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The year 2013 was a very significant year for Christians in America, marking both a surge in faith and in opposition in the nation and the world at large. Here is a rundown of the top ten 2013 story lines identified by the editors of The Christian Post as significant enough to warrant a second look as the year ends.
Though the list is certainly not exhaustive, these stories seemed to have a particular power this year, both in noting what is happening in Christianity and as a predictor of future trends.
Here's what we thought, counting down in order of importance.
Here we go.
10. The Stunning Success of Cable TV Mini-Series "The Bible"
The cable TV mini-series "The Bible" stunned the television industry with record- breaking viewership, especially since the series sought to track the words of the Bible faithfully with little "artistic" deviation. The series spurred interest in a movie effort and a follow-on series, "A.D.," which will be aired in 2014.
The success of the mini-series was read by many in the industry as strong evidence there is a major audience in America for biblical programming.
Here are some notable moments, as reported by The Christian Post:
9. John MacArthur, Strange Fire, and The Pentecostal Revolution
John MacArthur, one of the most respected names in Christian academics, published a book in 2013 titled Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship and held a conference to discuss the matter. It produced a firestorm of controversy over why MacArthur chose to overturn what has been decades of truce between Cessationists and Pentecostals over Spirit-filled living.
Far from resolving the conflict, the "Strange Fire" controversy brought to light how far Pentecostal/Charismatics have come over the last 100 years, growing to more than a billion followers from its beginning in 1907. The movement is especially alive in the Hispanic community in America, and represents the bulk of Christian growth in the world, particularly in Africa and Asia.
8. George Zimmerman Trial Reveals Continuing Racial Divide in the U.S.
The murder trial, and subsequent acquittal, of George Zimmermann concerning the death of Trayvon Martin exposed for the nation the continuing gap between black and white America – despite the substantial progress made since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The Zimmermann verdict produced a unique moment for American Christianity to ponder why segregation still exists in the church and provided an opportunity for Christian leaders to preach reconciliation.
Here are some Christian Post stories on efforts by Christian leaders to lead the nation in this area:
7. A Year of Losing Famous and Important Christian Leaders
Chuck Smith, Harold Camping, Paul Crouch, Ken Hutcherson are just some of the names of prominent Christian leaders who died this year. Some, like Smith and Hutcherson, are credited with spurring the church into the 21st century version of traditional biblical views on Spirit-filled living and the multi-cultural church.
Others, like Crouch and Camping, gained millions of followers through media-based preaching – a path of nationwide evangelism that sometimes produced controversy and challenges for believers as well.
6. Pope Francis, First non-European Pope in a Millennium, Energizes Catholicism
The rise of Francis, a South American Jesuit with a deep concern for the poor and disadvantaged, to Pope in the Catholic Church has produced a flood of new energy and excited speculation on the future of the church. Francis, though very orthodox in his faith, seems able to address traditional concerns in a new and fresh way, in the process also paving a path for increased cooperation with Christian evangelicals. Experts believe Francis will be a pro-active pope, shaping the church in a forward looking way while maintaining traditional biblical precepts.
5. Kermit-Gosnell Trial Turns the Tide Toward Pro-Life Arguments
The horrendous facts revealed in the Kermit Gosnell abortionist trial may have turned the tide on the fundamental issue of regulating abortion in the U.S., say pro-life experts.
One expert notes that in 2013, 48 states debated 360 new abortion control measures and 69 provisions were enacted. Two years ago 70 measures were passed and even in 2012, an election year where the "war on women" was a major Democratic theme, 38 were passed.
This year also produced a backlash from Planned Parenthood and other women's pro-abortion groups, including a potential run for governor in Texas by pro-abortion activist Wendy Davis.
Here are coverage highlights from The Christian Post:
4. High Profile Suicides Rock the Church, Push Mental Health to the Forefront
How Christians biblically process mental health and suicide thrust onto the scene in 2013 because of a rash of high-profile suicides among Christian leaders and their families.
The suicide deaths of Teddy Parker, Jr, Matthew Warren, Issac Hunter and others caused a number of leaders to frankly address the issue of mental health among pastors and are also causing the church to re-evaluate what the Bible says about the mentally ill and how the church cares for them.
Possibly in reaction to (2) and (1) on our list, 2013 also marks the year when Christian legal institutions flooded the courts with cases seeking to further define and protect the free speech and religious liberty protections in the Constitution that allow for the free practice of Christianity in America.
The Becket Fund reports that there are 70 cases and over 200 plaintiffs, including hospitals, universities, businesses, schools, and individuals asking the court to codify and affirm religious liberty and speech protection. There have been 28 injunctions granted besides the high-profile Hobby Lobby, which has reached the Supreme Court.
2. Corporations and Government Endorse the LGBT War On Christianity
While this storyline is not new, 2013 marks the year the gay agenda held sway over government and corporate authorities. The year started with gay activists winning a key battle during the inauguration by disinviting Louie Giglio to deliver the benediction because of his biblical views on gay marriage, even though Giglio has avoided the subject publicly for a decade. Gay activists lost the same battle in 2008 with Rick Warren, but President Obama did not step in this time. Gay activists were able to convince corporate sponsors to force the Boy Scouts to change its policies on gay scouts and are pushing for gay scout leaders. The military also acquiesced to gay pressure and the Supreme Court affirmed state decisions to allow gay marriage. The year ended with the A&E Network initially suspending Phil Robertson of the popular "Duck Dynasty" show for calling homosexuality a sin in a magazine interview. The resulting outcry from Duck Dynasty supporters and Christians has forced the network to lift the suspension, but critics are persisting in finding fault with Phil Robertson and pressuring A&E to remove him from the show.
No other story is more fundamentally important to Christians than the increasing intolerance to Christ happening across the world, mainly from the hands of Muslim extremists. In Nigeria, of the 14,000 killed by the terrorist group Boko Haram in murderous sprees, an estimated 60 percent of them were targeted because they were Christians. In the Middle East, the Arab Spring has meant increasing persecution of Copts by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Syrian Civil War has produced the same for Syrian Christians at the hands of Al Qaeda forces helping the rebels. Both conflicts have produced a flood of Christians fleeing the Middle East, the region where Jesus Christ was born.
While these massive killings made world headlines, churches were bombed in Iraq, Pakistan, in Southeast Asia, and even in India, calling into question the safety of Christians worldwide. Experts are wondering whether 2013 is the turning point of a new era of Christian persecution worldwide.