“Christian” chain letters generally make me, as a Christian, feel frustrated. I tend to feel they are missing the point (link to a recommended book!).
The last one I got was from a relative, and runs as follows:
ATTENTION ALL CHRISTIANS !!!!
It was announced in this morning’s “Beeld” that Government wants to
change all Christian holidays e.g.. Christmas and Easter, as Christianity
has too many public holidays and it is therefore discrimination against
other religions. They no longer want Christian names for these holidays. So
if you are prepared to stand up for your faith, please sign the form to say
that you are against this proposal.
We will stand up for our Lord!
Every 200 names, please submit to the address below.
AANDAG ALLE CHRISTENE !!!!
In vanoggend se Beeld word daar bekend gemaak dat die Regering ‘n
Nuwe idÃ©e het om die Christen vakansie dae soos Kersfees, Paasfees en
Opstandings dag te verander wat die geloof het glo klaar te veel vakansie
Dae en dit diskrimineer teenoor ander gelowe!!
Dus wil hulle nie meer die Christelike naam verbind met die dae nie.
As jy belangstel om op te staan vir jou geloof en die dae gekoppel aan
die Opheffing daarvan teken asb die lys van name gekant teen die
Stuur die lys aan alle Christene wat jy ken!
Vir elke 200 name – Stuur die lys aan : www.thepresidency.gov.za <
Many people I know may consider this admirable. What are my problems with it? I believe a good chain letter can be worth sending on (especially the funny anti-chain letters chain letters). But chain letters are generally bad for other reasons, such as:
- Bad grammar, spelling, style, and formatting. If you want to send something to lots of people, at least do the effort to make sure we can understand it with the minimum of pain. We can easily read: “Attention all Christians:”. We don’t need all-caps and four (4) exlamation marks!!!! (See what I mean?)
- Lack of verifiable information. Send us a link with proper info showing this is not nonsense or a scam. In this case, it may well have been in “Die Beeld”, but a date and page, or perhaps even a link to the online article, would have been more convincing.
- Telling half the story. This links to the previous point. Anyone starting a chain letter is usually passionate. Passionate enough to be biased. So, if the story doesn’t cover all the bases, it may well be biased. Without a reference, this makes it hard to decide whether to agree with the author.
- E-petitions with names shouldn’t work. Simply, I can reasonably easily write a program to auto-generate signed petitions with names on them. With a little more effort, I can even make the names sound South African, or even Afrikaans. Spammers do this (badly) rather routinely. Why would anyone take a petition like this seriously? To be serious, at least some verifiable information about each person’s existence needs to be provided – hence signatures in real life petitions. On-line petitions often use your address. Filling that in if you’re a privacy freak is not always a bright idea, by the way. I can easily envision such chain letters for shopping chains in SA to collect postal addresses.
- It’s an urban legend. Please check that you’re not just sending an old, nonsense story on. I believe the ultimate resource for unmasking urban legends, hoaxes and other false chain letters is snopes. Another great resource is Google. Simply cut and paste some of the common text of the letter into Google or another search engine and see what comes up. If someone sends a hoax chain letter on, and Google instantly reveals its lack of veracity, JFGI is your friend.
- There’s no evidence that this petition will be useful. An example to the contrary, such as quoted correspondence from a councilman saying that a petition would be taken seriously, would be a great incentive. Follow the guidelines the councilman provides. They have experience in public policy making.
- Don’t give a valid endpoint. If you want the 200th person to do something with a chain letter, make it easy for them, please. Not telling me what to do is useless. Telling me to e-mail it to a webpage is not much more helpful. An e-mail address would be best, I guess.
- I often just don’t give a damn. Often your e-mail is unsolicited. I couldn’t care less, even if it is all true. If you’ve selected me out of your address book manually, it’s a different story, but forwarding to all is simply terribly impolite. Viruses do that, too.
- Don’t give it a subject. It’s so important it doesn’t need one, right?
Now, to this specific chain letter. On my “is this a chain letter” scale above (how many “yes”es out of 9), this one scores a mighty 8, only scoring a no on the urban legend question. Now, I can think that someone might really have thought I’d care (which is what this post was going to be about), but even if I did, they could have attended to some of the other 7 first. Or tossed their copy into their recycle bin, as I shall do with mine.
Next time, I will hopefully write about why I really couldn’t care about the topic of this e-mail, despite being a self-professed Christian.