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« Reply #255 on: June 22, 2006, 08:27:47 PM »

Jack Cavanaugh Talks About Revival, Christian Fiction, Family

by Randall Murphree
June 22, 2006

(AgapePress) - - Novelist Jack Cavanaugh is co-author with Dr. Bill Bright of "The Great Awakenings" series from Howard Publishing. Randall Murphree interviewed Cavanaugh for insights regarding that series and other subjects as well.

AgapePress: How did your path cross Bill Bright's path? Coincidence or providence?

Jack Cavanaugh: A desire for national revival brought Dr. Bright and me together. He was wanting to collaborate with a novelist on the topic of significant historical revivals in American history. Having already written an American history series, I had always wanted to write novels set during times of revival. When Dr. Bright and I met, it became apparent to us that God had brought us together in answer to both our prayers.

For two days we prayed side by side on our knees and talked about history and story plot ideas, all the while knowing that unless God intervened in dramatic fashion, Dr. Bright would not live long enough to see the release of the first book. This four-novel series, "The Great Awakenings," is God's answer to our prayers.

AP: What is the potential of fiction to encourage and challenge believers? To reach the lost?

JC: Stories have the ability to reach people on several levels: intellectual, visual, and emotional. This triple punch is a powerful method of teaching spiritual truth. A well-told story contains a lesson that helps us to see things clearly and motivates us to embody the truth in our own lives. I have witnessed the power of stories -- first as a preacher, now as a writer -- to teach that God's ways are always best.

People who would never step foot in a church to hear me preach will read my novels. As a novelist, my ministry has expanded geographically beyond the local pastorate to a ministry that spans the globe. And because it's the printed word, my ministry will continue beyond my lifetime.

AP: How well is Christian fiction doing as a means of spreading the Gospel?

JC: Novels are uniquely suited to spread the Gospel message. In real life, things happen that don't make sense. Not so in novels. In a story, everything has to make sense; a character's motivation has to be believable, a character's actions always have consequences. What a perfect fit for the Christian message that teaches we will all give an account for our actions.

One of the standard themes of fiction is good vs. evil. How many stories -- both secular and Christian -- have explored this theme? Again, we have a perfect fit for the Christian message. Isn't the belief that good will triumph over evil the core of our preaching? This standard theme in fiction mirrors what the Bible has been telling us for centuries.

AP: What are the problems you see with Christian fiction? How about encouraging signs?

JC: At present, the problem I see is in the area of quality of fiction. I include myself in this assessment. In times past, Christian writers were often among the greatest writers of their time -- Milton, for example. His epic poem Paradise Lost is a masterpiece.

We're in a rebirth of Christian fiction. When I first wanted to write fiction 25 years ago, Christian publishers told me flatly that it doesn't sell. Things have changed. Consequently, we're in the infancy of a re-emergence of Christian fiction. It's going to take time to grow quality Christian novelists. Think of it in terms of another art form -- music. A person doesn't become a violin virtuoso overnight. The same holds true with Christian fiction. There's some good Christian fiction being produced today, but there's plenty of room for improvement. In time, I think we're going to see some real masterpieces.

AP: From your own work, what are your favorite titles?

JC: That's like asking which of my three children is my favorite. I'm not sure I can give you favorite titles, but I can give you some memories attached to various titles. The Puritans will always have a special place in my heart because it was my first novel. Beyond the Sacred Page was my troubled child, born out of personal heath problems, but is one of my strongest stories. Postmarked Heaven is different from all the others, a fictional devotional book, not a novel. "Songs in the Night" series are my triplets, one story in three volumes. Death Watch is my first contemporary suspense. And "The Great Awakenings" series is special to me because I was privileged to co-author with a man who has had a tremendous impact on 20th-century Christianity.

AP: Who are some of your role models, mentors or favorite writers in Christian fiction?

JC: My mentors are largely historical. Some people learn by doing, others learn by listening, I learn by reading. My library is probably my most precious possession. Most recently I have been learning how to communicate spiritual truth through fiction by studying the works of Dante Alighieri (The Divine Comedy) and John Milton (Paradise Lost). I know that sounds like boring English Lit classes, but you have to remember that in their day, these works were bestsellers. These writers knew their audiences, worked their craft, and produced epic stories that were not only popular in their day, but have proven to be of value over hundreds of years. As a writer, that's my goal -- to produce popular fiction that stands the test of time.

AP: What are a few of your favorite Christian novels?

JC: I'm indebted to Brock and Bodie Thoene for blazing the historical fiction trail in the Christian market, and to Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness for expanding the market. Since I write historical fiction and am now branching out to the supernatural suspense genre, it makes sense that these authors are counted among my favorites.

AP: Tell us a little about your family.

JC: I met Marni at Azusa Pacific College where we fell in love. We were engaged for two years before we got married and then waited five years before we had children. I say this because I believe that those early years with just the two of us were formative in a relationship that is still happy 34 years later.

We have three children, all grown now. All of them are talented artistically. Elizabeth, 26, lives in Iowa and is a gifted writer; expect to see a novel from her within the next couple of years. Keri, 24, is a police dispatcher with a wonderful singing voice; she does musical theater here in San Diego. And Sam, 22, lives in Los Angeles, works at Disneyland as the Mad Hatter by day and performs in musical theater productions at night.

AP: What are some of your family's favorite activities together?

JC: Laughing. Both my immediate family and extended family spend a good deal of time laughing. We get together for holidays and birthdays. Brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, all of us get along famously. We play games, and there is always a lot of laughing.

http://news.christiansunite.com/Religion_News/religion04646.shtml

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« Reply #256 on: June 22, 2006, 08:28:55 PM »

'A Head and Heart in Good Proportion'

by JoAnne Potter
June 22, 2006

(AgapePress) - - Some stories start slow, but not The Calling of Jujubee Forthright (Faithwalk Publishing, 2006), Scott Philip Stewart's new novel -- a modern-day rendering of the Parable of the Pharisee and the Sinner in a Georgia setting.

Stewart's delightfully improbable characters from Medlyn, Georgia, begin with the narrator, David (a.k.a. "Diogenes" or "Dewey") Hazelriggs, a depressed philosophy professor, self-proclaimed cynic, driver of a '62 Big Healy 3000, and author of his "hymn to misery" ironically named Honest to God. He meets his counterpoint in five-foot, 300-pound auctioneer Jimmy Jack B. ("Jujubee") Forthright who has a prosthetic leg and a fresh calling from Jesus Christ to auction off salvation to the lowest bidder. Mutual friend Franny Fuller introduces them when she shows Diogenes her most recent auction acquisition, a giant prophetic lawn gnome. If you don't believe it's prophetic, just peek at it under the shadow of Fanny's shawl. It's eyes glow; they really do -- and all that within the first 13 pages.

Jujubee is really a study in contrasts. There are two Medlyns: the sophisticated academia from which Diogenes/Dewey springs, and the down home Medlyn, home of the Monstravaganza Tractor Pull. There are also two colleges in town: high-toned Wentworth, where credentials are king, and the Bible School of the Fundamental First Church, where legalism reigns -- and as Stewart says, where the "fun" has disappeared from "fundamental," leaving only the "mental."

Stewart says this contrast, neatly set up early in the novel, represents two "very distinct impulses" in him.

"Diogenes captures the part of me that stands ready to dismiss it all as trivial, to be the first to say, 'What difference does it make?' 'Who cares?'" the author says. "But then there's Jesus with the response to the question. It all matters; ergo, everything can hurt me. Hence, the cross. And, what's more, it's the things that matter least that matter most in the end. It was Jesus' way of turning everything upside down -- the last shall be first, the master must be the servant, the Messiah must suffer."

Therefore Diogenes and Jujubee, in the company of fun and quirky folks like Banana Barney Fosters and Peanut Butterbean, go on the salvation trail together. Their way, however, is not smooth. First, Jujubee misreads his calling and tries to enroll in Medlyn's colleges. When that fails, he takes to the road.

"If we sit around waiting 'til everything's in order before we step out with ears to hear and hearts to feel, we'll probably wait too long and we'll miss the point," says Stewart, "the point being that it isn't about me at all. It's about Jesus."

As he steps out, Jujubee looks increasingly like Jesus, recognizing divine encounters even at the Stop-N-Hop, where he finds a fierce-looking former newspaper delivery man with a mullet and a three-day-old beard browsing the pornographic magazine rack. Here Stewart's skill shines. In minutes and without a trace of preaching, Jujubee empathetically invites him to "Follow me" -- and he does. In these fine moments, Stewart reveals his own heart.

"The great discovery of my life was that God's grace truly is sufficient," he shares. "I guess what I had to say in Jujubee is that the thing about grace and judgment is that none of us is in a position to judge -- not so much because of whom we are or are not, but because of what we know and know not."

In the end, of course, Jujubee, his calling, and his companions all come to their anticipated, happy, and eternally secure end. Stewart does it, however, with rare, inventive word play completely devoid of worn-out church phraseology. His characters, full of excitement and humor, aim higher. Stewart expresses it like this:

"The kingdom purpose in telling this story is to strike the middle way between an irrelevant academic version of the gospel and a legalistic one -- between the poles of liberalism and legalism lies the heart of Jesus' kingdom message, a church with a head and a heart in good proportion and the undying, unfailing love of God who is ever at work around us and in us to renovate, not whitewash, the tombs that are our fallen self."

In The Calling of Jujubee Forthright, Scott fulfills this purpose and makes the trip a delightful ride.

http://news.christiansunite.com/Religion_News/religion04647.shtml

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« Reply #257 on: June 22, 2006, 08:29:49 PM »

Civics 101: Silence a Student's Speech, Face a Potential Lawsuit

by Jim Brown
June 22, 2006

(AgapePress) - - A civil liberties group says it plans to sue the Nevada high school that unplugged the microphone of a valedictorian because her commencement speech mentioned her faith in Jesus Christ.

The Rutherford Institute says it plans to file a lawsuit against Foothill High School in Henderson as early as next week over its censorship of senior Brittany McComb. Officials with the Clark County School District pulled the plug on McComb after she began reading a graduation speech that contained Bible verses and a reference to Jesus Christ.

Rutherford Institute president John Whitehead says the school engaged in religious viewpoint discrimination, something the Supreme Court has said is unconstitutional -- and something he believes some courts would view as "abhorrent" in this particular case.

"It's a little different than some of the cases where the courts have ruled that schools can control basically what students say," Whitehead explains. "Here they actually pulled the plug on her -- and I don't know if most people know about the news accounts, but there were like 400 people there [who] started booing and hissing when they cut off the mike on this girl."

