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Homosexual rights activists gain influence in public schools (10/17/04)

Church’s prayer births children’s ministry (10/17/04)

Partner program revitalizes dying church (10/10/04)

Church music festival attracts variety of visitors (10/10/04)

Churches urge compassion for alienated smokers (9/19/04)

Youth ride wooden waves in church parking lots (9/12/04)

A/G, COGIC join forces through inner-city campus (9/12/04)

Christians respond to victimized women and children (8/29/04)

Growing slavic church shares new facility (8/29/04)

Couple embarks on capitol prayer tour (8/29/04)

ADHD requires multifaceted treatment approach (8/22/04)

Small congregation grows — by planting churches (8/22/04)

‘Under God’ stays in Pledge of Allegiance, at least for now (8/8/04)

Church reaches out to those feeling loss (8/8/04)

Churches act pre-emptively to reduce risk of abuse (7/25/04)

Credit cards ensnare record number of Americans (7/25/04)

Church helps out with donated CD, recycled buses (7/25/04)

New wave of pastors minister to emerging adults (7/18/04)

‘Walking Witnesses’ raise thousands for missions (7/18/04)

Healing center offers alternative medicine (7/18/04)

Growing number of Hispanics impact economy (7/11/04)

'Busy' couple finds time for compassion ministry (7/11/04)

Hand-copied Bible leaves 40-year legacy (7/11/04)

Pastor ends hunger strike when strip club promises to sell (6/27/04)

‘Military survival kit’ requests inundate A/G (6/27/04)

Fourth of July outreach draws thousands (6/27/04)

Drivers warned to steer clear of distractions (6/27/04)

Pastors face more counseling demands (6/20/04)

Church uses touch of ‘flavor’ to reach community (6/20/04)

Outrageous self-expression often starts, stops at home (6/13/04)

Runner raises $5,200 for Convoy of Hope (6/13/04)

Euphemisms tempt Christians to conveniently shed sin, guilt (5/30/04)

Funds for Easter play buy groceries instead (5/30/04)

Identity theft threatens millions of Americans (5/23/04)

Spanish speakers face challenges, opportunities in United States culture (5/16/04)

Health experts implore Americans to get fit (5/9/04)

Leaders say Christian faith stems recidivism (4/25/04)

Riders feel at home in Orlando sanctuary (4/18/04)

Churches try to keep human touch with new media (4/11/04)

Christians see Passion as ministry opportunity (3/28/04)

Tutoring improves lives, opens doors for evangelism (3/21/04)

Cybertheft costly — especially for Christians (3/14/04)

A/G women seize new ministry opportunities (2/29/04)

Investment in early spiritual maturity reaps rewards (2/22/04)

Christian families respond to foster care opportunities (2/15/04)

Childless couples grapple with emotional roller coaster, faith challenges (2/8/04)

Few men seek help from abortion grief, guilt (1/18/04)

Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

2003 PE Report stories

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Women beware: Dangerous messages in the checkout line

By Jocelyn Green (9/19/04)

While the average Christian might veto graphic video games, inappropriate movies and some primetime television, there’s another venue to be wary of: the local supermarket.

Prominently displayed among the candy bars and breath mints at the grocery store these days are nuggets from top-selling magazines designed to whet a different appetite. Provocative cover photographs and headlines on magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Glamour urge women to try all sorts of shocking attire and sexual techniques in order to keep a man interested in them.

Stephen Arterburn, author of Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time, says the magazines can have the effect of pulling women into pornography.

“They cause many women and guys to want to see more,” says Arterburn, founder of New Life Clinics. “It’s becoming more and more addictive to women.” Zogby International reports that one out of every six women — including Christian women — now struggles with an addiction to pornography.

“The soft-core porn that is clearly in some of these magazines plays into the addictive process. What titillates someone today doesn’t work tomorrow,” says Jan LaRue, legal counsel for Concerned Women for America. “The porn industry exploits that.”

While some articles merely desensitize readers to sexual content, others blatantly endorse pornography.

