Top 10 Religion Stories of 2004
1. The re-election of George W. Bush and the new prominence of the “values voter”
Despite a difficult war and the concerted opposition of most of the “old media,” the president won a solid victory and plans a big second-term agenda. Key to Bush’s victory were evangelicals and “values voters,” who once again were turned off by the secular Democrats.
2. The Passion of the Christ
Despite wild charges that it (1) would spark anti-Semitism and (2) would be a financial flop, Mel Gibson’s self-financed film about the last hours of Jesus became a huge hit, earning more than $500 million. Many viewers said the movie changed their lives.
3. The marriage debate
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ordered state lawmakers to legalize marriage between homosexuals, President Bush decided to support the Federal Marriage Amendment (which failed its first test in Congress), and voters in 11 states passed measures supporting heterosexual marriage in 11 states on November 2.
4. The stem-cell debate
With the deaths of Ronald Reagan and Christopher Reeve, supporters of embryonic stem-cell research (including John Edwards) largely ignored progress with adult stem cells and attempted to win public support for research that destroys nascent human life for uncertain and over-hyped scientific cures. California voters, already deeply in hock, voted to spend $3 billion for stem-cell research.
5. Sudan: good news, bad news
Peace was announced between Muslims, Christians, and animists after two decades of bloody civil war, but Muslim-on-Muslim genocide was occurring in the western Darfur region.
6. The Anglican Communion’s impending breakup
After Episcopalians in New Hampshire installed an open homosexual as their bishop–in defiance of church teaching–a much-anticipated report on the matter amounted to little more than a wrist-slap. So conservative Anglicans here and overseas began taking steps to break up the worldwide Anglican Communion, with Africans in some of the most high-profile roles.
7. The persecution and exodus of Christians in Iraq
As Iraq’s security situation deteriorated, extremist attacks against minority Christians and churches were reported. Tens of thousands fled the country.
8. The persecution of house-church Christians in China
The communist government launched a harsh new crackdown against unregistered house churches, including the December abduction/arrest of Zhang Rongliang, a prominent house-church leader.
9. The FCC’s crackdown on indecent broadcasting
Following Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl, the Federal Communications Commission started handing out massive fines to polluters of the nation’s airwaves.
10. Partial-birth abortion ban blocked
Federal judges in three states ruled that the first restriction on abortion to be signed into law in three decades is unconstitutional.