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My Take: Are evangelicals dangerous?
Many evangelicals want to ban abortion, but does that mean they want theocracy?
October 15th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

My Take: Are evangelicals dangerous?

Editor's Note: R. Albert Mohler, Jr., is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

By R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Special to CNN

Here we go again.

Every four years, with every new presidential election cycle, public voices sound the alarm that the evangelicals are back. What is so scary about America’s evangelical Christians?

Just a few years ago, author Kevin Phillips told intellectual elites to run for cover, claiming that well-organized evangelicals were attempting to turn America into a theocratic state. In “American Theocracy,” Phillips warned of the growing influence of Bible-believing, born-again, theologically conservative voters who were determined to create a theocracy.

Writer Michelle Goldberg, meanwhile, has warned of a new Christian nationalism, based in “dominion theology.” Chris Hedges topped that by calling conservative Christians “American fascists.”

And so-called New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris claim that conservative Christians are nothing less than a threat to democracy. They prescribe atheism and secularism as the antidotes.

This presidential cycle, the alarms have started earlier than usual. Ryan Lizza, profiling Rep. Michele Bachmann for The New Yorker, informed his readers that “Bachmann belongs to a generation of Christian conservatives whose views have been shaped by institutions, tracts, and leaders not commonly known to secular Americans, or even to most Christians.”

Change just a few strategic words and the same would be true of Barack Obama or any other presidential candidate. Every candidate is shaped by influences not known to all and by institutions that other Americans might find strange.

What stories like this really show is that the secular elites assume that their own institutions and leaders are normative.

The New Yorker accused Bachmann of being concerned with developing a Christian worldview, ignoring the fact that every thinking person operates out of some kind of worldview. The article treated statements about wifely submission to husbands and Christian influence in art as bizarre and bellicose.

When Rick Perry questioned the theory of evolution, Dawkins launched into full-on apoplexy, wondering aloud how anyone who questions evolution could be considered intelligent, even as polls indicate that a majority of Americans question evolution.

Bill Keller, then executive editor of The New York Times, topped all the rest by seeming to suggest that conservative Christians should be compared to those who believe in space aliens. He complained that “when it comes to the religious beliefs of our would-be presidents, we are a little squeamish about probing too aggressively.”

Really? Earlier this month, comedian Penn Jillette - a well–known atheist - wrote a very serious op-ed complaining of the political influence of “bugnut Christians,” in the pages of The Los Angeles Times, no less. Detect a pattern here?

By now, this is probably being read as a complaint against the secular elites and prominent voices in the mainstream media. It’s not.

If evangelicals intend to engage public issues and cultural concerns, we have to be ready for the scrutiny and discomfort that comes with disagreement over matters of importance. We have to risk being misunderstood - and even misrepresented - if we intend to say anything worth hearing.

Are evangelicals dangerous? Well, certainly not in the sense that more secular voices warn. The vast majority of evangelicals are not attempting to create a theocracy, or to oppose democracy.

To the contrary, evangelicals are dangerous to the secularist vision of this nation and its future precisely because we are committed to participatory democracy.

As Christians committed to the Bible, evangelicals have learned to advocate on behalf of the unborn, believing that every single human being, at every stage of development, is made in God’s image.

Evangelicals worry about the fate of marriage and the family, believing that the pattern for human relatedness set out in Scripture will lead to the greatest human flourishing.

We are deeply concerned about a host of moral and cultural issues, from how to address poverty to how to be good stewards of the earth, and on some of these there is a fairly high degree of disagreement even among us.

Above all, evangelicals are those who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and are most concerned about telling others about Jesus. Most of America’s evangelical Christians are busy raising their children, working to support their families and investing energy in their local churches.

But over recent decades, evangelical Christians have learned that the gospel has implications for every dimension of life, including our political responsibility.

