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Christian Credibility


JenellYB
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It is always discomforting when you realize someone you may know or converse with (often habitually)finds it all to easy to let lies fall from their lips when they find it convenient to do so in attempting to prove their point or win an argument. I always feel like I've just been hung out over a damned if you do and damned if you don't kind of cliff. If you let yourself seem to agree with them, go along with their lie, you are being untrue to yourself and principles of truth, and if you try to call them on it, things are sure to get nasty fast. It can seem sometimes that person is deliberately hanging you out in a position that dares you to call them on their lie.

 

But when it involves matters of faith and religion, it gets especially sticky and uncomfortable. Whether it is related as an account of some supposed personal experience or in a (presented as if true) story that Snopes has termed a "glurge", a made up story pretending to be a true story in the form of a parable with an overdose of sweetness, or the glurge's nasty counterpart, a 'moral of the story' form directed at smearing someone, or in any other form, the identifying mark of such lies is that for reason of internal and/or external inconsistencies, it is plainly a lie being used to proove a point or support a position that may be arguable, in such a form that there is no way to contest the validity and truth of the story without calling the teller a liar.

 

Romans 3:5But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say ? Is God unrighteous who take vengeance? (I speak as a man) 6 God forbid : for then how shall God judge the world?7For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?8And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported , and as some affirm that we say ,) Let us do evil, that good may come ? whose damnation isjust.

 

In contrast to the suggestion appearing within () in this passage, what I'm talking about here is NOT any slanderous false report of lies being used, but when the charge of using convenient lies to provide false support for the supposed intent of doing good is actually true. As set forth in this text, using a lie to try to support some truth of God and God's glory is still judged a sinful lie. I suggest it is a greater sinful lie than when used in any other context, ie, not to claim something of God.

 

This practice is not something one just encounters in individual Christians communicating at a one on one personal level, but most disturbing to me is when I observe it being done by pastors in their sermons, SS teachers in their classes, and Christian writers in their articles, essays, blogs, or books. I was shocked to recently find entire online websites devoted to providing Christian pastors and teachers what are called "sermon illustrations" for them to use in their sermons and teachings.

 

Now, if these "illustrations" were to be presented as what they really are, made-up or even second hand accounts, I'd see no problem. But it is clear that is not the intended presentation. They are to be presented as if a true account of the speaking pastor or teacher themselves, or at least the supposed account of someone they personally know. Even worse can be when a pastor or teacher presents a story as supposedly something an anonymous member of the church has come to him/her about, told the pastor about. For example, if the story is about someone struggling with addictions and pornography, or to try to deal with their spouse's adultery so as to save their marriage, every body in that congregation is likely to start trying to figure out which of their fellow members is involved, and to even begin to think they know who it is.

 

The reason I see this practice, in connection to Christians' sermons, teachings, and right on down to the individual claiming to be "sharing testimony", "giving witness" to the Lord, is that one anyone has figured out how easily and readily that person is to use obvious lies as may seem convenient to getting their point across, nothing else they say can or should be taken seriously.

 

Even when the particular issue at hand in such lies isn't directly a religious matter, but rather, say, an expression of racial, gender, or political bias, it can be just as damaging to the teller's credibility, not just in general with secular topics, but for one that professes and is recognized as being a Christian, their Christian witness is damaged,even destroyed, as well. I think it quite valid to consider that if this person finds it so easy to tell lies to support their social and political biases, why should any trust them in matters so important as one's soul and matters of God?

 

Jenell

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Jenell,

 

I understand and agree. I've thinned down my email list by replying to all on a copy list when I get such lies meant to damage the reputation on another. I let people know that if they send me something and I know it is false or intentionally misleading to damage another I will always copy the list with a correction and call them on it. In my opinion if someone sends something of this nature without checking it out first they are a gossip at best and a liar at worst.

 

Paz

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Harry, I'm laughing quite hard right now, for having just read how you deal with those coming in through your email....because that is exactly how I have started handling it when I get one of those emails, whether the 'lie' is slandering others, or even being used to supposedly 'glorify God' (glurging)...I add my response of facts, then hit reply to all! You are right, it sure thins down the number of those things I get, even from those that are still on my email list, like family members!

