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Five Predictions for 2010

Five Predictions for 2010 January 5, 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.

3. Universalism Will Become a Hot Topic among Evangelicals

Scot has already started the conversation at Jesus Creed, and I’m going to think and blog about it this year.  But this isn’t why I make this prediction.  Instead, I think that, in the same way we saw John Piper and NT Wright banter about the atonement and justification over the past couple years, we will see evangelicals (and others) wrestle with the question, Can I be a Christian and a universalist?

This question is a natural outgrowth of the increasing pluralism in our world, forcing committed Christians to ask how we can maintain our faith in a distinctive sense and yet honor the 4 billion people on the planet who think that other religious systems offer them truth and eternal life.  Personally, I welcome a more nuanced conversation about this, hints of which I already see in the comments on my post last week.

Pope Benedict XVI

2. The Pope Will Do and Say Nothing Controversial

Other than getting attacked by a woman on Christmas Eve, Pope Benedict XVI did virtually nothing noteworthy in the news in 2009.  The most I heard was when he moved the time of Christmas midnight mass from 11pm to 10pm (maybe he wanted to make room an adult learning hour).  I think that in past years, when he has spoken harshly about Islam, reaffirmed the exclusivity of Catholicism as the “one true church,” and preached against the scourge of secularism in Europe, he has discovered that he could not weather the media storm with the same aplomb of his predecessor.  So, I think he’s learned his lesson and will serve out his tenure in relative quiet, being the transitional pope that many experts predicted he’d be.

1. Political Correctness Regarding Islam in the West Will Decrease

“Not all Muslims are terrorists, but virtually all terrorists are Muslims.”  When I heard this, on NPR of all places, in the wake of the Christmas Underpants Bomber, I knew that something had changed.  President Bush and President Obama have both repeatedly referred to Islam as a “religion of peace,” even if most of Red State America didn’t believe them.  With the recent uptick in attacks and attempts against the U.S., I fear that even the more progressive elements of our society will not maintain the politically correct verbiage when referring to Islam.

So, those are my predictions.  What are yours?

Videos of my conversation with Doug on the radio show below:

Predictions 5 and 4 (12 minutes)

Predictions 3, 2, and 1 (9 minutes)

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