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Westboro Baptist Church founder near death
Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, has been a controversial figure in American Christianity.
March 17th, 2014
10:05 AM ET

Westboro Baptist Church founder near death

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas congregation known for picketing funerals with anti-gay signs, called reports that its founder, Fred Phelps, is near death "speculative."

"Fred Phelps has health issues," the church said in a statement Sunday, "but the idea that someone would suggest that he is near death, is not only highly speculative, but foolish considering that all such matters are the sole prerogative of God."

Nathan Phelps, the estranged son of Fred Phelps, posted a Facebook message Sunday saying his father was "at the edge of death" at a hospice in Topeka, Kansas, where Westboro Baptist Church has long been a controversial presence.

Nathan Phelps also said his father had been excommunicated from the church. "I'm not sure how I feel about this," he added. "Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made."

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Pastors

March 15th, 2014
11:23 AM ET

Five things you didn't know about Jesus

Opinion by the Rev. James Martin, special to CNN

(CNN) - With Easter approaching, and the movie “Son of God” playing in wide release, you’re going to hear a lot about Jesus these days.

You may hear revelations from new books that purport to tell the “real story” about Jesus, opinions from friends who have discovered a “secret” on the Web about the son of God, and airtight arguments from co-workers who can prove he never existed.

Beware of most of these revelations; many are based on pure speculation and wishful thinking. Much of what we know about Jesus has been known for the last 2,000 years.

Still, even for devout Christian there are surprises to be found hidden within the Gospels, and thanks to advances in historical research and archaeological discoveries, more is known about his life and times.

With that in mind, here are five things you probably didn't know about Jesus.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Easter • Jesus • Opinion

March 14th, 2014
11:42 AM ET

$600,000 stolen from Joel Osteen's megachurch

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Talk about thieves in the temple.

Some $600,000 in cash and check donations were stolen this week from Lakewood Church in Houston, according to the city's police department.

Incredibly, all of the money was from one weekend's donations, the church says. For many American churches, $600,000 in tithes would be a good month or even year.

The church, which is pastored by bestselling author and preacher Joel Osteen, told congregants the stolen money came from contributions on March 8 and 9.

The theft occurred between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. About $200,000 in cash and $400,000 in checks were stolen from a church safe, said Houston Police Department spokeswoman Jodi Silva.

The investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made, Silva said.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • evangelicals

March 13th, 2014
09:49 AM ET

How to really measure the 'Francis effect'
Pope Francis paying his hotel bill shortly after his election last year.
March 9th, 2014
09:40 AM ET

How to really measure the 'Francis effect'

Boston (CNN) - In some ways, the "Pope Francis effect" doesn't seem very effective at all.

Despite the immense popularity the aged Argentine has won since his election last year, not a jot of doctrine has changed, nor has the Catholic Church swelled with American converts.

But there's more than one way to measure a pontiff's influence on his far-flung flock.

Start asking around - here in Boston and beyond, Catholics and atheists alike - and it's easy to find people eager to share how one man, in just one year, has changed their lives.

There's the gay man who finally feels welcome in his church.

The woman who weeps when headlines deliver good news at last.

The former priest who no longer clenches his fist during Mass.

The Latinos who waited forever for a Pope who speaks their language.

"I'm telling you, brother, if you focus on the numbers, you're missing the story," says the Rev. John Unni, a Boston pastor with an accent as thick as clam chowda.

"There's an energy, a feeling, a spirit here. It's like a healing balm."

If anyplace needed healing, it's Boston - the country's most Catholic city.

READ MORE HERE 

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

Pope Francis: Church could support civil unions
Pope Francis speaks at St Peter's square on December 11, 2013.
March 5th, 2014
10:04 AM ET

Pope Francis: Church could support civil unions

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Pope Francis reaffirmed the Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage on Wednesday, but suggested in a newspaper interview that it could support some types of civil unions.

The Pope reiterated the church's longstanding teaching that "marriage is between a man and a woman." However, he said, "We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety."

States, for instance, justify civil unions as a way to provide economic security to cohabitating couples, the Pope said in a wide-ranging interview published Wednesday in Corriere della Seraan Italian daily. State-sanctioned unions are thus driven by the need to ensure rights like access to health care, Francis added.

A number of Catholic bishops have supported civil unions for same-sex couples as an alternative to marriage, including Pope Francis when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010, according to reports in National Catholic Reporter and The New York Times.

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Culture wars • Discrimination • Gay marriage • Gay rights • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope Francis • Vatican

March 3rd, 2014
06:01 PM ET

McCain: I was 'bris' close to Jewish conversion

(CNN) - At the American Israel Public Affairs Conference on Monday, Sen. John McCain of Arizona joked that, because of his close friendship with former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, he observed a lot of Judaism's Sabbath laws.

"I've had to go through all this all these years and I've gotten none of the benefits," McCain told the crowd. "So I'm announcing my conversion to Judaism."

He might've gone through with it, the senator said, but for one little thing...

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Judaism

March 1st, 2014
06:00 AM ET

Stepping-stones to safety: A family flees Syria's war - and finds refuge in Italy's islands

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Lampedusa, Italy (CNN) – Abdel clung to his pregnant wife, 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter as they sailed across an open stretch of the Mediterranean Sea.

They were in a dilapidated fishing boat with limited provisions and almost no sanitation, sharing a cramped space with some 400 other Syrians.

Abdel prayed quietly and recited verses from the Quran for two days and two nights as the boat swayed and motored precariously along the 180-mile route from Libya to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.

If they could make it, his young family would be one step closer to freedom.

He knew thousands had died making the same voyage.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Europe • Islam • Italy • Libya • Mosque • Muslim • Persecution • Pope Francis • Poverty • Religious violence • Syria

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About this blog

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.

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