As we look back on 2016, we see a year that brought celebration and sadness, hope and horror, the unexpected and the unbelievable. But, it was also a year where Christian prayer and action made a difference, even if challenges remain.
During the year, we saw a respected defender of Christian virtue laid to rest and an unlikely candidate triumph, as well as a fairy-tale summer sports miracle and a series of malignant massacres. As we slow down in preparation for Christmas observances, we can take a moment to reflect on news stories that might have special significance for Christians.
Five stand out, in no particular order.
Evangelicals flocked to the polls in November to demonstrate decisively that they remain a moral force within America. With nearly every poll predicting defeat of their candidate, evangelical votes surged beyond expectation, propelling Donald Trump into the White House. To be sure, not all evangelicals supported Trump, but by far the majority did. To them, he represented a candidate who was open to hearing their concerns about cultural and legal changes that run counter to common Christian values. Trump's positions also resonated with middle-class voters, a group that has been shrinking for the last 20 years, but is far from gone. As the new year approaches, Trump supporters will need to remain united in their desire for a better nation, if they want to see their concerns turn into concrete changes.
The World Series
Like the plot of a feel-good movie, the Chicago Cubs, after more than a century, finally brought home a World Series championship to the Windy City. For long-suffering Cubs fans, it was an affirmation of loyalty. For Christians, it was a symbol of the power of perseverance. For 108 years, Cubs fans have waited, attending games year after year, sometimes getting close, but never quite getting to the top. While individual fans might have despaired, the long-suffering fan base never did. For Christians inclined to give up on an America they see as increasingly secularized, they might want to look to the Cubs and their adamant refusal to give up. Despite decades of disappointment, they triumphed. And they also reminded us to have some fun and enjoy the excitement along the way.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
No one doubted the force of his convictions or the intellectual clarity of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. His voice stood for conservative Christian values in the highest court of the land for 30 years, and he often articulated those values with a vigor that gave added weight to his opinions and his dissents. He held that the court's decisions should be guided by what the Constitution meant to those who wrote it, leading him to oppose same-sex marriage and support attempts to curb abortion. Scalia, who was named to the Supreme Court in 1986, died in February 2016. Republicans in Congress vowed to delay consideration of a replacement until 2017 to ensure that Scalia's seat would be filled by another conservative, and it will be up to President Trump to make that nomination.
Transgender bathroom bills
Few issues seemed more puzzling than the spate of transgender bathroom bills, one of which was a primary reason that North Carolina Gov. McCrory lost his bid for re-election. North Carolina was the only state that implemented a bathroom bill, though it was considered in 18 other states as well. Practically, a bathroom bill is meant to bar transgender individuals from using a restroom other than the one that represents their sex at birth. But there were many other factors related to the new law. North Carolina's bill is in abeyance while a similar case is being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, giving thoughtful Christians a chance to pray that the right decision comes from our nation's highest judicial body.
ISIS genocide of Christians
The radical Islamic state of ISIS continues its appalling series of atrocities — slaughtering Christians systematically as part of its religious mission — as it fights for its life in Syria and Iraq. ISIS has targeted Christians for several years, and many have fled towns and villages to avoid being under its control. ISIS's mantra of blood and death has been a scourge in the Middle East and a motivator of terror attacks in the West. Many Christian organizations have reached out to the victims of ISIS, and they continue to ask for prayers for God's guidance so that the afflicted may be comforted and the slaughter might end.
Coming up ....
As 2017 approaches, Christians can look back with both pride and alarm. Much has been accomplished, but much remains to be done. As we consider Christ's message of hope and peace, salvation and forgiveness, we can unite in prayer and action to work on spreading His message throughout the year.
Merry Christmas, everyone!