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Remark on a second Christian chain mail

April 21, 2009

This is a sequel to the first article in the ‘series’.

I know my mother has better things to do with her job than to forward these emails to everyone in her address book…I just haven’t gotten her to realize it. And so, today, I got a particularly…infuriating…email.

This is a long one, so I’ll just advise you to click the more link if you want to read the wall of text…

A man from Norfolk , VA called a local radio station to share this on Sept 11th, 2003, TWO YEARS AFTER THE TRAGEDIES OF 9/11/2001. His name was Robert Matthews. These are his words:

A few weeks before Sept. 11th, my wife and I found out we were going to have our first child.. She planned a trip out to California to visit her sister.  On our way to the airport, we prayed that God would grant my wife a safe trip and be with her. Shortly after I said ‘amen,’ we both heard a loud pop and the car shook violently. We had blown out a tire. I replaced the tire as quickly as I could, but we still missed her flight. both very upset, we drove home..

I received a call from my father who was retired NYFD. He asked what my wife’s flight number was, but I explained that we missed the flight.

My father informed me that her flight was the one that crashed into the southern tower. I was too shocked to speak. My father also had more news for me; he was going to help. ‘This is not something I can’t just sit by for; I have to do something.’

I was concerned for his safety, of course, but more because he had never given his life to Christ. After a brief debate, I knew his mind was made up.  Before he got off of the phone, he said, ‘take good care of my grandchild.  Those were the last words I ever heard my father say; he died while helping in the rescue effort.

My joy that my prayer of safety for my wife had been answered quickly became anger. I was angry at God, at my father, and at  myself. I had gone for nearly two years blaming God for taking my father away. My son would never know his grandfather, my father had never accepted Christ, and I never got to say good-bye.

Then something happened. About two months ago, I was sitting at home with my wife and my son, when there was a knock on the  door. I looked at my wife, but I could tell she wasn’t expecting anyone. I opened the door to a couple with a small child.

The man looked at me and asked if my father’s name was Jake Matthews. I told him it was. He quickly grabbed my hand and said, ‘I never got the chance to meet your father, but it is an honor to meet his son.’

He explained to me that his wife had worked in the World Trade Center and had been caught inside after the attack. She was pregnant and had been caught under debris. He then explained that my father had been the one to find his wife and free her.  My eyes welled up with tears as I thought of my father giving his life for people like this. He then said, ‘there is something else you need to know.’

His wife then told me that as my father worked to free her, she talked to him and led him to Christ. I began sobbing at the news.

Now I know that when I get to Heaven, my father will be standing beside Jesus to welcome me, and that this family would be able to thank him themselves .

…This story should help us to realize this: God is always in control.

We may not see the reason behind things, and we may never know this side of heaven, but God is ALWAYS in control.

Please take time to share this amazing story.  You may never know the impact it may have on someone.. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His love endures Forever.  Psalm 136:1
May God bless you, and your family,

I told my mom that this was one of the more despicable emails she had sent me, and then she asked me why I was…”so bitter.”

I replied that I wasn’t bitter at all, but the gross depiction of reality and of a god in this situation (that people apparently BELIEVE IN and FORWARD EMAILS ABOUT) was sickening.

Let’s evaluate. The moral of the story is that God, of course, is in control.  Our scripture: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.

But…c’mon. Look at the implications. If you have a loved one who died on the planes in 9/11, that was God’s doing. And God is in control, so their death was probably to give SOMEONE else great chain mail material. If you were REALLY righteous (or maybe you just prayed harder), then your loved one would have not passed go, would not have gotten on the plane, and would not have died. After all, to his Elect, God provides true miracles such as blowing the tires of cars. (To people who die in car malfunctions…you probably didn’t pray hard enough for your safety. Or maybe you just don’t realize God’s plan for you involves your death?)

But then, in this story, you have this heroic dude…the father. And even the heroics is rent to pieces…the guy is more concerned about his father not being “saved” than he is about his life. And the great triumph of the story isn’t that his father was able to save someone (or that the husband of a survivor found the narrator of the story), but instead that before his death, the father came to Jesus Christ.

So really, what we are supposed to believe is that if that hadn’t happened, this email would be pointless. Because coming to *belief in Christ* is better than heroic *action*.

It’s times like these that I’m glad that most chain mails are fabricated or embellished…because it would infuriate me more to think that there are people who actually walk about thinking like this. Yet, even if this piece is falsified, the sad fact is there are people who manufacture such stories and propagate them on the internet.

…as a consolation, I was glad to find that in many ways, this piece wouldn’t “mesh” with many Mormon ideas. So, I could tell it was more of a generic faith promoting rumor than a Mormon faith promoting rumor. And in many ways, I think the Mormon ‘counterpoints’ to several ideas in this story would be less infuriating. But that’ll wait for another day.

From → Uncategorized

  1. I found the email unbelievable and found your blog when I did a web search intending to find a snopes review ( ) after having received it from a friend. I found your assessment different than mine and interesting.

