Worth Reading - 1/15

Here are some articles that I found interesting this week.

1. The New York Times ran a post last week on why real books are better than e-books. It's part of an ongoing debate, but it's worth a read.

Perhaps the strongest case for a household full of print books came from a 2014 study published in the sociology journal Social Forces. Researchers measured the impact of the size of home libraries on the reading level of 15-year-old students across 42 nations, controlling for wealth, parents’ education and occupations, gender and the country’s gross national product.
After G.N.P., the quantity of books in one’s home was the most important predictor of reading performance. The greatest effect was seen in libraries of about 100 books, which resulted in approximately 1.5 extra years of grade-level reading performance. (Diminishing returns kick in at about 500 books, which is the equivalent of about 2.2 extra years of education.)
Libraries matter even more than money; in the United States, with the size of libraries being equal, students coming from the top 10 percent of wealthiest families performed at just one extra grade level over students from the poorest 10 percent.
The implications are clear: Owning books in the home is one of the best things you can do for your children academically. It helps, of course, if parents are reading to their children and reading themselves, not simply buying books by the yard as décor.

2. It's election season (it seems like it's always election season). So, much of divided America is spending time insulting the intelligence of people they disagree with. However, some of the impression given by social media that the other side is dumb is likely false.

In psychology, the idea that everyone is like us is called the “false-consensus bias.” This bias often manifests itself when we see TV ratings (“Who the hell are all these people that watch NCIS?”) or in politics (“Everyone I know is for stricter gun control! Who are these backwards rubes that disagree?!”) or polls (“Who are these people voting for Ben Carson?”).
Online it means we can be blindsided by the opinions of our friends or, more broadly, America. Over time, this morphs into a subconscious belief that we and our friends are the sane ones and that there’s a crazy “Other Side” that must be laughed at — an Other Side that just doesn’t “get it,” and is clearly not as intelligent as “us.” But this holier-than-thou social media behavior is counterproductive, it’s self-aggrandizement at the cost of actual nuanced discourse and if we want to consider online discourse productive, we need to move past this.

3. This is a post from Bruce Ashford on the trouble with political ideologies. It's a worthwhile read, even if it does increase political saturation.

Identifying political dysfunction is easy. Depending upon a person’s temperament, it may even be fun. But diagnosing the dysfunction beneath the dysfunction? That’s the rub. For those who care passionately about politics, the enemy generally resides over there, in some other political camp. Liberals blame conservatives; conservatives blame liberals. The reality, however, is more complex and, not surprisingly, much more interesting.
Underneath political dysfunction is a simple but powerful phenomenon—the sin of idolatry. The problem with politics runs deeper and spreads wider than the words or actions of any one politician, pundit, citizen, or party. Idolatry is located in the depths of the human heart and, for that reason, radiates outward into all a person says and does. It spreads like a plague. Sin is a progressively corrupting phenomenon, a serial intruder that crashes every party, including politics and public life. Its devastating impact is felt in structures, ideologies, and worldviews that can deform an entire society.
In politics and public life, sin does its worst party crashing via political ideologies. Ideologies arise from idolatry. In the Christian tradition, idols, or false gods, are created any time we take some aspect of God’s creation and elevate it to a position of primacy. A created thing is elevated to that status that only the Creator himself deserves. All sin is idolatry, and all idolatry is, at heart, a type of false worship. When we select an aspect of God’s creation—such as sex, money, power, liberty, or equality—and imbue that part of creation with all of our love, trust, and obedience…then we have become idolaters.

4. Aaron Earls at The Wardrobe Door takes a look at the way tone can hurt in a marriage as much or more than the words we say.

Married couples can find something to argue about. Two people constantly learning to live together as one results in unintentional, but completely expected clashes.
A good pre-marriage counselor will usually prepare couples for arguments over finances, household responsibilities and even parenting styles. Those topics often result in the most serious and fundamental disagreements between a husband and wife.
But a great pre-marriage counselor will go beyond those issues to an unspoken source of contention. It has nothing to do with the specific words you speak, but those words can carry this incendiary device into a seeming innocuous conversation and spark a roaring, raging fire between two people.
The not-so-silent marriage killer that never says a word is your tone. How you say things can make all the difference. We can see this in an unlikely place.
C.S. Lewis had an uncanny ability to diagnose the human condition and detail the hidden areas where sin and rebellion lurked unaware. And despite being his being married later in life, that often extended to his insight into marriage and married life.

5. Sometimes we think that just because we are doing kingdom work it's going to be easy. Here's a post by an adoptive mom struggling with the reality of life and finding hope in Christ.

For a brief moment as I sat on my bed, I wished I could go back to being that oblivious mom who didn’t know about the pain and suffering of the world. Who didn’t choose gratitude for her kids over success, who didn’t carry the burdens of so many, who cared what people thought of her. The one who filled her days with trips to Target, dreamed of having more, someone who put all her energy in creating happiness at home and didn’t give a hoot about others.
I got up to get a Kleenex and caught my reflection in the mirror. I stopped and stared at the tearstained tired woman looking back at me. I could only see brokenness.
But it’s funny how you can look like you have it all together on the outside and feel desperately empty inside or you can look like a broken, exhausted woman on the outside and have a deep peace and fullness within because you know what you do matters.

Below are links to my posts this week outside of Ethics and Culture.

1. At The Institute for Faith, Work and Economics I wrote about God's grace in providing works for us to do.

Our good works cannot save us (Ephesians 2:9) because God prepared them before we were born so we could do them (Ephesians 2:10).
As created beings, we can’t even do good things apart from the preparatory work of our Creator. Even our good works were created by God; they aren’t ours to offer him.
This frees us from thinking we can do something big enough to please God.
We may have opportunities to do big things for God, but they won’t be because we’ve imagined a perfect plan or invented a perfect process.
No, the same God that created us and calls us has also already planned out how we can best serve him. We are to diligently use our resources to walk in those good works.

2. At Intersect Project, which focuses on the integration of faith and culture, I wrote about finding support for a solid doctrine of work in Richard Baxter.

It’s easy to get trapped by the tyranny of the present, where contemporary problems seem to be unlike any others. With temporal blinders on, we assume that these new problems require new answers.
C. S. Lewis calls this attitude “chronological snobbery.” He recommends reading books from other centuries to break out of the trap of your own context.
Being concerned about the nature of work has recently come into vogue. There has been a relative explosion of books, conferences and blogs (like this one) about vocation and work. Is concern about work a new problem that requires new answers?
Not really. In fact, the nature, importance and reason for doing work have been discussed for centuries by pastors, theologians, and others — including Richard Baxter.