CULTURE DIGEST: 3-day 'Esther Fast' planned

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--An 81-year-old Georgia woman is calling on believers nationwide to participate in the "Esther Fast to Pray for Our Nation" Dec. 1-3, asking God for forgiveness and mercy and for His intervention in the course of events in the United States.

Dorothy Marden, a member of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, said the third and fourth chapters of the Book of Esther present God's plan for saving a nation.

"God saved the entire nation of Israel through the plan given in the Book of Esther. If it worked for Israel, it will work for America too," Marden said. "We are dedicating the first three days of December to fast and pray for our nation. Then we will devote the remainder of the month to focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ."

While fasting, Marden expects people to examine their own spiritual condition, confess all known sin, repent with sorrow, experience the cleansing of the Holy Spirit and intercede for others and for the nation.

As people intercede for America, Marden suggests praying that the nation would return to a God-centered worldview; that God would restore the nation to peace and order; that Americans would return to holiness and godliness, forsaking godlessness; and that they would cast out the idols in their lives.

She also suggests praying for God to restore His throne in hearts, homes, churches, states and the nation, which will bring revival to each realm, along with praying for God to be restored as the head of homes, churches, governments -- including judicial officials -- and schools.

Some verses to support the fast, Marden said, include Ezra 7:10, 8:21-22, 31, and 9:5,8; Jeremiah 5:23-24, 26; and Esther 4:14-16.

For people with medical problems that prevent complete abstinence from food, Marden recommends eating oatmeal during the three days of prayer. Her goal is for 30 million Christians to participate in the emphasis.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN SURGES ON TV -- The incidence of violence against women portrayed on television increased 120 percent during the past five years compared to a 2 percent increase in overall violence, according to a report by the Parents Television Council.

The report, released Oct. 28, said storylines depicting violence against women are being shown more graphically and in ways that have not been seen in the history of television.

Included in the increase are depictions of teenage girls as victims, the use of female victimization as a punch line in comedy series, and the depiction of intimate partner violence, the watchdog group said.

Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, said the research indicates a disturbing new trend where violence against women is trivialized and even humorous, contributing to a desensitized atmosphere in which such behavior is perceived as acceptable.

"Just last week, actress Nicole Kidman testified before the Congress that Hollywood probably has contributed to violence against women by portraying them as weak sex objects," Melissa Henson, PTC's director of communications and public education, said. "We all must pay attention to the fact that this is a problem in our society. The fact is that children are influenced by what they see on TV, and that certainly includes media violence."

In the 200-plus hours of primetime programming on the four major broadcast networks that PTC examined, researchers found that the most frequent type of violence was beating, followed by credible threats of violence, shooting, rape, stabbing and torture. In 19 percent of the portrayals, the women died.

Television shows including "Crossing Jordan," "Desperate Housewives," "Heroes," "Prison Break," "Family Guy" and "American Dad" were given as examples of entertainment that depicts violence against women.

PTC said in the report that it would be premature to assert that violence against women is the new norm on television or that it has reached the same epidemic proportions as all depictions of violence on television, but the study did reveal an emerging pattern that should be addressed.

"Countless millions of dollars are invested annually at the local, state, national and international levels to reduce violence against women and to lessen its impact on society, but today's television programming may be undermining those efforts," the study said.

Winter said the study serves as "a clarion call to all Americans about a critical issue with dire consequences," and he urged networks, advertisers, elected officials and the viewing public to stand up against the trend.

"In a country where more than 60 percent of children have been exposed to violence in their daily lives, according to recent research by the Justice Department, we must take the utmost care not to normalize violent behavior -- especially violence against women -- through our television programming," Winter said.

To view the full report, visit parentstv.org.

BEAR GRYLLS EXPRESSES HIS FAITH -- Bear Grylls, the popular host of "Man vs. Wild" on the Discovery Channel, told a group of prison inmates that his relationship with Christ is what gives him strength.

"I risk a lot to do this stuff, but I've been given a really privileged platform where people know the show. I want to do something good with that," Grylls said, according to Charisma magazine. "And that's really why I'm here. I want to say this [faith], deep down, is what strengthens me. It helps me in the difficult places."

Grylls told the prisoners that as a child he didn't question the existence of God and had what he described as a natural faith in God. But as he grew older and met other Christians, he perceived them as judgmental and boring, and because he didn't want to be that way, he strayed from his faith.

As a teenager, he wanted to know God again and rededicated his life. Then he joined the British Special Air Service, where he served as a trooper, survival instructor and patrol medic. On a mission in Africa in 1996, Grylls' canopy ripped and he fell to the ground, breaking his back in three places. He spent 18 months in a military hospital.

"Suddenly everything you've taken for granted in your life, like your movement and your freedom, is ripped away from you," Grylls told the inmates. "It was a dark road of not knowing whether I'd be able to walk again let alone do this one thing that I could do well, which was to climb."

But in 1998, at age 23, Grylls became one of the youngest Britons to climb Mount Everest. He told the inmates his faith journey remains a rocky road "full of struggles and doubts and challenges," but he holds on to some specific verses, including Psalm 73:23 and Philippians 4:13.

On his website, Grylls answers a fan's question about how his Christian faith is important to him.

"It feels like the rock in my life and it has taken me a long time to no longer be afraid to say that," Grylls wrote. "But I have learnt that it takes a proud man to say he needs nothing. Faith gives me a strong backbone and when we find that within ourselves we can then live more exciting, effective, kind, passionate and giving lives.

"Life has a meaning again. It doesn't though make life easier in any way, and I still battle with my fair share of struggles and doubt and often great self-doubt, but that is just the product of trying to stretch beyond the norm and to live life fully."

'CONSERVATIVE BIBLE' IN THE WORKS -- Andy Schlafly, son of Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, has launched the Conservative Bible Project with a goal of rewriting the English translation of the Bible to remove terms he describes as liberal bias.

Schlafly already established Conservapedia, an online tool intended primarily for homeschooled students, to serve as a counterpoint to the popular Wikipedia, which he said contains liberal bias.

According to the Conservative Bible Project entry on Conservapedia.com, "Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations."

The three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning, the website says, are a lack of precision in the original language, "such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ"; a lack of precision in modern language; and a translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.

Schlafly said there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies 10 guidelines he sets forth. One component he emphasizes is a need to avoid "gender inclusive language and other feminist distortions." Another is a dissatisfaction with the "dumbing down" of Scripture. The New International Version, he said, is written at a seventh-grade level.

The inspiration for the project, Schlafly said, came when he attended a church service near his New Jersey home.

"There was a reading from the gospel, and the pronoun used to refer to a child in this translation was 'it,'" he said. "So this translation of the gospel referred to a child as an 'it,' a thing. And this is liberal, it's offensive and it's incorrect."


Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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