I have debated writing about this for the past few weeks. I really don't want to come off as judgemental, and it's hard because I already feel like I have ruffled feathers with some of my friends and family with my political jabbering. But I really feel compelled to ask this question, of all of us:
When did we decide that slander was okay, as long as it pertains to politics?
Now when I say slander, I don't mean people opposing a person's policies, asking questions, or saying we don't like a particular candidate. That's all fine by me. I'm talking about people repeating rumors that are untrue, or stating things that are partly true or manipulated, or forwarding an email before checking the facts. I don't think this is being done intentionally, I think it's just passing along information that we get from friends that sound alarming.
Now let me be blunt here. I run in Christian circles. And the slander that is infiltrating my inbox seems to be singularly focused on one person: Barack Obama. I think that some of the things said about EVERY candidate in this election have been detestable. When Palin was accused of faking a pregnancy for her teen daughter, I was livid on her behalf. But I'm talking about the Obama-smearing right now because that seems to be, somehow, completely acceptable in Christian circles. It's like everyone has given each other a wink and a permision slip to spread lies and repeat gossip only if it pertains to Obama.
In my experience, generally speaking, slander is considered uncool for Christians. And lest I sound self-righteous, let me confess right away that I have certainly been guilty of slander a time or five. It is sometimes irrestistable not to pass on a morsel of tabloid fodder, especially when it's scandalous. I've done it too. But what concerns me here is that political slander has become corporate, loud, and out-in-the-open, with no apparent shame or accountability. I would like to think that if I decided, one day, to cc my entire group of friends on some juicy piece of unfounded gossip about somebody, that I would get a few friends who would call me out. If I emailed weekly updates of The National Enquirer to my family every week, I think I would get a metaphorical hand slap.
So why is this acceptable when it pertains to a politician?
I know it feels like the media is biased to the left, but I have heard incredible bias from Christians questioning everything from Barack being Muslim to being a terrorist to not even being American. I'v received emails about Barack painting over the flag on his plane. He won't say the pledge! He only worked in the senate for 143 days! He's racist!. And he doesn't know how to use the phone! I've even been forwarded a video put out by an organization called "NoHussein.org". Don't even get me started on the racial undertones of that one. (I find it insanely offensive when people are subtly comparing Obama to a convicted criminal because they share the same name). And now, there is a Focus on the Family letter that is projecting that under an Obama presidency, pornography will litter our stores, Christians will have no religious freedom, churches will be stripped of rights, homosexuality will take over the Boy Scouts, and the pledge will be banned. That's right. All at the hand of that evil Barack Obama. Sheesh, Dobson. Exaggerate much?
To me, this is the very stuff that makes non-Christians look at us like a bunch of reactionary idiots who can't think for themselves and like to proselytize with fear. People, it's not okay to spread false info, even if it's someone we don't like. I often feel like I am on truth patrol with the email forwards I receive, and I never know how much to say. I dont' want to seem like a nag, or be written off as a liberal nutjob, but it bothers me so much that we seem to be perpetuating the perception that Christians are judgemental fear-mongerers.
Ultimately what I'm saying is that we should all do our research to be sure of the truth of things before we share. Youtube, email forwards, and blogs are sources of great misinformation, and taking all of it as truth and then passing it along is dangerous. One resource I like for checking for facts is this website. I feel like it is unbiased and shows the spinning that happens from both sides. I am very aware that there are untruths coming from the Obama camp. I just don't see them promoted in my circle as much.
If you know me, you know I really enjoy political discourse. I think it's good to question, to debate, to think, and to share ideas. I also think it's fine to look at each candidate with a sharp eye, and make sure we feel they have integrity if they are going to lead us. I guess sometimes it's a hazy and difficult line between being critical and being slanderous. So let's keep ourselves in check. Like checking here or here first.
So be warned. If you send me an email forward, and I research it and it's not true, I may just have to "reply all" and call you out. Or just forward this article back to the whole lot.