As the new year is already upon us, The Christian Post would like to offer a brief look back at the major issues and events of 2014.
Pastors in Houston were almost forced to hand over all their sermons that touched on the topic of homosexuality, a major U.S. megachurch became nonexistent, Christians around the world saw a rise in attacks especially with the rise of terrorist group ISIS, and fear spread around the world as the Ebola virus spread rapidly in West Africa. Below is the full top ten list.
1. Liberal Intolerance: 'Duck Dynasty,' Mozilla, Benham Brothers and Houston Mayor Subpoena Scandal
2014 started with Alan Robertson talking to CP about the fallout over LGBT activist groups, such as GLAAD, calling on A&E to drop Phil Robertson from "Duck Dynasty" after they saw an easily accessible YouTube video of the family patriarch naming homosexuality as a sin. Under pressure, the network decided to drop Phil from the show before reinstating him last January.
The next show to get mired in controversy was Jason and David Benham's HGTV home construction reality TV show "Flip It Forward" that was canceled before it debuted after it was discovered that the twin brothers are openly opposed to abortion, homosexuality and no-fault divorce.
HGTV made the announcement via social media just one day after the website Right Wing Watch published a post labeling David as an "anti-gay, anti-choice extremist," for leading a 2012 prayer rally outside of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. During the rally, he said the nation needs prayer to stop homosexuality, which he said is a sin, according to the Bible.
Similarly, Brendan Eich, the CEO of Mozilla, was forced out of his job because he supported a California ballot initiative to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In 2008, Eich donated $1,000 in support of Proposition 8 that sought to amend the state constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. The bill passed with 52 percent of the vote in the California state assembly and was approved by voters, but the Supreme Court overturned it in 2013.
In October, Houston's openly-gay Mayor Annise Parker was sued for throwing out petition signatures and declining to place on the ballot a repeal of the city's new transgender law that critics claim would allow men who identify as female to use women's bathrooms.
Subsequently, Parker's legal team issued subpoenas to five Houston pastors for all of their sermon notes and personal communication related to homosexuality and gender identity. The move, apparently an attempt to intimidate the pastors into backing off, backfired quickly. There was national outrage over the subpoenas and legal experts from across the political spectrum all agreed that the subpoenas were overly broad. Parker first changed the subpoenas to not include sermons, then dropped the subpoenas entirely. The suit will go to trial sometime this month.
2. Christians Fight for Religious Freedom: Gay Wedding Cakes and Abortifacients in Health Plans
Christian business owners throughout the U.S. have faced steep fines, been forced to close their small family businesses or even been required to take "diversity training" classes after declining to participate in gay weddings because same-sex marriage goes against their religious beliefs. One Oregon couple was forced to close their bakery after declining to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian marriage ceremony and are facing the threat of having to pay $150,000 in damages. A Christian family in New York was issued a $13,000 fine after they refused to allow a same-sex couple to use their farm as the venue for their wedding ceremony. And the New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that photographers cannot decline to participate in gay weddings, stating in its decision that it would be tantamount to refusing to take photographs at a mixed-race wedding.
Even after a repudiation from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Obama administration has continued its effort to force faith-based organizations to pay for birth control and abortifacient drugs that they find morally objectionable. Closely-held corporations must be allowed an exemption from the birth control mandate if it violates their sincerely held religious beliefs, the Supreme Court said. Nonetheless, the Obama administration has continued to require that certain religious groups, like colleges and hospitals, be active participants in something they find morally objectionable.
3. Christian Persecution in the World
Christians throughout the Middle East, Africa and Asia are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. Some are being held in prison in Iran, denied government services in India, or even killed in that country and Pakistan for being falsely accused of violating those countries' blasphemy laws. In Iran, three pastors and one deacon are in prison for their Christian faith, and Boko Haram continues to slaughter Christians and kidnap girls in Nigeria.
After being falsely accused of ripping pages out of a Quran, Christian parents Bibi Shehzad and Shamah Masih were tortured, had their legs broken and were thrown into a brick kiln by a Muslim mob in Pakistan on Nov. 4. In Iran, American pastor Saeed Abedini is serving an 8-year prison sentence for his Christian faith. Abedini has already served two years of his sentence and not only faces beatings, but threats from ISIS sympathizers in the prison who claim they're plotting to kill him.
4. Race and Policing
Reactions to the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Long Island, New York, and to the grand jury decisions not to bring the officers responsible for those deaths to trial, highlighted the racial tension that continues to plague the United States. The decisions were followed by both peaceful demonstrations and riots, and a national discussion about policing and racism.
Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and executive editor of The Christian Post, has called on Christian churches to lead the way in achieving "true racial reconciliation and justice."
5. The Rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq
Thousands of Christians in Iraq and Syria are being tossed from their homes, killed, raped and pillaged by ISIS terrorists. The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in conjunction with the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq, released a report that investigated ISIS' violations of human rights by conducting interviews with over 500 internally displaced witnesses. The UN investigators found that the jihadists' campaign in Iraq has led to over 24,000 Iraqi civilians being injured or killed in the first eight months of 2014. The terrorists are known for killing, kidnapping and persecuting citizens of all religious beliefs, including those holding ISIS' own faith of Sunni Islam, as well as recruiting 12- and 13-year-old boys and forcing women and girls into sex slavery.