December 1st, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – He looked like a “red-faced pork butcher in shabby tweeds,” lived secretly with a woman for years and was so turned on by S&M that he once asked people at a party whether he could spank them.
We’re talking, of course, about C.S. Lewis, the Christian icon and author of classics such as “Mere Christianity” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
It’s tempting to remember Lewis only as the self-assured defender of Christianity who never met an argument he couldn't demolish. His death 50 years ago, on November 22, 1963, was overshadowed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He has since become a patron saint of American evangelicals.
But the actual man whom friends called “Jack” had a “horrible” personal life, thought he had failed as a defender of Christianity and spent so much time in pubs that his publishers initially struggled selling him to a religious audience, scholars say.
November 30th, 2013
09:59 AM ET
Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, special to CNN
(CNN)– Dave Ramsey is rich. And he makes his living telling other evangelical Christians how they can get rich, too.
Host of a nationally syndicated radio program and author of multiple best-selling books, Ramsey targets evangelical Christians with what he calls a “biblical” approach to financial planning, one that focuses primarily on the elimination of consumer debt. His for-profit Financial Peace University is billed as “a biblically based curriculum that teaches people how to handle money God's ways."
Much of what Ramsey teaches is sound, helpful advice, particularly for middle-class Americans struggling with mounting credit card bills. I have celebrated with friends as they’ve marked their first day of debt-free living, thanks in part to Dave Ramsey’s teachings and all those white envelopes of cash he urges his students to use instead of credit cards.
But while Ramsey may be a fine source of information on how to eliminate debt, his views on poverty are neither informed nor biblical.
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 26th, 2013
08:49 PM ET
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Leon Gersten could not bear to watch “Schindler’s List,” the movie about Czech industrialist Oskar Schindler who saved 1,200 Jews from Nazi extermination camps. It was too painful for the Holocaust survivor, too close to reality.
But now, almost 70 years after his village in Poland was liberated by the Soviet army, Gersten is meeting the man who is the Oskar Schindler of his own life: Czeslaw Polziec.
Like Schindler, Polziec is Catholic. His family secretly sheltered Gersten in rural Poland for two years during World War II.
As though such a reunion between survivor and rescuer were not emotional enough, this one is taking place Wednesday on the eve of Hanukkah, which coincides this year with Thanksgiving. Two celebrations of gratitude.
November 26th, 2013
12:11 PM ET
Opinion by the Rev. James Martin, Special to CNN
(CNN) – Pope Francis on Tuesday issued a bold new document – in Vatican parlance an “apostolic exhortation” – called Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel.”
In this document, he sets out an exciting new vision of how to be a church. In all my years as a Catholic, I cannot remember a papal document that was so thought-provoking, surprising and invigorating. Frankly, reading it thrilled me.
To me, it seems that with each new homily, address, interview, general audience message and letter, Francis is challenging himself – and us – with three questions, each of which flows naturally from the other:
First, why not look at things from a new perspective? Second, why not be open to doing things in a new way? And third, why not have a new vision for the church?
November 26th, 2013
10:21 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - Pope Francis on Tuesday called for big changes in the Roman Catholic Church – including at the very top – saying the church needs to rethink rules and customs that are no longer widely understood or effective for evangelizing.
"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," the Pope said in a major new statement.
"I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures," Francis added.
The Pope's address, called an "apostolic exhortation," is part mission statement, part pep talk for the world's 1.5 billion Catholics. Francis' bold language and sweeping call for change are likely to surprise even those who've grown accustomed to his unconventional papacy.
November 25th, 2013
12:47 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - Break out the menurkeys and sweet potato latkes, people, it's time to celebrate Thanksgivukkah, a once-in-a-lifetime holiday.
A calendrical quirk brings the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving together this Thursday for the first time since 1888. Scientists say the confluence won't occur again for another 70,000 years, give or take a millennium.
Dana Gitell, a 37-year-old marketing manager for a Jewish nonprofit in Massachusetts, is the mind behind the mashup "Thanksgivukkah."
(If you think that's a mouthful, her other ideas were "Thanksgiving-ukkah" and "Hanukkahgiving," both of which caused our spellchecker to sputter and die.)
But with the right portmanteau in place, the Thanksgivukkah idea caught fire faster than a deep-fried turkey.
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 20th, 2013
12:11 PM ET
Editor's note: This story is part of CNN's American Journey series to show how old buildings around the United States have found new purposes and helped to build communities. Are there repurposed buildings in your community? Share the stories with CNN iReport and they could be featured in a CNN story.
Sandy Springs, Georgia (CNN) - The old Chevrolet paint and body shop was vacant - 24,000 square feet of metal and concrete surrounded by a sea of asphalt.
But when some members of Congregation Or Hadash saw it, they saw a home.
Since it was founded in 2003, the conservative Jewish congregation had bounced from location to location outside Atlanta - a Methodist church, a windowless space in a school, any place they could rent or borrow as they grew.
"Sometimes, from week to week, we didn't know exactly where we were going to be," said Fred Wachter, president of the congregation and a member since its early years.
"All the while ... we probably walked every piece of available property and real estate in Sandy Springs, trying to find something, anything, that would look like it."FULL STORY
November 18th, 2013
12:17 PM ET
By Daniel Burke and Livia Borghese, CNN
Rome (CNN) – The photo roused emotions and sparked conversations around the world - but the man at the center of the image says the moment left him speechless.
"I tried to speak, to tell him something, but I couldn't: The emotion was too strong," says Vinicio Riva, the disfigured man embraced by Pope Francis in images that went viral earlier this month.
"It all lasted not more than a minute, but it seemed an eternity," Riva told the Italian magazine Panorama this weekend.
Riva, whose body is covered with tumors due to a rare disease, said his unusual appearance has led to a lifetime of living on the margins.
That is, until he showed up at St. Peter's Square on November 6.
Riva went to Rome on the advice of a friend with whom he travels to Lourdes, the Catholic shrine in France visited by thousands of ailing and infirm pilgrims each year.
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.