Sunday Superlatives 11/10/13

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Around the Blogosphere…

Most Persistent: 
This Mouse

Most Creative:
Whimsical Illustrations Merge with Everyday Objects

Most Enlightening: 
David B. Benner with “Love and Fear”

“Fear works in such a way that the object of the fear is almost irrelevant. Fearful people are more alike than the differences between the foci of their fear might suggest. Fear takes on its own life. Fearful people live within restrictive boundaries. They may appear quite cautious and conservative. Or they may narrow the horizons of their life by avoidance and compulsion. They also tend to be highly vigilant, ever guarding against life’s moving out of the bounds within which they feel most comfortable. Because of this, fear breeds control. People who live in fear feel compelled to remain in control. They attempt to control themselves and they attempt to control their world. Often despite their best intentions, this spills over into efforts to control others.”

Most Powerful: 
Tamara Rice with “The Hole in Our Complementarianism” 

“I can’t say I noticed it immediately, but at some point I realized that the large wooden pulpit usually adorning the stage had been replaced with a small music stand off to Ms. Elliot’s side. At approximately the same moment I took note of this, it occurred to me that this woman, Ms. Elliot, was in fact preaching to us. Preaching in chapel. And a sharp little nagging began in the back of my mind….”

[See also April Fiet’s “When God Calls a Complementarian Woman to Ministry”]

Most Heartbreaking: 
Larry Lake at Slate with “No One Brings Dinner When Your Daughter is an Addict”

“Friends talk about cancer and other physical maladies more easily than about psychological afflictions. Breasts might draw blushes, but brains are unmentionable. These questions are rarely heard: ‘How’s your depression these days?’ ‘What improvements do you notice now that you have treatment for your ADD?’ ‘Do you find your manic episodes are less intense now that you are on medication?’ ‘What does depression feel like?’ ‘Is the counseling helpful?’ A much smaller circle of friends than those who’d fed us during cancer now asked guarded questions. No one ever showed up at our door with a meal.”

Most Fascinating: 
John Burnett at NPR with “To Stave Off Decline, Churches Attract New Members with Beer”

“There must be 100 people here tonight, most of them young, the kind you rarely see in church on Sunday morning. They're swigging homemade stout from plastic cups — with a two-beer limit. They're singing traditional hymns from a projection screen like Be Thou My Vision. And they're having way too much fun.”

Most Relatable: 
Addie Zierman with “5 Churchy Phrases that Are Scaring Off Millennials” 

“’The Bible clearly says…” We are the first generation to grow up in the age of information technology, and we have at our fingertips hundreds of commentaries, sermons, ideas, and books. We can engage with Biblical scholars on Facebook and Twitter, and it’s impossible not to see the way that their doctrines – rooted in the same Bible – differ and clash. We’re acutely aware of the Bible’s intricacies. We know the Bible is clear about some things– but also that much is not clear. We know the words are weighted to a culture that we don’t completely understand and that the scholars will never all agree. We want to hear our pastors approach these words with humility and reverence. Saying, “This is where study and prayer have led me, but I could be wrong,” does infinitely more to secure our trust than The Bible clearly says…"

[Regarding the millennial conversation, be sure to check out my post from Friday, which features Diana Butler Bass pushing back a bit on the notion that concerns expressed by myself and by Addie are unique to millennials.] 

Most Informative: 
Scot McKnight with “Who ‘attended’ those earliest church services?”

“The earliest churches, then, are not made up of pietists who wanted to study the Bible but ordinary Romans from all sorts of backgrounds, needs, yearnings, and connections — each bringing to the table different ears for the gospel.”

Most Insightful:
Andy Campbell with “Empathy and the Conservative/Progressive Theological Divide” 

““The ultimate art form for the age of outrospection,” continues Krznaric, “is empathy.” When most people think of empathy, they often think of a kind of emotional mirroring. When you see someone in distress and you feel badly for that person, you are empathizing with them. This is affective empathy. It is the ability to recognize what the other is feeling and respond appropriately. We often characterize this kind of empathy as soft and passive, largely emotive. Contrast this with cognitive empathy, which is the ability to understand or put on someone else’s perspective, when you don’t necessarily share that same perspective. It is the ability to move past labeling the other and step into their shoes, so to speak. This empathy is more potent for change, asserts Krznaric. In contrast “touchy-feely” affective empathy, cognitive empathy ”is actually quite dangerous, because [it] can create revolution . . . a revolution of human relationships.”

Most Stunning:
"Before They Pass Away" - Portraits of World's Remotest Tribes

Nish Weiseth with “What Do I Know About Marriage?” 

“But, it's not always about the other person, nor is it always about you. It's about us. It's about the union, the "we," the mutual submission to each other in all things. I'm learning that marriage is a profound, earthly relationship that's meant to transform you, change you, and mold you more into the image of Jesus. Is it about you?  Yep. Is it about your spouse?  You bet.”

Julian Peters’ Comic-Book Adaptation of ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’

Ann Voskamp with “How the Hidden Dangers of Comparison are Killing Us and Our Daughters”

“And the thing about meausuring sticks, girl? Measuring sticks try to rank some people as big and some people as small — but we aren’t sizes. We are souls.  There are no better people or worse people — there are only God-made souls. There is no point trying to size people up, no point trying to compare – because souls defy measuring.”

