Ah, I love the smell of controversy in the morning.
I’ve been tracking an interesting story concerning the use of Covenant Eyes software. Apparently one of the largest Anglican seminaries in the world, Moore Theological College, near Sydney, Australia, recently encouraged students and faculty to install CE on their personal computers. John Woodhouse, the principle at Moore, while not making CE mandatory, desires to create a “culture” of accountability at the school.
Reactions to this initiative vary, as you can probably imagine. Several seem to be pretty critical of this move at Moore. One writes, “Rev. Dr. John Woodhouse . . . is fighting to turn the clock back and ensure Moore men once again buy their porn the old-fashioned way. On SydneyAnglicans.net he announced that students and faculty must now equip their computers with a nosey little thing called Covenant Eyes.”
Yes. Pornography the old-fashioned way. Dirty magazines, adult video stores, and peep shows. Is this the fruit of accountability software like Covenant Eyes: driving pornography addicts into the dark ages rather than facilitating recovery and protection? I suppose we can let time and responsible use of CE be the judge.
The same blogger, commenting about the Covenant Eyes website, pokes at one of our testimonies (the one that says, “Occasionally, I even catch myself lingering on a lingerie ad or something like that. But I know that Covenant Eyes will even highlight those sites, and my partners (my wife, counselor, and pastor) will know about it, so I leave immediately.”) I found his comment interesting: “And to think I waste my energy worrying about indigenous infant mortality levels, or racism, or the gay adolescent suicide rate… No wonder they say I’m destined for the fires of hell.”
To some, the desire to strain out small hints of lust seem asinine in light of the other battles we face in this world. In many places in the evangelical / family oriented world, there is a great imbalance of “what matters most,” to be sure. Jesus spoke about this imbalance when he spoke to the hypocrites of His day, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. . . . You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:23-24, NIV).
Is this what Moore Theological College is promoting in their push towards internet integrity? Is this initiative only straining out the gnats that buzz around prudish evangelical heads while we swallow the camels of poverty, genocide, and other great social injustices?
I intentionally left out a key statement above in quoting Jesus’ words. Here it is: “You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Certainly the thrust of Jesus’ heart is to not neglect weightier matters of God’s law, but he still does not want them to compromise the lighter matters either. For those who count the small hints of lust “lighter” matters in comparison to great social injustices, Jesus still calls us to obedience in both.
Aside from all this is the question whether the occasional peek at lingerie ads qualifies as a “lighter matter” in the first place. One blogger, responding to Moore’s initiative with Covenant Eyes, writes, “I hope to see more Sydney churches are addressing this issue, internet pornography is an problem that affects so many men, women, and marriages.” The fight to maintain purity in our minds, hearts, and families is not a small matter. As disciples of Jesus, it is our goal to mimic him in all areas of life, sexual purity included. It is BECAUSE we are called to be “imitators of God” and “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us” that we must hold up the ethic of “not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity” (Ephesians 5:1-3).
Covenant Eyes is a simple tool that helps others live lives of selfless love by providing a means of accurate accountability. This accountability brings into the light the rising tide of sin that moves us away from lives of Christ-like love, a sin that only objectifies others and is at the root of other great injustices.
Let’s embrace, with the right and left hands, the fight for purity AND the fight against social injustice, as James wrote, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).