CHRISTIANS AND MODERN MYTHS

Gullibility is not a fruit of the Spirit. Yes, Paul did once tell the Corinthians that a loving Christian “believes all things” (1 Cor 13:7), but what he meant was along of the lines of, “to whatever extent possible, believe the best about other people”.

It’s important to establish this up front, since Christians are regularly bombarded by rumors, many of which are false. Wait ‘til you hear this! someone breathlessly informs us:

They are banning all Christian radio! A guest preacher spoke in our church. “The famous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair is leading a movement to take away our freedom!” he exclaimed. “If we don’t act now, then Christian radio programs will be banned!” He gave some details of the crisis, and I signed the petition to the FCC to reject the atheistic petition RM-2493 and keep the gospel message on the airwaves.

The only trouble is, I was fifteen when I put my signature on the petition. Yet decades later, that same warning keeps circulating, given new life by email and then Facebook. For example, in 2003:

Dr. James Dobson pleads for our action! An organization has been granted a Federal Hearing…by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, DC. Their petition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel of our Lord and Savior, on the airwaves of America. They got 287,000 signatures to back their stand!

The very same rumor is still circulating in a recognizable form, with the number 2493 and the name of Murray O’Hair attached to it, even though the petition (which had nothing to do with banning religious programming in any event) was denied in 1975 and Murray O’Hair has been dead since 1995. More recent variations on the rumor state that President Obama is the culprit; or that atheists forced the cancellation of the TV show “Touched By An Angel”. The FCC has had to issue denial after denial, but the rumor simply will not die. Not even this disclaimer from Focus on the Family has stopped it!

Some circulating myths seek to prove that THE WORLD IS NOT AS IT SEEMS. Surely you have heard this one:

The Procter and Gamble logo is Satanic! After petition 2493, the second-place ribbon would have to go to the infamous Procter and Gamble legend. Supposedly the old logo – which P & G long ago discontinued – was a Satanic symbol. Its owner had supposedly gone on TV to announce that he gave large portions of the company earnings to the Church of Satan (another version says that Liz Claiborne was in league with Satanism). This legend cost P & G some sales, and in 2007 they actually won a major lawsuit against four Amway distributers for circulating the slander.

The world is full of credulous people, but why do Christians seem particularly open to these rumors? My impression is this: One of our principles is that God has revealed to us that the world is not as it seems. Bad things have an explanation: the world is in darkness and susceptible to “every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thess 2:10). Our interpretation of the world is therefore by definition “alternative” and goes against the mainstream. Unfortunately that also means that when we hear a rumor which seems to confirm our view of the world, we are tempted to accept it as true, whether it is well-founded or not. We reason: “Here is an idea that is not mainstream; therefore it is probably true.” That is a fundamental error of logic. It would be like saying “The gospel is for those who perish, foolishness” (1 Cor 1:18); therefore, if a thing is regarded by some as ‘foolish’, Christians might feel obligated to accept it as true.” Therein lies our downfall.

We talk about “Doubting Thomas”, who refused to believe in Jesus’ resurrection until he had proof. His unbelief was wrong; nevertheless, let’s give him credit for not believing in mere rumor. We too should be stingy with our acceptance of hearsay, unless we have solid proof. Otherwise, do you know what the world will say about us? That we Christian fanatics believe any story that comes along. And if we’re the kind of people who pester the FCC for four decades with letters against RM-2493, why should they believe us when we say that Jesus most definitely rose from the grave?

How I wish that we could just list a couple of “Christian rumors” and be done with it; unfortunately, they keep multiplying. Here are a few important ones under the same category, THINGS THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW!

Russians dug so deep they reached hell, and heard the screams of the damned! Click here to read.“Russian scientists conducting deep hold drilling experiments in Siberia break through the earth’s crust at more than 14 kilometers. They find it is unusually hot at that depth (2,000 degrees F)…they drop a microphone into the drilled hole and are horrified when they realize they are hearing the voices of millions of people crying out in torment. Terrified, they decide to abandon the project…” This story had its start in a tabloid newspaper – in fact, I still remember seeing the headline about 20 years ago, while in line at the supermarket.

If you buy food with this mark on it, part of the revenue is a secret tax to the Jews! Well, it would hardly be the world of myths and legends if there wasn’t some sort of rumor against the Jews. You know how on food packages you often find an encircled U or K or the word Pareve? According to one rumor: “major food companies throughout America actually pay a Jewish Tax amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars per year in order to receive protection. This hidden tax gets passed, of course, to all non-Jewish consumers of the products. This scam is to coerce the companies to pay up or suffer the consequences of a Jewish boycott”. The writer suggests that non-Jews boycott all these products. This is an example of centuries-long anti-Semitic rumors, which reached their cruelest form in Mein Kampf = Jewish businessmen secretly pull the strings behind business, and they must be rooted out. The truth of these symbols is that the products were inspected by a rabbi, who certifies to observant Jews – and only a small minority are strictly observant – that they are kosher. No-one is using them to funnel “hundreds of millions” a year to “Zionist” causes. Click HERE.

