Thursday, April 17, 2008

PSA. People, we've got to get together on this.

Please, please, please. For the love of Pete.

To all those sweet folk out there who believe whatever happens to land in their inbox:

  1. If the message is preceded by Fwd: Fwd: Fwd:, it is probably not true. Just believing me on that one will save you countless hours and a lot of dignity.
  2. If the claim sounds totally wild and you haven't heard it from any reputable news source yet, it's probably false. For instance, trying on bras in a store will not make you catch some horrible flesh-eating disease. I kid you not.
  3. If you aren't sure, check There's a search field, and you can enter a couple of terms that will likely turn up your particular urban legend/horror story/political newsflash. You know, like "pigeon," "Coke," and "explode."
I am on this particular soapbox tonight because I received this forwarded message in my inbox tonight, warning me NOT TO ACCEPT THE NEW DOLLAR COIN!

A family member who is not a Christian wrote me soon afterward (having received the same message) and asked what I thought about it. He referred to Jesus driving out the moneychangers in the Temple and wondered how the sentiments expressed in the e-mail compared to Jesus' actions. (Yes, that is a very cool conversation. At least that came out of it. But what if he had just assumed all Christians feel the same way as the sender?)

Here's my reply to him, in part:

For me this falls solidly into the "give me a break" category, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, like 99.98% of forwards, it's not true:

I wish that the Fwd:Fwd:Fwd: LIES!!! CONSPIRACY!!! Brigade would check Snopes. Even once in a while. It would cut down a lot on my spam.

Anyway, even if it were true, I don't see why any uproar is needed or why a Christian would need to refuse the coins. I think people get all torqued up about stuff like this that totally doesn't matter, and they miss the really big stuff. Yes, Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple. Historically, commentators have felt that He was protesting (in an authoritative way) the corruption and abuse that had emerged when people started buying and selling in the Temple court itself the necessary items (as in, required by Biblical law) for sacrifice. The way they were doing it, and where they were doing it, made the holy Temple a "den of thieves."

Your question actually made me think of a time when Jesus was directly asked about money, in the context of paying taxes. In that political climate, religious Jews (here, the Pharisees) generally would have not liked a pro-Roman answer, but to answer against Rome, especially in the presence of government lackeys (Herodians), would be treason, and the people asking Jesus this question knew that. Check out what He says when they try to entrap him verbally:
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
I love how He shuts them up!

What this says to me is that there is, as you say, a division between things monetary and the things of God, so to speak. I'd put it this way: God isn't a part of this world's system. He's not really worried, I think, about whether the USA has "In God We Trust" on its money, because saying it don't make it so. It doesn't make us a "Christian nation" to have that saying on our money. It may at one time have been a statement of collective values--or it may have been a political feel-good bone thrown to the people from its inception. I don't know. And thanks to Snopes, I don't have to care (ha!).
This is the kind of stuff that makes people think Christians are not very smart. That probably doesn't sound nice, but dang, people. We have got to start doing some due diligence on these things.

If I get another Madelyn Murray O'Hair forward, I will pound my desk so loudly that it will affect the San Andreas Fault. Don't test me on that one.