Worth Reading - 5/6

1. Russell Moore argues that the evangelical church cannot fail to speak against racism in its virulent forms and maintain a gospel witness. This is, perhaps, the most significant issue that many evangelical churches are failing to grapple with.

Years ago, members of a Southern Baptist church in suburban Birmingham, Ala., who couldn’t figure out why their church was in decline asked a friend of mine for advice. The area had been majority white during the violent years of Jim Crow. While civil rights protesters were beaten and children were blown apart by bombs, church members had said nothing. That would be “political,” church members said, and they wanted to stick to “simple gospel preaching.”
As the years marched on, the area became majority black. The congregation dwindled to a small band of elderly whites who now lived elsewhere. They tried, they said, to “reach out” to the church’s African-American neighbors, but couldn’t get them to join.
A canvass of the area would have told them that the church had already sent a message to those neighbors when it had stood silent in the face of atrocity. Those neighbors now had no interest in bailing out a congregation with a ministry too cowardly to speak up for righteousness when it had seemed too costly to do so.

2. The political vitriol of the present age is related somehow to the rise to prevalence of the alt-right. There are mobs of individuals, most of them hiding behind anonymous avatars and pseudonyms, who are preaching identity politics for Europeans, advocating blatant racism, and generally assaulting (online so far) who opposes Trump. It's real folks and it needs resisting.

One way to understand the alt-right is not as a movement but as a collective experiment in identity, in the same way that many people use anonymity on the Internet to test more extreme versions of themselves. Moldbug, when he stepped out from behind his pseudonym, turned out to be a Silicon Valley computer programmer who had started as a commenter in the factional circles of libertarian message boards. CisWhiteMaelstrom, who convened the pro-Trump hordes that swallowed the politics sections of Reddit, turned out to be a law student in his early twenties who was looking forward to a job in which he could make the most money possible. These are familiar conservative types, in the same way that the alt-right pioneers John Derbyshire and Taki Theodoracopulos are familiar conservative intellectuals, who first came to prominence at National Review. And as pointed as Zero Hedge’s Russophilia is, it was the Virginia co-chair of the Ted Cruz campaign who flew to Syria last week to assure Bashar al-Assad that President Cruz would be on his side. The tone of Trumpism and of the alt-right conceals a more familiar politics. Partisans of the alt-right are often described as “shock troops” of the Trump phenomenon, in the same way that Trump voters are understood to be outsiders invading the Republican Party. But my suspicion is that these descriptions get them wrong, by imagining that they are a new group of people rather than the same old group during their off hours, trying out a different form of play.

3. If you've paid much attention on social media, you've probably heard about a nincompoop suggesting she deserves "me-ternity" leave to find herself, since maternity leave sounds like such a vacation. This post in response is appropriately pointed and delightfully humorous in a snarky sort of way.

It’s a silly little article posted for the purpose of marketing her novel “Meternity… about a woman who fakes a pregnancy and discovers some hard truths about what it’s really like to ‘have it all.'” And it’s done a fairly good job of that, I assume, since there’s a slew of discussion on the subject flaring all over the internet.
My favourite parts are where she argues that this is about women “putting themselves first” and that she should get both “Meternity” leave and maternity leave if she decides to have kids later. Why not just take the rest of your life?
Really though, the article isn’t actually as stupid or as the headline makes it seem – she’s basically arguing for paid time off to find yourself – which you either support or you don’t. And for all I know the book is awesome and insightful.
But her piece did get me thinking about what a “maternity leave without kids” would look like. So, I drew up a list of suggested rules guidelines, and now I think that this is a great idea.

4. A small sized study (and thus not fit for drawing firm conclusions) of participants in the reality TV show, The Biggest Loser, reveals that the bodies of obese individuals may be working against them to keep them fat. It's a long read, but it details the reality that most of the folks that worked so hard to lose weight on the show can't keep it off and this is in large part because their metabolisms slow to lower than normal and their body produces hormones to make them crave food. 

Researchers knew that just about anyone who deliberately loses weight — even if they start at a normal weight or even underweight — will have a slower metabolism when the diet ends. So they were not surprised to see that “The Biggest Loser” contestants had slow metabolisms when the show ended.
What shocked the researchers was what happened next: As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower, and the pounds kept piling on. It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight.
Mr. Cahill was one of the worst off. As he regained more than 100 pounds, his metabolism slowed so much that, just to maintain his current weight of 295 pounds, he now has to eat 800 calories a day less than a typical man his size. Anything more turns to fat.

5. Everyone loves a myth buster right? It's good to validate information and not simply accept what has been accepted as ultimate fact, but who fact checks the fact checkers? Who keeps the debunkers from slipping into a wormhole of doubt and doom? This is an interesting read, a bit long, but worth some thought as we live in an information saturated world.

It seems plausible to me, at least, that the tellers of these tales are getting blinkered by their own feelings of superiority — that the mere act of busting myths makes them more susceptible to spreading them. It lowers their defenses, in the same way that the act of remembering sometimes seems to make us more likely to forget. Could it be that the more credulous we become, the more convinced we are of our own debunker bona fides? Does skepticism self-destruct?
Sutton told me over email that he, too, worries that contrarianism can run amok, citing conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers as examples of those who “refuse to accept the weight of argument” and suffer the result. He also noted the “paradox” by which a skeptic’s obsessive devotion to his research — and to proving others wrong — can “take a great personal toll.” A person can get lost, he suggested, in the subterranean “Wonderland of myths and fallacies.”