 

Jenell

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It is always discomforting when you realize someone you may know or converse with (often habitually)finds it all to easy to let lies fall from their lips when they find it convenient to do so in attempting to prove their point or win an argument. I always feel like I've just been hung out over a damned if you do and damned if you don't kind of cliff. If you let yourself seem to agree with them, go along with their lie, you are being untrue to yourself and principles of truth, and if you try to call them on it, things are sure to get nasty fast. It can seem sometimes that person is deliberately hanging you out in a position that dares you to call them on their lie.

 

Jenell,

 

I agree with you 100%

 

When I was attending a Christian Church, I once visited another only to hear the exact same "personal anecdote" I heard the previous Sunday at my own church! Jenell, it was almost word for word identical to the story our pastor told - even though he prefaced the anecdote with the phrase; "this really happened to me." So, the very next day I confronted our pastor seeking an explanation. He was extremely embarrassed and averted his eyes from mine as he sought to put a spin on it. But, realizing his predicament, he just told me the truth. He actually PAID for the story from a website like the one you mention above. Cheating for pastors! Unreal.

 

Needless to say, it lowered my opinion of the man. I've never held pastors up to any special level, as some do, but I do expect them to maintain at least a modicum of honesty and integrity. It's a job just like any other, and one should strive to do the best at their occupation.

 

I also used to receive an endless supply of "urgent" e-mail chains disparaging this or that with often absurdly simplistic and pathetic lies. My father, who has always been a paragon of honesty, once forwarded such an offending tome to me without checking the veracity of the information. When I returned the chain e-mail with the corresponding Snopes refutation, he apologized and vowed to just hit the delete key when confronted with these things.

 

Your premise is correct; we often seek validation of our worldview - often at the sacrifice of our integrity.

 

NORM

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Norm wrote: "we often seek validation of our worldview - often at the sacrifice of our integrity."

 

Sadly, in addition to one's own integrity, the integity of any really sincere and important message you may have hoped to convey is damaged, as well.

 

As noted in another response here, when you start calling the lies in things like these popular chain emails, you sure do thin down your active email list! I've also begun to call in with posts various family members and friends post alongwith links to such garbage on my facebook page. It has resulted in my feeling somewhat conflicted onthe issue, because I now have at least two family members that have not only 'unfriended' me on Facebook, but will scarely speak to me,if at all, at family gatherings. When its personal like that, it hurts, because I do love and care about those people. But what I considered downright abuses of the practice within our FB circle just kept coming, sometimes 3 or 4 at a time, I just couldn't let them go uncalled.

That the offending links were always video clips of some preacher that was working right wing attack lies, in tones of outrageous fear mongering, about Muslims, Obama, Democrats, and outrageous fear mongering about the then pending Health Care bill, as well as mincing no words that Liberals, Progressives, and Social Gospel Christians are the army of the devil, to me it was not only offensive personally, but blasphemous against the God I trust in and myself and other Christians such as myself that dissagree with the,, I just couldn't keep quiet.

 

If one cares to put "biblical" to this kind of thing, I can only think to point out that the "the Devil" as appears in the NT is translated from the Greek, "Diablos", which actually means slanderer, false accuser.

Yeah, I know, I keep opening my mouth, I'm liable to get nailed to a cross before it's over with, lol!

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One other thing I'd like to point out, is that even when the false stories and anecdotes seem "nice", as in the overly sweet 'glurges', and slantedinsuch a way as to supposedly be "glorifying God", there is still damage done to credibility.

 

This damage is of two basic sorts....first is of course that when through internal/external consistencies, or like you encountered, multiple preachers at different churches over 20 years are all saying this happened to them or someone they know last week, it is still destroying credibility, not just for the individuals that do it, but for the reputation of dishonesty that spills over to stain all that call themselves Christian. Sweet, uplifting, inspirational lies are still lies.

 

Now the second sort of damage can seem more subtle, but in my opinion, that can make it even worse than the first sort.

 

This is the use of lies, false stories presented as true incidents, of "God" supposedly having done some great miraculous thing, the inevitable recipients of said wonderful miracle being some selected Christian(s) presented as strong in his/her/their faith....such stories as I mean here are likea common one told in many places, about some Christian missionaries holed up inside a violent region of Africa, supposedly spared attack by the wicked native insurgents becasue the wicked men "saw" an army of big strong angels surrounding the compound. In that one, we have two elements, which I have come tothink of as the twin forks of the serpent's tongue....we have slander of wicked native people on the one hand, and vain glory that because these were Christian missionaries, God protected them miraculously.

