Sunday, May 21, 2017

Break Every Chain Letter

Since I started using email in the late 1990s, electronic chain letters frequently show up in my inbox with the exhortation to “pass it on.” They vary from inspirational stories to virus warnings. Often these messages contain partial truths mixed with false information. For years I received online petitions against Madalyn Murray O’Hair campaigning for all Christian programming to be taken off the air, even though O’Hair had been dead since 1995!

More recently, a couple of Facebook friends posted a prayer request for a 22-month-old boy who supposedly shot himself in the chest with a nail gun and was near death. Upon seeing this, I started praying about the situation and immediately perceived it was an e-rumor. A search on revealed this prayer request has circulated online since 2010 (meaning the boy would be 8-9 years old now). The validity of this is in question since no places are mentioned or even the boy’s name.

I’ve also received emails containing valid information but try putting guilt trips on others who won’t forward them to their friends. These emails contain statements like “If you really love Jesus, forward this to everyone in your address book” or “If you are not ashamed of all the marvelous things God has done for you...send this to ten people and the person who sent it to you!” Just because I won’t forward messages like these doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God or I’m ashamed of the gospel. Comments like these are not inspired by the Holy Spirit but are of a controlling manipulative spirit.

Now as an evangelist, I’m certainly in favor of using the Internet to reach people with the gospel. But when we’re “preaching to the choir”, it’s best to be a little more selective on who you forward emails to. Back in the old days, people used carbon paper that permitted one to make a few legible copies. That caused one to think good and hard about who to send those copies to.

Nowadays, people forward information to others without even thinking. In general, this is rude. People have less time than ever today with so much information to absorb. One should learn to respect another person’s time and bandwidth. Before forwarding a message to friends and colleagues, ask yourself “Do they really need to know?” This includes Facebook posts exhorting others to “like and share if you agree.” Since I don’t want to clutter other people’s accounts, I ignore these posts even if I do agree with them.

Finally, we can do our part in reducing the number of e-rumors spreading over the Internet. Whenever you receive a story or prayer request that’s been forwarded many times, don’t automatically assume it’s true. Take a minute to verify its authenticity. Christians who spread misleading information do not advance the cause of Christ. It only undermines their witness. 

“You shall not circulate a false report.” - Exodus 23:1

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