News Briefs From Planet Earth

No More Dirty Ice Dancing

Give the International Skating Union a perfect 10. While just about everybody else who puts anything on television is looking to sex up their programs in the name of titillation and the ratings it brings, the association that governs figure skating from the Olympics on down has committed to clean up its act. The group has announced that, beginning next season, skaters who employ "undignified" moves like "upside-down splits" and "backward spread eagles" will be penalized.

"Especially on TV it looked quite bad," said an ISU official mindful of the sports appearances in prime-time and its popularity with pre-teens. "Some people in the audience were calling certain moves X-rated."

Give those viewers a perfect 10 too.

? 2001 Focus on the Family. Used by permission. Taken from Focus on the Family Citizen magazine, October 2001.

Youth Worker Tells Kids: 'Unplug'

(AgapePress) - Teenagers are being encouraged to unplug from television for the amount of time they would spend watching commercials during an hour-long show - and instead, plug into God's Word.

Ginger Sinsabaugh is a former advertising executive who for years wrote commercials for firms such as McDonald's, Wheaties, and Clorox. But now she uses her marketing skills and creative talents to try and reach inner-city kids for Christ. She says teens can find time for God's Word with a few minor adjustments to their lifestyle.

"In one hour of TV viewing, there's 17 minutes worth of commercials," Sinsabaugh says. "So we challenge kids to 'unplug from the ugh' for 17 minutes a day, taking the 17-minute challenge, and plugging into God. With prayer, scripture - just put yourself in a quiet space and really listen to what God wants to do with you."

Harkening back to her advertising career, Sinsabaugh says whether teenagers realize it or not, they are advertising what is important to them. "I always challenge young people [and] ask them, 'What are you advertising? When people look at you, can they see that you're a die-hard Christian, or are you just another American consumer?' "

Sinsabaugh has written two books focusing on evangelism and urban youth work: Act Now! Offer Ends Soon! and Help! I'm an Urban Youth Worker. She is now programming director at SLAM! Youth Ministries in the Chicago area. SLAM, which stands for Saving Lives in Athletic Ministry, is a division of the Chicago-based Sunshine Gospel Ministries and works closely with Moody Bible Institute.

Pastor Gave Bullet-Stopping Bible to Teen Just Before Shooting

(AgapePress) - The Florida teen whose Bible stopped a gunshot fired by his mother believes she may have been under the influence of a demon.

Sixteen-year-old Kenny Wallace was standing near the entrance to the storefront church he attends in North Fort Myers last Sunday when his mother allegedly drove up in a car and fired one shot at him. Police say she hit her mark, but what saved Kenny's life is that the Bible he was holding took the brunt of the gunshot.

Later, police reported that Kenny's mom, Leslie Wallace, had shot and killed her six-year-old son prior to heading to the church and then went to where an older son worked, with the intention of killing him. It is there that authorities caught up with her, wounding her in a confrontation prior to taking her into custody.

Kenny tells Associated Press that he believes his mom was under some kind of demonic influence. He also talked a bit more this week about the Bible, which literally saved his life. He says the pastor had just given it to him earlier that morning, telling him "You might need this."

Kenny, who recently decided to become a pastor, says God has spared his life and given him a testimony, adding his survival is proof that "God is real."

Georgia Man Leads the Way in Anti-Porn Crusade

(AgapePress) - A Georgia man is living proof that one person still makes a difference in the battle against pornography.

Ryker Carter decided if it was going to be done, it was up to him to do it. He began by calling the American Family Association to form a strategy to get pornography out of the stores and raise the standards in his southern Georgia community. Next, he contacted businesses that were distributing the harmful material. Now, as a result, the porn is beginning to be removed.

Friendly Express, with more than 200 convenience stores in southern Georgia, is taking pornographic magazines off the shelves after Carter's contact. He said he got tired of seeing the porn magazines in the Friendly Express stores so he wrote a letter to company officials pointing to the harms of pornography on society and families and asked that the company stop selling the material.

