"Christians and the Internet" newsletter
CATI, Vol. 1, No. 11:  March 17, 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 cati@traver.org.  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 cati@traver.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 cati@traver.org,
but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.)
Before I begin, perhaps I should mention that some churches
in the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition do not make use of
Christian hymns like "Amazing Grace" in formal worship.  An
example is the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
(RPCNA), which on its Web site describes its position in this
"Our musical praise employs God's Word only, thus making use
of the divinely inspired Book of Psalms of the Bible."
It is my understanding, however, that most who hold to this
position would allow for some appropriate use of "humanly
inspired" Christian hymns like "Amazing Grace" outside of
formal Christian worship, even if only for quiet meditation
rather than singing.  Thus I hope that this article on John
Newton may be helpful to all who rejoice in God's amazing
John Newton's "Amazing Grace" -- which speaks of the amazing
grace of God in the gospel -- may be one of the most-loved
Christian hymns of all time.  You may have seen part of the
story of this hymn's amazing popularity in the PBS special,
"Amazing Grace with Bill Moyers," which presented some of "the
adaptations of this enduring hymn by scores of performers,
from country music to gospel to folk singers."  Those who
love the gospel love the words, and even those who have not
come to a real understanding of the gospel have somehow
found themselves deeply affected by Newton's hymn.
In the PBS program, "Judy Collins sings [it] in St. Paul's
Chapel at Columbia University, and talks about how this song
carried her through the depths of her alcoholism."  The
program also shows country music star Johnny Cash, folk
singer Jean Ritchie, and the Boys Choir of Harlem, all
singing moving renditions of "Amazing Grace."
"Amazing grace -- how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me...."
John Newton (1725-1807) knew what it was like to have his
"wretched" life transformed by the amazing grace of God.
His own epitaph tells the story:  "JOHN NEWTON, ... Once an
infidel and libertine [and] A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST,
restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the Gospel which
he had long laboured to destroy."
Newton had been a sailor involved with the slave trade.  In
God's providence, he became a slave himself before the time
when God in His grace called John Newton to faith in Christ.
Newton's growth in grace was gradual, but not only did he
mature in his understanding of the gospel, but also he became
a powerful minister of the gospel for many years, first as
curate at Olney in Buckinghamshire and then as vicar of St.
Mary Woolnoth in London.
Here's where you can find more details about John Newton's
fascinating life:
Amazing Grace:  The Story of John Newton
Another interesting fact is mentioned at the Fire and Ice:
Puritan and Reformed Writings Web site on their John Newton
page, where the following is quoted from J.D. Douglas, ed.,
The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church
(Zondervan, 1978), page 704:
"In 1779 Newton moved to London....  Handel's Messiah had made
an enormous impact on London, and Newton preached a famous
series of sermons on the texts Handel had used as libretto.
After one of these the young William Wilberforce sought his
counsel. In his latter years, Newton played a leading part in
Wilberforce's political campaign which led to the abolition of
the slave trade." A. Morgan Derham (NIDCC)
Regrettably, those fifty or so sermons by John Newton on the
Biblical texts of Handel's "Messiah" are not available online.
However, you'll find a wealth of other material by or about
John Newton at the following Web site (including many of his
letters, in which you can see "the voice of the heart"):
The Life, Conversion and Theology of John Newton
It was while ministering at Olney that Newton published his
Olney Hymns, most of which were written by Newton himself,
although the collection also included some hymns by his good
friend, the poet William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper").
"Amazing Grace" is not the only hymn that John Newton wrote
that is still loved and sung today.  The Trinity Hymnal, a
popular hymnal used in many Presbyterian churches, includes
thirteen hymns by John Newton.  Here are some of them and
their location on the Cyber Hymnal site:
Amazing Grace
Approach, My Soul, the Mercy Seat
Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare
Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds
Let Us Love, and Sing, and Wonder
Safely Through Another Week
John Newton's friend, William Cowper, also wrote a number of
hymns that are loved and sung today:
A Glory Gilds the Sacred Page
God Moves in a Mysterious Way
Sometimes a Light Surprises
There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood
Even though Cowper struggled with depression throughout his
life, some of his contributions to the Olney Hymns have
proven as much-loved as Newton's contributions.
