My Take: Jesus was a dirty, dirty God
January 5th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

My Take: Jesus was a dirty, dirty God

Editor’s note: Johnnie Moore is the author of Dirty God (#DirtyGod). He is a professor of religion and vice president at Liberty University. Keep track of him @johnnieM .

By Johnnie Moore, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Jesus was a lot more like you than you think, and a lot less clean cut than this iconic image of him that floats around culture.

You know the image. It’s the one where Jesus is walking like he’s floating in robes of pristine white followed by birds singing some holy little ditty. He’s polished, manicured, and clearly – God.

But despite the Christian belief that Jesus was both fully God and fully man, Jesus was a rather dirty God.

He was the “earthly” son of a carpenter, and life in the first-century was both more lurid and unfinished than our collective religious memory seems to recall.

To that end, I suggested recently to several astounded colleagues of mine that Jesus actually had to go to the bathroom, perhaps even on the side of the road between Capernaum and Jerusalem.

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What tipped them over the edge was when I insinuated that Jesus, like almost every other human being living in the rural world in that time, might have even had dysentery on an occasion or two.

Someone said, “You mean that Jesus might have had severe diarrhea?”

“Yep,” I replied, “That’s exactly what I mean.”

It seems like an obvious statement if you believe that Jesus was “fully God” and “fully man” (as most evangelicals believe and call the Incarnation), but to some of us it seems in the least, inappropriate, and at the most, sacrilege, to imagine Jesus in this way. We might believe that God was also man, but we picture him with an ever-present halo over his head.

But, actually, the Jesus of the Bible was more human than most people are conditioned to think.

I call this the dirty side of Jesus. He was grittier, and a lot more like us than maybe we believe, and that’s one of the reasons why so many thousands of people followed him so quickly.

They could relate to him.

He was the teacher from a small town who knew and understood the economic insecurity that was common in the first century. Times must have been rather tough for Jesus at points in his life, for he even spoke of being homeless, having to sleep on the ground with no roof over his head.

He also knew what it was like to have his message rejected and how it felt to be misunderstood. Jesus was regarded with such little significance in his hometown that one of his critics once remarked sardonically, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Jesus eventually had to move to different city (Capernaum) because his teachings so infuriated the people living in his hometown that they drove him out of Nazareth and even tried to throw him off a cliff.

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The real Jesus had dirt underneath his fingernails and calluses on his hands. He probably smelled badly from sweating profusely in the Judean sun on his long hikes to Jerusalem, and Jesus was, without a doubt, rumored to be a hypocrite or absolutely mad for all the time he spent with prostitutes and those afflicted with leprosy.

Not exactly have a clean-cut image.

He had a rather shady reputation.

Some people thought he was a revolutionary. The religious leaders called him a heretic, and others even accused him of being a drunkard and a glutton - in no small part because of the vagabond group of disciples he had with him. No serious religious leader of his day would have ever recruited such people.

For his core 12 disciples, Jesus included a tough-as-nails, bombastic fisherman (Peter), a chief tax collector named Matthew (the most hated popular figure of the time), an eventual traitor who was stealing money out of the offering bucket (Judas), a prolific doubter (Thomas), two jocks nicknamed the “Sons of Thunder” (James and John) and Simon the Zealot, a member of a radical political party which believed in using violence to kick out the Romans.

Jesus was sarcastic, too.

He often snapped back at the Pharisees with a tone fit for late-night television, and in a terribly embarrassing moment for all those around him, Jesus even called these respected religious teachers “snakes” that were probably sons of “Satan.”

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That’s not exactly the behavior of a sweet, self-help teacher with a halo over his head.

It’s the behavior of a frustrated man who might also be divine, but sure knows how it feels for annoying people to get under his skin.

Christians believe that Jesus chose to be born fully human, too, but why?

Lots of theologians have laid out opinions over the centuries, and in their opining they have tried once again to hijack Jesus’ humanity by defining it in philosophical terms. I believe it’s simpler than the philosophy and church councils and centuries of argument.

The brilliance of Christianity is the image of a God, named Jesus, arrived with dirty hands.

Jesus came in a time period when Greco-Roman gods were housed in gigantic temples and portrayed with superhuman powers and with superhuman physiques. Gods were believed to be far away from people on their mountains or hemmed up in their sanctuaries.

Jesus arrived in defiance of this prevailing imagery.

