April 27th, 2014
07:46 AM ET

Punch thy neighbor? 'Fight church' doesn't turn the other cheek

Opinion by Paul Burress, Special to CNN

(CNN)– As I sat backstage, I could hear the sound of thousands cheering as they waited for me to enter the ring.

“Lord put your covering over me,” I prayed in a whisper. “Use me as a witness. Use me to be a billboard for you."

I’m a pastor by trade, and the next morning I was set to preach the Easter sermon.

But on that night, I was preparing for something else entirely. This wasn’t the normal, churchgoing crowd.

I was about to enter the cage and compete in a mixed martial arts bout.

When I tell people I’m a pastor and a mixed martial arts fighter, I usually get some puzzled looks.

“How can you preach the Word of God participate in such brutal activity?” people ask. “Didn’t Jesus teach us to love one another?”

People are right to ask these questions, but wrong to assume that the sport of mixed martial arts isn’t compatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Quite the contrary.

Like many competitive sports, mixed martial arts can be considered violent, but it’s not hateful or destructive. It teaches us how to contain and control our most violent impulses through strength, discipline and perseverance—none of which are at odds with Christianity.

When I step into the cage, I do so to compete, not to kill; there is not an ounce of spite or ill will in my heart.

More importantly, my job as a pastor is to help lead people to Jesus, to set them on a better path. To do so, my ministry needs to be relevant, to speak to people on their own terms and in their own language.

As the Bible says: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:21-22)

God has put me on this earth to fight and to save. And though on the surface those two missions—spreading a message of peace and teaching people how to throw hard right cross—seem to stand opposed, they can work hand in hand.

Growing up, I wrestled and did martial arts with my father who was also a pastor. When I went to college, I connected with a man named Glenn Cozzens who was running a fight school at the time in the basement of a church.

We trained like beasts back then, traveling from gym to gym, fight school to fight school, fighting anyone and everyone to share our knowledge of the art and learn from theirs.

This was long before MMA was cool or even close to acceptable, but we were Christians and quickly saw the opportunity to minister to men and women about Jesus and the Bible.

Some of the people we met would otherwise never have learned about faith. They were drug addicts and gang members, and generally a rough crowd.

We shared the simple word of the Bible: That we are all messed up and flawed as human beings, but that God doesn’t care where we’ve been - what’s important to him is where we’re going, that we’re headed towards Jesus.

A scene from the upcoming documentary "Fight Church."

Our ministry was really able to point people in the right direction—not just towards loving Christ, but also towards loving their fellow human beings.

Mixed martial arts gave these young people a place to focus their energies, let out frustration and build real, lasting relationships with people who would help them grow.

More importantly it gave these them a chance to establish a life-long relationship with Jesus.

I went on to become a chaplain with Good News Jail and Prison Ministry, where I also taught members of law enforcement how to defend themselves.

Today, I am the pastor at Victory Church, where we have an MMA gym actually in the church.

That might seems strange to some, but Victory isn’t just a place where people go to train, it is a family, united by God.

We reach out to people seeking to find their way in life without passing judgment, we strive to foster an atmosphere where everyone can feel comfortable and everyone can relate to one another. I believe this is real love in action.

I’m forever in awe of the incredible things God does through our church. I’ve seen men who were street brawlers now living structured, loving lives. And I’ve seen drug addicts overcome their addictions.

All of this is because of mixed martial arts—and Jesus—working in tandem. There is no conflict in their combination.

Faith and fighting saved my life and those of many others in my ministry, and whatever preconceived notions some people may have, the results speak for themselves.

I am not a phenomenal fighter nor am I a phenomenal preacher. I’m just a regular guy trying to do the best I can with what God has given me—both from the cage and from the pulpit.

