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Predictions for the New Year
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 elude us. 

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 us.

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.

More about issues of war and peace.

To make your predictions about war and  peace.

2) Sex.

In recent 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 and abroad.

More on the debate about sex.

To make your predictions about this topic.

3) Christianity Among the Religions of the World.

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.

More about Christianity among the religions of the world.

Don't find what you believe will be a topic that Christians and other people of faith will be thinking about in 2007 on this list? Then, by all means, click here to make your own prediction.

Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and 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, 2015).
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, 2017).

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.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.
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