When Did We Sanction Slander?

DEF slander (noun): words spoken that damage the reputation of another

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.


  1. girl ... i am with you on this one. i'm not a huge van of either one of these guys but i HATE the way they are so mean to each other with accusing them of stuff that just isn't true.

    i'm especially ashamed of the way christians can be so slanderish and promote untrue things about both candidates.

    but like you said it's hard to know what is truth and what is false.

    thanks for posting all the ways to check things out!!!

    have a great week!

  2. I hope you don't mind if I call you out a little on this one.

    You can't tell people not to forward untruth by re-stating their untruth. That in a sense is just spreading the gossip further. Especially if you post links to the false statements. Or, worse yet, you add to the controversy by stating something is factual that really isn't.

    For instance, the letter you ascribe to Focus on the Family, and then call them out for exaggeration - is from a para-organization called focusfamaction. Not Focus on the Family - check out your facts too.

    Oh, an on that note - be careful of where you get your facts - factcheck.org has indeed been linked directly to Obama's camp as a method to disperse more Obama support. The only 'real' place you site is Snopes.com - which is non-partisan.

    Please. Don't pull the old, I have a prayer request - gossip spreading plea that most Christians pull...

    If you don't like it - don't forward it - but don't publish it for all of our sake.

    Check your own motives here...

  3. Anonymous9:38 AM

    Hey, holier than thou... back off.

    Your post, though meant with good intentions - actually did just what you are calling people out for...

    You are spreading the hate - as well as hating others yourself.

    You state with certainty that a letter from Focus on the Family exaggerates and call out Dobson - when the letter isn't from Dobson, nor is it from Focus on the Family (which is a fantastic pro-family, pro-life, pro-christianity organization). The letter is from a para-organization called focusfamaction and NOT Dobson.

    You further post links to all the topics you discuss giving access to further replication. Are you serious with your request?

    If so, simply state your case and move on.

    By the way, slander has a defense - TRUTH. If it makes a person look bad, but it is the truth, it isn't slander. Be careful what you call slander.

    As for the proliferation of Obama hate - have you watch TV, Seen the news or read any, ANY, newspaper - there is much more hate against Palin, McCain and the conservative right than there is against Obama or Biden.

    Take off your racial blinders and take a good look. Seriously.

    As for your fact checking web links. The only link not affiliated with a political party is snopes. both of the other links are either directly or indirectly linked to partisan sponsorship.

    Notice: I just posted this without repeating any untruths... no gossip spreading... and no hate spewed at anyone.

    Try it sometime.


  4. To RB and Rick -
    Did you follow the links? The point of the links was leading people back to a website that REFUTED the claim. Come on. This is not spreading more rumor. It's pointing people to truth on stuff that they have already heard. Have you really not heard every single one of those rumors? You are acting like I'm surprising everyone with this crap. Rick, you said slander has an answer: truth. That's the whole point of the links. Pointing to the truth.

    And sorry to disappoint, but "Focus on the Family Action" did post that letter, and it's a subsidiary of Focus on the Family. It's a legally seperate entity created by Dobson to do lobbying but not get in trouble as a non-profit. No, Dobson didn't write it himself, but it IS his organization that posted the letter. If you don't belieive me, check the website.


  5. Yipes, your topic made a few people a little heated. Nice work!! I just want to let you know that you are rubbing off on me. A couple of days ago I had to correct a few friends on thier Obama is racist and all the other crap e-mails. I very much enjoy it. (this is Kipp by the way).

  6. Amen and amen. Good news for me is that I get a lot less of it after hitting "reply all" with a link to the true story a few times.

  7. Kristen...

    Great post. I especially appreciate your points about proselytizing fear. So true, in my humble opinion.

    I say this with all due respect (seriously)and of course there are exeptions, but... The 'Orange County Christian' is different than the 'Berkeley Christian'. I'm so freaking glad I live here and not there. It would exhaust me and greatly hinder my faith to put up with the kinds of hate you have been getting.


