Trends you need to watch

This week's news turns out to be a case study in some of the significant trends and topics of 2011.

Fear and loathing on the Internet tops my list. This is a story about the way in which tech giants have started to move against religious free speech. The Association of National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), says many of the biggest new Internet sites blocked Christian content and refused to accept faith-based advertisements. In particular, religious content taking a stand against homosexuality was blocked for fear of offending other users. The Washington Times reports it here and it is an emerging trend. Having said that, there are some silicon valley heavies who are not afraid to use their muscle (and money) to support Christian causes. The LA Times has the story.

France bans prayer (on the streets). It says a lot about the nature of secular France that this story has not caused the uproar that you think it might. See the round up of reaction at the Religion News blog. Co-incidentally, this week we saw a story about a couple taken to court for a home Bible study in California and closer to home, the Lord's Prayer banned in school in WA.

Tough times for churches. This new survey shows US churches have had a rough decade. The fact that "no single category or kind of congregation ... was exempt from the decadal downsizing of worship attendance." As Sydney Anglicans, we are blessed that our annual growth continues (and is still ahead of population growth). The Southern Baptists are facing some issues head-on, considering a name-change. The 'Southern' title is hampering church planting in the northern states and as Al Mohler put it "Our commitment to the Great Commission and the urgency of the Gospel must exceed our emotional attachments and fears." Meantime, The ultra-liberal Episcopal church is considering selling off some of the treasures of its National Cathedral. The Cathedral was recently struck by an earthquake, and then a crane collapse.

The new, new atheism. It seems like some atheists are waving the white flag on the new atheism and moving on. American Philosophy professor Gary Gutting has written in the New York Times about the next front in atheism. Realising the bleakness of the new atheism, this goes a step further and proclaims a touchy-feely world view capable of providing meaning and purpose. The joy of secularism is an example of the style of argument. 

So there you have it. Encapsulated in the news of the week, some of the trends of the year.



Russell Powell has more than 30 years experience across all forms of media, with a long career as one of Australian radio's most prominent journalists and presenters. He was one of the pioneers of the ABC's NewsRadio network. As well as his on-air work, he has taught at the Australian Film, TV and Radio School. He is now the CEO of Anglican Media Sydney and the Archbishop of Sydney's Media Adviser.


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