November/December 2006
NEWS OF INTEREST
NBC drops Modanna's blasphemous concert scene

NETWORK PROGRAMS STILL CENSOR GOD, RIDICULE CHRISTIANS

More than 750,000 e-mails from AFA supporters convinced the NBC network to back away from plans to air a blasphemous scene during an upcoming televised concert in November.

The controversial scene is from pop singer Madonna’s worldwide Confessions Tour. At one point in the concert, Madonna arises on stage fastened to a mirrored cross, and wearing a fake crown of thorns.

“We appreciate the fact that NBC has seen the power of the pocketbook and decided to cancel the scene from the Madonna special,” said AFA Chairman Don Wildmon. “The network should never have even entertained using the scene, but we appreciate NBC removing it from the special.”

Christian leaders in Rome and Moscow were outraged when the singer performed in those cities, with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church speaking out concerning the blasphemous stunt.

Cardinal Ersilio Tonino, speaking on behalf of the Vatican, said before Madonna’s performance in Rome: “To crucify yourself in the city of the pope and the martyrs is an act of open hostility. It’s a scandal created on purpose by astute merchants to attract publicity. This concert is a blasphemous challenge to the faith and a profanation of the cross.”

Initially NBC officials saw little wrong with the cross scene and appeared determined to air it. Kevin Reilly, entertainment president for the network, said, “We viewed [the concert’s mock crucifixion] and didn’t see it as being inappropriate.”

However, the public outcry over NBC’s upcoming concert special resulted in the network being deluged by complaints from supporters of AFA and other Christian organizations.

Wildmon said that thousands of AFA supporters had complained to their local affiliates, who had undoubtably passed those concerns up the ladder.

“We understand that several NBC affiliates had already indicated they would not air the program if it contained [the crucifixion scene],” Wildmon said.

Mocking Christianity and the crucifixion of Christ have been a trademark of Madonna’s music career. The 1989 music video for her hit song “Like a Prayer” was similarly controversial. The video featured burning crosses, statues crying blood, and Madonna, representing Jesus, freeing a saint from his sexual repression by seducing him.

Veggie Tales gets diced
Despite its decision regarding the Madonna concert, NBC is not off the hook with AFA and other pro-family groups. On Saturday mornings, the network began airing edited episodes of the popular children’s Christian cartoon Veggie Tales.

NBC apparently did not like the cartoon’s clear references to God and the Bible and ordered them chopped out of the programs before they could air. Censored from Veggie Tales were comments such as: “Calm down. The Bible says we should love our enemies,” and “God made you special, and He loves you very much.”          

NBC’s explanation? Initially the network claimed that only minor references at the very beginning and end of each episode were cut in order to make the program fit within the time slot allotted.

However, Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer publicly denied that claim. He said that “as the guy required to do all the editing, I know that statement is false. … The show wasn’t too long, it was too Christian. The show was already cut down to the proper length, so timing had nothing to do with it.”

That forced NBC to come clean. The network subsequently said in a statement: “NBC is committed to the positive messages and universal values of Veggie Tales. Our goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible with these positive messages while being careful not to advocate any one religious point of view.”

For Vischer, NBC’s apparent insistence on a more God-free version of Veggie Tales was not what he expected. “I’m not at all happy with the edits. I didn’t know I’d need to make them when I agreed to produce the show, and I considered dropping out when I found out just how much would need to be removed,” he said.

On the other hand, the Saturday morning show has proven quite popular. The Los Angeles Times reported that Veggie Tales gave NBC its biggest ratings jump in children’s programming in three years. In its debut episode, the show’s time slot garnered a 16% jump in viewership over the previous weekend’s programming.

Psycho religious cult?
NBC was once again on the hot seat, however, over its new drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Billing itself as a “take on the drama behind the humor of producing a popular, late-night comedy sketch show,” the new series is obviously a take-off of the popular and irreverent NBC mainstay Saturday Night Live.

