Sex scandals, Facebook, white supremacists, Donald Trump and God's judgment: these are just a few of the topics to find a place in The Christian Post's Top 10 news stories of 2017.
The CP editors looked at the most important stories we published in 2017 and ranked them according to what we believe will be their lasting impact.
From Charlie Gard to Harvey Weinstein, check out our Top 10 news stories of 2017:
10. Charlie Gard
The issue of parental rights and healthcare came to the forefront last summer in the case of baby Charlie Gard.
Charlie, a British baby born with a rare disease called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage, was denied the right to be transported to the United States where he would have received experimental treatment for his condition.
His parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, first noticed his symptoms eight weeks after he was born on Aug. 4, 2016. Their baby was the 16th person in the world to be diagnosed with the condition.
Although Charlie was being cared for at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, the country's National Health Service did not provide the experimental treatment his parents were seeking. By April 2, the family had raised $1.6 million through a crowdfunding campaign to fly him to the U.S. for treatment.
The British High Court ruled, however, that Charlie's parents wouldn't be allowed to take him out of the country and instead permitted the hospital to remove his life support.
Charlie's parents appealed the ruling at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. On June 27, the court refused to intervene in the case, thus upholding earlier decisions by lower courts.
The case drew international attention with many criticizing the decision as a violation of parental rights. Both President Donald Trump and Pope Francis voiced their support for Charlie's parents and urged the U.K. to allow him to be transported to the U.S. for treatment. Similarly, the U.S. House voted to give Charlie and his parents permanent residence status so they could obtain treatment for their son.
Then, on July 10, Charlie's parents were given two days at a high court hearing to produce convincing evidence for why their son should be allowed to leave the U.K. to receive potentially life-saving experimental treatment in the U.S. It was said at the hearing that a "conservative estimate" placed a 10 percent chance on the experimental treatment in the U.S. working for the baby. The hospital, however, argued that Charlie's condition was irreversible, and that further treatment could lead to further suffering.
On July 24, Charlie's parents dropped their battle to seek experimental treatment for their son after brain scans showed that he had suffered irreversible damage, possibly due to treatment having been delayed.
Charlie's life support was removed, and he died on July 28.
Now, Charlie's mother is fighting a new battle by supporting the parents of 18-month-old baby Alfie Evans. The parents are in a legal battle with a hospital in Britain that wants to switch off their son's life support.
Alfie is in a coma and suffers regular seizures, and the hospital has urged the High Court to rule that long-term ventilation and intensive care be withdrawn. But his parents, Thomas Evans and Kate James, want their son to be moved to a hospital in Italy that is willing to take him and provide ongoing treatment.
The Charlie Gard affair raised important issues regarding parental rights, many argued.
"The decision by the British High Court is an appalling overreach, and it sets a very dangerous precedent. In worldview terms, the government is well beyond its sphere of sovereignty, gobbling up authority that rightfully belongs to the family and to the church," John Stonestreet said.
In response to Ian Kennedy who said in an op-ed for The Guardian that "children do not belong to their parents," Marissa Mayer, a senior writer for Alliance Defending Freedom, added, "Not only is this statement ludicrous, but it is antithetical to the history of Western civilization."
9. NFL National Anthem Protests
Though kneeling during the playing of the U.S. national anthem technically began last year with one NFL player — Colin Kaepernick — it exploded into a movement about a year later after President Donald Trump suggested that players be fired for such an act.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Out! He's fired. He's fired!'" Trump said in September.
Those comments immediately led to hundreds of NFL players, as well as coaches, refusing to stand during the national anthem as a way of protesting racial injustice, including police brutality.
The nation, including Christians, have been divided on whether they agree with the NFL player protests. A poll for ESPN found that 51 percent of adults said they disapprove of the protests while 39 percent said they approved.
On the side of approval, devout Christian Benjamin Watson of the Baltimore Ravens said that the football players should have the right to express themselves, whether others agree or not.
Bishop T.D. Jakes and Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy, who has spoken about his Christian faith, also defended the NFL players and their right to free speech.
