Sunday, November 13, 2011

Putting Politics Above Faith

I just started posting on race and this subject, I think, is one of the biggest sources of soreness and division between different races of Christians (within races too actually). Maybe it's a weakness on my part, but when a fellow church goer approaches me (or sends me an email) and begins demonizing democrats/liberals/socialists, I IMMEDIATELY put up a spiritual wall (among others). I don't even classify myself as one of those three, but the assumption of agreement alone I find extremely off-putting.

I'll be honest--I receive these exclusively from White, Republican/conservative contacts. Don't get me wrong, I get some"irksome" forwards from Black, Democrat/liberal contacts too, but for the life of me I don't remember one being based on a political party.

I don't like re-posting the work of others, but a friend sent me this and considering the number of blatantly false emails I receive from believers who seem to have no problem bearing false witness against people they've deemed the enemy or people God has allowed to be in power, I felt it was warranted. I was originally published here. Two points jump out at me...

1) That forwarding blatantly false emails involve doing two of the things God hates and
2) "Just forwarding" something doesn't absolve the sender of responsibility any more than it would in the case of gossip.

Here's the post...

As campaign season begins to heat up, I am preparing to find more of those crazy political e-mails in my in-box. They often come from an unsuspecting source, such as a childhood friend or a brother-in-law, and they’ve forwarded it to everyone in their contact list. You know the ones I’m talking about, the ones that spin fantastical tales of malicious gossip about some prominent politician.

A few years ago, I received an e-mail about how the Clintons had murdered Vince Foster, along with dozens of their political enemies who had also died under mysterious circumstances, such as cancer and old age. I also have gotten an e-mail informing me that George W. Bush “masterminded” the 9/11 attacks in order to start a war on terrorism. If that were true, I only wish he had spent a tenth of his time masterminding the occupation of Iraq.

No one has been the subject of these scurrilous e-mails more than President Obama. In the virtual world, he was born in Kenya, went to school at a Madrassa, will not pledge allegiance to the United States, used a Koran to be sworn into office, and is a socialist, communist, terrorist, fascist, Black Panther, Black Muslim, and the anti-Christ.

Recently, a sweet Christian woman sent me an e-mail comparing President Obama with Hitler and the rise of the Fourth Reich. This “theory” was attributed to a friendly looking professor (his photo was included) under the subject line “What if he’s right?” Of course, he isn’t right. In fact, he didn’t even say it. According to Snopes, this professor disavowed all knowledge of the e-mail and the original source was traced to an anonymous poster on a right wing blog.

It does not surprise me that there are political operatives who are not above smearing their opponents. What is disturbing is that otherwise good people have no reservations about perpetuating these kinds of vicious lies. When I’ve confronted people with the fact that their e-mail is not true, the general reaction is to slough it off, as if they are absolved of all responsibility since they merely forwarded it. Or, somehow, the rules don’t apply if it is about some prominent person who they don’t agree with politically.

The Bible is very clear about how it views this type of behavior, no matter what the excuse may be. There are several verses in the Bible about submitting to our appointed leaders. (Romans 13: 1, 1st Peter 2: 13 and 14, Hebrews 13: 17). In Titus 3:1 and 2, Paul tells us, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to do whatever is good,to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”

By doing a little fact checking and applying some common sense, most of these e-mails can easily be proven to be factually wrong. “Forwarders” are not only abdicating their responsibility to seek the truth, they are engaging in the act of spreading rumors and possibly giving false testimony. Willfully participating in this behavior hits on at least two of the six things the Lord hates. “…a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:19)

So why do nice people so readily forward these hate-filled missives? Most of the ones I’ve seen are written to play on preexisting prejudges and fears. Like watching a scary movie, the reader willfully suspends their disbelief in order to participate in the narrative of the (fictional) story, such as being persecuted by an evil, oppressive force. Of course, this has the result of demonizing the other side and creating an even deeper divide in families, communities, and the country.

The participator of these campaigns are also allowing themselves to be deceived in another way…Many of these e-mails have embedded “cookies,” allowing the host sender to track each forwarded e-mail. This enables the originator to build a list of active addresses, which they can then sell to spammers.

When someone sends out an e-mail to all their friends, they are not only giving the gift of spam, they are also becoming willful participants in a very real form of gossip, deception, and character assassination. Based on scripture, these “forwarders” are putting their politics above their religion. Perhaps they should ask themselves, do they really want to be on the side that is willing to spread lies to win an election? If so, what does that say about their politics – and their religion?

When in doubt, it’s always good to go back to what Jesus tells us, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12: 36) And don’t get Jesus started on the larger issue of judging others. “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7: 2)
So, crazy e-mail forwarders, consider yourselves warned…If I read that Barrack Obama is a member of the Illuminati or Mitt Romney has a secret family in Canada, I am obligated to let you know that this behavior is not acceptable. Paul tells us, “For those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” (1st Timothy 5:20) I’m not sure, but that may mean I am supposed to “reply all,” and that’s just going to be awkward for everyone.


  1. Yet again another awesome post. I am going to sneak into your brain one of these days and steal your writing prowess.

    I am a centrist white gal (registered republican), but I swear I look at my party sometimes and just shake my head. They claim to want smaller government and less intrusion, yet in the same breath they will claim a right to intrude upon another's bedroom and medical decisions, and THEN claim their beliefs are what is "stated in the bible." Ugh! must....control...fist...

    Religion and politics are each other's unwilling participants on countless dates. Every election, they are thrown together in the crib like marionettes, with various people operating the strings, insisting that "xyz" should be the law of the land because the bible says so.

    And yet again, I find myself with more to say and the late hour is hindering my ability to articulate.


  2. Yeah...I'm pretty apolitical (though not apathetic) and the "in the Bible" deal drives me nuts as a Christian when something isn't...actually...that and "not in the Bible", when something actually is. People