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The results are in and I’m suddenly feeling very sleepy. How could you not be worn out after looking at a list of the top religion-related events that took place in the past year?
We lived through — and, in my case, wrote about — a riot at the Capitol, conflict over communion access and the Southern Baptist Convention’s reckoning over sexual assault and racism, just to name a few major incidents. We also continued to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as associated legal battles and grief.
Will 2022 be any quieter? I doubt it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Surprising, challenging and even painful events can be clarifying. They can show you what you’re made of (as an individual, faith group or country) and what you need to adjust.
Over the next few days, I’ll be thinking about what lessons I learned from my reporting in the past year. To kick off the process, I revisited how I covered the events that made the year-end list from Religion News Association.
Here are the top five events (as voted on by association members, including me) along with the links to my related stories:
The Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s return to power
Abortion cases before the Supreme Court
COVID-19 vaccine mandates raise questions about religious exemptions
- Vaccine mandates are here. What will happen to religious objectors?
- What you need to know about religious exemptions to vaccine mandates
- How red states are using religion to fight vaccine mandates
Joe Biden is sworn in as America’s second Catholic president and almost immediately faces pushback from his church
Biden was also voted the top religion newsmaker of the year.
- How faith groups feel after Biden’s first 100 days
- Why some Catholic bishops don’t want Biden to take communion
Fresh off the press
Term of the week: Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is almost certainly the most misunderstood December holiday. The seven-day festival, which begins on Dec. 26, is often referenced but rarely explained.
Because I was tired of being confused, I did some research into Kwanzaa last week. I learned that it’s not a religious holiday and is, instead, a celebration of African American and Pan-African heritage and culture. Participants embrace and celebrate values like unity, self-determination, creativity and faith, the Indianapolis Star reports.
Compared to most other holidays, Kwanzaa is a pretty new phenomenon. It was first celebrated in the 1960s. Today, it’s most popular in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.
What I’m reading...
Is society better off when citizens prioritize getting married and having kids? Members of different faith groups disagree, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. More than half of white evangelicals (56%) say it’s good for people to prioritize marriage, compared to just one-third of Catholics and nonevangelical Protestants.
The New York Times sent a reporter to speak with long-haul truckers about how they celebrate holidays while they’re on the road. The resulting story is both informative and moving. It left me feeling incredibly grateful for the folks who sacrifice a variety of material comforts to make sure shipments arrive on time.
Odds and ends
Here are a few of my favorite stories I wrote this year:
- The bill that could change religious freedom as you know it
- An Easter like no other
- Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, explained
- Does the Supreme Court treat anti-LGBTQ discrimination differently than racism?
- On gay rights, religious colleges face pressure from all directions
- How 9/11 changed American Muslims’ relationship with religious liberty
- Can officials pray in public? It’s complicated