That Was The Week That Was
May 14-20, 2023
This week I celebrated one of my favorite public institutions, looked ahead to my summer reading list, and marked Mother’s Day by thinking about children without parents. Elsewhere:
• RIP Tim Keller, who had been battling pancreatic cancer since 2020. I may share a few reflections on his legacy next week, but for now, Daniel Silliman’s typically well researched obituary for Christianity Today is a great place to start.
• Updating something I mentioned in my most popular post so far this spring… Saddleback Church is one of three congregations with women pastors that will indeed ask messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention to appeal their disfellowship from the denomination.
• Without denying the problems with evangelical “purity culture,” Katelyn Beaty did profess herself “interested in modesty — chosen for oneself as a free agent — that refuses to play by the rules that women are expected to follow in a patriarchal world. I’m interested in modesty as resistance to sexualization…”
• Who better than a birdwatcher-historian to write about the evangelical embrace of St. Francis of Assisi since the 1990s?
• By the way, the most politically active group in the United States isn’t white evangelicals. In fact, it’s not religious at all.
• If, “by all sorts of measures, Americans lead easier, more convenient lives and are far more comfortable than we were in 1973,” why are so many convinced that they’re actually worse off now than fifty years ago?
• Among other answers, the author of that essay pointed out that Americans have fewer friends than they used to. And that’s a problem that the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle would understand.
• If you think that nothing is sacred anymore, consider the backlash against an ill-placed ice cream stand in Poland.
• Did you know that one Asian capital city is sinking up to a foot a year, causing that country to plan a new capital?
• I missed this interview with Ukrainian historian Serhii Polkhy when it first came out earlier this month, but since I just put his bestselling book on my summer list, I’ll circle back to it today. Among other things, his comments on the ongoing Russian invasion help explain why history shouldn’t always be “written from the calm, distant purview that a scholar attains when chaotic events have resolved themselves into some recognisable shape or pattern.”
• It’s long been an open secret that there’s no great reason that Americans need to pay tax providers like TurboTax, given the information the IRS already has. Now the government is preparing to pilot its own direct, online filing system.
• What’s “the most serious long-term national security facing our country”? The decline of American colleges and universities… according to the president of one such institution.
• Meanwhile, higher ed’s latest challenge is artificial intelligence. “This is college life at the close of ChatGPT’s first academic year,” concluded one journalist: “a moil of incrimination and confusion…. Reports from on campus hint that legitimate uses of AI in education may be indistinguishable from unscrupulous ones, and that identifying cheaters—let alone holding them to account—is more or less impossible.”
• Though there are problems worse than ChatGPT. One Christian scholar warned that “our greatest temptation” is to “become so enamored of our subject matter that we lose sight of the one who animates, sustains, and endows that subject with meaning.”
• After speaking at a graduation ceremony here in Minnesota, NPR’s Steve Inskeep realized that while “many colleges in rural towns are patches of blue in a red sea,” that often uncomfortable juxtaposition also “creates possibilities” for unlikely collaboration.
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