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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. Norma

    The tiny obscure film on Youtube is not the cause for this outbreak of violence against American Embassies, US citizens living abroad; and Christians living in majority Islamic countries. Not many Moslems living in these Middle Eastern countries have even heard of this film; or, have even seen it prior to the attacks. This is propoganda put out by the White House to cover itself and by the Media; and,is being used as an excuse for horrific acts of violence and hatred. These attacks were well orchestrated and planned to coincide with September 11th. We should be very afraid of these Islamic extremists. The goal of Islam is to convert the Infidel; and, to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. If given the chance, Moslem extremists will destroy us as a nation of freedom and democracy. Yes, we are to love them as Christ loved us; but, to not be afraid would be very foolish indeed.

    October 9, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  2. rudy espinoza

    Oh Boy! You GOT IT WRONG BUBBA! IT AINT ISLAMOPHOBIA, WE ARE NOWHERE CLOSE TO BE AFRAID OF ISLAM BECAUSE WE SPEAK THE TRUTH. PLEASE ACCEPT THE CORRECTION: CHRIANYPHOBIA IS BEST DESCRIBED. We actually feel sadly sorry for people caught in the wind of islam's teachings, as it leads to as you can see in 95% of the world's conflicts, terror. YEP, YEP, YEP, The poor folks are so mislead that TERROR WILL POP OUT AND BE TRIGGERED BY ANY PUBLIC STATEMENT DENOUCING THE TRUTH ABOUT ISLAM. Heck, if you are caught reading this posting, you will automatically go to prison and may actually be killed in front of masses of ignorant misleaded ppeople. They confuse christianity with Ameicas push for democracy, which is totaly separate. Although Western nations have gone immoral, the God We serve is Holy. IT IS A SAD THING THE MUSLIMS HAVE CRUXIFIED OVER 19 CHRISTIANS IN EGYPT SINCE THE UPRISING. WE ARE WILLING TO BE MARTYRED FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE, THEY ARE WILLING TO DIE KILLING INNOCENTS UNDER THE MISGUIDANCE THIS WILL PAY THEIR ATONMENT INTO HEAVEN. ONLY CHRIST'S BLOOD WILL GET HUMANITY ENTRANCE INTO HEAVEN NOT SACRIFICING OTHER HUMANS IN THE NAME OF RELIGION. THIS REQUIREMENT OF SPILLING OF BLOOD IS A REQUIREMENT OF IDOLATRY UNTO THE DEMONS.

    October 9, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • slaythedonkey

      I stopped reading about 1/3 of the way through!

      October 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  3. T-Max73

    A phobia is an irrational fear or mistrust of something or someone. To fear Islam is not irrational–any more than it is irrational to fear anyone who threatens your dissent with dismemberment, death, torture, or violence. These mandates are found throughout the Q'uran, hadith, and Sura. The same can be said regarding the Christian belief scheme. These are death cults, and are highly intolerant of dissent, critical thinking, or autonomy of thought. They prey on children (for reasons that are too obvious to need underlining) and offer false hope for a life spent in propitiation to the unseen, unproven, and unfalsifiable. They are morally relativistic at their very core, allowing otherwise intelligent and caring people to justify violence and murder in the name of the divine. Think people, think!

    October 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  4. ZFairplay

    Hmmm. I knew reading the article that it will sail over most of the readers' heads and they will not grasp the message. And I was right.

    October 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  5. Nii

    Christ will weep reading these comments from those calling themselves "Christians"!

    October 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • T-Max73

      If dead men could cry, you'd have a better chance of being correct.

      October 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  6. rudy espinoza

    Maybe if we send the US Air Force and parachute McLaren into any of the Muslim nations, with a clear christian, a real one not a phony one, after he gets beheaded in fron of hundreds of people his sense will knocked back to him. ISLAM IS INVOLVED IN 95% OF THE VIUOLENT WORLD CONFLICTS. WHAT, 179,000 CHRISTIANS MARTYRED SINCE THE ARAB UPRISING IN THE MUSLIM NATIONS. This poor man like the prodigal son came to his sense after he saw himself eating with the pigs, needs to be prayed for by all christians reading this blog. MAYBE THE REAL GOD OF LOVE WILL HAVE MERCY ON HIS POOR SOUL. If you read in one of the books of The Holy Bible, the book of Issaiah on Chapter 52, you will read that "so was he disfigured and his face more than mankind" JESUS, THE CREATOR HIMSELF WAS SO BEATEN ON HIS SACRIFICE. "He opened not his mouth, like a sheep taken to slaughter," Issah 53. God himself came as a man to be the final sacrifece for his and your soul. DOES ANY ONE HAVE A VALID EXCUSE TO REJECT HIM? IGNORANCE OF BOTH THE OLD AND THE NEW TESTINONIES WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. "If he doesn't speak accordingly to the Law and the Testimony, they have no light of dawn." Issaia too. mC LAREN NEEDS TO REPENT AND SO DO YOU IF YOU HAVE NOT YET. aSK JESUS TO COME INTO YOUR HEART AND TAKE OVER YOUR LIFE, YOU' VE ALREADY MADE A MESS OF IT YOURSELF.

