Posts Tagged ‘church’

What Do We Elevate?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Ran across this article from Collide magazine.  The author asks a lot of good introspective questions about church services and what that means about priorities.  Of course, why limit that to only your church services?  Why not ask that about other parts of the church including  your IT strategy?  About the type of computers and software you use?  What do you elevate?  And what does that say about your church?  Does it say exclusion or inclusion?  Does it say selfishness or sharing?  Once you know what it does say about your church, it then follows on to ask the original authors question:  what should we be elevating?  When you ask and answer those questions, my guess would be that more Christians and churches would be using (and creating too) more open source software and sharing more of their content with Creative Commons licensing.  But that’s just a guess. ;)

The Biblical Model of File Formats (and Open Source Too)

Monday, May 24th, 2010

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the ethics of file formats. That article covered ethics from a more philosophical perspective. While that case is strong in and of itself, I wanted to follow up with teachings from the Bible that also support the position.

Now, the Bible doesn’t mention anything about the digital era, files or formats. Society was quite different then, but I believe several concepts in biblical teaching can be used as metaphors to help us along.  Those metaphors can help us in the discussion about file formats but also more generally as we rethink ethics in a digital world as well as anything else that comes along in our society. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says to “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine.”

So in process of examining ourselves through the use of Scripture, what metaphors can we use to look at this issue specifically? Since the use of open vs closed file formats really comes down to exclusion vs inclusion (see my previous post on file formats), I’ll focus on that. I believe one of the strongest, most applicable biblical metaphors that examine inclusion and exclusion is the concept of gleanings. In Lev 19:9-10 and Lev 23:22, the old testament law mentions:

When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God.

And in Deuteronomy 24:21, it commands:

When you gather the grapes in your vineyard, don’t glean the vines after they are picked. Leave the remaining grapes for the foreigners, orphans, and widows.

As we learn later in Ruth 2, Boaz definitely holds to this practice, so it seems this law was not only laid down, but it was also assimilated into the culture successfully. But why was this law created?

Like today, the poor didn’t own land and had no access to it. Obviously, the poor also had very little or no money. So, not only did they not have a livelihood, but they also had no way to produce a livelihood or at least very limited means because agriculture was the main driver of the economy.  Widows and orphans had no means because family was the main source of insurance since there was no social security or other welfare system. That’s when the community was expected to provide a mechanism so that those that could not provide for themselves had a way to at least gather food to eat and therefore remain a part of the community.

So let’s take a look at this principle and use it as a metaphor in the digital age.

In our society, computers and the internet are becoming the main methods of communication and upward mobility in our society. We are well into the Information Age. Whether cell phones, laptops, internet access or whatever else, computers and the internet are how our society runs (even for the jobless and homeless). It is also mainly how we get work done. Technology and software has become indispensable for us. Without access to that technology, we are taking away the ability for the poor and marginalized to engage in our society and community. By using file formats that aren’t open, we widen the chasm that the poor must overcome to gain access into our increasingly technical society and community.

On the other hand, the principle of gleaning shows that we should make at least one way for the poor to engage with the community and provide for themselves. For technology, using closed formats just makes it harder to enter into that community because there are no alternatives except those attached to paying lots of money (when you are poor, any amount is a lot). On the other hand, using open formats allows as many people as possible to have access to the information gateway to the community. For instance, you might choose to purchase a proprietary program for any reason. If you choose one that supports open file formats (even though it is proprietary), you are allowing others that you collaborate with to make a different choice if they need to. They are still able to use a different solution to be in community. Like gleaning a field or vineyard, it might take extra work to use free and open source solutions, but they aren’t immediately excluded from the community by doing so.

Additionally, the Bible has many other examples and teachings for including the poor and marginalized in our communities. These teachings support the use of open file formats, but also an open source culture more generally.  For instance, 1 John 3:17-18 says:

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

As Christians we should not only talk about the need, but find ways to take action to remedy that need. Using open file formats is a tangible action that you can take to make sure that the poor are included and not excluded from your church or organization. Additionally, James 2 says:

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?

