Sunday Superlatives 7/13/14

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Around the Blogosphere…

Most Likely To Make You Smile: 
“30 Photos of Children Playing from Around the World” 

Most Likely To Trigger an “Allergy Attack”: 
TVC Thai Life Insurance with "Unsung Hero" 

Best Storytelling: 
Darlena Cunha at The Washington Post with “This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps” 

“We didn’t deserve to be poor, any more than we deserved to be rich. Poverty is a circumstance, not a value judgment.” 

Best Satire: 
Bunmi Laditan with “How to Breastfeed Appropriately” 

“Peeing in public and breastfeeding in public are identical because in both cases liquid is coming out. Crying in public is different because it's happening above the neck. If you can breastfeed out of your eye sockets, be my guest.” 

Best Series: 
Peter Enns with “Aha Moments: Biblical Scholars Tell Their Stories” 

“I had been taught to ferret out every exegetical nugget, to mine every nook and cranny for insights into the text. I had spent hours and hours learning Greek, textual criticism, and numerous other exegetical skills, only to be told to abandon them when I ran into a problem that contradicted my overarching approach to the Bible. This was the beginning of the end of my rigid reading of the Bible.”

Best Book Review:
Richard Beck reviews Darwin’s Sacred Cause

“In short, Darwin's thinking about shared human relationships, a shared family tree with common grandparents, inspired both his thoughts about race and provided him with the perfect metaphor to think about the Tree of Life. Darwin's "sacred cause" both pushed and pulled his thinking about the origin of species. Each fueled the other.

Best Writing: 
John Blase with “Vespers”

“When I was a child I was afraid of being
lost in this world that is passing away.
So I prayed the sinner’s prayer…” 

Best Sermon (nominated by Preston Yancey and Jim Kast-Keat):
Jes Kast-Keat's sermon on Romans 7 at West End Collegiate Church

Best Question: 
Scot McKnight, quoting Clark Pinnock in “Clark Pinnock’s Outrageous Doctrine” with—

“Does the one who told us to love our enemies intend to wreak vengeance on his own enemies for all eternity?”

Best Perspective: 
Rev. Gay Clark Jennings at RNS with “Christians worship a child who fled violence in his home country” 

“The Bible doesn’t tell us who helped them make it across the border to Egypt or who gave them refuge there, but, in Matthew’s telling, we Christians have those anonymous kindly Egyptians to thank for our faith.”

Best Conversation-Starter:
Brendan Nyhan at the New York Times with “When Beliefs and Facts Collide” 

“So what should we do? One implication of Mr. Kahan’s study and other research in this field is that we need to try to break the association between identity and factual beliefs on high-profile issues – for instance, by making clear that you can believe in human-induced climate change and still be a conservative Republican like former Representative Bob Inglis or an evangelical Christian like the climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. But we also need to reduce the incentives for elites to spread misinformation to their followers in the first place. Once people’s cultural and political views get tied up in their factual beliefs, it’s very difficult to undo regardless of the messaging that is used.” 

Best Imagery (nominated by Justin Hanvey):
David Henson with "Dirt is Resurrection and God is a Bad Farmer"

"Maybe God knows that the only way to get good soil is through a pile of dead things, of pile of waste, a pile of things others might just throw away. Good soil doesn’t just happen. It is the remnant of faith had and faith lost, of beliefs embraced and beliefs discarded. Good soil is alive through the decomposing of dead things. Good soil is resurrection, for out of the waste and detritus of faith and life springs forth a bountiful harvest. And it is all part of the cycle of soil, the cycle of faith. To have faith and to lose it so that out of the decomposed remains of belief, new life, richer life, deeper life can begin to take root."

Most Haunting: 
Shawn Smucker with “Cough. Breathe. Cancer. Dance.”

“I watched her walk into the night, disappear into the darkness, and I thought, none are immortal. None of us will live here forever. We are, all of us, terminal.” 

Most Powerful: 
Austin Channing Brown with “Made for Whiteness” 

“I used to think I was made for white people. I know that sounds a little crazy, but its true…” 

Most Helpful (nominated by Hannah Bowman
Dianna Anderson with “Leaving Purity Culture: Now What?”

