My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose
September 15th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose

Editor's Note: Brian D. McLaren  is author of "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World" (Jericho Books/Hachette Book Group). 

By Brian McLaren, Special to CNN

I was raised as an evangelical Christian in America, and any discussion of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations around the world must include the phenomenon of American Islamophobia, for which large sectors of evangelical Christianity in America serve as a greenhouse.

At a time when U.S. embassies are being attacked and when people are getting killed over an offensive, adolescent and puerile film targeting Islam - beyond pathetic in its tawdriness – we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia.

Many of my own relatives receive and forward pious-sounding and alarm-bell-ringing e-mails that trumpet (IN LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!) the evils of Islam, that call their fellow evangelicals and charismatics to prayer and “spiritual warfare” against those alleged evils, and that often - truth be told - contain lots of downright lies.

For example, one recent e-mail claimed “Egyptian Christians in Grave Danger as Muslim Brotherhood Crucifies Opponents."  Of course, that claim has been thoroughly debunked, but the sender’s website still (as of Friday) claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has “crucified those opposing" Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy "naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”

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Many sincere and good-hearted evangelicals have never yet had a real Muslim friend, and now they probably never will because their minds have been so prejudiced by Islamophobic broadcasts on so-called Christian television and radio.

Janet Parshall, for example, a popular talk show host on the Moody Radio Network, frequently hosts Walid Shoebat, a Muslim-evangelical convert whose anti-Muslim claims, along with claims about his own biography, are frequently questioned.  John Hagee, a popular televangelist, also hosts Shoebat as an expert on Islam, as does the 700 Club.

Many Christian bookstores that (used to) sell my books, still sell books such as Paul Sperry’s "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington" (Thomas Nelson, 2008). In so doing, they fuel conspiracy theories such as the ones U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, promoted earlier this year.

In recent days, we’ve seen how irresponsible Muslim media outlets used the tawdry 13-minute video created by a tiny handful of fringe Christian extremists to create a disgusting caricature of all Christians - and all Americans - in Muslim minds. But too few Americans realize how frequently American Christian media personalities in the U.S. similarly prejudice their hearers’ minds with mirror-image stereotypes of Muslims.

Ambassador's killing shines light on Muslim sensitivities around Prophet Mohammed

Meanwhile, many who are pastors and leaders in evangelicalism hide their heads in the current issue of Christianity Today or World Magazine, acting as if the kinds of people who host Islamophobic sentiments swim in a tiny sidestream, not in the mainstream, of our common heritage. I wish that were true.

The events of this past week, if we let them, could mark a turning point - a hitting bottom, if you will - in the complicity of evangelicalism in Islamophobia. If enough evangelicals watch or try to watch the film trailer that has sparked such outrage in the Middle East, they may move beyond the tipping point.

I tried to watch it, but I couldn’t make it halfway to the 13-minute mark. Everything about it was tawdry, pathetic, even pornographic. All but the most fundamentalist believers from my evangelical Christian tribe who watch that video will be appalled and ashamed to be associated with it.

It is hate speech. It is no different from the anti-Semitic garbage that has been all too common in Western Christian history. It is sub-Christian - beneath the dignity of anyone with a functioning moral compass.

Islamophobic evangelical Christians - and the neo-conservative Catholics and even some Jewish folks who are their unlikely political bedfellows of late - must choose.

Will they press on in their current path, letting Islamophobia spread even further amongst them? Or will they stop, rethink and seek to a more charitable approach to our Muslim neighbors? Will they realize that evangelical religious identity is under assault, not by Shariah law, not by the liberal media, not by secular humanism from the outside, but by forces within the evangelical community that infect that religious identity with hostility?

If I could get one message through to my evangelical friends, it would be this: The greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety.

No one can serve two masters. You can’t serve God and greed, nor can you serve God and fear, nor God and hate.

The broad highway of us-them thinking and the offense-outrage-revenge reaction cycle leads to self-destruction. There is a better way, the way of Christ who, when reviled, did not revile in return, who when insulted, did not insult in return, and who taught his followers to love even those who define themselves as enemies.

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Yes, “they” – the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence – have big problems of their own. But the way of Christ requires all who claim to be Christians to examine our own eyes for planks before trying to perform first aid on the eyes of others. We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected.

To choose the way of Christ is not appeasement. It is not being a “sympathizer.”

