"Christians And The Internet" newsletter CATI, Vol. 3, No. 1: January 4, 2002. _______________________________________________________________ TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. DON'T FORWARD THAT EMAIL UNTIL YOU CHECK IT OUT! 2. MORE ON TRAVER JIGSAW PUZZLE GIFT FOR CATI SUBSCRIBERS 3. MAKING THE INTERNET MORE FAMILY-FRIENDLY BY "FILTERING" 4. UPDATE ON HAROLD CAMPING, PRESIDENT OF FAMILY RADIO 5. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: INFORMATION ON CATI NEWSLETTER _______________________________________________________________ The latest revision of this issue of "CATI" can be accessed online at http://traver.org/cati/archives/cati64.htm. The Web page edition makes it especially easy to visit the links. Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2001 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved. See the end of this issue for more information on "CATI." _______________________________________________________________ 1. DON'T FORWARD THAT EMAIL UNTIL YOU CHECK IT OUT! "... Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." (Matt. 10:16). This should be kept in mind in our involvement with the Internet, especially when it comes to how we respond to an email message we receive that asks that we forward it to everyone we know. What is important to know is that 90% or more of such emails are bogus and should NOT be forwarded. Unless you have been able in some way to confirm the truth of the contents of the email, don't forward that email! Otherwise you run the risk of passing around lies, falsehood, false testimony, etc., rather than the truth. Indeed, commitment to the truth is to be characteristic of God's people. Here's some evidence of that fact: "You shall not give false testimony...." (Ex. 20:16). "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully...." (Eph. 4:25). "Do not lie to each other...." (Col. 3:9). "God's will is that I never give false testimony.... Rather, ...I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind.... I should love the truth...." (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 112). "The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man...." and "The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth...." (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 77 and 78). Most email letters that request you to forward the letter to other people are hoaxes. Whenever I get such a letter (which is sometimes called a "chain letter"), it usually takes me no more than a minute or two to find evidence that the "chain" ought to be broken. As a Christian, I am to pass along truth, not its opposite. Instead of passing around falsehood, we will do better to spend our time using email to pass along the truth (including the truth about the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life - see John 14:6). Sometimes CATI readers ask my opinion about specific letters they have received. Just this past week, I received from someone a copy of the following touching letter: _______________________________________________________________ / I am asking you all, begging you to please, forward this email on to anyone and everyone you know, PLEASE. I have a 5 year old son named Christopher John Mineo, Jr., nickname C.J. I am from Brooklyn N.Y. He has been missing since May 11, 2001. If anyone anywhere knows anything, sees anything, please contact the original screen name that sent this, which is CMINEO0295 @aol.com. I am including a picture of him. All prayers are appreciated!! It only takes 2 seconds to forward this on; if it was your child, you would want all the help you could get. Please. Christopher John Mineo, Sr. \______________________________________________________________ Well, don't forward that email, because C.J. is NOT missing! Not all the facts are clear concerning the situation, but it is established that C.J. is presently not missing (and may never have been missing!) and that the message in its present form is a hoax (evidence of which can be seen, for example, in the altered date, but more about that in a moment). As soon as I got the email, I used Google to do a quick search on the Internet, and it took me only a minute or two to learn that the email message was considered a hoax. Here are some of the things I turned up in my search: ______________________________________________________________ / "Christopher John Mineo, Jr., is not missing now. Serious doubt exists about whether he ever was missing in the first place. In short: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children does not have -- and never had -- a listing for a missing child named Christopher John Mineo, Jr. The New York Police Department never took a report for a missing person named Christopher John Mineo in Brooklyn (or any other borough), nor was anyone by that name ever listed in its long-term cases file.... "Nonetheless, readers have reported that they've managed to make contact [with the family] and have been told that C.J. has since been 'found'.... We have to wonder what kind of parents saw their child disappear for well over two years but didn't contact the local police, the FBI, or any other organization involved in locating missing children...." http://www.snopes2.com/inboxer/children/mineo.htm \______________________________________________________________ And there is evidence that the letter (in which November 1998 earlier was given for the disappearance of C.J. rather than May 11, 2001) was a copycat letter, based on another missing child alert (where the child was not really missing). Compare the Christopher John