Public Library Pitfalls

Growing up forty years ago, my brothers, sisters, and I would often visit our local public library — especially during the summer months when we were not attending school. Usually, our parents were not with us during these visits as we lived within biking distance of the library. At that time, many of the current methods of entertainment (streaming music and video, DVDs, etc.) were not available. In the 1980s, the internet was in its infancy and not accessible to those outside of universities or the military.

At home, we did not have a television set, and instead, relied primarily on books to take us on adventures and experience historical events in our imaginations. As we grew older, graduated from high school, and attended college, we had less time for leisure reading. Now, as middle-aged parents, we are taking our children to the library. But, unlike some things in life, public libraries have not improved with age.

Public libraries have changed significantly over the last 40 years. Books promoting immorality have been part of libraries for decades, however now these themes are showing up in books for young people. Many books speak about “free love” and describe sexual acts without consequences; committing adultery seems quite normal. Books with LGTBQ characters are featured conspicuously for curious, young readers. Our local library featured a book about a little girl with “two mommies” on a shelf in plain view, easily accessible by its target audience — children. The children and young adult departments of our local libraries now contain large numbers of books dealing with horror themes as well as magic and fantasy motifs. Biographies and stories relating important historical events are now written from a left-wing “social justice” inspired point of view. They focus on marginalized persons, on “social justice” for the underrepresented and oppressed in society. When such books refer to religion, they give the impression that God’s Word deals solely with “social justice” – which can then become a religion of its own.

Some public libraries have a section dubbed “Christian fiction” or something similar. This might cause one to automatically believe that these books could be considered “good books”. However, the religion in those books is mostly a cheap, superficial religion which consists of “thanking God” and “always trusting God” during times of trouble. These books breathe Arminian thoughts and ideas which we should avoid. It is rare, in these types of books, to read about a sinner who became guilty before God and men. We do not hear how the Lord leads His people and begins His work in their life. Instead, these books generally speak of a religion where the characters begin immediately to “trust in God”. These types of books begin to sow the seeds of doubt about experiential truth as taught in the Scriptures. The question can then come to mind: is it really  necessary for us to be converted according to what we hear preached in our churches? Are we the only church denomination which teaches the truth and necessity of conversion according to God’s Word? Are all of the other churches and denominations wrong? Do we become jealous of those people who can trust in God so easily, despite their circumstances and difficulties? Dear friends, do we see the danger of slowly, but surely, getting more detached from the experimental truth and drawn into an Arminian lie?

In addition to lending books, many libraries have, for many years, made DVDs and Blu-Ray discs available for borrowing by patrons. Over the last decade, libraries have added iPads, Chromebooks (with an included wifi hotspot for internet access), and video game consoles (for playing video games at home). One very popular item are the take-home internet hotspot devices which allow a library user to get internet access wherever they take the hotspot device. These items are either available for free, or for a low rental fee.

Computers with internet access are often freely available in libraries, for children as well as adults. And, even though the “Children’s Internet Protection Act”, in the United States, requires computers used by library visitors to have filtered internet access , children are still able to access a multitude of topics and1 information which we would not allow into our homes. Canadian parents should be aware that their local libraries are not governed by a similar “Protection Act” It might be wise to only allow computer access at2 home where the computer (and mobile devices) can be electronically and visually monitored.

As can be imagined and considering how libraries have evolved in the past forty years, giving children, especially teenagers, unsupervised access to all of these materials (and possibly more, depending on the library) would be a huge mistake. Think twice before allowing your younger children to visit the library unaccompanied by a parent or a responsible brother or sister. If parents allow their children to get books from the public library, they should monitor what materials are being checked out, based on the ten commandments. The question should be asked, “How do the contents of this book hold up against the standard of God’s Word and the commandments?” Make some effort to help your children find good, solid literature they will enjoy. True to their sinful nature, and left to themselves, children are often drawn to books and other media that invite them into worlds of fantasy and magic. Moving to books dealing with dark fantasy and the occult is a possible next step. It is of great importance that parents talk with their children about why we must not read certain books and why the contents of many books are sinful in the eyes of the Lord. If the Israelites were warned to, “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:31), certainly we should take care in avoiding books and other materials dealing with these evils.

