I am often the recipient of e-mails that include some clever (though simplistic) statement of faith or conservative values that then request me to forward this to a select number (or all) of my friends and relatives as proof that I love Jesus or am willing to take a stand for my faith or whatever. Even when these things aren't theologically questionable, they feel like little more than electronic-age chain letters.
I got the following from a friend this morning:
God determines who walks into your life....it's up to you to decide
who you let walk away, who you let stay, and who you refuse to let
I need this back. If you'll do this for me, I'll do it for
you....When there is nothing left but God, that is when you find
out that God is all you need.
Take 60 seconds and give this a shot! All you do is simply say the
following small prayer for the person who sent you this.
Father, God bless all my friends in whatever it is that You know
they may need this day! And may their life be full of your peace
prosperity and power as he/she seeks to have a closer relationship
There's nothing wrong with praying for people and lots of times I do that as God prompts me throughout the day. But besides the health/wealth gospel undertone to this, there's the whole putting-God-in-a-box aspect (do this and God will be sure to respond the way you want him to), and there's a rather disturbing element of "I'll pray for you if you pray for me." Yeah, the more I think about it, the more this one bugs me. But the person who sent it to me is a sweet, Godly lady and sometimes I wonder if I'm just being a spoil sport.
But here's another example: A week or so ago I got an e-mail (from the same person, who apparently forwards everything she receives) about where was God in the midst of school tragedies. I don't want to quote the whole thing, but it asked God where he was when ... and then it listed all the mass school killings in the last 10 years or so. The kicker, of course, is God's supposed reply -- he's not allowed in schools. There was more to it, all about how our liberal, godless society has stopped prayer in schools and our kids are morally bankrupt and so what do we expect. But the part that really jolted me was the part at the beginning, which is just so wrong theologically in so many ways. These kind of simplistic, knee-jerk responses to tragedy sound so trite and self-righteous. I'm sure that lots of people were praying at Virginia Tech on April 16 -- God was there. But we live in a world that still groans from the fall and is waiting for God's justice to be made manifest. There is evil in the world and as Christians we are called to respond in redemptive, grace-filled ways. Somehow, forwarding an e-mail like this doesn't seem like that kind of response.
And, just so you'll know, the worst mass school killing in the U.S. actually happened in an era when prayer was a regular part of the school day: In 1927 a disgruntled school board member blew up the school in Bath, Michigan.
So, I almost never forward anything -- I've broken so many chains I should probably be suffering all kinds of catastrophes. ;) But, I love Jesus, even if I don't forward your e-mail.