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Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

Pastors predict bleak future if local casinos open (12/28/03)

Soap, figurines, candles keep books company in Christian stores (12/21/03)

In order to form a more perfect union (11/30/03)

Federal Marriage Amendment receives Fellowship’s endorsement (11/23/03)

Drug czar congratulates Teen Challenge (11/16/03)

Christian fiction no long back-shelf item (10/19/03)

DREAM3 benefits churches (10/19/03)

Youth rise to DC03 challenge (10/12/03)

Ministry uses drama, music to touch city for Christ (9/28/03)

Displeased viewers protest raunchy programs (9/21/03)

Grit, determination key to cities blocking cable pornography (8/31/03)

Economic slump doesn't always derail giving (8/24/03)

Ruling threatens family, Christian leaders say (8/17/03)

Anti-aging options require balanced approach to health, beauty (8/10/03)

Convoy of Hope reaches out to inner-city neighborhood (7/27/03)

Fight for the flag moves to nation’s schools (7/20/03)

Drama speaks volumes to alienated veterans (7/13/03)

Church's integrity well received following nightmarish ordeal (6/29/03)

Tornadoes cut wide swath across nation's midsection (6/22/03)

Accountability partners provide human feedback that filters don't (6/15/03)

Checking out your horoscope? God advises you to skip it (6/8/03)

Christian filmmakers pursue wider market success (5/25/03)

Intervention is key to preventing suicide (5/18/03)

Adoption often right decision for young expectant mothers (5/11/03)

Dallas-based ministry keeps inmates out of jail (4/27/03)

Medical analysis of Jesus' death generates interest (4/20/03)

Small-town church reaches community (4/13/03)

Young married couples lulled by false sense of security (3/30/03)

Virtual gambling days may be numbered (3/23/03)

Contemporary Christian music copes with its continuing success (3/16/03)

A/G prayer event set for gathering in nation's capital (3/9/03)

Volunteers give church voice in community (2/23/02)

Federal law protects churches in zoning battles (2/16/03)

Singles find cyberspace dating not always match made in heaven (2/9/03)

Predators often plan strategies long in advance (1/19/03)

The Cross and the Switchblade still makes impact 40 years later (1/12/03)

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Accountability partners provide human feedback that filters don’t

By John W. Kennedy (6/15/03)

When sexually perverted text, photographs and video images started to invade the Internet, dozens of companies began marketing filters to keep curious or unsuspecting Web users from stumbling upon those salacious sites. Yet the public quickly learned that filtering software designed to keep both children and adults from viewing objectionable materials doesn’t catch every objectionable site. Conversely, filters can block desirable information, such as a chicken breast recipe or research on testicular cancer.

Meanwhile, pornographers more and more frequently are selecting innocuous sounding or deliberately misspelled domain names to bait Web users. Sex purveyors also have become more aggressive in marketing, sending computer users e-mails that are directly linked to their porn businesses.

Two companies started by Christians believe filters are not enough. They emphasize the importance of personal accountability. The companies offer an accountability service that customers can purchase with a monthly fee. So far, tens of thousands of clients have signed up.

Covenant Eyes and NetAccountability don’t block Web sites. They operate under the premise that a person is unlikely to spend time on a sexually oriented site if he knows a confidant will confront him with the evidence. Under the plans, an accountability partner is privy to every Web site that his friend has viewed.

“Internet accountability means you know someone will know what you are doing on the Net,” says Lynn T. McClurg, 46, vice president of distribution and marketing for Covenant Eyes. “If the temptation is strong enough, a man can figure out every filter known to mankind.” The name of the Corunna, Mich.-based company, started in 2000, is inspired by Job 31:1 (NIV): “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.”

Covenant Eyes works like this: A client downloads the program onto his or her computer login screen. The person cannot visit a Web site without a Covenant Eyes user name and password. Once on the Internet, Covenant Eyes software tracks and records every URL, assigning a score to each based on a scan of the Web address and text. A report of the activity is sent to his accountability partner, with higher scores appearing at the top of the list. Once installed, the program cannot be bypassed even if the user switches to another Internet provider. The only way to stop it is to request an uninstall code from Covenant Eyes and then the company immediately notifies the accountability partner. Evidence of a site visit cannot be erased. Any attempt to disable the program without first obtaining an uninstall code from Covenant Eyes results in Internet access being shut down. Computers at the company’s headquarters monitor the sites, so staff members don’t actually view the content themselves.

On a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis the user as well as the friend receive an e-mailed accountability log that has recorded all the sites visited, plus the amount of time spent there. Covenant Eyes is endorsed by a host of Christian organizations, including Promise Keepers, Focus on the Family and HonorBound, the national men’s ministry of the Assemblies of God.

Ron Turner, director of clinical services to ministers and missionaries at EMERGE Ministries in Akron, Ohio, also heartily supports the Covenant Eyes accountability partner program. “Men must make a plan that outsmarts their weakness,” says Turner, 53.

NetAccountability, launched last October, also has the backing of a variety of Christian ministries and is similar to Covenant Eyes but without the comprehensive e-mailed reports. “I know if I go there my buddy is going to see it,” says Brandon Cotter, 33, founder of NetAccountability. “Filtering is an ‘install and forget’ solution, whereas accountability is ‘install and begin’ — the beginning of a relationship with another person of true accountability.”

Ideally, a person should have two others to whom he or she is accountable, McClurg says, citing safety in numbers. A wife isn’t the best person to police her husband because questions about Internet use can cause additional stress in a marriage in which pornography already has been deemed problematic, McClurg says.

While it may be better for another man to monitor a man’s online activities, Turner says a wife should be aware of what trigger mechanisms provide temptation. In a healthy relationship, he says, a wife should encourage and pray for her husband.

A transparent relationship in which a man or woman is willing to be confronted in love by his or her accountability partner is the key. Many accountability partners meet weekly for prayer and fellowship.

“Some days we are strong, some days we are not,” McClurg says. “Covenant Eyes is the way of escape.”

Turner says the key to such programs working is an accountability partner who asks straightforward questions. “It must be more than ‘How are you doing this week?’ ” Turner says. “A faithful friend will hold your feet right to the fire.”

Charles A. Brewster, HonorBound national director, notes that protection software isn’t a spiritual quick fix for stopping lust. “They are, however, an attempt to protect men from subtle unplanned attacks,” Brewster says. “We need to do everything we can to prevent ourselves from falling.”

Purveyors of porn lately have become more deceptive, attaching their products in e-mail messages purportedly from a friend or relative.

“Pornographers are not just selling their wares to those who are asking for them,” Cotter says. “They have all kinds of sneaky ways to turn temptation into addiction.”

“The Internet is a tool like a power saw or drill,” McClurg says. “It has to be used with respect and care.”


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