By John Blake, CNN
President Barack Obama was sharing a pulpit one day with a conservative Christian leader when a revealing exchange took place.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Christian who has taken public stands against abortion and same-sex marriage, had joined Obama for an AIDS summit. They were speaking before a conservative megachurch filled with white evangelicals.
When Brownback rose to speak, he joked that he had joined Obama earlier at an NAACP meeting where Obama was treated like Elvis and he was virtually ignored. Turning to Obama, a smiling Brownback said, “Welcome to my house!”
The audience exploded with laughter and applause. Obama rose, walked before the congregation and then declared:
“There is one thing I have to say, Sam. This is my house, too. This is God’s house.”
Historians may remember Obama as the nation’s first black president, but he’s also a religious pioneer. He’s not only changed people’s perception of who can be president, some scholars and pastors say, but he’s also expanding the definition of who can be a Christian by challenging the religious right’s domination of the national stage.
When Obama invoked Jesus to support same-sex marriage, framed health care as a moral imperative to care for “the least of these,’’ and once urged people to read their Bible but just not literally, he was invoking another Christian tradition that once dominated American public life so much that it gave the nation its first megachurches, historians say.
“Barack Obama has referred to his faith more times than most presidents ever have, but for many it’s the wrong kind of faith,” says Jim Wallis, head of Sojourners, an evangelical activist group based in Washington that focuses on poverty and social justice issues.
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“It is not the faith of the religious right. It’s about things that they don’t talk about. It’s about how the Bible is full of God’s clear instruction to care for the poor.”
Some see a 'different' kind of Christian
Obama is a progressive Christian who blends the emotional fire of the African-American church, the ecumenical outlook of contemporary Protestantism, and the activism of the Social Gospel, a late 19th-century movement whose leaders faulted American churches for focusing too much on personal salvation while ignoring the conditions that led to pervasive poverty.
No other president has shared the hybrid faith that Obama displays, says Diana Butler Bass, a historian and author of “Christianity after Religion.”
“The kind of faith that Obama articulates is not the sort of Christianity that’s understood by the media or by a large swath of Christians in the U.S.,” says Bass, a progressive Christian. “He’s a different kind of Christian, and the media and the public awareness needs to reawaken to that fact.”
Some Christians, however, still see Obama as the “other.” He doesn’t act or talk like other Christians, says the Rev. Gary Cass, a conservative Christian president of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission.
“I just don’t see or hear in his accounts the kind of things that I’ve heard as a minister for over 25 years coming from the mouths of people who have genuinely converted to Christianity,” says Cass, pastor of Christ Church in San Diego.
Cass says he’s never heard Obama say he’s “born-again.” There’s no emotional conversion story to hang onto.
Obama talks about his faith and attends church, but Cass says that doesn’t mean he’s a Christian.
“Joining a church doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. “You can put me in the garage, but that doesn’t turn me into a car.”
The origins of Obama’s faith
The suspicion about Obama’s faith may seem odd at first because he’s written and spoken so much about his spiritual evolution in his two autobiographies, “Dreams of my Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.” Other books, like “The Faith of Obama” by Stephen Mansfield, also explore Obama’s beliefs.
The 1925 “Monkey” trial of John Scopes, a high school biology teacher who taught evolution, drove fundamentalists underground, some say.
Mansfield says Obama is the first president who wasn’t raised in a Christian home. Obama’s mother was an atheist and his grandparents were religious skeptics (Obama’s family has challenged the description of his mother as an atheist. Obama called her “the most spiritually awakened” person he’d ever known, and his sister called their mother an agnostic).
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Mansfield called Obama’s boyhood a “religious swirl. He was exposed to Catholicism, Islam, and strains of Hinduism and Buddhism while growing up in Indonesia during the 1960s.
“In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology,” Obama said in Mansfield’s book. “On Easter or Christmas Day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.”
Obama became a Christian while he was a community organizer in Chicago. He joined a predominantly black United Church of Christ. The UCC became the first mainline Protestant denomination to officially support same-sex marriage in 2005.
