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My Take: May 21st doomsday movement harms Christianity
Osvaldo Colon walks the streets of New York proselytizing with other believers that the world will end Saturday.
May 17th, 2011
03:27 PM ET

My Take: May 21st doomsday movement harms Christianity

Editor’s Note: Robert Jeffress is pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas and the author of 17 books, including the forthcoming "Forget Saving America!"

By Robert Jeffress, Special to CNN

In January 1961, a few days before John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as president, he invited Billy Graham to spend a day with him in Key Biscayne, Florida. After a round of golf, Kennedy and Graham were returning to their hotel when Kennedy stopped the white Lincoln convertible he was driving by the side of the road.

“Billy, do you believe that Jesus Christ is coming back to Earth one day?” Kennedy asked.

“Yes, Mr. President, I certainly do,” the evangelist responded.

“Then why do I hear so little about it?” Kennedy wondered.

Were Kennedy alive today, he probably wouldn't be asking the same question.

During Kennedy’s lifetime, few mainline Protestant churches discussed the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Fifty years later, however, televangelists, network television programs, movies and books like the "Left Behind" series — which has sold more than 60 million copies — have succeeded in placing the return of Jesus Christ in the public consciousness.

A 2004 Newsweek poll revealed that 55 percent of Americans believe in the Rapture, the snatching away of all Christians prior to the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ.

As a pastor who preaches often about Bible prophecy, I am grateful for the general awareness people have of the promised return of Jesus Christ.

But our culture’s newfound interest in the end times has a downside. Bible prophecy inherently attracts fanatics. As a seminary professor of mine used to say to our class, “Remember, wherever there is light, there are bugs!”

One of those fanatics is Harold Camping, the founder of the Christian broadcasting ministry Family Radio in Oakland, California. Camping has predicted that the Rapture will occur at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, followed by the end of the world five months later on October 21, 2011.

Family Radio has plastered billboards across the nation with the warning “Judgment Day, May 21, The Bible Guarantees It!”

Road trip to the end of the world

Readers should note that Camping first predicted the world’s end in 1994. He says he was wrong due to a mathematical miscalculation.

Now I am going to make my own prediction which I’m (almost) willing to stake my life on: May 21 will come and go without any Rapture.

How can I be so certain of my prophecy? The Bible itself says that no one can know the date of the end of the world.

Predicting the apocalypse

In discussing His return to Earth, Jesus told His disciples, “... of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36).

If God has not even revealed to his own son the date the world will end, I doubt he has revealed it to Harold Camping.

My hunch is that the date God ultimately has chosen is one that will not be plastered on billboards around the country.

What harm is there in an 89-year-old preacher making prognostications about the end of the world?

First, such predictions give non-Christians one more reason to discount the Bible.

For example, many secularists have dismissed the Bible because they assume that it teaches the world is only 6,000 years old. In reality, the Bible never makes such a claim about the Earth’s age. Instead, some well-intentioned Christians have misused the genealogies in the Bible to attempt to ascertain the date of creation.

Similarly, when next Saturday passes without a Rapture, some will say, “See, the Bible was wrong again,” when, in fact, it will have been Harold Camping who was wrong — again.

Second, predictions about the end of the world always lead some people to make foolish decisions. When a self-professed prophet named Edgar Whisenant predicted that the Rapture would occur in 1988, a couple I know responded by charging their Visa card to the limit with a trip to Disney World, believing the bank would be left with the bill once they had left the Magic Kingdom for God’s kingdom.

Obviously, things did not go as planned.

A look at the ways the world could end

Just as every teacher knows how unproductive and unfocused students are the week before school lets out, God knows how tempted we would be to neglect the responsibilities he has entrusted to us if we knew the date we would be raptured into heaven. That is why God refuses to show us his calendar and instead instructs us to focus on our assignment.

But the most harmful consequence of Camping’s false prediction is that it discourages people from making the necessary preparation for the real event when it actually occurs.

Remember the boy who cried wolf once too often? The villagers were so hardened to the boy’s false alarms that they were unprepared when the wolf finally arrived.

When May 21 passes and Camping’s prophecy is added to the ash heap of discredited prophecies, some will be tempted to join the chorus of cynics whom the Bible predicts will mockingly say, “Where is the promise of Christ’s coming?” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

Make no mistake about it. As Billy Graham affirmed to President Kennedy, Jesus is coming back some day. Over 1,800 verses in the Old Testament and 300 verses in the New Testament prophesy of the lord’s return.

