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Posts from the ‘Links’ Category

Even more links yet

Welcome back to the links posts, how did you survive last week without my links, I do not know exactly. Today the chef suggests a Mere Orthodoxy piece on gender ethics (couldn’t recommend more), an essay on Identity from Brainpickings, and a podcast with Mike Erre and Preston Sprinkle on sort of everything.

• HOO BOY we have the best take on Gender ethics ever written, of course from Mere Orthodoxy:

This is the moral context in which Scripture speaks. The moral universe of the divine law is not a set of stand-alone commands which we ought to follow if we wish to enter the Good Place after we die. The world described in the moral law, rather, is reality itself and when we indwell that universe, however falteringly, we are habituating ourselves to reality and to the God who exists behind reality. Our lives in this world are a conditioning for the life of eternity when we behold God as he is.

The Pauline texts on gender, along with the creation account on which Paul’s account is built, fits within this broader context. In other words, the scriptural norms around gender are actually good news. This reality undercuts both the fearful paranoia of the maximalists and the timidity of the minimalists. We do not need to shout a person into affirming scriptural ideas about gender, nor do we need to feel badly about upholding those norms. They exist within a broader moral order that is good and the task of Christian wisdom is to learn how to discern that order and indwell it happily.

• So much to disagree with in this Washington Post editorial on sex education, but instead of that, here are some interesting things that I appreciated. The first: “we know that accurate information about sex and access to reproductive health care makes teens less likely to become sexually active in the first place.” A counter-intuitive point that usually gets left out. I was taught the opposite growing up, but I wonder if this isn’t exactly the heart of the problem with ABSE. The second: her emphasis on confidential access to healthcare, which now that I think about it obviously matters. The third: teens should “become sexually informed and proficient long before they become sexually active.” We usually just think “before.” But how would our sex education curriculum change to incorporate this “long before”? Something to chew on.

• When you click on dumb Buzzfeed listicles you know to expect nothing good. But not this time! Are you distracted doing your homework and can’t muster up the self-discipline to just be productive? Do you have procrastination issues big enough to ruin your academic life but not big enough to justify asking a doctor if you have ADD? Do you have $31.28 to spend on some dumb product on Amazon when you could otherwise just find an app that does the same thing? (Y, Y, N). The aptly-named Time Timer is for you!

A little somethin somethin about the void of smart people surrounding President Trump.

• Ingmar Chen, Souvenir:

ingmar berman photo

(h/t booooooom.com)

• A rich, gorgeous essay from Maria Popova of Brainpickings. She writes about poet John O’Donohue’s perspective on identity, very insightful. Read A Gentle Corrective for the Epidemic of Identity Politics Turning Us on Each Other and on Ourselves:

Today, we seem to serve not as custodians of our inner worlds but as their terrified and terrible wardens, policing our own interiority along with that of others for any deviation from the proscribed identity-political correctness. And yet identity is exclusionary by definition — we are what remains after everything we are not. Even those remnants are not static and solid ground onto which to stake the flag of an immutable personhood but fluid currents in an ever-shifting, shoreless self — for, as Virginia Wolf memorably wrote, “a self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living.”

• Not sure what I think about this post on TGC but it does pull some ideas together. Maybe “offensive” is the wrong word for what she describes. Assertive? Feisty? I’m down for some feisty Christianity.

• 10/10 endorse Cameron Cole’s post on Rooted from last week, Hope Amidst College Admissions InsanityHe gets it. The opening comparison to Canaanite child sacrifice is perfectly accurate and not an exaggeration at all.

This conversation between Mike Erre and Preston Sprinkle begins with sexuality and ends somewhere totally else — open communion? Unpaid church staff? House churches? Disillusionment with Christian culture? Give it a listen, there’s a huge breadth to the conversation and that breadth exposes some of the underlying issues in holding together a diverse Christian community.

More links yet

Highlights: Brett McCracken on engaging art, Wesley Hill’s critique of Bolz-Weber’s book, an editorial comparing the Trump Org to a classic organized crime mob, and an essay on the essence of African Traditional Religion.


• The content on TGC has changed since I started reading two years ago. More practical living, more women’s ministry, more on vocation and calling, less on nerdy theology and deep biblical studies. (This comes at a time, seminary, when my life feels more nerdy and less practical). But someone whose writing I cannot enjoy enough is Brett McCracken. Consider this week’s Make ‘Christian’ Engagement with the Arts More . . . Christian. He is reviewing a book by Jeremy Begbie about theological aesthetics, something that fits really nicely with my interest in film. Strong recommend. (But maybe first, try out his more accessible piece The Christ-like Gaze in Film).

