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My Take: The Bible condemns a lot, but here's why we focus on homosexuality
The author writes that it's fine for Christians to take certain biblical condemnations seriously while ignoring others.
May 21st, 2012
10:00 AM ET

My Take: The Bible condemns a lot, but here's why we focus on homosexuality

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

Are conservative Christians hypocritical and selective when it comes to the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality? With all that the Bible condemns, why the focus on gay sex and same-sex marriage?

Given the heated nature of our current debates, it’s a question conservative Christians have learned to expect. “Look,” we are told, “the Bible condemns eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics and any number of other things. Why do you ignore those things and insist that the Bible must be obeyed when it comes to sex?”

On its face, it’s a fair question. But it can be posed in two very different ways.

First, the question can be asked to suggest that the Bible’s clear condemnation of sexual sins can simply be set aside. The other way of posing the question represents a genuine attempt to understand how the Bible is to be rightly applied to life today.

In truth, those asking the question the first way really don’t want an answer.

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An honest consideration of the Bible reveals that most of the biblical laws people point to in asking this question, such as laws against eating shellfish or wearing mixed fabrics, are part of the holiness code assigned to Israel in the Old Testament. That code was to set Israel, God’s covenant people, apart from all other nations on everything from morality to diet.

As the Book of Acts makes clear, Christians are not obligated to follow this holiness code. This is made clear in Peter’s vision in Acts 10:15. Peter is told, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”

In other words, there is no kosher code for Christians. Christians are not concerned with eating kosher foods and avoiding all others. That part of the law is no longer binding, and Christians can enjoy shrimp and pork with no injury to conscience.

The Bible’s commands on sexual behavior, on the other hand, are continued in the New Testament. When it comes to homosexuality, the Bible’s teaching is consistent, pervasive, uniform and set within a larger context of law and Gospel.

My Take: The Christian case for gay marriage

The Old Testament clearly condemns male homosexuality along with adultery, bestiality, incest and any sex outside the covenant of marriage. The New Testament does not lessen this concern but amplifies it.

The New Testament condemns both male and female homosexual behavior. The Apostle Paul, for example, points specifically to homosexuality as evidence of human sinfulness. His point is not merely that homosexuals are sinners but that all humanity has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The New Testament condemns a full range of sexual sins, and homosexuality is specified among these sins. In Romans, Paul refers to homosexuality in terms of “dishonorable passions,” “contrary to nature” and “shameless.” As New Testament scholar Robert Gagnon has stated, the Bible’s indictment “encompasses every and any form of homosexual behavior.”

Your Take: Rethinking the Bible on homosexuality?

Some people then ask, “What about slavery and polygamy?” In the first place, the New Testament never commands slavery, and it prizes freedom and human dignity. For this reason, the abolitionist movement was largely led by Christians, armed with Christian conviction.

The Old Testament did allow for polygamy, though it normalizes heterosexual monogamy. In the New Testament, Jesus made clear that marriage was always meant to be one man and one woman.

“Have you not read that He who created them made them male and female?” Jesus asked in Matthew. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” For this reason, Christians have opposed polygamy on biblical grounds.

Why are Christians so concerned with homosexuality? In the first place, that question is answered by the simple fact that it is the most pressing moral question of our times. Christians must be concerned about adultery, pornography, injustice, dishonesty and everything the Bible names as sin. But when my phone rings with a call from a reporter these days, the question I am asked is never adultery or pornography. It is about homosexuality.

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Christians who are seriously committed to the authority of the Bible have no choice but to affirm all that the Bible teaches, including its condemnation of homosexuality. At the same time, our confidence is that God condemns those things that will bring his human creatures harm and commands those things that will lead to true human happiness and flourishing.

In other words, we understand that the Bible condemns all forms of sin because our Creator knows what is best for us. The Bible names sins specifically so that each of us will recognize our own sinfulness and look to Christ for salvation and the forgiveness of our sins.

Christian love requires that we believe and teach what the Bible teaches and that we do so with both strong conviction and humble hearts. The Church must repent of our failures in both of these tasks, but we must not be silent where the Bible speaks.

Are Christians hypocrites in insisting that homosexual behavior is sin? We, too, are sinners, and hypocrisy and inconsistency are perpetual dangers.

