"Christians and the Internet" newsletter CATI, Vol. 1, No. 10: March 10, 2000.
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved. For permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact Barry Traver at email@example.com. Permission is hereby granted, however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1) no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety. To subscribe, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, including "Subscribe to CATI" in the Subject line and including in the body your real name and the email address to which you wish CATI sent. (To be removed from the emailing list, also write to email@example.com, but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.) _______________________________________________________________
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. FAMILY-SAFE INTERNET: ISPS THAT FILTER CONTENT (PART ONE) 2. FREE ONLINE GREETING CARDS: BLUE MOUNTAIN ARTS AND MORE 3. CHRISTIANS IN JOURNALISM: COLSON, OLASKY, AND THOMAS 4. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER _______________________________________________________________
1. FAMILY-SAFE INTERNET: ISPS THAT FILTER CONTENT (PART ONE)
How can parents take advantage of all the rich and wholesome resources available on the Internet and at the same time keep pornography and other objectionable material from coming into the home? Are there ways to make the Internet "safe" for the family?
The answer to the last question is "Yes," and there are many possible ways to work on accomplishing this goal! One is to make use of special software, such as Cyber Patrol, to filter out unwanted material. Another is to sign up with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that will filter out content that is offensive in nature. You can do either or both or something else entirely.
The choice is yours as to what approach to take. CATI's goal is to provide information (and links to more information) to help you make an informed decision. In this issue and the next we hope to look at some Internet Service Providers that filter the content that enters the home from the Internet.
Although not the best solution for everyone, using such an ISP may work better than parental control software for families that include a computer-savvy teenage son or a Dad who wants to protect himself as well as his family from involvement in improper Internet activity.
If you want a list of ISPs that filter content, perhaps the best place to start is Focus on the Family's CitizenLink Research Paper "Family-Based Filtered Internet Service Providers," which was released on February 25, 2000 (just this past month!):
(Unfortunately, I discovered that helpful list only after I had tracked down thirty-some such ISPs on my own the hard way <sigh>.)
Incidentally, Focus on the Family has released half a dozen CitizenLink Research Papers related to the Internet. Here's where you find them:
And here (in reverse chronological order) are the four Papers released within the past four or five months:
Family-Based Filtered Internet Service Providers (Feb 25, 2000) http://www.family.org/cforum/research/papers/a0002551.html
Resources for Online Sexual Addiction (Feb 11, 2000) http://www.family.org/cforum/research/papers/a0002552.html
An Overview of Online Pornography (Nov 8, 1999) http://www.family.org/cforum/research/papers/a0002550.html
Making the Internet Family-Friendly (Nov 8, 1999) http://www.family.org/cforum/research/papers/a0002689.html
In addition to the Internet, CitizenLink Research Papers are also available in the following areas: Abortion, BioEthics, Education, Euthanasia, Gambling, Homosexuality, Internet, Liberty, Marriage, and Sex Education:
You can also find the current issue of Focus on the Family's Citizen Magazine at this address:
Getting back to the topic ("ISPs that filter content"), let's take a brief look at particular ISPs (including quotes from their home site plus some comments from me). I have had no personal experience with any of these ISPs, and inclusion of an ISP on my list does not necessarily constitute endorsement of that Internet Service Provider. Nevertheless, it is hoped that the following information will be helpful.
Before you sign up with any ISP, you should be sure to check it out thoroughly and ask lots of questions, making sure that it will meet your needs and is exactly what you want. (For example, be sure that it offers a local access number that you can use to connect to the Internet and that you will not have to use a phone number that will cost you extra!) ___________________
Here's one ISP I found that Focus on the Family apparently missed!
"1LORD.NET is a Filtered Internet Service Provider (ISP) that believes that Jesus is the Lord over every part of a Christian life, even the Internet.... We strive to live Romans 16:19 with this filtered service.... As an act of faith we donate 10% of every Dial Up and ISDN account to a Nonprofit Christian Ministry of your choice because we believe that God multiplies our giving and blesses those (you) that give."