The Cyber Hymnal Web site includes about thirty hymns by
John Newton:
John Newton (Cyber Hymnal)
and about twenty hymns by William Cowper:
William Cowper (Cyber Hymnal)
Newton and Cowper, of course, wrote many more hymns than the
ones commonly sung today, and some of them are worth getting
to know better.
You'll find the text to the complete Olney Hymns at the
Christian Classics Ethereal Library site:
Olney Hymns by John Newton (Christian Classics Ethereal
Unfortunately, that site does not indicate which hymns were
written by John Newton and which hymns were written by
William Cowper.
You'll find the text of many hymns by William Cowper at this
Olney Hymns by William Cowper (Poets' Corner)
The Olney Hymns are divided into two books:  "Book 1:  On
Selected Passages of Scripture" and "Book 2:  On Occasional
Subjects."  William Cowper's hymns from Book 1 can also be
found at the Reformation Ink site:
The Scripture Hymns of William Cowper
Again, there may be differences among Christians as to the
propriety of singing hymns like "Amazing Grace" (especially
in the context of formal worship), but I trust that there
will be widespread agreement on the contribution that John
Newton, "servant of slaves" and servant of Christ, has made
to the church (including his pastoral letters).  Many today
should be able to derive spiritual benefit from reading his
story and reading what he has written, because it is all
about God's "amazing grace"!
This past-week a couple who subscribe to CATI forwarded to me
an email they had received concerning a "Madeline" Murray
"O'Hare" petition, along with this comment:
"Is this the kind of message that you were warning about?
(It's a Fw of a Fw of a Fw.)  Just wondering if it was valid.
Their suspicion was indeed well-founded:  the email was a
hoax that is now circulating around the Internet.  But it may
serve a useful purpose:  If we take some time to look at it
more closely, we can observe the kinds of things that indicate
that a letter is not valid.
Here's how it starts out in the version received by the CATI
couple I mentioned:
"Dear Brothers & Sisters in the Lord,"
Thus the email is specifically directed to Christians.  What
this means, if you think about it, is that if the letter is a
hoax (as it is), it is Christians who will look foolish for
having believed it.
The email continues as follows:
"I know that there are many assaults against our faith that it
is often overwhelming to discern just how to respond and often
we fail to respond at all.  But this issue is pivotal, please
read and send a letter.  This email will make it simple -- to
copy, paste and personalize the letter."
It is indeed important for Christians "to discern just how to
respond," since our time is limited, and we are to exercise
good stewardship of our time.  (We'll talk about stewardship
of our money in a moment.)  Thus we should not waste our time
in furthering a hoax or in encouraging other Christians to
waste their time in furthering a hoax.  (We'll prove that the
email is a hoax in a moment.)
By the way, an English teacher would probably notice that the
"But this issue is pivotal, please read and send a letter" is
an example of a grammatical error called a "comma splice," but
that in itself is not proof that the email is a hoax (although
it is true that many email hoax letters are not well-written).
Let's continue with the letter:
"Please read:
> CBS will be forced to discontinue 'Touched By An Angel' for
> using the word 'GOD' in every program.  Madeline Murray
> O'Hare, an atheist, successfully eliminated the use of Bible
> reading and prayer from schools fifteen years ago.  Her
> organization has now been granted a Federal Hearing on the
> same subject by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)
> in Washington, D.C. Their petition, No. 2493, would
> ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the Gospel
> of our Lord and Savior, on the airwaves of America."
