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My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose
September 15th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose

Editor's Note: Brian D. McLaren  is author of "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World" (Jericho Books/Hachette Book Group). 

By Brian McLaren, Special to CNN

I was raised as an evangelical Christian in America, and any discussion of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations around the world must include the phenomenon of American Islamophobia, for which large sectors of evangelical Christianity in America serve as a greenhouse.

At a time when U.S. embassies are being attacked and when people are getting killed over an offensive, adolescent and puerile film targeting Islam - beyond pathetic in its tawdriness – we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia.

Many of my own relatives receive and forward pious-sounding and alarm-bell-ringing e-mails that trumpet (IN LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!) the evils of Islam, that call their fellow evangelicals and charismatics to prayer and “spiritual warfare” against those alleged evils, and that often - truth be told - contain lots of downright lies.

For example, one recent e-mail claimed “Egyptian Christians in Grave Danger as Muslim Brotherhood Crucifies Opponents."  Of course, that claim has been thoroughly debunked, but the sender’s website still (as of Friday) claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has “crucified those opposing" Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy "naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”

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Many sincere and good-hearted evangelicals have never yet had a real Muslim friend, and now they probably never will because their minds have been so prejudiced by Islamophobic broadcasts on so-called Christian television and radio.

Janet Parshall, for example, a popular talk show host on the Moody Radio Network, frequently hosts Walid Shoebat, a Muslim-evangelical convert whose anti-Muslim claims, along with claims about his own biography, are frequently questioned.  John Hagee, a popular televangelist, also hosts Shoebat as an expert on Islam, as does the 700 Club.

Many Christian bookstores that (used to) sell my books, still sell books such as Paul Sperry’s "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington" (Thomas Nelson, 2008). In so doing, they fuel conspiracy theories such as the ones U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, promoted earlier this year.

In recent days, we’ve seen how irresponsible Muslim media outlets used the tawdry 13-minute video created by a tiny handful of fringe Christian extremists to create a disgusting caricature of all Christians - and all Americans - in Muslim minds. But too few Americans realize how frequently American Christian media personalities in the U.S. similarly prejudice their hearers’ minds with mirror-image stereotypes of Muslims.

Ambassador's killing shines light on Muslim sensitivities around Prophet Mohammed

Meanwhile, many who are pastors and leaders in evangelicalism hide their heads in the current issue of Christianity Today or World Magazine, acting as if the kinds of people who host Islamophobic sentiments swim in a tiny sidestream, not in the mainstream, of our common heritage. I wish that were true.

The events of this past week, if we let them, could mark a turning point - a hitting bottom, if you will - in the complicity of evangelicalism in Islamophobia. If enough evangelicals watch or try to watch the film trailer that has sparked such outrage in the Middle East, they may move beyond the tipping point.

I tried to watch it, but I couldn’t make it halfway to the 13-minute mark. Everything about it was tawdry, pathetic, even pornographic. All but the most fundamentalist believers from my evangelical Christian tribe who watch that video will be appalled and ashamed to be associated with it.

It is hate speech. It is no different from the anti-Semitic garbage that has been all too common in Western Christian history. It is sub-Christian - beneath the dignity of anyone with a functioning moral compass.

Islamophobic evangelical Christians - and the neo-conservative Catholics and even some Jewish folks who are their unlikely political bedfellows of late - must choose.

Will they press on in their current path, letting Islamophobia spread even further amongst them? Or will they stop, rethink and seek to a more charitable approach to our Muslim neighbors? Will they realize that evangelical religious identity is under assault, not by Shariah law, not by the liberal media, not by secular humanism from the outside, but by forces within the evangelical community that infect that religious identity with hostility?

If I could get one message through to my evangelical friends, it would be this: The greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety.

No one can serve two masters. You can’t serve God and greed, nor can you serve God and fear, nor God and hate.

The broad highway of us-them thinking and the offense-outrage-revenge reaction cycle leads to self-destruction. There is a better way, the way of Christ who, when reviled, did not revile in return, who when insulted, did not insult in return, and who taught his followers to love even those who define themselves as enemies.

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Yes, “they” – the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence – have big problems of their own. But the way of Christ requires all who claim to be Christians to examine our own eyes for planks before trying to perform first aid on the eyes of others. We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected.

To choose the way of Christ is not appeasement. It is not being a “sympathizer.”

