Worth Reading - 3/16

1. Ross Douthat, thinking aloud, questions the idea that increasing centralized government control and spending will improve family structures. Rather, he points out, quite the opposite was once true:

The post-1960s cultural revolution isn’t the only possible “something else.” But when you have a cultural earthquake that makes society dramatically more permissive and you subsequently get dramatic social fragmentation among vulnerable populations, denying that there is any connection looks a lot like denying the nose in front of your face.

But recognizing that culture shapes behavior and that moral frameworks matter doesn’t require thundering denunciations of the moral choices of the poor. Instead, our upper class should be judged first — for being too solipsistic to recognize that its present ideal of “safe” permissiveness works (sort of) only for the privileged, and for failing to take any moral responsibility (in the schools it runs, the mass entertainments it produces, the social agenda it favors) for the effects of permissiveness on the less-savvy, the less protected, the kids who don’t have helicopter parents turning off the television or firewalling the porn.

2. Andrew Wilson promotes the trustworthiness and clarity of Scripture in a short post at The Gospel Coalition:

Jesus knew, all too well, that lots of people who read the Scriptures did not really understand them. It’s true today, and it was true in the first century. Modern Christians disagree over all sorts of issues—baptism, spiritual gifts, the end times, church government, and so on—and if you read church history, you’ll soon discover that we’re not the first generation like that. So Christians often ask: “Is the Bible clear? Surely, if it were, we’d all agree on what it meant, right?”

There are two answers we could give to that question. The first is: when it comes to the essentials, we do. All Christians, everywhere, believe in one church, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord Jesus Christ, one faith, one baptism, one God. Whenever I feel discouraged about the confusions and debates within the global church, I go and read the Nicene Creed, and it reminds me just how much we agree on.

3. An author at Slate opposes evangelical involvement in ending sex trafficking because it make the cause less feminist:

When evangelicals picked up the issue of trafficking around the turn of the millennium, they drastically expanded the existing movement’s influence and reach. By now it has spawned major institutional efforts by nonprofits like World Relief, not to mention both state and federal legislation. According to some critics, however, Christians also changed the movement’s character. “It wasn’t until this evangelical coalition emerged that sex trafficking became this huge everyday issue,” said Soderlund. “Once the evangelicals got on board, it became a much more mainstream issue, and less feminist. You had innocent victims, and you had evildoers, and it wasn’t as much about patriarchy.”

The contemporary anti-trafficking movement has attracted plenty of criticism. Some point out the disproportionate focus on sex trafficking, when labor trafficking is a much more common phenomenon. (Many evangelical organizations do tackle labor trafficking as part of their missions, even though the issue doesn’t attract as much attention. Dillon now runs a nonprofit, Made in a Free World, which focuses on labor trafficking.)

4. A recent book argues that the college you attend is not as significant as many would have us believe:

Do yourself a favor: Don’t sweat the college admission process. Don’t beat up your kids and pressure their counselors. Don’t fall prey to the greedy exploitation of college administrators. Don’t be part of what author Frank Bruni calls “the great, brutal culling.”

In his new book, Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, the New York Times columnist tries to bring some sanity to this season of high anxiety. “What madness,” he calls the pressure imposed upon teenagers making their first major decision. “And what nonsense.”

While this is not a political book, politics is one of the many corners of society scoured by Bruni for proof of his twin theses: First, the admissions game is too rigged to be the source of such palpitations. Second, the nature of a student’s college experience – “the work that he or she puts into it, the skills that he or she picks up, the self-examination that’s undertaken, the resourcefulness that’s honed” – matters more than the reputation of the institution he or she attends.

For every George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama who started at, or matriculated to, a top-tier college, there are dozens of Ronald Reagans, Bruni notes. Reagan attended Eureka College, a tiny school in Illinois that, in 2014, was ranked only 31st among “Regional Colleges (Midwest)” on the U.S. News & World Report survey (Bruni loathes that survey, with good reason).

5. Pi day was on Saturday, but here is a neat video on how Pi can be calculated using lines and matches. The idea is weird, but the theory and the math work: