This blog is unusual in format in that I am not so much making a case as seeking ideas, in an open-ended way. There are no correct answers to my question, and I am genuinely looking for guidance. My questions specifically concern the 2010s, an important and action-packed era that comes to its end in a month or so. That decade, I fear, also falls short of getting the attention it deserves. I am presently writing a couple of retrospective pieces on the decade, and hence the open-ended requests for ideas.
Decades provide a useful, if not infallible, structure for organizing and understanding our historical experience. Nobody pretends that they are perfect, as very rarely do major trends fit neatly within such limits. Even so, terms like “the twenties,” “the sixties,” or “the eighties” each conjure their particular images and memories. Whatever we call it – the twenty-teens? – we have just completed another decade, and one with some real landmarks, especially in matters of religion. Just how significant they were can only be appreciated if we imagine ourselves standing at the very start of that decade, and think how dramatic or even stunning those developments would have appeared based on what we thought back then. As public servant John W. Gardner wisely observed, “History never looks like history when you are living through it,” but history it is, nevertheless.
So what will future scholars of Christianity highlight when they write the history of the 2010s? What tremors reshaped the landscape of faith?
I have plenty of my own ideas here. I would start with the papacy of Francis in the Roman Catholic church, with all that has meant for controversies within the church, and the struggles for an against reform.
-The Rise of the Nones, people admitting no religious affiliation, and what that might mean for secularization trends.
-The 2016 election and the conflicts within evangelicalism: charges that white evangelicals follow conservative politics at the expense of religious principles. See: a great many posts at this blog by multiple authors.
-Growing calls for women’s leadership within many churches, especially among evangelicals. See: a great many posts at this blog by multiple authors.
-The establishment of same sex marriage as mainstream social orthodoxy (the Obergefell decision 2015), with all the actual and potential clashes that sets up for churches, and for individual conservative C hristian believers.
-Activism and concern about climate issues and global warming becomes a leading cause for US churches.
That is a crude list, and definitely just a start. What else comes to mind? I don’t count the abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic church, which is undoubtedly vastly significant, but that story long predates 2010. What were the great Christianity-related stories of the 2010s? I freely admit that other observers might differ on some or all points.
Also, what are the iconic moments for Christianity over the past decade? When we think of modern Europe, we think of the breaking of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago almost to the day, and people very tentatively at first crossing that once unthinkable barrier. And then dancing on the Wall. You have all seen those stunning images. Are there any such images for the modern Christian story, over the past decade or so? Moments, or photos, or sayings? Whether heartbreaking or inspiring, what visuals would you choose? To begin, I might cite the aftermath of the 2015 terrorist attack on the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC.
And here is another follow up. What are the most influential Christian books of the past decade? I scarcely know where to begin!