Sunday Superlatives 7/7/2013

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free
'A souvenir guide to Boston and environs (1895)' photo (c) 2012, CircaSassy - license:


It has been raining for five days straight here in East Tennessee, resulting in terrible flooding and a very disappointing 4th of July. This afternoon I caught a brief glimpse of what I believe was the sun….but I can’t be sure. Please keep those whose lives have been affected by the flooding in your thoughts and prayers. 

On to Superlatives….

Best Headline: 
Angry Mother of Twins Throws Flaming Diapers at Late-Night Firework Shooters” 

Best Review: 
Genevieve Koski with “10 episodes that made King Of The Hill one of the most human cartoons ever

“But while King Of The Hill’s reputation as a steadfast, down-to-earth series rightly reflects the heart and humanity at the show’s center, it belies how uproariously funny the series can be, often because of that very humanity. It’s the exact intersection of the comic sensibilities of its two creators: Mike Judge’s ability to find the bizarrely hilarious in the mundane (as seen in Beavis And Butt-head, Office Space, and many others) meets Greg Daniels’ character- and relationship-based humor (as seen in The Office and such Daniels-penned Simpsons episodes as “Lisa’s Wedding,” “Bart Sells His Soul,” and “Secrets Of A Successful Marriage”). King Of The Hill’s characters aren’t funny because they tell perfectly crafted jokes or make pop-culture references or constantly get themselves into ridiculous situations; they’re funny because they have real hopes, flaws, and limitations that satirize the absurdity of everyday life while simultaneously celebrating it.”

[Dan and I love “King of the Hill.” My favorite episode is when the Hill’s visit a megachurch.] 

Best Observation (found via Wesley Hill): 
Alan Jacobs with “On Intellectual Triage and Not Writing People Off”

“Again, we all do this, but we are often reluctant to admit it because we want to present to the world a façade of rationality: I hold my views firmly because I have carefully examined the alternatives and have justifiably rejected them. And sometimes we have indeed carefully examined the alternatives; but usually we haven’t. We’ve undertaken intellectual triage and set a great many possibilities aside with limited or no scrutiny. This is what Dawkins has done with Christianity; he just thinks he hasn’t.”

Best Analysis: 
Rachel Marie Stone with “What if Jesus is saying it's okay to pay for things that are against your religion? (Since you probably always are)

“"Where I pause is when 'religious liberty' gets defined as 'I shouldn’t have to pay for something I disagree with.' The contraceptive mandate may feel or seem more 'direct' than the taxes that pay for the boxes of Depo-Provera in Malawi and elsewhere, but it amounts to much the same thing: a government-mandated outlaying of money in accordance with certain laws. A tax. 'Render unto Caesar' applies here. Whose image is on that dollar bill? Uncle Sam’s. So give unto Uncle Sam what belongs to Uncle Sam. And, yes, whether at home or abroad, Uncle Sam will probably use your dollar bills to pay for things that contradict something your religion teaches. My understanding of my religion includes the importance of caring for the earth and not taking human life, but my taxes subsidize oil companies, fund unjust wars, and pay for the injections used in the execution of people on death row. I despise that…” 

[Rachel hits on every point I make when discussing this issue. It baffles me that my fellow evangelicals are so adamantly opposed to something that could dramatically  reduce abortions.]

Best Interview: 
Pete Enns interviews Timothy Michael Law, author of “When God Spoke Greek

“One thing we do not need to wait any longer to say is this: the existence of multiple forms of scripture (Greek and Hebrew) in antiquity, both before, during, and after the time of Christ, did not bother early Christians. The search for an “original text” on which to ground one’s faith is a distinctively modern worry. Even when Christians began recognizing divergences between the Jewish Scriptures and their own, many saw it as an opportunity to discover more than one way to understand divine communication.” 