The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian D. McLaren.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • My Take • Opinion

soundoff (8,500 Responses)
  1. muslim2012

    Windmill

    Five hundreds years before they were seen in Europe, windmills were inPersia under the order of the second Muslim Caliph Umar (R.A) and werefirst used in the Persian Province of Slaton. Windmills were designed to usewind, the only available source of power in the desert, and were widely usedto grind corn and draw up water for irrigation.

    Camera

    Ibn al –haithams, a 10century Muslim scientist, was the first man to shiftoptics from Philosophical activity to an experimental one. His theory of lightentering the eye, rather than leaving it, formed the foundations for thescience of optics and led him to build the first camera in history the cameraobscura also as the pinhole camera

    September 16, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • One one

      You forgot one. Twin towers in NYC.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  2. Shelli

    The root of "islamophobia" is the willingness exhibited by those of the Muslim faith who choose to convert by violent means all peoples not of their belief. That is not limited to Christians and Jews, though they particularly hate us because we choose to shine light upon the murderous hatefulness of their belief system. Yes, I'm a Christian AND I've had many Muslim friends – all of whom have been warm, loving folks. I believe the majority of the Muslim world wishes to be left alone to their faith and to live a peaceful existence – whether or not they agree with every other belief system. I think every person of faith – no matter what faith – has the same desire, however, when you have a group of militant individuals seeking at every turn to destroy not just your belief system but your freedom to choose your beliefs, then you have a problem. I submit that there is no "islamophobia", but rather a well placed caution in dealing with every Muslim in a position of power because, I assure, they didn't get there by being genuine, peaceful, loving people, no matter how they try to appear. The only way to deal with militant, fascist groups – no matter what their supposed faith, so that includes you atheists out there that would love nothing more than to eradicate the Lord God from all humanity, – is to remove them positions of power and keep them from doing harm to humanity.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • James

      Excellently stated...Nobody could have worded this truth any better.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  3. Scott H

    Wow, not one mention of radical Islamic behavior (read: Murder) which CAUSES people to dislike Islam and be weary of it. CNN has essentially rounded up the two most left wing "religion experts" (Prothero and McLaren) to write nothing but Christian criticisms even in the face of what is happening. But this goes beyond religion. The truth is so many Islamic governments and their people are not fit to be sat at the global table. As a Christian, I'm not saying "Hey, lets kill them in droves!", but I am saying lets cut their aid to zero and get the hell out of their backwater countries. Foreign Islam has become a bad self parody. They LOOK for excuses to riot and kill. The best example was when the Pope merely suggested that Islam has a tendency towards violence....they were so mad about it that they rioted and rampaged. (Talk about proving the claim.) The sad thing is, Islam wants to be able to do WHATEVER it does without ever hearing criticism for it. Sadly, there's certain left-leaning politicians and even Christian churches that would like to enable this dynamic.. because in reality THEY have the fear of Islam (TRUE Islamophobia) because they fear Islam's instability and violent tendencies. So those on the left want to silence ANY criticism of Islam in the interest of not having to deal with the messes that radical Islam would make. That's the real fear.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  4. muslim2012

    Algebra is named after al-Khwarizmi his book, Al-jab-wa-al muqabilahrevolutionized mathematics Algebra gave mathematics a new dimension anddevelopment path, away from the Greek concepts of mathematics whichfurther developed by numerous Muslims mathematicians and scholars andimported into Europe after 300 years.Algebra is “operating on unknown…… is the same was as the arithmeticianoperates on the known” (al-samawal 12

    th

    century scholar

    September 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Shelli

      Sir – there's no doubt that there are intelligent creative people in the Muslim faith. It's a testimony to the great love of God that gave intelligence to people, regardless of whether they choose to honor Him with that gift.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  5. Rainer Braendlein

    Are suicide bombers Chrisians? No, they are model Muslims, and will once visit the Oktoberfest in Munich, and the dilettante police of Munich will not be able to stop them (they only can write tickets).

    The Good Being which has created us wants us to love each other independent from distinct belief, nationality, color, social status, etc.. We simpy should respect our human dignity. A true Christian will love his Muslim neighbour despite his false religion Islam, he will also love his Catholic neighbour despite his false religion Catholicism (of course, this refers only to ordinary Muslims and Catholics; criminal Muslims and Catholics are a case for the authority; actually it should be beyond imagination that a true Christian committs any crime but it is possible, and then he is also a case for the authority).

    The great difference between genuine Christianity and Islam is that you can justify no killing of infidels by the genuine Christian doctrine but you can justify the killing of infidels by the Islamic doctrine. Hence, Christianity is much better than Islam, or Islam is a criminal religion innately because Jihad (killing of infidels) belongs to its core tenets.

