Sunday Superlatives 9/16/2012

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Around the Blogosphere...

XKCD with “Feathers

Roy Ciampa with “Identity Mapping

“One of the most unfortunate habits of biblical interpretation in the past several centuries, in my opinion, is that of assuming that the teachings of biblical texts are directly transferable to other cultures, including those that are quite different from those to which they were originally addressed. It is sometimes an unspoken assumption that “inspired” means “non-contextualized” and thus directly applicable to people of all times and cultures. This has had disastrous results for many marginalized people, including modern slaves, Jews and women. Of course, a crucial part of the problem is that modern readers are usually not fully aware of the extent to which their context differs from that being addressed by the biblical texts. One result of this lack of awareness is what I call the “mapping of identities.” The “mapping of identities” takes place when people or groups in the biblical text are identified with people or groups in the culture and context of the modern reader, with one identity being mapped onto another.”

Jana Riess at RNS with “Everything I Need to Know About Hospitality, I Learned from Molly Weasley

“As I explore our spiritual practice of hospitality throughout September, I keep circling back to Molly as the hospitable person I want to become. She's not a perfect person by any means; she has a fierce temper, succumbs to a dubious Author Crush, and has lousy taste in music. But she is always, always one who welcomes the stranger. In Book 2, when Harry visits the Weasley family, Molly immediately treats him like one of her own children. He's given a little extra food to fatten him up, but he's also allowed to go out and de-gnome the garden, doing household chores like everybody else. She regards him as both special and not special, which is just about right, I think. One trick of hospitality is treating people not as you would want to be treated yourself, but as theywant to be treated, which is usually much harder.”

CNN: New Monkey Discovered

Anne Jackson at Relevant with “The slow and inefficient work of God

“I thought back to the beach I had visited the previous Saturday—the sand was smooth. The closer to the ocean I got, the smoother it got, until it felt as if I were walking on silk. The slow and inefficient work of God. I thought about the pew in front of me, worn and glassy from those who had rubbed past the gloss, through the stain, and worn the wood down to satin in their desperate fingers. The slow and inefficient work of God.

Bravest (nominated by Alise Wright and Tammy Perlmutter):
Tamara Lunardo with “The Longest Way Back Home

“The grass offers me recline but I have to keep going. I don’t know where, just go. I walk past woods that lead down to a creek and I get why Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with rocks. Jesus. Keep on going and the daisy-looking weeds are hopeful, remind me of the girl who brought me one home from her happy walk, left it on my bathroom counter. Left it amid my mess.”

Most Practical: 
Lisa Copen with “Talking to Someone WIth a Chronic Illness” 

“People who are chronically ill rarely have anyone bring them a meal or take their kids for a play date. Since moms and dads with illness do their best to keep up with life, they are seen out and about and they "look just fine." But you may never know how much they suffer silently in their home. A meal for the family or babysitting the kids so parents can have a date night is a great way to provide support.”

Most Relatable: 
Sarah Bessey at Prodigal Magazine with “In defense of the cafeteria” 

“I got my start in the small organic faith churches of western Canada, and it was good, but I needed the kind conservative Southern Baptist pastors’ wives I discovered in my early twenties, and I needed the Mennonites to teach me about pacifism and thrift, and I needed the mega-church’s passion, and I needed the newly-reformed friends, and I needed the mysticism of my charismatic roots, and I needed the desert Abbas and Ammas. I needed Lectio Divina, a labyrinth, liturgy, and the Jesus Prayer, I needed my Bible, and my friend Tez in Australia, and I needed the Book of Common Prayer. I needed the established theologians, and poets, and the up-and-coming bold bloggers, I needed the emerging church, and now I need my little community Vineyard. I need happy-clappy Jesus music, and I need the old hymns I sing into the cavern of the bathtub while I wash these small tiny souls in my care, and I need Mumford and Sons, too. I needed my husband’s seminary textbooks and discussions, and I needed big hairy worship anthems in stadiums with light shows, and then, when I didn’t, I needed empty cathedrals, pubs, the Eucharist every week, open fields, and church outside of the lines, and I need it all, still, always, I hold it all inside.”

Most Challenging (nominated by Ty Dishman
Sean Palmer with “Missing the Point” 

“Reconciliation, then, is not an agenda item. It’s not something we can save until next year’s budget like renovations to the fellowship hall. It must be more than another serving on the buffet of conversations at the next conference or workshop. Reconciliation is the physical demonstration that God is at work in the world. Any fool can put people at odds. Only God - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all - can bring those opposed to one another together as sisters and brother. When we lose reconciliation, we lose the purposes of Jesus. If your church is all one thing - white, black, Hispanic, gay, straight, Democrat, Republican, whatever - then you may have failed at joining God in loving the world.”

Most Inspiring (nominated by Erin Thomas) 
The Motorbike Pilgrim

"Assisi is a constant reminder of the power of total surrender to love. The atmosphere is pregnant with prayer. Prayer born in an attitude of surrender to the love of God. The love that defies definition or comprehension. God can be no other than Gods eternal self and if I am to abide in Gods love then I too must be no other than my eternal self to the fullest extent possible."

Most quotable (nominated by J.R. Goudeau): 
Kelley Nikondeha with “Faith Statement (riffing on Barbara Brown Taylor)

“The hard stuff does break your idols...”

Best Video: 
Candy Chang with “Before I die, I want to...

“Preparing for death is one of the most empowering things you can do. Thinking about death clarifies your life." 

Best Imagery: 
Kelly Chripczuk at She Loves with “God Sews

“Show me the rag bag of your life,” God says. “Dump out the whole chaotic pile on the floor here, yes here, right in front of us. Let’s see what we can do about it.”

