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Dumb Christians

June 13, 2010

Yesterday, while washing the dinner dishes, I heard my wife call over from the other room.

“Brad, can you come here? Tell me what you think of this.”

She was sitting at the computer, reading her email. A friend had forwarded a message with a subject heading that said, “This is incredible!”

A sure prompt for heavy eye-rolling.

Scrolling down the contents of the screen, I could see that this friend had forwarded a message from another woman, who had attached a series of photographs depicting the remains of what appeared to be enormous human skeletons lying among the ruins of an excavated archeological site. It all looked very official and scientific, with crystal-clear photographs of an unearthed human skull that was half the size of the full grown man standing next to it with his spade. It was definitely one heck of a gigantic skull.

The friend’s email went on to exclaim the magnificence of how science supports the scriptures, quoting verses from the Old Testament book of Numbers about the Israelites coming across tribes of Giants called the Nephilim:

“The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” Numbers 13:32-33

“What do you think?” asked my wife. She was not sure what to make of it, coming from a trusted friend.

My immediate reaction: “It’s a hoax, of course. Who would believe this crap?”

I immediately conducted a Google search for “Human Giant Skeleton” and found the many articles revealing how a fake photo-shopped photograph went viral thanks to “a very receptive religious audience.”

In other words, “those stupid Christians.”

Why did my wife’s friend not immediately question the validity of this far-fetched tale? Well, probably because it came with a bible verse attached to it. I was so angry and embarrassed, I wanted to march over to that woman’s house and give her a good slap on the wrist for being so dumb. Being so overtly spiritually gullible is downright sinful, as far as I’m concerned

Why do some Christians have to completely suspend their critical thinking for the sake of propping up their perception of the Truth? Who cares if the biblical story of a tribe of giants is actual historical truth, or merely a writer’s enthusiastic exaggeration?  My faith is not going to fall apart if all that biblical talk of giants was just a figure of speech, rather than literal.

And dollars to donuts, I bet the same woman who originated this sensational chain email in the name of the faith is undoubtedly running with the same crowd ranting against the Emergent Church movement and “secular humanism” and anything else that threatens her dogmatic perception of what “Truth” is.  But how many Christians out there are marching for intellectual integrity?

Not enough, apparently.

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2010 4:53 pm

    Wow, this story didn’t make me angry like it obviously did you, however, it did make me think about how foolish we look to unbelievers when we fall for stuff like this. I’m wondering if Christians are just so hungry for powerful supernatural evidence of God in their lives that they jump at any opportunity that supports their knowledge of the bible. Maybe if we were all experiencing more Book of Acts Christianity, we wouldn’t fall for a weak hoax like this.

  2. June 13, 2010 4:54 pm

    My wife gets these type of things all the time from friends. I go to Snopes.com to check them out. Almost always resutls in wife sending the link back to the original forwarder.

    • June 14, 2010 6:29 pm

      Yes, after we found the link revealing the hoax, my wife sent it over to her friend. I thought she should include a direct message that said, “come on, now, let’s not fall for this next time.” But my wife is nicer than me and just sent the link with “You might be interested in seeing this…”

  3. June 13, 2010 6:18 pm

    Of course, it isn’t just Christians. Global warming, 9/11 conspiracies, the illumanti — you name it, and you have people ‘gullible.”
    The internet has a way of spreading information — and disinformation. I know a couple of guys who deliberately plant crazy stories, just to see how far they’ll travel on the net.

    We need to be discerning!

    • June 14, 2010 6:30 pm

      Planting crazy stories to see if they’ll spread? What a brilliant idea! Why didn’t I think of that!

  4. June 13, 2010 7:06 pm

    this post is incredible!

    sorry… couldn’t help myself.

  5. June 14, 2010 8:05 am

    sigh. it’s a cultural thing. we’re all looking to be righter than our critics. we feed our gullibility.

  6. June 14, 2010 11:42 am

    I was giving a workshop this weekend and came to a critical point- and promptly had four or five people get up and walk out. Do you know what I said? ( This was a homeschool convention.) That they needed to think, and to evaluate, and above all, take it all back to the scriptures and test it. I kid you not, one of the ladies came up to me later, quite angry, and told me that (big name pastor/ homeschool speaker) was right “no matter what the bible said”. I had to leave the room, I was so sad, and yet so angry. I wonder if she ‘heard’ what she said?

