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Clips & Comments, Vol. 2 (+ Reader Feedback, and Facebook!) - Issue #29

Here we go again. Rather than write a full issue today, I thought I'd send along other clips and comm
The Path Before Us
Clips & Comments, Vol. 2 (+ Reader Feedback, and Facebook!) - Issue #29
By Matthew Lee Anderson • Issue #29 • View online
Here we go again. Rather than write a full issue today, I thought I’d send along other clips and comments from around the web. The issue on Facebook from last week proved popular; I respond to one important inquiry below.

From the "Drafts" Folder
From the draft of a talk next week at Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute:
What, then, might faith have to do with justice? In the first place, faith in God the Creator, Redeemer, and Reconciler of the world preserves the pursuit of justice from generating injustice. The Lord’s answer to Israel in Micah 6:1-8 is instructive in this regard: Injustice has triumphed in Israel precisely because she had ungratefully scorned God’s liberating grace in bringing her up from Egypt: she ignored the redemptive work of God. But God sends Micah before the mountains in making his complaint, which are there before Israel and which bear witness to God’s gracious kindness despite Israel’s transgressions. No wonder God addresses humanity’s moral responsibilities not only to Israel, but to the Adam: The demand for justice extends as far as the east is from the west. We are bound to God’s good creation: if we fail and take for ourselves the authority and the dominion, it will continue to bear its secret and silent witness against our vanity. We need not look long into the New Testament to see that this is so: if the people do not praise God, the stones shall rise up and do so in our stead. Creation has been subjected to futility on account of our sin, and waits for our redemption, the resurrection of our mortal bodies from the dead. Abraham’s faith in God’s promise, in which he hopes beyond hope, is founded upon God’s power to call being from non-being. There is no faith, and no justice, which does not respect and honour the authority and power of the Kingly Name of Jesus over every inch of His created world. Justice must be both responsive and responsible to the content of the Very Good that God uttered when the creation was complete. 
Having Children is Okay!
Tyler Cowen: Yes, it is!
“Look at it this way: If progress on climate change is at all possible, someone will need to contribute to it. Aren’t your potential children among the most likely people to do that? If nothing else, they have an above-average chance of voting for political remedies for the problem, given how you will raise and instruct them.”
Morten Lauridsen, Light Eternal
Not Enough of You Have Watched Ross Douthat
I ask the first question, because I was VERY EXCITED.
I ask the first question, because I was VERY EXCITED.
Facebook--Reader Feedback on my Crazy Ideas
From a reader, who was responding to this:
Your thoughts on Facebook were thought provoking, but I think you simplify what Facebook is. Facebook’s vision of ’Social’ certainly includes Real Life friends and family. But it also extends to casual acquaintances, and most importantly, communities of common interest. So I, for example, can join a group that is just for one of my kids sports clubs, or my wife can join a local mom’s group, or I can reconnect with people scattered all over the world, or a national forum for discussing topics within a specific denominational, theological, or political interest (nauseatingly, these sometimes overlap). However, this same self-identification and self-selection enables the long tail of horrifying human interests to connect. Essentially Facebook is a platform that lowers to almost zero the cost of finding others of like mind and without real, live, vulnerable content moderators we won’t know if those like minds are seeking library book recommendations, local gardening tips or snuff videos. And the inseparable from the ability to find communities of self interest is the effect of *normalizing* them.  
Say I have a predilection towards something that only 1 in 100,000 people enjoy (whether for good or for ill). If I live in a city of 500,000 people, without Facebook, absent renting a billboard or passing out flyers, the chance of me meeting one of the 5 people sharing my interest is vanishingly small. If it is a transgressive or anti-social interest, the risk of my even attempting to do so is very high. In a Facebook world where over a billion people use a least some English, that population balloons to 10,000 people—and locating them is a keystroke away. Facebook inevitably provides never before possible validation and approval to the most extreme and marginal human impulses. The only way to stop that is to prevent non-geographic communities of like minds to form, and without that ability, the platform dies.  
