Worth Reading - 3/11

1. Trevin Wax notes that the Trolls are winning. They are stifling discussion and debate online. While Christians cannot prevent others from trolling, they can certainly refrain from it themselves.

Whenever you feel the need to relentlessly attack the candidates you disagree with, you should see that tendency as fleshly, not godly. Do not spread slander. Fact check. Make your disagreements substantive and your commentary winsome.
The Apostles Peter and Paul were clear: Christians are to show honor to everyone, including (in their time) Nero, a bloodthirsty, sexual deviant on Caesar’s throne. We should be known for honor in a world of insults.
Alongside programs that filter internet content coming into our phones or computers, we ought to consider an “honor filter” that would help us control what goes out.
The world needs the aroma of heaven, not the toxic fumes of our online battles. If it’s true the trolls are winning the web, let’s make sure they are as few Christians as possible among them.

2. Why are place names in Britain so strange? A recent BBC article gives a linguistic response. This is a real treat for a language nerd.

The drive from the town of Much Wenlock to Ashby-de-la-Zouch is 60 miles east across the English Midlands. Once you have crossed the River Severn and passed the Wrekin rising to the left – the last of the Shropshire Hills – you join the M54 at the Wrekin Retail Park. At Featherstone, you have a choice: north and then east past Lichfield and Tamworth, or southeast past Walsall, Wednesbury and Birmingham, south of Sutton Coldfield, and northeast to cross the River Tame. Either way, once you’re past Appleby Magna and crossing the River Mease, you’re almost there. Be sure not to make a wrong turn and end up in Donisthorpe, Newton Burgoland or Snarestone.
And just like that, in an hour and a quarter, you will have covered the great sweep of British history: from the Celts through the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Scandinavians, and Normans to modern times – all as displayed in Britain’s place names.

3. The so-called "Same God" controversy at Wheaton has wound down. The professor has gotten another job at UVA and the media furor has died down somewhat. The media has shifted to focus on other more interesting occurrences, but the wounds are still open at Wheaton. Daniel Treier, who is on faculty at Wheaton, has offered some lessons learned from the events with well-meant criticisms of all sides. This is a must-read for those involved in or thinking about being involved in higher education at a faith-based institution.

Will this Wheaton tragedy foster any newfound wisdom? I have tried to indicate how the actions of all parties could involve good faith and fragmentary wisdom despite the tragic outcome. If so, then our primary focus should not be fighting over the assignment of blame but seeking mutual growth in wisdom. All the same, we must be sober about two final aspects of our challenging circumstances.
First, “Christian liberal arts” education may be more effective at conveying intellectual skills and professional success than fostering wisdom. Extreme right-wing and left-wing rhetoric is not isolated among alumni. It is hard to quantify how many people quietly engaged thoughtful perspectives rather than jumping to conclusions, but a distressing proportion of the visible responses from all Wheaton stakeholders violated James 1:19-21. Four years of education can only do so much, but unfortunately the alumni reaction matches the mixed character of the response from me and my colleagues.

4. Ross Douthat from the New York times examines the connection between Prosperity Gospel believers and support for the potential presidency of he-who-must-not-be-named. It seems that the name it and claim it heresy is wound up in political aspirations.

And the lure of the strongman is particularly powerful for those believers whose theology was somewhat Trumpian already — nationalistic, prosperity-worshiping, by turns apocalyptic and success-obsessed.
With the steady post-1960s weakening of traditional Christian confessions, the preachers of this kind of gospel — this distinctively American heresy, really — have assumed a new prominence in the religious landscape. Trump, with his canny instinct for where to drive the wedge, has courted exactly these figures. While more orthodox Christians have kept him at arm’s length or condemned him, he’s wooed televangelistsand prosperity preachers, and pitched himself to believers already primed to believe that a meretricious huckster with unusual hair might be a vessel of the divine will.
Which he is not, save perhaps in this sense: In the light of Trumpism, many hard truths about American Christianity — its divisions, its failures, its follies, its heresies — stand ruthlessly exposed.
And the truth, we’re told, will set you free.

5. King's College professor, Anthony Bradley, writes about the intersection of Race, Mass Incarceration, and Drug Policy. While the disproportionate rates of incarceration indicate a problem, he argues that the usual scapegoat--the war on drugs--is not necessarily the culprit.

With the 2010 publication of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander, the conversation about America’s exploding prison population singularly became focused on the intersection of race, poverty, and the War on Drugs. According to the narrative, the drug war disproportionately targets blacks in lower income communities as a means of social control via the criminal justice system similarly to the way Jim Crow controlled blacks in the early 20th-century.
The one problem with mass incarceration-as-Jim-Crow thesis is that it does not fit the empirical data. The drug war is not the reason that today we have nearly 2.5 million people incarcerated in this country. In the mid-1970s the U.S. prison population grew from about 300,000 to 1.6 million inmates, and the incarceration rate from 100 per 100,000 to over 500 per 100,000 largely due to violent crime, property crime, and rogue prosecutors. Drug policy changes would, therefore, have little effect on prison population rolls.

6. A NY Times interview with Wendell Berry where he answer some questions and gives amazing non-answers to others. Still worth a read.

From my earliest life, my mother and other grown-ups in my family read to me and encouraged me to love books. After I learned to read, I read intensely but intermittently. Often I would be too much outdoors, playing or working, to read. As a reader, I was inclined to find a book I liked and read it over and over again. When I was about 12, I could fairly recite “The Yearling.” “The Swiss Family Robinson” I read many times, also the novels of Mary O’Hara: “My Friend Flicka” and “Thunderhead.” I read, and believed, “Tarzan of the Apes,” other books by Edgar Rice Burroughs and several novels by Zane Grey. I read also (illegally) many comic books.

7. In an Op-Ed at the New York Times, Roger Cohen argues there is a rising anti-Semitism in the world. 

The zeitgeist on campuses these days, on both sides of the Atlantic, is one of identity and liberation politics. Jews, of course, are a minority, but through a fashionable cultural prism they are seen as the minority that isn’t — that is to say white, privileged and identified with an “imperialist-colonialist” state, Israel. They are the anti-victims in a prevalent culture of victimhood; Jews, it seems, are the sole historical victim whose claim is dubious.
A recent Oberlin alumna, Isabel Storch Sherrell, wrote in a Facebook post of the students she’d heard dismissing the Holocaust as mere “white on white crime.” As reported by David Bernstein in The Washington Post, she wrote of Jewish students, “Our struggle does not intersect with other forms of racism.”

8. Do we have the freedom to dissent? Conscience protections seem to be embedded in our Constitution's First Amendment, however the conflict between the sexual revolution and the conscience of some citizens seems to be prioritizing the will of some over the integrity of others. Andrew Walker from the ERLC picks up the topic in context of a conscience protection bill being considered in Georgia.

Much misinformation and mischaracterization surrounds the proposed religious-liberty legislation in Georgia. The legislation at hand, HB 757, incorporates what’s known as a pastor-protection act and language similar to the federal First Amendment Defense Act, a proposed piece of legislation that prevents government from taking any adverse action against individuals or organizations because of a belief about marriage.