Obama’s faith showed many of the elements of a liberal Protestant church: an emphasis on the separation of church and state, religious tolerance and the refusal to embrace a literal reading of the Bible.
In a 2006 speech before a Sojourners meeting, Obama talked about his approach to the Bible:
“Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application?”
When many people think of Obama’s religious experience in Chicago, though, they cite his exposure to the angry sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and “black liberation theology,” a movement that emerged in the late 1960s and blended the Social Gospel with the black power movement.
Bass, the church historian, says another black pastor shaped Obama’s theology more: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
He attended liberal Protestant seminaries where he learned about the Social Gospel’s concern for the entire person, soul and body.
Obama has reached out to evangelical leaders like Rick Warren, seen here praying at Obama’s inauguration, but many still doubt his faith.
King once wrote that “any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them …is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.”
But King and the black church also fused the Social Gospel with an emotional fervor missing from white Protestant churches, Bass says. Other presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were influenced by the Social Gospel, but they weren’t shaped by the black church.
“This is the first time we’re hearing the Social Gospel from the perspective of the black church from the Oval Office. It makes it warmer, more emotive, more communal," Bass says. "There is less fear of linking the Social Gospel with the stories of the Bible, especially the stories of Exodus and Jesus’ healings.”
The emphasis on community uplift - not individual attainment - may strike some Americans as socialist. But the emphasis on community is part of King’s “Beloved Community,” Bass says.
King once wrote that all people are caught up in an “inescapable network of mutuality… I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be.”
“When I listen to Obama, I don’t hear communism, I hear the Beloved Community,” Bass says. “But a lot of white Americans don’t hear that because they never sat in those churches and heard it over and over again. It’s the whole theology that motivated MLK and the civil rights movement.”
Obama is not a Christian, some think
For some, Obama’s actions in the Oval Office seem to contradict Christianity.
Jesus was nonviolent. Obama has ramped up drone attacks in Afghanistan that have not only removed terrorists, but killed civilians.
The Bible talks about the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. Obama invoked Jesus when he came out in support of same-sex marriage. “The thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule," Obama told ABC News during his announcement.
Jesus talked about helping the poor. But he never said anything about creating a massive health care law that taxed the rich to help the poor, some Christians argue.
But Wallis of Sojourners says Obama’s push for health care was a supreme example of Christian faith.
A situation where 50 million Americans don’t have health insurance is “a fundamental Christian problem,” Wallis says.
“Health is such a Gospel issue. Jesus was involved in healing all the time, and to have some people excluded from health care because they lack wealth is a fundamental Christian contradiction.”
Wallis has been one of the most persistent defenders of Obama’s faith. But no matter how much Scripture he and others cite, doubts about Obama’s faith have followed him throughout his political career.
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson once said that Obama distorted the traditional understanding of the Bible “to fit his own world, his own confused theology.” The Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, publicly questioned Obama’s faith, then later apologized.
Conservative Christian books and websites are filled with stories of Obama allegedly trying to suppress the nation’s Christian heritage.
The Rev. Steven Andrew, author of “Making a Strong Nation,” says Obama is trying to change the national motto from “In God we Trust” to “Out of Many, One,” and he’s ordered the Pentagon to remove biblical verses from its daily report.
“That’s the most serious thing someone can do to a nation, trying to separate a nation from God,” he says. “He seems to be trying to change the Christian laws our Founding Fathers made.”
Andrew says Obama is actually an enemy of Christianity. In his book, Andrew argues that the Founding Fathers were Christians who created a “covenant Christian nation” and calls for a “national repentance.”
“I think he’s an anti-Christ,” Andrew says. Cass, of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, says Obama’s emphasis on helping the poor through social justice isn’t Christianity.
Christians who talk about “social justice” are often practicing “warmed-over Marxism,” Cass says.
“Do I believe in caring for the poor and oppressed? Yes. But you don’t do it along the lines of communistic redistributing.”