When Carter received no response from his first letter, a second letter was sent with the threat of a boycott by his newly formed AFA of Southern Georgia. Persistence paid off and company officials agreed to pull the porn.

Carter says families in southern Georgia are the big winners. "It means that maybe it'll save a child or a marriage. I got involved with AFA because I wanted to make a difference in our community. I've seen all the harm and how [pornography] affects marriages and children," Carter says. "It was basically one person that had these magazines removed from stores. If I can do it, anyone can."

Next on Carter's list are the over 200 stores of Flash Foods, based in Georgia.

Chinese Torture

(AgapePress) ?A published report reveals that Chinese authorities are using torture to force confessions, and then execute thousands of people. According to The New York Times, China routinely executes more people than all other countries combined. But this year has been far from routine. Without much notice at home or abroad, the government has begun sending unknown thousands of people to execution grounds, often after they have been tortured into confessing crimes that to foreigners seem minor. Today, China is in the midst of its third great wave of executions in the last quarter century, a campaign in which according to state media, as many as 191 people have been executed in a single day. Since Chinese leader Jiang Zemin announced the crackdown in April, at least 3,000 have been executed, and double or even triple that number have been sentenced to death. The Times notes that in China, the pressure to stem the rising crime rate has resulted in Chinese authorities often using tortures to extract confessions, rather than finding evidence to get a conviction.

CBS Smut By Home Depot

(AgapePress) ?The American Family Association is condemning the CBS TV network for the debut episode of its new sitcom featuring Ellen DeGeneres. The program included a vulgar image plastered on a wall poster. AFA president, Don Wildmon, says, "with all that's going on in the country right now, what we don't need is more business as usual coming from Hollywood." Wildmon is recommending people show their displeasure by calling the national sponsors of DeGeneres' show, which include Pampers, Pillsbury and Home Depot.

Indications of Iraqs Involvement In Attack

(AgapePress) ...A columnist with the nation's leading conservative publication says it is time to put an end to Iraq. Richard Lowery writes in National Review that Colin Powell helped save Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War, and seems bent on saving him again. Lowery suggests if Hussein escapes the full wrath of the U.S. war on terrorism, he will once more have Powell and the dictates of a great international coalition to thank. Lowery says it was to preserve the Gulf War Coalition that Powell, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, urged the first President Bush to stop short of Baghdad in 1991. Now, as Secretary of State, Powell is urging George W. Bush to lay off the Iraqi dictator for the purpose of keeping intact yet another broad international coalition. Lowery says early indications are that Iraq had a hand in the September 11 attacks. But he argues firm evidence should be unnecessary for the U.S. to act, saying it doesn't take careful detective work to know that Saddam Hussein is a perpetual enemy of the United States.

Witchcraft Allowed With Permission

(AgapePress) ...Students in Duvall County, Florida, will need a permission slip from their parents to read Harry Potter books in their school libraries. That announcement comes after a parent complained that the books contain witchcraft. Schools across the county started sending home permission slips this week, and the local school board is looking at whether to keep the popular children's series in school libraries. After complaints last year, Jacksonville Public Library stopped handing out "witchcraft certificates" after awarding 200 to young readers. When the Harry Potter series faced an earlier challenge in county schools two years ago, the superintendent kept the books on the shelves. Bibles are still banned.

Black Pastor Says Abortion Destroying Minorities

(AgapePress) - A conservative black preacher says it is hypocrisy that most blacks support the liberal abortion agenda, even though it is destroying millions of minority babies.

Jesse Lee Peterson is founder of the Los Angeles-based Brotherhood Organization of the New Destiny. He thinks it is wrong for so many blacks to go along with the abortion industry, even though he says it was specifically created to eliminate minority children.