But the drama’s first two episodes were anti-Christian. One character, in an angry fit over a decision to cut a skit titled “Crazy Christians,” complained about network officials who are intimidated by “every psycho religious cult that gets positively horny at the mere mention of a boycott.” Also characters on the show call Christians who believe in the Rapture “whack jobs,” while 700 Club host Pat Robertson and the show’s viewers are likened to the Ku Klux Klan. A Christian character on the show is consistently shallow, obnoxious and insecure.

Wildmon said: “NBC says referring to God on a cartoon is offensive to some non-Christians. But NBC doesn’t mind offending Christians with Studio 60.”

ACTIVISM
Wal-Mart rolls out red carpet for homosexuals
The world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, continues to find itself in hot water with social conservatives for its embrace of homosexuality. This fall the company was forced to explain why it had joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, a leading promoter of homosexual marriage. (See AFA Journal 10/06.)

The retailer denies supporting same-sex marriage, but AFA director of special projects, Randy Sharp, said Wal-Mart’s actions speak louder than its denials. “If you link yourself so tightly to a group that promotes same-sex marriage,” he said, “you can’t subsequently say you have no opinion on the subject.”

Sharp also noted that a search for books sold online by Wal-Mart included the following titles promoting homosexual marriage: What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage; Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gay, Good for Straights, and Good for America; Legalizing Gay Marriage; Why You Should Give a D--n about Gay Marriage; Civil Wars: A Battle for Gay Marriage and at least four others.

A quick count at Wal-Mart’s Internet site also revealed a large number of products targeting the gay community. The largest number of products were related to the search term “gay” (1148), followed by “lesbian” (468), “transgender” (40), and “bisexual” (38).

“Wal-Mart appears to have made a clear choice to promote the gay agenda, but we’re still hopeful that enough Americans will contact the company and ask them to right this listing ship,” Sharp said.

He recommends that Wal-Mart customers contact both their local store and the Wal-Mart corporate office to express their opinion. Since the retailer has begun blocking e-mails sent by AFA supporters, Sharp recommends that Wal-Mart be contacted via phone at 479-273-4000 or by mail at Wal-Mart Stores, S. Rob Walton, Chairman, 702 S. W. 8th Street, Bentonville, AR 72716-8611.

Weatherproof Gospel available for troops
In 2005, Bobby Bardin and Michael Marsee, avid outdoorsmen, produced The Outdoor Bible. The volume is unique because it is waterproof and tear-resistant .

Now the creative duo has produced a tough, plastic, pocket-size edition of the Gospel of John for soldiers in the field.

In cooperation with Campus Crusade for Christ Military Ministry, Bardin and Marsee hope to ship 100,000 copies to U.S. troops this Christmas. They offer the Gospel of John for $4.00 per copy.

Until November 20, individuals may order as few or as many copies as desired at that special rate. For churches or other groups, bulk orders are available in cases of 100. Order at www.theoutdoorbible.com, or call toll free at 866-846-4338.

Operation Save America confronts trio of banks
Operation Save America (OSA) is  taking to task three of the largest banks in the U.S. for their blatant promotion of the homosexual agenda.

OSA Director Philip L. (Flip) Benham said Bank of America, Wachovia Bank and Sun Trust Bank have bankrolled “celebrations called ‘Gay Pride’ events … in public parks across our nation. These public lust fests promoted homosexual sodomy” in defiance of God’s laws.

Benham said corporations in America “feel under no obligation to do what is right. Their bottom line is making money, and their sometimes immoral actions carry no direct accountability.”

That is why OSA is challenging Christians to consider whether they should do business with banks that support the homosexual agenda. “Should a person, business or church who believes the Bible to be the Word of God deposit their money in banks that use the return on our money to support immoral agendas?” Benham asked. “Are we aiding and abetting immorality?”

Benham suggested that Christians look instead “for a bank that is sensitive to the moral beliefs of Christian customers” who are trying to make America a great country in which to live.

www.operationsaveamerica.org, 10/9/06

CULTURE
Court says evangelism OK at state fair
Following an emergency hearing, a federal district court in Dallas ruled that religious speech is protected inside the fairgrounds at the Texas State Fair in Dallas.

