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My Take: Jesus was a dirty, dirty God
January 5th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

My Take: Jesus was a dirty, dirty God

Editor’s note: Johnnie Moore is the author of Dirty God (#DirtyGod). He is a professor of religion and vice president at Liberty University. Keep track of him @johnnieM .

By Johnnie Moore, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Jesus was a lot more like you than you think, and a lot less clean cut than this iconic image of him that floats around culture.

You know the image. It’s the one where Jesus is walking like he’s floating in robes of pristine white followed by birds singing some holy little ditty. He’s polished, manicured, and clearly – God.

But despite the Christian belief that Jesus was both fully God and fully man, Jesus was a rather dirty God.

He was the “earthly” son of a carpenter, and life in the first-century was both more lurid and unfinished than our collective religious memory seems to recall.

To that end, I suggested recently to several astounded colleagues of mine that Jesus actually had to go to the bathroom, perhaps even on the side of the road between Capernaum and Jerusalem.

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What tipped them over the edge was when I insinuated that Jesus, like almost every other human being living in the rural world in that time, might have even had dysentery on an occasion or two.

Someone said, “You mean that Jesus might have had severe diarrhea?”

“Yep,” I replied, “That’s exactly what I mean.”

It seems like an obvious statement if you believe that Jesus was “fully God” and “fully man” (as most evangelicals believe and call the Incarnation), but to some of us it seems in the least, inappropriate, and at the most, sacrilege, to imagine Jesus in this way. We might believe that God was also man, but we picture him with an ever-present halo over his head.

But, actually, the Jesus of the Bible was more human than most people are conditioned to think.

I call this the dirty side of Jesus. He was grittier, and a lot more like us than maybe we believe, and that’s one of the reasons why so many thousands of people followed him so quickly.

They could relate to him.

He was the teacher from a small town who knew and understood the economic insecurity that was common in the first century. Times must have been rather tough for Jesus at points in his life, for he even spoke of being homeless, having to sleep on the ground with no roof over his head.

He also knew what it was like to have his message rejected and how it felt to be misunderstood. Jesus was regarded with such little significance in his hometown that one of his critics once remarked sardonically, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Jesus eventually had to move to different city (Capernaum) because his teachings so infuriated the people living in his hometown that they drove him out of Nazareth and even tried to throw him off a cliff.

'Jesus Wife' fragment gets more testing, delays article

The real Jesus had dirt underneath his fingernails and calluses on his hands. He probably smelled badly from sweating profusely in the Judean sun on his long hikes to Jerusalem, and Jesus was, without a doubt, rumored to be a hypocrite or absolutely mad for all the time he spent with prostitutes and those afflicted with leprosy.

Not exactly have a clean-cut image.

He had a rather shady reputation.

Some people thought he was a revolutionary. The religious leaders called him a heretic, and others even accused him of being a drunkard and a glutton - in no small part because of the vagabond group of disciples he had with him. No serious religious leader of his day would have ever recruited such people.

For his core 12 disciples, Jesus included a tough-as-nails, bombastic fisherman (Peter), a chief tax collector named Matthew (the most hated popular figure of the time), an eventual traitor who was stealing money out of the offering bucket (Judas), a prolific doubter (Thomas), two jocks nicknamed the “Sons of Thunder” (James and John) and Simon the Zealot, a member of a radical political party which believed in using violence to kick out the Romans.

Jesus was sarcastic, too.

He often snapped back at the Pharisees with a tone fit for late-night television, and in a terribly embarrassing moment for all those around him, Jesus even called these respected religious teachers “snakes” that were probably sons of “Satan.”

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That’s not exactly the behavior of a sweet, self-help teacher with a halo over his head.

It’s the behavior of a frustrated man who might also be divine, but sure knows how it feels for annoying people to get under his skin.

Christians believe that Jesus chose to be born fully human, too, but why?

Lots of theologians have laid out opinions over the centuries, and in their opining they have tried once again to hijack Jesus’ humanity by defining it in philosophical terms. I believe it’s simpler than the philosophy and church councils and centuries of argument.

