According to a poll done by the Religion Newswriters Association of its members, the top religion news stories of 2005 were:

1.The death of Pope John Paul II after a long and eventful papacy.
2.Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger elevated to the papacy as Benedict XVI.
3.Terry Schiavo’s death and the controversy surrounding the end of her life.
4.Churches and faith-based groups responding to disasters world-wide such as the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
5.Debate over homosexuality continues in mainline US denominations.
6.Debate over evolution, especially in Kansas.
7.Court cases involving Ten Commandments, Pledge of Allegiance, abortion, euthanasia.
8.Faith-based groups involved in the debate over Bush’s three Supreme Court nominees.
9.Vatican releases statement on homosexuality; first major statement by Benedict XVI.
10.Billy Graham does final Crusade in New York City.

The events in this list, especially numbers 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, & 10, demonstrate once again a major thesis of the Bosque Boys, namely that America cannot be understood without attempting to understand religion’s (especially Christianity’s) interaction with American politics and culture. (cont. below)

One of the major reasons that many Europeans do not understand the United States is the important role played by religion in American culture. In Europe intellectuals effectively secularized over the course of the nineteenth century. Auguste Comte developed the “science” of sociology, intentionally seeking to explain human society without reference to a transcendent God or his laws. Charles Darwin, probably unintentionally, enabled scientists to “explain” life without reference to a Creator. Sigmund Freud, intentionally, sought to explain persons and human behavior without reference to the Image of God or Sin. These thinkers, and others, gave European (and American) elites the language and concepts they needed to live without referring to God. Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries most Europeans have drifted away from Christianity.

Americans, on the other hand, continue remarkably religious. What we have seen in this country is a widening rift between many of the nation’s elites who have abandoned traditional Christianity, and many, many ordinary Americans. It is interesting, and occasionally amusing, to see an elite politician, such as Howard Dean, attempt to bridge this gap. Come 2008 we’ll see if a Democratic candidate can find an authentic-sounding voice to position himself, or herself, within the stream of America’s religious ethos.