December 10th, 2013
11:03 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – The son of a Florida megachurch pastor who is close to President Barack Obama has died, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to local police.
Isaac Hunter, 36, died Tuesday, according to Northland and Summit churches, two Orlando-area congregations with deep ties to his family.
Altamonte Springs Police Department spokesman Robert C. Pelton said officers responded to a call to check on the well-being of Hunter at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday. They found him dead, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Pelton said. The investigation is ongoing, and no foul play is suspected, he added.
Hunter is the son of Joel Hunter, an evangelical who has been a spiritual adviser to Obama since his 2008 presidential campaign. The president and the pastor speak nearly once a week, and Joel Hunter was an adviser to the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Isaac Hunter and his wife, Rhonda, were going through a divorce, according to Florida court records. Hunter resigned as senior pastor of Summit Church in 2012 after acknowledging a three-year affair with a member of the church staff.
November 27th, 2013
02:49 PM ET
Washington (CNN) - When the State Department announced it was moving its Vatican embassy to a compound shared with the U.S. Embassy in Italy, some former ambassadors and conservative American Catholics were outraged.
Former ambassadors to the Holy See said moving that embassy would diminish the stature of the mission and conservative Catholic activists seized on the issue.
Addressing the growing controversy in Rome, the State Department arranged a briefing for reporters on Monday with an unnamed senior official who said the purpose for the move was to save money and increase security.
A spokesman for the Vatican said the move was well within the Holy See's requirements for embassies and that relations with the United States are far from strained.
November 23rd, 2013
07:13 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) – When John F. Kennedy was a boy, his mother counseled her children on Good Fridays to pray for a peaceful death.
Young Jack joked that he’d rather pray for two pet dogs.
If you’re looking for the CliffsNotes version of Kennedy’s Catholicism, that anecdote touches on the key themes: the pious Irish mother, the light-hearted irreverence, the ever-present prospect of death.
But there’s much more to the story.
In the words of one biographer, Kennedy was Mr. Saturday Night but also Mr. Sunday Morning, rarely missing a Mass.
He was famously unfaithful to his wife but fiercely loyal to his church, even when it threatened his quest for the presidency.
One scholar suggests that Kennedy was becoming more religious as the Cold War wore on, and a prominent Catholic monk privately predicted his assassination. Another says that Kennedy’s public displays of piety were little more than political lip service.
As the country marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death – and it was far from peaceful, as we all know – almost every aspect of his life is again under the media microscope. But for all the ballyhoo about Kennedy being the first and only Catholic president, the topic of his faith remains largely untouched.
November 13th, 2013
05:34 PM ET
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
(CNN) - Of course Tevi Troy has heard the hubbub.
He knows full well that his onetime boss, former President George W. Bush, plans to speak Thursday at a Dallas fundraiser for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute – a group dedicated to converting Jews to Christianity.
“I have yet to meet a Jewish person who hasn’t heard about this,” says Troy, who served as a Bush administration liaison to the Jewish community and was a former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The topic of conversion can prompt a visceral reaction for Jews whose darker times have been marred by persecution, expulsion and forced conversions. Millions have died for and because of their faith.
“There’s good historical reason for the Jewish discomfort,” Troy says. FULL POST
November 8th, 2013
10:01 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – The Rev. Timothy McDonald gripped the pulpit with both hands, locked eyes with the shouting worshippers, and decided to speak the unspeakable.
The bespectacled Baptist minister was not confessing to a scandalous love affair or the theft of church funds. He brought up another taboo: the millions of poor Americans who won’t get health insurance beginning in January because their states refused to accept Obamacare.
McDonald cited a New Testament passage in which Jesus gathered the 5,000 and fed them with five loaves and two fishes. Members of his congregation bolted to their feet and yelled, “C’mon preacher” and “Yessir” as his voice rose in righteous anger.
“What I like about our God is that he doesn’t throw people away,” McDonald told First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta during a recent Sunday service. “There will be health care for every American. Don’t you worry when they try to cast you aside. Just say I’m a leftover for God and leftovers just taste better the next day!”
November 7th, 2013
06:08 PM ET
By Phil Gast, CNN
(CNN) - The Rev. Billy Graham took people to church, perhaps for the last time, as hundreds joined the iconic evangelist Thursday evening for his 95th birthday.
A guest list that included former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Rev. Rick Warren and businessmen Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump came to pay tribute to a man beloved for his humility and faithfulness.
Because the frail Graham no longer has the strength to speak behind a lectern, his enduring message of salvation through Jesus Christ came in the form of "The Cross," a 30-minute DVD that made its debut at the celebration.
"He is my spiritual hero," said entertainer Ricky Skaggs shortly before the celebration began at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. "He exemplifies brokenness and humility."
October 25th, 2013
05:11 PM ET
By Emily Smith, CNN
(CNN) - The U.S. Air Force Academy has decided to make phrase "so help me God" optional in its honor code after an activist group protested that requiring all cadets to recite it violates their rights.
The complete oath reads: "We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does, so help me God."
Cadets are required to recite the oath when they complete basic training. It is also taken by the entire cadet wing each year as re-affirmation of their commitment to the honor code, said AFA spokesman Major Brus Vidal.
October 22nd, 2013
12:05 PM ET
Opinion by Joshua DuBois, Special to CNN
Washington (CNN) – One thing is for sure: I didn't feel ready to send morning devotionals to the next President of the United States.
I was a young staffer, 25 years old, on Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. I had known Obama for a few years, and at the time worked as faith outreach director for his campaign.
In addition to my professional role reaching out to the faith community, I also personally prayed for Obama by myself each day. I had been an associate pastor at a small Pentecostal church in Boston, and my Christian faith was, and is, the guiding force of my life.
But I wasn't some famous mega-church pastor or internationally known cleric. I went to public policy school, not seminary, and although I loved Scripture and history and could write a bit, I was still learning more about Jesus every day.
But one day I felt a tug at my spirit, a sense that this young candidate needed some support. Not Secret Service protection or policy advice or political strategy – he had plenty of that. I thought he needed some folks who were caring for his spirit, his soul.
October 15th, 2013
08:29 AM ET
(CNN) – A Catholic priest has gone to court, saying the partial government shutdown is preventing him from providing religious services– even voluntarily– on a U.S. military base.
Father Ray Leonard filed a lawsuit Monday in federal district court in Washington, saying he "wishes to continue practicing his faith and ministering to his faith community free of charge... but has been told that he is subject to arrest if he does so."
Leonard is a newly hired civilian employee, scheduled to start work October 1 to provide Catholic religious services at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.
The priest was one of thousands of civilian military employees and contractors furloughed because of the failure of Congress to reach a deal on funding the federal government. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has since recalled some Defense Department workers, but civilian military chaplains were excluded.FULL STORY
September 10th, 2013
02:22 PM ET
Opinion by Jeffrey Weiss, Special to CNN
(CNN) - A day before the start of the Jewish High Holy Days, New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner was out asking voters to judge him favorably in Tuesday's election.
He ran into a bit of unwelcome moral judgment, as well.
One of the city's best-known Jewish politicians got into a heated religious argument at the Weiss Kosher Bakery in an Orthodox neighborhood of Brooklyn.
The argument - replayed and reported on cable news - raised questions about how the Jewish tradition deals with transgression, judgment, repentance and rebuke.
Those are all prime concerns for the days around Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, which begins Friday night.
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.