Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 210

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.

It’s good to be back after last week’s hiatus.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. AI Trained on Old Scientific Papers Makes Discoveries Humans Missed (Madeleine Gregory, Motherboard): “In a study published in Nature on July 3, researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used an algorithm called Word2Vec sift through scientific papers for connections humans had missed. Their algorithm then spit out predictions for possible thermoelectric materials, which convert heat to energy and are used in many heating and cooling applications.”
  2. Can Christian Compassion Influence How We Treat Migrants? (Alan Cross, The Bulwark): “Compassion is not inherited, either in individuals nor in nations. It must be cultivated and that cultivation often happens in trial when we are tested. America is being tested right now. How will we respond to the migrants coming to us desperate for help and refuge? How will we respond to the sight of Oscar and Valeria drowning and being found face down on the banks of Rio Grande in each other’s arms?”
    • Related: In the ‘battle at the border,’ evangelical leaders jostle for Trump‐era media relevancy (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “Unless you’ve been under a rock recently, you know much of the country is fixated on the mess at our border. What’s not as visible is how evangelical Christians are fighting among themselves over all of this.”
    • And yet: Republicans turn more negative toward refugees as number admitted to U.S. plummets (Hannah Hartig, Pew Research): “By more than two‐to‐one (68% to 25%), white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees. Other religious groups are more likely to say the U.S. does have this responsibility. And opinions among religiously unaffiliated adults are nearly the reverse of those of white evangelical Protestants: 65% say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, while just 31% say it does not.”
  3. Manly wedding rings for tough guys who are dudes (Dan Brooks, The Outline): “I don’t hunt, but I briefly considered buying a camouflage ring, partly to signal my deep commitment to irony and partly to get better service at the auto parts store.” I really enjoyed this essay, and I hope that many of you have need of wedding bands in the not‐too‐distant future.
  4. Evangelical Christians Face A Deepening Crisis (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “Coppock mentioned to me the powerful example of St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, who was willing to rebuke the Roman Emperor Theodosius for the latter’s role in massacring civilians as punishment for the murder of one of his generals. Ambrose refused to allow the Church to become a political prop, despite concerns that doing so might endanger him. Ambrose spoke truth to power. (Theodosius ended up seeking penance, and Ambrose went on to teach, convert, and baptize St. Augustine.) Proximity to power is fine for Christians, Coppock told me, but only so long as it does not corrupt their moral sense, only so long as they don’t allow their faith to become politically weaponized. Yet that is precisely what’s happening today.”
    • Recommended by an alumnus. I wish that the American church was more visibly dismayed at some of Trump’s obvious sins. I remind people of all political inclinations that you can support someone’s overall agenda and still rebuke them for acts of wickedness. In fact, being willing to do so makes your support more meaningful. So vote for whoever you want, and hold the leaders you support to a high standard.
  5. Taiwan’s Status is a Geopolitical Absurdity (Chris Horton, The Atlantic): “’Taiwan’s government is democratically elected—we have a president, we have a parliament,’ Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said plaintively at a briefing for foreign media earlier this year. At the time, his government was trying to be included in the World Health Assembly. (It was ultimately blocked by China.) ‘We issue visas, we issue passports,’ he said, practically pleading. ‘We have a military and a currency … Taiwan exists by itself; Taiwan is not a part of any other country.’”
  6. Robespierre’s America (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “The data confirm what one hears and experiences anecdotally all the time: In the proverbial land of the free, people live in mortal fear of a moral faux pas. Opinions that were considered reasonable and normal a few years ago are increasingly delivered in whispers. Professors fear their students. Publishers drop books at the slightest whiff of social‐media controversy.”
  7. Gay Rites Are Civil Rites (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “‘Civil religion’ is a surprising place for social justice to end up. Gay pride started at Stonewall as a giant ****-you to civil society. Homeless people, addicts, and sex workers told the police where they could shove their respectable values. But there was another major world religion that started with beggars, lepers, and prostitutes, wasn’t there? One that told the Pharisees where to shove their respectable values.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 209

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.

