‘political expediency,’ but all of these issues affect people’s ordinary lives. These issues really do matter. On issue after issue, President Trump is changing the direction of the country for the better. When I weigh these results against his sometimes imprecise and coarse speech, there is no comparison.”
    • Where Cain Got His Wife, and Other Issues Related to the 2020 Election (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “As mentioned above, I did not vote for the president in 2016. I did not vote for him because character matters, and because I did not trust him to do what he was promising to do…. And with that said, I have to acknowledge I was wrong… If anything, the great mass of evangelical voters have demonstrated that they actually have a better set of political instincts than their leaders, me included.”
  6. My Semester With the Snowflakes (James Hatch, Medium): “In May of 2019, I was accepted to the Eli Whitney student program at Yale University. At 52, I am the oldest freshman in the class of 2023. Before I was accepted, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had seen the infamous YouTube video of students screaming at a faculty member. I had seen the news stories regarding the admissions scandal and that Yale was included in that unfortunate business. I had also heard the students at Yale referred to as ‘snowflakes’ in various social media dumpsters and occasionally I’d seen references to Ivy League students as snowflakes in a few news sources.” (there’s an interesting follow-up interview with him on NPR)
  7. Two academic things I found interesting:
    • Comparing meta-analyses and preregistered multiple-laboratory replication projects (Amanda Kvarven, Eirik Strømland & Magnus Johannesson, Nature Human Behavior): “We compare the results of meta-analyses to large-scale preregistered replications in psychology carried out at multiple laboratories. The multiple-laboratory replications provide precisely estimated effect sizes that do not suffer from publication bias or selective reporting. We searched the literature and identified 15 meta-analyses on the same topics as multiple-laboratory replications. We find that meta-analytic effect sizes are significantly different from replication effect sizes for 12 out of the 15 meta-replication pairs. These differences are systematic and, on average, meta-analytic effect sizes are almost three times as large as replication effect sizes.” uh-oh. 
    • The Many Faces of Scientific Fraud (Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis, Quillette): “Is every scientific article a fraud? This question may seem puzzling to those outside the scientific community. After all, anyone who took a philosophy course in college is likely to think of laboratory work as eminently rational. The assumption is that a researcher faced with an enigma posed by nature formulates a hypothesis, then conceives an experiment to test its validity…. However, as every researcher knows, it is pure falsehood. In reality, nothing takes place the way it is described in a scientific article. The experiments were carried out in a far more disordered manner, in stages far less logical than those related in the article. If you look at it that way, a scientific article is a kind of trick.” The author has a Ph.D. in biology and this is an excerpt from a book he is publishing with Harvard University Press.

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have This Is What Makes Republicans and Democrats So Different (Vox, Ezra Klein): the title made me skeptical, but there are some good insights in this article (first shared in volume 32 back in 2016).

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.

Celebration of Discipline: Study & Foreword

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer‐reading‐project‐2019. The schedule is online.

book cover - Celebration Of Discipline

“Jesus made it unmistakably clear that the knowledge of the truth will set us free. ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’ (John 8:32). Good feelings will not free us. Ecstatic experiences will not free us. Getting ‘high on Jesus’ will not free us. Without a knowledge of the truth, we will not be free.”

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 63

This week we come to the discipline of study. Foster’s definition of study is a little wordy and hand-wavy for me. I think what he’s getting at is this: study is thinking deeply about something until we understand it and its significance. When done well, it changes the way we think in the future.

Here are some suggestions:

  • While you are young, read a few “how to think” books. If you are fortunate, these will be assigned in some of your classes. If they are not, they are worth seeking out on your own. Don’t assume that just because you got into Stanford and are getting decent grades that you’re all set in this area. How To Read A Book by Adler is solid gold, as is anything by Richard Mitchell (aka The Underground Grammarian). Start with Less Than Words Can Say (legally available online). I think my favorite thing of his is “The Land of We All” from The Gift of Fire. I remember finding Stanovich’s How To Think Straight About Psychology helpful when I was in college, as I did Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies.
  • Resolve to read books by dead people. C. S. Lewis’s introduction to Athanasius’ On The Incarnation explains why well: “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books…. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.” His introduction is available many places online and I highly recommend it- https://www.bhmc.org.uk/uploads/9/1/7/7/91773502/lewis-incarnation-intro.pdf
  • Really do make it your goal to pass an ideological Turing test on every major issue: be able to articulate any position you reject so clearly that a well-informed observer would think you really believe it. You cannot meaningfully say “I agree” or “I disagree” until you can say “I understand.”
  • If you follow current events, an excellent practice is to write down what you think the outcomes of a certain policy or decision are likely to be. Then go back a few months later and compare your predictions with reality. You’ll learn a lot about your blind spots and assumptions. Also write down what you would do if you were in charge and what you think would likely happen. This is more uncertain, but you will start to notice ways that reality surprises you and would have affected your plans. The key in either case is writing it down — don’t trust your memory. Written words have an outrageous stubbornness that does not permit you to believe you thought something different than you actually did.

