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My Take: No pressure, Mr. President
Author Eric Metaxas speaks alongside President Barack Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in February.
December 10th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

My Take: No pressure, Mr. President

Editor's Note: Eric Metaxas is the author of "No Pressure, Mr. President! The Power Of True Belief In A Time Of Crisis: The National Prayer Breakfast Speech."

By Eric Metaxas, Special to CNN

(CNN)–Imagine that the president of the United States had to sit and listen to you for 30 minutes in a public setting. Imagine that he couldn't escape and had to endure whatever you said. If you disagreed with him politically, would you try to embarrass him? What would you say?

Well, this actually happened to me. A year ago I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, an event attended by the president, first lady, vice president, and 3,500 other dignitaries. No one was more shocked at the invitation than I. Previous speakers include Mother Teresa, Tony Blair and Bono. No pressure.

By the way, I disagree with the president in some important ways. But as a Christian, God commands me to love those with whom I disagree, to treat them with civility and respect, as creatures made in God's image. That's a command, not a request or a suggestion. Again, no pressure.

In my speech I spoke about my heroes, William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Wilberforce's faith led him to fight for the Africans being enslaved by the British; Bonhoeffer's faith led him to fight for the Jews being persecuted by the Nazis. I used them as examples of people who passionately lived out their faith by standing up for their fellow human beings when most around them merely gave it lip service.

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I also joked around a lot, because as any of my friends will tell you, one of the ways I show love is by joking and teasing people.  Who said prayer breakfasts had to be boring?  At one point I said that George W. Bush had read my Bonhoeffer book, and then I glanced at President Obama and said "No pressure."  I'm glad he laughed!

Later in my speech, I talked specifically about the idea of loving our enemies. I said this was the test of real faith. Speaking to my fellow pro-lifers, I said that those of us who believe the unborn to be human beings must love those on the other side of that issue. I also said that those of us with a traditionally biblical view of sexuality are sometimes demonized as bigots, but we must love even those who call us bigots. I cited Wilberforce and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as two men who took seriously God's command to love their enemies in the midst of the most serious political battles of their day.  They honored God in how they fought, and he honored them.

At the end of the breakfast the president told me he would read my book on Bonhoeffer, and Vice President Biden took my picture with the president. No kidding. It was an extraordinary day and I'm not telling the half of it.

President Barack Obama holds up a book given to him by author Eric Metaxas

But the reason I'm writing now is that during the past election I was disappointed to see the president's campaign utterly abandoning these ideals of treating your opponents as you yourself would wish to be treated. Good people with principled and profound convictions about when life begins were cynically demonized as "enemies of women."  Americans who had worked hard to build businesses, and who had given millions to charity and to the government, were denounced as fat-cats who weren't "paying their fair share" and whose wealth was ill-gotten gain.

These scorched-earth tactics were not presidential, much less Christian, and because the president openly professes a Christian faith, I feel I must speak about this.

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Of course many will dismiss campaign hardball rhetoric as "what works." This is to miss the point. What we say matters deeply, and how we say it matters deeply.  All of it has serious long-term consequences.  For all of us.

For one thing, our children are watching and listening. We tell them it's less important who wins or loses than how we play the game. Is there no truth to this at all? Do we not see that this behavior erodes faith in the very political process and in democracy itself? Do we not see that by doing this we encourage our opponents to do the same - and worse - the next time around?  Shouldn't we care about that?

Any victory won in an ugly way is somehow a tainted victory. In this case, the president has "won" a deeply divided nation, one that he - alas - has had a hand in dividing. Now what?

If he is to succeed in the tremendous challenges that lay ahead, he must repent of these tactics and must make amends with his opponents, if it's not too late.  Or else he will face gridlock and more gridlock.  He also must show the door to those who cynically encouraged this "winning is the only thing" behavior.

His legacy and America's future depend upon it. Many will be praying for him.