• Continuing with last week’s review of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, we have Wesley Hill’s critique in Christianity Today:

It would be easy, at this juncture, to point a finger at the thinness of much of what is labeled “progressive” theology these days in order to account for the flaws in Shameless. In this progressive Christianity, it often seems that a spirituality of the goodness of creation downplays—or bypasses altogether—any serious consideration of our fallenness. Popular progressive ways of distinguishing the Mosaic law and the legalisms of the apostle Paul from the good news that Jesus preached, with the former considered nitpicky and vindictive and the latter portrayed as no-strings-attached, often verge on anti-Judaism and drive a wedge between Jesus and the spokespersons he appointed to carry on his ministry. And what the theologian D. Stephen Long has called “a commitment to ‘progressive revelation,’ where some theologians proclaim with thoroughgoing certitude what God is doing in the world today and how it differs with what God was thought to have worked in previous times,” often permits present experience to seem clear as glass compared to the murky complexity of ancient Scripture. And, indeed, all these lamentable progressive tendencies are present in abundance in Shameless.

But the harder task would be for more conservative, traditionalist readers like me—who still think that sexual purity is a scriptural (and therefore indispensable) category and that the biblical rules against, say, premarital and extramarital sex are still binding on believers today—to take Shameless as an occasion to practice some self-scrutiny and ask ourselves whether our own failings and hypocrisies might be part of what gives a book like this its powerful appeal.

• Best opinions from Washington Post opinion section on Thursday of last week:

1. The court’s opinion was right on this case. But the concurrence was even righter.

2. The mob analogy got a whole lot stronger. 

3. The Supreme Court’s struggles on the Peace Cross case reflect a bigger challenge.

4. Conservative Christians are counting on the Supreme Court to stall their cultural losses

5. Amy Klobuchar’s defenders mistake the promise of feminism.

• Sam Allberry has a new book out on Christian singleness. Here’s an open letter to the church on singleness he wrote, presumably as promo for the book, and a positive review from TGC.

• New Global, Orthodox Identity for United Methodists Surprises Many, but it shouldn’t be surprising, nor is there an Orthodox identity ’emerging’ in a global sense. Most of the fault lines was along United States / non-US delegates. There is no new common identity, only a denominational structure that ties together two disparate (geographically, theologically) groups. Nobody should be surprised at a major split in 2020.

• What’s the worst job ever? After reading THE TRAUMA FLOOR: The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America, I think I know the answer. My goodness, I wouldn’t take this job for 5x that pay. (Follow-up: Slatestarcodex wrote a good push-back piece).

• Henrietta Harris from Booooooom.com’s artist spotlight this week:

Henrietta Harris

Henrietta Harris

Henrietta Harris

• Slatestarcodex’s culture wars thread is dead (but also reincarnated elsewhere). He gives some fascinating insights into the whole “civil discourse is dead” thing, like this:

The fact is, it’s very easy to moderate comment sections. It’s very easy to remove spam, bots, racial slurs, low-effort trolls, and abuse. I do it single-handedly on this blog’s 2000+ weekly comments. r/slatestarcodex’s volunteer team of six moderators did it every day on the CW Thread, and you can scroll through week after week of multiple-thousand-post culture war thread and see how thorough a job they did.

But once you remove all those things, you’re left with people honestly and civilly arguing for their opinions. And that’s the scariest thing of all.

Some people think society should tolerate pedophilia, are obsessed with this, and can rattle off a laundry list of studies that they say justify their opinion. Some people think police officers are enforcers of oppression and this makes them valid targets for violence. Some people think immigrants are destroying the cultural cohesion necessary for a free and prosperous country. Some people think transwomen are a tool of the patriarchy trying to appropriate female spaces. Some people think Charles Murray and The Bell Curve were right about everything. Some people think Islam represents an existential threat to the West. Some people think women are biologically less likely to be good at or interested in technology. Some people think men are biologically more violent and dangerous to children. Some people just really worry a lot about the Freemasons.

Each of these views has adherents who are, no offense, smarter than you are. Each of these views has, at times, won over entire cultures so completely that disagreeing with them then was as unthinkable as agreeing with them is today. I disagree with most of them but don’t want to be too harsh on any of them. Reasoning correctly about these things is excruciatingly hard, trusting consensus opinion would have led you horrifyingly wrong throughout most of the past, and other options, if they exist, are obscure and full of pitfalls. I tend to go with philosophers from Voltaire to Mill to Popper who say the only solution is to let everybody have their say and then try to figure it out in the marketplace of ideas.

