Weekend Reading: An Essay on Jordan Peterson

Many people have never heard the name Jordan Peterson.  But if you haven’t, you soon will.  Peterson is becoming a thought leader with a growing influence and sizable following online – especially among younger people.
Peterson, a University of Toronto Professor and clinical psychologist, has recently released a best-selling book called 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. The theme of Peterson’s writing is essentially “Grow up, stand up straight, and make something of yourself that isn’t dependent on what society says about you”.  It is a call out of ourselves for the sake of ourselves, in order to find real meaning in life.
In my own deep dive of Peterson’s new book, I’m through 7 of the 12 rules – so I’m sure there is more to digest if I were to desire the cocktail of Peterson’s synthesized views – though I have listened to my fair share of his online videos and interviews with podcaster Joe Rogan. So call me ignorant, or not fully informed, but I think I’ve read and watched and listened to enough to form an idea of what he’s been saying for the last few years. And because of his growing influence, and because people I admire have been admiring him, I wanted to take some time and write an essay of what I currently think of Peterson’s body of thought, how the church has reacted to him, and whether or not he’s a helpful influence in our society.
The Vacuum Peterson is Filling
 
Although he is a professor by day and psychologist by training, Peterson doesn’t limited his views to these fields of inquiry. Because he is basically dealing out prescriptions for how to live a fulfilled and meaningful life, its hard to know where to begin. But one way to start this is by asking the question from the perspective of a Christian: Is Jordan Peterson’s growing following the result of the failure of the evangelical church to address the gospel appropriately to the minds of this new generation?  I think the answer is, yes…partially.
Has the church failed to lift people up by not first telling them the truth about themselves? Yes, I think that is a major issue in today’s evangelical churches – at least in the west – and one could say that its true of many catholic churches as well.  A half-gospel has been preached.  A story of mankind in which people are basically good, and that the ills of society, the mass shootings, the moral failings, and the political corruption is the result of a few people gone wrong – or of a failure of education (an old trope that is still trotted out by liberals). No one wants to grapple with the seriousness of sin, and the fallenness of man.  Many times churches today do not confront the depths of Romans 5:12, and the inability of man to change himself – so the problem is ignored or papered over, and the solution to the problem is not taught with clarity and power.
Peterson does grapple with this.  He does acknowledge the depths of man’s problems – depths of sin that the individual knows are there if they are honest enough to examine themselves (Pg. 46 “we’ve seen the problem and the problem is us” and pg. 120 where he derides Rousseau as a deluded fool for thinking people are basically good) – if they are brave enough to face up to what they see inside themselves. “We must discover that nature, and contend with it, before making peace with ourselves” (pg. 193).  But Peterson’s solution is continually to take small steps in righting the world around us – not always as a means of attaining happiness, but at the very least as a means of atonement for who we are and who we have become (Pg’s 199-200 et all). By prescribing changing in degrees, while simultaneously saying the human being is too complex and unknowable to have a chance at true change, he reveals (and undermines) his case.  But he must, because he’s fighting against nihilism. And bravo for that. But we’ll come back to that in a bit.
Peterson and the Rise of Discontented Populace 
 
I think its worth noting, from a social perspective, that Peterson’s appeal happens to coincide with the rise of Donald Trump. And I have been wondering if there are any linkages here.  I think that perhaps there are two – but for opposite reasons. First, President Trump was elected because a massive amount of people thought that D.C. politicians and the power structure was lying to them (their choice of hero is ironic, to say the least), and they wanted an outsider to fix the problem. To tell the truth. To bring sanity and order to insanity and chaos (if we use Peterson’s terms).  Peterson’s emphasis on seeking truth also appeals to that same desire for a truth teller in the upper hierarchy of society. They want the stability and order of Burke’s principles, but they want to get it by means of Jacobean revolution.
Secondly, perhaps it is the church’s selling out (a la David Gerson’s Atlantic article on Falwell, Reed, and Dobson’s betrayal of evangelicalism) of its social obligations that has fed into the millennial generation’s disgust with organized evangelicalism. They see (perhaps selectively) a church aligned closely (defending Trump) with the very model of someone they moralistically preach against on Sunday mornings. This seems like (and is) the height of hypocrisy. Peterson speaks out against all such hypocrisy. Further, to many younger minds, these evangelical religious leaders don’t speak to key issues they’re grappling with – they’ve spent the last 40 years fighting for displays of the ten commandments, while ignoring this growing crisis of being (sin and suffering and a reason for living in this world).
If generationally the white evangelicals supporting Trump are doing so because they see their country slipping away and their freedoms being threatened by a small but vocal minority of Hollywood leftists, then perhaps Peterson is doing the same thing for millennials who do not find honest solutions coming from the church or their political leaders.
Sometimes when there is a crisis among the larger institutions like this, along come philosophers, prophets and preachers who try to solve the problem socially or politically, and even spiritually.
Peterson is not new – that is, his thinking is not original to him.  He’s a mixed cocktail of old philosophy and Christian misinterpretation. He argues for rational thought and order, but his foundational truths are a muddled mess; his conclusions are often contradictory (esp. man’s inability to act good and make good change paired with his exhortation to make small strides in changing one’s life). This is why I think its so hard to critique him. He says many things that are true and good, and even his conclusions can be somewhat helpful. He looks honestly at his own soul and the souls and lives of others and prescribes what he is able based on what he knows. Conversely its hard to critique him because there’s so much that’s wrong. On almost every page of his book there’s some kind assumption to challenge or misinterpretation of scriptural references to wince at (the man is no theologian, though he plays one on TV, as they say!). Layer upon layer of assumption based on his own experiences and reading have led to no real coherent worldview – and that’s not an easy thing to critique, if for no other reason than a shear lack of time and patience.
Peterson and the Bible 
 
