In the News 04/98

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Toward The Root of The Evil

Excerpt from: Time Magazine April 6/98

Click for Time MagazineEveryone knows that late 20th century America, where no-parent households, Marilyn Manson and the National Rifle Association all converge, is not for the faint of heart. But how did it become a place where kids gun down other kids?

"Television and the movies have never, in my experience, turned a responsible youngster into a criminal," says Stanton Samenow, author of Before It's Too Late: Why Some Kids Get into Trouble and What Parents Can Do About It. "But a youngster who is already inclined toward antisocial behavior hears of a particular crime, and it feeds an already fertile mind."

When the grownups are out, or even when one is there but not mindful, children are left to the mercies of a peer culture shaped by the media, the ultimate in crazed nannies. Mortal KombatArmed with video-game joysticks and TV remotes--a funny world, with its false promise that it keeps you at a distance from whatever excitements it bounces you through--kids are whiplashed from one bit of blood sport to another, from South Park and Jerry Springer to Mortal Kombat on Nintendo. Ordinary kids may be a bit desensitized to violence. More susceptible kids are pushed toward a dangerous mental precipice.

As for media violence, the debate there is fast approaching the same point that discussions about the health impact of tobacco reached some time ago --it's over. Few researchers bother any longer to dispute that bloodshed on TV and in the movies has an effect on the kids who witness it. Added to the mix now are video games, at least the ones built around the model of hunt and kill. Captivated by Mortal Kombateffects that are ever more graphic, game boys learn to associate gusts of "blood" with the primal gratifications of scoring. In Golden Eye, a big seller, the player spends nearly all his time drawing a bead on his victims down the barrel of a gun.

"Many boys have impulse-control problems," says Gil Noam, a professor of education and medicine at Harvard. "They don't think, What are going to be the consequences for the rest of my life?" Bringing them through the treacherous pathways of mass culture takes a watchful adult. Things that merely amuse a grownup can injure a child, whose brain undergoes a powerful development surge before age 14. "Parents don't understand that taking a four-year-old to True Lies--a fun movie for adults but excessively violent--is poison to their brain," says Michael Gurian, author of The Wonder of Boys.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23) The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires. (Proverbs 11:6)

How to Die Young...

Excerpts: various pop/rocker's obituaries. April 1998

Died. Rob Pilatus, 33, half of lip-synching pop duo Milli Vanilli; of a suspected alcohol and drug overdose. This artist's career crashed when an audio tape snapped in 1989, at a live concert, exposing the duo as fakes.

Died. Wendy O. Williams, 48, raunchy queen of shock rock, whose on-stage excesses included blowing up a car, pulverizing guitars with a chainsaw and pelting amplifiers with bullets. Lead singer of the punk band The Plasmatics -- dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)

In God and Gun We Trust

Reuters: April 14, 1998

Click for ReutersKentucky clergy fearful of armed robbers stealing the collection money will be able to carry concealed guns in church...

If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:29b-30) Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (Philippians 4:5)

Gross and Grosser

Time Magazine: March 23, 1998

Click for Time MagazineTo understand South Park, it is necessary to understand Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo; and to understand Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo, it is necessary to understand his origins as recently described by Trey Parker, one of the show's creators. Now, it may not be immediately obvious why anyone would want to understand a series that features a stool specimen wearing a sailor hat and speaking with the voice of a castrato ventriloquist. South ParkBut South Park, a cartoon about four profane third-graders, is the latest giant asteroid to slam into American pop culture, and so it requires our attention. Fortunately, it is also very funny, and Parker, 28, and his partner Matt Stone, 26, are the most genial purveyors of poo imaginable.

The show concerns four friends--Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny--who live in the small town of South Park, Colo. South ParkObsessed by bodily functions, sometimes cruel but with a core of innocence, Kyle and Stan are modeled on Parker and Stone, while Cartman, the greedy fat kid, is a deranged fantasy figure and Kenny, who talks in meaningless muffled squeaks, dies violently in each episode (except the Christmas one). Kyle's exclamation, "Oh, my God, they've killed Kenny!," has become a catchphrase. The only sympathetic adult is Chef, the cook at the school, who drifts into a racy R.-and-B. number whenever he tries to give the boys a wholesome lesson in song. As for the plots, in one episode aliens send a huge anal probe into Cartman; in another, "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride," Stan follows his dog to a sort of amusement park for homosexual pets. "Stan's dog's a homo!" is a typical line from that show. While the series is now created on a computer, Parker and Stone first used construction paper in their animation, which retains a flat, crude look with leaps into the fantastic. Altogether, the effect is Peanuts by way of Tim Burton (of Nightmare before Christmas fame).

South Park mania began almost as soon as the show debuted on Comedy Central last summer (and on Canadian TV as well), and it has become the top-rated series on cable, seen by some 5 million people every week. While that is less than a third of the audience for the other animated adult hits, The Simpsons and King of the Hill, it is an impressive number, since Comedy Central is available in only about half the nation's homes.South Park Not surprisingly, South Park is particularly strong among the 18-to-24-year-olds so coveted by advertisers. Viewing parties are the rage on many college campuses, where activities grind to a halt at showtime. Five percent of the audience is under 11 years old. It is the only regular series on TV to carry a Mature or MA rating, the harshest, and it can be blocked by the V chip. The best-selling T shirt last year was based on South Park; a movie deal is all but set; a sound-track album is being produced--can a theme-park ride be far behind?