Best Series:
Gregg Davidson at BioLogos with “Biblical and scientific shortcomings of flood geology - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3” 

"Flood Geology proponents would have us believe that there is extensive evidence for a violent, earth-wide flood that is apparent if one is willing to consider the possibility. As Christian geologists, we have no philosophical objection to a cataclysmic event of divine origin, and have long been willing to consider evidence of such an event. What we have observed, however, is that evidence for Flood Geology is largely, if not entirely, non-existent. Given the placement and character of sedimentary deposits currently on earth, deposition by a single flood is not only implausible, but utterly impossible unless God temporarily suspended His natural laws in order to establish layers and fossil beds that would subsequently communicate a story vastly different than what actually happened."

Best Review: 
Patrick Mitchel reviews God’s Good Design: What the Bible really says about Men and Women

“Smith’s obvious implication is that other readers who come to different conclusions must not be letting the Bible speak clearly – presumably due to feminist bias (she speaks of this in the opening chapter). There is more than a whiff of arrogance here – does she really think that other evangelical Christians are not coming to the text with equal sincerity and seriousness as she is?’ 

Best conversation-starter (nominated by Kristina Robb-Dover):
Katie Roiphe with "Disappearing Mothers"

“If, from beyond the grave, Betty Friedan were to review the Facebook habits of the over-30 set, I am afraid she would be very disappointed in us. By this I mean specifically the trend of women using photographs of their children instead of themselves as the main picture on their Facebook profiles. You click on a friend’s name and what comes into focus is not a photograph of her face, but a sleeping blond four-year-old, or a sun-hatted toddler running on the beach. Here, harmlessly embedded in one of our favourite methods of procrastination, is a potent symbol for the new century. Where have all of these women gone? What, some earnest future historian may very well ask, do all of these babies on our Facebook pages say about “the construction of women’s identity” at this particular moment in time?”

Best Speech:
Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Eid ul-Fitr reception

“Refraining from violence, then, is not a sign of weakness in one’s faith; it is absolutely the opposite, a sign that one’s faith is unshakable.”

Best Letter:
John Blase at Deeper Story with “Under the Mercy

“So regardless of what bright-lights-moderate-ego conference you attend and even in spite of what the elders may say (and we’ve heard they’re squeezing you for measureable results), just keep telling us of the mercies of our God, how wide and deep and grand and fresh-each-morning they are because that’s what’s getting us from Sunday to Sunday, that’s what’s getting us from breath to breath.”

Best Storytelling: 
Kristin Lucas with “Eyes Open Prayers

“One of our pastors was holding the tiniest baby to his chest, rocking her, snuggling her and whispering quiet words over her. Her exhausted mom sat across the circle and watched.  Our children’s director bounced the other baby, cooing and smiling at her, mimicking her adorable wide eyes and smile. The prayer time was over, but the praying had continued in the form of eyes open prayers.  It was no less holy, no less powerful, no less necessary. In fact, it felt like something that had maybe been missing all along.”

Best Reminder:
Micah Murray with "The Prodigal Father"

"This is how God loves. He pours out rain and sunshine on both the good and the evil. He gives to all of us liberally. He loves without holding back. Maybe, every once in a while, a man would give his life for someone beautiful and noble. But God put His love on display by dying when we were sinners – helpless, hopeless, and worthless. To a reasonable economist, it makes no sense. But in the Kingdom of God everything is upside down. The peasants sit around the King’s table, and He serves them the best He has. The well-behaved bystanders shake their heads in disbelief as He wastes His wealth on us."

Best (Humorous) Analogy: 
Ben Howard with “Christian Denominations are Like… NFL Teams

“Eastern Orthodox – Jacksonville Jaguars. Because there is like a 50% chance that you didn't know they were a team and an even higher chance that you can't tell me anything about them at all.” 

Best Photoblog:
Buzzfeed with "The 33 most inspiring photos of the Paralympics"

On the blog...

Most Popular Post:
Esther Actually: Princess, Whore...or Something More

“...As with the rest of scripture, we have to read this story on its own terms. And, like it or not, this story is not about sex, it’s not about gender roles, and it’s not about marriage (though these themes are present and should certainly be discussed). At the end of the day, this is a story about Jewish identity and heritage. It’s a story about what it means to be Jewish in the context of diaspora.   It’s a story about God’s preservation and providence to a scattered people, God's presence in God's hiddenness. This may not be a theme that draws big crowds to your church on Sunday morning, but I believe it is a more faithful reading of the text. And if we’re going to be faithful to scripture, we must learn to love it for what it is, not what we want it to be.” 

Most Popular Comments: 
In response to “Esther Actually,” Kristen Rosser wrote: 

“Every time I read something by Driscoll, it's more wildly out there than the time before.  It reminds me of the odd new teachings that the old authoritarian campus movement I was in used to come up with-- no one was holding them accountable, so they could read a passage any way they liked and claim it was a revelation from God. But it's not even necessary to dig deep into the historical context or the original language to see how wrong this reading is.  The passage in Esther 2:8-9 says, ‘When the king's new order and edict had been proclaimed, many girls were brought to the citadel. . . and put under the care of Hegai.  Esther also was taken into the kings palace. . . ‘ Are the passive verbs there not noticeable?  Are they difficult to understand?  How can anyone who reads standard English not notice that Esther and the other girls were passive recipients of these actions?” 

And From Two to One, asked: 

“I echo the others here with my excitement for this series, especially since many of my Jewish friends celebrate Purim. Would it be possible to get a rabbi's interpretation of Esther as part of this series? I would love to hear a Jewish perspective on some of our more Christian-ese questions.” 

[I’m working on scheduling a rabbi’s response sometime next week!]


So what caught your eye online this week?

What’s happening on your blog? 

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