MP3's, Commercialized Christianity and Christian Hypocrisy Part 2
Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics

Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
September 11, 2000

Last Updated :
January 3, 2009


Offending God's Sheep, Remove The Obstacle And The Excuse,
The Music Or The File Format?, Obtaining Permission, Render
Unto Caesar, Stolen Offerings To God?, Subject To Higher
Powers, When To Resist, Contend For The Faith, Persecution,
Double Standards, Evil Coming From Good?, Two Wrongs Don't
Make A Right, Bible Smugglers, Plastic, Commercialized,
American Christianity, Luxury Or Necessity, The Offensive
Gospel, More On Persecution, America's Ungodly Youth, If I
Am Wrong, Satisfaction Of Preaching The Word, Radio Music,
Television, VCR's And MP3's - The Difference, Free Through
Sponsorship, Software Banners, Stolen Profits, Conclusions




Returning to the hot issue of MP3's, and other illegal or
questionable files, if we as Christians are in possession of
them, and worse yet, if we are distributing them to friends
on a personal level, or on an even higher level via a web
site, or via a server such as Hotline, then we are indeed
guilty of not living according to the Lord's commandments;
and sooner or later, our sins will be exposed; we will be
embarrassed; and we will be ashamed when we bring reproach
to the Cause of Christ. How effective will our witness be
then?

To reiterate, the bottom line for me personally is this: If
non-believers are coming to our servers, or websites, and
finding certain illegal, or at least questionable, files
which cause them to doubt the truthfulness and honesty of
our faith, then we may be placing a stumbling block, and a
rock of offense, in the way of their possible Salvation; and
Jesus Himself issued a very serious warning regarding this,
as we see here:

"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which
believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were
hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth
of the sea." Matthew 18:6, KJV

As I explain in a few other articles, that word 'offend' is
derived from the Greek word 'skandalizo', and would have been
better translated as 'stumble', because that is what Jesus
meant; that is, to cause one to stumble and fall away from
the faith because of something which was said or done. While
Jesus was referring to those who already believe, (please
note that He says 'one of these little ones which believe in
me'), shouldn't we apply a similar rule to the non-believers
who we are trying to win to Christ via our online ministries?

I can only conclude then that if we truly love their souls,
then we will remove such files, in order to make it as easy
as possible for them to come to the Lord. Some of them have
such hardened hearts, that we really need to go the extra
mile with them. Furthermore, by removing the files which are,
or which appear to be illegal, or at least questionable, they
can no longer point the accusatory finger at us, and thus we
will have eliminated their supposedly 'valid' excuse for
rejecting our Christian faith. We will indeed be 'blameless
and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst
of a crooked and perverse nation'...or perhaps in the midst
of the online community?

A few days after finishing this article and placing it on
our Hotline server, as well as at our website, I received
the following feedback from a member of our online Christian
mailing list, who enjoys listening to Christian MP3's. My
response follows his remarks:

----- Begin Quote -----

In general I whole-heartily agree with your article. I only
feel that your comment needs a little clarification on what
was found illegal by the courts.

The "MP3" "*.mp3" format is no more illegal [th]an any ".au
.zip .pdf .avi .ps format. It's the content of the file that
cases problems. Trading of any uncompensated copyrighted
material in whatever format is wrong. MP3.com's "beam-it"
file-sharing music sharing was the subject of the law suite
not the .mp3 format itself. While the beam-it was intended
to allow [you to] obtain a .mp3 version of recordings you've
already paid for (another discussion in of itself) the
problems occurred with people trading the downloaded files
illegally.

I have legally downloaded a number [of] Christian MP3's
(from MP3.com). Many of these Christian Artists are some of
the only groups on mp3.com that encourage free download of
their entire album releases, mainly as I believe in their
way [of] spreading the news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In support of these independent (non-label) Christian
artists (at MP3.com) I've purchased a number [of] these
recording at a fraction of what would be charged by the
secular recording industry.

(i.e.)

https://artists.mp3s.com/artists/9/madelyniris.html

MP3.com gives Christian artists a new avenue that allows
them to share the Gospel in a way that ordinarily would not
be unavailable.

