As has become my habit over the past few years, it’s time to take stock of the year that was on this blog. And the best way to do so is, of course, to determine which posts had the most eyeballs roll over them over the past 365 or so days. Here are the five most viewed posts of 2017 along with a brief description of each.
This piece was based on an episode from Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History Podcast about how we tell stories. He examined the story behind the famous “Foot Soldier of Birmingham” statue. It is an icon of the Civil Rights movement, but while it stands as an appropriate symbol of a broad period of American history, it doesn’t exactly tell the whole truth of the incident it was based on. It can be a risky business, speculating on why certain posts generate more traffic than others, but if I were to hazard a guess on this one, it would be that it tapped in to the roiling racial tensions of the last few years. Also, I tried to hold up a mirror to our all too human tendency to tell stories in ways that serve our interests rather than as they really are. Sometimes people don’t like this.
This post continues to stun me. I wrote it a few days after the photo of little Alan Kurdi’s body on a Turkish beach in September 2015 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.” Predictably, with the benefit of hindsight, the comment section rapidly came to be characterized by considerably more heat than light. Within hours of publishing this post, it became quite easily the most viewed post of anything I have ever written (by roughly half a million hits). Clearly it tapped (and continues to tap) into very palpable hopes and fears and anxieties and angers about the present geopolitical state of affairs and how the gospel of Christ might call us to respond.
The death of Playboy icon Hugh Hefner provided the occasion for this reflection on how what our attitudes toward sex and pornography are doing to us culturally. Some considered the ending a bit insensitive given that Hugh Hefner was still a dearly loved child of God, loved. Critics were surely right to remind me of this, but I chose to leave the ending as it was. I think the sex industry that Hefner stands as a symbol of is so profoundly toxic and degrading and destructive to human souls, that the strong language was and is warranted.
The high traffic on this one in 2017 is a bit of a head scratcher as I wrote it over five years ago. I can only assume that the title pops to the top of certain Google searches or something. Perhaps there was an algorithm change in my favour somewhere along the way. Anyway, the post was a challenge to reconsider who Jesus was and is and to embrace the many ways in which he bewilders and unsettles us. It is we who must learn to dance to Jesus’ tune, not vice versa.
How do we read the bible? This question is probably at the heart of nearly every issue that vexes Christians. This post was based on a conversation with my teenage daughter who was talking with friends after a Bible survey course about what it means to call the bible “the word of God.” Which parts should be read contextually? Which parts are timeless? What do we do about the parts that are offensive or violent or just plain old bewildering? I tried to convince her (and, by extension, my dear readers) that the word of God (written) exists always and only to point to the Word of God (in flesh). And that the latter trumps the former. The jury is still out on how convincing she finds this argument. 😉
On the off chance that numbers don’t tell the whole (wouldn’t that be crazy?!), here’s my own “Top Five” of 2017 (without commentary). These posts may not have generated the traffic that the five above did, but I’m rather pleased with each of them in their own way and for their own reasons.
So, there are the “top fives” from 2017. As I’ve said before, though, the main benefit of compiling these year-end posts is to provide an opportunity to thank you for actually reading what I write here. I am grateful for the engagement and connections that take place in this space. I wish you all the best in 2018.