By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Contributing Editor
(CNN) - A new movie genre debuts at the box office this weekend: the Christian comedy.
"Moms’ Night Out" starring Patricia Heaton and Sean Astin is opening on more than 1,000 screens, and it aims to do something no other Christian major motion picture has endeavored to do: make you laugh. On purpose.
There has been no shortage of laughably bad Christian movies. "Left Behind," anyone?
From “The Passion of the Christ,” to “Fireproof,” to “Courageous,” the genre has historically leaned heavily on biblical epics and inspiration to stir the faithful, or evangelical fare designed convert the masses.
But "Moms’ Night Out" is entirely different, a PG-rated comedy about the hijinks of middle-class Christian families, ordinary folks living ordinary lives. Astin called the movie "ballsy" for focusing on this demographic.
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Lampedusa, Italy (CNN) – Abdel clung to his pregnant wife, 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter as they sailed across an open stretch of the Mediterranean Sea.
They were in a dilapidated fishing boat with limited provisions and almost no sanitation, sharing a cramped space with some 400 other Syrians.
Abdel prayed quietly and recited verses from the Quran for two days and two nights as the boat swayed and motored precariously along the 180-mile route from Libya to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.
If they could make it, his young family would be one step closer to freedom.
He knew thousands had died making the same voyage.
(CNN) - At least one wealthy donor in New York City is skittish about Pope Francis' comments about capitalism.
Ken Langone, the billionaire Roman Catholic who helped found Home Depot, told CNBC he has heard grumbling about the Pope's comments about the wealthy. Langone is helping to run the New York Archdiocese's $180 million fundraising effort to restore St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan.
The billionaire investor and philanthropist, who gave $200 million to New York University's medical center in 2008, told CNBC an anonymous seven-figure donor felt slighted by the pope's recent comments.
Langone has not been shy about sharing those opinions with New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan, telling him, "you get more with honey than with vinegar."
Dolan told the financial network in an interview on Monday he has heard from Langone that one wealthy donor got the "sense that the Pope is less than enthusiastic about us."
(CNN)– A new video billboard in New York's Times Square has a message from creationists, "To all of our atheist friends: Thank God you're wrong."
The video advertisement at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan is one of several billboards going up this week in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, paid for by Answers in Genesis.
Answers in Genesis is best known as the multimillion-dollar Christian ministry behind the Creation Museum outside Cincinnati.
The museum presents the case for Young Earth creationism, following what it says is a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis, which says the Earth was created by God in six days less than 10,000 years ago.
Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, said the idea for the advertisements came from an atheist billboard in Times Square at Christmas.
By Eric Marrapodi and Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors
Follow @EricCNNBeliefFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) - Pope Francis said the church has the right to express its opinions but not to "interfere spiritually" in the lives of gays and lesbians, expanding on explosive comments he made in July about not judging homosexuals.
In a wide-ranging interview published Thursday, the pope also said that women must play a key role in church decisions and brushed off critics who say he should be more vocal about fighting abortion and gay marriage.
Moreover, if the church fails to find a "new balance" between its spiritual and political missions, the pope warned, its moral foundation will "fall like a house of cards."
The interview, released by Jesuit magazines in several different languages and 16 countries on Thursday, offers perhaps the most expansive and in-depth view of Francis' vision for the Roman Catholic Church.
The pope's comments don't break with Catholic doctrine or policy, but instead show a shift in approach, moving from censure to engagement.
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Lake Forest, California (CNN) - Rick and Kay Warren stood outside their son's home, sobbing in each other's arms.
They had talked Matthew, 27, off the ledge many times. But not this time.
A nod from a police officer who inspected Matthew's house confirmed their worst fears.
“I just hit the ground,” Kay Warren said.
Programming note: Rick and Kay Warren sit down exclusively with CNN’s Piers Morgan to talk about the death of their son and their new mission to raise awareness about mental illness.
(CNN) – Megachurch pastor and author Rick Warren is slowly returning to the spotlight, five months after his youngest son committed suicide.
He has shared spiritual insights on social media, returned to the pulpit to preach about overcoming obstacles and taken his purpose-driven message to Rwanda, a nation still reeling from a bloody genocide.
But Warren, the bestselling author of "The Purpose Driven Life" and one of the most famous pastors in the United States, hasn't yet spoken to the media about his son's death.
That changed when Warren and his wife Kay sat for an extended interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan.
In a brief clip released on Monday, Morgan and Warren discussed gun violence, including Monday's shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington.
MORE ON CNN: "The first thing I did was get down on my knees and pray for those families"
Rick and Kay Warren have been outspoken about the plague of gun violence in the United States, especially since their son, Matthew, took his own life in April after what the family call a lifelong struggle with mental illness.
“In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided,” Warren wrote to staffers at Saddleback Church, his megachurch in Orange County, California.
Then Warren, one of the country's most visible spiritual leaders, disappeared from public view. But not quite.
(CNN)–CNN's Eric Marrapodi reports on what a key Catholic official said about changing church rules on celibacy.
(CNN) – In another precedent-shattering moment for Pope Francis, the bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Christ, successor of St. Peter and the head of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide has taken what may be the first papal selfie.
The pontiff posed for the photo with young Italian pilgrims Wednesday at St. Peter's Basilica.
The image of Francis mugging for a cell phone photo with the Italian teens charged through social media when the papal newspaper L'Osservatore Romano released the photo Thursday.
(CNN)–The mother of a gay detective has been booted from the Tennessee church she attended for decades.
Elders at Ridgedale Church of Christ told Linda Cooper and two relatives that their public support for Kat Cooper, Linda Cooper's gay daughter, went against the church's teachings, local media reported. In a private meeting, reports say, Linda Cooper was given a choice: publicly atone for their transgressions or leave the church.
Linda left the church.
Kat Cooper is a detective with the Collegedale Police Department. This month, she fought successfully for health benefits for her same-sex spouse, Krista, from the town.
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.