Religious newsmakers disappointing

As voted by the Religion Newswriters Association’s members, among the year’s most consequential religion newsmakers were Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, … Continued

As voted by the Religion Newswriters Association’s members, among the year’s most consequential religion newsmakers were Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Pope Benedict XVI, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, and the U.S. bishops.

How would you have ranked them? Has their influence been harmful or constructive? What issue or person do you expect to have the biggest impact in the year to come?

Too often in 2010, people who made religious news were disappointing.

There were exceptions, like the amazingly ecumenical montage of religious leaders who jumped in and assisted the people of Haiti after that tiny country’s earthquake at the beginning of the year.

But for the most part, religious leaders who made the news did not do all that much to lead or inspire people to get closer to God.

There was Pope Benedict, and Roman Catholic bishops, who, under scrutiny, seem less and less admirable in their handling of alleged cases of sexual impropriety by Roman Catholic priests. The questions I found myself asking the pope were, “What did you know and when did you know it? And how come you took so long to “man up” to the problem?”

There was Bishop Eddie Long, a vociferously anti-gay Baptist preacher and pastor of an Atlanta megachurch, who was accused of having sexual relations with young male members of his church. Bishop Long was strangely quiet in his defense of himself, and ending up settling the case out of court.

There was Sarah Palin, who sought to make news in all areas, including religion. Her opinion that anyone running for public office should have to publicly declare his or her adherence to Christianity. Her opinion reeked of arrogance and insensitivity to the fabric of American society, which is a quilt of many religions, in addition to many races and ethnicities.

There was Pastor Terry Jones, the Gainesville, Florida Baptist minister who, angry about the possibility of a mosque being built near Ground Zero, caused an international stir by saying he was going to publicly burn Qur’ans.

There were the scores of ministers of all faiths who fought against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” stirring up the fear of gay people in the military and in general.

At the end of the day, it felt like religious newsmakers were religious noise makers, more interested in protecting themselves than leading people to God. Call me naïve or altruistic, but I still think the role of religious leaders is to lead people toward service and positive relationships with each other, not toward divisiveness and strife.

Time will tell, but I would bet that “faith and values” will become a hot topic in the 2012 general election, with some religious people becoming newsmakers by attempting to impose their beliefs down the throats of people who might not agree with their views. Religious people tend to make ugly situations far uglier by inserting God into the conversation and standing on a soapbox that they swear God built for “such a time as this.”

Instead of bringing people together, religious newsmakers seem to provide the instruments which people use to tear each other apart.

Then, they pray.

I am holding my breath and praying that I become a religious leader who can and does bring a message of God to people that will help knit the frayed edges of our American religious quilt. Why? Because so many of us, especially the ones who made religious news in 2010, did far more to push people to those edges, rather than bring them to the center where I believe the warmth of the presence of God lies.

Susan K. Smith
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  • Chagasman

    Sarah Palin is a consequential religious newsmaker? Since when? She is not a Christian, she is a money grubbing celebrity hound who would sell her soul to Satan if he paid her enough.Glenn Beck? The man is a danger to our democracy. He is a liar, a pretender, and a demagogue of the worst sort. How dare anyone call him religious.

  • whocares666

    The Taliban.

  • eezmamata

    …. And the “pastor” who wrote this article is about as close to being a Christian pastor …Nothing more fun than seeing one christian idiot blasting another. Guess what, when you both say each other are idiots, you’re both right.

  • Horace2

    This dim-bulb affirmative-action Yalie denounces pastors who opposed repealing DADT. But pastors know full well that the Bible condemns homosexuality. They stand with our brave Marines against the repeal of DADT. The courageous pastors oppose unleashing open homosexuals into the barracks and showers of our armed forces.

  • MichelleKinPA

    Rev. Smith not only is partially blind but she also has a minimal intellect. Islam is the major newsmaker that demands each and every one of us to get closer to Allah. If you or I do not want to embrace Allah via Islam, the muslims are directed by Islam to decapitate you or me. This certainly brings us closer to Allah.Posted by: nrbsr | December 31, 2010 8:45 AMDo you realize that the concept of transubstantiation (the changing of wine/bread into blood/body of Christ is/was abhorrent to Jews? Essentially, it’s cannibalism when you get down to brass tacks. So, if you believe in the “actuality” of the Eucharist, you’re a cannibal. Scientifically, you’re drinking grape juice and bread. Perhaps you should study your own religion more closely before critizing others.

  • MichelleKinPA

    This dim-bulb affirmative-action Yalie denounces pastors who opposed repealing DADT.But pastors know full well that the Bible condemns homosexuality. They stand with our brave Marines against the repeal of DADT. The courageous pastors oppose unleashing open homosexuals into the barracks and showers of our armed forcesFrankly, it’s between God and the person involved. Pure and simple.

  • RichmondGiant

    In some ways, this is a discussion thread I find disturbing. Most spiritual leaders of all persuasions are quietly and diligently promoting their faith. Very few make the news, but all we here about is the fringe elements that capture news attention. Especially on the WP, we mostly here from those secularist that are so generic in their faiths as to be almost indistinguishable from any other faith. The so called “unifiers” that stand for nothing beyond “unconditional love” but are useless as life leaders.

