2015 in Review
Another year draws to a close and so it’s time for one of those year-end posts that everyone loves so much (I assume, at least—for what else could account for their prevalence out there in the blogosphere?! Surely not the pretentiousness of bloggers!). As I surveyed this year’s top five, I observed a few trends: 1) Readers seem to like posts with long clunky titles (it also helps if the word “five” makes an appearance); 2) Being sarcastic and mildly confrontational seem to help; and 3) Scratching around at the things that we find most threatening—whether it’s the nature of faith or the future of the church or assumptions about our own identities and about our obligation to those we see as “other” and frightening— seems to quite reliably stir the proverbial pot.
So, I shall dutifully soldier into 2016 in search of ever longer titles and more sarcasm-drenched posts about the things that we find most unsettling. Or not. At any rate, here are the top five posts of 2015 along with a brief description of each.
This post was the surprise of the year on this little blog. I wrote it a few days after the photo of little Alan Kurdi’s body on a Turkish beach catapulted the Syrian refugee crisis to the front of our collective cultural consciousness. It was meant to be a call to Christians to examine how we speak and think about those we (rightly or, more often wrongly) consider our “enemies,” but the comment section quite quickly degenerated into a free-for-all of the polarizing ignorance, anger, and fear that has characterized broader cultural attitudes toward what the refugee crisis might demand of us (or invite us toward!). There was also a good deal of kind affirmation, for which I was (and am) grateful. About 10 hours after posting it, this became quite easily the most viewed post of anything I have written in nearly nine years of blogging. I continue to be astonished at the response this post has generated (both in volume and in content).
I wrote this one five days after the post above in an attempt to clarify what I was and (more often) was not saying, and to attempt to stem the flow of angry responses piling up on my doorstep. Or, at the very least, to steer people toward different or more interesting responses than the five variations of indignation that I tended to be receiving thus far. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work. Even four months later (a veritable eternity in internet time!), while the outrage has slowed considerably it continues to trickle in. The Internet needs to be angry, it seems.
Evidently one day in mid-May, I grew tired of “Five Reasons People are Leaving the Church” articles. So I wrote this piece in response. In it, I gently and sensitively (ahem) inquired as to whether or not sometimes, occasionally, very rarely, quite likely impossibly, really, the reason that people leave the church might have at least much to do with the people doing the leaving as it does with the church.
This one was a version of a sermon that I preached after the Paris attacks in November. So, I guess technically this makes it the
best most read sermon I have ever produced. 🙂 In it, I tried to give space for the human need to grieve, rage, lament in the face of the ugly and unspeakable things in our world while at the same time to steer us toward what I am convinced is a fundamental and non-negotiable rhythm and cadence of a Jesus-centred life. You have heard it said… but I say to you. There is a way that things tend to go in the world—there are typical responses that we tend to observe, typical outcomes that tend to materialize in response to this or that threat or fear. But Jesus speaks a different response to us. And he shows us the way.
A bit of a personal reflection on what I imagine is a common trajectory in the life of faith. In this post, I talked about moving from implicitly understanding faith as the erecting and maintaining clear boundaries and straight lines toward embracing faith as the inhabiting of a story and learning to trust God instead of the theological edifices about God that I am so often pleased to construct. Straight and inflexible lines don’t tend to work very well in real life and real faith. This post tried to acknowledge our longing for clear divisions and straight lines, but also to push in what I think are better directions that are more faithful to the world of our experience and, more importantly, to the way in which God has chosen to be with us and to inhabit his story.
So, that’s the year that was. As always, I thank you for reading and contributing to conversations here. In particular, I want to thank those who spent a few minutes writing a kind word of encouragement or two, whether in the comments section or in private emails or Facebook messages or whatever. I will undoubtedly remember 2015 as the year that I found myself on the receiving end of an unprecedented amount of nastiness on this blog, but it will also be the year that I associate with an incredible amount of affirmation and encouragement as well. Never, ever, underestimate how much these small tokens of kindness and solidarity can mean in the world. The world—particularly online—has plenty of anger. We can always use more kindness.
I wish you all the best in 2016.