With Jesus Ads
by Rachel Zoll
Associated Press Writer
May 19, 1998
Chattanooga, Tennessee (AP) -- Churches worried the MTV generation is rocking 'n rolling its way to Hell are seeking converts with new ads threatening that the party will end someday -- maybe sooner than later.
In a ripoff of the "Got Milk?" ad campaign, one TV spot features a bungee jumper realizing mid-dive that no one has secured his cord. As he lands with a thud, the announcer asks "Got Jesus?" and a church phone number splashes across the screen. [Groan!]
In another spot, a young man dons a tuxedo as an announcer says, "All dressed up for the most important day of your life." The camera pans back to reveal the man sitting in a coffin. It's Judgment Day, not prom day, the ad suggests.
Shane Harwell, marketing director for Impact Productions, the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based nonprofit company that develops and sells the ads, said the messages may be stark, but they're also effective.
"There was a very soft and tender side to Jesus, but Jesus also said, 'If your eye causes you to sin, rip it out and throw it to the ground,'" Harwell said Monday. "We believe the church needs to be gentle and be caring, but we believe there are some people who would not respond to that message."
The TV ads cost up to $20,000 to make and sell for about $800 for a package of three, Harwell said.
The Lee Highway Church of God in Chattanooga began airing the "Got Jesus?" and "All Dressed Up" ads last fall. Jerry Justice, associate pastor of the evangelical church, said it's hard to measure the impact, but many folks have told him they've seen the ads on MTV and The Weather Channel and liked them. The ads are bought on local station breaks of those national networks.
"The ads are pretty intense," Justice said. "We want people to know that Christians have fun, too, and we thought it would be thought-provoking." [What fun!]
The Word of Life Church in Wichita, Kansas, began broadcasting "All Dressed Up" and other TV ads four years ago. It also uses billboards and radio shows to reach young people. [Gotta do somethin'!]
Since the campaign started, the nondenominational church has grown from 150 to 800 congregants.
An ad featuring a drug addict shooting up and Jesus with a spike through his hand has been particularly effective, said Robert Rotola, pastor of The Word of Life. [What's the connection?]
Harwell said churches must resort to in-your-face tactics to reach a generation numb to violence. [Resort!?]
"How are you going to shock somebody who is into slam dancing or piercing their tongue?" he asked. "Some people complain about the ads, but then I look at what network TV is doing, and you have to laugh that people would even raise an eyebrow."
Priest Falls in Love
Catholic Clergy Protests
'Immoral' Soap Opera
May 22, 1998
Guadalajara, Mexico (Reuters) -- Mexico's second city of Guadalajara, where swearing at soccer matches is banned and mini-skirts are frowned upon, is up in arms over a new television soap opera about a priest falling in love.
"Tentaciones" (Temptations), the story of a young priest whose vows of celibacy are shaken when he falls in love with a homeless relative, is the latest controversial soap launched by upstart TV Azteca in its battle to wrest viewers from tame melodramas screened by traditional market leader Televisa.
But in straight-laced Guadalajara, Church authorities were not amused and exhorted the faithful to lobby Azteca to take "Tentaciones" off the air before it set a bad example.
"We think this soap opera is the last straw, because it is not fair to boost ratings by attacking the religious feelings of many Mexicans," Catholic viewers' spokeswoman Gloria Lozano told Reuters.
"The campaign against this soap opera is nationwide. It is not a question of overbearing moralizing. We want respect on TV for human rights and ethical values," she added.
Guadalajara has a reputation for conservatism. It has banned foul language at soccer matches and marketplaces, banned couples from getting overly amorous in public and issued edicts against public servants wearing mini-skirts.
Mexico is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, and has fought fierce civil wars to separate the state from a church that has been powerful since it backed the 16th-century Spanish conquest.
By law, priests may not wear religious garments or celebrate Mass in public places. Church weddings are not legally valid.
But Mexico in recent years has relaxed laws forbidding the church's involvement in politics, and priests have used their new freedom to protest government measures such as a campaigns to promote safe sex by encouraging condom use.
Azteca, privatized in 1993, recently recruited left-wing scriptwriters to broach taboo subjects and cover topics like corruption.
"Tentaciones" is just the latest in a series of what, by Mexican standards, racy Azteca soap operas with controversial and previously untouchable themes.
Lead actor Jose Antonio Llamas, playing the priest, begins every episode with the phrase: "Why can't it be possible to love a woman and God?"
Guadalajara is not sure it wants the issue raised.
"In the church of god's children (the Catholic church) things like this (love between a priest and a woman) can happen, because it is composed of sinners. The danger is that the case may become widespread," Guadalajara Archbishop Juan Sandoval Iniguez told journalists recently.
Actor Says He Helped
Fake TV Shows
May 4, 1998
New York (AP) -- A struggling Los Angeles-based actor says he knows the talk shows are faking it. He's helped them do it several times.
