Snopes.com (officially, the Urban Legends Reference Pages) is rapidly becoming my favorite site on the internet. I found it a few years ago when I was randomly clicking on whatever article sounded interesting on wikipedia.
A quick breakdown – snopes is a repository for evidence concerning the truth (or lack thereof) for urban legends. These days, those mostly seem to consist of all the wacky facebook updates about how you’ll get murdered for flashing your lights at the wrong car, the newest reason why drinking coke causes brain cancer, or just another rumor about how various politicians are trying to destroy the country. Snopes.com collects these sorts of rumors and tries to find evidence for or against – eventually returning a verdict of true/false/undecided, depending on what they find out.
I love this, because one of my personal pet peeves are people who post absolutely crazy stuff on Facebook and get all sorts of unsuspecting people worried and worked up for no real reason at all. It’s even more frustrating when it’s done for someone’s “own good”. In other words, I’ve been told before that posting something you think is probably completely inane is okay because it might somehow help someone else.
Here’s a suggestion – before you try to convince all your friends that making eye contact with someone at Walmart will get them abducted by rampaging Dungeons and Dragons players, perhaps you could check that story out? Especially when you already suspect that it sounds a tad bit unfeasible? Snopes.com allows you to do exactly that.
This, for me, is even MORE infuriating when it comes from someone who’s claiming to be a Christian. As Christians, we’re supposed to be concerned with the truth. We’re supposed to be eager to listen and slow to respond, slow to grow angry. Instead, it seems like we’re exactly the opposite. The moment we read some asinine rumor on Facebook, we start stomping around the internet, flipping virtual tables and accusing other people (often other Christians) of everything from lying to outright attempting to destroy our very belief system.
Here’s how Ed Stetzer describes it for Christianity Today:
Too often, Christians are in a state of perpetual grievance, where each passing day brings another new controversy about which we must act or Christianity in America will crumble.
When we hear a story about government attacks on Christians and we disagree with the politics of those in power, we assume the worst about the individuals in the military and our government. We live out the exact opposite of James 1:19. We are slow to listen, not giving time for all the facts to come out. We are quick to speak, gullibly forwarding the emails, retweeting the links and sharing the Facebook photos.
What particular event sparked Ed to write? You can read the whole article here, but basically back at the end of April, a few soldiers were unable to access the Southern Baptist Convention’s website. Of course, there was a massive, outraged, completely unhinged (the impolite internet term I’m reminded of is “butthurt”) response, accusing the government and the military of trying to block Evangelical thought from the military.
What really happened? It was a problem with SBC.net that triggered the military’s web protection software. Oooooops.
If only someone had just asked. Reasonably. Before we started sharpening pitchforks and making protest signs.
We’re supposed to be the people who stand for TRUTH. When we’re better known for believing every “sky-is-falling” conspiracy theory on the internet, and for turning every political molehill into some sort of mountainous campaign to destroy America and “our way of life” – when we behave in a way that makes us (correctly, might I add) look to the rest of the world like tinfoit hat-wearing nutball raisincakes, why on earth do we expect the rest of the world to believe anything else we say – about God, about His love, about the salvation He offers us?
I’ve done it, too, I’m sure. If I haven’t posted anything insane on Facebook, then I’m sure I’ve at least whispered some angry political rumor that turned out to be completely (and verifiably) false. And trust me, I’ve seen the other side. I’ve talked to non-Christian friends who, thanks to our own actions, now associate us with the crazy-pants wackjobs of the internet. I don’t like that. I don’t want the unbelieving world to lump me and my Savior in with Fred Phelps, or Alex Jones, or anyone else who tosses out rumor and speculation as if it were fact.
James 1:19 – Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (NLT)
So, please, fellow Christians. Next time you read about how Pepsi is printing anti-God soda cans, or how Obama is planning to put his face on the American flag, or whatever else – take a deep breath, check out a reputable site (like Snopes.com!), and maybe – just maybe – wait a day or two to see what turns up before you take it to Facebook.
Remember, the rest of the world is watching.