Worth Reading - 2/9

1. The recent case of the abusive family in California serves as a reminder of the compelling need for Christians to neighbor effectively.

The Turpin case warns us against a cultural tide that veers away from this sacrificial love in favor of a pervasive complacency. Being a good neighbor in modern America means being civil and minding your own business. We ride subways with earbuds silencing our surroundings, and hide within ourselves while jammed in a city throng. The moment someone joins us in an elevator we feign interest in a newsfeed. We value niceness more than intimacy, privacy more than active fellowship. In The Neighboring Church, Rick Rusaw and Brian Mavis quote this wise comment from Ramin Razavi:

The reality is that nice falls in the middle of the affection spectrum. It’s not mean or disagreeable or awful, but it’s definitely not what Jesus did toward us. Nice neighboring is not enough. Loving God and our neighbors, as Jesus modeled love, means sacrifice.

We live in an era when technology dulls the fervor of Christian neighboring. We construct relationships through tweets rather than through real personal contact. We craft our identities and social circles in the glow of our smartphones, substituting Instagram for intimacy.

2. We forget most of what we read or watch, but the experience is still formative.

The lesson from his binge-watching study is that if you want to remember the things you watch and read, space them out. I used to get irritated in school when an English-class syllabus would have us read only three chapters a week, but there was a good reason for that. Memories get reinforced the more you recall them, Horvath says. If you read a book all in one stretch—on an airplane, say—you’re just holding the story in your working memory that whole time. “You’re never actually reaccessing it,” he says.

Sana says that often when we read, there’s a false “feeling of fluency.” The information is flowing in, we’re understanding it, it seems like it is smoothly collating itself into a binder to be slotted onto the shelves of our brains. “But it actually doesn’t stick unless you put effort into it and concentrate and engage in certain strategies that will help you remember.”

3. There are common patterns in a good testimony of God's faithfulness. Turns out, there are common patterns in convincing testimonies when people turn away from their faith, as is evidenced by a recent interview with Jen Hatmaker. Michael Kruger breaks it down on his blog:

When it comes to reaching the “lost,” one of the most tried-and-true methods is the personal conversion story. Whether done privately or publicly, it’s compelling to hear a person’s testimony about how they came to believe in the truth of the Gospel, the truth of the Bible, and embraced the Christian faith. Such testimonies can personalize and soften the message so it is more easily understood and received.

But when it comes to reaching the “found,” there’s an equally effective method—and this is a method to which the evangelical church has paid very little attention. It’s what we might call the de-conversion story.

De-conversion stories are designed not to reach non-Christians but to reach Christians. And their purpose is to convince them that their crusty, backwards, outdated, naïve beliefs are no longer worthy of their assent. Whether done privately or publicly, this is when a person simply gives their testimony of how they once thought like you did and have now seen the light.

4. [Note: This is not for the faint of heart.] A graphic description of how porn usage is impacting teenagers and their views on sex. For those seeking an understanding of the extent and future potential problems of pornography, this is an informative and well-researched article.

These are not new power dynamics between girls and boys. In a 2014 British study about anal sex and teenagers, girls expressed a similar lack of sexual agency and experienced physical pain. In the survey, of 130 heterosexual teenagers age 16 to 18, teenagers often said they believed porn was a motivating factor for why males wanted anal sex. And among the guys who reported trying it, many said friends encouraged them, or they felt competitive with other guys to do it. At the same time, a majority of girls who had tried anal sex said they didn’t actually want to; their partners persuaded or coerced them. Some males took a “try it and see” approach, as researchers called it, attempting to put their finger or penis in a girl’s anus and hoping she didn’t stop them. Sometimes, one teenager reported, you “just keep going till they just get fed up and let you do it anyway.” Both boys and girls blamed the girls for pain they felt during anal sex and some told researchers the girls needed to “relax” more or “get used to it.” Only one girl said she enjoyed it, and only a few boys did. Teenagers may not know that even while porn makes it seem commonplace, in the 2009 national survey of American sex habits, most men and women who tried anal sex didn’t make it a regular part of their sex lives. And in another study, by Indiana University’s Debby Herbenick and others in 2015, about 70 percent of women who had anal sex said they experienced pain.

5. Wesley Hill discusses the need for conscience protections for medical professionals in light of recent trends in activism to try to coerce all doctors and nurses to participate in morally objectionable practices.

Rather, medical conscience prevents doctors and nurses from being forced to act in opposition either to their religious beliefs—e.g., commit a grievous sin—or to their moral consciences by being forced to participate in morally objectionable procedures, such as taking innocent human life in abortion, assisted suicide, or lethal injection euthanasia. It could also protect medical professionals from being required to administer hormones to inhibit puberty in adolescents experiencing gender dysphoria—a controversial recent innovation that the American College of Pediatricians has called “mass experimentation.” That opinion is becoming heterodox in the field, but surely no doctor should be forced in an elective procedure to act in a way that he believes actively harms the patient. The same goes for physicians who object to participating in sex-change surgeries based on the belief that sex is biologically determined or that it is wrong to remove healthy organs. Conscious protections should also apply to a doctor or nurse who objects to participating in infant circumcision based on a moral objection. And surely no doctor should be forced to participate in an execution, not even the administrative act of declaring the condemned prisoner dead after the execution.