By Melissa Wuske
Acceptance on Moral Issues Changing
Americans are increasingly accepting of a wide range of moral issues, according to a Gallup poll. The share of respondents who deemed the following issues acceptable are at their highest recorded levels: birth control (91 percent), divorce (73 percent), sex between an unmarried man and woman (69 percent), gay or lesbian relations (63 percent), having a baby outside of marriage (62 percent), doctor-assisted suicide (57 percent), pornography (36 percent), and polygamy (17 percent). Acceptance of the death penalty and medical testing on animals hit lows of 58 and 51 percent, respectively.
The results are a gauge of American values. “Virtually all of the more ‘liberal’ changes measured by Gallup are about maximizing autonomy and self-determination,” said Matthew Loftus, a Christian writer and physician.
The shift in result may not, however, reflect a shift in what people actually believe. “There was a time that basic Christian morality was at least something people were afraid to violate—at least in an answer on a public survey. I am not so sure this is reflective of a moral slide, but of greater honesty,” said Dan Darling, vice president of communications for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Religion in the Military
The Department of Defense now has 216 options for military service people to choose from when declaring their religion. The list used to include “Protestant, no denominational preference” and “Protestant, other churches,” but now there are a full 150 Protestant categories.
The list also prompts nonreligious people to be more specific. Instead of “not applicable” and “no religious preference,” people can now select “agnostic,” “atheist,” “no religion,” “no preference,” “none provided,” “humanist,” or “heathen.”
Chaplain Robert Allman, a strategic communications officer for the US Army chief of chaplains, explains that the changes aim to help the military better support service people.
“We continue to focus on providing religious support to everyone,” he said. The designations help chaplains know how to best help each person, and who to refer them to if different support is needed.
A New Approach for New Orleans Schools
Kids in New Orleans screen positive for post-traumatic stress disorder three times more often than the national average, according to the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies. About half are dealing with homicide—with 20 percent having witnessed murder. This, alongside high rates of poverty and parental incarceration, make school discipline a challenge.
Some schools have responded with a strict, disciplinarian approach. “Generally, there just was really not an understanding of how trauma impacts a child. Teachers and school staff really look at children through the lens of, ‘What’s wrong with that child?’ Versus, ‘What happened to that child?’” said Paulette Carter, president and CEO of the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans, a mental health agency for kids and families.
But now five charter schools in the city are opting for a trauma-informed approach. To better meet students’ needs, as well as improve behavior and academic outcomes, the schools are bringing in social workers to help students in need and sending disruptive students to a meditative rather than punitive space.
Teen Researches Cancer
Keven Stonewall has been researching colon cancer for three years, and he’s only 19 years old. He began his research in a lab at Rush University while he was still in high school, but now he studies at the University of Wisconsin. His research found that old and young mice had different responses to cancer treatment. His mentor Valyncia Raphael said, “His goal is legitimately to cure cancer. … Keven [is] a person who’s going to legitimately change the world.”
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).