I summarize the year in review on the Navigating by Faith blog about this time every year by doing a top ten rundown of the most read articles. I will do the usual thing, though this has been, undoubtedly, an unusual year.
I appreciate the readers and those who left comments along the way. I hope I have provided some food for thought for those who have joined me on my journey of faith, some inspiration, some encouragement and maybe a challenge to consider things from different angles.
Who would have imagined what was in store for 2020 on January 1? The year began like any other, full of hope, renewed commitments and anticipation for better things ahead.
I renewed my commitment, for the second year, to read through the Bible from beginning to end. This time I would read it chronologically (using a plan in the YouVersion app). Those daily readings became the inspiration for many things I wrote in 2020, but current events commanded the most attention from readers of the Navigating by Faith blog.
Rumblings began to be heard sometime toward the end of January and into February coming from the east. They were things we had heard before: a new virus of uncertain origin. We’ve heard scary rumors of flu, Ebola and other viruses in the past, so I didn’t suspect this one would be different.
Neither did Donald Trump, apparently, to the consternation of a growing cry of the usual voices demanding that he “do something”. Trump shrugged them off. Many people, I believe, did the same because everything in the last four years had become a new reason to criticize Trump. Even people who don’t care for Trump were getting tired of it.
Patriotic cries of freedom mixed with knowing voices of concern and criticism of Trump’s nonchalance intensified as the northwest was hit with the first waves of the corona virus (now known as COVID 19). Governors began to step into the leadership vacuum with mixed reactions.
On March 16, 2020, the world where I live (Illinois) shut down in the midst of increasing confusion, warnings, consternation and angst. This was something new. Something that had not occurred in my lifetime.
Freedom, anger, fear and unbelief clashed as the pandemic hit our shores and spread. For many months, though, it seemed like more of a story from a distant shore…. unless you knew someone. Now at years end, most of us know someone who has had COVID, and many of us know people who have died from it.
In March, though, people struggled to come to grips with a government-ordered “lockdown”. Some people were incredulous. Others panicked. Some horded toilet paper. Others scoffed and protested.
Still reeling from the impact of a global pandemic, the world exploded in May when another black person died at the hands of police. The video of a white officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, ignoring pleas from onlookers to relent, triggered a national reaction of anger and protest.
The impact of those two things, the pandemic and racial unrest, can be seen in the articles and readership in 2020. Posts relating to current events make up four of the top five most-read articles and 60% of the top ten articles.
Readership also soared as the world shutdown. The blog generated more views in March 2020 than any month since 2012 when the blog began. Readership in every month (but one) since then has exceeded the readership in March. Five months set new records, with the most views occurring in November.
My friend who owns a record store says that 2020 will be up 10% over last year despite two and half months of being closed. I think the reason is the same as the reason for increase in readership of this blog: more people are spending more time at home reading and listening to music
The time we have been “given” is not necessarily a bad thing. We have an opportunity to reset priorities and refocus our lives on God, family and the important things in life.
When the world is safe to open back up, we will cherish people and community, live music and corporate worship. We need each other. We are meant for relationship with each other and our Creator. We will appreciate them all the more.
In the meantime, we wait for the New Year to bring long, cold months of isolation and longing. The spring thaw and summer warmth may never be more anticipated or welcome. I will continue to write, seeking God in the midst of our times. In the meantime, I look back over a year like no other in my lifetime.
On the day the State of Illinois closed down, I published Loving our Neighbors During a Coronavirus Outbreak. A group I participate with invited molecular biologist, AJ Roberts, to a Zoom conference with us the day before. She gave us the early scoop on the corona virus that would dominate the 2020 world.
AJ Roberts researched corona viruses at the National Institute of Health and knew the science. She also is a Christian who gave us ready and timely help to put the virus into a higher perspective. Her admonition to love our neighbors resonated with me. Over 90% of the views for this article came in the two weeks that followed, but they were enough to make it the 9th most read article of the year.
The second existential bomb that exploded in 2020 was the George Floyd killing. Two weeks after the incident, with the tsunami of reaction unrelenting, I wrote A Christian Perspective on Black Lives Matter and White Privilege.
I sensed the great need of the church to respond appropriately to this event, which was only the latest in a long history of racially animated events that have perpetually reopened the scabs of old wounds that have not healed from generations past. My desire to provide perspective to help the body of Christ be salt and light in the midst of this darkness inspired the writing of it.
As with the last article, over 90% of the views came in the month it was published (June), making it the 10th most read article of the blog in 2020. The 5th most read article, was published on the same day at the last one, June 5th.
This article wasn’t written by me. From Where I Sit “Riots are the Language of the Unheard” was written by my friend, Richard Townsell wrote speaking from within the African America community. I was glad to amplify his voice through my blog. Those two articles registered the highest traffic to the blog on any day (June 6th).
The sustained protest and conversation following the George Floyd killing prompted many articles in June and July. Most of what I wrote to that point was focused on listening to black voices, giving them space and urging the church to do likewise. We do have a problem with racial disparity in this country, and American church has not always been on the right side of that ledger.
People within and without the black community are right to challenge a largely ambivalent and apathetic country to take the continuing disparities that are directly attributable to race seriously. Critical Race Theory has been developed as a tool for that purpose. As with many secular analytics and worldviews, there may be elements of truth to them, but they deviate from the Gospel at some points.
