When I tell you that I never came close to predicting that Donald Trump would win the 2016 presidential election but that I predicted that the Cubs would win the World Series every year from about 1950 through their eventual win in 2016, you will know that my predictions are, at best, suspect.
Still, it's a gift I have. And I can't help sharing it with you. So, in the field of religion, ethics, spirituality and similar pursuits, I offer you a preview of what you're likely to see happen in 2019.
-- Pope Francis will decide the miters (tall hats) that bishops wear are just too silly to continue. And will order those leaders, instead, to wear baseball caps embroidered with the Ten Commandments.
-- The Protestant Church of Reformed Anglican Baptists of the East will finally give up trying to hide its internal divisions and break up into the Protestant Church of Reformed Anglican Baptists of the Near East and the Protestant Church of Reformed Anglican Baptists of the Far East.
-- Hanukkah, pretty far down the list of important Jewish holidays, will be sponsored in 2019 by the National Council of Churches as an interfaith act of friendship -- and because 98 percent of American Christians think Hanukkah is the Jewish Christmas.
-- A megachurch in Texas will secede from the state and elect its own governor, the founding pastor, who will declare all cash gifts to him tax free -- for both the giver and receiver.
-- Six new movies about Jesus will appear. All will claim to be based strictly on the gospels and each of them will present a radically different image of Christ. Viewers of each film will gather into six new denominations, each of which eventually will split into six more.
-- Publishers will put out 185 new editions of the Bible, ranging from The Bible You Thought You Knew to The Commuter's Bible and Lunch Box to The Camper's Bible and Solar Lantern.
-- The congregation of a mosque in Michigan will offer sanctuary to Syrian refugees. Both of the Syrian refugees the Trump administration allows into the country in 2019 will accept.
-- One Catholic diocese after another, to pay for never-ending costs of the sex abuse scandal, will set up GoFundMe pages. By this time next year donors will have kicked in a national total of $1.38.
-- The United Methodist Church, now arguing internally about LGBTQ issues, will split. One side will be known as the United Methodist Church That's Faithful to Scripture and the other as the United Methodist Church That's More Faithful to Scripture.
-- A new religion called the Twitter House of Shallow Spirituality will sweep the country. But no more than 140 members may join at any one time.
-- John Nelson Darby will return to Earth to admit that he just made up the whole idea of the Rapture. "But," he will tweet, "I made it back to Earth so maybe Jesus might, too."
A year from now I will be back to grade myself on my predictions. But I'm guessing I'll still be thousands and thousands of falsehoods behind President Trump.
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MORE BAD NEWS FROM CHINA
On a much more serious -- and real -- note, religious freedom in China seems to be deteriorating by the day. As this Fox News piece notes, "China under President Xi Jinping is clamping down on minorities, tightening control over a wide spectrum of religious and political activity. In some places, a campaign to 'Sinicize' religion has prompted authorities to seize Bibles, remove the 'halal' designation from food products, demolish churches and strip mosques of loudspeakers and Islamic crescents and domes." Let your member of Congress know you are concerned about this. Let Sam Brownback, ambassador at large for international religious freedom, know, too. There's a "contact us" link on the State Department page to which I've just linked you. Write to Brownback. I just did.
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P.S.: My latest Flatland column -- about a Catholic and a Lutheran church forming a partnership -- now is online here.