Mineo letter with this earlier one concerning Kelsey Brooke Jones: ______________________________________________________________ / I am asking you all, begging you to please forward this email on to anyone and everyone. ...I have a 5 year old daughter named Kelsey Brooke Jones. We are from Southern Minnesota. She has been missing since 4 pm Oct. 11, 1999.... If anyone anywhere knows anything, sees anything, pleeeeaaaase contact me.... I am including a picture of her. All prayers are appreciated!! It only takes 2 seconds to forward this on, if it was your child, you would want all the help you could get. Please. \______________________________________________________________ Here you will find a line-by-line comparison of the two missing child alerts (although I think it's obvious without a detailed comparison that one plagiarized the wording from the other): "Suspicious Parallels - Is It a Hoax? http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/blmiss5b.htm The author of the article asks some good questions: "If little CJ had indeed gone missing, and if the appeal regarding him had indeed been written by his desperate father, why on earth would Christopher John Mineo, Sr., have considered cribbing an earlier missing child appeal that was of questionable veracity to begin with as the best way to 'spread the word' about his own son? Would such a desperate father need to plagiarize an earlier alert that had nothing to do with his son's situation in the first place? Does it really make sense that a father looking for his missing son would have ever even thought to use an earlier appeal as a template for his own appeal? Would he have not simply used his own words?" http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/blmiss5b.htm For further details on this email hoax alert, check out the following: "O, What a Tangled Web We Weave" http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/blmiss5a.htm "Those Who Have Come Back Home" (see section on Christopher John Mineo, Jr.) http://www.homestead.com/woowebdesigns/HomeSafe.html "Missing Child: Christopher John Mineo Jr." http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/blmiss5.htm "C.J. Mineo, Where Are You?" http://www.breakthechain.org/exclusives/mineo.html And remember this: Don't forward that email (unless you are sure that what it contains is true)! _______________________________________________________________ 2. MORE ON TRAVER JIGSAW PUZZLE GIFT FOR CATI SUBSCRIBERS There's a certain satisfaction that comes from bringing order out of chaos. I think that's one reason why many people enjoy jigsaw puzzles. You start with everything all mixed up, and you work on putting the pieces where they belong. If the picture is well-chosen, the result is often a joy to behold! For me, another enjoyable activity that involves constructive accomplishment is programming. When you write a program, you start with the pieces or parts of a computer language (such as Visual Basic, my language of choice), and then you work on putting those pieces together in such a way as to produce a program that is useful or enjoyable or both. As the leader of a team of experts on TV more than once declared, "I love it when a plan comes together!" Well, unexpectedly my Traver Jigsaw puzzle program apparently decided to come together. Even though the source code did at times itself look like a jigsaw puzzle, the end result was a program with many features: "Jigsaw program. Load in any JPEG, GIF, etc., as picture. Pieces can be set from 2 x 2 to 12 x 12. Show picture as "normal" size or optimized for screen. Other features: save a position, restore it, provide hidden help, report on progress, print out the picture." I uploaded the source code for the program to Planet Source Code, where programmers show one another what they've written: http://www.planet-source-code.com/ If you search for "Traver Jigsaw," you'll find my program, which has already been downloaded more than 450 times in the past two weeks. At this point the program is rated at 4 1/2 globes out of 5 ("not too bad for an amateur programmer like myself," he said modestly), and I've gotten some kind comments privately and publicly. For example, "niko" had this to say about it: "Very nice! I like how you can change many different options! Probably the best thing I've seen on this site so far!" Later, after I uploaded a revised version of the source code which fixed some minor bugs and added some minor enhancements, "nico" said, "Wow! Even better!" To bring some reality into the situation, I should say that - although I think my program is good - such comments are too generous (although I love to hear them, because I need all the encouragement I can get!). The source code for Traver Jigsaw is available at Planet Source Code, but - unless you program - source codes is not very interesting. On the other hand, the runnable program is available for download on this Web page (as I mentioned in the previous issue of CATI): http://traver.org/cati/downloads/ This is the version that ordinary people (as well as the extraordinary people who read CATI) can install on their computers and enjoy! If you haven't yet downloaded and installed the program, why not give it a try? If you have downloaded and installed it, why not tell me what you think of it? That will help me to decide what I should do with other programming projects that I am currently working on (such as Word4Word, to assist in the "word-for-word" memorization of Scripture verses or of catechism answers and a MS Agent Bible quiz multiple-choice program with animated characters and