The first statement is rather outrageous, and certainly not
something to be believed without convincing evidence, none of
which is supplied.  Instead, you are asked to put your faith
completely in the anonymous writer of the email, someone who
does not even know how to spell Madalyn Murray O'Hair's name
Mrs. O'Hair, by the way, disappeared in 1995, so if she had
reappeared at this point, it's something that would have made
national headlines.  Here's some historical background for you
on Madalyn Murray O'Hair:
"O'Hare was one of the litigants in the 1963 case which led
the U.S. Supreme Court to ban school prayer....  O'Hair
remained a spokesperson for atheism until 1995, when she and
two of her children vanished after leaving a note saying they
would be away temporarily. The trio appeared to have taken
with them at least $500,000 in American Atheist funds; one
private investigator concluded that they had fled to New
Zealand. In April of 1999 police searched a Texas ranch for
her body, apparently on a tip from a criminal. Nothing turned
up, and her disappearance remains a mystery."
As for the reference to "petition, No. 2493," let's see what
the Federal Communications Commission has to say about this
and related matters on their own Web site:
"A rumor has been circulating since 1975 that Madalyn Murray
O'Hair, a widely known, self-proclaimed atheist, proposed that
the Federal Communications Commission...consider limiting or
banning religious programming. This rumor is not true. It also
has been circulated repeatedly that Ms. O'Hair was granted an
FCC hearing to discuss that proposal. This too is untrue....
A petition filed in December 1974 by Jeremy D. Lansman and
Lorenzo W. Milam [and] routinely assigned the number RM-2493
added further confusion regarding the issue of religious
programming. They had asked, among other things, that the FCC
inquire into operating practices of stations licensed to
religious organizations.... The 'Lansman-Milam petition' was
DENIED by the FCC on August 1, 1975.... Periodically since
1975, the FCC has received mail indicating that...there were
rumors claiming the petitions of RM-2493 had called for an end
to religious programs on radio and television. Such rumors are
false. Additional mail and telephone calls came in from people
who thought that Ms. O'Hair was a sponsor of RM-2493. This
rumor is also false." 
So much for the truthfulness of the email!
Let's skip over some more outrageous claims made in the letter
to see exactly what the author of the letter wants the reader
to do:
> We are praying for at least one million signed letters. This
> would defeat their effort and show that there are many
> Christians alive, well and concerned in our country.  Please
> print this letter then cut off and sign the form below....
> Each person should sign one letter separately, and mail it
> in separate envelopes.... This has to go out regular mail....
> Please e-mail this letter to all your friends and relatives
> and to anyone else you feel led to.  Or photo copy it and
> mail it.  As Christians we must unite on this. Please do not
> take this lightly.
One million letters mailed in separate envelopes (each with a
33-cent stamp on it) means a lot of money wasted, if this hoax
is successful in its goal.  Christians are called to be good
stewards of their money, and there are certainly much better
ways for such money to be spent (such as feeding the hungry or
supporting the work of the gospel) rather than taking part
unwittingly in this hoax (which is actually a form of bearing
false witness, if you think about it).
Incidentally, another son of Madalyn Murray O'Hair --William
J. Murray -- has not disappeared.  Although raised an atheist,
he became an evangelical Christian in 1980.  You'll find his
Christian testimony here:
According to his Web site, "He and his wife are members of a
Baptist Church in Virginia," and he "is the author of five
books."  In addition,
"William J. Murray speaks at churches, baccalaureates and 
prayer breakfasts up to 200 times a year. He has also
assisted Christian schools with fund raising dinners and
events. Gospel Films has released a movie based on his book,
Let Us Pray. A second major video entitled Atheists: What
They Really Believe was released in 1998."
Here is what he has to say about "The Great 2495 Fraud":
"The petition signed by many Christians and addressed to the
Federal Communications Commission to stop Madalyn Murray
O’Hair from removing religious broadcasting from radio and TV
is a fake. It was designed to make Christians look foolish by
getting them to sign a fake petition."