FYI: there’s an excellent chance I won’t be sending my Friday roundup next week.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Christ in the Camps (Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic): “I humbly reach out to the only faction of Americans I know of who have the ear of the administration and who care about children: my brothers and sisters in Christ who attend evangelical churches. It seems clear that we are in the midst of a profound humanitarian crisis and that children are being forced to suffer in terrible ways. Maybe it was never supposed to be this way; maybe the system just got overwhelmed. But this is a disaster.” Searing. Recommended by an alumnus. 
    • The horrifying conditions facing kids in border detention, explained (Dara Lind, Vox): “It is apparent that even an administration acting with the best interests of children in mind at every turn would be scrambling right now. But policymakers are split on how much of the current crisis is simply a resource problem — one Congress could help by sending more resources — and how much is deliberate mistreatment or neglect from an administration that doesn’t deserve any more money or trust.
    • Why a Government Lawyer Argued Against Giving Immigrant Kids Toothbrushes (Ken White, The Atlantic): “This administration is merely the latest one to subject immigrant children to abusive conditions. It’s been 35 years since Jenny Flores was strip‐searched in an adult facility. Before Sarah Fabian defended concrete floors and bright lights for President Donald Trump, she defended putting kids in solitary confinement for President Barack Obama. The fault lies not with any one administration or politician, but with the culture: the ICE and CBP culture that encourages the abuse, the culture of the legal apologists who defend it, and our culture—a largely indifferent America that hasn’t done a damn thing about it.”
    • Indirectly related: I’m a Journalist but I Didn’t Fully Realize the Terrible Power of U.S. Border Officials Until They Violated My Rights and Privacy (Seth Harp, The Intercept): “As I was walking out, I said to Moncivias and Villarreal, ‘It’s funny, of all the countries I’ve been to, the border guards have never treated me worse than here, in the one country I’m a citizen of, in the town where I was born.’” This is unsettling. 
  2. People Who Pay People to Kill People (Rene Chun, The Atlantic): “The authors determined that 2 percent of all murders in Australia were contract killings and that contracts were, in some cases, surprisingly affordable. One unfulfilled contract was for 500 Australian dollars; another job was completed for just $2,000.” This is wild to me because those are close to the amounts that a minister might get paid for preaching at a retreat or officiating a wedding. Who knew assassins and ministers had similar pay scales? Recommended by a student.
  3. Some LGBT links (largely occasioned by Pride Month).
    • A Match Made In Heaven (Nathaniel Frank, Washington Post): “What may seem like a straightforward chance to celebrate progress actually masks a fault line that has divided our movement since its start: whether our goal is equality or liberation, a fight for the right to be treated like everyone else or the freedom to be authentically ourselves. Do we seek belonging in the world as it is (including the military, marriage and parenting) or the chance to transform the world, by throwing off repressive norms, into a place where all of us — queer and non‐queer alike — can be more free?”
    • Response: Stonewall’s ‘Gift’ (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “To an old‐school Cassandra like me — one of the Cassandras who was mocked in the 2000s as a paranoid — this entire column reads like an I told you so, and a vindication of the Law of Merited Impossibility (‘It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it’). Not that it does a bit of good now.”
    • Rugby Australia’s “Own Goal” (Peter Singer, Project Syndicate): “Rugby Australia would have a stronger basis for its decision if Folau’s post had expressed hatred toward homosexuals and could have been interpreted as an incitement to violence against them. But the post no more expresses hatred toward homosexuals than cigarette warnings express hatred toward smokers.” Yes, this is the famous philosopher Peter Singer. I rarely agree with him, but in this case I strongly do.
    • The Religious Roots of Pride (Brett Krutzsch, The Advocate): “What most Americans do not know when they gaze on the parade’s nearly‐naked dancers, ‘dykes on bikes,’ and transgender teenagers is that Pride parades exist because of a devout Pentecostal minister.” The author is a professor of religion at Haverford College. One quibble: describing Troy Perry as a “devout Pentecostal” is not accurate. He said, “
I knew that I was not starting another Pentecostal church. I was starting a church that would be truly ecumenical.” (source: the history of the Metropolitan Community Churches). It would be fair to say “ex‐Pentecostal minister Troy Perry”, though. His background was news to me.
  4. The Christian Case for Marijuana (Jonathan Merritt, New York Times): “America is sick, and the Christian call to compassion obligates the faithful to act. Chronic pain and illness now affect tens of millions of Americans, and in many cases the cause eludes the brightest medical minds. To fight these ailments, Americans have been prescribed mind‐altering anti‐depressants, highly addictive pain relievers and opioids, and all manner of legal substances with a list of side effects so long that drug commercials feel like ‘Saturday Night Live’ shorts.”
  5. The Perception Gap: How False Impressions are Pulling Americans Apart (Sean Stevens, Heterodox Academy): Democrats and Republicans significantly overestimate how many people on the ‘other side’ hold extreme views. Typically, their estimates are roughly double the actual numbers for a given issue…. Education seems to increase, rather than mitigate, the Perception Gap (just as increased education has found to track with increased ideological prejudice). College education results in an especially distorted view of Republicans among liberals in particular.” The original research is at https://perceptiongap.us/ (recommended by a student)

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 Problem with Dull Knives: What’s the Defense Department got to do with Code for America? (Jennifer Pahlka, Medium): “I have a distinct memory of being a kid in the kitchen with my mom, awkwardly and probably dangerously wielding a knife, trying to cut some tough vegetable, and defending my actions by saying the knife was dull anyway. My mom stopped me and said firmly, ‘Jenny, a dull knife is much more dangerous than a sharp knife. You’re struggling and using much more force than you should, and that knife is going to end up God Knows Where.’ She was right, of course…. But having poor tools [for the military] doesn’t make us fight less; it makes us fight badly.” (some emphasis in the original removed). Highly recommended. First shared in volume 155.

