Summary: The internet and technology have given the church the greatest opportunity and means to reach the world for Christ. But it also has given rise to an unprecedented danger for us to be impacted negatively with great evil and perversion.
It’s the Best of Times; It’s the Worst of Times
January 16, 2011 PM
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
In Dickens’ novel, depicting the plight of the French Peasantry demoralized by the French Aristocracy in the years leading up to the French Revolution, he contrasts a number of things. The story is about politics and war and human nature at its best and worst. It means, in simple terms, that the time period was filled with great contradictions and extremes, from good to bad. Some of the greatest strides in art, medicine, literature, social values had been seen, but along with them came corresponding evils and perversions.
We are in such a time where technology and science have grown exponentially and have given us the greatest time-savers as well as the greatest time-wasters. Science has made it possible for mankind to live longer that he has in thousands of years, but also has made it possible for mankind to suffer longer than he has in thousands of years. Technology has also given us to means to elevate and expand a virtuous message to billions around the world at lightning speed. It has also given us the means to spread debauchery and evil, the likes of which have not been seen to such a degree ever before. It truly is the Best of Times, and it certainly is the Worst of Times.
Tonight, I would like to deal with one of these innovations. The Internet, or also commonly referred to as the World Wide Web. With an aside concerning all such technology.
The World Wide Web can be viewed as a large metropolis. It is like when you visit a large city and surrounding countryside. In certain areas of the city you will encounter marvelous museums, towering cathedrals, and vast libraries containing worlds of history and knowledge, local churches, businesses, beautiful mountain vistas in the distance. But as you walk farther down the street and turn the corner, you will step into the seedier, more dangerous part of the city. It has its own allure, and potential for danger.
Like any major city, it has its own neighborhoods, some safe and some potentially dangerous. But unlike any other metropolis, the web lacks a government, laws, or a police force. A turn down the wrong cyber-street guarantees exposure to information or images at least as corrosive as anything available in the streets of New York, Paris, or Tokyo—and often even worse.
It is the Worst of Times
Let’s begin with some online dangers and some practical responses.
• Pornography –
A Canadian survey reveals that 44% of men who visit these sites admit that they began doing so before age 16. A British survey reported that over half of all word searches on the Internet are aimed at locating pornography. The top eight word searches were all pornography related.
• Chat Rooms
While men outnumber women 6:1 in their online use of explicit material, women slightly outnumber men when it comes to the “Chat Room” and “Multi-User Domain” (or MUD)—the cyberspace equivalent of a singles bar. Studies reveal that about 90% of Chat and MUD users form personal relationships; about one-third of these relationships result in a face-to-face meeting; and about a quarter of these relationships evolve into romantic involvements. (Psalm 101:3)
The nature of human psychology is that over-indulgence in one pleasure creates a desire for another, more depraved pleasure, and so forth in a potentially unending downward spiral towards total degradation. Thousands of sites offer 24/7 online gambling, and researchers say upwards of 15 million people visit these sites annually and leave several billion dollars of their family’s funds there.
• Social Disconnect
In a landmark study, published in American Psychologist, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University examined the amount of time people spent interacting with other family members before and after installation of a computer with Internet access. During the two-year longitudinal study, family interaction declined dramatically, and the drop was directly proportional to the increase in Internet use. Ironically, many study participants justified their increasing time online saying they needed to “stay in touch” with more distant friends and relatives, while they increasingly ignored those they were living with. I hear complaints weekly from spouses, parents, and especially children who feel the Internet has robbed them of their loved-ones.