Newness always poses a threat. Whereas the old and familiar is reassuring and offers at least the semblance of personal control, the new is unpredictable. The shepherds knew of the possibility of a messiah, but they certainly didn't anticipate God's arrival in the form of a baby in a cave. Travelers from the east who brought gifts for a king could not have known that their moment of epiphany would involve a small child born to humble parents in a little-noticed corner of the world.
The fear of change was surely behind much of the violence and political furor that followed the publication of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses early in 1989. Because of the impact this novel has had on the Muslim world, because of the issues it raises about the place of Islam and other religions in a pluralistic society, and because of the way Rushdie in his work embodies elements of a postmodern worldview, the Century has picked Rushdie as the newsmaker of the year in religion.