    • June 14, 2010 6:32 pm

      Ugh. That is so disturbing to me. Hard to believe. But that is what some have come to – a culture of personality rather than independent thinking. I like the way you told people to test it and take it back to scriptures. If you do this, you realize that there is not always going to be an answer. Sometimes it’s just gray or you don’t know. Some people find this difficult, to live with ambiguity in their faith.

  7. June 14, 2010 12:56 pm

    At the beginning of the twentieth century, during the Fundamentalist/Modernist schism, many Christians disengaged with science and retreated into church fortresses, shutting out “culture” and “science.” For many, the result is an “inferiority complex” causing them to grasp at anything that looks like scientific proof of the Bible. Speaking as someone in the secular academy, that’s both sad and totally unnecessary.

    • June 14, 2010 6:33 pm

      It’s like they’ve created their own Christian ghetto. Sad, but obviously running rampant across America.

  8. Andrew Turner permalink
    June 14, 2010 3:21 pm

    Wonderfully valid post on a timely issue.

    I’m not sure, though, that this is a Christian tendency, although perhaps our access to the Truth makes folly that much more intolerable.

    In my experience, these types of nonsense adventures thrive in the minds of the disenfranchised and fearful. Ie: poor, male, Arab man of Muslim extraction with no future, feeds on the myth of the Great Satan and the seventy virgins. Christians, unused to the practice of educated thinking, run over by the world, gravitate to nonsense. The whole world, unable to explain the weather (sacrfices never worked, after all) engage in the climate change myth. Or, 9/11 was caused by ol’ George so that the U.S. could go to war.

    I believe that the way out of this rather pathetic thinking relies on an in depth study of God’s grace and power and the glory he bestows on the average life and person. This rescues a person from the negative mental state that learned stupidity feeds on. After that state of learned stupidity (described as “folly”) has been dealt with as a habit, the individual can move forward in seeking real wisdom.

    In my own life, my forays into learned stupidity have been driven precisely by these things. And I found that the way out lay in acknowledging and acting on grace, even though I didn’t believe in it, in a heart sense. It’s taken years to even grasp a basic understanding, but the freedom from this nonsense thinking has lifted a weight from my back.

    • June 15, 2010 10:04 pm

      “Learned stupidity?” That’s a good one. I am always learning something new from you guys! (but I am definitely not learning stupidity…)

      And, yes, grace is the way out. Sounds like it was for you as much as for me. Thanks for your words.

  9. June 14, 2010 4:19 pm

    Just once, I wish Christians wouldn’t fall for a religious hoa! We’re not all dumb by any stretch, but there are nowhere nearly enough Christians on the net committed to debunking and stamping out chain letter hoaxes! So many just swallow them all up with almost gleeful self-satisfaction, and other Christians either can’t be bothered to say anything about it or are too timid and “polite” to, because well, it’s not “nice” and doesn’t show the meek Christian sprit to tell your wrong-headed friends to stop with the wrong-headed chain letters! I will correct my friends with a debunk and url to sources proving what they just sent was a hoax. But then they just continue sending junk to others who aren’t strong enough to set the record straight! http://cbcf.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?pid=173#p173

  10. June 14, 2010 8:58 pm

    Bradley, you are on some kind of roll lately. Let’s do breakfast again, shall we? 🙂

  11. June 15, 2010 2:41 pm

    And I was getting excited about a wonderful new discovery. I guess I’m part of the targeted demographic.

    My husband the news editor keeps me from getting into too much trouble.

  12. June 15, 2010 5:46 pm

    While I also get nauseous when I read this kind of nonsense, I also find I need to temper my reactions to the people propogating it. It pretty much is a given that all of us who are writing and responding to blogs like those on HigherCalingBlogs are people who have been challenged in some way to think through what we’re saying. Here’s my confession – I was for years a fundamentalist Biblical literalist. (Until my brother pointed out that the Bible says the value of pi is exactly 3.0 and therefore I was saying all of maths is really screwed up – but that’s another story!) God graciously challenged me to very painfully reexamine my understanding of Scripture, of redemption, of God Himself, and to discover that the truth was so much bigger than facts and observations. Most people, for whatever reason, have not been so blessed. Our response must be one of gracious questioning – I have found at times that people are remarkably responsive if there is sufficient grace – it turns out they don’t really believe half of it themselves but are afraid to challenge apparent “truth” – they need us to hold their hands, as we perhaps needed others to hold ours.

    • June 15, 2010 10:01 pm

      Graham – Well, you are certainly more gracious than I am. I just get frustrated and angry, and act out. (as you can see here). I like your approach of “Gracious questioning,” in getting people to respond with a more intelligent viewpoint.

