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CULTURE DIGEST: Abstinence ridiculed on ‘American Idol’; atheists oppose ‘Giants’ film

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A teenage contestant in a preliminary round of this season’s “American Idol” was mocked for his abstinence stance, sending a message to thousands of viewers about how the culture treats the issue.

Bruce Dickson, a 19-year-old from Bastrop, Texas, was asked to tell something about himself during the Dallas auditions for the reality show, and he said he had never kissed a girl.

“What?” Randy Jackson, one of the show’s judges, asked. “On purpose?”

“On purpose,” Dickson said. “On my wedding day, that will be my first kiss.”

The home-schooled, Christian teenager went on to explain that he has made a commitment to abstain from sexual activity until marriage, and his father holds him accountable in his decision.

“Maybe next year he’ll come back less a boy and more a man,” host Ryan Seacrest quipped as Dickson’s segment ended.

Dickson later told Cybercast News Service he disagreed with Seacrest’s assertion.

“A real man would rather wait than just do whatever with whoever,” Dickson said.

And on Fox News, the editor of a pornographic magazine said American Idol is a “national popularity contest based on talent and sex appeal. There’s nothing sexy about a 19-year-old guy who’s never kissed a girl and wears a heart necklace his father is holding the key to.”

Dickson told CNS he is firm in his decision despite the puzzling ridicule.

“I respect women and don’t think of them as a sexual object, and I’m the freak?” he said, adding that divorce and other problems his parents observed in their extended family led them to challenge their children to abstain from sex outside marriage.

“It wasn’t anything they forced on us,” Dickson told CNS. “It was something they talked to us about, something they taught us the importance of.”

Jason Burtt, national director of Silver Ring Thing, a Christian organization that promotes abstinence, commended Dickson for his stance and said a growing number of youth are choosing to abstain based on their morals and faith. Burtt also lamented the treatment Dickson received on the show.

“Bruce has said he’s going to walk the hard walk, and instead of lifting him up and praising him, we’re mocking him,” Burtt said. “I think that’s because when someone is up on a chair, it’s easier for people to pull him down than to pull everyone else up off the floor. Maybe they feel bad they couldn’t do it themselves.”

In related news, a Boston University School of Medicine study said teens with positive attitudes about delaying sexual activity are more likely to practice abstinence. Influences like parental opinions on sex, personal beliefs and their friends’ sexual behavior help determine whether a teen will have sex, the study said, while fears of pregnancy and STDs did not make teens more likely to abstain.

“This study proves that when teens are given the skill sets needed to make the best health choice about sex, it is clear they are capable of choosing to abstain,” Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, said Jan. 16. “The core teachings of abstinence education include character building, goal-setting and exploring the emotional risks of casual sex. Abstinence education is the only curriculum that offers such a clear, risk-avoidance approach to sexual health.”

‘FACING THE GIANTS’ FACES HOSTILITY — Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to Paul W. Bryant High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala., demanding that all teachers be told not to show the film “Facing the Giants” in their classrooms because it establishes a religion.

“Here we go again with another bogus threatening letter from an antireligious organization which has a truncated view of the world,” said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University law school.

“In the worldview of Americans United, there is no room for religion. The problem with that view is that it is contrary to our heritage, history and the First Amendment,” Staver added. “The First Amendment does not require that public schools become religion-free zones.”

Facing the Giants is an inspirational movie about a high school football team that overcomes obstacles, and it was produced under the auspices of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. The film was shown in theaters nationwide and enjoyed significant box office success.

“There is no constitutional violation when public school teachers include, within the mix of curriculum or assemblies, various symbols, music, art, drama or literature that has overtly religious themes,” Liberty Counsel said in a news release Jan. 21. “If the school is providing exposure to a variety of viewpoints on a given subject matter or an array of cultural narratives, there is no violation of the First Amendment.”

GAMBLING ADDICTIONS COMMON ON CAMPUSES — Gambling among college students has been in the news again after three members of the Ohio University baseball team were suspended for accepting or placing bets on professional sports.

According to The Columbus Dispatch Jan. 19, an NCAA survey in 2003 found that 63 percent of Division 1 male student-athletes admitted gambling on things like the lottery and card games, and more than 17 percent admitted violating NCAA regulations by betting on collegiate sports.

“Gambling is the second-fastest-growing addiction on college campuses, behind alcohol,” said Frank Turner, a sports management professor at Ohio State University. “Athletes are competitive individuals, and that competitiveness can lead to gambling. It’s more about the thrill of the chase. Not many make money.”

The Dispatch said a 2006 survey of undergraduates at Ohio State found that 55 percent had gambled in the past year, 22 percent reported gambling in residence halls and 21 percent said they had gambled online.

“These venues appeal to young men, and men between the ages of 18 and 22 are at the highest risk-prone period of their life,” Louise Douce, assistant vice president of student affairs at OSU, told The Dispatch. “They are susceptible to gambling.”

Douce also said students accumulate credit card debt to support their gambling habits and some neglect studies and relationships. Many will face lifelong and life-threatening gambling additions, the newspaper noted.

In December, The New York Times featured a Harvard professor who promotes poker among college students as a way of developing critical thinking skills.

“I tell my students all the time that if you want to do something with your spare time, you can do a whole lot worse than play poker,” Charles Nesson of Harvard Law School said.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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