Isn’t it proprietary, closed companies that are dragging everyone into court because you infringe on their intellectual property? By using open file formats and open source and Creative Commons projects we support a more moral and less litigious society in general.  Additionally, we shouldn’t always be wooed by the glitter of the beautiful (i.e. Apple ;) ), but rather support everyone whether rich or poor. As a church or organization, using open file formats and open source software invites more people to invest in your community rather than being relegated to the periphery because they can’t afford to be involved.

Jesus’ words in Luke 14 put an even finer point on it:

When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

According to Jesus, it was good to invest in the community without the chance for repayment. As a church or organization, you will invest resources into open communities without repayment, but you are investing so that everyone is invited to your party. That’s pretty cool.

As the last example, when Zacchaeus gave his life to Christ he was changed and different. He immediately gave half of his possessions to the poor and repaid those he had cheated four times over. He obviously was putting into action the love and gratitude that was in his heart. How are we showing that love and gratitude in the digital age? Do we continue to just think of ourselves and our own church? If we can afford expensive proprietary software that excludes the poor and marginalized from our community, do we ignore them and continue not to care? Or do we seek to make amends and repay for the wrongs that have excluded them? Do we seek to invest in community without the need for repayment? Do we seek to make sure as many people are involved with our digital community as possible?

I encourage you to choose open file formats and open source software as a biblical mandate. When you do, you are investing in love and community, not in a company and a bottom line. You are showing your love and faith in Christ through specific actions. In Galatians 6:10, it says “therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” That’s the challenge I want to put to you as you continue to rethink ethics in a digital world.

Defective By Design: DRM Takes Away Your Rights

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Today is officially Day Against DRM and it’s a good thing too.  Many times I feel the worst tragedies in human history were complacently faded into without a fight or really any one even noticing.  Only then, when things get so horrible, do people finally stand up and say enough is enough.  DRM or Digital Restrictions Management very well could end up as one of these.  On the surface, it seems like a good idea, right?  Protect the author.  Let him get his due.  Yada, yada, yada.  The problem is that the former argument is just a straw man.  DRM is much, much more than that.  It is a purposeful attempt by people to control things they don’t have a right to control: what you do, when you do it, how you do it.  For instance, do you have the right to watch a DVD you purchased?  Of course you do.  You purchased it.  You can legally watch it as many times on as many devices as you want because you purchased it.   The courts have shown this time and again.  Period.

The next question then is, can you?  And with DRM the answer is a resounding NO!  You can only watch it in ways that the publisher has approved and can monitor even if you have the right to do otherwise.  Even with DVDs you must decrypt (encryption is the first stage of DRM) the movie to watch it.  Any attempt to decrypt the data from an unapproved, unlicensed device (most open source DVD decryptors) is illegal.  This is because by purchasing it, you are implicitly agreeing to the publishers license agreement.  Did you know that?  Did you understand that?  Does that make sense?  I don’t think so.

This may all seem harmless at the moment, but the thing is that with each version you see more and more of our rights being taken away.  Look no further than the  progression from CDs (no DRM), to DVDs (encryption), to BluRay (massive DRM measures) to see this in action.  The only way to ensure our rights in the future is to make sure there is no “rights management” to control.

The thing that always surprises me is that the church has traditionally been a champion of freedom.  But as far as I can tell, the church is basically silent on many of these “freedom” topics whether open source software, creative commons or DRM.  Why is that?  Our speech is more and more being delivered through digital mediums.  Those digital mediums are more and more being controlled, monitored, and restricted through DRM.  So while you may not notice now, we are digging a huge hole for our future generations.  We have a huge inheritance of freedom that we are squandering away for pretty computers and ease of use (yes, I’m talking to you Apple).

