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May 22nd, 2013
08:34 AM ET

My take: Keep bad theology out of Oklahoma

Editor's Note: The Rev. Ian Punnett is the author of "How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God (Or Anyone Else For That Matter)" and a veteran talk show host. He has been married for 28 years and is the father of two college age boys.

By Ian Punnett, Special to CNN

(CNN) – “God never gives us more than we can handle.”

God, have I learned to hate that cliche.

As a clergy person, as a hospital chaplain intern and as a father, I have come to believe that, at best, that platitude is a classic example of meaningless bumper-sticker theology. It's easily said and only makes sense when it goes by you so fast you don’t have time to think about it.

At worst, however, claiming that God scales a tragedy up or down depending on our ability to handle loss is as heartless as it is thoughtless.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • My Take • Opinion

My Take: Town prayers need less Jesus, more Krishna
May 21st, 2013
11:35 AM ET

My Take: Town prayers need less Jesus, more Krishna

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) — At first glance, it would seem that the town of Greece, New York, has been brazenly violating the First Amendment. For roughly a decade, it invited local Christians — and only Christians — to offer prayers opening its Town Board meetings.

Two non-Christian town residents — Susan Galloway (who is Jewish) and Linda Stephens (who is an atheist) — objected, arguing that this practice violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, finding that the town’s practice of repeatedly inviting Christians to offer demonstrably Christian prayers amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the case.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Baha'i • Church and state • Interfaith issues • My Take • United States

May 11th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

My Take: ‘Gay Christian’ is not an oxymoron

Editor’s note: Justin Lee is the Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network and author of Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate.

By Justin Lee, Special to CNN

(CNN)–In high school, I was a Christian know-it-all.

My nickname was "God boy," and I was known for regularly preaching at my friends about social issues of the day. I dismissed their objections - and accusations of homophobia - as intolerance for my faith.

"I'm just telling you what God's Word says," I'd argue.

Years later I realized my mistake. What my peers most objected to wasn't my beliefs - it was my condescending attitude. I debated and preached when I should have listened. I thought that stating my position loudly and unyieldingly was a sign of strength. In the process, I alienated my friends.

I'm still an evangelical Christian, but one thing is now crystal clear to me. American evangelicals' bad reputation isn't just because of what we believe. It's mostly because of how we behave.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Homosexuality • My Take • Opinion

April 20th, 2013
10:57 AM ET

My Take: Don't lump evildoers with Muslims

Editor's Note: Imam Khalid Latif is a chaplain for New York University and executive director of NYU's Islamic Center.

By Khalid Latif, Special to CNN

(CNN) – April 19, 2013, marks the 18th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings, a terrorist attack that took the lives of 168 people and injured another 680. In the wake of the tragic events that took place in Boston this week, we should remind ourselves that the actions of a few deranged individuals don’t represent or reflect the communities that they more broadly come from. Timothy McVeigh, the Tsarnaev brothers and the likes of Adam Lanza, Wade Michael Page and Nidal Hasan are a group unto themselves, and we should not let their utter disregard for humanity affect our embrace of it.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Islam • My Take

My Take: Obama channels Reagan at Boston interfaith service
April 18th, 2013
06:27 PM ET

My Take: Obama channels Reagan at Boston interfaith service

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

At the interfaith prayer service held in today for the victims of the Boston marathon bombing (including Lu Lingzi, a graduate student at Boston University, where I teach), President Barack Obama was once again called upon to play the pastor-in-chief at a moment of national tragedy.

In his speech, Obama did a lot of cheering for the home town, praising Boston as “the perfect state of grace.” He recalled his time as a law student at Harvard. He cheered on the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots, and the Bruins. And he repeatedly referred to Bostonians as a gritty people who would not give in to terrorism in the 21st century any more than they bowed to the British in the 18th.

As I listened to the speech, however, I couldn't help hearing echoes of President Ronald Reagan.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Bible • Interfaith issues • Massachusetts • My Take • Politics • United States

Photos: Nation mourns Boston bomb victims
April 18th, 2013
10:45 AM ET

My Take: Godless in Boston mourn, too

Editor’s note: Greg M. Epstein is the Humanist chaplain at Harvard University and author of the New York Times best-seller "Good Without God." He directs the Humanist Community Project, a national think tank helping to study and build communities for the nonreligious.

By Greg M. Epstein, Special to CNN

Cambridge, Massachusetts (CNN) — After two days of holding back my own feelings to focus on the needs of a community in mourning, what finally split my heart in two was scrolling through the list of donations to the fund-raising page for Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, a mother and daughter among the tragically injured at the Boston Marathon.

