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 296, which is the number of partitions contained in the number 30.
Things Glen Found Interesting
- The Woke Meritocracy (Blake Smith, Tablet Magazine): “The contemporary ideal, increasingly, is no longer someone so charmingly personable that others forget he is in fact a ruthless competitor, but a person who so convincingly narrates her having overcome some kind of social injustice that others forget she is in fact a beneficiary of systems of privilege.” The author is a history prof at U Chicago. This essay is straight fire, and I believe he took an x‑ray of some of your souls before he wrote it.
- Some Principles & Observations About Social Justice Politics (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “Once you have made the prevention of emotional harm the central focus of your politics, you will find yourself running up against the fact that emotional harm is a ubiquitous and ineradicable part of the human experience, far beyond the ability of any political movement to prevent.” deBoer, one of my two favorite atheist socialists to read (the other being Steven Brust), brings it with excellence in this one. It was hard to find the best excerpt — there are so many.
- Kati Kariko Helped Shield the World From the Coronavirus (Gina Kolata, New York Times): “For her entire career, Dr. Kariko has focused on messenger RNA, or mRNA — the genetic script that carries DNA instructions to each cell’s protein-making machinery. She was convinced mRNA could be used to instruct cells to make their own medicines, including vaccines. But for many years her career at the University of Pennsylvania was fragile. She migrated from lab to lab, relying on one senior scientist after another to take her in. She never made more than $60,000 a year.” This is a heartwarming story that should also make you very sad — it illustrates how broken the academic system is and how we came very close to losing a lifesaving breakthrough.
- This should not happen more than once (Alexandra Petri, Washington Post): “The moments when people make up their secret minds about what is normal and what is acceptable are never big. They are always in private, when no one can see that you have failed the test, when all you were doing was trying to avoid any discomfort, be cool, play along. But there is a price. The price is that the Matt Gaetzes out there will leave the interaction thinking they have understood the world correctly. That what they are doing is working. That this is how the world is. But it is the accumulation of these little assents that make the world this way.” Well-written and true. Also, don’t take nude photos of yourself nor allow others to do so. It is unlikely you will be happy with the outcome.
- A Heathen’s Easter (Steve Randy Waldman, Interfluidity): “My theological sophistication is about candy-wrapper level. But for whatever it’s worth, I consider this aspect of Christianity’s founding myth or event remarkable, and underemphasized. ‘Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do,’ represents a profound plea from the lips of a man being painfully murdered. That a parent, one with fire and brimstone readily at hand and a notorious history of smiting, would forgive is perhaps even more astonishing, even more wonderful.” Recommended by a friend of the ministry.
- The effects of Black Lives Matter protests (Jerusalem Demsas, Vox): “[The researcher’s] main finding is a 15 to 20 percent reduction in lethal use of force by police officers — roughly 300 fewer police homicides — in census places that saw BLM protests. Campbell’s research also indicates that these protests correlate with a 10 percent increase in murders in the areas that saw BLM protests. That means from 2014 to 2019, there were somewhere between 1,000 and 6,000 more homicides than would have been expected if places with protests were on the same trend as places that did not have protests.”
- A whole passel of trans-related articles:
- A Truce Proposal In The Trans Wars (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “In our current culture, [my] somewhat complicated stance is anathema.… The proportion of people in this debate who seem psychologically unstable, emotionally volatile and personally vicious seems larger than usual.”
- How Super-Straight Started a Culture War on TikTok (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Most have dating preferences that don’t necessarily imply a negative view of people who fall outside them––I’d be averse to dating an 18-year-old or a 60-year-old, yet I neither hate nor fear either age cohort––and that they might not be able to change even if they wanted to. Claims that only bigots would decline to date a trans person strike some commentators as a form of coercion.”
- Keira Bell: My Story (Keira Bell, Persuasion): “Five years after beginning my medical transition to becoming male, I began the process of detransitioning. A lot of trans men talk about how you can’t cry with a high dose of testosterone in your body, and this affected me too: I couldn’t release my emotions. One of the first signs that I was becoming Keira again was that—thankfully, at last—I was able to cry. And I had a lot to cry about.” This is very sobering.
- A Guide to Neopronouns (Ezra Marcus, New York Times): “Many people who use neopronouns don’t just use one set. They select a handful, and show off their collections on websites like Pronouny.xyz, a site that provides usage examples for neopronouns. Users make their own Pronouny pages, like this one, which includes xe/xem/xyr, moon/moonself, star/starself, bee/beeself, and bun/bunself. ‘Sorry if I have too many pronouns,’ the page’s creator wrote. ‘You can use just one set or just they/them if they’re too many!!’ ”
- From a few weeks back: There Is No Epidemic Of Trans Murders (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “So, of the eleven US murders of trans or gender-nonconforming people this year, only two — the ones in Puerto Rico — appear to have been probably motivated by anti-trans hatred. They are still horrible — no one deserves to be murdered — but the killings do not have the meaning that are being attributed to them.”
- Also slightly older: ‘A Hotly Contested Issue’ (Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed): “The student allegedly threatened to sue Shawnee State, which in turn pressured Meriwether further to address the student in her preferred manner. Meriwether agreed — on the condition that he could put a disclaimer in his syllabus about how he was following the university’s pronoun policy under compulsion, and stating his views about biological sex and gender being one and the same and immutable. Meriwether’s dean rejected this as incompatible with the university’s gender identity policy.… [the Sixth Circuit Court sided with the professor] writing that if professors ‘lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity.’ A university president could ‘require a pacifist to declare that war is just, a civil rights icon to condemn the Freedom Riders, a believer to deny the existence of God, or a Soviet émigré to address his students as ‘comrades,’ ’ he wrote. ‘That cannot be.’ ”
- A very different perspective on the same case: A Victory For Reality (Carl Trueman, First Things): “The court’s ruling is worth reading in full. The evident incompetence and malice of the administration is impressive, as it initially flip-flops on whether an acceptable compromise is possible and then descends into open hostility toward Meriwether, including (but, as lawyers say, not limited to) open mockery, derision of his faith, and an investigation for which he was not asked to provide any witnesses. The court also identifies the university’s flip-flopping and hostility to Meriwether’s religious views as evidence that the matter was not about applying an established policy in a neutral way but rather about targeting the professor for his Christian beliefs.”
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- Jandro’s Third Time On Penn & Teller Fool Us (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): nine minutes
- How To Tell If You’re A Hypochondriac (QI, YouTube): three minutes
- This Photo Is Black And White. Here’s The Science That Makes Your Brain See Colour (Peter Dockrill, Science Alert): “A bizarre and brilliantly effective optical illusion going viral on the internet tricks your brain into seeing a colour image… but if you look closer, you’ll notice the photo you’re staring at is only black and white.”
- To Save Time, MPAA Will Now Just Warn You When A Film Doesn’t Have Tons Of Nudity, Swearing, And Violence (Babylon Bee)
- How Asian Parents Flex (YouTube): two and a half minutes
- A Father and Son Magic Duo (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): nine minutes. A lot of the tricks are subtle. Watch closely.
- Movies with the greatest difference between Rotten Tomatoes critic and audience ratings (reddit): an interesting list. The graphic is really well-done.
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.
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.