This year was a BIG year. Not only did KenChitwood.com launch, it launched well and opened up new doors for speaking throughout the U.S., being featured on radio and podcasts, & even some TV spots. Thanks friends.
It was also a BIG year because of what we talked about, meditated on, and concerned ourselves with.
It was a wide ranging year as I covered everything from stripper spirituality to "reefer religion," from a Coke Can Nativity to bumper sticker faith statements. At each turn, the goal was to watch out for the intersection of religion & culture and think about it, comment on it, and submit it for your response and discussion. Thank you for sharing in this endeavor.
As much as I enjoy teaching about religion and utilizing this blog as a platform to do so, I enjoy learning about religion and culture even more. To that end, you taught me much. Some of you sent me direct tips or stories to talk about, others I interviewed about their own books (Loaded Words: Freeing 12 Hard Bible Words from their Baggage or Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family).
However, all of you taught me something when it comes to what we need to talk more about in the coming year. How do I know this? The top posts are telling.
By far, the vast majority of us were interested in Islam, which is my primary field of interest. One of this year's top stories across the media board was ISIS and its reign of terror in Syria and Iraq. As you watched with horror the images flooding your home page you turned to this blog to learn about five facts everyone needs to know about ISIS & Iraq, you wondered with me if ISIS = Islam. We explored the reasons why Westerners join the ranks of groups such as ISIS and we all paid attention that one time I talked with an ISIS supporter on Twitter (FYI, the dialogue has since been removed from Twitter, the only copy of it is here on the site).
Throughout this process, we also critiqued our own view of Muslims and thought out the problematic roles we cast Muslims in without asking them what it means to "be Muslim" and more importantly, what it means to be an "American Muslim." As I continue to learn about Islam and Muslims I will endeavor to share my perspective on Islam and politics, Muslim identity, and the most pressing issues on our hearts and minds when it comes to the global umma (Muslim community). Stay tuned for posts in 2015 about alternate Islamic politics, addressing difficult passages in the Qur'an, and more discussion of Muslims in the West.
On a lighter note, you enjoyed posts of a completely different flavor. You clicked away on a story about the role of whiskey and religion in the vote for Scottish independence and you went crazy over the witty autobiography of an Apostolic Pentecostal fashionista (a guest post by colleague Megan Geiger). There will be more fun to come in 2015 and also new guest posts from experts in the field of religion & culture.
Of course, this blog is not only about religion and culture, it's also about theology. Surely, it is a dissonant and prophetic Lutheran theology, a perspective "without borders" and admittedly progressive, but you resonated with a couple posts in particular that speak to the Christian Church's contemporary context in the U.S. Particularly, you were interested in the "Confessions of a Millennial Church Curmudgeon" and you connected with my post, "Don't Leave Your Church." Some of you found that last blog encouraging, others challenging. Either way, it sparked a conversation. As far as conversations go, one of the most important is the discussion surrounding Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter. My post on Black Jesus and associating with religion & race on the margins touched a nerve. For that I am pleased and proud. It's good to be talking about these things and thus, in the year ahead, we will be talking more about Millennial ministry and the way(s) in which the Church needs to adapt given its current state of decline & increasing irrelevance, while the world is desperately in need of our prophetic voice and compassionate action (read Advent to Action).
Related to this last point is the need to navigate the shift from one of religious privilege to one of religious plurality. As a student of religion and a Christian theologian I am honored and excited to ride the tension between pluralism and confessional Christianity. You found this interplay enticing as well when you read and shared "Five Steps to a Friendly Encounter with the Religious 'Other'" (even LC-MS President Matthew Harrison shared the blog!), reacted to my intentionally galvanizing "Why World Religions Bible Studies are Awful," encouraged me in my pursuit of "The Most (Ir)Relevant Field of Study." This pursuit is of paramount importance in our current age. I recently published an article on this very topic and will be speaking about it, and the general topic, twice in 2015. Expect continued posts here as well, for as I often repeated the Christian's friendly study of the world's religions is a most sacred duty (nod to Gandhi for that quote).
Thank you again for your readership this year. The blog made a big splash in its first few months and I expect 2015 will be a BIG year of growth as I release an e-book and start work on two books -- one entitled Belief on the Bayou: Exploring the Future of American Religion in its Most Diverse City and the other a project with Read the Spirit publishers through my "Faith Goes Pop" blog where I write specifically on religion and popular culture.
More importantly, right here at KenChitwood.com, we will continue to talk about religion, culture, and theology covering topics such as Islam, religion and popular culture, spirituality in America, church ministry, and missiology.