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Iran begins trial for U.S. pastor held since September
Saeed Abedini
January 21st, 2013
11:00 PM ET

Iran begins trial for U.S. pastor held since September

On Monday, American Saeed Abedini appeared in an Iranian court. The Christian pastor gave the judge a written statement and was questioned by prosecutors and his defense lawyer, whom he only met Monday.

But apparently that is not the end of the legal proceedings, according to his wife and lawyers who are assisting her with the situation.

Naghmeh Abedini said "a few" laymen with the Christian church in Iran told her husband's attorney that they have been called to testify in the case, in which the pastor is being tried for his religious beliefs. The lawyer indicated that neither he nor the pastor were expecting to be allowed to attend Tuesday's hearing.

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- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Iran

August 5th, 2012
06:20 PM ET

Explainer: Who are Sikhs and what do they believe?

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN)– Sikhism, the world's fifth most popular religion, is a monotheistic faith that believes in equality and service to others, Sikh officials say.

"Everyone is the same," says Raghunandan Johar, president of the Guru Nanak Mission of Atlanta. "There is no distinction, no caste system."

Navdeep Singh, a policy adviser to the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, says Sikhs believe in freedom of religion, community service and inclusiveness.

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- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Belief • Faith Now • Houses of worship • Religious violence • Sikh

June 10th, 2012
02:07 PM ET

Megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar on his daughter: 'She was not punched'

By Steve Almasy, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) – Telling thousands of parishioners that he should never have been arrested, Pastor Creflo Dollar said at his Sunday morning service he neither choked nor punched his 15-year-old daughter, as she claimed in a report to police.

Dollar, senior pastor of World Changers Church International in suburban Atlanta, told congregants in the sprawling megachurch and listening at one of more than a dozen satellite churches that when the facts of the case come out, they will be "appalled."

"The truth is, she was not choked. She was not punched," Dollar said.

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- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Church

February 21st, 2012
06:20 PM ET

Jeremy Lin emerges as emblem of burgeoning Asian-American Christianity

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) – When Jeremy Lin was a sophomore at Harvard, he was struggling emotionally. A good guard on an awful basketball team – the Crimson finished the season with an 8-22 record – he needed something more than hoops.

Lin, who had been baptized into an evangelical Chinese church near San Francisco in ninth grade and had come to value Christian fellowship through his youth group, was part of the  Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship group, regularly attending Bible study.

But most of his life was spent with his basketball teammates and other athletes, he later told the Student Soul, a website of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

“It’s a tough environment and if you don’t have appropriate boundaries, you’ll compromise your faith,” he told the website, run by a major Christian college ministry, in 2010.

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- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Sports

'Tebowing' prayer stirs debate, but quarterback is OK with it
November 9th, 2011
01:16 PM ET

'Tebowing' prayer stirs debate, but quarterback is OK with it

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) - Tim Tebow is used to being a lightning rod. While he was the quarterback at the University of Florida, he drew a lot of attention. And we mean a lot.

He won the Heisman Trophy (the only sophomore to ever win the award), and his team won two NCAA football titles. Plus, he was very public about his Christian faith. He wore Bible verses on his eye black. He invoked God frequently at news conferences.

No one doubted that Tebow was a great college quarterback and a good kid. But all the media attention made some people weary of the name.  He's good, they said, but he's no messiah.

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- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Celebrity • Colorado • Prayer • Sports

August 26th, 2011
09:54 AM ET

Vera Farmiga's directorial debut a story of struggles, tested faith

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) – Actress Vera Farmiga can empathize with the fears and doubts of Corinne Walker, the character she plays in her new film, “Higher Ground.”

Corinne is a Christian who's struggling to hang on to her faith. Farmiga's fears and doubts, meanwhile, were born of making her directorial debut with the movie, which opens in Los Angeles and New York on Friday.