We’re dangerous only to those who want more secular voices to have a virtual monopoly in public life.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Opinion • Politics

soundoff (5,318 Responses)
  1. GS

    There is nothing wrong with anyone believing whatever they want. However it seems quite arrogant when people try to push their beliefs on others. There are probably thousands of flavors of religions – if not more. Out of 5 billion people on this earth, by percentage very few share the exact same beliefs. What makes someone trying to push their religious views down anyone's throat smarter than anyone else. I have my beliefs and you have yours. You don't give a damn about mine – why should I give a damn about yours. What makes your opinion worthy of my or anyone else's consideration? Are you going to consider anyone else's views that don't agree with yours with an open mind. Total arrogance!

    October 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Carol

      A country based on freedom of religion should fear and protect itself from any religion that takes steps to impose their religious beliefs on others, and has the arrogance to believe their interpretation of the Bible, Koran, the Book of Mormon or any other religious doctrine should determine the laws of the country. That arrogance is what stands in the way of a peaceful progressive society and has undermined other countries around the world...do the people of the United States really want to follow the slipper slope that has destroyed other governments, or do we want to continue to protect the rights of all people not only the so-called Christians. Religion will be our undoing because with it comes blinders to the real issues of our society.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Bob

      There is a difference between imposing laws by fiat or force, and persuading others that those laws would be best for society. The latter is what evangelicals and all other groups in politics do. If you ban religious beliefs from having any effect on the law, you end up with laws influenced by atheistic beliefs, which is no less arrogant.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • GS

      The term"atheistic belief" doesn't really make sense. Atheism isn't a religion – it is an absence of religion. However just like there are religious people who try to cram their beliefs down others throats, there are atheists who do likewise. Our country was founded on a principle of separation of church and state. Not having the church in government is not atheism – it is a principle that our country was founded upon. Our form of government allows anyone to believe what they wish and practice it as they wish. However religion has no place in government. Nobody has a right to force their religious beliefs down any one else's throat. Religion has no place at all in government and just as I presume you don't want to hear about anyone else's religious beliefs, I don't want to hear about yours and certainly don't want anyone's religions beliefs being part of my government

      October 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Pete

      How does democratic participation equate with forcing your beliefs down someones throat?

      October 17, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  2. Heather Morrison

    Way to investigate a topic CNN; ask a Baptist if evangelicals are dangerous to our multi-cultural nation. How about asking a survivor of an abortion clinic bombing?. How about asking surviving family of a murdered abortion doctor or maimed abortion clinic worker? How about asking a gay couple who have lived together for decades and would like to be married legally? How about asking the life-long gay partner who receives no legal benefit upon the death of their partner? How about asking the majority of people in this country, who want their boundaries respected where their bodies, religion and politics are concerned. People who feel "called on by God" to take choices away from others, which they don't agree with religiously, are fundamentalist terrorists. Whether these people call themselves Christians or Muslims is immaterial. Some may express their desires to enforce their will over others politically, but the bombers of buildings, planes and abortion clinics show with clarity the true goal of these movements.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Shirley

      Huh?

      October 16, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Pete

      Nice propaganda there Heather.

      October 17, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  3. non-theist

    Its a scary day when the majority of Americans are unable to analyze an argument for themselves and instead rely on relayed pseudofacts from biased sources. This goes for both sides of the table. There is nothing to fear but ignorance.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  4. karen

    It deeply concerns me about the future for so called "conservative Christians" or "Evangelicals" in North America when I hear the hate and disgust that is spewed her on CNN commentary about these groups. I am amazed at what certain religions do and believe and I am even more astounded and confounded when I hear what some in the public eye say, but I would never suggest or call them them of the things that I read on CNN. Some of you are filled with such hate and distrust about certain relgious groups or religion in general that you fail to realize how ugly you have become and how much danger your thinking can create. If you really want certain relgious groups to be tolerant why don't you begin with being tolerant yourself? Hate begets hate...unless you listen to Christ who bids us to love our enemies.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  5. Ben

    "When Rick Perry questioned the theory of evolution, Dawkins launched into full-on apoplexy, wondering aloud how anyone who questions evolution could be considered intelligent, even as polls indicate that a majority of Americans question evolution."

