2015: The Year in Letters

In 2015, I finished my PhD, got a new job, started sending my writing elsewhere, and basically abandoned this blog—in part because I got a new job and started sending my writing elsewhere, and in part because the Religious Right’s reaction to Obergefell sent me into a spiral of despair. I mean it. When I wrote a post breaking up with the Catholic Right in July, I thought was being tongue-in-cheek. But every time thereafter I sat down to write something in response to Esolen or Longenecker or Ryan T. Anderson, my heart said meh.

Still, I miss writing here, and so even if my focus changes a little bit in the future, I’m going to try to get blogging again in 2016.

Here’s a quick review of the year in Letters.

I. Some posts I’m glad I wrote:

1.     William Buckley, not Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Bull Connor. This post (or maybe it was the follow-up, On Courage and Coming Out) got me blocked on Twitter by Robert George. I also got blocked by Rod Dreher & Rorate Caeli at about the same time.

2.     Women Reading: Fragonard & Carrie Schneider. It’s just so pleasant to look at.

3.     Posts on my family: The World Sucks and Nothing Makes it BetterA Quick Post on Remembering, and The Father’s Day Paradox That Isn’t. As I wrote in “A Quick Post on Remembering”:

We remember each other not with things, but with words.

And, as much as I write this blog for others, to advocate and persuade, I also write it for myself, to remember: little things, like the article that captured my attention last Tuesday, and big things, like what it’s like to be married to H this year, what it’s like to have a four-year-old daughter. And my mom.

4.     Manliness and Joan Didion. I sent this post to The Millions, and they published it in July. The Word Press Freshly Pressed site picked it up shortly after. The timing was propitious, since I was reeling then from the fact that I had graduated without an academic job. My joblessness was totally predictable given the state of the job market, but it was still disappointing. So I needed that validation. The Millions’ acceptance of that post spurred me to send writing to other places, and within two months I had been published at Religion Dispatches, Essay Daily, and Sojourners.

By the way, I just got back from another ranch trip with my daughter. I’m not working there regularly anymore, but we still get out there when we can, and she still follows me around with her little clippers.

II. One Fight I Wish I Had Picked: Sticking up for the Pres’s Christianity. 

Nobody knows what goes on inside another’s heart. Which is why I get frustrated when it’s taken for granted that our president doesn’t really mean it when he calls himself a Christian. That dismissal is emblematic of the general invisibility of progressive Christianity in our culture. Too often, both progressives and conservatives assume that progressive (or liberal, or whatever term you like) Christians aren’t “real” Christians.

I had a couple of chances to push back against that assumption this year— I could have said something following the publication of Obama’s conversation with Marilynne Robinson, for example. But the moment I really wanted to write about was his note-perfect response to the Mother Emmanuel shootings in Charleston. His eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a 40-minute exposition on the nature of grace, was a powerful marriage of Christian theology and practice, and an example of both what Christianity can be in the modern world, and why we need it so much.

It was a devastating speech. Like his talk earlier this year at Selma, it deserves to be revisited again and again, especially by Christians. Ironically, because it came immediately after the Obergefell decision, it occurred at the exact moment that Peter Leithart insisted in First Things that now “Theology has no public standing, no persuasive force in the culture at large.”

That moment perfectly illustrated the right’s blindness to the very existence of liberal Christianity, and I’m sorry I missed the chance to write about it.

III. Two Projects I Regret Leaving Unfinished:

I never finished blogging about Anthony Esolen’s Defending Marriage or Robert Reilly’s Making Gay Okay. Bummer. Maybe next year.

IV. Two Things I’m Glad I Read But Haven’t Shared Yet:

1.     This post by Elizabeth Duffy: “The Most Intimate Encounter.”

2.     Megan Mayhew Bergman’s “How to Make Collard Greens.” My grandmother, who passed away in April, made collard greens every January 1st. I discovered this essay earlier this year, and I’ve re-read it a couple of times in the past few days as I’ve been zipping around to different grocery stores and butchers shops, trying to find the hog jowls that my grandmother insisted were essential to her recipe.

V. Three Blogs I’ll Never Stop Sharing:

Sorry but I’m not sorry if you’re sick of me mentioning them.

1.     Bill Lindsey’s Bilgrimage

2.     Michael Boyle’s A Sound of Sheer Silence

3.     Casey Fleming’s (Non)Secular Girl

VI. Three Things I’ll Be Doing in the New Year:

1.     Starting in February, I’ll be blogging once a month at Ploughshares.

2.     Maybe here, maybe elsewhere, I’ll be writing on Between the World and Me, and what it has meant to me as I’ve started teaching at a majority-minority high school.

3.     Finally, look for a new website from me soon. I’m not sure if I’m going to revive my Scholarly Texan blog or start something new, but I need a place where I can write about teaching, and about Latin American and African-American literature (the subjects of my dissertation), without necessarily trying to fit them into a letter to the Catholic Right.

Have a great 2016, everyone!

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One thought on “2015: The Year in Letters

  1. What a wonderfully accomplished year, Dr. Frank! I love all the points you hit upon in this post–so, it looks like 2016 will be just as accomplished as 2015, but with new vistas.

    And yes, the collard greens are a New Year’s must that generations of mothers in my family have impressed upon me, but my approach to cooking them has become progressive like my views and the growing diversity around our table. I now cook them halal and with a little bit of chlorophyll still left in ’em. Happy New Year!

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