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 208

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 207

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. Eleven arrests, double the tear gas fired during Occupy movement and 81 injured: police chief paints disturbing picture of Hong Kong extradition bill protests (Ng Kang‐chung & Christy Leung, South China Morning Post): “In a postmortem on Thursday of the clashes between officers and protesters who had surrounded the Legislative Council building and administrative headquarters the day before, Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai‐chung said more than 150 rounds of tear gas had been fired – almost double that on the first day of the Occupy demonstrations – and about 20 beanbag rounds, as well as ‘several’ rounds of rubber bullets.” See also these related photos from AP.
    • What Hong Kong’s Freedom Means to the World (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg Opinion): “Circa 2019, Hong Kong is a study in the creeping power and increasing sophistication of autocracy. While it is possible there could be a Tiananmen‐like massacre in the streets of Hong Kong, it is more likely that its mainland overlords will opt for more subtle ways of choking off Hong Kong’s remaining autonomy and freedoms.”
    • Hong Kong and the Future of Freedom (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union ‘the focus of evil in the modern world,’ one prominent liberal writer denounced him as ‘primitive.’ But it was such rhetoric that gave courage to dissidents and dreamers on the other side of the wall. What’s really primitive is to look upon the oppression of others and, whether out of deficient sympathy or excessive sophistication, remain silent.”
  2. The Politics of Dystopia (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Liberalism has never done as well as it thinks at resolving its own crises. America’s gravest moral evil, chattel slavery, was defeated by an authoritarian president in a religious civil war, not by proceduralism or constitutional debate. The crisis of the 1930s ended happily for liberalism because a reactionary imperialist withstood Adolf Hitler and a revolutionary Bolshevik crushed him. The liberal peace that followed may depend on fear of the atomic bomb.”
    • Related: A High‐School Porn Star’s Cry for Help (Caitlyn Flanagan, The Atlantic): “The problem is that there are some very old human impulses that must now contend with porn. One of them is the tendency of deeply troubled teenage girls to act out sexually as a kind of distress signal, an attempt to get the attention of adults who may not be getting the message that they’re in a crisis.”
    • Related? JON STEWART Goes OFF On Congress (YouTube): a remarkable nine‐minute clip. The next day the bill was passed in committee and now awaits a full vote.
  3. The restaurant owner who asked for 1‐star Yelp reviews (Zachary Crockett, The Hustle): “In 2014, chef Davide Cerretini advertised a special that would forever change his fate: Anyone who left his restaurant a 1‐star review on Yelp would get 25% off a pizza.” This is fascinating.
  4. Her Evangelical Megachurch Was Her World. Then Her Daughter Said She Was Molested by a Minister. (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “Ms. Bragg said that all she wanted was a church home that would care for her family. Evangelicals in Dallas are enamored with the Village, with Mr. Chandler and with all the church represents, she said recently. She started to cry.”
  5. A Sociologist of Religion on Protestants, Porn, and the “Purity Industrial Complex” (Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker): “What I found is that, whatever we think pornography is doing, those effects tend to be amplified when we’re talking about conservative Protestants. It seems to be uniquely harmful to conservative Protestants’ mental health, their sense of self, their own identities—certainly their intimate relationships—in ways that don’t tend to be as harmful for people who don’t have that kind of moral problem with it.” Chotiner is interviewing Samuel Perry, a sociologist at the University of Oklahoma.
  6. The Rise Of Progressive Occultism (Tara Isabella Burton, The American Interest): “For an increasing number of left‐leaning millennials—more and more of whom do not belong to any organized religion—occult spirituality isn’t just a form of personal practice, self‐care with more sage. Rather, it’s a metaphysical canvas for the American culture wars in the post‐Trump era: pitting the self‐identified Davids of seemingly secular progressivism against the Goliath of nationalist evangelical Christianity.”
    • The article ends with an amazing quote: “Back in 1992, Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson warned of the dangers of feminism, predicting that it would induce ‘women to leave their husbands.…practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.’ Many of today’s witches would happily agree.” 👀
  7. Is Christianity losing to Islam? (Paul Seabright, Asia Times): “On a world scale – whatever populists may say – Christianity is not struggling; it is in more vigorous shape than it has ever been. And the marketplace is where most of the religious action is going to take place in this century. As in many other marketplaces, there are large returns to economies of scale for those who can work out how to exploit them. That is why corporate religion is here to stay – and why we should expect it to consolidate its dominance.” The author is an economics professor in France.

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 Why Being a Foster Child Made Me a Conservative (Rob Henderson, New York Times): “Individuals have rights. But they also have responsibilities. For instance, when I say parents should prioritize their children over their careers, there is a sense of unease among my peers. They think I want to blame individuals rather than a nebulous foe like poverty. They are mostly right.” The author just graduated from Yale. Worth reading regardless of your political allegiances. First shared in volume 153.

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 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 205

