The year 2016 is quickly drawing to a close. Many unprecedented events occurred this year, and it may be helpful for Christians to review these major news stories as a new year approaches.
1. U.S. 2016 Presidential Election
The 2016 presidential election and its result was certainly an event that will continue to be discussed at length in the new year and beyond. President-elect Donald Trump surprised many, from political pundits in the media to Democrats to those within his own party, by not only becoming the Republican party’s nominee, but by going on to win the election, breaking down the so-called “blue wall” of states that Democratic candidates had won for years.
Although around 80 percent of evangelicals (at least, white evangelicals) voted for Trump, he remains a controversial figure. In the week following his election, rallies and riots broke out in cities across the U.S., with many minorities claiming the new president-elect’s rhetoric regarding race and women made them fear for their own futures, as well as the future of the country.
Many evangelicals themselves wrestled with whether to support Trump, with many reluctantly deciding to support him on the basis of his commitment to appointing conservative Supreme Court justices, or even simply due to their dislike of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
As of last Monday, the electors have cast their votes and Trump has officially reached the needed 270 electoral votes. He will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
2. Terrorist Attacks in Brussels, Orlando, and Nice, Perpetrated by Islamic Extremists
Although Donald Trump took a lot of media attention in 2016, terrorism was also a major news story. Particularly, three major terrorists attacks in the west rocked the world and showed that extreme Islamic terrorism is not contained in the Middle East.
On March 22, a bombing attack was carried out in Brussels, Belgium. Thirty-two victims were killed in explosions at the Brussels airport and at a metro station. Another 230 were wounded. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. The perpetrators were found to be linked to the Paris attacks which were carried out in November of 2015.
A few months later, in June, Islamic terrorism found its way onto American soil. In the early hours of June 12, shooter Omar Mateen opened fire on the patrons at Pulse Nightclub, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Police later revealed that Mateen had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Forty-nine people were killed in the attack, which included a hostage situation. Another 53 were wounded. This shooting was the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in U.S. history. It sparked discussions not only about gun control, but about the LGBT community for months afterward.
A month after the Orlando shooting, and not yet a year after the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, France was again the target of Islamic extremist violence. The perpetrator drove a truck at high speed into a crowd of people gathered in the city of Nice to celebrate Bastille Day. Eighty-six people were killed and 434 injured, many of whom were children. Although it is not clear whether the perpetrator was directly linked with ISIS or another terrorist group, after the attack, ISIS-affiliated accounts were noted celebrating it.
3. Police Shootings in the U.S.
2016 saw racial tensions run high in the U.S. Two particular police-related shootings occurred in which police were accused of racial stereotyping, and then another attack on police themselves was carried out, likely in response to the first two attacks. In the first case, police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana shot and killed African-American man Alton Sterling on July 5. This sparked protests due to claims that Sterling was unarmed and that police acted too hastily and out of racial bias. The very next day, a similar shooting occurred in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. A police officer fatally shot and killed Philando Castile, an African-American man whom many claimed was innocent of any wrongdoing. On July 7, the violence continued when an attack on police occurred in Dallas, Texas. Five white police officers were killed by the African-American man who targeted them. Hashtags of #BlackLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter were shared on social media as racial tensions surged. The shootings of Sterling and Castile especially caught the attention of the nation since both were filmed by onlookers and released online.
4. Crisis in Aleppo
The Syrian Civil War, which has resulted in the horrific humanitarian crisis that is Aleppo, has been called one of the worst humanitarian crisis of modern times. As Russian-backed Syrian government forces under Bashar al-Assad clash with rebel forces, hundreds of thousands of civilians have remained trapped with dwindling provisions inside the city. Countless ceasefires have been breached. Last week, word came that evacuations of the remaining civilians were finally beginning. Continued bombings destroyed communities and ripped families apart. Heart-wrenching photos and videos of young children pulled from the rubble surfaced on social media. Over 150,000 people reportedly have lost their lives in the conflict. Evacuations of civilians are ongoing.
5. ISIS Last Stronghold: Mosul
The Islamic State was losing more and more ground as 2016 advanced. Mosul, Iraq is now their last major stronghold. ISIS took over control of Mosul in 2014 and destroyed many Christian villages and places of worship. Although many towns in Iraq and surrounding Mosul have been liberated from ISIS control, it is uncertain whether Christians will return to their homelands. Before ISIS took control of many areas of Iraq, there were 700,000 Christians in the country; now there are less than 250,000. Christian leaders from the Middle East have begged Christians either to stay or, if they have left, to return and not erase Iraq’s ancient Christian roots.
“Everything is gone. We have nothing left. Why should we stay in this country any longer?” asks one Iraqi man. “We have lost all hope. Is there any country willing to take us in? Please, tell me which one; we will be on the next plane out of here.”
