Monthly Archives: September 2017

What hangups do you have with Christianity?

I originally titled this blog “The Christian Rationalist” because both my faith and what I hope is at least close to rational thought together form the basis for how I live my life. It’s true that it sounds a bit pretentious, but “A Christian Rationalist” just didn’t have the same ring to it.

More subversively, though, I’m implicitly claiming that Christianity and rational thought are compatible. This cuts both ways: obviously some usually nonreligious folks find Christianity irrational, but there are also Christians who find rational thought antithetical to their faith. In the larger context of the blog, I try to push on both misperceptions, modeling a successful synthesis. Here are a few examples:

But that’s only the beginning. I’d like to write more about this synthesis, at the very least to be able to bring my friends together from these different camps and articulate the core of our disagreement. It strikes me as rather strange that so many thoughtful people would firmly fall on one side or another without some sort of means of resolving that disagreement.

At some point when I’m better able to articulate what rational thought entails, I’ll ask the reverse question, but for now, I’d like to ask my rationality-minded non-Christian friends what holds them back from joining the faith. What hang ups do you have with Christianity?

Let me drive this home a bit further by sharing my experience. From being a Christian, I’ve gotten a natural community almost anywhere I go, a robust ability to process both success and failure, and a sense of purpose bigger than myself. In just the last five years, my church has been literally my favorite part of living in Boston, and I met my wife and many of my closest friends through the Graduate Christian Fellowship.

If that’s a possibility, why not learn more? What stops you, or what would stop you if you thought about it, from looking into becoming a Christian?

Farewell to Summer

As of about an hour ago, fall has officially begun. The equinox feels as good a time as any to reflect on my summer, as well as provide a cognitive break point and encourage myself to treat fall differently.

Normally, I reflect like this approximately once a month, reviewing my previous month, getting a handle on the big picture of my upcoming schedule, and setting some personal goals. I don’t write them for an audience, but my plans aren’t really secret — I often tell Grace or other friends like my community group what I’m thinking. In a certain sense, though, God is my audience, and I’ve certainly felt waves of conviction and resolve while reflecting, similar to those I’ve felt in church or reading through the Bible.

Naturally, though, my choice to make this reflection public before writing it will likely inflect my writing in various ways, some of which I might not even be aware of. I already feel a need to edit my language to be more precise; when writing for myself, I feel a bit more free to follow ideas as they come rather than retrace my steps to write more precisely. Anyways, here goes.

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Five More Things Millennials Need to Kill

I’m a millennial, and I like to read about what’s unique about my generation, even if it’s just a lazy analysis of market trends that might as well be noise. But the one consistent thing I keep reading is that Millennials are Killing Everything. At least, that’s what the Miami Herald says, offering 27 examples. Business Insider claims that ‘Psychologically Scarred’ Millennials are killing countless industries, but I can count, and they only have 19 in their list. Even BuzzFeed seems to mock their own style of headline: Here Are 28 Things Millennials Are Killing In Cold Blood. Not to be outdone, Mashable offers 70 things millennials have killed.

Since this seems to be our generational superpower (apparently always alongside avocado toast), I have a few more things that I’d like to see us use it on.

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Disillusionment with Authority is the Coming of Age Story of Our Time

As I wrap up my time in math grad school and start to look beyond, I’ve been reflecting on what led me to study math in the first place. It was the topic that captivated my mind, that I was the most proficient at, and which made me thirst to learn more. But that it even presented itself as an option for a career to me at all is one aspect I’d never really considered.

Only after I got to grad school did I realize that I had an image in my mind of academia that was rather different from what I found. I had imagined that everyone in academia was motivated by the desire to solve the big problems that the world faces, and they simply aimed at different time horizons for their solutions. There’s an underlying talk of work that is “20 years away”, “10 years away”, and academics rightly pride themselves in the fact that they have the freedom to think on those scales where businesses would shy away.

But what I found was that a large number of academics — and this isn’t even restricted to the math department — don’t even think in terms of providing solutions. Instead, there’s commonly a self-referential focus, an inward turn to do things to impress other academics, writing papers and building theory with only fellow academics in mind.

Part of my story, which I’ve touched on in many recent blog posts, is therefore one of disillusionment with this type of academic authority. Some of it comes from rising to the highest ranks and seeing what life is like at “the top” of whatever status hierarchy you find yourself in. In high school, I remember being somewhat disillusioned by my experience at a science summer camp in Australia that our Science Bowl team had won as a prize for winning the national competition. “This is it?” I remember wondering. “This is what I was striving after all of this time?”

I’ve gone through a similar type of evolution at MIT. To be clear, this isn’t the only mental malady one can experience at a place like MIT, or even the most common. I hear a lot about the impostor syndrome, where we think that we don’t belong in an institution because we’re not good enough. But such students still often believe in the fundamental goodness or effectiveness of their school, and only wish they could live up to it. The disillusionment I’m talking about is when they no longer believe that the institutions and authorities they’ve looked up to are actually praiseworthy anymore.

Disillusionment like this is surprisingly common today.

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Five Years at City on a Hill Church

Five years ago tomorrow, I first visited City on a Hill Church in Brookline, Massachusetts. Affectionately known as “CoaH” (koh-uh) by those of us who call it our spiritual home, it’s been my favorite part of living in the Boston area.

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