2020: A Year Like No Other
2020 has been a year like no other. The word “unprecedented” quickly became the word of the year. I remember a talk Ben Sasse gave at the Gospel Coalition a few years ago where he began by saying that as a historian he’s always uncomfortable using the word “unprecedented.” There are very few things that are truly new in the scope of history. And then he went on, “these are unprecedented times.” If only he knew what was coming.
The biggest events of the year were well covered. The coronavirus, George Floyd’s death and the protests and riots that followed, and the presidential election have affected every one of us. These events will continue to play out in the coming year. We will continue to grieve those we’ve lost to the virus. We hope and pray for successful vaccines and therapeutics. We will continue to work toward racial justice, sorting through the helpful and unhelpful, the just and the unjust, the positive and the zero-sum, to pursue the vision of the kingdom of God; every tribe, tongue, and nation, worshipping before the throne of God for all eternity.
But these are not the only important stories of the year.
We started the year talking about the killing of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds force and one of the world’s most capable and prolific terrorists. His death marked the profound difference between the Obama and Trump administration’s foreign policies, the former focused on Iran and the second on Israel and Saudi Arabia. Events like the strike against Soleimani indicate it is a different world now in the Middle East than it was when Joe Biden left office in 2017. Combined with the Abraham Accords these measures have created a situation in the Middle East unlike anything in the modern era. Biden will have to tailor his approach to the region accordingly.
Another story in January that would be easy to forget is the split in the Methodist Church. This year the denomination split over the issues of same-sex marriage and LGBTQ ordination. Many of the African and South American churches voted against the measure. The majority of the American churches, led by Adam Hamilton pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, voted for ordaining LGBTQ clergy and performing same-sex weddings.
Carl Trueman’s article at First Things summarized the road leading up to the split and the implications for the future. It’s ironic, Trueman points out that the Methodist church has taken no action against clear instances of false teaching and doctrine in the decades leading up to this split, but now they’ve taken decisive action over a social issue on which the Bible is abundantly clear; “To fight over same-sex marriage while tolerating heresy on foundational doctrines is to make oneself vulnerable to the charge of being motivated less by fidelity to the Christian faith and more by homophobia.”
Through the end of January, our attention shifted to the impeachment. Tensions and threats had been mounting since Trump took office three years earlier and the House hearings had been going on through the second half of 2019, but in January, the House, led by Reps. Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, and Nancy Pelosi finally passed the articles of impeachment on to the Senate and began the formal process of attempting to remove the president from office.
What was the impeachment about? The fact that it’s so hard to remember why, exactly, the sitting president was impeached may be the most revelatory thing about the hearings. The charges brought against Donald Trump were obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. These charges stemmed from a phone call the president made with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. The Dems charged the president with issues a “quid pro quo,” US aid for an investigation into the Bidens’ business activities. The president claimed it was a “perfect phone call” and that there was no quid pro quo.
This incident, though, was quickly dispatched and the partisan machine took over. Reps. Schiff and Nadler called the president a liar and accused him of treason on the Senate floor, even though they did not bring those charges. Senators from both parties called for additional witnesses, even though the House refused to call anyone with first-hand knowledge of the president’s conversation or his foreign policy during their investigation. By the end of the trial, the theatrics and the histrionics had made it all but impossible to vote on the specific issues. The impeachment became a referendum on the president personally, the only thing both sides seemed to agree on. In the end, every Republican but Sen. Mitt Romney voted against the charges, and the president was exonerated.
In other non-coronavirus news, the president showed his worst colors at the National Prayer Breakfast, the Iowa caucuses were a disaster, Bernie Sanders briefly emerged as the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, the Supreme Court re-defined sex and gender, Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Donald Trump spoke at the March for Life, Jen Hatmaker filed for divorce, the DoJ began investigating “Crossfire Hurricane,” Michael Flynn had his charges dropped and received a pardon, and there are so many other things I’m forgetting.
In the scope of it all though, maybe Sasse’s words were right. We tend to see the world through the lenses of our lifetimes, and in that sense, things are really changing. The last 50 years have been filled with technological innovation and social progress, but it’s also been an era of upheaval, protest, deconstruction, and uncertainty. These are more common in human history than the alternatives.
What of this is precedented? Even as our culture is getting less religious, God has never been more or less present than he is right now. He’s with us. He guides us. He is animating and speaking to his church. He is fulfilling the promises of his Word. He has work for us to do.
Our motto throughout this year, starting with the pandemic and continuing through the elections and whatever comes in 2021 is “our work hasn’t changed.” Nothing that God has called us to do has changed. We have to do it differently now than we did a year ago. We have different circumstances and that means we have different opportunities. As we pray about 2021 and look to the future, we trust a God who will be with us then as he is now.
Thanks for supporting So We Speak this year! Thanks for providing a platform to stay informed without being conformed. With your help, we’re excited for what the next year holds, and all that God will do in it.
Cole Feix is the founder and president of So We Speak.