2018: Predictions and preparations

Last year was a banner year for religion in the headlines with the ongoing Rohingya Muslim crisis, a high-profile church shooting, a proposed move for the U.S. Embassy in Israel and the growing influence of evangelicalism on politics. And that’s just to name a few.

What will 2018 bring for religion in the news? Pundits and prognosticators have weighed in, including Jerome Socolovsky, editor-in-chief of Religion News Service, a nonsectarian wire service dedicated to the coverage of all faiths. This edition of ReligionLink offers resources, background and top sources to help reporters tackle Socolovsky’s list of 10 national and international stories that bear watching in 2018:

– How will religious institutions respond to the #metoo movement, with stories of abuse already making the rounds online via the #churchtoo hashtag?

– The 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination on April 4 will likely be an occasion to reflect on how far the United States has come on race, and religious leaders will no doubt be prominent voices in that conversation.

– Will the ban on travel from six predominantly Muslim countries — which Trump says will protect the nation from terrorists — be upheld by the Supreme Court against the challenges wending their way through lower courts?

– As the “brogrammers” of Silicon Valley develop troubled consciences and yearnings for transcendent meaning, will any progress be made in the creation of a new religion based on Artificial Intelligence?

– The canonization of martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, long-stalled because of his ties to liberation theology, could take place next year and be a milestone in Pope Francis’ reorienting of the Catholic Church’s priorities.

– Ireland, which has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, will hold a referendum on abortion. It’s scheduled to take place weeks before the first papal visit to the country since 1978.

– After the arrest of dozens of clerics this year, what will come of Crown Prince Salman’s efforts to bring Saudi Arabia’s religious establishment to heel and push for a more open brand of Islam in which their role is limited?

– What will be the fate of Jared Kushner’s efforts to devise a peace plan in the Middle East after Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?

– Will the relationship between Israeli and American Jews be further strained after the Israeli government endorsed the ultra-Orthodox stance forbidding men and women to pray together at the Western Wall?

– How will the Supreme Court rule in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case about the limits of free speech and religious freedom and on another case about California’s requirement that pregnancy centers post notices about publicly funded abortions?

 

The predictions

How will religious institutions respond to the #metoo movement, with stories of abuse already making the rounds online via the #churchtoo hashtag?

Background:

Relevant ReligionLink tips:

Top sources:

  • Ellen T. Armour

    Ellen T. Armour is director of the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and a professor in the Divinity School. Her research interests include feminist theology; theories of sexuality, race, gender, disability and embodiment; and contemporary continental philosophy.

  • Lallene Rector

    Lallene Rector is president of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill. She is also director of its WomenIMAGES center.

  • Kira Schlesinger

    Kira Schlesinger is a priest at Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Lebanon, Tenn., and author of Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics and Justice. She wrote about sexual harassment in the church after the Harvey Weinstein accusations were published.

The 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination on April 4 will likely be an occasion to reflect on how far the United States has come on race, and religious leaders will no doubt be prominent voices in that conversation.

Background:

Relevant ReligionLink tips:

Top sources:

Will the ban on travel from six predominantly Muslim countries be upheld by the Supreme Court against the challenges wending their way through lower courts?

Background:

Relevant ReligionLink tips:

Top sources:

As Silicon Valley develops troubled consciences and yearnings for transcendent meaning, will progress be made in new religion based on artificial Intelligence?

Background:

Resources:

  • Way of the Future is the “church” and “religion” founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur and technology guru Anthony Levandowski.

Relevant ReligionLink tips:

Top sources:

  • Christopher Benek

    Christopher Benek is the associate pastor of family ministries and mission at First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and a frequent commentator on emerging technology and theology, including artificial intelligence and religion.

  • Deborah Johnson

    Deborah Johnson is a professor emeritus of applied ethics in science, technology and society at the University of Virginia. Best known for her work on computer ethics and engineering ethics, Johnson’s research examines the ethical, social, and policy implications of technology, especially information technology. She was part of a panel on AI and religion at the 2017 Religion News Association’s conference.

  • Subbarao Kambhampati

    Subbarao Kambhampati is a professor of computer science and engineering at Arizona State University in Tempe and president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. He frequently speaks and gives interviews about the implications of AI on human society. One of his lectures on the subject is available on YouTube.

The canonization of martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, long-stalled because of his ties to liberation theology, could take place next year and be a milestone in Pope Francis’ reorienting of the Catholic Church’s priorities.

Background:

Relevant ReligionLink tips:

Top sources:

Ireland, with some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, will hold a referendum on abortion. It’s scheduled to take place weeks before the first papal visit to the country since 1978.