Obama’s support of same-sex marriage and abortion rights also disqualifies him from being a Christian, Cass says.
“It’s the most pro-abortion administration in the history of America. On every social issue – the sanctity of life and of marriage between men and women – Obama is on the wrong side of every moral issue,” he says.
He says a progressive Christian is a contradiction.
“No Christian says I believe in Jesus Christ and I reject the Bible,” Cass says. “These progressives who say they’re Christians are liars. They’re using Christianity as a guise to advance their own agenda.”
Cass says he doesn’t know what Obama believes.
“He’s conflicted,” Cass says. “He has Muslim sympathies from his upbringing."
How progressive Christianity lost the public square
There was a time when Obama’s brand of Christianity would have been understood by millions of Americans, historians say.
Obama along with first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha leave church after attending a Sunday prayer service.
The Social Gospel and progressive Protestantism dominated the American religious square from the end of the 19th century up to the 1960s. At times, the traditions blended together so seamlessly that it was hard to tell the difference.
The Social Gospel rose out of the excesses of the Gilded Age in the 1880s, when urban poverty spread across America as immigrants crammed into filthy slums to work long hours in unsafe conditions.
Walter Rauschenbusch, a Baptist pastor in a New York slum, urged the church to take “social sins” as seriously as they took individual vices. Churches began feeding the poor and fighting against other social ills.
“The notion that religious people should be about feeding the poor and helping the homeless is a carryover of the Social Gospel,” says Charles Kammer, a religion professor at Wooster College in Ohio. The Social Gospel was adopted by many Protestant churches in the late 19th and early 20th century, says Bass, the church historian. Some of the Social Gospel churches grew popular because they provided the poor with everything from English classes to sewing instructions and basketball leagues.
“The first American megachurches were liberal, Social Gospel urban churches,” Bass says.
The Social Gospel, though, sparked a backlash from a group of pastors during World War I. They were called fundamentalists. They published a pamphlet listing the “fundamentals of the faith:” Biblical inerrancy, the virgin birth, Adam and Eve.
But the fundamentalists lost the battle for public opinion during the “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925. John Scopes, a high school science teacher, was tried for violating a Tennessee law that prohibited the teaching of evolution.
Though Scopes lost, fundamentalist Christians were mocked in the press as “anti-intellectual rubes,” and a number of states suspended pending legislation that would have made teaching evolution illegal, says David Felten, author of “Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity.”
The trial drove fundamentalists underground where they created a subculture, their own media networks, seminaries and megachurches, he says.
That subculture thrives today, Felten says, and has infiltrated the political arena. It has created an “alternative intellectual universe” that denies science, rational thought – and any beliefs that violate their definition of being a Christian, Felten says.
“They have millions of adherents who believe in a literal six day creation and a literal Adam and Eve – so it’s not a stretch to believe that President Obama is a Kenyan-born secret Muslim bent on destroying the country,” Felten says.
Progressive Christians eventually lost the messaging wars to this fundamentalist subculture, Bass says. Their nuanced view of faith couldn’t compete with the “spiritual triumphalism” of conservatives.
“If you get up and say we’re right and we have the truth, then you have a powerful public message,” she says. “They have a theological advantage in the public discourse. It’s comforting to have things clear, to have things black and white.”
The result today is that the Protestant tradition that shapes much of Obama’s Christianity is fading from public view.
The share of Protestant Christians in the United States has dropped below 50% of the population, according to a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
White mainline Protestants make up only 15% of the nation’s population, the survey revealed. The study also found that the fastest growing "religious group" in the country is people who are not affiliated with any religion.
Another generation of Christians, though, may bring a new version of progressive Christianity back.
The lines between younger conservative Christians and progressives are blurring, says Marcia Pally, author of “The New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good.”
Pally spent six years traveling across America to interview evangelicals. She says her research revealed that more than 60% of young evangelicals support more governmental programs to aid the needy, as well as more emphasis on economic justice and environmental protection issues.
