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CULTURE DIGEST: Children’s quality of life improving;
37 percent of births in the U.S. are out of wedlock; …

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–More children these days are performing at grade level in school, eating breakfast with at least one parent and abiding by imposed television rules, according to a Census Bureau report titled “A Child’s Day.”

The report surveyed parents to analyze benchmarks of well-being for 73 million children from a 2003 review of income, The New York Times said Jan. 11, and the results were compared with similar surveys in 1994 and 2000.

“We hadn’t noted anything where children were doing worse,” Tallese Johnson, a co-author of the report, told The Times.

Among the findings, the number of children considered “on track” academically increased to 75 percent from 69 percent in 1994.

With the escalation of inappropriate material on television, parents more often are making certain programs off-limits for their children and are regulating viewing time, the report found. In 1994, 54 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds were given such rules, but the number grew to 67 percent in 2003. Among 6- to 11-year-olds, the number grew from 60 percent to 68 percent, The Times reported, and from 40 percent to 44 percent among 12- to 17-year-olds.

“It’s good news that more parents are restricting TV viewing because we know that children who watch a lot of TV are more likely to be obese,” Andrew J. Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University, told The Times.

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Most children have dinner each night with at least one parent, the study found, though breakfast is less likely to be coordinated. Among children under age 6, 57 percent have breakfast every day with at least one parent, compared to 51 percent in that age group in 1994. But fewer than one-third of 6- to 11-year-olds and fewer than one-fourth of 12- to 17-year-olds have breakfast with at least one parent.

Nearly four in 10 children have been in regular childcare, the Census study found, and children are more likely to be placed in childcare when parents are better educated and wealthier.

The study said Hispanic children were least likely to have been read to by their parents, but Hispanic children liked school most often. And 41 percent of children participate in the National School Lunch Program, which is meant to assist children in public schools whose families have lower incomes, the study found.

For more information, visit www.census.gov.

37 PERCENT OF BIRTHS OUT OF WEDLOCK — Nearly four in 10 babies born in the United States in 2005 were born to unmarried mothers, an all-time high for out-of-wedlock births.

On the positive side, officials at the National Center for Health Statistics reported that the birth rate among girls ages 10 to 17 dropped in 2005 to the lowest level on record. But births among unmarried mothers in their 20s rose dramatically, the center found.

“A lot of people think of teenagers and unmarried mothers synonymously, but they are not driving this,” Stephanie Ventura, a co-author of the report, told the Associated Press.

Experts attribute the rise to a trend — sparked by Hollywood — where having a child out of wedlock is more acceptable and less shameful than in the past. And as a recent report in The New York Times mentioned, more women are putting off marriage or choosing to cohabit with men who are not their husbands.

Census figures show that the average age for a man to marry was 27 in 2005 and the average age for women was 25, up from 23 and 20 in 1950.

About 4.1 million babies were born in the United States in 2005, up slightly from 2004, the report said. More than 1.5 million of those births were to unmarried women, which is about 37 percent. In 2004, the number was 36 percent.

The birth rate among teenagers declined to 2 percent in 2005, which is the lowest level in the 65 years for which a consistent series of rates is available, AP said.

JAY BAKKER & THE ‘GAY-AFFIRMING GOSPEL’ — People had hoped that the wayward child who emerged from the saga of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker would somehow succeed in his endeavors at winning the punk-rock crowd to faith in Christ. But now Jay Bakker is coming under fire for promoting a gospel that affirms the homosexual lifestyle.

Bakker is “offering America a new religion that guarantees no hell and requires no holiness,” J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, wrote Jan. 12. “It is a limp, spineless Christianity that cannot confront sin for fear of being ‘judgmental.’ It is an impotent gospel that tells people who wrestle with homosexual feelings that they might as well indulge.

“It welcomes everyone with a polite ‘come as you are’ mantra — but in the end it is incapable of breaking the power of addiction or sexual dysfunction,” Grady added. “It uses feel-good words such as ‘tolerance,’ ‘acceptance,’ and ‘grace,’ terms that sound hip and sexy in today’s permissive culture. It is a golden calf, shiny and seductive, forged by those who think they can rewrite God’s word and start a new religion.”

Bakker, 31, has received renewed attention lately for his six-part documentary on the Sundance Channel called “One Punk Under God,” which chronicles his life and ministry.

But Grady is sounding the alarm about Bakker’s and others’ push toward a homosexual-affirming “gospel,” which he calls a “toxic heresy” that must be addressed boldly from pulpits in 2007.

“I pray there is enough moral backbone left in the church to face the challenge,” Grady wrote.
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