He gives some good advice about signing petitions:
"Never sign any petition which does not have the name and
address of the individual or group who sponsors it. None of
the petitions titled '2493' had a name or address."
Whether or not his charge that the American Atheist Center is
behind the hoax is debatable (convincing evidence for this is
not presented, in my opinion), but it is certainly true that
the American Atheist magazine is using the email hoax to good
advantage to portray Christians as ignorant and gullible:
FCC Phantom Petition Hoax Hits Archdiocese of N.Y.
The Phantom Phenomenon:  ChristInsanity Strikes Again!
At any rate, CATI readers -- such as the couple who forwarded
to me the "Madeline" Murray "O'Hare" hoax letter -- will not
be taken in by such a letter.  If a well-meaning friend sends
you a copy, gently explain to him or her that it's a hoax.
Pass along this issue of CATI, or perhaps suggest that they
check out David Galloway's fine "On the Edge" column on the
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?
One way is to sign up with an Internet Service Provider (ISP)
that will filter out any material that is considered to be
inappropriate.  Not all agree, however, on what is considered
to be inappropriate, so if you do decide to use this approach,
you will want to make sure that you and the ISP are agreed on
what to screen out.
Some ISPs, for example, may go to greater lengths on this than
others.  Here's an example:
This ISP filters out material in the following categories:
Adults Only, Hate/Discrimination, Illegal, Murder/Suicide,
Nudity, Pornography, Sex, Violence, Alcohol, Chat, Drugs,
Free Mail, Free Pages, Gambling, Tasteless/Gross, Lingerie,
Message/Bulletin Boards, Personal Information, Profanity,
School Cheating Information, Tobacco, and Weapons.
Some parents, however, might want to screen out pornography,
but not want to screen out such things as chat, free mail,
free (Web) pages, or message/bulletin boards.  Thus I would
advise any parents considering an ISP that filters content
to determine whether the particular filtering that ISP has
to offer will fit in with the family's needs and desires.
If you're looking for a list of ISPs that filter content,
a good 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:
The purpose of this week's CATI is to offer some additional
(and hopefully helpful) information on some of the Internet
Service Providers (ISPs) that filter the Internet content
coming into the home.
As we consider some ISPs that offer such a service, please
note again that I have had no personal experience with any of
them.  Thus mention of an ISP does not necessarily constitute
endorsement of that Internet Service Provider.  Nevertheless,
it is hoped that the following information will be helpful.
Christian Living Network 
"Christian Living Network believes in  helping the family
grow strong. CLN is a leader in offering pornography filtered
internet access. It is our company goal to donate $1 billion
to assist the poor, feed the hungry, and help heal the sick. 
Together we can make a difference! We are dedicated to
donating 25% of the profits from each account every month to
different Christian-based charitable organizations. **NEW**
CLN will now waive the $25 setup fee for a $10 donation to
one of the following:  Focus on the Family, Promise Keepers,
Compassion International, Food for the Poor, Samaritans Purse,
Habitat for Humanity."
ChristianISP.net (Church USA Internet Ministries)
"We are a Christian based company striving to promote good
family values.  Revenue generated from our services are used
to help fund Church USA Internet Ministries.  Our nationwide
access allows Christians to enter the internet without
worrying about questionable content.  All of our filtering
is done at the server by N2H2 without cumbersome software."
"FamilyClick.com is a service of FamilyClick.com LLC,
headquartered in Virginia Beach, Va. The company was founded
in 1999 with the mission to provide families with a safe
Internet exploration and community experience free of
inappropriate or illegal content and activity. FamilyClick.com
is headed by Tim Robertson, most recently CEO of International
Family Entertainment Inc. (The Family Channel)."
Tim Robertson is son of televangelist Pat Robertson.