Best Conversation-Starter: 
Scot McKnight with “Who Says What’s an Egalitarian” 

“Those egalitarian-complementarians saw marriages and men and women relations as complementary and equal and not hierarchical. So the early egalitarians among evangelicals saw themselves as complementarians and then the complementarians grabbed the term, and frankly it sounds better than hierarchicalists. But the fact is that the word complementarian today means hierarchalist while the term egalitarian can mean totally equal or mutualist. I really like the term mutualist. I remember studying this issue and it dawning on me that I was an old-fashioned complementarian, which meant different, equal and complementary, but not roles or hierarchy, and I felt flummoxed by the whole discussion. Then a friend pointed out to me that the egalitarians originally wrote a book called ‘complentarity without hierarchy’ so I suppose you could say we have two kinds of complementarians: those without hierarchy and those with it.”

Best New Tumblr Page: 
Hogwarts Seminary” 

Best Perspective: 
Ann Voskamp’s reflections after visiting Katie Davis

“But our answers to all the raging questions of the day won’t be found in what we write: it will be found in how we open our doors. Our actual theology is best expressed in our actual hospitality. And I don’t mean that hospitality is one quaint ministry for those good in the kitchen and keeping their house picked up. Hospitality isn’t for the good housekeepers — it’s the grid of life for anyone keeping company with Christ. Hospitality is meant to shape our churches and politics, our work and our schools, our homes and our faith and our schedules and our meals and our lives. Hospitality is Life with no Gates. Hospitality means if there is room in the heart — there is always room in the house."

Best “Open Letter” of All Time:
Mark Twain drafts the ultimate letter of complaint (to a snake oil salesman) 

“The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link.”

Best Writing (nominated by Brad Jenson): 
Anne Helen Peterson with “There are things of which I may not speak

“In short: my ex-boyfriend was killed in the war. I don’t know how else to put it, and I’ve tried different ways of phrasing it to make it sound less blunt, but it’s difficult. He was my first love and first true despair, he was the best person I knew and, for very a brief period of time, the worst. I toyed with his heart; I drove him crazy. He was the most significant figure in my life, the most pivotal. He was handsome, Tom Cruise-short, and always tan. In high school, he won Best Smile, but it was never a contest. His football coach talked about him with superlatives usually reserved for the pros. He was lazy and devastatingly smart; he loved Coke and plain white t-shirts. He was the first boy to see something electric in me, an electricity he desired.”

Best Idea (nominated by Nish Weiseth):
Austin Green at the Salt Lake Tribune with “Fresh Produce, Fresh Start for Salt Lake County Inmates” 

“When Kevin Long and George Raska talk about their daily routine, they interrupt each other with excitement. They mention the sunshine, the healthy food, the educational opportunities, the trust — not exactly what you’d expect to hear from a couple of inmates at a county jail…”

Best New Site (nominated by Scott Lencke
Respectful Conversations” 

Best List: 
Sam Killermann with “30 + Examples of Christian Privilege” 

[I wouldn’t agree with all of these, but many are certainly worth keeping in mind.]

Best Photo Series (nominated by Micah Odor):
Book Titles With One Letter Missing” 

Best Response: 
Katelyn Beaty with “My Calling as a Female Breadwinner” 

“So Strachan, Kassian, and other Christians who say that men must work outside the home while women must work inside it demonstrate a classic case of anachronism—and a troubling case of broken anthropology. Because when it comes to questions of what God designed us humans to do, some complementarians put women into a mold they were never obligated to fill….Whatever you do, lady reader—and however much or little money you make doing it—do it with all your heart, knowing that you receive your calling and identity from God, not from fellow Christians who play exegetical leapfrog with Scripture.” 

Abby Norman with “A Mom with a Dream

“But there is one thing they will tell you that I am sure is wrong. There is one piece of advice that I will hand out freely and earnestly to anyone who will let me put it into their hands. Bring your whole self to motherhood, even the creative pieces, even the messy parts covered in paint and ink, soaked in un-attained dreams. Your baby needs their momma to dream.”

Elora Nicole with “For When the Silence Comes” 

“And if I do speak, I still want it to be holy and broken. I want to find this pain and minster out of it because it’s through His own broken body we find our healing. I pray that in moments of human frailty, I’ll remember Who sits with us in the silence, when words fail and our hearts are breaking in a million pieces. I may not have all the answers. But I know He can take our weakness.”