You and I may disagree over choices of musical content in as
much as I may choose a different Bible translation, but
condemning a file format should not be one.

----- End Of Quote -----

Based upon this person's comments, perhaps it is necessary
for me to clarify that I am not explicitly condemning the
MP3 file format itself, as much as I am questioning the
illegal act of downloading something, either for personal
use, and/or for trading with others, which is not legally-
purchased material, or which has not been designated as
being okay to freely distribute to others. On that point, it
seems that my friend and I agree. As I noted in part one,
this has been a very sticky issue between myself, and a few
other Hotline server admins, who do have Christian MP3's
available for download on their servers.

In order to continue being listed on the Armageddon tracker,
all I have done is simply asked these admins to write to
whomever is necessary, in order to find out if the Christian
MP3's which they have downloaded from the web, are being
made available for free personal use only, or if that also
includes the right to distribute them to others, such as via
a Hotline server. I wrote the following to one Christian
admin in particular:

----- Begin Quote -----

To give me peace of mind about it, I would like to ask you
to do something for me. Please go to the websites where you
obtained the materials, and see under what conditions one is
allowed to download those files. My main concern is this:
Are the files free for download for personal use, or does
their download policy include the right to freely distribute
the material to others as well, such as via your server?
There could be a very big difference there. If such
information does not exist on the server, then I suggest
that you write to them, tell them exactly how you are using
their material, and see what they say. I would appreciate
hearing back from you on this.

----- End Of Quote -----

Until these administrators clarify this issue, (and they
haven't done so to date), I simply cannot jeopardize our
Christian reputation on Hotline, by allowing them to be
listed on our tracker, because by doing so, we may be guilty
by reason of association, if what they are doing is illegal
and wrong. After receiving my request, one Christian admin
wrote back to me and informed me that he had decided to
withdraw his server from our tracker until the MP3 issue is
resolved. In a message which followed after that, he shared
the following verse with me:

----- Begin Quote -----

"They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them,
Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's;
and unto God the things that are God's."
Matthew 22:21, KJV

----- End Of Quote -----

In explaining this verse to me, this person asked me if such
praise and worship songs which are found on some of the
servers, are meant to be offered up to God. In other words,
he was questioning me as to why I felt that it was wrong to
have these MP3 recordings on our servers, when they uplift
and glorify the Lord. I wrote back to him and explained to
him that while the above verse is indeed true, to apply its
meaning to music or video files which are of a questionable,
and possibly illegal nature, is not true. In other words,
how can we of a clean conscience offer things up to the Lord
which may be considered stolen by the governing authorities
in the country where we reside? It is difficult for me to
accept that God would honor such a thing. After reading part
one of this article, this same admin wrote back to me with
the following; and I am quoting him word for word so that
there is no chance of misunderstanding or miscommunication:

----- Begin Quote -----

Your article was lengthy yet only revolved around the
pre-drawn conclusion that it was stealing. In the above
verse I was merely trying to show you that there is
Scripture that tells us what is and what isn't stealing in
God's eyes. Why didn't you go to that extreme? You have
taken what worldly people think and have applied it to our
servers. We are different than the world. Our reasons are
not theirs.

I am not applying it [the verse] to the files, but the songs
themselves. The songs are to be offered up to God. We have
no right to sell them. Responsible Christians that use them
will yield to the Holy Spirit and either buy the album or
make a donation to the artist. This is the way God meant it
to be. Not commercialization.

Do you think it was "legal" when Jesus upset the money
changer's tables?

----- End Of Quote -----

While I can certainly agree that we are not children of the
world; and that we are supposed to live by a standard which
is very much higher than the standard of the world; and have
in fact emphasized this very same point in a number of my
articles; nevertheless, based upon the verses which follow,
I personally believe that this person has presented a weak,
distorted argument, because he is not balancing Scripture
with Scripture as we are supposed to do; he is only taking
what is convenient for him to use, in order to validate his
position regarding this issue:

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there
is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of
God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the
ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to
themselves damnation." Romans 13:1,2, KJV

"Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him
labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that
he may have to give to him that needeth."
Ephesians 4:28, KJV