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. #MeToo Comes For Martin Luther King (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I wish none of this were true, and perhaps we will learn when the recordings are eventually released that these claims are not true, but I very much doubt it. David Garrow’s reputation as a civil rights movement historian is beyond reproach, and as a Democratic Socialist, Garrow cannot be said to have political motives for trying to discredit King. “ This is very sad. I knew King was adulterous, but these allegations go far beyond that.
  2. Christopher Hitchens and his Christian friends (Jonathon Van Maren, The Bridgehead): “Christopher Hitchens is remembered by the godless as a man who truly hated Christians and wanted to utterly destroy Christianity. In public, in front of his admirers, he maintained that position even as the grave yawned at him. But as was always the case with Christopher Hitchens, there was quite a bit more to the story.”
  3. These two stories are very different and yet very similar.
    • Losing Religion and Finding Ecstasy in Houston (Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker): “I wonder if I would have stayed religious if I had grown up in a place other than Houston and a time other than now. I wonder how different I would be if I had been able to find the feeling of devoted self‐destruction only through God. Instead, I have confused religion with drugs, drugs with music, music with religion. I can’t tell whether my inclination toward ecstasy is a sign that I still believe in God, or if it was only because of that ecstatic tendency that I ever believed at all.”
      • Tolentino has a way with words and her article, though sad, is entertainingly written. Over at GetReligion, Douglas LeBlanc offers the observation: “Tolentino’s childhood experiences apparently left her thinking that the main point of Christianity is to live in an unbreakable bubble of bliss. If that’s the case, Ecstasy makes perfect sense as the most tempting substitute for God.”
    • Comedian Pete Holmes was a good Christian guy. Then his wife left him, and things got weird. (Daniel Burke, CNN): “…I thought that the lines were to God were closed, but they aren’t. We were taught that God spoke directly to his prophets and the authors of the New Testament, and then Paul, and then it was over. And then I took mushrooms, and I was like, ‘It ain’t over!’”
  4. Can We Believe? (Andrew Klavan, City Journal): “In any case, scientists used to accuse religious people of inventing a ‘God of the Gaps’—that is, using religion to explain away what science had not yet uncovered. But multiverses and simulations seem very much like a Science of the Gaps, jerry‐rigged nothings designed to circumvent the simplest explanation for the reality we know.”
    • This is the same Andrew Klavan who spoke on campus recently. I was unable to attend his talk (being busy preaching at the same time), but everyone I know who went found it quite compelling despite the controversy surrounding it.
  5. See the World Like a Title IX Bureaucrat (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “[The Princeton students’ proposals] illustrate an underappreciated tension in the approach of today’s student activists, who simultaneously express outrage at the bad behavior of administrative bureaucracies and fight to expand their size and power… Princeton bureaucrats have been focused on campus sexual assault for a quarter century now. And in the telling of the student activists, they’ve yet to meet even minimal ethical and procedural standards. So why pour millions more into the same hierarchies, expanding the might, measured in total staff, of their leaders?”
  6. Five Insights Christianity Brings to Politics (Michael Matheson Miller, Law & Liberty): “It is important to note that a Christian vision of government is not simply a secular vision of government with religion sprinkled on top. Secularism is not neutral. A Christian vision of government is grounded in key theological and philosophical ideas about the nature of God and reality, the importance of justice, the value of freedom, the role of the family, and a rich understanding of the human person as created in the image of God, made for flourishing, and called to an eternal destiny.” This article is a particularly Catholic way of thinking about this subject (one of several Catholic approaches, I should add).
    • On a different political note: The man who predicted Trump’s victory says Democrats may have to impeach him to have a chance in 2020 (Chris Cillizza, CNN): “Lichtman, a professor at American University in Washington, DC, was the most prominent voice predicting Donald Trump’s victory in the run‐up to the 2016 election. When Trump won, it marked the 9th(!) straight presidential election where Lichtman had correctly predicted the Electoral College winner. (That’s all the way back to 1984, for you math wizards.)”
      • Caveat lector. There are a lot of pundits, and at least one of them being right about the last 9 elections by chance isn’t that improbable (unless I’m missing something there are only 512 different outcomes if you are only considering the two major parties). Interesting nonetheless.
  7. Self‐censorship on Campus Is Bad for Science (Launa Marjola, The Atlantic): “Sadly, students do not seem to realize that their good intentions may lead them to resist learning scientific facts, and can even harm their own goal of helping women and ethnic minorities.” The author is a biology professor at Williams College.

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 If I Were 22 Again (John Piper, Desiring God): “There have been about 18,340 days since I turned 22, and I think I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have eaten. I have certainly read my Bible on more of those days that I have watched television or videos.… Read your Bible every day of your life. If you have time for breakfast, never say that you don’t have time for God’s word.” This whole thing is really good. Highly recommended. 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 204

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 one is coming out extra‐early today because my schedule has been and will continue to be absurdly busy for the next bit. Prayers appreciated!

