Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Sexualization of Girls

Report Chronicles Damage Caused
By Father John Flynn
ROME, FEB. 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).

- An unhealthy sexualization is putting young and adolescent girls increasingly at risk, concludes a report published Feb. 19 by the American Psychological Association. Entitled "Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls," the study is the result of research on the content and effects of diverse forms of media: television, music videos, music lyrics, magazines, movies, video games and the Internet.The task force also examined product merchandising and advertising campaigns aimed at girls."We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development," said Dr. Eileen Zurbriggen, head of the task force and associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in a press release accompanying the report.Sexualization causes difficulties at all ages, the report says, but adds that it is especially problematic when it happens at a younger age. Achieving sexual maturity for adolescents is not an easy process, the study acknowledges, but says that when young girls and teens are encouraged to be sexy, without even knowing enough about what it means, the process is further complicated.Media saturationThe report cited a number of studies detailing the large amount of time spent in contact with the media. According to the data, the average child or teen watches three hours of television per day. However, when the total number of hours spent with all types of media is calculated, it turns out that children are exposed to some type of media -- television, video games, music, etc. -- for some six and a half hours a day.One study carried out in 2003 reported that 68% of children have a television in their bedroom, and that 51% of girls play interactive games on their computers and video game consoles. Both girls and boys average about an hour a day on their computers, visiting Web sites, listening to music, frequenting chat rooms, playing games and sending messages to friends.The American Psychological Association report observed: "On television, young viewers encounter a world that is disproportionately male, especially in youth-oriented programs, and one in which female characters are significantly more likely than male characters to be attractive and provocatively dressed."A large percentage of music videos contain sexual imagery, and women are frequently presented in provocative and revealing clothing. The report also noted that female artists are presented in such a way that the main focus is not on her talent or music, but rather on her body and sexuality. Thus, the report concludes, viewers receive the message that success comes from being an attractive sexual object.Regarding the lyrics of songs themselves, the APA researchers lamented that there is no recent content analysis on their sexual content. In their report, however, they cited a number of examples of how the words of some recent popular songs sexualize women, or refer to them in highly degrading ways.When it comes to the big screen, the report commented on the lack of female characters in the top-grossing motion pictures, and in G-rated movies. One study of the 101 top-grossing G-rated films from 1990 to 2004 revealed that of the more than 4,000 characters in these films, 75% overall were male, 83% of characters in crowds were male, 83% of narrators were male, and 72% of speaking characters were male. "This gross under-representation of women or girls in films with family-friendly content reflects a missed opportunity to present a broad spectrum of girls and women in roles that are non-sexualized," the APA report noted.Dubious influencesTeen magazines are another important influence on young girls and adolescents. The reported cited a number of studies on the content of the magazines, and revealed that one of the central messages of the publications is that "presenting oneself as sexually desirable, and thereby gaining the attention of men, is, and should be, the focal goal for women."It's difficult to assess the enormously varied content available via the Internet, but the APA researchers cited one study on sites that often attracts girls -- the fan Web sites of male and female celebrities. An analysis of their content found that female celebrities were far more likely than male celebrities to be represented by sexualized images, regardless of whether the site was official or produced by fans.Advertising is another prime area where women are often sexualized. Moreover, the study notes that research shows that the tendency to display women in decorative or exploitative ways in ads is increasing. This has reached the point, it added, to where girls in seductive poses are being used to attract adult audiences.Recently, a number of commentators have remarked that the toy market is also being affected by the trend toward sexualization. The APA researchers declared that they were worried when popular dolls for girls in the 4-8 age bracket are often dressed in sexually provocative clothing.The same is happening with clothing. Girls at increasingly younger ages are invited to wear clothes designed to highlight female sexuality. Cosmetics are also being marketed to younger girls.All of these influences combine to occasion a series of problems for girls. The APA report stated that sexualization is linked with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.The researches added that evidence also exists showing that the sexualization of girls, and the resultant negative feelings about their own body, ultimately may lead to sexual problems in adulthood. They said another problem is related to the idealization of youth as being the only good and beautiful stage of life. The current boom in anti-aging products and cosmetic surgery is a result of this imposed beauty standard.Cell phone victoryResisting the hyper-sexualization trend is not easy, but last week in Canada, decency won a round in the battle.In January, Canada's second largest phone company, Telus, started offering pornographic photos and videos to customers. The Vancouver-based company was strongly criticized by Archbishop Raymond Roussin. "Telus's decision is disappointing and disturbing," he declared in a Feb. 12 statement.In another statement published four days later, the archbishop of Vancouver accused the company of damaging society in its search for a share of the lucrative profits to be obtained in the porn industry.The archbishop called for a pornography-free mobile phone service. He also declared that he was directing Catholic churches and schools to not renew their mobile phone contracts with Telus. In addition, he called on all Catholics and other concerned Canadians to contact mobile phone companies to express concerns over the proliferation of pornography through mobile phones.On Feb. 21, Telus announced that it was canceling its "adult content" service. According to a report in Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, the company said that it had received hundreds of complaints from customers.Archbishop Roussin welcomed the move in a statement released later that day. "We are just beginning to fully appreciate how serious the issue of sex and pornography addiction really is," he commented.Concern over the effect of popular culture was also expressed recently by Benedict XVI. In his message for World Communications Day, to be held May 20, the Pope noted the tendency toward the exaltation of violence and the trivialization of sexuality.The Pontiff wrote: "Beauty, a kind of mirror of the divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behavior" (no. 2).The Church has often been falsely accused of being obsessed with sex by the champions of modern culture. In truth, it is contemporary society that suffers from this obsession, while the Church continues to defend the dignity, and beauty, of the human person.