"We are a national filtered internet provider offering competitive pricing and all locations support 56K Flex V.90, 64K ISDN, 128K ISDN, and dual analog multilink technology. Included services are E-Mail, FTP Web space with FrontPage support and Family Friendly Filtered Access by N2H2."
Here's where you'll find information about N2H2 filtering methods:
A+ Internet Filtering for Christians powered by Hedgebuilders.com http://www.hedge.org/ or http://hedgebuilders.com/
A+ Internet Filtering from Hedgebuilders is not an ISP, but works with your current ISP (or at least with most ISPs, including even Netzero.com and FreeAccess and, to a limited extent, with AOL).
"HEDGEBUILDERS is a proxy based system. All filtering takes place on our servers, not on your computer. Every time you type in an Internet address, or click on a link to an Internet address, or type in a word to search for, the address or word you requested is routed past our servers where it is checked against our block list. If your request is not on our list, you proceed as normal to the site you requested. If your request is on our list, you get a message stating that the site you requested has been blocked along with an explanation. Since we have lightning-speed computers and a super fast connection to the Internet, the whole process of checking your request takes less than a second once it reaches the Internet."
Here's where you'll find "Questions and Answers" on how Hedgebuilders filtering works:
Note: "... we make one "free LIFETIME hook-up" to our service available to any pastor, minister, missionary, school, or church, who wants it and will use it."
Note also: "Our regular service fee for homes is $5 per month with a $10 setup fee. For homeschoolers we have discounted the rate to only $2 a month and we have reduced the setup fee to $5."
(See below for a special offer for those who use ACFI.Net as their ISP.) ___________________
ACFI.Net Internet Cooperative http://www.acfi.net/aon/isp1st.htm
"The Co-op is its members and we are unique on the Internet. We are families and businesses that use the Internet because of its incredible reach and resources, but want to take a stand against the dark side of the web, while building the Christian community online. As the largest non-profit co-operative on the Internet, we have power - not only to buy services and products at lower prices, but to influence the laws and infrastructure of the web to make it a better place."
If I understand the situation correctly, ACFI.Net does not automatically include family filtering, but it is available if requested. It is "a simple 5-minute process" to set up, and "it is available for $2.00 a month to The-Word.Net / ACFI.Net members for your first computer and only $1.00 a month for each additional computer." The filtering that is provided is A+ Internet Filtering for Christians powered by Hedgebuilders.com (described earlier in this article). ___________________
Agape Information Systems http://www.agapesystems.com/
Agape is "Christian-owned and operated...with over 1800 local numbers." "Currently we have dialup access in all of the continental (48) states, with access in every area code available included in our dialup package."
"Agape Information Systems was born four years ago by Paul Anderson in his house. He, his wife and children had come home from work one day to find that some workers that had been in the house had accessed some pornography on their home computer and left it on the screen for the children to see. At the time, Paul went looking for a service or filter that would block objectionable material and none was to be found. So, being a Unix engineer, and having been on the Internet for a number of years he decided to develop a filter to combat this problem."
"Our filter was one of the first developed and is one of the most robust around. We can block in over 22 categories and our equipment could support up to 1,000,000 users concurrently without any upgrade. There is no other filtered ISP that can make this claim." ___________________
American Family Online http://www.afo.net/
American Family Online is related to the American Family Association, headed by Dr. Donald Wildmon:
The AFA is a "Christian organization promoting the Biblical ethic of decency in American society with primary emphasis on TV and other media." If you are interested in learning more about the American Family Association, you may want to take a look at the AFA Journal:
Some background on Dr. Wildmon: He founded the National Federation for Decency in 1977, and is the author of a number of books (now out of print), including The Case Against Pornography, Don Wildmon: The Man the Networks Love to Hate, and The Home Invaders. ___________________
Angels Online http://www.angelsonline.net/
Angels Online is "A nonprofit Christian Internet service provider," which makes use of "free server-based filtering from Crosswalk. It's free and it works whether you're browsing the web with Netscape Communicator or Internet Explorer."