But although Peterson is wide ranging in his topical addresses and his philosophical inputs, he is touching some very basic and very fundamental chords of discontent. The problems he addresses are very real. There is an entire generation which has grown up amidst the rotten fruits of the promise that technology would make our lives easier and more fulfilling. Connectedness would equal community, and ease and utility would bring an end to suffering. These were lies. Now, there is a new generation slogging through this lie, running on fumes, and looking for solutions for this emptiness. Peterson taps into these sentiments.
This is why even young Christians see him as a sort of pastor/father figure who is telling the truth about society and helping address some of those fundamental problems of sin and despair they are feeling.  Peterson seems comfortable to young former/or current evangelicals because he discusses the Bible so often in his book and lectures.  Indeed, you might think the man a Christian at first glance as he confronts sin and fallenness head on.  But there are many things Peterson gets wrong along the way – and you see this in his references to historic Christianity. He rightly praises it for its miraculous work against human slavery in history (pg. 186), but he ignorantly charges the universal church with doing virtually nothing charitable in the lives of the average person to help lift them up. Why?  Because the church seemed more focused on salvation of the soul than of bringing the kingdom of heaven here to earth (pg.s 185-186).
Perhaps that’s true.  Perhaps the church at times has been so focused on the soul that it failed to live that soul-change out in the day to day lives of its adherents.  But I would just note that these are usually localized problems historically, and even geographically.  Christians have long led the world in living out the teachings of Christ, and, consequently this has brought them happiness and meaning and saved millions from early and painful deaths.
Peterson argues (pg. 187 onward) that once some of the major social problems were solved by the church, there was a retreat from society and an undue focus on eternal salvation. I think this is one of the blind spots in Peterson’s critique of Christianity historically.  He is fighting to find real meaning and value in life, but is criticizing the church for making that essentially a top priority. He also overstates the situation, as if the universal church totally turned a blind eye to solving the problems of suffering in the world for major swaths of time. This is nonsense. Even if this were true in certain countries at certain times, for the last 2,000 years the church has been marked by its work to feed the hungry, care for the poor and the widow, and love the unlovable.
It is because of this view, that Peterson sees a real place for Nietzsche, and later Jung, as they sort of pick up where Christianity failed. As Peterson says, “Nietzsche believed that Paul, and later the Protestants following Luther, had removed moral responsibility from Christ’s followers. They had watered down the idea of the imitation of Christ” (pf. 189). This is perhaps the crux of why I hear some people who like Peterson critique Calvinism (which followed in Luther’s wake), as if they seriously understand it (which they don’t). What Paul did was put more meat and practicality around Christ’s teaching – all this is the kind of “order” that Peterson should like! He must not have read Romans 13 or Ephesians 4…but I digress.  What Luther did was bring an entire continent out of spiritual and mental darkness. They had been following the superstitious edicts of the Catholic church like so many lemmings until Luther started actually publishing the Bible. That’s the kind of honest truth-seeking that you’d think Peterson wouldn’t object to.
But in essence what he’s piling onto here are not the major feats of these great and godly men, but the trope that they spurred on a kind of moral and social laxity that ruined society and caused ethical indifference.  Of course the very pages of history are littered with objections – the modern hospitals we have today were started and proliferated by religious organizations to name only one example.  But none of this is really worth debating much because its so self-evidently nonsense. Some of the greatest Christians since Christ have followed an Augustinian belief in God’s sovereignty over the souls of men, and yet have not hid behind that as excuse not to engage in social justice, feeding of the poor, and caring for the widow.
As far as other Biblical interaction of an eternal nature, Peterson understands the gospel story and the sacrificial death of Jesus without understanding the transformational aspect of the Christian life post-conversion. In fact, he is so hung up as on Jesus as the archetypal man of sacrifice, and the importance of sacrifice, that he misses the historical post-sacrifice reality of life united to a risen Savior. This is perhaps his biggest failing. If he got this right, he might understand both the power of a Christian, and the transformed desires and aims of a Christian and Christian churches and community.  The consequences cannot be understated.
So Peterson calls people out of themselves. He calls them out of Nihilism and into meaning through a true examination and facing up to the existential problem of “being” – what some of the great

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erman thinkers called the problem of “angst”.  But he gives no power to do this, and, in fact, there are times when he wavers as to whether or not its even possible for it to be done.  He gives the edict, he sounds the call toward greater individual value – even placing value on the individual based on being an image bearer of God – but he has nothing to equip the disciple with after this. In this way he calls people out of slavery to one kind of sin (meaninglessness and Nihilism), and into another kind of sin (pride – which is why some critics have rightly said he seems to be the embodiment of the man C.S. Lewis termed as the most dangerous).  This is no small thing.

Peterson’s Critics in the Church 
 
I’ve read odd critiques of Peterson, from all over the spectrum.  I think many miss the point – but I empathize with their attempts.
Some have said that Calvinism in the church has led to a rejection of social engagement and therefore is partly to blame.  But while this may be true in some churches, it’s a bit anachronistic to level this charge for two reasons. First, because the more modern move toward calvinism looks much more holistic in its application of the fundamental principles/doctrines of grace – the modern calvinistic movement is NOT akin to early 20th century fundamentalism in its retreat from the world. So the timing seems a little off in its current iteration theologically.
Also belying the odd accusation is the fact that modern calvinism is just beginning to spread through Baptist and nondenominational churches. An entirely new era of pastors being trained up to see God as sovereign, but man as responsible, and with that desire to glorify God in all things, they are reaching into communities and loving their neighbors. But this rise of the new calvinistic thinking is really only 15-20 years old in terms of the larger American evangelical church (Presbyterians are the exception, having long been Augustinian in their doctrine). Which means pastors who were trained under Mohler, Schreiner, Ware, Piper and others are only just now coming into lead positions in their churches. This is reflected in the more recent upheaval among Southern Baptist Convention members organizations and leaders (a collision between pro-Trump old timers like Falwell/Dobson/Reed and young Keller/Mohler/Moore calvinists is often played out on the pages of the Wall Street Journal and other major publications).  So the timing is not quite contextually accurate, from what I can tell.
I’ve also read critiques that say that while Peterson is off-base in some respects, the lack of godly men being trained up and leading by example has created a vacuum that Peterson is filling. Still others say that the church should “steal” the best parts of Peterson and leave the rest – as if Peterson has a monopoly on ideas! These are very odd prescriptions, and while I applaud people reading and grappling with Peterson, I don’t think that a wholesale change of approach is necessary.  Rather a getting back to the fundamentals of the gospel, a holistic and honest look at the human condition and its struggles, and a willingness to speak truthfully to these deeper philosophic issues are required in today’s church leaders if they’re to reach these Peterson disciples.
The Christian Response is a Solution for Being 
 
But to do all of this, we need to continue to look at what it is that Peterson is saying as it pertains especially to “truth.”  His search for truth is really a search for honesty – and this he achieves. But honesty isn’t enough to avoid Nihilism. You also have to have truth.  And as much as he seeks it, he doesn’t give it, because he doesn’t have it.
Now, I’ll just note that I think his slavish devotion to evolutionary ideals hurts him and undermines his understanding of the human mind and soul, but in an ultimate sense in terms of his argument I don’t think its fatal.  That is to say, I’m unsure it hampers him from getting to the point where he concludes people are a mess. His calling people out of themselves to a greater meaning for their lives is admirable, and able to be done even despite atheistic evolutionary ideas (which ironically, at their root, contradict the foundation of his own battle against Nihilism) and I think this is just a paradox in his thinking built in by his own influences and journey. He gets through it because he is an honest stater of the obvious.
Where Peterson runs into a problem is more foundational. He might state what he has found honestly, but without foundation to run back to, without truth to build upon, where do you go?  Why should people follow his advice over the long haul? One major (and I mean this is a big deal) example is that he doesn’t fundamentally explain what it means to have meaning. Similarly, he isn’t able to fundamentally explain how to solve the problem of being and suffering. He just honestly tells us they are important and they exist. Well, congratulations, Mr. Peterson! You’re more honest than most philosophers who erect coping mechanisms, but it doesn’t mean you have a solution.
By contrast, the Christian does give solutions for these problems – even if evangelicals today in large swaths have failed to articulate these solutions very well.
First, there is the problem of meaning. The Christian answer to this is that we are created by God (which Peterson might believe) FOR God, and for His glory. That means that aside from the law codes of Christian writing (which Peterson sees as very helpful from a chaos/order perspective) there is a secret that underlies it all: Purpose. Purpose, belonging, and true joy. In other words: meaning.
This is what Piper and Keller and Lewis and Sproul (as few Calvinists there…) capture so well. They show that meaning DOES come from “looking above” (contra

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Peterson, who is arguing against Paul in Philippians, perhaps accidentally), and that a Christian transfers that meaning to his/her life here a la God’s reconciliating purpose for life here on earth (2 Corinthians 5).  There is purpose because there is meaning to be found in eternal relationship with God. He put you here for a reason. He went to great lengths to redeem you – your soul and your future.  But contra Peterson’s understanding of the Christian faith, this is only the start, as Paul points out in Ephesians 2:10. After laying out how were were saved, Paul then states how we were saved for good works “that we should walk in them.”  This means all of life is subject to the redeeming work of Christians on earth (cf. Keller, Kuyper, Schaeffer etc), and that justification actually leads to acts of mercy and social engagement and community betterment – even if the church, at times and places, fails in this mission.

