I don't want to appear ungrateful but I have to agree with this note I received recently from my friends C&C.
To all of you who have taken the time and trouble to send me "forwards" over the past 12 months...
Thank you for making me feel safe, secure, blessed and healthy.
• Extra thanks to whoever sent me the e-mail about cockroach eggs in the glue on envelopes - I now have to go get a wet towel every time I need to seal an envelope.
•Without you I would likely have gotten that flesh eating bacteria from bananas.
•Thanks to you, I have learned that God only answers my prayers if I forward an e-mail to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.
•I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be pricked with a needle infected with AIDS. Oh wait, I haven't used a pay phone in five years. But thanks anyway!
• I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants or shampoos. I will live to be 100 but no one will ever come near me.
•I was alerted to the deadly toilet spiders at a Chicago airport. That made for some long layovers!
•I no longer eat fast food chicken because their "chickens" are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers. Actually I still do...they are just too tasty!
•I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl on the internet who is about to die in the hospital (for the nnnth time).
• I no longer have any money at all in fact - but that will change once I receive the thousands of dollars that Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special on-line e-mail program. Yes, I want to thank you all so much for looking out for me that I will now return the favor! If you don't send this as an e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 7 minutes, a large pigeon with a wicked case of diarrhoea will land on your head at 1:00 PM tomorrow. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbour's ex-mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's beautician, and have a Happy New Year!
The automatic forwarding of e-mail warnings is a real pet peeve of mine. About every other week I have to send an e-mail to a wonderfully well intentioned friend that they are forwarding a hoax. I feel a little uncomfortable because I know it is embarrassing to them.
For Christians this is an important issue. When we forward false information it can (and often does) do damage to the image of Christianity and to the very name of Christ. It makes Christians appear lazy and uninformed (restraint Dave...easy). How about the poor receptionist who fields thousands of irate calls for something that is not even valid? By the way, you would be amazed at the less than godly content of some of these callers.
Here are just a few of the hoaxes that crossed my inbox in recent months.
ACLU objects to Marines Praying - False. They cause enough problems without making stuff up.
Al Gore calls Christians blight on environment - False. The quote is fabricated.
Harry Potter was written to recruit children to witchcraft - False.
James Dobson is pleading for our help because of a petition to stop the reading of the gospel over public broadcasting outlets - False.
This has been dead since 1975 but continually gets repackaged and reforwarded. And when it does the Federal Communications Commission must field thousands of calls and e-mails (at taxpayers expense).
Just this past week I got the e-mail that I needed to call the poor receptionist at my local NBC affiliate because of a storyline that was to be a part of the Will and Grace show. According to the e-mail Britney Spears was going to play a character that would mock the crucifixion. NBC quickly said the story was not true. I have no idea if the network intended to air that story line or not. What I do know is I got the e-mail to call/write NBC and my local affiliate several days after the network either pulled or debunked the script (depending on your view). For hundreds of Christians to call an underpaid receptionist at the NBC affiliate after there is no reason would be tragic. And that brings me to point number two. As good as it makes you feel to download on some faceless "pagan" you are probably not talking to a person who can make a difference. I make it a core principal to try to communicate to the people who are actually responsible.
Here are my requests and suggestions (forward these to five friends and you might win something from somebody)
1) Be naturally suspicious. About.com has an article on how to spot an e-mail hoax that is very helpful.
2) Verify the story. There are a number of sites that catalog e-mail/internet hoaxes. Sites such as snopes.com or urbanlegends.about.com have extensive databases on these stories. Check before you forward. Please.
3) If the story is real and you feel led to respond please formulate your own response. Forwarding a boilerplate note of indignation tends to lose its effectiveness after the first few hundred times it is read.
4) Be gracious. You can let others know exactly how you believe and why you are concerned without gloating over their eternal destiny.
5) Apply Proverbs 2:11 to your cyber-ministry. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.
James has a nice little take on wisdom.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (James 3, NIV)
I could go on but I just received a personal note from a doctor in Nigeria. He needs my help and he promised me 5 million dollars. Don't worry, I'll tithe.