Review of the Year 2019
Post of the year: Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine on America’s New Religions. “Seduced by scientism, distracted by materialism, insulated, like no humans before us, from the vicissitudes of sickness and the ubiquity of early death, the post-Christian West believes instead in something we have called progress — a gradual ascent of mankind toward reason, peace, and prosperity — as a substitute in many ways for our previous monotheism. We have constructed a capitalist system that turns individual selfishness into a collective asset and showers us with earthly goods; we have leveraged science for our own health and comfort. Our ability to extend this material bonanza to more and more people is how we define progress; and progress is what we call meaning ... The need for meaning hasn’t gone away, but without Christianity, this yearning looks to politics for satisfaction. And religious impulses, once anchored in and tamed by Christianity, find expression in various political cults. These political manifestations of religion are new and crude, as all new cults have to be. They haven’t been experienced and refined and modeled by millennia of practice and thought. They are evolving in real time. And like almost all new cultish impulses, they demand a total and immediate commitment to save the world.”
Hashtag of the year: #WagathaChristie. If you were online when Coleen Rooney posted “It’s ……… Rebekah Vardy’s account,” you won’t need any more explanation than that.
Podcast of the year: This Cultural Moment. Some of you were onto this well before me, and in my view some episodes are a lot better than others, but the ones where Mark Sayers explains how and why the secular West really works are fantastic.
Tweet of the year (from Dayne McAlpine): “a girl in the coffee shop i’m working from has just said to her friend ‘imagine a hot veg smoothie’ and i’m wondering how to break it to her that soup exists.” I’m still laughing months later.
Clip of the year: the whole thing only takes twelve seconds, but Adam Boulton’s punchline here is exquisite.
Sporting moment of the year: arise, Sir Ben Stokes.
New song of the year: either King of Kings, which is theologically rich and melodically powerful, or Goodness of God, a simple and beautiful affirmation of a simple and beautiful truth (and the only country-ish worship song I’ve ever heard that works).
TV series of the year: Chernobyl. Not a barrel of laughs, but what an extraordinarily gripping, well-written, satisfying and beautifully acted drama.
Book review of the year: Katelyn Beaty on Rachel Hollis’s Girl, Stop Apologizing. This also has the best title of any book review I read this year: “Girl, Get Some Footnotes.”
Cartoon of the year:
Debate of the year: Justin Brierley hosts A. C. Grayling and Tom Holland on his Unbelievable show:
Documentary of the year: Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (caveat spectator). A remarkable and in places near-unbelievable cautionary tale of what happens when you get all style and no substance.
Sermon of the year: I may not be the best person to judge this, because I spend a lot of Sundays preaching myself rather than listening to other people. But since I’ve done it before, and because I found it so helpful at the time (and such a good example of public communication), here’s Matt Chandler at Convergence in Oklahoma City.
Personal highlight of the year: watching my son as the mascot for Brighton and Hove Albion against Everton (they won 3-2 with a last minute own goal).
Have a very happy Christmas, and I’ll see you in 2020!