Editor’s Note: Paul Burress is the pastor of Victory Church, in Rochester, New York, and is featured in the new documentary Fight Church. The film was directed by Bryan Storkel and Daniel Junge. The views expressed in this column belong to Burress.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Faith • Movies • Opinion • Sports • Violence

soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. Akira


    April 27, 2014 at 5:33 pm |
  2. realbuckyball

    "No one shall come to me, UNLESS the Father draw him", "For many are called but few are chosen".
    Just more proof that humans can rationalize anything if they try, even Paul in Corinthians (who contradicted Jebus).
    But then why not. He started his own religion, (Paulianity ... commonly called Christianity).

    April 27, 2014 at 5:09 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      Big Paulie doesn't make or take phone calls himself. He prefers "runners" go door to door or to a pay phone for him.

      April 27, 2014 at 5:23 pm |
  3. pmmarion

    See! If you believe in god you can justify ANYTHING!

    April 27, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
    • genesis1revelation

      ... seems that is what a lot of people do ...

      April 27, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
  4. skoies

    Dear Jesus, guide my fist into this man's face, so he may look up at me like God, amen.

    April 27, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      ...and may he not die too much.

      April 27, 2014 at 5:25 pm |
  5. Bootyfunk

    martial arts invoking god is always hilarious:
    "Oh merciful God of love and compassion, give me the strength to punch my opponent's teeth down his throat. give me the strength to inflict severe brain damage and leave my opponent a bloody mess. amen."

    April 27, 2014 at 4:22 pm |
  6. satanicviews

    The Bible is a bloody and violent book, why is anyone surprised by a little martial arts violence by a pastor?

    April 27, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
    • His Panic

      Your views and opinions are clearly satanic in nature. Only a fool will believe you but then they will go into stampedes and riots after falling into a state of Panic.

      April 27, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        obviously you haven't read the bible, because he's spot on. violence violence and more violence.

        April 27, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
        • His Panic

          Obviously you have not read it, because you would have find the Love of God and the guilt of man and his need of Redemption in it. Obviously your views and opinions are also satanic.

          April 27, 2014 at 9:07 pm |
      • Akira

        Sounds as if the fighters in the ring are clearly in a Panic, and only one of them will Trust in Jesus enough to Deliver the Winning Blow.

        April 27, 2014 at 4:37 pm |
      • observer

        Only those who believe in God can get caught up in His PANIC. Really sad and pathetic.

        April 27, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
      • realbuckyball

        Hey "His Panic:,
        You do have unrelenting panic attacks, obviously. You see everything through the lens of your mental illness.
        There might be meds for you.

        April 27, 2014 at 5:11 pm |
        • His Panic

          Obviously you indeed WILL Panic in due time like an animal and go into a stampede or worst yet some riot.

          April 27, 2014 at 9:09 pm |
        • realbuckyball

          It's "worse yet", not "worst yet".
          I see you also have no education. Not surprising.
          I do get into "stampedes". They are fun. I ran a 10k just last week.
          I, however, am not obsessed or afflicted with chronic, intractable, untreated panic attacks, as you are.

          April 27, 2014 at 9:47 pm |
        • His Panic

          HAHAHAHA I'm not comparing two thing or one thing vs. another I'm saying that a riot is the Worst of the two, therefore is worst. Your atheism is leading you to the worst of places. Besides being an atheists; what are you worse than?

          April 28, 2014 at 12:20 am |
      • satanicviews

        I am sure if you had read the Bible, which I have read, it would be obvious it is one of the most blood thirsty books ever created, especially the Old Testament.

        April 28, 2014 at 5:20 am |
  7. His Panic

    Well, clearly he is not in a state of Panic. Some atheist may find him an unlikely candidate to strike him in the cheek. Usually they try to find the weakest link first. I think I'll try MMA myself.

    Anyways Anxiety, Fear, and Mass Hysteria can lead to Panic, and Panic can lead to Anarchy, brawls, Chaos, Stampedes, Rebellions, Revolutions and riots.

    Those who really, for Real Trust in God and in Jesus Christ God's Only Son WILL NOT Panic. All others indeed WILL Panic just as we see them daily doing.

    Trust in God and in Jesus Christ God's Only Son and you WILL NOT Panic, otherwise you indeed WILL Panic I, even I, could be may be his Panic.