Regardless of how difficult it may be for some Christians to
accept the above, Paul's message to us is very clear; and we
can apply it to this current issue regarding MP3 files. In
short, if the American government decides that downloading,
using and distributing MP3's in this fashion is illegal,
bootleg, software piracy, and copyright infringement, (as it
now has, as we see by the MP3.com and Napster cases), then
as law-abiding Christian citizens of a worldly government,
we are supposed to obey their mandates without question; as
to do otherwise is not really giving unto Caesar what is
Caesar's, and unto God what is God's, as Jesus instructed us
to do. In short, when you download and distribute MP3 files
without paying for them, you are stealing from Caesar, and
being a poor Christian example on top of it, plain and
simple. Man's laws say so, and God's Laws say so as well.

From reading the Scriptures for many years, I have come to
the understanding that the only time we should resist the
worldly governments, is when they try to make us deny our
faith, or when they try to stop us from being a Christian
witness to others through personal one-on-one witnessing.
When it comes to our faith, we most certainly cannot deny
our Lord, and we cannot withhold the waters which bring
Life, from the spiritually lost and dying souls of the
world. As Jesus said, if we are ashamed of Him, He will
likewise be ashamed of us at His Coming:

�Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words
in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall
the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of
his Father with the holy angels.� Mark 8:38, KJV

At the same time, please don't misunderstand what I mean by
resist. As I explain in 'Civil Disobedience And Christian
Persecution', the kind of resistance I am talking about is
not political or para-military style resistance; it is simply
standing up for our faith in the face of adversity when we
are called to do so, even if it means being persecuted, and
being wise enough to know when it is time to flee to safety,
so that we can continue being a witness another day. God
wants us to stay alive as long as possible. He doesn't want
us to play the hero and go out and purposely try to be a
martyr. That is simply pride and foolishness.

Contrary to everything I have just shared with you, based on
what this person has written to me, and assuming that I have
understand him correctly, he seems to be saying that what
Jesus' words mean to him, is that being as we are not of
this world, we are not bound by the same laws as the world.
He seems to be stating that what may appear wrong in the
eyes of the world, may not necessarily be wrong in the eyes
of God. Applying this mentality even further, he seems to be
suggesting that while the world may have a negative view of
MP3 sharing, even viewing it as an illegal activity, we are
not subject to that ruling, and should just ignore it,
because by downloading and distributing Christian MP3's, we
are glorifying God.

Can you see the subtle deception in his reasoning? As I
stated earlier, there is indeed a lot of truth in what he is
saying, but his practical application of the verse is dead
wrong; because he is basically saying that it is okay in
God's eyes to do something illegal according to the worldly
standard, as long as the end result is good and positive;
such as encouraging people's faith through the distribution
of MP3 files. It is okay to do evil as long as good results
from it in the end. As I have already made clear, I view
this as erroneous reasoning, because you cannot glorify God
with something which has been stolen; particularly when He
tells us, 'Thou shalt not steal'.

To further justify his position, this person then resorts to
exposing the unprecedented commercialism which has plagued
modern Christianity; exactly as I have done in this and
other articles. Yet, contrary to what I stated in part one,
he is indirectly saying that two wrongs make a right. While
he admits that it's wrong to commercialize our faith, he is
not willing to admit that freely distributing copyright
protected Christian MP3's is wrong, unless one has received
permission to do so from the necessary authorities. Now, if
these non-label Christian artists or their representatives
write back and say that it is okay, then personally, I don't
have a problem with it whatsoever. If they want to freely
distribute their Christian songs via the MP3 file format, as
their way of witnessing to the world, so be it. God can use
any medium He wants to use. In fact, I would welcome these
Christian servers back to our tracker, once they convince me
that they have received the necessary permission, or else
removed the questionable files. I am of course referring to
all types of files, whether they be audio, video, commercial
software, etc.

Before addressing our final topic, there is another related
issue which I feel that we need to discuss. It has occurred
to me that some Christians, or even some of our antichrist
enemies, might argue 'Well, what is your view on Christians
who smuggle Bibles into countries where oppressive and
antagonistic governments are in control, such as in China
and other communist countries? They are doing something
illegal according to the laws of those countries. Doesn't
everything you have just explained apply to them as well?
According to your reasoning, shouldn't they stop what they
are doing?'