The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian D. McLaren.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Opinion

soundoff (8,500 Responses)
  1. Fred Derf

    This article has some nice points, but there are some facts to consider:

    * Evangelicals may engage in some hate speech, but when have they murdered muslims? Or blown up a Mosque?
    * How many evangelicals have been engaged in honor killings?
    * when is the last time an evangelical walked into a populated area and blew himself up?
    * when Jesus or Christianity is criticized, how many Christian groups put out a "fatwah" on someone?
    * In Saudi Arabia, one is not allowed to attend Christian services or build a church
    * We argue about women's rights in this country, but how many women who are upset in the west would trade places with their muslim sisters?
    * Christians are persecuted and killed in muslim countries – this happens daily
    * Some Muslim nations and many muslim groups make no bones about the fact that they would love to see Israel disappear from the map

    These aren't Islamophobic statements. They are reality. To ignore them is an ostrich play.
    Islam does not present itself as a religion of love and tolerance.
    Evangelicals may have faults, but they pale in comparison to the above.

    We need to have a reality-based approach to dealing with Islam and muslims....

    September 16, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • mspieway

      Quite true. But I fear we will continue to stick our PC heads in the sand, rather than finding a 'reality-based approach to dealing with Islam' and our children will suffer as a result.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • George

      * Evangelicals may engage in some hate speech, but when have they murdered muslims? Or blown up a Mosque?
      ==Crusades 1 – 5, Southern US – Lynchings.
      * How many evangelicals have been engaged in honor killings?
      ==Crusades 1 – 5, Southern US – Lynchings.
      * when Jesus or Christianity is criticized, how many Christian groups put out a "fatwah" on someone?
      ==Crusades 1 – 5
      * Christians are persecuted and killed in muslim countries – this happens daily
      ==Recent attack on Sikh Temple .... Did you forget that one?
      * Some Muslim nations and many muslim groups make no bones about the fact that they would love to see Israel disappear from the map
      ==Crusades 1 – 5, Cnn.com – majority of the postings about Islam or Muslim Nations.
      These ARE Islamophobic statements.

      Islam does not present itself as a religion of love and tolerance.
      == Neither does Christianity, when looking at its historical role.
      Evangelicals may have faults, but they pale in comparison to the above.
      ==Grass is always greener.
      We need to have a reality-based approach to dealing with Islam and muslims....
      == What do you think they are saying about Christians?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  2. Alex

    "Islamophobia" is a ridiculous term. It suggests that anyone would have anything to fear from these peace loving people. And we all that there isn't anyone out there affiliated with Islam that anyone should be afraid of, right? Right?

    September 16, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  3. Really

    Islamophobia? You are damn right. Except you got the part wrong where it is the Christians fault. Islam is a cancer, and it is spreading, and no one seems to have the balls to mitigate the disease. Soon the patient will be beyond help, and then what? Sharia? You and your kind make me vomit. Be a man, and lets call it for what it is. Cancer of democracy, tolerance, and a forward thinking culture.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Jodi

      "Cancer of democracy, tolerance, and a forward thinking culture."
      You think yourself tolerant? Forward thinking?
      You, sir, are bigoted and very obviously have no understanding about what you speak.

      September 23, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  4. Katie

    When is the last time Christians went on a rampage for defacing Christ in a movie?

    September 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • nottolate


      Well when is the last time authentic Christians (which is the only real kind) went on rampage period? Never have, never will.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • John

      lol..."authentic christian"...is that the same as a True Christian®?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • nottolate


      What's so funny? At a time when everybody is running around calling themself Christian a clear distinction must be made between the authentic and the counterfeit. Mormons. Catholics, Coptics and even WOFers are all running around calling themself Christian when none of them actually are. Authentic Christians are those individual who are born again and these groups contain no such individuals.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Larry L



      Well when is the last time authentic Christians (which is the only real kind) went on rampage period? Never have, never will.
      Really? That guy who shot up the Sikh Temple was a devout Christian. Hitler was a devout Christian. Tim McVey was a Christian. The fool who made the subject movie was a devout Christian. How about Cortes or De Soto – who killed thousands as the brought "the love of Christ" to this hemisphere? All "devout " Christians.

