You’d think I would be desensitized by now. But, truth be told, I get more irritated each time it happens. Before their morning coffee has opened passages to their hypothalamus, someone forwards me an utterly asinine email from their Aunt Myrtle which aptly demonstrates the theological aspirations of Joe Q. Christian. I’m sure it seemed relevant at the time.
The sentiment of Aunt Myrtle’s pining will be less than challenging to anyone who knows any actual scripture (beyond what is printed on their clothing or bumper stickers.) It will normally be the stuff that Touched By An Angel episodes are made of; such as the heart-warming story of the child who gave a homeless man his happy-fries outside of the local McDonalds. It may even be an elaborate made-for-email doctrinal hoax about the theological significance of Jesus’ folded “napkin” he left behind in his tomb. It will in some way demonstrate the supposed beauty of Christ in the most inexplicable and anticlimactic scenarios imaginable. (After all, the man did DIE for you in the “real” account.)
This email masterpiece would likely have been penned in a 34 point Dr. Seuss “I Can Read” font. It may have gaudy clipart calligraphy at wantonly random placements. It will likely have several dozen caret marks from previous forwards (the sure sign of a worthy read!) And, on rare and glorious occasions, someone musters enough techno-savvy to embed a midi file of a pipe organ screaming out Amazing Grace at 140 decibels. (In this rare circumstance you will receive a huge purple admonishment to “TurN Up Your SpeaKers!“)
Ok. So far, no significant harm done. Aunt Myrtle pulled an all-nighter. While I cannot begin to comprehend what causes 240 pound construction worker-types to forward this drivel to me, nonetheless I look forward to the point in time when a day’s work for myself might be fulfilled with the mere christening of an utterly kitschy email.
But it never stops there, does it?
Invariably this tour de force – in order to be bronzed into the spam hall of lore – bears one final exhortation. This parting summons is the “Aunt Myrtle” equivalent of the double-dog-dare; a challenge so taunting and fearsome that even the reprobate dare not ignore it: “If you love Jesus, pass this on to ten friends, including the person who sent it to you.“
For the record, if you want to make absolutely sure that I DO NOT pass your email along to anyone else, just add that outlandish sniff-test to it. It’s bad enough that Jesus Junk has found its way into email, and that people believe they are actually somehow fulfilling the Great Commission by blast-forwarding pictures of Cheesus. Do we have to actually pretend that it has such inherent value that Jesus will be somehow disappointed if we fail to forward Aunt Myrtle’s apnea-induced brainchild? I’d rather think that the Jesus I know would be pleased if we spent our email dime broadcasting something a smidgen more useful to the 6,500 casual Christianesque recipients; such as… I don’t know… maybe the Gospel???
Before we tunnel even further into apostasy by the mundane and anecdotal Christianity propagated by all the well-intending Aunt Myrtles out there, let me offer a simple challenge with which you may mentally replace the familiar battle cry of your Jesus-junk-mail. Inspired by scripture, rather than the sleep-deprived drunken stupor of late-night TBN reruns: perhaps, “if you love Jesus,” you should let him tell you how to properly respond?
John 14:15-28 (ESV)
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”