Topics that will weigh on our hearts and minds in 2011
Though it is always risky and usually
futile to predict the future, I have a feeling that most of the issues we'll be
thinking about and the news stories we'll be covering in the New Year are already
discernible. This is particularly true when you focus on religion. The primary
reason for this is that so many of the problems that have surfaced in the opening
years of the millennium are still very much unresolved. And solutions seem to
Here's my list of the hot topics that will occupy our
attention in the coming months. In each case, you can follow the hyperlink to
an earlier editorial relating to the topic, and, of course, you are invited to
make your own predictions and share them with others who visit this site.
1) War and Peace
During 2011 the Obama administration will be moving forward on its goal of winding down two wars, the one in Iraq, and the second one in Afghanistan. It may well prove to be more difficult to bring an end to the violence and American involvment in it, than it was for the Bush administration to involve the US in these conflicts. A strong majority
of the American people have concluded that both these wars have gone on far too long, thus, even if withdrawl is not wise strategically or tactically, the political support necessar to carry on is lacking. So debate about war, and how to bring these two conflicts to an end will continue to be front and center in 2011.
Further, it's not just Iraq and Afghanistan that will draw our attention to issues of
war and peace. Potential confrontations with Iran and North Korea over nuclear
proliferation; the ongoing conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians, AND the possibility of acts of terrorism outside the
areas already mentioned, including within the US itself will certainly be with
Already the Christian community in the US is deeply divided over
the larger issue of when and under what circumstances it is right to engage in
acts of violence. Expect this debate to continue ... and intensify.
years churches have been even more divided over issues pertaining to human sexuality
than over war. The Roman Catholic Church continues to struggle in its attempt
to recover from sex abuse scandals with numerous cases still in the courts, and
related financial settlements imposing a tremendous burden. The Vatican's attempt
to purge its leadership of gay priests will only divide the church more seriously
than it is already divided. Similar problems face most Protestant denominations,
with highly visible figures within the evangelical community mired in scandal.
Meanwhile, many Christian churches struggle
with the question of the ordination of gay and lesbian leaders, as well as other
sex related topics such as abortion and how to address the AIDS pandemic. These
conflicts will be very much at the center of the wider culture wars in the US
Against the backdrop of a war on terrorism which is sometimes framed as a conflict
of civilizations in which Judaism, Islam and Christianity all play an important
part, people throughout the world are suddenly waking up to the necessity of understanding
the "religious other." Further, Americans are becoming more aware that
this is a religiously diverse nation with sizable populations of Muslims, Hindus,
pagans, atheists, and adherents to literally hundreds of alternative traditions,
both ancient and modern.
For American Christians the process of awakening
to this diversity will be painful at times, requiring some very basic changes
in the way we run our schools, our politics, our businesses and health care systems.
For some, the challenge of living in a more religiously diverse society will be
exhilarating, but for others it will be terrifying. In the coming year, expect
a host of news stories reflecting the conflicts that arise as people adjust to
the circumstance of living in the most religiously diverse nation on earth.
If you want to talk with someone in person, please feel free to call 212-864-5436
The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.