DUMBED DOWN BY DUMB E-MAILS
By Marsha West
August 11, 2006
Well-meaning friends often send me email that contains outright lies about people. Not long ago I received something of great import about Hillary Clinton. What has that woman done now, I wondered? I had to scroll down a full 15 seconds to get to the message itself and saw at least 100 other email addresses that had been the recipient of the latest juicy gossip about Hillary. I can only assume that they passed it on to others. A Christian friend had passed it on to me, so it must be true, right?
EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!!
Large bold letters decreed: “New York Senator Hillary Clinton refused to meet with a contingent of Gold Star mothers.”
How dare she!
I had seen this one before, probably 20 times, so I knew it was older than my prom dress. I let out a sigh of bewilderment and considered my options.
According to the urban legends website snopes.com, the Clinton email has been circulating on the net in one form or another for over five years. It was not true then, it is not true today. I decided to do the unthinkable. I hit “reply all” and wrote a note to the folks who had also received the bogus email to set them straight. I also included a link to snopes.com for future reference. Only one person wrote back to thank me, the others, I assume, had steam coming out of their ears.
How dare she!
Urban legend websites abound on the Internet. Truthminers.com is another good one that’s “Aimed specifically at Christians - those who proclaim that Christ Jesus is their Lord, Boss & Master. Jesus said that He is ‘The Way, The Truth, and The Life.’ (John 14:6). Shouldn't knowing THE TRUTH make us 100% truthful people?” According to Truthminers, a lot of the email people receive is “based upon lies, rumors, myths, and urban legends.” We also learn that, “The following types of messages usually contain lies: inspirational stories presented as true stories, virus warnings, pleas to help sick or dying children by forwarding email, messages that say that you can get money or gift certificates for forwarding email, email petitions, cautionary tales of kidnappings or abductions, health scares or caution about using particular products and tales of vast conspiracies.”
My question is, why do people pass this stuff on without checking to see if it’s true? The short answer is, gullibility. In Christian circles it’s called undiscerning. People forward just about anything they receive, especially if an evil corporation is being smeared, or if they have a strong dislike for a particular person (politicians, actors, radio talk show hosts, religious leaders, etc.). There’s false information circulating on the Internet about George W. Bush, Mel Gibson, Rush Limbaugh, Rev. Pat Robertson, Bill Gates, John Kerry, Al Gore, Jane Fonda, Ehud Olmert, Dennis Miller, Cindy Sheehan, to name a few.
Christians, of all people, should not circulate gossip!
Which brings me to an inspirational email I received a short time ago. As many of them do, this one ended with: “My instructions were to pick four people that I wanted God to bless, and I picked you. Please pass this to at least four people you want to be blessed--plus your pastor, Billy Graham, and for good measure consider inccluding the Pope.” This isn’t an exact quote, but you get the picture.
So, let me get this straight. If I do as I’m instructed, God will bless four people that I choose? And if I disregard the instructions and fail to pass it on, four people I know won’t be blessed? Sort of sounds like a formula to get God to take action. In view of the fact that I don’t believe a formula will move God to do anything, I hit the delete key.
Here’s the thing. God doesn’t bless someone just because you send them an email. As the late Walter Martin so aptly put it, God is not a “cosmic bellhop.” No formula devised by man will get God to jump through hoops for anyone, including the Pope. Moreover, He doesn’t sit in yonder heaven, waiting for a prayer to be uttered in a particular way before He will answer it. God is not interested in magic prayer formulas. God is interested in obedience. “As far as I can tell,” says Andrew Paschen, “there are 3 qualifications that must be met in order to have a prayer answered. (1) Right motives, (2) With a clean heart and (3) Within the will of God.” 
If these three criteria are not met, don’t expect an answer.
When God does answer prayer, His answers will always be consistent with what’s written in scripture. The Holy Spirit is the One who leads. He’s the Author of the scriptures, which means He knows the Bible better than anyone. If a perceived answer to prayer doesn’t line up with Scripture, no matter what counsel you’ve been given, how convincing the circumstances are, or how powerful your experience is, it’s not from God! Most importantly, prayer is to bring us into conformity with God’s will, not to bring God into conformity with ours.
So the next time you pass an email to your friends, especially if it fits into one of the categories above, check with an urban legends website to see whether it’s true or false. If the message is inspirational and grounded in Scripture but contains some sort of blessing formula at the end, you can always delete that part, then pass it along.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” --James 1:5
1. Yes? No? Wait? Answers to Prayer by Andrew Paschen
© 2006 Marsha West - All Rights Reserved
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Marsha West is the Founder and Editor of the E-Mail Brigade News Report, an online news report for conservative people of faith. Marsha is a freelance writer specializing in Christian worldview. She is a regular contributor to NewsWithViews.com, Alainsnewsletter.com, CapitolHillCoffeeHouse.com, plus her commentaries appear in MichNews.com and bibleteacher.org.
is also designer and webmaster of a Christian apologetics website, On
Solid Rock Resources. She is currently writing a series of children's
books for homeschoolers. Marsha and her husband reside in historic Jacksonville
Here’s the thing. God doesn’t bless someone just because you send them an email. As the late Walter Martin so aptly put it, God is not a “cosmic bellhop.” No formula devised by man will get God to jump through hoops for anyone, including the Pope.