As 2015 draws to a close, I’ve spent the morning alternately looking through my office window at the snowy campus and reviewing the WordPress statistics on what you read from this blog over the past year. I thought I would share a bit of what I learned. None of the posts below was exactly “popular,” but quite a few of you thought they were worth reading.
** For the second year in a row, the most widely read essay of the past twelve months was a piece that I wrote back in 2013 on The Light and the Glory, by the late Peter Marshall Jr. and David Manuel. Marshall and Manuel began their fabulously popular “God’s Plan for America” trilogy nearly four decades ago, and their Christian interpretation of U.S. history has shown remarkable staying power. I respect both authors and sympathize with their motives, but their approach to America’s past is deeply flawed and, I fear, has done much harm. If you know someone who has been influenced by their interpretation and might be open to being challenged, would you consider forwarding them the link to my essay “Thoughts on The Light and the Glory“?
** The second most read post in 2015 was also from a previous year, my essay on a marvelous metaphor from C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man. In that WWII-era classic, Lewis observed that “the pressing educational need of the moment” was not to “cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.” Lewis’s enduring popularity among Christians interested in the life of the mind surely accounts for the success of this post. For my take on Lewis’s metaphor and how it has informed my sense of calling as a teacher, see “C. S. Lewis on ‘Cutting Down Jungles’ and ‘Irrigating Deserts.'”
But what about the posts I actually shared this year? (There have been 106 of them.) The most popular had to do with my take as a historian on current historical controversies. The first was a series of two posts last February in response to a proposal by Oklahoma state legislator Daniel Fisher to withdraw state funding from Advanced Placement U. S. History courses and stipulate the U. S. History curriculum for all state classrooms. Although I’m no fan of the A.P. empire, I thought the proposal was colossally misguided. If you missed them and would be interested in my reasoning or would like to know how my Christian convictions guide my thoughts about the value of history, see:
- “Should Advanced Placement U. S. History be Banned?”; and
- “What is History For? More Thoughts on the A.P. History Controversy”
Next in popularity came a series of posts sparked by the tragic murder of nine congregants at Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church on June 17 combined with the subsequent dissemination of pictures of the gunman posing with a Confederate battle flag. The resulting furor led to an emotional national conversation about the meaning of one of the most controversial symbols in our nation’s past. I wrote six lengthy reflections on the debate, calling attention to the ways that both sides of the argument tended to remember the past selectively and simplistically. If you’re interested, you can revisit them by clicking on the links below:
- “Regional Pride or Racism? Thoughts on the Confederate Battle Flag, pt. ONE”
- “Thoughts on the Confederate Battle Flag, pt. TWO”
- “Down at Last: Thoughts on the Confederate Battle Flag, pt. THREE”
- “Exchanging One Myth for Another: Our One-Sided Memories of the Civil War”
- “Racism in the Civil-War North”
- “Why I’m Glad Sally Jenkins Wasn’t President in 1865”
Thanks for reading this past year. I hope we can talk more in 2016.