Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Spam Filter (Classic)

I have three different e-mail addresses...
  • my "official" work address - which I use for, well, work. 
  • gamingpastor@yahoo.com is my "old" address - but I've used it for so long that I hate to get rid of it. Really - it's been around since the late 90s. 
  • fluffdaddy@gmail.com is my "main" address - it's the one I check the most often & use for pretty much all ongoing conversations. 
There's some particular reasons I like the gmail account: it will load on any computer (it's web-based), it threads messages so that e-mail conversations are easy to follow (a must when you're using e-mail for a discussion group), it has an amazing spam filter, and it's free.

It's the spam filter that I want to talk about today - some magic bit of coding in the programs & servers helps them get rid of the e-mails from the Nigerian princes who want my help in transferring funds to the U.S., the Canadians who want to sell me prescription drugs by mail, and the complete strangers who think they can improve my sex life. Until we started paying for a spam filter/blocker for newlifeeaton.com (my former church), we used to get 50-100 spam e-mails each day. (OTOH, I have almost no problems with spam on my gmail account.)

Now, I'm not qualified to tell you how this works - with my computer skills, you could tell me that tiny spam-fighting robots intercept each individual e-mail inside my hard drive & throw it to the ground... a bit like the calf-roping event at a rodeo. Heck, I'd probably believe you. But what I do know is that when it is set correctly, it's a lot easier to get to the business of life & relationships & Jesus, a life where I'm not distracted by all the junk that's virtually aimed at my wallet and/or my heart.

Life is a little bit like that - stuff is coming at us constantly: information, entertainment, spiritual teaching, advertising, images, audio, verbal & non-verbal communication... and the list goes on (and on & on & on.) Each of us desperately needs something to filter out the spam messages:

  • I am only as good as what I do. 
  • It's somebody else's fault. 
  • He who dies with the most toys wins. 
  • God's love is there for those who earn it. 
  • If you buy X, you'll be healthier, happier & more likely to have girls drape themselves around you in skimpy clothing. 
  • If it takes hard work, we must not be right for each other. (Note: this bit of wisdom is actually from the mouth of Donald Trump.) 
  • You are not cool enough. 
  • Aging is bad. 
  • It's easier to avoid problems than to face them. 
...and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I did a lot of reading on media literacy a few years back. (Media literacy, by the way, is the discipline of teaching people to interact thoughtfully with popular culture, especially. television & the internet.) One of the common techniques is to teach kids (and adults!) to talk back to the TV set - while you're watching a commercial, for example, you can ask out loud, "What are you trying to sell me?" I'd add another good phrase for those of seeking to filter out the spam - when watching a program or perusing a website, ask, "What do you want me to believe?"

When we blurt out "What do you want me to believe?" to a TV show like Two & A Half Men, it's easy to see that one of the underlying spam messages is "my sexual relationships are the axis around which my life rotates." When we question the news anchors on a show like Dateline, we discover that a prime belief is "Fear will protect you from bad things happening to you." And when we do the same with Oprah, we hear loud & clear that "the world revolves you & your happiness."

The best spam filter we have is truth - capital "T" Truth, which first & foremost resides in the Bible. It's harder to buy into the spam (for example, "God's love is there for those who earn it") when you can see the truth (Ephesians 2:8-9: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.")

And the best way to take in capital "T" truth is to soak yourself in it, just like Madge in the old Palmolive ads. So, put down the mouse & go find your Bible & kick your spam filter into gear.

A version of this post was originally written for The Grapevine - the e-newsletter of NewLife Community Church - back in May of 2008.

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