For me personally, this is a very black and white issue; and
I think that it is rather ludicrous to even make such a poor
comparison. As far as I am concerned, there is a very big
difference between front-line soldiers and missionaries who
are obeying the Lord's commandment to go into all the world,
and putting their lives in danger in order to reach the lost
of those countries who may have never heard the true Gospel
of Jesus Christ, and American Christians; most of whom are
very rich and comfortable compared to the standards of the
other countries where these people live. America is one of
the most industrialized, modernized, commercialized and
'gadgetized' nations upon the face of the Earth; and CCM,
(Christian Contemporary Music), portable CD-ROM players and
the like is all a part of it.

Excuse me, but while countless numbers of people suffer from
both spiritual and physical oppression and hunger in foreign
lands, and are thankful to see even one page from a real
Bible, American Christians are really living 'high off the
hog' as we say in American slang. In other words, getting
the Gospel to those oppressed peoples is a spiritually life
and death situation which requires taking certain risks which
may violate the local laws of some of those oppressive
regimes. It is a matter of necessity for the sake of God's
Kingdom. On the other hand, in fat, rich, lazy, and Gospel-
stuffed America, downloading and distributing questionable
Christian MP3 files is NOT a necessity; it is nothing more
than a luxury; and I still think that one-on-one personal
witnessing, and Gospel tract passing, is still the best way
to win a person to Jesus Christ.

We don't need all of that commercialism. We don't need all
of the popular Christian rock bands. We don't need all of
the idol worship by the fans as if they were worldly rock
stars. Yes, God can work through such things, but we still
really don't need it. It is all a part of modern, American,
'plasticized' Christianity. For almost two thousand years
the true Gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached via word
of mouth, and in writing, and such methods have been very
effective. So to reiterate my main point, to compare the
legality of downloading copyrighted Christian MP3's in rich
America, where most Christians can easily afford to buy a
CD-ROM, with smuggling Bibles into foreign lands, whether
they be Communist, or Islamic, or Buddhist, or whatever, is
kind of silly in my view.

Now, if some of you American Christians are offended by my
words, well I'm sorry, but I am really not. Those of you who
have known me for a few years realize that I preach a hard
Gospel; I preach a strong Gospel; I preach a controversial
Gospel; but I always do my best to preach the Scriptural
truth, come what may. Some day I may end up paying for it,
but I don't even think or worry about that. I just keep busy
from day to day doing what I believe the Lord wants me to do.
Jesus also preached a divisive Gospel, and look where it got
Him. Isn't that why Paul wrote the following?:

�Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall
suffer persecution.� 2 Timothy 3:12, KJV

We Christians with our so-called narrow-minded, religiously-
intolerant' views certainly seem to be becoming less popular
each day, as so-called Christian America turns more and more
antichrist. The ungodly nature of the younger generation
truly astounds me; it amazes me; because I have a chance to
chat with some of them on a regular basis via our Hotline
server. I have never experienced in my entire life, so many
young people who not only don't believe in God, but who are
turning to Satanism, witchcraft, paganism, etc. America's
spiritual condition is truly deplorable.

At any rate, if you honestly feel that I am wrong in a
certain area, or regarding a certain opinion, then just pray
that the Lord will straighten me out, and help me to see the
light sooner or later. If He does, you can be sure that I
will eventually write an article about it, although it may
take a while. I am already way over my head in unfinished
work; but I enjoy it. It gives me a deep inner satisfaction
to know that I am feeding His sheep, with both the milk, and
the meat of His Word; and for me personally, that is the
bottom line: Whether we are discussing the MP3 controversy,
or something else, are we truly following God's Word; or are
we following our own weak self-justifications? What is the
ruling authority in our lives? Is it God' Word, or is it
merely our own thoughts and opinions which tend towards
selfishness and doing our own thing?

