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CULTURE DIGEST: ‘Voluntourism’ a new trend for American vacationers; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–More Americans are opting to spend their vacation time participating in what Christians have known for years as mission work — building houses and schools or visiting orphanages.

The new term for this trend is “voluntourism,” and some say it was spurred by the tragedies of 9/11, the Southeast Asia tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. College students are choosing charitable or humanitarian work over a week at the beach during spring break, the Associated Press reported, and baby boomers with money to spend and time to donate also are fueling the trend.

“Immersion with volunteerism is so much more than you could get by sitting on a beach or on a tour bus,” Sally Brown of Ambassadors for Children told AP, adding that the number of travel organizations that offer voluntourism trips has probably doubled in the past three years.

The nonprofit Ambassadors for Children lets participants mix purpose with pleasure by boarding them at a four-star hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and allowing them to spend three of the eight days visiting an orphanage, library and preschool, AP said.

Mike Wood spent a recent vacation in Honduras, building latrines and pig pens in a village without electricity, running water or cell phone reception, AP said. He spent the days digging holes, pouring cement and cutting wood, and he managed to sneak in some visits to nearby Mayan ruins.

“It’s hard work, but there’s nothing to worry about,” Wood, a history teacher, told AP. “No one can get ahold of you so you’re not worrying about the stock market or worrying about family too much. There’s no communication so it’s a very nice break from the pressures of the job.”

Some participants told AP that voluntourism is more draining than traditional vacations but much more rewarding.

“To see the people’s faces — they were so happy we were helping them. That’s something you don’t forget,” said Peggy Fuller, a North Carolina dermatologist who used her sabbatical to build houses in Sri Lanka.

Others spend their time working as mentors to disadvantaged youth, tutoring and learning how the less fortunate of the world live, AP reported March 29.

“You feel that you’re helping people and you’re also getting to learn about a different culture, whether it’s West Virginia or Tanzania,” Alyssa Stahl, a Chicago banker, said.

ACLU TARGETS INVOCATIONS AT CIVIL MEETINGS — The American Civil Liberties Union is intimidating local governments into believing it’s against the law to deliver a sectarian prayer at the beginning of a city or county meeting, and the Alliance Defense Fund is offering legal assistance for governments that want to continue the practice.

“It’s amazing that, in a country founded on religious liberty, the right to open a public meeting with a prayer would be under attack,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson said in a news release. “But that is exactly what the ACLU has been doing the past several months — using its familiar tactics of fear, intimidation and disinformation to force municipalities into passive compliance with its agenda to eliminate our First Liberty, religious freedom.”

City council members is Thomasville, N.C., voted 6-1 in March to adopt a prayer policy drafted by ADF that will allow the prayers to continue in compliance with the U.S. Constitution.

“This is a freedom of speech issue, pure and simple,” councilman Dwight Cornelison said. “It’s our hope that other municipalities will stand up to the ACLU’s threats and realize that when the ACLU comes calling, their constitutional rights are under attack.”

In Yadkin County, N.C., officials gave in to ACLU threats and decided to drop all references to Christianity from the opening invocations at county board meetings. They think prayer is just as effective if a specific deity is never mentioned, according to a report by McClatchy Newspapers.

“It’s some sort of moment where you stop and think about what you’re doing and hope that what you’re doing is the right thing for the county,” commissioner Christopher Chad Wagoner said.

Johnson of ADF encouraged other local governments concerned about the constitutionality of their invocations to contact the legal alliance.

“ADF and its allies will continue to offer assistance to any municipality which finds itself under attack from the ACLU for simply continuing a practice that the Supreme Court knows is ‘deeply embedded in the history and tradition of our country,” Johnson said.

IMUS’ REMARKS REFLECT CULTURE, CWA SAYS — When radio host Don Imus used a racial epithet to refer to members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, his remarks were indicative of a culture saturated with demeaning rap lyrics, Concerned Women for America said April 12.

“Both Imus’ remarks and pop culture laud the objectification of women,” Janice Crouse of CWA said. “We hope that Imus’ remarks about the talented women on Rutgers’ basketball team will be the tipping point that ends such language and prejudice in American media.

“MTV and other television and radio stations regularly air lyrics that promote selling women as prostitutes and are filled with degrading words about women,” Crouse added. “Last year’s Academy Award winning song lauded the pimp culture. It’s time to say ‘enough already!'”

Morality in Media joined CWA in noting that popular culture has made trash talk acceptable among adults and youth alike in America today.

“Companies that pulled ads from the Don Imus Show are to be commended, but companies should also pull ads from music channels that daily pour forth a cultural swill that makes the Don Imus insult look tame by comparison,” Robert Peters of Morality in Media said.

“The outrage directed at Imus is more than justified, but it will prove to be largely a hollow victory if corporate America continues to give rappers who degrade women, glamorize criminal and other anti-social behavior and promote racial stereotypes a high-profit, high-profile national platform to corrupt the minds and hearts of children and to pollute mainstream culture,” Peters said.

BARNA TOUTS ‘REVOLUTIONARY PARENTING’ — Parents who faithfully and consistently apply God’s words on life and family have a better chance at raising desirable children, Christian pollster George Barna says.

An April 9 news release promoting Barna’s new book “Revolutionary Parenting” is short on polling data, but it mentions three dominant approaches to parenting — parenting by default, trial-and-error parenting and revolutionary parenting.

“Revolutionary parenting, which is based on one’s faith in God, makes parenting a life priority,” Barna, chairman of The Barna Group, said. “Those who engage in revolutionary parenting define success as intentionally facilitating faith-based transformation in the lives of their children, rather than simply accepting the aging and survival of the child as a satisfactory result.”

Barna sought out young adults who considered knowing and serving God their top life priority, possessed a biblical worldview and believed that their main purpose in life is to love God. Then he worked back to research what parenting characteristics produced such children.

One of the most sobering outcomes of the research, the news release said, was that less than one out of every 10 young adults in the United States meets those simple criteria.

For more information, visit barna.org.

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  • Erin Roach