By Daniel Burke and Ashley Fantz, CNN
(CNN) – It wasn’t as if God's voice boomed through sun-parted clouds, telling Kent Brantly to move his family to Liberia.
Still, the young doctor said, the call was clear.
It echoed through the congregation where he was raised, Southeastern Church of Christ in Indianapolis.
Standing before the church community in July 2013, months before he left for Africa, Brantly said he heard the call in the teachers who urged him to memorize Scripture and the neighbors who funded his first mission trip years ago.
He saw it in the aunts and uncles who spent their vacations running Bible camps, organizing youth groups and serving missions themselves in Africa.
“It may not seem like much,” Brantly said in an emotional address to the Southeastern congregation, “but when you connect the dots you see a grand design that God has used to draw my life in a certain direction.”
For Brantly, that meant serving a two-year medical mission in Liberia with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief organization. But in a grim twist that garnered international headlines, the 33-year-old contracted Ebola while treating patients and was airlifted back to the United States.
Brantly and a fellow missionary, Nancy Writebol, who was serving with SIM, another Christian aid organization, are being treated for the disease at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
After Liberia's outbreak began in March 2013, Writebol volunteered at a hospital in Monrovia, where she disinfected doctors and nurses working with patients stricken by the disease.
Despite their weakened health, their trust in God remains strong, family members said.
“Mom is tired from her travel, but continues to fight the virus and strengthen her faith in her Redeemer, Jesus,” said Jeremy Writebol, Nancy’s son.
On Friday, Brantly said that he felt a spiritual serenity even after learning his diagnosis.
“I remember a deep sense of peace that was beyond all understanding,” he said. “God was reminding me of what he had taught me years ago, that he will give me everything I need to be faithful to him.
Though Brantly's wife and children had been in Liberia with him, they had returned to the United States when he became ill.
Editor’s note: Sister Simone Campbell is Executive Director of the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK and leader of the “Nuns on the Bus.”
By Simone Campbell, Special to CNN
(CNN) - The debate raging in Congress over the fate of our federal budget reminds me of the great judgment of Solomon. Here we are, sharp sword overhead, poised to cut the baby in half, just waiting for the voice of reason and a willingness to sacrifice.
Instead, we’re confronted with arguments framed as a hard, false choice between sound economic policies and social programs, between fiscal realities and compassionate acts. It’s time to stay the sword.
The truth is, at some point in life and regardless of income, virtually every American will benefit in some way from a social safety-net program, whether through a social security check, an unemployment benefit or a school lunch. Programs like these are called safety nets for a reason – yank them away and people get hurt, today more than ever.
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist - Albert Einstein - was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.
“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”
Dubbed Einstein’s “God Letter” by the Los Angeles-based auction agency that's posting it online, the original document will be up for grabs starting Monday. The opening bid: $3 million.
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) - Columnist and gay-rights advocate Dan Savage is standing by his comment that “we can learn to ignore the bulls**t in the Bible about gay people” at a recent conference for high school students, a line that prompted some to walk out and spurred intense online debate.
In a blog post on Sunday, Savage wrote that his remark at a conference for the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association was "being spun as an attack on Christianity. Which is bullshhh… which is untrue.”
“I was not attacking the faith in which I was raised," Savage wrote. "I was attacking the argument that gay people must be discriminated against — and anti-bullying programs that address anti-gay bullying should be blocked (or exceptions should be made for bullying 'motivated by faith') — because it says right there in the Bible that being gay is wrong.”
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – Bishop Harry Jackson is a former college middle linebacker who can still hit hard.
He once described same-sex marriage as a satanic plot to destroy the family, called on Republicans to get “political Viagra” and said African-Americans needed to abandon what he called the Gospel of Victimization.
Jackson is not shy about stirring up controversy, but he stops short when it comes to preaching about greed. The Maryland bishop said he encourages his congregation to get through the Great Recession by saving and sharing. But he doesn’t want to alienate well-off members by talking about what’s behind the nation’s economic woes.
"I've got to watch it," said Jackson, pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland. "I could get into some big teaching on greed, but the reality is that a lot of that teaching may wind up creating anti-economic-growth and anti-capitalism concepts (in people’s minds). ... I always talk about personal responsibility so we don't get into the blame game."
The Great Recession is more than an economic crisis. It has become a spiritual dilemma for some of the nation’s pastors and their parishioners, religious leaders say.
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Amid a delicate dance to cut the budget in Congress, agitated religious leaders in Washington said Monday that the cuts being proposed are too deep.
Food aid for people at home and abroad, mosquito nets, and Head Start preschool programs are all on the chopping block. That, many religious leaders say, has crossed a moral line. In response, they have begun a fast - a hunger strike.
By Eric Marrapodi, Co-Editor CNN Belief Blog
Manny Pacquiao punches people in the face for a living.
He is pound for pound the greatest boxer in the world. An eight-time world champion, the 147-pound Filipino fighter has obliterated his way through weight classes on his way to becoming a national hero in the Philippines and an international superstar.
The southpaw has crushing punching power, and his team has worked hard to develop a right as devastating as his left. But Pacquiao is packing a secret weapon when he walks into the ring - a deep abiding faith.
"The most important thing is to believe in God," Pacquiao said during a recent train trip to Washington, D.C. With his wife by his side and his team taking up the entire private train car, Pacquiao spoke to CNN about his faith, politics and his upcoming fight.
It’s the urban drama most of us have been forced to play. A panhandler stands outside your car window, invoking God and asking for help. What do you do?
For many, the answer is nothing, Keep the windows rolled up and drive straight ahead. Homeless people pleading for help are now so numerous that they’ve become what one pastor called “visual white noise” in our contemporary landscape.
Five weeks ago, though, Doral Chenoweth III, made another decision. He stopped for Ted Williams, a man we now know as “the homeless guy with the golden voice.”
We know what’s happened to Williams: overnight fame, job offers. But what about Chenoweth? What made him stop for Williams? It turns out Chenoweth has a story of his own, and it’s rooted in his faith.
By Katie Glaeser, CNN
“Christians don’t deserve a monopoly on holiday cheer," reads a simple yet loaded statement on the American Atheists’ website.
But how could Christians monopolize a holiday that is based on their beliefs?
It turns out that traditions associated with Christmas have morphed into social norms adopted even among nonbelievers.
Singer Matthew West, whose "The Story of Your Life" album was compiled from letters written by his fans, will close the year by performing a benefit concert for St. Jude's hospital.
The concert is in memory of Dax Locke, who inspired a town to decorate for Christmas two months early, fearing he would not live until December. He did, but 2-year-old Dax died from acute myeloid leukemia five days after Christmas.
West wrote the songs for "Story" from 10,000 letters sent in by people who heard about his project, and he wrote a tune inspired by Dax's story after receiving three e-mails about him (but didn't include the song on the album).
The Dax-inspired song, "One Last Christmas," is now a video on his West's website, where for a donation to St. Jude's, you can download it.
West has also posted the video to YouTube where it has received more than 550,000 views. Be warned, watch the video with a few tissues.
The benefit concert will be held in Dax's hometown - Washington, Illinois - on December 30. West and the Locke family are trying to raise $1.6 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where Dax was treated.
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.