I believe CRT has developed, in part, because the church has left a vacuum in the area of addressing racial injustice. Some believers are being drawn to CRT out of a sincere heart that understands the need to be responsive, but we need to be cognizant of the ways in which CRT deviates from the Gospel. The 3rd most read blog article this year Critical Race Theory from a Christian perspective was written as the protests wore on and the need for light in the heat of the passion was becoming evident.
The other story of 2020 was Donald Trump. The worldwide pandemic and racial unrest served only to exasperate and increase the negative focus on Trump, as defenders and supporters alike rose up in vocal force. The virus gave us all more time to stew over social media, and we used both issues (and many more) in criticism and in defense of Trump with all the more insistence in our isolation.
I think this may be why a piece I wrote in 2018, Donald Trump, Fruit and Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing, became the 4th most read post of the year. The focus on Trump intensified in 2020 with the presidential election looming above the pandemic and social unrest as summer turned to fall.
The only post written in 2020 that made the top ten for the year that wasn’t about current events was God Meets Us Where We Are. Coming in at number 7, it focuses on the stories (testimonies) of people who found God in the midst of their messy circumstances. Of course, 2020 has been a “messy” year, so it’s fitting.
The only “apologetic” article to make the top ten, The Message in the Earliest Creeds in the New Testament, has been a perennial top ten article since it was published in 2016. It was read more this year, coming in 6th, than in the first three years it was published. I don’t know why. Perhaps, people (like me) are spending more time digging deep in our past to find a better way forward.
The article, Is God a Hard Taskmaster?, comes in at 7th for the year. Gaining more readers in each year since 2017 when it was published, it provides a bit of a twist on the view of the Parable of the Talents. Perhaps more time to reflect this year than in previous years has led people to reassess themselves and the gifts God has given them.
For the second most read article in 2020, we go back to the oldest article on the list. The story of the song, It is Well with My Soul. Written in 2014, it was the 2nd most read article of 2020, and it is the most read article on the blog since I started writing in 2012. This story of faith in God in the midst of tragedy was all the more relatable in the midst of the tragedies and angst of 2020.
The number one most read article on the site for 2020 is a new article, Who Were the Sons of Issachar? And What Might They Mean for Us Today? The article represents the struggle to find the voice and heart of God on the issue of support for Donald Trump. People in the body of Christ are as divided over Trump as the rest of the world.
The Sons of Issachar who “understood the times” present a challenge to the church to understand the present time that have characterized 2020. Many people in the church turned to a secular savior, Donald Trump to protect the status quo in such tumultuous times, but is that really the right position for the church to take?
Most White evangelicals seem to think so. Most Black “evangelicals” (people who would qualify as “evangelical”, but for race) don’t seem to think so. Many white evangelicals took a stand against supporting Trump, while prophetic voices were doubling down in support.
Friends of mine I trust and respect fall on both sides of the Trump divide. My concern has been to discern the appropriate place for the church to stand in the increasingly polarized political environment of the early 21st Century, Donald Trump included, and Donald Trump aside.
I don’t know that I have struck the right posture, but it remains a primary concern. The Sons of Issachar article seems to bear out the fact that is remains a primary concern for others as well, even though the election is over (but for the ongoing attempts to change the results).
Donald Trump, Fruit and Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing is the 2nd most read article of Navigating by Faith since the beginning. Two other articles in the top ten for 2020 are also in the top ten of all time: The Message in the Earliest Creed in the New Testament is 4th most read article for the blog, and, Is God a Hard Taskmaster? is the 5th most read article.
As we ride out the last few days of 2020, we continue in some form of “lockdown” across most of the country as the numbers of people contracting COVID 19 are soaring well past the the highest totals in either of the first two earlier waves. Deaths are also rising to the previous peak totals.
At the same time, there is cause for hope. While deaths are back at their previous daily highs, the percentage of people dying from COVID is way down. We are treating it better. More people are surviving it.
Even as a mutant, more deadly strain of the virus is beginning to reach our shores from Europe, the first two vaccines have already begun to ship across the country. The cold months of winter may be the proverbial darkness before the dawn. They will certainly be dark, cold and isolating, but we don’t know yet when the dawn will actually rise.
I’ve spent more time reading history in the last several months, and what I have read reminds me of the many plagues that have swept across the world in times past. Some of those plagues claimed a third to one half of the population in various places, but humanity survived. I am confident “we” will too.
We are in a better position to survive COVID 19 (and whatever the next plague might be), than our ancestors who survived the plagues of our past. More concerning, perhaps, are racial tensions that pulse under the austere surface of the winter that is now upon us and continuing political polarization that hibernates briefly in between the dying roar of election protests and the swearing in.
I will continue to write as I am able in 2021. In the meantime, here is the rundown of the top ten Navigating by Faith articles in 2020.
The top ten articles on this blog in 2020 are as follows:
- Who Where the Sons of Issachar? And What Might They Mean for Us Today? (2020)
- It Is Well with my Soul (2014)
- Critical Race Theory from a Christian Perspective (2020)
- Donald Trump, Fruit and Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing (2018)
- From Where I Sit “Riots are the Language of the Unheard” (2020)
- The Message in the Earliest Creeds in the New Testament (2016)
- Is God a Hard Taskmaster? (2017)
- Gods Meets Us Where We Are (2020)
- Loving Our Neighbors During a Coronavirus Outbreak (2020)
- A Christian Perspective on Black Lives Matter and White Privilege (2020)