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“If you do not ever forward anything else, please forward this to all your contacts… this is very scary to think of what lies ahead of us here in our own United States … better heed this and pray about it and share it… ”

Ok, first things first: If you get an email that starts with any variation of the previous paragraph, you are safe in going ahead and deleting it. It is, in all likelihood, not worth reading, and more importantly – not true!

Second: If you get an email that promises you amazing rewards, or threatens you with disastrous consequences if you do not forward it, delete it. I personally have made it a matter of principle that if a forward message threatens me, I will not inflict that garbage on other people. (I am really amazed that people are so easily manipulated, and so selfish about it. Do we really believe that an email has the power to cause one of our relatives to die in the next 27 minutes? And if we do, why are we so willing to forward it on to our friends and loved ones? Do we want theirs to die too?)

Third: Always check a forward message that claims to say things that are true with snopes.com. It takes very little time and will save you the embarrassment of sending an email that says that Clifford the Big Red Dog is a cover for Al-Qaeda to all of the people who thought you were smart before you clicked the “forward all” button.

Here is an example on a more serious note: I have recently received, more than once, a forward message claiming that Senator Barack Obama is a Muslim extremist, that he was sworn into office using the Koran, that he will not say the pledge of allegiance, and that according to Revelation he fits the profile of the anti-Christ. Now, if you delete all the lies and distortions from that statement here is what is left: Barack Obama was sworn into office.

The truth is that Barack Obama is a Christian who has been willing to talk about his conversion experience, he placed his hand on the Bible when he was sworn into office, he will say the pledge of allegiance, (But, by the way, why is it that it is always Christians who get so upset when someone won’t pledge allegiance to the United States of America? Shouldn’t they be more worried about their allegiance to Jesus Christ and his kingdom? I hope and pray that my allegiance is to God before the United States.) and the reference to Revelation in this particular email does not actually exist.

I also wish that Christians would remember that one of the 10 Commandments is that you shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. In other words, when Christians lie about another person because they don’t want them to be elected to public office, they are sinning.

I find it very disheartening that Christians are so often the ones who spread lies about other people, who are ignorant of something as basic as the religious identification of a candidate for President of the United States. But what is most disheartening to me is that Christians are so quick to demonize those whom they disagree with. I believe that people of good conscience can disagree about who is the better candidate for President: John McCain or Barack Obama. In fact, on election day there will be people who have done their best to reflect as a Christian on what is at stake in who they vote for, and some will vote for McCain and some will vote for Obama.

But whether it is a political issue, a moral issue, or anything else – Christians need to think twice before they use the forward button on their email accounts. It may seem to some that I am being overly dramatic, but I really believe that how we use our email is a stewardship issue, it is a moral issue. Christians who take the authority of Scripture seriously need to remember that God commands that we not give false testimony about another person. Perhaps we also need to remember these words from James: 3:3-10:

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by human beings, but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

We make it more difficult for others to believe in the God we proclaim when we thoughtlessly forward emails that spread fear, hatred, and lies.

(Postscript: The second time my wife received the “Obama is the Anti-Christ” email, she clicked “reply all” and linked to the snopes article debunking the misinformation in the email. The person who sent her the email wrote back thanking her for setting the record straight and apologizing for not checking the facts before sending it on. This shows two things: 1) I am lucky to be married to an amazing woman, and 2) many people are not forwarding things with bad intentions, they are just assuming it must be true because someone else sent it to them. I think if we correct bad information in a loving way, many people are willing to learn.)