The Microsoft Question: Supporting a ‘Cesspool of Evil’?

A while back I added some contact information to my blog page so people could easily get ahold of me.  It’s my personal opinion that, with the kind of blog I write, to be as transparent as comfortably possible.  If people want to get ahold of me, I’d love for them to.  I’m open to conversation and I love meeting new people.  Through people coming to this blog and through me reading other blogs, I’ve already gotten to meet some pretty amazing people.  Tonight, I got my first random phone call.

I did not get a chance to ask if I could talk about him on the blog, so I’ll call him Bruce (not his real name).

Bruce called and quickly introduced himself to me over the phone before launching into his reason for calling: Bruce wanted to know how I, as a Christian, could support Microsoft.

Now, let me first put a bit of context around my response.  The most important disclaimer is that, during this conversation and, as such on this bog, I made it very clear that aaronlinne.com is a personal blog and I do not speak in any way, shape or form as a representative of any Southern Baptist entity on this blog.  While I have the freedom to occasionally talk about my work or make note of the digital products LifeWay has released, the context of this blog is as digital media practitioner, who happens to be a LifeWay enthusiast, a gaming enthusiast, a comic book enthusiast and, of course, a spiritual matters enthusiast.

Bruce’s concern is that he sees a Microsoft as, and I quote, a “cesspool of evil.”  According to Bruce, Microsoft is the number one proponent of abortion and “gays” in the world.  He later clarified that it was actually the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that was the number one proponent, but – according to Bruce – Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are the same thing.

Instead of supporting the evil that is Microsoft, Bruce – a Linux enthusiast – I, as a Christian, have a moral obligation to use an alternative operating system (specifically, Ubuntu Linux).

My Technical Response

Bruce was quite concerned that I own a Zune, that I attended a Vista launch party, and that I like the Xbox.  In his mind, there were alternative MP3 players, that Ubuntu is better than Vista in EVERY way (literally), and that gaming is, well, evil.

When it comes to computing I am, for the most part, platform-agnostic.  I choose the best technology for the job, the best software for the tool.  I like Final Cut for editing, but use Microsoft Expression Encoder for any encoding.  I like Motion for simple lower thirds, but love After Effects for the complex stuff.  I like Photoshop and Illustrator for image design, but Like Microsoft Expression Web for webpages.  I used OpenOffice in college, but like the advances Office 2007 has made.  I’ll only code in Microsoft’s programming tools because they are so darned perfect for beginners like me.

From a purely technical standpoint, if you a creating content to be utilized by the widest possible range of people, you MUST have a Windows box.  At the very least, to test on.  It’s a must.  To ignore at least doing some quality assurance on a Windows box is equivalent to not testing your content for 95% of your audience.  It’s content-suicide to ignore Windows users.

I thought it was interesting the Bruce suggested that I just run Windows as a virtual machine on a Linux box.  Doesn’t that defeat the point of “not supporting evil Microsoft” by… well… supporting them?

I appreciate the fanboy support for alternative systems.  Like I’ve previously said on the blog, I used to be quite the Apple fanboy.  But there comes a time when you’re in the actual business of producing content that you realize that every system has it’s strengths and weaknesses.  You may not see them in your daily work, but other people use systems differently.  Is Vista perfect?  No.  Is OSX?  No.  Is Linux?  Yes (according to Bruce).  Sorry, but that narrow-mindedness just doesn’t work in a true business situation.

Linux machines are great for hosting webpages.  Unix machines are great for databases.  Macs are great for creative productivity and home usage.  Windows machines are great for office productivity, gaming and home usage.  I appreciate your passion, Bruce… but as someone who currently has a Mac G5, two Vista machines and two PCs with linux distros installed on them (that haven’t needed to be turned on since we moved to the new house)… I know how to use the best tool for the job.

My Spiritual Response

So the question remains (even though the majority of our conversation was Bruce explaining to me how/why I should use Linux): what is the moral and spiritual ramifications of using Microsoft tools and – thus – supporting them and their supposed support of immoral activity.