“What’s interesting is that these values, associated with Obama and the black Protestant tradition are now also the values of a growing number of white evangelicals,” she says.
Her perspective suggests that Obama’s faith may be treated by history in two ways:
He could be seen as the last embodiment of a progressive version of Christianity that went obsolete.
Or he could be seen as a leader who helped resurrect a dying brand of Christianity for a new generation.
Religious people are delusional nut jobs.
Then you would agree that Obama is delusional and is imposing his Fairy Tale upon us all.
Desperate reach there Mike. Just another example of the "whatever Obama does is horrible" mentality. I feel sorry for you people.
Obama's religion is collective salvation. Which is what Lucifer was pushing and wanted the Glory of God for doing.
Christ presented Free-Will and Individual Salvation. Christ taught salvation to individuals. He did not go to the Romans to impose the gospel.
Grace forced is not Grace. Grace forced is Bondage.
Then Christians shouldn't impose their beliefs on anyone else, including their children?
Andy – Parents give their children the freedom to choose as adults. If their children don't realize that when they become adults they have a choice; that is a pity. Most adult Christians choose to be.
What is sad is that groups claim the public square to themselves because they perceive themselves to supreme and seek to silence cultural diversity. Are you one of those?
Mike, your anti Obama argument is laughable. If you actually believe what you are saying, you are a fool.
lee – Then you are ignorant.
Mike, the fools that would listen to you are the same kind of fools that would follow Hitler.
Mike not to be critical of you but Lucifer is VERY much for free will...his role is simple...to audit and leverage our inherit weaknesses to demonstrate to God our unworthiness of his Grace and mercy and love...collectively or individually when we honor our neighbors and take care of each other we demonstrate our individual and collective ability to defy our weakness for selfishness and worship of wealth...it doesn't matter if their is a law or not, its the fact we are able to demonstrate his grace in providing for others...and to your point about the Roman empire...God values and works more so through the LEAST OF US...the Jews (and even moreso the Gentiles) were the least (meaning they were not in power and were an extreme minority in many ways) in that era and GOD/Jesus used them to impact and change the fate of man...that is a much better demonstration of GOD's will and power than anything...
This story will judge the level of idiotness of Americans. But still we are far better than other nations where Religion is observed in daily lives. In America we talk about that during presidential campaigns only.
OH MY GOOD GRACIOUS. it's called Christianity, you know... treat others as they would treat you. Care for the poor. Offer your enemies the other cheek. Set an example for others to follow. Any of this sound familiar? Or are you just too lost in today's war mongering, self absorbed, money worshiping, instant gratification religion? Today's region is no better than the Jewish leaders who Jesus booted out of the temple. Money worshipers. We are simply getting back to Christianity, after being lead astray for so very long. The POPE is sitting in his high towers of gold in robes of opulence and convincing people to worship him instead. The poor will inherit the earth.
great point and perspective...but remember the literal old testament interpretation is actually "Do unto others as they have DONE unto you"...they were real hard core back in the Joshua/post Moses days of the old testament...
It isn't the government's job to take care of the poor. It is the church's responsibility. Is the church doing it? Only in a few cases.
Food Banks and Clothing Banks are a start but we need to do so much more. Organizations like The Dream Center in L.A. which houses the homeless, trains them for jobs, helps people get GED's, driver's licenses, freed from addictions and more...THAT IS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT. I need to do more to help those in need.
Problem is Obama tries to read passages of the Bible applying to individuals like they apply to the government. Compassion, love, and forgiveness is for individuals, but fairness and justice is for the government. Would it not be so much better if friends neighbors and the church cared for society's welfare needs instead of a faceless government that provides benefits by forcibly taking others money.
OBAMA follows the Gospel according to Jesus – To Love GOD above all else by Loving our Neighbor as Ourselves because Matthew 25 lets US know that what we do or fail to do for the LEAST among us is what we do for CHRIST. Romney/Ryan on the Other Hand follow False Gods whose SATANIC creed is expressed by AYN RAND as SELFISHNESS above all.