speech recognition). If I do continue, some of the programs will be free (like the Traver Jigsaw program), while others will be "try-before-you- buy" software at a reasonable cost (Word4Word will probably fall into that category because of the large amount of work already put into the project). Since Traver Jigsaw - like CATI - is free, I hope that many people will take advantage of the opportunity to get a copy (and that they will then tell me what they think of it by writing to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and sharing their comments). By the way, note that Traver Jigsaw - unlike certain popular computer games - emphasizes constructive activity rather than destructive activity. Likewise, most pictures chosen for use as jigsaw puzzles are non-violent, scenes not of disorder, but of peace. Again, enjoy! P.S. The earlier article about Traver Jigsaw (which should work on any computer running Windows 95 or later) can be found here: http://traver.org/cati/archives/cati63.htm _______________________________________________________________ 3. MAKING THE INTERNET MORE FAMILY-FRIENDLY BY "FILTERING" There is a lot of "good stuff" on the Internet that can be used and enjoyed by the entire family. Many Web sites, for example, can be described as "family-friendly." The problem is that there is some "bad stuff" on the Internet as well (i.e., pornography and other material that many people would consider offensive). In such areas, the Internet may not be very friendly to the family. Just as a filtering system may be used to improve our drinking water, so also "filtering" may be used for the Internet as a means to create a "cleaner" Internet, so to speak. We live in Philadelphia and do not like Philadelphia water (the water is reportedly healthy enough - it's just that we do not like the taste), so we filter the water before we drink it. Likewise Internet "filtering" can remove a bad taste from the Internet. There are choices as to how the "filtering" may be done. Water can be filtered before or after it comes out of the faucet. Likewise the Internet can be "filtered" before or after it enters your home. In either case, of course, you want the filtering to have been done before you take a drink of it. No single answer solution will fit all circumstances and all families. It's a matter of doing some research and then of deciding what is best for you and your situation. You can "filter" the Internet in your home. For this purpose you can make use of what is sometimes called "parental control software." Two examples of helpful programs in this area are CyberPatrol and CyberSitter. In this approach, the filtering is done on your computer itself. This approach generally works well, especially for families with younger children. But what about computer-savvy older children who may know some ways to work around the installed protective software (not to mention Dad, who may want and/or need more protection from the "bad stuff" and who, since he as a parent is in control of parental control software, may not find such software to be much help to him!). In such a case, you may want to consider having the "filtering" done not on your computer, but outside your house so that no one in the house can circumvent it. For these circumstances, family-friendly Internet Service Providers may be a helpful resource. Since the filtering is done outside your house, it can be a more effective means of preventing pornography from getting through. Computer-savvy teenagers (and even Dad) are thus protected from themselves, if circumstances indicate that such would be helpful to all concerned. "Filtering" ISPs (Internet Service Providers) can vary quite a bit in approach and effectiveness. If you do decide to go that route (some even combine that approach with parental control software for maximum protection of the family), you should try to do some "comparison shopping" before making a final decision. Although the site is in my opinion less "professional" than it should be (for example, mistakes in spelling or grammar do little to cause one to regard a site highly), you may find the following to be helpful: FilterReview.com http://www.filterreview.com/ Here's how the site describes itself: "...FilterReview.com [is] a resource provided by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families to help you find the Internet safety solution that will best suit your needs. We realize that selecting the right ISP, filtering/ blocking or monitoring systems is a personal decision effected [sic] by your individual situation. FilterReview.com is here to provide you with the information you need to select the proper solution.... Our hope is that by providing you with all the information, you will be able to make the most appropriate decision for your application." http://www.filterreview.com/main.asp In particular, here is how the site operates: "FilterReview.com allows you to select what features you are looking for in a safety solution, and then presents you with options that closely match your criteria. FilterReview.com also provides a way to give your opinion and receive feedback from other individuals on the numerous choices available." http://www.filterreview.com/main.asp FilterReview.com asks various questions, and then suggests some options that may meet your needs. For example, you may be looking for "a filtered Internet Service Provider (dial-up connection)" or "a filtering or blocking software solution" or something else. You may be using a PC with Windows or a Macintosh. You may want to "use a free service," "pay a one time fee," or "pay a monthly