Breaking Christian Chains
Since I started using email in the late 1990s, electronic chain letters frequently show up in my inbox with the exhortation to “pass it on.” They vary from inspirational stories to virus warnings. Often these messages contain partial truths or misleading information. For years I kept receiving online petitions against Madalyn Murray O'Hair campaigning for all Christian programming to be taken off the air, even though O’Hair had been dead since 1995!
I’ve also received emails containing valid information but try to put guilt trips on others who won't forward them to their friends. These emails contain statements like “If you really love Jesus, forward this to everyone in your address book” or “If you are not ashamed of all the marvelous things God has done for you...send this to ten people and the person who sent it to you!” Just because I won't forward messages like these doesn't mean I don't believe in God or I'm ashamed of the gospel. Comments like these are not inspired by the Holy Spirit but are of a controlling manipulative spirit.
Now as an evangelist, I'm certainly in favor of using the Internet to reach people with the gospel. But when we're “preaching to the choir”, it's best to be a little more selective on who you forward emails to. Back in the old days, people used carbon paper that permitted one to make about five legible copies. That caused one to think good and hard on who to send those five copies to.
Nowadays, people forward information to others without even thinking. In general, this is rude. People have less time than ever today with so much information to absorb. One should learn to respect other people’s time and bandwidth. Before forwarding a message to friends and colleagues, ask yourself “Do they really need to know?” This includes Facebook posts exhorting others to “like and share if you agree.” Since I don’t want to clutter other people’s accounts, I usually ignore these posts even if I do agree with them.
Finally, we can do our part in reducing the amount of e-rumors spreading over the Internet. Whenever you see a suspicious looking story that’s been forwarded many times, take a couple minutes to verify its authenticity (I recommend using TruthOrFiction.com). Christians who spread misleading information do not advance the cause of Christ. It only undermines their witness.
“You shall not circulate a false report.” - Exodus 23:1