If you’ve been watching my tweets, you’ll remember to not think legally…lots of really horrible things are legal even today in the U.S.  Instead, think ethically…what is really going on when corporations are not only allowed to do things like this, but that we as Christians support it by being silent and continuing to purchase their products.  This is one of the main reasons I support and use open source because overall the open source movement supports freedom (especially of speech) in ways proprietary technologies including DRM never will.  Support freedom.  Don’t support DRM or companies pushing DRM technologies in their products.

The good news is that the companies are listening when you speak.  There’s a reason that the iTunes store finally dropped DRM.  If we keep supporting merchants that don’t use DRM we’ll continue to have freedom.  These decisions are small, but powerful.  For instance, I’ve continued to use Amazon MP3 store because it’s never supported DRM in it’s distribution model.  Alternatives are out there.  If you support them, they will continue to grow and get even better.  But the decision is up to us…you and me doing what we believe is right as we continue to rethink ethics in a digital world.

CiviCRM for Your Constituent Relationship Management

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Normally, I’ll be doing reviews of open source software from a personal perspective.  However, because I can’t necessarily try out everything in the first person sometimes I’ll rely on other reputable sources for a review of a good open source project related to churches and non-profits.  One of those resources is the Free Software Foundation.

Yesterday, they released their endorsement for CiviCRM.  “CiviCRM is a free, libre and open source software constituent relationship management solution. CiviCRM is web-based, internationalized, and designed specifically to meet the needs of advocacy, non-profit and non-governmental groups. Integration with both Drupal and Joomla! content management systems gives you the tools to connect, communicate and activate your supporters and constituents.”

With organizations like the Free Software Foundation, Wikimedia, and Amnesty International using it, I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t work for your organization as well.  While WordPress integration would be great (although it looks like CiviCRM standalone + WordPress is what some people are doing), Drupal and Joomla! integration is great for those already using those CMS platforms.  Of course, the more it is used, the more features will be added.

Give it a spin and consider trading in your proprietary, locked in, or homegrown (which is it’s own type of vendor lock in) solution for CiviCRM.

Kdenlive Quick Start

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Today is the day I deliver on my promise to post tutorials for the first time.  This weekend I did a quick recording about Kdenlive to match a similar post about Final Cut Pro on the ChurchCreate blog.  It is basically just a Kdenlive Quick Start to help you, um, get started quickly using Kdenlive.

If you are not farmiliar with Kdenlive, it is a non-linear video editing application similar to Final Cut Pro, Vegas, Premiere, etc.  It currently is supported on Linux and Mac only, however, using VirtualBox you can run it on Windoze.  Kdenlive even has VirtualBox images already set up and created for you to use.

Why use Kdenlive?  Besides the prohibitive cost of most commerical non-linear video editors, Kdenlive is not only free, but also very full featured, has a great workflow, and is fairly stable. In fact, you’ll see the Kdenlive’s setup is actually pretty similar to FCP in it’s layout.   Some of the more advanced features are still being incorporated or are a little clunky to use.  On the other hand, Kdenlive will be able to handle most any standard editing task you can throw at it.

I will go ahead and apologize ahead of time for meandering a little too much and not being a little more focused.  I’m sure I’ll improve the quality of the video tutorials as I do more of them.  I hope it is helpful all the same.

Also, if you’re interested in other video tutorials.  Kdenlive has several video tutorials on their site already.

Enjoy the introduction to Kdenlive.

Kdenlive Quick Start from Open Source Church on Vimeo.

Helping Developing Countries Access Open Source Software

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Ran across this article about the accessibility of Linux in developing countries last week.  I do sympathize with the original blogger from Ghana.  Honestly though, I’m trying to figure out why copying Windows CDs is so much easier than copying Linux CDs (since a friend of a friend of a friend could also request another CD once one person has hit their limit).  I guess it is just because everyone already has the Windows CDs in hand.  Like anything else, it is hard to displace the gorilla from the game when most computers come with Windows already attached.  That isn’t an accident.