    April 27, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      I often feel the panic. Medicine helps, but doesn't cure it. What shall I do?

      April 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
      • His Panic

        Before you even thought the questions I provided the answer. So said the Lord God.

        April 27, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Do you think that you speak for god (one of the many that man invented)?

          April 27, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
        • His Panic

          @ untruthprevails,

          I you can speak for the devil; why could not I speak for the Lord? Was it or was it not the answer provided, before the question was even thought of?

          April 27, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          So you are saying that my panic represents questions for the Lord God; questions that if I read the bible will be answered?

          April 27, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          First off, nice show of the fact that you lack respect.
          Second, "you can speak for the devil; why could not I speak for the Lord?"

          Wow, you haven't used a dictionary ever-have you? If I don't believe in your god, than I don't believe in your devil and no matter what you may think on that you are wrong.
          Now if you think you speak for your imaginary friend god, please locate the nearest asylum and have yourself put in the rubber room...you truly need psych help. Being locked away from public will also help you get the medication needed to get your panic attacks under control.

          April 27, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
        • His Panic

          I do not respect evil, Evil does not deserves respect but Contempt. The question was answered even before it was thought of; was it or was it not? If you can speak for the devil against God; why can I not speak for the Lord? Not Complicated at all, unless is True that atheism from the devil.

          April 27, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Yes you do respect evil...you respect the god of the bible and that is as 'evil' as it gets. Now be a good little boy and troll along to the asylum...you need medicated and to be treated for those panic attacks.

          April 27, 2014 at 5:02 pm |
        • His Panic

          In due time it will be too late for you, because like an animal you WILL Panic

          April 27, 2014 at 9:12 pm |
        • fintronics

          I used to panic, then I realized that god is nothing more than mythology... now I'm actually quite calm.

          April 30, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      I wanted to change my cable provider. When you call your cable provider, you get put on hold. When you get put on hold you twiddle your thumbs. When you twiddle your thumbs, you get panicky. When you get the twiddle-panic, you need a joint. When you need a joint, you have to stop twiddling, so the panic goes away. When you smoke you want a snack. When you want a snack, you need some chips. If you don't have any chips you get panicky again. When you get panicky again you have to hang up on the cable guy. When you hang up on the cable guy, they get mad, and since they have caller ID they call back. That makes you even MORE panicky. Then you need another joint, but guess what ? Still no chips. So what to do ? What to do ? You get a great idea. You decide to pray to Jebus, cuz he'll stop all the bad things like rebellions, and stampedes and keep the wolves under my bed and the monster away when I turn out the light. That's the ticket. Jebus chips. Go out and get your today. But don't get into any civil unrest and stampedes or revolutions on the way to 7-11.

      Those who really, for Real Trust in God and in Jesus Christ God's Only Son WILL NOT Panic. All others indeed WILL Panic just as we see them daily doing.

      Trust in God and in Jesus Christ God's Only Son and you WILL NOT Panic, otherwise you indeed WILL Panic I, even I, could be may be his Panic.

      April 27, 2014 at 9:57 pm |
  8. Concert in an Egg

    MMA Training to help people understand the bible makes perfect sense to me.

    April 27, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
  9. tdefam

    Psalms 11:5

    April 27, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      I would be self-loathing if I were god too.

      April 27, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
  10. nemo0037

    If only Jesus had thought of that... we'd never have heard of him.

    April 27, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
  11. bostontola

    If you really want to excel at martial arts, I recommend you explore Taoism or Buddhism. Those religions have the meditative roots that will match well into the focus required to succeed. Tuning of mind, spirit, and body are part of the foundation of those religions. They are also much less laden in mumbo jumbo, being more philosophical and less absolute.

    April 27, 2014 at 12:35 pm |
    • igaftr

      Studying music, playing an instrument will teach your far more quickly. You need to be able to completely focus your mind, plan ahead, and memorize very long intricate details, and even learn how to emote from music.