    We are all going to die…its interesting that how we actually die seems to affect your opinion of God. You seem to be saying that if some people die horrifically it means God is either not in control (meaning that God is a good God)…or alternatively He is not a good God if He is in control and bad stuff happens. Is that what you’re saying. If so that’s a great question!!

    I can wonder if there is another possible option, where God is in control, and is a good God, and still witness and acknowledge horrific life circumstance. Not sure what you think about the Bible, but from what I read this 3rd option seems to be what the Bible suggests is true. I’m still trying to figure that out…is the Bible written by a bunch of looney’s, was it manipulated in someway, just a load of crap, or is it just hard to understand. I’ve come to believe the latter, but that’s only after suffering deep personal tragedy and walking out of it with amazing hope that I can be a better man in relationship with a living God.

    Anyway, thought the questions underlying your statements was interesting…thanks!

  2. I’m not necessarily saying that if some people die horrifically, that means God is not in control (good God) or he is in control and that means he’s a bad God. After all, conceivably, God actually *could* have rhyme and reason around a death.

    However, my point is that it’s somewhat silly to start sourcing certain things to God and putting words (and actions) in his mouth. Especially because if you do it in the way that this email does it, you create some rather nasty ramifications (so if God saved someone from 9/11 because she and her family prayed…what about all other people who prayed? Did they just not pray hard enough? Sure, God *could* work that way, but this is a silly pill to swallow.)

    [but, as you found from snopes, this email is a fabrication. however, that’s not the point. The point is that people are apparently quite ok with believing in a god with the ramifications as presented in this email]

    The third option could be true, but then again, this is a question that every person has to ask himself if it seems persuasive. For me, it does not. Others’ mileages may vary.

  3. jules permalink

    Okay, I also received this e-mail from my mother, who simply thought it was an inspiring story (she is agnostic). As we usually agree about disliking the sanctimonious e-mails from her pious Baptist sisters, I was surprised that it didn’t offend her a great deal. I had to rant, and did, to her and to my aunt who sent it to her.
    I can’t believe that anyone, Christian, Mormon, Agnostic, Ahteist — ANYONE who has a heart and listens to inner goodness — could not want to smack that holier-than-thou idiot son! That his father saved a life, in fact died helping others, should be a spiritual gift of comfort. Any God that would not take a good, heroic man into his arms upon death, is a God I cannot imagine. Judge not lest ye be judged…why in the world can’t people leave the judgements upto God and forgive and tolerate one another?
    I am non-denominational, but I worry about all the fear and guilt “religious” parents are pouring into their children in the hopes of raising them to be good people. If it’s not explained to children that prayer can’t and won’t ever protect them against death or destruction, but is a method of beseeching strength and wisdom in the face of such misfortune, then we will have generations of people who either turn away from God when bad things happen, or they’ll blame themselves. I have a neice who lost both grandparents in a year, despite lengthy prayers to keep them safe and prolong their lives. What did she take away from that awful year? A lot of good memories of better times, comfort in the love from her grandparents that can live on in her heart, or even a desire to live a full and rich life to please the grandparents who worked hard to create a famly so it would LIVE ON? Of course not, she is a devout Catholic, so instead of celebrating the natural path her grandparents took TO HEAVEN (really the point they all preach about right?), no she decided that she was a bad person and perhaps these deaths and unanswered prayers were the result of some things she might have done wrong.
    (Believe me when I say the girl is unbelievably good and kind!). So sad! It took a religious independant (me, not a great religious source) to tell her to let go of all that negativity and be happy for the long, rich lives her grandparents lived…that if she continued to feel this sadness and regret she was doing a disservice to the people who would undoubtedly PREFER to see their grandkids happy and not miserable and mourning.
    Sorry to rant! It was just so great to see that others object to this kind of stuff.
    Thank you!!!

  4. jules permalink

    Sorry for all the misspellings! When I’m on my soapbox, my fingers sometimes dawdle!

  5. no need to apologize: those were some great comments!

    • Here’s another smash.

      Chain: A man from Norfolk , VA called a local radio station to share this on Sept 11th, 2003, TWO YEARS AFTER THE TRAGEDIES OF 9/11/2001. His name was Robert Matthews. These are his words:

      Miss Capri: Oh, right, the Jake/Robert Matthews fictional 911 tale, related by this Robert Matthews. Jake Matthews is his non-Christian fireman father who miraculously becomes a Christian right at the very end. We never find out what his wife’s name is, or the names of their visitors.

      Let’s see if I can summarize this without confusion and as painlessly as possible.

      robert Matthews and his preggers wife go to an airport, but they get a flat and miss her flight, which turns out to be one of the 911 flights, but of course!

      Rob’s father Jake, (non-Christian) calls out of concern because he hears the flight crashed. Jake goes out to do a rescue, he is from the NY Fire Department after all – in this piece of fiction. There really was no Jake Matthews working in the NYFD at that time in reality.