Jesus didn’t come flinging lightning bolts from a mountaintop, or playing politics in Rome. He came to live in a typical Middle Eastern village called Nazareth that was home to a couple hundred typical people. He didn’t decide to brandish his power, but to spend most of his time with the powerless and disenfranchised. And when he started a religious movement that reshaped history, he did it in the most profound and anticlimatic way:

He let himself be killed, and then he busted open a tomb.

In Jesus we meet a Savior who understood the desire to sleep just a few more hours, and who had to control his temper sometimes. In Jesus we find a God we can relate to because he chose to relate to us.

He was the God who became dirty so that the world’s souls might be made clean.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Johnnie Moore.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Jesus

soundoff (7,741 Responses)
  1. D Smif

    It looks like I'll be following in Jesus' footsteps a lot more often.. at least on the "ladies of the night" part...!

    January 7, 2013 at 12:02 am |
  2. D Smif

    What you have to do to get a comment posted on this beast????

    January 6, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  3. Simon

    Obviously. Mr Moore is gay. Jesus does not like people who do nasty things. Christians do not like people who practice the cult of gay. So there Mr Moore, No one likes you.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • Mark

      It isn't about "like". If you had a moral code you might understand.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
    • Larry L

      Jesus was not gay? This gentle, creative man who hung out with a bunch of other men yet never married was straight? Right...

      January 6, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      Mark, the "moral code"?
      Please, enlighten me, what is it?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • Simon

      A homeless dirty person is far more pure and clean than a gay person.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:01 am |
  4. LDS.ORG

    If anyone wants to know the LDS belief of the Godhead and how Jesus fits in it, just visit lds.org. Click on "view now" for short video...

    Love you all!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
    • TrueReason

      Another of Joe Smith's con jobs? Oh, puh-lese! A century-old cult of personality wrapped up in a two-millennia old personality cult. How are things on planet Romney these days?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • Jim P.

      When those mysterious "golden tablets" show up and are independently translated (without the translator hiding the tablets behind a sheet or in the next room and not being able to produce the same translation twice and when the geneticists change their mind and recant the evidence showing Native Americans have no Semitic connection whatsoever (those
      "lost tribes" most certainly did not migrate to North America and turn into Indians...even the native languages refute this), then I might bother to look into your doctrine.

      Failing the above, I have to join the others to say you've been conned and badly.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
  5. Susie T. Bean

    The carpenter cult or the middle aged Mo who talked to an angel.
    What exactly is there to respect about this guff?

    January 6, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  6. Brian

    This article belabors the obvious. If you read the Bible in its original Hebrew and Koine Greek you will find it full of what we now call "four letter words." Our "translation" is more a paraphrase than a translation.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Remember when Judah (the founder of Judaism) knocked up his own daughter?
      That was funny.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  7. Theo

    "But, actually, the Jesus of the Bible was more human than most people are conditioned to think."

    Imagine what else you might be "conditioned" for (cough) (magic)

    January 6, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
  8. David Sloman

    So, what is the point of this article? Really, what is the point here? Does this guy think he has some information that nobody ever thought of? He was human. He did things ALL humans do. You should think about something that actually makes a difference. It was a waste of good ink.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • Damascus

      Yes, exactly. Does it matter a whit that the pope pees, for goodness sake? This article accomplishes nothing at all.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • James

      "He did things ALL humans do."

      Did he have erections and wet dreams, then?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
  9. bill

    Let me guess, the author is gay?

    January 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • James

      Why, are you looking for a hook up, bill?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:44 pm |

    I think you people are so comical... You always challenge peoples individual testimonies that they have paid the price to obtain but none of you can ever disprove very simple facts: He came, He lived, He healed, He died, and then He lived again.

    If you can figure out how to walk on water, then let's talk. Otherwise, I'll stick with Jesus.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • Athy

      Good. You do that, fool.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Prove Jesus rose from the dead and I'll be happy to look at your evidence. Otherwise, keep your beliefs to yourself and stop using them to tell everyone else how to live.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • fsmgroupie

      but he never wiped his own a$$. just used a little miracle magic and poof-mr. clean

      January 6, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      Fantastic shifting of the burden of proof example!
      thank you for that

      January 6, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • James

      Well, if he was real then he did live and die, like every human, but the rest is just speculation. What proof do you have to call them "fact"? Your claim, your burden of proof.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • t3chnician

