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2013 news of the year

2013 News of the Year

Issue: "2013 News of the Year," Jan. 11, 2014

‘DARK GLOOMINESS.’ That’s how Joel Belz in our last issue characterized the expectations of many WORLD readers who wrote to him about the cultural challenges that lie ahead. I wish the major events of 2013 provided evidence to pierce the darkness, but all I can find is one ray of hope.

The political year was certainly gloomy. In January, hope sprung eternal concerning President Barack Obama: Fresh off an electoral victory, might he move from first-term agitator to second-term statesman? By the fall, it was clear that ideology once again had trumped prudence. 

Nowhere was that more evident than in the Obamacare debate. The president had pushed through a centralization of medical power by the thinnest of margins in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court. It turned out that to win he had made false claims, stating repeatedly that forced equality would not violate the liberty of individuals to choose their own doctors. In 2013, millions of Americans learned differently, and Obamacare failures became fodder for bitter comedians.

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The economic year was exuberant for stockholders and a relief for homeowners as housing prices finally rose, but beneath temporary joy lay fear that Washington was creating a new bubble by printing a surplus $85 billion per month and doing other fast shuffling to create the illusion that happy days are here again. 

Nowhere was this more evident than in stock trends, where Federal Reserve shenanigans plus expanding corporate profits pushed markets to new highs. Analysts debated which was the larger factor, but late in the year good economic news tended to bring market declines because investors feared that a true recovery would force the Fed to halt its dangerous artifices. 

The foreign policy year brought one disaster after another. Syria’s fratricide went on and on, with President Obama abandoning a pledge to push back against chemical warfare. Iran continued to pursue nuclear weapons, with signatures on a piece of paper looking like those in Munich 75 years ago. China, Russia, and even North Korea flexed as the United States fluttered.

Nowhere was Obama diplomacy more in need of a reset than in the administration’s cultural imperialism. In one small but poignant example, Croatia (a 90 percent Catholic country grown out of the former Yugoslavia) in 2013 decided to vote on a constitutional amendment to affirm traditional marriage. The U.S. State Department dispatched diplomats to push gay rights there and elsewhere. Outcome: Croatians in December voted 2-1 against same-sex nuptials.

IN ALL THESE AREAS our mainstream press failed America by presenting stories almost always based in secular liberal assumptions. Maybe this becomes clearer if we look at an Associated Press story from 70 years ago: 

“Gestapo head Heinrich Himmler has stared down protesters, laughed off those who call him ‘gypsy killer,’ and smiled through clenched teeth while bantering with people who want to close his concentration camps. He’s facing some of the biggest pressure he has ever seen. … ‘If they think they’re going to make me feel badly about what I do—not gonna happen.’ Just as protesters say they are following God’s will by praying outside concentration camps, Himmler said he, too, is led by divine guidance to provide a place to terminate gypsies: ‘I feel like God wants me to do this job.’ Concentration camp supporters said Himmler is doing important work: ‘It really matters tremendously—the courage, the bravery, the self-sacrifice to keep defending our right to improve Europe.’”

That’s outrageous, you might think: AP wouldn’t have praised a Nazi mass murderer. You’re right. That story never happened, back then. But if you change “concentration camp” to “abortion clinic,” “gypsy” to “baby,” and Himmler to an abortionist, you’ll have the essence of an Associated Press story from 2013 that ran in many newspapers under the headline, “Abortion clinic owner stays committed despite pressure.” (See, for example, AP nowhere argued that unborn children are not human beings, but such an assumption underlay the story, making abortion seem a reasonable procedure rather than an atrocity God hates. 

IN THE FACE OF political, economic, and foreign policy gloom-inducers, along with press failure to tell the truth, it would be great to hold up Christian institutions as beacons of light rather than beakers containing more toxic chemicals. But 2013 was a troubling year for leadership in many long-respected Christian groups. Examples: Vision Forum and Exodus died as their leaders faltered, while the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities and the American Bible Society (ABS) chewed up and spat out presidents.

The ABS story in some ways shows in microcosm what Christianity in America faces. ABS began in 1816, a year after the United States survived a war with Britain begun when the U.S. Department of State protested not only British impressment of American sailors but also British harassment of American missionaries in India and elsewhere. The first ABS president was Elias Boudinot, who had been president of the Continental Congress in the 1780s. The second was John Jay, who had been chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The ABS vice president from 1817 until his death in 1843 was Francis Scott Key, who had seen bombs bursting in the air and then written what became the national anthem. 


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