I don't know who to vote for--they all have problems

Why do evangelicals seem to revel at forwarding political rumor spam?


matthew said...

Clicking is just too easy to resist. It's easier to demonize somebody than to actually study the issues.

I've made it a habit to respond to such forwards by sending the sender an email refuting the story and providing a link to snopes.com or something so they can see for themselves. I encourage them to send out another forward retracting their previous one.

Ken Schenck said...

Here's the top three things I think when I get these emails:

1. Was this person really a district superintendent?

2. Democracy is a farce--people should have to pass a test to vote.

3. Delete, delete, delete.

Lawrence W. Wilson said...

Drury asks: "What compels evangelicals to forward such emails so gleefully?"

I believe many conservative Christians (and perhaps many people in general) are insecure about what they believe and are, therefore, eager to hear anything that discredits those with whom they disagree.

To use an examples you provided, if Hillary is not a lesbian, then what accounts for her being a strong, independent, capable woman? Aren't all good women submissive?

It's much easier to demonize an opponent than to debate him, which may be why Jesus' enemies first called him crazy, then demon possessed.

Not that Hillary is Jesus or anything ...

Kevin Wright said...

American evangelicalism is a unique creature in that unlike its British counterpart, it has historically been deeply shaped by democratic principles and beliefs. Thus, evangelical hermeneutics, hymnology, church polity, and theology all reflect movements towards an empowered laity and a recognition of the common person's worth and voice. These democratic ideals eschew the idea that only so-called "experts" can speak to certain topics. Thus, Evangelicals revel in in forwarding emails because it is their right as inheritors of a democratically influenced American evangelicalism to speak their mind and have their voices heard. Email is merely a means to their ends.

I'm thinking that this phenomenon is related heavily to the blog culture. The medium might change, but the underlying principles do not. Everyone deserves the chance to have their voice heard and made influential, no matter how wrong that voice might be. It is no wonder then that American evangelicalism can give rise to a person like Phoebe Palmer who becomes one of the most influential holiness theologians in 19th century America.

Matt Guthrie said...

Because I'm feeling especially persnickety this evening, I'll go ahead and say what I really think. I honestly think that a large percentage of people forward this stuff (and the Madalyn Murray O'Hare, Bill Gates money for emails, and even Applebee's gift certificate offers) because they are either too lazy or too stupid to think through this before hitting the send key.

In fact many of the things they say fall into this category. In swapping stories with some fellow pastors about the types of comments people in their churches make, I can't come up with a better explanation. Of course, after some people read this, I'll be accused of being the pot who called the kettle black. If so, I'll be in good company.

Josh said...

So my mind is made up.

Mr. Gravel it is.

Thanks for clearing things up.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm not tapped into the evangelical base as deeply as you are, Keith, because I've only received one of these e-mails (three times) attacking Barack Obama. The vast of majority of evangelicals I know have already thrown their support to Huckabee simply on the premise that he's a Baptist minister.

But why are so many believers spreading this gossip?

Could it be for all our talk of "absolute truth" and "moral absolutes" our behavior and our beliefs don't align too well? *I know it's shocking* Forgive me, I'm so sick and frustrated by this stuff... I've grown cynical, too.

Will said...

I think Christians live in a world that loves seeing someone evil more than they love seeing someone good. As a result, Christianity tends to believe that everything- whether it's the Da Vinci Code, every politician ever, video games, or whatever preacher is popular this month, someone is out there forwarding an e-mail or writing a blog or whispering in the back of church about why they're the antichrist and the church is doomed.

As to why this is, it could be because either they are jealous and trying to justify their own actions by fooling themselves into thinking there are no more saints. It could be because they have been burned by too many Ted Haggards and Paul Crouches. Maybe our world has seen so many heroes fall, it has become a sport to see who can fall the farthest(lesbian? That's way better than massage parlors!). The truth is, our leaders haven't lived blameless lives, and this makes people feel like they've got someone to blame. What ever happened to the love of Christ? I'd be willing to bet that not one of those people who forwarded those e-mails to you prayed for the candidate they were bashing as they sent it. If Christians really believed in the love of Christ, and see people with His eyes instead of just seeing their sin... these e-mails wouldn't exist.

Wow, I kinda jumped topics there. Okay. This'll be my final point. Christians need to start seeing people with the eyes of God- for we are not our sin, and they are not their sin. May God have mercy on us if we judge in wrath and spite and not in love.

Keith Drury said...

While we're jumping topics a bit.. this post has also gotten me thinking about two other things...

1. Postmodernism. What is truth? It seems a like many get an email with rumors and if it "fits" with what we want to believe about that person anyway we hold the facts to lesser standard of truth. While evangelicals contend for truth and absolutes in principle in daily action many quickly accept a rumor as "truth" since it fits into their own "schema" of things and reject rumors that don't fit. This is the essence of a postmodern approach to truth--truth is whatever I pronounce it to be and nobody can say otherwise. Others have observed that the Internet promotes this kind of thinking for who can be the arbiter of what is true or not--in absence of that arbiter an individual can easily say I Myself will be the arbiter of truth. It seems ironic to me for evangelicals to take that approach to truth.

