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Weekend Reading 21

Our Weekend Reading series (brought to you by our Patreon backers) continues with a curated selection of articles—and a few other things—from around the Internet that interested us this week!


As most everyone probably already knows, hurricane Harvey hit the south-eastern parts of Texas earlier this week. As tempting as it is to send blankets and water and food and other items, this article explains why those kinds of donations in times of crisis can do more harm than good. There is also a handy list of links where you can donate money to organizations that are doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

In 1998 Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras. More than 11,000 people died. More than a million and a half were left homeless.

And Rilling got a wake-up call: “Got a call from one of our logistics experts who said that a plane full of supplies could not land, because there was clothing on the runway. It’s in boxes and bales. It takes up yards of space. It can’t be moved.’ ‘Whose clothing is it?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t know whose it is, but there’s a high-heeled shoe, just one, and a bale of winter coats.’ And I thought, winter coats? It’s summer in Honduras.”

Humanitarian workers call the crush of useless, often incomprehensible contributions “the second disaster.”

I’m sure that at one point or another, we’ve all heard the phrase “You’d look better without makeup.” It may have been directed at you. You may even have been the one to say it. The phrase itself is a bit of a misdirected near-compliment. It compliments the makeup-wearer’s natural appearance by looking down on the artistic effort of applying the makeup in the first place. And the way Derek Rishmawy looks at it, John Calvin’s teachings and philosophies go directly against that turn of phrase.

My wife spent this last Saturday morning ministering to and mentoring young women in foster care. As part of a larger program, she spent focused one-on-one time with a number of six teenage girls, listening to their stories, talking to them, and giving them a gift that she has cultivated with care and grace over a number of years: proper skin care and a knowledge of how to apply makeup that works with their facial features.

I see this as a service and not simply a misguided encouragement to vanity, and to make my case, I’d like to call to the stand a witness: Genevan Reformer John Calvin’s theology of the body.

This War of Mine is an absolutely heart-wrenching game about being a civilian in a war-torn country. And now there is a  LARP based on it in Texas that is raising money for charity.

Jackalope Live Action Studios has secured the sponsorship of 11-Bit Studios in creating a live action experience based on their award-winning video game This War of Mine for the benefit of the charity War Child. Titled A War of Our Own, the live action experience will explore struggles of civilians living in the fictional war-torn country of Calbia. Proceeds from the event will be donated to War Child, a charity that works with the care and education of children whose lives have been torn apart by war and conflict.


Over at Hacking Christianity, Rev. Jeremy Smith poses a fascinating question: “Should Reducing Hate Be a Measure of Church Effectiveness?”. Amidst discussion of the statistical correlation between the number of churches and the number of hate groups in US states, Smith notes that metrics indicate what we really hold dear:

Want to know what often spurs churches to do something? When they are required to report on it. We value what we count.

In our metrics, United Methodist churches send in reports on dollars in the plate, attendance, conversions, baptisms, numbers of people involved in mission, and myriad others. But nowhere are we evaluated on engagement with hate groups, or reduction of hate in our communities.

Perhaps we need to. Perhaps we need to report “contact hours” of the church with hate groups or events in our communities. Send 5 people to a two hour demonstration against a KKK rally? That’s 10 contact hours. 20 people surround a mosque to protect it during evening prayer for an hour? 20 contact hours. And conferences can report on the number of multicultural churches in their regions.

Because as the story above about Daryl Davis shows, it’s the contact hours and experience that matter. Not the attendance at church (sadly, attendance does not mean one is inoculated against active racism) or the contributions to the Capital Campaign. It’s the contact hours and the intentionally diverse churches that matter.

D&D Rules Developer Jeremy Crawford is known for his technical mastery of the 5th Edition D&D rules he helped design. However, in this Gen Con interview with Kotaku (“D&D Rules Developer’s 9 Inside Hacks For Players and DMs”) Crawford gets away from detail and provides some very helpful advice for running Dungeons & Dragons and other games.

“A lot of people think, for instance, ‘Oh, whenever I use Persuasion, it’s always paired with Charisma,” Crawford said. But in fact, he said,, there’s a variant rule that lets players pair any skill they’re proficient in with any ability score, depending on what’s happening in the story.


Hiding in the Dungeon Master’s Guide is a tip for cutting down on excessive rolls before combat: “Just assume every monster rolled a 10 on the d20 and make their initiative 10 plus their dexterity modifier,” Crawford said. He and his colleagues over at publisher Wizards of the Coast even considered adding that base initiative score to each monster’s entry in the Monster Manual.


“Preparation for any individual session should take no longer than half that session’s length.” Also, to cut down on future preparation time, DMs should recycle aspects of the game players heedlessly skip over in their rush to advance the story or raid the orc den. “I try to make it so that none of my preparation goes to waste,” Crawford adds.

Finally: It’s not an article, but after forgetting about it for a little bit I’ve been marveling this week at the beautiful work produced by members of The Cartographer’s Guild. It’s a massive repository of fictional maps—for gaming, for fantasy worlds, and much more. There’s some tactical maps, but many are lovely world maps. If you need geography in a hurry, or tutorials on how to make your own, this is one of the resources you should have ready.


This post is a little bit late in part because I got sucked into the new War of the Chosen expansion for XCOM 2 which came out this week. (It’s also partly because I’m taking a few days of vacation and screwed up which day it was, but it’s considerably harder to link to that.)

Richard Beck once again makes it into my part of the weekend reading. I’ve been gradually pulling back a bit from social media because it’s started to get exhausting to see all of the fighting and virtue-signalling (and also because I’m far from perfect and can sometimes get drawn into it myself). Beck’s got a series of posts on tribalism this week that has me hoping this is the topic of his next book. I found the third post in the series to be especially good:

The book of Jonah is another example.

Consider the scandal of Jonah: a prophet of Israel sent to save her enemy, the Assyrian empire.

Israel had every moral right to wish for the destruction of Assyria. Let those deplorables rot in hell!

Instead, the book of Jonah ends with God’s great question: “Should I not pity Nineveh?”

The book of Jonah is an amazing example of a tribe cultivating resources for self-criticism. The book of Jonah is a moral scandal. It’s so transgressive! As David Benjamin Blower points out in his book Sympathy for Jonah, the companion book to his album The Book of Jonah, it’s a miracle that Jonah was allowed into the canon and that its author was not burnt at the stake.

There’s a great article from Mike Perna over on Gamechurch about the digital boardgame Antihero and what heroism actually looks like in different circumstances. The article reminds me a lot of the “arrow incident” post about the wildly different backgrounds of two PCs in our D&D game I wrote a while back.

Watching the game over someone else’s shoulder, it may be hard to see how there’s any level of heroism here. You are a collection of despicable people doing despicable things to other despicable people before another group does equally terrible things. It’s only when you watch the interconnecting story, played out in a series of animated comics, that you see something courageous unfold. It’s here that you meet Emma, a young girl Lightfinger takes on as his apprentice. In a later mission, Emma takes on the role of master thief. Without going into too much detail, this campaign isn’t so much Lightfinger’s story as Emma’s. It’s when we look at Lightfinger through Emma’s eyes that we see his heroism. When we first see Emma, she’s on the street begging or stealing anything she can just to have something to eat. Lightfinger gave her a chance to step out of that.

The Korean peninsula has been  in the news a lot lately, but I thought this article about the president of the Korean Red Cross and his work was an interesting and very hopeful departure from all of the talk of saber rattling and rising tension.

Park spoke of his commitment in an interview with the WCC to reestablishing interactions with the Red Cross in North Korea and restarting contacts between families between North and South that have stopped for the past 10 years.




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