Some myths have to do with the ancient past. Here are some HISTORY HOAXES:

They found Noah’s Ark! Every few years, somebody “discovers” the remains of Noah’s Ark. The down side is that hardly any two explorers agree on where it is located, or even if it is on Mount Ararat. The latest discovery was supposedly by a group of Chinese Christians in 2010, click HERE.

Of course, this would be a wonderful confirmation of the Bible if the ark were really located, but when scholars say that it is doubtful that they have discovered anything, we should remember that these are not “atheistic or worldly” people who reject Noah’s Ark because, of course, they would never admit of its existence. Rather we are speaking of scientists who take scientifically rigorous steps to confirm or deny a theory. In the case of Noah’s Ark, it’s either sad or amusing to know that apparently local hiking guides near Mt. Ararat know all about the quest for Noah’s Ark, and they are not above charging the naïve to go visit any old piece of timber high on the mountain. That is, local entrepreneurs make a good living as “Noah’s Ark Finders”.

Skeletons of an ancient race of giants have been discovered! I’ve blogged on this before (see HERE): supposedly in India (or Greece, or Egypt) they discovered skeletal remains of giants, which confirm the existence of giants in the days before the Flood (see Gen 6:1-4). In fact, the picture that circulates was digitally altered by a man who entered it in a photo contest. Nevertheless, when I have seen emails or postings about the supposed giants, people say “Well, they’ll never get away showing THIS on CNN”. This man (click HERE) claims that the Smithsonian is involved in an ongoing cover-up, but he offers no proof.

As with hoaxes in general, evidence tends to “conveniently” disappear – and as in most conspiracy theories, the lack of tangible evidence in itself is taken as proof of a cover-up! In fact, in many of our examples, the stories depend on second-hand information from someone now dead, or data in a file that went missing or broad claims that an outsider could verify or negate – that is, the fundamental points that distinguish good science from bad.

NASA proved the Lost Day of Joshua! “So, what happened is, NASA scientists fed all the data of history into a big computer program, and it turned out that there was a day missing. It turns out that NASA proved that the earth stood still for Joshua, and also that a sundial went backwards during the reign of Hezekiah, as recounted in Isaiah 38.”

Although the story was long ago discredited, this blogger states it as a fact (click HERE). He implies that NASA covered it up, but provides no evidence. My friend Robert Newman – who has a PhD in astrophysics, a real one – has a full, detailed study on this rumor and many other articles on the Bible and science (click HERE).

They found Egyptian chariots and horse skeletons under the waters of the Red Sea! Or the Ark of the Covenant or who knows what else; we might classify these objects as Stuff that Ron Wyatt Claimed to have Found. The late Ron Wyatt, according to his own testimony, was pretty much the greatest archaeologist who ever lived. He claimed to have found Noah’s ark, Noah’s house, Mrs. Noah’s grave, human and horse skeletons and the remains of Pharoah’s chariots under the water of the Red Sea; the original Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Sinai; the lost Ark of the Covenant (under the temple site in Jerusalem); the blood of Jesus on the ark. He “proved” from the blood’s DNA that Jesus was born of a virgin, by some method so far unknown to real genetic experts.

There is an analysis of Wyatt’s claims HERE. Wyatt claimed that he had done doctoral work in antiquities and was able to read inscriptions in all (all!) ancient languages; it turns out that this was a complete snow job. Nevertheless he made a career out of making outrageous claims – backed up with fuzzy photographs and vague data – and speaking before mesmerized groups. He seems to have been one of these sorry, deluded people who create their own personal universes and convince even themselves of their grandeur.

They’ve discovered pre-Flood human remains! Some Christians still state that there are fossilized prints of dinosaur and human feet in the Paluxy River; they cross back and forth, proving that dinosaurs existed just a few thousand years ago, not millions.