No pressure.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Eric Metaxas.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Politics

soundoff (2,208 Responses)
  1. ChrisN

    "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

    - Jesus

    I guess this theologian forgets this passage from the Bible when he laments making the rich "pay their fair share." Facts are facts, though... executive pay has increased 300% over the last 30 years while middle class wages have stagnated. The wealth gap is larger than ever. The US tax code heavily favors the rich. The most productive 30 years in US history (Eisenhower / Truman era) saw taxes up to 90% of income on the wealthiest Americans. During that time, ALL members of society profited. We built roads, bridges, schools and actually invested in our country's future. Now the rich are playing a "winner take all" game with our taxes and infrastructure.

    Today the very rich are extremely rich while the middle class is suffering under a mountain of credit card debt, healthcare debt, mortgage debt, you name it. And of course the poor, who Jesus loved about all else, have even less.

    I LOVE when Christians try to use Christianity to defend free market capitalism. Let one thing be clear, Jesus was a socialist.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

      From book of hinduism, absurdities called bible, created by hindu criminal Roman Kings to justify hinduism, Racism.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • TomH

      How can you be so sure Jesus would be today be a Socialist (if I am right in assuming that is what you meant) ?

      There is corruption in all forms of government, and yes we (the United Snakes of Amerika) are probably the reining champ of this currently. The Black Nero (O'bomb-ah) has been reinstalled to fiddle another 4 years, while a decent man (NOT Romney, but Paul) was of course kept from having any chance to help right our course away from the rocks. Any gov't can work for or against real progress depending on the honesty and moral character of those with the power. Just sayin' ...

      December 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "From book of hinduism, absurdities called bible," Oh, not you again. Get help. Nothing you say makes sense. "Hindus, carburetors, fraud and denial, pickles, three for a quarter."

      December 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • imABeliever

      You sir, are twisting scripture. The Bible doesn't teach socialism at all. In fact, it teaches "thou shalt not steal", and that is exactly the case when you take 90% of a man's hard earned income. Just because the gov't does the stealing doesn't make it right.

      You decry the free market, but that is what makes society's prosperous for everybody. People vote with their feet, and socialistic/communistic countries have to build fences to keep their people in, whereas we build fences to keep people out. Look at what communism has done to the USSR, N. Korea, Cuba, etc. They are basket case countries, if they still exist at all.

      No, socialism/communism is an evil system that relies on envy and covetousness. They feed on people's natural tendency to envy and covet other's possessions.

      December 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • brian

      We need something between socialism and capitalism – we need ( and we have ) what is called a mixed economy because both don't work in pure form. We need to stop treating the "invisible hand" of capitalism like it's infallible, that to me is verging on worship.

      The irony is symbolized in christmas. A holiday of gift giving, whose main character dressed by the makers of coca cola in red and white, spreads green cheer, where we show those we love by how much we spend on them. Money is the reason for the season, and its the season when our companies actually end up prospering. If you got rid of christmas, quite a good chunk of the rich would be asking for food stamps.

      I think someone was born that day too.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  2. ari

    these evangelicals sure are funny. jesus didn't say a danged thing about abortion or gay marriage, yet they crusade against it with all their might. you know what he DID say, though?

    "go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven."

    funny how people seem to forget that.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

      One has to be a hindu, ignorant, to expect some thing from, WHO NEVER EXISTED.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Well, neither of those things was imaginable in Jesus' time or in the time that the Bible was written. So of course there wouldn't be any textual basis for anything that specific.

      But "abortion" at the time would usually have been exposure of the unwanted child once born. From a quick look, it doesn't appear that Jews practiced that... Tacitus called them out for not doing it. Rejection of that by Jesus is therefore implied.

      And no society in the ancient world took gay relationships seriously, even if they tolerated them as a s-xual outlet.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      He didn't say anything about potatoes, so I consider them to be accursed by God and possibly poison.

      December 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  3. demrules

    If only your "founding fathers" would have specified and said "freedom of Christian religion" and not open ended, then you may have an argument. President Obama wasn't the one who allowed this "your founders did"!

