Though it’s our breaking news stories that garner the most attention each year (see our round-up of most read stories in 2019 here), for over 50 years Spectrum has been dedicated to carving out space for quiet reflection in Adventism.
In 2019, we published just over 750 articles online — everything from poetry and photography, to book and movie reviews, from church history and current events, to social justice and the environment. Though it’s not possible for us to highlight all the thoughtful and inspiring content from this year, SpectrumMagazine.org Managing Editor Alisa Williams has chosen 10 pieces she found memorable. These are poetry, essays, reviews, and photography that invited conversation on a diverse array of topics and truly embodied Spectrum’s mission of “community through conversation.”
Please enjoy these 10 notable articles (in order of publication date):
In January, well-known theologian and Spectrum contributor Sigve K. Tonstad began an ambitious look at the Book of Revelation. In 25 essays over a five-month period, Tonstad shared professional insights and personal reflections. Each is worth reading and re-reading (you can find them all here), but the ones I found most striking were his February 4 and May 27 pieces about his pilgrimage to Chelmno, where 233,000 Jews from Lodz were murdered during the Holocaust. Tonstad writes, “Some have wondered why it was so important to me to make this trip. The answer to that is deeper than words, but let me offer justification in the words of the Holocaust exhibit now on display in New York, ‘Not Long Ago. Not Far Away.’ That’s what it is: Not Long Ago. Not Far Away.”
2. “Seeing vs. Understanding: Mapping Out the Complexity of Thomas’s Infamous Skepticism” by Lillian Rosa Correa (April 1, 2019)
In this essay, Correa discusses Doubting Thomas, a character whom most of us have related to at one point or another on life’s journey. Correa’s essay was inspired by the painting by Caravaggio titled “The Incredulity of St. Thomas,” in which Thomas is portrayed inserting his finger into Christ’s wound. She writes, “Of the many artistic renditions of Doubting Thomas, none speaks to my heart more powerfully than Caravaggio’s.” Correa then goes on to explain the nuances of the painting and, quoting Andrew Graham-Dixon’s explanation, “In the act of touching Christ, Thomas is born again in unquestioning faith.”
3. “A Review of Pilgrim’s Progress: The Movie” by Mary Christian (May 3, 2019)
In this movie review, English professor Mary Christian thoughtfully compares and contrasts John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress with the animated movie adaptation from Revelation Media that premiered Easter weekend.
4. “‘Queer Eye’ and the Divine Gaze: Shame and Grace in 21st Century Worship” by Steve Yeagley (May 6, 2019)
“What can five gay TV personalities teach 21st century Christians about grace?” asks Steve Yeagley in his opening sentence. In this essay, Yeagley “liken[s] the queer gaze of five gay TV stars (i.e. their unique way of looking at the world and others) to the divine gaze of Jesus.” He adds, “I realize this may seem like a bridge too far for some. But in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, I invite you to consider whether God might be offering us a contemporary parable about grace and its importance to victims of shame — those who have been stripped of their dignity, robbed of their worth, and cast aside on the outskirts of Jerusalem.”
5. “The Beauty Behind Us: Stories from Madagascar” by Danielle M. Barnard (June 19, 2019)
Through breath-taking photography and thoughtful vignettes, Danielle Barnard shares her journey to Madagascar. She embarked on this study tour as part of her graduate work in the Community and International Development program at Andrews University.
6. “The Ignored Familiar” by Barry Casey (August 20, 2019)
Regular readers of Spectrum know that essayist Barry Casey writes for us on a weekly basis. What they may not know is that his first book of essays was recently published by Wipf & Stock (find it here). In his August 20 piece, Casey discusses what famous authors have said about the triumph and pain of the writer’s life, including Annie Dillard, George Orwell, Seamus Heaney, and more. “The popular stereotype about writers, that they wait for inspiration, is only half right, but it’s the half that students often claim in the backwash of a late paper. Writers do wait on inspiration, but it’s a waiting that is active,” he says.
7. “Two Sabbath Sonnets” by Kevin Gray (November 1, 2019)
In November, Kevin Gray blessed us with two Sabbath sonnets that speak to the joy and beauty of creation. The first begins, “This day too many sheep fall into wells / To keep my mind on that which brings me peace. / I always drift, distracted by the noise; / Echoes of the perpetual bleating.”
8. “Shall the Adventist Fundamentalists Win?” by Matthew J. Lucio (November 11, 2019)
In this thought-provoking article, Matthew Lucio takes readers through the Adventist Church’s complicated history with fundamentalism, employing the same energy and humor he does in his popular podcast. “Understanding even this brief history of Adventist fundamentalism can help us to realize just how much of our conversation has been driven by fundamentalist talking points. From women in ministry to movie theaters to drums to the near worship of Ellen White — all have their roots, not in original Adventism, but in fundamentalist Adventism,” he writes.
9. “Convergence and Divergence: Moses and Elijah and the ‘Still Small Voice’” by Chermilyn Perdernal (December 6, 2019)
In Chermilyn Perdernal’s first article for Spectrum, she delves into a comparison and analysis of the differing ways God appeared to Moses and Elijah. She writes, “though the beginnings of both theophanies are similar, they end quite differently. Perhaps Moses’ encounter showcases God’s power and fearfulness; whereas God demonstrates to Elijah that He is not dependent on grand outward displays, but can speak ‘directly to the human heart.’”
10. “Truth and Power in the Fourth Gospel” by Kendra Haloviak Valentine (December 26, 2019)
In this article, first presented at the annual conference of the Society of Adventist Philosophers, Kendra Haloviak Valentine tackles the topic of truth in relation to the Fourth Gospel, specifically the exchange between Jesus and Pilate. “‘What is truth?’ means something very different in our postmodern contexts than in a first century narrative. In this new time and place, how might the idea of testimony — a word repeated throughout the Fourth Gospel — help contemporary readers interpret the truth on trial before Pilate?” asks Haloviak Valentine.
We look forward to providing you, our readers, with more thoughtful and thought-provoking content in 2020. If you’ve appreciated our coverage this year, please consider supporting us with a year-end donation. As a non-profit organization, your gifts help make content like this possible.
Thank you, and Happy New Year!
Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
Main image: SpectrumMagazine.org.
In-line image information and credit are as follows:
1. Family members say goodbye to a child through a fence at the ghetto's central prison where children, the sick, and the elderly were held before deportation to Chelmno during the "Gehsperre" action. Lodz, Poland, September 1942. Photo courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
2. “The Incredulity of St. Thomas” by Caravaggio. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
3. Image courtesy of Revelation Media / video still.
5. Tamatave, Madagascar. Photo by Danielle M. Barnard.
6. Photo by Erico Marcelino on Unsplash
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