by David Sisler

The email said, "Test: Pretty Park.exe," and ended with the symbol :) – which is computer-ese for a smile. The address was from someone who writes to me regularly, sending jokes, stories and little snippets of life. So I clicked on the file and nothing happened. "Stupid computer," I mumbled, deleted the file and went on to the next email.

All was well until a friend in Russia, who is on my regular email list wrote to me. "David," the letter began, "I can't open the file you sent me, can you tell me what it was." I couldn't remember sending any file. A short time later I had received two similar emails.

I looked into my "sent" box to see if I could find an explanation for this curious letter. Years ago, while serving as the editor of a Christian magazine, I started keeping a file of all out-going and in-coming mail. If ever I was invited to a game of "you said, I said" (and I was, unprepared the first time, not the second) I would have proof of what crossed my desk. Since installing a new email program last May, I have never punched delete, and there are more than 4,000 letters stored on my computer. I could find nothing about "Pretty Park."

Then another email came in screaming that "Pretty Park" was a virus. A little bit of research proved that this is indeed a virus, one that was written in France and within the last few weeks has been upgraded from a low threat to a medium threat. This little bug sends an email to everyone in your address book, and tries to duplicate the task every 30 minutes. It also attempts other nefarious computer-doings. I downloaded the cure for this virus and cleaned it off of my computer. I have a question to pose if the authorities ever catch the skunks who wrote this Trojan Horse: "Do the French still have a working guillotine?"

The insidious part of this virus is that when it sends out its message to infect another computer, it signs your name, and sends it to people who trust you. How like life! Eve came to Adam and said, "This is the best fruit I've ever eaten," and you know how things have gone since then.

Paige, the teenage daughter in the comic strip "Foxtrot" was introduced this week to shop-lifting by a friend who said, "It's okay. This store will be out of business in a month anyway!"

How many people were introduced to drugs by someone they trusted. "Man, this is great!" For most of those people the downward slide never stops. And it was a friend who introduced them to destruction.

How many people were introduced to illicit sex by someone they trusted. "Honey, I love you! This is forever!" Sometimes forever lasts an awfully short time.

Driving back from Atlanta recently, I read a billboard which I would nominate for advertising's "Hall of Shame." There were no photographs, no clever graphics, just the words, "Who's the father? 1-800-DNA-TYPE." Come on! Ladies, if you keep both of your feet on the ground you are probably not going to get pregnant. If you wait to have sex until your honeymoon night, you will know the name of the baby's father. And if he hires Johnnie Cochran the DNA test will probably prove nothing. Do you ever wonder if the people who died in the fire and brimstone destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah ask God how long he is going to put up with America?

Writing in Protecting the Gift, Gavin de Becker told young people, "Honor your own feelings. If someone makes you uncomfortable, even a ‘friend,' that's an important signal. It's okay to be assertive if you feel threatened. Teenage girls especially should learn ‘No' is a complete sentence. [You] don't have to justify it."

The only light in this whole episode was an email from Jack Wallace in Tampa. He responded to my warning letter by saying that his virus program warned him of potential danger with the file, and he deleted it. "Besides," he said, "the letter did not sound like you."

Spiritually, we fall for so much garbage, and it is eternal life-threatening, as destructive as anything listed above. It looks good, we recognize the name of the sender, but fail to distinguish the spirit behind the message. Paul told the Corinthian Church to "covet earnestly the best gifts." I do not think I have ever heard anyone pray for the "gift of discernment." Consequently we stagger around, living regret-filled lives, damaging ourselves for time and for eternity.


Published in The Augusta Chronicle 3/18/2000

Copyright 2000 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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