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Friday, February 16, 2007


Get your goodsoil templates here.

Amazing how it is simply verbatim from the Atlanta disciplinary hearing report. Almost like an offical body of the ELCA wrote it. Gee, that's really something, isn't it?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

disciplinary committee challenges church policy

Shrimp here: You human people funny. You write 16 page decision on pastor who breaks church law and never mention Scripture, never mention historical Lutheran Confessions in your constitution, never mention fact that he lied. What you say is "He good pastor becasue 100 people join his church." You say, "Change the law." What jury changes law? I tell you what jury. Human jury putting God on trial. You still telling trying to tell God what he think? Funny people. You probably deserve the unpleasantness coming in Chicago. You think Orlando bad with assembly interrupted by protest? Chicago have big gay community, big media. Welcome to Episcohellian!

In a decision made public today, the hearing committee in the disciplinary action against Pastor Bradley Schmeling overwhelmingly affirmed the ministry of Pastor Schmeling and challenged the validity of the policy precluding pastors in same-gender relationships saying it is "at least bad policy, and very well may violate the constitution and bylaws of this church." The hearing committee called for the removal of the policy giving two pathways to do so: through the judicial process of the committee on appeals or through the legislative process of the churchwide assembly. Consequently, the hearing committee delayed the effective date of a decision to remove Pastor Schmeling until after the next ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of Lutherans Concerned / North America, said "This decision is courageous and unprecedented in the history of the ELCA. For an official judicial body of the church to call for removal of the discriminatory policy marks a tremendous shift in the ongoing struggle for equality. Pastor Schmeling and St. John's presented a compelling case. Peter met Cornelius and the Holy Spirit became the wind of change. The hearing committee of elected and faithful Lutherans heard the witness and acted accordingly within its purview. While seven of the committee members felt that they did not have the authority to set new policy, the group was nearly unanimous in calling for swift and complete removal of the old. The decision has taken the case of one fine pastor in the deep south to the national stage. Unintended advocates, Pastor Schmeling and St. John's now stand squarely at the center of the ongoing conversation. LC/NA continues to accompany and support them in this process."
As a result of this decision, two tracks of action will proceed immediately. Pastor Schmeling has 30 days to decide to submit an appeal. Within 24 hours LC/NA and its collaborative partners under the banner of goodsoil.org will release the legislative package requested by the hearing committee in its decision. LC/NA calls on its members and RIC churches to answer the call of the hearing committee and bring the recommended motions to their conference and synodical assemblies. Organizing for the ELCA Churchwide Convention, August 6–12, 2007 at Navy Pier in Chicago, is already underway.
The full text of the decision of the Hearing Committee can be found on St John's website. [The decision is also available as a PDF file on the LC/NA website.]

