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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.

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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. beevee

    What this guy who wrote the article harped about may be true considering what we know of the world at that time. However, I don't see any point in writng about Jesus this way as we all know the spiritiual knowldege of Jesus. It does not help any one to think about the daily human life of the man who we consder as a messenger of god.

    January 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Answer

      Ya sure. If your gardener makes that claim today, that he, is a messenger of your god.. will you believe it?

      What about that semi-auto he's carrying to help him along with his words?

      January 6, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  2. nofairytales

    There's no evidence Jesus ever even existed. Everyone needs to do some homework. Do you know how many messiah's prior to the Jesus story there are that were born to virgin mothers and born on the 25th of december? Quite a few. Let's get our heads out of our rear ends, and start focusing on real life issues, deep space exploration, and teaching our kids astro physics, instead of filling their heads with this nonsense!

    January 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  3. Real Deal

    It sounds like Johnnie Moore is on his way to becoming agnostic (or atheistic).

    Once you start trying to grab onto one of those golden threads on the Emperor's magic clothes, it's not long until you realize that he is actually naked.

    January 6, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Hardly. Moore, in fact, is a shrieking fundamentalist. He's trying to draw attention to himself and his writings by latching on to a trivial but provocative topic, but he subtly inserts a cornerstone of modern evangelical ranting: that Jesus wasn't a man, wasn't the son of god, but was god himself. The fundies are tossing god out of their universe and replacing him with Jesus, and Moore makes no bones about this, presenting it as fact even though it grossly contradicts ordinary christian doctrine and what is said in the bible.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Real Deal

      Perhaps, Six Degrees - but he's a 30 year-old kid (if even that old). Many have escaped Christian fundamentalism. There's hope.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • End Religion

      @SixDegreees: thx for pointing that out

      January 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  4. chantayc

    All of this is expected of academia. They know the letter of the Word but not the heart of the Word. If Jesus, as this clown suggests, was God, then how could sickness and disease infiltrate him. He was human and when he consumed food, it passed through his body like any other human being, but he was more than a human being, he was God, therefore not only was he sinless and perfect, he was disease free as well. His humanness was evident in his bodily functions. His mortality was a sign of his humanity. This man is not a believer in the Trinity and in writing this sort of crap, he seeks to reduce Jesus to a mere mortal. Jesus was an extraordinary human being who was in deed our God and a manifestation of his love for all mankind. I hate that Americans are so cowardly in their beliefs and in doing so move our Lord and Savior to a mere mortal man who like Muhammad died and did not return. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus, died and rose on the third day and now sits at the right hand of the Father. This mans education is fully nonsense without the Holy Spirit of God to reveal the truth. They will let anyone write about our religion and they fear the evil of Islam, so they try to degrade the one true God and His son Jesus. Cowards the whole lot of them!!!!

    January 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Blah

      Religion was invented by Neanderthal mAn 40,000 years ago...nice try

      January 6, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Answer

      Another person who claims their version is the true jeebus. Congrats.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • hee hee

      Oh no! What will I do without the "heart of the word"?

      January 6, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      Bird is the Word.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • End Religion

      well everybody's heard
      about 'the heart of the word'
      h-h-h-heart heart heart, heart of the word, a well-a
      heart heart heart, heart of the word

      well don't you know about the heart of the word?
      well everybody knows about the heart of the word!
      heart heart, heart of the word

      January 6, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  5. lionlylamb

    In the Beginning did the Holy Spirit, (being nothingness) breathe and in one breath was made manifest the elemental consecrations of all physical embodiments. Chaos ensued in the beginning moments of the Holy Spirit’s first breath and many physical consecrations were destroyed of their first made forms and in decomposition became even smaller elemental conditionings. Thusly the first breath was made.

    Of the Holy Spirit being Nothingness did the second breath impart upon all the elemental conditionings a vast swirling and all the elements began to congeal. Therefore upon nothingness’s second breath were elemental formations made to become great galaxies and systems of nebulas upon the allness of great nothingness, the Holy Spirit. Henceforth, the second breath of the Holy Spirit was made and galactic reasoning did become a reality.

    By the third breath of the Holy Spirit of Nothingness, all things celestial and even things terrestrial began to congeal. In the consecrating of many elemental beings, there came unto many spherical formations, a great heat and fires began upon many elementally begotten spheroids within all the galaxies formed of the second breath. Thusly, the third breath was made by the Holy Spirit of Nothingness.

    From the fourth breath within the Holiness of Nothingness there came a rush upon all elemental appraisals and the furies of fires became unto all the stars and around many stars were cooled the planets of elemental beings’ congenialities and so the fourth breath was breathed by the Holy Spirit of Nothingness.

