Welcome to my weekly digest for April 28, 2023.
For new subscribers, this contains a roundup of my recent writings and podcasts, as well as links to the best articles from around the web this week. You can control what emails you get from me by visiting your account page.
Thanks to those of you who came out to our American Reformer/First Things event on the three worlds of evangelicalism in NYC last night. It was great to see you all and meet some readers for the first time.
Closing the Toilet Gap
My latest column in Governing magazine is on the lack of public restrooms in American cities.
It’s no secret that having kids changes the way we live our lives. Things we didn’t think about before now loom large in our decision-making. Playgrounds are among those things, as you might expect. But so are public restrooms.
The shortage of these restrooms has started attracting significant media attention. Earlier this year, The New York Times ran an article asking why public restrooms are so rare in America. The article noted that these facilities were once common, but this changed as the culture developed a more negative view of bodily functions during the Victorian era. More recently, in the 1970s, more were closed as cities were too broke to maintain them, and feminists complained about a lack of bathroom gender equality. At the same time, public restrooms became havens for drug use and prostitution. The absence of public restrooms might prevent homeless people from camping out in them, but it deprives them of a place to go to relieve themselves, leading to public urination and defecation. The solution may be worse than the problem.
Click through to read the whole thing.
As many of you know, my philosophy of local governance is about investing to continuously improve public goods and services. Unfortunately, the current ideologically climate in cities makes that a bad idea in many cases, because investments can’t be made or sustained on any sort of rational basis. Having amenities like public restrooms, for example, presupposes a certain level of public order and willingness to enforce that standard, something missing from cities today.
Best of the Web
Institute for Family Studies: Homeschooling Boys
Institute for Family Studies: What's the Plan? Cohabitation, Engagement, and Divorce
Fifty to 65% of Americans believe that living together before marriage will improve their odds of relationship success. Younger Americans are especially likely to believe in the beneficial effects of cohabitation, and to view living together as providing a valuable test of a relationship ahead of marriage. Yet living together before marriage has long been associated with a higher risk for divorce, contradicting the common belief that cohabitation will improve the odds of a marriage lasting.
First Things: The Spiritual Death of the West
WSJ: The Surprising Surge of Faith Among Young People
Anton Cebelo: When America Received a Message from the Future - Musings on the highly influential 1939 World’s Fair.
New Content and Media Mentions
I got a mention in New Lines Magazine, as well as Adrian Gaty’s Substack.
My podcast this week is about Kathy Keller’s skin in the game. It is some reflections on sacrifices she’s made and pain she’s absorbed that most people don’t think about or give her credit for.
Paid subscribers can read the transcript.
You can subscribe to my podcast on Apple, Google, or YouTube.
I was also a guest on the Omnibus Show podcast this week. It’s a short, 30 minute episode with some thoughts on career which inspired some of my writing this week.
New this week:
Career Considerations for Remote Work - things to keep in mind before you take a remote job.
Risks of Entering the Creator Economy (paid only) - Why the creator economy is a terrible deal for almost everybody.
If you aren’t yet a listener, check out the American Reformer podcast.
At American Reformer, Simon Kennedy writes about a resilient church on the fringe.
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I’m always interested in what the next generations are thinking. Somebody sent me this Youtube channel from a user called “Reformed Zoomer”, a Gen Z person who plays Minecraft while giving his opinion on various religious topics. It’s a window into at least one Gen Z think if you are interested. This episode is about why he is in the mainline Presbyterian church, even though he’s very theologically conservative.
Re: The Kingdomcraft post-script.
It's a bizarre, quixotic sort of thing to put your own soul at risk for the sake of "retaking the institutions." Sure, maybe his strategy would be workable, if there was a coordinated invasion of the PCUSA by Christians from the PCA. But that does not appear to be happening anytime soon, and one guy by himself is not going to retake any institution. I'm sympathetic to him saying that "the PCA should not exist" because the mainline denominations should never have been abandoned. But that ship has sailed. For better or for worse, we live amidst the cultural and institutional rubble of our ancestors' battles. The faithful men abandoned those denominations and we're stuck with their decision. Him soldiering on in the PCUSA is a little bit of slamming the barn door after the horse has bolted.
But it's worse than that. He is putting himself (and his family, if he's got one) in danger. Multiple times he says that he thinks there aren't other Christians in the PCUSA. So he is depriving himself of the fellowship of Christian brothers, for the sake of reclaiming cultural clout? History is full of ups and downs. At various times the church has been exalted, and other times the church has been humbled. It's discouraging to admit that now is (and perhaps our entire lives will be) a time of the Lord humbling the church in America. But again: we live with the consequences of our ancestors' decisions. We can't drown it out with "The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord!" The Lord exalts who He will, and He humbles who He will.
There's a meta sort of irony, too, that he's building a fantasy church in a computer game while fantasizing about building a new PCUSA IRL.