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Barbara Lundblad preaches on "flesh"

This trial will focus on the ELCA's definition of holy living. It was first defined in a 16-page booklet, called "Vision and Expectations." It is 16 pages long, but its whole weight rests on 16 words – which I won't repeat because you have heard them very often. They're 16 words that deny life in the flesh to gay and lesbian people. We should remember how the Book of John starts: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh." The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and to deny life in the flesh is a very serious matter.
Holy living: years ago, a gay orthodox rabbi, writing under a pseudonym, Yaakov Levado, because he had to at the time, wrote his version of holy living for the journal Tikkun, and he said this:
Gay people cannot be asked to be straight, but they can be asked to hold fast to the covenant. God will work the story out and link the loose ends as long as we hold fast to the covenant… Holding fast to the covenant demands that I seek a path toward sanctity in gay life… being gay does not free one from the fulfillment of mitzvoth. The complexities generated by one verse in Leviticus need not unravel my commitment to the whole of Torah.
Bradley and Darin, you have sought a path to sanctity in gay life. You have promised to be faithful to each other for the rest of your days. And you know that this does not free you; if anything it supports you and helps you to follow God's calling to justice, to listen to the witness of the prophets, and to the call of Jesus to be servants in the world. To paraphrase the words of the rabbi, the complexities generated by 16 words in "Vision and Expectations" need not unravel your commitment to the Gospel.


Wonder how much Barbra Lunblad had to do with the jury's decision to urge assemblies to contest ELCA policy, especially V & E

Click here. Read. Weep.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A pink reformation

Theo Hobson
February 5, 2007


What emerged from the gay adoption business is that the issue of homosexuality is terribly dangerous to the Roman Catholic church. It comes away from such a debate with its public image damaged. And of course this is true of the Anglican Church too. Indeed, it seems to me that the debate about homosexuality poses such a serious threat to organised religion in this country that it is not absurd to compare it to the reformation of the 16th century.
Some will reply that the churches have always faced difficult moral issues, and they have muddled through: the gay issue is nothing unusual. Until quite recently I would have agreed. But it becomes ever clearer that the issue of homosexuality really is different. It has managed to tie the finest Anglican theologian of his generation in knots, effectively disabling him from leadership. And more widely and more seriously it is undermining the churches' claim to the moral high ground.
The Church of England has faced all sorts of controversial moral debates over the years, but none of these has really threatened it. There is a journalistic cliche that sex is the problem: church leaders are "obsessed" with it and find it fatally problematic. But it's not really true. The Church of England has faced countless questions relating to sexual ethics and has muddled through fine. It is not sex in general that is so threatening to churches: it is homosexuality in particular. Why? Why is this issue doing such damage to religious institutions?
It seems to me that a couple of factors coincide. Firstly, this is an issue that shuns compromise. It has a stark "either/or" quality. Either homosexuality is a fully valid alternative to heterosexuality or it is not. There is no room for compromise, no third way: poor Rowan Williams is trying to make himself a perch on a barbed-wire fence. You don't find such absoluteness in other moral debates, such a complete absence of shared assumptions and aims. This is not a normal moral debate but a pure clash of visceral responses.
The second factor is the sheer speed of the homosexual cause's success. Something that was assumed for centuries to be unspeakably immoral has emerged as an alternative form of life, an identity that merits legal protection. The demand for gay equality has basically ousted traditionalist sexual morality from the moral high ground. The speed of this is stunning: feminism was brewing for a century or two before it started to win the argument, and the same applies to the case for racial equality.
And there is another, more complex factor. The public change in attitudes towards homosexuality is not just the waning of a taboo. It is not just a case of a practice losing its aura of immorality (as with premarital sex or illegitimacy). Instead, the case for homosexual equality takes the form of a moral crusade. Those who want to uphold the old attitude are not just dated moralists (as is the case with those who want to uphold the old attitude to premarital sex or illegitimacy). They are accused of moral deficiency. The old taboo surrounding this practice does not disappear but "bounces back" at those who seek to uphold it. Such a sharp turn-around is, I think, without parallel in moral history.
These factors have combined to make the gay issue the church's perfect storm, perhaps even its nemesis. Because previous shifts in public morality have been slower, and more amenable to compromise, thecChurch has been able to move its clunky stone feet, and keep standing. This shift has floored it. By resisting the new moral orthodoxy on homosexuality, and hardening against it, the church is fast losing the aura of moral authority it has more or less retained all this time. When a bishop defends discrimination against homosexuals he is, in the eyes of most of the population, displaying a lamentable moral deficiency.
So the issue of homosexuality has the strange power to turn the moral tables. The traditional moralist is subject to accusations of immorality. And this inversion is doing terrible damage to the Christian churches.
But it might not be so bad for Christianity. For it revives the huge question of whether Christianity is meant to uphold a moral law at all. The original answer was no: Jesus and Paul wanted to sever the link between religion and the idea of a divine moral law. (It is therefore amazingly ironic that Paul is used as a "legal" authority for Christian homophobia.) But in practice Christianity became an organised religion, and therefore laid down the moral law - at first this law applied to a subculture, and later it merged with official public law. This was semi-challenged by the reformers of the 16th century, who wanted to revive the notion of "freedom from the law". But actually most forms of Protestantism returned to, and even intensified, the association of God and the moral law.
The crisis over homosexuality is reawakening us to the question that inspired Paul and Luther. The real question is not whether homosexuality is against "Christian morality" but whether moralism is against the Christian gospel. It seems to be - but how can a church adapt to this insight? All religious groups seem to unite around a holy moral code. Can Christianity jettison the whole idea of the moral law - and remain an organised religion? The debate about homosexuality is ushering us into strange new religious territory; making us contemporary with Paul. God works in truly mysterious ways.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Solution elusive as churches weary of gay clergy debate