The church failed miserably in the face of the challenge of divorce. This requires an honest admission and strong corrective.

At the same time, this painful failure must remind us that we must not fail to answer rightly when asked what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. Love requires us to tell the truth.

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

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Gay marriage • Opinion

soundoff (7,995 Responses)
  1. rudix

    its not this way..its around.....the gays focus on it........and all the media is running after this as many gays control the media.....all humans have rights....2012 is here and if you wish to see the future read all at TheDimensionMachineCOM

    May 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  2. Chris

    The Founding Fathers in their wisdom were very clear about Church and State not being tied together. Today, we have a group of people trying to make the USA a Christian state with Christian laws; think a Christian version of Iran. That's not okay.

    People should have and do the right to practice their religion. You don't have the right to make anyone follow the percepts of your religion by getting them turned into the law of the land.

    if, as a Christian, you don't like g a y people, that's your right but you don't have the right to bully them into killing themselves or denying them jobs or housing or medical care because they are g a y. That's bigotry and one of the things my reading of the Gospels taught me was that Jesus Christ wasn't bigoted and didn't like bigots.

    As he said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

    May 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Nicholas

      I agree. Bullying is not of God and you absolutely cannot force anyone to believe in your faith and shouldn't. Here we agree. Here is the problem. MOST of the laws in the US are based on Christian foundations whether you know it or not. Go read about bankruptcy then read about debts and lending laws in the Bible. Christians or those who are disciples of Christ, there entire purpose is to be a light here on the world for Him. That means speaking out against anything and anyone who is against God whether or not you personally agree or not.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Chris

      There's a big difference between respectfully disagreeing with a person based on your religious views and making laws based on your version of morality.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  3. Morbo42

    "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill."
    Matthew 5:17.

    This "pastor" ought to read his bible. Jesus EXPLICITLY stated that the old testament laws apply to christianity. He said so unequivocally.

    This "pastor" simply demonstrates that his critics are right. He chooses to put more stock in Peter's words than Jesus'. Peter said that the OT doesn't apply. Jesus said that it does. Who is more important in christianity again???

    So no, pastor, if you want to keep yelling about gays, you better put down the lobster and the shrimp. Or else you're a complete hypocrite – no matter how much you try to wiggle out of it.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Bill P

      Morbo42 – You are incorrect. When Jesus said He came to fulfill the law, what does that mean to you? What was the law? Rules, rituals, and animal sacrifices. Jesus was saying that He was not come to destroy (Greek, kataluó: break up, overthrow) the law but "complete" (Greek, pléroó: I fill, fulfill, complete) the law. Just because a thing is brought to a conclusion does not destroy it. That thing – in this case the rituals, rules, and animal sacrifices – is no longer required, but it was not made invalid, but Jesus made those things unnecessary from then on.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Nicholas

      Morboro- Incorrect, the whole diet given to the Israelites was to keep there bodies 100% pure for God as they were His holy nation. Eating bottom dwelling fish isn't a sin, but it also isn't truly healthy for you either. There diet was for there bodies. What made it a sin was if you disobied the instruction (that's what all sin is, going against the Word or Will of God). It is no longer a sin because God's holy nation is all those who have accepted Jesus as savior. Thus, they are covered by Jesus' sacrifice, they are looked at as holy because of Jesus, not because of what they eat, don't eat and/or do.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  4. Chuck

    Isn't the whole point that we have no business telling people what they can and can't do based on religion. Isn't that the basis of separation of church and state. I might believe it is sinful to commit adultery, but I can't make it law that anyone who commits adultery will be punished or that couples cannot divorce because that is what the Bible says. We are focusing on the wrong things. The problem is that our government officials are spending time focusing on issues that have no basis to be debated.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • MormonChristian

      Does this mean we allow adults to marry children, polygamy, etc.? Do we just let people marry anyone they want to or how ever many they want? Is this just a one notch boundary shift or do we just open things up?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What are you, new here? This has been explained multiple times. Children cannot 'consent'. Neither can animals. We are talking about adults. Become one.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • chuckzee

      Chuck; this is the opinion I believe many Christians actually hold but those individuals also happen to be the ones no one listens to... they're not sensational enough. Polarized political figures take these social opinions and skew them far right. Sad. If more people thought like you we'd have a lot less issues. The only reason I think social issues should be taken into politics is when someone is using taxpayer money and doing something with it that creates a conflict of interests... i.e. the catholic birth control stuff. Really, they have a point. They just don't want their money used that way. Let them opt out. But that's where I draw the line with social issues in politics.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  5. mork

    You mean to tell me...

