“There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily.”
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”—Jesus Christ, John 8:32
I believe two qualities encompass godly character—love and truth. I believe they are equally necessary and inseparable. I believe it takes a full measure of both truthfulness and genuine compassion for the people around us, loved ones and strangers alike, for us to be credible transmitters of the profound mysteries of grace and the good news of Jesus. When we fail to care genuinely about people and show it, when we fail to care genuinely about the accuracy of the things we say and share, then we will fail to represent our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in a manner that brings him honor and makes him believable to those around us.
A while back, I wrote a letter to send to people who sent me various items to forward to all my friends. Then I posted it here because I wanted to give the ideas a broader audience. In the year and a half since then, I have continued to get e-mails that I find both irritating and pathetic. The pathetic ones are false; the people who send them are pathetic because they pass on, as true, information that is not true. Christians should NEVER do that!!
We live in a world of sinners over which Satan remains sovereign, beaten at the cross but still powerful. Governments, media, political parties, religious sects, large and small corporations, and the entertainment industry often front for the schemes of the enemy, but individual sinners do evil wherever they are, even in the Church. However, knowing that evil is present doesn’t mean that every appearance of evil is indeed evil or even as it appears. We can’t believe things simply because the fit our preconceived expectations. God is a God of truth, and his people must be circumspect in verifying the truth of whatever we say, write, or repeat, including forwarding e-mails. Here are some examples of what I mean.
First, this oldie but goodie is still around: “(P)etition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel of our Lord and Savior on the airwaves of America.” You can even find it on the Internet, but if you look you will find it debunked, big time by James Dobson, who is often given as a source, by other Christian organizations, and by every other hoax and urban legend site. Frankly, I don’t know how any Christian could be so out of touch as to still bite on this one.
This one I just received, although I had seen it previously: “You guessed it – ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ IS GONE!!! If ever there was a reason to boycott something, THIS IS IT!!!! DO NOT ACCEPT THE NEW DOLLAR COINS AS CHANGE. Together we can force them out of circulation.” Typical of this sort of message, the type fonts were huge and brightly colored…and WRONG!!!! The new dollar coins were redesigned to place the motto on the edge in order to allow more space for the images of the U. S. Presidents which will be feature until all 43 or more have been minted. The first run apparently had a small percentage that missed the edge stamping step. Indeed, the motto “In God We Trust” has a long history and would not easily be dropped with major political furor.
I didn’t quite know what to make of this one: “Mental Feng Shui—There’s some mighty fine advice in these words, even if you’re not superstitious. This Lotus Touts has been sent to you for good luck from the Anthony Robbins organization. It has been sent around the world ten times so far. Do not keep this message. The Lotus Touts must leave your hands in 6 MINUTES. Otherwise you will get a very unpleasant surprise. This is true, even if you are not superstitious, agnostic, or otherwise faith impaired. ONE. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully….(20 more gems like that)…Now, here’s the FUN part! Send this to at least 5 people and your life will improve. 1-4 people: Your life will improve slightly. 5-9 people: Your life will improve to your liking. 9-14 people: You will have at least 5 surprises in the next 3 weeks. 15 and above: Your life will improve drastically and everything you ever dreamed of will begin to take shape. A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart. Do not keep this message.” You’ll find this one, all over the Net, too, but I don’t know why. You can find out a bit more here. My objections are the promises of good luck if you send, more if you send to more people, but the threat of bad luck if you don’t. This takes it from the realm of nice to nasty, in my opinion.
It’s hard to decide which kind I hate worst, but this one is a contender: “On Jeopardy the other night, the final question was ‘How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns.’ All three missed it. This is really an awesome sight to watch if you’ve never had the chance. 1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why? 21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.” You can read the whole thing here along with a listing of the false information that was added. I have received a number of this sort, partially true but amended, as if to make it better. Of course, by adding false information, it is corrupted. I will never understand why anyone would take an already awesome description and add false material, but they have done it here. It is twisted, a kind of bizarre oddity that would seem to come from those who are patriotic. There’s nothing patriotic or noble about lying!