The Rev. Jamal Bryant, senior pastor of the Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore, Maryland, not only expressed his support for the protest but also led some 500 men to kneel in solidarity at a Ravens game.
Opposing the move were former NFL player the Rev. Paul Blair of Fairview Baptist Church, Bishop E. W. Jackson of S.T.A.N.D., Ryan Bomberger of The Radiance Foundation, evangelist Franklin Graham and former president Jimmy Carter, among others.
Jackson, who is black, declared that the NFL protests were "not a black thing" but rather "a leftist thing."
Former football player and outspoken Christian Tim Tebow, meanwhile, offered this response: "I just think, for me, my goal has always been to bring faith, hope and love to people, especially in their darkest hours of need. I think what we need right now is bringing people together in this country more than separating people, so that's my goal."
Amid the division, thousands of Christians from across the nation chose to take a knee in Washington, D.C., to ask God for forgiveness for the sins of racism and hate, and to pray for racial healing and unity.
8. ISIS and Christian Persecution Worldwide
One of the Trump administration's biggest achievements this year was the defeat of the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and seizing the de facto capital of its self-declared caliphate in Raqqa, Syria.
On Dec. 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that the country is now "fully liberated" from IS after three years of battles to regain control over one-third of the county that had been under the terrorist group's oppressive rule, including Mosul, its second-largest city. Iraqi troops also took back control of the Iraqi-Syrian border, with the help of U.S.-led coalition forces.
Since 2014, it's believed that over 40,000 people from more than 110 countries traveled to Iraq and Syria to join IS' caliphate. In the U.K. it was estimated that more British Muslims were fighting for IS than served in its armed forces.
Although U.S.-led troops killed tens of thousands of jihadis, insurgents still remain in parts of the country and IS terror cells are operating worldwide. British intelligence officers said earlier this year that the U.K. is home to 23,000 jihadist extremists who are potential attackers.
It's estimated that 5,600 people who joined IS have returned to their home nations, according to the Soufan Group, which provides strategic security intelligence services to governments and multinational organizations. Among the 129 who left the U.S. to fight for IS, seven are known to have returned.
Earlier this month, IS supporters released propaganda material threatening to launch a terror attack in Washington, D.C. and New York on Christmas, according to the SITE intelligence group. Already this year there have been two IS-inspired terror attacks committed in New York City. And during the last three years since IS declared its caliphate, there have been seven terror attacks in the U.S., leading to 82 deaths.
IS affiliates have also carried out attacks in the Philippines and Egypt.
In the Philippines, dozens of Christian civilians were killed on the island of Mindanao during six months of fighting between the country's military and IS-affiliated militants. In the city of Marawi, 200 people, many of them Christian, were taken hostage by the militants.
According to a detailed report by Amnesty International, "The Battle of Marawi: Death and Destruction in the Philippines," the majority of the civilian victims were Christians who were targeted by the militants.
In Egypt, over 40 Christians were killed in two church bombings in Alexandria and Tanta on Palm Sunday. And over 100 Coptic Christian families fled North Sinai amid fears of being hunted down by armed groups after it became known that people named on an IS kill list were being murdered.
Last month, for the first time ever, a delegation of evangelical leaders from the U.S. met with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo to talk about the persecution of Egyptian Christians by Islamic extremists.
Although Egypt ranks as the 21st worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List, many believe circumstances are improving for Christians under Sisi, who took office in 2014, versus the persecution endured under the Muslim Brotherhood.
In Iraq, while many returning Christians have said they fear a "Shiafication" in the region, they're also celebrating the reconsecration of St. George's Church in Telskuf, the first church to be reopened in the Nineveh Plains since the IS was driven out of the country. According to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, nearly 6,330 families that fled in 2014 have returned to the Nineveh Plains.
Christians in the region will also be receiving more support from the U.S. government. In October, Vice President Mike Pence announced that Trump ordered the State Department to enable U.S. aid funding to go directly to faith-based organizations actively supporting Christians and other religious minorities displaced by IS. Previously, all U.S. humanitarian and reconstruction aid funding for Iraq was funneled through the U.N., and wasn't being used to help religious minorities to rebuild their communities.