The lawsuit was brought by the AFA Center for Law and Policy (CLP) on behalf of Darrel Rundus. During the past two years, Rundus had been threatened with arrest and ordered to leave the Texas State Fair for presenting the Christian message inside the fairgrounds and on adjacent public sidewalks.

Before filing for emergency relief on behalf of Rundus, CLP attorneys Brian Fahling and Bruce Green attempted to secure an agreement from the city of Dallas that its officers would not interfere with Rundus as he shared his faith. The CLP argued that to do otherwise would prevent their client from exercising his First Amendment rights.

Dallas officials responded that its lease with State Fair of Texas Inc., which puts on the Texas State Fair each year, made the event a private affair on private property. Therefore, officials said Rundus had no constitutional rights once inside. Before the court’s ruling, the city had already conceded that the sidewalks outside the fairgrounds are public, and that Rundus and others were free to exercise their constitutional rights there.

In its ruling, the federal court determined that the Texas State Fair is a public place where constitutional rights are protected. As a result, Rundus and others are now free to share their faith inside the fairgrounds each year.

However, the judge upheld the fair’s prohibition on leafleting – a ruling that Fahling and Green said they would appeal. An individual or group can distribute leaflets inside the fairgrounds at the Texas State Fair if they pay a fee ranging from $2,000 to $19,000. The attorneys said “the fee requirement is an unconstitutional license tax on the exercise of First Amendment rights.”

Abstinence-only ed proves effective
A new study reveals that abstinence-only programs can be effective in reducing teen sex and in delaying their “sexual debuts” without discouraging the use of condoms during future encounters.

The study, under the leadership of author John Jemmott of the University of Pennsylvania, involved 662 African-American students from inner-city middle schools in Philadelphia. Ranging in age from 10 to 15, the participants and their actions led to the following conclusion: Those who received abstinence-only teaching were less likely to have had sex at a 24-month follow-up evaluation, as compared to other students who were exposed to “safer sex” teaching and condom use without a mention of abstinence.

The findings conflict with former President Bill Clinton’s comments about how abstinence programs make teens less inclined to use condoms.

“It did not reduce intentions to use condoms, it did not reduce beliefs about the efficiency of condoms, it did not decrease consistent condom use and it did not decrease condom use at last sexual [encounter],” Jemmott explained. “There aren’t any studies that show that children are less likely to use condoms as a result of an abstinence intervention.”

However, the foes of abstinence-only education still contend there is harm in the prevention strategy. For example, according to Planned Parenthood, the world’s leading abortion provider, abstinence-only programs are “one of the religious right’s greatest challenges to the nation’s sexual health.”

But Jemmott argued that there is no logical reason why abstinence-only education would not be effective in reducing sexual activity among teens.

www.canada.com, 8/15/06

EDUCATION
‘Screen time’ harms school time
A recently released study from New York’s Albert Einstein College confirmed that students need to turn off the TV and other media devices and focus on their schoolwork.

The study involved 4,058 middle school students ages 9 to 15, and the findings are based on self-perceptions of school performance rather than actual grades or test scores. The results of the study revealed that the greater the weekday media exposure the poorer the academic performance.

Among students who abstained from watching television during the week, 50% had an excellent school performance in contrast to the 24% who had watched a weekly total of four to seven hours of TV.

“It is clearly known within the scientific and medical communities that screen time has a reverse impact on the way a student will do in school,” said Robert Kesten, executive director of the Center for Screen Time Awareness.

The minds of students who engage in an inordinately high amount of media “screen time” are elsewhere, Kesten explained.

Weekend television watching did not appear to have a harmful affect on schoolwork.

Parents should also monitor the content of programs their children view when they do watch TV because the study found that adult programming and R-rated movies also cause students to suffer academically.

Dr. Iman Sharif of Albert Einstein College of Medicine suggested that such adult content engaged the study’s participants in “higher levels of sensation seeking and rebelliousness, [that led] to poor school performance.”

