June 28, 2010

The Wagon Wheel Coffee Table of Christendom

Do you remember the scene in When Harry Met Sally, where Marie and Jess pull Harry and Sally into their heated dispute over the wagon wheel coffee table? One of my favorite movie lines comes from that scene, when Marie says, "Everyone thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor but  they couldn't possibly all have good taste."

I think the Christian equivalent of that line goes like this: "Everyone thinks they have the spiritual gift of discernment and a sense of humor, but they couldn't possibly all have, well, either one." (If you've watched many televangelists, you know good taste is not highly valued by evangelicals, and don't get me started on the absence of a sense of humor exhibited by too many Christians.)

Simply put, discernment is the ability to recognize truth, and no one wants to admit they might not have that ability. Our lack of discernment is much more insidious than Jess's affection for his coffee table. It's exhibited on many levels, not the least of which is mindlessly forwarding emails, the equivalent of the "stupid, wagon-wheel, Roy Rogers, garage sale coffee table," that even Harry couldn't support Jess on. (Okay, Harry's mind was on his ex-wife and Ira, but still, he attacked the coffee table when Jess was hoping for some back-up.)

I get emails all the time from my Christian friends that leave me wondering what they're thinking. Any "you won't see this in the mainstream media" line sends them into a frenzy of forwarding because they think we're all being kept from the truth and it's their duty, as a Christian, to let the rest of us know about this conspiracy. The only problem is that if they had any sense of discernment at all, they would know they're forwarding nonsense.

Jonathan Acuff tackled this issue in a post this past week, Not using snopes.com or google. He offered a number of tips for discerning the veracity of a forwarded email. For instance, the "Fwd" in the subject line should be our first clue. "If you're a Christian, you must read this," is another clue that should tell us to check it out before clicking that forward button.

Jonathan also uncovered an urban legend on snopes.com that, to their credit, even my friends who are the most egregious in this regard have never forwarded to me. Evidently there is an urban legend that claims a hole to hell has been drilled in Siberia. He didn't go into it, but there are actual YouTube videos that claim to have recorded the voices of thousands millions of voices screaming from the pit of the hole in question. 

Pardon my French, but WTH are people thinking when they send this stuff out? This was part of my reply to Jonathan's post:

My issue with these mindless forwards is that the story of Jesus is hard to believe. It defies logic. It takes faith. When Christians show ourselves to be gullible chumps who will believe absolutely anything that is forwarded to us in an email, how can we expect anyone to take our faith in Christ seriously? How can we expect to witness effectively when we believe someone actually dug a hole to hell in Siberia? 

I know I'm preaching to the choir since you all are clearly discerning readers. But I need to unload. Since we're half-way between Presidential election cycles, perhaps this is a good time to tell you that it's not just the alleged hole-to-hell in Siberia that makes me crazy. It's the political nonsense that my Christian friends send me during every Presidential election, things they forward without stopping to question, because it supports their political point of view. Again, that damages our witness as followers of Christ.

The same is true of Facebook. I have friends who put every viral post that comes along in their status bars, again, never questioning them because they support their point of view. I know they mean well. I know they believe they're speaking up for Jesus. The only problem is you can't spread a lie and speak up for Jesus at the same time. Alright, that's not the only problem with forwarding without question, but you get my point.

I feel better now. Thank you for indulging my rant. You have been terribly patient to keep reading to this point. Now, to reward you for your patience, here's the wagon wheel table clip from When Harry Met Sally:  Even after all these years, it still makes me laugh.



  1. So true! What I've been doing this year as I read through the Bible is to focus on what JESUS said, specifically. In comparison to what we're always taught, Jesus is suprisingly laid-back in his teachings. Not to say anything goes, but He shows that the most important things are love, and really getting out into the world to preach God's Word to people, which often means making ourselves more accessible.

    He never turned anyone away who "wasn't good enough", and the sinners he was hardest on were hypocrites who claimed to be righteous.

    I think many Christians today work so hard at being perfect that it's a turnoff to skeptical non-Christians.

  2. as a lover of Jesus, i have to confess to being
    discernment-challenged. i am too often given
    to emotional responses instead of reasoned

    having said that, i didn't decide to follow Him
    because it was logical.

    no wagon wheel coffee table for me!!!

