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CULTURE DIGEST: Benefits of alcohol in moderation debated; Barna poll assessed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Researchers continue to debate whether drinking alcohol in moderation yields any tangible health benefits after some studies have suggested it could promote heart health and reduce the risk for diabetes and dementia.

“The bottom line is there has not been a single study done on moderate alcohol consumption and mortality outcomes that is a ‘gold standard’ kind of study — the kind of randomized controlled clinical trial that we would be required to have in order to approve a new pharmaceutical agent in this country,” Tim Naimi, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The New York Times in June.

Another expert said it’s difficult to form a comprehensive message because what’s good for one person isn’t necessarily good for another, and “the public health message has to be very conservative,” lest doctors urge people to drink small amounts of alcohol that lead to larger problems.

Alcohol has been linked to liver disease, cancers, heart damage and strokes when consumed in larger amounts, and even small doses can lead to accidents, The Times said.

The substance also is believed to achieve positive effects such as reducing coronary disease by increasing the good HDL cholesterol and having anti-clotting effects.

Some researchers, though, contend that moderate drinking may just be something healthy people do, not something that makes people healthy, The Times said.

“The moderate drinkers tend to do everything right — they exercise, they don’t smoke, they eat right and they drink moderately,” said Kaye Middleton Fillmore, a retired sociologist from the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s very hard to disentangle all of that, and that’s a real problem.”

Naimi said moderate drinkers and abstainers generally are so different that they simply cannot be compared. Moderate drinkers, he said, are wealthier, more educated and get better health care.

“Moderate drinkers tend to be socially advantaged in ways that have nothing to do with their drinking,” he told The Times. “These two groups are apples and oranges.”

Simply advising nondrinkers to drink won’t change that, Naimi said.

The Southern Baptist Convention, in its most recent stance on alcohol, said because alcohol use has led to countless injuries and deaths on the nation’s highways and because the breakup of families and homes can be directly and indirectly attributed to alcohol use, among other dangers, Southern Baptists should abstain from using it.

Messengers to the 2006 SBC annual meeting expressed their “total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages” and urged Southern Baptists to be “actively involved in educating students and adults concerning the destructive nature of alcoholic beverages.”

BARNA REPORT ON HOMOSEXUALS DISPUTED — Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, says The Barna Group spoke too cavalierly about what it called “homosexual Christians” in a recent report.

The report, released June 22, was based on a survey of about 9,200 randomly selected adults, 280 of whom were self-identified homosexuals. Barna compared their questionnaire responses to those of heterosexual respondents on spiritual issues.

Among the findings:

— Heterosexuals were twice as likely as homosexuals to strongly agree that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.

— Heterosexual adults were nearly twice as likely as homosexuals to qualify as born-again Christians according to a definition Barna employs.

— About 40 percent of the homosexuals surveyed possessed a pantheistic view about deity — that “God” refers to any of a variety of perspectives, such as personally achieving a state of higher consciousness or maximized personal potential or that there are multiple gods that exist or that everyone is god.

— Homosexuals assigned a lower priority to family and placed a higher emphasis on the importance of their lifestyles.

“People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts,” George Barna said. “A substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ active in their life today.”

LaBarbera took issue with Barna using the term “homosexual Christians.”

“My test is to substitute another sexual sin and see if it makes sense,” he told OneNewsNow.com. “Would we be talking about a survey of porn-using Christians or incestuous Christians? That sounds stark, but that’s, I believe, the appropriate biblical analogy.”

He also said Barna is naïve if he thinks the homosexual movement is not made up of “hedonistic Christian bashers.”

“I think there are Christians who struggle with the sin of homosexuality — but proud homosexual Christians? That’s an oxymoron to me in the same way as I would say proud adulterous Christians,” LaBarbera said.

“And so, I think we have to be very careful because I see the tactic of the Emergent Church and the Christian left is to start talking more and more about ‘gay Christians,’ and what they end up doing is demonizing the so-called ‘Religious Right’ and saying that the Religious Right is all wrong in the way it has talked about homosexuality.”

SCHOOL DISTRICT REQUIRES PRO-HOMOSEXUAL CURRICULUM — The Alameda County Board of Education in California has approved a mandatory curriculum promoting homosexuality for children as young as 5 years old without allowing parents to opt-out.

LGBT Lesson #9 was approved at the end of May to teach students in kindergarten through fifth grade to tolerate the homosexual lifestyle beginning with the next school year, according to a report by WorldNetDaily.

“Alameda’s new curriculum requires written and verbal expression of student ideas, with a clear intent to evaluate whether students endorse homosexuality,” Karen England of the pro-family Capitol Resources Institute in California said. “It is intolerant of traditional views on human sexuality.”

Students will read stories including “Who Is in a Family?” which explores different types of families. One page states, “… Robin’s family is made up of her dad, Clifford, her dad’s partner, Henry, and Robin’s cat, Sassy.”

Second-graders will learn about two homosexual penguins that raise a young chick in the book “And Tango Makes Three.” In the fourth grade, students will be introduced to terms such as “gay,” “lesbian” and “LGBT.” Teachers are instructed to ask, “How do you think Robert feels when he hears people say things like, ‘This is gay’ or ‘You’re so gay’?”

Fifth-grade teachers will be asked to write the acronym LGBT and ask students the meaning of each letter. The curriculum, which is estimated to cost the school district $8,000, also provides a list of LGBT vocabulary words for students including bisexual, transgender, gay and lesbian.

England said the school district is violating federal law by not allowing parents the opportunity to opt-out if the lessons contradict their religious beliefs.

Under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, parents must be notified and allowed to opt-out if the lessons address political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent; sex behavior or attitudes; or religious practices, affiliations or beliefs of the student or student’s parent.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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