    For the fifth breath from Holy Nothingness was now made as being of a lingering way, giving rises to every planetary elemental consecration, their needed waters of solitude which were brought about from every planet possible, rising up many atomized cosmologies of pre-cellular activities. Thus became the elementally begotten within all sedimentary issuances of sub-atomized micro-cosmological enticements in the atomic realms’ endorsements of proclivities now livable nurturing ways. So the fifth breath was made manifest all elemental beings of living consecrations upon many atomized impartations within many waters.

    While in the sixth breath, the Holy Spirit of Nothingness did breathe upon all elemental beings living within the atomized realms and shed upon them their own spirits of nothingness and the elemental beings became as gods and they knew of all things to be that was and is and shall be to be and become. Thus was the sixth breath of the Holy Spirit of Nothingness made and in the completion of the sixth breath, the Holy Spirit of Nothingness made complete the atomized and celestial and cellular cosmologies. For anything more could not be done by the Holy Spirit of Nothingness and all manifestations worthiness potentials are now within the gods’ entrusted hands.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • hee hee

      Thusly?

      January 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Blah

      In the rational, sane world we call that the big bang proven with emperical evidence

      January 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • roadkilled

      Once, Jesus sharted. Fact.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • hee hee

      quoting lionlylamb: "...there came a rush upon all elemental appraisals and the furies of fires became unto all the stars and around many stars were cooled the planets of elemental beings’ congenialities..."

      I bet you don't know what "appraisal" or "congenial" mean.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      hee hee,

      I know well what the wordage uses of my writings dare entails and just in case you don't do look my wordage uses on the net. It's free for you to do!

      January 6, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • End Religion

      @heehee: lionlylamb (AKA god's oldest dreamer) is a known nut. His posts are known as "word salad". He has admitted psych issues. His only goal is to string together words he does not understand as that is "wisdom" to him. If he wanted to actually communicate, he is capable of normal conversation. His excuse for his ramblings have previously been, "he's writing a book and needs a place to gather his thoughts."

      January 6, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • psych ward staff

      Uh oh – he threw up his word salad again. Clean up on page 51 – pronto!

      January 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • hee hee

      quoting lionlylamb: "I know well what the wordage uses of my writings dare entails and just in case you don't do look my wordage uses on the net."

      Ok, now I get the joke. You had me going there for a bit :).

      January 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • hee hee

      hee hee

      Wait, sorry EndReligion, just read your post to me. He's serious? I sensed a psychotic disorder, but second-guessed myself.
      Poor guy.

      (Accidentally posted this in the main stream of comments, where you'd never find it. Sorry for the duplication).

      January 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
  6. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    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 4:56 pm |
    • Blah

      Jesus ingested a ton on magic mushrooms

      January 6, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  7. Blah

    Death to Jesus! Oh wait....

    January 6, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  8. John P. Tarver

    Mary Magdaline was either anointing Christ King of the Jews, or her Husband.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  9. Karen Lee

    "If not enough people doubt you, you're not making a difference" - guess that explains why so many people doubt Jesus. – PJ

    January 6, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Answer

      It's sure seems that your kind will have avenues that say those things – so that you'll be assured that you were the ones who are going to heaven. So nice a saying – so little of value.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  10. Blah

    There is no Jesus, there is only Zuul!

    January 6, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • End Religion

      I am the Key Master.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  11. bobcat

    New thought, Orbitz gum commercial opportunity here.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  12. darte

    Liberty University = oxymoron

    January 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Rapid evolution = oxymoron

      January 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Christinanity

      Oxy Tarver = Oxy moron
      do the math

      January 6, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Blah

      OxyContin= partytime!

      January 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  13. Rob L

    Loved this article. Something I have believed in and said for years. I don't know why anyone who has a spiritual nature to them want to fear or separate themselves from a "Creator". Thank you for this, I appreciate reading it.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  14. Marcus

    To all atheists:

    It is easy to find fault in Christians. It is easy to find contradictions in the bible. Can any of you find fault in the words of Christs? I'm listening...

    January 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Blah

      Actually all mono and polytheistic religions are full of crap

      January 6, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Answer

      I like to know why you religious t-w-a-t-s have all those inane traditions. That slice of white platter in your mouth – really?

      All those pathetic symbols you bow down and before/ beneath? Really? That's what brings you to you pathetic state?

      Such a joke.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • Reality

      JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

      Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

      Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

      Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Many contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

      Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

      So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, dirty, sometimes sick, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?

      January 6, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • ME II

      What words of Christ?
      All we have is hearsay about what he supposedly said.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Marcus

      Fail. If you do come up with something. Please provide refs. TY

      January 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Yep.