On the other hand, what a great way for the church community to provide a service for developing countries.  Wouldn’t it be great if churches actually used all open source software (therefore making it better) and then were able to help distribute that same software to those that could benefit the most from it?  Many churches and non-profits already have huge distribution mechanisms into developing nations in place through long-term and short-term missions organizations.

However, my perception is that whether in the U.S. or Ghana, the reason we don’t use open source software more is because we don’t use open source software more.  Yep, you read that right!  The more you use, invest in and distribute open source software, the better it gets and the more you share it.  As it gets better and more people use it, then it gets even better and even more people use it.  So the only way to make open source products what you (and others) want is to use open source software before it gets the way you want it.

Go ahead.  Take the plunge!

Rethinking Copyright Law

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Wasn’t planning on doing this post, but I read this article from the Economist this morning.  It’s a good succinct article about the copyright debate.  Here’s a more in depth discussion in case you are interested.  Whether you feel breaking copyright law is an ethical issue or not, I think we should all be able to agree that the current state of things isn’t working very well.

While more “Mickey Mouse Protection Acts” might be passed and technically legal, more companies are going to be forced into more liberal licensing through open source and Creative Commons licenses through market forces and competition.  This trend is the market correcting for bad copyright law; the market is in a state of diminishing returns when it keeps extending copyright protection.

Of course, some Christians I know just pirate digital media no matter what the laws say without thinking anything about it.  I’ve even seen lots of “bending of the rules” for church purposes.  I’d be interested in your comments about the ethics and morality of breaking copyright law.  For me, I try to comply with copyright law no matter how ridiculous it is.  That, of course, leads me to use open source and Creative Commons works because I can’t afford to do everything I want to do and comply with proprietary software and copyrighted media law. Luckily for me, there’s lots of great open source software and Creative Commons works out there so it’s a win-win scenario.

So if you feel like piracy is wrong and haven’t checked out open source and/or Creative Commons projects, I encourage you to start now.

Why Microsoft and Apple are Evil and Ubuntu is Not

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

This post is taken from a response to a comment I made on this blog post at ChurchIT.  It embodies much of why I want to do this blog.  We as Christians just don’t think about the business models used to deliver the products we buy and what values those business models support.  I obviously believe we should think about it and that when we do think about it, the decision to use open source culture rather than closed culture become obvious.  Enjoy the post.

OK, so I wanted to take some time to revisit my comment about Microsoft and Apple being “evil” and I’ll go ahead and apologize for the length, but thanks in advance for reading or at least skimming it.

I’m mainly focusing on John’s response to my comment:

Calling companies or individuals evil is a poor tactic. I could probably find plenty of “evil” people in the Linux community. Let’s make sure we’re Christ-like in our discusson and stick to the facts.

So this is my attempt to clarify my position, “stick to the facts” and be “Christ-like”. I tried to only talk about what was completely necessary, but I know that this is probably a new way to think about this issue for many of you so keeping it too short can cause confusion as evidenced by John’s response to my last comment. Speaking of which, before I go on I think it would be helpful to clarify a few things about my initial comment:

1) Even taking my comment completely seriously, I didn’t mean that Microsoft and Apple are absolutely evil in all aspects. I would think this would be obvious as there are always good and bad about anything (except God). On the other hand, as Christians, it’s obvious (at least to me) that we should be lining up corporate ethics and business practices with biblical values and if they don’t match up, they can be considered “evil” as a general term. Just like a person, a company can be judged by the fruit it bears (sorry Apple, pun intended)
2) I’ll strike my comment about Steve Jobs from the record. Talking about specific people confuses the issue that I’m really talking about which is the business ethics of the companies, not the personal ethics or morality of anyone working for the company. While Steve Jobs’ public comments and attitudes are synonymous with Apple’s as he has chosen to be the face of Apple, I’ll ignore that fact to get to the issue I’m talking about: corporate ethics and business practices. I’m not attacking or judging any person. Period.

OK, now for the good stuff. First, I won’t go into detail about why the business ethics of Microsoft or Apple are evil. That’s already been discussed at length and here is a good summary article about Microsoft from the Free Software Foundation.