In December, Pence met with a leading Chaldean Archbishop to discuss how the U.S. can best help the recovering Iraqi Christians in the aftermath of IS. He also met with a 12-year-old Iraqi Christian boy whose home was destroyed by IS. The boy, named Noeh, gave Pence some of his only remaining toys — marbles — that were found in his burned out home.
At the beginning of the year, the U.K.-based group Release International published its annual Persecution Trends report which noted that apart from the rise of brutalities against Christians in the Middle East, there's reason to worry about the safety of Christians in other countries, such as India, China and Nigeria. Similarly, Aid to the Church in Need released its report, "Persecuted and Forgotten? 2015–17," which found that the persecution of Christians is now "worse than at any time in history."
Chinese Christians endured many hardships this year, among them being the detention of 13 worshipers who were attending Sunday service at a small house church that was raided by police; the torture of a pastor sentenced to 12 years in prison; and seven-year prison sentences being handed down to people who were in possession of Christian devotionals.
In India last Friday, 30 seminary students and two priests were arrested for singing Christmas carols, a tradition that has been going on for the last 30 years. Earlier this year, the U.S.-based Christian child sponsorship organization Compassion International was forced to shut down operations amid an ongoing crackdown by the country's Hindu nationalist government on nonprofits that receive foreign funds. You can read more examples here, here, and here.
The Christian Post reported on Sunday that Islamic Fulani herdsmen in northeastern Nigeria, who have been accused of aligning with the Boko Haram terror group, killed more than 100 Christians earlier this month, with the suspected help of the military. You can read more about the attacks against Christians in Nigeria here, here and here.
In Nepal, Christians leaders there are urging the government to strike down a law signed by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari that makes evangelism and religious conversions a crime. Before the bill banning evangelism was signed into law, four Nepali Christians were sentenced to prison on charges of "violence and witchcraft" for praying with a mentally ill woman; they were released after serving nine months.
Along with facing persecution for sharing their faith in the Hindu-majority nation, Christians are also being barred from burying their dead. There have been reported cases in which the remains of deceased Christians have been dug up from graveyards and dumped at the homes of their relatives, or left out on the streets. Christians are then forced to take the bodies to nearby forests at night, but there are legal consequences if they are caught.
In Turkey, 50 properties belonging to the Syriac Orthodox Church in one of the world's oldest Christian communities were seized by the government, which claimed that the deeds to the properties were no longer valid. And October marked one year that American Pastor Andrew Brunson has been imprisoned on false charges of attempting to overthrow the government.
Brunson served the Turkish people for over 23 years as pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church. In October 2016, he was summoned by Turkish authorities to the local police station, only to be arrested as a "national security risk" and thrown in jail.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is believed to be holding Brunson hostage in an attempt to get the U.S. to hand over Fethullah Gülen, and Islamic imam whom Erdogan blames for last year's attempted coup in the country.
7. Big Tech Censorship
Christians and conservative groups have been fighting back against censorship and demonetization of their videos and posts on sites owned by the world's largest tech giants.
Earlier this month, National Religious Broadcasters launched a site called Internet Freedom Watch that provides a timeline and links to news reports about the censorship of speech by Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple.
"It is unacceptable for these titans to discriminate against users just because their viewpoints are not congruent with ideas popular in Silicon Valley," NRB President Jerry A. Johnson said about the initiative.
NRB has also urged Congress to hold hearings to address the "severe problem of viewpoint censorship on the internet."
The initiative has been praised by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who asserted that Google's search results often suppress conservative views, while liberal articles that support the views of the tech companies "magically bubble to the top."
While a recent research report claims to have quantified Google's bias against conservative websites and its suppression in search results, the tech giant says those accusations are false.
A Google spokesman told CP that Google has "never re-ranked search results to manipulate political or user sentiment."
On Oct. 23, PragerU, the popular conservative, nonprofit organization that has an education video channel on YouTube (owned by Google), filed a lawsuit over alleged censorship and discrimination.
