Top religion stories of 2012

Religion journalists selected the top religion stories of the year:

1. U.S. Catholic bishops lead opposition to Obamacare requirement that insurance coverage for contraception be provided for employees. The government backs down a bit, but not enough to satisfy the opposition.

2. A Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey shows that “nones” is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, rising to 19.6 percent of the population.

3. The circulation of an anti-Islam film trailer, “Innocence of Muslims,” causes unrest in several countries, leading to claims that it inspired the fatal attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. President Obama, at the U.N., calls for toleration. . .  of blasphemy, and respect as a two-way street.

4. Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith turns out to be a virtual non-issue for white evangelical voters, who support him more strongly than they did John McCain, in the U.S. presidential race.

5. Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia becomes the first senior Catholic official in the U.S. to be found guilty of covering up priestly child abuse; later Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., becomes the first bishop to be found guilty of it.

6. The Vatican criticizes the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group of U.S. nuns, alleging they haven’t supported church teaching on abortion, sexuality or women’s ordination.

7. Voters OK same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington, bringing the total approving to nine states and the District of Columbia. Also, Minnesota defeats a ban on same-sex marriage after North Carolina approves one.

8. The Episcopal Church overwhelmingly adopts a trial ritual for blessing same-sex couples. Earlier, the United Methodists fail to vote on approving gay clergy, and the Presbyterians (USA) vote to study, rather than sanction same-sex marriage ceremonies.

9. Six people are killed and three wounded at worship in a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee. The shooter, an Army veteran killed by police, is described as a neo-Nazi.

10. Southern Baptist Convention elects without opposition its first black president, the Rev. Fred Luter of New Orleans.

via Journalists Vote for Contraception Fight as Top 2012 U.S. Religion Story.

What can you conclude about the state of American religion from this list?  What does it leave out?  What do you think are the most significant religious or spiritual developments of 2012?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    In 2012, the most important religious news continued to be the Good News. Many people around the world were surprised by joy when they heard it.

  • Tom Hering

    In 2012, the most important religious news continued to be the Good News. Many people around the world were surprised by joy when they heard it.

  • Dan Kempin

    “Top (angles that can reflect negatively on the Christian) Religion stories of 2012″

    Seriously, this is a very articulate argument on why you should not get your news from religion journalists. I mean, really? The #6 religion story for the entire year was . . . what? (Did they lead that story with “This just in?”)

    And the #10 story–the real shocker–is that Baptist Christians are NOT bitter anti-black racists? Who knew? (Well, it was probably a fluke or an error with the voting machines.)

    But at least we’ve reinforced the idea that priests are molesters (#5) and churches that proclaim homosexuality as a sin are hopelessly out of touch (#7, #8).

    I won’t even mention the fact that #4 cites such a narrow demographic as to make me suspicious. I am personally persuaded that the mormonism of Mitt Romney DID suppress the Christian vote across the spectrum. But whatever. For being the #4 religion story of the entire year, I don’t recall anyone actually reporting that story. (And I probably would have noticed.)

    That’s some quality journalism, boys and girls! Seriously, (and I’m using my best sarcastic font here):

    I can’t think of ANY other religion stories that did not make this list. Nope. Not a one. No stories about the massive geopolitical changes that took place THIS YEAR with a certain religion that rhymes with “schmislam.” No reports massive changes in US government policy toward religions. Not even any reports of Christian persecution. Great job religion journalists! You deserve an award!

    (Slow clap to fade . . .)

  • Dan Kempin

    “Top (angles that can reflect negatively on the Christian) Religion stories of 2012″

    Seriously, this is a very articulate argument on why you should not get your news from religion journalists. I mean, really? The #6 religion story for the entire year was . . . what? (Did they lead that story with “This just in?”)

    And the #10 story–the real shocker–is that Baptist Christians are NOT bitter anti-black racists? Who knew? (Well, it was probably a fluke or an error with the voting machines.)

    But at least we’ve reinforced the idea that priests are molesters (#5) and churches that proclaim homosexuality as a sin are hopelessly out of touch (#7, #8).

    I won’t even mention the fact that #4 cites such a narrow demographic as to make me suspicious. I am personally persuaded that the mormonism of Mitt Romney DID suppress the Christian vote across the spectrum. But whatever. For being the #4 religion story of the entire year, I don’t recall anyone actually reporting that story. (And I probably would have noticed.)