    Muhammad spread his demonic nonsense by using the sword which is a historical fact, in contrast, Jesus spread the divine truth only by words.

    A great problem in the Western World is the crowd of nominal Christians, that means people which call themselves Christians (mostly they are Catholics or Cheap-Grace-Protestants but also Anabaptists) which don't really live as true Christians in daily life although they are baptized, and pretend to believe.

    This regretable state is perceived by the Umma (Muslim community), and I guess that they perceice us as nasty hypocrites which have to be punished in the name of Allah. It is true that we have to be punished but this is not the task of the Muslims or Umma but God's own task. God is the only being which has the right to judge (the authority has a divine mandate to judge criminals). The Muslims committ an unforgiveable crime when they presume to be our judges (even the Holy God Jesus did not judge us but offered grace; first after the period of grace he will judge).

    The Muslims err when they assume the Christian faith would be the reason for the corruption of the Western World, that is a very nonsense. The Christian doctrine is very good in itself, yet the problem is that too less people really believe in the Son of God Jesus, and follow him in daily life which would mean suffering and rejection but happyness of the soul.

    The great dark mystery of Muhammad and the Koran is that they regard us as infidels. Shortly before Muhammad started to preach the Islam in Arabia (around 610 a. D.) the Christian Eastern Roman Empire Byzantium had experienced a great crisis under the rule of the usurper Phocas (the worst tyrant of all history) who was an ancient kind of Hitler. Possibly the "Christian" soldiers of Phoca's armies committed terrible crimes in Near East, and Muhammad became witness of that because he as a merchant stayed in Palestine very often. Yet, Muhammad made a mistake to conclude that Christianity was the reasom for the misbehaviour of the "Christian" Roman soldiers. The reason was the criminal leader Phocas whom Dr. Martin Luther called an incarnation of the devil. By the way, Phocas also introduced papacy by making the Roman See the highest one on earth.

    And also today the reason for the misery of the Western World and all its moral doom and loss of culture is not Christianity but godless leaders which are greedy for honor, power and riches, and to a large extend the unholy pope (successor of Judas Iscariot according to Luther) with his wrong doctrine.

    How to solve the Islamic issue?

    Simply when we call ourselves Christians we should really live as Christians. God, the Father, delivered God, the Son, Jesus for our sins, and raised him from the dead for our justification. If we believe that and get sacramentally baptized (or remember our infant baptism) we become righteous. This righteousness is not only a status but through faith in Christ we behave righteous in daily life. If we do so, God will be with us, and protect us from our enemies.

    Concerning the Oktoberfest in Munich/Bavaria:

    Don't go there, it is only a question of time when the first Islamic fool blows himself up there. You may respond that half of the population of Munich are policemen, and could protect the visitors of the great Binge but I tell you that the police of Munich is not even able to catch bicycle thiefs; how then should they be able to protect us from the Islamists?

    In the name of Jesus Christ.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    September 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Luis Wu

      I will see your copy and paste and raise you one.

      When will humanity cast off the shackles of ancient mythology and superst!tious nonsense. Evangelicals are hateful and deluded. True, they don't go around killing people like Islamic extremists, but they are full of hatred and bigotry. All religions are nothing but ancient mythology, written thousands of years ago by members of primitive cultures. Why anyone in their right min would accept such nonsense has always boggled my mind. This is the 21st century, not the 14th. We don't need ancient mythology and superst!tious nonsense. We know a lot about the Universe and what we know doesn't fit with the ancient writings of bronze-age people. Nor do we need imaginary, invisible beings in the sky. But the ignorant masses persist in wallowing in their fantasy world and in trying to force their fairytales on everyone else. That's what's wrong with the world. Ignorant people fighting over their sky fairies. When will people wake up and embrace science, logic, reason and objectivity instead of ancient mythology? There is no hope for the human race until that happens. We'll continue killing each other over invisible sky fairies.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • takawalk

      Luis Wu .True faith has nothing to do with religion. If the new enlightened folks get their way and religion is regulated to the home and closets, people will find a new excuse for killing each other. It is what it is.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  6. muslim2012

    Soaps and Shampoos

    Washing and bathing are religious requirement for Muslims; it was Muslimswho initially developed soap by boiling and hardening a mixture of vegetable oil withAl-qali (salt like substance). In 1759 sheikh Dean Mohammed, an IndianMuslim popularized the Indian treatment of champi (shampooing) inEngland and was appointed the King’s shampooing surgeon.Take some sesame oil, sprinkle of potash Alkali and some lime…. . Whencooked, pour the mixture into moulds producing a hard soap

    September 16, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  7. J R Brown

    It is not a "phobia" to reject a religion whose "prophet" as a mysogynist arab warlord which we would consider a pedophile today... "prophet" who commanded his followers to KILL those who do not convert, to lie/cheat/steal to weaken unbelievers on both a personal level and societal level.

