Weekly Digest: Scottish Politician Confronts the Negative World
Welcome to my weekly digest for March 3, 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.
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Next week my family is taking an early spring break, so there will be no podcast or digest. I do hope to have some content for you to read, however. My next monthly newsletter is scheduled for March 13th.
Kate Forbes and the Negative World
Kate Forbes is a young Scottish politician running to become the next First Minister of Scotland. She’s run into a firestorm of controversy on account of her strong Presbyterian beliefs. This interview of her will give you a sample, but there’s a vast trove of articles about it.
This is what I described as the negative world in my three worlds framework, in which being know as a Christian has now turned into a social negative, a big liability in the elite domains of society.
Related from The Times (UK): Christian beliefs have lost their social cachet - “Church membership once conferred status, now you are more likely to be derided as a bigot.”
Also related in the NYT: Adams, Discussing Faith, Dismisses Idea of Separating Church and State
“Ingrid was so right,” Mr. Adams said, to the astonishment of some of the religious leaders who filled the New York Public Library’s glass-domed reception hall on Fifth Avenue. “Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body. Church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies.”
“I can’t separate my belief because I’m an elected official,” he continued, over scattered applause.
He went on to suggest that his path to the mayoralty was divinely ordained, saying that when he implements policies, he does so in a “godlike approach.”
At another point, Mr. Adams seemed to suggest that it was a mistake for the Supreme Court to ban mandated prayer in public schools, as it did in 1962. “When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools,” he said.
This shows that the United States is not as advanced into the negative world dynamics as the UK or Australia. It also shows, despite the controversy the mayor’s statements garnered, that New York is actually the most religion friendly elite city in America. Tony Carnes calls it “the post-secular city.” NYC has long had a very large Jewish population, many of them observant, which has lead to an acceptance for people making religion, whatever it is, part of their public identity in New York.
Social Media and Depression
There’s been another spate of articles recently about the role of social media on smart phones in teenage depression, particularly in teenage girls.
Jonathan Haidt wrote a Substack post on it that I linked last week I believe.
Michelle Goldberg at the New York times wrote a column on the topic, that was followed up by a newsletter from David Leonhardt.
Richard Hanania put up a post saying he’s changed his mind and come around to the idea that social media and smart phones are a factor in teen depression.
Noah Smith chimes in to say it’s probably the phones.
Matthew Yglesias had an interesting newsletter honing in on the fact that it seems to be predominantly young liberals who are experiencing these mental health problems (which Michelle Goldberg also mentions).
And a Twitter user followed-up to Yglesias with a chart showing that showing that mental health problems are strongly correlated with liberal politics.
I’m not sure what to make of all this myself, as other than Twitter I’m not a huge user of social media. But something is definitely afoot.
Best of the Web
Rod Dreher is ending his blog at the American Conservative. So be sure to follow him at his new home right here on Substack.
Rob Henderson: An Instinct That's Basic and Deeper - On men’s willingness to physically defend women.
Institute for Family Studies: Actually, Most People Love Being Parents
A Texas state legislator introduced legislation that would provide a property tax break to people who get and stay married, as well as providing additional property tax break for children of married couples. A married couple with ten kids would be completely exempt from property tax. This prompted a lot of shrieking but it shines a light on something interesting. We have a ton of programs that provide financial benefits to single mothers and which reward out of wedlock births, but not much specifically designed to channel rewards to married families.
Political scientist Eric Kaufman on how political indoctrination in schools will make Republicans unelectable.
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New Content and Media Mentions
I got a mention in this American Conservative piece on Chicago, and also at Market Urbanism, in this Brad Littlejohn piece in World Magazine, and at Gene Veith’s Patheos site. My article on why purpose is no substitute for public respect got a nice link at the Aquila Report.
Tony Carnes references my three worlds model in his review of Collin Hansen’s new book about Tim Keller. Sociologist and journalist Carnes is the foremost expert on religion in New York City and has known Keller since at least the early 90s, so this in-depth look is one to read. It contains additional details not the book. If you didn’t see it, but sure to read my review as well.
New this week:
I wrote about why you should not underestimate how difficult it is to change careers after age 30.
Ron DeSantis’ Conservative Popularism (paid only) - I show how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has focused on issues that are popular with the public at large, while avoiding ones that are not popular. It’s working for him, but requires tradeoffs.
My podcast this week is about the shortage of good men - and what that means for men themselves. Paid subscribers can read the transcript.
At American Reformer, Douglas Walker writes in defense of inequality and hierarchy, and Jonathan Ashbach reviews Abigail Favale’s new book The Genesis of Gender.
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Reminder: no podcast or digest next week.
Interestingly, David Brooks at Yale / NYT, says that he now sees his students taking on religion with more openness and respect than say 15 years ago. He says, back then religion at Yale was like “bad acne.”
I wonder if the “bad acne” stage led to the negative world among adults. If so, maybe the openness of student today will lead to a more open world tomorrow.
(Reference to a podcast “David Brooks on your, morality and loneliness (Live at Mason) - Conversations with Tyler”
With such divergent worldviews, I wonder if the mental health chart would look mostly the same measured by church attendance. I'm starting to see that many liberal people are fundamentally rejecting the idea that life is actually worth living. Despair's best friends are anxiety and depression, which seem to be the bulk of mental health problems. Plenty of other obvious factors go into it.