      I would recommend learning an instrument to anyone as one of the best tools for meditation and focus.
      When I go to the dentist, or partake of any activity that I need to calm mayself, I slip into a piece of music, and fnd I am in far more control.
      There is much to be said for keeping one's body in tune as well, but there is no reason to take up any bloodsport. That simply enables the lowest , basest animal in ourselves...counterproductive.

      April 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
      • bostontola

        Everyone is enti.tled to their opinion.

        I see lots of reasons to take up martial arts. It does forge a focus and a very satisfying bond between mind and body. The fitness that comes with it also improves the mind. Are there other ways to do this, of course.

        Martial arts do no harm, people mis-using them can. I don't subscribe to the notion that we should look down on tools that have the potential for harm if they provide demonstrated benefits. The harm side is regulated by laws.

        April 27, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
        • igaftr

          Martials arts does help train the body and teach discipline, but martial arts is not a blood sport. Where I have seen trainiing, you are taught how to NOT use the training. Turnng something like martial arts into a spectator "sport", is barbaric.
          The discipline I learn from an instrument, is something i can share, without fear of injuring myself or others.
          It is one thing to be prepared to face violence, it is another entirely to seek it.

          April 27, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
        • bostontola

          Valid opinion. I have no problem with martial arts in spectator sports. I definitely have a barbaric streak along with all the other streaks.

          April 27, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
  12. Concert in an Egg

    "Bye mom, I am going to church. I will call you from the hospital..."

    April 27, 2014 at 11:04 am |
    • huhhmm

      Ok, don't forget the eye poking techinique I taught you. Remember Matthew 7:3, its hard to see when you have a beam in your eye.

      April 28, 2014 at 10:43 am |
  13. Concert in an Egg

    Deep pain
    Finds a home in you
    Dug in to you
    A dead part
    Do you have one?
    Do you have a dead spot?
    Did you want it to end like this?
    You know the verdict
    You didn’t want this
    Now this fool wants to make you fight
    All you had to do was throw it out
    All you needed was a gig
    Now pray to Jesus?
    Where was he when my momma cried?
    Where was he when I lost my pride?

    April 27, 2014 at 10:52 am |
    • flightfromfrostmtn

      lol concert:)

      you have a problem with the man's religion – so do I

      you have a problem with violence – so do I

      But he is giving people the option of a second chance that very few others would in this society. If we don't like it then we need to develop an alterative...I wouldn't even know were to begin.....

      April 27, 2014 at 10:58 am |
      • Concert in an Egg

        There are alternatives to believing fairy tales and getting your brains bashed in.

        April 27, 2014 at 11:02 am |
      • flightfromfrostmtn

        keep in mind these people are coming a disadvantaged position. In this society it takes Money, Money and more Money. Education has been priced out of reach for most.

        Short of a complete rebuild of the power structure in this country I am at a loss......

        April 27, 2014 at 11:12 am |
        • Akira

          So the alternative for poor folks is joining a fight club and learning MMA? Don't let Paul Ryan know.

          April 27, 2014 at 1:50 pm |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          these aren't the poor – these are people that were in the system and did their time.

          April 27, 2014 at 3:36 pm |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          Once you are convicted of a felony in this country – normal life is over....

          America is a pretty unforgiving place

          Filling out a job application most often means, at best it gets pushed to the back..but more likely gets dropped in the circular file. Many say "fvck it" and move back into crime.

          April 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
        • Akira

          So ex convict's only alternative is to engage in the violence that likely landed them in prison? Only more...ahem...controlled?
          How does that help make then money? It just seems to me that it would teach them even more skills to go and rob someone again more effectively.

          I understand what you're saying, but I am at a loss as to how this helps.

          April 27, 2014 at 4:31 pm |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          Its channeling the aggression ....taking an undisciplined, angry person and showing them that its ok to take a hit – even lose a fight without making it personal. If you can lose the anger, keep your head and learn why YOU are failing- learn to pick yourself up off the mat, it can become an enlightening experience....you can stop blaming others, be safer to be around and just might be hirable and keep a job.