    That a Jewish Zombie can make me live forever if I telepathically accept him as my master all because a talking snake convinced a rib-woman to eat from a magical tree?

    May 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • chuckzee

      good straw man fallacy

      May 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Nicholas

      LOL! That was funny. No, that's not what Christianity tells you. Christianity tells you that someone came here, loved you enough to pray for you, sacrifice time and food for you, and then died simply so God Himself would no longer punish you for the mistakes you make. Since that individual who died was the son of God, He had the ability to raise himself from death back to life...so he couldn't be a zombie, because zombies are walking dead. Christ is walking alive.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Zenobia

      ***Christ is walking alive...

      Havent seen him lately.
      Been waiting 2000 years for him to come back.
      I am sure he has my phone number.
      Maybe he is stuck in traffic ?

      May 22, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  6. CT

    This article is very well written; I encourage more like this. Too often, "scholars" take the truth in the Bible and apply just part of it, leaving it a half-truth or lie. In the end, only those with faith in God, can be truly pleasing him, everyone sins. Many posters you see disbelieve the Bible, and then inherently believe the lies told to them by less reliable sources such as Satan, or ignorant men.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • momoya

      I think that this moron did as much picking and choosing as any other cafeteria christian.. He made several ASTOUNDINGLY poor arguments.. Far too many for CNN to be asking for his contributions.. Stupid CNN.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • One Drop Of Rain Raises The Sea

      His response about cherry picking the bible was to....
      cherry pick the bible.
      If God was real, he would care enough to come down here
      and straighten out this mess.
      But you bible beaters always have that out.................
      God works in mysterious ways.
      Gets you out of every mess, that man has gotten you into.

      Question to you bible nuts.
      If god is so powerful that he can create heaven and earth,
      why would he need to write a bible ?
      Could he not just "instill" his wishes into his creation ?
      Why would god give "man" freewill if his intentions are clear ?
      Your Adam & Eve answer will not due, because that would make god......
      fallible.

      If god created man, and tested man, and man failed the test,
      that means god is fallible.
      Fail.

      May 22, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  7. V

    Well said!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • YeahRight

      Fueling hatred and bigotry towards this minority group is NOT well said. There are hundreds of thousands of experts that have shown that being gay is not a choice, it's not a mental illness and it can't be voluntarily changed. Duh!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  8. donny

    all i can say is. all preachers of god need to stand up for god. and preach to the world that its wrong for 2 men or 2 woman to marry. comming since tells us its wrong. its a sad world we live in these days. but i guess we cant have it all good. glad my kid is straight.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • xtopher

      Yeah, exactlly the kind of "comming since" I would expect from you people... just saying.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • chris

      I am glad your kid is straight too, as you would obviously be a horrible parent to a child that was born gay. My guess is you aren't the best parent to your straight kid.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • GM

      donny... for now... ? What if your child comes out down the road? Are you prepared to cut all ties to him/her for the sake of your faith?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  9. mddiva35

    As a Christian I'm just as concerned about the souls of adulterers, murderers, robbers, sinners in general, as I am about those who are gays and lesbians. I pray for them. That's what a good Christian does.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Brian

      Ya but honestly i dont pray for them. All gays should be exterminated. Thank you very much.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • gager

      Let your all powerful god straighten it out. If god doesn't like it he'll make corrections.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Oh really?

      and do you eat shellfish, pork, observe the Sabbath (Saturday), or go to "church" on Sundays?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Art

      well said

      May 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Nicholas

      Oh really?
      and do you eat shellfish, pork, observe the Sabbath (Saturday), or go to "church" on Sundays?-

      No, because the food diet was to keep the bodies of the Israelites holy in God's eyes. Christ took care of that for everyone. Observation of the Sabbath is keeping a HOLY day, not Saturday specifically, so yes, the sabbath is observed. Church is not an obligation for a Christian, it is about worship of God and fellowship so it is highly encouraged. Any more questions?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  10. Lonely Christian