The film spans several decades, following Corinne from a young girl who half-heartedly proclaims herself to be saved by Jesus to a teenager who marries when she becomes pregnant to a woman ensconced in a deeply religious community after she and her husband come to believe that God has saved their baby.

Farmiga, who starred opposite George Clooney in the hit movie "Up in the Air," told CNN that she began panicking during preproduction, as the magnitude of the undertaking - simultaneously directing and playing the lead role, lots of child actors, and 25 scenes that included music - became clear.

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- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Faith • Movies

June 27th, 2011
02:41 PM ET

Faces of Faith: Explaining Mormonism

In Sunday's Faces of Faith segment on CNN, Anchor T.J. Holmes interviews Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, on various aspects of Mormonism.

Faces of Faith airs most Sundays during the 8 a.m. hour.

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Faith Now • Mormonism

Oprah says God behind success of show
Oprah Winfrey, seen in this file photo, told her audience in her final show that God had led her life, even when she didn't realize it.
May 25th, 2011
07:13 PM ET

Oprah says God behind success of show

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) – Oprah Winfrey closed her sentimental final show with the words, "I won’t say goodbye, I’ll just say until we meet again."

Then, after a subtle pause, she added, "To God be the glory.”

With her work done, she walked through the audience and left the set of her talk show. During the show's 25-year run, she interviewed more than 30,000 people and won more than 40 Emmys. The credits rolled as she walked the hallways of the Harpo complex, saying goodbye to her staff.

She has been one of the most influential people in America, if not the world. Commentators looked at the power she held over her audience, and some people even likened her viewers to members of a cult.

Winfrey professed her faith and her belief in God, but over the course of the show, some observers saw her more as a spiritual person than a Christian.

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- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • God • Jesus • TV

Baldwin goes behind camera for faith-based video
Stephen Baldwin (left) partnered with singer Cory Lamb on the video "Break the Cycle"
May 20th, 2011
05:27 PM ET

Baldwin goes behind camera for faith-based video

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) – Singer Cory Lamb’s new single is called “Break the Cycle,” a song about going from the world where you exist for yourself to one where you live for God.

“It’s about being in the world, not of it,” Lamb said recently by phone from New York.

The message of the song resonates with Stephen Baldwin, the youngest of the acting Baldwin siblings and a devout Christian who has been known to share his story of redemption - and his own breaking of “the cycle.”

Baldwin, who says he was born again shortly after the attacks of 9/11, directed the video for Lamb’s debut song on his new CD, also entitled “Break the Cycle.” It’s the first time Baldwin has ever directed a music video. But he seemed unfazed by being behind the camera instead of being in his usual spot out front.

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- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Culture & Science • Faith • Florida • Music • TV

Quran much more than a holy book to Muslims
A Muslim in Bangladesh holds a Quran during a recent protest against the government.
April 1st, 2011
04:50 PM ET

Quran much more than a holy book to Muslims

Two weeks ago, controversial pastor Terry Jones presided over what he called a trial of the Quran.

The holy book of Islam was "found guilty" by members of Jones' tiny church in Florida and burned, according to a release posted on the church's website.

On Friday, 12 people, including eight workers for the United Nations, were killed in the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif, when people protesting the burning of that Quran attacked a U.N. office.

Jones likely knew that burning the Quran would prompt protests when Muslims learned of the actions of his church, the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville. He canceled plans to burn a Quran last year, on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks after being lobbied by President Obama, Gen. David Petraeus and others. Petraeus said American service members in Afghanistan would be increasingly in danger if Jones proceeded with his plan.

On March 20, the parishioners at Dove burned a single copy of the Quran, thus "attacking the foundations of Islam itself," says one Muslim scholar.

"Symbolically and literally this is the most sacred reminder of God on Earth for a Muslim," said Akbar Ahmed, the chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington. " More than a mosque ... more than any other symbol it is the Quran that symbolizes the word of God for a Muslim."

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- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Faith Now • Islam • Islamic law • Muslim • Quran

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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.

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