2018's Top 11 News Stories That Christians Should Know

2018's Top 11 News Stories That Christians Should Know

As 2018 comes to an end we can reflect on all of the things that happened this year. From the death of an evangelical great to the freeing of an imprisoned pastor, 2018 has had its ups and downs.

To round out the year, here are the top news stories, be it good, bad, or ugly, of 2018.

  • 1. Billy Graham Passes Away


    The world said goodbye to beloved evangelist Billy Graham on February 21, 2018. The 99-year-old passed away in his North Carolina home due to natural causes, but his legacy will live on. 

    Graham lived a life that was truly inspiring, and countless people have been deeply moved by the Lord’s messaged preached through him. He was converted at 16 after attending revival meetings and went on to be ordained in 1934. He married Ruth McCue Bell in 1943, and the couple went on to have six children. After graduating from Wheaton College in Chicago, Graham became a speaker for the Youth of Christ organization. 1947 brought the evangelist widespread attention as he held his Los Angeles crusade. The gatherings, referred to as “tent meetings”, were initially scheduled to last three weeks; as the number of people interested grew larger, however, the meetings were extended by five weeks. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was integrated in 1950, and Graham and a group of other evangelists worked to spread God’s word to as many places and people as possible. 

    The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association founder preached the gospel to more than 200 million people in over 180 countries and territories, sharing the word of God on a global scale. Graham’s influence was (and continues to be) widespread, extending to people all around the world. His gospel preaching gave him the opportunity to meet numerous world leaders and influencers, including Queen Elizabeth II and Martin Luther King Jr. A full timeline on Graham’s life can be found here.

    Photo courtesy: Getty Images

  • 2. Brett Kavanaugh is Confirmed to the Supreme Court


    Perhaps one of the most polarizing events in U.S. history this year was the Supreme Court confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Donald Trump’s nominee for the high court was set to undergo his confirmation hearing when he was accused of sexual assault by several women. Kavanaugh’s first accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, was considered the most credible of the accusers. The two spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee to tell their sides of the story in what became called the Kavanaugh-Ford Hearing. The long hearing took an entire day and was interrupted dozens of times by protestors. In the end, Kavanaugh passed the committee but, Senate Democrats demanded an FBI investigation into the accusations. President Trump initiated an investigation, and after the completion of the seventh FBI probe and a separate Senate investigationnone of the allegations were materialized. Kavanaugh was then confirmed to the Supreme Court in a 50-48 vote, making him the 114thAssociate Justice of the Supreme Court.

    Photo courtesy: Getty Images

  • 3. Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church


    In August, a bombshell was dropped on the Catholic Church by ways of a grand jury report. According to the reports over 1,000 children were either raped or sexually assaulted by hundreds of Catholic Priests in one Pennsylvania diocese. The report said, “over one thousand child victims were identifiable, from the church's own records. We believe that the real number - of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward - is in the thousands.” This led to an onslaught of investigations into other dioceses.

    Following the release of the report, investigations were launched in New York, New Jersey, Nebraska, New Mexico, Florida, Missouri and Illinois as well as in other countries including Germany. A report released in Germany found that 3,677 people were sexually abused by Catholic clergy between 1946 and 2014. According to Fox News, every sixth case involved rape and no less than 1,670 clergymen were involved in the abuses.

    Following the report also came a slew of cover-up accusations. In July the Vatican accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick after he was accused of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over several decades. When the PA grand jury report was released, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., announced that he had told Pope Francis about the accusations of sexual abuse made against McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington. Vigano reported that despite being told about the accusations, Francis took no action. The Pope declined to confirm or deny his knowledge of the allegations against McCarrick.

    Later in the summer, Francis accepted Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s resignation after he too was accused of aiding in the cover-up, this time in two sexual abuse scandals.

    Photo courtesy: Getty Images

  • 4. Prisoners of Faith: Andrew Brunson and Asia Bibi


    In October 2016, North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson was thrown into Turkish prison after facing allegations of being connected to a terror group that had made efforts to overthrow the Erdogen government in July of the same year. Although his accusers allegedly had no firsthand knowledge of the pastor’s ties with the terrorist group, he remained imprisoned for 2 years. During a five-and-a-half hour hearing that took place in July 2018, Brunson professed his innocence while maintaining his Christian beliefs, stating: "There is no concrete evidence against me. The disciples of Jesus suffered in his name, now it is my turn."

    On July 25th, Brunson was released from the Turkey prison and placed under house arrest. Shortly after the American pastor was sent home. In an October interview with CBS This Morning, the pastor revealed that reading 2 Timothy helped him to get through the most difficult parts of his prison stay. 