  • Freethotlib

    I thank GOD for giving our Founding Fathers the wisdom to separate Church and State!! They “got” the problems of a Church / State connection. They “got” the reason for the Pilgrims and Puritans risking all to come to the New World to found that “shining beacon on the hill”.Of course, all the loud and proud Christians in this country know that but REFUSE to KNOW and UNDERSTAND it because that would under m ine their insistence on eliminating the separation of Church and State.We need to remember — Christian leaders are still focused on “their goals, desires and wants” and they will do everything they can to protect those — even if it means being UNCHRISTIAN. That is why we have:- Priests abusing children and the Vatican protecting them by moving them to another locale where they can continue abusing children until the next time — and the circle continues.– Pastors preaching against gays while engaging in the very activity they condemn.– Pastors asking for ever more money for the “Glory of God” which is the used to buy expensive cars, airplanes, toys and other THINGS for the Pastor. — Christians loudly denouncing the NYC mosque based on FALSE ACCUSATIONS. I seem to recall “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” as of importance to Christians. So I ask, why are Christian leaders allowed and honored for doing so vis a vis the NYC mosque?

  • eezmamata

    The courageous pastors oppose unleashing open homosexuals into the barracks and showers of our armed forces.So tell us, how often do you think of homosexual men in the showers, is it something you feel obsessive about?

  • tniederberger

    to quote a Dire Straights song, “two men say they’re Jesus, one of them must be wrong”

  • Horace2

    — So tell us, how often do you think of homosexual men in the showers, is it something you feel obsessive about? –It will be the openly homosexual sergeant who will be obsessed with a room full of naked men. He will play favorites. If homosexuals like you don’t understand the close quarters of military life, you should be nowhere near the military.

  • qqbDEyZW

    The door of Satan was open wide when Bush said God told him to be President and each person used it to win. But to be fair Jesus did say Satan would have his followers us God’s name to join him. But God does show us who He blesses as we see President Obama just follows God’s teaching by actions. Sarah is sad as not only allowing her teenage daughter to let her boyfriend live in her house and have sex then having a baby. The 16 year old daughter has a potty dirty mouth, while Sarah ask us to follow how she raises her kids. Rev. Huckabee’s son tortures/kills animanls for fun and carries a loaded gun on the plane. Even Speaker Boehner has a mistress while attacking Obama for taking his wife on a date night. Many people pray at home because the churches have gotten in bed with Government.

  • areyousaying

    “…but I still think the role of religious leaders is to lead people toward service and positive relationships with each other, not toward divisiveness and strife.”Blasphemy, you vile traitor. There is no tolerance and diversity in Palin’s lily-white Jesuslandia. Like peace, it’s a socialist, marxist, liberal, non-believer, Kenyan, Communist plot.Don’t you watch Fox News or listen to Rush?Their disciples need divisiveness and strife to satisfy their self-righteous need for drama and Fox needs them for ratings.

  • nrbsr

    Rev. Smith not only is partially blind but she also has a minimal intellect. Islam is the major newsmaker that demands each and every one of us to get closer to Allah. If you or I do not want to embrace Allah via Islam, the muslims are directed by Islam to decapitate you or me. This certainly brings us closer to Allah.

  • iamweaver

    Chagasman writes:Glenn Beck? The man is a danger to our democracy. He is a liar, a pretender, and a demagogue of the worst sort. How dare anyone call him religious.———————————————————-Regardless of the man’s political views (which are diametrically opposed to my own), the only way to tell if someone is a “good” Christian is through their personal actions. Does Mr. Beck donate his time, talents, gifts and services to the church? Does he show agape love to those he meets, and works with?If not, then Mr. Beck is a poor Christian – but even then, it doesn’t mean that he’s not religious, though it means that he’s a poor practitioner :).

  • MidwaySailor76

    I think the old adage applies in some of these instances: If you talk to God, you’re praying; if you believe God talks to you, you’re a psycho.

  • Horace2

    — If you ever served, which I doubt, you would know that there always have been and always will be homosexuals in the barracks and showers of our armed forces —-First of all,why don’t you stop making juvenile references about “wet dreams” and obsessions? My point is clear — putting an OPENLY gay sergeant in front of a room full of naked men is just asking for trouble. It’s no different from putting a male sergeant in a room full of naked women.

  • MillPond2

    What Pastor Smith is advocating is old fashioned ecumenicalism. Unfortunately, this requires persons of differing faiths to recognize that their own religion, or at least their perception of it, is subject to scrutiny. It also requires that the individual examine his or her own religious beliefs, confront doubt, and have a sense of humility. Critical rational thought is required, as opposed to knee-jerk acceptance of literal religious teachings. Good luck with that.In contrast, absolutism of religious faith is the “flavor of the month”, while ecumenicalism is as dead as the proverbial doornail.

  • whocares666

    The Republic Party.

