Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Bad Advertising

Humans believe what motivates themselves would motivate others. Therefore, they often advertise a product with what they think is compelling. A man who likes fast cars will advertise the speed a car accelerates. A soccer mother, however, would advertise convenience in carrying multiple children and their paraphernalia. A cost-conscious person focuses on gas mileage; another may point out luxury.

If, however, the person buying is not motivated the same as the seller, no matter how much the seller emphasizes what the seller thinks important…it won’t work.

This point was brought home to me recently when a distant in-law wrote the following on their Facebook:

A teenage girl about 17 had gone to visit some friends one nite & time passed quickly as each shared stories of the past year . She ended up staying longer than planned & had to walk home alone. She wasn't afraid because it was a small town & she lived only a few blocks away . As she walked along under the elm trees Diane asked God to keep her safe from harm or danger . When she reached the alley ............which ... was a short cut to her house she decided to take it. However halfway down the alley she noticed a man standing at the end as though he was waiting for her . She became uneasy & began to pray asking for God's protection . Instantly a comforting feeling of quietness & security wrapped around her . When she reached the end of the alley she walked right passed the man & arrived home safely . The following day she read in the newspaper that a young girl had been raped in the same alley just 20 mins . after she had been there . Feeling overwhelmed by this tragedy & the fact that it could have been her she began to weep . Thanking the Lord for her safety & to help this young woman she decided to go to the police station . She felt she could recognize the man so she told them her story. The police asked her if she would be willing to look at a line up to see if she could identify him . She agreed & immediately pointed out the man she had seen in the alley the night before . When the man was told that he had been identified he immediately broke down & confessed. The officer thanked Diane for her bravery & asked her if there was anything they could do for her . She asked if they would ask the man 1 question . Diane was curious as to why he did not attack her . When the police asked him he answered " Because she wasn't alone , she had two tall men walking on either side of her ." Amazingly whether you believe or not , you're never alone. Did u know that 98% of teenagers will not stand up for God ? God is always there in your heart & loves you no matter what & if you stand up for him he will stand up for you !! I bet 93% of the ppl who read this wont re post

Or course Snopes.com ferrets out how unverifiable this story is.

Normally, I would shrug and think it another Christian meme being spread, but he added an interesting comment. “Why we share our faith.”


I can understand why another Christian would be self-righteously pleased with how God protects one of their own—but do they realize what this comes across to a non-Christian?

This is a story about a young girl being raped. There is nothing “wonderful” to share here, nothing uplifting, nothing compelling us non-Christians to cry out, “What a benevolent God!” This story might be half-way interesting if it had Diane call the police, who picked up the guy admitting he was going to rape someone but didn’t. How God intervened to prevent a terrible crime. (Although even that is problematic.)

Instead what this says, if you pray the right prayer and God is happy with it, you won’t get raped. Too bad for the women whose heart isn’t right with Jesus. Or (because Christian females are raped too) doesn’t pray the right prayer.

This doesn’t make non-Christians pause and think, “Hey, there’s a God I want to know more about.” Rather, it poignantly raises the Problem of Evil—a perennial thorn in the Christian’s side.

The story, of course, is fake. Why a Christian thinks it is remotely compelling to a non-Christian is beyond me.


  1. It's disturbing to me as well. These types of statements are partly why victims feel so guilty. Just one more reason to blame themselves.

  2. What gets to me is the way that Christians will accept and pass on stories like this without the slightest critical reflection, but they believe that first century oral tradition would have transmitted eyewitness testimony about the resurrection without the slightest exaggeration or corruption.

  3. DoOrDoNot,

    I agree this places blame on the victim. Imagine being a Christian woman who was sexually assaulted, hearing this. I could understand feeling guilt and blame for not praying hard enough. Not having enough faith. Not doing ______ quite right to please God like Diane did.

    I am also disturbed by the cavalier attitude toward rape. Need to juice up the story more? Not enough to have a creepy guy who was a sexual predator—make sure to throw in an actual rape.

  4. Vinny,

    At times, I make arguments, and apologists toss them off with, “What speculation!” and I wonder how strong the arguments actually are. Am I making things up? Yet I see two (2) things within this story very similar to what I claimed happened in the First Century writings.

    As you know, one element I look at for Markan priority is fatigue—the fact Matthew copies elements of Mark unwittingly following the story when it doesn’t fit the tale Matthew is telling. Did you see the fatigue here?

    The first sentence notes the friends “shared stories of the past year.” This seems a bit odd—why just the last year? Why not the events longer or shorter? If you clicked on the original tale in Snopes.com, it starts off about Diane returning from university and meeting the friends to talk about their college experiences. Within the first tale, it makes sense to have them “share stories of the past [school] year.” However, someone copied it, decided to make Diane a bit younger, reducing her age to less than college level. They unwittingly left in the part about sharing stories for the “past year.”

    Fatigue. Change an element of the story, but fail to change other parts that make sense in the original story, but not so much in the subsequent story.

    Second, I argue James, the son of Zebedee’s death was included to introduce an element of danger in the story about Peter’s miraculous escape from Prison. Luke only included it to show how precarious Peter’s position was. In the same way, we have the person who made up this tale including a girl being raped, to show just how dangerous Diane’s position was.

    [Think about how preposterous the people are in this tale. Diane goes down a “dark alley” on the way home, and sees danger, but keeps going? The police are apparently totally incompetent, because they can catch the rapist, but still need a line up? The defendant refused to talk until Diane identifies him (never mind the actual victim, DNA, whatever reason the police arrested him, etc.) and then utterly spills the beans? AND becomes willing to talk about an additional, non-charged crime of attempted sexual assault? Yet whoever made this up had no qualms about tossing in a rape. Why would Luke have any similar qualms about killing off James?]

  5. Dagoods,

    Nice pickup on the fatigue. I didn't spot it.

    I might also offer the story as a plug for historical Jesus agnosticism. The story could could have its origins in a historical event. There is nothing implausible about an actual girl who actually prayed for protection on a dark night and found out later that someone else had been assaulted along the route she had walked, whereupon she gave God credit for sparing her. On the other hand, it could also be a pious fiction invented by an imaginative apologist with no more historicity than Footprints in the Sand. I cannot imagine any principled basis for declaring one possibility any more likely than the other.

  6. That anecdotal story, while fake, still has the potential to be damaging. As Dagood and DoOrDoNot mentioned, this kind of story could promote victim-blaming and self-doubt among Christians who are victims of assault. WHO writes these stories!?