    2018 brought a positive turn in the Asia Bibi case as well. Bibi, whose real name is Aasiya Noreen, has been imprisoned in Pakistan since 2009 as a result of blasphemy charges.  The Catholic mother of five was arrested when she was allegedly heard making negative comments about Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, while engaged in an argument with a Muslim woman. She has remained in prison ever since and was sentenced to death a year later. 

    Her case took a turn on April 21st, when Chief Justice Saqib Nisar informed Noreen’s lawyer, Saif ul Malook, that he would hear her appeal: “Be ready, Saif ul Malook. I am going to fix your case soon and I myself will preside over the bench” the Catholic news service UCAN reported Nisar as saying. Finally, on November 7th, Noreen was released from prison. Still, the mother of five is not out of the woods yet. After her release riots broke out in the Pakistani streets with Islamic militants protesting for her death. Currently, the U.S. is considering the possibility of granting Bibi and her family asylum.

    Photo courtesy: Getty Images

  • 5. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek


    Willow Creek Church co-founder and senior pastor Bill Hybels found himself in hot water earlier this year after being accused of sexual harassment and misconduct in early 2018. On March 22, the Chicago Tribune reported their investigation into Hybels, which has been documented by interviews with various members of the church, elders, employees, in addition to “hundreds of emails and internal records.” 

    The former pastor has denied the allegations, calling them “flat-out lies.” 

    Hybels, who had previously announced his plan to retire in October, decided to push his resignation to April 11 following the sexual misconduct rumors. By late April, at least seven women had come forward with claims that the former pastor engaged in inappropriate conduct which included invitations to hotel rooms, remarks about appearances, and an unwelcome kiss. By early August, a total of 10 women had come forward to cite accusations against Hybels. As a result of the allegations against him, numerous publishers have stopped printing Hybels’ books. 

    Missy Rasmussen, who served as an elder at Willow Creek for seven years, announced on August 8th that the entire elder board will resign at the end of the year to make room for a new board. She apologized for the way in which the current board handled the allegations against Hybels, noting that they were now aware that the investigation was “flawed.” Steve Carter, who served as Willow Creek’s lead teaching pastor, had announced his resignation a few days prior on August 5. He shared the news on his blog, citing differences with how the church chose to deal with the accusations against Hybels. 

    At this point, the church’s future remains uncertain.

    Photo courtesy: Facebook

  • 6. Natural Disasters


    2018 has had no shortage of natural disasters. From volcanic eruptions to tsunamis, here is a roundup of some of the worst natural disasters of 2018. 

    ·     California Mudslides Kill at Least 17. In early January of this year, California welcomed some much-needed rain. Unfortunately, instead of simply saturating the ground, the state got so much rain that it caused massive mudslides. According to reports, the land was dried out due to a raging wildfire and years of drought, and it caused the ground to me loose and dusty making it susceptible to mudslides. The California mudslides left 17 people dead.

    ·      Severe Earthquakes Hits Indonesia, Killing 98. In August, Indonesia was hit by two massive earthquakes within the span of a week. The first quake was a 6.4 magnitude earthquake which killed 15 people and injured 162 people. The second quake was a 6.9 magnitude earthquake and struck the tourist island of Lombok and left 98 people dead and hundreds injured.

    ·      7.3 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Venezuela. Later that month a 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook Venezuela. The quake struck Venezuela near Caracas. This was the largest earthquake in Venezuela since 1900, and according to USA Today, there were no reported deaths or injuries as a result of the quake. 

    ·      Hurricane Florence Leaves Major Damage in North Carolina. The storm that many people called “the storm of a lifetime” hit North Carolina as a major Category 4 Hurricane in mid-September. As Florence approached the Tar Heel state more than 1.5 million residents were forced to evacuate their homes. Approximately 4,000 homes were damaged by the storm and some 900 people had to be rescued due to dangerous and potentially deadly flooding. Months later, North Carolinians are still recovering from the massive storm.

    ·      The Earthquake and Tsunami in Indonesia. At the end of September, Indonesia was struck by tragedy when a massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake shook the islands and set off a massive tsunami. The waves from the tsunami reached around 20 feet in some areas and the twin tragedies affected an estimated 1.61 million people. 100,000 people were displaced and over 2,000 people were killed as a result of the quake and tsunami. 

    ·      The Deadliest California Wildfires in History. California had the worst wildfire in the state’s history in 2018. In early November several wildfires ripped through California in both the north and the south. The Camp Fire, one of the two major fires that ripped through the coastal state, ignited near Butte County in the Plumas National Forest in Northern California. The Woolsey Fire ignited on November 8, near Simi Valley and Los Angeles in Southern California. Combined the Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire took the lives of 82 people, scorched nearly 300,000 acres of land, and destroyed around 15,000 structures, many of them homes. The fires took several weeks to contain and displaced some 157,000 people.

