We at RELEVANT have a lot of fun putting together each issue of our magazine, and we like to think we publish some of the best articles, essays and reporting around. So choosing our favorite 10 of this year certainly wasn’t was easy—but looking back was definitely fun.
Here they are, our indisputable, scientifically chosen top picks of 2015:
The rapid progress of biological science has some asking: How far is too far?
As technological advancements have allowed deeper insights into the science of medicine, new questions have been raised about how far Christians should be willing to go to heal the sick.
At the center of the debate surrounding most bioethical issues within the Church is a spiritual dilemma: In an age of radical technological innovation, when does heeding the call from God to heal cross the line into playing God ourselves by tinkering with His creation?
Jason Russell’s no-budget documentary started a movement. Now, the new state of Invisible Children raises questions, the biggest being: Did it work?
“I always thought my final day would be around the day we capture or remove Kony from the battlefield. So it’s been challenging as a storyteller to wrap my head around the fact that this isn’t how the story’s going to end, or at least the story’s going to look different.”
“I feel like Kony won,” he says. “And everyone should sit with that. It is something to be grappled with … I shouldn’t be a Debbie Downer, but that should be a conviction that we all feel as the human species. Not just as an American. Everyone should feel the way that the No. 1 war criminal for war crimes and crimes against humanity is still free. Is still free. Kony is still winning.”
Smurfs, Halloween, The Simpsons and other ’90s no-no’s
Trick-or-treating? Nice try, Anton LaVey! You’re not celebrating Satan’s night on October 31. Instead you’re going to throw on a bathrobe, pick out a random name from the Old Testament and head down to the local church for a thrilling adventure known as a Hallelujah Party.
The only fun part was seeing the one kid who found a loophole in the biblical costume criteria and came in KISS makeup so he could be Satan.
From justice to raising up a new generation of leaders, Christine Caine is sparking change in the Church.
As a speaker, Caine exists in a unique space. She’s an Australian woman leading within the male-dominated American evangelical sphere. She’s gaining an audience in schools, churches and arenas where her predecessors never stood. And she reaches streams of the Church like no other female leader before her.
But if all you know about Caine is that she’s a gifted speaker, you don’t know much about her … Caine is a deep well of passions that go far beyond the spotlight and the masses. Talking to her, you’re left less in awe of her considerable talents than you are inspired to make more use of your own. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
The critically acclaimed indie rock band won’t settle for anything less than perfection.
Granduciel pushed himself to the limit in his Philadelphia home, straining over every sound and beat, trying to push his creation in line with his vision.
“I was obsessed with it to the bitter end,” he says. “When I look back … I’m just happy that I went to those lengths. It all matters. All the way from the art to the sound of the snare on ‘Under The Pressure’ that I kept remixing and remixing. It all ends up contributing. None of it’s in vain.”
Christians agree that the Bible is vital to their faith. But agreeing on what it says is another matter.
There is no such thing as an unbiased interpretation, an approach to the Bible (or any text) that has no presuppositions, no precommitments, no cultural, familial and personal assumptions that steer the reader’s eyes to see certain things and avoid others.
Yes, God said it. And certainly, Christians can believe it. But before its truths can be accessed and applied, they must be interpreted.
Why does the comedian and podcaster always lean toward spiritual conversations?
Maron attributes his ability to connect with his guests to lessons he learned while in the 12-step program.
“With AA, the idea is that you reach out to somebody else to get out of yourself—you know, go help somebody else, go listen to somebody else’s burden. And then, you’re out of you. And I think that happens a lot in here with the podcast.”
He calls the 12-step program a “slightly gutted Christianity.” …
“A lot of the lessons I’ve learned about trying to minimize the ego, doing charitable actions—I imagine that if you were brought up in the Church this is something they taught you early on,” he says.
400,000 kids in the U.S. are displaced, and the system is crumbling.
The number of children waiting to be adopted out of the U.S. foster care system has held steady around 100,000. (More than 400,000 total remain in the system, according to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.)
And there are more than 300,000 churches in the country, points out Kelly Rosati, vice president of community outreach at Focus on the Family.
“If just one family in every third church would welcome home one of these kids, we would have no more orphans in foster care,” Rosati says. “It would be the most powerful witness ever to the love of Christ.”
With four specials, two best-selling books, A show and a ton of kids, Jim Gaffigan might be the biggest man in comedy.
“Even if I have a good show, there are always things to work on,” he says. “It’s an ongoing conversation. Even the best jokes have reasons they don’t work long-term.
“Some of the Catholic jokes might go over better in St. Louis or Boston than they would in Atlanta or Orlando. But also, if a joke about religion works everywhere—if it works in San Francisco and Boston and Tuscaloosa—then it’s a good joke. If you can get an atheist and an evangelical to laugh, it’s a good joke.”
One man’s story of overcoming his secret alcohol addiction.
Cognitively or not, Haines thought God abandoned him. More than fear for his son or any kind of parental stress, that’s what drove him to the bottle.
“For me, it was, ‘If I drink enough, I don’t have to hear the voice of doubt in my head,’” he explains. “I just knew, ‘All I have to do is plod away at my desk, keep my Christian facade up, then get home at night and drink away the voice of God.’”
The blockbuster actor with unflinching faith has a fresh vision for Christianity in film.
“I turn down a lot of movies because sometimes they glamorize violence or the darker side of sex or criminality,” he says. “I don’t shy away from the darkness, and anyone who has read the Bible knows that God does not shy away from the darkness, as well. The Bible, in some ways, is an R-rated book when you look at the content of it.
“But the Bible is undeniably a book of light,” he says, “it does not hold up darkness as the path to follow but it shows darkness and shows how light overwhelms the darkness. And so that’s what I look for in pieces.”
The Islamic state gets all the press. But could a different Islamic extremist group be the biggest threat to the global Church?
Many sources estimate Boko Haram has forced more than 2 million people from their homes. These numbers show a force that may be smaller than ISIS (many place the number of Boko Haram fighters at about 9,000), but at least as deadly—and willing to employ an unparalleled level of brutality.
An African envoy to the United Nations even pled with global leaders to make Boko Haram the number one target among the international community.
“I think Boko Haram is more dangerous than ISIS,” said Mahamat Cherif, the ambassador from Chad. “What we do for ISIS, we should do against Boko Haram.”