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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

E-mail forwarding guidelinescomment (0)

November 12, 2009


Blessed are they who hit the “delete” key instead of “forward” when it comes to mean-spirited e-mails of questionable veracity, several Christian ethicists said.

They suggested several guides:

► Administer the “smell test.” Christians should ask if any e-mail passes the “smell test” before passing it along, said Bill Tillman, T.B. Maston professor of Christian Ethics at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon School of Theology in Abilene, Texas. If “something just doesn’t smell right about this,” delete the message, he said.

David Gushee, professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta, suggested asking: “Is this one of those mass-e-mail forwards so often shown to be filled with innuendo and half-truths? Do I really want to be one of those people who fills up other people’s in-boxes with forwarded e-mails?” Obvious warning signs that signal questionable content include inadequate or invisible sources, use of partisan or ideologically agenda-driven sources or readily apparent defamatory speech, he added.

► Don’t just trust. Verify. Christians have a responsibility to ensure the truthfulness of any information they communicate, the ethicists agreed.

Tillman recommended using trusted fact-checking Web sites such as snopes.com, truthorfiction.com and hoax-slayer.com. He also suggested checking the original source of information.

► Consider the “seven deadlies.” Before forwarding an e-mail, Robert Kruschwitz, director of the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, suggested asking whether the desire to spread the message relates to any of the seven deadly sins — lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.

► Check motives. Consider why someone wrote the e-mail in the first place. Gushee suggested asking: “What are the likely motives of those who sent me this e-mail?” Next Christians should examine their own motives. Before passing along information — or a juicy story by e-mail — Christians should ask themselves what prompts their desire, Tillman said.

► Measure gossip against the Golden Rule. “If the e-mail is about someone’s character, is the content something I would be willing to say to another’s face? If one passes the content on, will there be any advancement of the values of the kingdom of God?” Tillman suggested asking.

Gushee advised Christians to ask if they have checked the information with the person being attacked or those who represent that person.

When it comes to digitally transmitted gossip, Gushee recommended applying the Golden Rule in terms of “pass on accusations about others as you would want others to pass on accusations about you.”    (ABP)

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