"PragerU brings this lawsuit to stop Google/YouTube from unlawfully censoring its educational videos and discriminating against its right to freedom of speech solely because of PragerU's political identity and viewpoint as a nonprofit that espouses conservative views on current and historical events," the lawsuit states.
The suit charges that Google and YouTube "use their restricted mode filtering ... as a political gag mechanism to silence PragerU."
In December 2016, The Christian Post reported on growing concerns that Google's and Facebook's efforts to censor websites that purportedly produce "fake news" could have a negative impact on religious news websites and sites that report from a conservative or biblical perspective. The term fake news was bandied around by news outlets and the Hillary Clinton campaign as a reason for her defeat to President-elect Donald Trump.
Within days after the election, Google and Facebook announced they would take concrete action to cut off fake news websites from their ad networks and revenues.
Jeff Hunt, the director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University and founder of one of Colorado's largest conservative advertising agencies, Avinova Media Group, told CP, "The challenge that they (Google and Facebook) are going to run up against, especially when it comes to religious issues, is what is fake news?"
"They are going to have to have somebody that understands that just because you don't agree with someone's religious position, it doesn't make it OK to deem their website fake news and therefore, shut down ad revenue," he said. "I think this is a big problem that the Left makes."
An example of this happened in February when a Christian mother's account was suspended by Facebook over posts on what the Bible says about homosexuality and sin.
Elizabeth Johnston, an Ohio homeschooling mother of 10 who runs the popular conservative blog "The Activist Mommy," told CP that Facebook had suspended her account because she wrote about how Leviticus condemns homosexuality as "detestable" and an "abomination" in posts that had been written in 2016.
Although Johnston's account was reactivated, she said Facebook had continued to censor her page, and readers complained they weren't able to access her page, share it, or "like" it. A spokesperson for Facebook said at the time that they were "actively looking into the issues that have been raised."
Johnston also asked YouTube to monetize the videos on her "Activist Mommy" page but was subsequently rejected.
Similarly, Dr. Michael Brown, a conservative radio host whose ministry operates the "AskDrBrown" YouTube account, wrote an op-ed in August, explaining that YouTube had demonetized most of the account's videos and that the ministry's advertising revenue from YouTube has dropped by over 65 percent because of the demonetization. Likewise, one of the ministry's videos was age-restricted and deemed unsuitable for viewers younger than 18.
Pro-life groups have also encountered censorship on Twitter, which blocked anti-abortion ads and a campaign ad created for Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., that was critical of Planned Parenthood for selling aborted babies' body parts.
Twitter blocked advertising from both Live Action and the SBA List, the two pro-life groups said in a statement in October.
In June, Twitter refused to allow Live Action to buy ads that promoted the dignity of unborn life because it claimed the content violated its "hate and sensitive policy."
The tweets Twitter deemed hateful and insensitive are ones that showed ultrasound images and fact-checked Planned Parenthood's claims, Lila Rose, president of Live Action, said. Twitter particularly took issue with a proposed ad that showed a photo of a baby in the womb with text that read: "I Am Not a Potential Human, I Am a Human With Potential."
6. Deportations, Travel Bans, and Dreamers
President Donald Trump campaigned on promises to end illegal immigration, deport unauthorized immigrants with criminal records, build a border wall, and temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the country. His attempts to make good on some of those promises were both praised and deplored by Christians in 2017.
Trump increased deportations of unauthorized immigrants in 2017. Many Christian communities were alarmed at some of these deportations.
In June, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested about 200 Iraqi Christians and was preparing to deport them back to their home country. With the persecution of Christians currently taking place in Iraq, ICE's actions could've meant the equivalent of a death sentence, critics pointed out.
On June 19, seven evangelical groups sent a letter to the Trump administration urging a halt to the deportations. Rev. Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and generally a supporter of Trump, also expressed alarm, calling it "very disturbing." U.S. Catholic leaders also condemned the deportation orders.
The deportions were one of the main topics brought up during the July meeting of Trump's Faith Leaders Initiative. After that meeting, some of these leaders crafted an internal memo, at the request of the Trump administration, laying out the legal arguments for not deporting the Iraqi immigrants. Before Trump acted on the memo, the deportations were halted by a federal judge.