      Show us any proof that Jesus actually lived. I'd like to see that. And if you can show proof of that, show us proof that he came back to life and also proof of all the other things that he supposedly did. The truth is that there is no proof that Jesus ever even existed, and even if he did exist there is no proof that he has anything to do with the real God. So all you people who want to give your souls to a person who may have never existed, and if he did exist was riding a camel around in the desert wiping himself with his hand, then go ahead and try and give your soul away to him. Good luck with that.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • Herby Sagues

      Those are not facts. They are claims. Unverified claims, written down decades after the alleged witnesses had died. And many of them came to be verified as wrong (for example, most of the claims about judgment day said in no ambiguous terms that the date would come during the lives of the listeners, and they are all dead now).
      We suspect he lived. We heard from unverifiable sources that he healed. We do know he died (duh) but we have only reports taken hundreds of years after the fact, and massively modified and sequentially translated, that some people of the time with a vested interest in the resurrection claimed that it happened. That's all. Anything else is unsubstantiated faith.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • pir-faqir

      What is written in the bible about 'Jesus' (Yesua or Josuah) is nothing more than a poor re-telling of the story of Mithra (Mithras, Mitra, Mitu) whose name occurs in Vedic texts that are 3,500 years old. He was born in a cave, on December 25, had a circle of 12 friends (that represent the 12 signs of the Zodiac) was the first man called Son of God but more accurately Sun God. He is sometime depicted as a disc with a face and rays radiating outward in cart pulled by a white horse. He is also shown with a lamb on his shoulders but more often slaying a bull, the origin of bull fighting. I have a 35 mm slide I took at Takht-e Jamshid in Iran in the summer of 1965 that shows a man with a thick curly beard shoving a sword into the belly of a bully. Every time you shake hands you repeat what Mithra's followers did 3,500 years ago. Every church in the world built with a cental aisle, raised seating on each side and a nave (Greek for navy) at the end opposite the entrance is an exact copy of a Mithraeum. One was dug up in London in 1946 during reconstruction after the war. My July 2006 National Geographic shows the location of two Mithraeum in Rome on pages 94-95. If you believe in a creator god, you got that from Zarathustra who lived 3,200 years ago and is considered the world's first prophet. His version lasted one year, not the 6 days in the bible. If you believe in heaven or paradise (Old Persian– paira daeza), in the devil (Old Persian –daeva), in resurrection, in the coming of a messiah (Saoshyant), in judgment day and in angels, that's all borrowed from Zarathustra. "Good thoughts. Good words. Good deeds." Zarathustra If you can do this, you don't need an organized religion that asks for money every week. I suggest these two books which I have read cover to cover 3 times: "In Search of Zarathustra" by Paul Kriwaczek and "Spirituality in the Land of the Noble" by Richard C. Foltz. You might also read the entire Avesta (I did) , parts of The Other Bible and parts of the Qu'ran.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
    • Eekmeister

      @TomTom – Absence of proof is not proof of absence. You can't conclusively prove the absence of something, because by it's very nature, proof or empirical evidence is something you can detect with your senses or measure with some instrument, not the absence thereof, which is what all of the arguments against the existence of a god are based on. It's true, there is no empirical evidence of the existence of a god, but science points us to 4 possibilities for any theory: 1). There is proof to support the theory, 2). There is no proof to support the theory, 3). the investigation hasn't been sufficient to detect the proof yet, or 4). it's not something that can be proven. The "either it's true or false" is a false dichotomy. Open your mind past that a little and admit it... neither of us has any proof, but that may just be because the investigation hasn't been sufficient to prove it (how would you even go about investigating that one), or it's not something that can be proved.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:01 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      Eekmeister, straw man

      January 7, 2013 at 12:07 am |
    • Jim P.

      When I see a believer walk on water, I might believe the original fairy tale. I don't need to prove this stuff never happened until there is proof it did happen. Same as I do not need to prove there is no 30' tall chicken dancing the Merengue on Interstate 5 at this moment even if someone claims there is based on something he read in a badly translated book that was put together about three hundred years after the events it claims to describe. (Bible didn't exist prior to about 325 C.E., just hundreds of "gospels" that had to be gone over and sorted out).

