Sunday Superlatives 1/29/2012

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Around the Blogosphere...

Best Video:

Jon Stewart rails on Newt Gingrich’s blatant hypocrisy

Best Info-Graphic (nominated by Courtney Dale): with “Big Numbers

Best Imagery (nominated by Ty Dishman):
Dan Bouchelle with “My Bible is Crowded

“My Bible is crowded and if I’ve learned anything through the years it is that I can never read the Bible alone. Even when I am alone, I read my Bible in community. My Bible was preserved by others, translated by others, printed by others, interpreted and taught to me by others, and incarnated in the lives of still others. The attempt to have an exclusive encounter with God’s words is more than naïve, it is downright arrogant. Can I still hear God in all these other voices? Yes I think I can. In fact, that may be the only, or at least the best, way to hear God. It is all these voices that help me distinguish the Nephilim from Lord. If I can’t convince most of those voices to be at peace with a reading, I’m probably on shaky ground thinking it is from God. Where the voices chime in together with an 'Amen' I am on fairly safe ground."

Best Insight: 
Kristina Robb-Dover with “From Marital Sex Guru to Chastened Ex-Wife: Why I Prefer the New Lauren Winner

“What I am talking about here is the way that we evangelicals have historically equated both marriage and a born again conversion with 'The Promised Land.'  If you’re not married, then, in essence, you haven’t 'arrived;' and, if you’re not a 'born-again' Christian, then you haven’t truly 'arrived,' either.  There is little appreciation for the nature of conversion as an ongoing process made up of many steps forward and backward along the way; or, for marriage as only one option among a couple, or even a few, equally viable, equally “holy” alternatives for living out one’s God-given vocation...I don’t have to dig too deep into my own experience to recognize the hang-ups that this glorification of marriage and a one-time conversion experience can foster.  Having been married twelve years now, I am struck (sometimes painfully, sometimes serendipitously) by how marriage, much like conversion, involves an ongoing process of falling in and out of love, losing and then finding oneself, and being, in essence, “converted” and transformed over and over again.  The notion that marriage itself, much like being born again, is somehow the telos- the end of our restless striving and longing- is not only flawed but destructive.”

Best Writing:
Genevieve Thul with  “Lament for the Eldest

“I am at the Throne early every morning, like it says in Lamentations 2, Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children. I pray for your healing when you bury your thick head of hair into my shoulder and I can feel the sobs welling up inside you but they never are birthed to breathe the air of this world. I wish I had a key to unlock your sorrows so they could be purged and mopped up. Instead you are like a glass jar with a tight lid. Nowhere for the pressure to go. I pray you don't bury it in your own bones.”

Best Point:
My Fascinating Life with “I Blame Post-Feminism” 

“Fellow Christian mothers, I think we have our own specialist version of this kind of thinking. Churches are usually pretty good about valuing motherhood, but I think that sometimes the intense focus on that aspect of what Christian womanhood means can lead to us devaluing a lot of other amazing things that women can (and do) do for God. if we let ourselves believe that THIS IS IT! the time that means something in my life! then we are going to struggle to lead worthwhile, Jesus-focussed lives as our children grow and leave us."

Most Startling:
CNN Photoblog with “Putting a Face on Nigeria’s Paradise Lost

Most Disappointing:
Publishers Weekly with “Shame on Today

Most Relatable:
Elizabeth Esther with “What Not to Say to Someone Struggling with Their Faith

Most Practical:
Sharon Hodde Miller with “How to Empower Women in Your Church

“This research is fascinating, and it has led me to wonder about its application to women in the church. There are many stereotypes out there about women that are both sociological and psychological, so the cycle can be tough to break. If women believe they are not capable of thinking theologically, or leading and teaching in the church effectively, then that stereotype perpetuates an unfortunate cycle in which women are hesitant to even try.”

Most Honest:
Stephen at Matthew Paul Turner’s site with “On Faith, Perfection, and Control

“One reason I am no longer a Fundamentalist – and I use the term here in its popular and not historical understanding – is because it came easy to me. It allowed me to follow what I see now as my basest instincts. The prioritizing of abstract principles and alleged or imagined biblical truths over the complexities of real life was an easy path for me to take."

Most Vulnerable: 
Preston Yancey with “Coming Clean About the Women in Ministry Issue

“I want to confess to you that I haven’t fully made up my mind. I still need time to think and pray. For I am at heart, I think, a complementarian. At least in so far as I think men and women do have complimentary roles to one another in marriage. Now if that means that I have to say only women should stay home or that a man is the only one allowed to work, then cast that label aside and find something else to call me. But if egalitarian means that anything a man can do a woman can do with no qualification whatsoever …Part of me cries YES! and part of me cries NO!”

[I’m solidly egalitarian...which, by the way, doesn’t mean I don’t think there are complementary differences between men and women...but I really respect folks who are honest about the fact that they are struggling through difficult issues, that they haven’t figured out all the answers yet. Kudos to Preston for his honesty and vulnerability here.]

