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2021 in Review

It’s been… a year. Another year dominated by Covid, another year where we have vacillated between anxiety and hysteria and confusion and apathy and fear and anger and many other things besides. I cast a quick glance back at last year’s year-end post and read what I wrote: “the general sense seems to be that the next spin around the sun has to be better than the one that’s drawing to a close.” Was it? Well, maybe. I dunno. I guess it depends. Who knows much of anything at this point. I confidently predict 2022 will be better. Or worse. Or the same.

You know the December 31 drill by now, I suppose. Here are the top posts from the last 365 days along with a brief summary of each. As far as sheer numbers go, once again two older posts generated more traffic this year than anything I wrote in 2021.


When the Truth Gets in the Way of the Story You Want to Tell

We live in times where “truth” is a fairly malleable concept. This 2017 reflection on an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History Podcast about how we tell stories has gotten a steady amount of traffic ever since. Turns out, human beings tend to tell stories in ways that serve their interests rather than as they really are. Who would have thought?

I’m Sorry Christian, But You Don’t Get to Make That Move

This post has not stopped surprising me since I published it over six years ago. It continues to be one of my most read posts every year and has generated wildly more traffic than everything else I have written in almost fifteen years blogging combined. I wrote it during the Syrian refugee crisis, hoping call to Christians to examine how we speak and think about those we (rightly or, more often wrongly) consider our “enemies.” It generated a lot of heat. And hopefully a bit of light.

On to the five most-read posts of 2021.


If I Ran the Zoo

Dr. Seuss ran afoul of the moral watchdogs in 2021. This post pondered our bewildering proclivities to scrub the past of everything that doesn’t meet our current, often highly inconsistent and self-serving moral standards. How will we ever understand who we are and how we’ve arrived at our present (conflicted) moment if we’re constantly editing the past to make it reflect our current preferences?

You’re Not Very Nice

A phone call to the church from someone requesting aid led to this reflection on the limits of “niceness” in relating to hurting people, and about the need for grace and truth-telling in our churches and in our world.

Music, Despite Everything

A few lines from a poem by Jack Gilbert inspired a sermon and this blog post:

To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil…

We must admit there will be music despite everything.

These last few years have, perhaps, reminded us of the limits (psychological, spiritual, social) of obsessing only over what is bad in our world, and on the deep longing we have for beauty and goodness that stretch out beyond our present moment.

Orange in the New Red and White

I had a talk with my daughter on Canada Day about the orange t-shirt as a symbol of what indigenous people have endured in our nation. She was glad to wear the orange t-shirt—she knows Canada’s ugly history and she knows what it is to be on the wrong end of racial prejudice personally. But she also expressed some reservations about the expectations she feels in certain (often churchy) circles to serve as little more than an avatar of indigenous victimhood and anger. We live in a culture where increasingly it seems that identity is all. This post reflected on some of these tensions.

Harshly Drawn Lines

This was a post about the nasty and divisive polarization that has seemed to explode over the last few years. The title is taken from a quote in an interview with actor Kenneth Branagh:

This way of trying to understand the world… you’re with us or you’re against us—it seems to me allows for little of the humanity that appears in the gaps between those harshly drawn lines.

We are becoming harsher, more strident and morally self-righteous people, it seems to me, forever sorting ourselves into categories of who’s pure and who’s not. It’s an ugly trend that shows no signs of reversing any time soon.


So, that’s a window into what generated a bit of engagement around here in 2021. As always, the main (and best) reason for writing these year-end posts is to simply and sincerely express my gratitude to you for reading what I write here. There is a lot of me in nearly fifteen years of posting here. It continues to be immensely gratifying to discover that some of the things that matter most to me in this world matter to others as well.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dan VanderSluis #

    Thanks Ryan, appreciate so much your reflections, perspective and insight. One of the few blogs/writers I actively read, keep it up!!

    December 31, 2021
    • Thanks, Dan! Really appreciate this.

      December 31, 2021

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