Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Urban Legends

I wrote the original version of this post pre-Super Bowl 2005... but the recent proliferation of "Super Bowl Sunday is one of the worst days of the year for sexual trafficking" posts has caused me to rewrite this and quote my pastor (also the head of Lifeway Research) in an addendum at the end of it.

Maybe you grew up hearing tales of Paul Bunyan (and Babe, his Blue Ox). Perhaps your family liked the story of Pecos Bill, his fiance Sluefoot Sue, and his Widowmaker. My favorite as a kid was the story of Johnny Appleseed: a guy who wandered the wilderness planting apple trees. (My exposure to all of these is thanks to Walt Disney, who made some nifty short animated films about American legends.)

Well, legends are still around in our modernized society, but thanks to the magic of the Internet, they spread faster than butter on hot pancakes. (Mmmm... even typing that makes me hungry. Maybe I didn't get a big enough lunch?) They're called "urban legends", and while they may have started with a kernel of truth, they've quickly grown way beyond that into the land of make-believe. has a great listing of legends that go along with the Super Bowl:
  • No, sewage systems have NOT ruptured due to the massive number of flushes at halftime of the big game
  • No, women are NOT more likely to be abused on Super Bowl Sunday (this is a particularly evil rumor, as inflating the statistics causes people not to listen when the problem of domestic violence is real)
  • No, 2/3's of the avocados sold in the US are NOT sold in preparation for the big game (actually, it's about 5%... and 14%+ for Cinco de Mayo)
  • No, there are not less visitors to Disneyland on Super Bowl Sunday (it's roughly the same throughout the early spring)
We've got our own set of "Christian" urban legends that (in many cases) pre-date the Internet:
  • the author of the Harry Potter books is NOT a Satanist
  • Madlyn Murray O'Hair ISN'T trying to ban religious programming... in fact, she's been dead for 15+ years!
  • Proctor & Gamble's star & moon symbol is NOT Satanic... and the CEO of the company has NOT appeared on a television talk show to say that he worship Satan
  • Pepsi did not remove the words "under God" when creating a special 'flag' can after 9/11
  • Christian pilots are NOT being paired with non-Christian pilots in case of Rapture (good grief...)
  • The 12 Days of Christmas is NOT a secretly religious song (double good grief...)
And the list goes on.

Just like the Super Bowl legends are a distraction from enjoying the game (more on how you can do that in a minute), the Christian urban legends distract us from spending our time & energy on chasing after God. Not to mention that they make Christians look a bit "dim" when we forward this stuff around without checking it out.

A suggestion: the next time someone sends you an e-mail with one of these kind of stories, take a minute and run it through the search engines at:
Our responsibility as people who follow Jesus (the one who is True) is to handle the truth wisely... "Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won't be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple." (2nd Timothy 2:15, The Message)

Addendum: This is from a great blog post by Ed Stetzer (my pastor) entitled The Superbowl & Sex Trafficking: A Bad Problem That Does Not Need a Bad Statistic.
Sex trafficking will be bad at the Superbowl, because it is bad everywhere. However, we must be careful not to think this is an isolated occurrence. Instead, we need to understand that it is happening in big cities and small towns, here in the United States, and around the world. If you don't think so, read the FBI's excellent page on the subject. Or, look to the State Department briefing for global information.
Sex trafficking is real, widespread, and horrible-- I just don't want to use bad (or unverified) Superbowl statistics to fight it. Facts are our friends.
Using bad or unverified facts discredits the cause, just as the Superbowl link to domestic violence did not long ago, leading one chronicler of that bad stat to explain, "[though] dramatizations may serve a purpose for some activists, domestic violence is too serious a problem for such exaggerations and opportunism."
Simply put, the statistics on sexual trafficking are already horrible-- we don't need unsubstantiated ones.

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