Whitehead says the school was not endorsing religion or violating the so-called separation of church and state, but rather was doing everything it could to say it wanted nothing to do with what McComb was saying. McComb had deviated from a school-approved and edited version of her original address. But the Rutherford attorney says the case is not an Establishment Clause issue, but rather a First Amendment free-speech issue.

"If the schools are going to edit speeches ... then the principal or whoever [did the editing] should get up and give the speech, because it really isn't the kid that's giving the speech; it's the school speaking through a student," the attorney says.

"But it's not the fact that she agreed [to deliver the edited version of the speech]. The question is, does she have free speech? Can she give a speech and, at the end, say 'by the way, here's the most important thing in my life' -- before they pull the plug on her?"

McComb, he says, "worked hard to earn the right to address her classmates as valedictorian" and "has a constitutional right -- like other students -- to freely speak about the factors that contributed to her success, whether they be a supportive family, friends, or her faith in Jesus Christ." And school officials, by pulling the plug on the school's top graduate, have demonstrated "yet another example of a politically correct culture silencing Christians in order not to offend those of other beliefs," Whitehead adds.

Ironically, the school district may have violated its own guidelines by its actions. The Rutherford Institute notes that the official free-speech policy of the Clark County School Board states: "Where students or other private graduation speakers are selected on the basis of genuinely neutral, evenhanded criteria and retain primary control over the content of their expression...that expression is not attributable to the school and, therefore, may not be restricted because of its religious (or anti-religious) content."

According to Whitehead, school officials edited out almost half of McComb's original version. He says it is still unclear whether the American Civil Liberties Union had a role in editing the speech or advised the school board's lawyer to remove religious references, but he says regardless, the ACLU acted as a "government agent of suppression."

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« Reply #258 on: June 22, 2006, 08:31:41 PM »

GFA's 2006 'Renewing Your Passion' Event Promises Unique Experience

by Allie Martin
June 22, 2006

(AgapePress) - - Next weekend Gospel for Asia (GFA), a ministry that trains native Christians to plant churches in unreached areas, will host its second annual Renewing Your Passion Conference in Dallas, Texas.

Organizers of the upcoming conference say their aim is to bring the foreign mission field to the United States in a powerfully inspiring and informative way. GFA founder and president K.P. Yohannan says those attending will be challenged and encouraged by an event featuring native mission field leaders, who will share about the realities and challenges of taking the gospel to remote areas of India and other parts of Asia.

Yohannan says this year's conference will be a time of worship and "looking into God's Word, seeing Christ of the New Testament" and how scripture applies to the needs of a lost world. The proceedings will include "lots of interaction and a significant amount of question and answer time, where people can ask information and learn about what's going on," the ministry leader notes, as well as "lots of fantastic testimonies from the mission field as to what God is doing."

The 2006 Renewing Your Passion Conference promises to be a unique experience, Yohannan contends. He says it will give participants a chance to hear from those who work daily in the mission fields of Asia, and "not only will they hear information, but they will have an opportunity to do something as a family, as an individual, as children, to impact these nations for eternity."

This potential, to not only learn about what is happening in the mission field but also to become involved, is "the uniqueness about this meeting that people talk about," the GFA president asserts. "It's not just information," he says. "I would say this is a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Yohannan says those who attend the second annual Renewing Your Passion Conference will be getting a first-hand account of the struggles and successes faced daily by Christian missionaries in Asia. The conference will run June 30-July 2 in Dallas, Texas.

http://news.christiansunite.com/Religion_News/religion04649.shtml

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« Reply #259 on: June 22, 2006, 08:32:45 PM »

New Orleans Pastor: Prayers, Saints' Presence Will Bring City Back

by Allie Martin and Jenni Parker
June 22, 2006

(AgapePress) - - A Baptist pastor from New Orleans, Louisiana, says Christians throughout the United States must not forget to pray for his city as it continues to recover from last year's devastating hurricane season.

Fred Luter is pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, which was heavily damaged as a result of Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding. He is currently overseeing a massive rebuilding project for the church and says there are many needs to be met, not only for his congregation but for the entire city of New Orleans and the surrounding areas.

It has been nearly ten months since Hurricane Katrina's swept through, wreaking havoc on homes, churches and other buildings and giving rise to the immense storm surge that caused several breaches in the New Orleans' levees and resulted in massive flooding. But recovery has barely begun for many of the area's citizens, Luter notes, including those who stayed and "rode out" the storm and its damage, those evacuees who remain displaced, and those residents who have since returned to face their losses.

Like many other cities and towns throughout the Gulf States region, New Orleans has been permanently marked by Hurricane Katrina. The Sunday before the storm hit, thousands of people filled Franklin Avenue Baptist Church; but one week later, the congregation's pastor could find only a small number of his church's members. He says many spiritual and physical needs remain for them and for all of New Orleans.

Now, as a new hurricane season gets under way, Luter says his city needs prayer -- and lots of it. "We need people to pray for our lodging, and for people to come back to the city. That's critical," he says. "And we need people to pray for the levees, that they'll hold when the hurricanes come."

Another major need, the Crescent City minister points out, is for skilled workers with willing hearts to come lend a hand in the recovery process. "We need people to pray that we'll be able to find enough people to help us to rebuild our churches and our homes," he says. "That's the critical need right now."

Asked whether it is truly feasible for flood-devastated New Orleans to rise from the ruins left in Katrina's wake, Luter says, "I believe we're coming back. We'll probably never again be the same city that we were; but I believe, with the presence of the saints of God, we can be on our way."