Before concluding this article, I would like to share one
more email message which is related to this topic, which I
received today from another person who is not a member of
our mailing list. I tried to email my response to him, but
it was returned as undeliverable, stating that the person in
question does not have an email account with the service in
question. I suspect that he may have added something to his
email address in order to avoid spam. So Randall, if you are
reading this, following is my response to your inquiry. He
wrote:

----- Begin Quote -----

Greetings in the name of Christ Jesus. I loved your article
about "sharing music", and I WAS guilty of that at one time
until God convicted me; but I have a question about
recording from the radio. Is that also stealing in God's
eyes? I am the only one that listens to the music and don't
share it with others. Please reply.

----- End Of Quote -----

Being as I am not a legal expert who is familiar with all of
the copyright laws of the United States, that is a rather
tough question for me to answer, so please take my advice
with caution. My first inclination would be to say that this
might possibly fall under the same category as recording a
movie from the television set on your VCR. As long as it is
for personal viewing, or personal listening in the case of
music, I really can't see how it is a tremendous crime. If
it were a crime, then we would all have to candidly admit
that, according to law, the United States is full of many
millions more of criminals than anyone has ever possibly
imagined or suspected; and VCR and other recording device
manufacturers would have to be included as accomplices to
the crime, because they make such activities possible; just
like these online MP3 companies we have been discussing.

On the other hand, copying, downloading and trading MP3's
via the web, when they haven't been paid for, and no profit
of any kind has been garnered from them, is a very different
issue in my view. In most cases, contrary to what this other
admin hopes for and suggests, the music will probably never
be purchased by the vast majority of people, be they secular
people or Christians; and aside from a few Christian groups,
it is not being made freely available by the artists or the
recording industry which represents them. It is an illegal
act of stealing something without permission. In the case of
music on the radio, or programs and movies on the television
set, they are being freely offered for public listening or
viewing pleasure, because they have been paid for through
station commercials and sponsorship.

As a former radio disc jockey, I understand a little about
how radio stations operate. Contrary to the understanding of
the listener on the receiving end, radio is not about the
music. Music is merely the enticing packaging around the
real product; and that is the goods and services which are
offered during the commercials. That is what pays a radio
station's bills, and their salaries; that is, different
businesses paying for time slots on the air, in the hope
that if you hear their commercial enough, you will go out
and purchase their product or service. The music is just to
help keep you in a good mood, so that you will be receptive
to the sales talk you hear every few minutes. Obviously,
television works the very same way.

In fact, some software companies have begun to operate the
same way as well. Take for example Qualcomm's Eudora Pro
email program. It is now three applications in one: Lite
mode, sponsored mode, and paid mode. Unless you pay for it
as I have, you must allow a small window to display banner
ads on your desktop. I am totally against this scheme, so I
opted to pay the registration fee. The Hotline software is
the same way. The reason why it is now free, is because of
the desktop banner displays, which are paid for just like
commercials on the radio or television. Again, I detest the
banners, so I have stuck with Hotline 1.2.3; and I paid for
both the server and client software before either one of
them ever became free; so I have paid my dues.

So I hope that you can see the difference between songs on
the radio, television programs and movies, and online MP3's.
When music is downloaded from the Internet, regardless of
what kind of music it is, unless it's specifically released
for free for both personal use and public distribution, no
one is earning a profit from it; not the artists; not the
recording companies; not the distributors; no one. There is
no sponsorship either. That is why it has become such a big
issue. This case is all about money and profit; no more, and
no less. As I stated earlier, I am not a legal expert on
American copyright laws, but it just seems to me that there
is more legitimacy to copying from the radio or television,
as long as it is for personal listening or viewing pleasure.
Just read the warning which appears on your screen when you
watch a video. That will give you a good idea of what is
considered legal, and what is not.

Well, that is all I really have to say about this issue. I
had never expected to write an article on this topic; much
less expand it to a two-part one; but perhaps my advice will
be of help to others as it has been to this person who wrote
to us. In the long run, what it really comes down to, is
doing what we feel is right in the sight of the Lord; but,
it must conform to God's Will according to the outline which
we have in His Word. As the Apostle Paul wrote when he was
forced to deal with certain legalistic issues with the
brethren:

�One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth
every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own
mind.� Romans 14:5, KJV

None of us is perfect. We are all sinners. We have all done
certain things in our lives of which we would be embarrassed
and ashamed if it ever came to light. It is time for all of
us to clean up our acts. Time may be shorter than we think.


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