Worth Reading - 10/20

1. A First Things article pointing out the possibility that toleration of vulgarity--even its encouragement--helps explain the prevalence of sexual violence in our culture.

Rapists are aided by the prevalence of rape-adjacent sex—that is, sex that isn’t legally rape, in that consent is not withheld; but consent is not secured, either. For instance, sex with someone you don’t know well enough to tell whether they’re just tipsy, or too drunk to consent. Sex with someone whose “Well . . . okay” you aren’t sufficiently familiar with to distinguish coyness from fearful acquiescence. Sex with someone whose beliefs about sex you don’t know, so you find their boundaries by trial and error, not by talking ahead of time, with your clothes on. (It’s no coincidence that all of these scenarios are much more likely when people have sex with strangers or near-strangers. It’s very hard to will the good for someone you know only as a generic type.)

The more common rape-adjacent sex is, the harder it is for a potential victim or a bystander who might intervene to speak up. A determined rapist doesn’t look so different from a careless partygoer, and both of them have plausible deniability: The sex they’re about to have might not be experienced as rape.

In the office, vulgarity similarly functions as near-harassment, even when a raunchy joke is genuinely appreciated by its hearers. Every moment of crudity normalizes sex-as-assault, if only at the level of making someone else uncomfortable.

2. An opinion piece at the New York Times argues that fear is a big contributor to the anti-freedom culture that is spreading among many young people:

There may be some benefits to an increased sensitivity to students’ psychological vulnerabilities. Young people today face unique stressors, such as the ease of harassment presented by social media. But instead of helping, a culture of victimhood worsens the underlying problem.

Fear, in all its forms, is at the heart of these issues — fear of failure, ridicule, discomfort, ostracism, uncertainty. Of course, these fears haunt all of us, regardless of demographics. But that is precisely the point: Our culture isn’t preparing young people to grapple with what are ultimately unavoidable threats. Indeed, despite growing up in a physically safer and kinder society than past generations did, young Americans today report higher levels of anxiety.

Fear pushes people to adopt a defensive posture. When people feel anxious, they’re less open to diverse ideas and opinions, and less forgiving and tolerant of those they disagree with. When people are afraid, they cling to the certainty of the world they know and avoid taking physical, emotional and intellectual risks. In short, fear causes people to privilege psychological security over liberty.

3. This is a helpful and clear article by Rachel Starke on how men can use their businesses to create a better culture for women:

The first report was about a beloved TV dad. Then a famous conservative talk show host and the CEO of the network that paid his multi-million dollar salary. Then it was a whole series, featuring Silicon Valley venture capitalists and technology CEOs. Last week, a Hollywood movie mogul and starmaker was added to the list.

Stories of powerful men behaving badly toward women have long been a feature of American life. Until recently, they’ve been mostly regarded as rumors—used to shame victims into silence or buried under nondisclosure agreements and monetary payouts. Now, the democratizing power of social media is giving those stories new strength, and the world has begun to listen and believe them.

Viewed together, the reports of the last few years paint a picture of a modern American workplace rife with unchecked hypermasculinity, harassment, and discrimination. As a woman who has lived and worked in Silicon Valley for almost 20 years, I’m compelled to say that, sometimes, it is. I’ve been subjected to some of the active mistreatment and passive discrimination the media describes. I’ve observed and been privy to reports of much more.

But I’ve also been treated with particular kindness and respect by men in the workplace, many of whom are committed Christians. They live out Ephesians 6:5–9 in an increasingly Ephesians 5:3–5 world. To learn how to do that, the Old Testament story of Boaz and Ruth has wisdom to guide us.

4. A well-considered post by PE Gobry that helps to explain why America is coming apart at the seams:

America is tearing itself apart. People are angrier at each other, more resentful and contemptuous of each other, than they’ve been in living memory. Americans are experiencing a collective nervous breakdown, and there’s no telling what happens if they don’t find a way out of it.

At the center of this is politics, which has become a tribal battle between Team Blue and Team Red. And quite often, at the center of our political battles is race.

Race has always been an important and divisive issue in American politics, but there’s no question things have become much more abrasive in recent years. Why is this? An obvious answer is “Donald Trump.” And he certainly deserves more blame than any other living individual. His career in politics has been defined by racial demagoguery and by remaking the GOP in his image. In taking the White House, he has done more than anyone to make racial divisions deeper and more acrimonious.

But Trump is not the whole story. Gallup has been tracking Americans’ views of race relations, as good a proxy for the intensity of racial conflict as any, and we were doing okay until 2013-2014, when we start going into a tailspin. That’s before Trump was on every TV screen every day. And it makes sense: Demagogues don’t create new tensions — they tap into and exacerbate pre-existing anger and conflict, even as they intensify it on their way to the top.
Wealth creation is a godly gift and command, and business is a “noble calling,” as Luther and Calvin put it, a “noble vocation,” in the words of Pope Francis. Business and wealth creation can and should be solutions to justice issues such as human trafficking and environmental challenges.

Sider is correct to insist upon balancing statements on wealth. He is right that the Bible “repeatedly warns of its [wealth’s] dangers” and is alive to the “tendency to gain wealth by oppressing others and assures us that God hates such action.” We agree. Precisely because of our agreement, the manifesto clearly calls for wealth creation “for the common good,” mindful that “it must always be pursued with justice and a concern for the poor.” Furthermore, it notes that “godly business create[s] different kinds of wealth for many stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical and spiritual wealth,” and that “environmental challenges should be an integral part of wealth creation through business.”

The devaluation of both wealth creation and wealth creators (perceived chiefly as cash cows for the church) is a tragedy. This is not only an abuse of the business callings in the body of Christ but also undermines the very engine necessary to adequately address poverty.