Some tips for studying the Bible in particular:

  • Foster recommends picking a book of the Bible and reading it every day for a month. This isn’t as daunting as it may seem. The average person reads about 250 words per minute and the book of Ephesians has a little under 2,500 words. Depending on your reading speed, you can go from beginning to end in 10 minutes.
  • No time to sit down and read? Consider an audio Bible. The first audiences of the Bible heard it orally, and so you’re just following in their footsteps.
  • Get a simple one-volume Bible commentary to help you with the challenging parts. You can find an excellent set of suggestions at Best Bible Commentaries.
  • If you wind up going into ministry, invest in a more substantive set of commentaries. Commentaries can be quite expensive, so first get a one-volume overview and then build on it over time.
    • Here’s what I do: whenever I start a new sermon series, I get two or three new commentaries to help me prepare. I go to bestcommentaries.com and choose from among the highest-rated ones labeled P or D. So if I needed a commentary on 1 Corinthians, I would go to https://www.bestcommentaries.com/1‑corinthians/ and buy either Fee or Garland or both. It’s easier to do this when you’re preaching through books of the Bible (a series on James, for example). If you’re doing topical stuff then think about what one of your main passages will be and buy a commentary for that book of the Bible. Over time you’ll build a very solid library that way.
    • Avoid buying entire commentary sets; even the best series are uneven. It’s wiser to buy the best few commentaries for each book of the Bible.
  • Supplement your purchased commentaries with the amazing (and free) set of notes compiled by Dallas Seminary professor Thomas Constable. Download the PDF versions to your hard drive and you’ll even have access to them when you’re on a retreat or a mission trip somewhere.

I suspect Stanford students have a harder time with the discipline of study than with almost any of the others, because studying for grades becomes so consuming. I frequently talk with students who lament their inability to read the books they want to read. It’s important to remember that Foster believes all study can be spiritually beneficial — even studying for grades. If nothing else, you’re developing skills in this season that will serve you well for the rest of your life.

Also, bear in mind that you can often choose to focus your studies in a class in a way that will be spiritually beneficial. Taking a class on democracy? Use it as an opportunity to engage with Woodberry’s work on the religious roots of democratic governance. Taking a class on African-American history in the 1900’s? Read about the black church. Studying the philosophy of science? Read what Christians have said about it. Skim our resource The Gospel and Green Library to find suggested books on a wide range of topics.

And if you know you’re going to struggle during the school year, take advantage of the summer to do some serious spiritual reading beyond the summer reading project!

A few notes on the foreword:

Skipping back many pages to the foreword… I really like what Foster says here. I had us save it until now because his thoughts seem linked to the idea of study to me — the foreword is an extended reflection on the nature of the spiritual disciplines. I will close with a few comments on this excerpt:

It is critical for us to understand that the Spiritual Disciplines possess no moral rectitude or righteousness in and of themselves. They are, most definitely, not “works righteousness,” as is sometimes said. They place us–body, mind, and spirit–before God. That is all. The results of this process are all of God, all of grace. Now, the opposite of grace is “works.” Works has to do with earning, and there simply is nothing we can ever do to earn God’s approval. Or God’s love.”

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, pages xiv-xv

As Dallas Willard once said, grace is opposed to earning not effort. 2 Peter 1:3–8 charts out the relationship between grace and effort nicely: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life… for this very reason make every effort to add to your faith goodness…”

His grace provides all that we need, therefore we should strive with all of our might. He gives us the platform upon which to stand, therefore we must stand to our full height.

Next week we move from the inner to the outer disciplines as we discuss living with simplicity. Get ready!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 206

