The Electronic Ministry Finds a Home Online
by Mitch Lemus

Yet another newcomer to the information highway is online, and this time, paving a detour to the heavens.

The Ministry of Faith Broadcasting Network has unveiled a new interactive service called PiousNet -- "the Internet's direct line to God."

The service, a joint venture with the Lord, offers members such interactive features as online faith healing, a cyber confessional, and even electronic G-mail® for sending messages to and from God. (Internet address:

To log on to the service, members dial into PiousNet's Great O' Database, or GOD, located in the basement of the Vatican. Upon connection, users browse the service via a point-and-click graphical interface called Messiah.®


One option off PiousNet's homepage is a salvation-on-demand service called Compufess®, billed as "the online confessional for the sinner on the go."

Says Ministry televangelist, Randall Sinclair Prescott: "Whether you inhaled a controlled substance, embezzled money from your employer, or poisoned your neighbor's barking dog, now you need not burn in hell. Compufess gives sinners religious freedom to atone as many times as necessary -- all from the privacy of their own home." And, he adds, "All for the miraculously low price of just $2.99 per confession. Remember, `Thou art a holy man who doth not squander the fruits of his labor, JOB, 15:37'".

"Simply enter your sins into the computer like this,"demonstrated a service rep, typing the words, `Bless me Father, for I have sinned ... I've had unchaste urges for my wife's brother.' God then analyzes your dirty deeds and computes the appropriate penance in seconds -- be it 100 Hail Marys, Acts of Contrition, or Glory Bes."


Other interactive offerings include MiracleMaker® -- an online faith healing program for ailments ranging from gout to chronic fatigue. "In the name of our Lord Jesus, heal my festering boil," typed the service rep. Prescott, however, is quick to point out that online miracles work only for those who are "true believers."


In a lighter side of the service, users can access The Holy Kingdom CyberCade®, a multimedia playland featuring Bible-oriented computer games. ArkQuest®, licensed from Sega, challenges players' ability to roundup as many species as possible in the wake of an oncoming cyberstorm. Another game, Immortal Crusader®, places you in the role of martyr in a bloody battle against a room full of liberals.


PiousNet strives to reach a broad customer base with its ability to be tailored to each worshiper's personal values and beliefs. With a proprietary program called IdolWorks®, members can graphically digitize their vision of God's dimensions and features, as well as view Him in their choice of 256 colors. God's spoken words can even be downloaded in over 50 languages, with the ability to customize tonal qualities such as timbre, reverb and accent. On a negative note, files from the heavens seem to take an eternity to download, due to limited bandwidth and the great distance the data has to travel.


Portions of some PiousNet screens display ads like "Save Your Soul...Make Your Tax-Deductible Donation to the Christian Caucus Now. Click Here." And another urges users to "Order Limited-Quantity Autographed Bibles...Now 20% Off in PiousMart® ."


For users in need of technical help, PiousNet offers PrayerAssist®, a 24-hour customer service hotline. Manned by specially trained prayer counselors, the hotline guides callers to Biblical passages that might hold solutions to their software problems.

Recently, some beta testers experienced problems with computer viruses, maliciously uploaded to the service by atheist hackers. Customer Service points out, however, that garbled text which often appears on screen is not a glitch, but rather, the system speaking in tongues. All PrayerAssist callers are encouraged to make a donation to ensure results.


Meanwhile, some skeptics in the scientific community question the viability of PiousNet's vaunted conduit to the heavens. Dr. Rashnook Baklavha of MIT's Media Lab derides G-mail as "vaporware." "The technology to communicate with the metaphysical does not yet exist, and might not until well into the next decade," Baklavha stated.

Reverend Prescott prays for his detractors. "May you one day become enlightened by the Lord's phosphorescent glow. Log on to PiousNet's ChapelChat® and witness a hallowed alternative to your blasphemous bulletin boards of fornication and sin."

Despite the naysayers, many investors look favorably upon the endeavor. "With the incredible growth of Prodigy, America Online, and Compuserve, I see great opportunity for niche services like PiousNet," says Mort Greenblatt, an industry analyst at Merrill Lynch. "They have successfully identified a gullible, albeit economically desirable market." In fact, the word on Wall Street is that major players like Time Warner and Bell Atlantic are anxious to acquire a stake in the upstart.

As for the service's long-term plans, Prescott says, "PiousNet is destined to be the gateway to the next Great Awakening. By the year 2000," he predicts, "it will be installed in every school and trailer home in America."

Whether the Ministry ever realizes its virtual dreams, only God knows.

To subscribe call 1-800-PIOUSNET.

All fees are tax-deductible. Available for both Mac and IBM-compatible PCs. "PiousNet" is a registered trademark of the Reverend Randall Sinclair Prescott's Ministry of Faith. © 1995. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared in Manhattan File

Copyright © 1996 Mitch Lemus