Don’t allow the Harold Campings of the world keep you from making the necessary preparation for the end — whenever it may be.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • End times • Heaven • Opinion

soundoff (1,945 Responses)
  1. MichaelInMichigan

    It's very easy to calm yourself when you listen to people attacking the messengers and lazily relying on pastors who are insisting "peace and safety", but to me it's so regrettable and heartbreaking that hardly anyone seems to care enough to actually look at the Biblical message that these believers are all trying to bring.

    If you care at all about truth, go to the source of it all - the Bible.

    I Thessalonians 5:1 & 2, all church going Christians would agree with, but the verses right afterwards (I Thess 5:3-6) are particularly poignant and scary. While there's time left, please look more carefully at the materials (and many many Bible references) which are very easy and free to look up and review on the FamilyRadio.com website.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Carl Malden

      I agree with you on some points. ie no one knows except the Father.

      But I disagree about your believe in the rapture and Christ's return.

      If you notice @ Matt 24:3-21; Jesus replied to his disciples question as to how they would know when he had returned.

      (Matthew 24:3) 3 While he was sitting upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately, saying: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?”

      Next Christ our Lord said they would see woe after woe and a global preaching campaign. This would be the sign of his PRESENCE.

      So, what so many don't realize is that he is already here!

      The four winds of destruction are held back by his angels until he is
      ready to execute judgment on mankind who dwell in darkness mentally. (Rev 7:1-5)
      They are blinded by Satan as to what is really going on. (2 Cor 4:3&4)

      What most people also do not understand, is that Satan is the God of this world. (Eph 2:1)

      Further the teaching of the rapture is false. The word rapture is not found in the bible. (Revelation 22:18-19)
      18 “I am bearing witness to everyone that hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll:
      If anyone makes an addition to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this scroll;
      19 and if anyone takes anything away from the words of the scroll of this prophecy,
      God will take his portion away from the trees of life and out of the holy city,
      things which are written about in this scroll.

      Therefore anyone that tries to teach a doctrine not based on the bible, but tries to insert it into the Bible,
      are actually doing the will of Satan the Devil.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @MichaelInMichigan & @Carl Malden

      Hi guys...

      It seems that is how you both 'interpret' the bible. Even in relationship to your own book, you don't quite agree.

      However, what is certainly fact is:

      1)The world and life will ultimately come to an ending...at some point.

      2)Doesn't *mean* that a man/god named jesus is returning to kill the 'non-believers' and send them to 'eternal torment in hell,' while whisking away the good christian believers to heaven.

      Sure... your -beliefs- 'may' be right. I do respect that.

      And... in my opinion, it is 'most likely' that a Jesus is (not) going to come down from the clouds.

      Respectfully,

      Peace...

      May 17, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Carl Malden

      Actually Peace2All,

      I was not agreeing or disagreeing with MichaellnMichigan per say. I was merely trying to reply to the comment above theirs about the rapture..... It's not a Bible, ie scriptural word ..... The rapture doctrine is merely to distract from the real truth about the fact that yes, the end is coming, but no, it's not via a rapture.

      (Revelation 7:9-10) 9 After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. 10 And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: “Salvation [we owe] to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

      No one can number those that survive the coming destruction because it will be a large number, but they are not going to heaven. If you notice they are standing before the Throne. with palm branches which indicates earth. Also

      (Revelation 7:13-14) 13 And in response one of the elders said to me: “These who are dressed in the white robes, who are they and where did they come from?” 14 So right away I said to him: “My lord, you are the one that knows.” And he said to me: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, . . .

      They come out of the destruction, not out of heaven.

      (Matthew 24:21-22) 21 for then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. 22 In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.

      Mathew 24:21 shows it to be flesh and blood that come out of the great tribulation...

      May 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Carl Malden

      Hi -Carl...

      I think (my) point being is that you are still arguing that basically... the Bible and it's contents as to 'the end of the world' via the book of revelations or matthew, etc... is something (you) are arguing as fact,...just (not) the rapture, yes...?

      If I am missing something here, or misinterpreting your point/s or message...'my apologies.' If I am wrong in my take on what you are writing...please help me to understand.

      Sincerely curious...

      Respectfully,

      Peace...

      May 17, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Mr Jude

      Of course, this means you have to believe in something crazy to begin with... I.E. The Bible.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Carl Malden

      All I can say to that is;

      If you don't believe the Bible to be true, then what do you believe in? Man? So then you put your faith in politicians, philosophers, etc. that teach the Bible is not true, you are in effect placing your faith in them.

      Do you believe that the leaders in the nations of the world care about you or I? Or do they care about mostly enriching themselves?

      Did you know that whenever an Archaeologist has tried to disprove Bible details about history, the Archaeologists were proved wrong when they dug into details and searched?

      Are you sincerely wanting me to prove to you scripturally why the Bible is accurate? Or do you want to simply dismiss it as a possibility?

      May 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Carl Malden

      Hi Carl... I'm assuming that you were responding to me...?

      Again, I was merely pointing out that you were arguing with -MichaelIinMichigan about which version of your -beliefs- in the bible were the 'right' ones.

      You 'may' be right... I've acknowledged that.

      What I am suggesting from your postings...still... is that you haven't admitted that you 'may' in fact be (wrong) about your 'beliefs' in the bible, as...'beliefs' are not= to absolute facts here.

      In my opinion, the posting you made right above me here has really nothing to do with the topic at hand.

      Respectfully,

      Peace...

      May 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Carl Malden

      Peace2All,

      It may not address "A HUMAN notion about when the end will come", but it does address a fundamental dilemma I am personally championing, ie to clarify misguided reasoning's and hopefully find someone looking for truth..

      I am commenting to you, since you indicated you wanted clarification on matters.

      sincerely,
      PeaceAsWell 🙂

      May 17, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Carl Malden

      Hi again, -Carl...

      You Said: "Peace2All,(It) may not address "A HUMAN notion about when the end will come", but (it) does address a fundamental dilemma I am personally championing, ie to clarify misguided reasoning's and hopefully find someone looking for truth. I am commenting to you, since you indicated you wanted clarification on matters."

      Well, if you are trying to help 'clarify' things for me, I must say, unfortunately, I'm still a bit confused in 'some' aspects of my conversations with you. (Apologies)

      First, what is (it) that you are referring to...? Second, you are championing to clarify 'which' fundamental dilemma for someone/s who is/are looking for truth...? So, 'you' have...THE...truth...? About what specifically...?

      And, yes... 'thank you' for wishing me "PeaceAsWell"... I appreciate that.

      Respectfully,

      Peace...

      May 18, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  2. aj

    This is a very well written piece. Good job Pastor Jeffress. Now I need to read your books! Your sister in Christ in Baltimore, MD.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Jman

      You people are disgusting! Stop inbreeding!

      May 17, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  3. Up Your Rear Admiral

    On May 21, I'll be there in the rapture capsule waiting for them. They have been told to have steel rings through their noses, ready for the uplifting ceremony. I will padlock a chain to all of their nose rings, and give it a good hard yank.

    So it is written somewhere, and therefore must be.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  4. xlion

    ....and now for something completely different. Ever wonder why the world is the way it is?

    Once upon a time the world was destroyed. And then, the world was destroyed. And again, the world was destroyed. But each time the world was destroyed, the earth lived on and the world was reborn. Eventually, man came to understand that despite how advanced our society became, there was little we could do to keep our world from being destroyed.
    Most of us take the survival of our species for granted. The reality is that it is anything but. Until it is, our world will be shaped by those who have guarded this knowledge throughout the ages. They know when our world will end, or they at least have a pretty good idea, but they will never tell you. The bible tells us that Lucifer has dominion over our world. Lucifer, the morning star, the destroyer. In Actuality, those who know Lucifer do control this world. Those with the knowledge that our very survival is at stake. Eventually man will enter an age when we can guide our own destiny, but until that time we must simply survive. All the evil in the world, all the suffering and despair is necessary to this end. Religion is a tool used to shape our world, and the bible and other religious texts are full of clues because they we're written by those who guard the knowledge. The ancient mystery religions all the way to the secret societies of today. This is the "Great Work" of the Freemasons, the most prevalent of those. Eternal life? Heaven? Only as a collective, and only if we succeed.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  5. TheRationale

    *sigh*
    Nukes? Sure. Mass plague? Sure. Asteroids? Sure. Man returning from the dead in accordance with a two-thousand year old tome that not only begs us to refrain from logical thinking about the natural world but also contradicts itself incessantly? Give me a break.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Kyu O Kim