Solution elusive as churches weary of gay clergy debateMany members say they would like to move on to religious missions.By JOHN BLAKEThe Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 02/05/07
Ron Miller is a member of Druid Hills Presbyterian Church in Atlanta who says he would have "no problem at all" accepting a gay pastor.
But the genial church elder says he'd rather focus on something else — and so should other churches.

Brant Sanderlin/Staff
The Rev. Bradley E. Schmeling of St. John's Lutheran Church told his bishop he was in a committed, sexual relationship with a man. His denomination requires that gay clergy be celibate. Schmeling is awaiting a verdict in a church trial for defying policy.
Churches and homosexuality>> Episcopal Church: The denominaton accepted the election in 2003 of Bishop V. Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop in a same-sex relationship. The decision sparked fierce criticism but leaders have not retreated from their action. >> Roman Catholic: The church teaches that same-sex attractions are "disordered." In November 2005, the church barred ordination to men "who practice homosexuality." >> Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Leaders are required to live either in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness." The Presbyterians approved a task force's proposal last year that appeared to give congregations leeway to ordain gay clergy. >> Southern Baptist Convention considers homosexual behavior sinful, destructive and deviant. The convention does not allow churches to ordain gays and lesbians or perform same-sex unions. >> Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has officially welcomed gay and lesbian members since 1991 but does not ordain practicing homosexuals or bless same-sex partnerships. >> United Church of Christ: The 25th biennial General Synod in July 2005 approved an "equal marriage rights for all" resolution, making it the first mainline Christian denomination to endorse gay marriage. >> United Methodist Church: The second-largest Protestant denomination in the country and the largest mainline Protestant denomination prohibits same-sex union ceremonies and does not allow the ordination of sexually active homosexuals. Sources: Religion Newswriters Association, ReligiousTolerance.org, individual church Web sites and other news sources.-- Compiled by Sharon Gaus
"A lot of time and energy is being spent by governing bodies and individual churches over this issue," Miller says. "That time could be devoted to the real mission of the church: helping the poor, the homeless, the community at large."
Miller's frustration reflects the weariness in several Protestant denominations. After years of fighting over the acceptance of gay clergy, some church leaders say they're exhausted. The nonstop battles are draining the life from their congregations and driving members away.
Yet church members slog on through the gay clergy debate because leaders can't seem to devise a solution that satisfies both sides. That was evident in discussion about a church trial held two weeks ago in Atlanta. An Evangelical Lutheran Church in America jury tried an Atlanta pastor for defying church policies that accept gay clergy only if they're celibate.
The Rev. Bradley E. Schmeling of St. John's Lutheran Church in Midtown faces expulsion from the ELCA clergy roster after telling his bishop that he was in a committed, sexual relationship with another man. A verdict is imminent.
No matter what the ELCA's verdict is, expect more confrontations in more denominations in the future, church leaders say.
"It's an enormous mess," says Jim Berkley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, who has been following the gay clergy debate in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). "Because there's been 35 years of turmoil, some people are very tired and would like to get along with other things so there's some sense of trying to compromise."
Mark Jordan, a professor in Emory University's department of religion and author of, "Blessing Same-Sex Unions" (University of Chicago Press, $29), says denominations are "breaking apart like icebergs" despite the compromises.
The policy is an interim measure, not a solution, he says. Some gay ELCA pastors defy the policy by being sexually active but don't tell church authorities.
"It's just a stop-gap measure until one side or the other wins in the church," says Jordan. "The unfortunate problem is that this particular stop-gap encourages people to be dishonest."
The ELCA's stalemate isn't isolated. In 2003, the Episcopal Church accepted an openly gay bishop who was in a relationship. The infighting continues. In December, eight congregations in the Virginia diocese as well as a diocese in California announced that they were cutting ties with the Episcopal Church because of that decision.
