Outrageous news is broadcast by outraged Christians via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and all manner of other social media pathways. It’s their duty to get the word out, by golly, and thank God for the technology that lets it spread far and wide so quickly. I mean, shouldn’t the world know about . . .
FLORIDA COURT SETS ATHEIST HOLY DAY
FCC PETITION TO BAN RELIGIOUS TELEVISION PROGRAMMING
CBS CANCELED TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL BECAUSE OF REFERENCES TO GOD
NASA SCIENTISTS HAVE DISCOVERED EVIDENCE FOR JOSHUA’S “MISSING DAY”
SOVIET SCIENTISTS DRILLED INTO HELL
PROCTER AND GAMBLE’S LOGO IS SATANIC
“THE BEAST” IS A SUPERCOMPUTER IN BELGIUM
There’s only one small problem . . . none of those “news items” are true. Some are just plain fabrications, like the Russians drilling into hell, and others are twisted half-truths. Well, “half” may be giving too much credit.
Take the Petition to End Religious Broadcasting. Even though it refers to a petition to the FCC (which would not have ended religious broadcasting) that was proposed in 1974 and rejected in 1975, that zombie-like Rumor That Will Not Die still resurfaces. Often linked to it is the information that Madelyn Murray O’Hair, the famous Atheist who supposedly started the petition (she didn’t) also was responsible for getting “Touched By An Angel” taken off the air. But . . . “Touched By An Angel” wasn’t cancelled until 2003 . . . eight years after O’Hair died.
Those pesky Atheists are such a bother from beyond the grave.
So what’s the big deal? What harm is there in Christians sending and forwarding an endless stream of these Urban Legends? Might there even be some good in getting folks fired up about defending their faith? What’s the harm?
The undisputable and dangerous harm is to our witness and to the Gospel itself. We Christians claim to be people who have the TRUTH. We say that we are followers of Jesus Christ, the Way, the TRUTH, and the life.
If we send around stuff that is untrue, then we damage our witness. Once someone who is not a believer finds out we’re sending them something made up purporting to be “truth,” then why should they believe what we have to say about Jesus? This is especially true when we send out something that supposedly “proves” part of the Bible (NASA Finds Evidence for Joshua’s Missing Day!).
Nonbelievers don’t need “proof.” For one thing, there is no “proof” that God exists. That’s why we need faith. What we are called to show unChristians is Jesus Christ. In us. Very rarely, if ever, is anyone ever argued into faith. People are LOVED into faith.
Our most effective witness is showing Christ’s love in what we say, do, and how we treat other people.
Atheists and agnostics think Christians are gullible people who have fallen for fairy tales or legends. That’s certainly what I thought about Christians when I was an unChristian. Promoting stuff like this, in their minds, just confirms the wackiness of Christianity.
Once when I responded to a Christian Urban Legend E-mail with an argument of this sort, the forwarder asked, “Well, maybe an atheist would at least go to the Bible to check this stuff out.”
No non-believer would go to the Bible and look up verses based on e-mails such as these. They don’t believe the Bible is true – why look there? As soon as they see that the history or the science is messed up, that’s where they are going to stop. Stuff like this keeps non-believers OUT of the Bible. It did me when I was an unChristian and I know from talking to other non-believers – especially young people – that its the same for them.
That’s why I always respond when someone e-mails me one of these Urban Legends. It’s why I usually can’t help myself when a Facebook Friend posts one of them that shows up on my feed.
Look, some of the stories are kind of fun. I even used one in a sermon once (about an aircraft carrier telling a lighthouse to get out of its way). But I prefaced the illustration by saying it was like a parable – not a true story, but a fiction with a moral.
In the post-modern world in which we live, it is hard enough for Christianity to get taken seriously in the marketplace of ideas. Let’s not make it harder by promulgating falsehoods as truth, especially when the same technology that makes it so easy to spread Urban Legends makes it so easy to check them out.
SOME FACT-CHECKING SITES THAT I USE
Snopes.com – I start here; the best all-around information and fun to read many of the non-Christian Urban Legends.
about.com Urban Legends – I usually verify what I find on Snopes with this site before responding or posting.
TruthorFiction.com – I don’t find this one as easy to use as the other two. It was founded by a Christian broadcaster.
Please, please, please check these sites before you post about a “Missing Child.” Many of the alerts that are circulated are about children who were never missing or have been found, and take valuable time and credibility away from reports about actual missing children missing presently. Thanks!