The brilliance of Christianity is the image of a God, named Jesus, arrived with dirty hands.

Jesus came in a time period when Greco-Roman gods were housed in gigantic temples and portrayed with superhuman powers and with superhuman physiques. Gods were believed to be far away from people on their mountains or hemmed up in their sanctuaries.

Jesus arrived in defiance of this prevailing imagery.

Jesus didn’t come flinging lightning bolts from a mountaintop, or playing politics in Rome. He came to live in a typical Middle Eastern village called Nazareth that was home to a couple hundred typical people. He didn’t decide to brandish his power, but to spend most of his time with the powerless and disenfranchised. And when he started a religious movement that reshaped history, he did it in the most profound and anticlimatic way:

He let himself be killed, and then he busted open a tomb.

In Jesus we meet a Savior who understood the desire to sleep just a few more hours, and who had to control his temper sometimes. In Jesus we find a God we can relate to because he chose to relate to us.

He was the God who became dirty so that the world’s souls might be made clean.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Johnnie Moore.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Jesus • My Take

soundoff (7,741 Responses)
  1. FLAVA

    In the days of Jesus, there was no toilet paper.

    People used their left hand to wipe themselves.

    So Jesus's left hand would have been full of poop.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • snowboarder

      i read recently that nearly 80% of the worlds population still does not use TP,

      January 6, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • FLAVA

      Snowboarder

      It's true. That's why in many countries it's considered to be an insult to touch someone with your left hand.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • chris

      In the some middle eastern countries using TP is considered dirty

      January 6, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • snowboarder

      Flav, when i was in korea in the army i carried my own TP.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • MagicPanties

      My invisible pink unicorn doesn't use TP.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  2. Marti

    You're all going to Hades. What a disgusting article. I guess you were there, huh, and that's where you got all your facts. I suppose this is what writers do when they can't think of any relevant material. At least you appeal to all these atheists, which was probably your intention. For the rest of us, your article is baloney. Not even written well. By the way, I certainly don't care that all you atheists don't agree with me. In fact, I'd rather you not.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • FLAVA

      If Jesus was flesh and blood but didn't poop, what did he do?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • snowboarder

      "going to hades"

      lol

      January 6, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Marti", but "Hades" is an element of mythology, therefore one cannot go there. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      January 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Marti, you are a fool that refuses to even consider what the writer, a professor of religion, has stated in this article.
      How about you actually say what you disagree with rather than trying to claim this religious professor is an atheist.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • sandalista

      Were YOU there? You pretend to know more than us non-believers.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Hey! You!

      You did see who wrote the article didn't you? You do know what Liberty university is don't you?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • JWT

      Pretty sad on the threats. Even if they are imaginary.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  3. yosemite sam

    Morality is made by man, for man, and based on culture.

    When their moral laws become intellectually indefensible, man invents religion.

    Anyone who seriously believes a carpenter from 2000 years ago needs to be worshiped so you can go to heaven must be drinking pure LSD- it's absolute lunacy- the fact that adults grow up and stop believing in trolls, bogeymen, and the tooth fairy, but remain in their faith to such an obviously fake figure, is astounding.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • snowboarder

      it is truly a testament to the effectiveness of religious indoctrination.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  4. Person

    Jesus did live among the common men but remained detached from this world. He was like a lotus whose roots are under the water and dirt but flower faces the sky.He was an incarnation of the Lord and the Lord was his support. He was overflowing with love that he forgave sinners and blessed them with a wealth that cannot be found in the outside world. He did not engage in sin but went near the sinners to teach them of the right path. This article is just trying to put a bad image on a great Saint. I feel bad that the world doesn't realize what a great sin it is to think wrong of a True Saint. Those who sin against a Saint who is beyond karma can only suffer unless it is the desire of the Lord or Saint to forgive and mend that person's ways. People should pay attention to the essence of Jesus's teachings. Jesus said, "God is love!" I believe he also said the temple of living God is the human body. He said the kingdom of heaven is within us. We have to search within by withdrawing our consciousness at the eye center or third eye. Jesus said if thy eye be single thy body shall be full of light.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • on the other hand, facts

      I am like a ham and cheese sandwich – nourishing, all-sating, and filled with cheese like your post.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Person", but "He", "Lord", "Saint", "True Saint", and "God" are all elements of mythology, therefore all of your assertions are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL".

