It is amazing how much disinformation circulates among otherwise intelligent folk, and how much of it is ardently embraced and believed.
For instance, every once in a while Christians are urged to oppose a petition seeking a ban on all religious programming. Atheists are accused of trying to force the Federal Communication Commission to end all religious broadcasts. And even though it is not true and no petition was ever presented to the FCC, just about every year I get letters urging me to call my representative to stop the atheist takeover of our country.
Recently I received an e-mail message warning me about a dangerous and vile movie called “Corpus Christi.” According to the message, this movie portrays Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals. Believers are encouraged to stand together and protest its showing.
Guess what? There is no such movie.
Or how about the hospital in San Francisco that allowed patients on life support to die because they turned off the electricity for an hour to observe Earth Hour.
Those wacky Californians will fall for anything. Of course, so did everyone else who thinks this really happened.
History is always a good source for juicy rumors. Apparently there is a paragraph in Karl Marx’s famous Das Kapital, written in 1867, which predicts our current financial crisis and its inevitable outcome.
“Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalized, and the State will take the road which will lead to communism.”
Oh my gosh! How could Karl Marx see all this 140 years ago? Well, he didn’t. The words are not found in his book.
It’s not hard to figure out where this nonsense comes from. Someone makes up the story about a hospital in San Francisco allowing patients to die in observance of Earth Hour as a joke, a way of poking fun at environmentalists.
But then someone decides it’s true and begins circulating the story around cyberspace. Pretty soon folks are using the story as evidence of how radically dangerous the environmental movement has become. For them, these little nuggets of lunacy are proof that their view of the world is absolutely right.
One of the more insidious of these nuggets, and in many ways more dangerous, is the ludicrous suggestion that President Obama’s presidency is illegitimate because he is not a natural born citizen. The numbers of people who believe and advance this falsehood is staggering.
And what it means, of course, is that there are people who are so desperate for President Obama not to be the president that they are willing to commit themselves to a fairy tale in order to have their view confirmed.
That this sort of nonsense has the power to undermine the office of the president, putting our country at serious risk of anarchy, doesn’t matter at all to this group. No, the only thing that matters is that the world makes sense to them on their terms.
Some of the weird things people believe are silly and funny, but some of them are serious and dangerous. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” As it turns out, we also need the truth to keep us free.
James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.