The most-read opinion columns published by Baptist News Global in 2020 wrestled with the most powerful and painful issues confronting the United States, its churches and people of faith in a year like no other.
Among them were pieces on the pandemic’s threat to clergy mental health; the hypocrisy and decline of white evangelical Christianity; the insidiousness of systemic racism; the struggle of Bible-loving, gay Christians; and the rising tension between church and culture.
Illustrating the timelessness of some of the columnists’ perspectives, four of this year’s Top 10 were published in previous years but touch on subjects relevant to the present, including one about the stark difference between Franklin Graham and his late father, Billy Graham.
Presented here is BNG’s Top 15 list of most-read opinion pieces in 2020:
- “Too many pastors are falling on their own swords,” by Jakob Topper, Aug. 18, 2020 — Clergy lives are being destroyed as they lead congregations through a pandemic, a hyper-partisan culture and a civil rights movement. This piece became the fifth-most-read piece of all time on BNG’s website.
- “Why we must not look away in the current crisis,” by Mark Wingfield, July 23, 2020 — Turning a blind eye to injustice and inhumanity does not eliminate the suffering and need.
- “Last call for aging white evangelicals: The political marriage to Trump will collapse. What then?” by Alan Bean, Dec. 31, 2019 — (We’re counting this as a 2020 piece, even though it was published on New Year’s Eve last year.) Alan Bean predicts a limited and politically irrelevant form of evangelicalism will emerge from the Trump-induced demise of conservatism.
- “3 words for the church in 2019: ‘we were wrong,’” by Mark Wingfield, January 1, 2019 — In the quest for absolute certainty, Christians have been wrong on everything from race, women and gender identity to politics and the meaning of being “pro-life.” This piece is now the third-most-read article of all time on BNG’s website.
- “Ahmaud, Breonna, Christian, George, and The Talk every Black boy receives,” by Timothy Peoples, May 29, 2020 — Praying that the victims of deadly racism break America’s heart enough to bring about national repentance for racism.
- “My quest to find the word ‘homosexual’ in the Bible,” by Ed Oxford, Aug. 10, 2020 — Finding truth in the Hebrew and Greek for what the Bible actually says about being gay and Christian.
- “The death of Christianity in the U.S.,” by Miguel De La Torre, Nov. 13, 2017 — How evangelicals have fused white supremacy with salvation and ceased following a faith rooted in Jesus Christ. This is now the fourth-most-read article of all time on BNG’s website.
- “You cannot follow Jesus and endorse racism. Period,” by Mark Wingfield, Sept. 30, 2020 — Following Christ leaves no room for being racist or enabling racism because “you cannot serve two masters.”
- “The megachurch bubble is about to burst: What will that mean for American culture?” by Alan Bean, Sept. 11, 2017 — Courting conservatives is a losing formula for large congregations in a culture where the white evangelical brand of religion is increasingly toxic to Millennials.
- “Franklin Graham: the apple that fell far from the tree,” by Robert P. Sellers, Sept. 30, 2019 — Globally, Christians have lost respect for the son of the late Billy Graham, who many considered the beloved pastor to the world.
- “There’s a double standard on pastors and politics,” by Mark Wingfield, July 3, 2020 — Marveling that conservative Christian leaders can openly and safely support Republican candidates and causes while clergy who support Democrats are accused of talking too much of race and politics.
- “Heaven-or-hell theology may be simple, but it is neither biblical nor morally defensible. What’s the alternative?” by Alan Bean, March 5, 2020 — Despite the claims of TV preachers and roadside billboards, it’s time to remember that God is love and redeems the entire world.
- “While some try to politicize wearing face masks, for me it’s a spiritual practice,” by Clare Johnson, May 27, 2020 — In a time of pandemic, adhering to health precautions strengthens faith and humility in ways that deepen love of neighbor and service to community.
- “I have a few choice words for people protesting public health directives. Then I hear that still, small voice,” by Susan M. Shaw, May 13, 2020 — The temptation to give in to a mean-spirited, judgmental Christianity is countered by recalling the grace and compassion received despite past failures to love neighbor as self.
- “The moral hypocrisy of Albert Mohler (and evangelicals of his ilk),” by Marv Knox, April 21, 2020 — The double standards of conservative Christians were on full display when Mohler condemned evangelical support for Donald Trump then flip-flopped to offer full support of the president’s re-election bid.