Flashback 2015: Revealing Top 10 lists from Religion Dispatches and Patheos Evangelical

So far, your GetReligionistas have shared quite a few Top 10 story lists marking the end of the year -- like here, here, here and here, with an attached podcast here. These have ranged from the Religion Newswriters Association list to that of the Associated Press. I found it interesting (commentary here) that the top AP story -- period, as in the top story in the whole world -- was a religion news story, but that wasn't the top story in the RNA poll. Go figure.

Obviously, I find these lists fascinating, in part because they show us (a) just how complex the world of religion news really is and (b) the unique points of view (which can, in some cases become biases) that affect how scribes and editors see the world of religion news. There is much to learn in these lists, both for news professionals and news consumers.

In the next couple of days I will be posting a number of additional lists covering religion news in 2015, from a variety of different points of view.

Please let me know if I missed one or two that you would like to see posted.

Let's start with the Religion Dispatches list of the "Ten Religion Stores That Went (Mostly) Missing in 2015." The whole idea here, of course, is that these are stories that, from the point of view of Peter Laarman, SHOULD have received more coverage in the past year.

Read them all. But here are a few that caught my eye:

2. The struggle of the Black Church to come to terms with #BlackLivesMatter.
In some cities there has been visible conflict between Old Guard pastors (many of whom still identify with the 20th century civil rights movement) and the New Guard of fearless youth, many of whom are not shy about showing contempt for the pastors.
This is not just a story about intergenerational conflict; it’s about different visions of what a healthy African American response to white supremacy looks like in the 21st century.

And also:

5. The capacity of gun violence to awaken the sleepers.
Forgive the expression, but gun violence seems to be the one issue that triggers a deep-level horrified response from the American faithful.
People who wouldn’t dream of doing anything “political” will go to vigils and even write letters. But what does this really mean? And why does it stop short of looking at the underlying dynamics of hundreds of everyday shootings in places like the west side of Baltimore and the south side of Chicago?

And this one, as well:

6. Toilets.
“You can’t go in there!” riles up the righteous in Houston. But, on the other hand, hundreds of congregations are doing small group study on what “trans” means, and many of the faithful merely shrug at the idea of queer Scoutmasters, for God’s sake. Sexual difference seems to be much less frightening to ever larger swathes of American religious.

And if you have been reading GetReligion at all (demographics are destiny), then you know that I think this next one is crucial:

7. Religion and real estate.
It’s not just Union Seminary that’s in a pickle over “deferred maintenance.” It’s not even the fairly well-publicized struggles of other venerable religious institutions on the East Coast: General Seminary, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the National Cathedral, etc.
Out here on the Left Coast the famously progressive All Saints Church just gave up on a $50 million remake of its campus in the face of internal division and stiff resistance from preservationists who didn’t want to see a sleek ichard Meier building going up in the middle of the Pasadena’s historic Spanish Revival municipal center. ...

Over at the Patheos blog called "The Evangelical Pulpit," there was a list of the Top 10 "news stories for Evangelicals" in the previous year. Check that out here.

Most of the contents of this list were pretty predictable, I thought, but it contained one real shocker -- not so much that this story was in the list but how far down the list it was, in terms of importance.

As you would expect, the top of the list looked like this:

1. Continued Persecution of the Global Church
Although Patheos Evangelical often concerns itself with the church in the West, evangelicals’ hearts still remain with their brethren overseas who suffer under the rod of despotic regimes and the violence of evil men. The grinding oppression of Communist and Islamist regime remains as it has in years past. However, 2015 witnessed several horrific atrocities committed against Christians on account of their faith. Nigerian congregations continued to be hit with attacks from Boko Haram. In February, 21 Coptic Christians were captured and beheaded by ISIL militants, all captured on grisly video. ISIL also carved a bloody swath through some of the most ancient of Christian communities in the Middle East, especially Syria. ...
2. Obergefell v. Hodges
After years of culture warring and bitter political debate, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the United States. As powerful corporations, influential media personalities, family, and friends posted rainbows in celebration of the LGBT victory, many American evangelicals noticed the radical shift in cultural attitudes toward marriage, religious tradition, and sexual morality. The days of the Moral Majority and progressive hand-wringing over an American theocracy are long gone. Meanwhile, congregations, denominations, and religious institutions continue to prepare for whatever legal fallout may arise in the court case’s wake. Many evangelical congregants now face anxiety over their jobs as their employers and workplaces have declared themselves openly hostile to biblical sexual mores, which are now labeled as bigotry. ...

Then in the middle of the list there was this interesting note, especially for long-time GetReligion readers. The crucial FAQ that goes with this debate -- must reading -- can be found here.

4. The Benedict Option
Culled from the work of Alastair McIntyre and popularized by Eastern Orthodox blogger Rod Dreher, the Benedict Option has been raised as a strategy for dealing with the aforementioned social shifts and their root causes. Packaged as a focused re-engagement of intensive Christian community-building amid a dying culture, it has been criticized as a panicked retreat a la the Fundamentalists. Although the reception of the “Ben Op” was mixed, everyone talked about it.

So what shocked me? I was stunned that this item was so low on the list. I would have had this at No. 2 or 3 in this particular list:

7. Charleston Massacre and Racial Reconciliation
Evangelicals bore even more grief when white supremacist Dylann Roof visited a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, opening fire upon black attendees. Nine souls were killed in the attack. Roof’s desire to start a race war was soundly defeated by the power of mercy. The entire nation was left breathless as family members of the victims confronted the murderer at his hearing and forgave him. White evangelicals realized their black brothers and sisters had much to teach them in terms of facing hardship, opposition, and evil in a manner worthy of the faith. ...

Several more to come.

Still, please send me interesting, or infuriating, 2015 year-ender Top 10 lists that your GetReligionistas have missed.

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