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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XBox Surface

When we were in Seattle, John let us play with the Microsoft Surface. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkQQ7fhJieQ&hl=en] One of the questions I asked (you can hear it in the video) is when I can use it with my XBox.  John's answer was that it could play Games for Windows, so I could play Halo 2 on it... But this guy got confirmation that it could be used as an accessory to the actual 360. Sweet, delicious table-gaming on the XBox.  Now go make me a Magic: The Gathering game to go with it, please!
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