It’s been a good year for writing. I know many lament the death of newspapers and magazines, like Newsweek, which printed its last issue just over a year ago. But the new age in journalism has spawned new mediums for more writers. This has been great fun to watch. Over the course of the last twelve months, there have been a few essays that have really stirred me. I could have listed dozens, but I found these six to be both enlightening and inspiring, which is an exciting combination.
Andrea Palpant Dilley (Christianity Today) published a story on the research of sociologist, Robert Woodberry. And it surprised me in every way. The well-written essay unmasked many of the stereotypes we’ve long held and perpetuated about the role of missionaries in recent history.
Yet so far, over a dozen studies have confirmed Woodberry’s findings. The growing body of research is beginning to change the way scholars, aid workers, and economists think about democracy and development. The church, too, has something to learn. For Western Christians, there’s something exciting and even subversive about research that cuts against the common story and transforms an often ugly character—the missionary—into the whimsical, unwitting protagonist we all love to love.
Kirsten Powers (USA Today) penned this scandalous article amidst the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortionist whose Philadelphia “clinic” committed unspeakable horrors. Powers, a Democratic pundit and journalist, took a big risk in publishing this, but almost single-handedly (with a strong hat tip to Mollie Hemingway) made this trial a national news story. Powers also made headlines last year for her inspiring personal testimony.
Infant beheadings. Severed baby feet in jars. A child screaming after it was delivered alive during an abortion procedure. Haven’t heard about these sickening accusations? It’s not your fault. Since the murder trial of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell began March 18, there has been precious little coverage of the case that should be on every news show and front page.
Andy Crouch (Christianity Today) wrote a masterful essay on the day the Supreme Court announced it had struck down the “Defense of Marriage Act” and legalized same-sex marriage. This was perhaps this biggest story of 2013. Andy handled the topic with real Christian conviction, but wrote with an exemplary type of sensitivity and clarity.
Is there an easy way out of the current battles over sexuality? No. But there is a way through. A remnant, perhaps small and perhaps substantial, will continue to teach that we are created male and female, to bless the marriages that reunite those two broken halves, and to remind all, married and unmarried, that “in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage”—that ultimately our earthly eros only reflects the reunion promised between the Creator and his image bearers.
Russell Moore (Wall Street Journal) wrote a compelling challenge to Christians as we enter a new age in American history. Christians, as Dr. Moore describes, no longer exists as a “moral majority” but instead should aim to be a “prophetic minority,” a phrase I quite like. Dr. Moore models the “convictional kindness” he implores us to use.
Our voice must not only be a voice of morality, it must be a voice of welcome that says, “Just as I am without one plea, except the blood of the Son of God was shed for me.” That must be in our voices, with tears in our eyes, so we speak with those who disagree with us with a convictional kindness—not because we are weak, but because the gospel is strong, and because we have been given a mission that is anchored to the cross.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey (Wall Street Journal) authored a helpful piece on Christians and adoption. In light of several adoption scandals and a swath of misinformation about international adoption, particularly, Bailey’s essay provided a balanced account of where things stand.
The Bible is full of admonishments to take special care of “the fatherless,” and in recent years, evangelical Christians in particular have taken this commandment to heart… But in the midst of its rapid growth, the evangelical adoption movement has experienced some growing pains. “Early on, there was adoption cheerleading: ‘It’s beautiful, we need this,’ ” Mr. Medefind says. “Now Christians are talking about ethical questions, like guarding against corruption.”
Patton Dodd (Christianity Today) wrote a gracious and hopeful story about the new life at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. This piece is important personally because of my friendships with a number of the members of New Life and because Patton articulated trends that are important for evangelical church leaders across the country to understand.
The church’s new auditorium, with a stage set in the round and 8,000 seats, is equipped with insane lighting and sound capabilities, all on display this morning. Christ will be preached this morning—and here he is preached as the head of Christendom, leading the charge for Christians to take over the world. He is risen, and we are on the rise. Until, suddenly, we were not. Over the first weekend of November 2006, New Life’s meteoric rise came to a crashing halt.