Background:

Relevant ReligionLink tips:

Top sources:

  • John Littleton

    John Littleton is a Catholic priest and director of the Priory Institute in Dublin. He is co-editor of Contemporary Catholicism in Ireland: A Critical Appraisal and Irish and Catholic?: Towards an Understanding of Identity and a frequent commenter on Irish-Catholic life and issues.

  • Elizabeth Oldmixon

    Elizabeth Oldmixon is a professor of sociology at the University of North Texas in Denton and editor-in-chief of the journal Politics and Religion. She co-authored a chapter on priest burnout and political engagement in The Catholic Church in Ireland Today.

  • John Waldmeir

    John Waldmeir is a professor of religious studies at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, where there is an Irish studies program within the Catholic studies program. He is the author of a forthcoming book on the Catholic church in Ireland.

What will come of Crown Prince Salman’s efforts to bring Saudi Arabia’s religious establishment to heel and push for a more open brand of Islam in which the religious establishment's role is limited?

Background:

Relevant ReligionLink tips:

Top sources:

What will be the fate of Jared Kushner’s efforts to devise a peace plan in the Middle East after Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?

Background:

Relevant ReligionLink tips:

Top sources:

  • Mohammed Abu-Nimer

    Mohammed Abu-Nimer is a professor at the American University’s School of International Service in International Peace and Conflict Resolution in Washington, D.C., where he directs the Peacebuilding and Development Institute. He is an expert on conflict resolution and dialogue for peace. He has researched, intervened and conducted conflict resolution workshops around the world, including in the Palestinian territories, Israel, Egypt, Northern Ireland, the Philippines (Mindanao) and Sri Lanka. He wrote Nonviolence and Peace Building in Islam: Theory and Practice. Among his interests are work among Palestinians and Jews, application of conflict resolution models in Muslim communities, interreligious conflict resolution training and interfaith dialogue. Nimer works closely with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, authoring a yearly report on the status of Muslims’ civil rights in the U.S. He also authors materials about accommodating Muslim religious practices in the workplace and institutions for corporate and institutional audiences, and he wrote The North American Muslim Resource Guide, which profiles Muslim issues and history in North America and includes a directory of contact information for Muslim community organizations in the U.S. and Canada.

  • Yehezkel Landau

    Yehezkel Landau is an associate professor of interfaith relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn., where he coordinated Building Abrahamic Partnerships, an interfaith training program for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Today, he is the founder of Landau Interfaith, where he consults with communities, organizations and groups on Jewish, Christian and Muslim relations.

     

  • Zakaria Odeh

    Zakaria Odeh is the director of the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, an NGO dedicated to Palestinian human rights. He has warned that the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will endanger future peace negotiations.

Will the relationship between Israeli and American Jews be further strained after the Israeli government endorsed the ultra-Orthodox stance forbidding men and women to pray together at the Western Wall?

Background:

Relevant ReligionLink tips:

Top sources:

  • Lesley Sachs

    Lesley Sachs is the director of Women of the Wall, an international consortium of Jewish women who want women to be able to pray at Jerusalem’s Western Wall. She lives in Jaffa, Israel.

  • Orthodox Union

    The Orthodox Union is the educational and outreach arm of Orthodox Judaism. It is generally considered a Modern Orthodox organization. Among its main concerns is helping Jews keep kosher and strengthening their traditional rituals, practices and holiday observances. It posts a page that allows users to search for Orthodox synagogues by state. Rabbi Steven Weil is senior managing director.

  • Rabbinical Assembly

    The Rabbinical Assembly is an international association of Conservative rabbis. Rabbi Julie Schonfeld is chief executive officer.

How will the Supreme Court rule in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case about the limits of free speech and religious freedom and on another case about California’s requirement that pregnancy centers post notices about publicly funded abortions?

Background:

Resources:

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  • Daniel Bennett

    Daniel Bennett is an assistant professor of political science at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Ark., and the author of Defending the Faith: The Politics of the Christian Conservative Legal Movement.

  • Margot Cleveland

    Margot Cleveland is a lawyer and an adjunct professor for the college of business at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind. She wrote a column for The Federalist, where she is a senior contributor, about why she believes the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips — which she describes as a defeat for religious liberty.

  • Caroline Mala Corbin

    Caroline Mala Corbin is a professor of constitutional law at the University of Miami’s law school who specializes in First Amendment issues, especially religion and freedom of expression issues. She can also discuss the religious liberty of institutions.

  • David French

    David French is an attorney, a decorated veteran and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute. He has served as senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice and the Alliance Defending Freedom. He is a regular contributor to National Review, where he wrote several columns supporting a Supreme Court decision for Masterpiece Cakeshop. He is based in Columbia, Tenn. Contact via the media coordinator at the National Review Institute.

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