    Photo courtesy: Getty Images

  • 7. Lauren Daigle


    Christian singer Lauren Daigle has had quite a year, from beating out secular artists with her chart-topping album Look Up Child to coming under fire for her stance on homosexuality. In September Daigle released her newest album Look Up Child which quickly climbed to number 3 on the Billboard 200 chart, this placed the Christian singer’s album above popular secular artists, Ariana Grande,Drake and Nicki Manaj. Following the release of her record-breaking album, Daigle made the rounds on popular secular talk shows including The Ellen Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. After appearing on The Ellen Show to sing “Still Rolling Stone” from her chart-topping album, Daigle received harsh backlash because the show’s host, Ellen DeGeneres, is openly gay. While she also received support from many Christians, Daigle was also called names including everything from a false prophetess to an enemy of God.  

    Following the backlash, the singer did a radio interview with WAY-FM Radio where she encouraged her critics to think about God’s word. She said, “I think the second we start drawing lines around which people are able to be approached and which aren't, we've already completely missed the heart of God.”

    She continued, "I don't have all the answers in life, but one thing I know is that I can't choose who I'm supposed to be kind to and who I'm not, because that's the mission right? Be who Christ was to everyone as well."

    The singer was under fire again after she did an interview on The Domenick Nati Show and was asked to elaborate on her views on homosexuality.  When asked how she felt about homosexuality she said, “I can't honestly answer on that. In a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don't know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can't say one way or the other. I'm not God. So when people ask questions like that...that's what my go to is.  I just say read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know, because I'm learning too."

    Photo courtesy: Getty Images

  • 8. Mass Shootings


    America experienced almost as many mass shootings this year as days. As of December 9, there were 329 mass shootings in the U.S., a total of 365 deaths and countless injuries.

    One major shooting that grieved the nation this year took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The tragedy struck on February 14, when a former student walked into the school and opened fire. The 19-year-old assailant killed 17 students and faculty members and injured an additional 16. He was later arrested in Coral Springs, Florida. The Parkland shooting became the deadlines high school mass shooting in U.S. history surpassing the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School. 

    Bars and nightclubs were also targeted by shooters this year. On November 7, 12 people were killed at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. The state, which was already struggling to fight off the worst wildfire in California history, was struck by grief. A gunman walked into the bar, killed the security guard and then opened fire on the patrons and employees.

    Mass shootings also shook places of worship this year. On October 27, 11 people were shot and killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. According to reports, while the shooter was receiving medical attention, he made anti-Semitic comments and told the paramedic that he wanted all Jews to die.

    Photo courtesy: Getty Images

  • 9. Immigration and the Border Crisis


    The immigration crisis was amplified this year when a massive migrant caravan marched from Honduras to the U.S.-Mexico border. The caravan which at its peak had nearly 8,000 people started when a group of Hondurans began to walk toward America to escape gang violence, political corruption, and crippling poverty. As the caravan moved through El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, it grew to an enormous size.  When President Trump heard about the caravan, he implored the Mexican government to stop it in its tracks, still, hundreds of people continued on through Mexico toward the U.S. border. Out of fear that many of the members of the caravan were dangerous criminals, President Trump sent almost 6,000 U.S. troops to the border. The first several groups have arrived at the border and President Trump has ordered that a tent city be set up for people awaiting asylum. The president did warn, however, that action will be taken if people attempt to enter the country illegally. This was illustrated when a group of migrants tried to breach the border fence in November. According to the Associated Press, a group of Central Americans had gathered in peaceful protest by marching down the streets of Tijuana, Mexico near the border. The people were gathered in the hopes that the U.S. would speed up the asylum claims process amid the large number of Central Americans approaching the border. Soon, however, as demonstrators neared the border, some saw the opportunity to break through the border fence and bypass the claims processes by illegally entering the country. Reportedly some people began throwing things at the border patrol officers while others attempted to squeeze through gaps in the fence. This led to border patrol officers firing tear gas at the migrants. This move was met with controversy, and while some people believed it was an excessive use of force, others believed it was the only choice.

    Photo courtesy: Getty Images

  • 10. Christian Celebrities Share Their Struggles with Cancer and Depression


    Joni Eareckson Tada, founder and CEO of Joni & Friends, was struck by tragedy as she received her second cancer diagnosis in November. The 69-year-old, who is known internationally for her work as an advocate for those with disabilities, has proven that she isn’t one to give up when faced with adversity; she battled stage 3 breast cancer in 2010 and emerged victorious, being declared “cancer-free” 5 years later. After learning that a small cancerous tumor had formed within a nodule that had developed over the site of her mastectomy, she responded by smiling and reaffirming her trust in God. Eareckson underwent surgery to have the cancerous nodule removed on November 26th. The very next day, she took to social media to share her appreciation for those who offered prayers, writing “Everything went so smoothly, so quickly, that I felt every path was paved on your prayers.” 

