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Religious news

Top religious events & trends for 2007

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The Religious Newswriters Association polls its members near the end of each year to assess their opinion on the most important religious news stories across the world. 1 Their selections for 2007 are shown in bold below, with our comments:

  1. Republican presidential campaign: A conflict is intensifying among fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians about whether they can vote for Mitt Romney -- a leading Republican candidate who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the Mormons. Evangelicals and Mormons agree on many topics, such as hatred of homosexuality, hatred of abortion access, hatred of pre-marital sex, hatred of same-sex marriage, etc.. However they disagree in many theological beliefs, such as the nature of God, Jesus, Heaven, Hell, etc. Many conservative Protestant faith groups have declared the Mormons to be a cult, or sub-Christian or non-Christian. Meanwhile, the Mormons consider themselves to be the true Christian church. They teach that the Christian movement deviated from Jesus' and Paul's teachings and sank into heresy early in its history.
  2. Democratic presidential campaign: Democratic candidates are promoting their individual religious beliefs after recognizing that the party's 2004 candidates erred in this area.
  3. "The issue:" Conflict continues within mainline Christian denominations whether to treat members of all sexual orientations equally in membership eligibility, acceptance for ordination, and blessing of their unions and marriages. This conflict has reached the point of schism within the worldwide Anglican Communion. Conservative Judaism became more open to leadership by gays.
  4. Global warming: Faith groups are taking stronger stances on both sides of this issue.
  5. Illegal immigration: Faith groups are also increasing debate on both sides of this issue.
  6. Monks' revolt: Buddhist monks in Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar) lead a pro-democracy, non-violent protest that was violently crushed by their government with a major loss of life.
  7. Episcopal Church, USA schism: Some dioceses attempt to sever ties with the denomination and seek oversight from foreign provinces in the Anglican Communion.
  8. U.S. Supreme Court: With the recent installation of justices to the court who follow a strict constructionist (a.k.a. originalist) legal philosophy, many justices now view the Bill of Rights and the rest of the U.S. Constitution as enduring documents. This means that they give major weight to the society's values and the authors' intent during the era in which the text was actually written. This approach results in a very different perspective on civil rights, because when the original U.S. Constitution was written:
    bulletWomen were excluded from many professions.
    bulletWomen were denied the right to vote or run for office.
    bulletSpousal abuse was very largely ignored
    bulletMarital rape was not recognized.
    bulletMany African Americans were not allowed to marry.
    bulletHuman slavery was an established institution.
    bulletHomosexuals were jailed and sometimes executed.

    During 2006, by the usual 5-4 vote, the strict constructionists prevailed in three major cases: declaring a ban on D&X abortions to be constitutional, allowing public schools to place limits on students free speech, and denying the public the right to challenge the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.

  9. Deaths among the leadership: Three leading fundamentalist leaders died: Jerry Falwell, Rex Humbard, and D. James Kennedy. Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, and Jim Bakker’s ex-wife, Tammy Faye Messner also died.
  10. Sexual abuse by Catholic priests: The Roman Catholic Church settled three major cases for $760 million dollars. Total to date is about $2.1 billion.

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Our picks for 2007:

We agree that the choices of the Religious Newswriters Association are important news items.

Other important factors are the continuing religious trends that are slowly changing the religious landscape in the U.S. and Canada:

bulletReligious diversity increasing: Religious diversity in the U.S. and Canada continues to increase. The U.S. has been called the most religiously diverse nation in the world. 2  Numbers of adults identifying themselves as Christians are dropping about 8% a decade; those not identified with a religion are increasing, as are non-Christian believers.
bulletProtestants become a minority: Protestants have recently became a minority in the U.S. for the first time since the nation was founded. Further, religious polarization is increasing as the percentage of fundamentalist and other evangelicals within Christianity grows, while the percentage of mainline Christians continues its multi-decade decline.
bulletReducing abortion rates: Pro-choicers are directing more effort towards reducing the rate of abortions. There is lots of room for reduction, as the U.S. has the highest abortion rate of any developed country. Pro-choicers propose to attack the cause of the need for abortions -- unwanted pregnancies -- through education and contraception. Some hope that they can cooperate with pro-life groups in this area.
bulletSame-sex marriage: Attorney General Patrick Lynch of Rhode Island said that same-sex marriages solemnized in Massachusetts are recognized in Rhode Island. More details. New Hampshire has legalized civil unions. More details. Same-sex marriage, which is recognized throughout Canada, has become a non-issue among the Canadian public.
bulletChristmas wars: This is a conflict in North America over whether people in December should wish each other:
bullet"Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" -- thus recognizing religious diversity and the many Christian and non-Christian  religious and secular celebrations near year end, or
bullet"Merry Christmas" -- thus recognizing the supremacy of Christianity to the exclusion of all other religions and of secularism.

The "wars" are one of the largest symptoms of the increasing religious diversity and secularism in the U.S.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Faith and politics top religion news story of 2007," Anglican Journal, 2008-JAN-01, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/
  2. Diana Eck, "A New Religious America: How a 'Christian Country' Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation," HarperSanFrancisco, (2001). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2008-JAN-01
Hyperlinks checked: 2008-JAN-01
Author: B. A. Robinson

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