      Rob is mad at God when Jake dies under a collapsed building. Rob is very very mad at God – for everything, for two whole years!


      Two years later, which is only (two months ago according to this chain story) a couple and their child show up at Robert’s house, trying to reconnect with their rescuer’s family.

      What took so long?

      to try cutting down on the confusion a bit, there were two preggo women at the same time in this story, one was Robert’s wife who missed her 911 flight. The other was the woman who survived the 911 collapsed building in which Jake had met her as he died. BUT: this pregnant woman had talked to Jake in his dying moments and brought him to Christ.

      And when she related this to Rob during her visit to his home, he finally stopped being mad at God, and started looking forward to having a great big reunion in Heaven with everybody…

      Gah! Not true, people!

      Chain: …This story should help us to realize this: God is always in control.

      Miss Capri: Don’t you dare use a fictitious 911 story in a bogus chain letter to tell anyone God is in control! Just because God is in control doesn’t mean people are or are not, and it doesn’t mean God actually controls absolutely everything! You can be in control of an establishment, a discussion web site, anything that puts you in a position of administration, and you can have an absolute control over things where people can’t do a thing on their own. You can also be in control of something where other people are in control of their own actions and whatever they do has nothing to do with and is no reflection on you. God lets people choose what they do with their lives, and the devil has a hand in why things like 911 the holocaust, child abuse, rape, murder, spouse abuse, elder abuse, the abuse of the disabled etc. happen at all. Why God doesn’t just intervene and stop ALL of that immediately, I don’t get and won’t try to pretend to get. But it isn’t his fault some people choose to be evil, it’s their own. They are the ones in control when they victimize others. Okay, not on a run-the-whole-universe scale, but what I’m saying here is that control is relative, and this chain story sucks at trying to say God is in control. The terrorists had a hell of a slice of control on 911.

      Chain: We may not see the reason behind things,

      Miss Capri: Such as 911 and stupid chain letters, well, some things actually don’t have a reason, at least, not a good one. Some things doesn’t have so much as a good EXCUSE!

      Chain: and we may never know this side of heaven,

      Miss Capri: Um doesn’t “this side of Heaven” usually mean hear on earth? Like, living here, before we die and go to Heaven. We may never know what it’s like to live on Earth? well, then we wouldn’t exist, or if we did, we’d be in some state of unawareness due to some medical condition.

      Chain: but God is ALWAYS in control.

      Miss Capri: Oh? God was in control when somebody made up stories about 911 and claimed they were true? No… God gives people the means to be in control of themselves. So God is not spreading hoaxes and controlling terrorists to make them kill thousands of people. For that matter, even the decision whether or not to be a Christian in the first place is within the individual’s control. Yes God may try through some measure to get your attention but then again he is not the only one in control and whatever you decide is your choice. And it is often said, at least in my family, that even people who didn’t give a flying hot dart for God all through their life, are suddenly faced with some life-endangering, earth-shattering situation, THEN, all of a sudden, God is important to them…

      Chain: Please take time to share this amazing story.

      Miss Capri: It is not amazing, because it is not true! It is detestable because it is a big lie about a terrible event and it does nothing but mock Christianity and make Christians who pass it on look like liars and dupes.

      Chain: You may never know the impact it may have on someone..

      Miss Capri: Which, besides the fact it is a load of emotionally manipulating hogwash, is why you shouldn’t share it. You never know the impact it may have, and I have seen at least one site where this story seriously offended the reader, with good reason.

      Chain: God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

      Miss Capri: Qualified for what? Called for what? Let’s fix this a bit, because this chain letter half-wittery just doesn’t work. God calls whoever he calls, and anyone qualifies. It’s a matter of whether or not it’s really God doing the “calling” or just some misguided idea somebody has about God, and what the calling actually is, who the people are in question, what sorts of decisions they make, you’re getting this, right? But I’m pretty sure God didn’t call you to perpetuate a 911 story hoax in his name.

      Chain: Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures Forever. Psalm 136:1

      Miss Capri: Argh! Don’t toss scripture around in chain hoaxes! The scripture is right, but has nothing to do with this chain letter, which does nothing but trivialize and make a mockery of it! Just because you insert a random scripture into a chain hoax doesn’t make the hoax true. But it sure as heck pokes fun of the words in the Bible, associating them in the minds of some people, with chain letter lies.

      Chain: May God bless you, and your family,

      Miss Capri: Well, this chain forward is not how that’ll get done.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Deconstructing Christian chain mails at Mormon Matters
  2. Remark on a *third* Christian chain mail « Irresistible (Dis)Grace
  3. Christian Chain Mail No. 4: What if God thinks you suck? « Irresistible (Dis)Grace
  4. From atheism to ‘agnosticism’ « Irresistible (Dis)Grace
  5. Christian Chain Mail #5: Why People Leave the Church « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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