While Donald Trump's crusade to win the White House was the top story of 2016, journalists in the Religion News Association saluted the brash billionaire's opponents by giving their top honor to the Muslim parents who made headlines by denouncing him.
Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Gold Star parents of U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq, shared the Religion Newsmaker of the Year honor. The Khans made a dramatic Democratic National Convention appearance to proclaim that Trump's proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the country would be unconstitutional.
The RNA description of the annual poll's No. 1 story stressed that Trump received "strong support from white Christians, especially evangelicals. … Many were alarmed by his vilifying Muslims and illegal immigrants and his backing from white supremacists. GOP keeps majorities in Congress."
The No. 2 story continued: "Post-election assaults and vandalism target Muslims and other minorities. Some assailants cite Donald Trump's victory as validation. Critics denounce the appointment of Stephen Bannon as White House strategist over his ties to white supremacists." News related to Trump appeared in three other RNA Top 10 stories.
While white evangelical votes were crucial, I would have stressed two other religion trends linked to Trump's stunning win.
The first was captured in a mid-summer Christianity Today headline that, citing Pew Research Center polling, stated, "Most Evangelicals Will Vote Trump, But Not For Trump." Pew found that more than half of white evangelicals were upset about 2016 White House options and said their aim was to defeat Hillary Clinton, not support Trump.
Election Night plot twists also showed that Clinton lost because she lacked support from Rust Belt working-class Democrats, many from Catholic, labor-union homes that twice backed President Barack Obama.
The RNA Top 10 selections did not include items linked to bitter battles over religious liberty, Obama White House orders on transgender rights or the Supreme Court opening caused by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. These issues were crucial in producing the strong Election Day turnout by religious conservatives.
Here's my take on the rest of the RNA Top 10:
(3) With strong support from religious activists, Standing Rock Sioux members protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, which they say will foul water and sacred lands.
(4) Creating new tensions with doctrinal conservatives, Pope Francis seeks -- in the apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" -- a vague, pastoral approach to Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics. He leads a symbolic Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border and tells reporters that Trump is not acting in a "Christian" manner, when calling for a wall on that border.
(5) At least 4,600 migrants are killed in shipwrecks while fleeing conflicts fueled by radicalized forms of Islam in North Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The crisis fuels tensions across Europe, including immigration policy debates before England's Brexit vote.
(6) Terrorists linked to, or inspired by, the Islamic State kill scores of civilians at airports in Istanbul and Brussels, at various German sites and in Nice, France. A terrorist killed 86 people in Nice by driving a truck through a seaside holiday crowd. Also, a suicide bomber killed 25 Copts – mostly women and children – during a Dec. 11 attack on worship in the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, near Cairo's main cathedral.
(7) Some scholars hail the "end of white Christian America" and surveys keep showing growing secularism in the American population. Nevertheless, the former provide decisive votes for Republicans while the left-leaning "Nones," the "religiously unaffiliated," fail to provide crucial votes for Democrats.
(8) Backed by strong clergy support, #BlackLivesMatter protests continue after more police shootings of African-Americans. Religious leaders of all kinds play a prominent role in uniting communities after deadly attacks on police officers.
(9) Although white evangelicals voted Trump by a 4-1 margin, their leaders split sharply -- especially in the Southern Baptist Convention. Many evangelicals of color opposed Trump, although exit polls hinted at surprising support from Latino evangelicals. Supporters cited his pledges to oppose abortion, while opponents stressed character issues and his statements on race and immigration.
(10) Claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, gunman Omar Mateen kills 49 at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Homegrown terrorists injure dozens at a Minnesota mall, The Ohio State University and at New York-area targets.
Editor's note: This is Terry Mattingly's national "On Religion" column for the previous week, syndicated by Universal Uclick.