          April 27, 2014 at 8:44 pm |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          All some of these guys can see is red....they are angry at their lot in life, they learned to fight at the drop of a hat and see anyone else but themselves as responsible. It is a brutal world – maybe their launch isn't their fault, but the choices they make are on them and them alone – you have to cut through the anger to get to their mind...they have to respect you to listen to you...if you can exhaust them they'll begin to listen...and they'll listen more and more ...the insults and slights will matter less and less until they learn to ignore all the BS around them and walk on.

          April 27, 2014 at 9:15 pm |
        • Akira

          I guess I'll reserve total judgement until more information on the long-term success of his program becomes available.
          I'm skeptical.

          April 27, 2014 at 10:29 pm |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          while im not an ex-con, my early life was less than tranquil (ward of the state) I was one of those angry uncontrollable demons....is why I have some insight in what this guy is trying to do.

          April 27, 2014 at 10:35 pm |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          lol – its also why im an atheist and have been from jump despiteof landing with a deeply religious family. I guess we all have different ways of coping with adversity...is why this guy's god angle doesn't bother me so much.

          April 27, 2014 at 10:45 pm |
        • Akira

          I get that his reasoning is altruistic, I'm just not sure the execution will be successful in the long run.
          I also hope his church has liability insurance.

          April 28, 2014 at 11:46 am |
  14. Concert in an Egg

    Bible Fan Fiction

    This Chapter: Judgment Day

    The fires were as a giant ocean with demons fishing using long poles. Broken souls hung from hooks, dangling above the heat, toes just touching; blistering and blistering again. Satan’s flying minions picked the bones of those well-done and the enormous iron gates were shut tight by their own weight.

    The bargaining table sat in the bow of a thickly made, plain wooden boat. The table was round with a green felt top. One by one the souls came seeking good fortune. Satan looked on as the dealer tabulated a naked man’s losses. All his chips in a pile, he begs for a chance.

    The flaming pool of magma slurped in yet another pair of legs and feet as two pot-bellied men were hurled into the molten bath. Two creatures looked on; thrilled by the spectacle. One with drum and horn, face long and crude, his wooden shoes and silk robes out of place. The other walked on feet like a chicken and thought himself quite fancy with his hair of wool and blue undergarment.

    Neither frog nor human he had two arms and two legs. His body was his face and his face was their torture chamber. Two brown eyes opposed each other as they kept watch over the slaughter. He grabbed the two sides of his large round mouth and stretched it wide to fit more filthy naked sinners.

    One of the women was pregnant as they both stared down into the deep black waters they would drown in. Holding their arms behind their backs, a small man with a red-handled dagger the length of his arm and wearing a shimmering peacock feather as a coat forced them to join the other tormented souls swimming in the oil.

    Sharpening the serrated edges of the jagged knife while sitting on its edge. A naked man, his scrotum ripped from his groin. Forever he will straddle the grotesque torture device while sickly wet brown frogs stand guard against his escape.

    April 27, 2014 at 10:46 am |
    • Concert in an Egg

      Bible Fan Fiction
      This chapter: Jesus confronts the money-lenders in the temple.
      One man stared over his left shoulder at Jesus and saw the flames burning in the Nazarene’s eyes. Terrified, he hauled up his Santa sack and scrambled for safety, away from the Lord’s whip. To his left another money lender with a fine mustache takes time from the violence to observe a comely young ladies breast as it peaks over her robe. Sheep bleat and men scream as the chaos roars and the Lord Jesus Christ beats the holy living shit out of the bankers and their whores and livestock. They should have given Jesus that loan.

      April 27, 2014 at 10:48 am |
    • Concert in an Egg

      Bible Fan Fiction
      This chapter: Mark 3
      He was a magician, and the Sabbath was big business, but his withered hand was preventing him from pulling a rabbit out of a hat, and the Herodians demanded this trick under penalty of torture and death. The Lord Jesus entered the synagogue and looked upon the assembly and said unto them, "This man taught me everything I know. Will I not heal him on the Sabbath? The men mumbled to themselves as the magician stretched out his arm and watched as Jesus waved His magic wand over the lifeless appendage. Following the miracle, Jesus learned many card tricks from the magician, including "pick a card, any card".

