Detecting Christian Urban Legends

Legends are unverified stories or personal experiences made up to further an agenda or elevate a person above mediocrity. Christian urban legends abound on the Internet and in Christian bookstores today. They come in different forms – as personal “testimonies,” sensational news or stories – aimed at provoking an emotional response in people, ranging from fear to outrage to excitement. And they are dangerous because they spread false doctrines, damage reputations and function as tools of exploitation, intimidation and manipulation.

Many spurious stories circulate all over the social media and the Body of Christ like Black Death because many Christians have been gelded by a lack of critical thinking that makes them dance to every squeal. How can we identify such legends? We need to ask:

1. Is the source credible? Is the main figure of the story someone whose credibility, integrity and honesty are well-known and can be checked? Not every Christian writer or speaker has intellectual dignity. Ergun and Emir Caners in their book, Unveiling Islam, claim to be ex-Muslims, yet their work is laden with blunders that even a well-informed Christian shouldn’t make about Islam. For one, many of their citations were dubious (e.g “Hadith 2.541” which is as ridiculous as citing “Bible 2.541”).

2. Does it have names, dates and locations that can be checked? When a story or testimony omits names of the cities, institutions and dates which the events described allegedly occurred, it should give you red flags. No matter how sensational a story is, truth is more important.

3. Can its claims be documented? Can they be backed up by other authentic sources? When a person makes big claims (e.g “Procter and Gamble is owned by church of Satan,” “the NIV removed 64,000 words from the Bible” etc), the onus is on him to prove them with real evidences.

4. Does the story teller seem to aggrandize his role in the story? Does he exaggerate or inflate his importance, power or victimization in his testimony? (e.g “I was in 3rd rank to Satan himself” or “I was so powerful, I controlled 64,000 witches” or “thousands of satanists fought us with millions of curses”)? Don Marquis claimed he was initiated into the Illuminati at 4, made a high priest at 13 and by 17 he was controlling towns in Salem and Massachusetts! One wonders how a teenager could have the skills and sophistication to run a coven of adults or control regions without being detected by teachers, friends or parents. When people embellish their personal stories with fantastic claims to make it appealing, they are presenting legends.

5. Are there reliable, factual or realistic data supporting the major statements made in the story? Or do they contradict established facts? There have been hue and cries about a “newly released” Corpus Christi movie that depicts Jesus and the apostles as gays. In fact, this Corpus Christi was a 1998 promotional stage play. It was never a movie and this rumour had been on for a long time.

In the book, Unbroken Curses, Daniel Yoder claims to come from “a very wealthy Jewish family of international bankers.” Has anyone in the banking world ever heard of the Yoder family? He also says he was sent to a Kabbala boarding school in Switzerland at the age of 6. But facts show that the Ashkenazic Kabbala (the European Jewish tradition) is rarely, if ever, taught oustide a strict setting and definitely not in a school. Its never taught to anyone who is not a seasoned Jewish Rabbi, 40 years of age, married, or has at least 4 children. Someone needs to tell the truth and put the Devil to shame.

6. Watch out for “phantom documentations?” This is when an author or story teller uses excuses to make up for lack of evidences e.g “I used to have a doctoral degree in this field but I can’t present them because my enemies destroyed the institution and seized all my credentials.”

7. Does the story fit the Biblical worldview or does it contradict Biblical Christianity? One “evangelist” Funmi Adebayo made some tapes years ago, 990 Years in the Kingdom of Darkness, in which she claims to have been reincarnated on earth for centuries. Her claims are so wild and absurd, that no one with even simple common sense would stomach them. The part that amused me the most was where she said was a very beautiful Indian lady in her previous life, then one day she met “Jesus” on the astral plane who then “forced” her to accept him but didn’t remember to change her masculine voice back to a feminine one.

That many Nigerian Christians would readily open their minds to the ravings of this scammer says a lot about the demise of Biblical discernment in the church. Disseminating falsehoods to prop up faith or generate fear in people is ungodly and ignoble. It makes us no different from heathens. We are to prove all things and stick only to the good (1 Thess. 5:21).

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