Although 2006 was a relatively calm year as far as religion goes, several events suggest–from the elections to the controversy over the pope’s remarks on Islam–long ranging religious developments at home and abroad. As with past reviews, we cite the issues of RW where these trends and topic are covered more extensively.
01: The 2006 elections dealt a blow to the Christian right, though it is far from fatal. The election losses are more damaging because Christian right activism today is more strongly based within the Republican party than in its own separate movements and organizations, such as the Christian Coalition of a decade ago. Yet the Christian right has operated most effectively in a defensive mode while their offensive gains tend to stir up public criticism and internal divisions and fears (over politicization of the faith, for instance) The Christian right will operate in this defensive posture, most likely winning smaller battles on gay marriage, at least until the 2008 elections and perhaps beyond. (December RW)
02: The emergence of an evangelical center and, to a lesser extent, an evangelical left in American politics and international affairs, was also highlighted by the elections and other events in 2006. The evangelical centrist (and Catholic vote) may be represented by the pro-life Democrats elected, although analysts note that the configurations of the 2004 elections (evangelical Republicans and more secular Democrats) largely held. But the most lasting impact of the evangelical center and left may be their new leadership (causing some conflicts with the right) on international issues–from the newly embraced global warming to AIDS and Darfur initiatives. (December)
03: The pope’s controversial address in Germany last year was said to have dealt a blow to Christian-Islamic relations. But the incident may also have fomented a more candid conversation, at least among religious leaders. This could be seen in the declaration of an “Open Letter to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI,” where 38 Muslim leaders and scholars respectfully critiqued the pope’s statements while calling for extended interreligious dialogue.
04: While divisions in the Anglican communion have been mounting for a few years, events in 2006 suggested that the talk of schism in the Episcopal Church may be based in reality. Several conservative dioceses are considering cutting ties with the denomination, while several influential and large evangelical parishes have recently left. Seven Episcopal dioceses also refuse to recognize the leadership of newly elected Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is also the first woman elected to the top post. (August, December)