Welcome to my weekly digest for May 19, 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.
Head’s up: Next week I am planning to make some design changes to my Substack homepage design to take advantage of some new capabilities that have been rolled out. Don’t be alarmed if you see changes.
I also have an update to this month’s newsletter. Apparently Julius Kim is out as the president of the Gospel Coalition as of March 31. I had not seen that previously.
Dani Treweek on Singleness
In a follow-up to my look at a recent book by a woman who has been single for decades, a reader emailed me this Substack post from Dani Treweek sharing her experience of being single. Treweek is an Australian theologian and writer whose work seems to focus extensively on singleness. She has a brand new book out on the topic called The Meaning of Singleness: Retrieving an Eschatological Vision for the Contemporary Church. Here’s what she had to say:
Far from being in a position to marry anyone we like, very few of us are living life as if we could find a spouse at any moment. Many of us spent our 20s imagining that would be the case, until we realised it wasn’t. Even though we spent all those years standing on the dock, ready, eager and waiting for when it would be our turn, we still somehow “missed the boat”. Many of us feel rather lost and bewildered about just how that happened. We tried to do all the “right” things. We tried to be the “right” person for someone. But we were never picked. Or perhaps even worse, we were picked, and then we were rejected.
Friends, the grief of being the one never chosen is real. For many of us, it becomes internalised into deep insecurities. What is wrong with me? What do I lack? There has to be a reason nobody wanted me to be their person. There must be a reason why that person thought I might be their person, and then changed their minds. There must be an ugliness in me—inside and out. I must be undeserving.
The person who sent this to me says it is the most honest writing about singleness that he’s seen from an evangelical woman. I agree. I noted the similarity to many of the things Amy Key said in her book, even though these women could not be more different.
Again, the average pastor in America simply does not understand the reality of long term singleness. I do not believe most of the statements they make and the advice they give takes account of the full reality of the situation singles often find themselves in.
NY Post: I make men submit a 500-word essay to date me: Do not waste my time - Here’s the flip side of female singleness. It also shows the extreme thirst levels in many young men today, and how clueless they are about women. She initially posted the essay requirement as a joke, but many men took it seriously. One guy even sent her a Power Point presentation. They’d actually have better luck if they told her she had to write them a 500 word essay about why they should be willing to ask her out.
The Joys of Motherhood
This Mother’s Day op-ed in the Washington Post reminds us that we hear a lot about how difficult motherhood is (and it is), and how much more support mothers need (they do), but less about the upsides:
My work as a journalist has taken me around the world and allowed me to meet titans of industry, actors, academics and even a former president. But by far the most interesting and educational job I’ve had is being a mom.
That parenting can be fulfilling, fascinating and actually a lot of fun isn’t discussed very often. There is an entire genre of books dedicated to the misery of motherhood, focused on how women are “screaming on the inside” and “why mommy drinks.” Plenty of women identify with this. I know a woman who has felt so overwhelmed by motherhood that she has, on more than one occasion, checked into a hotel to take a break from her family.
Clearly parents, and mothers in particular, need more support. But one way we can support them, particularly new parents who are anxious and uncertain about the job ahead, is to remind them that there are many upsides to parenting. The juggling of work and family is a daily challenge, but raising children can also feel empowering, create new opportunities and lead you to new relationships with people you would never have met if you hadn’t become a parent.
Motherhood doesn’t have to narrow your world — it can expand it.
Click through to read the whole thing.
Quartz: The number of stay-at-home mothers rose dramatically in the US last year
The Guardian: ‘Vanishing like glaciers’: plunging birthrate threatens Italian schools
Korean Herald: Lawmaker's call to abolish ‘no kids zones’ sparks controversy - For more on South Korea’s toxic gender politics and no kids zones, see newsletter #75, which is entirely devoted to that country.
Best of the Web
In a bit of sad news, Tim Keller has entered hospice care at home. For those who don’t know him, he’s been one of America’s most influential evangelical pastors, and has been battling against pancreatic cancer for some time. Pray for him and his family.
Scott Winship: The Mainline Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Social Capitalism - I’ve written a lot about the need to recapture the best attributes of the mainlines. Winship provides a social science gloss on this. I’m not sure this analysis fully captures socio-economic status as it relates to denominational differences or that it accounts for ethnic stratification as well. I think these findings are mostly a legacy of history. But still very interesting and illustrates something important.
Jake Dell: Is “Reconquista” a Good Strategy for the Mainline Churches? - Some thoughts on whether mainline churches can be theologically revitalized by an Episcopal priest.
WSJ: Eastern Orthodoxy Gains New Followers in America
Semafor: A third of scientific papers may be fraudulent - Believe ¡the Science!
Le Monde Diplomatique (English edition): A second Iraq War, twenty years on - It isn’t just the United States where those who promoted the disastrous Iraq War prospered while critics did not. The same thing happened in France.
New Content and Media Mentions
I was a guest on the Paleo-Protestant podcast this week. I also got a mention in the American Conservative.
New this week:
In case you missed it, this month’s newsletter was on the critical shortfall of courage in the American elite. There’s also an audio version available.
Amy Key's Single Life - I look at the new book Arrangements in Blue, a memoir from a British writer about life as a long term single.
At American Reformer, Christian Winter writes “Towards a Christian Vitalism,” another look at ways to counter the attraction of the neo-pagan right.
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Regarding the Jake Dell article, where are people who want to try this strategy of reconquest in mainline denominations supposed to find faithful pastors? Typically the pastors are even more committed to the progressive agenda than the few old people who remain in the pews. To quote from his article:
"The mainline denominations, meanwhile, could get a new lease on life as legacy trust funds, (think: the Ford, Mellon, and Carnegie foundations) promoting progressive causes, world without end, or at least until Jesus returns."
I have become convinced this is the playbook at most mainline denominations for a few years now. This gives them a strong incentive to hang onto to power and more importantly the financial assets of these churches. Reforming a church may be possible, reforming one of these denominations is not.
That leads to the problem of if the church owns its building, etc. Also based on personal experience, most of the nice old people you meet at these mainline churches have no interest in rocking the boat and just want to know this church is where their funeral is going to be held when they die. God bless anyone who tries, but it will be much more difficult than he suggests.