Weekend Reading: December 17, 2016

It is sometimes odd how interesting stories come in waves. This week it seems that (unlike last week) I was deluged with a number of fascinating and important articles and videos, so I want to take a moment and pass them along – I hope you enjoy!

Starting with some TECH: Google released a list of all the top 2016 searches in different categories.

Similarly, I stumbled on another Google product, this one provides timelapse videos of (from what I could tell) the entire earth since 1985. Pretty neat! I was this linked off of Indianapolis’ major newspaper, the Star. I watched my hometown of Dublin, Ohio evolve in a major way as Jack Nicklaus’ signature course, Muirfield Village, took shape from what was just farm country.

The biggest story of the week was probably this one: U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in U.S. Election Hack.  Apparently, the CIA and the FBI don’t agree on the details of this, but NBC claims to have been delivered hard evidence of Putin’s direct involvement in the election hacks.

In what I consider a pretty significant mistake, OH Gov. Kasich made some negative headlines:  Kasich signs 20-week abortion ban, vetoes ‘heartbeat’ bill.  Instead, he signed a 20-week ban, which wouldn’t be nearly as effective. National pro-life groups and activists have to be shaking their heads in disbelief right now. But it takes someone who understands Ohio politics and the mindset here to understand the thinking that led to this misstep. In fact, I would argue that the Governor has really fallen for the a line of thinking that actually originated from Ohio Right to Life, whose President has carried this banner himself for years. Note this important clip from the article:

Katherine Franklin, a spokeswoman for Ohio Right to Life, said in an email her group backs the 20-week abortion ban instead.  “Both are pre-viability bans, but we believe [the 20-week ban] is the best strategy for overturning Roe v. Wade and will ultimately prove most palatable to the Supreme Court,” Franklin said. “It’s not just the Ohio strategy but the national strategy.”
Why do I take time to point this out?  Because here you have, in a nutshell, why conservatism in America flounders and will continue to flounder. Those on the right continue to wait for a home run legally, or legislatively, while foregoing the small (yet not insignificant) cultural battles that are necessary in order to make large cultural changes. Conservatism in America is largely either reactionary or overly cautious today.  The Right has failed to take note of the culture and age we live in, and how it is that activists on the left have achieved our current state of society, and how it is that they have affected their achievements.  This has been an incremental war, with small but significant victories for the left.
No one has tracked this war better than Dr. Albert Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  My hypothesis of slow and steady victory in battle after battle is the thrust of Al Mohler’s little book ‘We Cannot be Silent’.  I’ve watched this battle unfold in Ohio for several years now, and am not entirely surprised by this (temporary) result.  I could say some pretty harsh things right now about the Governor, who I have happily worked for these past few years, but that would be missing the point. Its more important to recognize that he is simply one among many who have bought into the thought emanating from Ohio Right to Life. These are people who have (sadly) a strategically myopic perspective, and have failed to learn the lessons how we got to where we are culturally, much less take any cues from much more patient and resilient counterparts on the left.
On to other matters…
This one will get you thinking: The Wisdom in What God Doesn’t Say – a post from Jon Bloom, who you know is one of my favorite writers. Bloom says, “We might call the wise silence of God the “dark matter” of divine revelation. There is real substance in what we can’t see, but it’s detected with a different kind of inquiry. ‘Why didn’t God say that?'”
And while you’re over at Desiring God’s site, check out this story called ‘The Breath of Life’ – the subtitle is ‘Should Christians Agree to Ventilator Support?’ This is one of those topics which, if we don’t think about it not, we probably won’t ever think about it until the moment we’re facing the decision.
One of the most fascinating stories I read this week was a Washington Post analysis of Donald Trump’s cabinet/administration choices. The conclusion was this: Ayn Rand-acolyte Donald Trump stacks his cabinet with fellow objectivists.  Now, for those of you who have not read any Ayn Rand, this may not be very interesting, but I think its extremely important and helpful for understanding the worldview of the President-Elect, and the people he is choosing to help run the government.  When I read Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’ earlier this year, I was struck by how very close to the truth of what John Piper calls ‘Christian Hedonism’ she was. I thought “if only she had met C.S. Lewis!”  Then recently, in a discussion about Rand’s philosophy, and The Fountainhead, and how that interacts with Piper and Lewis’ philosophy, my friend Nic M. sent me this article from John Piper – who was himself enthralled with Rand early in his career.  I think Piper does an admirable job of sorting through Rand’s thinking, and how it differs from his own.  As he says, “Her brand of hedonism was so close to my Christian Hedonism and yet so far—like a satellite that comes close to the gravitational pull of truth and then flings off into the darkness of outer space.”  I could spend several blog posts and all day writing about this, but this will have to do for now. Just know that this is a thing, and that it needs to be discussed, considered, and discussed some more.  Read up, and start paying attention to how Rand’s thinking influences these folks’ decisions in the coming years…(similar story on Trump’s picks from liberals over at Quartz might intrigue you: Donald Trump is picking people to run agencies they hate)
Speaking of books!  Since we’re nearing the end of the year, people are writing a lot about books and which ones were the best of the year and so forth.  The Wall Street Journal has a cool feature with little interviews of famous people and what they read this year.  I mentioned Al Mohler earlier, well here is his list of favorite books from 2016.  I’ve read a few of these and am excited to read one or two others that I haven’t gotten to yet. Tim Challies has a list of lists that is similar to the WSJ, only more extensive in depth, yet only focused on the Christian literary community.  Similarly, h/t to Parris P. for sending this important article: As Far As Your Brain Is Concerned, Audiobooks Are Not ‘Cheating’  If you’d curious what I’ve read this year so far (still a few weeks left!) you can find that list here. 
Next, a series of stories on the fall of Aleppo, and the realization that Assad’s forces (aided by the Iranians and Russians!) have been killing off civilians who are fleeing the city. If there’s one must-read story on this situation, its an opinion piece over at ForeignPolicy.com entitled ‘The Cynical Horror of Assad and Aleppo: This is not civil war; this is war on civilians.’
Let me round off this post with a few other stories to checkout:
Rodents Run Wild in Paris. Blame the European Union.  I guess we still need rats though…just read all the way to the end!
Good post over at the Zondervan Blog that Challies sent out this week: Why are Jesus’ Genealogies in Matthew and Luke Different? 
SATIRE (FAKE NEWS ALERT): Youth Pastor Prepares Message: ‘Jesus is the Real Rogue One’ (h/t Alex W.)
New York Times: Obama Bars States From Denying Federal Money to Planned Parenthood….ya…because that’s constitutional.
That’s it for today!  I hope you enjoy the weekend, and stay safe on those roads!
PJW
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