Sunday Superlatives 1/11/2015

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Around the Blogosphere…

Best Thing You’ll See/Read All Week: 
Jeff Chu gave an amazing talk—the kind that reminds me why I’m a Christian— at the opening session of the Gay Christian Network conference in Portland this week, which you can watch here for a limited time, or read here.  An excerpt: 

“The table I long for—the church I hope for—is a place where we let others see where the spirit meets the bone and help heal the wounds. The table I long for—the church I hope for—has the grace of the Gospel as its magnificent centerpiece. The table I long for—the church I hope for—is where we care more about our companions than about winning our arguments with them, where we set aside the condescension that accompanies our notion that we need to bring them our truth. The table I long for—the church I hope for—has each of you sitting around it, struggling to hold the knowledge that you, vulnerable you and courageous you, are beloved by God, not just welcome but desperately, fiercely wanted.”

Then, just when you think it can't get any better, Vicky Beeching hits it out of the park with her presentation about what it was like growing up, living, and leading in the evangelical culture, while (until recently) keeping her sexuality a secret. Her perspective on how “a questioning faith is not a backsliding faith, but a maturing faith” is applicable to all and really encouraged me this week.  You can watch all the keynotes from GCN for a limited time here. 

Best Insight: 
Richard Beck with “Being Biblical Means Being Doctrinally Tolerant” 

“If your are going to accept the burden of being of Protestant, of living with sola scriptura, then you are going to have to learn to welcome doctrinal diversity.”

Best Interview: 
Mychal Denzel Smith interviews Ava DuVernay about ‘Selma’

“…It is rare to have a black storyteller have some autonomy over the story. Also it's just rare to have a black storyteller telling the story when it comes to history, period. So I think when you don't have that, you have this kind of groupthink that turns into a homogenization of the events, turns into us not being at the center of our own story, as people of color or women or what have you, and this kind of smoothing of the edges starts to happen, and that starts to contribute to this whole idea of "ugh, the same old thing." And so with this I was very focused on not letting that happen. For whatever people think about the film, whether they love it or hate it, it is the vision of a black storyteller undiluted. For whatever that means for the way we are presented as people of color on screen. I think part of the reaction that some people have to history, particularly around black history, is just the way that it's been told and by whom.”

Best Reminder:
Bronwyn Lea at She Loves with “The Secret of Hospitality (Hint: It’s NOT Space)”

“I breathed in deeply and heard my younger self speak kindly to me: “You have space enough. You may not have seats enough, or plates enough–but you have love enough, and that is enough.”

Best Perspective: 
Katherine Willis Pershey with “The Long Obedience” 

“A ‘long obedience in the same direction’ has its stretches marked by the strain of toil and the fret of care, but it also has its glorious mountaintop vistas and the camaraderie of good company. And sometimes—if you so happen to land in a place that knows how to party—a three-piece band playing Dixieland jazz sets up shop outside the sanctuary to fete you as you make your way to the fellowship hall to greet hundreds of people who love you because you have loved them so very, very well. If you ask me, nothing says “well done, good and faithful servant” like a tuba, a clarinet, and a banjo.”

Rob Dixon at The Junia Project with “5 Reasons Not To Use Gender-Based Jokes in the Pulpit”

The Onion with "Dirty Slush Machine Provides Children In Florida Taste Of Winter”

Jamie Wright with “Depression is Not a Scandal” 

“…It's time to pull back the cover. It's time to give people the space and freedom to talk openly about depression without stigma, without shame, and without embarrassment. This is not a sin issue, this is not a prayer issue, this is not a faith issue – it's a medical issue and it should be treated like any other medical issue, with medication and/or therapy.”

NASA produces vintage travel posters for newly discovered planets

Most Relatable: 
Jonathan Martin with “On Going to (an Episcopal) Church” 

“I loved that it never felt like the church was trying to sell me anything. I loved that really, nobody is fussed over at all—there is just is not that kind of VIP treatment for anybody. The vibe is, “this is the kind of worship we do here, and you are welcome to come and do this with us…or not.” The liturgy there does not try to coerce everyone into the same emotional experience, but in its corporate unity strangely creates space for us all to have a very personal experience of God. I have commented to friends that I have never actually prayed this much in church before.” 

Most Unsurprising (But Important): 
Kathleen Davis with “The One Word Men Never See in Their Performance Reviews”

On My Nightstand...

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

This year I vowed that, before I spent a fortune on new books, I would read some of the novels that have been piling up in my office over the last few years. Well, the year got off to an amazing start with The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012).

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this novel has everything: a captivating plot, complicated characters, drama, intrigue, and small but powerful moments of tenderness and humanity. Set in North Korea, a country that has long fascinated me, The Orphan Master’s Son follows the unlikely journey of one man, Jun Do, from a penniless childhood to the powerful inner circle of Kim Jong Il.

The most surprising part about the novel to me was its humor. In the midst of scenes of suffering, and even evil, Johnson knows right when to weave in a bit of levity. The book is masterfully crafted.  I stayed up until 3 a.m. finishing it. 

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward 

I first learned of Jesmyn Ward when I listened to her read from her memoir, Men We Reaped. I wanted to go back to her fiction and so I found myself drawn into the stark, breathtaking world of Salvage the Bones.

Set in the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, in the days before and during Hurricane Katrina, the story is told from the perspective of a poor 15-year-old girl who has just realized she’s pregnant. It’s a survival story that deals frankly with the realities of rural poverty, and there are moments I suspect many readers will find disturbing. (Much of the plot centers around dog fighting, for example.) But Ward keeps pulling you back with compelling characters, poetic writing, and an unforgettable protagonist who remembers her mother as a woman whose laugh “swooped up into the sky with the pelicans and flew away, wind-ready and wide as their wings.”

Just when you’ve developed a fondness for the protagonist and her dysfunctional family, Hurricane Katrina hits and you have to hold your breath through the last two chapters. 

On the Blog…

Most Popular Post: 
“The Parents” 

“Sometimes, all I hear are the first few words of a story and the next thing I know I’m hugging someone and crying and raging inside because it shouldn’t be so damn easy to guess that a story that begins with, ‘we’re evangelical and our kid is gay’ will end in heartbreak or tragedy…”

Most Popular Comment: 
In response to “The Parents,” Wendy wrote: 

‘“I am one of those parents you speak of in this article. Born and raised conservative, devout Mormon. My husband and I were raising our 5 children the same way. My then 13-yr old son came out to us 3 years ago. Turned my neatly ordered, predictable Mormon world upside down. But how grateful I am!! My gay son (as well as all of my children) is such a God-given gift. Blinders I didn't even know I was wearing have been taken off. I judge less. I love more. I see the person behind the stereotype. And I refuse to choose between my son and my God. If forced, it's my son 100%. But I will not be forced. My husband and I are vocal, public and outspoken on the LGBT issue in the Mormon church. We take A LOT of flack. But I cannot stand seeing so many stories of pain, fear, rejection, homelessness, suicide. This should not be!  There have been many stories written about my family. The most recent one was in the Huffinton Post last week. The Family Acceptance Project also did a documentary on my family. I refuse to sit out on this fight. The lives of our children are too precious. STAYING SILENT SERVES NO ONE.”

So, what caught your eye online or in a book this week? What's happening on your blog? 

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