Do you even know what the "gospel" or good news was? You think it was the golden rule???? LOL! Jesus was here for salvation, which was the gospel. Also, allowing the govt to force people to give to the poor is obviously not what Jesus meant!
Gaius...try not to be so condescending...it distracts from your messaging...I agree Jesus was not a "GOLDEN RULE" person...in fact the Golden rule is grossly misinterpreted in the bible...it actually should read "Do unto others as they have DONE unto you.." Joshua didn't play back then...however to assert that Jesus would be AGAINST any policy that better enables us to collectively utilize the wealth GOD has blessed us with as a nation to provide for those that go without...is just wrong...and the only reason (TRUTHFULLY) any christian would have an issue with this is because we worship our money waaay to much...Mark 10:17...
It's election season and every lie spoken by the president is considered gospel. That's the only gospel published by CNN.
but that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...
more like the peanut gallery.
I'm beginning to believe that Sarah Palin is the only one who can heal and re-unify our country. She is the "right" kind of Christian. But first she must return to her motorhome and resume her cross country tour. She will have to visit cities both large and small, taking care to speak only to "real Americans", dispensing her sage advice and folksy, homespun common sense solutions. We can be a great nation once again but first we must all follow the Palin Path.
Uh yeah....sure...just make sure she puts on her tin foil hat on first...
“That’s the most serious thing someone can do to a nation, trying to separate a nation from God,” he says. “He seems to be trying to change the Christian laws our Founding Fathers made.”
-What I am upset about is the failure of Americans to realize this country was NOT FOUNDED on Christian laws. Rather, our founding fathers urged the separation of Church and State because they saw it as a detrimental factor if they were one in the same. LOOK UP YOUR HISTORY. and SHAME on CNN for not researching and making that clear.
"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." Thomas Jefferson
Anyone who knowingly put the Muslim brotherhood ( ANTI CHRISTIAN) in charge of three or more countries putting Americas enemy into a place of power where they can bring resources against us then claims to be Christian. I hope that first he's tried for treason to the United States then burns in hell for putting Muslims in power. Both charges have already been proven but because he's black nobody will charge him. He will still burn in hell though.
Obama and his fellow "progressives" preach the Gospel according to St. Marx.
As opposed to that of iron age sheep molesters, johnny?
(The fundamentalist) "subculture...has infiltrated the political arena. It has created an “alternative intellectual universe” that denies science, rational thought – and any beliefs that violate their definition of being a Christian, Felten says.
Thank you for providing an illustration.
To say that Barack Obama is a "progressive" Christian and "fundamentalists have lost" is to ignore something that is truly "fundamental" to historical Christianity...and its not what this writer has to say about it....it's what the Bible has to say about it...really, what Jesus Christ has to say about it. A Christian, according to Him, is someone who has placed their faith in Him as their Lord and Savior...in other words, they must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. So, is Barack Obama a Christian? If he takes seriously what the Lord has to say about Himself seriously, if he has made Christ his savior and Lord...and if he is living his life in conformity to the standards set by God for life and godliness, then, perhaps he is a Christian. BUT, when a person in his position supports the slaughter of the unborn as well as the newly born, and the blatant perversion of God's plan for relationships and marriage...I am left with serious doubts. Like all of us, he will, one day stand before the Lord on the day of judgement. Then we all know without any doubts.
You have eye's yet you do not see. You have ears, yet you do not listen. Search you tube for "Obama Admits He Is Muslim" and approximately 1:00 min into the video, in a one on one interview, out from his very own mouth, he states "John McCaine has not asked me about my Muslim faith."
When you combine his true faith and the radical mentoring and upbringing as seen in the movie 2016, it is clear to see and hear he is a Muslim with Radical ideology.
There is nothing wrong with being a Muslim. However there is something wrong wjth being a radical Muslim.
