Abortion took the lead on the back stretch and finished first in the annual race for religion story of significance. But other national trends were not far behind and, as always, controversies within the various Christian traditions occupied a great deal of religious energy. Bringing up the rear were a bunch of isolated episodes that brought trauma, even death.

TheMeetingHouse has reported all of this and also sought to provide, through conversation and commentary (plus a bit of humor), a hopeful, healing perspective of the role of religion in American life.

Abortion broke into the open when somebody leaked a draft of a Supreme Court decision. In spite of that, many were shocked when the Court released its Dobbs v Jackson decision striking down the implied right to privacy (and with it, the constitutional right to an abortion). The pushback was immediate: on the Court, in state legislatures, and at the ballot box.

The Court decision marked the successful conclusion of a long-running, religiously-fueled campaign to overturn the famous 1973 Roe v Wade decision recognizing the right to an abortion. To balance the celebration of some, the Court’s reputation and legitimacy took a dangerous dive.

But three more stories of national import need to be mentioned.

First, Christian Nationalism moved into the forefront of public and political discussion. Two years ago, it wasn’t even a thing; but now, the phrase has taken on a life of its own, especially as it expresses the convictions of many—not a majority, by any means—that the country needs to reassert in legal and rhetorical ways its Christian heritage and values. Chief among these efforts was the Reawaken America Tour led by former general Mike Flynn.

Second, sociologists of religion parlayed their data to demonstrate: that affiliation in Christian organizations and congregations is at an all-time low, now below 50% of the population; that church attendance has fallen dramatically during the pandemic and has not recovered; and that belief in God has declined from the high ninetys to the low eightys (97% to 81% over three decades).

Third, the Supreme Court gave a string of victories to religious groups seeking freedom from laws that were put in place to guard the separation of church and state. These included organizations that wanted to fly their flag on a public pole, churches that wanted to ignore pandemic protocols, artists who wish to deny creative services to LGBTQ people, and school employees who want to lead students in prayer. More deference to religious groups, especially of the conservative Christian type, is surely on the way.

Internal controversies among Christian groups drained energy and enthusiasm from so many leaders and followers.

The Global Methodist Church launched as an alternative to the United Methodist Church drew hundreds, even thousands of congregations into the split. Southern Baptists received a report from the independent Guideposts Consultants chronicling decades of indifference and inaction regarding sexual abuse in its churches.

The various Orthodox networks grappled with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, both countries dominated by the Orthodox version of Christianity. The Orthodox Patriarch of Russia defended the war as a way to reassert Christian civilization against the liberal and secular West.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church pushed forward its vision of greater participation by laypeople, women, and local bishops in shaping the life, worship, and ministry of the Church. These synodal efforts, as they are known, are undermined by the continuing tensions between progressives (led by Pope Francis) and conservatives.

Finally, Hillsong—once a dominant worship brand among Evangelicals and Pentecostals—continued its struggle to survive sexual abuse accusations at the highest levels of leadership. Other megachurch pastors endured embarrassing reprimands that portend a conflicted future for church leadership. And in places here and there around the country, gathered or gathering worshippers suffered their share of the deadly gun violence that has so occupied the lead stories on websites throughout the nation.

Throughout all of this, TheMeetingHouse has tried to report the news and move into the forefront of a new version of religious broadcasting. Our aim is not, like so many others in the business, to teach the Bible, preach the gospel, or convert the skeptic (as important as these are), but to promote a culture of conversation, curiosity, and the common good. To that end, we upgraded our broadcast and polished our media products, looking forward to all the best possibilities in the new year.

Thank you for your interest in this weekly newsletter and also in the weekly broadcast. It is a labor of love. Merry Christmas to all!

Published On: December 10th, 2022 / Categories: Commentary, Uncategorized /

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