Weekend Reads: Evangelicals & Trump, The Women of Black Panther, Dungeons & Dragons, Cleaning Up Reddit & more

Also: Black Christians and white churches, Mamoru Oshii, Hulu’s satanic panic, wormholes, Stephen Hawking, Spotify, and understanding tech.

The Cross and the Flag

In this excellent essay, Michael Gerson explores the history of American evangelical Christianity, why its leaders have come to support a man like Trump, and what this means for both Christianity and America. “The moral convictions of many evangelical leaders have become a function of their partisan identification. This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption. Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can’t see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives. Little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness.”

Meanwhile, black worshipers are leaving white evangelical churches and the 2016 election is the reason why. “It has been a scattered exodus — a few here, a few there — and mostly quiet, more in fatigue and heartbreak than outrage. Plenty of multiracial churches continue to thrive, and at some churches, tough conversations on race have begun… But for many black churchgoers, the current breach feels particularly painful.”

Dora Milaje

One of Black Panther’s finest qualities is its many strong black female characters, something the Church could learn from. “The women in Black Panther are the best representation I’ve seen of God’s intention for His daughters. It may be a story, but it speaks a truth that’s been long silenced… This is the world that exists in Wakanda, with black women as partners, as leaders, as innovators, front and center. This is the world I long to see, not only on movie screens, but also in real life, especially among God’s people.”

Kotaku reviews Mamoru Oshii’s live-action sci-fi film Avalon. “[T]his very seriousness is what makes the film interesting in the first place, despite its made-for-Syfy production values and oppressively brown color palette. It evinces a very real love of and familiarity with games as a medium, but takes seriously their ability to trivialize violence and isolate people.” It’s been years since I’ve watched Oshii’s Avalon, but I loved it when I saw it; here’s my review.

1d20

As an ’80s church kid, I heard all about the evils of Dungeons & Dragons. But Elizabeth Garn argues that there good reasons for Christians to reconsider the role-playing game. “D&D is a game: there are dice, and rules, and the ever-present possibility of things going horribly wrong. But it is so much more. Unlike most games, the heart of D&D is not winning or scoring points but storytelling. It’s immersive and interactive in a way watching a movie, or even playing a video game, just cannot be. People today are flocking to it, not because it’s a fad but because our hearts were created to tell stories and to tell them together.”

I also heard lots of rumors about occult and Satanic activity in the broader culture. (My family even boycotted Proctor and Gamble for while because it had supposed occult ties.) So consider me very intrigued by Hulu’s newly announced series about the Satanic Panic of the ’80s. “The series is inspired by the obsession with uncovering repressed memories that preoccupied psychologists of the period, some of whom used hypnosis and other heavy-handed methods of suggestion to lead patients to ‘remember’ acts of sexual abuse by nonexistent Satanic cabals.”

Wormhole

Steven D. Greydanus finds some parallels between the Holy Eucharist and bizarre science phenomena like wormholes and quantum physics. “Like religious mysteries made known through divine revelation, science reveals a world that exceeds the bounds of human experience, comprehension, and imagination. We cannot form an accurate imaginative picture of the world of quantum mechanics, any more than we can form an accurate imaginative picture of the body and blood of Christ being present under the appearances of bread and wine.”

Also worth reading is Greydanus’ tribute to Stephen Hawking. “Was Hawking really satisfied with his own account? Was anyone? We are all subject to cognitive biases that lead our thinking astray. Yet every critical thinker knows this — and Hawking was surely a critical thinker. He knew, and knew better than most, that final certitude eludes human beings. Neither believers nor unbelievers can ever fully escape uncertainty and unknowing.”

Spotify

Streaming services like Spotify seem like a godsend for music lovers. And yet, they can cause some surprising anxiety. “It’s distressing to be reminded that the world is filled with corporations that will work relentlessly to monetize every moment of our lives —  especially because those moments are finite. And I think this is where our underlying angst over streaming originates. Listening to music on streaming platforms ultimately reminds us that there are lifetimes upon lifetimes of recorded sound that we won’t live long enough to hear.”

Anil Dash lists 12 things everyone should understand about tech. “One of the most important things everybody should know about the apps and services they use is that the values of technology creators are deeply ingrained in every button, every link, and every glowing icon that we see. Choices that software developers make about design, technical architecture or business model can have profound impacts on our privacy, security and even civil rights as users.”

Laptop Kid

Alex Duloz encourages us to fight the propagation of dumbness on the internet. “When we develop a new application, when we post content on the Internet, whatever we do that people will have access to, we should consider just for a minute if our contribution will add up to the level of dumbness kids/teenagers are exposed to. If it does, we should refrain from going live.”

Reddit, which has often contained some of the internet’s darkest and vilest content, is trying to clean up its act while still respecting free speech. As you might imagine, it’s difficult. “Is it possible to facilitate a space for open dialogue without also facilitating hoaxes, harassment, and threats of violence? Where is the line between authenticity and toxicity? What if, after technology allows us to reveal our inner voices, what we learn is that many of us are authentically toxic?” (Note, this article contains descriptions of some pretty disturbing stuff that could be found on Reddit.)


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