Cover Story

RELIGION: A year in review

"This event has detrivialized our society. In shockingly graphic terms, it has caused people to ask what is really important in life. They are turning to the church for answers." -Dallas Seminary professor Darrell Bock

Issue: "Year in Review 2001," Dec. 29, 2001

If ever there was a time for us to turn to God and to pray as a nation, it is now." Even as evangelist Billy Graham spoke those words in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Americans thronged to impromptu prayer meetings across the country. Attendance at weekend services shot up an average 20 percent to 30 percent in the weeks following 9/11. A Gallup Poll found religion "very important" to 65 percent of Americans, the highest number in 36 years. The American Bible Society reported a 42 percent jump in Bible sales, a figure nearly matched by Zondervan, one of the world's largest Bible publishers. Christian music sales climbed as much as 33 percent. President Bush emphasized prayer and faith in powerful addresses to the nation. On the lawn of the Capitol, a large group of congressmen and senators sang "God Bless America," which was fast becoming America's second national anthem. But by year's end, most of the indicators had returned to pre-9/11 patterns, except in the New York City area and among the country's large churches. What I meant to say…
After-shocks from the September terror attacks have been rumbling through some sectors of the evangelical movement. Jerry Falwell was forced to issue apologies for blaming the attacks on pagans, abortionists, homosexuals, liberal rights groups, and secularists in the schools and courts. He said their sins had caused God to judge the country and withhold His protection. Mr. Falwell made the remarks on a 700 Club show. Pat Robertson at first sided with Mr. Falwell on the broadcast ("I totally concur"), then distanced himself from the remarks on Fox News (they were "totally inappropriate"). Mr. Falwell said his comments had been ill-timed, insensitive, and divisive at a time of national mourning, and only the terrorists were guilty. President Bush backed away from both leaders and also from Franklin Graham, new head of the Billy Graham organization, after Mr. Graham characterized Islam as "a very evil and wicked religion" on national television. Mr. Graham later wrote a column that clarified the description but did not back away from it. Many prominent evangelicals, including James Dobson, Bill Bright, Assemblies of God head Thomas Trask, Mr. Robertson, and others, signed and circulated a "Biblical Response to America's National Emergency." The paper, designed to be read from pulpits, made points similar to Mr. Falwell's, but was more carefully worded. It lamented America's "crumbling foundations" and appealed to Christians to repent, pray for forgiveness, reach out to others, and reclaim the promise of revival. It cited the forcing of prayer and the Ten Commandments out of the schools, the flood of "unimaginable perversion" through films and television, and millions of abortions as evidence of America's rejection of God and His word. Comings and goings
Resigned: Kevin Mannoia, 45, as president of the 51-denomination National Association of Evangelicals after two years on the job, in June. Board members were unhappy with his performance in management and fundraising. Named as interim president: Leith Anderson, author, teacher, and pastor of 4,300-attendee Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn. Resigned: Pat Robertson, 71, as president of the 11-year-old Christian Coalition, once a powerful conservative influence on the nation's political scene. His successor: Roberta Combs, a veteran Coalition executive from South Carolina. Dumped: Gary Ezzo, controversial author (On Becoming Babywise and founder of Growing Families International), by his publisher, Multnomah Publishers. Reasons: too much criticism of his parenting philosophy, and too many questions following excommunication from the latest of three churches he left under a cloud. Released: Gao Zhan, 39, U.S. resident, sociologist, and evangelical Christian, in July, following five and a half months of detention in China on bogus spy charges. Confirmed: Bones dug up from a remote Texas ranch in March were those of professional atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, 76, her son Jon Garth Murray, 40, and her granddaughter, Robin Murray O'Hair, 30. The three had disappeared five years earlier, the victims of kidnapping, theft, and murder. Word games
Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment this month unloaded its lagging Word Entertainment division on Warner Music Group for $84.1 million in cash (after paying Thomas Nelson $120 million for it in 1996). Word also distributes Integrity Music and Big Idea products. The division will remain in Nashville and retain most of its employees. AOL Time Warner executives say Christian/Gospel music is on a growth curve, so their company stands to become a major player in the field-a view not shared by some industry experts. Gaylord says it wants to focus instead on its core hospitality business (Grand Ole Opry, Opryland hotels). But the firm also is focusing on lawsuits it filed against Nelson, the latest one in July. It claims a humorous ad campaign by its Nashville neighbor deliberately denigrated and devalued the Word trademark that Gaylord acquired from Nelson in 1996. Samples: "'I left Word so I wouldn't get left behind' -Tim LaHaye" and "'Stay with Word? That's a laugh' -humorist Barbara Johnson." Nelson claims it was all in fun as part of a campaign, since discontinued, to introduce its new W Publishing Group. Gaylord's people aren't laughing. Benchmarks
Federal and state courts over the year handled a variety of religion-related cases. Among the decisions that reaffirmed or even strengthened free-speech and equal-treatment protection, the U.S. Supreme Court:

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