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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

August 5th, 2014
12:13 PM ET

Learning to love the 'enemy' in Iraq

Opinion by Jeremy Courtney, special to CNN

(CNN) –We had no idea what we were doing, so we helped everyone.

My wife and I moved to Iraq in 2007 to assist in relief and development. We have since made friends on all sides, deep behind “enemy lines.”

Since the fall of Mosul to Sunni militants in June, the world has struggled to accept the failure of the American project in Iraq, the rise of “political Islam” and the marking of Iraqi Christians and other minorities for death or expropriation.

The world may watch from afar and denounce all Iraqi Muslims as militants bent on conquest. But up close, the reality is very different.

It was a Muslim cleric who may have saved this Christian's life. And I'm not the only one.

Even as jihadists justify their atrocities in the name of Islam, millions of Muslims are standing in solidarity with Christians who have been expelled from their homes.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Foreign policy • Iraq • Islam • Middle East • Missionaries • Opinion

August 4th, 2014
12:06 PM ET

What's religion's role in the Mideast crisis?

CNN's Poppy Harlow interviews religious leaders from Christianity, Islam and Judaism about the role of religion in the Mideast conflict.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Foreign policy • Islam • Israel • Jerusalem • Judaism • Middle East • Muslim

The lavish homes of American archbishops
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York lives in this $30 million mansion.
August 3rd, 2014
09:49 AM ET

The lavish homes of American archbishops

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

(CNN) – Clearly, “lifestyles of the rich and religious” doesn’t cut it for Pope Francis.

The pontiff has said it “breaks my heart” to see priests and nuns driving the “latest model of car.”

He’s blasted “airport bishops” who spend more time jet-setting then tending to their flock.

And he’s warned against church leaders who bear the “psychology of princes.”

The Vatican fired one such “prince” last year: German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst - aka, “The Bishop of Bling” - who spent $43 million to remodel his opulent pad.

(Bronze window frames? $2.4 million. Getting on the wrong side of the Pope? Far more pricy.)

“God save us from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings!” Francis said in his book-length blueprint for the church.

Say what you will, this Pope puts his preaching into practice.

But are American archbishops following his example?

See the full story here.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Money & Faith • Pope Francis • Vatican

August 1st, 2014
08:48 AM ET

Sudanese Christian woman who once faced death penalty arrives in U.S.

(CNN) - A Sudanese Christian woman once sentenced to death in her native country because of her faith arrived in her new home, the United States, on Thursday.

Mariam Yehya Ibrahim, her husband and two young children were greeted by a large crowd of supporters at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire. Ibrahim, whose sentence was overturned a few weeks ago, didn't speak with the media.

Her brother-in-law, Gabriel Wani, said there was "a lot of happiness right now."

New Hampshire's senators, Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen, sent staff members to the terminal and sent out a news release welcoming Ibrahim to the state.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

What God is saying, or trying to, over the din
Anne Lamott is the author of several books, including "Some Assembly Required," written with her son, Sam.
July 31st, 2014
03:56 PM ET

What God is saying, or trying to, over the din

By Dorrine Mendoza, CNN

(CNN) – Author Anne Lamott says she begins her day by checking the news as soon as she wakes up.

“If the world is coming to an end that day I am going to eat the frosting off an entire carrot cake: just for a start," she wrote in a recent essay on her Facebook page.

Lamott, the best-selling author of several books about spirituality, describes her specialty as topics that "begin with capital letters: Alcoholism, Motherhood, Jesus.” But in recent days, global events have been foremost on her mind.

“The last two weeks have been about as grim and hopeless as any of us can remember,” she wrote, listing events like the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster in Ukraine, Palestinian children killed by rocket fire while playing football on the beach and protests against young refugees showing up at the U.S. border.

Lamott posted her response to those events on her Facebook page on Sunday; the essay quickly received more than 18,000 shares and thousands of comments.

“I used to think that if the world — or I — were coming to an end, I’d start smoking again,” she wrote. But that's going too far, Lamott said, settling for the simpler pleasure of sweet pastries.

Despite tragedies both deeply personal and worldly, Lamott said she turns to a hard-won, if somewhat restless faith.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • End times • God • Inspiration • Internet • Middle East

What's wrong with 'Black Jesus'?
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for an upcoming TV show, "Black Jesus," seems out of place, says Jay Parini.
July 30th, 2014
09:26 AM ET

What's wrong with 'Black Jesus'?