If you have them nearby, visit several local libraries – you may find that one could have less of the problematic materials described above. Some libraries are not so quick in getting rid of older books, which will generally have less objectionable themes and topics.

Seeing that many items in the public library cannot stand the test of portraying a morality according to God’s Word and the ten commandments, the question might be asked, “Are there alternatives to using the public library?” Yes – one option might be for parents to consider acquiring their own “family” library. Over time, begin buying good books from library book sales, thrift stores, and garage sales that might be selling books cheaply. This is something to begin with as soon as children are born as it takes time and some money to acquire good reading material. It’s quite satisfying as a parent, however, to see your children enjoying good books, bought with them in mind before they were even able to hold onto a book.

We had to bike along busy roads when we visited our local library as children. Our parents expressed some worry when we asked to visit the library – mostly concerned about our physical safety. Today, our children’s physical well-being is still important; however, we and our children also need to be protected from the moral and spiritual dangers lurking at the library. We need the Lord’s help and strength to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8).


1 Internet filtering is required in all libraries receiving funding from the United States federal government. Public libraries not receiving federal funds are not required to have internet filters installed.

2 Schulz, K. (2020). Internet filters in Canadian libraries. Pathfinder: A Canadian Journal for Information Science Students and Early Career Professionals, 1(2), 36-50. https://doi.org/10.29173/pathfinder23

“Lo, This Only Have I Found, that God Hath Made Man Upright; but They Have Sought Out Many Inventions” (Ecclesiastes 7:29)

This article written by Rev. John Witvoet was published in the January/February 2020 edition of “Insight Into” and is posted here with the author’s permission.


 

Friends, we live in an uncertain, fast-changing world, but what hasn’t changed is what is found in God’s Word as admonition and instruction. This is also true relating to our use of modern media and our devices. The Word of God is never outdated, not even in this postmodern era. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

I think it can be safely said that much of the time when we are using our “devices,” we are treading on, or dangerously close to, enemy territory. The modern media has become the modern means the devil uses to subtly trap and ambush, or blatantly bombard both the wary and careless user alike. Although the means the devil uses are new, his devices are not, as we can see from God’s eternal Word. Nearly 2,000 years ago the Apostle Paul admonished the church in the progressive city of Ephesus to “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:11-12). We read in Acts 19 that many of them from that congregation that used the media of the day (books) came together and burned those that were evil. Since then the devil has become all the more crafty and men all the more corrupt. In these modern times we can no longer simply destroy and be rid of all the means that the devil uses to infiltrate our eyes, ears, minds, and ultimately our hearts and souls.

We live in a world inundated by modern digital media! Infinite pieces of data abound, all accessible to us by over three million apps and nearly two billion websites. This does not even include digital personal files or proprietary business systems. We have become so dependent on modern media and modern digital technology to operate our businesses, to keep us efficient in our work, and for record keeping. It is an integral part of all of our modern lives. We use it in our studying, buying, selling, communicating, and in nearly every aspect of our lives. It has become impossible to function in the modern world without the use of this “new media.”

 

Satan’s tactics

Paul also writes of the devil’s tactics to the Corinthians, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11); in other words, his wide range of subtle and blatant attacks. And are these things not written in God’s Word for our “admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are to come” (1 Corinthians 10:11)?

First, what a brazen onslaught he wages against us! Every day, nearly at every moment, a barrage of attacks comes at us by way of the media that has become so much a part of all of our lives. It need not be proven that a vast majority of the content that comes to us every day by these means is blatantly wicked and contrary to God’s Word. It is feared that much soul-destroying content is being searched out or “stumbled across” by many of us on pornographic and lewd sites, but far more prevalent, and maybe equally as dangerous, is the endless searching and filling our minds with thousands of meaningless pieces of information. Even when it is not movies, videos, music videos, gaming and the like, surfing digital media has become a modern form of entertainment. With an endless supply, our precious time is not only wasted, but we have become addicted to consuming information.