    That’s some quality journalism, boys and girls! Seriously, (and I’m using my best sarcastic font here):

    I can’t think of ANY other religion stories that did not make this list. Nope. Not a one. No stories about the massive geopolitical changes that took place THIS YEAR with a certain religion that rhymes with “schmislam.” No reports massive changes in US government policy toward religions. Not even any reports of Christian persecution. Great job religion journalists! You deserve an award!

    (Slow clap to fade . . .)

  • SKPeterson

    I think the problem with covering religious stories is that they seldom unfold easily in the span of a single year; religion stories can easily unfold over decades to be told properly. A top religious story could have been the Seminex crisis in the LC-MS, but that story spanned several decades of back and forth, only somewhat culminating in the eventual walkout. But, then you have the formation of the AELC, the eventual emergence of the ELCA, the slow ascendancy within the ELCA of the old AELC/Seminex group, the theological shift in the ELCA that resulted, with other developments unfolding in the LCMS with regards to seminary education and the advance of contemporary worship.

    That sort of action and activity would be akin to the Vatican calling out the dissident nun movement. We had a formal announcement this past year, but it is a momentary climax of an ongoing effort by the Vatican to impose some measure of discipline and theological coherence. This is mirrored by the theological drift of many of the Roman Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. and the attempts by the Vatican to impose more oversight. This will play out over decades as well as it started under JP 2 and is moving ahead slowly under Ben 16.

    My two+ cents:
    Again, the list is very Amero-centric. No mention of the continuing slaughter of Christians in Nigeria by Islamic extremists for example. Little about the persecution of the Copts in Egypt or even the pressures on the Christians in Syria. Kind of like the complete absence of any updates on the precarious situation of the Assyrian church in Iraq. Also, little play with the stories of (especially African) clergy in the Anglican, Lutheran and other communions that are increasingly refusing to kow tow to the perquisites and preferences of the First World churches for even female clergy, much less actively homosexual clergy. Again, though, that will play out over years as the Christian churches in the Second and Third World will strengthen and grow and not only ignore the old Euro-American church authorities, but will start sending their own missionaries into the harvest in those nations. For every gay-affirming relationship ritual in a dying denomination story, there are plenty of others about how churches are baptizing, converting and spreading the Gospel in areas of poverty, neglect and war while staying true to the historic forms of Christianity. Further, there should be some more stories about the pernicious spread of the Word of Faith heresies into Africa.

  • SKPeterson

    I think the problem with covering religious stories is that they seldom unfold easily in the span of a single year; religion stories can easily unfold over decades to be told properly. A top religious story could have been the Seminex crisis in the LC-MS, but that story spanned several decades of back and forth, only somewhat culminating in the eventual walkout. But, then you have the formation of the AELC, the eventual emergence of the ELCA, the slow ascendancy within the ELCA of the old AELC/Seminex group, the theological shift in the ELCA that resulted, with other developments unfolding in the LCMS with regards to seminary education and the advance of contemporary worship.

    That sort of action and activity would be akin to the Vatican calling out the dissident nun movement. We had a formal announcement this past year, but it is a momentary climax of an ongoing effort by the Vatican to impose some measure of discipline and theological coherence. This is mirrored by the theological drift of many of the Roman Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. and the attempts by the Vatican to impose more oversight. This will play out over decades as well as it started under JP 2 and is moving ahead slowly under Ben 16.

    My two+ cents:
    Again, the list is very Amero-centric. No mention of the continuing slaughter of Christians in Nigeria by Islamic extremists for example. Little about the persecution of the Copts in Egypt or even the pressures on the Christians in Syria. Kind of like the complete absence of any updates on the precarious situation of the Assyrian church in Iraq. Also, little play with the stories of (especially African) clergy in the Anglican, Lutheran and other communions that are increasingly refusing to kow tow to the perquisites and preferences of the First World churches for even female clergy, much less actively homosexual clergy. Again, though, that will play out over years as the Christian churches in the Second and Third World will strengthen and grow and not only ignore the old Euro-American church authorities, but will start sending their own missionaries into the harvest in those nations. For every gay-affirming relationship ritual in a dying denomination story, there are plenty of others about how churches are baptizing, converting and spreading the Gospel in areas of poverty, neglect and war while staying true to the historic forms of Christianity. Further, there should be some more stories about the pernicious spread of the Word of Faith heresies into Africa.

  • http://Gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    On the top should be the extermination/expulsion of Christians in the mid-east.

  • http://Gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    On the top should be the extermination/expulsion of Christians in the mid-east.

