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My Take: How churches can respond to mental illness
April 7th, 2013
02:55 PM ET

My Take: How churches can respond to mental illness

Editor’s Note: Ed Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research, an evangelical research organization. He blogs at edstetzer.com and his most recent book is "Subversive Kingdom."

By Ed Stetzer, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The first time I dealt with mental illness in church was with a man named Jim. I was young and idealistic - a new pastor serving in upstate New York. Jim was a godsend to us. He wanted to help, and his energy was immeasurable. He'd visit with me, sing spontaneously, pray regularly and was always ready to help.

Until he was gone.

For days and sometimes weeks at a time, he would struggle with darkness and depression. During this time, he would withdraw from societal interaction and do practically nothing but read Psalms and pray for hours on end. I later learned that this behavior is symptomatic of what is often called bipolar disorder or, in years before, manic depression.

I prayed with Jim. We talked often about the need for him to take his medicine, but he kept asking God to fix him. Eventually, at his lowest point and filled with despair, he took his own life.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Evangelical • My Take

My Take: What real persecution looks like
Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American citizen imprisoned in Iran, is seen with his family.
April 3rd, 2013
06:00 AM ET

My Take: What real persecution looks like

Editor's Note: Nina Shea is the director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute and one of the authors of "Persecuted: the Global Assault on Christians."

By Nina Shea, Special to CNN

(CNN)–In September 2005, a middle-aged woman was taken by state security officials from her home in North Korea’s North Pyongan Province. She was put under arrest and taken to a local farm, where government officials had assembled in the threshing area to carry out her punishment. The sole civilian witness eventually fled to South Korea and reported what unfolded next to the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights. As he told the private human rights group, “Guards tied her head, her chest, and her legs to a post, and shot her dead.” He added, “I was curious why she was to be shot. Somebody told me she had kept a Bible at her home.”

Merely having the Christian Scriptures, which likely were smuggled across the border from China, put the unknown woman under suspicion of converting to Christianity, and perhaps even sharing her new faith with others. Our research, drawn from United Nations studies, U.S. governmental sources, newspaper accounts and documentation from churches, think tanks and human rights groups, found that in North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, Christian conversion is treated as a capital crime or otherwise severely punished.

The right of conversion, as long as it is not forced, is an integral part of the fundamental human right to religious freedom. Yet, as we document in our new book, "Persecuted," in many countries, in various parts of the world, and stemming from various motives, religious conversion draws horrific reprisals.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: My Take • Opinion

March 25th, 2013
10:10 AM ET

My Take: Will gay rights infringe on religious liberty?

Editor's note: Marc D. Stern is the general counsel of the American Jewish Committee and a contributor to the book, "Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty."

By Marc D. Stern, Special to CNN

(CNN) – It was inevitable that the debate over same-sex marriage would have a strong religious component. This is partly because it involves such questions as the interpretation of biblical passages that, on their face, condemn homosexuality as a sin. But it also involves squaring the authority of ancient texts with modern theological understanding and developments in biology. And of course, the importance of love and human autonomy as religious values should be considered.

Those issues surfaced in the various briefs filed in the Supreme Court, some of which are written as if the court must inevitably choose one religious point of view as the winner and the other as the loser. This is a false choice. The Court can make all winners, or at least avoid allowing one side to suppress the other's deepest beliefs.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not been asked - nor could it possibly answer - the question of what God or the Bible thinks about same-sex marriage. Religious groups are divided on that question, some supporting and others opposing same-sex marriage. And even if the religious viewpoint were clear, it should play no direct role in deciding whether the Constitution requires the states or the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage. Our government should not act to further one or another religious view of contested moral issues.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Gay marriage • Gay rights • My Take

March 23rd, 2013
09:38 AM ET

My Take: The Empathy President gives an empathy speech

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) - In religious studies courses, professors often try to get their students to see the world through Hindu eyes or to walk a few miles in the shoes of a Confucian. Anthropologists refer to this as cultivating an emic (or insider) perspective. The less fancy name for it is empathy.

Barack Obama is, for better or worse, an empathetic man who has tried for years to see the world through Republican eyes even as he has pleaded for Republicans to walk a few miles in Democratic shoes. As a former community organizer, he knows that you need a little empathy all around to get anything done among people with different world views. Alas, his efforts have met with little success in gridlocked D.C.

This week, Obama took his toolbox of hope, change, trust and empathy to Israel. Addressing a group of Israeli students in Jerusalem on Thursday, he spoke of Iran and of America’s unwavering support for Israel. He even fended off a heckler, joking, “We actually arranged for that, because it made me feel at home.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Foreign policy • Israel • Jerusalem • Middle East • My Take • Obama • Palestinians • Politics

 Benedict XVI's final papal audience
March 7th, 2013
09:03 AM ET

My Take: The pope is irrelevant

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) - Earlier this week I was sitting in my office with a Catholic student discussing the upcoming election of the new pope.  “It’s irrelevant,” she told me, adding that none of her Catholic friends care who the next pope will be, nor should they.

For much of American history, the pope was anything but irrelevant. Throughout the 19th century, Protestants feared him, concerned he and his minions were plotting to take over the United States from afar and replace our Constitution with their canon law. FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Faith Now • My Take • Polls • Pope • Pope Benedict XVI • United States

My Take: The secret thoughts of a Vatican spokesperson
The Rev. Thomas Rosica is assisting as a spokesman at the Vatican during the papal transition.
March 5th, 2013
09:37 PM ET

My Take: The secret thoughts of a Vatican spokesperson

Editor's Note: The Rev. Thomas Rosica is CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada and president of Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario. He is serving as English language assistant to the director of the Holy See Press Office during the papal transition.