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. How lawyers are distorting religious freedom (Asma Uddin, Deseret News): “Last summer, the court decided Trump v. Hawaii (the travel ban case) only three weeks after it decided Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which involved a Christian baker who refused on religious grounds to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple…. The stark contrast in the court’s approach to anti‐religious hostility raised the question: Does religious freedom apply equally to Muslims and Christians? But in all the panic and punditry that ensued, Americans overlooked a critical factor: The lawyers challenging the ban left out legal arguments under the Free Exercise Clause that, if not omitted, might have changed the outcome.” This is a very good (and somewhat discouraging) op‐ed.
  2. Literature as Flattery (James McElroy, American Affairs Journal): “Contemporary American literature is creatively exhausted because free indirect style places the reader above the characters…. Characters have to be blind to the obvious for the story to work. We are told this style is all about engendering empathy, but in actuality it functions by creating stunted characters. The reader is trained to look down at others, and the writer becomes obsequious to the oh‐so‐intelligent readers’ egos, always telling them, ‘Look how smart you are.’”
  3. The APA Meeting: A Photo‐Essay (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Were there really more than twice as many sessions on global warming as on obsessive compulsive disorder? Three times as many on immigration as on ADHD? As best I can count, yes. I don’t want to exaggerate this. There was still a lot of really meaty scientific discussion if you sought it out. But overall the balance was pretty striking…. If you want to model the APA, you could do worse than a giant firehose that takes in pharmaceutical company money at one end, and shoots lectures about social justice out the other.” This is funny, rambling, insightful commentary on the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting.
  4. Two Stanford stories:
    • What I Learned When I Called Out an Anti‐Semitic Cartoonist at Stanford Earlier This Month (Ari Hoffman, Mosaic): “Perhaps my most surprising realization was how few are those willing to speak publicly, under their own name. After my op‐ed appeared, some individuals approached me to say they agreed with me but didn’t have the necessary eloquence to speak out. To them I would reply: what matters is not poetics but principles.” What I found fascinating about this article is how universal the principles he articulates are. If you are a Christian debating whether and how to speak out about an issue that grieves you, you will find helpful advice here.
    • From Midwest Drug Dealer to The Farm: Jason Spyres Shares His Inspiring Story (Yasmin Samrai, Stanford Review): “To justify his criminal behaviour, he told himself that though selling pot was illegal, it wasn’t immoral. This theory came crashing down when two gangs broke into his house, split his head open, and robbed him. When Spyres discovered that the burglars had nearly mistaken his house for his neighbor’s, he realized that selling drugs put other people’s safety in jeopardy. ‘I was shocked and sickened with myself,’ he recalled. ‘I was part of a black market and my actions had unintended consequences.’” What a wild story.
  5. The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “The numbers in Iraq are especially stark: Before the American invasion, as many as 1.4 million Christians lived in the country. Today, fewer than 250,000 remain—an 80 percent drop in less than two decades.” Recommended by a student.
  6. Religious Men Can Be Devoted Dads, Too (W. Bradford Wilcox, Jason S. Carroll & Laurie DeRose, New York Times): “It turns out that feminism and faith both have high expectations of husbands and fathers, if for very different ideological reasons, and that both result in higher‐quality marriages for women.”
    • The title is funny and was probably not chosen by the authors (that’s usually the case in newspapers). This op‐ed is a summary of some findings from their larger report The Ties That Bind: Is Faith a Global Force for Good or Ill in the Family? , where they discover, among other things, that “When it comes to relationship quality in heterosexual relationships, highly religious couples enjoy higher‐quality relationships and more sexual satisfaction, compared to less/mixed religious couples and secular couples. For instance, women in highly religious relationships are about 50% more likely to report that they are strongly satisfied with their sexual relationship than their secular and less religious counterparts.”
  7. Why Christianity Quit Growing in Korea (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, The Gospel Coalition): “By 1970, 18 percent of the population was Christian; by 2000, it was 31 percent. (Those counts include Protestants and Catholics.) By 2006, South Korea was sending out more missionaries than any other country except the much‐larger United States. By 2015, Seoul was behind only Houston and Dallas in number of megachurches—and Seoul’s were much larger…. And then, things stalled. Growth slowed way down, and church attendance began to shrink.” A long and very interesting article.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have the provocative “In Defense of Flogging” (Peter Moskos, Chronicle of Higher Education) — the author is a former police officer and now a criminologist at the City University of New York. This one was first shared back before I started sending these emails in a blog post called Punishment.

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.

UPDATE: I mistakenly attributed the story about Jason Spyres to the Stanford Daily. It was actually in the Stanford Review. I’ve corrected the offending paragraph.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 203

