Worth Reading - 2/4

1. In some circles, the discussion of sucker punching Richard Spencer (who is no relation to me, thankfully) was justified. Alistair Roberts put together a very good post outlining some of the fallacious thinking that leads people who are seeking "social justice" to justify violence against people (yea, even people with repugnant ideas) because of disagreement.

It is imperative that we recognize that a movement such as the social justice left, while making strong ideological claims, serves many ends that are not primarily about its ideology. Indeed, the existence and popularity of the ideology owes a great deal to the fact that it serves many of these ends so well.

Scot Alexander has, as usual, a superb post in which he explores the way in which ideologies serve ends that may often be more important than their explicitly declared or ostensive ones. Like other movements, there are a lot of different reasons why people subscribe to the ideology of ‘social justice’, beyond or in addition to actually believing in it. When thinking about the justification of violence in the name of or against an ideology, it is imperative that we recognize the many ends that ideologies can serve to dissemble.

2. A recent survey by Facts and Trends shows that being more devout results in greater generosity, both with time and money. This should not come as a surprise to Christians, but it does undermine the assertions that non-theists are just as moral and generous as Christians.

Religious individuals are more likely to have volunteered and donated to the poor in the last week compared to the irreligious. Highly religious Christians are also more likely than other self-identified Christians.

A third (33 percent) of Americans say they volunteered in the past week. However, 35 percent of religious individuals volunteered versus 27 percent of the unaffiliated.

Much of the difference comes from church involvement. Twelve percent of Christians say they volunteered mainly through their church and 21 percent say it was primarily through another organization. For the religiously unaffiliated, 24 percent volunteered outside of a church and only 2 percent say they served mainly through a church.

While church participation provides a built-in advantage in opportunities for volunteering for the religious, a similar gap exists in donating to the poor.

More than half (52 percent) of Christians say they donated money, time, or goods to help the poor in the past week. Fewer than a third (31 percent) of the unaffiliated say the same.

3. There's no question that the political left largely doesn't get the importance of religion in the lives of many Americans. In this video, Emma Green outlines some of the reasons for that dismissal:

4. John Mark Reynolds wrote a post arguing we should not justify "small" sins just to avoid big ones:

Some people avoid a huge evil by doing an even bigger one. Certain defenders of abortion think it better for the baby to die than become part of the surplus population. They swallow a moral whale to avoid a camel size problem: how to help the poor in a free society. Of course, I am told some pro-life folk only care for the life of the baby, avoiding whale stew, but then swallow the camel: they do not care for the born baby and mother.*

My own idea is that we should avoid eating whales (they are endangered) or camels (no comment).

Here is a more subtle problem. I am tempted to swallow a gnat to avoid having to swallow a camel. Surely I can tell this lie for the boss to help keep the ministry going? Sure the boss is a racist, but she is doing so much good. Let me say nothing after her joke. I swallow a little gnat in order to avoid great evils.

5. Reading the Bible is important, as I argued in an earlier post; Andy Naselli provides three tips for reading the Bible. Just do it.

When you listen to an audio-Bible, you’ll be surprised how quickly the time goes by and how much of the Bible you “read.”

Sometimes I listen while doing other tasks such as driving or cleaning or running, but I’ve found it to be incredibly profitable to listen while following along in a different English translation (or in the original languages). Listening to a different version than you are reading helps keep you engaged as you inquisitively consider various renderings. The pace is so fast that you miss all sorts of nuances, but you gain a valuable macro-perspective.

Audio-Bibles work well for the Bible’s many styles of literature, though they work best for stories as opposed to proverbs or letters. This is evident when listening to dramatized audio-Bibles (such as my family’s favorite: The Bible Experience). But it’s worth remembering that the congregations whom Paul addressed in his letters typically listened to Paul’s letters and did not own personal copies of them.