“That, then, is our first major underlining principle: you are who God created you to be, as your sexual self.” 

Most Beautifully Vulnerable (nominated by Sarah Sweatt Orsborn): 
Mary Evelyn Smith with “A leak in the system: when a little girl felt sorry for my son”

“She was maybe six-years-old, smiling and ladylike in a gauzy white dress. The kind of dress that makes me want a daughter. The kind of smile that's heavy on sugar and light on spice. She walked up to my son, as he wheeled in circles outside the sanctuary after church, and planted herself squarely in front of his wheelchair. They studied each other closely. He waved hello. And then, without taking her eyes from his face, she said  ‘I feel sorry for him.’”

Most Challenging: 
Christena Cleveland with "Dismantling the White Male Industrial Complex" 

"My hopes for a just world don’t rest on the white man’s shoulders. My hope is in Jesus and in the power of his death and resurrection."

Rachel Marie Stone with “The Birth Control Debate We Shouldn’t Be Having” 

“So yes. I do understand what people feel is at stake. But I also believe that to reject and inhibit access to birth control on the remote and contested possibility that a fertilized egg might not implant is to consign more than a million and a half people annually — mostly children, but many women — to death."

Wisest (nominate by Susie Finkbeiner)
Lorilee Craker with “I am her real mom too”

“Whether or not you ever have a relationship with your child, your journey together continues through the years, through love, prayer, thoughts, and yes, DNA. Speaking for adoptive moms everywhere, we think of you always and tell our children you love them and did the best you could. You are real moms. And to adoptive moms who have been told over and over again, in ways subtle and blunt, that your role in your child’s life is somehow a fraud, a fake, as artificial as a popsicle formed from red dye and chemicals, you know better. You are real moms, too.” 

Funniest (nominated by Abby Fahmi
“Exaggerated Soccer Injuries Looks Ridiculous Off the Field” 

Beth Felker Jones with “Women Doing Theology”

On My Nightstand…

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is my first Adichie novel, and I’ve been told by several of her fans it’s not their favorite. I loved the story, characters, and writing in Americanah, but like a lot of folks, found the ending anticlimactic and a tad disappointing. Still, there were too many amazing moments in this one to give it anything less than four stars. Highly recommended. Let me know if you think I should read Half of a Yellow Sun or Purple Hibiscus next. 

The Oldest Living Things in the World by Rachel Sussman

So maybe this was an odd (and ironic?) book to ask for as a birthday present, but Dan knew I’d been pining over it for a while, and I’ve not been disappointed. The Oldest Living Things in the World is a giant book that combines many of my favorite things: a compelling journey/quest narrative, beautiful photographs, and naturalism. (Also, for some reason, the pages smell AMAZING.) Over ten years, artist Rachel Sussman researched, worked with biologists, and traveled the world to photograph continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older. Her quest took her to Antarctica, Greenland, the Mojave Desert the Australian Outback, and all sorts of interesting places. The photos and information are great, but what I really love is Sussman’s point of view. She gave a TED Talk about her project that’s worth a watch. Five stars. 

Slow Church by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison 

I'm just digging into this one and enjoying it so far. I don't usually like how-to-do-church books, but this one is different, offering a believable and inspiring alternative to our industrialized approaches to church, which tend to emphasize quantity over quality and programs over people. This one's gotten a lot of buzz, and so far, it seems worthy of it. 

Book News…

I finally finished writing my next (and third) book, Searching for Sunday. It’s a memoir about losing and finding Church, arranged around the seven sacraments. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, though edits still loom. Look for it to hit shelves in April of 2015. 


I’m pretty freakin’ excited that a bunch of you are actually coming to my hometown of Dayton, Tennessee this week for a special Tokens event on “Evolution and the Christian Faith” featuring Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Ed Larson at the famous Rhea County Courthouse.   I’ll be there for a short interview as well.  Best of all, my friend and fellow blogger Richard Beck and his wife Jana are coming in for the event, which means Dan and I are going to treat them to a tour of Dayton!  Last I checked, there weren’t many tickets available, but you can learn more here. If you will be in town, please let me know. I’d love to connect. 

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

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