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Evangelist Billy Graham defends Chick-fil-A
July 26th, 2012
02:18 PM ET

Evangelist Billy Graham defends Chick-fil-A

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN)– Billy Graham, the dean of American evangelists, has once again broken his usual silence on hot-button issues, defending the president of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain for his opposition to same-sex marriage days after issuing a letter decrying what he sees as the nation's moral decay.

Earlier this year, the ailing preacher publicly endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay unions in North Carolina, raising eyebrows among many who'd watched Graham studiously avoid thorny social issues for years.

On Thursday, he issued a statement of support for the popular fast-food chain. Many people have slammed Chick-fil-A President Don Cathy for saying his company backs the traditional family unit and is opposed to same-sex marriage.

Graham praised restaurant founder S. Truett Cathy and son Don Cathy, the company's president, "for their strong stand for the Christian faith."

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"I've known their family for many years and have watched them grow Chick-fil-A into one of the best businesses in America while never compromising their values," Graham said.

The Chick-fil-A controversy reflects what many see as America's deep cultural and religious divide. The company's position on same-sex marriage doesn't sit well with Jim Henson Co., whose Jim Henson's Creature Shop toys have been served in Chick-fil-A's meals for children.

Jim Henson Co. is named for the creator of The Muppets. However, the company transferred The Muppets' rights and ownership to the Walt Disney Co. in 2003, according to Jim Henson Co.

"The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over 50 years and we have notified Chick-fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors," the company said in a posting on its Facebook page.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 GOP presidential candidate, is backing Chick-fil-A. He urged people to turn out to Chick-fil-A restaurants on Wednesday to show their support for what Cathy had to say about marriage.

Graham says he appreciated Huckabee's leadership and plans to visit a Chick-fil-A on that day, August 1.

"Each generation faces different issues and challenges, but our standard must always be measured by God's word. I appreciate the Cathy family's public support for God's definition of marriage."

On Tuesday, Graham leveled deep criticism at the United States. He compared the country to Sodom and Gomorrah, the Biblical cities synonymous with sin.

"Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle," Graham writes in the open letter released by his organization this week.

He blasts what he sees as efforts to keep references to Jesus out of the public sphere.

"Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone - except God. Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control," he writes in the letter released Tuesday.

Graham, 93, has preached to untold millions over six decades, and provided counsel to generations of U.S. presidents.

His open letter also contains a fund-raising appeal and a notice that Graham's son Franklin, himself a major evangelical figure, is launching a new effort to "bring the Gospel into neighborhoods and homes in every corner of America next year."

Randall Balmer, the chair of the religion department at Dartmouth College, suspects the motivation for the letter is at least partly political.

"It's hard for me to believe that this letter does not have political intent," he said.

Its move to decry what he would see as moral decay "would be tied to the Obama administration," he argued, asking rhetorically why Graham would not have issued the statement in response to an event like the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.

In response to the controversy, Larry Ross, Graham’s spokesperson, said that “the letter does not address timely issues.”

“‘My Heart Aches for America,’ was written 6-8 weeks ago – long before recent current events, such as the tragic shooting in an Aurora, Colo movie theater, or the ongoing Chik-fil-A controversy,” Ross said in an email to CNN. “He is responding to general struggles in our culture and a moral decline that has existed through his public ministry.”

At the same time, Ross said that Graham is keen on the idea of eating Chick-fil-A next Wednesday.

“Considering Mr. Graham's age and limited mobility, his statement today was more an expression of sentiment and solidarity with the Cathy family and their cause than actually a commitment to go to a Chik-fil-A himself,” Ross said. “But he does plan to ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ on Aug. 1, which I expect someone will be able to get for him to enjoy at home.”

Balmer said that evangelicals would take note of the letter, though Graham has largely retired from the public eye in recent years.

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"There is certainly admiration for Billy Graham, as there should be," Balmer said. "There is lingering respect for Billy Graham and I think that people will take notice."

But he said the comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah - which Graham attributes to his late wife Ruth in the letter - was startling.

"When Billy Graham came to Madison Square Garden in 1957, he made comments comparing New York City to Sodom and Gomorrah and was roundly criticized for it," Balmer said. Since that time, Balmer said, Graham has largely avoided making the comparison to the Biblical cities.

CNN's Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Belief • Billy Graham • Christianity • Church and state • Food

soundoff (2,864 Responses)
  1. Craboo

    Its fine that Chick Fil A has established themselves as a restaurant for the hateful. I will also choose to stay away from the place and the people that support that archaic belief.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  2. Emma in Baltimore

    I wonder how Graham feels about Randall Ballmer capitalizing on the letter for political muscle. The alleged Graham letter had nothing to do with politics, but Ballmer just had to twist it that way.

