I had a hard time responding to her sincere question, "Is this against God?" after spending the summer in a country where pirated movies are easier to find than the real thing, and where my house was home to quite a few of them (As a simplistic moral lesson, I will add that the one DVD I bought was such horrible quality that we couldn't even watch it).
And her situation just seemed so sad. It's a financial impossibility for my friend to treat her kids to a full-price movie theater expedition. A pirated internet movie at least gives them some entertainment to enjoy while the neighbors are sitting in $11 seats chugging $4 Coke and $6 popcorn.
Add to my own guilt complex and socialistic proclivity the fact that pirated media seems so harmless. People are still going to theaters, still paying extra to buy real DVDs (that work), still buying music. It's not like the American entertainment complex is going out of business because a few people are desperate enough to watch distorted knock-offs on their home computers.
And, for better or worse, most people ascribe to that same internal cost/benefit analysis.
This is why I find it hard to share in the secular condemnation of Father Tim Jones's sermon advocating shoplifting for poor people:
The Rev Jones – or "Father Tim", as this Anglican minister prefers to be known – is preaching that theft is good, at least if you're one of the poor and needy. Addressing the congregation at St Lawrence's church in York on Sunday, the vicar, whose photograph suggests he has certainly mastered the art of pious posing, said that the worst-off might engage in a little light shoplifting in order to avoid resorting to mugging and prostitution.
"I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses," he continued in his rather unique spin on the festive lesson, "but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices… I would ask them not to take any more than they need."
What is hackle-raising is Father Tim's condoning stealing in God's name.
Somehow I doubt that the God who told a crowd of needy Palestinians gathered on a hill in East Jerusalem, "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell," would follow that with "but stealing from big business is okay."
I guess the lesson here is the one David taught, "Against You and You only have I sinned, and committed this evil in your sight." Not against a corporation, not against a Hollywood producer, not against a pop musician.