      I'm certain Muslims courld attach the qualifier "devout' to excuse bad behavior from their members. The problem is religion in general. It brings the crazies out and release the demons created by religious dogma. All religions consider themselves to be the "real deal" and everybody else is going to some version of hell. None of them serve any real purpose except creating economic niches for politicians and religious leaders to exploit. It's destructive mythology.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • nottolate

      @Larry L,

      "Really? That guy who shot up the Sikh Temple was a devout Christian. Hitler was a devout Christian. Tim McVey was a Christian."

      After all the key info I posted still clueless? Trying to talk to you people who are spiritually dead is just that. Its a futile effort. Does McVeiy or anybody you cited sound like they were born again? But you don't really know what born again is now do you? Nor can you. It is that very thing which distinguishes the authentic from the counterfeit and you don't even have the capacity to apprehend it.

      BTW...Muslims aren't born again and so can't claim anything. They're idol worshipers.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  5. John

    For everyone's information: Islam is the final revelation from God the Creator to His creation Mankind. Yes, there is not a single nation that practices true Islam as taught by the Prophet Muhammad and Muslims the world over are sinners just like myself. But, if people in the west would study history they would realize how first Europe, then the United States proceeded to tear down the Islamic State, exploit Muslims for their lands and resources, and then declare an unofficial war against Islam. If true Islam were either practiced or accepted the world over by any and all religious believers then true justice would be established and mankind would be so much better off! Attack me all you want, but unless you've fully read an A. Yusuf Ali translation of the Quran without a previously conceived agenda, you can't honestly know what you're talking about.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Damocles

      I would have a problem following a deity that couldn't get it right the first time and needs a final revision of the second rough draft.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Barry

      So you've found a faith that you are comfortable with, and answers your questions. As a Christian, I can promise you that whichever version of the Koran you hand me, I will never accept your OPINION that Islam is God's final word. I am appalled by the aftacks on innocent people, Christian, Muslim or Jewish, but that does not mean that I accept Islam as just an alternate pathway to salvation.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Mary

      So you've found a faith that you are comfortable with, and answers your questions. As a Pastafarian, I can promise you that whichever version of the Bible you hand me, I will never accept your OPINION that Christianity is God's final word. I am appalled by the aftacks on innocent people, Atheist, Muslim or Jewish, but that does not mean that I accept Chistianity as just an alternate pathway to pasta.


      September 23, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  6. meghager

    I am really terrible. I believe all religions were made up by mere mortals to subjugate other humans to their whims.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  7. Ash

    MuhMAD is really mad. These people place Islam over everything else.... way worse than the worst of Christianity... once any one says their religion is better than everything else, and this applies to Christianity also, you lost it. Just like the Conquistadors, MuhMADs are willing to kill for their religion.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  8. Wolff Bachner


    September 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • George

      Oh yeah – Nothing like the Inquisition to show how elevated Christian Values are. How about the Salem Witch Trials?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  9. Bshort

    So let me get this straight: A video by a handful of "christian" extremists disrespecting Muhammad hits YouTube, and Muslims from other countries, in response, kill, and you feel the need to write a piece on the supposed hatred within mainstream Christendom?! No wonder CNN published this! Shaking your finger at Christians at this time is completely inappropriate and out of context. Furthermore, as evangelicals we endured Jesus Christ Superstar, The Last Temptation of Christ. The DaVinci Code, and SNL's The Church Lady (and even chuckled at the truths in Dana Carvey's caricature), and the most done were some boycotts and angry letters to the editor. We did not riot, kill, and seek vengeance with violence. But you are targeting Christians, insinuating that somehow we are to blame for this? Suck it up, buttercup. We are more tolerant than you think.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • George

      So the KKK burning crosses and singing "Onward Christian Soldier", the Nazi's claiming that Jews were mentally/physically unfit, The Crusades trying to get all of the Muslims out of the Holy Land etc etc etc. These are fine.

      No, they are considered Racists by most people (unless you are one of them). But, when it comes to Islam, it is perfectly fine to say that any follower is simply an uneducated heathen who deserves to die or learn the truth about your lord and saviour Jesus Christ.

      What is so different between Islam and Christianity (any flavor of it). They say "There is God, and Mohommed is his Prophet". Christians say "There is God, and Jesus is his son". But both are interchangable. At its' core, Islam wants you to worship God. Not any Apostle, not any priest. Only God. Christians have unfortunately moved from God and most Praise the word of Jesus. Worship the idol of Jesus. Or the Symbol of JC.