      What a confession from you about being a biblical literalist! I know there are many views on this subject, and I used to be very much the same. But, like you, I;ve come to believe that GOd is so much bigger than my own small and limited idea of what He was supposed to be. And Grace is the key word, in getting there.

      I’ve never heard about the thing where the bible says the value of pi is 3.0. Now you have to tell us where that came from! The suspense is killing me!

      Thanks so much for this comment, Graham!

      • June 16, 2010 11:46 am

        LOL – I thought that might pique your interest … interesting it was Solomon of all people whose math was sub-par. Reference is 1 Kings 7:23 23, during one of those passages most people skip over – the detailed description of the building of Solomon’s temple. “He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it.” Since “modern” math (Babylonian actually I believe) suggests that the circumference of a circle is diameter times Pi, then in this case Pi must be 30/10 = 3.0. The Queen of Sheba would have been shocked! Of course a literalist would say “God can make the value of Pi anything he wants at any time or place) … interesting new philosophical debate … but I digress. For me this is a lesson in the nature of truth. It is clearly sufficient in giving the impression of the massive size of this bowl (15 feet across and 22.5 feet high). It’s like me saying I’m five feet ten tall – that’s not exactly correct but it creates an adequate picture. Of course truth is much, much more than facts anyway …

        BTW one of my all-time favorite book titles is JB Phillips “Your God Is Too Small!” – it’s been something of a rallying cry for me over the years – the book’s [retty good too 🙂

  13. June 15, 2010 9:42 pm

    Brad, I always enjoy your blog. Your comments are always thought provoking, fresh, and well written. It pleases me greatly to watch and encourage your growth and the growing recognition and respect you’re earning. In my opinion, one of the most powerful forces in the Church’s inventory is that of an intelligent, authentic, engaged, and devoted Christian businessman. I am also impressed by the people who comment on your site. As I have time and opportunity, I read their comments as well and feel I’m in the presence of a real community of believers. You and they also “raise the bar” and whet my appetite to write better stuff and create a better site.
    There seems to be little reason to tell you to “keep up the good work!” You’re gonna do that no matter what I may say! ~donkimrey

    • June 15, 2010 9:53 pm

      Thanks Don, I really appreciate it, and your visits! Keep up the good work with your book and ministry of hope and encouragement.

  14. June 16, 2010 9:26 am

    Hmm. On the one hand, this speaks to me. We are currently recovering from years in an “anti-intellectual” environment. They affectionately called me the poet, but I think they felt that I was meddling with dark arts and magic and could turn into Saruman at any moment, calling down storms and resurrecting monsters.

    On the other hand, I feel for people who are easily duped. I’ve been duped myself. It doesn’t make me angry that someone is duped. It happens to the best of us. But it does make me angry when Christians refuse to admit they’ve been duped. That’s just religious arrogance at its worst.

  15. June 17, 2010 7:22 pm

    For some reason God chose to call a wide variety of people to his salvation. Each of us has his own gift. Those of us astute on scams like this need to watch out for our weaker brothers and sisters. (Plus we have all fallen for something.) At least we can rest assured, we are not as gullible as our opponents in the market place of ideas who still think we are here by accident.

  16. August 20, 2010 6:24 pm

    I wrote a short post on this (and have a few more in draft form that may never get published) and it’s certainly not a Xtian only phenomena, in fact it run quite rampant in the partisan political sphere, especially right now it seems.

    I’ve heard it termed “Elective Non-comprehension”, the decision to believe or not believe something even when presented with factual evidence. Having come into contact with folks doing it is quite remarkable and frustrating at the same time.

    The ‘cult of personality’ angle does seem to have a great bearing on it, as well as setting one up with an ‘Us vs Them’ mentality. IE: Mr So-and-so said this, so you are wrong and because you are a [whatever] then you and all [whatevers] are wrong all the time (and maybe even morally bankrupt or evil.

    A very interesting aspect of human psychology.

  17. Ben permalink
    June 10, 2011 2:28 pm

    Every time I see one of these emails I feel a special anointing to teach people about Google and Snopes … it never ends well.

  18. June 29, 2012 9:21 pm

    I love Snopes.

  19. Hesham permalink
    April 16, 2013 11:05 am

    It is now 2013 and this picture is evolving in the arab word with a verse from the Quran , and i have the same feelings as u had back then like Carlin said some people are really stupid.

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