Secondly, and more subtly, with the greater influx of modern media, printed and audible forms of media are being replaced. Reading and listening are becoming more and more difficult for the modern generation. We are constantly bombarded by texts, tweets, notifications, ads, Facebook posts, emails, and more. Our brains get hooked on all this stimulating content. We crave more and more new information, and it can be difficult to pay attention to any one thing for very long. On the other side, it also makes it difficult to hold anyone’s attention for very long. A recent study found that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 (or around the time smartphones hit the scene) to eight seconds today. In comparison, scientists believe that the goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds.

What does this mean for us? The devil cannot destroy God’s Word, but it becomes evident that this subtle undermining by the devil is a tactic whereby he seeks to keep us from reading and concentrating on even a short portion of God’s Word. Is it not to be feared that this is affecting our ability to sit in church and listen with concentration and participation for an hour-and-a-half worship service? Satan not only seeks to undermine the stronghold of God’s Word itself, but also the means of grace by destroying our concentration in God’s house, if by nothing else than keeping us up late on our devices the night before. Not to mention using it unceasingly on the Lord’s Day.

 

Nothing new under the sun

No, there is nothing new under the sun; the devil’s modern device is to use our devices! Let me illustrate this further. Psalm 37:7 speaks of “the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” The original uses a word that means “a plan, or witty invention, usually evil, sometimes good, or a wicked or mischievous device or plot.

How about what the Lord says of mankind in Ecclesiastes 7:29, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Again, let’s consider the meaning of the original word, only found in two places in Scripture, which is “any contrivance, art, device, or invention; a warlike machine or engine, or mental plot to break down a stronghold.

Therefore, it makes sense that the other place we find this word used is to describe King Uzziah’s invention in 2 Chronicles 26:15, “And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal.” These were machines that could hurl many arrows or stones at once, or continuously in a thick barrage against a stronghold or enemy.

The application that can be made to our modern time is clear. Do these not coincide with the modern day invention of both computer hardware and software? What a barrage of deadly arrows and crushing stones can come at us with every click of a mouse or every swipe or tap of a screen! Not only has the devil gained such an advantage by this new technology to captivate and destroy our never-dying souls, but we have become victims of our own inventions! We are destroying ourselves, and the devil gladly helps us along both boldly and subtly. For he, too, has become much wiser after 6,000 years! Is this not seen today? How the devil seeks to destroy the stronghold of the Lord’s institution of marriage! Thousands of divorces are related directly to the misuse of the Internet, viewing lewd content, pursuing online relationships, social media connections, and so on. The misuse of modern media is destroying personal lives, marriages, families, and ultimately souls.

 

“The whole armour of God”

Friends, God’s Word has not changed, neither has His admonition and instruction. We are commanded to “put on the whole armour of God.” In the first place, this must be spiritual armour, because we have no might against this powerful enemy and his spiritual wickedness. But also practically we must take up the shield to protect ourselves and our loved ones in this unceasing conflict. We cannot pray for keeping if we do not implement the available filters and means to protect ourselves while using all of our devices. Furthermore, let necessity alone dictate the use!

Finally, let us realize that the great danger lies in the sinful and susceptible nature that we all possess. The devil has a great advantage in this war since he has very willing accomplices in us! What we need above all is a hatred for sin and a love for the Lord and His law. Oh, that we may be granted the fear of the Lord in our heart and receive grace for our soul! Pray the Lord to supply this by His Word and Spirit! Even then, the Lord must keep it in exercise, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). A true, Spirit-wrought conversion is by far the best filter; a true prayer is the best defense; and the true and mighty Saviour is the only Stronghold that will stand, not only in our modern times from the attacks of a defeated but angry devil, but ultimately from the eternal wrath of a righteous, all-knowing, and sin-punishing God. No, there is nothing new under the sun, also in the way the Lord teaches and gives His people all these things.

The Time Spent on Phones and Mobile Devices

Smart phones, as well as many other types of mobile electronics, have become useful for accomplishing many tasks. These tasks include communicating in many ways – with words, pictures, audio, video, and other formats. These devices are also useful for navigation (e.g. maps with GPS), accessing information, calculating, measuring, etc. Many tasks that required individual devices and mechanisms can now be completed by a phone set up with the appropriate apps. In addition, with so much information available through the internet with a phone, a person can easily get carried away when one subject of interest leads to other relevant information that is also found to be interesting. Consequently, parents, as well as other adults viewed as role models by children, often give a child or young person the impression, when they spend an excessive amount of time on their phone, that this is considered “normal”.