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 Heart of the Evangelical Crisis (Mark Galli, Christianity Today): “My next thought was, ‘Well, if I call myself a Christian, I should have greater love and desire to know God more deeply. Perhaps I should pray for that.’ And that’s when something occurred to me with great force: I wasn’t sure I wanted that. I recognize that was an odd admission for a person who claimed to be a good Christian. But there it was. I didn’t think I really wanted to love God more. The reasons for that are complex and will be touched on later, but the bottom line was: I really didn’t want to love God.” First essay in a series.
  2. Abortion in America, explained in 10 facts (Anna North, Vox): “Even though the abortion rate has declined, the procedure remains commonplace. According to a 2017 analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, 23.7 percent of women in the United States will have an abortion by the age of 45. Nineteen percent will have one by age 30, and 4.6 percent will have one by age 20.”
    • Debunking 9 Myths Surrounding Alabama’s Abortion Law (Carole Novielli, Live Action): “This bill, HB314, was sponsored by a female lawmaker, Representative Terri Collins, and was signed into law by female Governor Kay Ivey. Pro‐life organizations are led by women. The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, on the other hand, was imposed by all men.”
    • Alabama and Georgia Are Throwing Down the Gauntlet against Roe. Good. (David French, National Review): difficult to excerpt. A good summary of the legal strategy the southern states are pursuing.
    • I’m an anti‐abortion Christian. But Alabama’s ban will do more harm than good. (Katherine Kelaidis, Vox): “Draconian bans on abortion — and frankly anything other than liberal access to abortions along with comprehensive sex education and access to contraception — fail to protect human life, both in the womb and outside of it. This, in itself, should be intolerable to any Christian, particularly one who views abortion as morally suspect.”
    • Why some anti‐abortion conservatives think Alabama’s abortion law goes too far (Jane Coaston, Vox): “A 2018 Gallup poll found that just 29 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all circumstances, but that outweighs the 18 percent of Americans who believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. The vast majority of Americans think abortion should be legal, with restrictions of some kind (abortions being permitted only within the first three months of pregnancy, for example).”
    • That latest Pat Robertson juridical quote: Journalists may want to note these interesting facts (Terry Mattingly, GetReligion): “Robertson is (a) making a comment about legal questions linked to this Alabama law and, (b) also about the political realities surrounding it. Thus, I am asking: Should journalists consider adding one or two sentences to their reports noting that Robertson is (a) a graduate of Yale Law School and (b) someone who grew up in Washington, D.C., as the son of a U.S. Senator? How many readers know these two facts about this famous religious leader?” Wait. What? I had no idea.
    • Most Abortion‐Minded Women Aren’t Calculating Killers. They’re Afraid (Maria Baer, Gospel Coalition): the whole thing is worth reading — this bit caught my attention but isn’t really close to her main point: “Evil often begets more evil. While many who support so‐called abortion rights believe they’re serving needy women, they’re overlooking one critical reality: Women are often brought—reluctantly—to the abortion doctor. These women are compelled toward abortion not by their own empowering, my‐body‐is‐my‐own sense of autonomy, but by another person seeking control. Angry boyfriends, angry husbands, angry mothers, angry employers—these are so often the wind at the back of an abortion‐minded woman.”
  3. Too many men: China and India battle with the consequences of gender imbalance (Simon Denyer & Annie Gowen,South China Morning Post): this article is a year old, it’s long but good. “Nothing like this has happened in human history. A combination of cultural preferences, government decree and modern medical technology in the world’s two largest countries has created a gender imbalance on a continental scale. Men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India…. In any given age group, a proportion of men will fail to find brides, but they will stay in the marriage market, competing with younger men to marry younger women. The disproportion keeps growing. By 2050, French demographer Christophe Guilmoto estimates, there could be between 150 to 190 men for every 100 women in China’s marriage market.”
  4. A few brief observations about thinking clearly:
    • Accounting Identities and the Implicit Theory of Inertia (Nick Rowe, Worthwhile Canadian Initiative): “Animals can be divided into Carnivores and Non‐Carnivores: A = C + NC. Therefore, if we add some wolves to an island of sheep, the number of animals on that island will increase. It’s easy to see why that argument might not be right. Wolves kill sheep. But if you didn’t know that fact about wolves and sheep, the argument looks very appealing. But the equation A = C + NC tells us absolutely nothing about the world; it’s an accounting identity that is true by definition. The only thing it tells you is how I have chosen to divide up the world into parts. And I can choose an infinite number of different ways to divide the world up into parts.” This is an important insight.
    • Why Do Experiments Make People Uneasy? (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “One factor which comes out of respondent comments is that the experiment forces people to reckon with the idea that even experts don’t know what the right thing to do is and that confession of ignorance bothers people. (This is also one reason why people may prefer pundits who always ‘know’ the right thing to do even when they manifestly do not).”
    • Our first instinct is far too often wrong (Tim Harford, Financial Times): “In a multiple‐choice test, you sometimes write down an answer and then have second thoughts. Is it wise to stay with your first instincts, or better to switch? Most people would advise that the initial answer is usually better than the doubt‐plagued second guess…. Researchers have been studying this question since the 1920s. They have overwhelmingly concluded both that individual answer changes are more likely to be from wrong to right, and that students who change their answers tend to improve their scores.”
    • The Big Story You Don’t Read About (David Brooks, New York Times): “How did we in our business get in the spot where we spend 90 percent of our coverage on the 10 percent of our lives influenced by politics and 10 percent of our coverage on the 90 percent of our lives influenced by relationship, community and the places we live in every day?”
  5. When Male Runners Lose to Women (Leyland Cecco, The Walrus): “Studies are starting to show that male and female bodies respond differently to fatigue: during long periods of exercise, the brain monitors and triages the body’s output, regulating feelings of exhaustion to ensure the runner doesn’t overextend themselves. If the central nervous system senses the activity is becoming too intense, it reduces the muscle’s output…. ‘It turns out women have a slightly, it seems, better resistance to that kind of fatigue.’”
  6. The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity (Neil Shenvi & Pat Sawyer, Gospel Coalition): “Christianity provides us with an overarching metanarrative that runs from creation to redemption: We are creatures made in God’s image, who have sinned against him, who need to be rescued through the atoning work of Jesus, and who are called to love both God and neighbor. In contrast, critical theory is associated with a metanarrative that runs from oppression to liberation: We are members either of a dominant group or of a marginalized group with respect to a given identity marker. As such, we either need to divest ourselves of power and seek to liberate others, or we need to acquire power and liberate ourselves by dismantling all structures and institutions that subjugate and oppress. In critical theory, the greatest sin is oppression, and the greatest virtue is the pursuit of liberation.”
    • Related (at least in my mind): Christians Cannot Be Mistreated (George Yancey, Patheos): “I believe that some individuals are unable to see anti‐Christian discrimination no matter what evidence is presented to them. For them the cultural narrative that Christians are the dominant group is simply too powerful for them to consider alternative information.” The author, whose work I have featured before, is a sociologist at the University of North Texas.
  7. The ‘3.5% Rule’: How A Small Minority Can Change The World (David Robson, BBC): “Looking at hundreds of campaigns over the last century, Chenoweth found that nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns. And although the exact dynamics will depend on many factors, she has shown it takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have an eye‐opening (and dismaying) article, What The Media Gets Wrong About Israel (Mattie Friedman, The Atlantic). (first shared back in volume 5): “one of the most important aspects of the media‐saturated conflict between Jews and Arabs is also the least covered: the press itself. The Western press has become less an observer of this conflict than an actor in it, a role with consequences for the millions of people trying to comprehend current events, including policymakers who depend on journalistic accounts to understand a region where they consistently seek, and fail, to productively intervene.”

