Worth Reading - 10/21

1. There is a generation who never knew the threat of communism nor the evil that centralized government control of the economy perpetrated on the people of the former Soviet Union. Instead, many younger Americans have witnessed moderate socialisms in Europe, which, despite ongoing economic instability and struggles, appeals to many because it appears to be compassionate on the surface. However, in this post, economist Anne Bradley of the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics discusses some of the real legacy of the Soviet economy:

It is a true story of Boris Yeltsin, who came to the United States in 1989. Yeltsin was newly elected to the Soviet Parliament and the Supreme Soviet. At this time, the economic collapse of the Soviet Union was looming but had not yet happened.

Yeltsin and his cronies were visiting the Johnson Space Center in Texas. After they left, they made an unscheduled trip to Randall’s Grocery Store in Houston. That grocery store experience changed Yeltsin forever. He would later write about it in his autobiography.

Yeltsin roamed the aisles to see products in wide variety waiting for customers. The store was offering free cheese samples. Yeltsin was overwhelmed. He could not believe the bounty before him. He also couldn’t believe there was no fanfare about it – it was just an ordinary day in America. Yeltsin said that even the elite Politburo did not have these choices. He asked the store manager if he required special education to manage a store like Randall’s.

2. At Mere Orthodoxy, the often provocative Alistair Roberts takes on Daniel Kirk's recent criticism of Theological Interpretation of Scripture, and conservative Christian scholarship in general, regarding its "whiteness." It's a long piece, but his argument is careful and worth reading if you are wondering what the fuss is all about and what the most significant problems with Kirk's accusations are. Significantly, Roberts' arguments resonate with my own findings in dealing heavily with contextual theology for my dissertation.

While historical criticism should not simply be rejected or ignored as evangelical theologians have often been in danger of doing, nor should it be elevated to the place of primary significance. The Scriptures have complicated historical origins that we need to study, origins that can be illuminating for our understanding of the sort of text that it is. Seeing the challenge to faith presented by higher criticism, it may be tempting to restrict ourselves to reflection upon the final synchronic form of the text as a literary object of analysis, divorced from its historical origins, or to adopt a lazy form of fundamentalism. Yet, as the witness of Scripture depends upon a historical referent for its truth, such a retreat is impermissible. Both historicism and overly synchronic reading distort our reading of the Scripture.

Nevertheless, it is the final form of the text that is authoritative, not the texts, sources, communities, and traditions that lie behind it. It is this final form of the text that communicates historical revelation to us in an interpreted manner. The danger of historical criticism is that, as texts are cut loose from the canonical context and canonical elements are stripped from them, they are consigned to an inaccessible past. The authoritative voice of these texts crosses history precisely through their presence within and formation by the broader canon witness. Unsurprisingly, as the canon and the Word-formed people that (cor)responds to the canonical Scriptures are minimized, a divine revelation that traverses the contexts of history will retreat from view. However, the manner in which texts exceed their original contexts and speak directly into other contexts can already be witnessed within the canon itself.

3. Recently, Townhall contributor John Hawkins wrote a revealing post about the trouble with social media for social commentary. Recognizing that I disagree with Hawkins' rhetoric most of the time, his commentary on this is significant. The man makes a living because of being controversial on social media (like most journalists and pseudo-journalists), but recognizes that it is having deleterious influences on discourse in these United States. It's worth reading to hear him make his case, given this history.

Even if either page does a story that cuts against its typical ideological grain because of the nature of social media, it’s unlikely to reach a significant portion of its audience. Few conservatives are going to share a story about somebody accidentally shooting his kid with a gun just as few liberals are going to share a story about a gun saving an innocent victim from being raped. This creates a feedback loop that insures that people see very little news that they disagree with because the Facebook pages want more traffic and readers strongly prefer stories that reinforce their existing ideological biases. Worse yet, it has gotten to the point where people GET UPSET if they’re presented with news that conflicts with what they want to happen. As Steven Crowder has noted, point out that Donald Trump is behind in the polls and your timeline will fill with people screaming at you the same way liberals will catch flak for admitting that Hillary Clinton should have faced prosecution for her email scandal. So why serve up stories that your audience doesn’t want to read when the only thing you’re likely to get out of it is grief?

