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Jonah's tomb destroyed by ISIS
July 25th, 2014
10:39 AM ET

Does Jonah's tomb signal the death of Christianity in Iraq?

Opinion by Joel S. Baden and Candida Moss, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The destructive force of  the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the militant Sunni movement, is epitomized in a video released Thursday of ISIS members smashing a tomb in Mosul, Iraq.

The tomb is traditionally thought to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, a holy site for Christians and many Muslims.

Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, is built on and adjacent to the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, the setting for the biblical book of Jonah and once the most powerful capital of the ancient world.

Indeed, for most people familiar with the Bible, Nineveh is inseparable from the figure of Jonah.

In Christian tradition, the story of Jonah is an important one. Jonah’s descent into the depths in the belly of the great fish and subsequent triumphant prophetic mission to Nineveh is seen as a reference to and prototype of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The destruction of his tomb in Mosul is therefore a direct assault on Christian faith, and on one of the few physical traces of that faith remaining in Iraq.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Houses of worship • Iraq • Islam • Islamic law • Judaism • Middle East • Opinion • Religious violence • Sacred Spaces

Smiling for 'Auschwitz selfies,' and crying into the digital wilderness
This tweet from Breanna Mitchell sparked a fierce debate over selfies and sacred spaces.
July 22nd, 2014
08:53 AM ET

Smiling for 'Auschwitz selfies,' and crying into the digital wilderness

Opinion by Craig Detweiler, Special to CNN

(CNN) - It is understandable why Breanna Mitchell’s sunny tweet from Auschwitz as “PrincessBMM” would spark a viral outcry.

A tour of a concentration camp, where so many Jews lost their lives, may move us to take photos or post responses - but few would include smiles, or selfies.

But Mitchell is not the first teenager to generate Internet outrage by her response to the Holocaust.

When Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House last year, he wrote in the museum guest book, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully, she would have been a Belieber.”

While many have ripped into Mitchell and Bieber for their insensitivity, I don’t think they intended to be disrespectful to the dead.

Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices (mobiquity!), adolescent mistakes and hard lessons that used to be learned in private can quickly devolve into public drubbings.

This is what happens when new technologies clash with ancient understandings of the sacred. The problem is so pervasive that a Tumblr site, “Selfies at Serious Places” is dedicated to such faux pas.

We have very few spaces that our culture considers sacred, where an association with the divine results in a feeling of awe or reverence. Death may seem especially abstract to young people who haven’t been shown how to grieve, mourn or respect the dead.

So how might we help the emerging generation to develop a digital decorum that accounts for sacred spaces? Can we incorporate electronic ethics into religious instruction?

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Death • Ethics • Europe • History • Holocaust • Internet • Media • Opinion • Sacred Spaces • Spirituality • Traditions • Trends

June 3rd, 2014
01:02 PM ET

Inside Manhattan's most hipster-y megachurch

(CNN) - While some churches are struggling to attract younger members,  20 and 30-something-year-olds are waiting in long lines to get into Hillsong's services.

Pastor Carl Lentz is the main attraction. He spoke to CNN's Poppy Harlow about the church's success and where he stands on several major issues.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Celebrity • Christianity • Church • evangelicals • Leaders • Protestant • Sacred Spaces • Trends • TV-Anderson Cooper 360

Beer-friendly ministries
February 8th, 2014
12:48 PM ET

Praise the Lord and pass the beer, change is brewing among American Christians

By Brett McCracken, special to CNN

(CNN) - Something is brewing among American Protestants, and it has a decidedly hoppy flavor.

For much of the last century in the United States, Protestant Christianity’s relationship with beer was cold or even hostile at times. Protestant organizations such as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League led the campaign to make alcohol illegal.

Even after Prohibition ended, many evangelicals defined themselves by their abstention from alcohol, called “the beloved enemy” by televangelist Jack Van Impe.

Drinking was, and in many cases still is, outlawed on Christian college campuses and among leadership of many churches and denominations.

But in recent years, change has been fermenting. Taverns and beer halls, once dismissed as the domain of the “worldly” in need of reform, are today the meeting places for churches

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • evangelicals • Protestant • Sacred Spaces • Spirituality

Pope Francis baptizes 32 children
January 13th, 2014
12:00 PM ET

Breastfeeding in church? Pope says yes

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - Amid the iconic art in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, Pope Francis told mothers that it's acceptable to breastfeed their children in public, even in holy sites like churches.

Children's voices, even when crying, make "the most beautiful choir of all," Francis said during a service in which he baptized 32 children.

"Some will cry because they are uncomfortable or because they are hungry," the Pope said. "If they are hungry, mothers, let them eat, no worries, because here, they are the main focus."

