December 10th, 2013
11:03 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – The son of a Florida megachurch pastor who is close to President Barack Obama has died, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to local police.
Isaac Hunter, 36, died Tuesday, according to Northland and Summit churches, two Orlando-area congregations with deep ties to his family.
Altamonte Springs Police Department spokesman Robert C. Pelton said officers responded to a call to check on the well-being of Hunter at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday. They found him dead, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Pelton said. The investigation is ongoing, and no foul play is suspected, he added.
Hunter is the son of Joel Hunter, an evangelical who has been a spiritual adviser to Obama since his 2008 presidential campaign. The president and the pastor speak nearly once a week, and Joel Hunter was an adviser to the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Isaac Hunter and his wife, Rhonda, were going through a divorce, according to Florida court records. Hunter resigned as senior pastor of Summit Church in 2012 after acknowledging a three-year affair with a member of the church staff.
December 7th, 2013
09:16 AM ET
Opinion by Mark Schacter, special to CNN
(CNN) – I don’t believe in a divine presence, nor do I subscribe to any organized religion.
And that, perhaps oddly, is why I am drawn to the mystery of faith.
With the wonderment of an outsider, I try to understand the seemingly incomprehensible (to me, at least) pull that faith exerts over so many people's lives.
As a photographer approaching this mystery, I am confronted by what might seem like a contradiction: Photographs capture what can be seen, and yet faith is often invisible.
November 18th, 2013
12:17 PM ET
By Daniel Burke and Livia Borghese, CNN
Rome (CNN) – The photo roused emotions and sparked conversations around the world - but the man at the center of the image says the moment left him speechless.
"I tried to speak, to tell him something, but I couldn't: The emotion was too strong," says Vinicio Riva, the disfigured man embraced by Pope Francis in images that went viral earlier this month.
"It all lasted not more than a minute, but it seemed an eternity," Riva told the Italian magazine Panorama this weekend.
Riva, whose body is covered with tumors due to a rare disease, said his unusual appearance has led to a lifetime of living on the margins.
That is, until he showed up at St. Peter's Square on November 6.
Riva went to Rome on the advice of a friend with whom he travels to Lourdes, the Catholic shrine in France visited by thousands of ailing and infirm pilgrims each year.
November 8th, 2013
10:01 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – The Rev. Timothy McDonald gripped the pulpit with both hands, locked eyes with the shouting worshippers, and decided to speak the unspeakable.
The bespectacled Baptist minister was not confessing to a scandalous love affair or the theft of church funds. He brought up another taboo: the millions of poor Americans who won’t get health insurance beginning in January because their states refused to accept Obamacare.
McDonald cited a New Testament passage in which Jesus gathered the 5,000 and fed them with five loaves and two fishes. Members of his congregation bolted to their feet and yelled, “C’mon preacher” and “Yessir” as his voice rose in righteous anger.
“What I like about our God is that he doesn’t throw people away,” McDonald told First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta during a recent Sunday service. “There will be health care for every American. Don’t you worry when they try to cast you aside. Just say I’m a leftover for God and leftovers just taste better the next day!”
November 7th, 2013
12:30 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) – With his penchant for crowd-pleasing and spontaneous acts of compassion, Pope Francis has earned high praise from fellow Catholics.
Hell, even atheists love him - as amply demonstrated by the surprising displays of affection tweeted after the Pope publicly embraced a severely disfigured man on Wednesday.
Here's what some atheists had to say on Twitter:
October 19th, 2013
10:28 AM ET
Opinion by Brant Hansen, special to CNNFollow @branthansen
(CNN) – In the book “Jim and Caspar Go to Church,” an atheist turns to a Christian minister as they're watching a Sunday morning church service and earnestly asks, "Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?"
I've grown up in churches and I'm a Christian, and I'm right there with the atheist.
I honestly don't get the connection. (To be fair, I've grown up on Earth, too, and there are times that I don't understand any part of this place.)
You see, years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome - and like a lot of "Aspies," sometimes I'm convinced that I've landed on the wrong planet.
October 12th, 2013
08:50 PM ET
Opinion by the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, special to CNN
(CNN) – The first tattoo I got was meant to set me apart from my conservative suburban Christian community, a way to signify “I don't belong to your tribe.”
Little did I realize that if I lived long enough I’d eventually become mainstream.
Tattoos now cover me from shoulder to wrist, but with the ubiquity of body art today, in many of the places I hang out I look more like a soccer mom than an outlaw.
Even the ill-advised and regrettable tattoos are part of my story, and ultimately, that’s what tattoos are: a way to wear stories–– our mistakes, celebrations, relationships, insights and losses–– on the skin.
Today, as an ordained Lutheran pastor, when I stand behind the altar table on Sundays and lift up the bread and wine and tell the story of the night Jesus gathered with his faltering friends for a meal that tasted of freedom, the arms that lift those common and holy things are themselves, common.
October 11th, 2013
11:18 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) – For the love of "Lesus," the Vatican needs a copy editor – preferably an infallible one.
In honor of the first year of Pope Francis' papacy, the Vatican issued a commemorative medal Tuesday. The coin-size medals are sold in Vatican City and usually provide a steady stream of revenue for the church.
Just one problem: The Vatican misspelled the name of Jesus on the medal.
September 19th, 2013
11:01 AM ET
(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.
September 19th, 2013
11:00 AM ET
Opinion by the Rev. James Martin, Special to CNN
(CNN) – Here at America magazine, we’ve been anticipating the exclusive interview with Pope Francis for Jesuit journals worldwide for weeks.
We’ve lived with the 12,000-word article we’ve titled “A Big Heart Open to God,” and, in a sense, with the pope over these last several days.
So let me suggest what I feel to be the most important parts of this remarkable interview. To focus, I’ll highlight a few quotes and unpack them.
About this blog
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.