(RNS) Every news outlet does its own version of the year’s biggest stories (we certainly did ours), but we wanted to do something different.
These may not be the biggest news stories from 2014, although many of them were big. But they were the ones that captured our imagination and helped us remember why we love the religion beat.
If you like what you see here, remember that it’s not too late to make a (tax-deductible!!) year-end financial donation to help RNS deliver stories that inform, illuminate and inspire.
From the entire RNS staff, Happy New Year and thanks for reading with us in 2014. We look forward to bringing you more in 2015:
“Hail Bacon, Full of grease, The Lard is with thee.” Need we say more? By Brian Pellot.
(RNS) By dying at age 29, Brittany Maynard signaled that she saw no point in needless suffering. And if suffering is optional, then it might also be spiritually meaningless. By Cathy Lynn Grossman.
When he speaks about women, Pope Francis can sound a lot like the 78-year-old Argentine churchman that he is, using analogies that sound alternately condescending and impolitic, even if well-intentioned. By David Gibson.
Welcome to the world of nursing home evangelism, where teams of lay evangelists target senior citizens for one last chance in this life for glory in the next. By Adelle M. Banks.
Straddling one of America’s deepest cultural divides, celibate gay Christians present a challenge to both their churches and the secular LGBT community. They often find themselves trying to translate one side for the other. But frequently, neither side really understands what it’s hearing. By Sarah Pulliam Bailey.
The idea that this suburban bakery could make adults with cognitive disabilities into employable bakers surprises even some in their own families. Perhaps more surprising: the Sunflower bakers must work within the strictures of Jewish dietary laws, assuring customers that the products they make are certified-by-a-rabbi kosher. By Lauren Markoe.
TOPEKA, Kans. (RNS) Steve Drain, spokesman for Westboro Baptist Church, says the intersection of 12th and Orleans streets is “the epicenter of the moral struggle of the covenant.” Sally Morrow takes us inside with an amazingly personal video.
(RNS) Praise bands aren’t the only forces making church choir directors sing the blues. By Cathy Lynn Grossman.
Ever since Murphy Brown shocked much of the country in 1991 by deciding to raise her baby on her own, the culture has changed. Once unthinkable and later unacceptable, single mothers by choice today are met with less judgment — even in the pulpit. By Lauren Markoe.
Most Protestant traditions forcefully rejected the “Romish doctrine” of purgatory after the Reformation nearly 500 years ago. The Protestant discomfort with purgatory hasn’t eased much since — and many Catholics don’t seem to take purgatory as seriously as they once did, either. But advocates who say it’s a doctrine Protestants can and should embrace are having a degree of success that hasn’t been seen in, well, centuries. By David Gibson.
People find Jesus’ sex life endlessly fascinating, and plausible. Why is that? Here are five reasons. By David Gibson.
Today’s religious and political realities — ongoing wars, disputed borders and hostile relationships — have their roots in the global conflict that began when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914. “You can’t understand the war fully without investigating the religious dimensions of the war,” said Jonathan Ebel, an associate professor of religion at the University of Illinois. By Kimberly Winston.
The rise of the entertainment industry, combined with a focus on marketing techniques to preach the faith or build up a church, have sparked a penchant for ministry gimmicks that go well beyond the old dunk tank. By David Gibson.
Many Christians struggle with how to understand the Resurrection. How literally must one take the Gospel story of Jesus’ triumph to be called a Christian? Can one understand the Resurrection as a metaphor — perhaps not even believe it happened at all — and still claim to be a follower of Christ? By Kimberly Winston.
Sorry, folks. That whole thing about Pope Francis promising that we’ll see our favorite pets in heaven? He never actually said that. By David Gibson.
Chicago. New York. Washington, D.C. In quick succession this year, three women have been chosen to lead historic tall-steeple churches in all these cities. By Adelle M. Banks.
(RNS) Eight years ago, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a lecture at the University of Regensburg in Bavaria in which he seemed to diagnose Islam as a religion inherently flawed by fanaticism. Now, with the Islamic State on the march in the Middle East, some of Benedict’s allies on the Catholic right are saying, in effect, “See, he told you so.” By David Gibson.
Some customers ask: If the Rinkoffs are not religious, is it still a Jewish bakery? “We say we’re an artisan bakery, but we’re proud of our Jewish heritage,” Jennifer Rinkoff said. Rinkoffs’ food is not kosher certified, but the family avoids cooking with animal fat and serving pork. These considerations suit their Muslim clients’ needs. By Brian Pellot.
When the time comes, John B. Johnson wants to skip the embalming fluid and fancy casket in favor of a plain pine box. And he would just as soon skip the grand procession, led by a gas-guzzling hearse. “It’s the notion that Jesus was so humble,” he said. “I am a follower and I want to follow that example. I want my death as humble as I think Jesus lived.” By Lauren Markoe.
(RNS) The preaching in that rented circus tent in Los Angeles changed Louis Zamperini, then 32 — who put away the bottle and devoted his life to Jesus. It also changed the preacher, Billy Graham, and the future course of American evangelicalism. By Cathy Lynn Grossman.