Christians & the Danger of Urban Legends
It seems that many Christians cling to stories, myths, rumors, and legends whether they are true or not as long as they support the claims of the Bible. It’s as if, when presented with some story, the main question being asked is, "Does it support the Bible?" If the answer is yes, then it seems people ought not confuse the issue by asking a follow-up question like, "Is the story true?"
Case in point is a story that has been making the rounds for decades, that of the NASA engineer discovering Joshua’s missing day. There are many others (see footnote below). This is just the Mother of All Bad Legends.
The basic story which changes details every trip through this land of ours is this: Engineer(s) at NASA in an attempt to work out orbits for the planets and satellites have discovered that over the history of man approximately 24 hours are unaccounted for. Where could they be? "Why," says one of the scientists, "I remember a Bible story about God lengthening the day for Joshua when he was in some battle. That must be it! The Bible really is true!!"
Umm... wrong. The Bible, we heartily believe, is true. The NASA story is very untrue.
But it sounds valid. After all, there is a NASA and they do work out trajectories. But! There is no missing day, astronomers don’t calculate that way, there is no way of telling if there were any hours missing thousands of years ago, etc.
How can we stop these sort of bogus stories from happening? You cannot. But, you can avoid being a part of their perpetuation. Here are some things to be watchful for when you get these stories:
- Watch for names. Are any specific names of scientists mentioned? Their labs? Papers they have written that we could check out? Methods they used to discover what they have supposedly discovered? Any facts that can be verified independently?
- Where did you get it from? From the journal Nature, Astronomical Physics Review or even the Washington Post?? Or did you hear it on some Christian radio or television program (neither exactly world renown for scientific integrity) or, worst of all, did some friend forward it to you and all his friends via email? Forwarding like this is an unhealthy practice to say the least. Before you auto forward some story to your mailing list, CHECK IT OUT no matter how true or convincing it sounds. Be Berean-ish even with extra-biblical material.
- Don’t be a link in a long-chained practical joke! There are people out there, fully aware of the gullibility of Christians, who think up semi-believable rubbish just to see how fast it spreads through Christendom. And within the church, if it supports the Bible, it usually spreads at speeds approaching the speed of light. What does that say for us?
- Instead of forwarding, try replying. How about this: When we get these sort of stories, true or not, we write back to the person who wrote it and ask him or her where it was picked up from. How do we know it’s true? What are the sources? In what reputable periodical or website can I find it? Has the story been verified by others? and so on.
- Investigate for yourself. Ask us or another apologetics ministry what they know. There are a lot of good sources on the web. Ask them if you don’t know.
- If it is mean-spirited you shouldn’t tell others even if it is true. Period.
There is a lot of scientific material coming out now which does validate the Bible, which does not embarrass the Body of Christ, and which can be used to strengthen the faith of believers and draw unbelieving people towards a saving faith in the God of the Bible. Let’s be calm and questioning with a healthy skepticism when we hear these stories and see if we can’t be used to spread truth rather than hearsay and rumor. Amen?
other stories: Russian scientists hearing screams from hell from a microphone deep underground in Siberia; radio telescopes aimed at a nearby galaxy picking up angelic praise sounds from heaven; the mean-spirited and destructive rumors involving President Clinton and Obama, the Pope; the classic Proctor & Gamble satanic logos, etc.