    Also, I have a hard time believing Graham authored the letter. He's very old, and it doesn't seem likely to me that he would want to pick a fight right now. I think it's more likely somebody is trying to capitalize on his name.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  3. Moncada

    My logic is that living things were meant to procreate, we naturally are meant to be attracted to the opposite gender, therefore people who are attracted to their own gender have something wrong with them.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Michael

      You call that logic??? Did you ever stop to think that maybe Mother Nature has other plans for some people besides reproducing. There's a scientific study which proves the more older brothers a man has the more likely he will be gay. What does that maybe tell you? Maybe Mother Nature wants the first born son to reproduce but she has other plans for the ones that come after the first son???

      July 26, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Moncada

      So Michael are you an atheist or theist?

      July 26, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Michael

      I believe in God, thank you. I'm just smart enough to realize religion is a tool made by men to justify their own biases.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • janey33

      Michael...The second commandment that God gave to man was "go out into the earth and multiply", which means reproducing.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Logic

      So moncada which of the 66 fairy tales written by 40 authors in three different languages, on three different continents, over approx 1000 years is your favorite?

      July 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Michael

      And exactly how many people back then were on the planet??? How many are there now? Don't you think if men were killing the planet via overpopulation that God/Mother Nature might do something about it. And what better way would there be??? There are more than twice the amount of gay men than women and it would make sense if Mother Nature wanted to control overpopulation she would make more men than women gay.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Moncada

      Hi -Moncada...

      You Said: " My logic is that living things were meant to procreate, we naturally are meant to be attracted to the opposite gender, therefore people who are attracted to their own gender have something wrong with them. "

      There may be some kind of a genetic glitch. If that's what you are talking about, I can understand that. And, I don't even know that *wrong* with them is the proper term. However... when you say "something *wrong* with them" and if you mean that they are... less than... sinners... going to burn in hell... don't deserve equal rights as a citizen under our laws, then... you are being an ignorant bigot.

      So, which is it for you ?

      Peace...

      July 27, 2012 at 1:52 am |
  4. Michael

    Wait one second. I just searched those terms and their from Corinthians. It has nothing to do with what we're talking about.

    Those two terms mean 'male bed' and 'soft' (as in fabrics or morals). No one knows what Paul mean, no one.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Michael

      Sorry I was trying to reply to Scholar on another page...

      July 26, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  5. Jeffision

    Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian
    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Polli

      "In the beginning was the word, and the word was God..." this is Christ...Christ is the living God...Listen.......

      July 26, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • janey33

      Huh? You wasted all that time writing that?? You obviously don't know anything about Christians, but that's understandable since you are not one.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Craboo

      janey33, what part of it is not true?

      July 26, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  6. Polli

    I think it is safe to say that most parents should be damned to let gays have a say in what is moral...or what their kids should be exposed to. the children deserve to know what is good, and what is moral, not what is sick and depraved as moral and good. God does not say be like the gays. ...now does he.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • lagunalad

      So you would rather "Chick a whatever" should?

      July 26, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Michael

      Fortunately kids are smart enough to think on their own and don't buy into the bigot ticket you're trying to sale them.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  7. janey33

    ArthurP...The book of Revelation is very hard to understand and not to be taken literally. You need to do some research on it. I know someone who took an in-depth course on it and still doesn't understand it.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • ArthurP

      So some parts of the bible are not to be taken literally. So that part of the Bible that says Gays are bad should not be taken literally.

      Is there a list of these parts somewhere?

      July 26, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • ArthurP

      You know you would think that a book a important as the Bible would not need years of study to understand. You would have thought that God would have taken the time to make sure that it was clear, concise and devoid of contradictions, after all it is His words. So that its target audience, the common man, would be able to learn its message.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  8. The Happy Cow

    Eat mor chikin ! 🙂

    Love that chikin! 🙂

    July 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Just Checkin Chicken

      They were offering samples one time at the mall. It was very good roasted chicken breast strips, but the next time I went in to the restaurant, they only had so-so breaded stuff. Meh.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  9. Chunk a chunk

    christians should read their bible more close. jesus never spoke out against gay, nor gay marriage.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • lagunalad

      Christians are sooooo gay!!

      July 26, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • The Happy Cow

      But Paul did! Do you deny writtings of Paul as being inspired by God?

      The happy Cow wants to know 🙂

      July 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • janey33

      You need to read the Bible. Yes, He did. He plainly said that marriage is between a man and a woman. But I'm sure you purposely overlooked that.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Just Checkin Chicken

      "Do you deny writtings of Paul as being inspired by God?"

