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CULTURE DIGEST: Controversy surrounds ‘C.S. Lewis Bible’; teen birth rate decreases

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Debate has ensued around the release of a Bible containing about 600 excerpts from the writings of C.S. Lewis, with a group of scholars signing a petition saying Lewis would not have approved of the gender-neutral translation with which his notes are paired.

“The C.S. Lewis Bible,” published late last year by HarperOne, the religion imprint of HarperCollins, utilizes the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, which was released in the United States in 1989, 26 years after Lewis’ death.

Louis Markos, an English professor at Houston Baptist University who has written four books on Lewis, launched a petition asking HarperOne to change the translation to the Revised Standard Version or the King James Version, which Lewis would have used.

“Though we commend Harper for publishing a Bible that includes thoughts and meditations from C.S. Lewis, we disagree with their choice to key Lewis’s writings to the text of an intentionally gender-neutral translation of the scriptures that Lewis himself would have opposed,” the petition said.

“By doing so, Harper tacitly suggests that Lewis would have approved of the NRSV and the agenda that underlies its gender-neutral translation. Yet, the majority consensus among C.S. Lewis scholars is that Lewis was firmly against gender-neutral usage and the egalitarianism on which it is based,” the petition added.

Signers of the petition said they support the right of the C.S. Lewis Bible editors to choose passages from Lewis that they believe best capture his legacy, but they do not support the editors’ choice of presenting the NRSV “as if it were the Bible Lewis would have endorsed had he been alive today.”

The project was overseen by Lewis’ stepson Douglas Gresham and Lewis scholar Jerry Root of Wheaton College. Michael Maudlin, executive editor of HarperOne, told the Los Angeles Times the devotional Bible “uses Lewis’ writings to illuminate what is being addressed in Scripture.”

For example, after Genesis 3:1-13 when Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden, this Lewis excerpt appears: “He would rather have a world of free beings, with all its risks, than a world of people who did right like machines because they couldn’t do anything else.”

Maudlin said the NRSV is used by a wide swath of Christian denominations and while the petition may have discouraged some conservative evangelical bookstores from carrying the Lewis Bible, it hasn’t hindered overall sales.

The release of The C.S. Lewis Bible comes amid a surge in interest in the lay theologian. The film version of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” third in his “Chronicles of Narnia” series, has earned more than $400 million since its December release, and a fourth film, “The Magician’s Nephew,” is in the works.

In 2012, the C.S. Lewis Foundation is expected to launch C.S. Lewis College in Northfield, Mass., on property purchased for the foundation by Hobby Lobby, a retail crafts chain. As owner of the Northfield property, Hobby Lobby will invest more than $5 million in operations and capital improvement projects in support of the creation of the college, which is projected to enroll 400 students and employ a faculty of 40 and a staff of 45.

TEEN BIRTH RATE DECREASES 37 PERCENT — Statistics indicate that the teenage birth rate in the United States decreased 37 percent from 1991 to 2009 to a record low, with the most significant decrease — 50 percent — among African American girls.

The report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April said overall approximately 4 percent of girls ages 15 to 19 gave birth in 2009, marking the lowest level in the nearly 70 years such data has been recorded.

“Paralleling the decline in births to teens aged 15-19 years during 1991-2009, the percentage of high school students who had ever had sexual intercourse and the percentage of sexually active students who did not use any method of contraception at last sexual intercourse both decreased,” the CDC said.

Among key points from the study:

— Teen childbearing costs the United States about $9 billion annually.

— Among high school students, 46 percent have had sexual intercourse. Among sexually active students, 12 percent did not use any method of contraception at last sexual intercourse.

— Approximately half of U.S. teens have talked with their parents about how to say no to sex, or about methods of birth control.

“While these statistics certainly do not mean that teen sexual activity is not an issue of concern, they do compel us to examine what is working and what is causing teens to reject the ‘everybody’s doing it’ myth promulgated in the media,” Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, said.

“While some argue that teens simply need access to more birth control and devices, perhaps a closer look would show us that they need more support for the good decisions they are making to abstain,” Huber added. “Current public policy has failed to recognize and support the positive behavioral trends among teens by failing to provide resources for comprehensive risk avoidance sex education.”

Huber urged leaders to increase the positive direction of teen sexual health by empowering teens with the skills to resist early sexual activity.

MOTHER REGRETS HER PROMISCUOUS YOUTH — In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, a woman acknowledged that her promiscuous past now is a troubling obstacle in her quest to raise a daughter.

“So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn’t), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don’t know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily,” Jennifer Moses wrote. “We’re embarrassed, and we don’t want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.

“Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don’t know one of them who doesn’t have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I’ve ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she’d ‘experimented’ more.”

Moses’ column was titled, “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?” and dealt mainly with the sexualization of girls.

“Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this — like prostitutes, if we’re being honest with ourselves — but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?” she wrote, leading to the conclusion that perhaps she and other parents assume they lack the moral authority to prohibit such behavior.

“It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret. A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, ‘If I could do it again, I wouldn’t even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?'” Moses wrote.
Erin Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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