"You don't see them out there protesting and making noise about that, and they all know that abortion ... was started by [Planned Parenthood founder] Margaret Sanger, a true racist," Peterson says. "Her whole intent was to wipe out the under-class ... to wipe out black Americans. And yet, you don't see them out there on the front lines protesting against that."

Bond believes these individuals' silence in the matter demonstrates they are supporting evil. "Most of the abortion clinics are in the inner cities the black communities across the country," he says. "You don't hear any complaints about that at all."

"[Their] silence ... clearly indicates that they support things that are wrong instead of good."

Proctor & Gamble Accused of 'Thumbing Nose' at God

(AgapePress) - Another well-known corporation has decided to include domestic-partner benefits in its insurance plan for employees.

Cincinnati-based Proctor & Gamble announced that starting in January, it will broaden eligibility requirements for its benefits package for dependents to include domestic partners and their children. In a statement issued to its employees, the company said the policy change is consistent with P&G's "commitments to valuing diversity" and "promotes equal opportunity related to marital status or sexual orientation."

Although P&G joins a long list of high-profile corporations giving insurance benefits to partners of homosexual employees, Buddy Smith, a spokesman for the American Family Association, says the move is still an insult to true families.

"It's very disappointing to learn that a mainstream corporation in America, like Proctor & Gamble, now basically equates two homosexual lovers shacking up together as the same as a woman and man living together in holy matrimony," Smith says.

In a statement released by the pro-family organization, AFA's founder and president Dr. Don Wildmon says the move cheapens the institution of marriage - and demonstrates a profound disrespect for God.

"These health benefit plans have traditionally been reserved for the spouses and families of employees," Wildmon said. "Contrary to what some in corporate America may think, the Lord God Almighty was the one who invented marriage and the family. By pretending to have the authority to redefine those two institutions, P&G has thumbed its nose at God."

Smith says AFA is encouraging concerned Christians to speak out and let executives with P&G know they do not approve of the newly adopted company policy.

"If we [Christians] just sit back and say, 'Oh well, there goes another one,' and not pray about this and take the time to write a letter or make a phone call, then basically we're party to this kind of decision," he says.

Too Much Universalism

(AgapePress) ...David Brickner of Jews for Jesus says there is far too much religious universalism in America right now. The Messianic Jewish evangelist says Islam and Judaism should not be given the same weight as the gospel of Jesus Christ. According to Brickner, teachings in both Islam and Judaism are "anti Jesus." He says that while people with different religious views are to be respected, Christians should not give those views the same weight of truth they give the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ.

Is God Allowed To Bless America

(EP News) - Officials at Breen Elementary School in Rocklin, Calif., are being threatened by the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) for displaying the phrase "God Bless America" on the marquee in front of the school. Local officials they say won't take down the sign without a court order.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has offered to defend any school that is sued for displaying the message "God Bless America." Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the ACLJ, explained, "The message ... is constitutionally protected speech, and the ACLU's legal analysis is both skewed and very troubling."

A school board leader in East Troy, Wis., quit after an elementary school's sign with the message "God Bless America" was declared a violation of separation of church and state. Dave Strand, president of the school board, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "If my God had to be removed from the sign, then I will be removed as well from the board. My God, who is Jesus Christ, has been in my corner more often than I have been in His. This was one time when I wasn't going to turn my back on Him."

The U.S. House urged public schools to display the message "God Bless America" as a show of support for the nation. The non-binding House resolution passed 404-0.

Not Too Weird For Hollywood

(EP News) - HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (EP) - Actor Patrick Levis, who plays a born-again Christian character on the WB network's new sitcom "Maybe It's Me," says he has a lot in common with his character, who wants to be a Christian rock star. "I want to use my music and glorify God with it," Levis told the web-based publication "I wasn't worried about playing a character that gets made fun of, but I was worried about Christianity, Jesus Christ, God and just Christians in general being put down. I didn't want that to be the message of the character." Levis says that although his character's offensive traits may be exaggerated for comedic impact, he sees the role as "a great opportunity for people to see that Christians are not these too out-there weirdoes."

