Reporting Levon Putney
NEPTUNE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP/ 1010 WINS/WCBS 880) — A New Jersey pastor is giving his married church leaders an ultimatum: delete Facebook or resign.
Rev. Cedric Miller likens Facebook to the serpent in the Garden of Eden luring Eve to taste the poisoned fruit.
Miller said a large percentage of his marital counseling over the past year and a half has included infidelity stemming from the social-network website.
“One or the other spouse is on Facebook and reconnects with an old flame,” Miller said. “It’s even gone to the point where there have been inappropriate reconnections.”
Because of the problems, he is ordering about 50 married church officials to delete their accounts with the social networking site or resign from their leadership positions. He had previously asked married congregants to share their login information with their spouses and now plans to suggest that they give up Facebook altogether.
Just like an alcoholic, the pastor wants his married followers to go cold turkey.
“You need to drive a different route home if you can not pass that liquor store without stopping,” Miller told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg. “We set the example, that’s what we do, and people will do what we do.”
The leader of Living Word Christian Fellowship Church in Neptune Township says people no longer meet old friends from high school in a platonic way. He says Facebook is igniting old passions.
“In and of itself there’s nothing wrong with it, but from a Christian worldview perspective to reconnect with a past love while you’re married is absolutely inappropriate,” Miller said.
Miller is married and has a Facebook account that he uses to keep in touch with six children, but he will heed his own advice and cancel his account this weekend.
On Sunday, he plans to “strongly suggest” that all married people to stop using Facebook, lest they endanger their marriage.
“The advice will go to the entire church,” he said. “They’ll hear what I’m asking of my church leadership. I won’t mandate it for the entire congregation, but I hope people will follow my advice.”
Miller said he has spoken from the pulpit before about the dangers of Facebook, asking married couples to give each other their passwords to the site.
“Some did. Others got scared and deleted their accounts right away. And some felt it was none of my business and continued on,” he said.
Miller said he has gotten a mostly positive response so far among the leaders subject to his edict.
Pat Dawson, a minister at the church, uses her Facebook account to see photos of her relatives. She is unmarried and therefore not required to delete her account, but she agrees with Miller about the dangers such sites can create.
“I know he feels very strongly about this,” she said. “It can be a useful tool, but it also can cause great problems in a relationship. If your spouse won’t give you his or her password, you’ve got a problem.”
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says 81 percent of its members have used or been faced with evidence plucked from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites in divorce cases over the last five years.
About one in five adults uses Facebook for flirting, according to a 2008 report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. And a do-it-yourself divorce site in the United Kingdom, Divorce-Online, reported late last year that the word “Facebook” was appearing in about one in five of the petitions it was handling.
Miller says there are legitimate uses for Facebook, which is why he started an account a few years ago.
“People use it as an opportunity to invite others to social gatherings, to share Scripture or talk about what went on at church,” he said. “Those are all positive, worthwhile things. But the downside is just too great.”
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