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E-mail: Speak – and forward – the truth in love

I wish someone would make it harder to forward e-mail. Maybe the option could be buried under some submenu on our mail programs.
Or how about this: When you click “forward,” a confirmation window pops up: “I hereby certify that I at least made some sort of token effort to check the accuracy of the information I’m sending.”
I doubt that would do much to stem the tide of forwarded messages that clog my inbox — especially during an election year.
Recently, I received an e-mail with the subject line “Barak Hussein Muhammed Obama, President USA?” (The misspelling of “Barack” and inexplicable use of “Muhammed” were the first clues that little truth followed.)
The message claimed that the Illinois senator is linked to a tribe in Kenya responsible for the recent violence there. In the U.S. election, Obama “will use the same tactic, crying rigged election if he doesn’t win and possibly cause a race war in America,” according to the e-mail.
Ken Beckloff, a longtime missionary to Kenya, already had received the e-mail and wrote a response. He stressed that he wasn’t endorsing a presidential candidate, but he felt he had to reply to the message, which he called “a combination of outright lies and half-truths.” Beckloff makes regular trips to Kenya and said the recent violence there didn’t result from the actions of any one ethnic group.
“The violence was horribly wrong,” he said, “but people from several tribes … are responsible. And not all members of any tribe are responsible.” Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ crossed ethnic lines to protect members of other tribes from the mobs that burned homes and butchered the innocent.
Even if the violence were the fault of one tribe, it’s ridiculous to predict that an American presidential candidate would start a “race war” since he descended from that tribe.
I suppose I should be prevented from running for office, lest I pass legislation to pillage the British Isles in the proud tradition of my viking ancestors.
In the interest of bipartisanship, I looked for e-mail rumors about Republican presidential candidate John McCain. I didn’t find much, just a quote from 2004 in which McCain said he had “no problems” with the Democratic Party. The quote was taken out of context, McCain said later. There’s also a bizarre rumor that questions McCain’s U.S. citizenship. (He was born at a Naval base in the Panama Canal Zone.)
And there simply isn’t room here to detail all of the forwarded e-mails about Hillary Clinton.
If we would take just a minute to check claims against the facts, a lot of e-mails would go un-forwarded. I highly recommend the Web site www.snopes.com — a great resource for debunking “e-myths.”
But I suspect the intent of forwarded e-mail — just like gossip — has little to do with facts. We all bring preexisting biases to what we read. When we find a piece of information that fits into our view of the world, we forward it to other, like-minded believers. We take comfort in our preconceptions — even if they have little basis in truth.
Even half-truths are dangerous. They mislead. They split churches. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul urges believers to stop behaving like infants, “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” Instead, we’re to focus on Christ and speak the truth in love.
Are we applying that standard to our e-mail?

  • Feedback
    Thank you for your article. In the past I deleted e-mails that were obvious character assinations. But I noticed most of these e-mails that I receive were forwarded by those whom I have respect for as Christians. This really bothers me!
    So, I have decided to quote scripture that should make the sender think about what the lord says about gossip, rumor, slander, and false witness, etc.
    I will continue to forward scripture references in hope that by doing so I will have some affect on the senders, enabling them to think about what they are doing.
    One scripture that I have used is:
    Matthew 15:18-20 (King James Version)
    18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
    19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
    20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man
    If you have more relevant scripture, I would like to use it.
    I have quoted
    Philippians 4:7-9 (New King James Version)
    8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy�meditate on these things.
    because how can anyone reflect on this scripture and send hate mail?
    September, 2 2008

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