      The Bible has always maintained that there was a "Beginning." The consensus in the scientific community was that the universe was always just sort of there until additional discoveries led to the Big Bang theory of creation which implicitly (if not explicitly) acknolwedges a beginning. Scientific theories will continuously evolve while the Word will remain true and same forever.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  6. Ron Rog

    One can not prove to another the existence of a divine intelligence that designed, encapsulates and is present within the beauty and precision of all existence. Just as one can not explain physics to a three year old. They must mature and experience these conclusions when ready. Also one can not look at the majority of the people of any Faith or non faith to get a deep coherent understanding of their Faith or reality. At this point in human evolution the understanding of these things is still primitive, a reflection of prevailing opinions and often dangerous to others. But, this does not mean that something Divine and intelligent did not order the universe to create a peach, a rose or a maker of things like computers or United Nations systems. In my opinion the greatest understanding of these mystical Biblical references ( second coming, thief in the night etc) can be found in the Bahai writing. -peace

    May 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • John Gault

      The world is flat (not), the earth is the center of the univers (not), the plague is Gods punishment (not). There's a pattern here. You're right, eventually all will be known but I don't think it's gonna come out the way you're thinking. But we'll all be gone before then, probably in some B.S. conflict of religion and I take exception that it'll probably bring down us people of reason with you.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  7. Dan

    LOVE being atheist! I don't have to deal with this crapppppp.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • John Gault

      But doesn't the fact the there are grown adults that believe this stuff drive you crazy? "God is not great" should be mandatory reading in junior high.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  8. Nyarlathotep

    "Make no mistake about it. As Billy Graham affirmed to President Kennedy, Jesus is coming back some day. "
    Jeffress somehow feels confident of this even though *every* prediction of the end of the world (and there have been many of them) has been wrong. I wonder whether Jeffress has heard of "cognitive dissonance?"

    May 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • chuckly

      I guess you don't read very well. the bible says 'no one knows the time or the hour'. that means that of course all the predictions have turned out to be false because told us that NO MAN willl know.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Jman

      The bible is nothing but LIES! Christianity was invented by man.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  9. Kevin B

    Which part of Christianity isn't "nutty"? The part that believes in talking snakes and a boat that could contain two of every single animal on the planet, or the part that believes the bible is Word of God, although the bible gives three different and contradictory accounts of the Resurrection of Christ?

    May 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  10. Jim456

    Those religious groups are always good entertainment

    May 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  11. Kris

    I find that with a few exceptions its not the religion that makes the person but rather there decisions to act on it.

    If they truly believe that may 21st will be the end then come may 22nd they will be disappointed and return to there lives.

    I only hope none of them decide to end there lives because of this but that is one of the many problems that one can face when you put your trust in a belief system.

    My recommendation is to trust what can be validated repeatedly and to not give your self blindly over to any idea no matter how grand it may seem.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  12. Rock God

    Jesus came all over the place. It was awesome!

    May 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Jman

      That's disgusting. Clean it up!

      May 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  13. Peace2All

    One of the issues here is the 'unquestioned assumption' by the author, Pastor Jeffress... and other fervent believers here on this -belief blog.-

    There are several assumptions going on here, but the 2 main ones to reference here for discussion are:

    1)The end of the world will one day come. -I do agree... science does show us that 'one day' the Earth and all life on it will end.

    2)The end of the world *means* Jesus has returned. This one however, is one of the 'unquestioned assumptions' I speak of. There is no proof in any way to 'assume' that Jesus is going to come and kill all of the unrighteous and send them to an 'eternal fiery hell' while he and all the 'good/believing' Christians are whisked off to 'Heaven.'

    I will say this... of course, for (me) to be fair and intellectually honest here... I need to say...yes, of course... the believers here 'may' be right in their 'unquestioned assumptions.'

    However, as you know, the 'end of the world' 'may' very well and (IMHO–'most likely') come and go (without) Jesus... or any deity for that matters involvement.

    Respectfully,

    Peace...

    May 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • cindy

      We will all know the truth one day, it's going to be one way or the other and I myself am prepared for either one, although I am sure there is a heaven and hell. People make the choice to go to hell. God does not condemn anyone, they condemn themselves.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Colin

      You don't get into the city much, do you Cindy?

      May 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @cindy

      Hey -cindy...

      You Said: "We will all know the truth one day, it's going to be one way or the other and I myself am prepared for either one, although I am sure there is a heaven and hell."

