Three Predictions for 2011

Yesterday I appeared on Doug Pagitt Radio to look back at my predictions for the year in religion, entered a year ago, and to make some new predictions for the coming year.  I’ll post the video of the show when it’s available later today.  Until then, here’s a recap:

Regarding last year, we agreed that Muslims were less deference in American society.  I had predicted last year that politicians and pundits would stop calling Islam a “religion of peace,” and Pres W was so fond of doing. Indeed, the Religion News Service rated the NYC mosque debate as the number one religion story of 2010, and that was surely a debate ginned up with angry rhetoric from the right.  And not many prominent lefties weighed in — when Obama did, he did so tepidly and had to semi-retract a day later.

None of my other predictions could be so clearly declared accurate or inaccurate.

As for the coming year, I made three predictions:

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Five Predictions for 2010

I was on Doug‘s radio show on Sunday, and he asked me to make some predictions about religion in the news in 2010.  While I’m no Bono, I thought I’d give it a shot.  So, here they are:

5. A Handful of Evangelical Leaders Will Soften Their Stance on Gay Issues

You can see that I’ve got a couple caveats in that one — “handful” and “soften” and “issues.”  I don’t think that 2010 will see a great revolution in how evangelicals will view same sex marriage or gays in the church, but I do think that some leaders will speak out in support of civil unions or gay Sunday school teachers or something like that.  And I don’t think it’ll be Rick Warren or anything like that, but I do think it will be three or four leaders (authors, pastors, professors, etc.) will encourage evangelicals to take baby steps toward more inclusion of GLBT persons in church and society.

4. Rick Warren’s Cultural Influence Will Wane, and the Media Will Anoint a New Evangelical Spokesman

Rick Warren

That last two news items about Rick Warren in 2009 were not kind to him.  First, he dragged his feet for a couple weeks before speaking out against the proposed legislation in Uganda (where Warren is very popular) that would have made homosexuality a crime punishable by imprisonment and would have legalized the execution of those with HIV/AIDS.  Then, last week, he issued an “urgent plea” t0 his mega-church congregation on December 30 asking them to cover the church’s $900,000 shortfall.  Last weekend, Warren preached that the church’s $2.4 million response was a “miracle.”

Honestly, Warren pastors one of the nation’s largest congregations in one of the country’s wealthiest counties (Orange County, California).  In what sense is asking people for money and having them give it a “miracle”?  It’s for these reasons and others that I think the national media will start looking elsewhere for a fresh, young face to speak for evangelicals.  It won’t be Joel Osteen, because being “evangelical” is not a primary aspect of his public persona.  It won’t be Franklin Graham, because he’s not articulate enough.  It won’t be Rob Bell, because he eschews labels, and because the evangelical intelligentsia will not approve of him.  It won’t be Mark Driscoll for the same reason.  I think it will be a young (40-ish) pastor of a mega-church who lands himself a radio show and writes a best-seller.  Look for a guy like that on top-ten religion news lists at the end of 2010.

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