When I left the faith beat 16 months ago to cover election-year politics, I thought I was taking a religion news break.
Many days, I felt like I had taken up residence at the corner of Politics Street and Religion Avenue. Thats how much these two worlds intersected in 2012.
Among the headlines: N.C. pastors lead push for constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage; Catholic bishops claim Obamacares contraception provisions violate their religious liberty; Republicans nominate first Mormon presidential candidate; Billy Graham offers virtual endorsement of Mitt Romney; Some Jewish voters question President Barack Obamas support of Israel; Indiana Senate candidate claims God intended for some rape victims to get pregnant.
In most cases, conservatives were the ones flashing the religion banner. But some liberals latched on to a Pew survey reporting an increase in the religiously unaffiliated especially among young people to suggest America was going secular.
The election ended with some surprises. Like: 52 percent of Catholic voters went with Obama, despite their bishops vocal opposition to White House policies.
And there were some non-surprises: White evangelicals put aside their qualms about Mormonism and overwhelmingly voted for Romney.
Now its a new year and I am back on the faith beat. But it seems like there are a few more things to say about at least two of 2012s religiopolitical stories.
1. In their campaign for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, many North Carolina pastors cited Old and New Testament verses mostly from Leviticus and Paul that condemned homosexuality. A ban, they argued, would protect traditional marriage.
But if the subject is the Bibles take on marriage, why skip over what Jesus said?
He never spoke directly about homosexuality. But he talked a lot about something else he considered a threat to marriage: Divorce.
Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, Jesus says in Lukes Gospel.
So if the Bible is to be our guide on law, why not a state constitutional ban on divorce?
Im not proposing such a thing. But Id be interested in hearing an answer from pro-Amendment One pastors. Virtually all of them have divorced folks in their flocks.
2. A Pew Research Center study last year found that nearly 20 percent of U.S. adults have no religious affiliation. Among those under 30, these so-called nones total 32 percent.
But a closer look at the Pew numbers indicate that only 2.4 percent of U.S. adults are atheist and 3.3 percent agnostic.
Many of the 46 million people with no religious affiliation, Pew said, are turned off not by God but by religious groups too concerned with money, power, politics and rules.
Two-thirds of the nones say they believe in God, 1 in 5 say they pray every day, and more than a third call themselves spiritual.
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