Let me just be upfront and be transparent in my ignorance: I simply do not know how Microsoft invests its money nor how it is they may support immoral activity.  When pressed for examples, Bruce said he had articles about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supporting planned parenthood in Africa (a quick Google search pulls up this article on the topic).  Here’s my problem with Bruce’s line of thought on this particular issue: Microsoft is a separate entity to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

As I tried to seperate the two in the conversation, Bruce adamantly said that “we all know that Microsoft is Bill Gates and Bill Gates is Microsoft.”  I find this a troubling perspective on an organization, the undermines the lives (and opinions, families, morals and souls) of any organization’s employees.  I also think that the nearly 90,000 Microsoft employees would disagree with Bruce and suggest that Microsoft is made up of more than just a retired founder.

Irregardless, we’re still left with the lingering question: is it morally ok to purchase products or content produced by a company who we’ve been told support immoral activities (whatever you define as immoral)?

I’m not 100% sure what my opinion on this topic is.  In Acts, Paul uses a statue of an unknown god to tell the story of Christ.  He doesn’t chastise theme for creating the sculpture, but instead utilizes the ways of their culture to tell the story.  Are we not allowed to do the same with today’s story-telling mediums, of the digital kind?  Where this breaks down, of course, is that Paul did not pay the sculptor to chisel out the statue.

I don’t know that I have an answer for this particular question.  I think that it’s ok to have some tension in our spiritual decisions.  On the specific topic of Microsoft, I’m as of yet unaware of any intentional “immoral activity.”  Which leads to another spiritual question: if I’m ignorant of a corporation’s wrongdoings, does it absolve me from any personal wrongs in supporting their questionable activity?  And, of course, this leads into one more question: what makes a corporation’s activities “immoral?”  In my MBA courses we would talk extensively about social responsibility of corporations and there are some definitive wrongdoings (breaking the law, killing people, etc etc)… but a corporation’s culture can never match all of the opinions of all of its customers (and non-customers who want to critique said company).  This will continue to be a topic for me to think about and explore.

Epilogue

In our conversation, I told Bruce that he sounded more like he was angry with me than he was concernedabout me.  He agreed: he told me that he was angry at the sin and that we are supposed to hate evil.  That Microsoft was evil and that my support of them is evil.  At this, my heart broke.

I don’t really know what Bruce’s intentions were.  I found some of his comments on other blogs on the topics of politics, fundamentalism and, of course, linux.  Bruce does seem to be passionate and have strong opinions.  But so much of his language and posts (and our conversation) seemed fueled by anger, hatred and pride.  There is no question to me that he deems himself a better person, more “holy,” and wiser than me because he uses the Ubuntu and I use Vista.

Ultimately, in the end, I’m not sure Christ is going to judge me based on what operating system I used to mesh my physical and digital lives.  I’m not sure Christ is going to care whether I used Final Cut or Adobe Premiere to edit video to tell His story, the story of LifeWay, or the snippets of my life on YouTube.

What concerns me is how things like this must look to people outside the church.  If Christian fight over the morality of operating systems… where is the love there?  Where is the grace?  If a brother in Christ prayed before calling me and approached me in anger – and he admitted he did both – where does that bring in the holiness and morality Bruce was seeking in choosing the “right” operating system?

Bruce: I appreciate your sincerity in calling me and sharing your passions with me.  If you have found a company to be of immoral repute and feel the need to educate and question people’s support thereof, I encourage you to do so in a mature, loving manner.  But next time let us talk about the spiritual matters and cultural ramifications.  Here’s to hoping this post did not offend you, nor is of immoral substinance.  It was, after all, written using Internet Explorer running on WIndows Vista.

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13 Responses to “The Microsoft Question: Supporting a ‘Cesspool of Evil’?”

  1. Do you really use Internet Explorer? Now THAT’S evil.

  2. Excellent post! Aaron, thanks for your thought out, mature approach. Seems too many in the church today are angry. Wonder what it would be like if the world saw us having the joy of Christ more? Thanks for sharing.