Other controversial deportation attempts would continue, however. In November, about 50 Indonesian Christians in New Hampshire were going to get deported before a judge halted the orders.
Trump did not attempt to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the country, as he promised during the campaign. Instead, he banned all travel from certain mostly Muslim nations, a ban that critics still refer to as a "Muslim ban."
Trump sparred with federal courts throughout 2017 on the legality of the travel ban, producing three versions of the ban in the hopes of getting court approval. On Dec. 4, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the third version of Trump's travel ban to take effect while an appeal is pending.
Throughout the process, Christian groups have urged the Trump administration to allow an exception to the travel ban for persecuted minorities, something Trump said he would do in a January Christian Broadcasting Network interview. The first travel ban had the exception, but then the exception was removed to satisfy the courts.
A February poll found that 76 percent of self-identified white evangelicals supported the travel ban.
In late January, after Trump was inaugurated and implemented the first travel ban, Franklin Graham said he supported it but was disappointed that it didn't go further and ban all Muslims.
Others criticized Trump's actions. "I think it was mean spirited, I think it represents a rising tide of nationalism that is at odds with the Gospel," Pastor Dan Scott told CP in February.
DACA and DAPA
President Barack Obama protected "Dreamers," or unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children, and their parents through programs known as DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and DAPA, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. Texas and 25 other states won a lawsuit against the Obama administration declaring that DACA and DAPA were unlawful, a ruling upheld in 2016 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 2017, Trump said he would rescind DACA but keep the program in place while Congress debates a replacement, and he rescinded DAPA. Some criticized Trump for doing away with DAPA while others, including Trump himself, urged Congress to pass a replacement for both programs into law.
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, criticized Trump in June for rescinding DAPA in a way that would break up families.
In August, the Evangelical Immigration Table sent letters to Trump and Congress urging them to pass a law to protect Dreamers. In October, a group of 50 evangelical leaders delivered a similar message.
5. Talk of God's Judgment
Is God trying to tell us something?
This year was a record-breaking hurricane season, according to meteorologist Phil Klotzbach from Colorado State University. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria all made landfall in the span of around a month (August-September), causing hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damage in five states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
And just days before the first hurricane made landfall in Texas, America experienced a total solar eclipse, which was visible across the entire contiguous United States. It was the first solar eclipse to be visible exclusively from the United States since 1776.
All of those combined with continuous threats of nuclear war from North Korea have sparked discussions about God's judgment and whether God is trying to warn America.
Harvest Christian Fellowship Pastor Greg Laurie has frequently spoken about the end days this year, expressing particular concern over conflict with North Korea.
"Here is what concerns me. We do not find the reigning superpower on the face of the Earth anywhere in the Last Days scenario. Other nations emerge. So where is America? I pray we are not out of the picture, because we have been in some kind of nuclear conflict," he said.
Renowned evangelist Anne Graham Lotz posed the question "Is God's judgment coming on America?" ahead of the solar eclipse in August and called on everyone to repent and get right with God. "While no one can know for sure if judgment is coming on America, it does seem that God is signaling us about something. Time will tell what that something is," she stated.
Agreeing with Lotz, the Rev. Mark Creech of Christian Action League said while solar eclipses are not necessarily a sign of God's coming judgment, the "darkening of the sun" certainly is associated with "forthcoming calamities."
"America is definitely ripe for judgment. This nation has become a fountainhead of moral putridity, and its influence is global. Judgment is always an act of God's justice against sin, but it can also be an act of his mercy," he stated ahead of the eclipse. "... Is it a sign from the heavens calling upon our nation to turn from its sins and to Christ or suffer the consequences? I don't really know. What I do know, however, is that we would be wise to treat it as though this very well may be the case."
Evangelist Franklin Graham observed that the destructive hurricanes, wildfires and the rare solar eclipse were all "biblical signs before Christ's return," as he called on everyone to repent and ask for God's forgiveness.
Michael Brown of the Line of Fire radio program was less quick to pronounce all the events as a sign of God's judgment, especially considering the families that were affected by the disasters.