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. 30 Years After Tiananmen, a Chinese Military Insider Warns: Never Forget (Chris Buckley, New York Times): “…Ms. Jiang’s decision to challenge the silence carries an extra political charge because she is not only an army veteran but also the daughter of the military elite. Her father was a general, and she was born and raised in military compounds. She proudly enlisted in the People’s Liberation Army about 50 years ago, and in photos from her time as a military journalist, she stands beaming in her green army uniform, a notebook in hand and camera hanging from her neck.”
  2. Clarence Thomas’s Dangerous Idea (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “And in any other area of policy Thomas’s point about how legal abortion appears, in the aggregate, to act in racist and eugenic ways would be taken as an indicator that something more than just emancipation is at work. ”
  3. If you have not been following it, a remarkable argument has developed in the world of religious conservative intelligentsia. The quickness with which others have jumped into shows that there’s a real division here.
    • Against David French-ism (Sohrab Ahmari, First Things): “Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.”
    • What Sohrab Ahmari Gets Wrong (David French, National Review): “I firmly believe that the defense of these political and cultural values must be conducted in accordance with scriptural admonitions to love your enemies, to bless those who persecute you, with full knowledge that the ‘Lord’s servant’ must be ‘kind to everyone, able to teach, and patiently endure evil.’”
    • What A Clash Between Conservatives Reveals (Alan Jacobs, The Atlantic): “It’s important to note that Ahmari sees the differences between him and French as rooted, ultimately, in their different Christian traditions: Catholicism for Ahmari—who recently published a memoir of his conversion—and evangelical Protestantism. But whether this is indeed the heart of the matter, the dispute so far hasn’t fallen out that way. Some Catholics are with French, some Protestants with Ahmari.”
      • A follow-up piece Jacobs published on his own blog, well worth reading on its own. Fair Play To You (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “Conscience exemptions ain’t what they used to be — about that there is surely no disagreement. The dispute is simply whether that’s good or bad.” This post contains a beautiful imaginary dialog which I highly commend to you — read that if you read nothing else.
    • The Ahmari/French debate: A reading list (Joe Carter, Acton Institute): the level of debate this has kicked off is amazing. Click here to see all the ins and outs.
  4. These Men Say the Boy Scouts’ Sex Abuse Problem Is Worse Than Anyone Knew (Eliana Dockterman, Time): “‘They were reporting…that they were a wholesome organization,’ says Tim Kosnoff, one of the attorneys, ‘when they were kicking out child molesters at the rate of one every two days for 100 years.’”
  5. Deepfake Propaganda Is Not A Real Problem (Russell Brandom, The Verge): “In any of these cases, attackers had the motive and the resources to produce a deepfake video. The technology is cheap, easily available, and technically straightforward. But given the option of fabricating video evidence, each group seems to have decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. Instead we saw news articles made up from whole cloth, or videos edited to take on a sinister meaning.”
  6. There was a controversy recently when Trump showed up at a church and the pastor prayed for him.
    • On Praying for the President (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “What’s remarkable about this prayer is not that it happened, but that it shows how thoroughly the Trump era has opened the way for cynicism and outrage over even mundane, predictable Christian behavior.”
    • David Platt Asks God to Grant Trump ‘All the Grace He Needs to Govern’ (Kate Shellnut, Christianity Today): “Platt is in an interesting position. For years, he’s preached against the American focus on “self-advancement, self-esteem, and self-sufficiency” and “individualism, materialism, and universalism.” And now he’s the pastor of a suburban Washington congregation full of Christians who work on the Hill, a place once deemed ‘a holy destination for GOP senators and Bush aides.’”
    • Prayer For The President (David Platt): this is Platt’s letter to the congregation explaining his actions. “At the end of my sermon at the 1:00 worship gathering, I stepped to the side for what I thought would be a couple of moments in quiet reflection as we prepared to take the Lord’s Supper. But I was immediately called backstage and told that the President of the United States was on his way to the church, would be there in a matter of minutes, and would like for us to pray for him.”
    • In case you’re wondering, I would 100% have done what Platt did. And I would have done it for Obama, Clinton, Bush, or whoever. I would have done it for Nero. I cannot understand how this is controversial or is being perceived as partisan.
  7. Asymmetric Weapons Gone Bad (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Every day we do things that we can’t easily justify. If someone were to argue that we shouldn’t do the thing, they would win easily. We would respond by cutting that person out of our life, and continuing to do the thing.” This entire series of articles (this is the fourth, the others are linked at the top of it) is 100% worth reading. It’s a very interesting way to think about the limits of reason and the wisdom hidden in tradition.

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 Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+ (Hannah Furness, The Telegraph): this is a real article. First shared in volume 151.

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 159

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. Police attacked me for stealing a car. It was my own. (Lawrence Crosby, Washington Post): “Every time I see the video from that October 2015 encounter, I experience fear, anger and terror. Fear that the color of my skin will make me out to be a criminal when I have broken no laws. Anger at the blatant disregard for human life and rights that the Constitution is supposed to guarantee to all citizens. Terror to have come — perhaps — within seconds of being shot by people sworn to serve and protect.” Lawrence is an alumnus of our Chi Alpha ministry. He just earned his Ph.D. at Northwestern in Materials Science and Engineering.
  2. Spiders Can Fly Hundreds of Miles Using Electricity (Ed Yong, The Atlantic): “They put the arachnids on vertical strips of cardboard in the center of a plastic box, and then generated electric fields between the floor and ceiling of similar strengths to what the spiders would experience outdoors.… Many of the spiders actually managed to take off, despite being in closed boxes with no airflow within them. And when Morley turned off the electric fields inside the boxes, the ballooning spiders dropped.”
  3. Dissolving the Fermi Paradox (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Imagine we knew God flipped a coin. If it came up heads, He made 10 billion alien civilization. If it came up tails, He made none besides Earth. Using our one parameter Drake Equation, we determine that on average there should be 5 billion alien civilizations. Since we see zero, that’s quite the paradox, isn’t it? No. In this case the mean is meaningless. It’s not at all surprising that we see zero alien civilizations, it just means the coin must have landed tails. SDO say that relying on the Drake Equation is the same kind of error.”
  4. Why Sexism and Racism Never Diminish–Even When Everyone Becomes Less Sexist and Racist (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “When strong sexism declines, for example, the Overton window shrinks on one end and expands on the other so that what was once not considered sexism at all (e.g. ‘men and women have different preferences which might explain job choice’) now becomes violently sexist.”
  5. Forget About It (Corey Robin, Harper’s Magazine): “Ever since the 2016 presidential election, we’ve been warned against normalizing Trump. That fear of normalization misstates the problem, though. It’s never the immediate present, no matter how bad, that gets normalized — it’s the not-so-distant past.”
  6. A Time of Reckoning (Mary Eberstadt, The Weekly Standard): “Over the years, a great many people have claimed that sex is merely a private act between individuals. They’ve been wrong. We know now that private acts have cumulative public effects. Individual choices, such as having children out of wedlock, have ended up expanding the modern welfare state, for example, as the government has stepped in to support children who lack fathers. The explosion of sexual activity thanks to contraception has been accompanied by levels of divorce, cohabitation, and abortion never before seen in history.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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 157