The Christian says that not only is there meaning in life beyond Nihilism’s incorrect view of a nonexistent eternal purpose, but there is a reason to live and redeem TODAY, in the here and now.
Christians are to motivated by several very powerful things, and Peterson misses some of that. He sees order as a chief end goal. This is a good goal. But it is not enough to avoid Nihilism and despair when the rubber meets the road in the dark night of the soul.  Christians have a relational love – a sort of bond – between them and their Lord. I think this is a motivating bond, a love in our hearts that keeps us moving on – and Peterson does not have and is not able to address this cosmic post-conversion bond, beyond a sort of cursory understanding of the imago dei.
Still, ultimately, Christians live for one central purpose: the eternal glory of God.  Peterson wrongly says that just doing good works leads to the kingdom of heaven here on earth by the efforts of people to do these little acts of order (which counter the chaos of life). The Christian believes their acts of goodness and charity transcend the here and now, are empowered by something extra nos (the Spirit of God), and magnify that they do deeply care about the here and now, as Christ did during his time on earth. But the Christian desire to do good works differs from a Peterson driven motivation. It’s not merely to avoid Nihilism and scratch out a reason for being (i.e. it is not merely expressed in the negative). They care about people because they love Christ who loved them first, as John states in his epistles. And they do all of this out of a desire to glorify and make much of God.
There is something very deep and fulfilling in being part of a larger story, a divine story, and something even more meaningful in being used as a means (a meaningful means) to bring glory to your Creator.  That is true meaning. That’s the kind of meaning that blows the doors off of Nihilism.
Second, there is this core issue of suffering.  Peterson addresses head on the suffering of mankind. Suffering is of critical importance to him, because as he dug down deep and examined everything he knew about life and man, the one essential truth he came to was that life IS suffering. That seemed solid. That seemed true and indisputable. The second (though he doesn’t parse it quite this way) truth is that there is evil and good, and there’s no doubt in his mind that evil produces suffering and that good is the opposite of evil. His next thought is that after close examination, he (and every man) is capable of this same evil – and he gives the Nazi death camps as an example: We must come to grips with the fact that any one of us could be that guard sending Jews to their death in the gas chambers.  Suffering is intrinsic to life, evil is intrinsic to humanity, and good is the opposite of evil. These are fundamental building blocks for Peterson. They are as universal for him as they are for the Apostle Paul in Romans 5 and Moses in Genesis 3.
By making these assertions, Peterson tosses out post-modernist thinking (and the older utilitarian atheistic 19th century thinking upon which it is founded – which in turn was founded on Hume’s empiricism, and Kant and so down the line) and end-runs this by openly acknowledging what post-modern thinkers have denied us for years, namely that there are standards, there are morals, there is sin, and this leads to suffering – something has to. He unapologetically calls people out of a world of self-deception which had been erected by post-WWI thinkers (even within the church) whose naiveté had been burst upon the evils in Flanders’ fields.
But what to do about suffering? Peterson says we must do small acts of order. Get yourself together. Fix one small thing at a time until it all adds up.  Get yourself to the top of the social totem poll. Don’t be at the bottom of the social caste or you’re going to be miserable and passed over (cf. his first rule).  In the end, though, he has no antidote to suffering. It’s actually hilarious how he packages this. Almost as if he is trying to embody Solzhenitsyn, battling back Marxism and Benthamism by preaching a radical individualism: pull yourself up by those bootstraps boy! He’s almost like the Teddy Roosevelt of social psychology! But again, we get this from him because he’s a poorly mixed cocktail of bad theology, social psychology and historical philosophy.
But individualism, and attaboys, and a push out the door doesn’t alter or (more importantly) make meaning from suffering.  It doesn’t even help us cope with suffering very well.
Suffering is indeed part of life – but it is not how life ought to be.  Life is not meaningless, and suffering not purposeless. Life is not simply about ending chaos or pulling ourselves to the top of the pecking order, rather it is about bowing before the reality of the situation and the One who holds it all in order (Peterson does the former and not the latter).  Paul acknowledges this in Romans 8.  In this chapter, Paul says there is this groaning of creation and of all mankind. We all want to see this suffering abolished. We all know it exists – there’s no running from it. Paul addresses it head on. Like Peterson, he acknowledges that it was sin that caused this suffering. But then he says that the Christian has hope – Peterson offers no hope.
The Christian has two forms of hope: eternal and temporal (the here and now). Paul says in Romans 8, that we have hope because the Spirit of God is within us driving us and reminding us of eternal hope’s foundation on the work of Christ, the death of Christ and (especially relevant for this) our being united to Christ through his resurrection. If you’re united to the source of life, then suffering has meaning and and end date. If he suffered and we are suffering, there must be a purpose to it.  The purpose is to refine us, and make us more like him (Rom. 5:1-5). This is the hardest part of Christian theology, that Christ works all this suffering for good (Rom. 8:28) and for his glory.
This is the opposite of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. In fact, this hurts our pride. But its gives us this hope in the here and now that as he uses suffering in our lives, we know that he is with us in it, because we are united to him. This is intensely meaningful, and gives some real purpose to our pain here on earth, and a way to experience joy in the midst of it.
In Conclusion: Is Peterson’s Voice Helpful to the Social Discussion? 
 
