As I wrap up my second decade as a college professor, it’s hard to believe that my first decade in that job included almost no writing. In 2021 I not only kept blogging at The Pietist Schoolman and The Anxious Bench, but did more of that writing than usual for the blog of our newly-merged department. I not only published a spiritual biography of Charles Lindbergh (my fifth book and the first written as a solo author), but contributed a Lindbergh reflection to the first year of Current and reviewed a different spiritual biography for Christianity Today. I edited an online Lenten devotional for the Conference on Faith and History and started writing monthly contributions to “Following Jesus,” a year-long e-conversation that will run deep into 2022.
To be very honest, I’ve had more complicated feelings than usual about my writing this year. As proud as I am of the Lindbergh bio and grateful for its universally strong reviews, I’m that disappointed that it’s not yet reached anything like the audience I hoped for. As much as I enjoy shorter-form writing, I’m less sure than ever about the future of this blog, where I published less than 100 posts for the first time ever — almost half of them weekend links wraps.
But I’m excited to do more Lindbergh events in 2022 and starting to get serious about a couple of new book projects that should carry me into my 2023 sabbatical. And looking back over what I did blog — here and elsewhere — I’m astonished to realize how quickly I’ve forgotten some good writing that found appreciative readerships.
(That’s perhaps a good reminder that one reason to write books instead of blog posts — and to be patient with their reception — is that while the latter feel as discardable as most everything else in this economy, the former are designed for rediscovery.)
So before I move on to whatever writing I do in 2022 and beyond, here’s a look back at my most popular blog posts for 2021 — plus the links I shared on the weekends that got the most clicks.
Top 20 Most-Read Blog Posts in 2021
(from my writing at The Pietist Schoolman, The Anxious Bench, and CC 4th)
- The Evangelical Baptists Who Made “Biblical Womanhood”… and Those Who Tried to Unmake It
- The Importance of Beth Moore in Recent American Religious History
- John Piper’s “Wishful Thinking” about Jonathan Edwards and Slavery
- Will This Week Bring an Epiphany for Evangelicals?
- The Religious History of March Madness
- In Praise of Citation. Seriously.
- The Problem of “Practical Atheism”
- Do Evangelical Churches Have a Catechesis Problem?
- The American Christians Who Couldn’t Worship in Their Own Language
- Five Years Later… The Legacy of GW Carlson
- “Evangelical”: Past, Present, and Future
- The Conversion That Never Happened
- “Jesus Is Not a Republican or a Democrat”: A History
- The Forgotten American Bible
- The Realignment of American Christianity
- Kevin Cragg (1945-2021) (see also “My Favorite ‘Fundamentalist’“)
- Why I’m (Still) Excited to Teach at a Christian College
- Walter F. Mondale (1928-2021): The Private Faith of a Public Servant (with Daniel K. Williams)
- “Here I am, send me” in American Military History
- Abortion and The Politics of the Cross
Top 20 Most-Clicked Links in 2021
- Colleen Flaherty, “North Park Faculty Votes No Confidence in President” (Inside Higher Ed)
- Daniel Silliman and Kate Shellnutt, “Ravi Zacharias Hid Hundreds of Pictures of Women, Abuse During Massages, and a Rape Allegation” (Christianity Today)
- Emma Whitford, “Another Concordia College Closes” (Inside Higher Ed)
- Beth Allison Barr, “It’s a Small, Small Complementarian World Revisited” (The Anxious Bench)
- Yonat Shimron, “Seattle Pacific University faculty vote no confidence in board over LGBTQ exclusion” (RNS)
- Julie Roys, “Former Bethlehem Baptist Pastors Say Church’s Culture Breeds Fear, Tolerates Abuse” (The Roys Report)
- Emma Green, “Eric Metaxas Believes America Is Creeping Toward Nazi Germany” (The Atlantic)
- Hunter Baker, “When Pragmatic Politics Goes Bad: An Apology to the Never-Trumpers” (Public Discourse)
- Ruth Graham, “A Pastor’s Son Becomes a Critic of Religion on TikTok” (New York Times)
- Rob Schenck, “How evangelicals’ fundraising by demonization fed Capitol violence” (RNS)
- Roger Olson, “My Deep Disappointment with Franklin Graham” (Patheos)
- Bob Smietana, “Twenty years later, ‘In Christ Alone’ still inspires millions to sing” (RNS)
- Timothy Dalrymple, “The Splintering of the Evangelical Soul” (Christianity Today)
- Mark Thomas-Patterson, “The World According to ‘God’s Harvard’” (Foreign Policy)
- Zachary Wagner, “Jesus Is Not a Republican and Christianity Is Not Nationalism” (Center for Pastor Theologians)
- Clint Smith, “The Whole Story in a Single Photo” (The Atlantic)
- Paul O’Donnell, “Anglican convert and Pacific Island deity: 5 faith facts about Prince Philip” (RNS)
- David Streitfeld, “What Happened to Amazon’s Bookstore?” (New York Times)
- Francis Spufford, “How I changed my mind about same-sex marriage” (The Christian Century)
- David Swartz, “The 2020 Census, Immigration, and the Future of American Evangelicalism” (The Anxious Bench)
See also the post I wrote this Tuesday for The Anxious Bench, curating some of my favorite articles, essays, and blog posts of 2021.