    What poll are you finding this? Gallup shows a decline in creationists and increase in both evolution with God and evolution without God. Please cite your supporting arguments otherwise it is just an ignorant rant.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  6. awaysaway

    So an Evangelical asked himself the question as to whether Evangelicals were dangerous. And apparently he doesn't think so. Wow – insightful stuff. But he does feel picked on by the "elites" ... which he isn't himself apparently... despite being a soft overweight middle aged white guy living in a seminary. You couldn't make this stuff up.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Heather Morrison

      when something seems too ridiculous to be true, it's a relief to be able to smile with an articulate comment

      October 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  7. Em

    Dr. Mohler, as you said so well, "We have to risk being misunderstood – and even misrepresented – if we intend to say anything worth hearing." Thank you for speaking truth, even if it falls on deaf ears.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  8. Reality

    From p. 14:

    As with most Christians, Mohler suffers from the Three B Syndrome, i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in the flaws and fallacies of Christianity. The cure? Reading and rational thinking!!!!

    Synopsis of 21st Christianity based on the studies of Professors Crossan, Ludemann, Borg, Fredricksen et al:

    Jesus was an illiterate, Jewish, peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan se-cts.

    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hit-ti-tes, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.
    earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

    For added "pizz-azz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "fil-icider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Pedo-ph-iliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

    Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:

    Adu-lterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,–

    October 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Reality suffers from the Three B Syndrome, i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed into believing his own big ego.

      Why bother posting with others Reality when you can gaze in the mirror all day and admire yourself?

      Amen.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "his own big ego." There's that word again, HS. Funny seeing it in your posts so often, always followed by your arrogant little signature "Amen". The biggest ego here is yours, you hypocrite.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • enufalready

      what's with the hyphens?

      October 16, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      enuf, In case you don't know...

      Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
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      October 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Bob

      On what basis to Professors Borg, et. al., decide that only 30% of the reported sayings of Jesus are authentic? On the basis of what they have already decided. They have decided that Jesus is not God. Therefore - because of their beliefs, not because of any objective evidence - anything that would indicate he was God was either not said by Him or was the result of His hallucinations. They are welcome to their opinions, but those opinions do not form any kind of proof against those who believe differently.

      On the other side, there have been a number of people, including the author of what for many years was the standard reference on the legal rules of evidence, who began to study the New Testament in order to disprove it but concluded it is accurate.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  9. Liz the First

    Any group which believes they are the only true path and then seeks to take over a national government to make their beliefs the law of the land is dangerous. You don't have to be an atheist to see this. I have a very strong belief in God but i'm the polar opposite of a fundamentalist, evangelical,or whatever they're called these days. When a group rejects reality because it conflicts with the beliefs they mindlessly cling to despite all evidence, they are dangerous! Any belief system that strives to keep its citizens ignorant is dangerous! The Founding Fathers knew exactly what they were doing when they espoused separation of church and state. When these churches encourage their members to vote for candidates who reject reality and do not respect the rights of all Americans, they are not only dangerous, they are crossing the line of what churches are meant, and allowed, to do, and should lose their tax-exempt status. In short, any church that makes you check your brain at the door is a danger to a civilized society.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • awaysaway

      Nicely said

      October 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Liz, funny about your frustration that you are guilty of. Do it your way or the highway. If not, why post?

      Amen.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • shea

      I agree. I remember when some well-known Scientologists stated publicly, "You can be a Scientologist and be in your own religion at the same time"...that remark was quickly buried! It could have harmed the tax-exempt status of this "church".

      October 16, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Dubya

      Well said Liz!

      October 16, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Bob

      Evangelicals do not seek to make their religious beliefs the law of the land. They do advocate for laws that they believe will make society better. In so doing, they are no more dangerous that others (which is almost everybody) who do the same thing.

      Churches may not tell their members who to vote for. I go to an evangelical church, and in the sermon - which was in no way about politics - the pastor said (slightly paraphrased) "To be a Christian, it doesn't matter if you are a Republican, a Democrat, or a member of the Green Party."

