Urban legends…


I’ve always been amazed at the speed and extent to which “urban legends” are spread across the landscape of our society. In a culture fascinated with ‘reality shows’ that are larger than life itself, there seems to be an ever-increasing hunger for the abnormal to be the norm…the sensational to appear to be the median. We often use “story” or “legend” to get this message across. We’re just mesmerized by the outside chance that fiction could be fact…so much so, that we try to pass if off as fact before even taking the time to confirm it for ourselves.

A popular definition of an urban legend, is “…a form of modern folklore consisting of apocryphal stories believed by their tellers to be true. As with all folklore and mythology, the designation suggests nothing about the story’s factuality or falsehood, but merely that it is in non-institutional circulation, exhibits variation over time, and carries some significance that motivates the community in preserving and propagating it.”

With the scope and speed of email, these ‘myths’ catapult themselves across our screen with regularity in the form of “forwards” and “this happened to a friend of a friend of mine…” (FOAF…‘Friend Of A Friend’…it’s been so used, it even has it’s own acronym now)

You’ll know if you’ve ever heard one or not…if so, you’ve probably been warned of robbers in shopping mall parking lots that use ether-filled perfume bottles to render their victims unconscious, or spiders laying eggs in someone’s cheek while they sleep and then spilling out across their face when the Doctor cuts them open…or someone drunk from a party, anesthetized, and waking in a bathtub filled with ice, minus one kidney, which was surgically removed for transplantation… maybe you’ve signed an email petition that supposedly would somehow save the world or raise money for a cancer victim if they could hit the magic number of signatures… you may have even sent “bank fees” and your personal banking info to a Nigerian to help them transfer millions of inherited dollars out of their country (hope not) …but if any of these sound familiar then you’ve been a part of “urban legends”…

The strange part comes when we turn this same thought towards our own ‘faith communities’…if we’re honest, we’d recognize that at times we have so hungered for the “sensational” when it comes to spiritual things, that even our language has gotten “larger-than-life” and we’re guilty of perpetrating the same “legends” within our own circles…

So, in the spirit of ‘self-reflection’, or at least a “good” humoured look at ourselves…I invite you to join me in turning the lens on ourselves and try to come up with a few “Christian Legends”…

just add your “Legend” to the list below…here’s a few my friends and I came up with to get you started…

Years ago, we were taught through song that we should “Whisper a prayer in the morning, whisper a prayer at noon, whisper a prayer in the evening…” and that would “…keep our hearts in tune”…
NOW, one must “Shout to the Lord” when they worship…or there’s a good chance He may not hear you…

I remember we used to champion Grandma’s who sat at home all day and prayed diligently for everyone in our church (and all the missionaries on the bulletin board)…we even called them “faithful prayer warriors”…
NOW, you need to fill a stadium with people praying…because there’s a higher percentage of answered prayer if we pray in bulk

Or the ever popular “If you build it…He will come” has been a popular thought when it comes to ‘church growth’…for some reason we’re simply not content with things unless we have our own building…like, somehow God isn’t fully portable and can only hang out in our buildings when we gather in these multimillion dollar buildings we use once a week…

See, they’re out there, even in our circles…now you give it a go…

Daniel Schuster

~ by blueporch on April 14, 2010.

2 Responses to “Urban legends…”

  1. Here is street saying that is a good legend… ‘Early to bed, early to rise makes you happy, healthy and wise’…. I know people who do all of the above who are not that wise, not that happy and certainly not that healthy…

    How about this one in Christian circles…

    If you are sick physically or mentally and not getting better it is because you have done something wrong or their is “sin” in your life or even more classic ‘you don’t have enough faith’.. That is a great legend especially if you have a theology of it’s all about “you”… that someone we make our reality with God and he is just the bubble gum machine dispensing what we want if we can find a spiritual 50 cents to deposit…. never really addresses are need for control does it? Thank God he is God….

    Here is a legend that I think stands the test….”The road to hell is paved with gone intentions.” What we believe matters and you know what you believe by how you live your real life. If you say you love the marginalized and the poor but you have no friends or connection to real people who are marginalized or poor you have paved your life with good intentions…. I think we should keep a journal of our activities and how we spent our time for a month or 3 months let’s say. If we looked back on it that would tell us what we really believe. Declared beliefs (what we want to believe) is different that what we actually believe…. The reason wouldn’t be to feel proud or discouraged but simply to find out what we believe. It would be like a check up….

  2. In reality, I think myths, legends, and folklore comprise a greater part of known religion (for good and bad) than we give them credit for. According to the “experts”, myths represent forces in the psyche and the world. As Joseph Campbell said, in An Open Life, “The imagery of mythology is symbolic of spiritual powers within us.” So what kind of myths are we giving energy to in our lives? Myth doesn’t necessarily mean false…but it is meant to be a story rich with symbolism pointing to something greater, and rife with relatable notions such as confusion, loyalty, jealousy, quests, suffering, triumph, and love. Many of the myths the Christian faith has subscribed to do nothing to elevate humanity or creation, and yet many of the myths our faith tradition has forgotten could be the ones that empower our current reformation. I’m learning that the myths I give energy to on a daily basis had might as well be the kind that teach me to love and be loved, and the rest of the folklore can occupy the whole shelf of books I have dedicated to folklore such as vampires, Pandora, werewolves, original sin, and other doubtful “bedtime” stories.

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