      January 6, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • MagicPanties

      So you obviously have a direct line to god to be able to tell us this.
      Wow, that's awesome.

      Got a question for you/god: why is it that only the believers can talk to god? Everyone else just gets static.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Lol, how is this article painting a bad light?

      And don't be silly, of course Jesus sinned. Look at the anger at the moneylenders.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  5. on the other hand, facts

    Did anyone else notice that the author's relationship with dirt is not strictly platonic?

    January 6, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  6. wvgiant

    He was also Middle Eastern and not white like in all of the paintings, but white people generally want to think of him as white. If he had the power to cure disease and bring the dead to life I doubt he would have gone around with dysentery. I personally believe he was just a man like any of us, the early Christians embellished the stories and the Council of Nicea destroyed all of the gospels that showed him to be just a human spiritual leader and killed those who disagreed with them. He definitely taught good moral values and how to be a decent human being, though.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • snowboarder

      i have a friend that actually has a bl@ck jesus painting. we really do make our gods in our own image.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  7. Monz

    how will you escape from him on the judgement day you corrupted dark minds.... How are you going to hide your faces from his glory in this day you thick cold hearted people....

    January 6, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • snowboarder

      i do enjoy the cowards reason for belief. fear.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • MagicPanties

      Thank you for reminding us that your "all-loving" god will torture me horribly for eternity simply because I don't profess my love to him.

      Wow, what's not to like.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Monz", but "him", "his glory", and "judgement day" are all elements of mythology, therefore all of your assertions are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      January 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • JWT

      I booked judgement Day for three days after the unicorn BBQ. Hope you can make it.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  8. Doug

    Who care about a 2,000 year old fairy tale? Get rid of all religion, and the human species may finally develop.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • chris

      After the last hundred years I don't think I trust atheist to run a country

      January 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  9. yosemite sam

    Jesus never existed, the entire story is based off Horus and Mithra.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Alr

      You must be from the church of farenheit 911. It's funny how many suckers take a shady poorly produced online video as gospel, hook line and sinker.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  10. Jon

    Is there a point to this written nonsense?

    January 6, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  11. chris

    CNN I bet you don't have the guts to write a story like this about Mohammad.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Lisa b

      Oh here we go. This has nothing to do with Islam..... Trouble

      January 6, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      CNN didn't write it, this professor of religion did.
      Do you disagree with his assessment? If so, why?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • chris

      No CNN just posted it, I have no issues with people questioning the christian faith. I think you should question everything in life it is how we grow. On that note do you think they have the guts to do a story like this about Mohammad? The same author could write it.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Why do you think he is questioning the faith?
      Seriously, is he at any point saying that Jesus was not son of god?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • D

      Muslims believe Jesus was the Messiah, performed miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead, will judge the earth on judgment day, is the correct path to follow, was blessed by God, is the word of God, and many other attributes that Christians give him. They believe Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, and many other things.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • D

      To Cedar Rapids- Great post! That kind of discussion never seems to take place on this blog. I wish more people actively engaged in adult conversation like you have done.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • chris

      Yes they do D you seem the be well read. I was simply point out the CNN would not have the guts to do the same article about Mohammad. Do you disagree?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  12. Jose Muerte

    Oh sweet Jesus and his virgin mother!!!!!!!!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry "Jose Muerte", but "Jesus" and the "virgin mother" are elements of mythology, therefore they cannot be "sweet". Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      January 6, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  13. Trueman Atughonu