In the scenario I mused about, virality would contained precisely by denying people the opportunity to make their networks “public.” So private groups could still plausibly be formed, allowing deviance to attain a kind of limited normalization—but they would remain private, which would mean the effects of the normalization would be limited. And the unimpeded ‘sharing’ that is the source of virality would be considerably constrained: yes, people could still add new friends (and would receive requests) in a crisis. But if you’re having to confirm each friend as their added, things wouldn’t spread as far or as fast. Yes, that might have slowed the platform’s growth curve. But it would have preserved its use long-term, as a platform—or at least that’s my argument.  
But would it mean that something like the New Zealand shooting being displayed widely would never happen? No, clearly not: that sort of thing would still get through. But note the comparison that we’re talking about: Facebook is sucking the lives from thousands of human censors, and those horrendous videos are still getting through. So clearly, the current approach isn’t working much better than the one I described. 
But here’s my totally contrarian, almost-certainly horrendous, not-fit-for-the-public question: are we totally, undeniably sure that allowing those kinds of videos into Facebook, as a matter of course, would be that bad for us? The swift, sharp pain of seeing an astonishingly traumatic video might make a lot more people alive to the kinds of horrors that many humans in many places and times (including today) have experienced as a semi-regular feature of their lives. One would have to take some agency, though, in resisting such a video—by blocking one’s real friend, calling them on the phone and complaining, and the like. Embedding such traumatic experiences inside of local networks surely would be much harder than our current system of allowing a few moderators to sacrifice their psyche’s to keep Facebook pure. But sloth in the face of evil is its own vice, even if it is duller than others, and that is just what Facebook in its current structure seems to require: none of us ever have to face up to the possibility of real evil in Facebook, either from within ourselves or our friends—we simply indulge in the comforting fantasy of undertaking “social change” through our likes and updates, while being “safe” from threats. Why should we think such an environment is good for us? 
As another reader put it: 
Assuming the world still exists in twenty years, I would be surprised if we didn’t regard our addiction to Facebook as a cultural embarrassment. It’s clearly a manipulative platform that rewires the mind and impoverishes real-world relationships and communities by offering a shadowy (but deliciously easy) simulacrum of society instead. It’s Plato’s cave with a scroll feed and Tide advertisements—and we all agree on this! Everyone knows it! No one comes away from an evening arguing with their dentist’s racist wife about Pizzagate and says, “Yes, this was time much better spent than reading a book or making eye contact with my children.”
Precisely right. It might be better if it did away with the simulacrum, and just gave us reality in all its unvarnished glory. We might all flee—but we’d be better for it. 
Evangelicals and Zen Masters
I have no words.
Fertility Doctor Donald Cline's Secret Children
Are we not convicts?
Are we not convicts?
I’ve been looking through Georges Rouault’s Miserere et Guerre, which a dear friend gave me, which is more than suitable for Lenten reflection.
A Biblical Theology of Blessing in Genesis
The Penultimate Word
…[Christ Jesus] was among His fellow-men as the Lord, the royal man. To be sure, He was a man as they were. He did not enjoy or exercise divine sovereignty or authority or omnipotence. But all the same He was its full and direct witness. And as such He was unmistakeably marked off from other men. He was a free man. Neither on earth nor in heaven (apart from His Father) was there anyone or anything over Him. For He was wholly free to do the will of His Father. He was not bound by any man, by any power of nature of history, by any destiny, by any orders, by any inner limits or obstacles. He did not stand or fall with any of these things, nor did He need to fear them. For Him there was only one imperative. Subject to this one imperative, and therefore not arbitrarily if not under any outward compulsion or constraint, He came and went with absolute superiority, disposing and controlling, speaking or keeping silence, always exercising lordship. This was no less true when He entered and trod to the end the way of His death and passion. Indeed, to those who looked back, it was even more plainly true on this way. The presence of the man of Nazareth meant the presence of a kingdom—the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven the tradition calls it. This is what made Him absolutely unique and unforgettable. – Karl Barth
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Matthew Lee Anderson

Considerations from the intersection of theology, ethics and society.

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