    Yvonne Orji, star of the HBO show “Insecure”, is another testimony to God’s neverending love. As the actress was struggling to make it in the entertainment business, she found herself consumed by depression. After experiencing an epiphany that came from reading Psalm 31:14-15, her life changed dramatically. From that point on, Orji has found renewed motivation and was convicted by the Holy Spirit. Shortly thereafter, she got the call from HBO offering her the role of Molly in “Insecure”, giving her career the push she’d been praying for.

    In 2016, Singer-songwriter Michael Bublé felt his world turn upside down after receiving the news that his three-year-old son, Noah, had liver cancer. Michael and his wife, Luisana, immediately put their careers on hold and focused their attention on Noah. Treatment began soon after the family received the diagnosis. The couple shared the devastating news on Facebook and urged fans to pray for the little boy. What followed was a powerful outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and fans all over the world. Michael and Luisana put their faith in God, who blessed them with a miracle--Noah’s cancer was gone. The young boy underwent surgery in which doctors were able to remove the tumor completely. 

    The Canadian singer was outspoken about his thankfulness while speaking with James Cordon during an episode of Carpool Karaoke in November 2018, saying: “We all moved and we lived at [Children’s Hospital Los Angeles] and we just had the best doctors and, God, thank you, Jesus Christ, God.”

    Andrew Stoecklein, who served as the pastor of a thriving California megachurch, committed suicide on August 25, 2018. The Inland Hills Church lead pastor was only 30 years old, and had been battling depression and anxiety

    Stoecklein’s wife took to Facebook to post a heartfelt tribute to her late husband, part of which read: “Until we meet again I will cling to my Father in heaven. He will carry me through every second, every minute, every hour of every day.” 

    Photo courtesy: Gett Images

  • 11. Transgender Issues


    2018 marked a year filled with discussion and debate regarding transgender issues. In February, the US Department of Education made the announcement that they would not investigate complaints brought by transgender students who claim they were prohibited from using the bathroom of their choice in public schools. In early October, a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that the state’s Group Insurance Board and the University of Wisconsin system must provide coverage for operations related to “sex change[s]” for state workers. 

    The debate over transgender rights caused controversy within many US schools, with a notable instance taking place in early November. Nicholas Meriwether, a professor of political philosophy at Shawnee State University, filed a lawsuit against the university after being forced to use feminine pronouns for a male-born student who identified as female. After an investigation was carried out, the university charged the evangelical professor while claiming that he “effectively created a hostile environment” for the trans student.  

    A Chicago pastor found himself in hot water after publicly reprimanding a male church member who attended service dressed as a woman. Pastor Antonio Rocquemore of Power House International Ministries asked the man “Can you leave my chuch and go put on man clothes?” in front of the congregation, before commanding “don’t come here like that no more.” The interaction was recorded and posted online and has since received over 400,000 views. 

    Photo courtesy: Pixabay

  • In Memorium


    God welcomed home a group of prominent Christian figures this year.

    ·     Evangelist Billy Graham passed away on February 21, at 99 years of age. According to the family, the influential evangelist, who was known to some as the most influential evangelist of our time, died in his home in Montreat, North Carolina from natural causes. 

    ·     Former first lady and wife to president George H.W. Bush, Barbra Bush passed away on April 17, at the age of 92. “The matriarch of the most successful political dynasty in the modern era” died from congestive heart failure and Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

    ·     Longtime US senator, presidential contender, veteran and Vietnam war hero John McCain died on August 25, 2018, at the age of 81. His passing came after a year-long battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma. McCain is survived by his wife of 38 years, Cindy, along with his 7 children. 

    ·     American author, biblical scholar and pastor Eugene Peterson passed away from heart failure and dementia on October 22, 2018, at the age of 85. The author of more than 30 books was regarded as “one of the most recognized Bible scholars in America” by Relevant Magazine. Peterson is best known for the writing of his contemporary translation of the Bible, The Message. 

    ·     Gospel Hall of Fame composer Kurt Kaiser passed away on November 12, 2018, at his home in Waco, Texas at the age of 83. Kaiser is known for his composition of songs such as “Pass it On” and “Oh How He Loves You And Me.” Kaiser passed away after battling a lengthy illness. 

    ·     Former US president George H.W. Bush passed away on November 30, 2018. Bush was known as a war hero, a man of immense faith, a man with a heart for family and service. He is survived by five children, including former president George W. Bush, and 17 grandchildren. 

    Photo courtesy: Getty Images