Sharif concluded: “Our data support the recommendation that parents limit weekday television and video game time to less than one hour and restrict access to adult media by limiting exposure to cable movie channels and R-rated movies and videos.”

www.citizenlink.com, 10/2/06; Yahoo! News, 10/2/06; www.agapepress.org, 10/5/06

ENTERTAINMENT
Christian films top box office
Following the completion of a 10-year study of the theatrical box office, Dr. Ted Baehr, publisher of MovieGuide and chairman of The Christian Film and Television Commission, found that “Christian movies make two to seven times as much money, and often four to six times as much money, as movies with explicit sex and nudity.”

The conclusion came after an examination of almost 2,700 films that topped the box office from 1996 through 2005, and it revealed that sex and nudity do not sell as much as Hollywood pundits and Madison Avenue advertisers would like consumers to believe.

“For example, in 2005, movies with a very strong Christian worldview, such as The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, averaged nearly $65 million at the box office, but movies with extreme, explicit sex and nudity, such as Sin City, and Inside Deep Throat, only averaged $11.2 million or $11.7 million,” Baehr explained in a report of the study.

Christian movies also out-performed other films that contained only strong sexual content (rather than explicit sex and nudity) as well as movies containing more than 25 obscenities and profanities.

“[T]he vast majority of moviegoers, which includes the 141 million Americans who go to church every week, prefer positive Christian movies with morally uplifting content,” Baehr said. “If Hollywood executives and filmmakers want to make more money at the box office, they should make more movies that reflect a very strong Christian worldview with very strong moral values.”

www.worldnetdaily.com, 9/30/06; www.movieguide.org, 9/29/06

FAMILY
Consent laws reduce teen sex
According to a new study, abortion notification and consent laws actually reduce risky sexual behavior among teenagers.

The finding is the result of data collected from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and examined by Jonathan Klick, Florida State University College of Law professor, and Thomas Stratmann, economics professor at George Mason University. The men used gonorrhea rates as an indicator of risky sexual activity and compared them to parental notification laws that were in place at the time.

By doing so, they discovered that teen gonorrhea rates decreased by an average of 20% among Hispanic girls and by an average of 12% among white girls in states where consent laws were practised.

“Incentives matter,” Klick said. “They matter even in activities as primal as sex, and they matter even among teenagers, who are conventionally thought to be short-sighted. If the expected costs of risky sex are raised, teens will substitute less risky activities such as protected sex or abstinence.”

Where these consent laws are in place, it’s hard for teen girls to avoid telling their parents about an unexpected pregnancy. Therefore, the laws function as an incentive for girls to engage in less risky sex activities since they don’t want to face their parents with news of a pregnancy or plans for an abortion. As a result, there was a decrease in gonorrhea among girls younger than 20.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 44 states have adopted parental notification or consent laws, but in nine of those states, the laws have been either blocked by the courts or are not yet being enforced.

www.lifesite.net, 9/28/06

HOMOSEXUALITY
Videos tackle issue of gay ‘marriage’
Two videos take different approaches to the controversial subject of same-sex marriage, and both hit a home run.

Focus on the Family’s Ten Persuasive Answers to the Question: Why Not Gay Marriage? features Glenn T. Stanton, a veteran of the culture wars and Focus’ senior research analyst for marriage and sexuality.

The video is a nuts-and-bolts approach to the issue, providing the viewer with well-reasoned responses to the sometimes thorny arguments raised by gay activists in support of homosexual marriage. Presented in a lecture format, the DVD version is organized to allow viewers access to any of the 10 issues discussed.

Clear and concise, Why Not Gay Marriage? also includes most of Stanton’s arguments in an accompanying booklet, providing Christians with an important resource in the ongoing cultural debate.

C-38: The Search for Marriage is a less clinical approach to the subject and gives equal time to the passionate voices to be heard on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.

Canada legalized gay marriage in June 2005 with the passage of Bill C-38, and this compelling DVD tracks the various arguments via interviews with experts as well as man-on-the-street interviews.

Well-balanced, C-38: The Search for Marriage makes for riveting viewing. It covers all the hot-button topics that define the same-sex marriage debate, such as the importance of marriage, gender roles, and the demands of equality as well as religious freedom.

