Gossip, 21st century style

Certain things get on my nerves.

Sometimes it’s surprising to me the things that do and don’t.  For instance, a household appliance going completely on the fritz won’t usually throw me as much as a computer that’s running a smidgen slowly.  People using cuss words out loud bother me a lot more than seeing the same words in print.  Go figure.  But there are some events that, no matter how much I remember that longsuffering is a gift of the Holy Spirit and love is patient and kind, just set my teeth on edge.

Maybe some of them are the same for you.  All noise above 100 decibels.  Car horns, in any context other than avoiding a road accident.  People who walk across the street in moving traffic.  Being asked the same question by the same person that I just answered a minute ago.  “Customer service” folks who mumble, speak in monotones and don’t make eye contact.  Telemarketer or survey calls, especially the pre-recorded kind.  People who rummage through my trash or use my garden hose or otherwise invade my privacy without asking.  (Those last two words are crucial.  Ask, and I’ll usually either say “yes” or offer something better.  Don’t ask, and unless I catch myself I’ll turn into Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.)  You know, the typical stuff.

And near the top of my “yer workin’ my last nerve” list: urban legend e-mails.

You know the ones — in fact, you’ve probably received at least one in your inbox this week.  Online “petitions” asking you to protest some horrid event … that doesn’t exist.  Reprints of statements by famous people … who didn’t say them.  Warnings of events in the area that someone heard about from their “best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend who heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl” whom it happened to … except that it never happened at all.  (Yes, that was a Ferris Bueller reference.)

Since I’ve been online for a decade or so, I get these with some frequency.  And since I’m a longtime member of the evangelical “community” (to use that term loosely, I often get ones that have a particular Christian-right slant.  Like the one I received just a few days ago.  The subject line was “Fw: RE: The Movie “Corpus Christi” REVOLTING MOCKERY of Our LORD JESUS CHRIST,” which would tend to get one’s attention even if one has my well-honed distrust of almost anything written IN ALL CAPS.  (Rule of life: if you have to yell to convince me, don’t expect me to be convinced.)  But that headline was nothing compared to the text of the e-mail:

Going beyond disrespect

The movie “Corpus Christi” is due to be released this June to August. A disgusting film set to appear in America later this year depicts Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals! As a play, this has already been in theatres for a while. It’s called “Corpus Christi” which means “The Body of Christ”. It’s revolting mockery of our Lord. But we can make a difference. That’s why I am sending this e-mail to you. If you do send this around, we just might be able to prevent this film from showing in America. Let’s stand for what we believe in and stop the mockery of Jesus Christ our Savior. Where do we stand as Christians? At the risk of a bit of inconvenience, I’m forwarding this to all I think would appreciate it, too. Please help us prevent such offenses against our Lord. There is no petition to sign, no time limit, or minimum number of people to send this to. It will take you less than 2 minutes! If you are not interested and do not have the 2 minutes it will take to do this, please don’t complain when God does not have time for you because He is far busier than we are. Hey, it’s worth a shot! Apparently, some regions in Europe have already banned the film. All we need is a lot of prayer and a lot of e-mails.

JUST GET THE WORD OUT.

I took out a lot of the formatting — it was sent to me in really large type, as if to forcefully state the writer’s aims.  (See that rule of life I mentioned above; it still applies.)  And don’t you love that bit at the end about how if you’re not interested in supporting his or her screed, “don’t complain when God does not have time for you”?  You mean to tell me that Almighty God, whose grace is infinite and who sent His own Son to be the propitiation for our sins, will tune us out because we ignored an e-mail?  Dang, which deity does this person worship?!?  Even the Muslims I’ve met in my life don’t think Allah is that harsh!

But something had my antennae up even more than the clearly manipulative tone of the text.  If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I follow the movie industry fairly closely.  Even if I don’t actually watch a lot of films, I usually have a good idea of what flicks are coming out soon and which ones are in production.  And I’d never heard of this film, even though it was supposed to be coming out this summer.  That seemed pretty unlikely.  So my BS detector (to use the late Kurt Vonnegut’s wonderful term) was on full alert.

And after three minutes of research, I found out the truth:

  1. There is no such movie.  There is a DVD called “Corpus Christi” that came out three years ago, but it’s a documentary about the historical figure of Jesus, not a drama about His supposed sex life.
  2. Rumors about such a movie have been floating around since 1984!
  3. A stage play named “Corpus Christi” with some plot similarities to the above debuted in New York in 1998, but it hasn’t been performed publicly since 2001 and there are no plans to make it into a feature film.