 

Another common kind is the "miraculous healing" (praise god! Hallelujah! praise God, to God be the Glory!) of someone that "doctors had give upon" BECAUSE the people in this church prayed for them, or the pastor elders laid hands on them. See the slander (worthless stupid doctors) and the vain glory (Look at what God will do for US when we ask!). I've actually seen such scenarios where I knew the involved people personally, and enough of the facts to know the truth. One incident I witnessed (and honestly, I DID, I'm not telling a false story!) the "sick" person was a woman who's doctor had palpated some kind of "lump" in her neck during a routine exam. He arranged for her to have a CAT scan done the following week, just to check it out. She told this at church the next Sunday, asking prayers, and pastor and all the elders prayed over her.

Well guess what! Come the next Sunday, all the whooping and praising going on, you just wouldn't believe! Her "miraculous healing" from "inoperable and intreatable throat cancer" was actually played into being a big part of the pastor's sermon! Fact was, the CAT scan had found nothing at all....the doctor's evaluation isitwas just a swollen lymp node that had gone down on its own, the preacher/church's evaluation, inoperable throat cancer had miraculously vanished!

 

Being that I was there BOTH Sundays, heard what was said both times, as well as knowing the woman as my neighbor, I could only sit there wondering 'what the heck??' The incredible thing about it all was by the time they got done with it all, even that woman seemed to really believe she'd just been healed of inoperable/untreatable throat cancer!! Vain glory (their power to command God to heal) and slander (certainly I wasn't the only one that recognized the fraud!)of God on the other, if those witnessing that chose to beleive the obvious....God is a fraud!

When people see that kind of stuff, who can blame them for deciding Christians are just a bunch of nuts!

 

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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Now the second sort of damage can seem more subtle, but in my opinion, that can make it even worse than the first sort.

 

This is the use of lies, false stories presented as true incidents, of "God" supposedly having done some great miraculous thing, the inevitable recipients of said wonderful miracle being some selected Christian(s) presented as strong in his/her/their faith....such stories as I mean here are likea common one told in many places, about some Christian missionaries holed up inside a violent region of Africa, supposedly spared attack by the wicked native insurgents becasue the wicked men "saw" an army of big strong angels surrounding the compound. In that one, we have two elements, which I have come tothink of as the twin forks of the serpent's tongue....we have slander of wicked native people on the one hand, and vain glory that because these were Christian missionaries, God protected them miraculously.

 

 

Jenell

 

I used to write for a liberal (at that time), Christian-themed publication called the Wittenburg Door [yes, I know Wittenberg is misspelled - the mag was satire], and the publisher, Ole Anthony, had a special vendetta against this type of scam (that's what he called them). We investigated the so-called "faith healers." You may be surprised to learn that EVERY SINGLE ONE of them turned out to be liars - and, we had proof. One of the more insidious ones actually hired actors to pretend to be handicapped in order to "seed" the miracles. There was a movie starring Steve Martin (can't remember the name of it) that was loosely based on Ole's project.

 

NORM

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No, I am not at all surprised. I have both personally witnessed such ruses, and have also read/watched reports in which "celebrity" faith healers of that ilk were effectively debunked. I say "effectively" only in regards to people who are working with a functional mind. For those caught under the spell of such charlatons (sp?) there are no facts that would provide sufficient evidence for them to recongnize their state of delusion.

My witnessing the incident described above took place when some years ago, as my own veil of religious delusions were falling about me as so many shards of shattered glass, I felt drawn to venturing out into many different kinds of religion I had not been exposed to before, to visit a while, getting an idea what they were about..the only churches I had experienced were (definitely NON charismatic)Baptist..of course I had to check out pentacostalism, AOG (which is where that incident occurred), etc, actually more than one church of each kind, so as to not base my observations on any one particular congregation. I went into those churches with respect, as nonconfrontational as I could muster, so as to observe without antagonizing. It was a very interesting venture. My tongue got sore alot from my often having to bite it, but worth that effort, in what I was able to learn from it.

 

Jenell

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