      In my church, I use my brain. I don't check it at the door.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  10. Dubya

    Yes, they're dangerous because they are becoming increasingly fanatical and wish to impose their beliefs on every aspect of private, public, and political life. They do not allow factual information to inform their decision making process but act on the direction of their religious leaders. They have little or no understanding of the issues they are most passionately involved in.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  11. Alex

    Evangelicals dangerous? Extremely. As a gay rights activist they claim LGBT rights people attack them all the time. Yet there is no record of any assault on them. However there are tons of gay men and women who have been killed in the name of God. I am not saying religious people. Because there is a difference and point where faith becomes mental illness and obsession. The people who are that crazy for God make normal religious people look bad. Although I am a atheist I don't care what people believe in as long as they are not killing people int he name of their God.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Your post old about how you hate Jesus because you are blinded by the sins of pride and lust.

      Learn how to go humble instead of keeping your ego fired up that blocks His truth from your life.

      Amen.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Anon

      Screw Jesus you christard.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Bob

      We are told, correctly, that we shouldn't oppose all Muslims because of the actions of extremists. Yet when a few people, who may or man not claim to be 'evangelical' have beliefs and do actions condemned by virtually everyone in the group, it somehow proves that the majority that do not share those beliefs are dangerous.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  12. Anon

    Abortions are a medical practice, deal with it.
    Some women can die depending on the case if they're denied an abortion.
    Here's the irony, many pro-lifers DON'T want schools to talk about $ex education nor give out contraceptives, thus reducing the need for abortions in the first place.
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUVXEmJRGns&w=640&h=360]

    October 16, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Actually Anon, it's the media that keeps abortion flourishing in our country.

      Amen.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Dubya

      Great video Anon!

      October 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  13. ProfBill

    The Founding Fathers knew how dangerous religion is (it's unfounded belief over reason) and why complete SEPARATION of Church and State was essential for democracy to survive. The Christ yelpers want a theocracy (think Iran) and nothing less...They are unhappy with science which does not conform to their dogma. The evangelicals are the modern day equivalent of the Crusades...and we all know how those turned out...

    October 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Old, old, old, old argument. Christian believe in proven science. Not going ga-ga over unproven theories. Actually, true science is proving Jesus' truth in the Bible. You wouldn't know that because you're so focused on bashing His truth than helping uncover what is written.

      Amen.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Daniel C

      In case you haven't noticed, extreme secularists are very unhappy with science that doesn't support their dogma either. Look at their unwillingness to deal with evidence that challenges theory of evolution, or climatological evidence not supportive of global warming. Even in stem cell research, which many support, the secularists ignore overwhelming evidence that adult stem cells are far more important for research. For the record, the founders supported the Freedom of Religion and against government infringing those rights or establishing a state religion. Other than one or two, none of them would even remotely recognize the attempt to hide God from the public square as part of the rights they established. Of course, leave it to liberals to distort the historical and scientific record.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • E

      The Bible says so is NOT science. It is the opposite of science. People are not ignoring evidence against evolution, they are ignoring people who claim the Bible or mythical sky gods are evidence of something else. Science welcomes questions, but it does not allow you to say that something is untrue just because you don't want it to be. You challenge something, challenge it with PROOF. 99% of scientific explanations are considered theory, I don't see you all questioning cell theories, gravity, osmosis, etc...

      October 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Bob

      You believe that religion represents choosing belief over reason. But why should we run this country based on your belief?

      I deny that Christians want a theocracy in this country. Caan you name one religious leader or Christian politician who does?

      October 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  14. shea

    I'm tired of "good Christians" telling the poor it's their own fault and God is punishing them...it's as though if the poor just accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior money and opportunity will pour in. Evangelical Christians seem very judgmental, like they're right and everybody else is wrong. They seem to feel they are superior over others and "know" exactly what God is thinking and what God wants...how prideful is that? They are against abortion and for the death penalty (because criminals deserve what they get, right?). They feel sorry for anyone who is NOT Christian because they will go to hell unless they accept Christ...in other words they think they know it ALL.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Anon

      They're all screwed up in the head.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Bob