      April 27, 2014 at 10:48 am |
  15. MidwestKen

    Studying and teaching martial arts is not in conflict with peaceful goals, but unlike other violent sports in MMA and boxing the entire point and goal of the contest is to inflict pain and injury on your opponent.
    At least most other violent sports provide a facade of other goals, i.e getting objects into some net, zone, or goal.
    Until someone can win a championship with purely defensive techniques then it is not a peaceful pursuit.

    April 27, 2014 at 10:33 am |
    • Concert in an Egg

      Buried deep beneath the bottom of the furthest point of the last part of the Christian’s brain, the preacher fails in his attempts to bring people to god through painful physical exchanges. Next: Snakes

      April 27, 2014 at 10:44 am |
  16. Concert in an Egg

    So the good preacher stands in the “octagon” and “prays” to god to protect him from harm and (presumably) protect the person he intends to pummel with his fists and legs. This makes sense.

    April 27, 2014 at 10:23 am |
  17. Concert in an Egg

    Personally I find it barbaric. This is just another form of evangelical nonsense. The preacher is holding the snake and trusting in magic not to get bit.

    April 27, 2014 at 9:57 am |
    • Concert in an Egg

      I really like what bostonola said earlier: "Is Christianity compatible with the martial arts spiritual elements that are built in to many of them? Chi, meditation to alter the mind, etc."

      I think the answer is no. The MMA is just violence.

      April 27, 2014 at 10:00 am |
    • Akira

      I put this right up there with the light shows and the Christian rock bands now playing at some churches. Yet another schtick.

      Except bloodier.

      April 27, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
  18. Reality

    Give us a break !!! These are the guys with the concussions that lead to brain disorders later in life. The inanity of it all !!!

    Of course, being a Christian is somewhat akin to a brain disorder.

    April 27, 2014 at 9:52 am |
    • flightfromfrostmtn

      MMA is actually safer than boxing. the guys in MMA have more ways of winning than focusing on the Knock Out. Boxing would be helped by headgear.

      April 27, 2014 at 10:03 am |
      • Concert in an Egg

        I believe it would be somewhat safer not to fight.

        April 27, 2014 at 10:08 am |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          It would surely – but we are still running off testosterone – its what drives our aggressive streak....guys like these in many cases have already gone through seven kinds of real life hell and this is their way of making it back....I cant fault this.

          I do have a problem with the religion part ...but this guy has/will helped/help more people than I have.

          April 27, 2014 at 10:16 am |
        • Concert in an Egg

          I don't consider replacing one vice with another "helping" anyone. He lies to them and encourages violence.

          April 27, 2014 at 10:18 am |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          I believe the real focus is on giving these guys a path away from what landed them in jail/prison in the first place.

          These are not people you local social club clergy would want to deal with.

          April 27, 2014 at 10:23 am |
        • Concert in an Egg

          Sounds like nonsense to me. Just good "documentary" material.

          April 27, 2014 at 10:26 am |
  19. flightfromfrostmtn

    Fighting with malicious intent and fighting compet itively are two very different things. One is usually a strong vs weak situation and is started by indefensible aggression – the other by two equally matched opponents who, in most cases 'leave it in the ring' and can actually better ones self.

    April 27, 2014 at 9:40 am |
  20. bostontola

    Martial arts and religion have been intertwined for millennia. Taoist and Buddhist tradition have many styles. So martial arts and religion are bedfellows. What about Christianity and martial arts? That's philosophical, pure opinion (as is most other things in Christianity).

    A more interesting question; Is Christianity compatible with the martial arts spiritual elements that are built in to many of them? Chi, meditation to alter the mind, etc.

    This pastor seems like a very practical guy, not worried about such things. He seems like he only wants to spread his religion. If that helps some of the people he meets, good for him.

    April 27, 2014 at 9:34 am |
    • flightfromfrostmtn

      my thoughts as well:)

      April 27, 2014 at 9:41 am |
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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.