There is no doubt in my mind that Peterson’s strength is in honestly grappling with the problems of sin and suffering, but that he falls woefully short of providing a solution to these problems that will satisfy his followers long term.  But does that mean that he isn’t helpful in some way to our society’s conversation as a whole?
Some of this can be judged by simply observing the fruit of what his followers are saying online.  Some liberals have pointed out an eerie parallel between the crude, rude, and angry dogmatism of Peterson’s followers online, and President Trump’s online followers. I didn’t take their word for it, but dove through many comments this week when Peterson responded angrily to liberal critique of his viewpoints – it’s worth noting Peterson’s own retort was “(expletive) you!” And many of the comments from his supporters online were as foul, though just as many seemed taken aback by his outburst.
Aside from how his followers behave (which is no small thing, but still developing I’d say), the question remains: Is it helpful to call men and women to a fuller meaning? Is it helpful to confront head-on the problems of suffering and pain and find a way to think about life that is helpful and hopeful? I believe the answer is unequivocally, YES. But not if the meaning you’re calling them to is meaningless in the end, and not if you’re calling them to something they won’t have the foundational motivation to stick to in the long runThere are clear pitfalls of pride here, and as I mention above, it will be hard for his followers to reconcile the competing cocktail of philosophies to support them in their purposes.
It reminds me of the dangers posed in my own life by Norman Vincent Peale.  When I was in my mid-twenties, I found Peale extremely helpful – even life changing, in fact. I took his admonition to pray for others, memorize scripture, and meditate seriously.  And these things really did change my life for the better.  But the deeper I dug, the more I looked for a why and more foundational reasons for all my doing, the more I realized that foundationally his thinking was twisted, and even antithetical to the gospel I thought I was memorizing. Like Peterson, his techniques were mental, and psychological (Visualize, Actualize, Realize etc). He told me to “expect the best” in order to get it. Like Peterson, he called me to self-examination, and to meditate on the essence of being, that the kingdom of heaven was within me, “It remains for us to tap and develop these powers.”
There were good things that came from Peale for me (scripture memorization and prayer) – even though he badly abused the Bible, using it as a self-help tool more than anything. Indeed, I shudder to think where I would be mentally and spiritually today if I had not read more widely and read the Bible more contextually for myself. Would I have ever recognized Peale’s shallow bible-based pop-psychological nonsense? Yet, God used it to help bring me out of myself – much as God may use Peterson to bring many people out of themselves, while he remains dangerously wrong in many ways.
Peterson’s voice in the discussion is helpful to a degree, but I think that Christian voices will ultimately end up offering many more solid answers to the problems of life. It’s no surprise that people find voices outside the church to help guide their way when they so distrust the church – not only for much of its rank hypocrisy (which will occur in every generation, and especially when the church aligns too closely to the state instead of acting as a light shining on the state and the path of nations), but also perhaps for their own experiences in church growing up, hearing a watered down gospel, or failure of parents, or their own sinfulness and rebellion against all they inherently know to be right and good (cf. Romans 1).
Ironically, the stability, the order, that many yearn for is found in the enduring scripture and community/liturgy of the church. Mostly, that rock that they need will never be found outside the church, and this is again where Peterson falls short. His own young experience with the church led him to think it had no answers for the problem of suffering. Which, as I have mentioned above, is incorrect.
The second reason Peterson might be helpful, though, is in calling the church back to a real discussion of sin and the problems of living in a fallen world. You cannot keep serving up the same fluffy drivel Sunday after Sunday and expect people to find these trite sermons a healing balm to the huge existential problems they face on a daily basis. We have to assume people are thinking, and suffering, and struggling. Which means we have to offer the bright, deep, strong truths the Bible gives us as keys that unlock some of the bigger questions of meaning and being. Otherwise a new generation will find a lesser tonic that does not cure, but does honestly acknowledge the issues.
I am hopeful that the church will continue to reform, continue to battle for truth and offer careful examination of the Scriptures, and deft exhortation and explanation of them each week. I hope that the church will offer a transcendent view of life that uses eternal hope as a springboard to community transformation and love of neighbor.  That’s what people need, its what they crave, and giving them anything less leads to a search for answers that will be filled one way or another – by people who truthfully acknowledge their problems, even if they don’t have the answers to bring them ultimate joy in life and the hereafter.
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Weekend Reading: March 17, 2018

Happy Weekend!  Happy birthday to my daughter Greta (“the squirt”)!  Here are just a few articles and books for the weekend:

Some really interesting considerations here: Is literature next in line for virtual-reality treatment?  I think V/R is really fascinating and combining it with great literature would be even more engrossing.

David Mathis wrote a touching article called ‘My Little Daughter: A Father’s Glimpse into the Heart of God’.  Preview:

There is a special kind of love and affection that exists between a godly father and his daughter, whatever her age, whether three or twelve or thirty. We would be foolish to rank a father’s love for son against his love for daughter, but we’d be naïve not to see the distinctions.

This one’s for my brother: The Long Linguistic Journey to ‘Dagnabbit’

Michael Haykin writes a short article about St. Patrick’s life. Excerpt:

When Patrick was in his twenties, he escaped from captivity in Ireland and went back to his home in what had been the Roman province of Britannia. Here he would have stayed, glad as he was to get back to his family and friends. But not long after he got back, he had a dream in which he saw the Irish coming to him, asking him to return to Ireland to presumably share with them the good news about Jesus Christ.

TECH: Always Be a Sort-of-Early Adopter

How did I miss this? ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series Coming to Amazon

I think this has major issues: YouTube is turning to Wikipedia to help it fight conspiracy theories. First of all, does no one realize that Wikipedia is just as susceptible to wrong information as anything else???  Second, what makes us think we want YouTube to provide us context filtered through their own opinions about what is real/right/sane/normal?

A pretty balanced view (all things considering) of the situation over at the White House from Red State writer Joe Cunningham: What Trump Needs Right Now. His main argument is that Trump (like Obama) has surrounded himself with “yes-men” who are unable or unwilling to push-back and offer alternative or creative ideas that challenge the President or other advisers. Many great presidents were known for surrounding themselves with a diverse group of thinkers and perspectives (Lincoln and Washington set early examples).

It hasn’t exactly been the best week for the White House. Trump Jr. is getting divorced, several major figures were sacked – Secretary of State Tillerson, and on Friday night the Dep. Director of the FBI.  The latter was fired over Twitter last night just a few days before he was eligible to retire with his full pension. Whether or not he deserved it, it wasn’t exactly the most deft political move because it smelled like retribution (and perhaps an preemptive attack considering the coming book took of the equally suspect James Comey).

Personally, I like man of the things that have gotten done in the first year of the President’s tenure. But he would be wise to campaign very hard to get his voters to the polls this fall, because if Republicans lose the House (which is possible if things keep on this track), Democrats will be strongly tempted to impeach the President, further distracting the country from accomplishing reforms and enjoying prosperity and peace.

Moving on…something to consider if you want to think a bit deeper today: How to Understand the Jordan Peterson Phenomenon.  I may have posted this before, but after re-reading it, and as I read through Peterson’s book, I thought it useful to make sure it’s circulated again. I agree with Joe Carter in this article, because he seems to understand Peterson, but also because I like the overall direction he’s encouraging us toward – namely, that Christians need to be deep thinkers and to engage in the kind of holistic arguments and discussions that made Francis Schaeffer so influential in his day. Teaser:

When the Irish band U2 covered the song “Helter Skelter,” Bono said, “This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. We’re stealing it back.” Similarly, Peterson has stolen the song about order and meaning we Christians use to sing so well. It’s time we steal it back.

Books…….

This week I have been diving into a series of essays that I come back to periodically in the book ‘The Christian Imagination’, which is edited/compiled by Leland Ryken, and which I highly recommend.

But I also finished off a few books.  I finished what has sort of become an annual reading of The Loveliness of Christ by Samuel Rutherford. If you ever want to be encouraged during a difficult time in your life, this is the book for you. Very small, and full of excellent quotes, I’ve always found this little book to be very helpful.

The Pastor and Counseling was a book given to me by my good friend Derek. It was okay, in that it provides a decent framework to work within, as well as some helpful reality checks on the process of counseling. I wouldn’t give it 5 starts, but its a good place to start if you don’t have time for the verbosity of Tripp or Adams.

From a fiction standpoint, I mentioned last week that I was reading Beneath a Scarlet Sky, and how much I enjoyed it.  I finished it up, and can still state that it was fantastic.  There are some sexual elements to it – some which teach life long lessons, I think. But those things always leave the reader slightly uncomfortable. Still, this is a terrific story, and that its based on real life events is even more astounding. One of the best modern works of “fiction” I’ve read recently.  Thanks to Matt R. for the recommendation!