New York native Tony West says producers for five daytime talk shows, including Jerry Springer, invited him to create and tell outlandish stories, The New York Post reported today.
West said the producers knew he was an actor before his appearances on shows hosted by Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, Richard Bey, Sally Jessy Raphael and Maury Povich.
He said they paid him appearance fees -- ranging from $150 for Maury Povich to $500 for Springer -- and took care of his flights, accommodations and other expenses.
Last month, Rolling Stone magazine and the syndicated show "Extra" reported that many of Springer's fights are staged and guests are coached. His producers denied it, but Springer said some of the allegations were probably true.
"The Maury Povich Show would never put a guest on the air with the prior knowledge that the guest is either misrepresenting who they are or that their story is a fabrication," said spokesman Gary Rosen, adding that West signed a release indicating the story he told on the show was true.
A Ricki Lake spokesman said the same thing.
The Jerry Springer and Sally Jessy Raphael shows could not be reached for comment, the Post reported.
West acknowledged that he signed waivers before taping some of the shows.
"It was a disclaimer for them that they wouldn't be sued. It didn't say anything about the story being true," he said.
Amish Clergy Shrieks
Amish Arrested in
Gang Drug Bust
by Amy Worden
Associated Press Writer
June 23, 1998
Philadelphia (AP) -- Two Amish men have been accused of buying cocaine from a motorcycle gang called the Pagans and then distributing it to young members of the conservative religious sect.
"Bikes and buggies, it's a rather strange combination," Pennsylvania State Police Maj. Robert Werts said of Tuesday's indictment of Abner Stoltzfus, 24, and Abner King Stoltzfus, 23. The men are not related. [Yeah, right!]
Both men are members of the Old Order Amish, the most conservative Amish sect. The Amish eschew automobiles, electricity, computers, fancy clothes and most other modern conveniences. They use horse-driven buggies for transportation. There are about 20,000 Old Order Amish in Lancaster County, where the pair are from.
The indictment accuses the men of buying drugs from eight members of the Pagans between 1993 and 1997. The two would then distribute the cocaine to youth groups known as the Crickets, the Antiques, and the Pilgrims at dances.
At a press conference Tuesday, authorities painted a picture of the motorcycle gang world, characterized by drugs and reckless behavior, colliding with the serene, traditional lifestyle of the Pennsylvania Amish.
"As far as I know we have never charged any [Amish] with drug crimes," said assistant states attorney Joseph Dominguez.
John Pyfer, who is representing Abner Stoltzfus, said the Amish are not immune to the pressures of modern society.
"People think the Amish are sheltered from the outside world, but the temptations are there," he said. "My client's parents are extremely conservative -- horse and buggy the whole bit. They're having a hard time understanding this."
At the time of their indictment, the two men were participating in a "timeout" period in which young Amish men and women explore the outside world and decide whether to join the church. Both men intended to join, their lawyers said.
If convicted of the charges, the pair face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
Amish Drug Arrests
by Peter Durantine
Associated Press Writer
June 27, 1998
Intercourse, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Across the rolling farmland, idyllic scenes play out one after another: a bearded man in a straw hat driving horses across a grassy field. A horse and buggy pulling a lad in black Rollerblades down a country lane. A woman, wearing long sleeves in the summer heat, hanging laundry on an outdoor line.
The peaceful southeastern Pennsylvania setting that has long charmed the outside world with its simple ways and innocence was shaken last week by a jarring truth little known beyond parts of Lancaster County: The Amish have a drug problem.
"People here have known that there has been a lot of drug problems with Amish youth, and with liquor, too," said Jack Meyer, a local businessman and member of the Brethren, a sect similar to the Amish.
Meyer, who offers tourists horse-and-buggy rides, and other observers say the Amish had until recently dealt with the problem quietly -- not as a group, but within individual families.
No more. News that two Amish men were charged with dealing cocaine in their communities -- and for a motorcycle gang called the Pagans, no less -- has the leaders of the county's 22,000 Old Order Amish, the most conservative Anabaptist sect, sadly acknowledging a struggle with drugs for at least a decade.
"I'm scared," said an 81-year-old local bishop, reading his Bible on a hot afternoon. "I'm really scared about what has happened."
Alcohol and marijuana had long troubled the community, but then several months ago people started hearing talk about Amish youths using harder drugs. The bishops sent a letter to all the churches, warning about the cocaine.
Abner Stoltzfus, 24, and Abner King Stoltzfus, 23, are not related, but their names are as common around here as shoofly pie. The federal indictment against them unveiled troubles that the Amish, typically portrayed as separate from the world and content that way, did not want known.
An Amish farmer who stood on a ladder picking cherries from a tree underscored this, asking a reporter if people were disappointed with them. "The big thing about Amish people," Meyer said, "is they want to set a good example."