The evidence for this is sketchy, enough so that creation scientist John Morris stated that it should not be used as evidence for a young earth and the co-existence of dinosaurs and humans (click HERE). Another example which apparently is a hoax is the hammer found in London, Texas, supposedly in rock that was dated as millions of years old (click HERE). This is an example of poor science, where a person claimed to have seen the  this hammer in a certain place, who removed it and showed it around as evidence for a young earth. Legitimate scientists are careful not to remove objects, since part of their significance comes in seeing where they were when found; the technical term is in situ. This is why Indiana Jones would be an outcast from the scholarly world – a pirate who plunders gold and shiny objects, destroying any chance to understand them. Real scientists also allow other scholars to examine their finds; the hammer has been hidden away and no-one has been allowed to perform tests on it.

We used to live in Scotland, and we’ve visited Loch Ness many times; it’s a wonderful place of natural beauty. I’ve even been to the Loch Ness Monster Museum, where all of the supposed evidence is displayed. I’m not a believer: in fact, in 1993 it was discovered that the most famous photo of Nessie was a prank played by some local men. If someone wants to believe the lake contains a sea serpent, I think that’s a harmless idea. What saddens me is when Christians, who should be “wise as serpents” turn out to be gullible when it comes to the important truths.

END-TIME RUMORS

We’ve talked about History and Hoaxes; now let’s turn to another type: rumors, like the Procter & Gamble logo, that supposedly indicate that we are close to the end times.

The Beast Computer in Belgium has all your personal information! (Click HERE) “There is a supercomputer in Belgium that contains all the personal information of everyone on the planet. Its nickname is “the Beast” because it fills several stories of a building. It will be used in the end times to keep track of all people, and it’s the fulfillment of the “first beast” of Rev 13.

I first heard of this at a prophecy conference – in 1974, if I remember correctly! It’s amusing to think now, that the computer was pictured as a massive object, reminiscent of the one in the scary sci-fi thriller, “Colossus: the Forbin Project” (1970); watch the movie some time and you’ll see what I mean. Today, my Dell laptop, which isn’t even new, probably has more storage space and calculating power than any “Beast” that could have been built in 1974. Almost four decades later, the Beast story is still circulating, sometimes with the name of a “Dr. Eldeman” as the creator of the system, sometimes linking this with an invisible tattoo with three numbers of six digits each (666!). Some people claim to know that it’s located in a particular castle. The only problem is that such a computer never existed, and even if it had, would today be ludicrously out of date. As for the idea of tracking every person in the world, give some thought to people groups who have never been counted, let alone entire tribes that the modern world doesn’t know exist: their names are not registered in any central computer. The story still scares us today; we are concerned about identity theft and wonder if the government has too much information on us. But the Beast lives only in rumor.

Chip Implants are around the corner! (click HERE). I’ve seen a number of versions of this one, none of which pan out after close inspection. A few years ago, it was said that everyone would have a chip implanted under their skin, so that the government could track them and their purchases. Lately there is scarier rumor, stating that according to HR Bill 3200 (an early version of the Obama health-care law), every American would have to have a chip implanted in them by March 23, 2013! The rumor even cites the supposed paged number of the bill, although that pages deals with such implants as pacemakers, not a memory chip. This is a rumor that will not go away! The next time you see it – and you will, you will – remember to check the facts before panicking. [Added thought: I hadn’t seen this one, but in 2010 there was a rumor going around that Google was going to give us all chip implants]. Micro-implants are the topic of the moment; of course the Bible says nothing about anything of the kind.

Christian pilots are paired with non-Christians by the airlines, in case the Rapture comes! (click HERE) According to this story, some airlines will not pair two Christian pilots on the same flight, just in case the rapture happens and they both disappear. Instead, a Christian is always partnered with a non-Christian.

This story has been around, we are told, since at least 1993. It was given a further push by a similar plot in the Left Behind series of books. Neither the FAA nor any airline know anything of such a policy. There are other rumors about the end times and other topics, which take the form of “urban legends”; see the sequel to this essay, Christian Urban Legends. One of the most famous has to do with a hitchhiker who predicts the soon coming of Christ, just before he disappears from the back seat.

I know how it is when you hear a rumor, one that seems to confirm what you believe about the world. You might object: “But my friend told me about it, and she’s very reliable!” I’m sure she is in most things. But if you ask her, she’ll say, “my pastor told me, and he wouldn’t lie!” And the preacher will say, “I heard it on the radio program, and it’s more dependable than the mainstream media!” And so on. Whoever you tell the rumor to will say the same thing: “He or she is a good Christian and so I’m sure it’s so!” You can see how rumors keep going – the rumored ban on Christian radio has been passed from one “dependable” person to another for almost four decades.

If someone is a Satanist, that’s worth knowing. If they want to give you a mark on your right hand or forehead, refuse it. But in everything, let’s follow the wisdom Prov 14:15: “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.” There is plenty of evil in the world to go around without inventing more.

“Christians and Modern Myths,” by Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

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