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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

soundoff (7,741 Responses)
  1. The-thruth

    All religions are lies. It all about power, controlling people. People who deeply believed in religious is very easy to control, just like sheep. Take mu-slime for example. Their mentors can tell their followers to do what ever they want, even if it will cause harm to themselves. They are no different than a bunch of zombies.

    January 7, 2013 at 4:32 am |
    • GO_GOP

      Truth: All religions are lies except Christianity which is the word of our Lord in heaven. The Bible is the only authentic description of our Lord's words. Ignore it at your peril. Hell is not a pleasant place. Seek Jesus.

      January 7, 2013 at 5:23 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ Go: Stop for a second and think about what you said. Do you understand that you're saying essentially what every other religious person, who follows a different religion, says? That THEIR religion is the ONE true religion, and all others are false? Their arguments are just as valid as yours.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:18 am |
  2. GO_GOP

    A recent study by a leading longevity research group found a strong correlation between atheism and early death. They also found a stronger correlation between belief in christian God and longevity. It was shown in the 15 year long survey that people who describe themselves as atheists on an average live 39 years less than people who describe themselves as Christians. I urge all atheists to take note of this and change your lifestyle before it is too late..

    January 7, 2013 at 4:27 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      Okay then- please cite your source so that I and others can verify your arguments...

      Tomorrow.

      I need sleep.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:30 am |
    • The-thruth

      This is another lie from the religious nuts !!

      January 7, 2013 at 5:01 am |
    • Karen S

      Oh brother... What a ridiculous load of hogwash. Without citations, your statements are completely worthless. Not to mention the fact that they are completely worthless because they're a bunch of balderdash in the first place. I know many a happy, thriving, ethical, mature and intelligent atheist out there. Quit using fear as a method to try and force people into your whacky belief system.

      January 7, 2013 at 5:02 am |
  3. blahblah

    CNN – the biggest troll on the internet

    January 7, 2013 at 4:26 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      When a comment like this shows up at the top of the list, I know it's time for bed. G'night, all.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:28 am |
  4. natrldiver

    Regardless of one's faith or lack therof, it is a shame that there is so much persecution of one another. I have a belief in God and though it may differ from someone else's view it does not give me nor anyone else the right to persecute through violence or slander. This is afterall America which was founded on basic principles to include religious freedom.

    January 7, 2013 at 4:11 am |
  5. Pillai

    You may be right. However, what’s point of this article? Please do not write about any other religion. It’s not because I care about religions, I don’t want innocent people to die because of your publicity stunt.

    January 7, 2013 at 3:54 am |
  6. SomeoneE

    IF I COULD VOMIT IN THE EDITOR FACE I WOULD, AND ON ALL THE FACES OF PPL WITH ATHEISTS AND DISGUSTING COMMENTS , THEY LOOK AND SMELL LIKE THE VOMIT U SEE IN THE STREETS FULL OF DISEASES.

    January 7, 2013 at 3:36 am |
    • IKYABWAI

      Backatcha', sweetie pie.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:42 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      Whoa- guess you missed the "love thy neighbour" bit in Sunday School, eh?

      January 7, 2013 at 3:45 am |
    • sam stone

      Come and get us, D-Bag

      January 7, 2013 at 3:50 am |
    • GO_GOP

      Someone: I would not vomit on them brother. But I will sure love it when I enjoy my time in heaven and these people burn in hell. Waiting for that time to come.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:54 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      Spoken like a true radical fundamentalist... who seems to have forgotten "love thy neighbour" as much as Someone has.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:03 am |
    • The-thruth

      All religions are lies. It all about power, controlling people. People who deeply believed in religious is very easy to control, just like sheep. Take mu-slime for example. Their mentors can tell their followers to do what ever they want, even if it will cause harm to themselves. They are no different than a bunch of zombies.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:41 am |
    • Brian

      At GO_GOP. My cousin had a 3 year old daughter that just died of leukemia. She was a precious little thing just beginning to talk so obviously couldn't 'talk to God'. Is she burning in Hell now too? Is she receiving the same punishment as murders and rapists?

      January 7, 2013 at 6:01 am |
  7. kora

    Dislike this man going insane because he too proud of himself to found everything that to say badthings about pricious person, Jesus. He just jelous becos Jesus more famous than him. So pity

    January 7, 2013 at 3:34 am |
    • SomeoneE

      TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU BROTHER . IF I COULD SPIT ON HIS FACE I WOULD.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:38 am |
    • sam stone

      what did he say that was bad?

      January 7, 2013 at 3:52 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      kora: How do you expect anyone to take you seriously (outside of the angry, bitter child "someone") when you can't figure out what spell check is?