Considering these facts, we need to realize how important it is that parents do not let the use of their phones interfere with taking time to socialize with their children. The goal being that of edifying[1] them and thus seeking their spiritual, as well as earthly, welfare. Mealtimes, family projects, vacations, and other group functions should not be negatively affected by the non-participation of family members who appear attached and addicted to their phones. These occasions should be used generously to teach exemplary and biblical priorities for living a life according to God’s Word. We should always be mindful of the divine instruction for parents found in Deuteronomy 6:4-7 as well as throughout the scriptures:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up”.

Adults should also be sensitive to the detrimental appearance of using their phone and other mobile electronics as entertainment devices. This misuse can give the impression of being obsessed with entertainment and amusement. Rev. G.H. Kersten wrote the following prior to World War II (The Night Visions of Zechariah, Chapter 40, page 203):

The…rich and the poor… all shouted loudly, ‘Let us eat and drink and be merry!’ The standard of living soared higher and higher. Entertainment and amusement were considered indispensable necessities of life. Church attendance decreased, and attendance at theaters, dance halls, and vanity fairs increased.

This description also applies to our times. Modern man generally practices a religion of having fun, and not delighting in God, who is the only true and lasting happiness for a rational human being. The amount and intensity of fun and thrill is the yardstick by which modern man measures the attractiveness and desirability of an activity. Today we have our modern media, distributed (and pushed) through the internet and mobile electronics. These devices are often used to gratify the passion and obsession for entertainment and fun. Sadly, however, it seems that there is rarely anyone who heeds Christ’s declaration in John 17:3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Without the knowledge referred to here, there is no true, lasting happiness and pleasure. How important it is that we realize the folly of gratifying ourselves with the short-lived and temporary pleasures of this perishing world! During the first century, the apostle Paul wrote something still applicable to us today, even with all of the social, political, and technological changes that have occurred since his time. He wrote:

“But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away” (I Cor. 7:29-31).

By nature, our desires and priorities are evil. In light of the scriptural declaration that man is “dead in trespasses and sin” (Eph. 2:1), and that the “carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7), this evil should not surprise us. This fact shows how necessary it is that the Holy Spirit works a spiritual rebirth in each of our hearts. Without this rebirth, our desires and priorities, including those religious in nature, are not right or acceptable in God’s eyes but are “found wanting [lacking]”.

Starting with the spiritual rebirth, the Holy Spirit leads a person into the truth: the truth of our deep fall, of our actual sins including the sins of our best deeds, and of the righteousness and the offended justice of God the Father.  The Father draws the sinner unto Christ, without which no man will truly come unto the Savior (John 6:44). When the sinner is found in Christ, the Father’s sword of justice can be put into its sheath and he can behold the Father’s reconciled face.

Let us not rest until we have experienced what David, the man after God’s own heart, knew when he wrote in Psalm 16:11, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” The priorities in life of those that possess this desire of David will be clear and will include a discreet usage of mobile devices including phones. A modern phone can be a wonderful servant, but a poor and evil master.

[1] Definition of edify:  to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge: uplift, also: enlighten, inform (Merriam-Webster online dictionary).

Ten reasons not to give your kid a smartphone

By Jonathon Van Maren

The responses to my column last week detailing the horrific story of a boy who engaged in porn-inspired sexual molestation of his young nieces after accessing porn on his iPhone have indicated once again that many parents simply do not want to recognize the dangers that smartphones pose to their children.

Over and over again, commenters made genuinely stupid and ill-thought-out assertions, such as “You must be a Luddite!” Obviously, one does not have to be opposed to technology to recognize the dangers of some devices. We all agree that children should not drive cars, because it is not safe. We are not anti-car just because we do not think everyone should be able to drive them at a young age.