  • CRB

    I can only conclude one thing: “Come, Lord Jesus!”

  • CRB

    I can only conclude one thing: “Come, Lord Jesus!”

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    Most of the stories show a Christianity in retreat in the Western world. I’m hoping Christians in Africa step up their missionary efforts to the Western world as we return to paganism and materialism. They also need to grow in sophistication to defend against pagan Western culture if it encroaches.

    I also hope Africans gain the power and stability to defend themselves if we try to impose our evil religious impulses by economic or military force.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    Most of the stories show a Christianity in retreat in the Western world. I’m hoping Christians in Africa step up their missionary efforts to the Western world as we return to paganism and materialism. They also need to grow in sophistication to defend against pagan Western culture if it encroaches.

    I also hope Africans gain the power and stability to defend themselves if we try to impose our evil religious impulses by economic or military force.

  • Tom Hering

    I also hope Africans gain the power and stability to defend themselves if we try to impose our evil religious impulses by economic or military force. (@ 6)

    Huh. I could swear this was the hope of Al Qaeda and the Taliban for countries in the Middle East. At least it sounds awfully familiar. Huh.

  • Tom Hering

    I also hope Africans gain the power and stability to defend themselves if we try to impose our evil religious impulses by economic or military force. (@ 6)

    Huh. I could swear this was the hope of Al Qaeda and the Taliban for countries in the Middle East. At least it sounds awfully familiar. Huh.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    #7 Sounds to me like you have trouble distinguishing between Christianity and Islam.

    Christians aren’t conducting terrorism worldwide and driving religious minorities out of their nations in an attempt to violently impose sharia law.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    #7 Sounds to me like you have trouble distinguishing between Christianity and Islam.

    Christians aren’t conducting terrorism worldwide and driving religious minorities out of their nations in an attempt to violently impose sharia law.

  • Tom Hering

    No, but it’s still your hope they’ll defend themselves against the corrupting influences of the decadent West, i.e., America, the Great Satan (“our evil religious impulses”). And that this will involve warfare (“military force”). So again, you sound an awful lot like a militant Islamist, in spirit.

  • Tom Hering

    No, but it’s still your hope they’ll defend themselves against the corrupting influences of the decadent West, i.e., America, the Great Satan (“our evil religious impulses”). And that this will involve warfare (“military force”). So again, you sound an awful lot like a militant Islamist, in spirit.

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Pr Mark Henderson

    Very American-centric list. Others have already mentioned the Middle East and Africa, so…no mention of the Pope’s butler being imprisoned in the Vatican and the story behind it? I thought that was very poorly reported throughout the year, actually.

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Pr Mark Henderson

    Very American-centric list. Others have already mentioned the Middle East and Africa, so…no mention of the Pope’s butler being imprisoned in the Vatican and the story behind it? I thought that was very poorly reported throughout the year, actually.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    #9 “you sound an awful lot like a militant Islamist, in spirit.”

    So what? Saying someone sounds like a militant Islamist in spirit is an aspersion not an argument. From my perspective you sound like an atheist communist, in spirit, but that has no bearing on the validity of your viewpoint.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    #9 “you sound an awful lot like a militant Islamist, in spirit.”

    So what? Saying someone sounds like a militant Islamist in spirit is an aspersion not an argument. From my perspective you sound like an atheist communist, in spirit, but that has no bearing on the validity of your viewpoint.

  • Hanni

    I find it difficult to believe that contraception is the top story. Why is that religious? I know Catholics don’t “believe” in contraception at all, but that has been the case for years. I thought it was political, caught up in the obamacare squabble.

  • Hanni

    I find it difficult to believe that contraception is the top story. Why is that religious? I know Catholics don’t “believe” in contraception at all, but that has been the case for years. I thought it was political, caught up in the obamacare squabble.

  • Trey

    Hanni #12

    The mandate is more than about contraception. It includes abortifacients- abortion inducing drugs- and sterilizations. The issue is not that Roman Catholics affirm the moral truth that these things are contrary to human design, but of Obama’s secular agenda trying to impose them on anyone the wishes to conduct business in the U.S. This is a violation of the First amendment.

  • Trey

    Hanni #12

    The mandate is more than about contraception. It includes abortifacients- abortion inducing drugs- and sterilizations. The issue is not that Roman Catholics affirm the moral truth that these things are contrary to human design, but of Obama’s secular agenda trying to impose them on anyone the wishes to conduct business in the U.S. This is a violation of the First amendment.