“Most of us who would never go near a porn shop are saturated with these messages,” says Elizabeth Leonard, associate professor of sociology and co-director of the Center for Women’s Studies at Vanguard University (Assemblies of God) in Costa Mesa, Calif.

“When you show sexually provocative material and deliver messages that premarital, extramarital and homosexual sex are OK, those are harmful messages,” says Rick Schatz, president of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families.

Kate Fowler had been raised in a strong Christian home, but she fell away from the faith during her years at Vanderbilt and the University of Colorado. Messages she saw and read in women’s magazines contributed to her changed lifestyle. What she once considered demeaning, offensive and off-limits slowly and insidiously changed her behavior. Subscriptions to Cosmopolitan, Glamour and InStyle altered her beliefs on what relationships with men should involve.

“The more I read about pornography and promiscuous sex in Cosmo, the more I believed that this was what sexually liberated, confident women do,” she recalls. “I had to revamp my entire mentality to think that those things don’t have to be a part of my relationship.”

Judith Resiman, president of the Institute for Media Education, argues that these publications teach women to be sexually coarsened and frighteningly aggressive. “To catch and keep a man, you are being trained to be a harlot,” she says.

Leonard sees two primary problems with articles devoted to sexual “techniques.”

“When you separate sex from relationship, you make sex too important, as though everything has to be about sex,” she says. “But, oddly, you also make it trivial by creating scenarios of multiple partners. And our bodies are just not created for that.”

For the average young woman, continual exposure to the media ideal produces a body dissatisfaction rate higher than 60 percent among high school students and 80 percent among college students, according to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. A study found that the more frequently girls read magazines, the more likely they were to diet, even though more than 70 percent of them were not overweight.

Not only do magazines show women how to look, they offer radical avenues to achieve it. Lillian Calles Barger, president of the Damaris Project, noticed 45 advertisements in one magazine for cosmetic surgery or some other body-enhancing procedure.

These ads — along with plastic surgery reality TV shows such as Extreme Makeover and The Swan — tell women that their bodies need to be “fixed.” Last year, 24 percent more females 18 and younger underwent breast augmentation compared to the year before, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Top-selling women’s magazines carry another subtler threat: promotion of self and beauty as idols.

Leonard suggests that placing too much emphasis on self teaches women to serve self, not God. “We become our own god,” she says. “We will do whatever it takes to keep self fed and satisfied, even though it’s not ultimately satisfying. We become the center of our own universe.”

In the past five years, Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, has urged supermarkets to either cover or remove offensive periodicals from the checkout line. “These magazines both contribute to our sex-saturated culture and are a sad reflection of it,” he says.

At 16, Ashley Bergman* began spending a lot of time and effort trying to look like the females she saw in magazines in an effort to please her boyfriend. Ten years, an eating disorder and two cosmetic surgeries later, she knows the price was too great. Bergman, a graduate of an Assemblies of God university, has been in therapy for the past 18 months.

“I had Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Allure all coming to my house,” she says. “I was obsessed that I had to look like that. It’s addicting to feel like you have to do more until every part of your body is done.”

In her quest for the perfect body Bergman became anorexic, even though she wasn’t overweight. After that, she had a $5,000 breast enhancement, then a $3,000 nose job. She reached the point where she didn’t leave her residence without makeup applied and every hair in place.

In addition to therapy, Bergman has been helped by a return to her Christian roots. “My faith keeps me sane and together,” she says. “God doesn’t make mistakes. He didn’t make me to where I needed to be fixed. I don’t read Cosmo anymore.”

Ultimately, Fowler found the advice of the magazines — to buy more stimulating clothes, wear better makeup or to lose weight — to be vapid. “There’s no mechanism for dealing with wounds or feelings of insignificance,” she says. “There’s no real way to deal with the human side of relationships: brokenness.”

Fowler graduated in 2002 and rededicated her life to Christ. She is engaged to a Christian and no longer looks at women’s magazines. “Now I cannot read them because they make me sick,” she says.

*Name has been changed.

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