"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 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. AMAZING GRACE: JOHN NEWTON AND WILLIAM COWPER 2. EMAIL HOAX: THE "MADELINE" MURRAY "O'HARE" PETITION 3. FAMILY-SAFE INTERNET: ISPS THAT FILTER CONTENT (PART TWO) 4. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER _______________________________________________________________
1. AMAZING GRACE: JOHN NEWTON AND WILLIAM COWPER
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 way:
"Our musical praise employs God's Word only, thus making use of the divinely inspired Book of Psalms of the Bible." http://www.reformedpresbyterian.org/beliefs.html
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 grace.
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 http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Pointe/4495/biography.html
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) http://www.puritansermons.com/bio/bionewto.htm
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 http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Pointe/4495/index2.html
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 http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/m/amazgrac.htm
Approach, My Soul, the Mercy Seat http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/p/approach.htm
Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/c/o/comemsou.htm
Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/l/glorious.htm
How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/h/s/hsweetnj.htm
Let Us Love, and Sing, and Wonder http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/e/letuslov.htm
Safely Through Another Week http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/s/a/safelyth.htm
John Newton's friend, William Cowper, also wrote a number of hymns that are loved and sung today:
A Glory Gilds the Sacred Page http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/l/glorygil.htm
God Moves in a Mysterious Way http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/m/gmovesmw.htm
Sometimes a Light Surprises http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/s/o/m/sometime.htm
There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/t/f/tfountfb.htm
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) http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/n/e/newton_j.htm
and about twenty hymns by William Cowper:
William Cowper (Cyber Hymnal) http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/c/o/cowper_w.htm
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 Library) http://www.ccel.org/n/newton/olneyhymns/olneyhymns/TOC.htm
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 address:
Olney Hymns by William Cowper (Poets' Corner) http://www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/olney.html
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 http://www.markers.com/ink/wchymns1.htm
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"! _______________________________________________________________
2. EMAIL HOAX: THE "MADELINE" MURRAY "O'HARE" PETITION
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. Thanks!"
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 correctly!
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." http://www.who2.com/madalynmurrayohair.html
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." http://www.fcc.gov/mmb/enf/forms/rm-2493.html
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." http://www.wjmurray.com/invite.htm
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 OHair 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." http://www.wjmurray.com/petition.htm
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. http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/fcc1.htm
The Phantom Phenomenon: ChristInsanity Strikes Again! http://www.atheists.org/visitors.center/rm2493.html
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 subject:
3. FAMILY-SAFE INTERNET: ISPS THAT FILTER CONTENT (PART TWO)
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 http://www.christianliving.net/
"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) http://www.christianisp.net/
"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 http://www.familyclick.com/aboutus/index2.cfm?page_load=about_filter_1.cfm About Filtering: Access Levels http://www.familyclick.com/aboutus/index2.cfm?page_load=about_filter_2.cfm ___________________
FamilyConnect http://www.cm-online.net/fc/ or http://www.familyconnect.com/promo/
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 filter.'"
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 http://www.integrityol.com/
Mayberry USA http://www.mayberryusa.net/
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 time. ___________________
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 itself:
"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...." http://www.zdnet.com/pcmag/stories/trends/0,7607,2319112,00.html
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." http://www.this.com/services/services.htm ___________________
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. ________________________________________________________________
4. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER
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 "Internet").
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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.)