Experimental Theology 2012 Year in Review

Thanks so much for being a reader of this blog. I know most of you "lurk," reading but not commenting. No worries. I tend to do the same. Regardless, thanks for reading--daily, weekly, monthly, or whenever you check in.

And a big Thank You to all of you who read and comment, regularly or occasionally. I learn so much from you and am deeply encouraged by your expressions of gratitude and support.

Per my tradition, this is my end of year review. Most of these selections are driven by traffic (most viewed, viral and liked posts) and others are selected because I think the post is particularly interesting or highlights the diversity of content on the blog.

So here it is, the Experimental Theology 2012 Year in Review:

1. The Authenticity of Faith: The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience
This year my second book was published, The Authenticity of Faith. The book is an extended meditation upon the motivations involved in religious belief, particularly existential motivations. As I frame the issue in the book, The Authenticity of Faith sets out to examine the evidence behind Freud's contention that religious belief is motivated by a (largely unconscious) need for existential comfort, solace and consolation.

The book also contains my descriptions of the dynamics that distinguish "Summer Christians" from "Winter Christians."

Finally, in the final chapters of the book I cover some of my most innovative empirical research--the devil as a "functional theodicy," why Christian bookstore art is so bad, and why people get upset if you suggest that Jesus might have ever had diarrhea when he was ill.

2. The Slavery of Death Series (and coming book)
I finished up my Slavery of Death series in 2012. It was one of the most popular series I've done on the blog. Thanks to your encouragement I pulled that material into a manuscript. I'm excited to announce that Cascade will be publishing the book this coming year. Details to follow. The book description:
According to Hebrews, the Son of God appeared to “break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” What does mean to be enslaved, all our lives, to the fear of death? And why is this fear described as “the power of the devil”? And most importantly, how are we—as individuals and as faith communities—to be set free from this slavery to death? In another creative interdisciplinary fusion, Richard Beck blends Eastern Orthodox perspectives, biblical text, existential psychology and contemporary theology to describe our slavery to the fear of death, a slavery rooted in the basic anxieties of self-preservation and the neurotic anxieties at the root of our self-esteem. Driven by anxiety—enslaved to the fear of death—we are revealed to be morally and spiritually vulnerable as “the sting of death is sin.” Beck argues that in the face of this predicament resurrection is experienced as liberation from the slavery of death in the martyrological, eccentric, cruciform and communal capacity to overcome fear in living fully and sacrificially for others.
In the Acknowledgements of the book the following appears:
I would like to extend my deep gratitude to the readers of my blog Experimental Theology. My daily interactions with each of you have been a source of deep spiritual encouragement and constant intellectual stimulation. You were the ones who encouraged me to pull this material into book form and your comments helped shape and direct the final product. I hope the book blesses you and that you feel a sense of ownership as you hold it. 
3. The Little Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux
This year I discovered the little way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, summarized in a multiple part series. Proponents of the little way include people like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton. Not a bad list.

The little way has profoundly affected my spiritual life. I'd say it has shattered me. I now preach the little way everywhere I go.

4. Blogging about the Bible
You know what's interesting? I think I blog about the bible more than fundamentalists do. Then again, my take on the bible is a bit different. A wee bit.

Sometimes I'm drawn to the quirky. Popular quirkiness from this year: Adam's First Wife, I Am a Worm, The Nephilim, Heading Coverings in Worship: Why Female Hair is a Testicle, and Control Your Vessel.

Sometimes I'm drawn to the provocative or disturbing. Popular from this year: Seeing Her, Whores, and Shaming Jesus.

And sometimes I write about biblical texts that I consider important, and might give a particular spin. Popular from this year: Let Them Both Grow Together, Becoming the Jubilee, The Sermon on the Mount: Study Guide, Treat Them Like a Pagan or Tax Collector, Going Outside the Camp, High and Low: The Psalms and Suffering, Welcoming Children, and A Community Called Forgiveness.

5. The Prison Bible Study
I've continued to blog about my experiences leading a bible study at a local prison. Popular posts this year about the prison bible study: I'll Fly Away, Living in Babylon, Monday Night Bible Study (a poem), and Singing and Resistance.

Also this year some reflections of mine about the prison bible study were published in a chapter of the recently published collection And the Criminals with Him: Essays in Honor of Will D. Campbell and All the Reconciled.

6. Autobiographical Posts
From time to time I write autobiographical posts. Most have a spiritual or theological point, though tenuously made. Popular autobiographical posts from the past year: The Bureaucrat, Uncle Richard Vampire Hunter, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, Prayer Beads, and I Like the Color Pink,

7. Psychology and Theology
I continue to integrate theology with my discipline of psychology, even the statistical side of psychology. Two popular examples from this last year: Orthodox Alexithymia and Central Tendency in Skewed Distributions: A Lesson in Social Justice,

8. The William Stringfellow Project
This year I started my William Stringfellow Project. The project? To read all of William Stringfellow's books in chronological order in their first editions. I started the project off with a summary post of Stringfellow's theology and as of this writing we've done the first six of Stringfellow's books. Check the sidebar for the installments. We'll finish off the Project this coming year.

9. The Journey of Faith
From the beginning, this blog has talked about the mixture of faith and doubt. Popular posts from this year meditating on the issues of faith and doubt were: The Buddhist Phase, Skilled Christianity, Shopping in the WalMart of Belief, and god.

So there they are, the highlights of 2012!

Again, thanks for reading, commenting, and encouraging. Wishing you a blessed, peaceful, and grace-filled 2013.

Pax Christi,

Oh, and I also got a tattoo this year...

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11 thoughts on “Experimental Theology 2012 Year in Review”

  1. Thanks for letting us into a small portion of your world with this blog.  It gives me comfort to find you and the other readers who ruminate and struggle with questions and thoughts that may not be "mainstream" in current evangelical circles.  God bless and I look forward to a thought-provoking 2013.

  2. A Happy New Year to you, Richard, and all my fellow readers.  Heartfelt thanks once more for a year of thought-provoking, stimulating, emotionally-literate, life-changing blogging.  You make a difference to those of us who read, and often vicariously, I know from others' comments as well as my own experience, to the lives of those with whom we come into contact.  Apologies for the paucity of comments this year, despite reading every word you've written (in blog and book form).  I'll try and do better!  Can't wait to continue the journey together through 2013...

  3. I do hope readers get the sense that what they find here is a person struggling toward being a better person. Happy New Year, Andrew.

  4. This looks like a really interesting blog. One of our members recommended it to us. We're going to post it on The Christian Left later today. Join us.  https://www.facebook.com/TheChristianLeft

  5. Happy New Year Richard! I mostly lurk, but your blog has helped me through some pretty rough patches. I particularly enjoyed "Skilled Christianity" and the Slavery of Death series this year. Looking forward to the book!

  6. Great reflection and summary of the year here! I'm excited to hear that The Slavery of Death Series is becoming a book at last (it's a bit odd to people when you try to recommend a series of blog posts).

    For what it is worth, I have to once again say how encouraging it is to be a small part of this ET community. I have yet to come across a place (online) that is as challenging, tactful, and understanding. You are a light in the digital dark - a true beacon of productive conversation used responsibly within a difficult medium!

    Thanks to one and all!

  7. Hi Richard,

    Just got done reading "Unclean," it is a fascinating book and is challenging me on many levels. thank you! 

    I was wondering if you would ever do a series of blog posts on Calvinism. I am not a calvinist for numerous reasons and am troubled by how popular it is becoming. I just can't figure out why it is so attractive to people in our culture right now. Anyway I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the psychology of calvinism.


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