It's almost the end of the year and if I've learned anything from the internet it's that lists are the best-est thing in the whole wide world. With that in mind we wanted to take this time to highlight the best of what has been written and recorded here at On Pop Theology.
Since the beginning of the year we've published 158 essays from 24 different authors and produced 45 episodes of the On Pop Theology podcast. Some of these have been deeply philosophical, some deeply personal, and some have embraced an absurdism that borders on unhinged.
I cannot express how grateful I am to all those who've worked with us over the past year and to all of those who've taken the time to read and listen to the things we've worked to create. I especially want to thank podcast producer Brandon Schexnayder, my co-host Jesse Moon, and my other co-host, editor, and sounding board Sebastian Faust for all the hard work they've done in putting together what you see here.
Now, to the lists!
Best Posts of the Year
1) Preying in the Name of God by Sebastian Faust
"And so I shall say to a system that preys on the poor, that trades on the trusts of the weak, ascribes goodness to greed, reckons faithfulness by a widow’s last farthings: Be scattered. Be broken. Be flung into the sea. And it shall be so. Now go. And do likewise."
3) What We Talk About When We Talk About Rob Bell by Ben Howard
"Rob Bell's new book will or will not sell. His television show will or will not be picked up. His words will or will not affect someone, and the conversation we're having here, the conversation about Rob Bell, about whether or not he matters or what he means, will not affect that. A conversation about Rob Bell's importance, or the importance of any person or movement, is really a conversation about the ways we've tied our meaning, our viability, to this conversation."
4) Silver Linings Playbook, Mental Illness, and the Church by Rachel Donegan
"My bipolar disorder won’t disappear anytime soon, because without a major medical breakthough, I’ll most likely have it until the day I die. My specific type is marked by rapid shifts in mood, ranging from hypomania, where I am boiling over with both exuberance and anger and will post twenty tweets in three hours, to severe depression, where I won’t want to talk to anyone and getting dressed is a marked achievement. There is no 'cured' per se, just 'stable.'"
5) The Disparate Worlds of Warring Minds: The Epistemology of a Government Shutdown by Ben Howard
"This isn’t a schism of ideology; its roots lie deeper – they are more entrenched, and less examined. In an epistemological divide, reconciliation can never have winning as its goal. The gap between the disparate worlds of warring minds can only be bridged through the authenticity and vulnerability of legitimate relationship. We must encounter the other, and though we find she is not the same as us, we must deign to see her as similar. We must humanize those we so often demonize."
6) Prayers to a Dark God by Sebastian Faust
"I’ve been thinking about that. So has Rilke. Somewhere around Ash Wednesday, our prayers, our meditations, comingled. Rilke began. I followed. We prayed to a different God than so many of the people round about us. We prayed to a dark God."
7) The Lie They Tell About Emma Watson and Me by Lyndsey Graves
"I've spent days and months of my life beating myself up for not being extroverted, ten pounds lighter, an early riser, more photogenic, more spiritually disciplined, concerned about strangers, or for not having a louder voice. And if I’m honest, in these areas of my life, if I can only accomplish the bare minimum, that’s me doing really well."
8) A Place in Sedona by JaneAnn Kenney
"We speak sometimes of the thin places, the places where heaven and earth meet, places where we hear echoes of eternity and feel the goodness of creation as though it had not fallen. Being in Sedona, I remember stories which are not my own—of my parents before I changed their lives in Alaska, if you can believe it, and of another people for whom places were important, marked with rocks to say “this is Beth-El”. In this place, my hopes for my life are peacefully swallowed up in my hopes for the future of humanity and the greater creation."
9) Rule Number 1: Your Faith Lies by Ben Howard
"Sometimes the things we whole-heartedly believe turn out to be wrong and that’s an incredibly difficult thing to admit. When our faith leads us astray, when our faith lies to us about the reality that actually exist, we look everywhere else for answers. We blame our parents, the church we grew up in, we blame God for not being the God we originally believed in. It’s hard to bear the tension that comes with a faith that can only ever be incomplete and fallible."
10) In Defense of Miley Cyrus: The Art of Wrecking Balls and Sledgehammers by Ben Howard
"This song, like any good pop song, is a construct, a product of the culture that creates it. And this particular song was birthed of a culture that is deeply confused by the relationship between physical and emotional intimacy. This is the art of our culture and it is good."
Best Episodes of the Year
1) Dick Cheney Sounds Like the Devil
Ben, Sebastian, and Jesse dig into the terrible, awful concept of hell, but in a fun way with jokes.
2) A Diverse Church For People Just Like You w/ Christena Cleveland
Ben and Jesse sit down with social psychologist and author Christena Cleveland to talk about issues of race and diversity in the church.
3) On Women in Ministry w/ Jen Thweatt-Bates
Ben talks with Jen Thweatt-Bates, theologian and moderator of Gal328.org, an organization working for gender equality in Churches of Christ.
4) The West Wing Musical Extravaganza
This episode is dedicated to the greatest political television show in history and, in particular, the greatest fictional president, Jed Bartlet.
5) On Modesty, Dating, and Being Single in the Church w/ Emily Maynard
Ben sits down with writer and blogger Emily Maynard to talk about modesty culture, "Christian" dating, and being a single twenty-something in the church.
Ben Howard is an accidental iconoclast and generally curious individual living in Nashville, Tennessee. He is also the editor-in-chief of On Pop Theology and an avid fan of waving at strangers for no reason. You can follow him on Twitter @BenHoward87.
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