For information on the different filtering options available
from FamilyClick, check out these pages:
About Filtering:  Philosophy
About Filtering:  Access Levels
  http://www.cm-online.net/fc/ or
According to the FamilyConnect site, "FamilyConnect received
the highest mark given in the Sept./Oct. 1998 edition of
Christian Parenting Today making FamilyConnect the #1
Filtered Internet Access service in the nation!  The review
states:  'FamilyConnect blocked 96% of the pornographic sites
we tried, and there's virtually no way to get around the
For comments on FamilyConnect from the July/August 1998 issue
of Today's Christian Woman, look here:
That article also includes comments on these three other
Christian ISPs:
Integrity Online
Mayberry USA
Note, however, that the information is from 1998, so it may
not be entirely up-to-date, especially since many more
family-friendly ISPs have come into existence since that
I first heard of this Internet Service Provider through their
advertisement in the September 11, 1999 issue (newsstand
edition) of World magazine, a Christian news magazine (not
surprising, since HISnet describes itself as a Christian ISP). 
Here is how HISnet introduces itself on its home page: 
"Finally! An Internet Service Provider Without Pornography.... 
HISnet is an Internet access provider in the U.S. that offers
server-based filtering without adult override using state of
the art architecture. Server-based filtering protects you and
your family from pornographic, unwanted, and objectionable
materials, and is monitored and updated daily. Available in
over 1,000 cities nationwide and growing." 
Many people are familiar with Lifeline Communications, Inc. as
a long distance phone service which supports "pro-family and
traditional values." If not, here is how the company describes
"LifeLine is a Christian communications company whose purpose
is to help organizations raise additional revenue. When using
LifeLine, a portion of your billing from every service that
LifeLine offers is given to the participating organization of
your choice."
Well, in addition to being a long distance phone service,
Lifeline Communications, Inc. is now also a (filtered)
Internet Service Provider known as ifriendly.com and operating
in a similar fashion to its long distance phone service:
"Subscribe now for a flat monthly rate of $21.95 with
unlimited usage and we will waive the standard $ 25.00 set-up
fee....  PLUS! ifriendly.com contributes $2 from the monthly
fee paid by every subscriber to support the causes and good
works of Christian organizations, Ministries, Non-Profit
Groups and charities that support family values. You tell us
where you want your contribution to go!" 
James B. Hollis, CATI subscriber and OPC Pastor, who moved to
ifriendly.com from AOL, had this to say:  "I couldn't be any
happier w/ the change to ifriendly.  As I said in an earlier
note, I wasn't aware that such an option was available.  My
hope is that others in our congregation will consider this
sort of option, as well.  Feel free to use my comments & my
name, as well."
Here's how This.com is described in an August 23, 1999 
article, "Keeping Kids Safe Online," in the online edition
of PC Magazine:
"Among the latest approaches to filtering out inappropriate
content is This.com, a full-service ISP designed to provide
safe, family-friendly online service for $21.95 per month. The
company uses server-based recognition software to filter out
unsuitable content, whether pornographic or hate-related...."
Here is how This.com describes itself at its Web site:
"This.com was founded as an Internet Service Provider
exclusively serving a family-values customer, for the purpose
of providing filtered Internet access to individuals,
families, churches, businesses, schools, and libraries with
the added value of screening out pornography, obscenity, and
violence at the server level."
Many more family-friendly ISPs are listed either in last
week's issue of CATI or in the Focus on the Family's 
Research Paper on the subject, so you can see that parents
have many options open to them when it comes to creating an
Internet safer for the family.    
And other choices are also available, such as using parental
control software instead of (or in addition to) choosing an
ISP Provider that filters out inappropriate content.  The
point is that the Internet can be made a much safer place as
a result of utilizing such resources!  You have both the
opportunity and the responsibility to decide what is best for
you and your family.
This is the eleventh 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 
Privacy policy:  The information in the "Christians And The 
Internet" mailing list will NOT be sold, rented, or given to
others.  (Let them make their own lists! <grin>)
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 cati@traver.org.  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 cati@traver.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 cati@traver.org,
but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.)