charge." And you may want to block any, many, or all of the following: "pornography, hate sites, cults, online gambling, alternative lifestyles, free hosting sites, online email, instant messaging, chat rooms, and newsgroups." You will then be shown various possible options. You can read customer reviews (and, for many choices, an "official" review) and compare the extent to which each of the various suggestions matches up with the criteria you set in your answers to the earlier questions. You can also easily jump to the home pages of the Web sites for the various products and services. All of this is helpful, but it could have been more so. One unexplained phenomenon was the absence of CyberPatrol from the listings. This is difficult to understand, since it is not only a widely-used product, but also one of the best. So use FilterReview as one resource, but realize that it has a number of serious limitations. Some people do not see a special need for "filtering" as a means to cope with the "bad stuff" on the Internet. There may be no children in the home or, if there are children, they may be mature enough to deal with it in a truly adult way, recognizing what Scripture has to say on the subject of human sexuality, for instance. Unless one is searching for it actively, pornography is very unlikely to show up on your computer monitor. Yes, it may happen upon occasion. I once did a search for Disney cartoons, and a Web site showed up with pictures of Disney characters dressed in such a fashion or engaged in such activity that a G-rating would not be appropriate. The pictures may not have been X-rated, but they certainly would not have been approved by Walt if he were still alive. But such happenings are extremely rare, enough so that some families rely on other solutions than that of "filtering" (e.g., by putting the computer in a place where there is much "foot traffic," i.e., where people are constantly walking through, and by establishing the understanding at the beginning that nothing done on the computer will be regarded as "private"). Other people will see "filtering" to be a helpful approach in their own particular situations. The important thing is to become familiar with the different options available and then make use of those which best meet your needs. In CATI we will continue to do our best to keep you informed of helpful resources of many types that can make the Internet more family-friendly. _______________________________________________________________ 4. UPDATE ON HAROLD CAMPING, PRESIDENT OF FAMILY RADIO This article is a follow-up to a previous CATI article: HAS THE CHURCH AGE COME TO AN END? FAMILY RADIO IS WRONG! http://traver.org/cati/archives/cati61.htm#1 If you've listened to Family Radio since the end of November 2001, you may have noticed some changes. Here is the background, according to a letter I received from a CATI subcriber: "What follows has been confirmed by me as true. Well, it has happened. Mr. Camping has instructed that all Family Radio programming is to reflect his teachings. Family Radio is to no longer recognize the existence of the Local Church, Pastors, Elders, or communion or baptism. "Paraphrasing the directive, which Mr. Camping instructed Mr. Craig Hulsebos of the Network Program Department to make: All local church services are to cease as of the last Sunday of November.... All denominational broadcasts are to cease the last Sunday of November (The Lutheran Hour ... the Back to God Hour). All local 'Pastor's Study' ... are to cease the last week of November.... All local 'Prayertime' programs are to no longer use Pastors as of the last week of November. They can only be done with local staff. All speakers are to be introduced as Doctor, Mister, or Brother and cannot be referred to as Pastor or Reverend. If outside speakers are flexible in how they are tagged & introduced, they may continue. Any program that suggests a church, or one being a pastor or elder is not acceptable." A letter dated December 2001 from David Feddes, Broadcast Minister for the Back to God Hour, seems to confirm the accuracy of the preceding report: ______________________________________________________________ / Dear friend, For many years the weekly Back to God Hour program could be heard on stations owned by the Family Radio network. But at the end of November, 2001, Family Radio stopped broadcasting our program, without telling listeners the reason. Here is a brief account of the situation. Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, has fallen into serious error, teaching that the age of the church has ended. Camping urges all Christians to leave their churches. He has also issued an edict that Family Radio must reject any program which is sponsored by a church or which speaks of Christís abiding purposes for the church, its leaders, and its sacraments.... Harold Camping claims that evil has overcome the entire church and that Christ is no longer building his church, but Jesus promised, 'I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it' (Matthew 16:18). Camping says that church leaders - pastors, elders, and deacons - no longer have authority, but the Bible says, 'Obey your leaders and submit to their authority' (Hebrews 13:17). Camping says the churchís sacraments - baptism and the Lordís Supper - should not be observed anymore, but Scripture speaks of eating the bread and drinking the cup until Christ comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). We grieve that it is no longer possible for us to proclaim the historic Christian faith on Family Radio. We regretfully advise