    December 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  4. Tone2

    Dear Brother in Christ, Mr. E. Metaxas,
    Would you chastise Jesus for whipping the fatcats of his day from the temple, Or declaring that the rich would have a difficult time getting to heaven. How about him telling those stories Like Lazarus and the rich man, or the fool who wish to build a bigger barn to accomodate his wealth. Perhaps you would chastise Jesus for drawing the contrast between the poor widow Tuppence and the rich men bags of money. No doubt you would call upon Jesus to repent for daring to call those with strong beliefs which they insist on imposing on others; White Wash Sepulchre. Would you be standing among the accusers overcome with righteous anger when he declared that your public show of prayer was a waste of time because the act is your reward. Jesus did say when you pray find a closet not the public square.
    Perhaps instead writing books about earthly men you should spend sometime with the community organizer from the slums of Nazareth. Oh he also said that if a brother sinned you first speak with him in person so why did you use an open letter?

    December 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • j dog

      RIGHT ON...and AMEN!

      December 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  5. Chris

    There are some really great opinion pieces out there, from many perspectives, but CNN continues to give voice only to the grandest of journalistic garbage. Raise the level of the discussion and there might actually be some significant progress.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  6. lionlylamb

    Lionlylamb wrote on December 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm, “In God all things are made. Of God are all things made to be manifested inside God. By God are all manifested things made of God to ever be inside God a manifestation for God's pleasure. For God are all things made manifested being ever inside God to ever be willfully done and wantonly made by the graces of God's will to be had in and of and by and ever to be for Godliness intentions by God.”

    December 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

      But hut he never tells, what he considers to be GOD.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  7. Mark

    I appreciate the site for reminding me that Obama, by definition, can do no wrong and that Democrats only have my best interests in mind.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • quieteye

      Obama made and admitted to mistakes, and expects more to come. Clinton admitted to mistakes. Republicans just deny and double-down on mistakes. Which is why they are where they are.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Concerned in Cleveland

      Praise our glorious Leader
      worship Pharaoah, who makes the sun rise.
      And Caesar who delivers us from the barbarians.
      Our loving King, who allows us to toil in his fields so that he can give us food to eat!
      and dung to roll in to keep us warm at night.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  8. Daniel

    Wake up people. This is the 21st Century and there is a reason why the fastest growing "non-religion" in the country is Atheism. After Christianity and Islamic the next biggest group is "Nonsecular/Atheist". There IS NO GOD. It's all a bunch of fairy tales and you're neanderthals for buying into the Religion garbage. The human race cannot deal with Religion and would be far FAR better off without it. Religion is the major cause of almost all the strife on this planet. If it's so good then why does it lead to so much fighting, wars and death with no sign of letting up? All Religions teach hatred because all Religions, except Buddhists and Wiccans, teach that THEIR Religion is the one true Religion.I was born and raised Catholic, saw first hand the hypocrisy of the Catholic religion when I was a child and am now a proud Atheist. The sooner the human race gets over religion the better.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      .I was born and raised Catholic, saw first hand the hypocrisy of the Catholic religion when I was a child and am now a proud Atheist. The sooner the human race gets over religion the better.

      Same here. Keep up the good work. We need to put a STOP to this illegal event of a prayer breakfast. Very disgusting

      December 10, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

      hinduism, ignorance of a hindu Atheist, self centered, sanatan, goon, Nothing can exist without truth, constant by science, and truth absolute is GOD. one has to be hindu ignorant to hind, lie as you do.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Mom of Three

      Proud? Don't blame God; blame ignorant people.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • j dog

      right on brother...!

      December 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Fnordz

      "non-secular/atheist"?

      Nonsecular?

      December 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      I was raised as a baptist in the south and found my way free of religion and god as well. For people who grow up with religion, it can be hard to separate yourself from the bubble to see reality. One technique that was useful for me was the thought exercise of "replacement." Anytime I find a religious practice or idea, I replace it with an opposing religious practice to reflect on the reaction it causes in me.

      In this case, if you replace "Prayer Breakfast" with "Casting of Chicken Bones for Divination Breakfast," you can quickly see why this has no place in modern politics and society.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Whatever trouble religion occasionally causes, opinions like this are woefully ignorant of just how horrible societies without organized religion have been and still are. Atheism can be a viable choice in a generally religious setting, where there is some background of civilized morals to start with. In an irreligious setting, our recent history shows that the Bolsheviks, Maoists, etc. have become rapidly uncivilized.

      Secular Europe might be an experiment with positive results so far, but they also have yet to experience a real crisis. Such as might be caused by their shrinking population...