Interestingly, I had just finished up the Summons from Grisham before the Scarlet Sky book.  I think I mentioned that a bit before…but it was an interesting exercise to read Grisham, and then read a book like Scarlet Sky.  Grisham’s book was fast-paced and interesting to a degree.  But you sort of feel like you’re eating McDonald’s instead of eating a nice meal at a restaurant with table cloths in comparison to a more thoughtfully written piece of fiction.

Lastly, I read John Maxwell’s classic 21 Laws of Leadership book.  I have mixed feelings about the book.  I don’t think all his “laws” are necessarily necessary. And I don’t think he helps you understand the process for developing the kind of character or steps it takes to achieve each of these “laws” – its sort of like saying to your kids for the first time “you need to clean your room” without explaining to them how to go about it.  Maxwell can come off a bit condescending at times, and the superficiality of his writing leaves me feeling like his observations are nice, but not necessarily life changing – he’s not a deep thinker, by any means. But if there’s one redeeming virtue to his book(s – they’re all sort of similar), its that they cause YOU to think and to engage in some self-reflection.

That’s it! I hope you have a great weekend!

PJ

 

Weekend Reading: March 10, 2018

Welcome to the weekend!  Here are a few articles to check out as you sip on coffee and enjoy another day of cold temps (at least if you’re in the Northeast or Midwest!).

The President of Hillsdale College did an interview with Gary Oldman who played Winston Churchill in the recent movie Darkest Hour. I really enjoyed the movie, and the interview was interesting as well. As you might know, Churchill is one of my favorite heroes of history.  I really enjoy reading about him and reading his writing.

I thought this was a pretty cool little article about the Þrídrangaviti Lighthouse. I can’t even imagine trying to get to this place pre-helicopter!

I haven’t finished this yet, but its going to be part of my weekend reading! This Is What Happens When Bitcoin Miners Take Over Your Town.

I read this article from March of 2017 from R.C. Sproul called ‘Living Under Authority’, and found it timely.  Timely because I was reading a bit about society’s structures in Jordan Peterson’s recent book 12 Rules.  Sproul shows that authority structures in society are not evil, they aren’t arbitrary.  He says:

Every one of us has not just one boss, but several bosses. Everyone I know, including me, is accountable not to just one person but to all kinds of authority structures. Throw a brick through a store window, and you’ll find out quickly that you’re accountable, that you’re under authority, that there are laws to be obeyed and law enforcement officers to make sure the laws are obeyed.

BUT, these positions of power can be inhabited by evil people. The question is what do we do when that’s the case, not whether or not there should be societal hierarchies because they naturally exist and always will (some people will always have more power than others etc). At least that was my takeaway…

Tim Challies linked to this interesting article from Popular Mechanics: Burning Out: What Really Happens Inside a Crematorium

In case you missed it: Judge paves way for transgender teen to get hormone therapy at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Watch that video.  You see that transgender leaders are actively working to “get into schools” – these folks actively want to plant the idea of these types of therapies into the minds of kids as okay — even when time and many doctors have shown that this approach is NOT okay, and often very destructive in the long term. This is scary stuff.

NEWSFLASH:  TRUE PATRIOTS: Fox News Will Now Display A Screeching Eagle Wearing A MAGA Hat In Front Of An American Flag In Lieu Of Any Negative Trump Coverage

I appreciated this article from David French because of how personal it was: What Critics Don’t Understand About Gun Culture (h/t Alex W.)

I want to go here!  This Massive Warehouse In Baltimore Has Thousands Of Books And Won’t Cost You A Cent.

I’m not entirely sure that half of this isn’t bluster, but it was a big deal on the news for like one day, before the “journalists” went back to talking about Stormy Daniels, Robert Mueller, and North Korea. Putin boasts Russia has developed an intercontinental nuclear missile that can’t be stopped or shot down by any country’s defense system

Interesting story from Food and Wine: We Tried McDonald’s Fresh Beef Quarter Pounder, And You Can Guess How That Went.  The title is deceiving because by the end of the article, you really can’t quite decide “how it went” for this dude (David Landsel) because he seemed indecisive.  Still, I thought it was interesting to note that McDonalds is going to be using something other than Soylent Green for their menu options.

Here are a couple of articles on my radar – haven’t read them yet, but plan to check them out today:

Hobbies to the Glory of God – Tim Challies 

Embrace Life’s Repetitiveness – David Gibson

The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News – someone from the Atlantic (they’re all the same over there)

Does the Fed control Trump’s 2020 destiny? – James Pethokoukis

Do Reproductive Technologies Oppose God’s Design? – John Piper

Books…

This week I finished up volume two of Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples.  This volume covered Henry the 8th and Good Queen Bess and many of the explorers during the time, along with all the court intrigues, bloody Mary, and much of the Protestant/Catholic struggle. I’ve sort of come to a conclusion about wider historical narratives like this, and that is that they are helpful for me to see how everyone fits into the timeline of history and they also help me pick up little bits of info on the times.  But, I also find them to be difficult to remember.  Overviews sometimes don’t really impress upon you a sense for the times – I’m not convinced that biography (done right) in concert with these overviews, is necessary. Biography helps you understand not only the person in focus, but also the times and politics and such in which they lived.

This is not to disparage Winston Churchill’s writing or this book in particular. In fact, Churchill was a phenomenal writer – not because of the eloquence of his prose, but because he’s doggone easy to read. It’s so smooth and comprehensible that even a child could read and understand this book.

The other book I finished was John Grisham’s ‘The Summons’ – an interesting story with some good moral implications about what money can do to us, and how obsession, fear, desire for and about money can destroy and complicate our lives.

My good friend Matt Robinson had suggested Beneath a Scarlet Sky – I’m half way through it and already feel its one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time. Well written, and well-paced, its a fascinating story about a young Italian man (18 year old) during WWII.  A sort of coming of age tale with many adventures and, of course, the stark realities of war.

I’m finishing up Jeremy Pierre’s short book on counseling right now, as well as Rutherford’s Loveliness of Christ.  I’ve started Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life and thus far its rather a slog. I’ve hit the pause button on The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in order to work through Peterson.  Hoping to have more to report on these books next week!

Until then, I hope you have a great weekend!

PJ

Weekend Reading: February 24, 2018

Good Saturday morning to you!  Welcome to the weekend – I have just a few items from the past week or two that I think you might consider checking out.

I’ll start off by mentioning the obvious – that Billy Graham has passed away, and there are a million stories about his life out there to check out.  The Wall Street Journal alone had like 5 of them.  Everything I’ve read thus far is pretty much all the same, and I’m just now starting to get into a few with more interesting perspectives. Once I finish them or if I have other additional thoughts about his life then I’ll pass it along (I did find it interesting and neat that he’ll be placed to “lie in honor”  in the Rotunda).  But generally, what I try to do in this space is mention items you might have missed, or that I think require extra thought.  Very often this is why I don’t post only stuff from the last week, but from several weeks back, because sometimes we have a tendency in our very short news cycles to think that something two weeks old no longer matters. Some stories require more thought, even if conclusions have been superficially reached.