Also charged were eight members of the Pagans, who sold the drugs to the two Stoltzfuses. The Amish men then distributed the drugs to members of youth groups known as the Crickets, the Antiques and the Pilgrims at hoedowns between 1993 and 1997.
State troopers in Lancaster, who patrol much of this area's Amish country, say the Pagans have always ridden on the same roads as the Amish, who rarely call on police.
Many Amish were willing to stop work on farms and in shops to talk about the arrests, but they flatly refused to give their names. That, too, reflects their desire to be left alone.
Some simply associated motorcycles with the problem.
"My neighbor has a motorcycle. I'll try to stay friends with him," said a 74-year-old retired farmer, driving his buggy up to the White Horse Machine Shop outside Intercourse. "Hope he'll do the same."
For the last few years, reporters have been quoting the Amish by name, contrary to the group's long-held religious rules. But after an article on Amish small businesses appeared in the March issue of Forbes magazine, many of the county's 84 bishops told parishioners to stop giving out names.
"It really created a stir in the community," said Louise Stoltzfus, a former member of the Old Order and author of "Traces of Wisdom: Amish Women and the Pursuit of Life's Simple Pleasures." "People in the community felt they shouldn't brag about making money."
The 45-year-old Stoltzfus, who is not related to the two men, believes substance abuse problems in the community are more than a decade old.
"When I was in my 20s, I knew of some Amish youth involved with drugs," she said. "When they say 10 years, they're saying the problem is growing."
Despite appearances that the modern world is rapidly closing in, the Amish, who run more than 1,000 small businesses in the county, have long been tied to the outside.
"There's a myth that these are innocent, barefoot peasants," said Donald Kraybill, author of "The Riddle of Amish Culture" and provost of Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. "People don't realize how much they interact with the outside world."
Much of the Amish aversion to technology is also a myth. True, they eschew electricity because wires would connect them to the outside, but they use gas-powered washing machines, refrigerators and other appliances. They don't own or drive automobiles, but they sometimes hire people to transport them around the county. They do patronize non-Amish banks and stores.
The Amish turn to modern treatments for severe psychiatric problems, but it is unclear whether they use substance abuse programs. Kraybill said the Amish in Indiana experienced drug problems a few years ago and programs were set up by the state.
The bishops say they can only warn families about drugs -- and Amish parents say their children already know about such dangers. After the arrest of the Stoltzfus men, however, it seems other measures may be necessary.
"I think it really will have a sobering impact on them," Kraybill said. "Church leaders may become more active in urging parents to be on the lookout for this kind of thing and in urging parents to put more restrictions on their children."
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
Serves 60 Days
Minister Guilty of
Fondling Elderly Woman
May 15, 1998
Sioux Falls, South Dakota (Reuters) -- A 78-year-old former Methodist minister has been convicted of molesting a 98-year-old nursing home patient in South Dakota, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Earl Butz was found guilty Tuesday of a misdemeanor charge of sexual molestation and sentenced to a year in jail.
Under the terms of his sentencing, he will serve just 60 days in a county jail in return for making a $1,500 contribution to a local rape crisis center, undergoing counseling and being barred for five years from entering nursing homes and hospitals.
He was arrested in January after the victim notified her family and the medical staff of the Sioux Falls nursing home where she was residing that Butz had molested her, Deputy State's Attorney Tom Hensley said.
He Prays For His Victims
Molesting Boys, Quits
by Karen Testa
Associated Press Writer
June 3, 1998
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (AP) -- When Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Keith Symons came to the Palm Beach diocese, he proclaimed his motto was "with joyful trust," a phrase culled from the Bible.
On Tuesday, Symons resigned after admitting he molested five young boys in three Florida churches early in his 40-year career as a priest.
"I have prayed each day for these persons and their families," Symons said in a statement. "It is a memory with which we have lived far too long."
Symons, 65, left his post at the diocese Monday for evaluation and treatment at an undisclosed location, said Bishop Robert Lynch of the St. Petersburg diocese.
His resignation -- believed to be the first by a U.S. bishop for such conduct -- became effective Tuesday morning, Lynch said.
The allegations surfaced five weeks ago when a now-middle aged man told church officials Symons had sexually molested him while he was a teen-age parishioner.
Lynch refused to specify where or when the abuse occurred, but said there were at least five victims in three churches -- all boys, all parishioners and likely all altar boys. In at least one case, the abuse lasted several years.
Symons says he has not abused anyone in at least 25 years, Lynch said.
"I want to believe him," Lynch said. "But sometimes (pedophiles) are in such deep denial they don't remember what they did."
Lynch said treatment for Symons -- mandated and organized by the church -- can last up to a year.
After several years of the abuse, Symons consulted another priest who told him to abstain from alcohol and be chaste, Lynch said. He said he doesn't fault the spiritual adviser for not forcing Symons to seek help.
