CNN Belief Blog

Welcome to 2015: New year brings happy new developments to the Godbeat

Welcome to 2015: New year brings happy new developments to the Godbeat

Already, Terry Mattingly shared the news that former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey — now a national correspondent with Religion News Service — will join The Washington Post early next month.

At the Post, Bailey — along with award-winning religion writer Michelle Boorstein — will anchor a new religion and spirituality blog, 

For those who pay attention to the Godbeat — and many GetReligion readers certainly fall into that category — the good news does not end there.

Welcome to 2015, religion news watchers!

Here are two more exciting new developments:

1. CNN's Belief Blog — previously at — has moved to a "spiffy new home" at, report Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi.

2. RNS has debuted "The Slingshot," a daily snapshot of headlines described as "like the Roundup, only better." 

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Wha' happened? NYTimes, RNS report on 'real or implied' 'earthquake' at Vatican that 'may or may not' have an effect

Wha' happened? NYTimes, RNS report on 'real or implied' 'earthquake' at Vatican that 'may or may not' have an effect

What exactly happened at the Vatican's Extraordinary Synod on the Family yesterday? NewsBusters' Ken Shepherd observes that, if you look to "many liberal media reporters" for the answer, you will find them "giddy as schoolchildren" at the  synod's midterm report on its discussions about gays and divorced Catholics. A check of Twitter bears this out:

From @CNN:

The Catholic church should welcome and appreciate gays, a new Vatican report says

From @CNNbelief:

An 'earthquake.' [Revolutionary.' 'Stunning.' What people are saying about the Vatican's new report on #LGBT people

From @JosephineMcK:

#Catholic conservatives furious as bishops propose 'welcoming' gays

Did the earth really move? It did for Josephine McKenna of Religion News Service (author of that last tweet), whose own story on the synod's report breathlessly describes "the real or implied changes that may or may not materialize" in the Church. 

Say what?

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Slain U.S. journalist James Foley was 'living his faith,' and the media take notice

Slain U.S. journalist James Foley was 'living his faith,' and the media take notice

In our post last week on slain American journalist James Foley, we highlighted a letter he wrote describing how prayer helped sustain him during a previous captivity.

We noted that most initial news reports ignored Foley's religious background — with the major exception of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In recent days, though, Foley's faith has received quite a bit of attention.

Daniel Burke of CNN's "Belief Blog" had an insightful piece contrasting Foley's beliefs with those of the radical Islamic militant group that executed him:

The ISIS militant, a man with an apparent British accent, said that Foley’s murder was payback for U.S. airstrikes against the group in Iraq. On Monday, President Barack Obama said the American operation has helped drive ISIS from strategic cities and infrastructure in northern Iraq, which apparently angered the Muslim militants.
“Any attempt by you, Obama, to deny Muslims liberty and safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people,” the ISIS militant said in the video.
The man in orange, kneeling. The man in black, wielding a knife. One asked God to cross the “cosmic reach of the universe” and soothe his family. The other claimed to kill in the "name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful."
Admittedly, we know relatively little about Foley's faith and even less about the ISIS militant in black. But the contrast between the two religious paths — one led a journalist to cover conflicts, the other a jihadist to create them — is jarring.

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Ebola and missionaries: CNN feature offers an intense look

Ebola and missionaries: CNN feature offers an intense look

The sacrificial lifestyle of medical missionaries in the worst known Ebola outbreak -- with two of them coming down with the virus themselves -- cries out for thoughtful, sensitive coverage. So it was a pleasure to see CNN provide it. And in a refreshingly long-form newsfeature.

Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, the missionaries, get a searching, respectful look in this 2,087-word piece from a news outfit known better for soundbites and surface treatments. The many-sided article deals with the missionaries' backgrounds and with the number and types of Christian missionaries. It sketches the history of the American missionary initiative and even takes up the question -- as a subhead asks -- of whether Writebol and Brantly were "heroic or foolish" for putting themselves in harm's way.

The heavily researched story cites more than a dozen sources, either directly or via other media. Writers Daniel Burke and Ashley Fantz draw from several reputable groups -- not only missions like Serving in Mission, which Writebol works for, but also think tanks like the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.

Their fact-finding yields some interesting insights. One is that, according to the center at Gordon-Conwell, about 71 percent of the world has heard the gospel as of this summer. Another insight is that although missionaries have worked for centuries, their numbers have "exploded" -- as high as 2.4 million -- since the rise of short-term missions in the 1970s.

The employers of the two American Ebola patients -- Samaritan's Purse for Brantly, Servants in Mission for Writebol -- naturally get a closer look. Burke and Fantz do so by smoothly working in the missionaries' backgrounds and how they felt called to the vocation.

Casual observers may be surprised to find out the language and cultural training that people undergo before they can represent a mission group like SIM. That agency's George Salloum offers this snapshot:

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Hey Bible Belt believer: Why do YOU persecute atheists?

Confession: I live in the Bible Belt. Even worse, I’m a — gulp — conservative Christian. But here’s the good news: I haven’t persecuted any atheists today!

Of course, it’s still early, and I haven’t left my house yet. There’s still time for me to track down a nonbeliever, give ‘em hell and chase ‘em into the baptistery.

That’s what we do in (how dare they believe in) God’s country, right?

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SCOTUS prayer case: reporting, opinion in one story

Like many towns, prayer opens government meetings in Greece, N.Y. Unlike many towns, a couple of citizens voiced their offense to the practice — all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. As we heard yesterday, the high court sided with the town. And of course, the other side is crying foul.

Even including CNN, which was supposed to be doing straight reporting.

Here’s how CNN’s Belief Blog item by Daniel Burke led off the report on the high court’s decision yesterday. And keep in mind that it’s not marked as opinion or analysis or commentary:

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Two forgiveness stories that are worth your time

Forgiveness has been making a lot of headlines lately, at least it seems to me. Pope Francis asked for forgiveness for the evil committed by priests who molested children (for more insight, see George Conger’s post Wednesday). A Louisiana congressman who campaigned on a Christian family values platform requested forgiveness for an extramarital affair.

In Texas, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist found “one of the most moving accounts of forgiveness” ever involving a severely wounded victim of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage. In California, the Contra Costa Times reported on the “power of forgiveness” by a burned Oakland teen’s mother.

But I wanted to call special attention to two recent stories on forgiveness.

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And for a change, a 'Noah' movie story that sails smoothly

Last week, I criticized USA Today’s fast-food cheeseburger of a story on the religious controversy over the new “Noah” movie. Today, I want to praise the filet-mignon level of coverage served up by CNN’s Belief Blog and Godbeat pro Daniel Burke.

Before I do so, I must confess that I have not seen the movie and may not make it soon, as I still need to catch the new Muppet and “Veronica Mars” flicks. Plus, baseball season just started (if you’re a fan, you might enjoy my column on Opening Day in Texas), so my free time is more limited. Smile.

But back on topic: Under the headline “Does God have a prayer in Hollywood?” the in-depth CNN report combines a tractor-trailer load full of meaty material, from the director’s motivation and insight to important background on faith-based films past, present and future. Throughout, the piece provides the kind of details that speak to the beat specialist getting religion.

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5Q+1: CNN Godbeat pro on his remarkable Lampedusa story

When one of the best religion journalists on the planet produces one of the most gratifying stories of his life, news consumers are in for a real treat. Enter Eric Marrapodi, co-editor of CNN’s Belief Blog.

His 4,500-word  “Stepping-stones to Safety” story — featuring a family fleeing Syria’s war — ran over the weekend.

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.

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