COVID and Biden rank among top religion stories of 2021


The Religion News Association, a trade organization for journalists who cover religion in secular news media, rings its membership annually to rank the best religious articles of the year. Here are several from 2021:

The flagship event of the year was the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol. It may not sound like a story of religion, but religious belief was an important element among the many who participated in this shocking act of sedition. Signs and banners bearing Christian slogans and symbols were numerous, as were those of pagan origin. The so-called “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley, once he reached the floor of the House of Representatives, removed his horned headdress and offered a long, rambling “prayer” that mixed Christian and nationalist sentiments.

History resonates because the movement that propelled the insurgency, and its religious impulses, have not faded.

Story # 2 on the 2021 ANR list is the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. The jury is still out on whether the Taliban are a gentler, gentler version of the fundamentalist Muslim group that terrorized the Afghan people 25 years ago.

The COVID pandemic has taken two places on the RNA’s list. One story involved people seeking religious exemptions from vaccination warrants, without much sympathy from major religious leaders. The other was the effect the pandemic is having on places of worship and major religious observances around the world. Almost all congregations report attendance and donations to be half to two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels.

On a related note, the pandemic may have accelerated a trend noted in another Top 10 story. A Gallup poll found that the number of members in places of worship fell below 50% for the year. first in the eight decades Gallup has measured the subject. Some 47% of Americans reported belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque in 2020, up from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999.

There were two stories related to the Southern Baptist Convention, which is said to have been the largest Protestant denomination in the country. (I have my doubts about this claim, which is based primarily on summary record keeping practices.) In a report, popular author and speaker Beth Moore announced that she had terminated her affiliation with the editorial arm of the SBC because of the “prevalent sexism and misogyny” in parts of the convention.

In a related dust-off, the convention’s senior leadership has been troubled by leaks of documents and resignations following an investigation into how they handled complaints of sexual abuse in local congregations. At its annual meeting, representatives pushed back an attempt to push the denomination further to the right, electing a president known to seek racial reconciliation and reaffirming a further investigation into how the Executive Committee has handled abuse complaints. sexual.

Finally, the top 10 religious stories included the election of Joe Biden as the country’s second Catholic president, with the ensuing controversy over his support for abortion rights in defiance of church teaching. . The RNA poll also named Biden the Religious Journalist of the Year.

When I was a journalist, longer than I would like to admit, some of these topics were also on RNA’s Top 10 list. The Taliban, the decline in religious affiliation, the controversies within the Southern Baptist Convention – we’ve seen it before.

Which only shows that at the turn of another year, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Cary McMullen is a retired journalist and former religious editor of The Ledger.


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