Here's where you can find more information about Crosswalk's approach to Internet filtering:
Note these comments from Crosswalk (a Christian Web site):
"Server-based filtering ... is generally only offered by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or online access networks. CrossingGuard is a server-based filtering option that does not require users to select a specific ISP or access provider, making it possible to choose the most economical ISP available while still getting the safety and security of filtering." ___________________
Comments on other ISPs will have to wait until a later time, but for now you can make use of Focus in the Family's list if you would like to explore the subject further:
In addition, here are a few ISPs that filter Internet content that do NOT appear (at this time) on Focus on the Family's list:
ChristianISP.net (Church USA Internet Ministries) http://www.christianisp.net/
iSelect Internet http://www.iselect.net/
(to be continued, D.V., in the next issue of CATI) _______________________________________________________________
2. FREE ONLINE GREETING CARDS: BLUE MOUNTAIN ARTS AND MORE
Interested in sending an online greeting card to a friend on the Internet? Anita Hamilton had an interesting article on "Online Greetings" in the March 22, 1999 issue of newsstand edition of TIME Magazine. But you don't have to go to the library to check it out: you'll find the TIME Digital version of the same article online here:
Here's what she has to say about Blue Mountain Arts, which is "a free site with more than 1,000 animated greetings for every occasion":
"There are dozens of free greeting-card sites online (...type "electronic greeting cards" in the search box at yahoo.com for lists), but Blue Mountain is by far the most popular. While some sites can be a hassle..., Blue Mountain is refreshingly simple.... Also, the site's quirky graphics and discreet ads give it a homey feel."
It's simple to use the site:
"...simply click on a holiday or occasion, pick a card you like, fill in the names and e-mail addresses of yourself and the recipient, and add a personal note. A preview option allows you to see how your card will look and sound (and check for typo's!). Then you're ready to send it."
Here's the address:
Blue Mountain Arts http://bluemountain.com/
I used Blue Mountain Arts myself last month to send my wife not one, not two, but three Valentine's Day cards! (How's that for being a thoughtful husband?! Just don't ask me if I remembered to send her a card last year....)
If you don't find what you want at Blue Mountain Arts, here here are a few other places to try:
1001 Postcards http://www.postcards.org/postcards/
123 Greetings http://123greetings.com/
C.J.'s Specialties (Free Christian Greeting E-Cards) http://www.cjsspecialties.com/freecard/index.html
Catspaw's Greetings (Christian cards and links to other sites) http://www.geocities.com/catspaw62/index.html
Electronic Postcards from Around the World http://electronicpostcards.net/
ImprovingWorld's Free Electronic Greeting Cards (make your own, using your own pictures or music) http://www.improvingworld.com/postoffice/
Multimedia Greeting Cards http://microimg.com/postcards
Rivercard's Postcards http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/goodfriends/cards.html
Shimmer's Links to Christian Email Cards http://members.tripod.com/~Shimmerzone/cardsplus.html
Yahoo! Greetings http://greetings.yahoo.com/
It's nice when friends remember friends with a card, and that's true for many types of situations. When someone is having a birthday, recovering from an illness, celebrating the birth of a child, going through difficult struggles, graduating from school, or grieving over the loss of a member of the family or close friend, sending a card is one way to "rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15).
