January 1st, 2012
03:00 PM ET
To ring in the New Year, CNN's Belief Blog asked experts in religion, faith leaders, and a secular humanist about how the forces of faith and faithlessness will shape the world in 2012.
Here's what they told us:
1. The Republican Party will tap Mitt Romney as its presidential nominee, and America will finally have its "Mormon moment." As evangelicals try to figure out whether they can support a president who practices Mormonism, the rest of us will try to figure out whether Mormonism is a cult, a form of Christianity, or something in between. Meanwhile, visitors to Marriott hotels will finally crack open some of those nightstand copies of The Book of Mormon.
2. Despite all of the lessons that could have been learned from Y2K and Harold Camping, people will still rally around the idea that apocalyptic events are on the calendar for 2012. Some will turn to the end-date of the 5125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar (closely associated with the Maya civilization) and a handful of folks believe cataclysmic events are awaiting on December 21, 2012. But the dates with will pass with little fanfare — except for those profiting from the sale of gold coins, generators, and dried food that you'd probably rather want to die than eat.
3. Continuing revolutions across the Arab world will raise alarming questions about the fate of the remaining Christians in the region, and will put the issue of religious persecution squarely on the political agenda. Sizable Christian populations now survive in only two Arab countries, Egypt and Syria, both of which could soon be under Islamist rule. At a minimum, expect to see inter-faith violence on the ground. In a worst case scenario, Arab Christians could face large scale persecution, forcing millions to seek new homes overseas. Watch too for religious persecution to be an emotive issue in the U.S. presidential race.
4. The year will see an increase in the number of people "coming out" as nonbelievers. Major events like the Reason Rally in March will be a catalyst for more people to publicly declare their secular worldview. The statements of popular celebrities George Takei and Ricky Gervais as atheists in 2011 are just the tip of the iceberg.
5. "All-American Muslim" will become a bigger hit than "Jersey Shore" ever was. Obsessed fans worldwide, regardless of gender, will begin rocking sassy colorful hijab (veil) and converting en masse. Tim Tebow will choose to fast in solidarity with Muslim football players and Tebowing will be replaced by Teprostrating. President Obama will jump on the bandwagon and replace VP Joe Biden with Keith Ellison as his running mate, guaranteeing his re-election in a landslide victory in November. Peace will reign on earth and pigs will have a new lease on life.
6. There's no question the worldview of most younger Christians already differs from previous generations regarding social justice, cultural engagement and politics. The next issue of probable divergence? The conflict in Israel and Palestine. The American church has largely purported just one theology about the modern state of Israel, but now questions are being asked - especially by younger Christians learning of persecution and human rights issues happening in the region - if the church should have a more active role in peacemaking. Is there a way for the Church to be pro-Israel, pro-Palestine and pro-peace?
7. Significant numbers of millennials (young people born in the 1980s and 1990s) will continue to walk away from socially conservative religious traditions. Bringing them back will be tough, especially for religious organizations deeply invested in brick-and-mortar and bureaucracy. Millennials who are facing the erosion of access to affordable, quality education and meaningful employment and who stand to inherit from their elders a great deal of debt and environmental destruction want to know why and how faith matters.
8. The year 2012 promises to be a time of great spiritual stirring in our nation. People are seeking both practical and spiritual answers to their problems. As a result, churches and media ministries that answer specific needs will grow in unprecedented numbers. We can expect to see the numbers of mega-churches and super mega-churches continue to grow. Culturally there will be marked return to helping the poor (both domestically and internationally) and political and social engagement by a younger/more racially diverse, evangelical people.
9. Sabbath becomes trendy! Fourth Commandment makes a comeback! Sabbath named Time’s person of the year! A new movement sweeps the country. They call themselves 24/6. Worn out by being tethered to the grid 24/7, sick of being accessible all hours of the day, inundated by updates, upgrades, and breaking news, Americans finally rebel, demanding, “We need a day off.” People all over the country go offline for 24 hours every week. The simple break from the frenetic pace results in lowered cholesterol rates, fewer speeding tickets, and a reduction in marital strife. Peace, tranquility and contentment spread like wildfire.
10. Women in the Middle East and around the world will rally in protest about the woman who was beaten, stomped on and stripped down to her blue bra (under her abaya) during a demonstration in Egypt. Women everywhere who have been oppressed by their religions will rise up, as they have already done in Egypt, to join "The Blue Bra Revolution." We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore.
11.“Occu-pew Church" – a movement away from counterfeit "Church-ianity," cult of personality and religion toward authentic grassroots personal faith, based on living and loving like Jesus. More churches will lose the moat dragon mentality, lower the drawbridge and dispatch members beyond the church service to church SERVICE, applying their faith in the community through volunteerism and outreach. A renewed global emphasis on prayer - especially for peace and reconciliation - as individuals and leaders recognize that personal spiritual peace in one's heart provides the only lasting foundation for physical peace among families, friends, neighbors - even nations
12. Hindu Americans will continue to become better advocates for themselves, particularly in the public policy arena. They will play a larger role in defining the manner in which Hinduism is represented in the media, academia, popular culture, and interfaith dialogue. The acknowledgment of the Hindu roots of yoga will continue to spread with more people seeing the connection. And the Hindu ethos of religious pluralism will take on a more prominent role in nurturing not only tolerance, but respect for and between the world's religions.
13. In 2012 the lines between the sacred and the profane will get even more blurry: Scientists will religiously maintain their search for the elusive God particle (they won't find it); evangelical sports superhero and Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow will continue to be both an inspiration to the faithful and an object of scorn to skeptics (he will be watching, not playing in, the Super Bowl); at least one well-known religious leader or leading religious politician will be brought down by a sex scandal (let's hope all our leaders have learned a lesson from former Rep. Anthony Weiner and stay away from sexting); and the "nones" - those who don't identify with one religion - will grow even more numerous and find religious meanings in unexpected places (what TV show will become this season's "Lost"?)
14. America’s evangelical community will have its hands full addressing both a presidential election and offering a biblical response to “end of days” Mayan prophecies surrounding 2012. With the economy emerging as the primary issue for the November election, America’s born-again community will have an opportunity to contextualize an alternative narrative to the polarizing elements from both the right and the left by reconciling the righteousness message of Billy Graham with the justice platform of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. By offering compassionate, truth-filled solutions and focusing on the message of grace, love, reconciliation and healing, evangelicals will demonstrate that the greatest agenda stems neither from the donkey nor the elephant but rather from the lamb.
15. We are seeing the divide between younger generation evangelicals and older generation (baby boom and older) get wider every year both theologically and culturally (lifestyle). 2012 promises to widen the gap even more with Gen X and younger evangelicals having trouble understanding why the traditional lines make sense and/or just outright rejecting those lines.
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About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.