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August 18th, 2014
01:35 PM ET

The Pope says ISIS must be stopped. But how?

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

(CNN) – Nearly everyone agrees that the militant Muslim group rampaging through northern Iraq must be stopped. The question is, how?

Asked if he approved of the American airstrikes against ISIS, Pope Francis withheld his moral imprimatur on Monday, refusing to fully support or denounce the military campaign.

"I can only say this: It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor," the pontiff said during a press conference on the plane back to Rome from South Korea.  "I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means."

In an apparent reference to the United States, Francis said "one nation alone cannot judge" the best means of stopping groups like ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State.

Those decisions should be made collectively by the United Nations, the pontiff said.

"It is there that this should be discussed. Is there an unjust aggressor? It would seem there is. How do we stop him?" the Pope asked, without answering his own question.

Already, Francis' cautious comments about American airstrikes and the use of force have fostered a welter of interpretations, from "tacit approval" to a "yellow light" to outright endorsement.

The Pope who was returning to Rome after a five day trip to South Korea, may soon have the chance to clarify his moral argument personally to U.S. and UN officials.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Ethics • Foreign policy • Iraq • Middle East • Pope Francis • Violence

August 6th, 2014
08:59 AM ET

Blood libel: the myth that fuels anti-Semitism

By Candida Moss and Joel Baden, special to CNN

(CNN) – Last week a video of Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan emerged in which he claimed that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children to make matzo for Passover.

The translation of Hamdan’s interview with the Lebanese television station Al-Quds on July 28 reports him as saying:

We all remember how the Jews used to slaughter Christians, in order to mix their blood in their holy matzos. This is not a figment of imagination or something taken from a film. It is a fact, acknowledged by their own books and by historical evidence. It happened everywhere, here and there.

When confronted about his statements by CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday, Hamdan did not retract his claim or distance himself from the blood libel slur. His only defense was that he “has Jewish friends.”

Whatever “historical evidence” or “facts” Hamdan believes himself to be remembering, this is nothing more than the infamous blood libel: the most persistent and longest-lived anti-Semitic myth in history, aside from the claim that the Jews killed Jesus.

The blood libel originated in medieval England with the death of William of Norwich. William was a 12-year-old tanner’s apprentice who was killed in 1144. At the time of his death, his parents accused the local Jewish community of responsibility, but investigations revealed nothing.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Discrimination • Holocaust • Israel • Judaism • Middle East • Persecution • Prejudice • Religious violence • Violence

July 8th, 2014
01:01 PM ET

Eye for an eye: The Bible's role in revenge attacks

Opinion by Joel Baden, special to CNN

(CNN) – This past Sunday, six Israelis were arrested for the murder of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy. Israeli officials admitted the likelihood—already acknowledged by many—that this killing was carried out in revenge for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers.

Both sides have stepped up their aggression in the past few days, with rocket launches from Gaza into Israel and Israeli airstrikes against Gaza.

It’s a familiar cycle: attack for attack, murder for murder. Such patterns are familiar from conflicts across the world, but they have a special resonance in the Holy Land.

After all, it was from Israel, nearly 3,000 years ago, that this famous concept spread.

The Book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible says, “The penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Ethics • Foreign policy • Israel • Jerusalem • Judaism • Opinion • Palestinians • Religious violence • Violence

The worst places in the world to be religious
Rohingya Muslim children at a refugee camp in Burma, where authorities have incited violence against them, according to the State Department.
May 15th, 2014
10:56 AM ET

The worst places in the world to be religious

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

(CNN) - Since 1999, the U.S. State Department has tracked the world's worst abusers of religious rights. 

As the most recent report notes, it has never lacked for material. Persecutions of people of faith are rising across the globe.

Among the most worrying trends, according to the State Department, are "authoritarian governments that restrict their citizens’ ability to practice their religion."

In typically bland bureaucratic language, the State Department calls these "countries of particular concern." But the designation can come with some teeth.

Sudan, for example, where a Christian woman was sentenced to death this week for leaving Islam, is ineligible for some types of foreign aid.

In addition to Sudan, here are the State Department's "countries of particular concern." You might call them "The Worst Places in the World to Be Religious."

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Africa • Baha'i • China • Christianity • Church and state • Discrimination • Foreign policy • Interfaith issues • Iran • Islam • Islamic law • Middle East • Muslim • North Korea • Persecution • Prejudice • Religious violence • Saudi Arabia • Tibet • Tibet • Violence

May 1st, 2014
09:15 AM ET

Why Christians should support the death penalty

Opinion by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Special to CNN

(CNN) - The death penalty has been part of human society for millennia, understood to be the ultimate punishment for the most serious crimes.

But, should Christians support the death penalty now, especially in light of the controversial execution Tuesday in Oklahoma?

This is not an easy yes or no question.

On the one hand, the Bible clearly calls for capital punishment in the case of intentional murder.

In Genesis 9:6, God told Noah that the penalty for intentional murder should be death: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

The death penalty was explicitly grounded in the fact that God made every individual human being in his own image, and thus an act of intentional murder is an assault upon human dignity and the very image of God.