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. These Harvard Kids Got the Lesson of Their Lives in the Heartland (Salena Zito, NY Post): “I have been a national political journalist for nearly 15 years. Whenever and wherever I travel in this country, I abide by a few simple rules: No planes, no interstates and no hotels. And definitely no chain restaurants…. Those simple rules are what intrigued students at the Harvard Institute of Politics (IOP) after hearing me speak at a Pizza and Politics event on the school’s campus last fall.”
  2. Don’t Quit the Republican Party. Stay and Fight (Michael Wear, Time Magazine): “The problem is that politics is not an individualistic endeavor. Independents tend to spurn institutions generally, and then feel vindicated when our institutions do not reflect their views. But while Independents think they are sending political parties a message, political parties do not hear them…. In essence, Independents actively minimize their impact on elections and party positions. When people leave (or fail to join) parties in protest, they starve those parties of ideological diversity, driving them to their extremes.”
    • On Twitter the author (a former Obama White House staffer) says “The headline is misleading. My argument is a caution against becoming an indy. If you read the article, I explicitly argue that if you believe the Democratic Party more closely aligns with your vision of what is best for our nation’s politics, you should become a Democrat.” In case you didn’t know, authors rarely choose their headlines (or even the titles of their books).
  3. When Children Say They’re Trans (Jesse Singal, The Atlantic): “ …to deny the possibility of a connection between social influences and gender-identity exploration among adolescents would require ignoring a lot of what we know about the developing teenage brain—which is more susceptible to peer influence, more impulsive, and less adept at weighing long-term outcomes and consequences than fully developed adult brains—as well as individual stories like Delta’s.” This is a long and balanced piece which has garnered outrage in some online circles.
  4. The Sin Of Silence (Joshua Pease, Washington Post): “Without a centralized theological body, evangelical policies and cultures vary radically, and while some church leaders have worked to prevent abuse and harassment, many have not. The causes are manifold: authoritarian leadership, twisted theology, institutional protection, obliviousness about the problem and, perhaps most shocking, a diminishment of the trauma sexual abuse creates — especially surprising in a church culture that believes strongly in the sanctity of sex…. Roger Canaff, a former New York state prosecutor who specialized in child sexual abuse, tells me that many worshipers he encountered felt persecuted by the secular culture around them — and disinclined to reach out to their persecutors for help in solving problems.”
  5. Contra Caplan On Arbitrary Deploring (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “This is my long-winded answer to a question several people asked on the last links post – why should we prioritize responding to China’s mass incarceration of the Uighurs? Aren’t there other equally bad things going on elsewhere in the world, like malaria? Yes. But I had optimistically thought we had mostly established a strong norm around ‘don’t put minorities in concentration camps’. Resources devoted to enforcing that norm won’t just solve the immediate problem in China, they’ll also help maintain a credible taboo against this kind of thing so it’s less likely to happen the next time.”
  6. The Handmaids of Capitalism (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Feminists were divided over surrogacy and commercialized fertility, but the opposition to both practices gradually dissolved, and now only eccentric conservatives notice the weird resemblances between California-style surrogacy practices and the handmaids and econowives of Gilead. They were divided over pornography, often bitterly — but over time the sex-positive side increasingly won out over the Andrea Dworkinish dissenters, even as the online realm was overrun with images and videos that more than justified her arguments. They were, and are, divided over prostitution, but it’s pretty clear that the version of feminism that supports the rights of sex workers to sell their bodies in the marketplace has the intellectual momentum.”
  7. More on border family separations, a policy that has been stopped by executive order after massive public outcry.
    • The Lesser Cruelty On Immigration (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “it would be useful for everyone if the Trump White House just admitted that this policy was conceived as a deterrent — traumatizing a certain number of families in the hopes of bringing greater order to the border in the long run. That admission would get us closer to the hard problem in migration policy. Some harshness, some deterrence, really is unavoidable in any immigration system that doesn’t simply dissolve borders. So policymakers are therefore obliged to choose tolerable cruelties over the intolerable one that we’re witnessing in action right now.”
    • Immigration: Was A.G. Sessions Right to Quote the Bible in Defense of Family Separation? (Bruce Ashford, personal blog): “Paul is saying, in effect, ‘Look, it’s true that Jesus is the ultimate Ruler of a cosmic Kingdom while Caesar is only the temporary ruler of a limited earthly kingdom. But that doesn’t mean you’re above the law. You should be a good citizen and obey the law except, of course, when God’s law conflicts with Caesar’s law.’”
    • A case study in the proper role of Christians in politics (Michael J. Gerson, Washington Post): “In the case of child separation, some of the most effective resistance has come from religious leaders — Catholic, Protestant mainline and even some evangelical Christian (see Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Franklin Graham). It was a case study in the proper and positive role that religion can play in our common life.”
    • Enforce the Border — Humanely (David Frum, The Atlantic): “Illegal immigrants are committing no moral wrong. They are doing what we might do in their place—as we, by defending borders, are doing what they would do if they were in ours. Like so many human institutions, borders are both arbitrary and indispensable. Without them, there are no nations. Without nations, there can be no democracy and no liberalism. John Lennon may imagine that without nations there will be only humanity. More likely, without nations there will only be tribes.”
    • Our Debate On Illegal Immigration Is A National Disaster (David Harsanyi, The Federalist): “The majority of kids in care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most often teenagers, are apprehended because they’re here without any parents. It’s a growing problem. In 2013, a little fewer than 40,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended by the Border Patrol. That was a historic high. In 2016 there were nearly 60,000. This year there are likely to be more than 80,000.”
    • American Families Shouldn’t Be Separated, Either (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg View): “Obviously, a case can be made for enforcing the border, but deliberate cruelty is never a good idea. Those children — innocent victims all of them — will likely be traumatized for life…. If you agree with me on this, I’d like to push you one step further. It’s horrible to forcibly separate lawbreaking parents from their young children, but we do that to American citizens, too. According to one 2010 study, more than 1.1 million men and 120,000 women in U.S. jails and prisons have children under the age of 17.” This is one of the most intriguing things I read this week.
    • The Rise of the Amnesty Thugs (David Brooks, New York Times): “For centuries, conservatives have repeated a specific critique against state power. Statism, conservatives have argued, has a tendency to become brutalist and inhumane because a bureaucracy can’t see or account for the complexity of reality. It tries to impose uniform rules on the organic intricacy of human relationships. Statist social engineering projects cause horrific suffering because in the mind of statists, the abstract rule is more important than the human being in front of them. The person must be crushed for the sake of the abstraction.” Astute insights in this op-ed. Recommended. Also, the title is slightly misleading.
    • A Twitter thread from an immigration attorney explaining how longstanding this problem has been