But he agreed that America does need the Lord and His mercy now.
4. Sex, Gender and the Nashville Statement
Amid an increasing push among LGBT advocates to teach young children that one's gender is not biologically determined, a coalition of Christian leaders released the Nashville Statement in August to affirm God's design for human beings — particularly as male and female.
Upon its release, the statement was trending on Twitter and sparking heated debates in both Christian circles and secular media. It even led to spinoff statements.
The statement drew criticism from those who viewed it as an "attack" on the LGBT community. And some Christians who hold traditional beliefs about sexuality disagreed with the approach of the statement, arguing that it does more harm than good in their witness to those outside the church.
But many Christians came to its defense, contending that everything outlined in the statement — including God designing marriage as between one man and one woman, and transgenderism not being consistent with God's holy purposes — affirmed basic biblical beliefs.
Denny Burk, president of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which spearheaded the Nashville Statement, said the goal was "not to produce a culture war document but a church document."
Many evangelical leaders, he added, have "been noticing that there's been a lot of confusion among ordinary Christians today about the meaning of sexuality and what it means to be created in God's image as male and female" and thus wanted to clarify biblical truths and "put some boundaries on the conversation."
Burk said the statement was a year in the making and was designed to be a resource for the church, which he says is feeling pressure from the surrounding culture.
This year, more school districts and cities have changed their policies to allow transgender persons to use bathroom and locker room facilities of their choice, more teachers are introducing transgenderism to children at younger ages, and more people are being forced to use appropriate transgender pronouns.
Three in 10 Christians believe a person's gender can be different from sex at birth. Among white mainline Protestants and Catholics, 4 in 10 believe so.
So far, more than 20,000 people have signed the Nashville Statement.
3. Alt-Right, Antifa and Charlottesville
Activities of extremist groups known as the Alt-Right and Antifa became more pronounced in 2017.
Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016 partly by mobilizing racist sentiments. Not all of Trump's supporters were racists, but racists were among his supporters.
Steve Bannon was one of Trump's key campaign advisers. He was initially one of Trump's White House advisers as well, before being forced out. While executive chair at Breitbart, Bannon provided a platform for the Alt-Right, a term used to describe certain white supremacist groups.
Emboldened by the Trump presidency, some of these Alt-Right groups organized an August 11-12 protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Radical leftists known as Antifa (for "Anti-Fascist") showed up as well and the protests turned violent. One of the white supremacist protesters killed counter-protester Heather Heyer. Many others were injured in the clashes.
All the major media outlets were covering the protests. As Americans viewed the events, in shock at the racist images and remarks, Trump made a public statement on Aug. 12, a Saturday, aimed at quelling the tension. But as Americans waited to hear their president condemn racism, he went off-script from his prepared remarks and heightened the tension by appearing to provide cover for the white supremacists. The following Monday, after hearing much criticism, even from members of his own party, Trump delivered another written statement explicitly condemning racism. The next day, however, in more off-the-cuff remarks to a gaggle of reporters, he again appeared to provide cover for the racists, saying there were "very fine people" on "both sides."
CP editors were among many urging Trump to do better. "When it comes to decrying white supremacy, Trump has a credibility problem. ... Candidate Trump failed to adequately distance himself from white supremacists. ... Trump has some rhetorical work to do," we wrote in an Aug. 15 editorial.
At the end of September, a group of prominent evangelical leaders signed a letter similarly urging Trump to speak out more forcefully against the Alt-Right.
"Now, we respectfully call upon you to respond to the resolution by speaking out against the alt-right movement. This movement has escaped your disapproval," the letter stated.
Antifa also engaged in violent protests across the country in 2017. At the end of August, an Antifa rally on the Berkeley campus in California turned violent. Democrats were urged to denounce the violent leftists, as Trump was urged to denounce the Alt-Right.
"The violent actions of people calling themselves Antifa in Berkeley this weekend deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said at the time.
The Southern Baptist Convention also passed a resolution (after some initial confusion) condemning the Alt-Right at its June meeting.