    Clearly this author has no understanding of the bible.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  11. LMaku

    I've no problem with this perspective. I've no problem with any religion's belief that certain people should be denied things within each religion's house of worship or faith. But, this is why there is the separation of Church and State. Imagine if we tried to incorporate every one of our country's faiths into law.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  12. Mohammis Roquel

    This is Islamophobic . Surrender to Islam while you can , before you are forced to . Inshallah Islam will conquer the Christian Infidel lands and bring true morailty and justice , Sharia is the only hope for mankind , both for law and order , morality , and eternal redemtion . Humbly bow before your Islamic masters and accept your Dhimmitude with fear and trembling . Allah is all powerful .

    May 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • gager

      Whoever believes islam nonsense eats sheat.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • DJ

      shut up

      May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Turd Ferguson

      Hold Mahh D!cckkk Mohammis

      May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Mary

      Wow a comment from the teeny wienie brigade. No one cares what you say, especially me, a woman.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • transformed 4eva

      "masters" "fear and trembling"
      Not the kind of religion i wanna put my faith in. I'll stick with the God who loves us enough to send His son to take my place!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • John

      You have a lot of nerve saying that when we're bombing your lands to shreds. Stop suicide bombing, stop resorting to violence when you're upset, and start acting like a human being rather than an animal. Once you become a civilized people, maybe people will take you seriously.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  13. Dave

    Dear CNN, Read the new testament. Study the Bible as much or more than Christians do. Learn what your talking about and then start posting articles about it.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • CJA

      Why on Earth date so much time. How about I write some book then you study it as much as you can.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Jenny

      Fight and slay the pagans [Christians] wherveer ye find them and seize them, confine them, and lie in wait for them in every place of ambush (Surah 9:5) While we may believe in the same God, that passage doesn't make it favorable for a Christian to want to invite them for supper.If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good). (3:85)You also brought up the issue of Jesus and it's unclear to me whether you believe in the Trinity or not. Muslims believe Jesus was a Messiah and Muhammad a Prophet. The problem is, a Messiah is only a step up from a prophet in the minds of Muslims. Granted Muslim's and Christians agree on how Jesus arrived on earth, but Muslims do not believe He is the Son of God. Every Christian knows that is a major step to Christianity.But then we have some who proclaim we are to be at peace and that Islam actually means peace instead of submission. They do this because they believe it is correct to make up rules as they go if they are not specifically spelled out in the Qur'an. Muslims must follow a rule formulated for him as a good Muslim. A Muslim will find the rule in the Sharia, which is in the first instance on the Qur'an, in the second instance on the Hadith, the Traditions, in the third instance on Ijma’, the consensus of the community, and in the fourth instance on qiyas, the application of analogical reasoning to the other three sources for the deduction of new rules. Obviously, the Prophet's intention was that the community should be a single community and the Shari’a its common rule of life. (Islam: Muhammad and His Religion, Arthur Jeffery, 1958, p xi-xiv)It would be absolutely wonderful for us all to get along. The problem isn't because we can't. It's because we don't. The early writings in the Bible talk about fighting, an eye for an eye type living. The early writings of the Qur'an are about peace and how to live in harmony. Then they both swapped. The New Testament of the Bible talks of peace, forgiveness and turning the other cheek. The newer verses in the Qur'an are about having jihad, a holy war, killing all kafir. The qur'an says if there is a conflict between verses, use the newest verse. The jihad therefore overrules the peace.

      July 31, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
  14. Catherine

    "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law."
    –Romans 13:8

    Not hate, not tolerate, L-O-V-E.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Nicholas

      What a silly comment. Yes, we owe Love to one another, but love does NOT mean you accept everything. If your child does crack, would you stand by and let it be legalized and watch your child do crack or would you step in? Love makes you discipline your child, tell your friends truths they don't want to hear, and even be looked at as the bad guy. Most people did NOT like Jesus during his time btw. And he was ALL about love.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  15. Bill Dee

    Religion will be the downfall of mankind, NOT it's salvation.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Marcus