But none of those luminaries had to deal with online comment sections.

• Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia has had to semi-lock their article on Fortnite until 2020 because of vandalism. View some of the glorious revisions here, and press ctrl+f “vandalism” and click prev to feast your eyes.

• From Church Life Journal The Essence of African Traditional Religion. Very good, read the whole thing.

Even more links

Providing a valuable public service here, folks. That’s what I’m doing with these links posts. How could you continue to function in your everyday life without my links. There is simply no way. Not in the age of Trump, or the age of Millennials, or the age of Terror, or whatever age we are in these days. Have I already made the joke where I call these ‘gourmet links’? If not, that’s what this week’s links are. Gourmet. Make sure to read the first one, the one about teens and mental health, and the one on Workism.

• Being Biblical™: When the Bible Becomes a Brand:

Many people have been horribly scarred by biblical™ culture. Countless young people, hurt by the failed promises of the biblical™ ideology, with its attendant practices and unhealthy communities, of their upbringing, have abandoned Christian faith for non-Christian worldviews. These have often merely damaged them in other ways, offering alternative ideologies, rather than genuine engagement with reality. We need to abandon the biblical™ trademark and to recover the challenge of discerning and applying Scripture to our lives and worlds. We need to grow in a scripturally oriented wisdom in the pursuit of the great human project, which we have in common with all who are wrestling with the concrete reality in which God addresses us.

• Worst headline (and concept piece) of the week: The Best Combs a Presidential Candidate Could Use to Eat a Salad. Remember that the next election isn’t for another 21 months. An excerpt:

Still, the alleged comb use itself is hilariously absurd. Did Klobuchar wash the comb before eating? Don’t all airplanes have forks on board? Is it even possible to eat a salad with a comb?

Klobuchar’s purported choice of replacement utensil might not have been as uncommon as it sounds. As a high-school swimmer rushing through the locker room, I too once found myself hungry and forkless, and resorted to eating a cup of Greek yogurt with a comb. But a salad is a different textural animal entirely. It’s layered and varied, and sometimes there are croutons.

• Critiquing Nadia Bolz-Weber’s new book on sexuality, we have, from Mere Orthodoxy, A Christian Ethic of Sex in a Pornographic Age:

Those who are ‘in Christ’ are called to not only cultivate but traverse the limits and possibilities of human desire, and arguably more than any humans on earth. By striving to be pure in heart – however unfashionable or prudish that might sound in Late Modernity – we so prepare for the beatific vision, a sight our exhausted age of restless searching pines after, even if unknowingly.

We need scripts that form us “to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4), and that cultivate habits, appetites, and dispositions that comport with the fidelity requisite for a life of celibacy, or, for instance, where we or our spouses are persons with disabilities in our fragile, mortal bodies.

• Brian Tallerico (from RogerEbert.com) gives his ranking of Oscar Best Picture winners from 2000-on. Take special note of the film in last place.

• On teens and mental health from The Atlantic.

• Also from The Atlantic, a piece that continues the theme from last month’s Millennials: The Burnout Generation. Enjoy Workism is Making Americans Miserable.

• From Marissa Voytenko, a collection titled Examen. See the full set here.

Examen I

Examen XV

Examen VI

• Brett McCracken on The Favourite and Roma:

The radical self-denial and service of Cleo in Roma, like the feet-washing posture of Jesus (John 13:1–17), provides a picture of power in vivid contrast to that in The Favourite. The latter captures power as pre- and post-Christian societies construe it: self-interest, self-preservation, winner take all, only the strong survive. The former presents power through weakness, through self-denial and sacrificial love.

Good points all around here. But I also wonder about the way that McCracken tries to distance himself from The Favourite. Can’t we just acknowledge that it represents an opposing viewpoint, and then enjoy it as a creative presentation of that viewpoint? This reminds me of the controversy over the professor who assigned a blasphemous book at a Catholic college. In short, he said, yeah it was a terrible book, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t read it? That we can’t grow from seeing where the author goes wrong? Seems simple to me but this way of thinking gets steamrolled in Christian circles, for the reasons in the Being Biblical™ essay.

• Jared Wilson with 3 Principles for Christian Political Engagement.

Some more links

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• If you want an example of how the church should respond to #Metoo or #Churchtoo, the select SBC leaders in this write-up will do. Russell Moore’s full response is here and you must read it.

• Looking for the best theology books of 2018? Jonathan Ogden’s best albums of 2018? NPR’s best albums of 2018? (They have an… unexpected taste). The Times’s best books, fiction and non-fiction, of 2018? How about Obama’s favorite books, movies, and music of 2018?

