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CULTURE DIGEST: Military dismissals over homosexuality
rose in ’05; geneticist reasons the existence of God; …


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The U.S. Department of Defense reports that 726 service members were discharged from the military for being homosexual in 2005, which represents an 11 percent increase over the previous year.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group that opposes the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy obtained the statistics through a Freedom of Information Act request and released them Aug. 13, according to the Associated Press.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” went into effect during the Clinton administration in 1994 and prohibits the military from inquiring about the sexual behavior of service members but requires the dismissal of those who openly acknowledge being homosexual or are otherwise found out.

Homosexual advocacy groups like the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network are seeking to repeal the policy because they say it is being abused as the war in Iraq continues with some heterosexual soldiers faking homosexuality as an easy way out of military duty. Others say the prolonged involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan will lead military officials to take whomever they can get to serve.

“It’s going to be overturned because people are needed, and it’s not going to matter who they’re sleeping with,” Elizabeth Recupero, an internist and pediatrician discharged under the policy last year told AP. “We’re in a situation of high alert and war.”

But the military contends that allowing homosexuals to serve would disrupt unit cohesion and undermine missions, The New York Times reported, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said the Bush administration will not revisit the policy.


Despite the dramatic increase in dismissals in 2005, The Times said a review by the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, found that more service members were discharged last year for drug offenses, pregnancy and weight problems than for being homosexual.

Mark Coppenger, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and distinguished professor of apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press that 726 discharges among more than 2 million military personnel is “a miniscule number.”

In an article he wrote about the policy in 2000, Coppenger mentioned several legal cases showing that the secular government recognizes a citizen’s right to be protected from “peeping Toms,” whatever the context.

“I submit that this applies to the issue of gays in the military,” Coppenger wrote. “When we admit them, we make our men, or women, as the case may be, exceedingly vulnerable to the gaze of those whose lust tends runs in their direction.

“Even in the examination and induction stations, one is stripped before his peers. Once in uniform, the exposure continues in a variety of settings,” he added. “But, at least, it’s men with men and women with women. Introduce homosexuals, and you change the equation, for those of the ‘opposite sex’ are now intermingled.”

GENETICIST REASONS THE EXISTENCE OF GOD — Francis S. Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, has written a book describing his personal journey from atheism to a belief in God, maintaining that the scientific method and faith can coexist.

In “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,” Collins, 56, cites Christian theologians Augustine and Thomas Aquinas as well as writer C.S. Lewis in addressing scientists who believe the world is purely matter as well as Christians who take a literal view of the Book of Genesis with no regard for scientific discovery.

“Although Collins’s purpose is grand, his manner is modest and his prose clear, as befits a man more concerned with sharing his views on the nature of things than with displaying his ego,” Scott Russell Sanders wrote in a review for The Washington Post.

“Collins writes just enough about his youth for us to learn that he was brought up in a household indifferent to religion; he became an agnostic in college and an atheist in graduate school, where he studied chemistry,” Sanders added. “Only in medical school did he reverse that trajectory, gradually accepting the existence of God and embracing evangelical Christianity — led to belief, like St. Augustine, less by longing than by reason.”

In the book released in July, Collins asks scientific skeptics to investigate God with the same open-minded zeal they apply to the natural world, according to the Associated Press, and he voices his opinion that the alternative views of evangelicals who oppose evolution undermine the credibility of faith.

Circumstances he encountered in medical school, such as watching suffering and dying patients retain faith in God, led Collins to begin a faith journey, AP said, and he realized he had become an atheist without ever looking at the evidence for whether God exists. Lewis’ classic “Mere Christianity” was a tremendous influence, he said.

“For me the experience of sequencing the human genome and uncovering this most remarkable of all texts was both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship,” Collins wrote in the book’s introduction. “Many will be puzzled by these sentiments, assuming that a rigorous scientist could not also be a serious believer in a transcendent God. This book aims to dispel that notion, by arguing that belief in God can be an entirely rational choice, and that the principles of faith are, in fact, complementary with the principles of science.”

BARNA FINDS AMERICANS ARE PLEASED WITH THEMSELVES — Americans have a generally positive view of themselves, according to a recent study by The Barna Group which found that most people perceive themselves as good people who are spiritually stable and living a good and honorable life.

“Yet, despite the spiritual focus people claim, the study found that people’s lifestyles, attitudes and self-perceptions are more likely to be affected by their life-stage and ethnic culture than by their faith commitments,” an Aug. 14 news release from Barna said.

At least nine out of 10 people surveyed said they are “a good citizen,” “friendly” and “generous,” the study found. At least eight out of 10 said they “feel at peace,” “are clear about the meaning and purpose” of their lives, and are “making a positive difference in the world.” Among those with children, 69 percent said they are “an effective parent,” Barna reported.

Only 13 percent of respondents admitted to being “in serious debt,” and only 21 percent said they were “feeling unfulfilled.” One out of three people surveyed said they feel stressed out, Barna found, and four out of 10 admitted to being overweight.

More than eight out of 10 Americans, according to the study, believe they “live a simple life,” though 58 percent claim to be “into new technology” and 53 percent are “active in the community.” Four out of 10 adults, Barna reported, said they are still “trying to find a few good friends.” One out of eight admitted to “dealing with an addiction” that personally haunts them.

An overwhelming majority of Americans, 88 percent, “feel accepted by God,” the study found, while 62 percent consider themselves “deeply spiritual” and 59 percent would describe themselves as “a fulltime servant of God.”

Eighty-four percent of Americans who responded to the survey view themselves as Christian, and 60 percent as “a committed Christian,” Barna said.

George Barna, the survey’s director, “pointed out that while most people claim that their faith is one of the fundamental self-defining elements of their life, the data indicate that people’s perspectives are more likely to be influenced by their age and ethnicity than anything else,” the news release noted.

The study was based on nine national telephone surveys conducted by The Barna Group, with each survey involving between 1,002 and 1,015 random individuals. For more information, visit www.barna.org.