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Smiling for 'Auschwitz selfies,' and crying into the digital wilderness
This tweet from Breanna Mitchell sparked a fierce debate over selfies and sacred spaces.
July 22nd, 2014
08:53 AM ET

Smiling for 'Auschwitz selfies,' and crying into the digital wilderness

Opinion by Craig Detweiler, Special to CNN

(CNN) – It is understandable why Breanna Mitchell’s sunny tweet from Auschwitz as “PrincessBMM” would spark a viral outcry.

A tour of a concentration camp, where so many Jews lost their lives, may move us to take photos or post responses but few would include smiles, or selfies.

But Mitchell is not the first teenager to generate Internet outrage by her response to the Holocaust.

When Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House last year, he wrote in the museum guest book, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully, she would have been a Belieber.”

While many have ripped into Mitchell and Bieber for their insensitivity, I don’t think they intended to be disrespectful to the dead.

Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices (mobiquity!), adolescent mistakes and hard lessons that used to be learned in private can quickly devolve into public drubbings.

This is what happens when new technologies clash with ancient understandings of the sacred. The problem is so pervasive that a Tumblr site, “Selfies at Serious Places” is dedicated to such faux pas.

We have very few spaces that our culture considers sacred, where an association with the divine results in a feeling of awe or reverence. Death may seem especially abstract to young people who haven’t been shown how to grieve, mourn or respect the dead.

So how might we help the emerging generation to develop a digital decorum that accounts for sacred spaces? Can we incorporate electronic ethics into religious instruction?

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Death • Ethics • Europe • History • Holocaust • Internet • Media • Opinion • Sacred Spaces • Spirituality • Traditions • Trends

Spain moves to correct 500-year-old 'error'
Andres Rosenberg Benadretti, shown here in Barcelona's Sagrada Familia Cathedral, hopes to soon have Spanish citizenship.
June 14th, 2014
04:30 PM ET

Spain moves to correct 500-year-old 'error'

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

(CNN) - Being gay in Chile, Andres Rosenberg Benadretti once thought he could never get married. But his family's past may help him tie the knot some day.

Spain, where same-sex marriage is legal, has been considering a law that would make it easier for Jews of Spanish descent like Rosenberg Benadretti to get dual citizenship.

"This is something that can actually happen for me – it would be a dream come true just to have the option," said the 27-year-old. "Every human being should have the option to get married."

That isn’t the only reason Rosenberg Benadretti wants a Spanish passport, though. Mainly, he wants acknowledgement of his Spanish heritage, which goes back more than five centuries.

“My ancestors would be proud of me, and if one day I get to have children of my own, I’d love to pass on this beautiful cultural baggage,” he said in an e-mail.

Centuries after Spain formally and sometimes violently prevented Jews from practicing their religion, forcing them to convert or leave the country, the proposed law would open the country's doors to the dispersed descendants of Sephardic Jews.

On June 6, the country came one step closer to correcting what one Spanish official called a 500-year-old "error."

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Europe • Foreign policy • Israel • Judaism • Religious violence • Spain

April 25th, 2014
07:57 AM ET

Three popes, one brilliant move

Opinion by John Carr, special to CNN

(CNN) - This Sunday, Pope Francis will canonize “Good” Pope John and Pope John Paul “the Great.”

These popular references to Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II recall the ancient practice of choosing saints by public acclaim.

Sunday's ceremony, on the other hand, is the result of a more elaborate process and a brilliant decision by their successor, Pope Francis.

Though they will be canonized together, in some ways these two popes were very different people.

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was one of 14 children from an Italian peasant family who became a historian, diplomat, bishop and then Pope John XXIII.

Long before Pope Francis' off-script, populist touches led some to dub him the "people's pope," John broke precedent by escaping the Vatican to visit hospitals and prisons.