The same goes with this sad situation re: the Florida shooting. We have churned through a handful of news cycles now, and some of the immediate reactions and suggestions in response to the crisis have been so short sighted that its hardly worth a long drawn out argument (I’m not going to debate teachers having guns when I have yet to speak with a teacher who actually WANTS to carry a gun in class – if they do, more power to them if they are willing to go through extensive training).  I’m still thinking through this back and forth between the Broward County blowhard and the media…I might come back to this in a week or so.

There’s an article in Politico that came my way by AEI’s daily email called ‘The Myth of What’s Driving the Opioid Crisis’ by Sally Satel.  Her main argument is that the narrative in the media and in political circles is that docs are a big part of the problem when it comes to the Opioid epidemic, and that their over-prescription of these drugs has created problems. She has good data (it seems) to back her claims up.  But what I found most interesting was her two points at the end for how she feels this crisis needs combated.  Here’s an excerpt:

Two of the most necessary steps, in my view, are making better use of anti-addiction medications and building a better addiction treatment infrastructure.

I don’t disagree with her – this is a part of combating this crisis, along with a law and order component (enforcing laws and firing incompetent law enforcement officials is part of that) that targets drug dealers and other gateway drugs.

But here’s an additional thought that, in my mind at least, runs like a hidden thread through these gun violence stories, and the opioid crisis stories, and that is the breakdown of the family structures and morality in our society.  I have been musing about whether my parent’s generation focused too much on the superficiality of these two items (speaking from a church perspective) and not enough time on the transformation affect of the essential gospel message itself, whereas my generation has refocused on the essentials of the message, but is failing to connect those essentials in any meaningful way with societal and political change. Just a thought – I could be wrong.

Thinking more along the lines of the church, and our lives in this world, there’s an excellent article by a lady named Hannah Grieser (who I know nothing about) at Desiring God this week called ‘Learn to Laugh When Life Hurts: How Humor Helped Us Fight Cancer.’  There is an absolutely HILARIOUS section ‘Hospital Punch Lines’ that I don’t think I’ll ever forget (and which you’ll have to read for yourself).

For you history buffs: A rare copy of the Declaration of Independence survived the Civil War hidden behind wallpaper. Later it was tossed in a box.  I knew nothing about this project that was commissioned by JQA.

Another interesting perspective article from over at Desiring God (they must have been hitting my inbox at just the right moment or something) called ‘At Home in Wakanda’ by Greg Morse.  I just really enjoyed his perspective – and there are several layers of perspective here.  This is one to read, and think about and discuss with friends.

And of course, Fox News, only covering the most important stories: Fight over man’s flatulence forces flight to make emergency landing, and Transgender woman able to breastfeed in possible first: report. Where would we be without Fox, I ask you?

Finally, there’s an interesting article called ‘I have forgotten how to read’ (h/t mom) that is really sad and thought provoking.  Here’s an excerpt:

Literacy has only been common (outside the elite) since the 19th century. And it’s hardly been crystallized since then. Our habits of reading could easily become antiquated. The writer Clay Shirky even suggests that we’ve lately been “emptily praising” Tolstoy and Proust. Those old, solitary experiences with literature were “just a side-effect of living in an environment of impoverished access.” In our online world, we can move on. And our brains – only temporarily hijacked by books – will now be hijacked by whatever comes next.

I sometimes think about the kind of habits I’m cultivating in myself and my kids. Are they good? Are they rewiring my brain in a bad way?  For instance, I really enjoy listening to books, and then going through and physically underlying and making notes in the margin of a “real” book along the way. Sometimes I sit and re-read my favorite parts from the audiobook. But I find it extremely hard to get through an entire book (or as many books as I’d like to) by simply reading it in the old-school way.  Am I adapting incorrectly? Am I hurting my brain in the long term?  Not sure…I guess it remains to be seen. But the thing that probably hit me the hardest about this article is the consumerism in my attitude toward reading. I often create ways of reading for myself so that I don’t have to have the discipline of just enjoying one or two books. Some of this is just knowing myself and trying to circumvent my own fallenness (one might say), but am I also just being downright lazy?  This will require more thought…

Speaking of books…

I finished ‘A Good Walk Spoiled’ this week and found it really interesting, somewhat depressing, and overall very insightful.  It confirms again to be the psychological difficulty of the game of Golf, and how important it is to have a good attitude about it despite the suffering it puts me through!  It also confirmed again just how different it is from other sports. It’s harder to make really amazing money doing it, and its a much more gentlemanly game (for all the right reasons I think) than any other currently going.

I’m about 30 books into my 200 book challenge, and several of the ones I have going right now are taking longer than they ought to. I think that is because they are longer, and more thought-provoking and its taking me longer to process them.

I’m on the verge of starting Jordan Peterson’s new book ’12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’, which promises to be fascinating. And I have a few fictional books on tap for the year as well, which include a Ted Bell, a John Grisham, a Dostoyevsky, and a few others.  I re-read part of Stephen Meyer’s ‘Signature in the Cell’ this week, and read excerpts from ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Pilgrims Progress’.  This has been part of the problem. I’ve been revisiting some of my old favorites and its slowed down my progress on current books.  It’s a “problem” but its also a good problem to have.

Finally, I devoured some P.G. Wodehouse, and read through (well skimmed and used) ‘Books That Build Character’ in search of more books for my kiddos. Very helpful resource along with some of the other lists that Kate and I have used over the years.  In case you’re wondering, here are the books  on-deck, so to speak, for the kids (many of these we’ll read together at the lunch and/or dinner table):

Beowulf: Dragonslayer – Rosemary Sutcliff
Cupid and Psyche: A Love Story – Edna Barth
The Children’s Homer: The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy – Padraic Colum
Saint George and the Dragon – retold by Margaret Hodges
Jim Thorpe: Olympic Champion (Childhood of Famous Americans) –  Guernsey Van Riper
Our Golda: The Story of Golda Meir (Women of Our Time) – David A. Adler
The Story of Frederick Douglass (Dell Yearling Biography) – Eric Weiner
Peter the Great – Diane Stanley
Louis Pasteur: Enemy of Disease (Rookie Biographies) – Carol Greene
Hans Brinker (Great Illustrated Classics) – Mary Mapes Dodge
The Adventures of Robin Hood – Roger Lancelyn Green
The Painter and the Wild Swans – Claude Clement
J.R.R. Tolkien: Master of Fantasy – David R. Collins
Pinocchio – Carlo Collodi
Dragonwings -Laurence Yep
The Selfish Giant – Oscar Wilde
Dick Whittington and His Cat – Eva Moore
The Enchanted Castle – E. Nesbitt
Treasure Island – Robert L. Stevenson
Tuck Everlasting – Babbitt
Blue Fingers: a Ninja’s Tale – Whitesel
The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander
Penrod – Booth Tarkington
Pygmalion – Shaw (a children’s illustrated classics edition)
A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes) – Arthur Conan Doyle adapted for kids by Grimly in partnership with Harper Collins
Watership Down – Richard Adams
The Cricket in Times Square – George Selden
Escape from Warsaw – Serraillier
Shadow of a Bull – Wojciechowska
Snow Treasure – Maries McSwigan
Cheaper by the Dozen – Gilbreth and Carey
The Pushcart War – Jean Merrill
The Ugly Ducking – Hans C. Andersen
The House at Pooh Corner – Milne
Harriet Tubman – Kudlinski
The Read Pony – John Steinbeck
A Gathering of Days – Joan Blos
The Giver – Lois Lowry
The Story of Beethoven – Helen Kaufmann

That’s it for now!  I hope you have a great weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: February 17, 2018

Well welcome to the weekend!  With basketball season over for the kids, that means I more time on Saturdays to compile a few items for you to enjoy and skim over.  Here’s the weekend reading…

Gonna lead off with this thought-provoking piece from the Wall Street Journal: Did My Mom Have ‘White Privilege’? She arrived from Italy in 1911 and then at age 14 went to work in a factory sewing ladies’ coats.  Key excerpt:

The legal immigrants who came through Ellis Island had to have medical exams and a clean criminal background, not to mention a job and a sponsor. This guaranteed the new arrival wouldn’t be a burden on the country or its citizens. And they weren’t. Ellis Island’s immigrants received nothing from taxpayers. Not a cent. That’s why my teenage mother worked in a factory instead of going to school.

