The year 2017 may not have been the biggest ever for religion news in the U.S. or the world, but it has to be close.
Only a few minutes of Googling reveals an array of top-10 lists related to faith, as is customary this time of year.
Baptist News Global shared a list based on how well they demonstrate its mission. The selected stories included immigrants nervous about changes to DACA, the imminent bursting of the megachurch bubble, the impact of the “Nashville Statement” and a same-sex couple chosen to lead a historic Baptist church.
Christianity Today rolled out a list of 20 top stories of 2017, among them some high-profile abuse-related scandals, Houston churches battling Hurricane Harvey flooding and the Eugene Peterson same-sex marriage flap.
But it’s hard to imagine a list more astonishing than the Religion News Association’s Top 10 Religion Stories of the Year poll, which was published Dec. 14. Any one of the top four could hardly have been believed 12 months earlier.
RNA’s rankings start with the strong presence of conservative evangelicals in the Donald Trump administration. That includes Vice President Mike Pence and the president’s informal religious advisory body.
Images of its members, many of them high-profile Southern Baptist ministers, laying hands on and praying for Trump have become iconic.
Next, RNS lists the white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va. and the faith-based counter protests. Trump’s words and actions following the events shocked many.
The president continues to dominate U.S. religion news with his anti-Muslim actions and rhetoric coming in third on the RNA list. The organization includes the president’s Muslim travel ban, the airport protests against it, as well as his continued inflammatory social media posts and retweeting of anti-Muslim videos.
Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, “while calling for continued access to Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy sites,” was number four.
The persecution of Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar rounds out the top-5 in the RNA list.
Filling out the top 10, in order, were: the killing of 26 church goers in Sutherland Springs, Texas; Roy Moore winning the GOP senatorial nomination in Alabama (the poll was taken before the election Moore lost); Trump’s placement of conservatives on the federal bench; black NFL players citing their faith to protest racial injustice; and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
It lists another 17 stories that did not make the cut, including faith-inspired opposition to ending the “Dreamers” act, the rise of hate crimes and Trump’s support of religious-liberty exemptions in LGBTQ cases.
RNA members also voted Donald Trump as Religion Newsmaker of the Year “after his inauguration triggered upheaval across a number of religious fronts, among them the role of evangelical support of his administration; fierce debates over Islam, race and religious liberty; the appointment of conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch; and executive orders relating to immigration and terrorism.”
Runners-up for the designation included Martin Luther, Roy Moore, Moral Mondays leader William J. Barber II, Pope Francis, Trump spiritual adviser Paula White-Cain, Saudi Arabian crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Joseph Tobin of Newark, N.J., for their work in social justice.