• The Democrats lost the Senate in 2018, despite a ‘blue wave,’ due to a brutally unfair election map. Now, the tables are turning in 2020.

• Things my marriage and family counseling class didn’t prepare me for: DNA testing customer service. Things a DNA testing customer service class doesn’t prepare you for: marriage and family counseling.

• T.K. Coleman: Be a coach, not a cult leader:

When you get your kicks from being seen as the great and glorious guru, you become the kind of leader who instructs people in a way that makes them more dependent on your guidance. After people meet with you, they mostly feel in awe of how phenomenal you are. They see you as a rock star.

When you get your kicks from helping people wake up to the possibility of their own brilliance, you become the kind of leader who inspires people in a way that makes them less reliant on you, more trusting of their inner judgment, and always open to learning from new people. After people meet with you, they mostly feel appreciation for the increased sense of clarity and confidence they have. They see you as an ally.

This is the fundamental difference between a coach and a cult leader.

The Lifesized Embroidered Figures of Liisa Hietanen:

• YES, THIS: Trevin Wax: You Don’t Have to Have a Well-Formed Opinion on Everything:

In order to de-escalate tensions in our society and lower the temperature of our civil discourse, we can demonstrate the humility that says: “I haven’t really studied that issue,” or “I’m not an expert on the most important facts and considerations in that debate,” or “I don’t think I’ve weighed the different sides and looked into all the relevant points yet, and so I don’t have a strong opinion.”

• “Progressives are emulating Trump and reality is leaking from American life.”

9 Artists on How to Make a Living From Your Art

Data Maps the Impact of Where a Child Grows Up. Lifetime success rates of children raised in certain areas, geo-located and you can sort by race, gender, legal status, income, and so on. Social Mobility is declining; this data is unusually open source; solutions are localized.

• This week only: see the Oscar nominated documentary Hale County This Morning, This Evening on PBS online. Only 76 minutes.

Some Links

Starting today I am going to compile the interesting things I have found on the internet into a list of weekly links. Lots of other people do this because, I figure, it is fun and anyways why not. Maybe I’ll do biweekly links, or maybe I’ll say fortnightly links because Engaging the Culture. Either way, here we go. Use the email subscription box (in the page footer) to get these in your inbox.

• Malcolm Gladwell writes about Marijuana (h/t Rooted top articles of January):

A few years ago, the National Academy of Medicine convened a panel of sixteen leading medical experts to analyze the scientific literature on cannabis. The report they prepared, which came out in January of 2017, runs to four hundred and sixty-eight pages. It contains no bombshells or surprises, which perhaps explains why it went largely unnoticed. It simply stated, over and over again, that a drug North Americans have become enthusiastic about remains a mystery.

• More of this please, from TGC, DG, &co. How to Be a Friend at All Times (Even When You Don’t Have Time):

Instead of retreating from friendships when life is busy, or lamenting my lack of picture-perfect friendships, I’m seeking to engage my friends and love them at all times—even when I don’t have time.

• Ross Douthat from NYT recommends these on the Catholic clergy abuse scandal. I am halfway through the first article. It is, appropriately, very long. There is so much I didn’t realize about all this.

• Speaking of articles to read back to back: Trump, the first president in a century with no dog, explains why: ‘I don’t have any time. and, conversely, that Trump spends 9 hours per day in ‘executive time’ which is unstructured free time with no work being done. Square that circle, Mick Mulvaney.

• One more time with back-to-back-ers: I’m a geophysicist. My signature fieldwork uniform is bright pink. and, New Illinois hunting law allows hunters to wear blaze pink.

• This (long) essay sparked joy: The Art of Looking: Eleven Ways of Viewing the Multiple Realities of Our Everyday Wonderland.

• The Art of Jacob van Loon 

Jacob van Loon

Jacob van Loon

Jacob van Loon

• Plastic water bottles have an expiration date not because the water expires but because the plastic “will eventually start leeching chemicals into the water.” (h/t Daniel)

• Graphic, very uncomfortable but very necessary, article from ProPublica: In Immigrant Children’s Shelters, Sexual Assault Cases Are Open and Shut:

Across the country, kids are reporting sexual assaults in immigrant children’s shelters. Alex decided to come forward. He told the shelter two older teens dragged him into a bedroom. There was surveillance video. But Alex’s case wasn’t investigated. His isn’t the only one.

• FiveThirtyEight: 6 Things To Listen For When The 2020 Democrats Talk About Policy. Numbers 4 and 6 especially.

• Quite the concept album.