If you think Apple is any different, here’s a recent article from Newsweek that basically gushes about Apple products, but mentions in several places how proprietary, litigous and unmerciful Apple can be. While there are differences in the two companies, they share many similarities in how they do business.

I’ll summarize the position by saying that in general Microsoft and Apple have business practices that are unforgiving, unmerciful, overly litigous, self-serving, greedy…the list could go on. Again, while some positive adjectives could be thrown in there (again, they aren’t completely evil in their business practices), I think it’s safe to say that the former list doesn’t mirror biblical values very well at all. Now you ask, “but aren’t they just being good business by doing so…competition is fierce and they need to compete?”. And of course the answer is a resounding “YES!”. They are being good businesses according to secular standards. Of course, the Bible doesn’t tell us to be good businesses and to make a lot of money for our investors, does it? As Christians, we’re called to be different from the world. That means our whole lives. How and where we and our churches spend our money supports a set of values that should hopefully match our personal beliefs. Shouldn’t it?

The other part of this discussion is the comment relating to the fact that Ubuntu and Linux isn’t any different from Microsoft and Apple. Yeah, I beg to differ…surprised?! Probably not.

We’ll talk about Ubuntu explicitly for discussions sake, but most, if not all, of the arguments translate to any company using a purely open source business model (of which there are many).

Ubuntu uses completely free, open-source software in their business model. In order to make money, you pay Ubuntu for services, not the software itself. What this means is that while Ubuntu controls their distribution, they don’t control the licensing of their software. Their licensing comes from the author and contributors of the different projects that chose to make their software open-source. As long as Ubuntu complies with the open-source licensing terms (mainly, to make any derivative works also open source), they can use the software however they choose for commercial purposes. The beauty of this model is that:

1) If I can’t afford services, I can still get the software absolutely free (i.e. you have more time than money). I don’t have to break the law to use the software. This helps the poor and less fortunate in many ways. Helping the poor is a biblical value.
2) If I decide that Ubuntu becomes “evil”, I can move to a distribution that isn’t so “evil” because the software is available to anyone that complies to the open source license. This allows me, as a Christian, to choose to support companies that use open source software in ways that mirror Christian values (whether they are doing so purposefully or not). In fact, if I decide Ubuntu is “evil”, I can actually create my own derivative distribution of Ubuntu and create the “NotSoEvilUbuntu” company and do the same thing Ubuntu is doing, with the same software and compete with them. I can also just choose not to support the company by choosing not to pay for services. On the other hand, Microsoft and Apple deliberately use business methods that limit choice and sometimes even force you to use their product (ever tried getting someone else to open a spreadsheet you created in other than Microsoft Excel format?). Freedom to choose is a biblical value.
3) The company has no licensing rights over the software, so Ubuntu can’t sue any one for using, copying, or redistributing the software unless they do so in greedy ways (ex. they don’t comply with the open source license). Punishing greed is a biblical value.
4) Open source business models serve the community as well as the company’s profits. Serving the community is a biblical value.

While there are others, those are the big hitters. Of course, there are lots of “good” and “evil” people in the Ubuntu community. Additionally, open source projects and business models aren’t Christian in and of themselves. However, at a minimum, the business models supported by open source software and culture are much closer to biblical values than proprietary models and many aspects of open source culture mirror principles from the Bible very directly (that subject is what my blog is all about). Therefore, I must conclude that open source companies like Ubuntu are not “evil” or at least much less “evil” by their very nature than companies with proprietary business models like Microsoft and Apple. If I must conclude that, then it seems as Christians it should be a consideration for the decision on which software, hardware, etc. we use, especially in our churches (even if the technical and financial considerations say otherwise).

And for me that leads me to always avoid proprietary software when an open source alternative exists and using the least proprietary solution when OS alternatives aren’t available. Of course, more companies are using hybrid (open-source AND proprietary) business models, so it’s not always a clear case like the one above). In fact, Microsoft and Apple have even been partially forced on the open source bandwagon through competition.

