2023 in Review: Our Favorite Stories

Favorites, Forgottens and Unfathomables: The Stream's 2023 in Review

By The Stream Published on January 4, 2024

2023 is in the history books. We wanted to take a look back at some of the year’s highs and lows, with a three-part series we are calling “Favorites, Forgottens and Unfathomables.” With “Favorites” our assorted Stream writers will their favorite story or stories of the year. With “Forgottens,” each named the story or stories we think have not gotten nearly the attention they deserve. And then there are the “Unfathomables.” These were the stories that are nearly impossible to believe actually happened. “Wait. That’s not the Babylon Bee? Or the plot of a dystopian horror movie?”

And now … our favorite stories of 2023.

Tom Sileo

2023 was the year of Barbie, with the smash-hit film topping the box office and introducing a new generation to what’s long been a centerpiece of American culture. My favorite story isn’t about the movie, though. It’s about a very special new Barbie doll that was unveiled earlier this year.

This past spring, Mattel released the first-ever Barbie doll with Down syndrome. As I wrote in May, “for children with Down syndrome and their parents, including my wife and me, this isn’t just some toy company releasing a new doll. It is a landmark moment.”

What made the doll release even more special was knowing some of the remarkable people who helped make the dream of a Barbie with Down syndrome a reality. National Down Syndrome Society President Kandi Pickard and Manager of Grassroots Advocacy Kayla McKeon introduced the newest Barbie doll on ABC’s Good Morning America. We had the chance to meet Kandi and Kayla while in New York to celebrate our daughter Natalie appearing on a giant screen in Times Square. They are wonderful people doing extremely important work for the special needs community.

Despite a recent hospital visit, Natalie is thriving and learning new things every single day. One thing she loves to do is occassionally play with her Barbie doll with Down syndrome, which we were finally able to buy after the new doll was sold out for months. Having a doll she can relate to helps ensure that no matter how many obstacles she faces, Natalie will always know that like Barbie, she can achieve anything.

Al Perrotta

My favorite story of 2023 started out as one of the most horrifying. During a Monday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, after a seemingly routine play, Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed in full cardiac arrest. His heart stopped. And figuratively so did the heart of millions of viewers.

But what happened next is a memory those of faith can cherish forever. The nation unified in prayer. On the field, players from both teams came together to pray for Hamlin. Calls for prayer were lifted across the country. Hamlin was transported to the hospital. Prayers continued. And the usually social media mockery of the value of prayer was mostly silent.

Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin is removed from Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, in an ambulance on Jan. 2, 2023. The Buffalo Bills, in white, kneel at the bottom left of the image.

The following day on ESPN, where the “P” has come to stand for “progressive,” NFL Live host Dan Orlovksy stopped the show to pray. “I heard the Buffalo Bills organization say that we believe in prayer, and maybe this is not the right thing to do, but it’s just on my heart that I want to pray for Damar Hamlin right now. I’m going to do it out loud, I’m going to close my eyes and bow my head, and I’m just going to pray for him.” (HINT: It was the right thing to do.)

Damar not only survived and inspired millions, he recovered fully, to the point he’s back playing for the Bills. Two weeks ago, the Bills nominated Hamlin for the NFL’s Ed Block Courage Award. But he’s already won the award for “Best Reminder of the Power of Prayer.”

John Zmirak

The most uplifting news item of 2023 was the election of Argentine President Javier Milei, a socially conservative small-government populist … essentially he’s the opposite of his globalist countryman Pope Francis in almost every way. Milei mocks the Woke cult and its priests of Baal, and is consciously trying to turn his country around 180 degrees, after a full 100 years of envy-driven politics and radical clergy helped ruin a country once as rich, per capita, as the U.S.A. or Britain. Here’s Milei’s latest piece of shockingly sane policy-making:

Aliya Kuykendall

One of my favorite stories from 2023 is an amazing archeological find that both supports the Bible and contains the oldest Hebrew script ever found in the Land of Israel. Archeologists sifting through an old dig site found a curse tablet, something fairly common in the ancient world. This small, folded lead tablet had a curse on it in an early form of Hebrew: proto-alphabetic script or proto-Sinaitic script. This curse was apparently written and the tablet placed because of a direct command from God in scripture. God told Moses:

And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, you shall set the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. (Deuteronomy 11:29)

This curse tablet says, “You are cursed by the God YHW.” It was found on Mount Ebal in the pile of dirt that had been dumped during a 1980 excavation of an altar on Mount Ebal. The altar is thought to be made by Joshua, Moses’ successor. An archeological team was sifting through that pile in 2022 and this incredible finding was published in 2023.

In accordance with God’s command in Deuteronomy 11:29, did Joshua build that very altar on Mount Ebal and place that very lead tablet on the altar with a curse attributed to God? Was this tablet part of an ancient reminder commanded by God that disobeying God leads to death but obeying Him leads to life? It’s such an amazing thought. Yet, incredibly, we have archeological evidence backing up the Bible that goes back even further. I love the Patterns of Evidence films for highlighting finds related to Biblical characters like Joseph, Moses and Joshua. I highly recommend the films.

Nancy Flory

My favorite story of 2023 is a movie called “Let Me Have My Son,” which released to a virtual cinema event May 24. The film is about an elderly man with a mentally ill son and is based on the true story of writer-director Cristóbal Krusen. Krusen plays himself in the film. “Let Me Have My Son” is a beautiful but bittersweet movie that endeavors to show the audience what it is like to have a mentally ill child and just how far that a father will go to protect his son and bring him home.

To be clear, the movie is not a documentary. It’s a story of a beautiful life. While based on his story, Krusen admits that he took some creative liberties. “But when the father’s in the chapel … and telling his story, [it was] his son’s story to the patients who gathered. That’s pretty much the real story.”

Krusen also wanted to tell the story of his son’s illness to help others. “To the extent that the movie can show solidarity with those who are suffering this way or have a loved one suffering, to the extent the movie can comfort those who are going through a hard time, [I want] to just remind people they’re not alone. You are not alone. Not to mention that God is always with us, which I also believe that He does not abandon us just because we’re going through hard times. We might think, ‘Well, where is God?’ Well, He’s there.”

Let Me Have My Son” is available to watch on Amazon.

Watch the Trailer:

Tom Gilson:

The year’s best news for me may have been the September publication of Justin Brierley’s The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God: Why New Atheism Grew Old and Secular Thinkers Are Considering Christianity Again.

Brierley sees signs of Christian influence beginning to be restored in the West. It’s a bold thesis, considering how dramatically anti-Christian our culture has turned in the past few decades. I’ll admit I’m hoping it’s true as much as I’m convinced that it’s true.

If it weren’t Brierley saying so I’d be less hopeful, but he’s in a good position to know. For years he was host of the London-based “Unbelievable?” podcast, where he moderated debates and discussions between the world’s top Christian thinkers and their top atheist, secularist, and skeptical opponents. He has a track record of being fair to the people as well as fair to the facts they brought with them.

I’ll be interviewing Justin Brierley for The Stream in a few weeks, so I’ll hold off on further info until then. For now let’s keep praying and working toward that restoration, and be encouraged by one well-informed thinker’s optimism.


So what is your choice for “Favorites” story of the year? Let us know at [email protected].

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