Honestly, I haven’t spent much time thinking existentially about the lives of the generations of Americans who came here and gave up many comforts and dignities we’d unwillingly surrender now in order to make a life in America.  This short Op-Ed provoked my imagination and maybe it will yours as well.

This looks…interesting…’The NBA’s Secret Wine Society’

I was more shocked to learn this wasn’t a real headline: Media Announces Brief Moratorium On Calling Trump A Brutal Dictator To Praise Kim Jong Un’s Sister. But in truth, here’s a real story on the CNN slobber fest over Kim Jong Un’s sister.

Looking back on this article I read about Olympic Jet Lag makes me think that maybe there’s something to this (especially if the American snow boarders did it!).

If you haven’t thought about “enjoying God” for who He is and not just what He provides, then I think this article by John Piper might be a good click for you today.

I thought this was a fascinating article from a perspective that many conservatives might not normally hear: Why the Center-Left Became Immoderate: In polarized times, those without a clear guiding ideology become the most vicious partisans. One of the key excerpts:

The idea of a Trump dictatorship may be compelling, but that doesn’t make it right, particularly when it distorts how one perceives actual tyranny.

Something I didn’t know about Korea: What City Was Once “The Jerusalem of the East?”

Comment Magazine republished an article from Marilynne Robinson from 2011 this week called ‘The Book of Books: What Literature Owes the Bible’.  I like the attempt here (though ironically I think its not as clear as it could be in making the point) to show how one of the heritages we have from the Bible is its rich influence of the drama of life and salvation in our literature. Robinson gives several examples of this and that is the funnest part of the article. Her summation at the end is pretty much what I just wrote about the Bible’s role in enriching literature, but just prior she says, “In its emphatic insistence that the burden of meaning is shared in every life, the Bible may only give expression to a truth most of us know intuitively.”  I’m unsure exactly what “the burden of meaning” means, but I think that the shame of this article is that it doesn’t go on to explain what it is that makes the Bible worth using as an enrichment agent in the first place.  Why are the images and the story and the Man at its center so compelling that they transcend its cover and enrich other great literature?  I think the “why” isn’t answered here, and it ought to have been the first question she asked and the one she came back to at the end….what do you think?

A good piece of writing here from someone formerly in the scientific/medical community: Be Skeptical of Those Who Treat Science as an Ideology.

Something posted a while back by Ligonier that I thought was worth checking out again from R.C. Sproul: Do we have free will? Today on this special Ask R.C. edition of Renewing Your Mind, R.C. Sproul answers your questions about predestination, God’s providence, and free will.  I think I posted this mainly because it never ceases to amaze me how often I’m in some kind of meeting or discussion and someone says something like, “not to offend the Calvinists here, but I think people have to make a choice (in this that or the other thing)” – as if the importance and reality of choice and agency are stripped completely from the minds of orthodox reformed Christians. These are more or less statements of ignorance rather than barbs of serious debate, hence the importance of thinking through the core issues of human liberty and freedom and what is entailed in, and meant by those terms/ideas.

An interesting article by an author of a new book on transgenderism says, ‘The Sex-Change Revolution Is Based on Ideology, Not Science’.  Of course I agree with him, but I’m unsure I agree with his conclusion that this cultural moment is “fleeting”, though I hope he’s right.

Books…

This week I confessed to Kate that I’m on a bit of a distracted reading spree. I seem to be picking up old favorites and reading five pages here, a chapter or two there. It’s probably a healthy thing to do every now and again, but it doesn’t help make progress through the books I’m working on!

The main thing I persevered through this week was William L. Shirer’s classic ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’.  This is really a story of Adolph Hitler, and his cronies. I’m only 170 pages in, and its truly a fascinating read – actually not as laborious as I imagined it would be after the slow start. If you’ve read anything about Hitler’s rise (and I have), then you’ll not be as shocked at a book like this which exposes all the ignorance of the masses and the willingness to go along with the dictates and philosophical shallowness of men like this. But it doesn’t mean that the well-read won’t (or at least shouldn’t be) shocked again, and refreshed again in those ancient lessons of original evil, and the fallen state of man’s mind and reason.

I’m unsure I have written a post since finishing Lovecraft’s ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, but it was a very interesting and freaky.  I’m surprised I’ve never seen a movie about this one! It’s not overly long, but the powers of description prevent a speed read of any kind. I’m unsure if its the kind of thing one recommends, its sort of a cross between thriller and horror, salted with out of date scientific observations that can seem quaint at best, and farcical at worst.  Yet its an interesting thing to read someone you’ve never read before, and Lovecraft is well known for being influential in this genre, so I’m glad I checked it out.

I’m working on a host of books right now, and hope to finish up ‘A Good Walk Spoiled’ in the coming week.

That’s it for now – I hope you have a great weekend!

PJW

 

Weekend Reading: February 3, 2018

Welcome to the weekend!  Here’s what I read this week and what I think you might find interesting…

The President’s first State of the Union (“SOTU” for those of you not in the political world) was this week, and I thought John Bolton’s column over at AEI was spot on, from a foreign affairs perspective. 

Speaking of foreign affairs, keep an eye on this: Yemen separatists capture most of Aden, residents say.

And, staying in similar fields of discussion, if you’re going to read one thing this weekend, read this: The kill chain: inside the unit that tracks targets for US drone wars.

Departing from the global news and heading to something almost entirely first world: Most unhappy people are unhappy for the exact same reason. I’m not saying that I agree for what they think “happiness” really means, but I do think that there is a stronger and stronger correlation between depression and anxiety and screen time being shown in all of these studies.  Parents take note…

And similarly: Why We Should Escape Social Media (And Why We Don’t)…Excerpt:

Stop attempting to be seen in social media and you vanish entirely. We dare not stop. And that’s why the first step away from social media — that first day disconnected — tastes bitter. It tastes bitter because we use the noise of media in our lives to drown out two things we’d rather not face.

Staying on the theme with a slight branch: Facebook Bans Ads for Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies

This was intriguing to me because I’m part of this “micro” generation that the author is discussing: Micro-Generation Born Between 1977-1983 Given New Name.

The man who brought us IKEA died this week – he was the 8th richest man in the world. Here’s a little more about him from the liberals at Quartz.