In fact, the pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church believes last year's disaster may have primed the Big Easy for revival. "I think after you go through what we've gone through, people are open for the gospel," he says.

Hurricane Katrina and its effects have left many people with "no protest about anything," Luter contends. That is because "after you go through what we've gone through, people's hearts and minds are open to the gospel like never before," he says. Therefore, he is urging Christians to pray and for all who would go even further to "come on down to N'awlins and help us out."

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« Reply #260 on: June 30, 2006, 07:35:07 AM »

Schools May Answer in Court for Censoring Students' Christian Messages

by Jim Brown
June 23, 2006

(AgapePress) - - A Christian attorney says a Colorado high school was wrong to withhold a valedictorian's diploma because her commencement speech encouraged people to learn about Jesus Christ.

Erica Corder, an 18-year-old graduating senior at Lewis-Palmer High School in Monument, used her commencement speech to speak about the death and resurrection of Christ and to urge listeners to learn more about his sacrifice. After the valedictory address, however, school officials told Corder she would not receive her diploma until she wrote an e-mail to the school community's students and parents, apologizing for her comments.

Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Florida-based Liberty Counsel, believes the school acted inappropriately. "Frankly, schools have no right to withhold a diploma," he argues. "That diploma is earned. It's just like if you already worked at your job, and you get paid after the fact; what you do on vacation or off work does not have any bearing on whether you're going to get paid."

Corder's case has a number of "very disturbing components," Staver says, "because after she gave her speech, she was threatened that her diploma would be withheld unless she wrote an e-mail apologizing to the seniors in her class." But Corder had already "earned" her diploma, he insists, and as the valedictorian, "she was entitled to the diploma, and the school should not have forced her to give this apologizing e-mail."

The pro-family attorney feels this has been one of the most egregious incidences of abuse of power by school officials at graduation that he has ever encountered. Until this situation in Colorado, he notes, "I've never seen a case where a diploma is withheld because someone gave a religious message. I believe that was obviously illegal to do that."

In fact, Staver believes it was unconstitutional for the school to censor the Christian valedictorian's message. The Liberty Counsel spokesman has sent a letter to school district officials on Corder's behalf, informing them that, under the Constitution of the United States, she has the right to share her faith. He says even though Corder agreed to write parents and fellow graduates an apology letter, a lawsuit against the school is still warranted.

New Jersey Second Grader Barred From Singing "Awesome God"

Meanwhile, in another case of apparent school censorship, a judge will decide whether a New Jersey elementary school violated a student's free speech rights when it barred her from singing a Christian song at a school talent show. The Frenchtown School District described the lyrics of the second-grader's selected music -- the Rich Mullins anthem "Awesome God" -- as too violent and graphic for the elementary school presentation.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Olivia Turton. ADF attorney Demetrios Stratis says, contrary to the school's claims, allowing Olivia to sing the song would not have violated the First Amendment. In fact, he asserts, "It's preposterous. It really, really is, to think that an eight-year-old, a second grader, is singing songs or lyrics that are violent and that in some way violate the establishment clause."

Stratis feels the school's defense is particularly ludicrous in light of some of the acts the school did not choose to censor. He says far more questionable performances were allowed at the talent show. For instance, he notes, "Someone was dancing to Shakira, I think," referring to the Colombian Latin pop performer known as much for her provocative dance style as for her at times suggestive lyrics.

Also, someone in the talent show performed a song by the rock band Bon Jovi, and someone else acted out "a scene from MacBeth regarding witches," the ADF lawyer recalls. With all the things that were allowed in show, Stratis contends it is beyond the pale for the Frenchtown School District officials "to suggest that the song 'Awesome God' is violent" and, he adds, "it just goes to show you the 'logic' behind them refusing to let Olivia sing her song."

Both sides in the case have filed motions for summary judgment. Judge Stanley Chesler will receive the papers on July 3 and will then decide whether to issue a ruling or have the case go to trial.

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« Reply #261 on: June 30, 2006, 07:36:08 AM »

PJI Successfully Defends Youth Minister Arrested For Mall Evangelism

by Allie Martin
June 23, 2006

(AgapePress) - - Charges have been dropped against a California evangelist who was arrested for witnessing at a local mall. Nevertheless, a pro-family attorney says the mall authorities may have to answer in court for this violation of the Christian man's clearly established rights.
The Sacramento-based youth pastor, who regularly leads a group of young adults to a shopping mall to hand out tracts and take part in one-on-one witnessing, was talking with someone at the mall when he was interrupted by a security guard and was ordered to leave. Although no one had complained, the guard demanded that the pastor vacate the premises because he had been "walking around and talking to people."

The evangelism-minded minister replied that he was not doing anything wrong and politely declined to leave. However, another security guard joined the first and the two informed the youth pastor he was being placed under citizen's arrest for trespassing.

At this point, he agreed to leave peacefully; but instead of being allowed to depart, he was allegedly grabbed and shoved against a storefront window, handcuffed tightly enough to draw blood, and later taken to a police station. There, he was reportedly booked for trespassing and an additional false charge of battery.

The senior pastor at the youth minister's church contacted Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a pro-family legal defense organization, which enlisted affiliate attorneys Gregory Koonce and Timothy Smith to provide representation at the court hearing. However, the local District Attorney's Office decided to drop the case "in the interests of justice," and all charges against the Christian defendant were dismissed.