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).

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 154

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 Baptist Apocalypse (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “We’re a long way from any final judgment on God’s purposes in the Trump era. But so far the Trump presidency has clearly been a kind of apocalypse — not (yet) in the ‘world-historical calamity’ sense of the word, but in the original Greek meaning: an unveiling, an uncovering, an exposure of truths that had heretofore been hidden.”
    • Related: On Gender, Power, and Sin: The Evangelical #MeToo Moment (Richard Beck, personal blog): “A theological and biblical way to say all this is that men’s dominance over women is a part of the Fall’s curse upon humanity. The wound of sin upon gender relations is clear in Genesis 3: ‘He will rule over you.’ So if that’s a part of the curse, why do evangelicals think that building the curse into the system–gender subordination–is going to produce anything other than cursed outcomes?” I wish the author spent more time building the Biblical case for his perspective.
  2. 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.
  3. What I’ve Learned in Twenty Years of Marriage (Russell Moore, personal blog): “My grandmother wisely asked one night when I was finally going to ask ‘that girl from Ocean Springs’ to marry me. I answered, ‘When I can afford it.’ She laughed. ‘Honey, I married your grandpa in the middle of a Great Depression,’ she said. ‘We made it work. Nobody can afford to get married. You just marry, and make it work.’ Apart from the gospel, those were, and remain, the most liberating words I ever heard. I bought a ring that wouldn’t impress anyone, then or now, but we were headed for the altar. My only regret is that we aren’t today celebrating our twenty-first anniversary instead of our twentieth.” This is from a few years back and is full of wisdom.
  4. Title IX Is Too Easy To Abuse (Caitlyn Flanagan, The Atlantic): “Is it possible for two people to simultaneously sexually assault each other? This is the question—rife with legal, anatomical, and emotional improbabilities—to which the University of Cincinnati now addresses itself, and with some urgency, as the institution and three of its employees are currently being sued over an encounter that was sexual for a brief moment, but that just as quickly entered the realm of eternal return. ”
  5. Whatever Happened to Gifts of Language, Prophecy, and Healing? (Andrew Wilson, Christianity Today): “taking a longer view by tracing our roots back to the early church fathers leads to some surprises. We discover that some things, though relatively unusual in recent times, are actually very normal across the broader sweep of human history. Angels and demons would be an obvious example. Or, more surprisingly, miraculous gifts.”
  6. I was Jordan Peterson’s strongest supporter. Now I think he’s dangerous (Bernard Schiff, The Star): “When he was renovating his house I invited his family to live with mine. For five months, they occupied the third floor of our large house. We had meals together in the evening and long, colourful conversations. There, away from campus, I saw a man who was devoted to his wife and his children, who were lovely and gentle and for whom I still feel affection. He was attentive and thoughtful, stern and kind, playful and warm. His wife, Tammy, appeared to be the keel, the ballast and the rudder, and Jordan ran the ship.” This is a long profile, by turns informative and puzzling.
  7. The Evangelical Fight to Win Back California (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “Though the state has one of the highest percentages of religiously unaffiliated adults, the fast growing religious group in the country, that largely blue sea is dotted with evangelical islands that are largely red. One in five adults in the state are evangelical Christians, according to the Pew Research Center, and there are more megachurches in California than in any other state.” This article is mostly about politics, but is interesting nonetheless.