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 201

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 alleged synagogue shooter was a churchgoer who articulated Christian theology, prompting tough questions for evangelical pastors (Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post va SF Gate): “Before he allegedly walked into a synagogue in Poway, California and opened fire, John Earnest appears to have written a seven‐page letter spelling out his core beliefs: That Jewish people, guilty in his view of faults ranging from killing Jesus to controlling the media, deserved to die. That his intention to kill Jews would glorify God…. Earnest, 19, was a member of an OPC congregation. His father was an elder. He attended regularly. And in the manifesto, the writer spewed not only invective against Jews and racial minorities, but also cogent Christian theology he heard in the pews.”
    • Kinism, Cultural Marxism, and the Synagogue Shooter (Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition): “Several years ago a friend of mine, a Presbyterian minister, asked me to speak to his congregation about cultural issues. During the discussion, an older couple asked me a question about separation of ethnic groups, specifically white Americans from blacks and Jews. I told them I must have misunderstood their question, because what they were talking about could be mistaken for promoting a view called kinism. The wife replied, ‘And what’s wrong with kinism?’”
    • Why white nationalism tempts white Christians (Jemar Tisby, Religion News Service): “I absolutely do not believe that pastors in the OPC or any similar denomination are regularly spewing anti‐Semitism and racism from the pulpit or on any other occasion. But the rigid exclusion of discussions of racial injustice from the regular preaching and teaching in these churches means that white nationalists are seldom challenged in their beliefs.”
    • a Twitter thread in which Duke Kwon talks about this
  2. https://scite.ai/ — this is a cool concept. Enter a research paper and it will algorithmically assess whether subsequent research supports or undermines the conclusions. For example: https://scite.ai/reports/10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.1615
  3. As churches are demolished at home, Chinese Christians find religious freedom in Kenya (Jenni Marsh, CNN): “Kenya is not a place you’d expect to find an underground church. Christianity is the lifeblood of the nation’s politics and societal fabric, and is celebrated in huge, rambunctious services attended by thousands of dancing and singing worshipers. But, in the northern stretches of the sprawling, traffic‐choked capital of 4 million people, an underground Chinese house church is exactly what May Li, wife of a Malaysian‐Chinese pastor, helps to lead — illustrating just how far the Communist Party’s religious crackdown has traveled. Li and other Chinese Christians in this story did not want to use their real names for fear of being punished by the government when they return to China. The Chinese embassy in Nairobi has already reached out to the leaders of some Chinese Christian groups in the city and asked them to desist, says Li. Her service tries to stay below the radar.”
  4. The Belt and Road is about domestic interest groups, not development (Andrew Batson, personal blog): “The broader point here is that looking at the Belt and Road through the lens of ‘grand strategy’ or ‘geopolitics,’ as so many commentators do, or even portraying it as some kind of new philosophy of economic development, is quite misleading. All of these grand concepts are justifications invented after the fact for a pattern of actions that was already well underway before Xi Jinping made his 2013 speech about the Belt and Road. The Belt and Road is really the expansion of a specific part of China’s domestic political economy to the rest of the world.”
  5. Ro Khanna and the tensions of Silicon Valley liberalism (Ezra Klein, Vox): “Pelosi invited me to her house,” Khanna recalls. “And when I asked her not to make an endorsement, she said, ‘Absolutely not. I stand for my incumbents.’ So I get very discouraged, and Pelosi could see that. As I’m leaving the room, she said, ‘Ro, let me tell you something. If I had waited around, I’d have never been speaker of the House. Power is never given. It’s always taken.’”
  6. Is Times Columnist David Brooks a Christian or a Jew? (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post via the Salt Lake Tribune): “In the world of national columnists, David Brooks is a star. But in the past few years, The New York Times writer and author has whipped up fascination among a certain subset of readers for a specific, gossipy reason: They wonder if the Jewish writer has become a Christian.”
    • Related: David Brooks’s Conversion Story (Benjamin Wallace‐Wells, The New Yorker): “For Brooks, this carried the clarity of revelation, and soon he let it be known, among his acquaintances, that he was experiencing religious curiosity. An informal competition opened for David Brooks’s soul. He received, by his own estimation, three hundred gifts of spiritual books, ‘only one hundred of which were different copies of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.’ ”
  7. Terrorists in Burkina Faso Execute Six at Pentecostal Church (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “A dozen gunmen on motorcycles stormed the courtyard of the Sirgadji church after worship, fatally shooting its longtime pastor as well as five other congregants after demanding they convert to Islam, according to a statement sent to CT by the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso, Michel Ouédraogo.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Sister… Show Mercy! (Dan Phillips, Team Pyro): “Sister, if there’s one thing you and I can certainly agree on, it’s this: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, and you don’t know what it’s like to be a man. We’re both probably wrong where we’re sure we’re right, try as we might. So let me try to dart a telegram from my camp over to the distaff side.” (first shared in volume 148)