2. Evangelicals in the Trump White House
Donald Trump won the presidency by reaching out to, and receiving the support of, evangelicals, making "Trump and Evangelicals" CP's #1 story of 2016.
In 2017, evangelicals played a prominent role in the Trump White House as debates in the secular press and among evangelicals over their support continued.
Evangelicals had an ambivalent relationship to Trump in 2016 and that ambivalence continued in 2017. Evangelicals liked some of Trump's accomplishments, such as appointing Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and getting rid of Obama's birth control mandate for religious nonprofits. They didn't like other Trump actions, such as his appointment of Anthony Scaramucci and a criminal sentencing memo from his attorney general.
Trump's braggadocio, narcissism, misogyny and race-baiting make him an odd standard bearer for politicized evangelicalism. But politics is inherently transactional and Trump promised to support the causes of politically conservative evangelicals. Trump's evangelical support is also race-based, with white evangelicals much more supportive than non-white evangelicals.
After becoming president, Trump formed an "Evangelical Advisory Council," later renamed the "Faith Leaders Initiative," comprised mostly of evangelical leaders who were on an advisory board during his presidential campaign. The Faith Leaders Initiative is unofficial and its total membership has not been made public, though most of the membership has been gleaned from statements and appearances. Pastor Paula White-Cain was appointed head of the Faith Leaders Initiative.
Besides selecting evangelical Mike Pence as his vice president, Trump filled his Cabinet and White House with many evangelicals. In a May 19 CP interview, Pastor Robert Jeffress, one of Trump's strongest supporters and a Faith Leaders Initiative member, said no president has reached out to evangelicals as much as Trump.
"People would be surprised at how many believers there are in the Trump Administration. Very dedicated Christians," he added.
Early in 2017, some Southern Baptist congregations attempted to steer funding away from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission over what they viewed as harsh rhetoric against Trump supporters from its president, Russell Moore. The conflict was resolved after Moore apologized.
Jeffress was accused of idolatry in July after the choir of his church, First Baptist Dallas, sang a song based upon Trump's campaign theme, "Make America Great Again," at a "Celebrate Freedom" concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
In late April, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., another one of Trump's strongest evangelical supporters, claimed that evangelicals have "found their dream president" in Trump.
On May 4, the National Day of Prayer, Trump signed an executive order promoting religious liberty. A signing ceremony at the White House was attended by many evangelical leaders and they had dinner with Trump the night before.
At the dinner, Trump broke protocol by giving a large group of the evangelical leaders a personal tour of the second floor of the White House, which contains the private residence of the president and is normally off limits.
The executive order was less than social conservatives had hoped for. It mostly expressed intentions to defend religious freedom, rather than making any concrete steps to defend religious freedom. An early draft leaked in February went much further. Some social conservatives criticized the order for not doing more while others supported the president for at least taking a step in the right direction.
The Faith Leaders Initiative met again on July 10 in the Executive Office Building. They spent the day meeting with various White House officials. The dialogue was two-way: They learned about some of the activities in the White House and shared their concerns.
During the meetings, Pence surprised them with a visit to the Oval Office to meet Trump. The leaders laid hands on Trump and prayed for him. Johnnie Moore, president of the KAIROS Company and one of the main organizers of the Initiative, snapped a photo during the prayer that he later posted to Twitter. That photo then caught the attention of many media outlets and set off a debate about praying for presidents (see, for instance, here, here and here).
Board members were urged to end their associations with Trump after Trump appeared to defend white supremacists in speeches after the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. A.R. Bernard, a black pastor in New York City, was the only Faith Leaders Initiative member to resign in protest. CP interviewed some of the members at the time. Even when they disagreed with the president, they argued, it was better to stay, and have access and influence on the White House.
"It's hard to be a prophetic voice if you're not even in the room," Bishop Harry Jackson told CP at the time.
The Faith Leaders Initiative used its influence during its July meeting to get the White House to delay implementation of a deportation order for Iraqi Christians, who would likely face persecution if sent back to Iraq. Later, a federal judge halted the deportations.
