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DON’T FORWARD THAT E-MAIL!

It happened again, today.

I received a forwarded e-mail from a Christian friend.  He wanted me to know about something that God was doing through the Internet.  It referenced Rev. Billy Graham.  It sounded authentic.

It wasn’t.

How do I know?  Because I was first “caught” in the E-mail Trap (as I call it) with the “Good Time’s Virus” hoax.   Boy, was I embarrassed when I found out that I’d been had.  So had the IT department.

That was back in the 1990’s, when the WEB was NEW, and:

  1. We didn’t know any better, and
  2. We didn’t have resources to verify things

snopesToday, it is different.  There are sites that maintain lists of “Urban Legends” and “Net Legends.”  Personally, I use SNOPES to check out EVERY e-mail that someone forwards me with a prayer, story, crisis, tragedy, etc..

If you care about the Church’s image, you should NEVER forward e-mails without checking them out, especially those related in any way to religion and/or e-mails that ENCOURAGE you to forward them.

Why?

  1. They are most likely a hoax/falsehood,
  2. They put a load on the e-mail servers, and more importantly
  3. It makes the Church look gullible, ignorant, and stupid.

The Church is supposed to be the custodian of God’s Truth.  We talk to the lost, and disciple the saved, based upon the credibility of our communications and our ability to “rightly divide the Word.”

When we forward false e-mails we hurt our credibility.

When we forward false e-mails we look rash and “panicy.

When we forward false e-mails we SPREAD LIES and HOAXES.

Take for example the ever-popular e-mail that claims in “urgent terms” that the FCC is going to ban religious programming because of the work of atheists. There are two major versions (with some variations on the theme):

  • One quotes Dr. James Dobson from Focus on the Family
  • The other references the actions of Madalyn Murray O’Hair

I wish I had $5 for every one of THESE I’ve received.  I would not have to fund-raise for my Ministry!

E-mails like this are lies and they have great NEGATIVE impact:

  1. They “panic” Christians into action & make us look foolish,
  2. They cause those quoted, like Focus on the Family, to maintain a web page denying this.
  3. They cause those accused, like the FCC, to maintain a web page denying this.
  4. They take energy away from the work of the Church: Growing the Kingdom!
  5. They give Satan, the Father of Lies, a “win”.

Let’s also keep in mind that, in this case, the protagonist, Ms. O’Hair, has been dead since 1995 !  Still this legend continues to make the rounds!!!

Oh, and because of the acts of “well meaning Christians” who forward and publicize this “crisis” Focus on the Family is forced to expend valuable resources to counter these claims.  The FCC is spending TAX DOLLARS to do it.  Here is the entire story.

(This hoax actually pre-dates the Internet: It first appeared in 1975 in a snail mail campaign!)

I use this one example because it is so widely received.  There are minor variations of it that reference Joel Osteen, Joyce Myers, Charles Stanley, and other “big name” pastors.  Their ministries probably have to divert funds to deal with the queries and letters, too.

That doesn’t help the Kingdom . . . It impedes its progress!!!

These hoaxes get people either worried, prayerful, riled up, or fearful FOR NO REASON!

There are many, many more of these floating around, too.  All sound authentic (even the Nigerian Finance Minister phishing e-mail).  Some tug at our hearts.  Here are some a few more “popular” hoaxes, with links to their Snopes articles:

  • Little Savanna Foraker is dying and three businesses will donate $0.05 for every forwarded e-mail.  SNOPES
  • Internet users can receive a cash award for forwarding messages to test a Microsoft/AOL e-mail tracking system.  SNOPES
  • NASA discovered a “lost day” in time.  SNOPES

In Proverbs 18:13 we are told:

“If one gives answer before hearing, it is folly and shame.”

We might want to consider that bit of wisdom when working our e-mail.  A version of that verse for the Internet Age might read:

“If one forwards e-mail without verifying it’s claims, even with good intentions, it is still unwise!

Does this mean that we should never forward e-mail?  Of course not! There are many accurate e-mails that go around that we do need to deal with.

But, we have an obligation to the Church and to the Truth to make sure that what we forward IS TRUE!  Otherwise we perpetuate a lie, and the Enemy upsets and distracts many with another of his tricks.

And don’t assume that the sender, even if it LOOKS LIKE a known organization or that it is even from your PASTOR, has checked the facts.  Take about 3-5 minutes and make sure.

Getting our facts straight should be a characteristic of a Christian, especially given the power of the Internet.  One mouse click can make an impact for Christ, or make His followers (and therefore His Church) look foolish.

DON’T FORWARD THAT E-MAIL!!! (unless you know it is true)!
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