    October 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • bob

      rudy: "after he gets beheaded in fron[t] of hundreds of people his sense will knocked back to him."

      And my prayer for you is that you receive a greater sense of logic.

      October 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • HENRY WESTER REV.

      LOVE THY BROTHER AND SISTER WITH OUR HEART.

      October 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Anthony O

      Rudy,

      Sadly you sound very uneducated. You give Christians a bad name. Please stop capitalizing words that do not need it.

      Sincerely,
      JC

      October 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  7. david benson

    The only good muslim is a d e a d one.

    October 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Anthony O

      That's terribly sad. My heart breaks for you and your family. What happened to you that made you have so much hate in your heart?

      October 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • rick

      david....then you should sign up and go over there and fight. until then, you are just a loudmouth d-bag

      October 13, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  8. Bill

    Christians have always been the biggest haters and killers

    October 9, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  9. Erok141

    Blah Blah Blah Mr McLaren. No, it's NOT " 'they' – the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence" ...who worry me so much as the vast majority of so-called moderate muslims who do little, if anything, to stop them.

    October 9, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Glen

      When the Muslims learn to love the Jewish people and respect Israel about their land then come and talk about Isamaphobioa in the mena time real persecution is taking place in all Muslims lands all over the world where other religions are in the minorities. The ones that fear the truth are Muslims they are the ones banning the Bible and prohibiting conversions we don't hate Muslims we just hate the hypocracythat they stand for and that you support the real phobics are the ones doing the real killings, burnings, rapings, massacres and looting, not the ones doing the talking badly about certain people open your eyes to the reality of how things are.

      October 9, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  10. Dave Thrush

    My take: It's time for Christophobic Left wing Fakers to chose.

    October 9, 2012 at 4:25 am |
  11. jonat

    A phobia is something unreal that is feared...there is nothing unreal about the murder and genocide practiced by Islamic extremists

    October 8, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  12. gep1955

    The Muslim in the White House is making sure that evangelicals will have to stay on the defensive for the foreseeable future. Christians are not calling for a global califate, behead non-believers, have a legal code that permits abuse to women or send millions to Hammas & Hezbolah from church offerings. Mclaren is a tipical liberal pinhead, just be nice to them and they'll be nice to us. Please. 9/11 was just an accident, right?

    October 8, 2012 at 8:20 am |
  13. Arne

    Mad props for doing this, Flexiroam, but with all due respect, the mhncaeics of the contest might turn some people away from joining the contest. Everyone can easily get likes , but not everyone possesses the creative flair for writing.Then again, now that I think about it, at the end of the day, it's all about marketing your product efficiently. In any case, good luck to all the contestants!

    October 8, 2012 at 2:37 am |
  14. bob

    What an offensive bunch of crap. The picture painted of "evangelical" Christians is the most biased I have read by someone on a mainstream website, other than the NYT, which is known to be populated by nuts. If you believe the picture that you have created of evangelicals, then I'd say you are guilty of what you are accusing evangelicals of. Bigot.

    October 8, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • max3333444555

      Some of the most offensive writing i have seen is in those emails the author describes. It is amazing that the evangelicals have given up all of their principles when it comes to members of another religion.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • samnet45

      Max,
      You don't know anything about Islam do you.? People call it a religion (sic) but is not. It is a political movement in a religious wrapper. In truth, it is a cult that kills its members AND non-members alike that do not conform to it's whims.

      October 9, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  15. Raju

    Bill's words should be prientd in bold large type and plastered at every street corner and every written, prientd, broadcast media.I have been saying basicly the same thing for years, just not with the talent that Bill has in expressing his thoughts and feelings.And after reading this quote here: "God willing, it will expand to engage the popular preachers and grass-roots activists what is called the Muslim street. This quote shows that even Muslims that want some reform don't really fully understand their own religion (or he is trying to pull a sham over on everyone).If I have to explain it to you, at this late date, you need more than Bill and me to convince you that Islam is going to have to be eradicated – TOTALLY, because it can/will never be changed.There is NO other way.Papa RayWest TexasUSA

    October 7, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  16. was blind, but now I see

    Evangelicals should end Islamophobia???

    I have a much better idea:

    Evangelicals should read what the Bible says about Baal worship, and then ask themselves why Islam uses the exact same moon and star symbology. Maybe we should look back at the true origins of Islam. Maybe we should ask why Muslims go on a pilgrimage to worship a box full of moon rocks? Maybe we should ask ourselves why the Vatican select and promoted Mohammed as monotheistic when in reality he was totally pluraltheistic, worshipping the pagan pantheon of sun and moon gods (hence the sun and moon symbology and the box of moon rocks at Mecca.....)

    October 7, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • NowCancerPatient

      Your comment gave me cancer. What Muslims worship a moon and a star? Are you stupid or are you stupid?

      October 9, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  17. Good News

    There will be absolute Peace and Love –instead of bigoted enmity and hatred– among those who will henceforth thus clearly see and unmistakably understand that:

    There is only one real GOD

    who has created His book of Universe
    (via Big bang and especially upon those 4 fundamental forces: weak, strong, electromagnetic, and gravity) therein,

    and His book of Religion
    (Final Testament which is thus prophesied and confirmed as "CornerStone" by all great Prophets here (Psalms 118/22-26),

    by putting His 19 coded, Symmetrical, most Powerful and Superb "Mathematical Signature" upon both of them,

    in such a perfect parallel manner, in the first place:

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com

    ==UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES!

    October 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  18. 3511danny

    I wish it was a tiny minority. The author sounds naive.

    October 7, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  19. AnonGW

    As a Christian, I feel that evangelical/ fundamentalist "Christians" are simply extremists, no different than extremists in any other religion, including Muslim. I "fear" fundamentalist Christians as much as I fear fundamentalist Muslims. As a Christian, my role in life is to be kind to others, to help those less fortunate, to be my brother and sister's keeper. It is quite simple. There is no place for the kind of hatred I so often hear coming from extremist Christians in our country. - As to those who deny science, I do not understand this at all. God created scientists, therefore, God condones science. By denying science and scientists, you are denying part of God's plan & creation.

    October 7, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • bob

      Are you serious? The violent acts committed by "evangelicals" in the name of their religion are not even 1%, not even 0.1% of those committed by islamists. I don't think you have a good grip on reality.

      And I don't think you have a clue what it means to be a Christian because the three things you mentioned are not the main thing Christians are called to do. From your comment - As a Christian, my role in life is to be kind to others, to help those less fortunate, to be my brother and sister's keeper. - if that is what you think Christianity is all about, you had better find another church. Do you attend a church?

      October 8, 2012 at 1:24 am |
    • Thomas

      @Bob Fundamentalist islam is exactly like christianity was 900 years ago, which makes sense really since christianity is the older religion and has more time to evolve. Between the 11th and 13th centuries chrisitanity organised over a dozen crusades aimed at taking all the land in muslim possession and in some cases genocide. In my opinion both religions are completly abhorent

      October 8, 2012 at 6:00 am |
    • max3333444555

      you dont have to go back to the 11th century. remember the salem witch trials?

      October 8, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • samnet45

      Thomas,
      Have you read the Bible at all for yourself? The Crusades had nothing to do with the Bibles message. Islam follows the Qur'an that specifically states to kill all those who defy them, forever.

      October 9, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Thomas

      @ Samnet45, i havent read the bible, but that makes no difference, the crusades were carried by religeous fanatics in the name of christianity

      October 9, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  20. Jesus is the most powerful figure known to mankind (Fact)

    Ok i challenge all atheist/non-believers to a simple small short mature intellectual debate. I claim that there is a GOD, Higher Power, Intelligent Designer/Engineer, and Creator. You claim that there isnt a Creator and everything is a coincidence. (If what i say about your claims are wrong please correct me) Here are the rules: No THEORIES and no BIBLE VERSES. Proven known facts ONLY, none requiring faith. I simply ask that you consider my facts as i will yours. I will provide 10 facts in defense to my claim and you can list as much as you will.

    1.The perfect unseen order of our solar system.
    2. The accurate and precise distance of our sun and it's perfect compatibility with our moon. Its unfailing rising and sustaining power.
    3. The engineering of the earth in every aspect.
    4. Nature, it's power, beauty, and contributions.
    5. Natural law.
    6. Creatures, all of their different abilities, bodies, and behaviors.
    7. The extraordinary and intelligently designed human body and mind.
    8. My user name. Jesus indeed had the most influence and biggest impact on this world than anyone in all of time.
    9. Due to how orderly and precise creation is, the chance of the big bang theory or coincidence happening is statistically 0. Scientists have come up with approximate numbers that far exceed the trillions, but these numbers are made up from their theories which is why i didnt paste the number. As of right now the chances of life forming from nothing is statistically 0.
    10. Time & Life (consciousness)

    Please be respectful and list your facts.

