Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A new twist on spam ... does this amount to blackmail?

I receive a lot of spam and phishing emails, many telling a very sad story, but the one I received this morning takes the cake. It appears designed to prey on gullible pro-lifers. I am the latter, but hopefully not the former.

Here is the email I received this morning:

From: fira moga [mailto:mogafira1@gmail.comSent: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 1:03 AMTo: Larry Short - USSubject: urgent helloo my name is firanol am from Ethiopia I am christian and i do have girl friend accidentally my girl friend got pregnant and now she has an appointment to abbort it. we are both student now am inviting you to save this child please help us not to commit this sinfull act. we need money to grow this child and she need comfirmation from me if i can get money to grow up this child am doing this with faith because your mission in this world is to save life and make jesus happy and your comfirmation for the reality is holly sprit. am waiting for your response may be you are the one to save this child may be this is not the right place for this message but you can invite others who can do this

I originally considered simply tossing the email into the spam folder, but after some thought and prayer, I replied as follows:

No, my friend, YOU (and your girlfriend) are the only ones who can make such a decision to save your child’s life. (If indeed there is a child at stake here, and this is not a scam, as it appears.) I would happily give all that I own to do this, if it were true, but obviously I do not know you and cannot determine whether that’s the case. And, certainly it would not be wise to just pay out money to someone I don’t know who makes such a claim on email. This essentially amounts to blackmail. The decision rests with you alone. I am praying that you will do the right thing, and I know that God will take care of you and your family if you do. -          Larry

Have you received email messages like this? How would you respond if you did? What's the most manipulative or heart-wrenching scam email you've ever received?

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Snookered by the Today Show

Today I was completely "snookered" by the Today Show.

Today Show reporter Madame Snooker with a very
officious-sounded Mr. Archaeologist in Jerusalem
"at the very (alleged) tomb of Jesus!"
I normally consider myself a fairly snooker-resistant person. The daily emails that come from Nigerian princes who for some reason want to give me millions of dollars, I dutifully ignore. Ditto for the emails I receive informing me that my bank account security has been compromised and urging me to log in and reset my password.

But this one completely got me. Perhaps it got you, too. At the beginning of the popular Today show they teased a story they said "could change everything." And indeed, it sounded quite dramatic: "Scientists believe they have found the lost tomb of Jesus. And buried inside may be his wife and his son! Stay tuned, you won't want to miss this."

And honestly, against my better judgment, I didn't want to miss such an amazing story. As a person who loves (and believes) the biblical account of Jesus' life, this would indeed be big news. Because:
  1. According to the Gospels, Jesus never married,
  2. hence He never had a son. And,
  3. perhaps most importantly, the Gospels tell us Christ's body was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, where it lay until the third day ... when the power of God RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD.
In case you missed the story (the one in the Bible, not the farce on the Today Show), Jesus appeared to His followers, several times and in several different places, then finally called them all together to commission them before He ascended ... STILL ALIVE ... to take up His well-earned place as the eternal Lord of Lords and King of Kings at the right hand of His Father in Heaven.

So, if Jesus' body is still in a tomb down here somewhere, that is indeed Big News. It does indeed change everything. If true it would prove the most-loved book in human history to be a fabrication, the most powerful story ever told to be a big lie, and the whole idea of God Himself would be called into serious question. For me personally, I'm not sure what the point of continued (and very temporary) existence would be.

So I made the decision: I would wait and watch the story to see just what sort of "proof" they had conjured up.

Here's the snookering part ... this was one of those stories that they teased with a good hook, and kept doing so throughout the entire tedious hour-long broadcast, only to present it at the very end. So I had to endure all the rest of the relatively meaningless drivel they call news, not to mention all those hideous ads, before they finally got to the Big Story.

And what was that proof? That big story? Let me summarize it for you here ...

... some little-known archaeologist opened up a crypt of some sort in the middle of Jerusalem, right between two apartment buildings. Apparently there are a lot of these crypts around, supposedly dating from the first century. There was some dust inside that may or may not have been human remains. They made a big show of very official-looking scientists scooping it up into vials as if they were going to do some fancy DNA tests or something.

(And I'm curious ... if you are testing for Jesus' DNA, what exactly are you looking for, anyway? Half of the strand points to mom, but the other half does WHAT precisely? Does God's DNA glow or something? Of course, if you don't believe Jesus was raised by God from the dead, you probably don't believe he was actually the Son of God, either ... do you?)

But no, there was no big announcement regarding DNA, disappointingly. When it boiled down to it ... drumroll, please ... the big evidence was that this crypt had the names "Joseph," "Mary" and "Jesus" inscribed on it.

At this point I was at a bit of a loss. How exactly did this prove that Jesus was married? And had a son? They didn't really explain. The only thing they mentioned was James Cameron's crazy and unsubstantiated theory, derived I think from an apocryphal account which has been thoroughly debunked, about Jesus supposedly marrying Mary Magdalene and impregnating her before He was killed and buried. If this sounds familiar, you've probably been reading some of Dan Brown's entertaining works of fiction. Which I think may be where James Cameron came up with his theory. I'm not sure who's the chicken and who's the egg here.

Anyway, simply referencing the James Cameron theory seemed to be the end of that train of thought. Quite disappointing.

And as to the other "proof," the names etched in stone, one has to ask a few rather embarrassing questions. For instance:

Was Christ's the only first-century family with members named Joseph, Mary, and Jesus? Slate Magazine doesn't seem to think so:
Christ's given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee .... Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus' death.
WHAT?!? You mean Jesus is buried in 70 other places around Jerusalem too?

Also, the Patheos blog "The Secular Outpost" says Jesus was "the sixth most-common name for Jewish males of the time period." Joseph and Mary were also very common names, by the way.

And that's assuming that the inscription was referring to who was actually buried there, and wasn't added by someone at some point as some sort of a blessing or epitaph on whoever was buried there. All kinds of possible explanations.

So, I've been kicking myself all day for wasting an hour listening to this kind of hogwash, when I could have been out walking in the sunshine and enjoying the morning air. I may or may not start watching the Today Show again once they stop getting their news second-hand from the National Enquirer.

But, on second thought, I guess this type of thing should be good for your faith. If hacks like those desperate writers at The Today Show seem to have to obviously dig so hard for dirt to throw at the magnificent name of Jesus this time of year, then the Easter message must really be getting through to somebody, right?

So, let's all repeat it together, shall we: