September 19, 2020

Open Mic At The iMonk Cafe: Responding to the Whoppers

micaYour Christian friend has been staying up late on the internet, listening to Christian short wave and now comes up with a collection of completely bizarre, totally mythological pieces of anti-factual, conspiratorial nonsense—“They drilled a hole to hell,”….”Obama is a Muslim”…..”NASA has proven the sun stands still”….”9-11 was prophesied in Ezekiel”….”Christianity is going to be illegal by the next election.”

What do you do?

Do you correct them?
Do you leave it alone?
Do you write down Snopes.com on a card and give it to them?
Do you laugh? Weep?
Do you top it with a stranger story?

What is the right response to ignorance, factual error and sweeping untruths?

Comments

  1. Katie:

    “What does one do when one’s seminary professor just announced that Jesus was born in Nazareth?”

    (a) Quiz him on whether Nazareth even existed during the first century.

    (b) Bring up the “Nazareth / Nazarene” translation issue. (Maybe he was not “Jesus of Nazareth” but “Jesus the Nazarene.”)

    (c) Mention that there was another “Bethlehem” located in Galilee.

  2. Ps. On (b) I mean “Nazirite.”

  3. Andy Zook says

    A lot of good suggestions so far. Specifically, the ‘Obama is a Muslim’ untruth (and in my case, always coming from a Christian) and how to deal with it. I’ve tried different things but usually haven’t pushed back hard, mostly held my tongue and held in the deep sadness that wells up…but next time I hear this, I can I’m going to ask these questions…until I get an honest answer.
    1. Does Obama and his family regularly attend a mosque?
    2. Does Obama’s wife wear a burkha, a veil, etc?
    3. Do Obama’s children attend an Islamic school?
    4. Does a person’s middle or last name identify their religion/faith?
    If they answer in the affirmative, I’ll concede their point.

  4. Kenny Johnson says

    I have a nasty habit of not being able to keep my mouth shut. I try. I can’t. Even when it’s not a whopper, I’m quick to let someone know that I think they’re wrong. Or in some cases that I know they’re wrong.

    Some recent ones from friends:
    Prayer is illegal in schools
    The ACLU never defends Christians
    The SD Bible Study shows that ‘they’ don’t want us to worship [never found out who ‘they’ were]

  5. Kenny Johnson says

    “I’m with Ed though. My poor wife ends up having to hear what I really think later.”

    Oh no.. my wife will have to join the poor wife’s club, because even though I do speak up, it’s amazing how much I actually bite my tongue.

  6. Kenny Johnson says

    “I agree with those who have mentioned that Christians, especially evangelical/born-again seem to be especially prone to this sort of thing.”

    Oh no… There are tons of non-Christians who ate up Zeitgeist the movie — including an atheist friend of mine.

  7. *A lot of good suggestions so far. Specifically, the ‘Obama is a Muslim’ untruth…*

    That one’s easy to deal with: Just email them this picture.

  8. *J, I don’t want to get into that dogfight on Michael’s site again. It’s been thrashed out to death on various places, and it’s not made a screed of difference to opinion on either side…*

    Churlishness be damned: You started it.

  9. I think conspiracy theories are a throw-back to gnosticism; it’s all about having a secret knowledge above and apart from anyone else. It makes one special, elevated above the ignorant, unwashed masses. Conspiracy theorists are their own secret societies, which is amusing, considering most conspiracies typically target some secret, hidden group. There is the element of cultish behavior in conspiracy followers; membership based on fear and coercion; escaping is very difficult.

    Plato-ism raises its ugly head again: you can’t trust what you see, hear, are told, or what you can reason; the truth is somehow obfuscated and is only revealed to the truly enlightened.

    I don’t think it can be combated. Opposing a conspiracy makes one part of the cover-up, part of the problem.

    Sympathy is key.

  10. Also, in every lie there is an element of truth. Opposing the lie is twisted into an assault on the grain of truth.

  11. The people who read and circulate this nonsense often have too much time on their hands. What better than to recommend that they divert their empty hours to iMonk instead! With all the crap on the Internet, I keep coming back to this wonderful blog for a dose of sanity. Michael, you are a blessing to the multitudes!

  12. J, okay, yes, I did start it by mentioning Professor Myers as an example of what I feel to be the more harmful disseminator of opinions than the conspiracy peddlers. Most people will roll their eyes and automatically tune out the “Here’s proof that the mind-control chips are being implanted in your fillings!” stuff, but people will give more credence to someone with a title, in a position of responsibility, maintaining with authority a mistaken version of “Everyone knows that – ” which ten minutes with Google and a history book would show to be untrue. You know, the way that everyone knows that Scholastic theologians debated how many angels could fit on the head of a pin (except they didn’t), everyone knows the truth about the Galileo affair (except it was a bit more complicated than Science versus Fanaticism), everyone knows Columbus was trying to prove the earth was round (except he wasn’t), everyone knows about the bad, bad Christians on the Crusades invading the lands of the peaceful Muslim folk (except that history is more tangled than that).