By The Rev. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B, Special to CNN

(CNN)–When my colleague and friend, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, told me to come quickly to Rome to assist him, I understood that help was needed in dealing with a deluge of media requests in the aftermath of the pope’s surprise resignation announcement on February 11.

Having run a World Youth Day in Canada in 2002 and then founded, set up and led Salt and Light Catholic Television Network in Canada since 2003, I knew something about media and press relations.  Little did I know what would be awaiting me in the Caput Mundi when I arrived more than two weeks ago.  It was not a deluge but a veritable tsunami!

The most amusing questions, however, have been those that come from people who know me from back home and those who never met me until now.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Faith Now • My Take • Vatican

My Take: Benedict a pope aware of his flaws
February 26th, 2013
11:21 AM ET

My Take: Benedict a pope aware of his flaws

Editor's note: Sister Mary Ann Walsh is director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Northeast Regional Community. She is a former foreign correspondent at Catholic News Service (CNS) in Rome and the editor of "John Paul II: A Light for the World," "Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on his Papacy," and "From Pope John Paul II to Benedict XVI."

By Mary Ann Walsh, Special to CNN

(CNN) – One of the Bible's paradoxical statements comes from St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians: "Power is made perfect in infirmity."

The poetic statement proclaims that when we are weak, we are strong. Pope Benedict XVI's stepping down from what many consider one of the most powerful positions in the world proves it. In a position associated with infallibility - though that refers to formal proclamations on faith and morals - the pope declares his weakness.

His acceptance of frailty speaks realistically about humanity: We grow old, weaken, and eventually die. A job, even one guided by the Holy Spirit, as we Roman Catholics believe, can become too much for us.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • My Take • Opinion • Pope • Pope Benedict XVI • Vatican

My Take: What's next for President Obama's 'pastor-in-chief'
February 14th, 2013
10:35 AM ET

My Take: What's next for President Obama's 'pastor-in-chief'

Editor’s note: Joshua DuBois served as director of President Obama’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2008 until he stepped down last week.

By Joshua DuBois, Special to CNN

I first heard the name Barack Obama in the summer of 2004 over a half-pound burger and fries on Capitol Hill. I was putting in long hours as a legislative intern for a wily member of Congress between two years of graduate school at Princeton, where I was studying public policy. The pay was meager enough for gas for my beat-up Chevy Blazer and a tiny Craigslist apartment with two guys and a cat. But it was good to be in Washington and have a few months to wrestle with what in the world I was going to do with the rest of my life.

But by the time my internship was ending in late July, I wasn’t any closer to figuring things out. I knew I loved Christ I was an associate pastor at a small Pentecostal church back home and wanted my career to be tied to my faith. I also knew I wanted to help people who were struggling; my grandmother was active in the civil rights movement, and my parents made sure that working for justice and mercy was in my bones. And finally, I knew that I had some serious student loans to pay back. The hard part was figuring out how to balance all three.

Late one day, July 27 to be exact, I walked a couple of blocks to my favorite neighborhood dive, a local spot named the Hawk 'n' Dove. There was always a happy hour special going on at the Hawk, and they showed more Red Sox games than Yankees which, since I'm a Sox fan, was a good thing in my book.

I settled in to enjoy my burger when the place got quiet on me and the Hawk 'n' Dove was never quiet. A man was on television, an Illinois state senator named Barack Obama. And this guy was giving quite a speech.

FULL POST

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Faith Now • My Take

February 12th, 2013
11:33 AM ET

My Take: Don't bet on a diversity pope

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

The United States just finished a diversity election that saw a president elected not by old, white men but by Latinos, African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

Now that Pope Benedict XVI has announced his retirement, the Roman Catholic Church is preparing for an election of its own. Though in this case, the election will be decided not by rank-and-file Catholics but by the College of Cardinals.

It is well known that the demographics of the Catholic Church are changing quickly. Membership is hemorrhaging in Europe and barely stable in the United States, but it is booming in Asia and Africa and Latin America, which together account for two-thirds of the world’s Catholics.

In recent years, the papacy has seen some demographic milestones, as the College of Cardinals moved beyond Italy to tap popes from Poland (John Paul II) and Germany (Benedict XVI). There is now some speculation that an American might be considered, namely Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.

But the church could take a much bolder step, tapping a pontiff that represents its future in the "Global South" rather than its past in the "Global North."

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Africa • Americas • Asia • Catholic Church • Ghana • My Take • Pope Benedict XVI • Vatican

My take: A word to Christians - Be nice
February 9th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

My take: A word to Christians - Be nice

Editor's note: John S. Dickerson is author of the book “The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors that Will Crash the American Church ... and How to Prepare” and senior pastor of Cornerstone in Prescott, Arizona. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter @JohnSDickerson

By John S. Dickerson, Special to CNN

Last week a high-profile American writer and news personality asked me a painful question: “Hey pastor, can a Christian tweet hate?”

It was not a hypothetical question. He was asking because some of his 1.3 million Twitter followers claim to be “Christian,” and some of the meanest, most perverse hate-tweets he receives come from these self-proclaimed Christians.

We’ve all seen folks, Christian and otherwise, lose their cool in a Facebook face-off or in the comment section under a controversial news story. But as I scrolled through the “Christian” hate tweets to this news personality, I was baffled and ashamed by these so-called followers of Christ. One user describes himself not merely as Christian but as “sharing God’s message of Grace with everyone I encounter.” The messenger of Grace recently tweeted that he doesn’t merely hate this news personality, he despises and loathes him.

These are the moments when it’s embarrassing to be a Christian. I’m not embarrassed to believe the extravagant claims of Christianity: that Christ was born to a virgin, died for our sins, physically rose from the grave and is returning to rule the world. But I am embarrassed to be associated with some of the people who claim his name. FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • My Take

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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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