August 10, 2006

World News

New Study: Sexually Charged Music
Impacts T
een Sexual Habits

BY MICHAEL FOUST                                                                                                
© 2006 Baptist Press 
capTeenagers who listen to sexually degrading music including some forms of popular rap music are more likely to be sexually active than are other teens, a new study says.
The study by RAND Corporation surveyed 1,461 adolescents ages 12-17 and followed them for three years, conducting interviews in 2001, 2002 and 2004. At each interval, they asked the teens about their music and sexual habits.
The teens who listened to sexually degrading music -- by such artists as rappers Lil' Kim and Ja Rule -- were "more likely … to initiate intercourse and other sexual activities," a RAND news release said. (The study included sample lyrics from Lil' Kim and Ja Rule that cannot be printed here.)
Although the study looked at all types of music -- including hard rock, country and pop -- it found that rap and rap-metal typically had the highest frequency of sexually degrading lyrics. The study found that the degrading lyrics negatively impacted both boys and girls, whites and non-whites.
Unlike music of decades past, the language in many of today's songs that is "used to describe sex has become increasingly direct," the study said.
“These portrayals objectify and degrade women in ways that are clear, but they do the same to men by depicting them as sex-driven studs,” Steven Martino, a RAND psychologist who led the study, said in a statement. “Musicians who use this type of sexual imagery are communicating something very specific about what sexual roles are appropriate, and teen listeners may act on these messages.”
Sexually degrading music and music videos, the study said, depict "sex-driven males competing with one another for females who are viewed as sexual objects" and whose "value is based on their physical appearance."
The RAND study confirms what Focus on the Family and other Christian conservatives have been saying "for years," said Bob Waliszewski, media specialist with Focus on the Family. The average teen listens to music 1.5 to 2.5 hours a day -- not counting the time he or she may spend watching music videos, the study said. One-fourth of teens listen to more than three hours of music a day, it said.
To read the complete story, click here.    

California Episcopal Bishops Worried About Secession

                                                                                         © 2006 Religion News Service 

In a conflict that could have wide repercussions for the deeply divided Episcopal Church, four California bishops have accused a fellow prelate of planning to break away from the church and have asked a disciplinary panel to stop him.
By allowing critical changes to his diocese's bylaws, conservative Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin, Calif., is clearly preparing to abandon the 2.2 million-member Episcopal Church, the four bishops argue.
Moreover, at a volatile moment when disputes over church leadership and property threaten to rip its 110 U.S. dioceses apart, the church could be thrown into legal disarray by San Joaquin's actions, according to church experts. "You have taken legal action that destroys any chance that the rest of the Episcopal dioceses in California could ever argue that we are a hierarchical church," retired San Francisco Bishop William Swing wrote in a June 22 letter to Schofield. "That will create chaos for us for all time."
The contents of the letter were leaked and posted on several Web sites. The San Joaquin Diocese confirmed the text.
Unhappy with the election of incoming Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and what they perceive to be the leftward drift of the church, San Joaquin is one of seven dioceses that have asked to be put under the guidance of a different primate. The diocese, based in Fresno, Calif., is also one of three U.S. dioceses that does not ordain women.
The diocese has taken more worrisome steps, according to the California bishops (Swing, Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, Jerry Lamb of Northern California and James Mathes of San Diego) who referred Schofield to the disciplinary panel, including: 
  •  In October 2005, delegates to the diocesan convention approved an amendment stating that San Joaquin's constitution takes precedence over national church policies.
  •   Last March the diocese changed its bylaws so that the national church no longer has to approve San Joaquin's choice of bishop.
Swing's letter to Schofield asked him to "reverse" both those maneuvers.
Valerie Munson, a Philadelphia lawyer who specializes in church property suits, said urgency is warranted.Local property such as churches are held "in trust" by dioceses for the larger denomination. Because of the Episcopal Church's hierarchical structure, secular courts have generally adopted a hands-off approach and let the national church keep the property when a parish breaks away.
But if a diocese, such as San Joaquin, can make up its own rules, some of which contradict the Episcopal Church, the hierarchical argument could be disputed, according to Munson. And as dozens of conservative parishes seek to leave the Episcopal Church, court rulings in California could affect judgments elsewhere, Munson said. In recent years, California courts have been more sympathetic to breakaway parishes that want to keep their property.
"A court could say that well, it's not hierarchical because that diocese has done something in contravention" with the national church, Munson said. "And maybe another judge in another state could take a look and say, well, it's spiritually hierarchical, but it's temporal when it comes to property.'"
The seven-member disciplinary panel will weigh the charges against Schofield and could issue the church equivalent of an indictment, which would turn the case over to church courts for trial.
The Rev. Van McCalister, spokesman for San Joaquin, said the diocese was originally a missionary diocese and was simply trying to update its constitution. Moreover, he said, diocesan delegates overwhelmingly approved the changes so it's not appropriate to hold Schofield wholly responsible.
The diocese has no immediate plans to leave the church, McCalister said. "This was not done looking ahead, as an avenue of separation," he said. "It was more of a theological concern."