The president of PJI, Brad Dacus, believes the DA's Office probably realized the minister's arrest was illegal; but while all the charges in the incident have been dropped, the attorney asserts that the matter is by no means over. He says a civil suit is being considered against the mall for violating the youth pastor's clearly established constitutional rights.

"Generally speaking," Dacus observes, "if a shopping mall opens its doors for individuals to randomly come in and do different things, to express themselves, then they can't discriminate against someone just because they're Christian or their message happens to be Christian." In fact, he points out, "some states even treat private shopping malls as public places as far as free speech protection is concerned."

This incident has served as a valuable lesson for the young people who accompanied their youth minister to the mall, the PJI spokesman contends. They no doubt "went there thinking they were going to be challenged to share their faith," he says, "but in reality, at the end of the day, they learned that sharing their faith sometimes involves a struggle -- a struggle that's worth enduring."

While celebrating the youth pastor's victory, Dacus remains concerned. He says since the dismissal of charges was not precedent-setting, there is no guarantee that this will be the last time a shopping mall tries to shut down a Christian's attempts to witness or share their faith. For that reason, he urges evangelists who encounter similar hostility to contact PJI immediately.

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« Reply #262 on: June 30, 2006, 07:37:43 AM »

Christian FamilyNet Casts In With Sirius, Catching Broader Radio Audience

by Allie Martin
June 23, 2006

(AgapePress) - - A secular satellite radio network, well known for its association with notorious "shock jock" Howard Stern, is now attracting a large audience because of its addition of a Christian channel.

It was several years ago that Sirius Satellite Radio was launched nationwide in the United States; however, it was last year that the company sent out a listener survey, asking customers what other types of formats they would like made available. That survey revealed to company officials that many of their listeners wanted a Christian format offered on satellite radio.

With that end Sirius officials contacted FamilyNet, the broadcast ministry of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Scott Miller, program director for FamilyNet Radio, says the Christian channel, which features a variety of Christian talk, news, preaching, and children's programs, has already made a big impact with Sirius customers.
"It goes back to what scripture says: what the enemy intended for evil, God has used for good," Miller observes. "Sirius Satellite has been advertised as the Howard Stern radio network, and there have been people who have been buying Sirius Satellite radios to get Howard Stern that have stumbled across Channel 159 and have accepted Christ."

The FamilyNet spokesman says satellite radio provides an expansive platform for Christian ministry, even though some have questioned its use by evangelical broadcasters. "It is a growing medium," he says. "It's another option."

And, while some people have questioned why the Christian radio channel is on the same network as Howard Stern, Miller compares that to asking why have FamilyNet Television on cable where HBO's offered. "You've got to have the gospel presented," he insists, "and it's just been a tremendous outreach for us."

There are more than four million subscribers to Sirius Satellite Radio. That number is expected to reach six million by the end of 2006.

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« Reply #263 on: June 30, 2006, 07:38:45 AM »

Prescription Drug Abuse Growing Among Teens, Christian M.D. Warns

by Mary Rettig
June 23, 2006

(AgapePress) - - A Christian psychiatrist from Pennsylvania says parents need to be concerned about the rapid growth of prescription drug abuse among teenagers.

According to Dr. Karl Benzio, what used to be barely a blip on the illicit drug radar for teens is now the second-most widely used method to get high, topped only by marijuana in prevalence. In a survey conducted last year by the Parnership for a Drug Free America, nearly 20 percent of teens admitted to taking some sort of prescription drug to get high.

Benzio believes several possible reasons may account for the growth in the popularity of prescription drug abuse among teens. "Prescription meds are legal," he notes, "and they're in their cabinets, and so [many young people] take them from their parents' cabinets. It's not like they have to go out and take a risk of buying them and getting arrested."

For that reason, Benzio says, at least in the minds of these teens, prescription drug use may seem like a "legal adventure" for them. And another thing, he notes, is that many kids believe if drugs have been prescribed, they must be relatively safe.

"Now, some kids understand that these medications are dangerous," the psychiatrist acknowledges. "But a lot of them believe that, since they're prescribed and the FDA has approved them, then they must be safe medications," He says.

Another major factor, Benzio contends, is the easy availability of prescription drugs, and young people's relatively sophisticated understanding of these medications' intended effects. "Kids can go in, and they can see all kinds of different things in the cabinet," he explains. "They're understanding and their education about pharmacology is much more advanced than [mine] as a teenager."

The Christian medical professional believes having a rudimentary understanding of the potential of various prescription medications may make many youth more likely to try these drugs. "So, he says, "knowing -- sort of -- what's in the cabinet and what that might be able to do for them, at least from their vantage point, makes a lot more impression."

Benzio says parents need to watch their medicine cabinets closely, taking especial note of drugs that were prescribed after surgeries or other illnesses. Many commonly prescribed painkillers are among the most popularly abused drugs, he notes. And, the doctor emphasizes, while use of illegal drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine appears to be going down or at least leveling off, prescription drug abuse is increasing at an alarming rate.

Many teens have the idea that because certain drugs can be obtained by prescription, those drugs are clean and do not carry the same stigma as cocaine or heroin, Benzio observes. Unfortunately, he warns, prescription drug abuse can still lead young people down the same trail of self-destruction as those illicit drugs.

