2015: That Was The Year That Was

As always, I’m grateful to anyone who takes any time to read anything I write. But that list is a lot longer this year, as readership jumped a shocking 52% above what it was last year! In fact, almost as many people visited The Pietist Schoolman in 2015 as in my first two full years of blogging, 2012 and 2013, combined.

The causes for that growth deserve some further reflection — I’m a bit worried that it has tempted me to write too much about certain controversies, and not always in the most irenic fashion — but today I’m just humbled. Whether you agreed with my take or not, I appreciate that you chose to read this blog.

2015 in sparklers

Before we enter 2016, a look back at some of our most popular posts and themes in 2015:

• In a year when I wrote often about things I wished hadn’t happened, it’s perhaps fitting that the most widely read post was inspired by the death of a close friend (#1).

• Earlier in the year, two funerals had inspired reflections on the community of the church (#18) and the theology of one of its hymns (#16).

Rainbow flag waving before Supreme Court in April 2015
Licensed by Creative Commons (Ted Eytan)

• Posts about Christians debating sexuality were even more popular in 2015 than in 2014. First, the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on same-sex marriage prompted me to listen to the somewhat conflicted reflections of gay rights advocate Andrew Sullivan (#24) and then to suggest that “this is a moment pregnant with possibility for evangelical renewal.” (#21). Indeed, even before Obergefell was announced, I asked if evangelicals were starting to change their minds about homosexuality (#25).

• But then Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University decided to allow the hiring of LGBT employees, prompting Union University to quit the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (#11) when the CCCU board didn’t immediately expel the two Anabaptist institutions. (The Union president reasoned that marriage stood “at the heart of the gospel” — which got me wondering what, or who, actually held this position — #20). While I called on Christian academics to stand with the CCCU (#2) and tried to articulate a more hopeful vision for Christian higher ed (#14), Goshen and EMU ultimately left the council in late September (#9). They were followed later that fall by Bluffton University (#3), further disappointing my hopes that the CCCU would maintain a significant Anabaptist presence (#17).

• One of the most vocal conservative critics of Goshen and Eastern Mennonite, Oklahoma Wesleyan president Everett Piper (who had guided his school out of the CCCU just a few weeks after Union), drew national attention — and my somewhat conflicted response (#6) — for responding to campus unrest at schools like University of Missouri by arguing that the university “is not a day care.”

Holstered pistol

• Then Eastern Mennonite president Loren Swartzendruber (#13) joined me in criticizing (#4) Liberty University Jerry Falwell, Jr. for urging his students to carry concealed weapons in the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. (Earlier in the year, I had analyzed Falwell’s ambition to make Liberty “the Protestant Notre Dame” — #23.) I found it especially concerning that Falwell had dragged the religion of those shooters into his comments, given that evangelicals are already more likely than any other group to view Islam as incompatible with American values (#19). But ultimately, I think that the most significant critique of Falwell’s remarks came from another conservative Baptist (#8).

• As always, the best way to get people to read this blog is to have someone other than me write the post. In the middle of what are usually the doldrums of July, Mark Bruce sparked one of the longest comment threads in Pietist Schoolman history with his call for evangelical universities to open up room for conversations about sexuality (#7). Then Devin Manzullo-Thomas and Jared Burkholder added invaluable context in the midst of the Goshen/EMU debate. Devin’s initial guest post on the subject (#5) was published just hours before Union University announced its departure from CCCU, then he added a follow-up on Myron Augsburger (#10) one week before one institution Augsburger once led (EMU) quit another (the CCCU). We’ve missed having Jared around as a regular guest-blogger, but his essay on peacemaking and sexuality (#12) gave helpful insight for us non-Mennonites.

• One more controversy percolating in Christian higher ed as 2015 comes to a close: Wheaton College’s decision to suspend a political science professor who claimed that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God” as part of her justification for wearing a hijab during Advent (#15)(I haven’t heard anything about this since Christmas, but the last report wasn’t encouraging.)

First day of kindergarten for our kids• Rounding out this list is the post was meant the most to me: the letter I wrote to my children the night before they started kindergarten (#22).

Then one more Top 25 list: the most-clicked links to other blog posts and articles written this year.

  1. Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves? (John Piper, Desiring God)
  2. Unity with diversity in CCCU (Myron Augsburger, Mennonite World Review)
  3. More schools poised to leave CCCU (J.C. Derrick, WORLD Magazine)
  4. The “Same” God? Volf Speaks (Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed)
  5. Hope International and Nebraska Christian to Merge (Inside Higher Ed)
  6. Evangelicals Unite as Mennonites Mull How to Keep Peace over Sexuality (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today)
  7. Rich Kids Study English (Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic)
  8. Possible split threatens CCCU (J.C. Derrick, WORLD Magazine)
  9. Oklahoma Wesleyan and Union U. Quit CCCU Over Same-Sex Marriage Moves (Bob Smietana, Christianity Today)
  10. Calvin College recommends cutting programs in humanities, languages and arts (Brian McVicar, MLive)
  11. Here We Go Again: An Evangelical Controversy over Whether “Christians” and “Muslims” Worship the Same God (Roger Olson)
  12. An Online Kingdom Come (Jack Stripling, The Chronicle of Higher Education)
  13. Does Liberty University Hurt the GOP? (Jonathan Merritt, The Week)
  14. Cash Monitoring List Unveiled (Michael Stratford, Inside Higher Ed)
  15. Robinson, The Givenness of ThingsFear (Marilynne Robinson, New York Review of Books)
  16. Dis-Union in the CCCU (John Hawthorne, Sociological Reflections)
  17. Some Very Brief Reflections on EMU and Goshen Leaving the CCCU (John Fea, The Way of Improvement Leads Home)
  18. Jerry Falwell Jr. is wrong to encourage concealed weapons to “end those Muslims” (Shane Claiborne, Religion News Service)
  19. Now Franklin Graham Wants to Prevent Muslims From Coming to the US (Relevant Magazine)
  20. Crisis Averted: Christian Colleges Avoid Split over Same-Sex Marriage (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today)
  21. Breakthrough for Gay Christian Professors (Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed)
  22. Lancaster Conference leaders propose withdrawal from MC USA (Tim Huber, Mennonite World Review)
  23. CCCU loses Union University (J.C. Derrick, WORLD Magazine)
  24. Union and Dis-Unity: On the Pullout from the CCCU (Kyle Roberts, Unsystematic Theology)
  25. Sad Day for the CCCU: EMU and Goshen Resign (Kyle Roberts, Unsystematic Theology)

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