'Nightline': The Year in Jesus

More than a quarter of all Americans identify themselves as evangelical Christians, and the number is growing. There were dozens of fascinating stories in American religion in 2006, and on Monday, Christmas night, we'll be taking a look back at some of the people and trends that defined the year in Jesus.

Hollywood celebrities emerged as big stars on the evangelical scene. Former teen idol Kirk Cameron, the star of the 1980s family sitcom "Growing Pains," has found Jesus -- and new success -- with "The Way of the Master," an unapologetic and confrontational cable TV show.

And Stephen Baldwin, the youngest of four brothers in the storied Baldwin family, has stepped into what he calls the "gnarly" niche in the evangelical scene. His "Livin' It" extreme sports tour mixes skate parks with prayer circles in an approach he believes is necessary to connect to a younger generation of worshipers.


The film "The Da Vinci Code" opened in May of this year, pulling in more than $750 million worldwide, including more than $200 million at the U.S. box office. But the movie also set off a major controversy among American Christians. "Nightline" talked with "Da Vinci" decoder Darrell Bock to help us separate fact from fiction.

It has also been a banner year for the nation's mega churches, and "Nightline" met with evangelical preachers of every stripe. From Joel Osteen, who preaches positive thinking and steers clear of controversial topics like abortion, to the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who has thrived on controversy throughout his five decades as a preacher.

Other reports have featured Franklin Graham, who this year proved he could fill the shoes of his father, Billy Graham, while standing by some very controversial comments about Islam, to Rick Warren, the "purpose-driven" pastor who is using the power of his church to fight AIDS and poverty in Africa.

Several times this year, we were reminded that the next generation can sometimes be the most devoted. We visited a college campus outside Los Angeles where, unlike most of their peers across the country, students take a solemn pledge to live a Christian life -- no booze, no drugs, and no sex. And in Washington, we checked in with a class of interns on Capitol Hill who take shifts in a 24-hour vigil as they pray for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.