      Jesus said that there was a world-wide flood. There wasn't. He lied or did not have the correct information; therefore, he's not god. Next.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Marcus

      Why do I care what he said? That little agopic spin on the golden rule (do unto others) in which he took it past the the cerebral level and onto the spiritual "love thy neighbor as thyself" morally perfect code, it changed the world. He proclaimed it the same as loving God w/ all your heart, and then he walked the walk. The magic tricks are irrelevent to me. His spiritual revolution in a harsh world seems very profound. It should be acknowledge. Even if you think that existence was created from natural processes (0+0=0).

      January 6, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • kenny

      religion is created by men to control other men. its that simple. no god. no heaven. no hell. no devil. just men controlling other men. ever wonder why the bible has NO INFO on future technology or breakthroughs that have made lives better and better with each passing year??? because men wrote it based on past stories about men and how to control them.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • Marcus

      Moby, He did reference the flood. The deluge is refrenced throughout ancient writings and probably resulted in the retreating of the last glaciation.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • ME II

      @Marcus,
      The golden rule, or the concept of reciprocity, did not orginate with Jesus. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule)
      The point about the Biblical flood is that it did not happen, at least not a world-wide one as described in the Bible.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Marcus, you are being foolish to say that "existence from natural causes is the same as saying that 0+0=0."

      If existence is eternal, then our universe may have arisen from natural causes and you might refer to it (in a very simplistic, infantile way) as: 1×1=1. There's no guarantee that 0 (or "nothing") exists or has ever existed.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Marcus

      Jesus did not invent recipriocity. He did take it to a whole new level. His spiritual revolution was centered on it. "do unto others" is semantics. "love thy neighbor" is spirittual. Jesus also, walked what he talked. As CS Lewis pointed out: If you are in a hole who are you going to listen to? Someone in the hole w/ you or someone who climbed out?

      Moby, I couldn't have said it better myself.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • ME II

      @Marcus,
      Sorry, but your distinction between the two versions of wording is semantics, almost the definition of semantics actually. There have been many versions throughout history, perhaps closest to the "love thy neighbor as thyself" version would be Laozi's in 6th century BCE, "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss." In other words, not original, just rephrased.

      Perhaps I misunderstand, but how is C.S Lewis' point relevant?

      January 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  15. truth be told

    Those who claim to be atheist have proven one undeniable fact on these blogs. They are liars. When reading anything a so called atheist writes first consider the statement to be a lie, then know it is not worth dealing with. What one self deluded atheist lies to all the others will swear to.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  16. Blah

    Jesus had herpes

    January 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  17. John P. Tarver

    When the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 69 AD they took all the treasure and 100 princes of Israel to build the Colleseum. Christ was one of these Princes of Israel and not a carpenter.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Ferit T

      I guess your comment implies being a carpenter is a lowly occupation.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Tom Paine

      He would have been a fairly old carpenter (really stone mason) by then.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      A lowly Jesus is the product the church sells, but that is not the Jesus of John 3:16.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Answer

      "I like the version of the jeebus that loves me."

      So common. And just as pathetic as those others that go with the Old Testament jeebus.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Abraham made a treaty with the Jebusites, for a cave in the hill there at the "threshing field". The Jebusites come out of their City and attack Joshua, but he does not attack their City. Later David has the statues with the Abraham treaty written on their tongues destroyed inside Jebus. Once the statues are destroyed, David takes Jebus militarily and then buys the City from the Jebusites.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  18. Ferit T

    he was also brown, he was a palestinian by today's standards.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Christ was an Ephraimite and black by today's standards.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      He was Scandinavian, to judge from all the pictures. Jesus the Norwegian.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  19. Heinrich

    Christians really don't care whether Jesus was physically dirty or clean. All that matters is that he was spiritually clean and died for our sake. Athiests and those of other faiths are also unlikely to care about Jesus, as most of them either do not believe in Him or think Him a heretic. I therefore fail to see the relevence of this article. It only serves to inflame.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • southernsugar

      I agree with you. Jesus was God made flesh. He is and always was. This article was nonsense. Jesus, the Son of God is and always was pure.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I don't think most Christians are "inflamed" by this, especially since, as you point out yourself, most don't care if he was dirty or clean. The point appears to have been an internal Christian discussion addressed at those who might have some erroneous (in the authors view) sentiments due to a misconception about who Jesus was. No big deal for the rest of us, but not irrelevant to the audience.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Blah

      Pure!? Please! Jesus was pounding Mary Magdeline

      January 6, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  20. Nomad

    I agree with author – well anybody with brain has to – author is just stating the obvious. Guess wants to stir up a public opinion and be viewed as edgy and modern theology teacher. I do not see a single reason for articles and books like this. It does not bring anything new and valuable to the table. Perhaps author should consider rewriting Gone with the wind describing toiletry needs of Scarlett O'Hara. That would secure him place in modern literature. #1 trash maker of the year.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Heinrich

      Best post ever, dude. Double thumbs up.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:43 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.