Opinion by Jay Parini, special to CNN

(CNN) – I've just been watching the trailer for "Black Jesus," a show that will premiere on August 7 on the Cartoon Network during its child-unfriendly late-night spot, which they call Adult Swim.

Already at least one Christian group has begun to lobby the network to cancel the show, regarding its contents as blasphemous. (Cartoon Network is owned by Turner Broadcasting, which owns CNN.)

From what I can tell, the series is a bit of a spoof, with some foul language. The general notion seems clever: A guy who thinks he is Jesus, who might even be Jesus, lives in a poor neighborhood of Compton, California. He's got a ragged band of followers - they look like winos and potheads - who follow him around with lots of bantering.

The scenes shown in the trailer seem relatively funny, and it appears that nobody is quite sure whether this is a madman who thinks he is Jesus or maybe the Lord himself come back in a strange outfit and, indeed, black skin.

Is this offensive? The jury will have to be out until we see whole episodes, but in concept—particularly if the rest of the show is like the trailer—it does not seem so.

Let me explain.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Black issues • Christianity • Media • Opinion • Prejudice • Race • TV

President Obama's Ramadan slap at Muslims
President Barack Obama speaks as he hosts an Iftar dinner in the at the White House on July 14, 2014.
July 28th, 2014
09:38 AM ET

President Obama's Ramadan slap at Muslims

Opinion by Salam Al-Marayati, special to CNN

(CNN) – Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all met with American Muslims, as they did with most other religious groups.

President Barack Obama, under advice from his aides that association with Muslims is politically damaging, has yet to invite American Muslim organizations and leaders into the Oval Office for substantive discussions on domestic and international policies.

Yes, Muslims from all over the country accepted a White House invitation to attend the Iftar dinner earlier this month with the President to break our fast, to break bread, and to build bridges of understanding.

In Ramadan, a month for spiritual replenishment in the Islamic calendar, an estimated 1.5 billion Muslims around the world perform an obligatory fast from predawn to sunset for the purpose of purifying one’s soul through prayer and self-sacrifice.

But instead of feeling spiritually uplifted and civically engaged by attending an Islamic celebration in the White House, the Muslim guests were shocked and dismayed when they heard the President say, “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

For Muslims, that talking point is code for whitewashing decades of atrocities committed against the people of Gaza: the kids killed on the Gaza Beach, the civilians bombed in the most densely populated cage in the world, and the attacking of civilians who resort to donkey carts for transportation.

Obama began his presidency conveying aspirations of bridging the divide between the United States and the Muslim world. He needs American Muslims to be a part of that mission. Instead he has continued the unfortunate legacy of excluding of anyone who supports Palestine.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Foreign policy • Islam • Israel • Middle East • Muslim • Opinion • Politics • Prejudice

Famous Jesuits
July 26th, 2014
05:56 PM ET

Why the Jesuits (including Pope Francis) are on the frontlines of faith

Opinion by Matt Emerson, special to CNN

(CNN) – Is Andrew Garfield, star of films such as “The Social Network” and “The Amazing Spiderman,” considering the priesthood?

Last month, paparazzi snapped a picture of Garfield walking as he carried “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything,” the Rev. James Martin’s insightful overview of Jesuit life and spirituality.

According to reports, he’s consulting the book as he prepares to play a Jesuit in a film adaptation of “Silence,” a novel about Catholic missionaries in Japan.

Garfield’s reading material – and the movie he’s studying for – captures the continuing cultural impact of the 474-year-old Catholic religious order officially known as the Society of Jesus.

Sometimes called "God's Marines" (not all appreciate the nickname) for their willingness to go to the frontlines of faith, Jesuits form the largest order of Catholic priests in the church, with approximately 18,000 members worldwide. And, at a time when most religious orders are shrinking and pining for new candidates, the Jesuits say inquiries about joining their ranks are surging.

What explains the Jesuits’ enduring appeal?

Much of it has to do with their academic legacy. In the United States alone, there are 60 Jesuit high schools and 28 Jesuit colleges and universities. They are part of a network of secondary and post-secondary institutions that stretch from Los Angeles to Lagos to Tokyo. A good number of those schools are named after the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Born in Spain in 1491, Ignatius – then Iñigo Lòpez de Loyola – was groomed for a conventional path in service of the Spanish crown.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Culture & Science • Opinion • Pope Francis

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

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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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