18 Babies Experiencing Things for the First Time” 

Artist shows what Barbie would look like as an average woman” 

Related, and Funny (shared by Christina Entz Moss
The Onion with “Bratz Dolls May Give Girls Unrealistic Expectations”

Most Heartbreaking:
Linda Robertson with “Just Because He Breathes: Learning to Truly Love Our Gay Son

“We said all the things that we thought loving Christian parents who believed the Bible, the Word of God, should say…”

Most Practical: 
Shauna Niequist with “3 Lessons I’ve Learned About Creating, Consuming, and Criticism

“My work is up for public comment. But my work is not who I am. And who I am is not up for public comment.”

Most Empowering:
Kathy Escobar with “Stand Back Up”

“…There is a battle that is beyond flesh and blood to keep women around the world on their knees.”

Most Frustrating: 
Ben at Remythologized with “A Seminary Student Visits the Creation Museum: 27 Million Dollars of Bad Exegesis

“Walking through the museum, I was appalled by the colossal fortune expended on ideas that are obviously deficient in an education in Ancient Near Eastern history and modern Biblical studies…” 

Most Enlightening: 
Heather Kopp with “Why Christians Make Miserable Addicts” 

“Convinced that alcoholism was a sin issue only, it never occurred to me that my response to alcohol -- I got thirstier the more I drank -- could be abnormal or indicate a physiological condition. And I'm not alone. Thousands, if not millions, of us Christians have made the same mistake and been caught in the vicious cycle of addiction. Embarrassed by our lack of self-discipline, we pull up our spiritual bootstraps and try harder. We pray and repent until we're blue in the face. When our efforts continue to fail us, we feel ever more guilty and ashamed.” 

Most Relatable: 
Richard Beck with “Mattering

“And I do the same thing. I'll check my blog statistics. How many hits? Subscribers? Comments? Links? Tweets?  I'll check Amazon. Book sales? Reviews? I want to matter. Behind it all is a deep-seated insecurity, a dread that if we aren't noticed that we aren't worth anything. And if that's the case, let's revisit Jesus' commands and example from above. How can we become insignificant and small--how can we rest into being unnoticed--given our massive insecurities? Because I don't think we fail to follow Jesus because we are wicked and depraved. I think we fail to follow Jesus because we want to matter.”

Most Personal: 
Lauren Rea Preston with “How I Learned Compassion” 

“And dear God, I have so much compassion now.  For every person who has been labeled a heretic.  For every person who was told "don't ask too many questions, that's a slippery slope." For every mom or dad that has people whispering behind their back about their parenting or life choices. For every person who the church has shunned, overtly or covertly.  For every person who feels like no one "gets them" and everyone is judging them (because maybe they are). Single people. Single moms.  Couples without children. Gay people. Black people. Democrats. And I'm so sorry.  To every person I have ever judged with my words or my thoughts.  For every time I have argued instead of listening.  For every time I have participated in the behind-the-back whispering.  To every person I shunned because I was too scared of people's opinions. My message to others, but mostly to myself is this--it's okay to be different. It's okay to have different opinions about life, God, the Bible, parenting, etc.  It's okay to have disagreements, to make mistakes, and change your mind.  It's okay to say, "I don't know."  And above all, it's okay to really not know.  Because we really don't.  We just don't really know anything.”  

Most Eye-Opening (nominated by Caris Adel): 
Ryan Thomas Neace with “The American Dream for Losers” 

“This is not to preclude the possibility that Jesus might deliver Rashid and David, but this is by far the exception if it means extrication from their circumstances. Jesus usually seems more interested in delivering people within their circumstances than from them.” 

On the blog…

Most Popular Post: 
“If my son or daughter were gay…” 

Most Popular Comment: 
In response to that post, Tyrell wrote: 

"You wrote: ‘If God blesses Dan and I with a child who is gay, I would want that child to know without a doubt that he or she is loved unconditionally.’ Thank you for using the word ‘bless.’ You don't know how much love that one statement conveys. I'm a young man struggling with my sexual orientation and so often it feels like a horrible, painful curse. Thank you.” 

[The entire comment section is worth a read as we heard from hundreds of LGBT folks and their parents, who shared both painful and hopeful stories.] 


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


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