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CULTURE DIGEST: Evangelicals now are more environmentally conscious, Barna says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Millions of evangelicals have become more environmentally conscious in the last year, according to a study by The Barna Group dubbed as the most comprehensive look at the Christian community and environmental issues.

Though they’re taking a closer look at the environment, Barna found that evangelicals are doing so with some skepticism about the environmental movement, which they perceive to be tied to media hype surrounding global warming.

Most Christians, Barna said, are not satisfied to sit on the sidelines of the green push, and three-fourths of those surveyed would like to see their fellow Christians take a more active role in caring for God’s creation in an informed and biblical way.

Americans as a whole don’t see the environment as one of the top challenges facing the nation, the research group reported. Instead, respondents told Barna the nation’s top concerns include the economy, fuel costs, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, health care, unemployment, moral concerns and education.

“If anything, the importance of environmental issues tends to be interpreted through the lens of their economic reality, such as how it affects fuel costs,” the Sept. 22 Barna news release said.

One out of every two adults surveyed said they have made specific changes to their lifestyle in the last year in light of the environmental impact, Barna found, and a similar proportion of evangelicals had made changes to become more environmentally conscious. Most Americans said their changes were prompted by a general concern for the environment rather than a specific concern about global warming.

Among the reasons respondents gave for being skeptical about global warming: some solutions would have a negative impact on the poor, especially in other countries; the earth has undergone climate change before; the news media have made global warming a bigger story than it merits; and the U.S. economy is not strong enough to address the problem now, Barna said.

“Evangelicals are among the most skeptical population segments when it comes to global warming — just 27 percent firmly believe global warming is happening,” Barna said.

Churches for the most part aren’t addressing how Christians can be good stewards of the world God created, the news release noted, and the term “creation care” was not recognized by most of the people who were interviewed.

“Millions of Christians — no matter how you slice it, Catholic or Protestant, evangelical or not — want to see their faith community become more active in environmental stewardship,” David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group, said. “There is a void in Christian leadership on environmental issues, as well as an inability to articulate clearly and confidently a biblical understanding of creation care.

“Since climate change is controversial, many churches have simply avoided dealing with the subject, ceding the conversation to other voices,” Kinnaman added. “It may not be an easy arena to venture into, but the Christian community is ready for balanced, thoughtful, non-partisan and engaged leadership on this crucial issue.”

FAMILY DINNERS MAKE A DIFFERENCE — A five-year study from Columbia University has found that children who have frequent family dinners are less likely to use marijuana or tobacco, or drink alcohol.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) said in September that compared to children who have five or more family dinners per week, children who have less than three family dinners per week are two-and-a half times more likely to have used marijuana and tobacco, and they’re one-and-a half times more likely to have consumed alcohol.

“If you asked me based on CASA’s 16 years of intensive examination of substance abuse and addiction in our nation what’s the most effective thing we can do to curb this scourge and protect our children, I would say parental engagement,” Joseph Califano Jr., CASA’s chairman, said.

“Years of surveying teens have consistently shown that the more often they have dinner with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink and use drugs,” Califano added.

CASA’s advice to parents includes: spend time with your children by having dinner with them; talk to them about their friends, interests and the dangers of drugs and alcohol; answer their questions and listen to what they say; and recognize that parents have the power to help keep their kids substance-free.

To help facilitate productive family meals, CASA created a family dinner kit that includes placemats and menu cards that children can decorate plus recipes and conversation starter questions that can be downloaded at www.casafamilyday.org.

“Family dinners do make a difference,” Califano said. “America’s drug problem is not going to be solved in courtrooms or legislative hearing rooms by judges and politicians. It will be solved in the living rooms and dining rooms and across kitchen tables by parents and families.

“It has less to do with the food on the plate and more to do with what is happening at the table,” he said. “Gathering each night lets children know that their parents are available to them, and it serves as a simple and powerful way to foster an excellent parent/child relationship.”

MORE HOMOSEXUAL CHARACTERS ARE ON TV — Only a decade ago, viewers everywhere were shocked to learn that both Ellen DeGeneres and the character she played on TV had “come out of the closet” and embraced homosexuality. Now, a homosexual activist group says broadcast television will have 16 homosexual characters in prime-time series this fall, more than double a year ago.

“This dramatic increase shows how far many networks have come in developing complex, multilayered lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters,” Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), said in a Sept. 23 news release.

GLAAD has analyzed the characters on network television’s prime-time scripted programming for 13 years, and they noted that this fall’s numbers follow what they call a three-year slump in the introduction of homosexual characters on TV. This year GLAAD examined 88 scripted comedies and dramas and counted a total of 616 characters, 16 of which are homosexual.

“Our analysis also shows where there’s still work to be done,” Giuliano said. “This past year, we’ve seen some real progress from Fox towards making their scripted programming more inclusive, which is something we’re hoping to see from other networks like CBS.”

Fox has the highest percentage of regular homosexual characters on any of the five broadcast networks while CBS has no such characters. The number of non-contract recurring homosexual characters also has risen, from 13 last season to 19 this year, GLAAD said.

“As the networks gradually add characters from all backgrounds and walks of life to prime-time programming, more and more Americans are seeing their LGBT friends and neighbors reflected on the small screen,” Giuliano said.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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