Summary: This is another popular spiritual urban legend. A Christian cannot defend himself since he has to turn the other cheek.

Urban Legends Part 5

“Just turn the other cheek”

Matt 5:38-39, Luke 4:28-30, John 18:12, Matt 21:12, John 2:13, Matt 26:53

Urban Legend Debunked

A. Today is the last sermon in our ‘urban legend’ series. Next week we are going to start a new sermon series called ‘Character Sketches.” We are going to look at the stories of ‘common people in the hands of an uncommon God.”

B. It seems with the invention of the internet and emails urban legends get passed around much more quickly. The sad thing is that they are believed and then passed along without being looked into. It makes it hard to know what to believe and what not to believe.

C. Sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. It can get so embarrassing that many people just stop reading any forwarded emails or make it a policy to never pass them along. Still, there is that one that comes along from time to time that we feel so sure about and seems so important, that we make an exception, and end up getting burned again.

D. Are there common characteristics to email rumors, hoaxes, and urban legends that can tip us off that they may not be true? Here are six red flags that ought to at least prompt us to be suspicious and avoid passing it on to others.

1. Promises of ‘easy’ money

The first way to know if an email you have received is false is simply if it is an offer for ‘easy money.”

Any email that says you are going to benefit financially by forwarding it to others or you going to inherit money if you would just send a check to help with legal fees is a hoax.

For some reason though people get caught up in this and are constantly being ripped off. Follow the old proverb, “If it sounds too good to be true IT IS.”

2. The lack of good, first-hand information.

The most common ingredient of a false tale is called a “friend of a friend” story. There are either no facts that you can check out, or the source of the story is described only vaguely.

Urban legends commonly lack the classic details of "who, what, where, when, and why.” If we receive an email with what would otherwise be an important or interesting topic, but it is lacking in specifics, we should regard it suspiciously.

An example is a warning that is frequently circulated on the Internet that there is a motion picture being planned that will portray Jesus as a homosexual. All the email says is that somebody somewhere is going to make this movie, then asks the reader to add his or her name to the bottom of the email and forward it to as many people as possible. There is nothing in the message that indicates who is planning the movie, where or when. There is no studio, director, or organization to send the protest to. That particular rumor, by the way, is about 20 years old.

What makes false stories even more difficult to detect is that some of them do include details. For example, there was a rumor that HIV-infected syringe needles were being found in gas pump handles in Jacksonville, Florida. The email named a particular officer of the “Jacksonville, Florida Police Department,” and listed statistics of how many people had been infected with HIV or had died. It gave the story the feel of documentation. The officer did not exist, however, and neither did the police department. Jacksonville is actually served by a sheriff’s office and they’ve never heard of the officer whose name was in the email.

3. Often they have an appeal to the sensational, the ‘wow’ factor

One of the prime reasons false tales have long lives is that we all love to tell a "wow" story. There are sensational things that happen in real life and talking about them is natural. These urban legends sound just true enough to possibly be authentic, and sensational enough to merit retelling.

They may be humorous, such as the story of the man who ran off to Europe with his secretary, called his wife back home and told her to sell the Mercedes and send him the money, so she advertised it for sale for five dollars, and sent it to him just as he asked. Or they may be alarming such as the widely circulated story that says congress is about to tax emails on the Internet in order to recoup lost postage costs. Both of which are false.

4. Guilt trips

One of the fascinating patterns of some false stories is that they will appeal to you to do some noble act such as forward emails to help pay for surgery for a child or solicit your help in some noble cause, then will try to motivate you to do it by dumping guilt on your head.

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