Links I liked, Nov 6 – 12 (50 years of our church, Trump and the college educated, Vox)

Lot of political links this week… ’twas that kind of week, after all.

1. 50 Years of Gospel Ministry

But not the first one.  Our church, University Reformed Church, in East Lansing, just celebrated its 50th anniversary.  A nice video about the history of the church.

2. Trump won because college educated Americans are out of touch

But I also know that that those with college degrees — again, with some significant exceptions — don’t necessarily know philosophy or theology. And they have especially paltry knowledge about the foundational role that different philosophical or theological claims play in public thought compared with what is common to college campuses. In my experience, many professors and college students don’t even realize that their views on political issues rely on a particular philosophical or theological stance.

Amen on that last sentence times-a-million, even if you’re unsure about the headline claim.

3. Explaining it all to you

I have long been annoyed by the tone of Vox – they take very complex issues, dramatically oversimplify them, and then give you the impression you are oh-so-smart for reading their not-smart-at-all take.  This lengthy article basically says… yeah, they do that on purpose.  Vox was founded on the idea that people don’t have a fact-problem, the problem is that people keeping misinterpreting facts (as judged by the intelligent editors of Vox, of course).  They need someone to tell them what they’re supposed to believe.

4. When Politics Becomes Your Religion

Who does that to people they’ve gone to church with for years and years? Who allows that to happen within their congregation? People for whom politics has become their religion, that’s who. A congregation that has degenerated into nothing more than a political party at prayer. Repent!

5. Russian warplanes keep buzzing the Baltics.  Here’s how NATO scrambles.

Interesting piece, just as the title says.  How many times as NATO scrambled to intercept Russian planes so far this year?  600.

6. Living Under Punches

Anecdotes from a couple Trump-supporting college students who went into class on Wednesday, and found their instructors giving everyone the distinct impression that hate had just won an election, and everybody knew it, and this is terrible.  What I wrote on Facebook:

Just two quick thoughts, specifically about how I’ve personally seen, and read, college professors react to the election:

1. All of your students do not share your politics or reaction to political events. And for all the talk about “inclusion” and not marginalizing people on campuses today – if you go into a class saying “I’m sure you’re all crushed like me today, let’s talk about it” first, no, they aren’t, and second, how included do you suppose you just made all the students feel who are perfectly fine with what happened? (Also some faculty seem to think there are literally zero students in that category in their classrooms, which boggles my mind – the data sure doesn’t say that.) If you suggest that Tuesday was nothing but the triumph of hate, or something, that’s even worse.

2. You are a role model. I admit I write this one still having a hard time understanding people putting on sackcloth and ashes on Wednesday, I have been trying yet failing to really understand that. But the truth is – if you just “roll with the punches” when something upsetting happens, you model that. And if you act like the proper response to an election that didn’t go your way is weeping and gnashing of teeth, you model that too. There is a place for weeping so I don’t want to dismiss that entirely but… anyway, you are a role model.

Finally I should say, of course you know how this goes, you see a few alarming things and talk about that, people get the impression that is the normal. I do think most academic life last week proceeded pretty much just as it would of had there been no election. Of my own students, post-election I overheard a lot of conversations, I overheard people on both sides of what happened, the conversations I overheard were uniformly light-hearted and good natured. A quick glance at the news will reveal not everybody responded that way, but that is actually what I experienced in person. Faculty seemed to take it much harder than their students, which is one reason I felt obliged to write this.

7. Behind Trump’s victory: Divisions by race, gender, education

Just to show that it was not 0% of college students that supported Trump.

This week brought to you by the Lansing River Trail.

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Links I liked, Sep 6 – Sep 16 (Join the Plodders, Air Force One on 9/11, College Blacklists)

1. Stop the Revolution.  Join the Plodders.

As great as it is that Bono is using his fame for some noble purpose, I just don’t believe that the happy future of the church, or the world for that matter, rests on our ability to raise up a million more Bonos (as at least one author suggests). With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income?

2. ‘We’re the Only Plane in the Sky’

A long but fascinating retelling of the events of 9/11 from the perspective of Air Force One.  You’ll just have to give it a read.

3. Play mini golf on the Lugnuts’ field

OK this is a local story but I thought – what a great idea, maybe other cities should try it.  Putt-putt golf for a week post-season on the field of the minor league baseball Lansing Lugnuts.

4. Pittsburgh, your Self-Driving Uber is arriving now

A genuine, self-driving Uber test in Pittsburgh.  (Still with a “safety driver” up front, but nonetheless feels like a real step forward.)

5. Pure Michigan Statewide Singalong

Someone (er… in 2012) uploaded an HD version of this enjoyable parody and tour of the state.

6. You don’t say: Trust in media falls to historic low in new Gallup poll

The numbers here are astounding even to me.  14% of Republicans have at least a “fair” amount of trust in mass media.  14%.  As recently as 1998 that was 52%.  Even Democrats are only at 51%.

7. LBGT College Blacklist

This is Athenian Democracy 101 — that when we pool money, we ineluctably support things we’re not crazy about — that you can read about in Aristotle’s Politics, but Campus Pride has, in classic Enlightened Modernity fashion, now seen a thing that was never there and claimed it to be eternal.

Worse, follow Campus Pride’s logic: Group A has a policy we dislike, and so we encourage incomparably powerful structures (for what else are corporations?) to boycott and blacklist anyone associated with Group A. The gay rights movement was marginalized for many years. The fact that they are now calling for hegemonic and anti-democratic powers to join them in silencing people who verbally disagree should be a huge cause for concern. And this is not even to mention that they don’t want to just silence Group A but in fact anyone associated with it, including, potentially, a gay student who had the poor luck to graduate from there.

