Jeremy Lott on the Religious Newsmakers of 2013
Date: January 12th, 2014

Jeremy Lott of the RealClear world (now an editor-at-large at RealClearPolitics) joins us to discuss his list of the top religious newsmakers of 2013.  Unlike a list that focuses on events, his recounting of the year focuses on personalities.  The usual suspects, namely Pope Francis, make the list, but so do some other folks that you may not have remembered or even heard of.

We start off the coversation with two leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention — Fred Luter and Russel Moore — who have started to reshape the direction that their denomination is heading.  Many of their policy moves represent a softening of the Southern Baptists on the political front and we discuss why this is.  Next up, we do cover an “event” that was associated with two individuals — the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Jeremy gives his perspective on that event and we speculate to what effect this will have on how we view terrorism in the United States.

On a less serious note, we turn to our third “newsmaker/event” of the year, which was the “Tips for Jesus” trope that strung out over several months.  Starting with the actions of a pastor who refused to give 15% to a waitress back in the summer and then to another waitress who faked a similar incident, we track how this has led to a number of “anonymous” big tippers for Jesus in the month of December.

Following our gratuity controversy, we turn then to a series of three megachurch pastors that have all stirred up the religious soup pot in one way or another.  Mark Driscoll is first on that list based not only upon his “in-your-face masculine” Christianity, but because of a recent plagiarism controversy that has arose around him.  The next megachurch newsmaker was Joel Osteen, not for any action on his part but rather because of a hoax that someone perpetrated claiming Osteen has left Christianity behind.  Given that so many people fell for this hoax might have something to say about the state of Christianity in the U.S. today, and we chat a bit about this.  Finally, Rob Bell makes the list not for his acceptance of same-sex marriage. which became common fare for many religious notables this year, but rather for what happened to his own congregation following the release of his book, Love Wins.  Apparently, there was a dramatic drop in membership following the publication of that work and this leads us to a brief discussion, once again, of “nones,” a topic that both Jeremy and I believe has been exhausted and/or needs a whole discussion unto itself.

Not all well-known ministers made the news because of controversy.  We finish off the podcast with reflections on Billy Graham and Pope Francis.   Graham makes this list because he gave his final sermon in the past year, prompting many people to reflect upon his amazing ministry and his impact in the future.  Jeremy then shares his perspective on arguably the most talked about religious figure of the year, Pope Fancis.  This perplexing pontiff seemed to both exhilarate and anger progressive and conservative Catholics alike, all the while garnering immense admiration all around the world.  Finally, Tony asks Jeremy for trends to be looking for in the year ahead, which allows us to wrap around with some of the things from the year behind.  Recorded: January 2, 2014.



Kind of a Big Deal: Top Newsmakers of 2013,” by Jeremy Lott (on RealClearReligion).

RealClearReligion — a great place for all your religious news!  (You can also link to RealClearScience and RealClearBooks here too.)

William F. Buckley (Christian Encouter Series), by Jeremy A. Lott.

In Defense of Hypocrisy: Picking Sides in the War on Virtue, by Jeremy A. Lott.

The Warm Bucket Brigade: The Story of the American Vice Presidency, by Jeremy A. Lott.

I’ll Never Forget It: Memoirs of a Political Accident from East Baltimore, by Marvin Mandel, Jeremy Lott, and Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.


Jeremy Lott on Mormons, Pope Francis, and Ugly Churches.

Jeremy Lott on the Media’s Pope-O-Rama.

Jeremy Lott on America’s Shifting Religious Election Coalition.

Jeremy Lott on Episcopalians, Ex-Atheists, Health Care, and German Circumcision.

Jeremy Lott on Real Clear Religion.

James Felak on Picking Pontiffs and Pope Francis.

Mark Driscoll on the Growth of Mars Hill Church.

Larry Osborne on Church Finances and Growth.

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