Whenever you choose a greeting card, you may have to "shop around" in order to find the card that is perfect for the occasion, but by using the Internet you can do your shopping from the comfort of your home, and the card is free! (The only drawback is that you can only send electronic greeting cards to friends and family who are also on the Internet.) _______________________________________________________________
3. CHRISTIANS IN JOURNALISM: COLSON, OLASKY, AND THOMAS
In the 20th century perhaps no one person was as influential in challenging Christians to develop a Christian view of the world and to think through the application of the Christian faith to all areas of life as the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer. If you are not familiar with Dr. Schaeffer, the following two sites (though limited in content) may be helpful:
The Shelter: A Francis A. Schaeffer Site http://www.rationalpi.com/theshelter/
Dr. Schaeffer was especially influential on college students (and on educated people in general) through his activity at L'Abri ("The Shelter") in Switzerland and his authorship of such books as the following:
The God Who Is There, Escape from Reason, He Is There And He Is Not Silent http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0891075615/travertabletalk
How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0891072926/travertabletalk
Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (co-authored with Dr. C. Everett Koop, before Dr. Koop became U.S. Surgeon General) http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0891072918/travertabletalk
One of the many areas in which his influence can be seen is the area of journalism. Let's briefly explore that influence on three examples of Christians involved in journalism today: Charles ("Chuck") Colson, Marvin Olasky, and Cal Thomas.
Let's start with Charles Colson. The obvious influence of Dr. Schaeffer upon Colson is evident from the title of Colson's latest (and best?) book:
Charles Colson, How Now Shall We Live? http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0842318089/travertabletalk
Like Francis Schaeffer's influential book How Should We Then Live?, Colson's book How Now Shall we Live? is very much concerned with the importance of having a Christian view of the world and with understanding all of the implications of having such a view.
The book is co-authored by Nancy Pearcey, whose "expertise in worldview analysis began when she studied under Francis Schaeffer at L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland in the early 1970s."
Here's the book's dedication, written by Charles Colson:
"We dedicate this book to the memory of Francis A. Schaeffer, whose ministry at L'Abri was instrumental in Nancy's conversion and whose works have had a profound influence on my own understanding of Christianity as a total worldview."
I recently read Colson's book cover-to-cover and found it an impressive achievement, even though it is not a perfect book. (For example, I think it fails to be sufficiently critical of Roman Catholic theology, and I was less than fully satisfied with how he handled the matter of man's free determination in the chapter "Does Suffering Make Sense?," a treatment that was not as "Reformed" as I would have liked it to be.) But my purpose here is not to get you to read the book, but to tell you how you can read Charles Colson on the Internet.
Charles Colson was Richard Nixon's "hatchet man" and went to prison for his part in Watergate. Colson became a Christian (partly through reading C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, if I remember correctly, although it's been a while since I read Colson's autobiographical account in his book Born Again), and that conversion has stood the test of time. Colson's life and thinking have been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it shows in his journalism (i.e., his commentary dealing with political and social issues of the day).
Colson has a regular radio program called "BreakPoint" which is broadcast on Christian radio. Here's the Web site for BreakPoint:
Note the top of the screen. At that site you can listen to today's broadcast, read the transcript, or subscribe so as to receive daily transcripts by email (no charge!).
Colson also writes sometimes for the magazine Christianity Today. If you explore the Christianity Site a bit, you should be able to find columns by Charles Colson. For example, try this page and search for "Colson":
You can do the same for past issues:
Perhaps the easiest thing to do, however, if you like Charles Colson, is to subscribe to the BreakPoint transcripts.
Let's move from Dr. Francis Schaeffer to Dr. Marvin Olasky, who is "a professor of journalism..., the author of nine books of history and cultural analysis, and the editor of World, a weekly Christian news magazine," according to the cover of a recent book:
Marvin Olasky, Renewing American Compassion: How Compassion for the Needy Can Turn Ordinary Citizens into Heroes http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0895264145/travertabletalk
The book was a follow-up to an earlier book, which was widely read in Washington, D.C.:
Marvin Olasky, The Tragedy of American Compassion http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/089526725X/travertabletalk
On page 180 in that book Dr. Olasky makes reference to Dr. Schaeffer's warning "that Christians should avoid giving more power to the 'monolithic monster of a bloated state' and instead emphasize the 'compassionate use of accumulated wealth,' which is one of the main points of Olasky's own book (although, admittedly, Olasky does not acknowledge the same indebtedness to Schaeffer's influence as do Charles Colson and Cal Thomas).
