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    2022’s Top Twelve

    Here, in ascending order, are the twelve most popular articles Plough published in 2022, based on the number of readers online.

    By Peter Mommsen

    December 27, 2022

    12. Can Love Take Sides? by Wendell Berry

    With us, love has been reduced mostly to a popular word, easy to use to intensify a frivolous appreciation. “Oh, I love it!” we say when told of something really cute. Or it can be used as a handy weapon against the haters of whom we disapprove. Too bad. But love comes into our civilization – the Gospels being the source best known to me – as a way of being in the world. It is a force, extraordinarily demanding and humbling, dangerous too, for those who attempt to take it seriously.

    11. When Masking and Vaxxing Threaten a Friendship by Jamie Santa Cruz

    Alas, masks are a no-go for Eliza on principle. Love of freedom runs strong in her blood; she does not bend easily to coercion. Was there somewhere else we could meet that didn’t require masks? she texted. I read her message late at night, just before going to bed. I put down my phone, turned out the light, and lay down on the pillow, awash in anger and exasperation. This is the hill you die on, Eliza?

    blue disposable mask hanging on a chain link fence

    Photograph by Tim Mossholder

    10. Victor Hugo’s Masterpiece of Impossibility by Caitrin Keiper

    The stars that Javert swore by, and yet was so astonished to witness in the gulf above him, the stars that illumined Valjean’s vow made at the beginning and Javert’s vow broken at the end, are a promise made by heaven, immovable in the firmament. But still they are distant, and often obscured. The main impossibility in the ideal of Les Misérables is not that suffering will disappear, but that it can be redeemed; that brokenness does not erase the hope in any person; that dormant souls come back to life; that the cycle of retribution breaks for grace.

    Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean with two candlesticks

    Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean in the 2012 film version of Les Misérables directed by Tom Hooper Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo. Used by permission.

    9. Is Congregational Singing Dead? by Benjamin Crosby

    We have moved from active music-making with those around us to passive music-consuming individually. Isolated exceptions remain: parents still sing lullabies to their children; people still sing “Happy Birthday” at parties; the crowd at Fenway Park belts out “Sweet Caroline” at the bottom of the eighth inning. But all the same, it remains the case that there was once a set of communal practices around singing and making music that is now gone.

    painting of people singing

    Thomas Webster, The Village Choir, oil on panel, 1847 Image public domain

    8. Faith, Fiction, and Christian Nationalism by Russell Moore

    I think many people were as alarmed and horrified as I was – as pretty much the entire country was, and the entire world, at least momentarily – about the insurrection on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021. There were many things to be alarmed about in that moment, but maybe the thing that horrified me the most was seeing a sign that said “Jesus saves” in the same mob that had a noose for the vice president of the United States on a gallows made there.

    people holding flags outside the US capitol

    Photograph by Brett Davis

    7. Tradition and Disruption by David Bentley Hart

    It should never be forgotten that Christianity entered human history not as a new creed or sapiential path or system of religious observances, but as apocalypse: the sudden unveiling of a mystery hidden in God before the foundation of the world in a historical event without any possible precedent or any conceivable sequel; an overturning of all the orders and hierarchies of the age, here on earth and in the archon-thronged heavens above; the overthrow of all the angelic and daemonic powers and principalities by a slave legally crucified at the behest of all the religious and political authorities of his time, but raised up by God as the one sole Lord over all the cosmos.

    6. John Wayne, The Quiet Man by Hannah Long

    In The Quiet Man’s opening scene, John Wayne arrives in Ireland aboard that most civilized of vehicles: a train. Not a horse in sight. It’s the first hint that we’re about to enter a world that, for all its rosy romanticism, will turn a number of Hollywood clichés on their heads.

    John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in the 1952 film The Quiet Man

    Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man (1952)

    5. Freedom from Porn Addiction by Matthew Loftus

    As with many other illnesses, the people suffering must come to a place where they believe that they can get better and then act on that belief. Addiction, like depression and other mental illnesses, amplifies its power by convincing its sufferer to isolate himself or herself. People who are addicted to pornography remain addicted in no small part because they believe their sin is too vile to be named, too powerful to overcome, and too deeply rooted to be anything but their defining self. To counter these lies, they must hear that it is safe to confess and that they can find the power to overcome their addiction.

    4. Dolly Parton Is Magnificent by Mary Townsend

    On occasion, some do find the eye-catchingly artificial aspect of Dolly off-putting, or the nostalgic orientation of country in general to be not to their taste. But more often, people who have no commitment to country, and know only a single one of her songs (“Jolene”), like the college students in my ethics classes do, are impressed with her persona in a way that radiates outward through the culture at large. In prison, Nelson Mandela would request “Jolene” the better to pace back and forth; my son sings “Jolene” on the way to school.

    photo of the Smoky Mountains overlaid with a picture of Dolly Parton

    Farm photograph by Tim Eberly, used by permission. Dolly Parton photograph from Michael Ochs Archives, used by permission.

    3. A Day in the Life of a Cowboy Priest by Nathan Beacom

    His meat locker is a built-out refrigerated semi-trailer that some parishioners helped him to put together. Like his white truck, the “Lungren Brothers” logo is painted on the side. The other “brother” of Lungren Brothers refers to everyone who has a share in the herd. “Everybody is part owner of this cattle company, part of the family, so everyone who has a share is one of the Lungren brothers,” he explains. Inside the trailer a list of several dozen original owners is hanging on the wall. In the back of the locker, quarters of beef hang from shackles; crates of frozen steaks occupy the front. A wooden paddle for mashing beef into the grinder hangs on the wall; the phrase “the church needs more cowboys” is burnt into the side.

    Father Bryce speaks with a parishioner

    Photograph courtesy of Nathan Beacom

    2. Why We Should (gasp) Envy Mr. Collins by Joy Clarkson

    The greatest mark on Mr. Collins’s record, of course, is his skin-crawlingly awkward proposal to Elizabeth Bennet. After laying out some very rational reasons for wishing to marry Miss Elizabeth, he experiences the inconceivable: rejection! Struggling to make sense of this, he attributes this rejection of advances to the “true delicacy of the female character.” No means no, Mr. Collins! Read the room! Of course, the whole point of Mr. Collins is that he can’t read the room. That is why we love to hate him. Both in the story and outside of it, Mr. Collins is eminently mockable because we know he doesn’t understand that he’s being made fun of. But for all his flaws, there is a simplicity to Mr. Collins that I admire and enjoy.

    still from the 1995 BBC series of Pride and Prejudice showing Mr Collins rubbing his hands together

    David Bamber as Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice (1995) Image from IMDb

    1. The Day No One Would Say the Nazis Were Bad by Mary Townsend

    It used to be that when the name of Hitler showed up in classroom conversation, I would expect serious thought to fly out the window for twenty minutes at least. Usually the example would arrive in the service of proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that something is bad. The students would bring the name up with a certain modest pride, glowing in advance of the praise they assumed they would inevitably receive for taking a principled stand. This used to drive me nuts. Then one day about six years ago, the opposite happened.

    Alt-right members preparing to enter Emancipation Park holding Nazi, Confederate, and Gadsden Don't Tread on Me flags.

    Photo by Anthony Crider

    Contributed By portrait of Peter Mommsen Peter Mommsen

    Peter Mommsen is editor of Plough magazine. He lives in upstate New York with his wife, Wilma, and their three children.

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