    There are enough real faults staining the Church without falsehoods or errors being piled on top. I didn’t want to derail the thread or start a dogfight on Michael’s blog, which is why I didn’t start a discussion with you.

    If you want to take this up, I’ll give you an email address and you can berate me as an ignorant churl who only wants to force scientists to worship idols they don’t believe in under pain of death. We can yell and pull one another’s hair to our heart’s content then without getting in Michael’s hair, okay? Or you can tell me to “Clear off” and you have better things to do than try to enlighten my ignorance, since I obviously have a vendetta against atheism and atheists. I really don’t mind either way.

    For the rest of you, consider this: why no Cisterican conspiracy novels? What are they keeping quiet about?

    http://holywhapping.blogspot.com/

  13. On the subject of Obama, it seems rather obvious to me that he picked his church (if not his religion) on the basis of potential political utility to himself.

    Typical behavior for politicians, of course. For the sake of comparison, Bush Jr. became a born-again Baptist at a rather convenient time for him (before that he had been a lapsed Episcopalian), while his co-religionist Bill Clinton got great mileage out of speaking at churches…especially during a certain difficult time when he, you know, needed to bare his soul.

    But Reagan (allegedly Episcopalian) avoided going to church, on the grounds that he didn’t want to inconvenience anybody with all the security details. He was the true saint!

  14. Rothschild the Mason Space Lizard says

    It’s all true.

  15. It seems in this information age, we can all pick our ‘prophets’. They interpret the news for us… Now we can hear what our itching ears want to hear.

  16. If I hear something obviously false from someone who is usually reasonable, I let them know what I think. If I hear something obviously false from someone who has never met a conspiracy theory he/she hasn’t liked, I bite my tongue. After all, honoring my father and mother is supposed to give me a long life in the land the Lord, my God, will give me. 🙂

  17. I don’t really know how many of our Christian brothers and sisters realize the facts of mental illness. Does anyone besides me think that most Christians would be shocked at the fact that 1% of human beings develop schizophrenia over their lifetime? 1 out of every 100. Experimental evidence has also shown that no religious group, agnostic group, atheistic group has more of a susceptibility to this disease. I was shocked by this as a second year medical student after growing up with an evangelical background. Yes, there are people who fall under criteria for “paranoid personality disorders” but never develop schizophrenia, but one in 100 people in any population do develop schizophrenia. Tomorrow I take my test for psychiatry– which means I just finished a six week rotation in psychiatry. Let me tell you, I have found this difficult to deal with– difficult to conceptualize. In the end I learned how to say, “I don’t understand the spiritual interworkings of all this” a whole lot in medical school. I will say that I do believe in demon-possession, but I also believe that many schizophrenics are not demon-possessed. Many times it IS a biological illness. Anybody who refutes that would have to call me crazy, because I’ve seen so many people in the last six weeks go from floridly psychotic to very much normal without psychosis just by taking a few pills. I think this challenges us as believers to say “I don’t know what demon-possession was/is” all the time. I went on a mission trip for six months to West Africa a few years back where surgeries were being performed on people who were already declared “demon-possessed” by those in their neighborhood. They came to a ship and received a simple surgery, went back to their communities and were “miraculously” healed according to all in their hood. Ridiculous. Charismatic Christianity, with all its merits, must be careful not to declare biological illness as spiritual illness, just as science should be careful not to declare all illness biological and unrelated to the spiritual.

    To the one who posted about their friend having him/her meet them in the library and ended up asking “Do you think this place is bugged?” It is highly likely your friend is suffering from schizophrenia, paranoid type. It is not just highly likely, but rather 100% reality, that your friend needs to be properly evaluated by a psychiatrist. Once again, more of these “certainties” that we hear about from our Christian brothers and sisters are the result of mental illness than meets the eye. Not saying its a result of christianity– don’t believe that– but this type of illness cuts across faith lines, that’s all I’m sayin. Any thoughts, please respond.

  18. Clarification– the above comment did not address the large group of “group thinkers” that are not mentally ill, but simply go along with whatever their pastor or parents or christian brothers and sisters say. This is especially harmful in small town, lesser educated areas. Many times, small-town church group think can create “extra-biblical principles and/or facts” and call them “biblical principle and or fact” with little or no resistance. I do believe that the poor and less educated parts of the world have a step up, not a handicap, compared to the “enlightened” world in many areas, but accepting the the realities of modern behavioral neuroscience/psychiatry (when science actually is correct, because science is highly fluid/debated/not always correct)is not one of small-town or developing world Christianity’s fortes. They trump us bigtime in areas like “faith like a child,” “keeping it simple,” “life not being choked out by worry,” etc. But the rejection of proven science and the prosperity gospel are two great examples of where developed-world christianity does have a mandate to educate the less-educated members of our Brotherhood/Sisterhood, that just cause it walk/talks/acts like a duck (a demon-possessed person), doesn’t mean it’s a duck. The “demon-possessed person” may simply need a pill or two.