    It's not "christians" who view Islam as a cancer upon humanity....it's anyone evolved enough to realize it for exacty what it is....the codification of a mass-murdering pedophile arab warlord's personal ethos. Islam is the vestigial tail of human social evolution and should be eradicated.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  8. muslim2012

    The modern Cheque from the Arabic “saqq”, a written vow to play for goodsupon delivery. The use of saqq was born out the need to ovoid the dangersand difficulties in carrying coins. In the 9

    th

    century, a Muslim businessmancould cash a saqq in china drawn on his Bank in Baghdad , under a highlydeveloped ‘banking system’. In promoting the concept of the bill of exchange, saqq or Cheque Muslims made the financing of commerce andinter-continental trade possible

    September 16, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  9. Glen

    so let me get this right CNN...protests, violence, and death, from the muslim world is simply because Christians fear muslims and their protests, violence and death. So what you are saying here CNN is as soon as Christians stop fearing that the muslims will create violence and death, the muslims will stop being violent. This is one of the worst articles I have read and it that makes no sense.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  10. John Scott

    Judgmental and small minded behavior is annoying but radical Islam is a real danger to personal liberty and the lives of non-Muslim. I would say Islamophobia is a legitimate fear about a real danger.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  11. Road Dog

    And how many non-muslimes have to die before we reach OUR tipping point?
    Yes – I spelled it that way on purpose.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  12. Bob

    What a bunch of arrogant Christians posting to this blog. Get with the real world folks.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • John H

      What real world would that be Bob?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  13. Christian

    Stop trying to shove the loveliness of Islam down our throats. What an offensive article.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • James

      Thank you, very well stated.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  14. muslim2012

    Read! And your lord is most generous Who has taught (the writing) by thepen. (Quran-Surah ‘Alaq-verses 3-4)

    Tooth brush

    The use of miswak was popularized by Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h). TheMuslims practice of using a twig of miswak to scrub one’s teeth before eachprayer is amongst the credible sources which aided in inventing the toothbrush. Miswak not only has the chemicals for oral treatment but the twigalso acts as a brush to scrub the teeth.If I had not found it hard for my followers or the people. I would haveordered them to clean their teeth with Miswak for every prayer.(vol2, Book 13, no 12 Sahih Al-Bokhari

    September 16, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  15. John

    For anyone confused, if Muslim's kill people, please think, Muslims are not Christians. Christians are told to turn the other cheek. Muslims are told to make peace, and then chop their heads off... think about this, there is a difference.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      Christians also do not turn the other cheek. They are as violent, historically, as Jews, and Islamists. Religion in general is the problem.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Ha ha, yeah right. When have you ever seen a so-called Christian turn the other cheek?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • John

      The difference is in what they're told to do. The one giving the example of what to do, was Jesus. This does not say that his followers will do it, but they're told to... like it or not.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  16. Mark

    I totally agree with the fact that many have unrealistic view of Islam and need to reconsider their own bias and prejudice. However the Islamic community as a whole must understand how people are impacted with their judgement of a religion that will kill people because of the slightest disagreement with their religion. There is probably nothing that can be done to stop it but the comdemtation from Islamic religious leaders is silent. Do they agree with this behavior or are they to afraid of their own followers to voice dissent.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  17. como1

    CNN you are kidding on this article. More NATO soldiers murdered in Afghanistan by Afghan police, more muslim riots celebrating 9/11, deafening silence of Don'tCAIR over this anti American and now anti Christrian and Anti Hebrew rioting and violence and you sponsor an insipid editorial bemoaning that a muslim will now find it more difficutl to find a firend of another religion. How stuipid.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • KarenFaye

      The "film trailor" DID NOT "spark nor start the insurgency - it has fueled the flames, but the plot to terrorize was way ahead of any excuses. Why does the media always assume the public is stupid enough to swallow ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING they put out???? Sorry, white house, not buying it this time. The entire world knows the U.S. has almost no leadership, and they're ready to take advantage of it.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • fedup

      Why does the non-islamic world continue to apologise for these acts by criminals? If a Christian group rioted and killed people because someone insulted their religion it would be considered a crime. When Islamist do it, it is simply shrugged off and apologised as some kind of legitimate reaction to an insult. It is time to become less PC and start punishing people for their actions.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  18. muslim2012

    Muslim has had a profound and lasting influence on the world today.Through their ingenious inventions and momentous discoveries, Muslimsrevolutionized science, technology and civilization. The creation of firstCheque, the first camera and the windmill, contributions in mathematics,medicine, hygiene and beautification are the great Muslim contribution.

