Friday, January 23, 2009

Year In Review: The Best of the Blog

This week has been taking a look back at 2008 in lists, namely music, movies, and books and other favorites. (I realized I left out television in my catch-all yesterday. Here's my top five for best shows in 2008: 1) The Wire; 2) Battlestar Galactica; 3) Lost; 4) Mad Men; 5) The Office. There you go.) I borrowed from Ben Meyers in my catch-all yesterday; today I'm taking a page from Richard Beck. It's healthy for me to reflect upon my own work on the blog, and I hope I might introduce to you something you may have missed. Having only begun in August, a mere five months ago, there isn't as full a breadth to pull from, but regardless, it's enjoyable to look back in moving forward. Next week, of course, we'll get back to your regularly scheduled program, but not before a Year in Preview for 2009. Until then!

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To Vote Or Not To Vote. This series came to feel almost interminable, but of course by its very nature had an internal terminus. Over the year leading up to the election the seeds of concern planted previously began to sprout and grow, and my wife and I, with friends back at ACU, began to question whether we, as Christians, could or should vote in the presidential election. Part I was an introduction with links; Part II discussed Christian arguments in favor of voting; Part III evaluated those arguments; Part IV discussed Christian arguments against voting; an Excurcus was next, outlining what it means to be a Christian and disagree peaceably; Part V evluated Christian arguments against; Part VI drew preliminary conclusions and reflections; Part VII responded to my (astute) brother's dissatisfaction in my conclusions; Part VIII was an epilogue; and then there was a verdict.

Theology at the Movies. As you may have surmised by this point, I love movies! One of my very first posts was a theological exploration of David Lynch's The Straight Story. Then I found myself inadvertantly walking through Pixar's films and the way they embody the theme of hospitality to the stranger. I made known my great and unabashed love for movies. And I reviewed the newest Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, working off a reviewer's label intended pejoratively, but surprisingly full of depth.

Theology Matters. Theology is central to the life of the church because without good theology we find ourselves lost at sea -- in other words, exactly where the North American church finds itself today. So when I do theology I usually find myself reminding the church -- reminding myself -- what it is that we ought to be about as the church. So for these thematically linked posts. The first acted as an unofficial excursus from the voting series, entitled The Lure of Political Eschatology. The next was Following a Tortured Lord, in which I built off of Jimmy McCarty's Sojourners posts on Guantanamo Bay, America, torture, Jesus, and the church. This reminder furthered those thoughts; my social worker wife summarized, in brief, the call of the gospel; and I experienced doing theology with the poor. I re-posted something I wrote on an older blog, in which I tried to combat purely functional, reductionistic, non-narrative, non-normative, penal substitutionary understandings of the atonement. Then, deeply affected by an article written by an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi in response to the Mumbai attacks, I wrote a labored, lengthy, passionate response entitled On Loving Our Enemies. On a whim of inspiration I wrote a small piece about happy accidents and technology's role in diminishing them. Finally, on Christmas I did some remembering.

Scripture and Church Practices. Having grown up in the churches of Christ, it is in my bones to be centered around the church, Scripture, and the practices interrelated between the two. My very first post was about the apprenticeship of prayer, built off a wonderful story about my two younger brothers. For an introductory class in my MDiv program we wrote short papers at the beginning and end of the semester about Scripture and its role in the life of God's people. I wrote about the church's practice of hospitality as modeled after God's unmerited generosity toward us, as well as about gratitude for God's strange gift of good and loving family. I posted a literature essay I wrote for a class comparing Jonathan Kozol's Rachel and Her Children and Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh's Beyond Homelessness. I shared Unorganized Reflections on the Loss of the Authority of the Church. And I offered questions about the way worship forms us, related to Eucharist, Powerpoint, and what Mike Cope calls "downloading" Scripture.

Sports and Random Thoughts. In the midst of the run-up to the election and the all-important discernment of whether to vote, I took a break and made predictions for the 2008-2009 NBA season, including a number of reflections on the Spurs ... since I picked them to win over the Cavs in the Finals. Also related to sports, I posted an email I sent to Bill Simmons as an open question for him. I shared brief feelings leading into meeting family in Mississippi for Thanksgiving and heading home to Austin for the Christmas break. Finally, there were two posts in which I jumped through a bunch of topics; the first addressed Marilynne Robinson, the Hebrew phrase Mi Yodea?, Sarah Palin, football, and my dad. The second, longer and predictably loquacious, describes the beauty of fall in Atlanta, defends the Spurs' slow start, laments the inability to see movies, celebrates the glories of Saturday Night Live, responds to a commenter regarding Dobson's letter to America from 2012, reminds Christians how to respond to Obama's election, and remembers to pray for the nation's leaders. Whew!

Sunday Sabbath Poetry. Beginning Sunday, August 31st, I began a mostly weekly series in which, following Wendell Berry's lead, I honor the sabbath through poetry, posting a favorite poem or set of lyrics alongside a poem of my own composition. There were 14 in all by the end of 2008, and you can find them at the bottom of the column to your right, which has the date and author listed for each entry. I have already continued this practice into this new year, and plan to keep it as a regular fixture. I hope you are blessed by it, as I hope you are blessed by any other of these posts of mine. Thanks for reading.

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