Godís people not to support Family Radio financially, unless it stops spreading error. Meanwhile, the Back to God Hour continues to broadcast on many other stations throughout North America and around the world.... Sincerely, David Feddes Broadcast Minister http://www.geocities.com/daverastetter/camping_backtogod \______________________________________________________________ According to Lydid Brownback of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, the Bible Study Hour will continue to be heard on Family Radio. The following, taken from email in response to my queries, represents ACE's position concerning Family Radio: "Dr. Boice's messages will continue to air on FRN at their regularly scheduled time. The messages will appear without the accompanying worship service.... Time constraints prevent me from answering your letter fully. I will say that we have addressed our concerns directly with Family Radio. We will continue to remain on that network as long as they permit in order to offer sound Bible teaching on the airwaves.... Our organization has formally addressed the situation with Family Radio. I am not at liberty to share details of that with those outside of our organization." So the Bible Study Hour will continue, but with a significant change: the church service will be omitted (presumably to fit in with Harold Camping's view that the church age has ended). David Feddes, Broadcast Minister of the Back to God Hour, stated that Camping, President of Family Radio, "issued an edict that Family Radio must reject any program which is sponsored by a church or which speaks of Christ's abiding purposes for the church, its leaders, and its sacraments...." If that is accurate (and it does agree with a similar report I received from a CATI subscriber, quoted earlier), then the Bible Study Hour is apparently able to continue because it is not sponsored by a church, but by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. If David Feddes is accurate also that "Family Radio must reject any program ... which speaks of Christ's abiding purposes for the church, its leaders, and its sacraments," then it is difficult to see how the message of the Bible Study Hour will not be compromised. Yes, the program may be able to proclaim the truth, but apparently no truth that challenges Camping's unorthodox teachings concerning the church, pastors, elders, deacons, baptism, or the Lord's Supper. As I mentioned to Ms. Brownback, my concern is that the continued presence of the Bible Study Hour on Family Radio and lack of any public statement of ACE's opposing Camping's heretical views could perhaps (even if wrongly) be taken as an implicit endorsement of Camping's teachings. I would be more inclined (as a radical at heart) to suggest a boycott of Family Radio as a protest against the current false teaching and the apparent censorship of alternative points of view. But I do appreciate ACE's position here, and I agree with Ms. Brownback that "Although our methods of dealing with the situation may differ..., I believe our overall goal is the same, namely, the sound teaching of God's Word." Even if we disagree on whether it is really wise for evangelical ministries to continue to appear on Family Radio at this time, I trust that we can agree to pray that God's will will be worked out in the situation to His honor and His glory, and that God's Word will triumph over error (even error promoted by a "Christian" radio station like Family Radio). _______________________________________________________________ 5. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: INFORMATION ON CATI NEWSLETTER Like to know what this is? This is the sixty-fourth 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"). Like to subscribe to this free email newsletter? Just send an email to email@example.com (but be sure to include your name in the note). Like to read past CATI issues and articles (or even search CATI for a particular subject)? Go to http://cati.org and you'll find an archive of past issues (arranged in reverse chronological order), a partial index of articles (arranged alphabetically by topic), and a search engine specifically for use with CATI. Like to pass along this issue to others? You may. Permission is hereby granted to pass along any issue of CATI to someone else, provided that it is passed along in its entirety with no changes made. (For now, I prefer that you send the complete issue, although I may in the near future provide guidelines for passing along individual articles.) Like to use material from this newsletter (say, on a Web page or in a publication)? For permission to do that, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org (explaining what you'd like to use and for what purpose). Reasonable requests are usually granted. Like to unsubscribe? That's also easy. Just send an email to email@example.com (but if you decide to unsubscribe, you'll be missed, so any thoughts about the newsletter that you would be willing to share at that time would be much appreciated). Like to tell your friends about CATI? That is not only much encouraged, but also an encouragement to the editor! CATI is a lot of work (albeit a labor of love) and (since it is a free newsletter and I intend it to stay such) provides no financial income, so what keeps me going with this personal endeavor is knowing that people are finding it to be helpful, instructive, and enjoyable. (Comments from readers are always welcome, so let me hear from you!) Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2001 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.