In the simplest form, the Bible condemns murder and calls for the death of the murderer. The one who intentionally takes life by murder forfeits the right to his own life.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Courts • Crime • Death • Discrimination • Ethics • Opinion • Violence

April 27th, 2014
07:46 AM ET

Punch thy neighbor? 'Fight church' doesn't turn the other cheek

Opinion by Paul Burress, Special to CNN

(CNN)– As I sat backstage, I could hear the sound of thousands cheering as they waited for me to enter the ring.

“Lord put your covering over me,” I prayed in a whisper. “Use me as a witness. Use me to be a billboard for you."

I’m a pastor by trade, and the next morning I was set to preach the Easter sermon.

But on that night, I was preparing for something else entirely. This wasn’t the normal, churchgoing crowd.

I was about to enter the cage and compete in a mixed martial arts bout.

When I tell people I’m a pastor and a mixed martial arts fighter, I usually get some puzzled looks.

“How can you preach the Word of God participate in such brutal activity?” people ask. “Didn’t Jesus teach us to love one another?”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Faith • Movies • Opinion • Sports • Violence

April 14th, 2014
06:06 PM ET

The accused Kansas killer's neo-pagan religion

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Frazier Glenn Cross is a white supremacist, an avowed anti-Semite and an accused killer. But he is not, as many think, a Christian.

Cross, who also goes by the name Glenn Miller, is accused of killing three people - all Christians - on Sunday at Jewish institutions in Overland Park, Kansas.

Authorities are weighing whether to file hate-crime charges against Cross, who is suspected of targeting Jews.

The 73-year-old has espoused anti-Semitism for decades. He also founded racist groups like a branch of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Both groups have deep ties to Christian white supremacists.

But according to Cross' 1999 biography, he is an adherent of Odinism, a neo-pagan religion that experts say has emerged as one the most vicious strains in the white supremacist movement.

"The faith’s obsession with genetic purity, racial supremacy and conquering supposedly lesser peoples is a recipe for violence," said Josh Glasstetter, campaign director for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Crime • Discrimination • Neo-Nazi • Neopaganism • Prejudice • Religious violence • Violence

Rwanda 20 years later
April 13th, 2014
07:25 AM ET

Forgiving the unforgivable in Rwanda

By Tim Townsend, special to CNN

(CNN) - When the killing began in earnest, Steven Gahigi fled his home in the Bugesera district of Rwanda to neighboring Burundi.

By the time he returned the next year, 52 members of his family were dead. Most of them, including his sister, were slaughtered in the first week of the 20th century’s final genocide.

This week, Rwanda began commemorating the 20 years that have passed since the mass murder of Tutsis and moderate Hutus, which continued for 100 days and left at least 800,000 dead.

Gathering in a packed soccer stadium in Kigali, Rwandans re-enacted the horrific events of 1994. President Paul Kagame said his country had “a reason to celebrate the normal moments of life, that are easy for others to take for granted."

When Gahigi returned to Rwanda after the genocide, he had nothing: no family, no home. Eventually, he moved past his anger and entered a Christian seminary.

In 1999, he began visiting Rilima Prison in Bugesera, the new home to thousands of the génocidaires, the men who wielded the machetes. In Rilima he met the band of 15 who killed his sister.

At first, the prisoners thought he had been sent by the government – a spy in a clerical collar – to investigate their crimes. Even when they were satisfied that Gahigi wasn’t a spy, they were skeptical of his motives. Why would this man come to their prison to preach when he knew what they had done?

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Christianity • Crime • Death • Discrimination • Pastors • Prejudice • Rwanda • Violence

A father’s dilemma: Is watching football immoral?
Two Carolina Panthers tackle Tennessee Titans' Justin McCareins. Injuries from hits like these have caused some to question the morality of watching football.
February 1st, 2014
08:56 PM ET

A father’s dilemma: Is watching football immoral?

Opinion by Patton Dodd, special to CNN

(CNN) - Three weeks ago, I sat down with my family to root for the Denver Broncos against the San Diego Chargers in the second round of the NFL playoffs. The Broncos were winning and it was all going swimmingly - until Henry, my 7-year-old son, started with the questions:

"Dad, have you decided that it's OK to watch football?"

"Dad, didn't you say were you worried about all the injured players?"

"Dad? What percentage of you thinks it's OK to watch football, and what percentage of you thinks it's wrong?"

Little kid wouldn't shut up.

It was our first football game since late October, when, after two years of wrestling with my conscience, I had decided to stop watching the sport I've loved all my life.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Health • Opinion • Sports • Violence

September 17th, 2013
09:59 PM ET

Rick Warren on guns, God and son's tragic death

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Lake Forest, California (CNN) — In his first interview since his son's suicide in April, famed pastor Rick Warren told CNN that he knew his son, Matthew, had bought a gun, dismissed rumors that Matthew was gay and said he doesn't blame God for the tragedy.

"I have cried every single day since Matthew died," Warren said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with CNN.

"But that - that's actually a good thing. Grief is a good thing. It's the way we get through the transitions of life."

Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, founded Saddleback Church in Southern California in 1980, growing it from a small congregation to a multisite megachurch with some 20,000 weekly worshippers.

Warren is also author of the spiritual self-help guide “The Purpose Driven Life,” one of the best-selling books of all time, with more 36 million copies sold.

But even as the Warrens grew in prominence - attending conferences with presidents and prime ministers - their son Matthew struggled with borderline personality disorder and deep depression, they said during an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Death • Faith • Guns • Leaders • Violence

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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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