2. LONLINESS I have not studied it carefully but from anecdotal evidence I've seen lots of such rumors coming from retired people. Could it be that busy people have a hundred emails a day and simply delete political rumor-spam while some lonely retired people get only a dozen emails a day and read them carefully and honestly get alarmed. I know one fellow who keeps sending me this kind of email doesn't even know how to use the Internet--he couldn't even check out snopes.com because email is his only window on the world. While his angry forwards and shouting type irritate me, it also remind me the guy maybe needs some personal attention too--something to answer or forward that is wholesome? Maybe not--maybe he just likes dwelling in the cesspool. But I still wonder... how much of this is simply a result of old people who are lonely and too weary to check things out?

G.R. ''Scott'' Cundiff said...

You mean those aren't true?? Now what am I going to preach about next Sunday!

Jason Page said...

I Timothy 5:13

I believe the problem might be they are just that... Evangelicals, but are They disciples of Jesus? They may wear the "Evangelical" T-shirt but are they behaving Christlike?
I believe followers of Jesus should know beter, Don't you?

Ryan Schmitz said...

Dr. Schenck,

I agree with you on your second point; I think people should have to pass something. I use to think that they should graduate from High School, but I'm starting to think that isn't enough of a screening system either. Maybe people should have to pass a test to get an email account???

Ryan Schmitz said...

Also, for those that are secure enough in their political identity to read and Anne Coulter book, I recommend reading her book Treason. In the first section of this book, she details the charactor assassination of Sen. Joe McCarthy by the press and other politicians, and helps to show that this is not a new political technique. It is alive and well, and apparently still effective.

Ken Schenck said...

I might lose email privileges if I had to pass a test. :-)

Didn't McCarthy assassinate a number of characters too? My sense is that Ann Coulter makes a living out of assassinating characters :-)

left coast drury said...

This column seems to tap into two different phenomena, pathological forwarding and political propaganda, while some of comments play into the stereotyping game that underlies the propaganda.

Phenomenon 1: Pathological forwarding. I'm sure there are quite a few psychology dissertation on this issues. Keith offers his own pseudo-psychological analysis. What prompts a person to receive, read and click 'forward' virtually every time something plops into his or her inbox is a great question. I have about three people like this and when I see something from them with "FW" I just delete, delete, delete. I suppose if this is the worst of their pscyhological pathologies, they are probably o.k.

Phenomenon 2: Political Propaganda. This is as old as dirt. That it has moved into e-mail is only natural. It used to show up as front page news in the 19th century. It still does, and often has no more basis in fact that it ever has. Dan Rather is still pointing fingers after propaganda came back to bite him. I look forward to a day when journalists return to their proper place in American integrity standings--a little above con men and just below lawyers.

Stereotyping 101: So much of this stuff plays off of stereotyping which always has some plausible connection to facts. John Edwards is a NAMBLA member because he is a pretty boy obsessed with his hair. John McCain--well, being kind of partial to McCain I'll have to speculate that the black child must be because he reminds people of Thomas Jefferson.

These kinds of stereotypes even work into the comments here. Schenck playing into our fears that district superintendents don't have a lot to do all day so they can sit around forwarding political propaganda. Wilson implying that conservative Christian [men] think Hillary is a lesbian because she is strong, independent and capable...wait a minute--as a conservative Christian, white, Republican man from Baptized South Carolina, I resent what he is implying about my strong, independent and capable wife. Speaking on behalf of a stereotyped category, I think the Hilllary lesbian thing gets traction because she reminds me/us more of a cross between Adrea Dworkin and Janet Reno than my wife. If she were really like my wife, I might even consider voting for her...but then again I might vote for Anne Coulter who is strong, independent, and capable and almost as good-looking as my wife...I hope she isn't a lesbian...

The AJ Thomas said...

If you are receiving these emails and want to have some fun just copy and paste what's below and hit return.

Dear Fellow American,
If you haven't forwarded this to every person in the world with an email account by the time you finish reading this sentence you obvously hate babies, freedom, Jesus, and even worse - America. People need to know the following information because if they don't we may not vote in the candidate that God will be voting for (and he can vote because as we all know he is an american). The following is a fact because someone typed it into an email and forwarded to me:

Candidate X was watching porn while at a NAMBLA conference held at a chain of hotels where he serves on the board of directors when he decided to go to a gay massage parlor which he had built in the world trade center. While there he ended up fathering a black child with a lesbian who had been sent there by al qaeda to give him $25,000 because he is secretly a Muslim.

David Drury said...

AJ - cracking me up.

To answer the original question: "Why do so many evangelicals forward these e-mails?" I have a one word answer: SIN.

Gossip, slander, libel, etc. All sins and just because it's by e-mail doesn't make it any better... functionally it might be much worse, because of the ease of "tempting another brother" to fall into the same deadly sin of "forwarding."


Erin Crisp said...

To Comment on the LONLINESS from Coach, I think you could add "or UNAWARE." My mother still thinks that if there is a seemingly reputable author's name appearing somewhere near the bottom of the email, than it must be true. I can't tell you how many "warnings" she has sent me because she honestly believes that if someone bothered to forward this email to her than it must be true. To her it isn't gossip because it comes from a reliable source (or so she thinks). She sees it like passing on a newsletter.

::athada:: said...

David -
E-mail forwards as gossip? You are getting too radical... though a fascinating concept.

Keith Drury said...

Thanks for the interesting responses here... it has expanded my thinking. I suppose these sort of things are "in season" now so I guess I'll be getting more. I guess simply deleting them is easiest... as we have pointed out the motivations are too varied to have a one-size-fits-all response.

Somehow I hope that evangelicals could argue politically using better ammunition than assignation... but I should know better.

OK this coming week I'm going abck to 1968... ;-)