Of course the only reason I brought this all up is that John only mentioned technical and financial considerations in his review of a PC or Mac only environment (including his miniscule review of Linux). Since this is ChurchIT.com and not IT.com, I expect there to be other considerations besides what the secular world would consider. That’s really it. If I want general IT advice, I’ll go somewhere else…here I expect advice that’s not only applicable to church use cases, but also centered on Christ-like values and in this post, I personally found it wanting.

Let the flaming commence…I wouldn’t post things like this if I couldn’t take the heat. ;)

Please feel free to comment here as well on the ChurchIT post.

Sneak Preview of OpenSourceChurch

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Now that we’ve been introduced, I want to give you a preview of what this blog will *hopefully* be all about.

I am not the first to talk about these subjects.  However, I’ve had a hard time finding anything more than a short series of articles from the same writer, and most posts are not very recent.  One of my goals is to build a permanent community and resource that will remain useful for many years to come.

First, we’ll talk about the theology of open source and creative commons culture and how it matches up with biblical values.  As Christians, I believe we should be purposeful in our lives to support Christlike values in every aspect of life.  I believe OS culture mirrors the community and generosity about which Christ and the New Testement writers taught.  If you don’t agree, just hang in there until I can develop these ideas specifically and completely.

Here’s a few of the articles and writers I’ve found that have already weighed in on the theological aspects of open source (if you find others feel free to send them my way):

http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/7653?page=0,1 && http://searchenterpriselinux.techtarget.com/news/article/0,289142,sid39_gci990899,00.html

http://churchcrunch.com/church-30-is-open-source/

http://theopensourcechurch.org/blog/

http://www.tedcarnahan.com/series/freedom-software-and-the-church/

Aside from the theology of OS, there’s also just the reality of the power of OS culture from a philosophical perspective: how it develops community and how it binds us to and helps those around us whether in the church or not.  OS has an amazing way of connecting very disparate people and when I see Jesus, I see him connecting disparate people in many surprising and interesting ways.

We’ll also talk about many different open source topics and projects and do detailed reviews and tutorials of them so that you can help your church or non-profit by using them.  This is the main thing about the current writings I’ve found that makes me want to poke myself in the eye with a thousand needles.  While several authors have written about how we should use OS in the church, very few if any gave specific tutorials or help to really get started.  In some ways, it’s “faith without works is dead” to abuse that metaphor.

I can attest to the fact that while very rewarding, the move to open source isn’t usually an easy one.  My goal is to not only to tell you why you should move to OS but also help you and your church make the transition into as many avenues of OS as possible (as painlessly as possible).  I believe that if people actually read this blog that they may realize just how many ways open source software can help them accomplish the Church’s mission.

Along those lines, I want to cater heavily toward the non-technical user.  On the other hand, if I think a project tutorial/review might be useful to a more technical church IT staff person, for instance, I’ll still include it.  Additionally, while targeted at church and non-profit use cases, I hope the tutorials will help anyone interested in getting started w/ a specific OS software.

I also can’t be an expert on everything (and it’s lame to reinvent the wheel), so I’ll also just post links to tutorials that already exist with additional comments for the church-specific use cases.

I did find a few blogs that deal with tutorials for OS software specific to the church and wanted to give props:

http://www.churchdb.org/

http://livingos.com/wp/churches/

Of course, we’ll not only talk about the numerous ways you can use open source software but also how you can and should become part of open source culture.  Open source isn’t moral or Christlike by itself, but it is an effective avenue to build community within our churchs and bridges to the secular world.  Whether donating documentation, bug reports, donations, etc., there are many ways for everyone to help open source communities across the world.

What we won’t do is talk about theology or topics that have no bearing on open source culture or its relation to the church.  This isn’t a general theology site; if it doesn’t deal with open source and the church, feel free to post to the off-topic post comments section here.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these subjects.

Open Source Church???