      The Crusades were fought because the Heathens had come in and taken the Holy Land of Jesus. They deserved either conversion or death. Nothing else was acceptable. Heck, the Irish broke the fight down along religious grounds. Protestant vs Catholic. Instead of English vs Irish.

      So Bshort – You are less tolerant than you preach. I was raised in an area where the Irish Catholics held mass in Latin. Didn't eat on Fridays (not even fish) and said confession almost daily. I was told repeatedly by the nun's that if I had nothing to confess then I should confess that I lied. I ended up marrying a Copt.

      For those that think Catholics go rough, you aint seen nothing. We have rescheduled Thanksgiving Dinner around the Fasting Schedule. But it is something that has to be done.

      Back to the original point. Christians have a long history of intolerance. The slightest thing is usually all it takes to set it off, but then they will claim it is the other sides fault. Last Example "I Love Lucy" – Separate beds for a married because it was immoral.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  10. shabbir lakhani

    Muslims and Christians and even jews live together in peace and harmony. There is not a single Muslim who reviles any Prophet or Jesus or Moses or Abraham and there is no text in the books to indicate any hatred of the books or the Prophets.
    This is real. This should serve as a lead towards goodwill ,understanding and mutual respect. Coptic Christians have been
    living in the mid east for centuries. Even in Pakistan where there are sizeable numbers of Christians...is this not surprising that in the vortex of violence,distorted political agendas etc..that uptil 40000 Muslims have been killed and there has been no single riot or wholesale accusation of any kind against the Christians. A single blasphemous act right or wrong, politically motivated or otherwise makes it to the sensational media whereas nothing is written about those souls who are being murdered daily and who are also citizens of the same country.Let issues be examined in the right perspective. Let not this drawing room evangelism and the various new books incite, divide, create hatred and phobias and polarise the masses of the world because that is what vested interests are aiming at. Muslims view the bright message of Abraham, the same as Noah as Moses and the children of Jacob. The theme has been the same. the first commandment is the same Hear.....,the Lord is one. They accept the Prophets as divine appointees of God and respect them equally and so also the books. Politics and bluster aside this is the fact on which a grand dialogue can be based . The rest is conjecture. Some books indicate the growing populations of Muslims well OK who is stopping you from having more children. Even today the parity in Africa and Asia is almost equal. I come from the city of Karachi which has many churces and many parochials School . Big ones in downtown and otherwise.. There is no issue here neither any restrictions and there is no binding rule on freedom of worship . In fact, even in religious discourses the jews and christians are regarded as people of the Book .So to what end is this discussion aimed at. Regarding freedom of speech we have many conditionalities here too. Is not the N word not supposed to be spoken. You can glean the rest of the details in the Bill of Rights and its provisions. Is it so difficult then to abstain from
    provoking or outright encouraging others. and to create rift and discord when its known that is what happens since the 80s
    or is it a calculated move.
    and whereas much can be written about the wars of today ...it is as clear as the light of day the bloodshed is that of
    Muslims in the millions from the streets of Bosnia to Afghanistan. Yes this is the paradox and a voluminous discussion by itself.
    There is still time to tread the path of peace and aspire for the valued preached by the Prophets of God so that humanity
    at large can be relieved otherwise these demonic schemes the underlying motivies of which are wealth and plunder will continue.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Wolff Bachner


      September 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Kafeer Shabbir disgrace to all muslims, Hindu Jew filthy denier of truth absolute, your Hind hurts. Go see your doctor filthy swine or have your self chained Pig, ID thief, denier of truth absolute 360*, your brain is cooking on your ignorance. for more for more for more for more visit limitthetruth.com/blog.html and click on word Hakeem to open file. Guaranteed virus free site.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Karen Cahill

      Thans for writing from your perspective. I was raised in the evangelical environment, am a Christian and a member of an American Episcopal Church. I am so tired of the hate and misunderstanding on both sides. I think our Creator must be wondering what in the world is the matter with my beloved sons and daughters that we all distrust and hate each other so much. We are all, male and female created in His image and methinks follow His teachings thru the ancient ones whom God sent to teach us about Him/herAnd yes I said her self. If we are all in God's image than whatever the being we call God or Allah has the atributes of us all. Calling that being, a male, is a human construct from one side. But that's neither here nor there. I love the diversity and love learning how others see and follow our beloved Creator and it has and will always distress me to see the hatred and distrust so many of us demonstrate.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      hindu Karen Cah ill, absurdity of some hindu Jew' criminal self centered pretending to be Christian. http://www.limitoftruth.com/blog.html and click on DumbKaren to open, turn off your virus protection first.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  11. nottolate

    "I was raised as an evangelical Christian in America"

    No you weren't because there is no such thing as being raised as an evangelical Christian in America or anywhere for that matter. Either you're born again by an act of God or you're not. This author clearly is not and consequently is a useful tool of Satan.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  12. bird72

    http://edition.cnn.com/2012/09/16/world/meast/syria-civil-war/index.html?hpt=hp_t3 Islamaphobia???????