      Why do you think that they are?

      July 26, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • Michael

      Hey Janey, I read it too. In that same passage Christ goes on to say some men weren't made for marrying women and, what do you know, He mentions gays as 'born eunuchs' and, what do you know, doesn't condemn them.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Just Checkin Chicken

      The Happy Cow,
      "Do you deny writtings of Paul as being inspired by God?"

      Why do you think that they are?

      No answer?

      July 26, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  10. ArthurP

    Jesus Will Kill Bas.tards:

    "Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." (Revelation 2:22-23)

    July 26, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • janey33

      Michael...no, He woud not. Sin is sin. Unless you go to Jesus and ask forgiveness for your sin, He will punish it.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  11. Michael

    The most irritating aspect of all this is Jesus would NEVER associate Himself with these phobes. Jesus would be on the front line for equal rights. He hated the hypocrisy of the religious right. Gandhi said it best when he said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

    July 26, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • nottolate

      Micheal,

      Ghandi could not so much as positively id an authentic Christian let alone judge us.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Craboo

      "authentic Christian" is an oxymoron

      July 26, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  12. There is no god

    Chik-fil-a is so good.... To bad they have all that religious propoganda on there walls... Trust me religion is for sheep ... Every definition of god was given by man... If you actually think about it... They all can't be right! Life is energy,that's it!!

    July 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • janey33

      You are free to belileve as you wish. Christians are free to believe as they wish. There shouldn't be a problem. If you don't like the beliefs of Chick-fil-a, no one is forcing you to eat there.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      But they have a long record of discriminatory practices against some employees, and franchisees.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • ArthurP

      Yet you are forcing you views about Gay on the political system. Somewhat hypocritical of you isn't it.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • janey33

      Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom...I heard just the opposite, but I don't know. I have not worked there. But I can tell you that I worked in places where I was discriminated against, so if it is true, they are far from being the only ones.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • janey33

      Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom...He has a mind of his own. I'm sure he wouldn't let himself be used.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  13. Morgan

    Anyone who can survive for 93 years has earned the right to speak his mind.

    Some people just hate to have you remind them something might be wrong with how they live.

    Sheesh.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      There is no way in hell he said this. His son, and the company made it look like he said this, no doubt for $$$$ from Cathy. Grow up. he is 97 frickin years old.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • janey33

      Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom...Oh, because he is 97 years old, he can't think for himself and express his own opinons???? There are LOTS of people that age that still have a brain. Not everyone is senile.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • lagunalad

      Bigotry is everywhere....we identify it & eliminate it. God Bless You!

      July 26, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Or, Fluffy, he's finally lost it and can't control himself any more, and blurts out the first thing that comes to his mind. It happens with the elderly. Fortunately, Aunt Sadie in the home doesn't have a bull-horn to yell at people as they pass by outside. Public figures still have that outlet to vent through.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      And he just *happens* to speak out on this one thing. I don't think so. Franklin is behind this. He's using his father. How sad.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Just Checkin Chicken

      Some of you are talking about Billy Graham and some about Truett Cathy.... I'm lost.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  14. Chunk a chunk

    This is like when the conservatives got overly excited about the last few businesses that spoke out about how they thought blacks were sub-human.

    What a sad group of people.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • janey33

      Who said blacks are sub-human?? Guess I didn't hear about that. That is sad. God created all races equal and there will be all races in Heaven.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Michael

      I know, right? It's sad we can't rev up our time machine go back to the days of segregation when the same exactly arguments were being used against black people when it came to interracial marriage and businesses refusing to serve them. Gee, exactly how does history view those people now???

      July 26, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Chunk a chunk

      @janey33

      Maybe you should spend more time studying things like american history instead of reading the bible since you are clueless about such things. you would learn christians used the bible to justify slavery and segregation and jim crow.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • janey33

      Chunk a chunk...I am very good at history. I just didn't know what you were referring to. The Bible does not justify the type of slavery we had here in this country. The slavery of the BIble was diffferent. Do some research on it. If Christians were using the Bible to defend it, they were very misled.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Craboo

      Christians also used the bible to kill entire populations and steal the gold. Do you defend that? You say you like history so you know its true.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • janey33

      Craboo...Christians are followers of Jesus. That does not make them perfect. They can be misled and sin like anyone else. There are such instances all over the Bible of God's people falling for sinful practices. But the sins of Christians are forgiven, as can anyone else who comes to Jesus and asks for forgiveness.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • RealityCheck

      First off, I just wanna LOL at this whole "God is against gays" crap. If you wanna be on that, you should read what else he's against. For example: haircuts, women not being virgins on their wedding days and all kinds of other stuff a lot of you anti-gay people have done. So guess what? We are all sinners. I'm pretty sure Billy Graham cuts his hair. LOL!