The Sistine Chapel, with its famous frescoes by Michelangelo, is the official chapel of the Apostolic Palace, traditionally the papal residence. Francis, though, lives in the Vatican guesthouse, Casa Santa Marta, saying it better suits his low-key style.

The Pope's remarks echo statements he made to an Italian newspaper in December in which he tied breastfeeding to the problem of global hunger.

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Church • Ethics • Faith & Health • Food • gender issues • Health • Houses of worship • Mass • Pope Francis • Sacred Spaces • Women

September 15th, 2013
07:54 AM ET

Jerusalem's 5 most contested holy sites

By Daniel BurkeCNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) -  Heaven and Earth are said to meet atop Jerusalem’s sacred mounts, but the city’s stony streets have seen more than their share of violence.

King David subdued the Jebusites, the city's Canaanite founders. The Babylonians and Romans routed the Jews. Muslims booted the Byzantines. Christian Crusaders mauled Muslims and were, in turn, tossed out by the Tartars.

The Ottomans followed, then Britain, then Jordan, before finally, in 1967, the city came nearly full circle when Israel annexed East Jerusalem. That sparked another cycle of violence, this time between Israelis and Palestinians.

“It’s easily the most contentious piece of real estate in the world,” says Anthony Bourdain, who visits Jerusalem in the season premiere of “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown,” which debuts Sunday night on CNN.

“And there’s no hope - none - of ever talking about it without pissing someone off.”

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown • Belief • Christianity • Greek Orthodox Church • History • Houses of worship • Interfaith issues • Israel • Israel • Jerusalem • Judaism • Middle East • Muslim • Religious violence • Sacred Spaces

September 14th, 2013
01:06 PM ET

What makes Jerusalem so sacred?

World-renowned chef, best-selling author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain returns for the second season of CNN's showcase for coverage of food and travel. "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" is shot entirely on location and premieres Sept 15 at 9pm ET/PT. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook. Bourdain's first stop: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Opinion by Richard Hect, special to CNN

JERUSALEM (CNN) - Perhaps the most repeated observation about Jerusalem is that it's a sacred city for the three monotheistic faiths of the west, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Hundreds of tour guides tell it to the busloads of tourists brought to the city each day. Journalists who have to file stories from and about Jerusalem will use this description in their leads.

But what does that observation really mean? What does it mean to call a place, a city sacred?

Of course, this immediately refers to sites and buildings which contain and make concrete the sacred or the holy. In Jerusalem, there are literally hundreds of these containers, some better known than others.

One can immediately think of the Western Wall for the Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher or the Garden Tomb for Christians, or the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque for Islam.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown • Belief • Christianity • End times • Faith • Houses of worship • Islam • Israel • Israel • Judaism • Middle East • Religious violence • Sacred Spaces

April 7th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

Sacred Spaces: Arabic Christians find a home in the U.S.

By Floyd Yarmuth, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Christians have been part of Middle Eastern culture for 2,000 years, but many people don’t realize that a small minority of Arabs are Christians.

Pastor Esper Ajaj of the Arabic Baptist Church in Washington said that people often assume he is Muslim because of his background and accent.

“I tell them that there are a lot of Christian people in the Middle East. In Egypt, there are 9 million Coptic Christians alone,” he said.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Church • Sacred Spaces

My Take: 9/11 Memorial not sacred enough
The names at the 9/11 Memorial are overly segmented, the author argues.
February 27th, 2012
02:51 PM ET

My Take: 9/11 Memorial not sacred enough

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Sunday was the 19th anniversary of the first World Trade Center terrorist attack, which claimed 6 lives on February 26, 1993. I took this occasion as a chance to see the 9/11 Memorial, which remembers these six victims alongside the 2977 people killed on September 11, 2001, in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

I have been writing recently about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Lower Manhattan site is obviously influenced by that design. So it is hard to avoid comparisons. There are the granite walls, though in the New York memorial there is flowing over them. And there are the names of the dead, though in New York they are cut through bronze rather than inscribed on granite.

But the spirit of the 9/11 Memorial is very different.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 9/11 • Art • New York • Sacred Spaces • United States

May 3rd, 2011
11:54 AM ET

My Take: Sea burial says bin Laden not a martyr

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Shortly after we learned of the death of Osama bin Laden, U.S. officials said his body would be treated in accordance with Islamic traditions. What those officials did not say is that there are two Islamic burial traditions: one for ordinary Muslims and another for martyrs.

For ordinary Muslims, the body is washed and then wrapped in a plain white shroud for burial. For martyrs, however, the body is not washed and it is buried in the clothes the martyr was wearing when he died. This is because a martyr’s blood is a badge of honor — proof positive that he died in service of Islam.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Death • Islam • Islamic law • Islamic law • Muslim • Opinion • Osama bin Laden • Sacred Spaces • Sharia

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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.

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