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09 January 2008

Tax To Be Levied on E-mails!

I've touched on this topic at least twice, I think, one of those times being my inaugural post. I am not writing it in response to any particular circumstance; no worries -- I have not received any goofy e-mails lately.

A number of years ago I received an e-mail from someone whose address book I'd apparently gotten on thanks to Microsoft Outlook's automatic address book updating. It was a forwarded message; one intended to sound the alert to all Christians within possible e-mailshot.

It began with the apocalyptic tone that many e-mails of its kind so often do. Something like, "I was horrified when I read this..." It then proceeded to tell some of the apparently lesser-known details about J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, and the effect the books were having on children -- mass conversions to withcraft and Satanism.

One excerpt: "'I used to believe in what they taught us at Sunday School,' said Ashley, conjuring up an ancient spell to summon Cerebus, the three-headed hound of hell. 'But the Harry Potter books showed me that magic is real, something I can learn and use right now, and that the Bible is nothing but boring lies.'"

Now, even at a glance we should be able to tell that this is satire. However, the e-mail sender did not pick up on it.

After confirming my suspicions (I found that the entire forwarded material was a satirical invention at TheOnion.com -- and I don't particularly advise checking that site out) I did what any good Christian person should do: I clicked on "Reply to All" and proceeded to mercilessly and maliciously chastize the sender, making sure that everyone knew that she was an ignoramus for sending the e-mail. After all, I didn't want any of the recipients giving us Christians a bad name by forwarding it again.

For some reason this wound up deeply hurting the sender's feelings and making me look like a complete jerk. The experience taught me a few things:

- I wish I'd paid attention to Ephesians 4:29 "Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them." (Just to put your mind at ease, I didn't swear at the lady.)

- Paul's words resound for me and all Christ-followers: "Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone." (Colossians 4:6, NLT)

- Be wise and cautious in what you say -- or don't say -- to or about others. "Get wisdom! Get understanding!" (Proverbs 4:5, NKJV) "Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive." (Proverbs 17:28, NKJV)

Standard disclaimer for this sort of post: Please, no need to advise me that the book series is either bad or good. I do not intend for this post to be seen as offering any sort of stance on the "Harry Potter" books. I use it and its author for a real-life illustration -- hopefully a helpful one.

4 comments:

Cecily said...

Well, you are certainly right about taming our tongue when it comes to "correcting" another's mistake.

On the other hand... I really do hate those email forwards, especially when it is clear that the sender has not tried to verify the validity of the message. I was particularly irked a while back after reading a forward in which the person said defensively, "I'm not checking Snopes on this -- if this message saves one person, it's worth it!" Of course, if the message is FALSE, it's not going to save anyone, anyway... *sigh*

So, I am a firm believer in letting someone know if the forward they've just sent is nothing more than an urban legend. And not just because those irritate me, but to save that person from further embarrassment!

Ten years ago, when I was relatively new to email (I can't believe it's only been 10 years since I got my first modem and email access at home!!), I received one of those forwards, and didn't know to check it out through the Urban Legends site.

In any case, I was publicly called out -- not via a "reply to all" email, but, literally, in a public, group setting -- because I was sharing as a true story an email I'd received. It was SO CONVINCING, and I was SURE it was true! I mean, who would send a false email, anyway? (Remember, I was still an internet newbie...)

You can find the story I quoted here: www.snopes.com/religion/lostday.asp (couldn't figure out how to make this a hyperlink).

Embarrassing all the way around -- but I never forgot that lesson! I stopped sending any forwards for a long time, until I found the Urban Legends / Snopes site. Now, I check EVERYTHING. (Of course, I'm also relying on the validity of snopes.com ... )

So, a digression of sorts, but had to share my own story of public humiliation. :)

Dean Lusk said...

D'oh!

I still get that e-mail from time to time.

Preston N said...

I am so thankful God invented guilt as it is definitely a deterrent when I do stupid things like this! Its the ole' Actions = Consequences thingy at work here. Granted it might have not been our intention or motivation when we replied to emails such as the one you mentioned, but boy it still is painful when it does backfire. Or as my dad use to say "Open mouth and insert foot" this is also known as "Hoof and Mouth" disease!

Personally, I am now so paranoid about this I usually re-read my responses 20 times before sending. The written word is so open for misinterpretation.

Cecily said...

What I'd really love to know is, who makes up these emails, anyway? I mean, they have to start somewhere!

OK, that wasn't really the topic. It was about Harry Potter, wasn't it? :)

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