      December 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @ JFCanton,
      That argument only works if there is evidence to support the idea that religion leads to less violence. On the contrary, the evidence shows the opposite.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Charlie J

      I agree - except to note that plenty of good Buddhists crashed planes into the decks of battleships in WWII. No religion is so holy that it is immune to the descent into wickedness.

      December 10, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  9. Pedro Gonzalez

    I think its funny how people who speak Spanish claim to be the rightful owners of the Southwest.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  10. Bible Clown©

    Everyone knows that too much Metaxas will have you down on your knees retching.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • palintwit

      Bristol Palin is down on her knees for a different reason.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  11. Concerned in Cleveland

    People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think, don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome.

    Fascism has returned with a smile and a friendly hug. Today it's about inclusion. Tomorrow it's about stuffing people in ovens, still smiling. Always smiling.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      " Always smiling." Sorry, but bringing up the Nazis is the same as admitting you are wrong. Look it up. Godwin's Law. Also, you sound crazy.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Spencer

      Um, it would appear that it is You, Bible Clown© that needs to look up Godwin's law. As the law only describes the odds of someone bringing up Nazis, not as you say "admitting you are wrong".

      December 10, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Concerned in Cleveland

      I hate to be the one to educate you, but fascism is a philosophy that does not have anything to do with the Nazi's. It's a frame of mind, and it's come and gone throughout human history. Your perception of the universe is painfuly small and short sighted.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • History Bear

      You are confusing the Democrats who are generally leftist/socialist/neo communist with the Republicans who are facsist/oligarchs. The Dems, will brain wash you and ultimately shoot you for the "good of the State" and the Repubs who will brain waah you, bore you to death with religion and then stick you in the ovens for the "good of the State".. Ain't the State wonderful.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Neueman

      Crazy in Cleveland

      Inclusion = Fascism?

      What are you smoking?

      December 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • sam

      Why are you talking about christianity like that?

      December 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • End Religion

      Shhh.... Neueman, he's toeing the party line. It doesn't need to make sense.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  12. charlie j

    "Americans who had worked hard to build businesses, and who had given millions to charity and to the government, were denounced as fat-cats who weren't "paying their fair share" and whose wealth was ill-gotten gain."

    Indeed, most rich folks seem to be going along with the idea of a slightly higher rate on the very wealthiest. They're the most blessed by our land, and appear to be loyal enough to shoulder their share. It's just the conservative media who squawk about this so-called demonization. I don't recall hearing Obama or anyone of consequence call the rich 'fat cats' or that their wealth was 'ill-gotten.' So, Mr. Metaxas, if the shoe fits ...

    December 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • brian

      Actually it's a bit nutty in their priorities.

      they are so opposed to tax hikes, and supportive of fiscal responsibility, they say we might not as a country pay our bills, thus downgrading our credit rating. This does not seem like a very conservative way of thinking, i would think they would think the solution to out of control debt is reducing how much we spend, not refusing to pay those we owe because we already spent their money.

      In result the stock market takes a hit, lowering the value of stocks globally. How much did the rich lose with this compared to how much they might lose in higher capital gains tax rates. Isn't the value of the stock market more important than the issue of taxes, i would think that if it was a choice of either issue, losing market value is a far more immediate problem than tax rates to how much wealth they have.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  13. Pedro Gonzalez

    Julie, Obama did not win with any "vast majority of Americans." He won with only 51% of the popular vote, and he had less of a percentage than he had in 2008. He has no mandate for anything.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Funny but when Bush won by a small margin, he felt he had a mandate.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Alex

      Pedro, you show real promise as a writer for children's fiction books. You're are in such denial son ;0) Just like a texmex.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "He has no mandate for anything." Sure, and your name's actually "Pedro."

      December 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • JFCanton

      And Bush was slightly more than equally wrong... though we might note that he didn't really do anything with his supposed second-term mandate.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • sam

      In this case, I am not voting for Pedro.

      December 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  14. Allie

    You people are scary. You will reap what you sow.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Lisa

      What exactly do you think we will reap from sowing all this logic and common sense?

      December 10, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      You are saying your invisible friend is going to hurt us and we are the scary ones?