  3. So true!! I love your comment to Jon's post. Another pet peeve is the e-mails that say things like "only 3% of people who call themselves Christians love Jesus enough to forward this message." I'm sure glad that is not how God measures love, b/c I am never one of those 3%.

  4. Enjoyed the rant tremendously. And I have the same group of naive friends as you do! No one has sent me the one about the hole to hell in Siberia, but believe me I know more than a few Christians who check in their brains at the door when going to church or reading stuff on the 'net. Good job, Single and Sane.

  5. Love your post today! Ok - so Harry Met Sally is one of my all time FAVORITE movies...just love it...for really weird reasons too..lol...but it's just an awesome movie.

    Oh? that wasn't what this post was about? Oops...my bad..


    Seriously - I hate the fact that I have often gotten blasted by friends for NOT forwarding those emails...reposting those status...forwarding those texts...but here's my thing:

    If God is basing his love for me on how many ways I proclaim I believe then the whole concept of GRACE is out the door - why bother. And frankly, I pray and hope that my actions prove my Christianity WAY WAY WAY before the emails or texts or statuses I post do.

    My fave quote lately:
    "Going to church doesn't make you any more of a Christian than sitting in a garage makes you a car."

    You could add to that: "forwarding or reposting" in the "going to church" area and get the same result.

    Love ya gal! Thanks for your support!

  6. did you ever notice the plate he picks up is a turquoise fiesta plate? I notice the stranngest things. Not your point at all I am sure.

    thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. It may sound shallow, but I have been praying for my gardens. *sigh*

  7. Wow, you said that out loud, didn't you? I've wanted to say something similar for a long time. I think the other part that troubles me is that everyone assumes that if I'm a Christian I am going to have their exact same opinion on everything. If they hold that view, then that's just the first thing we will disagree on. But it doesn't mean I don't love them. Or need them in my life. I just don't need them in my inbox.

    Great toughts.

  8. Hey there! I am here from Lady Bloggers! You have a new follower! I think that our journey here on earth is to constantly reevaluate ourselves and to make sure we open our eyes and live a life towards truth. Perhaps there are people who do not have the "ability" as you mentioned, but I think our time here is to be challenging and we are to better ourselves through life lessons. I love When Harry Met Sally! Come visit Mama's Little Chick.

    Mama Hen

  9. Delighted to stop by today. I hope you don't mind if I splash around a bit to get to know you. THis looks like a nice place to slip off my shoes and soak in serious goodness.


  10. M...thank you for being a support of Red letter Believers. I especially was humbled by your mention in Stuff Christians Like, "Best Blogs".

    You have a great variety of posts that are thoughtful and interesting. Nothing lightweight here!

    As far as this post, I think new media - blogs and citizen journalists have done a great job of leapfrogging over the mainstream blockage of truth. But conversely, there are many irresponsible people who purposefully put out garbage that misleads, distorts and twists.

    As Christians, we should approach every blog, email, or internet news story with caution. We are the purveyors of Truth, so we should not be "easily swayed by every wind."

  11. Okay when I first read Jon's post on this topic it took me back to when email first started to be popular and I first started getting these types of forwards, but I haven't gotten any in years.

    When I first read your post I thought... RIGHT ON, but still, I don't get these kinds of emails and I'm not on facebook so I don't see these kinds of postings...

    But in the last three days someone I know from chruch as (randomly) put me on her forward list. Now that I'm getting these kinds of things mutliple times a day, I'm starting to feel a sort of rightous annoyance. I mean.. this lady is really sweet, but my word what in the heck must she really believe? I have to wonder if she fully reads some of these before she sends them on. I hope she doesn't.

  12. margaret,

    you have the biggest following of admirers!
    we all love your wisdom and sense of humor.

    thank you, for being especially supportive of
    sunday this past MONTH.

    and yes, i am weary to death of it. it is such
    a relief to get back to my life, that i like a
    lot. :)

  13. I don't think my post is going to stop the problem, but it's good to know that so many who are on the receiving end react the same way I do! Maybe someday, everyone will get it!

    Thanks for your comments!