6. Pakistan Easter Attack on Christians
On Easter Sunday, a terrorist group associated with the Pakistani Taliban carried out a suicide attack against Christians who were celebrating Easter at a children’s park in Lahore. Seventy-five people were killed, nearly half of whom were children. Although the majority of those killed were Christians, Muslims also lost their lives.
7. Christians in the Olympics
In August 2016, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil hosted the Summer Olympic Games. The games held many memorable moments and incredible athletic feats. Also notable were the many athletes who made their Christian faith known. These athletes include U.S. gymnast sensation Simone Biles who won four gold medals and takes her Catholic faith seriously, U.S. diver David Boudia who won silver and made headlines when he used interviews during the Olympics to share his faith, and U.S. sprinter Allyson Felix who won two gold medals in relay events and stated that her “goal is to be more Christ-like everyday.” To review a list of other Olympics athletes who profess Christian faith, click here.
8. Saeed Abedini Returns Home
Imprisoned Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini was released in January 2016, after much interceding from his wife and the Christian community. Abedini was apprehended and imprisoned in Iran in 2012, for allegedly endangering national security. He was reportedly beaten and tortured while imprisoned. He had been in Iran to do ministry and was eventually released as part of the Iran Nuclear Deal. Although many rejoiced that Abedini was finally released, the trials were not over for the Abedini family. Before his release, Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, revealed that the couple had ongoing marital issues and that Saeed had abused her emotionally and psychologically and that he had an addiction to pornography. The couple was reportedly receiving counseling for their marital problems, but in October, Abedini announced that he and Naghmeh were getting divorced.
9. Transgender Bathroom Controversy
Transgender rights were a major issue in 2016. In May, the Obama administration issued a directive telling public schools they had to accommodate transgender students by allowing them to use the restroom of their choice, regardless of their biological gender. This directive drew much backlash from the Christian community. The transgender bathroom controversy was most notably seen in North Carolina where conservative Gov. Pat McCrory backed the controversial HB2--the so-called “bathroom bill” which overrode the city of Charlotte’s mandate which said that transgender individuals could use the bathroom corresponding to the gender with which they identified. Recently, however, McCrory, who was not re-elected, said he is considering rescinding HB2 after the city of Charlotte rescinded their LGBT ordinance.
10. Jen Hatmaker Controversy
Christian author and speaker Jen Hatmaker made waves this year within the Christian community when she said that gay marriage was not sinful and that gay Christians should be welcomed by the church. The author of popular books such as For the Love received a lot of pushback for her stance on this issue. LifeWay Christian Stores stopped selling her books and many in the Christian community criticized her.
Notable Christian Films of the Year
A number of Christian films made an impact on Christian and non-Christian audiences alike in 2016. These included Risen, which tells the story of a Roman soldier’s encounter with Jesus after His death and Resurrection, Ben-Hur, a remake of the classic 1959 film, and Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, a documentary-style film which followed the rise of Hillsong the church and the Christian praise band. Other notable Christian films included God’s Not Dead 2, The Young Messiah, Miracles from Heaven, Hacksaw Ridge, Last Days in the Desert, I’m Not Ashamed, Greater, and Silence.
A few well-known Christian figures went home to be with the Lord in 2016.
- Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia passed away on Feb. 12 or 13 at the age of 79. Scalia’s death fueled much of the presidential election debate since the new president would get to appoint a new justice to the Court to fill the vacancy. Scalia was known for being a committed Catholic and a staunch conservative.
- Theologian Charles Ryrie passed away Feb. 16 at the age of 90. Ryrie had an extensive collection of rare Bibles and biblical manuscripts which will be sold at auction.
- Joey Feek, part of the Christian country duet Joey and Rory, passed away on March 4 at the age of 40. Joey left behind husband Rory, two-year-old daughter, Indiana, and two older daughters from a previous marriage.
- Christian author and member of The Navigators Jerry Bridges passed away on March 6 at the age of 86.
- Christian author, speaker, and writer Gary Smalley also passed away on March 6 at the age of 75.
- Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel passed away on July 2 at the age of 87. Wiesel is famous for his memoir of living through the Holocaust. Wiesel won the Novel Peace Prize in 1986.
- Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the famous Left Behind series passed away on July 25 at the age of 90.
- Phyllis Schlafly passed away on Sept. 5 at the age of 92. Schalfly was known for her anti-feminist and conservative views.
- Gospel tract creator and cartoonist Jack Chick passed away on Oct. 23 at the age of 92. Chick’s tracts were often controversial.
- Cliff Barrows, a director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and one of Graham’s close friends, passed away on Nov. 15 at the age of 93.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: December 22, 2016