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Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Year in Religion

Lists abound of the top newsmakers, celebrities, and sport stars from 2013. Here's one from RealClearReligion ("14 Religion Newsmakers of 2013"), which is a "news aggregator" site (i.e., one identifies and provides links for the best news stories on a particular topic) whose editors also pen the occasional article. This one is by Jeremy Lott, who is an editor-at-large for RealClearPolitics (a related site). His brief comments on why he considers these individuals to be the top religious newsmakers are worth perusing:
  1. Pope and Change -- Pope Benedict retires (much to the delight of liberals) and Pope Francis is elected (much to the delight of liberals).
  2. Oxbridge's Finest -- C. S. Lewis: The 50th anniversary of the former Oxford don's death (same day and year as John Kennedy and Aldous Huxley).
  3. Born Again, One Last Time -- Billy Graham preaches his final sermon.
  4. Binders Full of Women -- Women in the Mormon Church fight for more rights and authority.
  5. Your Own MFA Jesus -- Fox's interview with Muslim Reza Aslan, about his book on Jesus (The Zealot) causes a minor firestorm and helps his book sell.
  6. God, Guns and Ganders -- ABC's hit reality show, Duck Dynasty, is a huge hit but runs into a public relations speed bump.
  7. Rebranding Southern Baptists -- Southern Baptists moderate their rhetoric.
  8. Cauldron of Controversy -- Mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll found himself in a lot of hot water over the content of his tweets, his alleged plagiarism, and even the clothes he wears.
  9. Atheism's Old Man -- Richard Dawkins targeted Muslims a bit more this year than he has in the past, but according to Lott, his rhetoric has become passé. As the Spectator of London put it, "The atheist spring that began just over a decade ago is over, thank God." 
  10. Aqua Buddha Strikes Back -- Libertarian and Kentucky Congressman Rand Paul has a knack for landing himself in religious controversies.
  11. Bombed in Boston -- Boston bombers ties to Islamic Chechen radicals has raised concerns of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
  12. Still Prosperous -- Rumors of Joel Osteen's abandonment of Christianity proved premature
  13. Tips Against Jesus -- Early in the year a female pastor creates a controversy for writing on a restaurant receipt, "I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?"; at the end of the year anonymous tippers started leaving very large tips tagged, @tipsforjesus (one of the anonymous donors was evidently one of PayPal's founders.
  14. Love Loses - Evangelical Rob Bell, author of the book, Love Wins, finds his popularity apparently waning.
Lott is also interviewed on the latest Research on Religion podcast ("Jeremy Lott on the Religious Newsmakers of 2013") where he discusses some (not all) of these stories with host Anthony Gill. Here's a brief summary of the podcast (from the Research on Religion Website):
Jeremy Lott of RealClearPolitcs joins us to discuss the top religious newsmakers of 2013. We cover a significant ground ranging from the Boston Marathon bombers to Pope Francis. Along the way, we engage in discussions about the new direction of the Southern Baptist Convention, the issues surrounding various megachurch pastors such as Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell, the controversy surrounding religious gratuities (or lack thereof) at restaurants, and the last sermon of Billy Graham. And, of course, we get Jeremy’s thoughts on the first year (roughly) of Pope Francis’s reign.

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