  19. Ky boy but not now says

    “To the one who posted about their friend having him/her meet them in the library and ended up asking “Do you think this place is bugged?” It is highly likely your friend is suffering from schizophrenia, paranoid type. It is not just highly likely, but rather 100% reality, that your friend needs to be properly evaluated by a psychiatrist.”

    But of course these people are the least likely to agree they have a problem. And suggesting in any way shape or form there might be an issue to be worked out, much less an illness tends to have very bad results. Been there. Done that. Have the shirt, hat, bag, and receipts.

  20. Going back to the questions iMonk raised in the lead article of this thread:

    When a brother or sister starts talking about something totally off the wall, I:

    1. may speak up and correct them with the truth

    2. but will usually smile and say nothing

    I can’t think of better responses, especially when the error in question is Chuck Missler claiming that Mars passed so close to the Earth in OT times it showed up huge in the sky, many times bigger than the moon, and scared everybody to death. Or for the typical WorldNet Daily article about Obama or the economy 😉

  21. People are welcome to have nutty beliefs, but what’s the proper Christian response when they take actions that affect others?

    Case in point: The persistent myth (nee cult) that believes vaccines cause autism. No matter that there’s no credible scientific evidence for it, and plenty that debunks the idea.

    So now we have a breakdown in herd immunity that is resulting in outbreaks of preventable diseases and death in people who are too young, have compromised immune systems, aren’t vaccinated, or for whom the vaccine wasn’t effective. Google “Jenny McCarthy Body Count” for details.

    What do you do when you love these people dearly as members of Christ’s body, but do things that could result in serious harm to their children and the surrounding community?

  22. Storyteller says

    Assuming that this person is not an escapee from a mental hospital, and is actually a somewhat rational person, I’d start with the very basic question concerning their acceptance of the bible as the inspired word of God. From there I would point out that there are many aspects of the world we live in that seek to get us off track and take our focus off of the work before us as servant leaders. Finally, I’d remind my friend what the bible says the earth will be like in the last days, full of confusion and chaos, and acknowledge my own belief that we have arrived at that point in history. I’d also remind my friend that God remains on the thrown and to “keep the faith” knowing we are to occupy until Christ returns – and that worrying about such things as prompted by all of these rumors does not serve the body of Christ.

  23. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I can’t think of better responses, especially when the error in question is Chuck Missler claiming that Mars passed so close to the Earth in OT times it showed up huge in the sky, many times bigger than the moon, and scared everybody to death. — BrianD

    WTF?
    This sounds like Velikovsky, except using Mars instead of Venus.
    Did somebody mistake Wylie’s novel When Worlds Collide for fact?
    Or is this “Just like Velikovsky, except CHRISTIAN (TM)!”?

    (I leave alone the fact that if something like that ever happened, Mars’s gravity would cause such disruption that at the very least Earth would lose its moon; at most, Earth would tidal-stress enough to cause another Deccan Traps-size eruption and accompanying mass extinction event. The only way to avoid this would be to block Earth from all the gravitational effects — the “And Then A Miracle Happened” crowd can ring in with the proof texts now…)

    But of course these people are the least likely to agree they have a problem. And suggesting in any way shape or form there might be an issue to be worked out, much less an illness tends to have very bad results. Been there. Done that. Have the shirt, hat, bag, and receipts. — Ky boy but now now

    And your Membership Card in the Vast Fill-in-the-Blank Conspiracy.

    “WE WON’T BE TAKEN IN! THE DWARFS ARE FOR THE DWARFS!”

  24. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I think conspiracy theories are a throw-back to gnosticism; it’s all about having a secret knowledge above and apart from anyone else. It makes one special, elevated above the ignorant, unwashed masses. — Dumb Ox

    As in “The Conspiracy Has Won, We’re All Gonna Die, It’s All Over But The Screaming

  25. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I think conspiracy theories are a throw-back to gnosticism; it’s all about having a secret knowledge above and apart from anyone else. It makes one special, elevated above the ignorant, unwashed masses. — Dumb Ox

    As in “The Conspiracy Has Won, We’re All Gonna Die, It’s All Over But The Screaming, BUT I *KNOW* WHAT’S *REALLY* GOING ON (smug smug smug)”?

    Years ago, there was this underground-comic version of “The Three Little Pigs” by underground cartoonist Roberta Gregory. In it, the Third Little Pig is a Conspiracy Theorist, telling the two others about The Slaughterhouse We’re All Going To and what will be done with them there in lip-smacking detail. He tells them this as they arrive at the meat-packing plant, go up the chutes, and under the slaughter knives. At no time does he suggest escape or evasion. At no time does he use this knowledge for anything. At the end, he’s the last to go under the slaughter knives; his last words (to his dead companions) are “SEE? SEE? I WAS RIGHT!!!! SEE? SEE? SEE?”

    Ever since then, I have referred to this kind of Gnostic Conspiracy Theorist as “Roberta Gregory’s Third Little Pig.”