On Politics, Slander and Forwarded Emails

For the past several months I have been receiving – almost daily – forwarded emails containing information about Sen. Barack Obama that, at best, can be described as inaccurate. At worst, slanderous.

As a follower of Christ, the slanderous nature of these emails is what has me most concerned, as much of the time they are sent to me from individuals whom I know to profess a faith in Jesus. Scratch that. They are sent to me exclusively by individuals who claim to be followers of Christ. Additionally, most of the names and email addresses I recognize in the “To:” column are also professing Christians, whom I can only assume are then passing them along to everyone in their address book as well.

Some folks get a little edgy when I use the term “slander” – particularly if they are the ones doing the slandering. But simply defined, “slander” is “an untruthful statement about a person that harms the person’s reputation or standing in the community.” Notice that – by definition – it is still slander even if a person isn’t knowingly spreading false information. There is no denying that the intent of these emails is to damage Sen. Obama’s reputation, especially since most are accompanied by requests to pass the information along to as many people as possible.

The Bible is very clear about God’s thoughts on slander. Hint: He’s not too fond of it. There are dozens of verses in the Scriptures that deal specifically with lying, spreading rumors, bearing false witness and slander. None of them can be considered an endorsement of such behavior. It is safe to assume these verses remain true and authoritative in the era of the forwarded email as well.

The rumors circulating about Senator Obama are many; ranging from claims that he secretly is a Muslim, that he was educated in a terrorist school, and even that he refuses to say the Pledge of Allegience. All of these claims have been addressed (and, in my opinion, adequately debunked), either by Senator Obama himself or by the research conducted and accounts written by the press. I’ve taken it upon myself to put together a list of resources dealing with some of these claims, which you can read below.

As the political race kicks in to “high gear” in the coming months, I would like to encourage Christians to consider carefully the manner in which they are engaging one another about the issues. I believe it is crucial for us to be involved in the political process; engaging those around us in conversation about the candidates and the important issues. But far too often we are allowing things like misinformative or baseless (not to mention sourceless) emails to shape our thinking about the candidates, rather than educating ourselves about their platform and positions.

The next time one of these emails comes across your inbox, regardless of which candidate it is talking about, please take a moment and prayerfully consider whether it might be considered slanderous. Take a moment to do a little research about the claims presented in the email before accepting them as truth. Ask yourself what the source of these claims is, and whether it’s credible.

And for Christ’s sake (literally) please think before you click “forward.”

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2 thoughts on “On Politics, Slander and Forwarded Emails

  1. Some verses pertaining to slander:

    “Do not go about spreading slander among your people.” – Leviticus 19:16

    “Whoever slanders his neighbor… I put to silence.” – Psalm 101:5

    “… whoever spreads slander is a fool.” – Proverbs 10:18

    “… you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is … a slanderer…” – 1 Corinthians 5:11

    “Get rid of all … slander, along with every form of malice.” – Ephesians 4:31

    “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers…” – Titus 2:3

    “… slander no one … show true humility toward all men.” – Titus 3:1-2

  2. These are just a few articles that deal directly with many of the rumors circulating about Senator Obama. There are many more out there. Some credible, others not so much.

    UPDATE: Democratic Debate: Senator Obama speaks about the email rumors circulating about himself during a January 15, 2008 debate.

    My Spiritual Journey: The story of Obama’s faith, in his own words. Excerpted from his book “The Audacity of Hope.”

    Call to Renewal – Keynote Address: Obama’s keynote address at the Evangelical Call to Renewal Conference, in which he discusses his Christianity.

    Obama Nabbed by the Patriot Police: Washington Post article about the infamous photo of Obama allegedly not showing respect during the Pledge of Allegience.

    Obama is a Patriot and Loves His Flag: Barack Obama’s official response to questions about him refusing to say the Pledge. Includes links to sources and video of him leading the Pledge before the United States Senate.

    Barack Obama Refused to Say the Pledge of Allegience?: More on the “Pledge issue” as well as the “lapel pin issue” – with sources.

    Hand Over Heart: The complete Snopes treatment of the email rumors.

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