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).

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 147

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. Inside the White House Bible Study group (Owen Amos, BBC): “But is a bible study for Cabinet members, with political themes, not a merging of church and state? ‘I believe in institutional separation, but not influential separation,’ [Drollinger] says. ‘No matter what the institution is — the family, commerce, education — it needs the bulwark precepts of the word of God in order to function correctly… But the minute I start to amalgamate the church and the state institutionally, then I’m into theocracy.’”
  2. Why you stink at fact-checking (Lisa Fazio, The Conversation): “First, people have a general bias to believe that things are true. (After all, most things that we read or hear are true.) In fact, there’s some evidence that we initially process all statements as true and that it then takes cognitive effort to mentally mark them as false. Second, people tend to accept information as long as it’s close enough to the correct information. Natural speech often includes errors, pauses and repeats. (‘She was wearing a blue – um, I mean, a black, a black dress.’) One idea is that to maintain conversations we need to go with the flow – accept information that is ‘good enough’ and just move on.” The author is a psych professor at Vanderbilt.
  3. One extra glass of wine ‘will shorten your life by 30 minutes’ (Sarah Bosely, The Guardian): “The risks for a 40-year-old of drinking over the recommended daily limit were comparable to smoking, said one leading scientist. ‘Above two units a day, the death rates steadily climb,’ said David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge.” This is certainly going to be contested research, but it caught my eye.
  4. The 10-Year Baby Window That Is the Key to the Women’s Pay Gap (Claire Cain Miller, NY Times): “When women have their first child between age 25 and 35, their pay never recovers, relative to that of their husbands. Yet women who have their first baby either before 25 or after 35 — before their careers get started or once they’re established — eventually close the pay gap with their husbands.”
  5. Two different analyses of California’s state politics:
    • CA is awesome! The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War (Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira, Medium): “California today provides a model for America as a whole. This model of politics and government is by no means perfect, but it is far ahead of the nation in coming to terms with the inexorable digital, global, sustainable transformation of our era. It is a thriving work in progress that gives hope that America can pull out of the political mess we’re in.”
    • CA is a train wreck! California Is the Model for National Divorce, Not Democratic Domination (David French, National Review): “…it turns out that California politics and policies are repellent to millions of Californians. Between 2007 and 2016 roughly 6 million California residents left the state. Only 5 million people moved to California from other American states. And where did a plurality of former Californians go? Texas.”
  6. The Sam Harris Debate (Ezra Klein, Vox): this is a long, interesting debate partly about Charles Murray but ultimately about much deeper issues.
    • Sam Harris: “How can we get to a world where the maximum number of people thrive? I view identity politics as among the worst pieces of software you can be running to try to get there. I want to get to a world where, I mean, it’s Martin Luther King’s claim about the content of your character, rather than the color of your skin. That is the goal, and if you want to reverse engineer that goal, giving primacy to identity is one of the worst things you can do.”
    • Ezra Klein: “To Harris… identity politics is something others do. To me, it’s something we all do, and that he and many others refuse to admit they’re doing. This is one of the advantages of being the majority group: Your concerns get coded as concerns; it’s everyone else who is playing identity politics.”
  7. There was a big kerflufffle about The Atlantic firing columnist Kevin Williams over his views on abortion. I was really stunned by how much ink was spilled over it — this is just a small sample. The authors make interesting observations about disagreement in America.
    • Kevin Williamson, Thought Criminal (Jonah Goldberg, The National Review): “Editors or owners should have absolute authority to control what appears in the pages of their magazines. How they exercise that authority, i.e., how much orthodoxy they want to impose or how much free-for-all they want to encourage, is a prudential question (and one I often have strong opinions about). What editors should not have any control over is what their writers are allowed to think.”
    • Among The Abortion Extremists (Ross Douthat, NY Times):  “…this is a case study in exactly the problem establishment editors are trying to address by widening their pool of writers: the inability of contemporary liberalism to see itself from the outside, as it looks to the many people who for some reason, class or religion or historical experience, are not fully indoctrinated into its increasingly incoherent mix of orthodoxies. By this I mean that my pro-choice friends endorsing Williamson’s sacking can’t see that his extremism is mirrored in their own…”
    • Bias against conservatives works like any other prejudice (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “In a better world, this moment would help us understand each other, and come to some sort of reasonable agreement, rather than swearing mutually assured destruction. That’s because what conservatives are saying about media bias sounds a lot like what liberals are saying about race and gender — and vice versa.”
    • Congrats, Jeff Goldberg. You Just Martyred Kevin Williamson. (Jack Schaefer, Politico): “I’ve long admired Williamson’s writing, if not his ideas, for the way he’s internalized Michael Kinsley’s warning that if you’re afraid to go too far, you won’t go far enough. Williamson almost always goes too far, taking his arguments to thought frontiers where there are no roads, no mobile phone service and sometimes barely enough air to breathe.”
    • A Twitter thread by Elizabeth Bruenig giving another point of view: “So the market incentives inside the rightwing media world — the things you need to do to get ahead there — are opposite those outside of it. To put it another way: You can get famous triggering libs, but if you’re really good at it, well…it works?”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • Gracefully Graces Me (YouTube): I am grateful that our worship team doesn’t sing songs like this
  • Never Throw Anything Away (Pearls Before Swine): I am pig, to the tremendous consternation of my wife.
  • What is Skim Milk? The FDA versus Dairy Farmers (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “South Mountain Creamery sells skim milk, i.e. milk with the fat skimmed off. The FDA, however, wants skim milk to contain as many vitamins as whole milk so they define skim milk as including vitamin A and D. If farmers want to sell skim milk and call it ‘skim milk’ they have to add vitamins. To avoid prosecution the FDA is requiring South Mountain Creamery to label their skim milk, ‘imitation skim milk’! Yes. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Real Skim Milk is Imitation Skim Milk.” This is actually true. I still found it amusing.