    October 7, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Byrd

      Faith and fact just never quite seem to meet in your ridiculous expose, now do they...

      October 7, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Steffi

      As an atheist guy who appreciates science, I've got few answers for you but I take issue with the way you phrase your questions. The rebuttal you seek from nonbelievers about the natural world asks for many answers of an entirely different category from the domain of science. You are setting yourself up for being disappointed. Most of the statements you list as facts have within them a moral or aesthetic value judgement, and such questions are outside what science is concerned with (though many scientists marvel at the same things you do and personally ponder the same questions.) The perfection in the arrangement of things as you see it might strike the atheist as just a deep understanding of the complex interactions of the components of the universe. It all works together, much of it in ways we can accurately model. Of course, the alternative is that there are things in the universe that don't work together with its other parts, which would create bizarre results. As to the origins of things, science doesn't try to answer why the universe exists, but how it operates. it's equally fair to say that there's zero chance of creator deities randomly coming into being as there is the universe randomly coming into being. If we're dipping into cosmology, unless you can answer where your gods come from, your argument positing the presence of a god centers around special pleading.

      October 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Thomas

      Your "fact" are simply a list of things that exist, nothing you have said is evidence that they were created by a divine power only that you cant explain a way that they could be created with out one. But either way i give you my perspective and a few facts of my own.

      1.The perfect unseen order of our solar system. Even a 1% change in the velocity and accelleration of the planets or in the suns gravity and our solar system woulnt have formed so it must be perfect to exist. And it exists because over the past 14billion years the statistical likelyhood of not such a solar sytem not existing is nearly 0.

      2. The accurate and precise distance of our sun and it's perfect compatibility with our moon. Its unfailing rising and sustaining power. I am assuming you mean is precise distance to allow the presence of liquid water and temperatures suitable for sustaining life. my Answer it is perfect for us simply beacuse if it wasnt we woulnt exist.

      3. The engineering of the earth in every aspect. There are billions of planets the chance that one is like the earth is nearly guaranteed

      4. Nature, it's power, beauty, and contributions.

      5. Natural law. Gravity? How is the fact that any mass is attracted to any other evidence of divine creation?

      6. Creatures, all of their different abilities, bodies, and behaviors.

      7. The extraordinary and intelligently designed human body and mind. Biologically the human body is a terrible design for long term survival, we are far more vulnerable to environmental conditions that almost any other species. We survive because we our brains are capable of storing and reproducing electical impulses to a greater degree than other species. If i wanted to design the perfect species it would be nothing like mankind.

      8. My user name. Jesus indeed had the most influence and biggest impact on this world than anyone in all of time. On what criteria to you base this? How about Ghengis Khan, nearly a quater of the worlds population is decended from him, i would call that a rather important influence.

      9. Due to how orderly and precise creation is, the chance of the big bang theory or coincidence happening is statistically 0. Scientists have come up with approximate numbers that far exceed the trillions, but these numbers are made up from their theories which is why i didnt paste the number. As of right now the chances of life forming from nothing is statistically 0. I would say that the chance of life forming from the elements existing in this universe is almost 1. Consider there are millions of galaxies and each contains billions of stars and thus there are billions of planets in the universe. Elements react when they come into contact with each other so any planet at the right distance from its star will contain water since oxygen is easily created my nuclear fusion as are carbon and nytrogen. If you disolve carbon dioxide, and ammonia in water and run a high voltage electric current through it (i'e lightning) you will observe the spontaneous creation of amino acids. Amino acids will react with each other to randomly create other compounds including the simplest nucleic acids. Now repeat that process over billions of years on billions of planets and the random convergence of molecules will at some point result in the creation of a nucleic acid sequence capable of bonding to other nucleic acids and replicating itself. The shortest one created in a lab is only 6 molecules long.

      10. Time & Life (consciousness) Time is a human construct it has no physical values, it only exist as an abstract concept by which we measure that passing of events.

      You said no theories so up to now i have avoided mentioning evolution but it has been proven, both in smaller forms i'e the observed adaption of species over the past 100 years and in greater forms of the development of one species into another.
      I also feel the need to point out that Newtons "theory" of gravity has never been proven since it states that every mass in the universe has its own gravity and we are unable to test the entire universe. But i doubt anyone would argue that the premise is wrong.

      October 7, 2012 at 5:38 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.