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 200

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 big news this week is the horrific attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Here are some of the responses that caught my interest:
    • Sri Lankan Sunday School Was ‘Willing to Die for Christ’ on Easter. Half Did. (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “During Sunday School, [Prabha] had talked to the children about the importance of repentance and receiving Jesus as Lord. Because a recent vehicle accident had claimed the lives of six Zion Church members, he had referred to that event and challenged the children, asking them if they would be willing to even die for Jesus. All the children had responded by putting their hands up and signalled their fresh dedication to Jesus by lighting a symbolic candle. For so many of those children it would be their final act of worship (2 Timothy 6:6–8).” WOW
    • Are Christians Privileged or Persecuted? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “But if the equation of traditional Christianity with privilege has some relevance to the actual Euro‐American situation, when applied globally it’s a gross category error…. One of the basic facts of contemporary religious history is that Christians around the world are persecuted on an extraordinary scale — by mobs and pogroms in India, jihadists and United States‐allied governments in the Muslim world, secular totalitarians in China and North Korea. Yet as an era‐defining reality rather than an episodic phenomenon this reality is barely visible in the Western media, and rarely called by name and addressed head‐on by Western governments and humanitarian institutions. (‘Islamophobia’ looms large; talk of ‘Christophobia’ is almost nonexistent.)”
    • When Christians Are Under Attack, Muslims and the Left Need to Defend Them (Mehdi Hasan): “I am a Muslim, and I consider myself to be on the left, but I’m embarrassed to admit that in both Muslim and left circles, the issue of Christian persecution has been downplayed and even ignored for far too long.”
    • Why Conservatives Are So Angry About Obama’s Reference to “Easter Worshippers” (Ruth Graham, Slate): “I would argue that it takes a true savant of exquisitely attuned grievance collection to read an individual reference to ‘Easter worshippers’ as an attempt to avoid acknowledging Christianity. Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar. ‘Easter’ has no other meaning.”
    • Sri Lanka attacks: St Anthony’s ‘church of miracles’ a symbol of hope (Ayeshea Perara, BBC): “Among those gathered outside the church is Prabath Buddhika. Although Mr Buddhika is Buddhist by religion, like many others, he is a strong believer in the power of St Anthony. ‘My house is right here,’ he said, adding that he’d been attending the church since he was a child and gone along with his family many times.”
    • Why Sri Lanka Was Probably Not Retaliation for Christchurch (Graeme Wood, The Atlantic): “The bombings in Sri Lanka were among the more spectacular in the history of terrorism, and they almost certainly took more planning than would have been possible in the past five weeks. (It may seem easy to get several guys to push detonator buttons all at once, in several different locations. But terrorists are often bumblers, and the more complicated the plan, the greater the chance of disruption.)”
  2. What About Capitalizing Pronouns Referring to God? (Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspectives Ministries): “I have had to fight to get Heaven capitalized in my books, arguing that it is a proper noun, and just as real a place as Saturn or France. I argue the same for capitalizing the New Earth—if we capitalize New England, why not the redeemed creation that Scripture calls the ‘New Earth’?”
    • This is a very thoughtful perspective on honoring God with your written words.
  3. Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind (Rachel Kushner, New York Times): “If prison, in its philosophical origin, was meant as a humane alternative to beatings or torture or death, it has transformed into a fixed feature of modern life, one that is not known, even by its supporters and administrators, for its humanity.”
  4. On Easter Sunday, Louisiana church looks to rebuild from fires (Ashley Cusick, Washington Post via SF Gate): “We got $1,000 from an atheist,” Toussaint said with a laugh. ‘He said he didn’t believe in God, but he don’t believe in burning buildings down, either.’”
  5. How angry pilots got the Navy to stop dismissing UFO sightings (Deanna Paul, Washington Post via SF Gate): “A recent uptick in sightings of unidentified flying objects — or as the military calls them, ‘unexplained aerial phenomena’ — prompted the Navy to draft formal procedures for pilots to document encounters, a corrective measure that former officials say is long overdue.”
    • This being 2019, this is somehow not the most interesting story in the news.
  6. And now for some stuff about the major American political parties, with particular attention to religious dynamics:
    • Franklin Graham and the High Cost of the Lost Evangelical Witness (David French, National Review): “The proper Evangelical position toward any president is not hard to articulate, though it is exceedingly difficult to hold to, especially in polarized times when one party seems set on limiting religious liberty and zealously defending abortion: We should pray for presidents, critique them when they’re wrong, praise them when they’re right, and never, ever impose partisan double standards.”
    • The Religious Composition of the Two Major Parties (Ryan Burge, Religion in Public): “…neither of the two major parties in the United States are dominated by one specific religious group. I know that tons of articles are written the link between evangelicals and Republicans, but the data indicates that over two thirds of Republicans today are not evangelicals. The same is essentially true for Democrats as well. The largest group for them (the nones) make up just three in ten Democrats today.”
    • Related: The Devout And The Nones (Mark Movsesian, First Things): “Consider, for example, the percentage of Americans who report that their religious affiliation is ‘Strong.’ This percentage has fluctuated a bit over the decades, but the most recent survey puts it at 34 percent, a number that has remained basically unchanged since 1975, when 35 percent of Americans reported a strong religious affiliation. Apparently, the rise of the Nones is not attributable to a decline in religious enthusiasm among the most strongly committed.”
    • Meet Stanford’s Congressional Freshmen (Jean Yung, Dave Sloane, & Timothy Weatherhead, Stanford Magazine): interesting brief profiles of the five Stanford alumni who were recently elected to the national legislature. Two Democratic representatives, two Republican representatives, and one Republican Senator.
    • Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too. (Joseph Cox and Jason Koebler, Motherboard): “When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.”
      • I get the impression the authors think this is evidence that Republicans really are white supremacists and that the algorithms see clearly without the social pressure that holds back truth‐tellers. I suspect they have the exact opposite approach to machine learning when it delivers racist results. I’m spitballing here, but maybe the better response is distrust algorithms a little more whenever they confirm your biases. Just a thought.
  7. Half of Americans Say Evangelicals Are Discriminated Against (Griffin Paul Jackson, Christianity Today): “Americans’ perceptions of discrimination tend to be partisan. For instance, 7 in 10 Americans on the political right say evangelical Christians are subject to discrimination, while less than half as many (32%) left‐leaning Americans agree.”

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

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

Disclaimer

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