Traditional conservatives should not roll our eyes at this development. A neo-McCarthyist group is explicitly asking the forces of the neoliberal corporate state to join forces with them in expelling dissenters from gay rights orthodoxy not just from the public square, but from the public and from the society. The goal is not to win an argument; the goal is to drive someone away. The goal, bluntly, is to symbolically kill them. That such vengeance is emanating from a recently disenfranchised group is very disheartening. That the movement is calling for a State-Corporate fusion in order to excise Christian enemies is terrifying.

As someone who cares about clear thinking, this stuff actually wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if it wasn’t done in the name of being “inclusive and welcoming”, as is the explicit claim in this case. You cannot ask businesses to exclude from their consideration anyone who so much as touched a college you had so much as a verbal disagreement with and claim you are being “inclusive and welcoming”. Anything but.

This week brought to you by our new fighting conch.

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Links I liked, August 2-8 (I Am N, Star Trek fan films, Krugman and Trump)

1. I reviewed “I Am N”

A good book to read for any American Christians tempted to think the goal of life is to be comfortable… which is probably just about all of us. This is not a very complicated book, the chapters tend to be 3-5 pages each, and even the names are often changed in these short stories of the lives of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. And for the most part these are not the stories that make the news, the threats and violence and legal punishments, however terrible, are too personal and too much “just the daily risk you take being a public Christian in these parts of the world” – all the more reason to read them. These are the stories of people who share the good news they know no matter the risk, because they’re longing for a better country.

2. ReasonTV talks about Star Trek fan films

Prelude to Axanar might be the best fan-produced short film I’ve ever seen… which is probably why CBS got all concerned.

3. Tim Keller Releases New ‘Sweatin’ To the Hymnal’ Line of Workout Videos

Babylon Bee is a treasure.

4. Self-driving Cars Will Kill Transit-Oriented Development

Will this happen?  Are transit agencies thinking about this happening?

5. How Paul Krugman Made Donald Trump Possible

Dishonesty always comes back to bite you in the end.

His convention was called “one of the worst ever.” Chris Matthews deemed him “dangerous” and “scary,” Ellen DeGeneres said “If you’re a woman, you should be very, very scared.” His opponent ran an ad against him portraying him as uniquely dangerous for women. “I’ve never felt this way before, but it’s a scary time to be a woman,” said a woman in the ad.

He was frequently called a “bully,” “anti-immigrant,” “racist,” “stupid,” and “unfit” to be president.

I’m referring, obviously, to the terrifying Mitt Romney.

6. No, Eric Metaxas is not a Proto-Nazi

Just sharing to say, the world could probably use more “my friend is wrong about this but don’t you dare slander him” pieces.

7. Key Figure in Fight for Religious Freedom in Egypt Freed, Declares Return to Islam

Hegazy apologized to family members, who had threatened to kill him after he became a Christian.

8. Aquatic Mushrooms Timelapse

From our aquarium, photos taken every five minutes from around noon until around 8 PM.  Huh.

9. I had no idea Kevin DeYoung’s new children’s book was being made into a short film

Look at dat.  (He is the senior pastor of our church.)

This week brought to you by a rainbowfish in our freshwater aquarium.

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What if religion is like breathing?

I just wanted to share a small portion from our sermon last Sunday by Kevin DeYoung. If you want to watch the sermon follow this link. If you just want to watch this part of the sermon, start the video around the 35 minute mark.

The default religious impulse in America is a religion that is personalized, psychologized, and pragmatized. That’s sort of the default, that’s the air we breathe. Religion is something that is personal (between you and God), and your understanding of it. And it’s psychological, the benefits are what they do to you, how they make you feel at peace, and they deal with your guilt, and they give you a good feeling about life, and make you feel like a better person. And it’s pragmatic, religion is about what works for you. If this helps you, and gets you through life, and helps you to cope, gives you comfort, gets you on track, helps you be a moral person, then that’s fine. See, that is the default religious sensibility…

But we believe our faith is built upon facts, upon certain events in history that have been passed down to us by eyewitness accounts. So it’s the difference between having a discussion with your friend who says,

“I think Holland has the best beach in Michigan.”

“No no no, not Holland. Come on. No, Grand Haven, or obviously you’ve never been up north to Traverse City, or to Sleeping Bear Dunes. Wasn’t that voted the most beautiful spot in the universe on Good Morning America or something?”

You don’t know. You go back and forth and say, “well, if that’s where you have a special meaning and affection then that’s fine for you.”

That’s how people think of religion.

But what if it’s more like having a conversation with your friend who says,

“You know what? I can breathe underwater.”

You say, “I don’t think you can.”

“I can.”

“I don’t believe that you can breathe underwater, and I believe if you try, and if you tie a safe onto your leg and you jump out of the boat, you’ll find that you can’t breathe underwater.”

“Well, why can’t you just allow that I can breathe underwater?”

“Because you can’t!”

See, it’s a different understanding. And so often, I think Christians and non-Christians talk past each other because you have this person over here whose understanding is “well religion is about preferences and opinions and about what helps me and makes me feel better.” And as Christians, we understand – no, this is about facts, about the way that the world is and the way God has revealed it to be.

So we believe in these objective realities whether anyone wants to affirm them or not. That God created the world, that God sent his son Jesus, that he died for our sins, that he rose again on the third day, that there is such a thing as objective sin and guilt and a real Heaven and Hell. We believe that these things are because they are.