>Fwd: >Fw: >FWD: >Fwd: Oh, Migosh! (you gotta read this!)!?!
So, I play in a band called Lost And Found. Well, a band of two is more like a duo perhaps…but anyway, I’m the band member who answers all the e-mail that comes our way. I try to write back to everyone who writes us a note. But I try never to write back to the countless forwards that end up in my lap. On the one hand, it seems that a note forwarded to me is somewhat impersonal, especially when my address is one of approximately 100 listed in the “To” column. The more sets of those angle brackets on the left margin, the further removed I am from the original author of whatever’s being sent. So, I usually just delete such things without completely reading them.
On the other hand, I often experience a gnawing desire to write back to these forwards, because they usually contain truth claims about God and life…and I’m not so sure some of them have a right to that claim. It’s just one of those post-it notes in the back of my mind, “#225: Write back to that person who insists that Jesus had blonde hair and blue eyes.”
Well, not so long ago, I received an e-mail from my friend Reed who is a pastor in the Great Lakes State. Reed is an amazing fellow with incredible insight and ideas. And, true to form, Reed had crafted an excellent response to one of these forwards, and I want to share it with you. So, we will start with the forward itself…
<< In a message dated 10/8/00 5:41:58 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
> THE NEW SCHOOL PRAYER This was written by a teen in [town name],
> Now I sit me down in school
> Where praying is against the rule
> For this great nation under God
> Finds mention of Him very odd.
> If Scripture now the class recites,
> It violates the Bill of Rights.
> And anytime my head I bow
> Becomes a Federal matter now.
> Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
> That’s no offense; it’s a freedom scene.
> The law is specific, the law is precise.
> Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.
> For praying in a public hall
> Might offend someone with no faith at all.
> In silence alone we must meditate,
> God’s name is prohibited by the state.
> We’re allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
> And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
> They’ve outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
> To quote the Good Book makes me liable.
> We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
> And the ’unwed daddy,’ our Senior King.
> It’s “inappropriate” to teach right from wrong,
> We’re taught that such “judgments” do not belong.
> We can get our condoms and birth controls,
> Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
> But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
> No word of God must reach this crowd.
> It’s scary here I must confess,
> When chaos reigns the school’s a mess.
> So, Lord, this silent plea I make:
> Should I be shot; My soul please take!
> If you aren’t ashamed to do this, please follow the directions.
> Jesus said, ” if you are ashamed of me,” I will be ashamed of you before my
> Father.” Not ashamed Pass this on only if you mean it.
> Yes, I do Love God. He is my source of existence and Savior.He
> keeps me functioning each and everyday. Without Him, I will be nothing.
> Without him, I am nothing but with Him I can do all things through Christ that
> strengthens me. Phil 4:13 This is the simplest test if you Love God,
> are not ashamed of all the marvelous things he has done for you. Send
> this to ten people and the person who sent it to you!
And Reed writes…
“Dear teen from [town name],
I am sorry that the Nazis have taken over your town, put the freaks, geeks, and sinners in charge, and declared open season on the nice kids like you.
It is tough these days. No doubt about it. Back when I was in school we could pray to anyone we wished to, any time we wanted to, for as long as we wanted to as long as we turned in our assignments. Oh yes. And as long as we didn’t disturb other people. Disturbing other people was not allowed.
For instance, we couldn’t shoot off bottle rockets in class or stand up and talk whenever we wanted to. We weren’t allowed to call people names—even if we thought they were accurate.
It seems like now school is more a place to prove a point than it is to get an education. All of those colors! And the cussing! And the voodoo! And the condoms and the witchcraft! And all the religion going on all the time, whether the Nazis who have taken over your town want it to or not.
Here in [town name] things are a little bit different I guess. Here kids still have a choice about whether they are going to get condoms and use them on each other or not. Every single kid from my church has to decide every day—sometimes more than once—whether they are going to get stoned and go to school, get stoned and not go to school, go to school and not get stoned, or not get stoned and not go to school. At the end of the semester, each one gets a report card, which reminds them why going to school and not getting stoned is probably the best option. They tell me it’s not easy to go to school and not get stoned. But they do it. They have all different colors of hair—even the ones who go to school and don’t get stoned.
That’s why we pray for them and teach them what we call “guerrilla praying.” Maybe that hasn’t been considered out where you live. Here’s how it’s done.
When you are not in school, you memorize some prayers. One is “Help!” I usually start with that one. Another is “Thanks!” I usually end with that one. Jesus taught us this when he was here with us. He said for you to go into your room and shut the door so it’s just between you and God. Otherwise the temptation is to impress people and make a point rather than actually praying. He said only a hypocrite stands on the street corner and makes a scene. The problem with being one of those is that they get lots of e-mail messages…but God isn’t impressed.
So practice praying at home where nobody cares how good you are at it. Then take that prayer with you each and every day. When one of those Nazis who is running your school is looking right at you, smile and remember your prayer. Then add the name of that Nazi to your list of hurting ones that you are praying for. It’s another thing that Jesus taught us—pray for our enemies. I know it sounds dumb, but I’m just telling you what he’s told me.
You’d be surprised at how many kids are doing this. Well, maybe you would be. Around here, they’re often at peace with themselves and others. Which means they do their homework. They play sports or music. They’re good friends to each other no matter what color their hair is.
I know this sounds funny…but around here, school is for learning; and a whole lot of different people go there. People gather for mutual support and encouragement at churches, Bible studies, Christian youth groups, prayer and praise concerts, Christian radio and television stations, Christian bookstores, the homes of other believers, and a whole bunch of other places. And a lot of those people, most of them, in fact, go to school too! Some of them know the same prayers and pray together at different times during the day. God helps them with the Nazis.
Now, I hope this letter will be some encouragement to you, because it sounds like some adults trying to make a point have stolen it from you and added a piece at the end which you may or may not have intended. What this extra piece says is that only a person who agrees with you can be a true follower of Jesus Christ. Well, it doesn’t actually say that. What it says is that anyone who won’t send your prayer is ashamed of the Son of God. Is that really what you meant to say? I am not ashamed of the Son of God, and I am worried about you.
I am sorry that freedom of religion, the chance to practice deep and sincere prayers of the heart, have a Bible in your possession any time you want to, and meet with your brothers and sisters in Jesus anytime you want (except during math class) is not allowed. Please come and visit me any time, and please know that the people of my congregation [here, Reed writes his church’s name and location] are praying for you and other oppressed Christians every time we meet as the Body of Christ. Send me your name and address, and we will make sure you get lots of letters every day reminding you of the reality of the Gospel.
Warmly in Christ, Pastor Reed”
I don’t know if the student actually received Reed’s note. I hope so, because maybe his words made a difference. Even if they didn’t reach the original author, his words helped me…and maybe you as well. As always, Reed impressed me with his honest concern and sensible offer to help in some small way.
I don’t think responding to every forward that crosses the screen is the best use of one’s time. After all, it’s a real pain to try to sort through all those angle brackets scattered throughout the text; and who can possibly know the intent (or even true age) of the original author? However, once in a while, sending a little arrow of a response back into “The Great Void of Forwards” might just serve as a message of compassion and concern.
May we all have more of those qualities, without forwards, or maybe in spite of them, and remarkably—on occasion—because of them.
[Editor’s note: Check out George’s writing in his monthly newsletter at theLost and Found website. You can also send him e-mails through their site, though he respectfully requests that any forwards contain more words in the text than addresses to which it was sent.]
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.