    CNN, please why would you pay a writer to publish such nonsense of an article, i know you want viewers but not like this. Whomever is editing this writer please edit before anything is published and if you did you failed at your responsibility.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      So what do you disagree with in what he said?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  14. Carmen

    http://www.wineskins.org/filter.asp?co_key=2462

    January 6, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  15. Jack 21

    Funny seeing so many biblethumpers bash this article but were the first in line to vote for Romney the Cultist. Romney was no christian,he was a man who thought his Mormon Magical Underwear had Magical powers that origionated ferom his skidmark......and they believe the most devout shall never take the underwear off even to bath....They also replaced the bible with the book of Mormon,they believe Joesoph Smith is the Messiah.They believe in polygamy ,child slavery,cult rituals...they do not believe Jesus is son of god. Thety also believe that when you die you fly into outer space with your Mormon Magical Underwear and become a god Flying to the Planet KOLOB where you believe the Gods live........They believe Dark skinned people are the spawns of evil........These are the things DEVOUT CHRISTIANS supported when they decided to vote and support Romney.....They turned their back on christianity to support such a vile religion................The gops new religious platform huh ...........Makes me laught to hear these biblethumpers talk about god yet they turned their back on him to support the Mormon CULT LOL.........

    January 6, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • JJ

      But if an atheist were to run against Obama they would have voted for Obama. There are no greater hypocrites than Christians.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • ray1950

      I have give it a great deal of thought about but I just can't seem to find the connection between the article and your comment. Have you always found it difficult to stay on topic?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • chris

      JJ
      I love how you guys love to paint all Christians with the same brush. I guess we are the only people now days that it is ok to stereotype. god bless you sir I hope you have a lovely day

      January 6, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • DJ

      And you want to believe Obama is a devout Christian that happens to stronly supports abortion, gay marriage, fetus stem cell research,and every other ungodly practice out there...Santorum would of been aa much better choice than either of the others...

      January 6, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • coolhead

      A few of the things you say about the mormon religion are true but please refrain from spewing false propaganda like "they believe Joseph Smith is the Messiah". This is plain not true.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  16. NightOps

    Awesome, simply awesome. Thank you OP.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  17. hilroy

    Which brings me to mind, Jesus was a lilly white man with long hair in that part of the world. If you believe that, I have one hundred acres of land to show you in Manhattan at a bargain price. This man was always traveling in the sun and he liked the outdoors and most of his thoughts were recorded when he was among his sheep which he loved. Why you asked? The bible said he had hair like the wool of a sheep and his feet was like burnt copper. Try burning a penny and see what burnt copper look like. Some of you people on here are pathetic. Maybe the so called Russian Jews in Israel would one day admit who the real Jews peaceful were.

    He was a shepherd and even his mother may not have looked the way she is depicted in the Vatican and elswhere except Ethopia. We know that she was a sturdy woman who also travelled a lot in the sun especially up the hills where her sister Martha mother of John the Baptist lived. I am a true believer of the man and the good works he did and do believe he is among those of us who seek him out.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Saraswati

      Middle age artists didn't exactly have a lot of photos to work from in imagining a middle eastern man. Most of them had never travelled more than a few hundred miles.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • vapor2

      I like your comment so much... the exact thought ran thru my mind after reading the article... really like the way you put it

      January 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Fred

      I think it was Elizabeth, Mary's cousin, not Martha who was the mother of John the baptist. Which makes sense because from that we learn that Elizabeth and Mary's mother's were sisters. And, Elizabeth's husband, serving in the temple during the course of Abiah, must have been a full-blood Levite, for it was only the tribe of Levi, of the sons of Aaron whom God declared could enter the holy of holies at that time. From this we also learn that, from the time of year the course of Abiah was until when Mary conceived and Elizabeth was 6 months with child that Jesus was conceived on Dec 25th, not physically born. Mary's father was of the house of David, or Judah, of the 12 tribes. Therefore, Christ being the child of the Holy Spirit, not the Carpenter, Joseph, became a direct descendent of the King line (Judah) and the Priest line (Levi) making him King of Kings, Lord of Lords, forever after the order of Malkazadak (sp?) (King of the Just). This just and fyi. Thanks.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  18. Jeff 30

    I wonder if Romney clicks his heels once or twice to activate his cult Momon Magical Underwer? During the last presidental debate Romneys face was turning red and sweaty........this was because his Mormon Magical Underwear Malfunctioned.....he was fevorishly clicking his heels together,clinching his buttocks tightly hoping they would activate but to no avail...........THe cult powers of Kolob and Joesoph Smith failed Romney.......... Thus he lost the debate. Its funny seeing this backfire on all the christians that turned their back on their faith to support a man who thinks the skidmark in his underwear grants him magical powers..........lol devout christians ......yeah right lol........