  3. Good job with this Aaron. I guess I’d like to ask Bruce, “Where do we stop? Why just Microsoft? What about the company that provides your high-speed Internet service? What kind of things do they support? What about the shirt on your back? Where was it made? Who made it? What did they get paid?”

    The point is, this is a broken and impertfect world, we as believers can’t function in the world without interacting with the world. Actually, that’s what we’re called to do. Let’s don’t be anti-Microsoft because they (rather Bill Gates) supports Planned Parenthood. Let’s spend that time and energy getting out there and loving on people and their kids so that they don’t NEED Planned Parenthood. Let’s invest in building worthy God honoring movements that people would want to give their money to, whether they are believers or not.

  4. Great post. Two things:

    Irregardless is redundant.

    Microsoft is just as evil as Apple as are the pagans who create Ubuntu. It’s all man-made.

  5. Great post and response Aaron.

    When I see Jesus in the Gospels I see him trying to start relationships with the most sinful people (tax collectors, prostitutes, etc.) I don’t see him running away from them.

    If we stop spending money with people that sin, we will save alot of money . The only problem is, we will never spend another dime. I think the factor should be the product. Does it cause me to sin? Does it cause me to get closer to Jesus? Does it do neither?

    If it causes you to sin (Vista has caused me to curse, so Bruce may be onto to something..just kidding) don’t get it. Other wise, tell others about Christ and quit being silly.

  6. And to further your point, just about any company that we buy stuff from has most likely given money to “evil” causes at some point. Or continuously does so. It would be hard to find a company that hasn’t supported “gays,” for example.

    On the subject of “gays,” since when is supporting the basic civil liberties and protection from persecution of American citizens evil? You don’t have to agree with their lifestyle to agree with the fact that homosexuals and confused, frightened (unexposed to the gospel, even) women who are facing unplanned pregnancy deserve to be treated with love and respect.

    PS- I do think Microsoft is evil, but that’s only because they created the xbox. Cursed machine.

  7. Robert I Masters Says:

    Hi Aaron.
    This is Rob Masters aka Bruce!. Feel free to use my real name.
    I would like to clarify several facts about our conversation.
    I think in several of the points we were talking past each other…I never intended to communicate to you that I hated you. My point was that we, as Christians, should hate the evil that is the homosexual agenda and abortion or the abortion industry.
    Secondly I was trying to recall what I said that made you think I thought gaming is evil. I dont believe that in any fashion. I do believe that in terms of eternal significance, gaming is not on the top of my to do list.
    Iam sure you can show me how you it should be there…more power to you!
    Aaron, not sure how you got this ….”There is no question to me that he deems himself a better person, more ”holy,” and wiser than me because he uses the Ubuntu and I use Vista”.
    If Grace is the way we come to Christ then why would I be better then you?….not possible. I think this comes from the category error mentioned in the first point..ie You vs the agenda.
    The point about all companies supporting some evil is a mute point because we are talking about financial supporting a corporation. Free software is always at no cost to purchase. There is no cost to use free software(notice I didnt say open source for you mac boys and girls).
    Thus the issue is stewardship.
    Aaron flash is available in free alternatives …ie swfdec and Gnash.

    http://www.gnu.org/software/gnash/

    also really cool Compiz Fusion is a must see!

    http://fusioncast.blogspot.com/

    In Christ
    Robert I Masters

  8. Robert,
    Although I disagree with some of your thoughts, your reply was very respectful, graceful, and non-aggresive. Thanks for that. My biggest question to you is this. Why the emphasis on Homosexuals/the abortion industry. Don’t get me wrong, both are horrible and against God’s word. What is that has shifted your focus on these two issues and not other horrible issues? Why not unfaithfulness in marriages, premarital sex, or lust causing advertisments (all sexual sin, equally damaging as the homosexual movement.) Please understand that I am not condoning any sin. I’m just confused why we choose to pick certain ones and protest them above others.
    I believe there is a place and time to teach repentence, but I also know we can preach what Christ is For as easily as we can preach what He is against.

