Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Curse of the “Forward” Button

I’m beginning to believe that the most pernicious invention of the last thirty years is the “Forward” button on an e-mail word processor.

In the last two days I’ve received e-mails that were obviously “Forwarded” without any effort having been made by the “Forwarder” to check the validity of the information they contained. Predictably they were filled with lies and mis-representations, and sadly, they had been “Forwarded” by people who profess to be followers of the One who said, “I am . . . the Truth . . .” Each e-mail included an encouragement for the recipient to pass it on to everyone on their mailing list.

It is obvious that those who created the lying e-mails or sent on such items have either not read the sobering warning in Scripture that we shall all someday give account for every “idle word”, or if they have read it they either do not believe it or hope they’ll somehow escape the consequences of their carelessness.

I read, just today, a reprint of an article by the late theologian, John Stott in Christianity Today. Stott’s piece presented four ways Christians can influence the world: 1) through the power of prayer,  2) through the power of truth, 3) through the power of example, and 4) through the power of group solidarity. Anyone wishing to benefit from Stott’s wisdom and insight can click on the link above. I want to think for a moment about his suggestion that the power of truth can influence the world.

I’ve just read a harrowing historical account of the manner in which Methodism was torn apart during the years before, during, and after the Civil War, by the animosities generated over political issues, particularly abolitionism. A movement that was born with an understanding that it was, as its Bishop, Francis Asbury, said, “a kingdom, not of this world” was ultimately brought to murderous conflict, lynching members of its own clergy, because it was taken over, both in the north and the south, by political causes.

Almost all the e-mails I receive via the “Forward” button represent attempts by Evangelical Christians to influence the politics of our nation by spreading malicious (and false) rumors about politicians they oppose. Those creating the e-mail messages, and those “Forwarding” them must feel that they have some sort of moral obligation to “cleanse the nation” by their activism. But if the “weapons” they choose to fight with are not the weapons of righteousness, those very weapons will finally, as Jesus warned Peter, be used against them. Those who live by the sword, eventually die by the sword. The horrors visited upon the evangelicals of the 19th century are proof of that.

John Stott is right. Through insistence upon “truth” we can influence our world. We may not see that influence evidenced in the next election but we are part of a kingdom that isn’t in a hurry.

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