Time Magazine has just published a collection of articles called the "The Top Ten of Everything in 2008." The lists would make good questions for a trivia pursuit game. What couple was listed first under "Top 10 Breakups" of 2008? (Madonna & Guy Ritchie) What was the first of the "Top 10 Buzzwords" of 2008? (Change) What was the number 1 in the "Top 10 Olympic Moments?" (Michael Phelps’ photo finish)
Under the category of "Top 10 Religious Stories of 2008," the top three listed were the economy, Mormon political power, and the visit to the U.S. by Pope Benedict. These are all big stories, of course, but here are a few religious stories and events from 2008 that Time failed to mention.
On Feb. 29, the spiritual leader of the Christians in Iraq, Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Rahho, was kidnapped and murdered — his death highlighting the tragic plight of the Christians in Iraq.
On May 2, Cyclone Nargis tore through Myanmar (Burma) causing a tidal surge that swept inland killing an estimated 150,000 people. On May 12, the Sichuan province of China experienced an earthquake that measured 8 on the Richter scale and killed an estimated 69,000 people — the 19th deadliest quake in recorded history. Both of these events resulted in large-scale outreach from Christian charities around the world.
In July, 16 of the world’s leading biologists issued this statement in Altenburg, Austria, "The theory of evolution is inadequate to explain our existence. It’s pre the discovery of DNA." Theirs was just one of the signs that 2008 was a good year for the Intelligent Design movement. In November, two prominent scientists, Dr. David Berlinsk and Dr. Bradley Monton, one an agnostic the other an atheist, voiced their skepticism of Darwinism. (To see clips from Dr. Berlinski look on Youtube.com) 2008 saw the releases of the Ben Stein documentary, "Expelled," which became the leading political documentary film of the year. (This film actually led to the passing of the Louisiana Academic Freedom Act, protecting teachers that encourage critical thinking and objective discussion about evolution.) And, according to Science Daily, there is a group of engineers committed to looking at nature from an ID perspective and reverse engineering has come up with several fascinating discoveries. In the examination of the bumpy edge of whale flippers it was discovered that a bumpy fins actually creates vortices and generates more lift than would a clean edged fin, which in turn has lead to the design of more efficient and quieter wind turbines.
In September, Sherwood Baptist Church released its third film, "Fireproof." The film took the number four spot at the box office its opening weekend, proving that Christian films can hold their own. "Fireproof" stayed in the top 10 for three weeks.
Racism became the non-story of the Nov. 4, US Presidential Election. Despite inflammatory comments by the President-Elect’s former pastor, the US proved itself to be decidedly non-racist, with the majority white USA electing an African American its next President.
Also on Nov. 4, voters across the US made a strong statement on the definition of marriage. Voters in California approved a constitutional amendment (Proposition 8) that overturned the California Supreme Courts decision which had allowed for same sex marriage. Gay marriage was also is voted down in Florida and Arizona.
And finally, on Dec. 3, the Anglican Church of North America was formed. It is expecting to soon have more than 100,000 members as the former Episcopalians of four diocese and hundred’s of parishes find a new church home. This is just the latest of the repercussion of a 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson, an openly gay and non-celibate priest, as an Episcopal Bishop.
These are just a few of the religious stories and events that I would add to Time Magazine’s list. How would you rank them in order of importance?
John Donaldson is the pastor at Newborn and Mansfield UMC and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org