But you don't have to go to the bookstore to read some good books by Dr. Olasky (you don't even have to order them from Amazon.com): you can access two of his books on journalism online:
Marvin Olasky, Telling the Truth: How to Revitalize Christian Journalism http://www.worldmag.com/world/olasky/truth1.html
Marvin Olasky, Prodigal Press: The Anti-Christian Bias of American News Media http://www.worldmag.com/world/olasky/Prodigal/index.html
Note: you'll find on the Internet the entire text of the two books (except for some chapter notes for Prodigal Press)!
Incidentally, you'll find World Magazine online (including articles by Dr. Olasky) at this address:
World Magazine http://www.worldmag.com/world/home.asp
Let's now move on to Cal Thomas, who was the featured speaker at my son's graduation this past spring at Covenant College, an excellent Christian college. Cal Thomas is a committed Christian journalist whose political column appears regularly in many newspapers and some weekly news magazines.
You'll find Cal Thomas's Web site at this address:
Unfortunately, the site does not seem to be updated on a regular basis. For example, you'll find a "Books" section here:
The page mentions four books by Cal Thomas and says, "they are all out of print now.... Watch here for other new books coming soon!"
Well, it's not the right place to watch, because in April 1999 (eleven months ago?!) Zondervan Publishing House published Cal Thomas's book Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? (I sent a note to the email address at the site to suggest that the site needed to be updated, but I haven't yet gotten back a response to my email.)
You can, however, find helpful information about that book by Cal Thomas at Amazon.com:
Cal Thomas, Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0310226503/travertabletalk
How does the book answer the question raised in the title? It may surprise some people that the answer is essentially "No"! The co-author of the book is Ed Dobson, "who helped draft the Moral Majority platform and served as personal assistant to Jerry Falwell," and Cal Thomas himself was "a ... spokesperson for the Moral Majority," so the book represents the revised thinking of two "insiders."
But I'm not here to persuade you to read the book which is already a bit dated (it would have been more helpful to see a discussion, for example, of the Christian Coalition), but to point you to up-to-date commentary by Cal Thomas.
Where can his current and recent columns be found? Perhaps in a somewhat unlikely place, the Jewish World Review:
Here's where you'll find his most recent column:
And here's where you'll find the previous 75 or so columns:
For a sample, check out his February 22, 2000 column titled "The religious right emerges from a coma":
On his Web site, Cal Thomas acknowledges one of the greatest influence upon his life to be "the late philosopher-theologian Dr. Francis Schaeffer." (You'll find that comment on his site at http://www.calthomas.com/qa.htm .)
You may or may not always agree with Charles Colson, Marvin Olasky, or Cal Thomas, but I think you will find what they have to say stimulating reading, and you have to admire the attempt (to whatever degree you regard it as successful) to approach journalism from the perspective of a Christian view of the world in which we live. Enjoy! ________________________________________________________________
4. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER
This is the tenth issue of a free newsletter devoted to "Christians And The Internet" ("CATI," pronounced "Katy," but spelled with a "C" and an "I" for "Christians" and the "Internet"). If you are not yet a subscriber and would like to become one, send an appropriate note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Past issues: you'll find archives of past issues of CATI available online at http://traver.org/cati/ . ("It's not a pretty site," but hopefully it may be a useful one.) ________________________________________________________________
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved. For permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact Barry Traver at email@example.com. Permission is hereby granted, however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1) no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety. To subscribe, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, including "Subscribe to CATI" in the Subject line and including in the body your real name and the email address to which you wish CATI sent. (To be removed from the emailing list, also write to email@example.com, but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.)