The Internet has been described by critics and doomsday prophets as a “pornographic cesspool” and as the “demonic beast” of the apocalypse. I disagree. While I readily admit the superhighway has backroads that access the dark alleys of pornography, gambling and high-tech crime, the main streets of the global network offer wholesome opportunities for entertainment, education and inspiration.

What are some of these wholesome opportunities afforded by the Internet?

First, the Internet offers access to inexpensive and enjoyable entertainment. Interactive games abound for both children and adults. Of course, similar to games in an arcade, Internet games need to be screened for inappropriate and violent content, but fun and educational games can be found for all ages. Full-length movies, distant radio stations and all varieties of music can now be accessed on the Internet.

The information superhighway also leads to seemingly inexhaustible information sites. Whether researching your family tree or preparing an academic research paper, the Internet offers a variety of helpful sites. Collegiate libraries, popular dictionaries and encyclopedias, a host of newspapers and periodicals, and even the Smithsonian Institute are all at your fingertips in a matter of seconds.

Probably one of the greatest assets of the Internet is the vast array of inspirational material and potential. Upon request, some publishers, churches and denominational agencies will regularly download inspirational material to your inbox. One example of such encouraging material is the popular series “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Other sites allow you to send humorous or inspirational greeting cards to friends on special occasions, all by way of the Internet. And the best news is that most of these services are free of charge.

For Sunday School teachers, ministers and avid Bible students, there are plenty of sites to research biblical texts, geographical regions, archeological data, world religions, and even perform word studies. There are also sites to check news and events from your denomination or from other churches in your community or around the world.

Can the Internet be used for evil? Sure! Like television, the Walkman and Nintendo, the Internet does not make a good babysitter. Children and adults alike must learn discernment and discretion if their lives are to be enriched by Internet resources. The Internet can be addictive, expensive and unhealthy if used unwisely. As one wise observer has stated, “The problem with the Internet is that you can find what you are looking for and some people are looking for the wrong thing.”

The Internet has tremendous potential for good: fun entertainment, helpful information and wholesome inspiration. Whether the Internet is a blessing or curse, good or evil, depends on how you use it. Use it wisely!

Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.

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