Why Not Gay Marriage? is available at AFA’s Online Products Web site (store.afa.net), while C-38: The Search for Marriage can be purchased at www.c38themovie.com.

PRO-LIFE
Abortion risks: Women want to know
From a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics comes the realization that women want to know about all the possible risks related to elective medical procedures, especially abortion.

The findings came from 187 women who were administered brief surveys that asked them to state their preferences for information regarding elective medical procedures. The women also ranked their informational preferences for alternative treatments and complication rates as well as the level of severity of various complications. Based on the rankings, 95% of patients want to know about all the risks of a procedure and 69% want to know about all alternative treatments – not just the ones their doctors recommend.

In ranking the severity of complications, women pinned mental health problems as very serious, which is especially important since abortion has been linked to an increase in suicidal behavior, clinical depression and substance abuse, among other mental problems.

Dr. David Reardon, co-author of the study and director of the Elliot Institute, explained that the study “demonstrates that women have a high level of interest in being informed of any risk that is statistically associated with the procedure, including psychological risks.”

Therefore, Reardon believes the study opposes doctors withholding information about the risks of abortion simply because they believe future studies will eventually disqualify earlier findings.

“Our study shows that most women don’t want doctors to screen which information they are told about risks,” Reardon said. “They want to judge the evidence for themselves. They clearly prefer to be fully informed about all possible complications, even if abortion providers insist that the causal links between abortion and these statistically linked complications have yet to be fully proven to the abortionist’s satisfaction.”

www.lifesite.net, 8/30/06

Young adults disengaging from church
Findings from a new study by The Barna Group reveal a frightening disengagement from Christianity during young adulthood. The study, based on data collected from 2,124 teenagers and 22,103 adults, including 3,583 twentysomethings, “shows that despite strong levels of spiritual activity during the teen years, most twentysomethings disengage from active participation in the Christian faith during their young adult years – and often beyond that,” a Barna report said.

Specifically, 61% of today’s young adults, who, as teenagers, were churched at one point, are now spiritually disengaged. Spiritual disengagement is identified as being inactive when it comes to church attendance, Bible reading, or prayer. Only 20% of twentysomethings have maintained spiritual activity consistent with that of their high school experiences, the study revealed.

“In total, 6 out of 10 twentysomethings were involved in a church during their teen years, but have failed to translate that into active spirituality during their early adulthood,” Barna said.

And for most adults, this disengagement seems to extend further into the stages of adulthood, specifically parenthood. Despite parental desires to give children spiritual guidance, the new study noted “that just one-third of twentysomethings who are parents regularly take their children to church, compared with two-fifths of parents in their thirties and half of parents who are 40 years old or more.”

David Kinnaman, director of research for the study, believes these findings lend significant insight into the current state of youth ministry and young adult ministry.

“There are certainly effective youth ministries across the country, but the levels of disengagement among twentysomethings suggest that youth ministry fails too often at discipleship and faith formation,” Kinnaman explained.

www.barna.org, 9/11/06

RELIGION
Christian mag is for men on a mission
Utilizing sports, music, video games and other pursuits of interest to men, New Man magazine will draw the guys in and keep their interest as they read about how to live the Christian life.

New Man says on the cover it is a magazine “For Men on a Mission,” and it is truly that – and more. For example, the September/October issue, reviewed by AFA Journal, carried an inspiring cover story about the vision for mentoring that drives Shaun Alexander, a committed Christian and pro-bowl running back for the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks.

Other articles highlighted the testimonies of major league baseball’s Mike Maroth and Russ Ortiz, who pitch for the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles, respectively; the story of Jeremy Del Rio, who started a youth outreach in one of the worst neighborhoods in New York City; the victorious struggle of Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who lost 110 pounds in 15 months to literally become a new man; and an exhortation to take seriously the noble calling of fatherhood.

Other topics in the issue included avoiding “packing on the pounds” during the holidays; overcoming discouragement and failure; and tips on successful investing.

Flip New Man over and young men can find encouragement in “Passage: For a Teen’s Journey to Manhood.” This side of the magazine contains more of the same but is targeted toward a younger generation. The magazine also includes reviews of books, music and video games.