      January 7, 2013 at 3:54 am |
    • The-thruth

      Keep this in mind. Most of the religious nuts are uneducated or have low level of knowledge about science and technology.

      January 7, 2013 at 5:07 am |
  8. Someone

    IF I COULD VOMIT IN THE EDITOR FACE I WOULD, AND ON ALL THE FACES OF PPL WITH ATHEISTS AND DISGUSTING COMMENTS , THEY SMELL LIKE THE VOMIT U SEE IN THE STREETS WITH A DISGUSTING SMELL FULL OF DISEASES.

    January 7, 2013 at 3:34 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      rerun....

      January 7, 2013 at 3:46 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Someone: You needed to shout that for what reason? To prove your ignorance? To prove that you haven't grown up and learned to play in an adult world? (then again you still have an imaginary friend, so that explains the immaturity). Com spit in our faces please-in the real world your imaginary friend can't protect you...that would be considered assault and even your imaginary friend says judge not lest ye be judged.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:52 am |
    • The-thruth

      Here is another mentally ill zombie.

      January 7, 2013 at 5:13 am |
    • UncleBenny

      Wow, you are SO Christian.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:32 am |
  9. Mark

    The author has it exactly right. You can find pictures and a lot more on the real, tough as nails Jesus by searching for "Jesus Jitsu".

    January 7, 2013 at 3:32 am |
  10. dcf

    dislike!,OMG,ramble on reggae man,what cloud have you been under,if you're looking for you're five minutes of fame,well i think you are severely ebbed.

    January 7, 2013 at 3:10 am |
  11. Joshua Troup

    humanizing the myth with dirt isn't going to make it any more true.
    stop feeding people the jesus lie.

    January 7, 2013 at 3:06 am |
    • GO_GOP

      Joshua: Be afraid, very afraid. Our Lord is watching you make indecent comments about his son. There is a very special place in hell for people like you. Be afraid.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:10 am |
    • James

      Why should he be afraid? God isn't the one who hates him, you are, and fortunately for us all, you are rather powerless to follow up on your threats.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:30 am |
    • sam stone

      GO_GOP is a troll. Here ya go, GO_GOP.....fvck you and fvck your god

      January 7, 2013 at 3:33 am |
    • I wonder

      sam stone,

      I think GO is more of a Poe, but feel free to practice on him, since there are real ones like him out there.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:58 am |
  12. Khadijah Abdallah

    OK if u believe in God, u know that God is omnipotent, has always been here and will be here for all time. About God having sons, daughters, wives, favorite concubines, and BFF friends, its all a bunch of hooey. Man cannot be God nor God a man. Think rationally about this and u will know that I speak the truth. We have been on God's side all along, not on some so called son, nephew, far and away cousin – its not happening. Think logically people.

    January 7, 2013 at 2:58 am |
    • zamboor

      And I suppose believing God chose a pedophile to spread his message makes more sense? God bless the christian country that gives you the freedom you could never have in the middle east.

      January 7, 2013 at 5:04 am |
    • Jim Jones

      It's so awesome when believers talk about logic.

      January 7, 2013 at 5:52 am |
  13. André

    God is imaginary. It's all in your head. Grow up.
    Let go of the fairy tale.

    January 7, 2013 at 2:49 am |
  14. GO_GOP

    Remember he was the son of our Lord and he died for our sins. How can you be so ungrateful to say such things about him? Go to the church and repent – there is still time; otherwise hell fire awaits you on your death. Bible is the word of our Lord and has stood the test of time and accuracy for 2000 years. Seek Jesus and be saved.

    January 7, 2013 at 2:47 am |
    • André

      Belief in a supernatural being is a delusion. A delusion is a mental illness.
      Seek medical attention.

      January 7, 2013 at 2:50 am |
    • GO_GOP

      Andre: Our Lord is watching you and your wicked words. Be afraid, be very afraid – Hell is not a good place to be. Seek Jesus and be saved.

      January 7, 2013 at 2:52 am |
    • Athy

      How could jeebus die for my sins? I didn't sin until 2000 years after he died. Makes no sense.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:14 am |
    • GO_GOP

      Athy: Our Lord works in mysterious ways so we mortals can never make sense of his work. Come repent, be humble, submit to him,go to church regularly, donate whatever you can to the church to carry on his work and be saved and then enjoy eternal peace in Heaven. Seek Jesus.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:18 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      I was wondering how long it would be before that particular statement came up.. actually took a little longer than I thought.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:20 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      GOP: Typical christard threats! You have no evidence to back your threats of your imaginary friend sending anyone to a fictional place called hell and saying it to a non-believer is rather futile on your behalf and only makes you look bat shit crazy.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:34 am |
    • sam stone

      Saved from what? His virgin boinking daddy?

