April 13th, 2013
10:00 PM ET
By Alan Duke, CNN
Los Angeles (CNN) - When a film's credits list "prayer coordinator" before the hair/makeup and wardrobe teams, you might guess it is a faith-based production.
"Not Today," which premieres on 50 screens in 20 U.S. cities this weekend, was not funded by Hollywood investors, but with $1.6 million from the collection plate at Friends Church in Yorba Linda, California.
Still, the church couldn't avoid the controversies that seem routine in Hollywood productions — including a lawsuit over pay.
The idea for the film began during a trip to India where the church began building schools for the Dalit class - considered the lowest in India's caste system - in 2002. It's a project that fits Friends Church's Quaker tradition, said Creative Arts Pastor Brent Martz. President Richard Nixon's parents worshiped at the church, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.
"Our hearts were totally ripped open for the Dalit people," Martz said. Social rules and poverty make their children vulnerable to human-trafficking in labor and sex.
January 3rd, 2013
02:42 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN)—In spite of tepid reviews from some film critics, "Les Miserables" is booming at the box office, and that financial success can in part be traced to a group of its biggest boosters: Christians, particularly evangelicals whom NBC Universal went after with a microtargeted marketing strategy.
The story in "Les Miserables" is heavy with Christian themes of grace, mercy and redemption. The line everyone seems to remember is "to love another person is to see the face of God.”
NBC Universal looked to capitalize on those components and promoted the film to pastors, Christian radio hosts and influence-makers in the Christian community.
The latest film adaptation of the musical is raking in the cash. As of Wednesday, NBC Universal reported, it had pulled in $80.57 million in 2,814 theaters. After winning Christmas Day, the film finished third in the box office totals over the weekend, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, narrowly losing out to "The Hobbit" and "Django Unchained" despite being on significantly fewer screens.
December 27th, 2012
07:00 AM ET
Editor's note: Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio is an ordained Episcopal Church priest and author of "God and Harry Potter at Yale: Teaching Faith and Fantasy Fiction in an Ivy League Classroom."
By Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio, Special to CNN
(CNN) – Will you be strong and stand with me? That’s the question the cast of "Les Misérables" asks viewers at the end of the film as they stand along a barricade. But it’s also the question one particular character, a bishop, asks early in the movie.
And that question has radical implications for all of us who want to see our world transformed by hope.
That bishop meets the main character, Jean Valjean, after he’s released from serving nearly two decades in prison. With no job prospects and lifelong parole haunting his name, Valjean cannot find employment, a home, financial stability.
Then he stumbles upon the bishop, who invites him into his home, feeds him dinner, offers him a bed.
That night, a desperate Valjean flouts the bishop’s kindness by stealing his silver, but the next morning, when he’s caught and returned to the bishop’s home for condemnation, the bishop says something quite curious:
“But my friend, you left so early, surely something slipped your mind.” He hands Valjean two silver candlesticks.
September 13th, 2012
02:54 PM ET
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Some time in the summer, a small theater in Los Angeles screened a movie to which hardly anyone came.
It was a clunky film filled with scenes in a desert and in tents. The characters were cartoonish; the dialogue gauche.
The actors who'd responded to a July 2011 casting call thought they were making an adventure film set 2,000 years ago called "Desert Warrior." That's how Backstage magazine and other acting publications described it.
The American-made movie, it turns out, was hardly an innocent Arabian Desert action flick.Read the full story about the director behind the anti-Muslim film
August 3rd, 2012
10:00 PM ET
By Laura Koran, CNN
(CNN) – How many people would lay down their lives for a stranger?
The filmmakers’ answer: “Albanians would.”
During one of humanity’s darkest chapters, when millions of Jews, gays, communists and racial minorities were rounded up across Europe, many Albanians put up a fight to save complete strangers.
July 19th, 2012
07:23 AM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - "The Blind Side" was a heartwarming movie about a real-life Christian family who adopted a troubled teen with a knack for football, helped him get into college, and eventually all the way to the NFL. It was nominated for a best picture Oscar, won Sandra Bullock the best actress Oscar, and it won over Christian audiences who for decades have said they were slighted and misrepresented by Hollywood. But all that was not enough to keep the movie on the shelves one of the country's largest Christian bookstores.
LifeWay Christian Resources, a division of the Southern Baptist Convention, had been selling the DVD at its 165 stores for two years with a sticker warning its patrons of strong language. There were rumblings about a resolution last month at the denomination's annual conference, and complaints from about a dozen people prompted LifeWay to remove the film from its shelves and online store.
At issue was the film's use of profanity, a racial slur and taking the Lord's name in vain.
That decision sparked outrage among some prominent evangelicals Christians who said pulling the movie over foul language was "legalistic" and "Pharisaical."
June 2nd, 2012
10:00 PM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – When the horror novelist Stephen King was once asked why he wrote such gross stories, he said he did it because he had the heart of a small boy – which he kept in a jar on his desk.
With his beady eyes and I-just-killed-the-cat grin, King looks and sounds like a horror novelist. But when the Rev. Paul F.M. Zahl read several of King’s novels, he learned something new about the author: There’s a lot of faith behind his fright.
Zahl says some of the most stirring affirmations of Christian faith can be found in the chilling stories of King. The horror master has been preaching sermons to millions of readers for years, only most of King’s fans don’t know it, he says.
“People tend to think that Stephen King is anti-religious because he is a horror writer, but that’s completely mistaken,” says Zahl, a retired Episcopal priest who has written about King’s religious sensibility for Christianity Today magazine. “Several of his books are parables of grace in action.”
April 28th, 2012
09:52 PM ET
By Karen Spears Zacharias, Special to CNN
I hear the audible voice of God. No, not in the same way that the Bible’s Eve did when God asked her outright and out loud: “Woman, what in my name have you done now?”
Scriptures don’t tell us specifically, but I suspect at that particular moment in eternity God must have sounded a lot like Perry Mason: “C’mon, tell the truth. You know I’m a specialist on getting people out of trouble.”
Bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry is a pastor’s daughter in Alabama. You’d think if God spoke to anybody, it would be a pastor’s child, but Patti swears she has never heard the voice of God. The only time God speaks to her is through the written word.
I find that odd since God talks to me all the time.
April 12th, 2012
03:18 PM ET
By Josh Levs, CNN
Editor's note: This story contains offensive language
(CNN) - Mel Gibson frequently spews "looney, rancid" anti-Semitism, has talked about killing his former girlfriend, and is prone to hate-filled diatribes slamming everyone from John Lennon to Walter Cronkite, according to a screenwriter who has been working with him.
Joe Eszterhas, who wrote a screenplay about the Jewish hero Judah Maccabee for Gibson, recounts numerous alleged incidents in detail in a nine-page letter to Gibson published by the website thewrap.com.
In a letter replying to Eszterhas, Gibson denies the allegations, saying most of the claims are fabricated.FULL STORY
February 22nd, 2012
09:21 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
(CNN) – A week after news outlets reported on the conversion of Oliver Stone's son Sean to Islam, Sean denied he'd converted while also saying he has "accepted Mohammed."
“I happen to agree with what Mahatma Gandhi, he said 'I’m Hindu, a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim and a Buddhist,'” Stone said in an interview with CNN.
But Stone also referred to himself as a Muslim, calling Islam “an extension of the Judeo-Christian heritage. Mohammed is a prophet in that same line going back to Abraham.”
Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency reported last week that Sean had converted to Islam, and news outlets around the world picked up the the story.
But in the Wednesday CNN interview, Stone said he did not “feel like I have become a Muslim.”
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 and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.