Today we look back on 2017 by reviewing the top posts here at the Cranach blog. These are determined not by polls of journalists nor by anyone’s personal opinion, as is the case with most top 10 polls at this time of year. This list is based on the number of page views that each post attracted.
The readership of these posts went far beyond that of you regular readers who check in with Cranach every day. These posts were the ones that “went viral” on social media and/or got a high ranking on Google, attracting people searching for information on these topics. That these were the year’s most popular posts therefore tells us something about 2017.
Here is the list, in descending order, with links to the posts and my own commentary about each one:
I. Donald Trump in Bible Prophecy? This post led them all by a factor of ten, with 128,399 page views. I had come across some End Times Prophecy sites that said the presidential election fulfilled the prophecy that “the last trump” would sound before the second coming of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:52). Get it? “Trump” as the King James Version’s word for trumpet? Donald Trump? And to assuage fears that the new president might be the antichrist, the End Times site applied Daniel 11:37 to conclude that the antichrist would lack “the desire of women,” which is manifestly not the case with Donald Trump.
I posted this on the day the new president was inaugurated. My intention was to cast aspersions on the highly-questionable interpretations of Scripture on the part of the End Times prophets. (For example, the “Trump” prophecy works only in English and only in the archaic language of the King James Version.) But the post “went viral” and then became the first result for inquiring minds googling “Trump Bible prophecy.” I hope they caught the aspersions I was casting.
II. Conservatives Formally Accuse Pope of Heresy–Including Lutheranism. A group of conservative Catholics sent Pope Francis a “filial correction” formally accusing him of heresy. The shallowness of so much of today’s journalism coverage of religion is evident in that virtually all of the stories about this dwelled almost exclusively on the signers’ objections to the Pope’s evident openness to allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to take Communion. I took the step of actually reading the document, and I found that the “heresy” underlying that and his other alleged errors is that of Lutheranism!
And, as a Lutheran myself, I found the story wonderfully and excruciatingly ironic. Here are these conservative Catholics who think that Lutheranism is a heresy and that the Pope, whose authority you would think conservative Catholics would acknowledge, is a Lutheran heretic. In their minds, they are standing up for authentic Catholic orthodoxy against a Pope who has drifted away from it. Which was exactly what Luther thought he was doing! All of this on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
III. Is This Still Christianity? One of you long-time readers of this blog sent me a video of a “Transgender Day of Remembrance” Communion service held at an ELCA seminary. Instead of invoking the Triune God (“in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”), which is considered sexist, the service began “in the name of Creator, Christ, and the Holy Breath.” Though trying to avoid gendered words for God–and even for Jesus, who, by all accounts, was, in fact, a man–the Lord’s Prayer was addressed to a transgendered deity: “Our mother who art in Heaven.”
I asked, does this go beyond even the most liberal theology, crossing the line so that the service is no longer Christian at all, expressing instead some completely different gnostic religion? The consensus of the 205 comments seems to be “yes.”
By the way, I struggled over whether or not to post the video of this service. I didn’t want to sully my blog with its blasphemies. I ended up including it so that readers could see that I wasn’t making this stuff up. I suppose I could have just linked to YouTube. I hope I made the right decision. (I often agonize over what photos to show, links to articles with bad language, links to articles with bad advertisements, etc.)
IV. Why Is the Left So Sympathetic to Islam? Islam is far more anti-feminist, anti-gay, anti-freedom, etc., etc. than Christianity is. And yet the left accuses Christianity of being oppressive, while giving Islam a pass on those very issues and defending it as a “religion of peace” every chance it gets! I always wondered why that is. I found an article that discusses the matter and added some thoughts of my own. It turns out, lots of other people have been wondering the same thing.
VI. The New Martin Luther Movie. To celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, Thrivent funded a docudrama on the life and career of Martin Luther, which aired on PBS. We reviewed it here. The discussions turned to questions about how the video existed in different versions. Wisconsin Synod churches seemed to be screening a different version than Missouri Synod churches. Was this a case of cinematic fellowship issues? No, not at all. The screenwriter and the president of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, no less, weighed in at later posts on the movie (see this and this and this). Hopefully, this blog proved useful in setting the record straight.
VII. How Lutherans View the Reformation Differently. The 500th Anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses received a lot of attention in the public square, which was good. But we heirs of Luther’s theology found some of the descriptions of that event and its significance to be unrecognizable. So I tried to set the record straight, at least as Lutherans see it. I made the points that Luther wasn’t “starting a new church,” that he didn’t translate the Bible so that all Christians could interpret it for themselves, that he wasn’t replacing sacramental Christianity, that he didn’t “split the church” (rather, the Pope did when he excommunicated Luther and others who were trying to reform the church).
VIII. Secularization Comes from Sex. A discussion of sociologist Mark Regnerus’ observation that scientific arguments haven’t caused secularization. Rather, sex has. People turn away from Christianity largely because they want to indulge in sexual practices that Christianity condemns. It isn’t so much that unbelief causes sin, but that sin causes unbelief. The post goes on to talk about the difference between “cheap sex” and “valuable sex.”
IX. The Government Will Now Follow 20 Principles of Religious Liberty. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for the Trump administration, issued a memo setting forth twenty principles of religious liberty that the Executive Branch, in all of its bureaus and agencies, will be expected to follow. The document was a useful summary of existing case law, court decisions, and policy applications. Again, we saw the superficial treatment of this story by the news media, which reduced this important topic to variations of “Trump guidelines would allow for anti-gay discrimination in the name of religious freedom!” But this document was much more substantive than that. I actually read it and gave a link to the entire memo, which quite a few people seem to have found useful.
X. Is Contemporary Christian Music Dead? As a genre, Contemporary Christian Music used to sell some 50 million albums per year. Now it is down to 17 million. I discuss an article documenting the decline and speculating about the reasons. I dispute the one that says that interest in Christianity is declining. I argue that interest in a particular kind of Christianity as embodied in CCM may be declining–the “pop Christianity” that requires “pop music” and conformity to “pop culture”–but that we may be seeing a shift towards a richer and more substantial approach to Christianity.
So, what can we conclude from this list of the top Cranach posts of 2017?
Half of the titles of the posts were in the form of a question, so I might conclude that adding a question mark would increase the number of page views.
In general, the posts served to inform Christians of things they might not have known otherwise, or to give readers of superficial news accounts “the rest of the story.” My blog seems to have served the cause of intra-Lutheran communication, as well as to convey a Lutheran perspective to non-Lutherans.
What else can we learn from this exercise?
What should I learn as a blogger about the kinds of posts that are of most interest and benefit to my readers?
Illustration, WordPress “New Post” screen via Pixabay, CC0, Creative Commons