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Christian urban legends (CULs)

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This essay describes CULs that we have uncovered from Internet mailing lists, Emails from conservative Christians, Urban Legend web sites, etc:

bulletThe razor blades in the Halloween apples hoax: As the end of October approaches each year, anti-Neopagan articles are published and sermons delivered by some conservative Christians. These often take the form of of attacks on Wiccans. Often, Witches are blamed for distributing adulterated apples and candy at Halloween: apples with imbedded razor blades; candy coated with poison, etc. The accusations appear to be unfounded. More details.
bulletThe Nazi Holocaust never existed: This is not a rumor that is necessarily believed only by Christians. However, all of the North Americans of whom we are aware, who publish books or manage web sites which deny the Holocaust, happen to be Christians. Some claim that the Nazi death camps were simply internment sites, and that no systematic killing of Jews, Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses and homosexuals occurred. Others believe that members of these groups were actually rounded up and methodically executed, but that their numbers total a few thousand, not 6,000,000 or so. There is overwhelming evidence that mass genocide did occur prior to and during World War II in Europe that wiped out about one third of all Jews in the areas occupied by Germans. 
bulletY2K Prophecies and Hysteria: Late in the 1990s, many Bible prophecy experts changed their emphasis from looking towards the second coming of Christ to actually predicting Christ's arrival in the near future. By early 1999, most conservative Christian bookstores had arranged displays of books predicting end-of-the-world scenarios and Y2k disasters in the year 2000 and/or early in the new millennium. There were predictions of an asteroid destroying human life on the planet, of a complete collapse of the world economy, a power grab by a world government, the arrival of the antichrist, a universal money system that would prevent persons from buying goods and services unless they pledge allegiance to the Antichrist, and the second coming of Christ. By the fall of 1999, there are signs that some skepticism was beginning to sink in. 1,2 George O Wood, general secretary of the Assemblies of God suggested that one way to dampen the hysteria would be to have anyone who makes a second-coming prediction "first post a $1 million bond to be forfeited to the cause of world missions if their 'prophecy' does not come true on time." Several conservative authors reaped massive profits while many believers needlessly experienced hysteria and panic attacks. The year 2000 has passed into history. None of prophecies came true. In fact, one common property of all of the TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) prophecies down through history is that none has ever materialized. We have prepared a list of TEOTWAWKI predictions in our near and far future. 3,4 We don't expect any of them to come true either.
bulletThe Beast of Belgium: This legend involves a three story high computer that takes up a full city block in Belgium. It is called "The Beast" and allegedly is operated by the European Common Market. It is said to be capable of tracking every human on earth. It is all said to be part of a scheme to identify every person on earth with a marking on either their forehead or the back of their hand. Scanners in each place of business would read these identification marks and control all commerce. The story appears to have originated in a novel by Joe Musser called "Beyond a Pale Horse." It was later made into a movie "The Rapture." The theme is obviously based on passages in the Book of Revelation. There are internal clues which show that the story is not true. With modern computer technology, the volume required would be very much smaller than a three story building that filled a city block. It makes no sense for the European Common Market to be tracking people outside of Europe. 5
bulletBible codes: Three professors at Hebrew University in Jerusalem used an equidistant letter sequence analysis method to find hidden codes in the Book of Genesis. They reported some amazing finds that greatly exceeded what one would expect from pure chance. Some authors capitalized on the findings, and made a great deal of profit for themselves, by uncovering what they claimed to be hidden messages in the Bible which warned of "the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 to a Los Angeles earthquake in 2010." 6 Other researchers attempted to replicate the analyses and found nothing. It turned out that "hidden codes" can be found everywhere: in  U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, in  Tolstoy's "War and Peace," or in any sufficiently long text. It was fairly obvious that the Bible codes were a hoax. They relied on the assumption that the original Hebrew text had been transmitted without error from the time that they were first written to the present time. In fact, there are a number of different editions of the Hebrew Scriptures -- all different.
bulletThe new Jonah: This legend involves a man, James Bartley, who was allegedly lost at sea during the late 19th century, during a whaling expedition in the South Atlantic by the ship "Star of the East." Bartley's boat capsized. He was thrown into the sea and later remembers being swallowed by the whale. The whale was killed and harvested. Bartley was found alive 3 days later by the crew who were cutting up the whale. Some versions of the story say that his skin was bleached white (or blue) by the stomach acids of the whale. This is obviously a story that parallels the experiences of Jonah in the Bible. If true, it would give scientific support for the possibility of Jonah's experiences. This author recalls having heard the story almost 60 years ago. The story is partially true: The Star of the East did exist, and Bartley did serve on it. But there was never a person lost overboard while he was a member of the crew. 
bulletGay/straight violence: Matthew Shepard was a gay University of Wyoming student in Laramie, WY. He was tortured, abandoned, and crucified at the hands of some homophobic young men.. He ultimately died of exposure.  7,8 One perpetrator was Russell Henderson who is serving two life sentences after having pleaded guilty to the kidnapping and murder. Henderson was a Mormon, and was presumably motivated by the church's teachings on homosexuality. 9 He has since been excommunicated by his church. This tragedy spawned several urban legends "which...attained a degree of currency in right-wing political and fundamentalist religious circles." 8 The legends were similar to the real Matthew Shepard story, except that the sexual orientations of the perpetrators and victim were reversed. The legends had a number of homosexuals beating and murdering a heterosexual. The Magnus Hirschfeld Centre for Human Rights in NJ systematically tracked down these stories and found them all to be founded on groundless rumors.  One example is the mythical murder of David Alexander Shaw, aged 22, of Edmonton AB, Canada. 10 He was alleged to have been killed there on 1999-JAN-5. A person, Sandy, who alleges to be one of David's parents, posted a series of Emails to an "Old Catholic Talk" internet mailing list. They read, in part:

"...Apparently David got into trouble with some fags at the University. David is a good Christian boy (man) and he told some queer about how such was a sin to God. Last night a gang of these sick perverted animals waylaid my boy and beat him up, and raped him. I am sick at heart, I am disgusted, I don't know what I am. Do I seem angry? I am. This is what happens because our society dosen't [sic] treat these homosexuals for the sick and perverse people they are. We have coddled them and encourged [sic] them in their pervesity. [sic] We have insisted they are just "normal" people born to be that way. We do so totally ignorning [sic] God's Word in the matter. And this is the result I think...For those of you who support homosexuals, you disgust me. I am sickened that you would abandon Scripture and Tradition. Don't bother to e-mail me. I have no sympathy for any of you. Imagine defending these animals who seek prey in their sinful lust. Sick, disgusting, and as our Bible says, an abomination unto the Lord. Get right with God and give it up.... 

A subsequent letter stated that Davey had been raped and assaulted in a parking lot by five homosexual animals armed with sticks and a steel rod. He was taken to Divine Mercy Hospital in a coma with undetermined internal injuries. The parents allegedly "do volunteer work at a Vancouver Aids [sic] Centre."

Some members of the "Old Catholic Talk" list commented:

bullet"Another tragedy to be marked up to the cause of secular-humanist support for perverts and sinners."
bullet"Homosexuality is not, in my opinion, a lifestyle or a choice, it is A mental and moral illness and must be treated as such."
bullet"They almost cannot help themselves as their moral choices are deteriorated beyond normal recognition. Like animals they prey upon their victims, ever vigilant to latch up a new member to their perverse lifestyle."

Various responses to the request for information commented that there are some clues that suggest that the letter is a fraud:

bulletThere is no Divine Mercy Hospital in Edmonton -- or in Canada for that matter.
bullet"AIDS" is spelled incorrectly; this is a strange spelling for a person who works in an AIDS clinic.
bulletAlthough such a murder would be featured in Edmonton's main newspaper, no article appeared. (Edmonton has fewer than 20 homicides per year among their 1 million population; a killing is an unusual event that would be front-page news, perhaps for days).
bulletThe event was not reported to campus security.
bulletEdmonton police confirmed that there was no such incident.
bulletAlberta Report magazine, a right wing publication with links to anti-gay organizations did not cover the story.
bulletDavid Shaw does not appear in the Edmonton phone directory; he was not registered with the University of Alberta.
bulletThe temperature at the time of the alleged rape/murder was -25 degrees Celsius or -13 degrees Fahrenheit. This is far too cold to be committing such a crime. 
bulletThe language (fags, animals, sick, perverted) seems strange for an AIDS volunteer to use, even under stress. 8

Continue with more Christian Urban Legends

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Related menu and essay on this web site:

bulletChristian urban legend menu
bulletChristian urban legend hoaxes exposed by the ICR

Additional religious urban folktales can be found at:

bulletTruthOrFiction.com at: http://www.truthorfiction.com/

References:

  1. "Haunted Kansas: Stull Cemetery; Rural Kansas," at: http://www.prairieghosts.com/stull.html
  2. Richard Abanes, "Why we must reject millennium madness," Charisma & Christian Life magazine, 1999-JUL.
  3. Jim Lafoon, "Why I'm not afraid of Y2K", Charisma & Christian Life magazine, 1999-JUL.
  4. "End of the world predictions for our future," an essay on this web site
  5. "The Beast of Belgium," at: http://ship-of-fools.com/
  6. "Controversial 'Bible Code' debunked by team of scholars," APonline, 1999-SEP-10.
  7. "Welcome to Matthew's Place," at: http://www.matthewsplace.com/
  8. "Matt Shepard," at: http://www.uglw.org/
  9. Katherine Rosman, "Mormon Family Values," The Nation, 2002-FEB-25, Page 3, at: http://www.thenation.com/
  10. W.A. Courson, "Urgent request for confirmation," The Magnus Hirschfeld Centre for Human Rights, at: http://www.truthtree.com/

Copyright © 1999 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Creation date: 1999-APR-5
Last update: 2009-JAN-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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