      Here's an easy one; According to the "official" gospels, when Jesus died a major earthquake struck Jerusalem causing serious destruction in the Temple and zombies rose from their graves and wandered around town chatting up people and in general, enjoying the good "life". Both the Romans and the Jews were meticulous record keepers about this sort of stuff as were the Chinese about earthquakes (and they had some surprisingly accurate means of telling where from and how far away they occurred.) Find me three reliable historical sources that mention any of those events (outside of your bible) and I'll be a lot more inclined to believe the rest of what that book has to say. Especially in terms of mystical magic stories.

      If it can't be relied on for some pretty basic historical claims that are easily verified, then I for one do not place much reliance on anything else it has to say about events in that era.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:12 am |
  11. Faisal

    "Your impression of what Jesus was, is an illusion.... "
    Who Jesus p.b.u.h was is a historical fact. Not one or two but billions of people since more than two thousand years witness his greatness. Discussing the aspect of his personality as this so called professor did, what it has to do with religion or his teachings? Mr. Moore should think himself is that what he learnt all these years researching on religion that whether a so called prophet used to go to restroom or no? Indeed Jesus challenged evils of his time and conveyed to us the word of God. That history has been passed along and the word of God as well. Whether you accept it or no is absolutely ones own choice but I firmly believe that no one has any right to ridicule someone especially the one who is not present at this time to defend himself.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
  12. Tom Johnson

    Some credentials and hanging it out on a shingle... let's see, my guess would be that this wannabee author wants to ripple the waters prior to the book launch. Truly pathetic – both in intentions and choice of topic. Don't give up your day job buddy!!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      nice ad hominem argument, tom

      January 6, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Steve

      It would be an ad hominem if Tom was attacking the author to argue against the point he was trying to make. But, since the author was make obvious statements for the sake of sensationalism, rather than any sort of argument that's relevant to anything, Tom is free to draw conclusions about the author's intent. Conclusions that I happen to agree with.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      Steve, that is not a correct understanding of an ad hominem argument and if you're going to try to correct me, you should at least do it properly, if you can.
      "But, since the author was make obvious statements for the sake of sensationalism," that is an assumption in itself and you haven't justified your reasoning.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:48 pm |


    January 6, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • twalk

      Repubturds love to spins. I bet u all stay really dizzy. NOthing but hypocrites.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:19 pm |


      January 6, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • Pete

      Oooo... Somebody is still sore about November, I see!

      January 6, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • menoc

      Did I mention "the left" won and you lost?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • suzy

      what the H@@L dies bein a libral left treehugger have to do with anything?!!! And why did you bring up the president? You're an ignorant childish uneducated idiot!!!! you have absolutely no relevance whatsoever!

      January 6, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • Oh Suzy, are you still mad because


      January 7, 2013 at 12:01 am |
  14. KD

    I Looovvee CNN! Keep up the great truth!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
  15. Gus

    The British comedian Spike Milligan reportedly once said the only important theological question was "did Jesus fart in bed?". he was right.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • fsmgroupie

      or did he wake up every morning with a woody and what did he do about it?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  16. fsmgroupie

    porco dio !!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      dio cane

      January 6, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
  17. StayinAlive

    His name is Yeshua, not Jesus. Get over it. It is kind of dumb to think he got sick when he healed so many. Finally, he didn't come to "start a religious movement". He came to set me free from religion.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • StayinAlive

      Correction: "He came to set men free". "Me" too though.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Ruby

      Thank you for that. It is nice to find someone who "gets it" among all the babblers.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • Pete

      Actually, his only purpose as a Jewish preacher was to guide Jews into a more liberal form of worship. Redemption theology only came about later when his followers had to make sense of his failure.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
  18. Real Deal


    - Care to take a guess about the percentage of people 1000 years ago (even 500 yrs ago) who believed that the Earth was the center of the Universe and that the Sun orbited us?

    - Believe whatever you wish, but just keep your myths, legends and superst-itions out of government, public policy, public education and the retarding of scientific advancements.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • suzy

      What is the point of all of this? The Bible is a both myth and a history book, but that's not a bad thing....there is always something good to learn from all great works....If one is living their whole life in fear of some judgment, then how does one truly live? If you have to check in with your mythical Jesus everytime you have a thought or a perception or view or a creative idea, or make a future plan, or take a pee, then i'd say you're not taking full responsibility for your existence, (not to mention an extreme fear of leaving the earth through death), and instead, copping out to some book of rules that any one of us in our higher self with evolved consciousness could channel. There is more mental illness and serious brainwashing in the name of religion and it sickens me!! There is also an element of self righteousness in religion...talk about judmental people ...religious zealots are the worst!!! and they live their life pointing fingers at non christians if you will, and become the very thing that they "Jesus" (Jeshua) would not have approved of....This ariticle is ridiculous but it's true the folks of that era in the mideast i'm certain did not have access to a shower a day nor were they always very hygenic....

