Our 20 most popular pieces of 2014 had a little bit of everything, including Jesus, marijuana, Pope Francis, atheism, Sikhism, gay marriage, the prosperity gospel, the Bible, and much more. These listicles, essays, and reported pieces reveal what captivated our readers most this year.
20. The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said by Fr. James Martin
#2: If you call someone a name, you’re going to hell.
Admittedly, this is a paraphrase of Jesus’s actual words. But it is an accurate one. In a sentence almost universally overlooked by modern-day Christians, Jesus says, “If you call your brother raca [idiot], you will be liable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says ‘fool’ will be liable to the fires of Gehenna.”
19. Are Millennials Really Leaving the Church? Yes, but Mostly White Millennials by Bob Smietana
Almost everyday, it seems, there’s a new story about how “Millennials are leaving the church.” But there’s a problem with these trend pieces: They aren’t true. American Christianity still has plenty of Millennials — they’re just not necessarily in white churches.
18. Beware of Pope Francis by Timothy Shriver
What many love in Francis are the words of a man who has undergone deep and painful change. And you shouldn’t love Francis without also admitting that most of us fall far short of undergoing that kind of change ourselves.
17. 10 Verses Prosperity Gospel Preachers Need to Stop Misusing by Corrie Mitchell
Prosperity critics point out that in the Bible, Christians are assured persecution (2 Tim. 3:12) and suffering (Acts 9:16) and admonished toward self-denial (Mark 8:34). So which verses grant hope for new cars, job promotions and good health?
16. Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead” by Herb Silverman
This anti-atheist movie would be more effective if it didn’t portray every atheist as smug, angry, selfish, obnoxious, and unhappy. In contrast, nearly every Christian is kind, happy, generous . . . well, you get the idea.
15. 10 Things Every College Student Needs to Know About Religion by Martyn Oliver
#3. If you call yourself religious, you might want to know something about your own tradition.
Some passing familiarity with the texts and traditions you hold sacred would be great. Some understanding of what makes your religion or sect different from religions a lot like yours would be wonderful.
14. My “Affair” with a Youth Pastor by Marie Jensen
I still have to correct my language after twenty years. It wasn’t a consensual affair, though I certainly felt like it was whenever I’d watch him sweeping my long hairs off his bed when he was done.
13. The Five Most Disturbing Things About a Benny Hinn Miracle Service by Corrie Mitchell
#1. You’ll second-guess your Bible knowledge.
When you hear Benny Hinn make statements like, “The prophets all prospered. They had no debt . . . ” it stops you in your tracks. Wait — what? No they weren’t. Were they?
12. Marijuana Ministry by Steve Rabey
Some call the Stanleys drug dealers. Others accuse Jesse of doing “Satan’s work,” even though a unique form of medical marijuana he developed — an oil called Charlotte’s Web — has brought relief to over a hundred families with epileptic children.
11. 10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About the Creation vs. Evolution Debate by Michael Lehmann
#10. Accepting evolution does not require accepting atheism. Choosing between creation and evolution is a false dilemma.
10. Women Like Me Are Abused Worldwide. Here’s Why by Anne Graham Lotz
[W]omen are being discriminated against at almost every level. In almost every nation. In almost every culture. Simply because they are women. I have experienced this discrimination firsthand.
9. 5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church by Aaron Loy
#3: “I don’t agree with everything that is being preached.”
You know what? Neither do I, and I’m the pastor.
8. 10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Jesus by Fr. James Martin
#3: Jesus had close friends.
We tend to think of Jesus as interacting with his apostles, disciples, and followers. But he also had friends.
7. 6 Popular Christian Sayings That Are Not True by David Schell
These sayings were widespread in the Christian circles I grew up in, and they defined my understanding of faith to a great extent. But it turns out that none of these sayings are true.
I know many evangelical pastors who are privately troubled by the current approach to gay people. These pastors are in a state of conflicted conscience, looking for a way to honor both their evangelical faith and the gay and lesbian people who are coming to their churches . . .
5. 10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Sikhism by Simran Jeet Singh
Despite being one of the world’s largest world religions, Sikhism remains one of the most unknown traditions in America. The lack of understanding has led to serious consequences, including discriminatory policies, bigoted stereotypes, traumatic school bullying and violent hate crimes.
4. 10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About the Bible by Peter Enns
#1. The Bible doesn’t answer all — or even most — of our questions.
3. 10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Atheism by Herb Silverman
I’m a “big-tent” atheist, which includes whatever non-theistic labels people prefer: agnostic, humanist, secular humanist, freethinker, secularist, and more. This list applies to the whole tent.
2. 5 Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misquoting by Ben Irwin
Christians read (and quote) Scripture in tiny, artificial fragments all the time. And by doing so, do we alter the meaning without even realizing it.
1. 5 Churchy Phrases That Are Scaring Off Millennials by Addie Zierman
“The Bible clearly says…”
We’re acutely aware of the Bible’s intricacies. We know the Bible is clear about some things — but also that much is not clear. We know the words are weighted to a culture that we don’t completely understand and that the scholars will never all agree . . .