Comment: My picks for top 10 religion stories of 2012
(RNS) Rabbi A. James Rudin, the American Jewish Committee’s senior interreligious adviser, is the author of the recently published “Cushing, Spellman, O’Connor: The Surprising Story of How Three American Cardinals Transformed Catholic-Jewish Relations.” Here are his picks for top 10 religion stories of 2012.
1. Islam dominated the year, with power struggles between Islamists and secularists in Egypt and Turkey and the brutal Syrian civil war with Bashar Assad killing thousands of his own people. An obscure anti-Muslim video produced in California triggered riots throughout the world. In November, Hamas, cited by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, and Israel engaged in armed conflict until a cease-fire was declared. Christian minorities in Muslim societies suffered in 2012, especially the ancient Coptic Christian community in Egypt.
2. The “religious right” and Christian leaders Franklin Graham, Richard Land and Ralph Reed were losers when President Obama was re-elected, and three states legalized same-sex marriage and a fourth rejected a gay marriage ban. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops publicly opposed the federal contraceptive mandate, but Obama narrowly won the Catholic vote. He lost the Protestants by 15 points, but his biggest supporters — by a 70-point margin — were the “nones” who profess no religion. For the first time in history, no white Protestant was on either party ticket.
3. Mainline Protestant churches continued to lose members, and the number of Americans identifying as Christians also declined. The big gainers were the “nones” — now about one in five Americans.
4. The Anglican Communion’s new leader, former oil executive Justin Welby, succeeds Rowan Williams as the archbishop of Canterbury. Both men favor women as bishops, but the Church of England’s General Synod rejected the idea. Interestingly, the presiding bishop of the U.S. branch of Anglicanism, the Episcopal Church’s Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a woman.
5. The Catholic Church’s continuing sex abuse scandal was highlighted by the criminal conviction of Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City, Mo., who was found guilty of not reporting one of his priests who had taken hundreds of pornographic pictures of minors. Finn faced one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, but he was sentenced instead to two years of court-supervised probation, a first for an American bishop. A high church official in Philadelphia was also convicted for shuffling known abusive priests around his archdiocese.
6. For nearly a decade, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has debated whether to divest its investments from companies doing business in Israel. The proposal was defeated at the denomination’s General Assembly in Pittsburgh. Similar efforts by several other Protestant church bodies also failed.
Christian-Jewish relations suffered a setback in October when 15 church officials, mostly Protestants, issued a letter urging the U.S. to reconsider aid to Israel because of the Jewish state’s alleged “human rights violations” and “breaches of international law.” Jewish leaders criticized the letter, calling it one-sided and an example of a myopic “double standard” toward Israel, and withdrew from interfaith talks.
7. Anti-Semitism remains a pathological force in Europe and the Middle East. A recent soccer match in Rome turned ugly when fans began yelling anti-Jewish slogans at a visiting British team. Ten fans were injured by an Italian gang wielding baseball bats, knives and broken bottles. Officials were investigating whether anti-Semitism was behind what appeared to be an organized attack.
In Hungary, some right-wing politicians want to “screen” and register Jewish citizens in government because they are all considered “security risks.” More than 10,000 Hungarians in Budapest rallied against rising anti-Semitism. Many political, literary and academic European elites supported boycotts and sanctions directed against Israel.
8. Pope Benedict XVI, 85, was the subject of speculation about his increasing frailty and fatigue and whether he might be the first pontiff in 700 years to retire. There was also conjecture about his possible successor. However, during 2012 Benedict published a new book on Jesus and began to post messages on Twitter.
9. The year saw the proliferation of “couch churches” or “sofa synagogues,” decentralized gatherings of Jews and Christians who study, pray and share meals in a nonstructured form without benefit of clergy or the need to attend services in “big box” sanctuaries.
10. Notable deaths included the 26 innocent children and teachers at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.; Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon; former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir; and on a personal note, Lawrence Guyot, with whom I marched during a 1964 voting rights drive in Hattiesburg, Miss.
- John Rutledge published the article How Kent Brantly Survived Ebola: Intense Medical Care — and Prayer.
- Brad Russell published the article What Atticus Finch Taught Me About Watching the News.
- Brad Russell published the article My Whitebread, Middle-Class Opinions About Ferguson Just Matter.
- Brad Russell published the article 'A Christian Survivor Guide' | Ed Cyzewski [Book Review].
- Brad Russell published the article 8 Reasons Young Leadership Is Essential to Your Organization Now.
- Lori Fogleman published the blogpost Know where you’ll park before heading to McLane Stadium.
- Brad Russell published the article What I Learned from Creating 100 Sermon Bumpers in One Year.
- Ashley Howland published the blogpost Headlines: Breakfast debate, instant noodles, Ebola recovery.
- Jim McNeely published the blogpost The Logos Made Flesh, Full of Grace and Truth — John 1:14.
- Jennifer Cote published the blogpost Vegetarian Black Bean Enchiladas w/Mexican-style Red Sauce.
- John Peterson published the blogpost Are You Feeling Trapped? Learn This One Secret to Finding Freedom.
- Brad Russell published the article 'Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus' | Nabeel Qureshi [Book Review].
- Matt Perman published the blogpost Workplace Christians: The Engine for How the Gospel Spreads.
- Deb Wolf published the blogpost Blessings, Moments, and Love Around the Blogosphere.
- Brad Russell published the article 'New Monasticism' | Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove [Book Review].
- Bo Bartlett uploaded a photo
- Bo Bartlett uploaded a photo
- Nils Smith published the blogpost My Interview with William Vanderbloemen discussing NEXT.
- Brad Hambrick published the blogpost My Reflections on the Events in Ferguson in Light of Miroslav Volf.
- Mike Liebler published the blogpost The App That Will Change How You Do Youth Ministry.
- Mike Liebler published the blogpost One Vital Question that will Transform Your Teaching.
- Adam Smith published the blogpost Use This Automation Hack to Archive Your Social Media Life – Reade Milner.
- Mike Liebler published the blogpost 10 Of The Biggest Lies Students Hear Before They Get To College.
- Brian Dodd published the blogpost 40 Leadership Quotes And Lessons From When The Game Stands Tall.
- Eric Arch just moved in. Take time to say hey.
- Jim McNeely published the blogpost Christ at the Center of Confidence: 1 John 4:13-21.
- DrDebi Smith published the blogpost 3 Things You Can Do When the Man You Love Gets Off Track.
- Nicole Webb published the blogpost re: pray for peace, then work for it with all your might.
- Marie Osborne published the blogpost Redeem Your Feed: 3 Positive Ways Christians Can Use Social Media.
- Lori Fogleman published the blogpost No. 10 Baylor football opens 2014 with highest preseason ranking since 1957.