A Year on the Blog: The Elite Eight

The first post on this blog was written on January 4th 2013. This marks the 70th post on the blog. Over the past year, I’ve been thrilled to engage in conversations and had over 12,100 views. Of course, the statistics teacher in me knows that nearly half of those came from just 8 posts. Like many others, I thought I’d share the top eight.

1. Millennial Canaries

I have written before about my return to college teaching after many years as an administrator. When preparing for that transition, and while working on my book on Christian Higher Education, I became fascinated with the ways in which today’s millennial generation differs from prior generations. That has led me to become a staunch defender of this generation against the tropes that show up in popular media and social networking sites. This particular post was written right when Rachel Held Evans wrote her piece on the CNN Belief blog on Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church. This post, which drew 2700 page views, was the first of several posts on the whole millennial question.

2. The Opposite of Critical Thinking is Fear

This post was written as an attempt to cast a positive vision for academic freedom and appropriate questioning within Christian institutions. While couched in terms of the Christian undergraduate university, it also applies to seminaries and churches. This has been my most consistently viewed post, with new people coming across it each month.

3. Today’s Christian University Students:

This was the January 4th post. It began the millennial conversation and called upon Christian universities to take the changes seriously. My great concern has been that evangelical institutions will look backwards (and some are) instead of finding ways of looking at rethinking their methodology in alignment with a postmodern generation of students. If we respond to them appropriately, there is the possibility of a revitalized evangelical voice in society.

4. Harvard’s Slippery Slope:

This was the second post and built on the first one. It attempts to put to rest slippery slope arguments by pointing out their naivete. Harvard didn’t “lose its way” through neglect but by conscious action of their board. The point is that Christian higher education is capable of change in positive directions that will not result in collapse. To the contrary, a vibrant institution must engage its culture in realistic ways.

5. Reflections on a Certain Trial in Florida:

At the time I wrote this, I didn’t know I’d be teaching a race and ethnic relations course This was my natural sociological imagination reacting to the news of the George Zimmerman verdict in Florida for shooting Trayvon Martin. It explored issues with the media, our inability to deal with important racial conversations, and the built-in limitations of the justice system.

6. This Is Not About Duck Dynasty:

I wrote this in the wake of all the Duck Dynasty uproar. It’s really not about the guys in Louisiana but was simply an attempt to explore the dynamics of evangelical angst about cultural issues. I wondered why anger is such a key factor in much evangelical conversation and suggest that there are some folks who intentionally rev up that anger for personal, positional, or organizational gain. It ended with one of my favorite Frederick Buechner quotes about the damage anger does to all of us.

7. Where Would Jesus Go to College?:

This was written in February and was another of my reflections on the purpose of Christian universities. The main point was that our culture is changing rapidly and that causes difficulty for tradition-bound institutions. Yet, Jesus’ ministry took place in a manner that breached social conventions: interaction with sinners, talk with women, stories about the Samaritans. Would Jesus want to be a the school where nobody pushed any envelopes or asked tough questions? It seems that he actually enjoyed tough questions that took him directions people didn’t like. If we’re going to be Christ-centered institutions, we need to learn to do the same.

8. Mainline and Evangelicals: Developing Hypotheses:

This post from July picked up one of my other themes of exploration this year — the nature of modern evangelicalism and initial thoughts about it’s future. I argued that we’ve made too much of the separation between mainline churches and evangelical churches, much to the damage of the witness of the Kingdom of God. I suggest that there is within evangelicalism a sharp distinction between positions taken by vocal celebrity leaders and the views of the rank and file members much like that that existed in mainlines 40 years ago. I also suggest that the millennial change is powerful group calling for authentic community that addresses real issues. It gives me hope.

It’s been a great ride and I’m grateful for those who commented, shared, liked, or simply looked. The issues of Christian Higher Education, the changing nature of evangelicalism, cultural engagement, response to inequality, and critique of media assumptions will shape the bulk of my writing in 2014. I hope to work more on the important interconnections between these themes. Stay tuned.

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