On Dec. 11, the Faith Leaders Initiative met Trump again at the White House and presented him with a "Friends of Zion" award after Trump announced he would move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the capital, Jerusalem.
Trump's support from white evangelicals saw an overall decline throughout 2017. A September Reuters/Ipsos poll found an 11-point drop, from 73 percent to 62 percent. A December Pew poll similarly found a 17-point drop in job approval rating, from 78 to 61 percent.
About 3 out of 10 white evangelicals are Trump's strongest supporters. For a PRRI survey published in December, 30 percent of white self-identified evangelicals answered that "there's almost nothing President Trump could do to lose my approval."
1. Sex Scandals and #MeToo
The #MeToo movement ignited a firestorm in October, taking down powerful Hollywood moguls, politicians, and media elites accused of committing sexual harassment, assault, and even rape.
It began with accusations of sexual assault and rape against film executive Harvey Weinstein and quickly ensnarled over 90 famous men, including trusted TV news personalities Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer.
On Oct. 15, actress Alyssa Milano urged women who'd been sexually harassed or assaulted to share their stories along with the hashtag "me too." And within 24 hours #MeToo was tweeted more than 500,000 times and appeared in 12 million Facebook posts. Nearly two weeks later, Milano said in a tweet that more than 1.7 million people in 85 countries had used the hashtag.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released on Oct. 30 found that 48 percent of employed women said they "have received an unwelcome sexual advance or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature at work."
Notable women in Christian leadership positions, such as Beth Moore and Kay Warren, also revealed their stories of sexual assault and harassment under the #MeToo hashtag.
Kay Warren, co-founder of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and wife of megachurch Pastor Rick Warren, revealed: "A pedophile molested me when I was a little girl. It's taken decades to heal. #MeToo."
Along with the #MeToo movement, some Christian women started posting messages under #ChurchToo to share their stories of abuse committed by leaders in the Church.
Eighty-seven Baptist pastors in Alabama also released a statement condemning sexual abuse, assault, harassment and exploitation of women, especially by men in power, in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore.
Moore, who has long been admired by many conservative Christians, was accused by two women of attempting to sexually assault them when they were 14 and 16 years old, while others claimed he had tried to date them when they were 16 and 18, and he was in his 30s. The allegations set off a heated debate among politically conservative Christians. Some said the accusers were credible and Moore shouldn't be supported, others didn't believe the accusers, still others believed the accusers but said Moore should be supported anyway. Moore lost.
Many have blamed the sexual revolution and its promotion of sexual promiscuity — and feminist icons like Gloria Steinem for her decades of defending liberal men like former president Bill Clinton who was accused of committing sexual assault and rape — for society's failure in establishing clearly defined rules for appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
After all, the #MeToo movement came after Vice President Mike Pence was roundly mocked by the media for following the Billy Graham rule of never being alone with a woman who isn't his wife, while Hugh Hefner was lauded for his decades of work as a pornographer.
Similarly, Democratic women in Congress were slow in condemning Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who was seen in photos groping women's breasts and buttocks.
Many people on the right and left have been asking just how helpful the #MeToo movement has been, and if it has gone too far. While it has empowered many women to share their stories, the majority of victims haven't named their abusers and will never receive justice by seeing those who harmed them sentenced for their crimes. On the other hand, as noted by MSNBC "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski, "Right now, any woman can say anything, and a man's career is ruined."
To find out what Americans consider to be sexual harassment, the Barna Group asked people to name specific acts that cross the line. Ninety-six percent of women and 86 percent of men said it's most often about being touched or groped. And 91 percent of women and 83 percent of men said it's about being forced to do something sexual.
Eighty-six percent of women and 70 percent of men also said harassment is about making sexual comments about someone's looks or body, and 85 percent of women and 71 percent of men said it's about sharing intimate photos or videos of someone without their permission.
Some men are fighting back against the accusations of sexual misconduct. For example, Tavis Smiley, who was suspended by PBS for alleged sexual misconduct, has gone on Fox News to state his case and proclaim his innocence, saying that he doesn't know who his accuser is or what actions he was alleged to have committed.