      December 10, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Allie

      Actually, we will all reap what we sow. I misspoke.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      My point still stands.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  15. Wilson Plowman

    You need to direct your opinions at the Republican party about demonizing too. There was demonizing on both sides yet your article gave the impression that only one side did the demonizing. Thus you spoiled your message (no crediability) which could have actually been a good message. And what is worse you sprinkled your article with the rationale that somehow your take was a religious one thus demonizing the other side which in this case happens to be democrat. In other words you are guilty of the same thing you accused Obama of being guilty of.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  16. Ian

    "the president has "won" a deeply divided nation, one that he – alas – has had a hand in dividing"

    Yes Obama divided the country, along with the Christian right, who have worked like crazy since before he was elected to paint him as a divisive non-Christian. Religion, mainly Christianity, divides people more than any other idea. It clearly and without tact paints this world as a two sided option: Either A. Believe in a book written by a group of people two-thousand years ago who had no concept of science. OR B. You are an evil person damned to burn for eternity.

    You do what you have to to win an election. Being high and mighty and all think of the children on us is a thinly veiled attempt, by yet another right-winger, to demonize President Obama as a non-Christian "other".

    CNN should replace the Cable in CNN with Christian. Why not have an atheist write why they are right and how upset they are with this administration for not recognizing and supporting the fact that 14% of Americans are atheist. Christians get all this positive press, they are portrayed to be the most moral and kindest......BS...... Atheist and non-believers are not immoral, not scary, we don't hate babies or marriage. We just don't think the the predecessor to Harry Potter as the be all end all of morality and how the world works.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • demrules

      If only your "founding fathers" would have specified and said "freedom of Christian religion" and not open ended, then you may have an argument. President Obama wasn't the one who allowed this "your founders did"!

      December 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  17. prayforurself

    Eric drop this article & the rest of your drivel in the garbage. It's amazing how many crazy people are out there and buy into this type of rhetoric.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Daniel

      Wake up people. This is the 21st Century and there is a reason why the fastest growing "non-religion" in the country is Atheism. After Christianity and Islamic the next biggest group is "Nonsecular/Atheist". There IS NO GOD. It's all a bunch of fairy tales and you're neanderthals for buying into the Religion garbage. The human race cannot deal with Religion and would be far FAR better off without it. Religion is the major cause of almost all the strife on this planet. If it's so good then why does it lead to so much fighting, wars and death with no sign of letting up? All Religions teach hatred because all Religions, except Buddhists and Wiccans, teach that THEIR Religion is the one true Religion.I was born and raised Catholic, saw first hand the hypocrisy of the Catholic religion when I was a child and am now a proud Atheist. The sooner the human race gets over religion the better.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  18. Blessed are the Cheesemakers

    This just proves that needless pandering to the religious creates a situation where they ask for more needless pandering.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Kim

      In the 1930s they called that "Appeasement" in Germany.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  19. Wendy

    Outstanding article. The voice of reason. Thank you.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Madtown

      Sure, as long as your "reasoning" only needs 1 side of the story.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      You're referring to Obama, right?

      December 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Lisa

      Wouldn't be more "reasonable" if he called on the GOP to change its ways too, or do you think that they're innocent?

      December 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  20. Nietodarwin

    Later in my speech, I talked specifically about the idea of loving our enemies. WHAT A LIAR!!! Xstianity (and Islam) have not survived for centuries on love or logic or reason. MURDER of those with no "belief" no "faith" is what keeps them in power.
    I wish for nothing but the worst for the author of this (^%^&$^

    December 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Lisa

      Saying that all you can do is love those who disagree with you is the hight of condescension. It's basically considering your opponents to be like willful children who cannot see adult reason, so all you can do is "love them anyway."

      December 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Neal

      Actions taken on behalf of a group do not always reflect the beliefs or actions of that group, or individuals in it. All Christians are not bigots and haters, just as all French don't hate Americans, all cheese is not cheddar or all movies are not comedies. Use your head and stop being so dramatic.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • JFCanton

      It *would* be easier to take a claim of a philosophy derived from simple application of logic seriously if the resulting opinion reflected the same!

      The reference itself -is- the sort of thing that condescending people tend to say, but where else can people who disagree start?

      December 10, 2012 at 5:07 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.