Heal Your Church WebSite


Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

(un)Holy Church of Spam

I woke-up in the middle of the night and figured I might as well deal with the slew of spam that for some reason, always occurs late on Saturday nights, when most abuse administrators have the day or evening off. SpamAssassin had slain several pitches for viagra, teen sex, breast enlargement and other stuff that really don’t interest me. MailWasher dealt with a bunch more, forwarding them to SpamCop. Still, a few managed to get through … and three of which were from Christians.

Keep in mind, I’m not skwalking about those bogus Nigerian 419 scam-like pleas I mentioned about a week or two ago on blogs4God. Nor am I describing those presumptious spam-evangelists that Rachel Cunliffe recently railed about. No, I’m talking real live, bona-fide, just like the guy sitting in the pew next to you Christians. And that bothers me.

For example, last night, one well-intentioned individual manually clicked on each and every one of the obfuscated and javascript-only email addresses on the contacts page at Redland, individually sending each and everyone of us a sales pitch for his book, in the process using the domain name of his ISP to advertise the domain of his website; even though act is outside the third party’s (the ISP) stated terms of use (permission).

When I complained directly to him about the spam, I got a terse “Sorry, God bless you” brush-off. It wasn’t until I replied with something to the effect “Do you realize how illegal this is? Give me one reason I shouldn’t report this to your service provider, at abuse@localhost?” (note – the email address has been changed for purposes of this article). To which I received a lengthier apology, where the individual informed me that they didn’t realize their action was spam.

And therein lies part of the problem. For every page that offers a definition of spam, there is a different definition. A problem cited by several sources, including Wired Magazine’s article “Spam: Much Hated, Little Defined” or the Pew Internet Project’s recent report entitled “ How it is hurting email and degrading life on the Internet.”

Even when defined by the local authorities, it can be ubiquitous at best. For example, Redland Baptist Church operates out of Rockville, Maryland, so here is how spam is defined by the State of Maryland, and governs those who would indiscriminately send the exact same message to multiple recipients, either one at a time or in bulk:

Under a Maryland law enacted in May 2002, it is illegal to send a commercial e-mail message that uses a third party’s domain name without permission; that contains false or missing routing information; or with a false or misleading subject line. The law applies if a message is sent from within Maryland; if the sender knows that the recipient is a Maryland resident; or if the registrant of the domain name contained in the recipient’s address will confirm upon request that the recipient is a Maryland resident.

Confusing yes? This is why I remedy any ambigiuities wrought by such legalease by CLEARLY STATING on both on the Redland Contacts Page and the RBC Terms of Use pageDo not use data from this site for unsolicited e-mail marketing;” which to my non-binding layman’s knowledge of the law, is legally binding.

Still, some Christians seem to think that because they’re doing God’s work, that it is okay. That they can disobey the printed and conspicious terms of use by their own hosting companies. Or worse, ignore outright the terms of use and/or desires stated on a church website such as Redland’s.

Folks, as Chrisitians, not only are we NOT above the law, but are called to live by a higher standard. It is for this reason, I am imploring my Christian brothers and sisters to stop marketing via unsolicited commercial email. Not only is it ineffective and amateurish, it is illegal, unethical and abusive.

Abusive? Yes. Redland pays good money for it’s Internet access. Why then should someone with a book, video, CD, lecture series or what-have-you be allowed to advertise on Redland’s nickle? Especially when some of that spam consumes Redlands monthly disk and bandwidth and/or requires that I take my valuable time out of publishing my pastor’s sermons to clean up the spammer’s mess? I mean isn’t taking something that doesn’t belong to you stealing?

The bottom line is this, if you want to sell something, spend the money to do it right. Sending unsolicited emails to people you don’t know to sell a product may seem cost-effective and expedient, but only up until your sin finds you out … and you find that you’re ISP and/or web host shuts you down. In the interim, it gives the World something to point their finger at us and say “see!?”

Here, I’ll make it even easier for you with a cute little jingle .. “when in doubt, don’t send it out.

2 Comments

  1. >> It wasn’t until I replied with something to the effect “Do you realize how illegal this is? Give me one reason I shouldn’t report this to your service provider, at abuse@localhost?”
    .
    Kudos for going the extra mile to help a brother… We should all do the same…
    .
    -Frank

  2. Dean that is an excellent point that I must agree with totally! I get a lot of spam at my church’s email address as well it’s said to think you have to obfuscate a web address to lower the spam you receive but even than you still get it! I suppose it’s one of those “thorns in the flesh” that we will have to live with until Christ comes again! I certainly hope Christians read this message and see themselves in the mirror and not walk away forgetting the evil they saw in themselves as James talks about in his epistle.