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CULTURE DIGEST: ‘United 93’ draws 9/11 debate;
more Americans are reading the Bible, Barna says; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The first major film about the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, “United 93,” hit theaters April 28, and commentators across the spectrum are debating it from various angles. Some say the event is too fresh in America’s memory while others say the nation needs to remember the day that altered the course of the 21st century.

United 93 focuses on the one plane that did not hit its intended target that day and instead crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa., after passengers attempted to take control.

R. Kirby Godsey, president of Mercer University in Macon, Ga., offered his assessment of the way history should remember Sept. 11 in a “Lessons from 9/11” commentary accessible at the film’s promotional website, www.u93.org.

“As we remember this dreadful, defining moment, we should learn that we will be tempted to take away the wrong lessons from September 11,” Godsey wrote, adding that instead of fighting a war, Americans should embrace “other true believers who are themselves victims of the ‘holy war syndrome.’”

“Let us remember. God is not a Christian. God is not a Muslim,” the president of the school that recently split with the Georgia Baptist Convention said. “And God is not a Jew. God is above all our little gods. God is with us all. God is in us all. God is for us all. The tragedy of human evil is that in our fear, our human insecurity, we cannot find a way to be present in the world for one another.”

But Cal Thomas, a syndicated columnist and conservative commentator, approached the subject differently.

The film “reminds us of what we must never forget: there are people who hate us and want us dead; they will not be reached by sympathy, empathy or anything approaching an appeal to our ‘common humanity,’” Thomas wrote. “Their complete indifference to human life and their religious fanaticism — portrayed powerfully as the hijackers pray and shave their bodies in preparation for ‘martyrdom’ — is a necessary reality check for those with very short memories. If anything, this is a film that isn’t too soon; it isn’t soon enough.”

Thomas cited comments from David Beamer, whose son Todd led the passengers in an attempt to overtake the hijackers on United 93.

“This war and that attack on our homeland that day rages on and isn’t over,” Beamer said. “The enemy has not been defeated. The enemy has not surrendered. The enemy’s purpose to take away our freedoms and way of life is still very much with us. If this project helps remind us of this, it’s important and very timely.”

MORE AMERICANS ARE READING THE BIBLE — Forty-seven percent of American adults read the Bible during a typical week other than when they are at church, according to a study by The Barna Group released in April.

Researchers found a significant increase in religious activity related to five of seven core religious behaviors, and Bible reading led the pack. Barna said only 31 percent of Americans were reading the Bible in 1995, but numbers started increasing in 2004.

Church attendance increased from 37 percent in 1996 to 47 percent in 2006, Barna said, and involvement in small, church-related groups has reached a new high of 23 percent this year. A decade ago only 17 percent of adults participated in small groups.

Church volunteerism increased to 27 percent while adult Sunday School attendance has risen to 24 percent from the 17 percent recorded in 1995, Barna said.

Prayer and evangelism were the two categories that did not show a change over recent years. Eighty-four percent of Americans said they had prayed in the past week, and six out of 10 Christians claimed to have shared their faith during a given time span.

The study was based on random telephone interviews with 1,003 adults across the nation in January.

“It is typical for us to see one or maybe two measures surge forward in a given year, only to stabilize or perhaps retreat to prior levels in subsequent years,” George Barna, president of The Barna Group, said. “The intriguing possibility is that with most of our key behavioral measures showing increases at the same time, there is the possibility that this may herald a holistic, lasting commitment to engagement with God and the Christian faith.”

Meanwhile, a study released by Barna May 1 found that some of those same religiously motivated adults may not be intervening enough in their children’s spiritual lives when it comes to the topics raised by the Harry Potter book and film series.

More than 84 percent of teenagers have read or watched Harry Potter, including 77 percent of all church-going teens. But just 4 percent said they have experienced any teaching or discussions in a church about the spiritual themes set forth in the tales, Barna found. Among born-again teenagers, only 13 percent said their church addressed the subject of witchcraft. Parents were not a big help either, Barna said, with one-fifth of all teens and one-third of born-again teens discussing the supernatural elements with their mothers or fathers.

“… [H]elping teens to respond biblically to the messages of popular culture — such as those found in Harry Potter — is an important function of parents and church leaders,” David Kinnaman, vice president of The Barna Group, said. “You do not get a free pass if you are not interested or if you do not enjoy stories like Potter. Young people are avidly consuming contemporary pop legends. Adults can guide them in knowing how to interpret that information and to respond in a Christ-like manner.”

For more information on either study, visit www.barna.org.

BUSINESSMAN PRESSURED BY HOMOSEXUALS — A Christian businessman in Arlington, Va., is in trouble with his local government after he “politely refused” to duplicate two pro-homosexual films for a longtime homosexual activist, according to the conservative Family Policy Network.

Tim Bono of Bono Film and Video cited his desire to honor biblical prohibitions against the sin of homosexual behavior when he informed Lillian Vincenz that he would not fulfill her duplication request, FPN said in a news release April 25.

Vincenz asked Arlington County officials to force Bono to duplicate her materials, and after an investigation, the Arlington County Human Rights Commission held a public hearing in March to discuss the alleged discrimination.

“I’ve never in my life felt that insulted,” Vincenz told a local television station regarding the incident with Bono. But FPN noted that she was forced out of the military because of her homosexual behavior, while several pro-homosexual websites indicate she has promoted the homosexual agenda for more than four decades.

“For years, homosexual activists have spread the lie that they just want to be left alone to practice their perversions in private,” Joe Glover, president of the Family Policy Network, said. “With the help of Arlington County, this lesbian activist proves that they’re really out to publicly use the power of the government to destroy the religious liberties of decent people.”

On April 18, the Arlington County Human Rights Commission ordered Bono to comply with Vincenz’s duplication request, and FPN is considering a class-action lawsuit against the county on behalf of Bono.

“Arlington County’s involvement in this anti-Christian, pro-homosexual witch hunt isn’t just a crime against one businessman; it’s a heavy-handed threat to turn the government against Christians who want to live their lives according to Scripture,” Glover said. “Even if they can’t win a case like this on the merits, they’re out to strike fear in the hearts of Christians who want to live according to their faith.”

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  • Erin Roach