4. The DNC's e-mail hacks reveal the depravity of politics in general in the U.S. They are, however, bad for democracy not simply because they call into question the validity of our political system and represent overt attempts to mislead and subvert rational decisions, but more simply because they are intended to get us to call into question the nature of our democratic system. This article in Esquire is an important read as we seek to understand the basis and nature of the hacks.

The Russian campaign burst into public view only this past June, when The Washington Post reported that “Russian government hackers” had penetrated the servers of the Democratic National Committee. The hackers, hiding behind ominous aliases like Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks, claimed their first victim in July, in the person of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chair, whose private emails were published by WikiLeaks in the days leading up to the Democratic convention. By August, the hackers had learned to use the language of Americans frustrated with Washington to create doubt about the integrity of the electoral system: “As you see the U. S. presidential elections are becoming a farce,” they wrote from Russia.

The attacks against political organizations and individuals absorbed much of the media’s attention this year. But in many ways, the DNC hack was merely a prelude to what many security researchers see as a still more audacious feat: the hacking of America’s most secretive intelligence agency, the NSA.

5. This is a pretty cool time lapse video of a library having all its books reshelved. The library is beautiful, the reshelving is fun to watch.

6. One of the frightening aspects of our current political climate is the vitriolic hate that is spewed by some on the alt right against those who dare to oppose Donald Trump. There are always screwballs on the fringe, and there is always some rancor during elections. However, this year, the white power movement seems to have taken off in it's vocal and adamant support for the unfortunate Republican nominee. David French, who is a regular contributor the the staunchly conservative organ, National Review, briefly considered running as an independent in opposition to the two major party nominees. This article recounts some of the threats he and other opponents of Donald Trump have been subjected to by alt right supporters of the RNC's nominee.

I distinctly remember the first time I saw a picture of my then-seven-year-old daughter’s face in a gas chamber. It was the evening of September 17, 2015. I had just posted a short item to the Corner calling out notorious Trump ally Ann Coulter for aping the white-nationalist language and rhetoric of the so-called alt-right. Within minutes, the tweets came flooding in. My youngest daughter is African American, adopted from Ethiopia, and in alt-right circles that’s an unforgivable sin. It’s called “race-cucking” or “raising the enemy.” I saw images of my daughter’s face in gas chambers, with a smiling Trump in a Nazi uniform preparing to press a button and kill her. I saw her face photo-shopped into images of slaves. She was called a “niglet” and a “dindu.” The alt-right unleashed on my wife, Nancy, claiming that she had slept with black men while I was deployed to Iraq, and that I loved to watch while she had sex with “black bucks.” People sent her pornographic images of black men having sex with white women, with someone photoshopped to look like me, watching.

7. To be clear, both presidential candidates for the major parties are horrible in this election. The US should be embarrassed to have to choose between a man who has bragged about sexual exploits with women openly and a woman who has actively sought to demonize women who reported her husband for his sexual impropriety. The most awful thing, though, is that Christians have jumped into the fray to DEFEND someone who has been accused of doing the sort of actions he openly bragged about doing to women. They've sought to defend the indefensible. Nancy French who is a staunch conservative and talented writer, has written an important piece on what it's like to be conservative and watch the number of good men and women defend abuse in public.

When the Trump videotapes broke, I watched the news and Twitter feeds of prominent evangelicals to see justice be done. But what I saw was all-too-familiar and yet somehow still shocking. “This is how men talk,” one said. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” another said another — who used to “focus on the family” and had never uttered that phrase to refer to any Democrat who ever walked the face of the earth.

It’s hard to describe the effect 2016 has had on sexual abuse survivors. I believed the men in my party when they shrugged off the constant liberal accusations of being anti-woman.

But Pope John Paul II’s words ring true: “Christ … assigns the dignity of every woman as a task to every man.” If that’s right, the men in my party, in my church, in my life have failed; they ask me to participate in overlooking the offense.