Muslims Cry Foul as Berlin Blocks Construction of Mosque

BY NIELS SORRELLS                                                                                   © 2006
Religion News Service 

A decision to block the construction of a mosque and cultural center here has led to public outcries, suspicions of racism and an upcoming court case.
Stefanie Vogelsang, city planner and vice mayor for the Neukoelln district of Berlin, has blocked plans by the Islamic group Insaan to build a mosque. Vogelsang said the proposals do not meet building codes.
But in the past, she has also accused Insaan of having associations with radical terror groups, reported the Berliner Zeitung (Berlin Newspaper). "I am very happy the proposal does not meet standards," she said as she rejected it Tuesday (Aug. 1).
Insaan said it will present a plan for a smaller mosque to try to meet guidelines. But it has also filed a lawsuit challenging the council's decision to block work on a previous construction plan. The council blocked that plan, after first approving it, out of concerns that the mosque would disturb residents in the heavily Turkish neighborhood that includes many Muslim residents.
The back-and-forth over the plan has led to multiple outbursts. During one council meeting, Ibrahim El-Zayad, who owns the land for the proposed mosque, disrupted the session to proclaim that he does not support suicide bombers after Vogelsang had publicly mused about his support for terror organizations. Insaan has presented a host of prominent Germans to vouch for them, including a former president of the German parliament.
Catholic churches have also questioned the wisdom of blocking the mosque, arguing that it would be easier to build ties with the Muslim community if they have public meeting places. "It's a good sign if the mosques are not hidden in courtyards like they used to," said Stefan Foerner, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Berlin.

Pat Robertson Says He's Now a Believer -- in Global Warming

BY ADDELLE M. BANKS                                                                                © 2006
Religion News Service

The overwhelming heat that blanketed much of the East Coast in early August has convinced religious broadcaster Pat Robertson that global warming is a reality.
"It is the most convincing evidence of global warming I've run into in a long time," Robertson said August 3 during his "The 700 Club" television show. He previously had been critical of claims about the dangers of climate change. Robertson's reaction to the hot weather is the latest pronouncement in a year that has featured different sets of evangelical leaders issuing statements and counter-statements about whether or not global warming is a serious, human-caused threat.
"I have not been one who believed in this global warming, but I tell you, they're making a convert out of me with these blistering summers," Robertson said on his show the day before his Thursday statement. "And it is getting hotter, and the ice caps are melting, and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air. And I think we really need to address the burning of fossil fuels. If we are contributing to the destruction of this planet, we need to do something about it."
The Rev. Jim Ball, spokesman for the Evangelical Climate Initiative, welcomed Robertson's change of heart and said his comments demonstrate "the kind of leadership we need to move beyond the vague concern of some religious figures."
In February, Ball's group issued a "call to action" signed by more than 80 leaders that urged evangelicals to address climate change. It plans to hold a series of educational forums on college campuses.
In late July, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance issued a rebuttal to the initiative's statement that questioned its assumptions that global warming will be catastrophic and that human emissions of carbon dioxide are one of its primary causes. It was signed by more than 100 evangelical theologians and scientists.