Celeste, the mother, has volunteered for my congregation. She’s basically an aunt to a senior member of our staff. So I cried for the two-sidedness: A member of our community lost her legs below the knees, and nearly lost her daughter. And, in one day, nearly 4,000 people donated more than $250,000 to support them. They seemed to be saying, through their gifts, “Please do this for me too if anything should ever happen to me or my family.”

AC360: Mother lost legs, daughter nearly died in bombing

As a chaplain, I’m struggling to make sense of this tragedy just like any other member of the clergy. And like faith communities across the country, the thousands of people I work with are doing what needs to be done when tragedy strikes close to home. We’re offering one another comfort. We’re calling around to the point of exhaustion, trying to figure out who needs help and how we can provide it.

The only difference is, we are a community of atheists — a congregation of Humanists. FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • My Take

Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
April 16th, 2013
01:28 PM ET

My Take: Light will conquer darkness in Boston

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

Boston (CNN) — At 4 a.m. on Patriot’s Day, I huddled in the cold and dark on the Lexington town green that’s across from the church where I work as a priest, awaiting the reenactment of the first battle of the American Revolution.

As the sun rose, a small group of haggard colonists assembled. None were in military uniform; they seemed to have difficulty forming a straight line. And when the British marched towards them with their elegant uniforms and disciplined formation, they outnumbered the colonists more than 2-1.

It looked to be a slaughter.

As the “shot heard 'round the world” fired, the colonists scrambled, some dying in the skirmish and others retreating, running away to safety.

To the casual observer like myself, it looked like defeat — defeat of their hopes for freedom, liberty and democracy; defeat of goodness and light. But that defeat turned out to be the call that brought out reservists from all over the Boston area. Ordinary colonists left their homes to hide behind trees with their weapons, haunting the British as they marched back to Boston. The efforts of those ordinary men and women eventually led to victory for our country and the ideals it sought — and continues to seek—to embody.

Less than 12 hours after I attended the reenactment, I heard a different “shot heard 'round the world,” this time a few miles from my home where I was working. The Boston Marathon bombing shook me, as it shook many of my fellow Bostonians. It was a reminder that our world carries hazards and injustice. FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Faith Now • Massachusetts • My Take • Terrorism • Violence

April 13th, 2013
02:38 PM ET

My Take: Nothing wrong with Nazi assignment

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - School officials in Albany, New York, are racing to control the damage after a teacher at Albany High School gave students a persuasive writing assignment that challenged them to defend the proposition that “Jews are evil.”

After studying Nazi propaganda and rhetoric, sophomores in three English classes were instructed to imagine that their teacher was “a member of the government in Nazi Germany” and to prove that that they were “loyal to the Nazis.”

But this unidentified teacher is now caught up in a propaganda swirl of his or her own.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Culture wars • Education • Holocaust • Judaism • My Take • New York • Prejudice • United States

My Take: The thin line between God and guns
April 10th, 2013
06:45 AM ET

My Take: The thin line between God and guns

Editor's Note: The Rt. Rev. Edward J. Konieczny is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma. He was previously a police officer in Southern California.

By Edward J. Konieczny, Special to CNN

(CNN)  Both sides of the gun control debate think I’m on their side. I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, a believer in Jesus Christ and for more than 18 years before entering seminary, I was a police officer.

While I try to preach God’s love and mercy, I also have a concealed carry permit and sometimes take my gun on long drives through the isolated areas of my diocese.

I live with the knowledge that I share responsibility for the taking of a human life in the line of duty and that a good friend on the force was shot and killed after we’d swapped shifts. And I wouldn’t be writing this article if the rifle that was pointed at my head one night by a man in the grip of a mental illness hadn’t failed to fire.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Crime • Episcopal • My Take • Opinion

My Take: Let’s stop keeping mental illness a secret
April 8th, 2013
12:18 PM ET

My Take: Let’s stop keeping mental illness a secret

Editor’s Note: Rebekah Lyons is the author of "Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning." She writes on womanhood, purpose and mental health at RebekahLyons.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebekahlyons.

By Rebekah Lyons, Special to CNN

(CNN)– We grieve. Our stomachs turn as the shock settles in. Many of us were raised in pews where answers were given freely. But this past weekend proved otherwise. If we are honest, we are shaken by the frailty of our faith.

As the news spread on Saturday, Christians around the world were gripped by the suicide of 27-year-old Matthew Warren, son of Rick Warren, a beloved megachurch pastor and best-selling author of "The Purpose Driven Life." A son’s life was fraught with mental illness from his earliest years. A father bravely addressed this struggle head-on in a letter to church staff stating, "only those closest to him knew that he struggled with mental illness, dark holes of depression and even suicidal thoughts."

Mental illness is a category so vast, with varying degrees so complex, we collectively avoid the topic until it creeps into our homes and afflicts those we love most. But today, we're forced to face something that’s become so rampant, it can no longer be ignored.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • My Take • Opinion

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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.

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