    September 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  13. doughnuts

    The word "Islamophobia" was invented by the Muslim Brotherhood to stifle honest reporting and debate on Islam and the actions of its extremist followers.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  14. pkfops

    Religion is a mental illness.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Dude

      Right on bro. Religion is also over-rated. How apt was Lennon in his "Imagine". So in the course of history, were we better of with or without religion?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  15. rodboy

    So it is bad to be an islamiphobic, but when make fun of a prophet, they kill innocent people even their own – so what am I missing here about the loving part of islam?????

    September 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  16. Tom

    I'm afraid you lost all credibility when you linked the violence to the many months old YouTube trailer. Maybe you should analyze that theory before solving the world's religious problems.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  17. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    Islam is healthy for other living things, deny religion of Thin Allah, consti tution of America and Israel, truth absolute and foundation of every consti tution on earth, heaven, and beyond where no man has gone before.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • rodboy

      Were ready captain kirk, let us go to light speed now Scotty.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  18. Larry L

    Again... an article on religion and over 3100 have already responded. Religion has a death-grip on the World and remains the curse of mankind. We'll evolve away from mythology and hopefully, away from the hate and death that always seems associated with religion.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Paul Losiewicz

      Yes, most likely we will evolve into Pol Pot, Stalin, and Hitler. Give it up. Mindless. Look at what the religious icons actually said before you generalize.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Larry L

      Hitler was a devout Christian.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • Civil

      hitler was an atheist.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Larry L

      Absolutely incorrect. Google it up. Hitler was a devout Catholic who later caused the chruch to veer off as he had differences with the Pope. Hitler was most definately a Christian. Create your own reality if you choose – but this is a fact of history.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Larry L

      Read Mein Kampf. Many quotes straight from Hitler show his devout faith in God.

      Modern Christians try to portray him as an atheist but that is completely dishonest. You can't just change history because it make you feel good.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  19. Cody from Utah

    We will never reject Freedom of Speech

    September 16, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Larry L

      If a person screams "fire" in a crowded theater is that freedom of speech? Are we never responsible for our words?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Abdullo

      If a person screams "Allah-O-Akbur" in your flight is that freedom of speech?YES NO MAY BE?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Brandon

      @Larry L, So if we are responsible for our words, then please tell me why so many spew vile and ignorant things at Mormons.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • nottolate

      @Cody from Utah,

      "We will never reject Freedom of Speech"

      Libs already do. The who concept is increasingly foreign to them.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Mormon ism Mithra ism, pagan savior ism labeled as Suedo- Christianity is an off shoot of atheism, denial of truth absolute by Christianity, corruption of truth absolute by atheist Pharisee's, criminal self centered and promoted with sword by Jesus criminal king's and their atheist pagan Magi' fortune teller Prophets to make humanity their gentile, slave, Islamism, for humanity and truth absolute. visit my link moramonsarethetruth.com and click on morons to open file.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Larry L


      @Larry L, So if we are responsible for our words, then please tell me why so many spew vile and ignorant things at Mormons.
      We are not held accountable for our words – that's my point. Regarding Mormons – I'd guess every religion feels persecuted. The history of poligamy, racism, colorful theology, and considerable violence makes Mormons and easy target. Personally, I consider all religions cults and consider it just mythology – including Mormons. However, I will defend your right to practice your own personal mythology any way you choose – including poligamy if you like. How would that impact me? That's the difference between religious fundamentalists and the rest of us. I simply don't care what you choose to worship!

      September 16, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  20. josh

    Man , what happened??? There were some really interesting pages going on , and then all the sudden this crap. It seemed like as soon as the " hinduism source of hindu what ever" got on it all went to pot. ha!!! This isn't even about hinduism you idiot. Oh yeah, @Jewish Mom , I don't hate anybody for their religion, and I ain't lying!!!!

    September 16, 2012 at 8:11 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.