Mark Rigler, a member of the Episcopal Church for 18 years, recently left the denomination because of the debate over the acceptance of a gay bishop.
He's joined Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville, where the church rejects the acceptance of sexually active gay clergy.
"We don't have the conflict over leadership," he says. "We're clear about the way God wants us to lead one another."
Church leaders involved with their own denominational fights over the issue of gay clergy say there are three major reasons why the debate is so intractable.
They are:
• Differing views on homosexuality
Those who support and those who oppose sexually active gay clergy don't even speak the same language. One side sees homosexuality as a sin; another says it's a sexual orientation.
Mark Chavez, director of WordAlone, an ELCA group that wants its denomination to enforce its ban on sexually active gay clergy, doesn't accept the argument that prohibiting gay pastors from sexual intimacy is unrealistic. He considers homosexuality a sin.
"A heterosexual serial adulterer could use that argument and say, 'I can't help it, and it's not realistic for me to not act out on these feelings and you need to accept me,' " Chavez says. "That would be devastating to the church."
But Lowell Erdahl, a retired ELCA bishop, says it's unrealistic to think that people choose to be gay — or straight.
"I didn't sit down one day when I was 13 and say, 'I'm going to choose to be interested in girls,' " says Erdahl, co-author of "Sexual Fulfillment: For Single and Married, Straight and Gay, Young and Old," (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, $14.99).
Erdahl says any minister — gay or straight — should be ordained if they're in a committed relationship.
"The sinfulness of a sexual relationship has a lot more to do with the relationship between two people than it does with specific sexual activity," he says.
• At odds with local congregations
When denominations are wrestling with the issue of gay clergy, some punt the decision to local congregations, church leaders say. That's what some Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders appeared to do last summer at the denomination's General Assembly.
The denomination reaffirmed ordination rules requiring "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness."
But it also appeared to give local ordaining bodies greater flexibility in deciding to accept gay clergy on an individual basis in a separate decision.
"It's a way of saying we can't agree so we'll let people fight it out at the local level," says Jordan, author of "Blessing Same-Sex Unions."
When the national church doesn't speak clearly on the issue, church leaders say it emboldens local leaders to make up their rules.
Chavez, from WordAlone, says it's common knowledge that certain ELCA bishops have sexually active gay clergy in their synods but "the bishop just looks the other way."
"It continues to weaken the denomination and not only create confusion but some pretty unjust situations," Chavez says.
• Different takes on Bible
Protestant denominations are filled with groups that clash over incendiary issues such as the Iraq war, capital punishment and the ordination of women. Yet those issues rarely threaten to break them apart.
The debate over gay clergy seems different, at least for now. Both sides cite the Bible but they read the Bible in very different ways.
Church leaders tend to embrace a literal reading of Scripture. They say their opposition to gay clergy is rooted in a deeper, non-negotiable issue — obedience to Scripture.
"Instead of submitting to the word of God, we place ourselves with authority over God's word," Chavez says.
Those who support gay clergy have a different view of Scripture. They reject a literal reading of Scripture. They say Scriptural verses also sanction slavery and order women to be silent in churches.
They base their acceptance of gays on Jesus' habit of accepting the outcasts of his day: women, lepers, religious heretics.
"I don't find anywhere in Scripture where Jesus is talking about homosexuality as a sin," says the Rev. Kim Smith King, senior pastor of North Decatur Presbyterian Church in Atlanta and co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians, a group supporting gay clergy.
Church fights over homosexuality have been so bitter and prolonged that some denominations may split, says the Rev. Kendall Harmon, a leader in a group of conservative Anglicans who have opposed the church's decision to accept an openly gay bishop in a relationship in 2003.
"It's like a couple that's separated and there's very little that the marriage counseling can come up with," Harmon says. "So much mistrust has been created and damage has been done."

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...