The Unwritten Religion “Stories” of 2011

One of the great conventions of year-end journalism is the “Top Ten List” of this or that “story.” Many such lists are dreadfully uninteresting, and others probably represent content-recycling by underpaid staffers whose bosses are enjoying holiday vacations. Most can be safely ignored, or even read in slightly modified form a year later.

But one really interesting and far-from-conventional Top Ten List was prepared by progressive religious activist Peter Laarman for that always-provocative site, Religion Dispatches. It focuses on stories in the world of religion and culture that mattered, but got little or no attention, even in those sparse precincts of media-land devoted to such topics.

You can read Laarman’s piece itself, but it covers “stories” ranging from the chronic defiance of the Vatican by leaders of “Catholic countries,” to the conquest of the Southern Baptist Convention by neo-Calvinists, to the identity crisis of the pioneering “gay-friendly” Metropolitan Community Church, to the emergence of a visible group of African-American writers who are declaring independence from their community’s religious roots. If you are actively uninterested in matters of faith, you might check out Laarman’s argument that the market fundamentalists who are exercising such unprecendented power in U.S. politics and culture are from a philosophical point of view best described as “Nihilists.” It’s all well worth a read, and worth a lot more than most of the Lists that will bombard you between now and January 1.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.