      January 7, 2013 at 12:16 am |
  19. Rod C. Venger

    "Christians believe that Jesus chose to be born fully human, too, but why?"

    Um, no we do not. We believe that God (The Father) caused a virgin woman to become pregnant with His child, and that child was Jesus. Jesus went on to spread God's word of peace and salvation, through Him and was crucified for it, then raised from the dead before ascending to Heaven. But no, Jesus did not make any such choice. Jesus is of God, another aspect of God, but also a separate person from the Father.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • agathokles

      Um.... No. The Trinity are a single God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three in one. Three "facets" of a single God.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • pir-faqir

      If you do a little research, you'll find the virgin birth was also recorded by Zarathustra who lived 3,200 years ago. In his version, a virgin became pregnant when she swam in a lake that contain the 'seed' of Ahura Mazda (HRMZD). You'll also find that the idea of virgin birth was rather common in the Middle East. The Hebrew version is a word for word translation of a Ugaratic text dated to 1,300 BCE except the Hebrew version used a word that means virgin while the Ugaratic text used a word that simply mans 'young woman'.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:05 am |
    • Jim P.

      Thousands of people have died screaming painful deaths at the hands of various inquisitions and wars have been fought over this little difference of opinion and in fact it is one of the major reason there is a Catholic branch and an Orthodox branch of Christianity.

      It's a leading cause of laughter among non-believers I might add. You followers of the "prince of peace" kill each other at the drop of a hat over the most incredibly hard to discern differences in dogma. A real god could have made this whole thing a whole lot less subject to argument, war and torture.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • suzy

      Mary was 14 yrs old and "knocked up" ...Joseph rescued her from being killed to save her and the baby...Joseph was much older , perhaps in age from 65-80, and that's the truth! Virgin birth? Nah! don't think so!...

      January 7, 2013 at 12:20 am |
  20. JESUS LIVED, DIED, AND THEN LIVED AGAIN - That's pretty cool!

    I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone else that can pull that off? I'm obviously biased because I believe in the Man. But we have recorded over 500 witnesses that after his crucifixion he lived again.

    All I know is that whether you believe or not, it may not be a good idea to mess with him, just incase He is your judge 😉

    January 6, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      There were a lot of claims of miracles...what about Lazerus? He luved again right?

      None of the 500 were recorded the claims were written decades later.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • Akira

      Pascal's wager?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Real Deal

      "But we have recorded over 500 witnesses that after his crucifixion he lived again."

      No you don't. You have the bloviating claim about that from super-salesman and PR expert, Paul of Tarsus.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • What IF

      @JESUS LIVED, etc.

      "All I know is that whether you believe or not, it may not be a good idea to mess with him, just incase He is your judge"

      This is another tired repeti.tion of Pascal's Wager - thoroughly refuted since the 17th century (where have you been?)

      - What if the real "God" is Allah, or Vishnu, or Zeus, or Quetzalcoatl, or any of the other of thousands which have been dreamed up over the centuries? Some of them are very jealous and vengeful and will relegate you to nasty places for not worshiping them. You'd better cover your butt by believing in ALL of them and fulfill their wishes and demands.

      - What if the real "God" prefers those who use logic and reason and punishes you as a silly sycophant?

      - What if the real "God" detests those who believe something just to cover their butts in eternity?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:21 pm |

      DO YOU JUST HAVE NO EDUCATION AT ALL?? Do you think that Paul wrote the gospels or the book of Acts? Paul did not write the book of acts you moron.

      Get a clue before you try to challenge

      January 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • WHAT IF - That is so cool that you believe in NOTHING!

      Wow – If I go to college for a long time can I become as dumb as you?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Herby Sagues

      No, you have the claim of ONE alleged witness that says that he talked to other 500 alleged witnesses. And that person had a stake in the claim, so any objective mind would take it with a grain of salt. Fortunately you accept you are biased, but that's called faith, not reason or evidence.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
    • Pete

      What IF
      No logic-loving god would ever claim to be all-powerful and all-knowing because he could never know for certain that he was so, if God made these claims, then the believers have it right and he doesn't appreciate logic at all.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:13 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.