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have some thoughts about slavery and the Bible – Does The Bible Support Slavery? (a lecture given by the warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge University, the link is to the video with notes) and Does God Condone Slavery In The Bible? (Part One – Old Testament) and also Part Two – New Testament (longer pieces from Glenn Miller at Christian Thinktank). All three are quite helpful. (first shared in volume 76)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 143

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’m a scholar of the “prosperity gospel.” It took cancer to show me I was in its grip. (Kate Bowler, Vox): “Every day I pray the same prayer: God, save me. Save me. Save me. Oh, God, remember my baby boy. Remember my son and my husband before you return me to ashes. Before they walk this earth alone. I plead with a God of Maybe, who may or may not let me collect more years. It is a God I love, and a God that breaks my heart.” The author is a professor at Duke Divinity School.
  2. Two intriguing articles on the transgender movement in America:
    • The Disappearance of Desire (Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary Magazine):  “Sexuality is a bodily experience. It stretches credulity to suggest that a trans person’s decision to alter his or her sexed body has nothing to do with what he or she wishes to do with that body—and whom he or she wishes to attract. Yet, as with gender itself, the trans activists treat sexual desire as an abstract and disembodied thing.”
    • Divorcing The Transgender Community (Gretchen Rachel Hammond, Tablet Magazine): the language in this one is uncouth. “It was then that I began to notice that those transgender people who started to speak out as an activist, journalist, celebrity, organizer, commentator or even via a social media post were coming under attack, not just from the usual crowd of Evangelical Conservative hysterics, but increasingly and unnervingly from their own community.”
  3. For the lawyers: Disagreement is Not Always Discrimination: On Masterpiece Cakeshop and the Analogy to Interracial Marriage (Ryan Anderson, Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy): “Colorado is part of a larger national trend in which authorities are using antidiscrimination statutes as swords to punish already marginalized people (such as supporters of the conjugal understanding of marriage), rather than as shields to protect people from unjust discrimination (such as African Americans in the wake of Jim Crow and today).… support for marriage as the union of husband and wife is essentially different from opposition to interracial marriage, and that the status of African Americans is importantly different from that of Americans who identify as gay. As a result, First Amendment protections for people who act on the belief that marriage unites husband and wife differ in critical ways from hypothesized First Amendment protections for racists—and the courts can distinguish the two cases…. protections for citizens who support the conjugal understanding of marriage bear much more similarity to protections for pro-life citizens.”
  4. The Ignoble Lie (Patrick Deneen, First Things): “This helps explain the strange and often hysterical insistence upon equality emanating from our nation’s most elite and exclusive institutions. The most absurd recent instance was Harvard University’s official effort to eliminate social clubs due to their role in ‘enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values,’ in the words of its president. Harvard’s opposition to exclusion sits comfortably with its admissions rate of 5 percent (2,056 out of 40,000 applicants in 2017). The denial of privilege and exclusion seems to increase in proportion to an institution’s exclusivity.” The author is a professor of Constitutional Studies at Notre Dame.
  5. Sex, Lies, and Spies (Darrell Cole, Providence): “Once the case for employing a spy in the first place has been made, the question of how to spy comes into focus, and thus one of the major moral problems for spies is trying to make a case that lying and sex are just (combat) tactics…. We can make a clear and convincing case that the Christian tradition may support the idea that lies told for the public good are justifiable. When spies tell such lies in the line of duty, their deceptions fall into that category and, so, are justifiable. Can the same be said for sex in the line of duty? Can manipulative sex for the public good be justifiable?” A fascinating discussion of a question that had never crossed my mind. The author is an ethics professor at Drew University.