      Actually, you are further perpetuating something that is also an 'unquestioned assumption' by a lot of people and you included. You are assuming from the first part of your sentence..."We (will all know) the truth one day." You are assuming once death comes, that there (is) no doubt...a 'life after death.' So, when you say..."it's going to be one way or the other" ...I'm not sure as to your *meaning*...? Because (if) there is (no) 'life after death,' then in fact you (won't know), as you won't be aware of anything.

      You also said: "although I am (sure) there is a heaven and hell." Again, you are assuming (fact) of life after death...(and) assuming that it is a (fact) that some places called 'heaven' and 'hell' exist. Again, further 'assumptions.' There is no way to be...(sure). You may 'believe' ...very, very strongly, to be sure is impossible... until you literally die.

      You also said: "People make the choice to go to hell. God does not condemn anyone, they condemn themselves."

      Again, (all) further 'speculation' and assumptions.

      -Cindy... as I stated in my original posting. You, and other believers very well 'may' be right in your -beliefs.- But, remember, beliefs don't necessarily = (absolute fact) here especially in relationship to these as yet unanswerable cosmological questions.

      Respectfully,

      Peace...

      May 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  14. Buster

    Jesus ain't coming back, not on May 21, not ever. That's my prophesy.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Guest

      you must lead a pretty empty life then, my friend.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • John Gault

      Actually I agree with Buster, and I live a very full life with my wife of 27 years and 2 kids. You think you need to believe in a creation story to live a full life? Strange.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  15. cpc65

    Oh, come on! The Red Sox just finally got over 0.500. Can't this wait until after the All-Star Break when they take their yearly plunge? I won't mind as much then.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  16. mb526

    I just feel bad for these people. They seem well intentioned but they're just be conned out of their money and time by this idiot. They're idiots themselves for buying into the BS but still I feel sorry for them.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  17. Marcnj

    Amen, Robert Jeffress, from a Hindu.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  18. R U Kidding

    The biggest bigots and hipocrits are Christians. If someone cuts you off while you are driving...they probably have a fish or some reference to God or Jesus somehwere on their car. How many church-going politicians have strayed from their marriage? MAN wrote the bible...not GOD. And guess what people, MAN makes mnistakes and sometimes they have a tendency to lie. But if it makes YOU feel better...then keep being the sheep that you are. And try not to be too un-Christianlike in your response to my opinion...which I have every right to make.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      I suspect you assume you're being unbiased in your post?

      Amen.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • John Gault

      R U kidding, you forgot to mention they tend to know less about their own creed than most atheists do, because we do the study. Jesus was correct when he addressed his "flock".

      May 17, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  19. Roger

    It is Christianity itself that gives Christianity a bad name. It is all based on fairy tales, made-up stories, myths and downright lies. There is no god. There never was a Jesus. No one's coming back from the dead. No one ever has or will be going to heaven, for there is no heaven. No hell. Use your brain. Look at the "scriptures". Read them skeptically, as you would any other books purporting to tell you the truth about god. Keep in mind that they were written by people. Keep in mind that the New Testament of the Bible was written decades after Jesus supposedly died, by people who never met Jesus and relied on tales told from one generation to the next. How reliable is that? And ask yourself, how could a loving God create a universe in which it was guaranteed (due to the very nature of mankind) that some people would be condemned, by God Himself, to live eternally in Hell? Is that your definition of love?

    May 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Kyle Scott

      just to tell you this there is plenty of secular historical evidence that proves the existence of a man named Jesus during the time period described in the bible. Jewish historians of the time recorded his activities as anarchist

      May 17, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • cindy

      God does not condemn anyone to hell. People choose to go there by not believeing in and obeying God. And people with beliefs such as yours.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Peter

      No Christ, Hey. That's why he's mentioned in the Koran and other faith's books, because he didn't exist. Wrong!

      May 17, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Puzzled in Peoria

      Lots of positive people in these comments who say it's all a fairy tale.

      I'm afraid the books they base their conclusion on are the real fairy tales. Their so-called truth about what happens after death is mere speculation. They can't really prove their point either.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  20. getreal

    Probably Alabama time or wherever said nutjob is from.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Guester

      Don't slander Alabama. He's in Oakland, California.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • getreal

      Ha funny. You prolly think im from CA. Nope. Appalachia. Sick of fundamentalist southern so called christians. Alabama, mississippi, tennessee. . . All the same to me

      May 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Jennifer

      His ministry is from California...

      May 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.