As we turned the page from 2020 to 2021, I reviewed my own blogging year and that of everyone at The Anxious Bench. Here at Pietist Schoolman, my Christmas devotional series continued, taking inspiration from sources as diverse as Jill Biden and It’s a Wonderful Life.
Then here’s some of what I’ve been reading elsewhere at the end of the old year and the start of the new:
• It’s tempting to dismiss 2020 as “the worst year ever,” but Elizabeth Stice explained why things are more complicated than that.
(Or if you’ve wondered how the stock market could surge during such an economically turbulent year, check out some of these figures on what Americans earned, spent, and saved in 2020.)
• December 31st seems like a good moment to ask if it’s time to adopt a more rational calendar.
• Lest we forget, this year that date also marked Brexit.
• As many times as I’ve heard “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve, I’d never thought about its middle verse.
• As usual, a new year means a new Philip Jenkins book, as my impossibly prolific Anxious Bench colleague turns his attention to the intersection of environmental and religious history.
• Cruise ships were ground zero for the earliest outbreaks of COVID, but long after our attention shifted elsewhere, a mental health crisis affected the people who work on those vessels.
• Two relatively positive consequences of last year’s pandemic: purchases of books went up 8%; and one of my favorite websites saw a surge of interest, as Christians looked for resources for worship at home.
• What will year two of the COVID pandemic look like?
• It’s already proving to be difficult to get the COVID vaccine to large numbers of Americans as quickly as we’d all like, but it won’t help that Christian nationalism is fostering suspicion of vaccination.
• As we get still more evidence that the only significant tampering with the presidential election comes from Donald Trump himself, it’s clear that the Republican legislators promising to contest Joe Biden’s election are pointing “a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government” — in the words of one principled GOP senator.
• Maybe it’s just that I’ve been watching the Danish political drama Borgen on Netflix, but I found myself intrigued by this review of the relationship between social democracy in Scandinavia and that region’s Lutheran history.
• I’m in the middle of writing a book review myself. At its best — as in this essay about Peter Manseau’s book on the Jefferson Bible and its view of Jesus — that kind of writing not only summarizes an author’s work, but offers a deeper engagement with it.
• Reviewing a new book on the theology of women’s ordination, Scot McKnight explained well why the so-called “traditional view is nothing of the sort but is a radical change.”
(By the way, check out the advance review of Beth Allison Barr’s forthcoming book on the creation of “biblical womanhood.”)
• I’m not planning to move The Pietist Schoolman from WordPress to Substack, but it was certainly encouraging to read about the success that historian Heather Cox Richardson has experienced with her daily newsletter.
• No one did more to sustain Latin as a living language for the 21st century than the Carmelite monk who died on Christmas Day.
• After reading Liam Adams’ latest article, it’s hard to believe that anyone wants to be president of a school like Bethel.
• Then again, I’m not sure that professors alone have the power to reverse the lamentable trends that John Hawthorne observed in the Christian liberal arts.