This is a note that I am sending to people who send me chain letters, what I call those forwards we all get:

I got your chain letter today. I appreciate your thinking of me. I almost never forward them to other people although some are pretty, thought-provoking, or clever. Since I usually get them from family, friends, neighbors, or other people I know, I’d like to explain why I don’t forward most of them.

The worst chain letters (e-mail or snail mail) are those that promise something bad will happen if you don’t send them on. People used to open one of them, and they could be very disturbing. Nearly as bad are those that promise some wonderful reward or blessing. I really don’t think God uses e-mail for miracles, do you?  I don’t believe in e-mail magic or curses. I don’t think e-mail “signatures” give much weight to petitions, either. And, frankly, I don’t like people telling me I don’t care about my loved ones if I don’t send them something, just because it has a spiritual message, and frankly, some of them are pretty mediocre.

I am a communicator. I preach, teach, counsel, write, and do radio. I realize that most people don’t find it as easy as I do to say something nice or thoughtful. At that, I would still prefer that people who care about me just dropped me a note and said so. I am always happy to hear from the people I know and love, and I try really hard to answer any personal correspondence I get. Forwards aren’t very personal, but I’m still glad you thought of me.

Like I said, I write. I have a weblog here. If you would like to know me better and find out what I think about a lot of things, look around here or check out Bedrock or Roger’s Rationale. I’m just learning to “blog” and started doing it only a couple of months ago. I have three things I want to do in my “blogs,” and I talk about that in several of my blogs.  I also talk a bit about how being a Christian influences my thinking.

I get a fair number of chain letters that are meant to encourage people spiritually. I’m a preacher so I could say a lot about that, probably way more than most people want to hear or read. Here’s a short version: I believe the Bible is true and tells me what God wants me to know. I trust what it says, and I trust Jesus to save me from my sins. Jesus died for all of us sinners, even though he never sinned. He rose from the dead and gives eternal life to those who believe. I’m looking forward to seeing many of my family, friends, and neighbors there with me, and I hope that includes you. If you want to know more, just ask me, or read the Bible, especially books like the Gospel of John. My favorite book is Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

You should understand, though, that most people won’t read an impersonal Christian message. E-mails like this are no better than printed tracts that end up on the sidewalk or in the trash. Sharing the gospel works best after we have taken the time to build a relationship, and people have had the chance to see the impact our faith has on our own lives, that is, to see our love, inner peace, and hope. Then they may be willing to listen and be impressed by what they see in us.

One especially annoying chain letter asks for signatures and petitions to keep someone, often Madelein Murray O’Hare who is long dead, from removing anything Christian from radio and TV. It refers to a petition before the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) by number (No. 2493). The number is always the same, at least in any I’ve received, and I’ve been getting them by letter, fax, and now e-mail for over 25 years! They’ll sometimes refer to prominent Christians like James Dobson or Pat Robertson to give them credibility. When I worked in Christian radio, from 1982 to 1997, we used to get calls, every couple of years it seemed, asking about this. The problem is sometimes updated to whatever is in the news, Christmas carols being sung in schools, for example.

This e-mail is a HOAX!! Prominent Christian broadcasters have told their listeners and viewers not to circulate petitions, over and over again. Dr. Dobson has a big section about it on his website and tells about a few other similar hoaxes (Did you hear the one about Proctor and Gamble being connected to a Satanic church?). I think atheists have kept this hoax going to embarrass gullible Christians. The FCC keeps receiving petitions, even after receiving millions, in spite of having dismissed the original numbered case, years and years ago. Do a web search on this, on hoaxes, or on urban legends, and you will find plenty.

Here’s something I’d like you to know, if you don’t already know it. You cannot believe everything you read or hear. Never, never act on something you get through e-mail, especially if it involves money! I’ve checked out several e-mail stories, usually involving something sad or scary.  I’ve received false stories about Billie Graham, Oliver North, and missing children who weren’t missing. I’ve been told how to save myself during a heart attack, how to use a cell phone to do things it won’t do, and how to protect my computer from viruses where the procedure is the virus.  I’ve learned that if I can’t verify it, easily, on the Internet, it probably isn’t true. If you do a search on Google, you’ll probably find the truth without even trying hard.  It’s worth the little bit of effort it takes.

I don’t know why people send bogus e-mails and chain letters. It’s weird! That’s why I don’t play. Just don’t think it’s because I don’t care about you, have no desire to see you saved (if you’re not), or don’t want you or my loved ones to be happy and blessed.

Here’s my prayer for you. “May the Lord keep you safe and well, guard you from sickness and tragedy, and guide you through the difficult things in this world. I pray you will know how much God loves you, that you will live in his love, that you will follow his commandments, and that you will know the hope that only God can give.” Being a Christian won’t guarantee your happiness, but it will give you the best chance for a good life, peace even during the worst trials, and a life that honors God and blesses others.

Being a single man, I am probably far too self-absorbed. I don’t express love and affection easily, so I don’t give people my regards often enough. However, I do love my family, care for my friends, and appreciate my students and my good neighbors. Know I value my relationship with you; otherwise, I wouldn’t bother sending you this note. SHALOM x 3*, ROGER

* Check out my xanga blog, SHALOM x 3, on February 3, 2006 for an explanation of this benediction.
Updated 03/08/07


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