      January 7, 2013 at 3:34 am |
    • The-thruth

      Religion is nothing more than a form of political. It's designed to control people in a stealthy way without they knowing it. Believed in religion is a mental illness !!

      January 7, 2013 at 4:49 am |
  15. miscreantsall

    Jesus was NOT GOD! Again, another failing in man's utter imperfections of relaying a story or even translating ancient language WITHOUT manipulation and agenda!

    Too bad most of you idiots do not have the will to be exposed to more accurate (but no way perfect) translations of the bible.

    Jesus was the SON of Jehovah. Jehovah is the one and only GOD!

    Jesus' previous existence in heaven was as Michael (the word of or voice of God).

    Just as Satan's previous existence in heaven was Lucifer (most brilliant and beautiful).

    January 7, 2013 at 2:42 am |
    • Hear This

      The Bible is nothing
      (in regard to evidence for supernatural beings)

      January 7, 2013 at 2:56 am |
  16. Andy

    Father in heaven! Forgive the people that blasphemy against You and your non-existance!
    You healed me physically and spiritually! You pulled me out of my death bed, healed my heart disease, cleansed me from all sin, gave me hope to live for after this short life here, I know its all You Jesus! You told me through scripture and prophets that soon I will be healed and have a wonderful life as I am having right now. You found me on this earth your holding in the palm of your hand, out of these sinful people that your still so loving and merciful for. Jesus I live for you! Not a moment goes by as I rejoice in You. I love my Jesus. And my Jesus loves you! He still cares for you, no matter how filthy he was on this land, therefore help us all God to make a step towards you so Youd make two steps towards us!
    I LOVE YOU JESUS!

    January 7, 2013 at 2:31 am |
    • Mike

      You sound like a child caught in a maze of crazy.

      January 7, 2013 at 2:37 am |
    • Andy

      -Mike, Yes you are correct somewhat. Im a child of God, in a maze of Gods miraculous miracles!

      January 7, 2013 at 2:48 am |
    • Athy

      Andy, that's a great post. It should go a long way in promoting atheism. Thanks. Keep up the good work.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:18 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Andy: Brainwashed is what you are; a direct result of your parents having sex is what you are...a child of some imaginary god is not what you are.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:37 am |
    • sam stone

      Andy: Wouldn't the blasphemy be against "his" existence, not non-existence?

      January 7, 2013 at 3:40 am |
    • sam stone

      Andy: If you love Jesus so much, why are you here?

      January 7, 2013 at 3:55 am |
    • Andy

      Truthprevails- Ill pray for you so you too would have spiritual eyes open. I dont want to see anyone left out of eternal life when I could of witnessed Jesus to him/her. Thats why I dont conserve on my words about Christ ESPECIALLY what he did to me.

      Sam stone- Your correct, my mistake. I stand corrected

      January 7, 2013 at 3:58 am |
    • Andy

      Sam stone- Im here to witness to anybody who is on here. Im voicing out who I know, and what He did for me.
      Many people thirst for life with little to no hope, knowing there soul has no peace when death awaits them. While we are alive with clear mind sets, seek him.
      Should I be somewhere else?

      January 7, 2013 at 4:04 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Adny: You pray for me, I'll think for you. I'm not worried about eternal life because there is nothing to guarantee it (no evidence to support it) and by worrying about it, you are wasting the only life you are guaranteed of-the one that you live now.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:09 am |
    • sam stone

      andy: do you really feel that "witnessing" on an internet forum does anything other than make you feel better about yourself?

      January 7, 2013 at 4:17 am |
    • Andy

      Truthprevails- Dont get me wrong, Im not worried about eternal life. Im already rejoicing and looking forward to eternal life.
      Im seeing so many blessings I just cant imagine what he has planned for the counted in heaven. Im glad to say I DO have something and live for and I DO have hope that awaits me, unlike all non believers who live life right now because its soon to be over with and thats it. But I, will see my Father at the throne prould, but to others he'll say get away from me, I never knew you. Thats when its gonna be too... late.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:25 am |
    • Andy

      Sam stone- I dont proclaim my own name on here. Though I say what is on my mind which does feel good know =ing that at least some seed are being sowed around this belief blog. I do have people that now believed through the internet and I do still contact them. God said go to all nations and say of my name, I do travel and do missionary work as much as I can without interfering too much with my career and family. Like I said Im not reserving my words about Jesus because I have nothing to lose, He sees and loves me more and more as much as I get to know him more and more.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:32 am |
    • The-thruth

      I only believe in science and technology. Whoever believed in religion is just sheep and zombies !!

