Sunday, November 09, 2008
The Stuff of Legends
This went on for twenty years, until one day, and no one ever stood and professed a belief in God at the end of the semester, for fear of what the professor would do to humiliate them...until one fateful day, when a student did finally stand up. As one would expect, the professor called him a fool, did the chalk routine, the chalk did not break, and the faith of the young student was strongly validated.
The person who sent this to me was clearly pleased with the results of the student's bravery, and believed it validated our Christian faith. There was only one problem. It never happened. A quick check of Snopes revealed the history of this legend, and that there has never been any evidence that this incident, or many other legends like it, ever occurred. (http://www.snopes.com/religion/chalk.asp)
Why am I writing about this? Well, it's simple. It has been very bothersome to me for quite some time that many Christians will cling to the legend and fantasy presented by fables such as this as a means to validate our faith. Not only do we collectively choose to believe them, despite all logic to the contrary, but we pass them around the internet and present them as fact. How foolish we must look to people who are able to read such a legend, see it has all the earmarks of being fictional, and yet here we are, saying that these fictional stories are perhaps the greatest validation of our faith that we can find.
Not long ago, I also received another forward about the "new" dollar coin that our government was issuing, which would not feature "In God We Trust" anywhere on the coin. This particular forward intimated that this was our government's way of finally getting God out of our country, and we should not stand for it! Not only were we not to accept the coins, but if we did receive one, we were not to spend it.
Once again, this was not true. Not only did the coin feature, "In God We Trust", written on the edge of the coin rather than its face, but this "new" coin had been in circulation for quite some time by the time I received the email Snopes cleared up this rumor, as well. http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/dollarcoin.asp
What is interesting to me is that the rumor itself will spread like wildfire across the internet. Yet, on the many occasions in which I have emailed the originator of the "FW:", and shared with him or her that the story they are sending is not true, even providing links to the information that disproves it, it never gets beyond their inbox. This amazes me, particularly for a group of people who believe that knowing the truth sets you free.
What I am getting at is this...As Christians, we need to be a whole lot smarter about how we are presenting ourselves. I am sometimes amazed at the collective Christian chagrin over being so marginalized in the public eye, being perceived as lemmings who are uneducated and cannot think for themselves. Yet, we collectively circulate bogus stories to bolster our faith and our political points of view, without bothering to check the facts or even remotely consider that maybe....just maybe....the fantastical story that some well-meaning person sent to us is not true, and we should look into its source.
I suppose the belief in urban legends is not exclusive to Christians. In fact, I know its not. However, when we are relying on legend rather than fact and experience to validate our faith to the world, I believe it makes us look foolish. Faith is very much an experiential thing, and it is going to be different for everyone. But is our faith really so shaky, or our shame in that faith really so great, that we need to cling to the ubiquitous "FW:(insert grandiose story about God here)" in order to validate it?
Very well put! Amen! I have been thinking the same thing for a while now. So true.
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