He hides his Muslim faith behind Christianity. The conversion to Rev. Wrights form of Christianity was to maintain his radicalisim while stating he is Christian to help obtain votes.
Outwardly, we were attacked by Osama. Inwardly, we are being attacked by Obama.
A vote for Obama is ALMOST like voting for Louis Farrakahn
Jeremiah Wright was Obama's spiritual mentor. Quote, "A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years [will]... exploit them, and poor people generally, economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and will have to use its military might to protect [those investments]. All of these problems are tied together"
Jeremiah Wright was Obama's spiritual mentor. Quote, "We must ask the question, 'Why are there forty million poor people in America?' And when you... ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question you begin to question the capitalistic economy. "
It's baffling to me that the author of this article presses that conservatives are all concerned about personal salvation and seemingly unconcerned about social issues and people in need. Look at the number of adoptions is the US. How many are from conservative families? Look at the amount of soup kitchens for the homeless, crisis pregnancy clinics, and food banks. Most are run by conservative evangelical ministries. Look at some of the largest disaster relief groups. That's right, they are from conservative evangelical groups. Conservatives are highly concerned with the poor and people in need, but we simply believe that the church should be the ones to take the lead in helping people. It is not the job of gov't to take from the wealthy to give to the poor. Giving should not be forced by the gov't, it should come from a willing heart of compassion. Forced giving only perpetuates class warfare, resentment for certain groups, and stereotyping. Compassionate giving that comes by choice creates community and love.
To that I answer this...read Mark 10:17...this is the issue with fundamentalist and extreme conservatives that have an issue with Obama's social doctrine...
Why oh why do you Americans mix Religion and Politics? Religion has NOTHING to do with Politics!!
Woodrow, as long as you have a voting process, you will, by default have all of the thoughts, ideas and goals of those voters come to the table of politics. You cannot separate religion and politics.
Actually, religion is a delisional way of seeing the world and has nothing to do with anything...
Jason: Yes you can seperate Religion and Politics. What does someones religious beliefs have anything to do with someone doing a job? Nothing. I could care less if someone believes in the tooth fairy. As long as he or she does the job properly.
You know who would do the best job? An athiest. Cause he/she wouldn't have to worry about believing some imaginary person in the sky and would listen to his brain/heart and do what's right. Religion is a crutch for people that can't hack it in the real world.
respectfully Woodrow your logic ignores the reality of the human being...an overwhelming majority of people have some sort of spiritual connection they were raised with that impacts their consciousness...whether we realize it or not, it impacts us and what/how we perceive and rationalize...it's impossible for them not too in some way...we can try/force ourselves to but it happens in some way...with your job example, you are biased toward an atheist because of your own disdain for people with religious beliefs so by your own admission you are disagreement with your own point as you would rather not choose someone for their ability believe in something because you see it as a "crutch" as opposed to blindly assessing their actual ability...the attempt by the extreme conservative right (fundamentals) to paint him as a muslim or antichristian is as extreme as the puritanical era (minus scarlet letters, drownings and stake burnings)...I understand their is MUCH hypocrisy and ignorance in religion. But for those who are able to listen, read, comprehend, and apply with passion and appropriateness you will find there is value and truth. But if you don't want to see that you won't, and frankly you don't have to, God isn't going to beg you, it is a truth only you can find for yourself...if you fail to, then that's your life and not for me or any Christian to deride or chastise or be critical about...a REAL christian knows the paradox of humanity, and is capable of loving and appreciating an individual regardless...
Jeremiah Wright was Obama's spiritual mentor. Quote, "God didn't call American to do what she's doing in the world now. God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war... And we are criminals in that war. We have committed more war crimes almost than any other nation in the world and we won't stop because of our pride, our arrogance as a nation"
Jeremiah Wright is correct, God didn't tell man to do anything, because there is no "God"...man does what he does for his own selfish reason (greed and corrpution), always has!
The only one who knows the true religion in anyone's heart is God and the soul of the man who you are talking about.
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.