      I agree with you. Religion might be the downfall. Not Christianity. Religion. Jesus hated religion too!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • transformed 4eva

      He hated those who followed their laws instead of their God (aka pharisees) and felt equal to their Creator.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Art

      Salvation is on found in Jesus

      May 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  16. Lobo

    Are these the same people who have spent billions of dollars paying off law suits because their holier than thou priest like doing little boys........Are these the same people who sent armies to the Middle East years ago promoting a loving and merciful "God'....... Are these the same people who speak a good game but fail to practice it........Are these the same people who fall short of the grace of god and then become "born again" Christians.......Please give me the people who practice their faith rather than use it in a time of NEED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Ricke1949

      No they are not.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • chris

      Why yes they are as a matter of fact.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • jbmar1312

      To the unlearned you would provoke emotion and anger. But Christianity does not sanction what those perverts have done, no more than secular society approves of private counselors and teachers for doing the same gross sin. as for the crusades, you need to understand that they were a response to the capturing of Jeruselam by the Muslims and the protecting of the biblical sights. The Muslims had re-written much of the biblical hestory referenced in the Koran in favor of and to support their cause and were destroying or remodeling Christian and Jewish sacred sights to suit their needs. You sir are the ambassedor of mis-information.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  17. DJ

    So tired of people quoting the Bible as Gods word. Did God write this book? Nope, man did. Biggoted, hateful people that decided they would write a book to shape the world to their own agenda. (Also called Christians) Besides, why does the church get to dictate who can and can not get married? Isn't there supposed to be a seperation of government and church?

    May 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • MormonChristian

      I suppose you mean bigoted, hateful people that said we should love our enemies, forgive, be the best we can be (overcome our mistakes) by turning to a higher source? What is there in what I just cited that is hateful? The true teachings of Christ have the power to change the world for the better. Why do you resist and say such untruthful things??

      May 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  18. cncmnccmn xcmnmxcnmn

    christards

    May 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  19. ProperVillain

    "An honest consideration of the Bible reveals that most of the biblical laws people point to in asking this question, such as laws against eating shellfish or wearing mixed fabrics, are part of the holiness code assigned to Israel in the Old Testament. That code was to set Israel, God’s covenant people, apart from all other nations on everything from morality to diet."
    .....and the "laws" forbidding hom os exu ality are in the same chapters you just mentioned. More biblical gymnastics to justify a personal bias. Fact is, a lot of Christians pick and choose what to follow/not follow based on their personal preferences and bias'. The fact that they latch on to this is just ridiculous. Let it go! Help the poor! Feed the hungry! Use your resources on something that really matters. Not just fighting something that you find personally distasteful. Seriously. Stupidity like this is one of the reasons I haven't stepped foot in a church in over 3 years. Insular logic and rampant prejudice reigns in most evangelical churches. It is both sad and pathetic.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  20. Pelegrim

    Beyond the universe there is nothing and within the universe the supernatural does not and cannot exist. Of all deceivers who have plagued mankind, none are so deeply ruinous to human happiness as those impostors who pretend to lead by a light above nature. Science has never killed or persecuted a single person for doubting or denying its teachings, and most of these teachings have been true; but religion has murdered millions for doubting or denying her dogmas, and most of these dogmas have been false.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • momoya

      I'd love to see that on a billboard! Great post.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Tom

      For all those science doubters of gravity, each one that jumped off a high cliff died. Your argument borders on stupidity.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • mema

      Which science teachings do you speak of?! You claim most of science is accurate, yet I see condradictory claims one week to the next on so called scientific facts. One study its this the next its that. Most science is still in the process of furthur testing and of a better understanding. Very little in science has pass all testing and scrutiny! You claim most religous teachings are proven false, which ones are you speaking of?! There are a considerable amount of laws that benefit all of mankind based off of bible based morals and regulations. There is also a considerable amount of scientific studies to back up the usefullness and accuracy of many of the bibles laws, warnings and many archeological findings of truth in persons and places mentioned in the bible. Explain or defend your post!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      mema, that whooshing sound is the point flying over your head. Of course science changes. Research continues to find answers.

      Did you not get through high school?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Furthermore, mema, laws are NOT based on the Bible or on morality.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Mark

      Perfectly stated! Exactly.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:50 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.