May 10th, 2014
04:00 AM ET
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.
March 28th, 2014
01:22 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Los Angeles (CNN) – Forgive Darren Aronofsky if he’s begun to identify with the title character of his new film, “Noah.”
Like the infamous ark-maker, the 45-year-old director has weathered a Bible-sized storm – and it’s not over yet.
Aronofsky’s epic, which stars Russell Crowe and boasts a $130 million budget (with marketing costs to match), rode a swelling wave of controversy into American theaters on Friday.
Despite fierce criticism from some conservative Christians, "Noah" was the top box-office draw last weekend, raking in $44 million in the United States.
Part Middle-Earth fantasy flick, part family melodrama, the film is an ambitious leap for Aronofsky, director of the art-house hits “Black Swan” and “The Wrestler.”
Both of those films were showered with praise and awards. “Noah,” on the other hand, has sailed into a stiff headwind.
December 2nd, 2013
11:29 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – Pope Francis: Successor to St. Peter ... the people's pontiff ... Marxist?
That's what conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh suggests, calling the Pope's latest document "pure Marxism."
Limbaugh blasted the pontiff on Wednesday, a day after Francis released "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel), a 50,000-word statement that calls for church reform and castigates elements of modern capitalism.
Limbaugh's segment, now online and entitled "It's Sad How Wrong Pope Francis Is (Unless It's a Deliberate Mistranslation By Leftists)," takes direct aim at the pope's economic views, calling them "dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong."
The Vatican issued the English translation of "Evangelii," which is known officially as an apostolic exhortation and unofficially as a pep talk to the worlds 1.5 billion Catholics.
Francis – the first pope ever to hail from Latin America, where he worked on behalf of the poor in his native Argentina – warned in "Evangelii" that the "idolatry of money" would lead to a "new tyranny."
November 30th, 2013
09:59 AM ET
Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, special to CNN
(CNN)– Dave Ramsey is rich. And he makes his living telling other evangelical Christians how they can get rich, too.
Host of a nationally syndicated radio program and author of multiple best-selling books, Ramsey targets evangelical Christians with what he calls a “biblical” approach to financial planning, one that focuses primarily on the elimination of consumer debt. His for-profit Financial Peace University is billed as “a biblically based curriculum that teaches people how to handle money God's ways."
Much of what Ramsey teaches is sound, helpful advice, particularly for middle-class Americans struggling with mounting credit card bills. I have celebrated with friends as they’ve marked their first day of debt-free living, thanks in part to Dave Ramsey’s teachings and all those white envelopes of cash he urges his students to use instead of credit cards.
But while Ramsey may be a fine source of information on how to eliminate debt, his views on poverty are neither informed nor biblical.
November 14th, 2013
02:59 PM ET
By Daniel Burke and Livia Borghese, CNNFollow @BurkeCNN
ROME (CNN) - Pope Francis' crusade against corruption in the Catholic Church, including an overhaul of the scandal-scarred Vatican Bank, has put the new pontiff in the Italian mafia's crosshairs, according to two organized crime experts.
"The strong will of Pope Francis, aiming to disrupt the gangrene power centers, puts him at risk. He disturbs the mafia very much," Nicola Gratteri, a top anti-mafia prosecutor in Italy, told CNN on Thursday.
"I don't have precise information about a plan of the mafia against Pope Francis," Gratteri continued. "But if I did, I wouldn't say."
October 23rd, 2013
02:10 PM ET
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
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.
October 9th, 2013
07:07 PM ET
Opinion by Kate Bowler, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Money. Women. Fame. Church.
That's a day in the life of “The Preachers of L.A.,” a new reality show centered on the lives of megachurch pastors of the so-called “prosperity gospel.”
The show, which premiers Wednesday night on the Oxygen Network, is a chaotic mix of prayer, "house porn," and neatly orchestrated dust-ups between senior pastors and their “first ladies.”
In some ways, the combination of the prosperity gospel with the “Real Housewives” format is a match made in Oprah-produced heaven.
August 29th, 2013
01:24 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) When Amy Arden joined Eagle Mountain International Church in 1997, her 11monthold daughter had received all the recommended vaccinations. But in the six years the young, single mother worked and worshipped at the evangelical megachurch, Arden didn’t take her child to get a single shot.
“There was a belief permeating throughout the church that there is only faith and fear,” Arden said. “If you were afraid of the illness enough to get vaccinated, it showed a lack of faith that God would protect and heal you.”
Members of Eagle Mountain International Church also believed that childhood vaccinations could lead to autism, said Arden, who is 35.
Arden said she was taught by a supervisor at the church's nursery how to opt out of a Texas law that requires most children to be immunized. She now regrets passing the same lesson on to other parents.
“I didn’t know a single mother who was vaccinating her children,” she said.
July 12th, 2013
03:36 PM ET
By Jeffrey Weiss, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Has any advertiser gotten into more trouble than Samuel Adams by not putting religion in an ad? Usually it goes the other way.
If you missed the recent brew-haha, in a TV commercial pegged to this year’s Fourth of July, the Boston-based beer company offered an homage to its namesake:
“Why name a beer after Samuel Adams? Because he signed the Declaration of Independence. He believed there was a better way to live. All men are created equal. They are endowed with certain unalienable rights: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Which smoothly drops a key phrase from the Declaration: “…they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights ...”
On the one hand, it’s just a beer ad and it used up its whole 30 seconds. On the other hand, why leave out some of the best-known words in American history?
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.