There are various retrospectives on a variety of topics. To my mind, it's sort of a back-handed thank you from the News Media to everyone who "made the news" for "making the news" - and sold their newspapers, magazines, air time and generally increased their market share.
Religion has its own Top Ten.
Time Magazine listed Mormonism as it's top religious story, in a list that included the Beatification of Pope J2P2 (John Paul II), the indictment of Kansas City Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Finn on misdemeanor charges for not telling the police of a likely case of abuse of minors, and the death of Sathya Sai Baba, the most famous guru in India.
The Religion Newswriters Association voted Osama bin Laden’s death (and the faith response to it) their number one story in a list that included Harold "Don't They Know It's The End of the World" Camping, Rob "Love Wins" Bell, and Mississippi’s Personhood initiative.
Interestingly enough, no one in the thirty year history of the RNA was named "Religion Newsmaker of the Year" because there was a virtual three-way tie between Harold Camping, Pope Benedict XVI and Texas Governor Rick Perry.
I mean, really! Could you pick a "winner" from that list?
Never mind. Don't answer that.
Religion Dispatches ran an interesting list of the "Top 2011 Religion Stories That Weren’t".
Author Peter Laarman, former senior minister of New York’s Judson Memorial (UCC) Church and present executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting, made a list of the stories that should have been more in the news, but weren’t.
Two of the ten stories were different sides of the same LGBT Christian coin. Here they are:
4. Identity Crisis Within a Queer-Positive Christian DenominationAdmittedly, Story #4 does not come as a huge surprise to many LGBT Activists. It never surprises me that, once LGBT people become more assimilated into congregations and communities, they turn the efforts of their activism to broader issues of justice, working to right the wrongs of economic, ecological and racial injustice.
The Metropolitan Community Church came into its own in the ’70s and ’80s when most other denominations were distinctly unwelcoming. Now that so many mainline churches are totally okay with gay people, the MCC is losing members in some locations and wondering about its raison d'etre. The 2007 defection of the huge Dallas-based Cathedral of Hope to the UCC may have been a sign of things to come: the 88% who voted to leave felt that the MCC’s gay-friendly platform was simply too narrow; they wanted to be a full-spectrum progressive congregation. As the MCC begins to wane in the U.S., however, it continues to grow rapidly overseas—in countries where established Christian groups remain consistently hostile to queer people.
5. Latino Catholics Distinctly More Gay-Friendly Than Latino Evangelicals
A too-little-noticed 2010 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that a majority of Latino Catholics in California (57%) said they would vote to allow gay and lesbian couple to marry, compared to just 22% of Latino Protestants. This same Catholic-Protestant divide within the Latino community was evident across a wide range of public policy issues related to gay and lesbian rights. The Latino Catholic latitudinariansm on marriage tracks another almost-unreported finding, to wit: that the single most gay-friendly religious body in the U.S., bar none, is the lay Catholic community. Bishops, are you listening?
Which is really where most of us would rather be, as a matter of fact. Indeed, it's where most of us started and learned how to organize and work for justice until we began to realize that no one was going to work for full equality for LGBT people if we didn't begin our own movement.
I don't think that's an "identity crisis". I think that's an affirmation of the fullness of our identity as religious human beings who love God and seek to serve the people of God through our faith and love in Christ Jesus.
The fact that MCC - and other LGBT Christian organizations like Integrity and Dignity - are growing in countries where there is open Christian hostility to LGBT people says a great deal about the nature and identity of faith-based communities that serve oppressed minorities.
Neither am I surprised - but I admit that I am fascinated, however - by Story #5.
The single most gay-friendly religious body in the U.S. - "BAR NONE" - is the lay Roman Catholic community?
Well, I suppose other non-ordained Roman Catholics - and, probably some ordained ones as well - who, no doubt, are the same ones who support (and exercise) reproductive rights (including being pro-choice on abortion), work for economic justice, advocate for the abolition of the death penalty as well as the abolition of mandatory clerical celibacy, and promote the ordination of women.
It's the other side of the "seamless garment ethic" of "support of all life".
It's a little messier and not all the threads are tied together but I suspect it's more solid and united (57% !!) as the side the RC priests and bishops present to the rest of the world.
That's because many priests and bishops aren't listening to their own people.
There are none so deaf as those who hear but refuse to listen.
All that having been said, my curiosity is also peaked by the term "Latino Protestants". I suspect that's too broad a term. I'm thinking the more accurate term would be "Latino Evangelicals / Pentecostals". That would be more consistent with my experience.
Which should provide activists for Marriage Equality with a plan and strategy for their efforts.
I think a little "face time" with some "Latino Protestants" is in order. I'm not talking about "in your face" face time. I'm talking about being more like a "Stealth Queer for Jesus".
Let's put some of that LGBT "full-spectrum progressive platform" into action in faith-based Latino service agencies. Let's invite some of our RC allies to work along side us so the Latino Evangelicals can see that "all things work together for the good for those who love God" (Romans 8:28).
Let's learn to become bilingual - I'm talking both Spanish and the love of Jesus in action - in these communities.
Let's let them know that we are Christians by our love of all God's people - even when "people may hate and revile you" in the name of Jesus.
That's not going guarantee that we will receive love in return. Neither is it going to sway votes in 2012 - but it may begin to have an affect by 2015.
We'll be the progressive tortoise to the evangelical hare.
Slow and steady wins the race.
With any luck - and some continued hard but strategic work - we may not take issues like Marriage Equality and the ordination of LGBT people completely out of the Religious News headlines, but I think we've got a good shot at making it "old news".
Here's a headline I'd love to see: "Homophobia: SooOOoo Yesterday's News".
Now THAT would be news that would be fit to print!
P.S. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the "Top Ten Stories of 2011 from The Episcopal Church / Anglican Communion." Send them on in the Comments Section and I'll post the Top Ten before December 31st.