2021: That Was The Year That Was

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.

Courtesy of Pixabay

Top 20 Most-Read Blog Posts in 2021

(from my writing at The Pietist Schoolman, The Anxious Bench, and CC 4th)

  1. The Evangelical Baptists Who Made “Biblical Womanhood”… and Those Who Tried to Unmake It
  2. The Importance of Beth Moore in Recent American Religious History
  3. John Piper’s “Wishful Thinking” about Jonathan Edwards and Slavery
  4. Will This Week Bring an Epiphany for Evangelicals?
  5. The Religious History of March Madness
  6. In Praise of Citation. Seriously.
  7. The Problem of “Practical Atheism”
  8. Do Evangelical Churches Have a Catechesis Problem?
  9. The American Christians Who Couldn’t Worship in Their Own Language
  10. Five Years Later… The Legacy of GW Carlson
  11. “Evangelical”: Past, Present, and Future
  12. The Conversion That Never Happened
  13. “Jesus Is Not a Republican or a Democrat”: A History
  14. The Forgotten American Bible
  15. The Realignment of American Christianity
  16. Kevin Cragg (1945-2021) (see also “My Favorite ‘Fundamentalist’“)
  17. Why I’m (Still) Excited to Teach at a Christian College
  18. Walter F. Mondale (1928-2021): The Private Faith of a Public Servant (with Daniel K. Williams)
  19. “Here I am, send me” in American Military History
  20. Abortion and The Politics of the Cross

Top 20 Most-Clicked Links in 2021

  1. Colleen Flaherty, “North Park Faculty Votes No Confidence in President(Inside Higher Ed)
  2. Daniel Silliman and Kate Shellnutt, “Ravi Zacharias Hid Hundreds of Pictures of Women, Abuse During Massages, and a Rape Allegation(Christianity Today)
  3. Emma Whitford, “Another Concordia College Closes(Inside Higher Ed)
  4. Beth Allison Barr, “It’s a Small, Small Complementarian World Revisited(The Anxious Bench)
  5. Yonat Shimron, “Seattle Pacific University faculty vote no confidence in board over LGBTQ exclusion(RNS)
  6. Julie Roys, “Former Bethlehem Baptist Pastors Say Church’s Culture Breeds Fear, Tolerates Abuse(The Roys Report)
  7. Emma Green, “Eric Metaxas Believes America Is Creeping Toward Nazi Germany(The Atlantic)
  8. Hunter Baker, “When Pragmatic Politics Goes Bad: An Apology to the Never-Trumpers(Public Discourse)
  9. Ruth Graham, “A Pastor’s Son Becomes a Critic of Religion on TikTok(New York Times)
  10. Rob Schenck, “How evangelicals’ fundraising by demonization fed Capitol violence(RNS)
  11. Roger Olson, “My Deep Disappointment with Franklin Graham(Patheos)
  12. Bob Smietana, “Twenty years later, ‘In Christ Alone’ still inspires millions to sing(RNS)
  13. Timothy Dalrymple, “The Splintering of the Evangelical Soul(Christianity Today)
  14. Mark Thomas-Patterson, “The World According to ‘God’s Harvard’(Foreign Policy)
  15. Zachary Wagner, “Jesus Is Not a Republican and Christianity Is Not Nationalism(Center for Pastor Theologians)
  16. Clint Smith, “The Whole Story in a Single Photo(The Atlantic)
  17. Paul O’Donnell, “Anglican convert and Pacific Island deity: 5 faith facts about Prince Philip(RNS)
  18. David Streitfeld, “What Happened to Amazon’s Bookstore?(New York Times)
  19. Francis Spufford, “How I changed my mind about same-sex marriage(The Christian Century)
  20. 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.