CULTURE DIGEST: Hotels ban Gideon Bibles; some Christian groups oppose 'cable choice'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Each Bible placed in a hotel room has the potential to reach up to 2,300 people in its estimated six-year life span, and about 25 percent of travelers read the Bibles in their hotel rooms, according to The Gideons International, a group that has been placing Bibles in hotel rooms since 1908.

The Gideons say they receive testimonies almost daily of lives changed because of the Bibles they've placed, including one man who planned to commit suicide on Christmas Eve. The man said he threw the Bible onto the hotel room floor and it fell open to John 14, where Jesus says He gives peace. Now the man is a pastor and his family has been restored.

But a growing number of hotels are opting not to allow the placement of Gideon Bibles, according to an article in Newsweek magazine.

"In the rooms of Manhattan's trendy Soho Grand Hotel guests can enjoy an eclectic selection of underground music, iPod docking stations, flat-screen TVs and even the living company of a complimentary goldfish. But, alas, the word of God is nowhere to be found," the article begins.

Such hotels say society is evolving and a younger, hipper generation has no interest in the Bible. They also say they would have to cater to a variety of belief systems and could not single out Christianity.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted the tragedy that awaits if people aren't given the chance to encounter God's Word when they find themselves troubled in a hotel room.

"Are they now to look for salvation and solace from an iPod docking station or a goldfish?" Mohler wrote on his blog at albertmohler.com.

"... This development is another reminder that we are living in a time of tremendous cultural and moral change. The absence of Gideons Bibles from an increasing number of hotel rooms tells us something about the secularization, sexualization, and extreme sensitivities of our age," Mohler said.

"It also tells us that there will be no Bibles available in those hotel rooms when travelers need them, and that is a tragedy by any measure," he added. "Think of this the next time you are in a hotel room. Check the bedside table for a Gideons Bible. When you find one, thank the hotel management. And, when you have the opportunity, thank the Gideons."

'A LA CARTE' CABLE FROM THE OTHER SIDE -- While pro-family groups have supported an idea from the Federal Communications Commission chairman to offer an a la carte cable television system that would allow consumers to choose which channels they purchase, a group of religious broadcasters take a different view.

The Faith and Family Broadcasting Coalition, a coalition of religious television broadcasters, said they oppose the a la carte business model because it would have a devastating effect on their efforts.

"A per-channel charge would dramatically limit, if not kill, the availability of religious-based programming on cable," Colby M. May, senior counsel and director of the Washington office of the American Center for Law and Justice, said.

The ACLJ filed official comments with the FCC opposing the a la carte system when it was first proposed in 2005.

"For 25 years the bundled-channel model of cable distribution has allowed religious programmers to be a dynamic and important part of the cable marketplace, providing the unique Gospel message of hope, joy and love, which has touched millions of lives over that time," May said.

Pro-family groups have welcomed the chance for parents to choose which cable channels are appropriate for their homes, and they see an a la carte option as another tool in protecting children from the sexuality, obscenities and violence that mark so much of current entertainment.

Kevin Martin, chairman of the FCC, faced a significant setback in his attempts at regulating the cable industry Nov. 27 when the commission voted to postpone for months a decision on whether the cable industry has grown so dominant that the agency's regulatory authority over it should be expanded.

Martin, a Republican appointed by President Bush, has spoken out against the increasing vulgarity on cable television. The Faith and Family Broadcasting Coalition applauded the vote because it put the a la carte idea to rest for now.

MUSLIM GIRLS JOIN SCOUTS TO FIT IN -- Few garments seem more American than a Girl Scout uniform, and The New York Times reports that a trend is emerging among Muslim girls who want to fit in by incorporating a uniquely American tradition into their wardrobes.

"Sometimes when Asma Haidara, a 12-year-old Somali immigrant, wants to shop at Target or ride the Minneapolis light-rail system, she puts her Girl Scout sash over her everyday clothes, which usually include a long skirt worn over pants as well as a swirling head scarf," The Times said Nov. 28.

The green sash, she has learned, reduces the number of disturbing looks she gets from people otherwise bothered by her traditional Muslim dress, the newspaper reported.

"When you say you are a girl scout, they say, 'Oh, my daughter is a girl scout, too,' and then they don't think of you as a person from another planet," Haidara told The Times. "They are more comfortable about sitting next to me on the train."

Muslim communities across the nation are forming Girl Scout troops as an assimilation tool to help girls who feel alienated from the mainstream culture, The Times said, and to give Muslims a neighborly image. They're also modifying the traditional Girl Scout pledge to fit their beliefs.

"On my honor I will try to serve Allah and my country, to help people and live by the Girl Scout law," a group of girls in Minneapolis declared, according to The Times.

And at campouts, hot dogs are made of beef, not pork.

Muslim girl scouts have earned ribbons by writing some of Allah's 99 names in Arabic calligraphy and decorating them and by memorizing verses of the Koran.


Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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