The big religion stories of ’08 were all about politics, it seems.
I’m finally catching up with the Religion Newswriters Association’s Top 10 Religion Stories of the year.
Number one, according to a vote of members, was the emergence of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the impact of his You-Tubed sermons on Obama’s campaign. (John Hagee’s endorsement of John McCain was also thrown into this nomination).
The Wright story was my choice for number one. For one thing, Wright’s sermons gave many Americans a sense, probably for the first time, of the political, often-sharply provocative, nature of black preaching. Black preachers have always used the pulpit to attack politics they believe to be unfair. No one who’s been to black churches could be surprised by the anger in Wright’s voice.
Ironically, Wright’s sermons probably made many Americans fully aware of the extent of the historical racial divide in this country — just as Obama’s campaign was getting closer to closing that divide.
The whole Wright affair also provoked Obama to give his speech on race, perhaps the highlight of the entire campaign season.
Obama was also voted top newsmaker of ’08 by RNA.
Coming in second for story of the year was the overall effort by Democrats to talk about faith and woo faith-based voters. I think this was an important story, but I question how much impact this effort actually had. All religious groups moved a bit to the left in this election (compared to in 2004). How much of it had to do with faith issues or Obama’s faith talk?
Sarah Palin’s nomination and her appeal to evangelicals came in third. She energized the base, no doubt. But did she change anything, in the end? I’m not so sure.
Number 4? Proposition D passes in California.
Number 5? The pope stops by.
6: Episcopal mess. 7: Mumbai attacks. 8. China crackdown on Buddhists. 9. The recession and its effects on houses of worship. 10. Violence in Iraq.