Parshall, Colson Trumpet Culture War

(AgapePress) - Two advocates of morality and proactive Christianity are encouraging people of faith to be catalysts for positive change in American culture.

Pro-family activist Janet Parshall says even though she and other people of faith don't know how the "culture war" will end, that is no excuse for shirking individual responsibility. She reminds Christians that the battle is not over yet.

"Do I think that we're going to see more moral decay? Absolutely, "Parshall say. "But I think for men and women who have publicly aligned themselves with the one true Living God, if we're called to be salt and light, it means we sprinkle that moral preservative that's so necessary in the culture."

Parshall says vulgar television programming is getting worse as voyeuristic reality TV sinks to new depths. "We are very much like first-century Rome, where we've cried out for bread and circus and gotten it."

"I still look at my hands and [say], there's an awful lot of power in that finger right there and I can walk right up to that TV set and turn it off. I win - they lose," she says.

According to Parshall, people of faith must learn to voice their feelings in a proactive manner. She has a kindred spirit in prison ministry activist Chuck Colson, who says America is in need of Christian influence like never before. He feels believers must work harder than ever if there is to be any hope of restoring the country's godly heritage.

"Let's remember what [Alexis de] Tocqueville taught - that countries are changed by the habits of the heart, by the way people live ? by those who live in obedience to Christ living it out in the culture," Colson says. "We better do our job over these next four years, and let's see this country come back and restore moral decency, and a respect for right and wrong, and a belief in truth as against untruth in our culture. That's a job we can all do together."

Colson says prayer is a great place to start in the effort to spread God's influence throughout America.

Blinded By Teen

COLUMBUS, Ohio (EP) - An Ohio pastor has earned acclaim for his forgiving spirit toward a teen accused of blinding him. Johannes Christian, 50, was struck in the face in July by a cantaloupe-sized rock while driving. Christian, pastor of Adoration and Peace Baptist Church, was severely injured and blinded. He immediately made it clear that he wanted his family to forgive the 15-year-old boy accused of dropping the rock. (The boy is being held on felonious assault and vandalism charges.) Christian had plastic surgery to reconstruct his face, and may require at least eight more operations. Christians in Columbus collected $7,100 for medical bills at a fundraising service held because they "didn't want people to forget." State Rep. Ray Miller said, "Thank you so much for showing us how to be responsive instead of being vindictive."

"Christian Pop" Music At What Cost?

(AgapePress) - A recent cover story in a national news magazine explored the booming business of "Christian Pop" music and examined what many say is a blurring of the lines between the secular and Christian entertainment industries.

A recent cover story in Newsweek titled "Jesus Rocks" took readers to the first "Christian" alternative rock tour, the "Festival Con Dios," during a stop in South Bend, Indiana. The magazine reports 60% of the crowd at the festivals come with their church youth groups. The article describes concert scenes familiar at most secular rock events - teenagers body surfing through the crowd as bands such as Audio Adrenaline and the Newsboys play to a backdrop of lasers and pyrotechnics.

Also, the Con Dios festival features a mosh pit where teen boys with spiky hair slam dance into one another while music blares from the stage.

According to Newsweek, the thirty-city tour involves performances by the ska band OC Supertones, a group which claims to dedicate its music to Jesus Christ while "goofing" around the stage in giant afro wigs. Lyrics from "Adonai," a song from their 1996 Adventures of the OC Supertones CD, further reveal the band's attitude toward hair and dress.

"I don't care about your haircut, can't we all just get along? Not just get along, but really love and care. If your eyes are on the Lord you can't see nobody's hair," the song reads.

The OC Supertones' newest CD will be produced by Garth Richardson, who has worked with secular rock bands such as Rage Against the Machine and Voodoo Glow Skulls.

The lengthy magazine article points out contemporary Christian music is now the hottest genre in the entire music industry, generating $747 million in sales last year alone.