Some high-profile religious leaders continued to motivate their people to hate and fear “the other” – the religiously other, the racially other, the politically other, the sexually other, the economically other. They plotted ways to discredit and even kill those with whom they disagreed, all in the name of God. Meanwhile, many low-profile religious workers quietly but courageously defied the leadership of the purveyors of hate and fear. Where their counterparts called for high-profile violence, these humble workers called for reconciliation and quietly embedded the virtues of love, joy, and peace in their neighborhoods. Where their counterparts used sacred texts to maintain division and prejudice, they used the same texts to form peacemaking communities and instruments of peace. Where their counterparts got rich broadcasting religion to siphon money from the desperate and poor, they impoverished themselves by giving to those in need. While their counterparts made it easier for skeptics to be atheists, they made it harder, because God seemed to become real in their humble acts of service, sacrifice, and love.
The most important news story of 2009? Sin abounded in all its forms – personal and social, sexual and financial, racial and religious, private and public. But grace abounded all the more. That, thank God, is good news for everyone.