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Most beginnings start with an introduction, so here is mine.  My name is Kevin and I’m a software developer in Colorado Springs, CO.  I was initiated into the use of open source (OS) software through my job.

It wasn’t until I was married and made a budget, however, that I really delved fully into OS software.  I have many hobbies including graphic design, music, and video/audio production, and as a single guy I sunk all kinds of cash into them because I enjoyed them.  It wasn’t too long after my wife and I were dating more seriously that I was, um, educated in the wastefulness of my financial ways.  So, I got on a tighter budget and being already familiar with OS software, I started looking for projects that supported my hobbies.

As time went on I gradually replaced all of my proprietary (and partially pirated) software with OS alternatives.  As I got further into OS, I realized just how powerful the tools were.   I also realized some of these tools could replace some of the software my wife was using (Oh, how the tables turn!) and also that Windows and Mac aren’t the optimal platforms for most OS projects (even harder for my wife to swallow than the suggestion that Gimp replace her beloved Photoshop).  Then began the slow, prodding process of trying to convince her to “OK” conversion of all of our home computers to Linux.  Of course, she finally saw the light – or at least a small flicker – and let me take the plunge.  I moved everything to Fedora 8 a few years ago (which is what I used at work at the time) and immediately danced the jig of open source independence.

Since then, I’ve tried out, championed, fought with, and given up on a plethora of projects and distributions.  The ride wasn’t without it’s speed bumps, but as time has gone on I (and my wife too ;) ) have grown to love the freedom and community of using, supporting and being a part of OS projects and OS culture in general.

But that’s only the OpenSource part of this blog.  There’s also the Church part…which may, admittedly, seem a bit orthogonal.

First of all, let’s talk about what this Church thing is not.  This isn’t a church of Linux where we worship the software gods and sacrifice on the virtual alter of ones and zeros…or a community created religion where everyone gets to contribute to a hodge-podge belief system that is in the end completely worthless to anyone.

While those things might be interesting to some people, I’m simply just interested in helping churches and non-profits by advocating the use of open source projects and concepts to help them accomplish their purposes and day-to-day mission.  Let me give you a little background on why that’s interesting to me.

I was raised in church by my parents and have continued in the Christian faith my whole life (although my faith in Christ has taken a somewhat windy road and is much different than my parents’). In my life, I see the Christian community always lagging behind the rest of the world in many different ways.  Whether music styles or marriage advice, it seems that about 20-30 years after things have gotten popular in mainstream culture that “the church” finally figures out (if they ever do figure anything out) that many things aren’t as non-Christian as they originally thought and are then embraced and subsumed into church culture as the “new way to realize God’s potential for you so that you have a better Christian __fill_in_the_blank_here__”.  While this can be a good thing, let me stop and say that this bothers me a lot for many different reasons.

The main reason is that it seems from my perspective that church culture is more often shaped by secular culture rather than Christ and his teaching.  It also bothers me that church culture is following and not leading the way in many avenues of secular culture change.  One of these areas is open source culture.  As a part of this blog, we’ll discuss and decide how well OS culture matches with Christian teaching and why it’s very ironic, at best, that OS culture is being driven much more from “secular” geographies than our “Christian nation” of the U S of A.  In contrast, I want to see the church not only effect, but also directly drive culture in many positive, Christ-centered ways.  I believe OS culture can be one avenue to do so.

I’ve had the idea for this blog (and many related projects that will hopefully follow) for 3-4 years now, and I’ve finally decided to put my money (and time) where my mouth was…and is.  So, here I am at the edge of the cliff.  I hope that we can not only come together to help our churches and non-profits, but also that this is just the beginning of something I can’t even possibly imagine.

Most of all, I want to say “Welcome to the conversation!” I hope you enjoy everything to come about the intersection of open source culture and the church and that you’ll join me in making this a successful community.

ps.  Many thanks to Hope Presbyterian Church (http://hopepres.com/) for transferring the opensourcechurch.com domain to me.