Worth Reading - 6/16

1. This is a very long essay from the New Yorker about the opioid crisis. It's powerful, compelling, and an important piece in the puzzle of our times.

At this stage of the American opioid epidemic, many addicts are collapsing in public—in gas stations, in restaurant bathrooms, in the aisles of big-box stores. Brian Costello, a former Army medic who is the director of the Berkeley County Emergency Medical Services, believes that more overdoses are occurring in this way because users figure that somebody will find them before they die. “To people who don’t have that addiction, that sounds crazy,” he said. “But, from a health-care provider’s standpoint, you say to yourself, ‘No, this is survival to them.’ They’re struggling with using but not wanting to die.”
....
West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the country, and heroin has devastated the state’s Eastern Panhandle, which includes Hedgesville and the larger town of Martinsburg. Like the vast majority of residents there, nearly all the addicts are white, were born in the area, and have modest incomes. Because they can’t be dismissed as outsiders, some locals view them with empathy. Other residents regard addicts as community embarrassments. Many people in the Panhandle have embraced the idea of addiction as a disease, but a vocal cohort dismisses this as a fantasy disseminated by urban liberals.

2. Recently, Jonathan Merritt attempted to create a controversy with an article at the Atlantic. A common pattern with Merritt is his misrepresentation of those with whom he disagrees. It isn't clear whether he simply can't think or whether he is intentional about these misrepresentations. In this case, Merritt accused a recent translation of creating a gender inclusive translation, much like the poorly executed TNIV. Christianity Today, however, has stepped in to correct Merritt's misrepresentations and provide some background:

A recent article in The Atlantic compared the CSB’s use of inclusive language over masculine nouns for mixed-gender groups to the changes made in the 2011 New International Version (NIV) and the controversial Today’s New International Version (TNIV) before that, which Southern Baptists famously railed against.

“Such changes in Southern Baptists’ Bible translation of choice are more than a mere denominational matter,” wrote Jonathan Merritt and Garet Robinson. “The SBC is America’s largest Protestant denomination and one of its most conservative. If its leaders and members are tolerating a softer, more inclusive approach to gender, it might be a bellwether of things to come in the culture war over gender.”

Gender inclusivity is a polarizing term among American evangelicals, especially those eager to preserve the distinctions between male and female that they see taught in Scripture. Now, CSB supporters have defended the translation’s “gender accurate” revisions as a means of faithful translation, rather than a progressive agenda.

“In terms of The Atlantic piece, I would summarize it this way: It was an attempt to find a team of translators guilty of doing exactly what they set out to do as assigned and exactly within the guidelines for appropriate gender inclusivity and, more importantly, textual translation accuracy,” said Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaking from the SBC’s annual meeting in Phoenix.

3. The annual convention of Southern Baptists made news this week. In part, the news was about a resolution to condemn the alt-right, which almost didn't make it to the floor. Part of the confusion is over the nature of the alt-right, which Joe Carter has set out to explain in this piece at The Gospel Coalition:

At the core of the alt-right movement is idolatry—the idol of “whiteness.” In building their identity on shared genetic traits the alt-right divides humanity and leads people away from the only source of true identity: Jesus Christ.

The alt-right is anti-gospel because to embrace white identity requires rejecting the Christian identity. The Christian belongs to a “chosen race” (1 Peter 2:9), the elect from every tribe and tongue (Rev. 7:9).

“The chosen race is not black or white or red or yellow or brown,” John Piper says. “The chosen race is a new people from all the peoples—all the colors and cultures—who are now aliens and strangers among in the world.”

This is why it’s impossible to truly follow Christ and be a white supremacist: How can we claim we are superior to people of other races when Jesus has chosen them? This is why it’s impossible to follow Christ and be a white nationalist: How can we claim to be sons and daughters of Jesus while separating ourselves from our brothers and sisters? This is why it’s impossible to serve Jesus and advocate for white identity: How can your identity be found in the finished work of Jesus when you’re rooting your identity in the divisive work of Satan?

“Christians ought to reject racism, and do what they can to expose it and bring the gospel to bear upon it,” Kevin DeYoung says, “not because we love pats on the back for our moral outrage or are desperate for restored moral authority, but because we love God and submit ourselves to the authority of his Word.”

4. Michael Bird, an Australian theologian, recently penned an article at Christianity Today arguing for a subversive strategy for being authentically Christian in a culture that is increasingly becoming hostile to Christianity. It was written from an Australian context, but has power to speak to those of us in the U.S., too.

But alongside love of neighbor, this strategy also involves a robust challenge to the legitimacy of secular militancy. We have to be prepared to resist the new legal structures being erected around us, bait political progressives into revealing the predatory nature of their ideology, contest restrictions on religious liberty, and disrupt the secular narrative that religion is inherently bad for the state. To avoid being driven out of education and charitable work, to prevent our voices from being muted, and to stop our sermons from being subpoenaed, we have to wage a war of sorts, but one armed with the weapons of peace and pluralism. We have to be willing to expose secular progressive bullying, hypocrisy, intolerance, and fanaticism.

Remember, the center of gravity for secular progressives is the belief that they occupy the moral high ground. So our strategy needs to expose how this movement has come to represent silencing, threatening, humiliating, and penalizing those who do not share progressive values. It must be pointed out that the new tolerance looks like some manifestations of the old tyrannies. Don’t be afraid to a hold a mirror up to its supporters and point out that, all too often, they look less like Martin Luther King than a bratty, hipster version of Robespierre.

And then go and love them all the same.

5. An TedED video about the scientific work of Marie Curie. This is an interesting view for the whole family:

6. Nathan Finn authored a post on what to do with a PhD in a theological discipline, since there are a lot fewer jobs than recent graduates:

For eight years, I served on the faculty at a large theological seminary, where I was part of a committee that redesigned our PhD programs in Historical Theology and Systematic Theology. I continue to teach and supervise several students studying historical theology. For the past two years, I’ve served as the dean of a college that focuses on theological education within the context of a Christian liberal arts university. One of my responsibilities as dean is hiring new faculty in my school.

As both a supervising professor and an academic dean, I spend a fair amount of my time talking to men and women who are pursuing advanced studies in theological disciplines. Almost all of them want to know what they can do with their PhD, especially in a job market where few schools are expanding the size of the faculties. I believe there are several ways a PhD in a theological discipline can be useful, even if you can’t find a permanent teaching post in a traditional university or seminary.