    Numbers

    Muslims adapted the Indian version of numerals into the modern numbers 1to 9 that we use today. The application of “zero” was the work of Muslimmathematician, al-Khwarizmi and al-kindi, in 1825. Arabic numeralsinitially came to Europe in the late 10

    th

    century through Pope Sylvester-Iwho studied in Qurtaba , Spain and then to Rome .

    Fountain Pen

    The fountain pen was invented for al-mu’izz an Egyptian sultan in 953 onhis request to have a pen which didn’t require a separate inkpot and wouldnot stain hands and clothes. The first fountain pen is the basics of all penstoday. The ink will flow only when there is an intention to write ………. Isthis possible if God so wills (al-Mu’izz and the craftsman

    September 16, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • fedup

      Wow, pretty awesome. Why don't we look at more modern contributions from the Muslim world? Turning children into suicide bombers, executing men and women for looking at each other when they are not blood relations. Raping children. Destroying religious artifacts that aren't Islamic. The list goes on. At one time, Muslim scholars were the greatest in the world. Now, the religion has simply degenerated to the point where anything can be done in it's name and the rest of the world apologises for it. Get a clue!

      September 16, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • takawalk

      fedup ditto

      September 25, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  19. Peter

    The author states in the beginning that a lot of the christian evangelical propaganda contain lots of downright lies. Thank you for acknowldeging it. In fact, the whole concept of gods and religions of any kind is a big lie. Religion is the longest living hoax in the history of humanity and also the ultimate cancer of the humanity. Religious sectarianism is the root of most human atrocities perpetrared in the name of some kind of belief system tied to a nebulous diety. The world would be a nice place without religion.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Trevor

      Peter, your passion is obvious. Your beliefs may be founded on experience or reason or other inspiration, and no one can call that illegitimate. But your rhetoric is irresponsible."Most" of the violence in the world has not been caused by religious sectarianism. Name the most destructive conflicts of the last two centuries of human history – the Civil War, the European revolutions, both World Wars, Soviet purges, Nazi genocide, Pol Pot, Koni – the list goes on. Religion has nothing to do with these. Remember that every time you say, without proof or truth, that religion is the most destructive force in the world, you mark entire peoples for the actions of a few. Is that reasonable?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  20. govtreform

    For me, watching local Evangelical Christians declare war on Muslims in my home town of Murfreesboro has angered me. Watching Christians across the country insist that the US govt has declared war on them has enraged me. Listening to all of them insist that our President, and ALL who support him are ENEMIES of this country has MADE ME their enemy.

    Hateful liars who are intent of VICTIMIZING my children to fight their dirty little religious wars.

    Sorry to the Op writer. A reasonable analysis, but not NEARLY enough condemnation.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • HWB

      Really you had better get a grip on yourself. There is no organized vitriolic angst against Muslims like they have for all non-Muslim. You are going to tell me if I insult your idol you are going to kill me, a murder for an insult and that is OK. You sir are a baffon idiot.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Shelli

      So, you agree with the direction the Democrats want this country to go – where every working person is only working for the government, so there's too few to actually support it. Why work when you can get a hand out? Where the majority of the population is uneducated and living on welfare, unable to support themselves, desperate and despondent because their lives are meaningless (think Russia circa 1950-1989). Where we no longer have a military because the Democrats don't understand that you have to have a strong tax base to be able to afford to protect your country. Where the militant activists in power kill you (or maybe they just incarcerate you indefinitely and without any hope of justice) because you refuse to convert to their beliefs – which includes simply speaking an alternative belief, by the way? Is that really the legacy you want for your children? Have you even considered the ramifications of the so-called tax on the rich? It's not going to bring you Utopia and sir, you may want to consider that YOU might soon find yourself in the ranks of the "rich" and be required to turn over your wages to support those who are being told they don't need to work because the government will take care of them. I'm all for giving assistance to those in need – I'm not in favor of creating entire populations of needy people just to extort control. Obama is part of the upper 1%, by the way. I haven't seem him offering to pay that additional tax he wants to foist onto the upper 1%

      September 16, 2012 at 9:25 am |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.