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« Reply #264 on: June 30, 2006, 07:40:40 AM »

Former Buddhist, So. Vietnamese Officer Tells of Amazing Conversion to Christianity

by James L. Lambert
June 23, 2006

(AgapePress) - - In his recently released book The Making of a Believer, author Thoi Nguyen recounts his dramatic life story during the Vietnam War and the many instances where God intervened on his behalf.

Nguyen depicts his childhood in a Buddhist home, as well as his life experiences with a war that was so much a part of the Vietnamese history spanning back to both the Japanese and French occupations of that country.

In the book, Thoi describes his parent's difficulty in feeding their family even after their move from the province to the city of Saigon. He tells of his fight to save the life of his future wife, Thuy, during the infamous Tet Offensive. The author also speaks of his conversion and his service in the South Vietnamese Army. He later became the manager of agricultural research for the Ministry of Agriculture of the South Vietnamese government.

Nguyen's story is evidence of a God who is there and who intervenes in the lives of His followers. He recounts the details of his dramatic escape from Vietnam soon after its fall in 1975, as well as his capture by communist North Vietnamese and his miraculous escape.

The author says he wrote his life story to "help others find peace with themselves and with God." Nguyen believes that his book will provide fresh insight and personal perspective into a time that so deeply divided the United States.

The book allows the author to expound on his thankfulness to the Christian people in Minnesota who sponsored him and his family in the United States.

Since arriving in the north central U.S., members of Nguyen's family have become strong, contributing partners in that region. His son, Thy, is assistant director of career services at Northwestern University. His other son, Thi, is a police officer. His daughter, a student at the University of Minnesota, is studying to become a dentist. And the author, who now lives in Iowa and is following the agricultural career path he began so many years ago in Vietnam, is currently a district sales manager for AgVenture of Iowa.

The Making of a Believer: From the Rice Paddies of Viet Nam to the Cornfields of Iowa can be ordered through PublishAmerica.com. Nguyen is hoping that as people read his book, they will see that through the power of faith, hope, and love, they can face the difficult challenges of life.

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« Reply #265 on: June 30, 2006, 07:41:57 AM »

Secularized E.U. Ups Its Ante on ESCR

by Jody Brown and Natalie Harris
June 26, 2006

(AgapePress) - - A renowned family researcher says he can't figure out why the European Union has decided to devote more funding to embryonic stem-cell research -- unless it's to prop up the pro-abortion argument.

Earlier this month, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) -- by a vote of 284-249 -- decided to commit more EU funds to embryonic stem-cell research than in the past. The bulk of such funding in previous EU budgets had gone to adult stem-cell research. The Vatican has come out in opposition to the recent vote, calling it an expression of a "narrow-minded secularism" that "violate(s) the dignity of man."

Dr. Allan Carlson is founder of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society and organizer of the World Congress of Families, which next convenes in May 2007 in Poland. Carlson notes that years of research using stem cells taken from aborted babies have yet to produce a single treatment for a disease. But such is not the case with research involving stem cells taken from adults.

"[R]esearch on adult stem cells has produced a veritable cornucopia of treatments for many diseases -- over 100 to be exact," says Carlson. "Adult stem cells have been used for everything from corneal regeneration to treating juvenile arthritis."

The author and pro-family expert offers his explanation as to why some in the scientific community continue to turn a blind eye toward real results in favor of research that requires the extermination of unborn infants.

"It's a matter of ideology, not science," he says. "Because backers of embryonic stem-cell research promise miracle cures -- someday -- proponents hope the public will come to see abortion not as a necessary evil, but as a benefit to mankind."

And Carlson confesses that history seems to have been forgotten in Europe. "On a continent that saw such wanton destruction of human life in the past century -- and which spawned ideologies that viewed people as raw material for the state," he observes, "you would think the European Union would show more sensitivity for the most vulnerable among us: unborn children."

Scientific Motivations
Meanwhile, a new breakthrough in stem-cell research claims to offer all of the promised benefits of embryonic stem cells -- and none of the problems. Francisco Silva, vice president of research and development for PrimeCell Therapeutics, a research center in Irvine, California, explains the therapeutic development using adult stem cells.

Silva says his research team can now make some adult stem cells "pluripotent," just like embryonic stem cells. That is, the newly developed adult stem cells are capable of transforming into any cell type found in the body. At the same time, this therapeutic development avoids ethical controversy, the need for cloning, and bodily rejection.

"Our goal is not to destroy embryonic stem cells or continue doing research or build a name for ourselves," states Silva. "Our goal is to promise an application to the tens of thousands of patients out there who are needing a therapy. Everybody in the world knows somebody that stem cells can help."

To date, says a press release from parent company PrimeGen, human germ cells -- using therapeutic reprogramming technology -- have been successfully transformed into human heart, brain, bone, and cartilage cells. The findings are undergoing peer review at this time, and have been presented at several global conferences on stem-cell research. But Silva shares that his research team has faced disapproval from fellow researchers, particularly those involved in embryonic stem-cell research.

"It's really easy to take responsibility or to think that one is responsible for the properties of a cell and say, 'I discovered this and I did this and I've published hundreds of papers, and I'm the chair of this department,'" he says. "But really, it's the cell that's doing it. So, when there's a technology that can potentially threaten that [opportunity to make such claims], then obviously, the human nature comes out."

PrimeGen says it has spun off the research under the PrimeCell entity to allow the technology to move quickly to therapeutic application. PrimeGen chairman and CEO Thomas Yuen calls the germ line stem cell development "the most promising methodology yet for regenerative medicine."

