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Different takes on “Top Religion Stories” for 2011

Different takes on “Top Religion Stories” for 2011

As the year winds up, it is time when every editor in the land calls out for a round up of top religion stories of the past year. Here are some interesting takes on the religion scene in 2011.


The BBC has their review of the year here. Among the items that caught their interest: the Occupy controversy at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the ethics of assassination and the continuing slow-motion train wreck as the Catholic Church tries to deal with a decade of investigation and mishandling of the child sex abuse by some of their clerics. The BBC also includes the Norway massacre as a major religious story.

This has been a year of big stories globally, nationally and locally with many shaped or coloured by religious and ethical dimensions.

From the revolutions sweeping through the Middle East to the traumatic implications of phone-hacking revelations for British journalism.

Uprisings dominated the year. The domino-effect of revolution has so far touched Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, and many other countries in the Middle East.

Colonel Gaddafi lost his life after a civil war in Libya, and in Egypt, President Mubarak lost his job.

We had our own, decidedly more muted protests in some parts of Britain and Ireland.

Unwittingly, Saint Paul’s Cathedral became an architectural metaphor for a national debate when cathedral authorities tried to remove the anti-capitalist tent city that is still encamped on its doorstep.

Time Magazine’s list includes Mormonism as religion of the year, pointing to a Broadway musical and two presidential candidates as proof; the indictment of a Catholic bishop for covering up child sex abuse; the on-going Tibet crisis; the beatification of Pope John Paul II; the Coptic Christians in Egypt and the effect that the Arab Spring may have on that community; and more.

The Washington Post looks both backwards and forward in looking at “10 Religion Stories to Watch in 2012:”

10. Occupy Wall Street and the Religious Left: Missed Opportunity…?

9. The Persistence of Anti-Mormon Sentiment….

8. Islamophobia: What’s It Good For…?

7. Bloomberg Holds His Ground….

6. The Swashbuckling Evangelicals…?

5. Catholics and Evangelicals Don’t Always Lock Arms….

4. Values Voters Less Interested in Values….

3. Justice Kagan’s Dissent in Arizona School Tuition Organization v. Winn, et al:

2. President Obama: Innoculated (from religious controversy)

1. The Evangelical Vote: Fractured then Formidable….

Peter Laarman at Religion Dispatches found ten Top 2011 Religion Stories That Weren’t. He looks at stories that passed under the radar of most religion reporters and editors as being too esoteric, too inside-baseball, or perhaps too obvious…but which may have consequences for the rest of us just the same. Here my five favorites:

1. “Catholic” countries that openly flout Vatican policy

Significant defections from the Vatican party line are no longer limited to rich cosmopolitan countries with religiously mixed populations like Germany and Holland. Nobody does the Vatican’s bidding anymore. Mexico, Italy, Spain, Brazil, and others have enacted legislation that plainly thumbs the Vatican’s nose….

4. Identity Crisis Within a Queer-Positive Christian Denomination

The Metropolitan Community Church came into its own in the ’70s and ’80s when most other denominations were distinctly unwelcoming. Now that so many mainline churches are totally okay with gay people, the MCC is losing members in some locations and wondering about its raison d’etre….

5. Latino Catholics Distinctly More Gay-Friendly Than Latino Evangelicals

A too-little-noticed 2010 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that a majority of Latino Catholics in California (57%) said they would vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to just 22% of Latino Protestants….

6. Upside-Down Ideas about Religious Liberty

The dramatic new push for religious liberty exemptions for faith-connected providers of taxpayer-supported health services underscores the radical way in which understandings of religious liberty have changed in recent years. It’s not that the push for exemptions hasn’t made the news; it’s that no one is writing (at least in the MSM) about the radical nature of the shift. In the past, the social service arms of religious bodies understood that if they wanted public money they would need to honor public law regarding the disposition of the money: i.e., provide the full range of mandated services on a universal basis. We used to say to objectors, “If you don’t like the mandate, don’t take the money….”

9. We Can’t Just Call it Nihilism?

Of course, we don’t expect mainstream religion writers to know much about philosophy or history, so I suppose we mustn’t be too harsh. It still strikes me as odd that no one has taken to calling either Wall Street ethics or far-Right economic beliefs by their right name, which is nihilism. There’s been some prattle in the press about Ayn Rand’s influence, but religiously the problem is so much bigger and deeper than the renewed attention paid to this minor figure….

10. The Faith of the “Post-Soul” Generation

There was a tiny bit of reporting recently on a new group of mainly young African Americans who are coming out publicly as unbelievers. But to me the more interesting and unreported story is about what might be called the cultural “faith” of the post-soul generation….

Tell us what you think. What were your top religion stories for 2011?

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Jonathan Grieser

Any list of the top ten religious stories of the year that doesn't have as number one the increase in the "nones"--the non-religious, is missing the biggest trend in religion in 21st century America: http://gracerector.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/thinking-about-the-nones/

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Michael Russell

@ #9 Yes indeed lets call it nihilism. The mainstream press of all persuasions has failed to cover the exodus from evangelical-fundamentalist churches and the rise of the apatheists.

I think the author is wrong about Rand's influence. I read the 2010-11 bio of her and the number of people in active political positions now who were influenced by her are astonishing. It is amazing that no one makes the connection between her ethic of selfishness and the 1% and its complete violation of Christian principles. The bio does a respectable job of discussing how it is that evangelical-fundamentalists are turning a blind eye to her influence in the movement.

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