A similar kind is this one: “In what might prove to be the crowning achievement of an illustrious career in ministry, the 87-year-old evangelist, Billy Graham shocked the 16,300 in attendance at the Celebration of Hope crusade in New Orleans Arena on Sunday Night. Touted in advance as possibly his last evangelistic crusade, Graham invited the packed house of evangelical Christians and the hundreds of new converts to join him on the one mile walk from the arena to New Orleans’ infamous Bourbon Street.” Billy Graham did preach in New Orleans in March of 2006, but that’s all. As if Graham’s lifetime evangelistic preaching wasn’t enough, someone felt the need to add a totally fictional trek to Bourbon Street. Not just e-mails, this one is also posted on the Internet. I don’t know which is worse, but in both cases, people were apparently too lazy to check their facts, a process that is remarkably easy with Google or any other search engine.
What do you think of this one? “A traitor is about to be honored…Jane Fonda is being honored as one of the 100 Women of the Century by Barbra Walters.” This is another with a mix of truth and fabrication. Like many of this sort of thing, once in cyberspace, they take on a life of their own. The honor took place in 1999 on the threshold of the new millennium, but I got this forward in March of 1005. The event in question was over by the time I received it.
Now we all get disgusted with Hollywood actors Anti-American behavior, so I guess it’s normal to want to hear of the few good guys: “While Denzel Washington was visiting BAMC, they gave him a tour of one of the Fisher Houses. He asked how much one of them would cost to build. He took his check book out and wrote a check for the full amount right there on the spot. The soldiers overseas were amazed to hear this story and want to get the word out to the American public, because it warmed their hearts to hear it.” As Fisher House President David Coker puts it, “Washington did make a ‘sizable’ donation to the program,” but “the e-mail claim is almost entirely bogus.” Again, it seems to be a case of trying to make a good story better, but making it worse by inventing facts that never occurred.
I usually check e-mails I get, on the spot. Occasionally, I get an unexpected surprise, as in this case: “In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American… There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.” It was credited to Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, one hundred years ago. I liked it so I wanted to get a precise reference. The quotation is legit, but the date is wrong. So, is fabricating a date just a little thing? Who cares if it was a hundred years ago or more or less?
That same Roosevelt said, “The man who knows the truth and has the opportunity to tell it, but who nonetheless refuses to, is among the most shameful of all creatures. God forbid that we should ever become so lax as that.” He was speaking to American citizens, but how much more relevant are his words for those who bear the name of Jesus Christ? I am appalled at the flagrant dishonesty of both media and politicians, as I have written. I am even more dismayed by the carelessness with which Christians respect accuracy and reliability in their communications. It breaks my heart to deal with people, especially those close to me, who are not merely honest but transparently so. Our relationships depend on the trust that comes from candor, tactful and loving but honest and forthright. Our testimony, as any testimony in any kind of court, is useful only if it true, and our reputation for truthfulness will determine whether people believe us at the most critical times.
If someone sends a patriotic e-mail with factual errors or fabrications, then they may expect that their next effort to share spiritual truth will not be taken seriously. Frankly, many of the many inspirational e-mails I receive are rather simplistic and shallow, like feeding me hotdogs when I’m hungry for steak. I would hope people would have adult thoughts to share with adults, but I get plenty of childishly simple pieces, more simpleminded than uncomplicated. That doesn’t bear much resemblance to Biblical truth. Even worse, I often receive extortive or
manipulative e-mails that question my Christian character or love for my friends if I don’t forward things that I find embarrassingly shallow. That isn’t evangelism; you cannot browbeat people into sharing Christ or receiving him. In such cases, both truth and love are absent, and the effort is totally without credibility or even basic good taste.
[I’m not sure why the paragraph about the Mental Feng Shui is messed up. The link is here. The content is included in the link, all the kind of nice, good advice you can find anywhere. Personally I prefer the Bible. My objection is the threat of bad luck and the promise of good luck based on how many friends you send it to…It’s just stupid!]