      July 26, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Michael

      Janney, Janney, Janney, you don't like dealing with history, do you? The Story of Hamm was used against blacks since it clearly indicates they're inferior to whites. And what do you know, the Bible condones slavery so this Book was once again used to justify it. It's unreal you make statements that have no basis in factual history.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
  15. Morgan

    I intend to start visiting every chick-fil-A I come to.

    Howz that grab ya??

    July 26, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Mburix

      I honestly don't think anyone will notice or care. So what if you go from being a fat slob to a slightly fatter slob?

      July 26, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Michael

      Well, Morgan, on the way you might want to stop by every local Jr High School to so you may get a basic grasp on the proper use of the English language while you're at it.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  16. Keith

    You hard left facists attack a Christian-owned business because they take a biblical stance for marriage. The Nazis attack Jewish businesses before the Holocaust. So what's next? Do you turds have a "Holocaust" planned for the Christians, too?

    July 26, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • hahahahaha

      too many christian ...not enough lions.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Michael

      Oh Keith, you realize the Nazis are on your side when it comes to the LGBT community, right?

      July 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • ArthurP

      They already had their own. Actually quite a few, they got quite good at it:

      the German Peasants' War (1524–1525)
      the battle of Kappel in Switzerland (1531)
      the Schmalkaldic War (1546–1547) in the Holy Roman Empire
      the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) in the Low Countries
      the French Wars of Religion (1562–1598)
      the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), affecting the Holy Roman Empire including Habsburg Austria and Bohemia, France, Denmark and Sweden
      Scottish Reformation and Civil Wars
      English Reformation and Civil War
      Irish Confederate Wars and the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland

      July 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Mburix

      A bit of a drama queen, aren't you? Nazis are hard-left now? Stop watching Faux News and pick up a history book for a change.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Craboo

      CHICK FIL A IS NOT CHRISTIAN OWNED IT IS OWNED BY MORMON. THAT IS WHY THEY CLOSE ON SUNDAY!!!

      July 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • morganzee

      Are you serious ? Do you really think that a boycott of Chick Fil A is the same as what was done to Jewish businesses by the Nazis ?Relax – no one is taking away your precious chicken restaurant .

      Sheesh .

      July 26, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Keith is for biblical marriage.
      I also think marriage should be restricted to biblical marriage.
      a. man + woman (Genesis)
      b. man + woman + concubines, (Solomon had 300)
      c. man + woman + woman's property, (her slaves), Genesis 16
      d. man + woman + woman + woman etc. (Soloman had 700 wives + the concubines), Esau had 2, Jacob had 2, Asher had 2, Gideon had many, Rahaboam had 3, ...you get the picture.
      e. man + brother's widow, ("Levirate" marriage)
      f. rapist and his victim, (Deuteronomy 22),
      g. male solders and their female prisoners, which can include virgin girls, who are still children,
      h. as "assigned", (female slave to the owners male slave).

      By all means Keith, let's keep it to biblical marriage.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • nottolate

      @Craboo,

      "CHICK FIL A IS NOT CHRISTIAN OWNED IT IS OWNED BY MORMON. THAT IS WHY THEY CLOSE ON SUNDAY!!!"

      That is so bogus. They are Baptist. Go to their website and read their bios.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  17. janey33

    edweird69...okay, name them and tell us how much more they each give.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  18. Chunk a chunk

    I'm sorry everybody, I am a complete idiot and a jerk. I'm just mad because my partner dumped me. I will still eat at Chick'fillet.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • janey33

      I can't find your other posting back. Sorry if I didn't get your point. Yes, Jesus did live off the handouts of others.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • ArthurP

      Which is a good thing because we will need them for the service industries.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  19. junior

    There is a claim that the younger generation will not be devout. I beg to differ.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • junior

      For they yearn for the supernatural, look at that new section in the Barnes and Noble named "Paranormal Teen Romance". Teenage vampires will be old hat in a year or so.

      But thirst in the Lord God is unquenchable.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  20. terry

    hes on his way out anyway who cares what he thinks?

    July 26, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • janey33

      How nice you are.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      "hes on his way out anyway who cares what he thinks?"
      Well, you're on YOUR way out too!... Who cares what YOU think?
      It is God's truth that matters, and all man's opinions are nothing but pile of refuse, unless they align with His words and His thoughts! You are not very bright, buster, that's obvious!

      July 26, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • sam stone

      all man's opinions are a pile of refuse, except the ones that you agree with, eh PRISSY?

      July 27, 2012 at 7:58 am |
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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.