He left as a legacy his encyclical “Pacem in Terris,” which was addressed for the first time not just to Catholics, but to all those of “good will.” It reshaped Catholic teaching on human rights and made an impassioned call for peace amid the Cold War.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Italy • Leaders • Opinion • Poland • Pope Francis • Pope John Paul II • Vatican

March 26th, 2014
04:17 PM ET

Vatican landmark Obama will miss

CNN's Ben Wedeman gloats over what President Barack Obama likely won't get a chance to see on his visit to the Vatican on Thursday. Take a look inside the Sistine Chapel - and gaze up at its famous ceiling.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Art • Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Church and state • Italy • Pope John Paul II • Vatican

Lampedusa: A beautiful, perilous stepping-stone
March 1st, 2014
06:00 AM ET

Stepping-stones to safety: A family flees Syria's war - and finds refuge in Italy's islands

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.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Europe • Islam • Italy • Libya • Mosque • Muslim • Persecution • Pope Francis • Poverty • Religious violence • Syria

January 19th, 2014
11:10 AM ET

The C.S. Lewis you never knew
C.S. Lewis has become a virtual Christian saint, but his life wasn't as tidy as his public image.
December 1st, 2013
06:00 AM ET

The C.S. Lewis you never knew

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) – He looked like a “red-faced pork butcher in shabby tweeds,” lived secretly with a woman for years and was so turned on by S&M that he once asked people at a party whether he could spank them.

We’re talking, of course, about C.S. Lewis, the Christian icon and author of classics such as “Mere Christianity” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

It’s tempting to remember Lewis only as the self-assured defender of Christianity who never met an argument he couldn't demolish. His death 50 years ago, on November 22, 1963, was overshadowed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He has since become a patron saint of American evangelicals.

But the actual man whom friends called “Jack” had a “horrible” personal life, thought he had failed as a defender of Christianity and spent so much time in pubs that his publishers initially struggled selling him to a religious audience, scholars say.

FULL POST

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Books • Christianity • United Kingdom

November 26th, 2013
08:49 PM ET

Giving thanks for the miracle of survival

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Leon Gersten could not bear to watch “Schindler’s List,” the movie about Czech industrialist Oskar Schindler who saved 1,200 Jews from Nazi extermination camps. It was too painful for the Holocaust survivor, too close to reality.

But now, almost 70 years after his village in Poland was liberated by the Soviet army, Gersten is meeting the man who is the Oskar Schindler of his own life: Czeslaw Polziec.

Like Schindler, Polziec is Catholic. His family secretly sheltered Gersten in rural Poland for two years during World War II.

As though such a reunion between survivor and rescuer were not emotional enough, this one is taking place Wednesday on the eve of Hanukkah, which coincides this year with Thanksgiving. Two celebrations of gratitude.

FULL POST

- Moni Basu

Filed under: Catholic Church • Hanukkah • Holocaust • Israel • Judaism • New York • Poland • Thanksgiving

German 'Bling Bishop' suspended
October 23rd, 2013
02:10 PM ET

Vatican suspends German bishop amid spending investigation

By the CNN Belief Blog Editors

(CNN) - The Vatican said Wednesday it has suspended a German bishop who has come under fire for his extravagant lifestyle.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-Van Elst is under investigation for his spending after his residence in Limburg, Germany, was renovated for $42 million.

The Vatican says Tebartz-Van Elst cannot carry out his ministry as long as the investigation in ongoing, and he's been ordered to stay outside his diocese.

Coined the "Bling Bishop," Tebartz-Van Elst, who is known as theologically conservative, has denied any wrongdoing, saying the cost overruns on the renovation are legitimate because surrounding structures had to be protected, including the old city wall.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Europe • Germany • Money & Faith • Pope Francis • Vatican

October 23rd, 2013
01:24 PM ET

Baby Prince George is baptized

London (CNN) - Prince George made his first public appearance in three months Wednesday, as he arrived with his parents, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, for his christening at St. James's Palace.

The baby prince smiled as he was shown off to family members including his great-grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, before the royals entered the Chapel Royal.

George was dressed in an elaborate lace and satin christening gown that's a replica of one made in 1841 for the christening of Queen Victoria's eldest daughter.

Being baptized into the church is more significant for George than for most people, since he is in line to become king, which would also make him the supreme governor of the Church of England.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Anglican • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • United Kingdom

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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.

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