(Editor’s Note: I came on Anthony Russo’s blog a while back and was impressed with his writing. His last post was about Burger King and McDonald’s, and Calvinism – all juicy subjects. This one is important for every one of us who has a computer – as since this is a blog, that is ALL of us!)
Death by double-click. It’s that easy. For millions of us the internet is a necessity of daily living, like our car, our credit card, or cell phone. We may joke that those things are “necessary evils”, and maybe they are, but not in the same way the internet is. Our cars don’t throw provocative images in our face when we need to look at the speedometer. Credit cards don’t bombard our senses with unmentionables when we go to use them. We really can live with a no-frills cell phone if we needed to. The internet is a different kind of “necessary evil”. The “information superhighway” can also be the road to perdition.
Some estimates place worldwide pornography revenues at almost $100 billion annually. The speed, interactivity, and anonymity offered by the internet makes it a significant contributor to porn’s bottom line. Even mainstream news websites strategically place thumbnail pictures and enticing captions on their pages to entice readers. Often such arresting images amount to thumbnail-sized soft-core porn. Why? Because the simple math for ad-driven sites is clicks = dollars.
So, if the internet is a necessary evil (and I use that phrase idiomatically), and the dangers of pornography abound, what can be done? What follows are some ideas. (Incidentally, both men and women can become ensnared by pornography. The rest of the article, however, will assume a male reader for smoother reading that is less encumbered by gender-inclusive conventions.)
1. Install an internet filtering program on your computer. I use and recommend CovenantEyes. At $5/month you can’t afford not to afford it. If you have a company-provided computer, talk to your Human Resources department and your IT department about allowing you to install it or installing it for you. If they’re smart, they’ll realize that doing so could also protect the company.
2. Share your passwords. …No, not with a stranger; with your wife. Make sure she can sign on to any email account and social networking site you’re on, and vice-versa. Encourage her to do so, and if you walk in the room one day and she’s checking your Facebook page, thank her!
3. Keep the computer(s) in high-traffic areas of the house. Again, openness is the underlying motive here. A look over your shoulder is a blessing. Come on, who really uses a formal dining room anyway? It’s a great place to put the computer. I’m sure your pastor would rather visit and see a cluttered, mixed-use dining room than have to see your names on his counseling roster some Tuesday night at seven-thirty.
4. Always try to go to bed at the same time with your wife. Admittedly, this is not always easy to do. Sometimes your wife may be tired or sick and retire early or maybe you can’t sleep. As I write this I am still wired from coffee earlier in the evening and would only be staring at the ceiling. Still, if at all possible, make such times the exception, not the rule.
5. Pray together daily. I’m resisting the urge to put these ideas in any particular order, but if I did, this would be solidly at #1. As a man, it is your good gift to encourage your wife in the things of the Lord and aid in her sanctification. (Ladies, as a woman, it is your good gift to encourage your husband to practice spiritual leadership in the home.) As a couple who vowed before the Lord, you invited Him into your marriage the day you got married. What’s changed then? “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” says Ecclesiastes 4:12, and nothing is stronger than the bond of prayer.
6. “As for me and my mouse…” I have a picture taped to the top of my computer monitor that says, “As for me and my mouse, we will serve the LORD”, paraphrasing Joshua 24:15. It’s cute, maybe silly, but I like it, and it makes its point. Sometimes I look at it just because I like the artwork, so it’s a great double-duty piece of monitor chachki. Feel free to create your own.
7. Remind yourself of the Gospel often. The Gospel is meant for daily use. Don’t let a day go by without reminding yourself that without Christ you were dead in sin and without hope. Remember the miserable pre-Christ life you lived and the beauty and light God has shone in your heart since He first revealed Himself to you. Remember your desperate need of Him every day. We all think we can live pure, holy lives without Christ. We can’t…get over it. Stay humble. Stay needy. Walk in His grace and mercy every new day.
8. Stay in God’s Word and prayer. Remember these two pithy quotes: D.L. Moody once said about the Bible, “Either this book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” About prayer someone once said, “Seven days without prayer makes one weak.” Hide God’s Word in your heart and stay close to Him. In fact, ask for courage to sincerely pray this sobering prayer: Lord, please kill me rather than ever let me stray in this area. The point is to pray as if your life depended on it…it does.
9. Talk. You don’t have to have a heavy duty, “we need talk” talk…just a talk. You can even use this article to break the ice by showing it to your wife and using it as a springboard for discussion. Hey, what do you think about this article? Want to try moving the computer into the dining room? Make the quest for internet purity a team effort.
I realize that much of what I wrote only applies to married couples. To my single brothers and sisters in the Lord I offer these modified thoughts: #1 – CovenantEyes offers the option to designate an accountability partner who gets an email report of your web surfing. Ask a trusted (same-sex) friend or family member to receive the reports and inquire about any site they may question. #4 – Ask your roommates if you can keep your computer in the shared living room or other common area (chances are they’ll gladly oblige). You may not be able to incorporate both, but even implementing one of these will go a long way in helping you pursue personal holiness.
Those in recovery for various addictions often use the acronym “H.A.L.T.”, don’t let yourself get Hungry, Alone, Lonely, or Tired. Any one of these factors are dangerous red flags that often lead to failure, multiple at the same time are perilous. Knowing your own “H.A.L.T.” limits may halt you from sin.
Most importantly, let me encourage you with Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Obviously Jesus did not have the internet during His earthly ministry. Yet, Scripture comforts us in this passage with the shocking truth that He too was tempted with lust. To put it plainly, Jesus knew the allure of a second look.
You are not alone. Yet, Jesus is our Great Example. He overcame temptation that you and I never could. In the next verse the writer of Hebrews builds on these beautiful truths. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” See in each moment of your life your twin needs of mercy and grace. Live prayerfully before the throne of the gracious Lord who lavishly gives them to His own and He will guard you to keep you pure.