  9. Robert I Masters Says:

    Andy,
    The issue here was really the position of Microsoft in promoting abortion as an Industry and advancing the Homosexual agenda. Microsoft leads the pack!
    I do not believe all sins are equal. It is true that all sins separate us from a Holy God but the consequences of sins are different for different sins. That is why we dont have the death penalty for speeders.
    Again I not aware of Microsoft promoting unfaithfulness or premarital sex like they are in those two areas. What lust causing advertisements make Microsoft a vangard in that arena? I dont own a tv but have not noticed that on the web.
    I think you will find that John Piper communicates the Biblical perspective in this message.
    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TopicIndex/47_Abortion/1951_When_Is_Abortion_Racism/
    I want to associate Microsoft with both the evil of abortion and the societal acceptance of homosexuality. I want to stigmatize both in our culture. Microsoft carries the banner of those twin evils in the corporate world.

    Notice I did not say stigmatize individual people but rather a corporation.

    To put it in a positive way I would like to see Microsoft become more like
    Chick-Fil-a

    God Bless
    Robert I Masters

  10. Robert –

    Can you please provide some firm evidence that Microsoft is promoting abortion as an industry and advancing the homosexual agenda? Regardless of whether or not a person deems those thing immoral and, thus, reason to boycott a corporation, you have not shown anything that suggests Microsoft is doing such things.

  11. Robert I Masters Says:

    Aaron,
    Here

    http://jamesfarrar.wordpress.com/2007/12/01/microsofts-homosexual-agenda/

    http://www.advocate.com/news_detail_ektid24793.asp

    http://towleroad.typepad.com/towleroad/2005/04/steve_ballmer_s.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/27/national/27microsoft.html

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,155745,00.html

    On the Abortion topic agenda!

    http://prolifepc.com/index.html

    http://www.lifenews.com/nat2369.html

    follow the money trail here….see Ric Weiland and Stephanie DeVaan
    http://gizmodo.com/5019527/bill-gates-made-men-the-wild-n-crazy-ventures-of-the-microsoft-millionaires

    http://archive.salon.com/21st/feature/1998/01/cov_29feature.html
    notice the Microsoft stock donations

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2006/aug/15/internationalaidanddevelopment.aids

    http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/dolle/051222

    Aaron,
    I really believe that the Bible is clear on this issue so i will quote the Bible.
    Ephesians 5:16-17

    Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

    Do the right thing!
    In Christ
    Robert I Masters

  12. I’m just curious what this means, “Homosexual Agenda”?

  13. Robert –

    The articles you posted in regards to supporting gay rights all say that Microsoft switched from supporting them to taking a neutral stance. A quote from CEO Steve Balmer, from one of the articles you posted:

    “It’s appropriate to invoke the company’s name on issues of public
    policy that directly affect our business and our shareholders, but
    it’s much less clear when it’s appropriate to invoke the company’s
    name on broader issues that go far beyond the software industry – and
    on which our employees and shareholders hold widely divergent
    opinions. We are a public corporation with a duty first and foremost
    to a broad group of shareholders. On some issues, it is more
    appropriate for employees or shareholders to get involved as
    individual citizens. As CEO, I feel a real sense of responsibility
    around this question, and I believe there are important distinctions
    between my personal views on policy issues and when it’s appropriate
    to involve the company.”

    They’re saying right there that there is a clear difference between people’s personal opinions and what the corporation should do.

    I do not know what their current stance on the issue is. However, I have to say that the mere fact that Microsoft is struggling with and conversing about how to handle their corporate responsibilities and social actions is a good thing. They may not land where you and I land, but at least there is tension there and they are trying to figure out what is right.

    The abortion links are all about individuals or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Donations and actions of employees from Microsoft or an organization separate from Microsoft does not mean that Microsoft supports abortion. If you are truly concerned about the abortion issue you raise here, you would be better served commenting on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and or the individuals you seem to have judged. By attacking Microsoft for the actions of an entirely separate organization you appear to have a unclear and confused agenda.

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