A dear friend of mine was duped by a forward about a month ago. The email she received claimed that CBS discontinued the show Touched by an Angel because it used the word "God" in every episode. Madeline Murray O'Hare, the woman who succeeded in eliminating mandatory prayer and Bible reading from public schools many years ago, was blamed for the CBS/Angel fiasco. Not only that, the email claimed O'Hare had a hearing with the FCC, where, if her petition was successful, "all Sunday worshipservices being broadcast on the radio or bytelevision will be stopped." The email urged Christians to action.
Many of you reading this will think this sounds fishy. I immediately did a search and came up with a few urban legend-type websites that debunk these rumors (http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/m/madelynmurrayohair-touched.htmhttp://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bl_petition_2493.htm
The question that interested me most, once the rumor was debunked, was this: How does this sort of thing start? How does it spread? And why? The only true fruit of the rumor-spreading seems to be an increased level of paranoia among Christians. Paranoia and ignorance that prevents us from seeking real public change.
This brings to mind Y2K and my mother, who joined an organization called The Prophecy Club. After many hours on the phone with a "Prophet" named Tom, my mother took a carload of her possessions to Goodwill, applied for her passport, and pleaded with my brother to give his life to the Lord. What did she learn from her conversation with Prophet Tom? That there were Russian troops hiding out in WW2 Japanese internment camps, waiting for all systems to go haywire on January 1, 2000. When chaos commenced, these Russian troops would take to the streets, imposing martial law. Christians would be persecuted, Prophet Tom said, but there was a small farming community in Belize where Christians could survive by working the land, a safe and humble lifestyle.
Mom never made it to Belize, but she was damn sure immobilized by fear, not to mention bereft of her only copy of The Late Great Planet Earth, which she donated to Goodwill in her escape-planning frenzy. I know this story is a bit exterme, and most people I know are not this gullible. Still, there are plenty of organizations like the Prophecy Club making a whole lot of money off their products. And that money is coming from somewhere, likely from very anxious Jesus-followers.