The Forgotten Commandment

It’s so easy for us Christians to go on and on about the same old things. The sanctity of marriage. The unique importance of unborn life. The evils of evolution.

We like to remain rooted in the big picture issues because, for most of us, they have little impact on our day-to-day lives. Our lists of dos and do nots conveniently line up with the natural trajectory of our own lives, requiring little in the way of personal change. We can comfortably spend the day fighting “the issues,” then go back to homes where those things will leave most of us alone.

One of the biggest problems about this telescopic view of life is that we completely avoid the places in our own souls that need attention. We’re busy tackling people and trying to wrestle specks out of their eyes, missing the planks in our own. It’s easy to criticize Rob Bell while overlooking the selfish treatment we dole out on our own spouses. It’s easy to lampoon Mark Driscoll, then turn around and give into the rage that overcomes us in traffic. It’s easy to create caricatures of the politics we disagree with, then drive through an icy December day past the trailer park without wondering if those ramshackle houses are properly heated.

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According to a 2004 study done by The Barna Group, “Teens were asked whether they feel two common forms of music piracy – copying CDs for friends and downloading unauthorized music from the Internet – were morally right, morally wrong, or not a moral issue. Only 1 in every 13 teenagers (8%) expressed moral opposition to piracy.”

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If you interact with the internet AT ALL, then yesterday you probably saw this in some form or other:

Stop SOPA and PIPA.

If you aren’t familiar with the legislation currently being considered by our government, you can check out some info on SOPA over at our good friends Wikipedia.

I’m not in favor of the law, so by all means, call Congress, email Congress, write letters to Congress, and tell them “Stop SOPA!”

And while you’re in a calling, emailing, letter-writing mood, contact your friends and tell them, “Stop stealing music!”

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When you copy a friend’s cd into your computer, you’re violating an agreement and you are stealing.

When you download music for free from websites that don’t have the right to provide you with said music, you are stealing.

When you purchase illegal copies of movies, you are stealing.

For the sake of all those song writers and musicians trying to make a living, pay the freaking 99 cents for a song or $9.99 for the album at iTunes (or wherever you can buy music legally). It’s not going to break the bank. Or listen to it for free on Pandora. And if you’re a Christian, don’t forget that stealing is wedged neatly in the 10 Commandments between adultery and lying in court – not great company to be keeping, if you ask me.

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?

5 Replies to “The Forgotten Commandment”

  1. Amen!!!

    This bothers me to death – and yet I feel so self-righteous when I address it with friends. Last year I wrote about theft in the “5 Acceptable Sins in the Church”:

    I’d add to your list wireless internet theft. So many friends try to be “frugal” (also read: cheap) by stealing wireless internet from unprotected routers. That’s theft of service! Same with splicing cable wires outside your and your neighbor’s house.

    Theft. Plain and simple. We need to stop trying to get around it. Thanks for posting this, Shawn.

  2. So very true and something that has been in my thoughts a lot lately. I want to be very careful where I get things and make sure it is right. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Good thoughts. I definitely agree about downloading music, but the line has become really gray. I wonder where you draw the line? Do you watch music videos on Youtube? Or that funny clip from a TV show someone put on FB? How about buying a pre-loaded iPod? What about any type of streaming video or music? If you don’t actually download it to your computer, have you stolen it? It’s my understanding that one is not breaking the law by streaming something someone else has posted, but possessing it is illegal. Correct me if I’m wrong. I know this doesn’t address the moral issue, but just wondering where you stand.

    1. Great questions, Rodney, and for most of those I don’t know the answer for sure, but here goes:

      Most of the music videos I watch on Youtube are put there by the bands themselves, folks like Pomplamoose, and even then I usually end up buying the song.

      I don’t know about the TV clip thing. I think a clip would probably be considered the same as a movie preview. Perhaps if an entire episode is on your friend’s FB page, that might be illegal – I don’t know. But most networks have their programming available for free anyway, in its entirety, the day after airing.

      Streaming video or music from legitimate sights like Hulu (free option or paying option), Netflix (not free) or Pandora (free), where the artists or creators are paid for the content you consume, is obviously legal.

      But as you said, these are still gray areas with probably much to be said on either side. What isn’t gray: borrowing a friend’s cd and putting it into your own iTunes, or using an illegal website to pirate free music.

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