Today, we’re wrapping up the Best of 2010—as chosen by you, our readers. On Monday, we showcased Barbara Brown Taylor and a pagan poet; on Tuesday, some prophetic voices preaching on behalf of the natural world.
TODAY, we are saluting daring “role reversals”! It was amazing in 2010 to see many established professionals risking new roles—and generally finding a warm reception! Perhaps transformation is related to spiritual wisdom?
ROB BELL: A PREACHER TOURS LIKE A MUSICIAN
We kicked off 2010 by interviewing one of the hottest young voices in American religious life: Rob Bell, pastor of the Mars Hill megachurch in western Michigan—and the master of nearly all forms of media. (Photo above.) Our interview with Rob Bell focused on his latest world tour, Drops Like Stars, which is designed more like contemporary musical tours than old-fashioned revivals.
SIR GILBERT LEVINE: A MUSICIAN BECOMES A PEACEMAKER
Meanwhile, one of the world’s most respected classical musicians, Sir Gilbert Levine, was publishing his memoir covering the decades that he worked with Pope John Paul II. Both of these men had Polish roots; both shared traumatic Holocaust memories—but one was Catholic and one is Jewish. Sir Gilbert Levine believes that music can play a major role in global peacemaking.
BRIAN MCLAREN: A PEACEMAKER BECOMES A BUILDER
In recent years, the public ministry of Brian McLaren has moved in one direction: peacemaking. He dares to envision a future in which warring Christian factions can pull together. In 2010, Brian McLaren published a new book that sketches the architecture of cooperation one brick at a time—or, as he put it, one question at a time.
A BUILDER BECOMES A THEOLOGIAN
Our week-long series with theologian Stanley Hauerwas drew a wonderful, thoughtful response from readers throughout the year. In 2010, Hauerwas published his spiritual autobiography—connecting many dots throughout his long and controversial life. We learned that his ability to take tough stands and pose hard-edged arguments may stem from his origin as a master brick-layer’s son.
N.T. WRIGHT: A THEOLOGIAN FROM A FOREIGN LAND
Bishop “Tom” Wright already has re-invented himself several times. He’s popular as a Bible scholar with a traditional approach to interpreting scriptures. But he’s also a pastor, a teacher and a bishop in the UK. His newest efforts, explored in our 2010 interview, are focused on helping ordinary church-goers develop a practical theology that can reshape their lives, and our world.
RUMI: A FOREIGN POET BECOMES AN AMERICAN FAVORITE
Coleman Barks, who is a famous poet in his own right, finally delivered the massive volume of Rumi’s poetry that Barks has been preparing for many years! Americans absolutely love Rumi’s spiritual wisdom, cast in mysterious lines that somehow still speak to us across the centuries and thousands of miles.
PHILIP YANCEY: AN AMERICAN DIVES INTO GLOBAL ISSUES
Philip Yancey is first and foremost a leading American journalist with a specialty in covering contemporary Christian life—but in 2010 Yancey published a major collection of reports and sermons from his global travels. As usual, his newest book raised painful questions—and helped readers find meaningful answers.
SUSAN SPARKS: A LAWYER BECOMES A PREACHER (BECOMES A COMIC)
If you think Yancey’s leap into international issues was a big jump—that’s not as big a spiritual leap as Susan Sparks’ jump from practicing corporate law to serving as pastor of a Baptist church in New York City. And—maintaining her career as a popular, professional, standup comic. Our July interview with Susan Sparks (shown at right) focused on her new book, “Laugh Your Way to Grace.” We were “spot on” in identifying Susan as a new author to watch—as she showed up in a featured profile in the pages of Oprah magazine later in 2010.
A PREACHER BECOMES AN EDUCATOR
Martha Simmons is best known as a leading expert on African-American preaching in America. In 2010, she finally gave us a huge collection of the best black preaching in American history. Our interview with Martha Simmons focused on this landmark book, “Preaching with Sacred Fire,” which is sure to become a required text in many university and seminary courses.
AN EDUCATOR BECOMES A NOVELIST
For most of his life, Marcus Borg’s primary vocation has been education. Yes, he’s a preacher, a Bible scholar, occasionally a TV personality and he has written lots of popular non-fiction books that are widely read in congregations—but mainly he was a university professor teaching countless students over the decades. In 2010, Marcus Borg turned to fiction and wrote a novel about the struggle to “Put Away Childish Things” in academia and in Christian life. (NOTE: If you’re a Borg fan, stay tuned to ReadTheSpirit in early January. Marcus will stop by our pages, once again, to talk about a new multi-media educational resource he has helped to produce.)
STEVE SHEINKIN: A GRAPHIC NOVELIST GIVES US A GREAT RABBI
Steve Sheinkin is not a rabbi, but he has created one of the most popular Jewish sages in the burgeoning world of contemporary comics. Sheinkin primarily works as a historian—an author of very clever books aimed at bored school-children who want to know more about the “good stuff” that is left out of stodgy textbooks. Meanwhile, Sheinkin’s passion for Judaism and for history has produced Rabbi Harvey of the Wild West. Our 2010 interview with Steve showcased the third outting for this rabbi in black who shoots from the heart and the mind—never from a pistol!
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(Originally published at readthespirit.com)