Ann Voskamp with “Why You Really Need to Think About Losing

“When you wake to losing someone, you win love.When you realize that what you have, you will lose —  you win real eyes. You win grateful joy.”

Glennon Melton (Momastry) with “A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On

“The first time you’re born, you identify the people in the room as your family. The second time you’re born, you identify the whole world as your family. Christianity is not about joining a particular club, it’s about waking up to the fact that we are all in the same club. Every last one of us. So avoid discussions about who’s in and who’s out at all costs. Everybody’s in, baby. That’s what makes it beautiful. And hard. If working out your faith is not beautiful and hard, find a new one to work out. And if spiritual teachers are encouraging you to fear anyone, watch them closely, honey. Raise your eyebrow and then your hand. Because the phrase repeated most often in that Bible they are quoting is Do Not Be Afraid. So when they tell you that gay people are a threat to marriage, honey, think hard.”

Cutest: with “Dogs Say Grace Before Meals

Pete Enns with “Once More, With Feeling: Adam, Evolution, and Evangelicals

“Evolution is a threat, and many evangelicals are fighting to keep Adam in the family photo album. But in their rush to save Christianity, some evangelicals have been guilty of all sorts of strained, idiosyncratic or obscurantist tactics: massaging or distorting the data, manipulating the legal system, scaring their constituencies and strong-arming those of their own camp who raise questions. These sorts of tactics get a lot of press, but behind them is a deeper problem -- a problem that gets close to the heart of evangelicalism itself and hampers any true dialogue...It has to do with what evangelicals expect from the Bible.”

 Best Conversation-Starter:
Kurt Willems with “Preaching Against Evolution in Evangelical Churches Creates Atheists

[Read the comments after this one]] 

Best Analysis:
Fred Clark at Slacktivist with “Mark Driscoll is a Wee Little Man

“But the cheating isn’t what caused this to flare up into a Defcon 1 crisis for which the entire church leadership had to be mobilized. That only happened because this particular sin involved sex. There’s a fundamental confusion at work there — one that can be found in many, many places other than Driscoll’s mega-church. It’s the confusion that sees sexual betrayal as bad because it involves sex rather than because it involves betrayal. The same confusion leads many Christians to see sexual predation as bad because it involves sex rather than because it is predatory. This arises from a warped and stunted notion of sexual ethics which offers nothing to say about the subject other than that it’s acceptable within marriage and unacceptably wicked in any other context. Thus even a malicious act within marriage is commended while even a loving act outside of that context is condemned.”

[I disagree with the assertion that Mars Hill is a cult, but I think Fred’s point about our tendency to see sexual betrayal as bad “because it involves sex rather than because it involves betrayal” is spot-on, and his concerns about Driscoll’s preoccupation with sex and power are, of course, warranted.]

Best Series:
At the Lord’s Table: A Blog Conversation (organized by Preston Yancey)

Best Storytelling:

Ben Emerson with “Numbers 27: The Status Quo Gets a Beat Down” and 
Fred Clark with “Five Women Who Changed God’s Rules

Best Reminder: 
James Martin at the CNN  Belief Blog with “Reclaiming Jesus’ Sense of Humor

“It’s time to set aside the notion that Jesus was a humorless, grim-faced, dour, unsmiling prude. Let’s begin to recover his humor and, in the process, his humanity.” 

On the Blog...

Most Popular Post: 
2 Reasons Mark Driscoll’s Popularity Doesn’t Discourage Me

Most Popular Comment:
In response to the above post, AML wrote this:

“Rachel, I have really enjoyed your posts and your insights.  I do, however, want to offer this as gently and as lovingly as an anonymous blog-comment will allow: It seems as though you have been defining yourself, in part, by your enemies.  Although I agree with much of what you say about Mark Driscoll, as someone who is for you and not against you, I do want to suggest that maybe you have begun to overemphasize Mark Driscoll in your own ministry by setting him (and his ideas) up as the antithesis of your ministry, thus defining your own ministry in terms of Mark Driscoll.  This might be an emphasis that limits the effectiveness of your ministry, and eventually, focusing on our enemies ends up exhausting us and leaving us with little to offer to others.  Plus, I think the enemy is very well pleased when we target our frustrations at areas of the Church; he loves to see us at war with other believers and he thrives in divisive environments that distract us from coming together for the sake of Christ.  I do want to affirm you as a talented and treasured woman and that your ministry has been fantastic and inspiring.  I see this tendency springing up in your writings, however, and as someone who cares about you and about the work you're doing, I just wanted to caution you against these things.  Peace and God bless!”

[My response to the comment generated a lot of "likes" as well, but I’d still love to hear your thoughts on that critique. I’m truly open to input on this one.]

This Week...

- We’ll discuss the word “biblical” as part of our Bible series. 
- I’ll review Pete Enns’ new book, The Evolution of Adam. (Short version: I loved it!)
- You asked for it! Look for "Ask a Christian Libertarian" 

What caught your eye online this week? What's happening on your blog?

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