"Pedophilia wasn't even in the psychological manuals when this abuse happened," Lynch said. "The old theory was make a good confession and sin no more. We never realized it was a disease."
Elvis Credit Card Issued
by Cliff Walker
from wire reports
May 11, 1998
An Elvis Presley credit card was launched in Britain. The card can be used to purchase Elvis memorabilia at a discount.
Though he has been deified by some, and an Elvis shrine exists in India, Presley remains remains, and thus is unavailable for comment.
Fan Prays Under Water
for World Cup Victory
June 30, 1998
Bucharest (Reuters) -- A Romanian fan spends four hours a day with his head immersed in the bath praying to God to help Romania win the World Cup, his wife has told a Bucharest daily.
The newspaper, Evenimentul Zilei, said engineer Ioan Moldovan, 44, had been a model family man and worker until two weeks ago and has since told psychiatrists he was Romania's only "human amphibian."
Moldovan's wife Adriana said she believed the only solution was to cut off the water supply to the family home.
"Better to die of thirst and go unwashed than to continue seeing my husband every morning in the water and believing that Romania will win the championship," she said.
"I've come to hate soccer. I want my husband back the way he was."
Romania lost to Croatia in the second round on Tuesday.
Some Herbal Remedy
by Dr. Barry Reisberg
May 6, 1998
New York (AP) -- Gingko biloba is among the herbs receiving superstar status in the pantheon of natural remedies purported to combat aging.
The herb is widely touted in advertisements as a memory booster designed to increase mental sharpness and restore overall vigor, especially as you age.
These claims got an added burst of publicity after a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year reported that ginkgo improved the memory and social functioning of patients with dementia.
But will ginkgo biloba make you more mentally alert?
Unfortunately, there is little evidence that ginkgo will sharpen your mental abilities if you already are healthy or if you are experiencing normal complaints of memory loss associated with aging. There is some promising evidence that it may improve cognitive functions in elderly people with dementia, but even so this herb is not the proverbial fountain of youth.
Ginkgo is actually an ancient or ''fossil'' tree that first made its appearance more than 200 million years ago. The Chinese grew ginkgo in temple gardens and made tea from parts of the ginkgo for the treatment of asthma and bronchitis. Today, the hardy tree thrives everywhere, and its distinctive flat green, fan-shaped leaves can be seen along city streets worldwide.
The leaves are the source of the ginkgo sold as an herbal supplement. Ginkgo extract contains hundreds of chemicals, including flavonoids and terpenoids, and there isn't a lot known about these substances.
Interestingly, some of the terpenoid ginkgolides have not been found in any other living species. Some of these chemicals may have anti-oxidant properties, meaning that they quash the activity of damaging ''free-radicals'' produced in the normal course of cellular activity in the body. Some of the claims for ginkgo stem from the supposed anti-oxidant properties.
Ginkgo has long been used in Europe, especially Germany, as a blood thinner because the herb, like aspirin, makes the blood less likely to clot. The herb is sold as a treatment for a variety of circulatory and neurological problems, including dementia, in European countries.
Part of the problem in evaluating ginkgo's therapeutic effects is the lack of well-controlled clinical studies that rigorously assess the herb. Many of the European studies lack the proper controls and other standards needed to clearly evaluate this herb as a medicine.
Last fall, a study finally appeared in the American medical literature of comparatively high quality. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, evaluated the ability of a ginkgo extract widely used in Europe to alleviate the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and related forms of dementia. The results were very encouraging.
Among a group of patients with early to moderately severe dementia, most of whom suffered from Alzheimer's disease, a daily dose of 120 milligrams of ginkgo extract improved their social functioning and performance on a cognitive test for six months to one year, compared to a similar group of patients who received a placebo or dummy pill. However, the changes induced by ginkgo were rated as modest.
This study is a first step in evaluating the effects of ginkgo, but it is only a first step that involved only a few hundred patients. The true value of the herb will not be known until additional studies are completed.
There have been many preliminary studies with some substance or other over the years that have produced encouraging effects in Alzheimer's patients. However, most of these studies simply have not panned out over the long run.
Often, since caregivers are desperate to see a change in Alzheimer's patients, they report a substance is making a difference in how patients respond to the world. But, unfortunately, these reports frequently have no staying power.
It may yet turn out that ginkgo will have a place in the treatment of Alzheimer's patients, and patients with other forms of dementia, but we simply don't know the answer yet. As for the normal complaints of memory loss that accompany aging, there is little evidence that ginkgo will help.
Since ginkgo is a plant extract and is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the active ingredients of different brands of ginkgo may differ substantially.
|Dr. Barry Reisberg is professor of psychiatry at New
York University School of Medicine and clinical director of the Aging and
Dementia Research Center at NYU Medical Center.
Copyright 1998 The Associated Press