      January 7, 2013 at 4:56 am |
    • sam stone

      missionary work? so, you are one of those who go to foreign lands to tell other people that your god is better than theirs?

      January 7, 2013 at 4:57 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Andy: Saying that you are looking forward to what awaits you indicates to a NORMAL RATIONAL person that you are not living this life. What evidence do you have to support the fact that heaven even exists? We've all heard the spewing coming from the pulpit, some of us just grew up and realized how insane it is.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:05 am |
    • sam stone

      apparently, andy clammed up when i put his missionary mission in proper perspective

      January 7, 2013 at 6:24 am |
    • UncleBenny

      Andy, people like you are one of the big reasons I left the church a long time ago. Thanks for reminding me.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:34 am |
  17. Ed Brown

    I challenge the author to write a descriptive rendition of his thoughts on the prophet Muhammad from such a vantage point of realism and discuss the cleanliness of that situation. The resulting article, if written accurately according to Muhammad's own accounts, could cause imprisonment of the author in a once free America. It seems the only religion which is free to target anymore is Christianity and the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. But He did teach of tolerance and forgiveness, unlike Muhammad who taught intolerance and hatred of those different than himself.

    This article is complete b.s. If the author has nothing better to do with his time, I suggest a shovel may be in his future. Good luck with that.

    January 7, 2013 at 2:31 am |
    • Hear This

      Ed Brown,

      Yeah, so Islam is worse.

      Actually, they are pretty much where Christianity was when it was around 1400 years old (and before), throwing folks onto the rack and into the fire for heresy 'n stuff. The only difference is that with today's nasty, devastating weapons, we might not make it to the stage where they grow up and mellow.

      January 7, 2013 at 2:45 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      Ed- what makes you think that a thoughtful, well-laid out and properly researched article on the prophet would result in arrest and imprisonment in the USA? Do you truly believe that the Christian Right fully controls every aspect of American life to that extent??

      I am curious (and pink, btw)

      January 7, 2013 at 2:48 am |
    • sam stone

      ed: why would the vice president of liberty university (jerry fartwell's wet dream) write something on islam?

      January 7, 2013 at 3:42 am |
  18. Jack

    Horrible article, christanity is always targeted. I can bet that this guy will never talk about a Muslim prophet

    January 7, 2013 at 2:31 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      C'mon, admit it.. you're just Dave again, aren't you?

      January 7, 2013 at 2:49 am |
    • sam stone

      ooooh......us poor, poor, christians.....being persecuted for jeebus.

      why would he consult with a muslim for an article on jeebus?

      January 7, 2013 at 3:46 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      sam: They themselves scream about being targeted but yet the hypocrites do it to us and every other person who doesn't share their imaginary friends delusion.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:56 am |
  19. Samira

    While all those points about earthly life of Jesus are true, humans don't relate to other humans because they all can have a stomach bug or get sleepy. Neither do they relate to other humans because of their ill or good reputation. Humans relate to other humans in suffering and joy; in giving and recieving; and in loving and being loved. Those are the reasons why we can relate to Jesus; because he shared his life with us and thus, enabled us to share our lives with him.

    January 7, 2013 at 2:29 am |
  20. Nostradamus

    I believe sgrongly in the existence of a God, but not with human characteristics. God doesn't talk or see; God doesn't hear, God doesn't punish.......God is SOMETHING, not SOMEBODY.....God is not he or she, God is IT !!!...God is pure energy, power, creator of everything including the evolution.......However, I don't believe in the bible as "the word of God" because "IT" never has spoken or appeared in dreams.....I respect the bible as an excellent compilation of historic, moralistic and literary books.....Universe and God came up together from the zero, but both are subject to time factor......BTW, I have been Christian all my live, but I follow his wise and moral precepts...I'm sorry, but I don't believe in the salvation plan...I think is invention of religious people.....The closest spiritual thing coming from God, that make part of every human being, is the conscience. and the breath of life......I can be accused to be out of mind, but not of religious zealot.

    January 7, 2013 at 2:25 am |
    • Us

      Well said.

      January 7, 2013 at 2:40 am |
    • sam stone

      nostradamus: that is likely the best christian response i have ever read on these blogs

      January 7, 2013 at 3:48 am |
    • Amanda

      I love a good agnostic.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:55 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Amanda: Agnostic only refers to knowledge not belief. Nostradamus is a Theist and if he/she is any type of honest Theist they are also Agnostic.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:06 am |
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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.