    January 6, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  19. Lisa b

    You forget to mention he had a religion. He was Jewishness his followers were Jewish. The word Christians does not even form for 391 years later.. His half brother stated that his followers were a branch of Judaism. Please give all details. Leaving important historical info out is just a form of misinformatn

    January 6, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Don camp

      Lia, I think if you check, the followers were first called Christians at Antioch, and that was no more than 20-30 years after the church came into being.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • *ray

      The name of Christ was formed in the Greek to translate "The Annointed One" from Hebrew to testify of the one from the beginning to pay for mans sin. If you don't want to accept God, than why do you keep fighting it? Do you have guilt with you.?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  20. Reality

    Based on the topic, some updating:

    Jesus was an illiterate, dirty, sometimes sick, Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from the dirty, sometimes sick P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the dirty Messiah from muddy Nazareth to a mythical clean character from mythical clean Nazareth to a dirty ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ unclean life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various dirty, sometimes sick, Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.
    ---------------------------------------

    January 6, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Lisa b

      Thank you. That sounds more accurate.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • your reality

      Good luck during judgement day telling him about his "miracles/hallucinations. " Hope I am in line behind you to listen to you try and recant what you have said.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Lsteel

      If he was illiterate, how did he read the Torah in the Temple? Or was his attendance at the Temple also made up?

      It's hard to imagine a real, complex man. Commenters here on both sides are trying to simplify Jesus into someone they can explain. Not sure that is possible.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Reality

      The illiteracy of the dirty, sometimes sick, simple preacher man aka Jesus, as per some contemporary experts:

      From Professor Bruce Chilton's commentary in his book, Rabbi Jesus, An Intimate Biography, p. 99,

      "What Luke misses is that Jesus stood in the synagogue as an illiterate m–amzer (pp. 98-102) in his claim to be the Lord's anointed".

      Note: Luke 4: 16 is a single attestation. No where else in the NT does it say Jesus could read thereby making said passage historically unreliable. (Luke 4:16-24) has been compared to a number of other passage and found to be equivalent with the exception of Luke 4: 16 which is the only passage in the list of equivalents that mentions reading:

      http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?t-itle=022_Prophets_Own_Country (leave out the hyphen in "t-itle" if you access the reference)

      GThom. 31 & P. Oxy. 1.31
      (2) Mark 6:1-6a = Matt 13:53-58
      (3) Luke 4:16-24
      (4) John 4:44

      Professor JD Crossan notes that Jesus was illiterate coming from a landless peasant background, initially a follower of John the Baptist. e.g. The Excavation of Jesus (with Professor Reed), pp 30-31..

      The question of Jesus's literacy has also been much discussed by the Jesus Seminar and others and they note that references in the Gospels to Jesus reading and writing may well be fictions.

      The only Gospel reference to Jesus writing is John 8:6 in the Pericope Adulterae, widely considered a later addition, where it is not even clear he is forming letters in the dust, and the Greek "εγραφεν" could equally mean he was drawing.

      Luke 2: 41-52, the twelve year old Jesus in the temple- As per Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 275, " the episode is unhistorical" (again, a single attestaion). See also http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?ti-tle=433_Jesus_at_Twelve

      It is very unfortunate that Jesus was illiterate for it resulted in many gospels and epistles being written years after his death by non-witnesses. This resulted in significant differences in said gospels and epistles and with many embellishments to raise Jesus to the level of a deity to compete with the Roman gods and emperors. See Raymond Brown's book, An Introduction to the New Testament, (Luke 4:16 note on p. 237) for an exhaustive review of the true writers of the gospels and epistles.

      Of course, Muslims believe that Mohammed was also illiterate. This way, they can claim that the only way he could have received the "angelic", koranic passages of death to all infidels and Islamic domination of the globe by any means, was orally since he could not read and write.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:54 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.