Politics wins again (surprise)

This is the time of year, of course, when news organizations post their Top 10 lists for the year. On the religion beat, the list that gets the most attention is the one produced by a poll of the members of the Religion Newswriters Association. Click here to see it's announcement of the results.

I no longer get to vote in this poll, since my work for the Scripps Howard News Service is not my full-time job. However, I still write about the poll year after year.

Actually, it's pretty easy to predict the results -- since the biggest stories in the world often have a religion angle (thus, GetReligion exists). However, it is also clear that, when in doubt, you can count on politics or the pope placing very high. This year's results are a perfect example of this reality. So here is how I started my column on this topic last week:

It was a simple commercial, with Mike Huckabee posed in front of a set of scandalously empty white bookshelves that, when framed just right beside a Christmas tree, formed a glowing cross behind the candidate.

And, lo, the former Southern Baptist pastor told the voters: "Are you about worn out by all the television commercials you've been seeing, mostly about politics? I don't blame you. At this time of year, sometimes it's nice to pull aside from all of that and just remember that what really matters is a celebration of the birth of Christ and being with our family and our friends. I hope that you and your family will have a magnificent Christmas season. And on behalf of all of us, God bless and merry Christmas."

This caused a firestorm among the political elites that symbolized the year's biggest trend in religion news -- the revenge of the infamous "values voters" who, apparently, remain alive and well in church pews across the heartland.

But will the Republican Party win this "pew gap" contest again? That was the question that dominated the Religion Newswriters Association poll to determine the top 10 religion news stories in 2007. There were plenty of new signs that the so-called religious right exists, but that it isn't a monolith after all.

The key, as GetReligion regulars know, is that this story has two sides. Thus, it was striking to note how the RNA leaders worded the items that were selected as the No. 1 and 2 items in the poll.

The top item: "Evangelical voters ponder whether they will be able to support the eventual Republican candidate, as they did in 2004, because of questions about the leaders' faith and-or platform. Many say they would be reluctant to vote for Mormon Mitt Romney."

The runner up: "Leading Democratic presidential candidates make conscious efforts to woo faith-based voters after admitting failure to do so in 2004."

The key to the whole Huckabee story, in my opinion, is that it offers more evidence that mainstream evangelical and conservative Catholic voters are not, repeat are not, meshing well with the GOP establishment. Huckabee is, after all, essentially a pre-Roe Bible Belt Democrat. Somebody really ought to write a book about this whole topic. Wait! Someone named Mark Stricherz has done that already.

You can read the rest of the RNA poll for yourself, either at the group's site or in my column. This is also a year when you should check out the radically different poll results over at Christianity Today and at Time magazine.

The top item at CT focused on an issue of great concern to evangelicals, but it was also a global level human rights story:

1. Taliban takes Korean short-term mission team hostage, killing two Afghanistan's resurgent Taliban used the team of 23 short-term workers from Saemmul Presbyterian Church as a bargaining chip, pressuring the South Korean government into a reported ransom payment and a promise to withdraw its 200 troops in the country. Bae Hyeong-gyu and Shim Seongmin were killed before the negotiation was completed.

Time, surprise, led with, well, the Time magazine cover about the spiritual struggles of Mother Teresa.

So, please consider this an open thread for commentary on these three Top 10 religion-news lists or any others that you have seen in mainstream or religious media.

Fire away. Contrast. Compare.

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