  8. One more thought.

    Most of my local friends are intelligent people that are not religious. When we talk about the issues or candidates the conversations might get heated, but they are not angry and they are never hateful. Yes, we think McCain is out of touch and Palin is severely underqualified. But that is not an attack on character. I've never been in circles that promote the offensive content such as Palin's daughter having her baby, etc.

    I wish the same could be true for a small circle of conservative Christians I know. When I try to engage in conversation about why they believe as they do, it is often met with hostility. There are undertones of anger (as in a couple of responses in your comments) instead of just allowing for diversity of thought without getting personal. The arrogance that any of us REALLY knows much of anything kills me. And in my experience, this type of arrogance comes from my friends to the Right much more than my friend to the Left.


    -- Sidenote: I greatly appreicate my Christian friends who are thoughtful on issues and not reactionary to fear... these comments were not directed to everyone. :)

    -- You don't have to publish this if you don't want since it is long and rambling.

  9. I think Diane makes a very valid point in stating that the undertones of anger and moral slander seem run within the Christian circles and not so much in the secular ones.

    Since I don't vote in American elections (thankfully!) as I am Canadian, I would have to say that from an unbiased point of view the attacks on Obama are beyond ridiculous. The only truth in the crap being spread is fear and that is beneficial to no one.

  10. Case in point:
    Your post didn't seem hateful, reactionary or overly judgmental to me.
    Frustrated, yes. Fed up, yes. But not angry and defensive.

    Now. The comments that disagree? SUCH a tone of anger and reaction and judgment. I'm SO SO SO tired of THAT coming from the Christian community. I want to run and hide and say "I'm not one of THEM." I think a lot of people feel that way. So it makes me want to say, "how's that working for you?" If fellow believers are this turned off by those that act like pharisees, what effect is that behavior having on the rest of the world?

  11. Kristen, were you in my head today? :)

  12. I think your critics are missing the point...Bottom line, there are many Christian conservatives that undeniably bash/slander Obama and other more "liberal" causes...It's so disheartening, and I (like heather of the eo stated) sometimes am ashamed to be associated (by my Christianity) to people like that. I want to be a proud Christian, but when I hear what comes out of the mouths of some in the Christina right, I cringe.

  13. Kristen- Thank you so much for this blog. What I am not liking about politics here lately is that it is seeming to divide so many of us. I don't think we should all agree on everything but to argue, be hateful and slanderous just seems a little against what we stand for huh? I thought we were supposed to LOVE our enemies (whoever that might be in our case) instead of bash them. I guess that gets thrown out for politics. Great thoughts!!

  14. I could not agree with you more on this. I am simply sick with the slander that is tolerated and spread by many of my Christian friends. Yes, talk facts all you want, but slander and fear spreading is not OK and is NOT of God. I was also very discouraged to see that letter from the Dobson organization as I felt it went beyond "concern" by creating worry and the Bible has plenty to say about worry.

  15. Anonymous10:30 AM

    thank you. thank you. and thank you.

  16. Great post, Kristen. If I get another e-mail from a Christian about Obama, my head may indeed explode.

  17. I don't know you, but we would get along. I have been drafting my response to my family for weeeeeeeeks now. All the hate mail spread by my evangelical circle (friends and family) has been absolutely embarrassing. I have been snoping back at them regularly.

    I believe in running a race to win, but how we win is ultimately how we will be judged at the finish line.

  18. Kristen, you are so articulate and I appreciate that you do your homework. Granted, I have not received any such emails that are filled with slander, but it does sadden me that some Christians are so small minded in these areas. Plus, as I have mentioned before, I am very unpolitical. I am more scared than anything! It reminds me of these same "Christians" who think just because they give to the church, they can write anonymous emails to the pastors, ridiculing and saying things you wouldn't say to your worst enemy. I must say, in defense of Christianity, there are always a few in any group who seem to delight in making the rest of us look like idiots. I liked it better when we were the "silent majority".

  19. I don't really know you, but I met you once at Mike and Jodie's (fam. picture 07).

    Any way...I think this post is SO right on the mark. I have heard/read so many RIDICULOUS things from Christians regarding Obama. It's pure ignorance! The same is true for reasons to vote for a political candidate.

    Honestly, I'm glad this election is over.


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