I should have addressed this one higher up, but let me just reference really quickly the whole FBI memo situation.  I want you to check out what Mark Meadows said about a week ago over Twitter.  It’s all collected in that link by conservative click-bait catnip site IJR. It seems like releasing the memo was the correct thing to do, and that when you have such diverse viewpoints politically all agreeing on this, you know there’s some consensus forming.  Hillary’s former pollster Penn agreed, as did Meadows who is as conservative as you get, and obviously the call to do so came from our populist POTUS.  Only a few disillusioned wilderness-bound neocons and John Kasich were blubbering about “how it was done.” Well how exactly would they have done it, I’d like to know?  From my perch is seemed like we just watched an example of the brilliance of our founder’s, and how they planned for the separation of powers work.  Congress provided the oversight, they blew the whistle, they bowed before executive privilege, the executive branch reviewed and agreed, and then had the memo released to shine sunlight on the matter.

Somehow I missed including this back during the holidays – worth a chuckle…at least an awkwardly painful one: Thanks a Lot! New Reasons Not to Eat Cookie Dough

I don’t think this is a good ideaScoop: Trump team considers nationalizing 5G network

For my hipster friends: Study: 90% Of Bike Accidents Preventable By Buying Car Like A Normal Person

didn’t see this one get much play…whoops…NSA deleted surveillance data it pledged to preserve: The agency tells a federal judge that it is investigating and ‘sincerely regrets its failure.’

FYI: Sasse Statement on Cecile Richards

Books…

This week I finished the classic Sci-Fi book DUNE by Frank Herbert.  This was a very interesting experience. This book is completely other, completely different than most books you’ll read.  It’s super odd, super interesting, and super well written. Very hard to describe whether its worth reading, but I think so…if only to enjoy Herbert’s writing abilities. If you have no patience for Sci-Fi then this will stretch you beyond what you may be able to abide. But it was really enjoyable because of just how different it was.

I also finished Boundaries by Henry Cloud, and it was very helpful in many ways. In others it was a little annoying in that it stretched a concept a bit too far (i.e. the chapter on God’s boundaries was very close to causing me to puke on my kindle screen for his lack of understanding of what real “freedom” meant in the divine sense). The most helpful part of this book is how Cloud helps you evaluate different relationships and situations to see whether you’re letting others completely abuse you and run you down. He does a good job of showing what is appropriate and not selfish.  Though more than one time I found his scripture citations to be woefully out of context – like he was proof-texting to fit the point he was making. Still, many of his principles are good – and its definitely worth reading this with some discernment. For some people, it could actually be quite a powerful wake up call, and a real helpful evaluation of their priorities and relationships – some of which may have reached a toxic level of control and manipulation.

Our family finished a young adults version of Tom Sawyer that we were reading at the dinner table. It was an enjoyable read – I’m really appreciative of the Usborne books, and how accessible they make stories like this one.

Lastly, I wrapped up several weeks in Ben Palpant’s Sojourner Songs.  This is my second or third read-through of these poems in the past few years, and each time is highly enjoyable.

That’s it! I hope you enjoy your weekend and have a great week ahead!

PJW

Weekend Reading: January 20, 2018

Good afternoon!  I’ve mentioned before that sometimes its hard to find time to write a weekly post about the news and the books I’m reading, but recent encouragement has enforced the idea that this is a helpful thing to some of you – and personally I find it helps me review as well.  That said, I think that as a writer I feel this inward pressure to write something long and comprehensive, when in reality I don’t think that’s all that helpful.

With that in mind, here’s are few articles and books and such to consider!

Let’s start with the ridiculous and hope you don’t puke. NOTE: this is NOT a parody!

Gold Medalist Michael Phelps talks about his depression. It is a reminder that people – no matter what their social or economic status – are still people. They still have a need for purpose and find some of that outside of themselves.

Similarly: U.K. Appoints a Minister for Loneliness. My theory on why this is going on is that officials in the government are coming to the realization that decades of stamping out religion in the U.K. has its drawbacks.  Now, balance that parliamentary leadership decision with what you see going on over at Buckingham Palace, detailed in this important article: How the Queen – the ‘last Christian monarch’ – has made faith her message.  In fact, if you’re going to read one article, make it that one, because its very encouraging – and relevant as well, since millions are watching The Crown on Netflix.

I’ve been keeping an eye on this story, and talking to medical professionals in this line of work. It’s fascinating: Stem Cells for Knee Problems? U.S. Doctors Investigate.

I have to admit that I laughed pretty hard at this one: Trump Refuses To Let Jesus Into His Heart After Learning He’s From Nazareth.

You’d have to be living under a rock to have missed this one, but just in case: Apple, Capitalizing on New Tax Law, Plans to Bring Billions in Cash Back to U.S.

From The Wardrobe Door blog: Logan Paul and Our Embrace of Two Minutes Hate.  Good points to consider here.

Some wise words here from John Piper: Deep Bible Reading Strategies for the Tired and Busy

So I tried this new google app and didn’t find it all that awesome.  Anyone else find it better than me?

Saved and on-deck for this week: The Sacrifice of Faith. And Trust No One: Kim Philby and the hazards of mistrust.

Books: I saw that Susan Wise Bauer has finally released her new book ‘Rethinking School’.  I’ve read a lot of Bauer’s history books (as have my kids), so I’m really interested to hear her academic and personal take on how parents should approach schooling.

Similarly, this article by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was interesting. He’s writing about public service as a Christian, and what it means to take up your cross in the political arena. The book isn’t by him but by another (A Theology of Political Vocation: Christian Life and Public Office), but he expresses some of the ideas in hopeful terms. Probably one worth checking out once the ridiculous pricing changes.

Finally, a new book by Nancy Pearcey is looking very interesting: Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. Some of the questions addressed by Pearcey (from the Amazon description): Are transgender people discovering their authentic self? Is the hookup culture really liberating? Does abortion lead to equality for women? Does homosexuality contradict our biological sex? 

This week I read (and didn’t finish) several disappointing books. Probably got 60% through Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, my Goodreads review was “A profane literary landscape dotted by tidbits of momentary interest. Sad story – even the funny parts were sad because of how demented they were.” I started listening to this book in the airport during a D.C. trip this week – I figured, hey why not? Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear some of Fisher’s background and struggles? And ya, its interesting, but its also overwhelmingly profane and sad, and really pretty random.

Our family finished George MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind. I remembered enjoying this as a kid, but as an adult I found it a complete mess of literary nonsense. Almost completely devoid of plot for large swaths of the 330 pages, I would have quit after page 250 but was overruled. I guess I’ll disclaim that MacDonald was C.S. Lewis’ literary hero, and that I’ve read pretty widely in his prose and always found them wanting. His imagination is good, and sometimes he has brilliant turns of phrases, but his characters are not believable, and he meanders through a plot (if there is one) like a child lost in a cornrow.

Similarly disappointing was the new star wars compilation From a Certain Point of View. This mess is exasperating.  I probably made it through 20 or 30% of the book. It’s a compilation of 40 short stories from the point of view of lesser characters in the Star Wars saga. And by “lesser” I mean REALLY lesser.  We’re talking Jawas and droids you’ve never heard of and imperial henchmen who appear for less than 5 seconds on the screen in the movies. I thought this would be something I’d dig, but for whatever reason it just makes the whole thing seem so…trite…? Not sure if that’s the word…but its awfully boring.

There is hope though – several more good books I’m enjoying right now that I hope to report back on soon.

Until then, have a great weekend!

PJW