  • kr1839

    Ah yes, WAPO using its religion column to attack Christianity. Pathetic. And the “pastor” who wrote this article is about as close to being a Christian pastor as this propagandist rag of a paper is to being an institution of journalistic integrity. And “Pastor” Susan, please take a writing course; “How come you took so long to man up?” Seriously? Did they teach you that at Yale? Might as well throw in a “Yo Homey”.

  • mwcob

    Odd. The UCC lost 30,000 members in 2004 alone. In fact in 2008 they posted the single largest percentage drop in membership at 6% in one year.Yet the Catholic Church (which she finds so uninspiring) added millions of members worldwide – not just increasing in numbers, but as a percentage of the world’s population. The Pope still draws millions of youth.Failure to comply with one woman’s agenda hardly qualifies as being “uninspiring.” But shame on anyone who challenges the extreme left who are as close-minded and preachy as the extreme right.

  • AJBF

    Excellent article, wish that more religious leaders had their head properly in place like Pastor Smith. Nevertheless, I have to point out that it wasn’t a “mosque” that was proposed in the WTC neighborhood, but an Islamic community center. This crucial piece of information was omitted/distorted so much by the media that to this day everyone, even well-intentioned people, keep calling it a “mosque”. Not that there would be anything wrong with building a mosque anywhere, same as there would not be anything wrong with building a church, synagogue, or Mormon temple anywhere.

  • maggots

    Ah yes, WAPO using its religion column to attack Christianity. Pathetic. And the “pastor” who wrote this article is about as close to being a Christian pastor as this propagandist rag of a paper is to being an institution of journalistic integrity. And “Pastor” Susan, please take a writing course; “How come you took so long to man up?” Seriously? Did they teach you that at Yale? Might as well throw in a “Yo Homey”.########################################Does this mean you are supporting Bishop Eddie Long and his sexual attacks on his congregation? Is he your model of a true Christian pastor?

  • drazen1

    Fred Phelps, the paterfamilias of the Westboro Baptist Cult, actually got as far as the Supreme Court looking to justify his gay demonizing. Guess we’ll know next year whether the Justices feel that his brand of “witnessing” is both legitimate and protected speech.

  • cecilg

    Susan Smith said: “I still think the role of religious leaders is to lead people toward service and positive relationships with each other, not toward divisiveness and strife.”I very much agree with this statement and I feel confident that many religious leaders are trying to follow this role.But my questions to Susan are l. what actions or events by religious leaders in 2010 (and up coming 2011) have been/will be effective in moving people toward service and positive relationships? and 2. which of these was/could be a newsmaker?If there are none then it seems likely that the devisive forces will continue to push all of us toward the edges.

  • Horace2

    —- If you served, you would know the sergeant wouldn’t have been promoted unless he was serving his nation honorably. Did you serve, tough guy? —The Marines are a lot tougher than you. They don’t want open homosexuals in the military. According to the survey, the closer one gets to the front, the less open homosexuals are wanted. Pure common sense.

  • areyousaying

    — If you ever served, which I doubt, you would know that there always have been and always will be homosexuals in the barracks and showers of our armed forces —-First of all,why don’t you stop making juvenile references about “wet dreams” and obsessions? My point is clear — putting an OPENLY gay sergeant in front of a room full of naked men is just asking for trouble.It’s no different from putting a male sergeant in a room full of naked women.Posted by: Horace2There you go again with your juvenile stereotyping. If you served, you would know the sergeant wouldn’t have been promoted unless he was serving his nation honorably. Did you serve, tough guy?PS: you are a closet case in more ways than one as evidenced by your obsessions

  • eezmamata

    It’s no different from putting a male sergeant in a room full of naked women.

    How would you know that, unless you … ah, now we see, you’re bisexual. You have experience on both ends, literally.You know, Horace, not everybody who thinks you’re a homo are homos themselves, in fact most of us who have no problems with gay people are quite straight.Unlike most people like you, living in flaming self-shame, who blast anybody who doesn’t agree with you.So, when you’re with men, are you the pitcher or the catcher?

  • nrbsr

    Have you studied the Koran? Do you know that there are many different branches or sects of Islam? They are as varied as denominations are in Christianity. Thus, you cannot paint them all with the same brush, but many, like you, do.Do you realize that the concept of transubstantiation (the changing of wine/bread into blood/body of Christ is/was abhorrent to Jews? Essentially, it’s cannibalism when you get down to brass tacks. So, if you believe in the “actuality” of the Eucharist, you’re a cannibal. Scientifically, you’re drinking grape juice and bread.Perhaps you should study your own religion more closely before critizing others.Islam has been at war with the non-islamic world for 1400 years

  • areyousaying

    Dear Horace,On what occasion in the military would there be a room full of naked men other than in you twisted fantasies. You didn’t answer my question. Did you serve? If so, how many times did you see a room full of naked men other than a few in a shower and some in different states of undress in a dressing room?Get help.

  • letitbe

    Breaking NEWS: DEATH to: DEATH to: DEATH to: DEATH to: