FaithWorld

What were the top religion news stories of 2009?

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Hindu lights Diwali candles in Agartala, India, 17 Oct 2009/Jayanta Dey

It’s Top 10 time again. As 2009 nears its end, Time magazine and the Religion Newswriters Association in the U.S. have produced their lists of the main religion news stories of the year. They take quite different views.

Time‘s list is quite broad, the top three being the advance of secularism in Europe, Pope Benedict’s invitation to conservative Anglicans and President Barack Obama’s decision to expand the faith-based office created by George Bush.

The RNA picked Obama’s Cairo address to the Muslim world as its top story, followed by the role of religious groups in the U.S. health care reform debate and the Fort Hood massacre allegedly carried out by an American Muslim officer.

Another Top 10 list out there comes from the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. It also put Obama at the top of its list — “New President brings change, but delays some tough decisions.”

Not surprisingly, these are all quite U.S.-centered assessments of the main religion stories of 2009. What would you say was the world’s most important religion news story this year? Please send in your suggestions.

POLL – Is reforming U.S. health care a moral issue?

obama-healthThe heated debate over United States health care reform revolves around practical issues like its expected costs or the government-run “public option.” But when President Barack Obama addressed Congress on the issue, he quoted a letter from the late Senator Ted Kennedy saying: “What we face is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.” (Photo: President Obama addressing Congress, 9 Sept 2009/Jason Reed)

Religious leaders and politicians supporting health care reform sometimes frame the issue in moral terms. But the term “moral” rarely pops up in the Washington debate and — apart from the Kennedy quote — it didn’t figure in Obama’s speech either. The president did discuss the issue of character, which is a moral term, and used the word often enough for it to appear in the Wordle web cloud below. But he avoided repeating what might be considered a religiously loaded word in a crucial political speech.

What do you think?

poll by twiigs.com

Here’s the word cloud of Obama’s speech. Even “character” is pretty hard to find (click to enlarge the image).

U.S. faith groups push for healthcare reform

A coalition of progressive U.S. faith groups and pastors has launched a push for affordable health care reform, an effort they say is rooted in a “scriptural call to act.”OBAMA/Radio ads will appear from today until July 4th in five states: Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska and North Carolina. The ads urge those states’ Senators, whose votes could ultimately decide the fate of President Barack Obama’s drive to transform America’s health care system, to back legislation “that makes quality coverage truly affordable for every American family.” You can see the ad script and audio here.Organizers also say that more than 600 clergy from 41 states and 39 denominations have said they will deliver sermons in coming weeks on the issue and urge their flocks to act. A pastors’ guide to health care will also be distributed to 4,250 religious leaders along with a shorter version to wider church members.PICO National Network, Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good are the main religious advocacy groups behind the campaign.If this all sounds familiar, it should. The tactics being adopted by these liberal and centrist groups and activists are a carbon copy of the successful ones employed in the past by the U.S. religious right. The distribution of pastors’ guides, the call for public policy to be guided by scripture (in this case compassion for the poor and the ill), the preaching of sermons on looming legislation — it’s all taken from the loose network of conservative Christians which has delivered many a vote for the Republican Party.Conservative Christians remain a key base for the Republicans and they have also been decrying “Obama-care” on talk radio, the blogosphere and other outlets.Photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing.  Members of the audience shake hands with U.S. President Barack Obama after his speech about reforming America’s health care system in Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 11, 2009.