I’m not kidding either when I say “three minutes of research.”  That’s how long it took to find out that this story was a lie.  Click on my bookmark for Snopes.com (see the link at right), type “corpus christi” in their search box, and it was the top result.  Easy as pie.

This does beg two questions.  One, why didn’t the person who sent me the e-mail (or the person who sent it to them, or the one who sent it to them, or …) do that basic bit of fact-checking?  And two, who cares?

As to the first, I have no idea why not — but it isn’t uncommon.  (If it were uncommon, I wouldn’t get so much of this junk.)  It’s common enough that I actually have filters set up for e-mails from two Christian sisters; if they send me anything with “Fw:” or “Fwd:” in the subject heading, it routes straight to the Trash folder for my Yahoo account.  It’s common enought that I actually have a form letter text set up to send to the e-mailer when this happens:

The only problem with this is that it’s not true.  Here’s the true story: <<INSERT LINK HERE>>.  Please be sure to notify all the people you sent this to that it is in fact a hoax.

And PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, before you forward any e-mail purporting to be “a true story” or “latest news” or anything like that, regardless of the reliability of the person who sent it to you, check first.  Go to www.truthorfiction.com or www.snopes.com and see if it’s actually true.  If you can’t do that basic amount of research, you shouldn’t be forwarding things anyway.  God calls us to be good stewards of what He’s given us, and that includes the Internet — He is not glorified by lies being spread, no matter how well-intentioned.

(Sorry, but I get a lot of these hoax e-mails — it’s beyond annoying at this point.)

r.a.

So far, I haven’t gotten flamed for telling someone this.  I’ve joked with my wife that if someone does, my response is going to start, “Tough beans, Little Miss (or Mr.) Gossip” … and go downhill from there.  I doubt I’d actually say that, though.  And most of the time, I’m thanked for setting things straight.

But the above should answer the second question: why we should care about a spurious e-mail.  Especially if you’re a Christian, a follower of Someone who claimed to be “the way, the truth and the life.”  Every time a lie is repeated, it’s an attack against the very concept of truth.  If nothing is absolutely true, there is no way to determine right or wrong, and thus no way to organize or govern a society.  If what is true becomes unclear, society itself begins to unravel, because there’s no consensus among people as to what steps should be taken to solve their problems.  That’s a fast highway to anarchy.  Furthermore, if anyone is to accept what we say about Jesus, we can’t afford to be seen as spreading lies (even unintentionally).  If they can’t believe us about less important things — like movies — how can they believe us about the most important things of all, ones where life and death are at stake?

And I don’t use the word “gossip” loosely, either.  The root meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words translated as “gossip” in the New International Version of the Bible is “tale-carrying” — literally, spreading stories around.  And what is the above e-mail doing except spreading an untrue story?  There are a number of places in the Bible (including, Leviticus 19:16; Proverbs 11:13, 16:28, 18:8, 20:19, 26:20-22; Ezekiel 22:9; Romans 1:29; and 2 Corinthians 12:20) where gossip is condemned as a sin.  Throw in the passages that condemn “bearing false witness” (aka the Ninth Commandment – Exodus 20:16), and there are about twice as many verses that speak against rumor-spreading as there are speaking against homosexual behavior.  But which one are we evangelicals quicker to rail against?

So the next time someone sends you an e-mail telling you any story that seems even the least bit suspicious, use the sites I mentioned above and make sure that it’s actually the case.  And if it isn’t, don’t pass it on!  Stand against the madness — it only takes a few clicks of the mouse

The truth is important.  Too important to not do something as simple as this.

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2 Responses to Gossip, 21st century style

  1. theoldadam says:

    We are kindred spirits.

    Loud stereos from cars (with the super strong base). Loud cursing, from teenage girls no less.
    My neighbors (I live in an apartment building) slam their doors routinely. Grocery store checkers and bag boys/girls that do not acknowlede your presence…and do not understand when you make a joke (or anything).

    I could go on ad-nauseum.

  2. […] culture of offense — and a remedy Now, when I say that some things annoy me, that’s not the same thing as saying that they offend me.  An annoyance is like an itch, a […]

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