The Internet, with its glittering midways and dark alleys, has been compared to a jungle, a Wild West town, a medieval bazaar - all distant images from the peaceful, orderly, sacred spaces of church.
What church folk need is a guide and interpreter to this terra incognita, and communications professor Quentin Schultze has provided it with his new book, “Internet for Christians” ($12.95).
“The Internet is everything from wonderful daily devotionals to repugnant smut, popular magazines to university courses, love letters to hate mail, all communicated from computer to computer,” writes Schultze, of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The book, newly published by the Gospel Communications Network, is part philosophy, part nuts and bolts, part catalog of the religious resources already available on the Net.
Schultze wrote the 159-page book after giving speeches to churches and other religious groups about new forms of media. Pastors and parents would always ask how to deal with pornography on the Internet and whether the Net was even a good place for Christians at all.
The answer to the second question is an unqualified “yes,” Schultze said in a recent telephone interview.
“The Net is part of God’s unfolding creation. Christians should use it as much as any other communications medium.”
In his book, he takes pains to reassure technophobes that Net connections have been made much easier in recent years, with hookups possible in as little as five minutes.
One of the breakthroughs in ease of use, he says, is the World Wide Web, which requires no special knowledge of codes or computer languages. And he demystifies Web terms by boiling them down to plain English.
“Dr. Q,” as he likes to be called, acknowledges that the Net has plenty of porn and blasphemy. But “you really have to go looking for it. You can find pornography more easily on cable television.”
The problem is where to find the “clean” stuff, and his book goes far in answering that - with a 32-page appendix of Web addresses.
The sites include the “Children’s Bible Hour,” the Ligonier Ministries Christian think tank, Christian Music Online, a directory of Christian colleges, and 60 electronic journals on various religious topics.
Schultze even tells of “superdirectories,” such as Yahoo and EINet, that collect other directories, religious and secular. And he recommends several “search engines,” or keyword-finding programs, that let users conduct their own Net research.
Promoted in the book, naturally, is its publisher: the Gospel Communications Network, for which Schultze serves as an unpaid consultant. GCN includes jumpingoff points for a host of ministries, including Campus Crusade and Youth for Christ. It also lets a user look up words in several translations of the Bible.
GCN is different from other religious nets in that it’s free to computer users.
To subscribe to the “Internet for Christians” newsletter, send an e-mail message to: email@example.com
In the “Message” area, type “SUBSCRIBE” and your e-mail address. Leave the “Subject” area blank.
The Gospel Communications Network is available at this World Wide Web address: http://www.gospelcom.net
For more information, write Quentin Schultze at: firstname.lastname@example.org