Happiest (especially if you’re a Bama fan): 
Nick Saban Jumps into quarterback A.J. McCarron's Arms

Bravest (nominated by Amanda): 
Tara Livesay with “For National Adoption Month” 

“In recent months I have been inspired by multiple families and couples that have been choosing the more difficult path. They are entering into the adoption arena having done exhaustive research. They are turning back when they see red flags. They are choosing painful things in order to stand up for others. I am cheering for these families and their bravery and desire to stand up to injustice is a refreshing encouragement to us all… Adoption is not about finding a child for a family who really desperately wants one. Adoption is about finding a family for a child who really desperately needs one.” 

Best Question:
Jessica Parks with “Kenosis, Cruciformity, and Feminism”

“If feminism is about empowerment and the establishment and defense of equal rights for women, can it at the same time be cruciform?  If the Christian life is a call to reject “selfish exploitation of status in favor of self-giving action” how does the Christian participate in (what I would argue is) the necessary work of feminism?"

Best Reflection: 
Joy Bennett at Deeper Story with “Proud of You”

“The older I get, the more I realize how hard they worked, and still do. The older I get, the more I understand them. Every once in awhile, understanding crashes in the way my youngest barges into every conversation ever. Like last night. A question: could parents want their children to be proud of them too?”

Best Observation: 
Soong-Chan Rah with “The American Church’s Absence of Lament”

“How we worship reveals what we prioritize. The American church avoids lament. Consequently the underlying narrative of suffering that requires lament is lost in lieu of a triumphalistic, victorious narrative. We forget the necessity of lament over suffering and pain. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. Absence makes the heart forget. The absence of lament in the liturgy of the American church results in the loss of memory.”

Best Conversation:
Black Female Voices: bell hooks & Melissa Harris-Perry


Best Advice (nominated by Connie Esther) 
Adam McHugh with “When Someone is in a Storm” 

“I once heard a ministry colleague say: “I’m going to be with a person in the hospital tonight. Time to speak some truth.” This idea prevails in many Christian circles, that preaching is the healing balm for suffering. Whether it’s sickness or divorce or job loss, a crisis calls for some sound Biblical exhortation. I have a number of issues with this. First, it assumes that the hurting person does not believe the right things or believe with enough fervency. They may end up receiving the message that their faith is not strong enough for them to see their situation rightly, or that something is wrong with them because they are struggling. Second, preaching to people in pain preys on the vulnerable. It’s stabbing the sword of truth into their wound, or doing surgery without anesthesia. Unwelcome truth is never healing. Third, ‘speaking truth’ into situations of pain is distancing. You get to stand behind your pulpit, or your intercessory prayer that sounds strangely like a sermon, and the other person is a captive audience, trapped in the pew of your anxious truth. Suffering inevitably makes a person feel small and isolated, and preaching to them only makes them feel smaller and more alone."

Best Sentence (nominated by David Mantel): 
Rob Bell in "What is the Bible? Part 4" with:

The story is extremely subversive because it insists that your enemy may be more open to God’s redeeming love than you are.”

Best Series: 
Rob Bell with “What is the Bible?” – Part 1, Part, 2, Part, 3, Part 4

In Book News…

Christena Cleveland talks about her new book, Disunity in Christ"


Peter Enns is blogging through Molly Worthen’s book, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism. See “Evangelicalism and Anti-Intellectualism: Blame the Leaders” and “Worthen on Inerrancy and the Evangelical Crisis of Authority” and “Evangelicals and the Uneasy Relationship with Academic Freedom”

Quotes of the Week…

“When Jesus wanted to teach his disciples about atonement, he didn't give them a theory; he gave them a meal."-  N.T. Wright, (at the Simply Jesus conference this week) 

“Sometimes I'm so focused on the ‘Not Yet’ of the Kingdom of God that I miss the ‘Now’ of it, too.” – Sarah Bessey

“Theological formation is the gradual and often painful discovery of God's incomprehensibility. You can be competent in many things, but you cannot be competent in God.” – Henri Nouwen

“Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of man for it is the image of God." - Thomas Merton

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain't so." Mark Twain

"That love of God is hard and marvelous. It cannot and will not be broken because of our sins." - Julian of Norwich

Check it out…

My interview with Pulpit Fiction Podcast: I talk about my new book project, Proverbs 31, handling criticism, and football. 

This week’s travels….

This week I’m headed to New York City for the Q: Women and Calling event, which you should be able to watch via a live stream on Friday. (I believe I’m speaking in the first session in the morning, but it’s worth catching them all!) Other speakers include: Lauren Winner, Shauna Niequist, Kathy Khang,  Deidra Riggs, Nicole Baker Fulgham, Rebekah Lyons, Kathy Keller, Katelyn Beaty, Kate Harris, and Bobette Buster. Y’all can probably guess why I’m a little nervous! 

On the blog…

Most Popular Post:
“Homosexuality, Evangelicalism, and the Danger of a Single Story”

Most Popular Comment:
In response to the above post, Eric Atcheson wrote: 

"’Can you imagine if people spoke of the ‘heterosexual lifestyle’ and pointed to footage of women flashing their breasts at men to receive beads at Mardi Gras as the single example? Or if they spoke of the “heterosexual agenda” and used Miley Cyrus as the single spokesperson?’ -  I think this line of logic can extend across a variety of identity demographics (which you point to with the Pat Robertson reference, Rachel)--as a man, I don't want Chris Brown as my spokesman. As an American, I don't want the Tea Party as my spokespeople. And as a Pacific NW Christian, I definitely do not want Mark Driscoll as my spokesman. So if I do not want that for myself, I must see the uniqueness and humanity in others that I want them to likewise see in me. As Kierkegaard put it—‘once you label me, you negate me.’ Intersectionality of oppression is real. A stereotype that hurts one person has the very real potential to hurt everyone.”


So, what caught your eye online this week? What’s happening on your blog? 


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