  6. The Last Temptation (Michael Gerson, The Atlantic): “In a remarkably free country, many evangelicals view their rights as fragile, their institutions as threatened, and their dignity as assailed. The single largest religious demographic in the United States—representing about half the Republican political coalition—sees itself as a besieged and disrespected minority. In this way, evangelicals have become simultaneously more engaged and more alienated…. It is true that insofar as Christian hospitals or colleges have their religious liberty threatened by hostile litigation or government agencies, they have every right to defend their institutional identities—to advocate for a principled pluralism. But this is different from evangelicals regarding themselves, hysterically and with self-pity, as an oppressed minority that requires a strongman to rescue it. This is how Trump has invited evangelicals to view themselves.” The author worked in the Bush White House and describes himself as an evangelical.
    • In response: The True Sin of American Evangelicals in the Age of Trump (David French, National Review): “it matters exactly how Evangelicals arrived where they are today. It wasn’t the hysterical reaction of a self-pitying people. For most it was the sad result of a series of tough choices — made in response to difficult and unreasonable challenges. Even today there are millions of Evangelicals — people who still count themselves reluctant Trump supporters — who are deeply uneasy with the president and the state of their own religious movement. It serves no one’s interests to minimize the legitimacy of their deep political concern.”
    • My take: Gerson’s essay is very good and French adds a needed perspective. Bonus quote from Gerson’s essay: “The banishment of fundamentalism from the cultural mainstream culminated dramatically in a Tennessee courthouse in 1925. William Jennings Bryan, the most prominent Christian politician of his time, was set against Clarence Darrow and the theory of evolution at the Scopes ‘monkey trial,’ in which a Tennessee educator was tried for teaching the theory in high school. Bryan won the case but not the country. The journalist and critic H. L. Mencken provided the account accepted by history, dismissing Bryan as ‘a tin pot pope in the Coca-Cola belt and a brother to the forlorn pastors who belabor half-wits in galvanized iron tabernacles behind the railroad yards.’ Fundamentalists became comic figures, subject to world-class condescension. It has largely slipped the mind of history that Bryan was a peace activist as secretary of state under Woodrow Wilson and that his politics foreshadowed the New Deal. And Mencken was eventually revealed as a racist, an anti-Semite, and a eugenics advocate.” Emphasis mine. I consider myself fairly well-informed about American religious history and found the bolded details surprising.
  7. The real Down syndrome problem: Accepting genocide (George Will, Washington Post): “Iceland must be pleased that it is close to success in its program of genocide, but before congratulating that nation on its final solution to the Down syndrome problem, perhaps it might answer a question: What is this problem? To help understand why some people might ask this question, meet two children. One is Agusta, age 8, a citizen of Iceland. The other is Lucas, age 1, an American citizen in Dalton, Ga., who recently was selected to be 2018 ‘Spokesbaby’ for the Gerber baby food company. They are two examples of the problem. Now, before Iceland becomes snippy about the description of what it is doing, let us all try to think calmly about genocide, without getting judgmental about it. It is simply the deliberate, systematic attempt to erase a category of people. So, what one thinks about a genocide depends on what one thinks about the category involved. In Iceland’s case, the category is people with Down syndrome.”
    • Related: a Facebook post from one of our sophomores (shared with his permission): “My parents were told that I would be born with down syndrome and advised to abort me. In response my father pulled us out of the hospital’s mandatory counseling program, spent a lot of time in prayer, and decided emphatically that I would be born. I had no say in the matter, as I was too small to communicate or understand. I couldn’t cry or plead for my life. I couldn’t even look the people in the eyes who wanted to kill me. 20 years later, I have my God and my parents to thank for defending me, defending an unborn child wrongly accused of a crime that carried a death sentence: a defect. My parents had no idea exactly where God wanted to take me, but because of their defense, I’m here, down syndrome free, sitting in a classroom at Stanford University.” (source) By the way, he was was not only admitted to Stanford. He was admitted to every single Ivy League school.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

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.