Tomorrow I am going to celebrate the tenth anniversary of this blog. I’ve been working up to it by reflecting back over the last ten years. This is the third and last of those essays. It doesn’t seem all that likely that I will have another chance to look back over the last ten years of blogging—that would be 2020 to 2030—so I really should give this decade a thorough look.  Apart from politics, (the subject of Part II)I wrote most of the posts about religion in some sense and that is what this reflection is about.
The posts I tagged as “religion” posts were about three kinds of things. Most were about biblical exegesis. I am involved in several Bible studies and in preparing for them, I run into new and interesting ideas and I like to write about them. Some are theological. I am not entirely settled in my theology and every now and then, discrepancies show up and I fuss with them in print. I got to wondering in February 2017 what the re- in the word “resurrection” refers to, for instance. The third category involved some public issue. Lots of other people write about religion in the public sense of the term and I sometimes reply. Nicholas Kristof, one of my favorite New York Times columnists, interviews prominent Christian leaders from time to time and winds up the interviews asking whether they think he is Christian. Most of the answers to that question have been really bad, but I am still sympathetic. What would a good answer be based on?
There is a regular cycle to the religion posts that is entirely absent from the political posts. I caught that right away in January 2011 when I began “a new blogging year” just as Advent was wrapping up. The church calendar can be plausibly said to begin at Advent, so I thought it might be convenient for me to do the same. To help in that, I invented my “Blogging Year (BY)” which runs from December 1 to November 30, taking the date of the ending year. So I am currently in BY 2020 and in December, I will begin BY 2021.
The regular cycle is caused by the regular recurrence of Advent and Lent. I hear a lot about those during those seasons so I think about them and read about them and write about them. Raymond E. Brown’s work has been very helpful in keeping that recurring emphasis. I read some part of his The Birth of the Messiah and The Death of the Messiah (2 volumes) each year. Always I find new and interesting things.
One of my favorite Advent posts was called “He Said/She Said.” in December 2013, so it was the first month of BY 2014. It had just occurred to me that the birth narrative Matthew tells is all about Joseph and that the story Luke tells is all about Mary. Mary doesn’t speak a single line in Matthew’s account and Joseph does not in Luke’s. I picked a title that I thought made it sound like a dispute between them, just for fun.
Every now and then, I hit some realization that is so clear and so persuasive that I am embarrassed I never saw it before. I tend to write about those. One had to do with the first of the cycle of miracles recorded in John’s gospel. It is ordinarily referred to as “turning water into wine” and that is the spectacular part of the story, certainly, But I came to the conviction, eventually, that is what the availability of all that water that was the real significance. It is true that Jesus changed it into really good wine, but it was there for the ritual cleansings that were necessary and the point of the miracles was not the wine but why those cleansings were no longer needed. I had a lot of fun with that.
I can illustrate the theological emphasis with a post on a Christmas season campaign by the local atheists. They took out some billboard space in Portland to claim “you can be good without God.” I appreciated their bringing the question forward. It isn’t the kind of thing you can answer, of course, because of the terms to be clarified. I expressed my appreciation and raised some definitional questions that I thought would help.
Wheaton College, one of my several alma maters fired Larycia Hawkins (left), a political science professor, for a very public, but ill-defined offense. (December 2015) The theological faculty voted unanimously that she had not violated her obligations to the college in anything she had said or had done. The crux of the issue was really, what do we mean when we say “God?” The face of the issue was this professor’s wearing a hijab in solidarity with her “sisters.” One of the things she did was, apparently, conduct unbecoming an evangelical.
I was surprised, in looking back over the ten years, how many movies pushed me in the direction of theological or biblical reflection. An example that has continued to affect me is The Truman Show (October 2010). The Truman Show is, actually, a TV show and Truman is, unwittingly, the star. When he catches on to the whole charade and decides to leave the set (the world in which he has lived his whole life) Christof, the director, addresses him directly from “heaven” and urges him to stay. He makes every appeal he can, but every appeal shows that he has no idea what living Truman’s kind of life is like. He has never been there. And that brought the power of the Incarnation to mind. “He pitched his tent among us” is a claim that is central to Christianity and it is utterly unavailable to Christof. Here Truman (Jim Carrey) makes one of the best exits ever.
I have no idea what the next ten years of blogging on religious themes is going to offer. I’m just going to let it surprise me. lL
 On the other hand, I don’t want to give it up entirely. There are quite a number of people at the Senior Center where I live who are the age I would be in 2030 and who are perfectly capable of writing such a retrospective.