Worth Reading - 3/17

1. What one writer learned from being off Twitter for a few weeks. A balanced account of gains and losses.

I’ve been on Twitter long enough to learn who holds ideological worldviews distinct from mine but nonetheless write or link to interesting things to read. And I need those guides, because they’re great time savers. I tried going on Salon and the Federalist and the Intercept and the Washington Examiner. Each of those sites produced articles worth reading, but my goodness the wheat-to-chaff ratio was low. A properly-cultivated Twitter feed makes it possible to stumble across essays like this one that I would have otherwise missed. I also missed links to smaller newspapers and academic journals outside my specialty and other subcultures to which my Twitter feed has often pointed the way. What I missed the most about Twitter was that it exposed me to more views in less time than if I were searching on my own. And that’s worth the minor cost in trolls.

I suspect that I will need to take short Twitter breaks a couple of times a year to make sure I stay relatively sane. I would encourage all of those who use social media to take similar sabbaticals. It is through being away from these sites that we remember their value — and how best to minimize their costs.

2. Here is Ross Douthat's column in the New York Times that is referenced in the above article. There are some worthwhile ideas about limiting the internet.

Search your feelings, you know it to be true: You are enslaved to the internet. Definitely if you’re young, increasingly if you’re old, your day-to-day, minute-to-minute existence is dominated by a compulsion to check email and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram with a frequency that bears no relationship to any communicative need.

Compulsions are rarely harmless. The internet is not the opioid crisis; it is not likely to kill you (unless you’re hit by a distracted driver) or leave you ravaged and destitute. But it requires you to focus intensely, furiously, and constantly on the ephemera that fills a tiny little screen, and experience the traditional graces of existence — your spouse and friends and children, the natural world, good food and great art — in a state of perpetual distraction.

Used within reasonable limits, of course, these devices also offer us new graces. But we are not using them within reasonable limits. They are the masters; we are not. They are built to addict us, as the social psychologist Adam Alter’s new book “Irresistible” points out — and to madden us, distract us, arouse us and deceive us. We primp and perform for them as for a lover; we surrender our privacy to their demands; we wait on tenterhooks for every “like.” The smartphone is in the saddle, and it rides mankind.

Which is why we need a social and political movement — digital temperance, if you will — to take back some control.

3. I've recently come across a blog by Anne Kennedy that is consistently very good and worth following. This week, her treatment of the fashion industry's ill considered attitude toward normal women was well worth sharing.

The dismissive attitude of the fashion industry for the bodies of real women is also demoralizing. In the face of constant discouragement I’ve managed to come up with a uniform for myself. I wear the same thing every day–a pair of ill fitting jeans, a black shirt, and two gray sweaters. Oh, and big winter boots, the only shoe that keeps my foot warm in the winter. In the summer I lose the boot and the second gray sweater and just stick to the one because I’m always cold. I wear this every day, day in day out, day after day after day. And I look at beautiful clothes online and feel sad because I know that if I try to buy them, they won’t look like that on me.

There is no, “her dress was right, her stockings were right, her hat was right” for me because as a woman in America I have to shove myself into stuff that was not originally considered for me, but was rather conceived of for a 100 foot tall slender demigod who apparently sometimes can now be even a man. I can’t compete with that, or shove myself into it. I’m clinging to my five feet (dear sweet saints of God please don’t let me shrink yet) and trying to rid myself of my middle, which I can’t do, because I’ve given birth six times.

My body is broken, and sometimes my spirit rejoices, but most of the time it is mired in jealousy and covetousness. I don’t look at my beautiful healthy offspring and then at my own shape and think, ‘this is so great, I’m so glad I have something to show for this,’ I usually think, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to get saggier until I die.’

4. With reviews of Rod Dreher's Benedict Option flying around and a public spat between Dreher and another evangelical author over some catty criticism, Andy Crouch framed the debate well, showing that most of what is being argued about (i.e., the degree of political engagement or avoidance Dreher calls for) is a sub-theme within the book. Crouch presents his analysis of the Benedict Option controversy by some estimated percentages:

1. Social hostility and legal restrictions will undermine the viability of many Christian institutions, and significantly limit individual Christians’ participation in many professions and aspects of public life, in the United States within a generation or so.

Portion of The Benedict Option devoted to this claim: 20%

Portion of journalistic coverage of the book devoted to this claim: 90%

Portion of social media buzz (pro and con) devoted to this claim: 98%

Likelihood of this claim being true: 50%

How much this should cause acute distress for those who believe that Jesus is Lord: 5%

2. Due to a lack of meaningful discipleship and accommodation to various features of secularized modernity and consumer culture, the collapse of Christian belief and practice is likely among members of the dominant culture (and many minority cultures) in the United States within a generation or so.

Portion of The Benedict Option devoted to this claim: 80%

Portion of journalistic coverage devoted to this claim: 10%

Portion of social media buzz (pro and con) devoted to this claim: 2%

Likelihood of this claim being true: 90%

How much this should cause acute distress for those who believe that Jesus is Lord: 100%

5. Robert Plummer from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary explains why there are manuscript variations in Scripture.