This cartoon show makes Bart Simpson look tame (and he's not!). With vulgar language and profanity as the main feature, show topics regularly mock all types of authority and often go after "shock" topics regarding sex, violence and even religion. Of the three shows I've personally seen, two mocked Jesus directly. Another article, entitled The Spirit of South Park (Feb 3/98), shows a typical plot(?) illustrating this type of theme...South Park A variation on the Spirit theme starts a new batch of South Park episodes this Friday at midnight on Global. In Damien, Satan's son is the new boy in school and he's a mean one. After he turns Kenny into a duck-billed platypus, the kids call upon Jesus to go savior-a-mano against Satan in a pay-per-view battle.

"Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way." (Psalms 119:37)

Emily's Little Experiment

Time Magazine: April 13, 1998; plus Baltimore Sun: April 1/98

Click for Time Magazine It sounds like the plot of a made-for-TV movie: an inquisitive nine-year-old Colorado schoolgirl single-handedly cooks up a science-fair experiment that ends up debunking a flaky but widely practiced medical treatment. And she does such a professional job of it that the study gets published in a prestigious medical journal, landing her on just about every front page and news broadcast in the nation.

Preposterous though it seems, that's pretty much what happened last week when Emily Rosa's experiment was written up in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Rosa's target was a practice known as therapeutic touch (TT for short), whose proponents manipulate patients' "energy fields" to make them feel better and even, say some, to cure them of various ills. Yet Emily's test shows that these energy fields can't be detected, even by trained TT practitioners. Obviously mindful of the publicity value of the situation, Journal editor George Lundberg appeared on TV to declare, "Age doesn't matter. It's good science that matters, and this is good science."

Emily's mother, Linda Rosa first got exercised about TT in the late '80s, when she learned it was on the approved list for continuing nursing education in Colorado, along with everything from acupressure to "nurse-assisted near-death experience." Sample BookSample Organization CanadaTT bugged her more than most. Its 100,000 trained practitioners (48,000 in the U.S.) don't even touch their patients. Instead, they wave their hands a few inches from the patient's body, pushing energy fields around until they're in "balance." TT advocates say these manipulations can help heal wounds, relieve pain and reduce fever. The claims are taken seriously enough that TT therapists are frequently hired by leading hospitals, at up to $70 an hour, to smooth patients' energy, sometimes during surgery. Your insurance company may cover TT.

Yet Rosa couldn't find any objective evidence that it works or that these so-called energy fields even exist. To provide such proof, TT therapists would have to sit down for independent testing--something they haven't been eager to do, even though the magician-turned-debunker James Randi has offered more than $1 million to anyone who can demonstrate the existence of a human energy field. (He's had one taker so far. She failed.) Sample Organization USAA skeptic might conclude that TT practitioners are afraid to lay their beliefs on the line. But who could turn down an innocent fourth-grader? Says Emily: "I think they didn't take me very seriously because I'm a kid." Bad move, as it turned out.

The experiment was straightforward: 21 TT therapists stuck their hands, palms up, through a screen (-- a cardboard partition with cutout armholes). Emily held her own hand over one of theirs--left or right, decided by the flip of a coin--and the practitioners had to say which hand it was. When the results were tallied, they'd done no better than they would have by simply guessing. If there was an energy field, they couldn't feel it.

New Age alternative medicine routinely claims great success. Numerous techniques profess to manipulate "invisible" energies flowing through (or around) the body. Regardless of the pseudo-scientific language used (and sometimes even pseudo-Christian terms), all these techniques are directly derived from eastern mysticism. The "but it works" claim is often held up by many. Employing this logic, praying to the devil, or going to a witch-doctor, would be acceptable, "if it works." Fact is, a majority of these techniques have been found to be fraudulent -- when tested in a truly scientific way. Regardless, Christians should be careful of putting their faith into religious techniques based on pagan belief systems. (See James 5:14-15, Psalms 30:2, Exodus 23:13)


Prime-time TV getting more violent

USA Today: April 17/98

Click for USA Today About two-thirds of prime-time network and basic cable channel programs shown in June 1997 contained violent scenes, compared with about half of such programs in October 1994, researchers from four universities found.

The study also found that pay cable networks televised the highest percentage of programs with violent content, averaging 92% since 1994.

The study, the largest of its kind, was commissioned by the National Cable Television Association. It was based on a sample of 10,000 hours of programs on 23 channels - a mix of cable and broadcast - From October 1994 to June 1997.

Violence is defined as any "overt depiction of a credible threat of physical force or the actual use of such force intended to physically harm an animate being or group of beings." It does not include verbal or psychological abuse.

The findings contradict a network funded study by UCLA researchers "which found that violence on broadcast television has declined steadily over the last three years."

The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. (Psalms 11:5)


Edited, and editorial comment, by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries. (c) 1998. Feel free to duplicate as long as the source is cited.