      Evangelical Christians don't go around telling people that are poor that God is punishing them. Actually, evangelical Christians give more than the average to charity. As another example, about two weeks ago, my (evangelical) church participated in a major way in providing free medical and dental care to those who needed it.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  15. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    I love seeing idiots like Credenza and DaveinCincy post drivel. It simply bolsters the case for the separation of church and state.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  16. Saturn

    hmm, there were some good comments being made here 15-20 pages back. seems like all garbage posts now though

    October 16, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Pete

      The whole debate has been great tho' – an awesome way to spend a chunk of a Sunday morning. Kudos to CNN and all those who posted 🙂

      October 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  17. Hasai

    "Are evangelicals dangerous?"

    I can express my answer to that using just three letters: G.W.B.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Bob

      In other words, 'no.' (Although I'm sure that is not what was meant.'

      October 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Thatguy371

      Exactly... and his influence is where this whole thing got stepped up a notch.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  18. Sam Houston

    True Christians follow Jesus Christ's example and do not meddle in politics.(John 6:15). They apply Jesus' words found at John 17:16. Well then, how will any of the world's problems ever improve if they don't 'get involved'? Again, they trust in and promote what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:9,10. Yes, God's Kingdom WILL come soon as Jesus' prophecy in Matthew chapter 24 makes very clear. True Christians share such consolation with others so that they too can see the TRUE solution God's Word, the Bible offers.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Anon

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vM5n8jESUEk&w=640&h=360]

      October 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  19. athought

    This author displays the contempt that evangelicals harbor for others beliefs, then claims they are harmless. There is nothing benign about evangelicals in American politics and this op ed proves it.

    As this article demonstrates, evangelicals value their beliefs above science (denying the overwhelming evidence re: evolution) personal freedom (the right to choose whether or not to carry a fetus to term) and respect for religious freedom (respect for others' belief in the God of their understanding, or to reject the concept of a God at all).

    Scientific understanding is supposed to rise above popular belief, not follow it. Millions of people do not share his belief (and it is nothing but a belief) that a fetus is a human being. And we have had to routinely resist the efforts of Christian evangelicals to insert their belief system into places of government that obviously must remain absolutely neutral (i.., Alabama courthouse Ten Commandments monument).

    Our country is literally founded in the rejection of the Bible and the authority it supported – the divine right of kings. Most of the Founding Fathers were Deists. Washington and Adams specifically welcomed Muslims and Jews in treaties, letters and public addresses, assuring them that religion had a protected place in American society, because it would never be part of US government.

    Our strength lies in aggressively supporting diversity. It always has. There is not a place in the world where so many millions of people from everywhere on the planet, with every conceivable set of religious and spiritual beliefs, live together in peace and prosperity. It is because religion is kept strictly out of government.

    Evangelicals mistake beliefs for facts. They do not tolerate disagreement in many areas including the areas that this author identified and they seek to impose their beliefs on others using the force of government. They have demonstrated a willingness to do that again and again.

    That, my friend, is how the end of the US and the peace and prosperity we enjoy would start...

    October 16, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Saturday

      Perfect response. Thank you.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • anon

      Very well stated.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • LegalWorker

      Thanks for a very well constructed response.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Pete

      This post displays the contempt that athought has for others beliefs. Evangelicals don't have contempt for others beliefs. Stop making baseless assertions.

      Speaking about not tolerating disagreement maybe you should look in a mirror. Christians welcome robust public discussion of issues. You can't say that you have no right to bring your worldview into politics. It was mentioned in the article and ignored by you that we believe they are for the good of society. Just as you do with your views, which you bring into politics.

      You post simply proves that Athiests have pre existing views about Christians that they assert no matter what, since otherwise it would harm the rhetoric they constantly throw around. The atheist agenda is clear: To demonise and marginalise Christianity, all while asserting the superiority of their own ideas.

      Hypocrisy at it's finest.

      October 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  20. Mac

    They're only dangerous if they get too much power. Book burnings or worse wouldn't be far behind.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Ted N.

      They are only dangerous is they open their mouths.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
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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.