Worth Reading - 8/18

1. Tim Keller wrote a helpful post on the sin of racism at The Gospel Coalition in the wake of last week's rally:

First, Christians should look at the energized and emboldened white nationalism movement, and at its fascist slogans, and condemn it—full stop. No, “But on the other hand.” The main way most people are responding across the political spectrum is by saying, “See? This is what I have been saying all along! This just proves my point.” The conservatives are using the events to prove that liberal identity politics is wrong, and liberals are using it to prove that conservatism is inherently racist. We should not do that.

Second, this is a time to present the Bible’s strong and clear teachings about the sin of racism and of the idolatry of blood and country—again, full stop. In Acts 17:26, in the midst of an evangelistic lecture to secular, pagan philosophers, Paul makes the case that God created all the races “from one man.” Paul’s Greek listeners saw other races as barbarian, but against such views of racial superiority Paul makes the case that all races have the same Creator and are of one stock. Since all are made in God’s image, every human life is of infinite and equal value (Gen. 9:5–6). When Jonah puts the national interests of Israel ahead of the spiritual good of the racially “other” pagan city of Nineveh, he is roundly condemned by God (Jonah 4:1–11). One main effect of the gospel is to shatter the racial barriers that separate people (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:14–18), so it is an egregious sin to do anything to support those barriers. When Peter sought to do so, Paul reprimanded him for losing his grasp on the gospel (Gal. 2:14).

Racism should not be only brought up at moments such as we witnessed in Charlottesville this past weekend. The evil of racism is a biblical theme—a sin the gospel reveals and heals—so we should be teaching about it routinely in the course of regular preaching. Which brings me to a final point.

Twentieth-century fascist movements that made absolute values out of “Blut und Boden” (“Blood and Soil”)­—putting one race and one nation’s good above the good of all—also claimed to champion traditional family values and moral virtues over against the decadence of relativistic modern culture. Even though they were no friends of orthodox Christianity (see Adolf Hitler’s heretical “Positive Christianity” movement), they could and can still appeal to people within our own circles. Internet outreach from white nationalist organizations can radicalize people who are disaffected by moral decline in society. So it is absolutely crucial to speak up about the biblical teaching on racism—not just now, but routinely. We need to make those in our circles impervious to this toxic teaching.

2. Conservative writer, PE Gobry, writes in the National Review about how the government as status grantor is negatively impacting American society:

In the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy, we should note that, historically speaking, there is one particular way in which America has indeed been a status society in the top-down French sense: the regime of white supremacy, which conferred status on whites simply for being white. But other than this status system — admittedly very important — the American tradition has been that one gains status through effort in civil society. French does have a word for “entrepreneur,” but it doesn’t have a word for “community leader,” since that word suggests a status granted on a purely voluntary, bottom-up basis. Here is the point: Conservatives tabulate the ever-increasing march of government in terms of dollars and cents, increased spending, debt, and the estimated costs of regulations that hamper growth. These are all very important and alarming problems, but perhaps they are merely symptoms of an underlying problem of Francification: America is evolving into a society in which status is granted by central powers, whether elites schools, media behemoths, or the halls of Congress.

3. John Mark Reynolds wrote a helpful post about the weakness in much of contemporary Children's literature. It's not (just) that the writing is bad, it's that the stories are incredibly weak. They lack compelling grandeur. He highlights several themes that need a break.

Wise kids and dumb or bad parents

I get it: there are a lot of bad parents out there. Some kids are wise beyond their years. Those stories are real and should be told

Here is something else real: many of my students have great parents. When I ask them to write a “realistic” story about family, they do not write about their own family life. Instead, they tell the story of angry or sad families. Sometimes that is because they are not in the happy family that they seemed to be in, but usually it is because they think there own stories sound fake.

My Mom and Dad are wise. I was not when I was sixteen. Can somebody tell that story?

4. Advocates of a Universal Basic Income celebrate the supposed freedom that would bring, but they typically ignore the massive downsides it necessarily brings along. This post in the Wall Street Journal highlights some of those downsides.

UBI would also weaken American democracy. How long before the well-educated, technocratic elites come to believe the unemployed underclass should no longer have the right to vote? Will the “useless class” react with gratitude for the handout and admiration for the increasingly divergent culture and values of the “productive class”? If Donald Trump’s election, and the elites’ reactions, are any indication, the opposite is likelier.

Rapid technological advancement is already presenting American workers with unprecedented difficulties. Facing this challenge is going to require creative approaches from the government and the private economy. UBI is a noble attempt. Perhaps it could work as only a supplement to earned income. But as currently envisioned, UBI addresses the material needs of citizens while undermining their aspirations.

In the same Harvard commencement speech in which Mr. Zuckerberg called for a basic income, he also spent significant time talking about the need for purpose. But purpose can’t be manufactured, nor can it be given out alongside a government subsidy. It comes from having deep-seated responsibility—to yourself, your family and society as a whole.

5. Tim Challies issues a plea for people to read beyond the headlines to understand the news.

Your eyeballs are the most important resource in the world to news outlets. They need your eyeballs on their ads so they can turn a profit. More than ever, they get eyeballs on ads through bold, catchy, hyperbolic headlines. Whether those headlines are true or whether they accurately describe the content of the articles is beside the point. The headlines matter more than the content that lies behind them. What matters to them is not whether you read the article, but whether you open the page and see all those ads.

Our opinions and convictions are being shaped by words designed not to convey truth, but to generate clicks.
Meanwhile, we are so inundated with news and information that we respond by reading widely but shallowly. We skim a hundred headlines rather than study one article. Our eyes flit over articles in moments but we rarely pause to read, to consider, to apply. We are being pummeled with more headlines than at any other time in history, but deep-reading less than ever before. This means we are gaining our knowledge through headlines—clickbait headlines. Our opinions and convictions are being shaped by words designed not to convey truth, but to generate clicks.