We all know that the Internet has changed the world. It has put vast amounts of information at our disposal, facilitated communication and given every voice a level playing field.
We also know it has a dark side.
With the gain of information has come the loss of wisdom; with greater ease of communication has come the loss of intimacy; and with each and every reasoned blog there seem to be an equal number of trolls.
But what isn’t often talked about is how it has become what I’ll call the “Great Enabler.” Through a search engine like Google, you can find not only a community in support of whatever choice you would like to make, but a clear apologetic for making it. And, if needed, the people and steps needed to pursue it.
You want to pursue a gay lifestyle in, say, a country like Pakistan where it is illegal? As one Pakistani told a reporter, “One of the first things I did online, maybe 12 years ago was type in G-A-Y and hit search. Back then I found a group and made contact with 12 people in this city.”
The same article, focused on Google and sex, found a similar phenomenon in Britain with the growth of the fetish scene. Veteran “kinksters” in the UK tell how the Internet has completely transformed the number of people involved. Translation: it has vastly increased those involved in the fetish scene.
As the article opines,
“Before the dawn of the Internet, people who experienced this urge would probably bury their desires deep down, maybe try to slake their needs with hard-to-obtain and dubious mail-order catalogues, or with sex phone lines.
“Now, they are only one click from a webpage that will explain – and crucially, normalize – those desires. There’s usually an FAQ page, with ‘Am I crazy?’ near the top. The answer, by the way, is always ‘No’, and it’s always society that’s in the wrong…
“The Internet also allows browsers to delve deeper, find online communities and forums, and reinforce their beliefs among a group of people who, for the first time, won’t challenge them or call them mad.
“Sooner or later, whatever your bent, you can insulate yourself among like-minded people, until you think you’re the normal one, and the rest of us are the intolerant.”
Granted, this same dynamic can take place for things beyond abhorrent behavior. Take the exploration of the Christian faith, for example.
Which brings us full circle.
We all know the Internet has changed the world for much that is good.
We also know it has a dark side.
One uniquely poised to help us become much darker if we so choose.
James Emery White
Willard Foxton, “Strict Mistress? The world's secret sexual preferences revealed by Google,” The Telegraph, October 31, 2014, read online.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is now available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit www.churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.