Additionally, many people seemed unaware of the fact that pornography has mainstreamed sexual violence, and that the vast majority of young people access porn on their cell phones. These are unfortunate realities, and I could tell you hundreds of stories of children accessing porn on phones at incredibly young ages, often impacting their lives for years into the future.

I could provide you with 20, but for today, here are just 10 reasons you shouldn’t give your child a smartphone:

1. Many parents harbor the mistaken belief that once their children have a smartphone, they can still control their behavior. In reality, it is nearly impossible to completely lock down a device (although there are very important steps that can be taken), and 71 percent of teens hide their smartphone activity from their parents. I’ve had many parents tell me how relieved they are that their children haven’t ended up hooked on porn or involved in “that stuff,” knowing full well that their children have been involved.

2. As Vanity Fair journalist Nancy Jo Sales laid out in her devastating book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, sexting and sending nude selfies are now ubiquitous in every school from the big cities to the rural Bible belt. I interviewed a number of high school girls (from Christian schools) on this issue over the past several years, and every one of them said the same thing: The pressure to send photos is relentless. Giving your child a smartphone is providing the opportunity for that pressure to be applied. Many give in. Lives are ruined as a result. The photos are forever.

3. The average age a child first looks at porn is now age 11. (The youngest porn addict I ever met was homeschooled.) Providing children a device that, regardless of how hard you try to implement oversight or lock the device down (which is impossible to do completely), you are handing them a portal to the totality of human sexual depravity as it exists online. The majority of young people now view pornography, boys and girls. The majority of them have seen things (grotesque sexual violence among other things) that previous generations could not have imagined. To give them this opportunity and this temptation at an age when we would not trust them with the right to vote, drink, smoke, or drive makes no rational sense and is arguably more dangerous.

4. Most children are exposed to sexual violence via pornography via smartphones. As I mentioned in my previous columns, experts are increasingly noticing that children are trying what they see in porn on other children, with tens of thousands of cases in the U.K. of child-on-child sexual abuse being investigated, and healthcare professionals in the United States sounding the alarm.

5. Our society still has not figured out how to control these technologies. In fact, the very Silicon experts who create these devices and these screens warn that they are a “dark influence” on children and either do not provide their own children smartphones at all, or they strictly limit the amount of time they may be on one. If those who develop smartphones are saying that they are dangerous for young people, perhaps we should be listening more closely.

6. Porn companies are actively trying to get children to look at pornography. Some have tagged hardcore porn content with phrases like “Dora the Explorer,” for example, in order to get kids to stumble on to their material. Your child may not be looking for porn. Porn is certainly looking for your child.

7. The porn companies have quite literally re-digitized their content in order to make it more accessible on a smartphone. They know that the vast majority of young people will not be viewing their material on laptops or desktops or TVs anymore. Most young people are viewing porn on their smartphones, in their bedrooms. If parents have restricted Wi-fi, it is easy these days to find free Wi-fi almost anywhere. So while you may be convinced that your child/teen can withstand the relentless sexual temptation of having access to pornography, the porn companies are quite certain that they can win this fight.

8. Smartphones provide children the first environment in history that exists without any oversight by any adult whatsoever. The reason cyber-bullying is so effective and so dangerous is the fact that social media has created an alternative world, inhabited by young people and their peers and inaccessible to parents and guardians. A generation ago, the bullying would stop when you got home from school. Today, you can be bullied at home, in your bedroom. In fact, a spate of suicides resulting from cyber-bullying tell that precise story.

9. Children do not need smartphones. They think they do, of course, because they want access to social media and the Internet. Who wouldn’t want access to something that can answer any and all of their questions? But considering the tremendous power of this tool, it is incredibly naïve to think that children and young teens are mature enough to handle it when the impact of smartphones on adults (and the skyrocketing rates of tech addiction) indicates that we have not even been able to figure out how to use this technology responsibly. If they need a phone for calling and texting purposes, get them a device without Internet access.

10. Smartphones often eliminate a child’s interest in other, healthier activities – like reading, outdoor recreation, and family time. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone who has given their child a smartphone that a smartphone rapidly becomes an enormous part of the child’s life. This, of course, was predictable: There is a reason they begged so hard to have one in the first place.