I spend time at a forum for race fans. Mostly the talk is about the Indianapolis 500 and open wheel racing, but we have a separate forum set up to discuss and argue current events. Much of the talk ends up as political rhetoric, and I don't get too involved unless somebody posts something really outlandish. But every once in a while a religious topic gets started. We had one of these late last week with people expressing strong opinions about Christianity promoting a "dumbed-down" version of science. It was a ridiculous complaint, but in itself the original debate was no big deal. However, as happens in many discussions, the topic began to scatter in a few different directions.
Many of the new directions were begun because of a poster I'll call "Ralph" who is very antagonistic toward Christianity. It was also quite apparent that Ralph didn't have much of a grasp of the basics of Christianity. His posts read like he had just heard something from a friend of his, or had found some extremist website to quote.
The folks at the racing forum know that I'm a pastor. A few people can't stand religion, Christ, God or any words which remind them of any deity. That really doesn't bother me. In real life, I probably would just ignore folks like Ralph -- well, not ignore him, but I wouldn't bother to try to "straighten him out" or anything similar. But an internet forum comes complete with an audience. There are posters and surfers alike who could read one of Ralph's ridiculous assertions and actually believe it. So I make it a point to at least give the other side of the story.
After a while, though, the debate gets boring. There is only so long I can stay interested in rebutting the arguments of someone who is not only misinformed, but also is making little sense. When Ralph mentioned people not reading the Bible all the way through from Genesis to Acts (yes, he thought Acts was the last book of the Bible!) I suggested that he really didn't know as much as Christianity as he thought, so perhaps he should check his facts before he makes a post. His defense missed the point entirely.
The argument has subsided now. The outlandish claims about Christians have ceased for the time being. And I realize that I did what I had to do. But the whole process got me thinking. Have I ever been guilty of shooting my mouth off out of ignorance? Have I repeated something I have heard without checking it out first? In short, am I guilty of doing the same thing I found so frustrating and amusing in Ralph?
Of course, I'm guilty. I've trusted people who were actually not that trustworthy. And I've passed along information that I accidentally distorted along the way -- a faulty attention span and bad hearing help. There have been times when people who were debating with me were actually arguing with a fool. That's a shame. I know better. To pass along some information is simply gossip. To not check the facts is simply lazy.
"Lord I pray that You will continually remind me not to be a fool when I'm supposed to be representing You."