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« Reply #266 on: June 30, 2006, 07:47:33 AM »

Parents' Persistent Protest Pays Off; Clubs' Flags Removed

by Jim Brown
June 26, 2006

(AgapePress) - - A pro-family group is hailing the removal of a "homosexual pride" flag from the wall of a Michigan high school.

For almost two years, conservatives have been protesting the presence of a rainbow flag displayed by the Diversity Club at Howell High School. Students even formed a Traditional Values Club in response to the school's allowance of homosexual activism on campus. Last Thursday (June 22) officials at the school took down the rainbow flag, the Christian flag displayed by the Traditional Values Club, and those of all other campus clubs.

Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, says public outcry forced school officials to reverse what he describes as "one of the most outrageous examples of political correctness ever seen in Michigan."

"This rainbow flag, which is [a] universally recognized [gay pride symbol] ... had been flying at Howell High since the day after the 2004 election, specifically to protest voter approval of a marriage protection amendment to our state constitution," Glenn explains. "And when parents and students protested to the school board, the school board reacted by having a formal flag dedication ceremony for the so-called 'gay pride' flag."

Now, says the AFA-Michigan spokesman, mounting public outcry has forced the school's hand in what he describes as "a sad state of affairs."

"I honestly think it got to the point where their sacred gay pride flag had to be sacrificed if that was the only way they could remove the Christian flag from Howell High," says Glenn. "But the parent group that organized 18 months ago for the purpose of pressuring school officials to remove the gay pride flag from their school finally made their point, and finally succeeded."

Under a revised policy, student clubs will be permitted to display their flags only at the time and place of their meetings. During the 18-month ordeal, the American Family Association's Center for Law & Policy provided legal assistance to the Traditional Values Club.

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« Reply #267 on: June 30, 2006, 07:48:40 AM »

Unions Often Ignore Religious Objectors' Right to Divert Dues, Watchdog Warns

by Jim Brown
June 27, 2006

(AgapePress) - - A union watchdog group says many times powerful teachers unions like the National Education Association (NEA) stonewall religious objectors who want their membership dues diverted to a charitable organization.

The Washington Education Association recently denied a Christian teacher's request to have her dues diverted to a charity that opposes sex trafficking. The teacher objected to funding the WEA's support for abortion and same-sex "marriage" with her dues.

Justin Hakes, director of legal information for the National Right to Work Foundation (NRTW), says such cases are unfortunately all too common. "In fact," he notes, "they're so common that our organization has established a special project to provide free legal aid to employees in these sorts of situations, where they find their conscience at odds with many of the activities that union officials are engaged in politically."

That National Right to Work Foundation effort is called the "Freedom of Conscience Project," Hakes explains, and its purpose is to protect employees of faith from having their religious freedoms violated by the injustices of compulsory unionism. He says Title VII of the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act allows employees with sincerely held religious beliefs to divert their union dues to charity.

However, Hakes notes, often when employees try to exercise this right, union officials ignore their request or create illegal hurdles before granting the worker's "religious objector" status. Also, he points out, under different Supreme Court rulings and the law, the charity to which funds are to be diverted has to be "mutually agreeable" between the union and the religious objector.

"In this case, where this woman was trying to divert her dues to a charity that battles sex trafficking and so forth," the NRTW spokesman says, "sometimes where union officials feel there may be a different agenda at work that they don't agree with, per se, at the root of the organization, and they may try to discourage employees from diverting their dues to such organizations."

Religious objectors who decide to join a liberal union are taking a gamble, Hakes asserts. He says many times union officials will throw up roadblocks to discourage workers and infringe upon this basic right; and when that happens, the Foundation's Freedom of Conscience Project stands ready to offer free legal assistance to victimized employees.

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« Reply #268 on: June 30, 2006, 07:50:18 AM »

Ministry Says Misinformation Poses Health Risk for Teens, Young Adults

by Steve Cable
June 28, 2006

(AgapePress) - - If terrorists were caught attempting to manipulate the environment at America's colleges and universities so that 85 percent of all coeds would graduate infected with a life-threatening virus, they would be vilified and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Many media reports on a recent study about the effectiveness of condom use in deterring the spread of HPV have the potential to produce the same result. Irresponsible and/or ignorant journalism producing a false sense of security may be able to accomplish what the most sophisticated terrorist operation would be unable to pull off.

The Study
Human papilloma virus (HPV) -- which can cause cervical cancer, genital warts and gotcha11l, vulvar, anal and penile cancers -- is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD), infecting about 80 percent of young women within five years of becoming sexually active. One of the arguments for abstinence prior to marriage is that condoms have not been shown to be effective in protecting against HPV and other STDs. A new study report, published in the June 22 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, is entitled "Condom Use and the Risk of Genital Human Papillomavirus Infection in Young Women." This study was structured to provide better information on the impact of male condom use on the likelihood of women contracting HPV.

What new insights are gained from this study on the relationship of condom use and HPV? The most important result is that sexually active college women whose male partners used condoms 100 percent of the time (both with the woman in the study and with other sexual partners) have roughly a 38 percent chance of contracting HPV within the first year of becoming sexually active. If she has at least one different partner per year for four years, the probability that she will leave college with an HPV infection is greater than 85 percent. The obvious conclusion of the study is that condom use is not an effective means of preventing HPV.

The study did find that sexually active college women whose male partners used condoms less than 100 percent of the time had a probability of contracting HPV within the first year of becoming sexually active ranging from 62 percent to virtually 100 percent, depending upon the regularity of condom use by their male partners. Although the study does show that male condom use did reduce the probability of sexually active women contracting HPV, it did not reduce it to a level that any thinking person would consider safe. Based on the study results, it is reasonable to conclude that any woman who is sexually active with multiple partners during their college years will almost certainly contract HPV whether they ensure their partners use condoms or not.

The Misinformation
One would expect the headlines for the media reports on this topic to read, "Condoms Shown to be Ineffective Against HPV." The body of the article would point out that these results vindicate the proponents of abstinence emphasis in preventing the spread of STDs. However, the exact opposite is being purported by the media. Here are some samples from the headlines:

    * "Condoms Reduce HPV Risk After All, Without Increasing Likelihood of Sex" (American Council on Science and Health)
    * "Condoms Proven to Protect Against Virus" (Associated Press, Yuma Sun)
    * "Condoms Reduce Risk of Cervical Cancer, Survey Says" (Dallas Morning News, June 22, 2006)

These headlines take a half truth and present it in a way that is designed to further a political agenda while endangering the health of America's youth and young adults. Even more dangerous is the first line of the Associated Press report: "For the first time, scientists have proof that condoms offer women impressive protection against the virus that causes cervical cancer." I do not consider an 85 percent chance of catching the virus in four years "impressive" -- I would consider it dismal! The AP report then adds insult to injury by including this quote from an obscure expert:

    "That's pretty awesome. There aren't too many times when you can have an intervention that would offer so much protection," said Dr. Patricia Kloser, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey who was not a part of the study.

The use of the words "impressive protection" and "so much protection" in conjunction with the results of this study borders on criminal. We need to hold our journalists to task for such biased (or, in the best case, shoddy) reporting. Even more important, we need to get out the real conclusion supported by the study: Abstinence or a completely monogamous relationship is the only effective protection against STDs. As Christians, we would point to marriage as the only valid venue for a monogamous relationship, but that is outside the scope of the study.

To determine the number of coeds at risk, we need to consider how many are sexually active. In order to participate in this study, the college coeds had to have refrained from gotcha11l intercourse prior to the two weeks preceding the start of the study. In other words, the participants were virgins at the beginning of the study. Over the three-year study period, 45 percent of those originally enrolled remained virgins. According to a report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control, in 2002, 70 percent of never-married teens under the age of 18 had not engaged in sex. Taking the 55 percent from the study who started sexual activity in college with the 30 percent who were already sexually active, one would predict that 68.5 percent of college coeds would be sexually active.

This tracks well with the CDC data that 68 percent of never-married females have engaged in sex before they were 20. Thus, if coed sexual activity remains at the same level and 100 percent condom use is practiced, we can expect approximately 60 percent of college coeds to graduate with an HPV versus 68 percent with 50 percent condom usage.

In contrast, if we could cut the number of sexually active coeds in half, the HPV infection rate among graduates could drop to 33 percent or less regardless of condom usage.

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« Reply #269 on: June 30, 2006, 07:51:59 AM »

'Real Men' Urged to Stand Between Children and Sex Industry

by Bill Fancher and Jody Brown
June 26, 2006

(AgapePress) - - American men are being challenged through a new campaign to help fight child pornography and its harmful impact, and to come to the defense of the nation's youth against an industry that seeks to exploit them.

Pornography is a multi-billion-dollar industry that exploits both women and children, from infants to teens, and preys on people's prurient interests, typically those of men. Statistics indicate that every month, 32 million individuals visit an Internet porn site -- and among all porn sites, one out of every five pornographic images is of a child. Add to that the fact that, according to the Center for Crimes Research, 20 percent of youth who use the Internet regularly have been sexually solicited or approached. Simply put, the business of commercial sexual exploitation is an aspect of a modern, technology-driven society that leaves no one untouched.

That is why an organization calling itself "The Defenders" is targeting men, urging them to lead the way and commit to defending women and children from the lucrative porn and sex trafficking industries. Chaplain Henry Rogers, who is involved in the effort, explains that the group is taking a two-pronged approach, attacking both the "sex-slave trade" and the pornography industry, an aspect with which he says "a lot of guys and teenage boys wrestle."

Rogers says The Defenders recently kicked off an advertising campaign -- consisting of both radio and TV spots -- aimed at its target audience: men.

"The Defenders campaign was kicked off on Father's Day .... It was introduced to bring this program to men in this country and to help them recognize that pornography is an issue in this country that we've got to make a decision about and to make a commitment to refuse to be involved in this industry," the group spokesman says.

According to The Defenders' website, the technology base available to children today -- such Internet chat rooms and social networking websites -- permit creation of "treasure mines" of youth profiles for sexual predators. Other factors aiding the explosion of commercial sexual exploitation of children include toleration of sex-oriented businesses in advertising and the breakup of the nuclear family.

The campaign asks men, through a series of announcements, to commit to refuse to use porn, to speak out against it, and to educate and protect women and children from the harmful effects of the commercial sexual exploitation industry. The NBC television network refused to run the spots, claiming pornography is legal in the U.S. The Defenders offered to alter the announcements to focus specifically on child pornography, but NBC did not respond.

The Defenders offers an online pledge for what it calls "real men" who vow not to tolerate the sexual exploitation of children, not to purchase pornography in any form, and not to buy sexual services.

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