As the year comes to a close it's my tradition to do an end of the year wrap up for the blog. It helps new readers catch up and regular readers find posts they might have missed...and to reminisce a bit. For my part, I like to gather my favorite posts in one location.
Welcome to all of you who've joined us this last year. You can find past reviews here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.
1. Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality and Mortality
This year saw the publication of my first book. Thanks to all of you who have read the book and to those of you who have posted reviews on your blog or at Amazon. Though the book isn't perfect, I'm proud of it. I don't think there is anything quite like it in the theological world. I've had people like Walter Brueggemann and Stanley Hauerwas say they learned a lot from the book and many people have told me that the book was "life changing." This summer I'll be speaking on the book at Streaming and the Theology and Peace Conference.
2. Universal Reconciliation
This was the year of Rob Bell's Love Wins so I wrote some more about universal reconciliation this year. The most trafficked post I wrote about universalism this year was Universalism and the Open Wound of Life, where I again point out that universalism, for me, has more to do with theodicy (the problem of suffering) than soteriology (the problem of salvation).
This year I also wrote a series of posts working through various objections to universalism. I pulled those posts together into Universal Reconciliation: Some Questions and Answers. Finally, this year over at Two Friars and a Fool I had a exchange with Daniel Kirk from Fuller Theological on the topic of universal reconciliation as the "best ending to the Christian story."
3. Stories from the Prison Bible Study
Throughout the year I've shared stories from the Monday evening bible study I help with at a local prison. The most popular stories where On Fear and Following: Reading the Beatitudes in Prison and John 13: A Story from the Prison Study. The former essay will appear in 2012 as a chapter in a book edited by my friend Richard Goode concerning the work and influence of Will Campbell. Look for And the Criminals With Him from Wipf & Stock this spring. The latter essay, on John 13, may be one of the most powerful things I've shared on this blog. Many readers have let me know that they've used that story in worship services, sermons, or church publications.
4. The Gospel According to Lady Gaga
Statistics-wise, the most popular post I wrote this year was The Gospel According to Lady Gaga. The post begins with some humorous autobiography but slowly morphs into a prophetic cry.
5. The Bible
I write a lot about the bible on this blog, sharing insights about biblical texts and reflecting on biblical hermeneutics. Interesting posts about biblical texts from the past year included The Exclusion and Inclusion of Eunuchs, Cheap Praise and Costly Praise, "My Heart is Overwhelmed": Universalism and the Prophetic Imagination, Easter Shouldn't Be Good News, The Deeper Magic: A Good Friday Meditation, and "Jesus Stopped."
Posts about hermeneutical issues that got a lot of attention were "Biblical" as a Sociological Stress Test and On Christian Communion: Why is Killing Okay But Not Sexuality?
6. Jesus Would be a Hufflepuff
Go figure, but the second most popular post I wrote this year, in response to the last Harry Potter movie coming out, was Jesus Would be a Hufflepuff. The post is silly but it does highlight a lot of what I do here: The quirky theological connection. (See also: On the Moral Example of Jack Sparrow.)
7. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: On Disenchantment and the Demonic
Speaking of quirky theological connections, my favorite post of the year was this analysis of the demonic in Scooby-Doo. I continue to think a lot about the Powers and the demonic. Another popular post on this topic from this year was Tales of the Demonic.
From time to time I like to write autobiographical posts. I think it helps readers get to know me better. Four of the better ones from last year were Adventures in Looking Like Jesus (Or a Crazy Person), Get On a Bike...And Go Slow, What I Learned on Palm Sunday With the Greek Orthodox and Growing Up Catholic: A Lenten Meditation.
This year readers also got to put a face with a name by watching my conversation with Rachel Held Evans on blogging.
9. Are Christians Hate-Filled Hypocrites?
Last year I was startled to find myself quoted in Bradley Wright's book Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...And Other Lies You've Been Told. In the book I'm quoted as saying:
"Christianity" has essentially become a mechanism for allowing millions of people to replace being a decent human being with something else, an endorsed "spiritual" substitute.Was I wrong in saying that? Read the post to find out.
From time to time I write posts geared to provoke (the most famous example being my The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity which blew up again in the final weeks of this year). Some provocations from this year: Marriage as a Spiritual Failure, Your God is Too Big, The Satanic Church, and The Poetry of a Murderer.
This year my ghostbusting adventures continued. The story of my students and I "busting" the Anson Light made it into local, regional and national news outlets. (I even did a local radio show about our adventures.)
I continue to post poems from time to time. Here were my favorites from this past year: Seeing Like My Dog, Dharma, Amnesia, Morning Office, Incarnation, and The Territory of Our Bleeding.
13. The Slavery of Death
Finally, I like to do original work on this blog. I like to actually do theology on this blog as well as write about theology. Actually, I don't do proper theology but work at my particular theology/psychology mash up.
This year the best of this sort of work was found in my The Slavery of Death series (which is still ongoing though nearing its end). The series is, at root, a psychological meditation on Christus Victor, about what it might mean to be freed from the slavery to the fear of death (Heb. 2.14-15). When the series is over I'll gather it into a Table of Contents, but if you'd like to catch up these posts, if read in order, will allow you to trace the main moves of the argument:
Christus Victor: "To break the power of him who holds the power of death"
"He who does not fear death is outside the tyranny of the devil." (Part 1)
Christus Victor (Part 2)
On Sarx and Soma (Part 4)
The Dynamics of Sin and Death (Part 5)
Ancestral Sin (Part 6)
"In this world we are like Jesus" (Part 7)
Death & Resurrection: "To free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death"
The Pornography of Death (Part 11)
The American Culture of Death Avoidance (Part 12)
The Children of God and the Children of the Devil (Part 13)
Eccentric Identity (Part 14)
To Live as Death Where Not (Part 15)
Thanks to all of you who came here to read in 2011 and to those of you who regularly share your own thoughts and insights with all of us. I've been blessed by your online friendship and conversation.
Finally, one thing to look forward to in the coming weeks is the publication of my second book The Authenticity of Faith: The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience. (A preview can be found here on page 19 of the online ACU Press catalog). In the Acknowledgements of the book I've written the following:
I would also like to thank the readers of my blog Experimental Theology where early drafts of this material first appeared. I’m blessed to have one of the most intelligent and thoughtful readerships on the Internet. A warm thank-you to my readers for your many helpful comments, feedback, and encouragement. You were the first to let me know that this material deserved a wide audience.See you in 2012!
Grace and peace,