What is wrong with this chain email?

By Paul Dion, STL

Here's the situation. You received the following email from one of your friends. Read it and based on you own personal beliefs and understanding on our Christian faith, can you tell me what is wrong with this email? Go ahead and post your responses. We will post all your responses. And in a few days, I will post the Catholic theology that will explain what exactly of off-kilter with this chain email.

Here's the email:

1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary:
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died and buried: He descended into hell:
5. The third day he rose again from the dead:
6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit:
9. I believe in the holy Catholic Church: the communion of saints:
10. The forgiveness of sins:
11. The resurrection of the body:
12. And life everlasting. Amen.

These are thoughts of salvation. You have the choice of deleting this E-mail or of sending it on to at least 12 other people for whom you care very deeply. If you share these profoundly spiritual statements with others you will be blessed with untold consolations, joy and good fortune within 12 days.

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  1. The last paragraph. It attempts to make an item of commerce (albeit non-financial) out of the Apostle's Creed. It further makes commitments it cannot meet, making conditional that which is unconditional i.e. The Love of God. The grace to seek,
    to strive for, and to live in a manner becoming to salvation is God's free gift to us in Jesus Christ and is not to be achieved by participating in chain mail of any kind. This gift is free
    to all who seek it and, indeed has surprised some of us who were neither seeking nor aware that that needed to be so searching. It can be a stunning shock as it seems to have
    been for John Newton or a gentle, steady process described by Thomas Merton. Francis Thompson talks of the relentless "Hound of Heaven"; C. S. Lewis of a religious service "as comfortable as old shoes" so familiar that one can transcend the temporal event and participate in the eternal. But none of them ever tried to shop it for a deed done only for a return.

  2. Hello Paul: What is immoral in the e-mail you sent us? Well I find nothing immoral contained within the traditional English version of The Apostle's Creed. However I feel the immoral portion of your e-mail lies within the suggestion of sending this e-mail out to others in the hope of receiving rewards of any nature for ourselves. I agree with the belief that we should always strive to freely give and share our love. In other words, being that we are all instruments of God our creator, all our thoughts and actions should spring from
    God's unconditional love which is continually sent out to each and everyone of us. For us to expect to receive fruits as the result of our action is immoral, to me. God's love is
    unconditionally sent out to us and since God is within each of us, we should strive to release the love within ourselves to others unconditionally. What's wonderful about heaven is the overpowering sense of unconditional love felt there. But as human beings, with all the distractions constantly bombarding us, it is our continual challenge to attempt to release
    heaven's love here on earth through our daily thoughts and actions. It is a cosmic law, from our creator, that the more we freely share unconditional love with others, the more unconditional love we will receive in return. So I feel we could e-mail this version of The Apostle's Creed to others, if we did so lovingly and freely, but not in hopes of receiving fruits in return for our actions. Again, if we give love freely, we will receive love, but this should be looked upon as Our Lord in action, and not regarded as a reward as such. This is my response to our current burning question. If corrections are due to me, I am thankful to be in the RCIA where hopefully I will continue to learn from my mistakes. Thank you.

  3. Anonymous2:02 PM

    Is it Maker instead of Creator? Is it begotten? Is it the fact that we say I instead of 'we' believe? Or is it Catholic, instead of catholic, meaning universal, not necessarily the Roman Catholic church? As you can see, I am grasping at straws... Work is still stressful and I want to go to a mountain top and just sit...Sorry the brain is just not working here. Is it the wording of the 4th and 5th article of faith? HELP? DUH!

  4. Anonymous2:04 PM

    It just came to me!!!!! The simple fact that sending this on or NOT will give you good fortune in 12 days! What a bunch of crock! Isn't that like the indulgences that were "bought" in the pre-Reformation era? I think I might have it and I am not feeling so stupid now... Our salvation doesn't depend on sending this on or not. It depends on the love of God and His choosing us as His very own, adopted children, ready to acknowledge his Son Jesus Christ who was sent for our salvation for the forgiveness of sins! And here I thought the answer was the problem of the wording of the Creed! As I said before... DUH!!!! That was tricky…

  5. Paul Dion2:07 PM

    Now it is my turn. This E-mail was provocative. It was not a colorful Power Point Presentation with spectacular pictures or cute thoughts by some renowned poet. Nevertheless the proposition at the end encroaches upon the prerogative of God to be the master of our eternal salvation. We have received our covenant from God and it is His and ours to live. There is something inherently malicious about making promises that cannot be Fulfilled. Consider the divine promises below. These are some samples of the ones that God has communicated to us through the Sacred Scriptures and the Tradition of His Chosen People.

    "I will make you a great nation and I will bless you." God's promise to Abraham (Gen. 12;2, etc...)
    "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day."
    Jesus to his disciples, (John 6:54)
    "I am the Lord your God and you shall not have other gods before me." The first commandment (Ex. 20;2)

    These are promises that are by and of the Creative Word of God. We as baptized sons and daughters of God participate in the creative and sanctifying power of the Divine Word. We do not have the right to speak it or invoke it lightly. The Divine Word in us is to be promulgated as a blessing and an invitation to increase in faith in the presence of the lord. As St. Paul said, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.” (2 Tim. 4;2 – 4) I submit to you that it is better for us not to be counted among the people who are described in the second part of that reading.

    It is easy for us to let ourselves participate in “harmless” diversions. After all, we know that they are not effective, but, “hey, ya never know!” So we pass on chain letter after chain letter because the contents are beautiful, sentimental, encouraging, supportive and uplifting. They also mesmerize us into thinking that the promise that they contain is within reach of being fulfilled. There is a very insidious undercurrent here that is capable of dragging us into the stream of thought that says that if we perform some task, no matter how insignificant, we will become eligible for a
    God-given blessing. This is not just superstition, this is trading a human act for a divine benefit and is outside the faith that we profess as Catholics.

    Christ did not suffer, die and resurrect for us to make us chase one paper promise after another. He lived His life to raise us to the level of total dedication to Him through discipleship thanks to the gift of faith. He came here to share divine life with us. He came here to fill us with the
    appreciation of what it means to be full-fledged citizens of His Kingdom. He came here to show us the value of total faith in God as shown us by Moses, Abraham, Jacob, David and the Prophets. He came here to show us the futility of following the counsel of the serpent, the most cunning of all animals that He had made. Do not mix your gift of faith with superstitious acts. Keep your mind and your heart focused on the Divine Love of the God who came into the world to open the gates of heaven for us through His total sacrifice. Let us pray that He will continue to give us the courage to follow in His footsteps, step by step.

    God bless you all. I have another good one for you soon. You are all good. I will tell you all, you ALL have an answer to these questions. You may not have it in your head, but you have it in your heart, and that’s where it counts.

  6. Anonymous10:16 AM

    With our busy lives, I can tell you that, it is hard to have God in our hearts and lives at all times of the day. Yes, I have gotten these email, when I read them and send them to my family and freinds, I just want them for a moment to be reminded of God. I want them to think of God for a few moments, have God in their mind. Maybe make them smile.

  7. Anonymous10:26 AM

    Like most of you, I do get these emails in my inbox every day. And like Anonymous in the previous posting, I too want to share God with my friends and family. That's why I also send it forward. However, I make it a point before I forward them to delete the parts that offer rewards or threats as part of the conditions of the email.

  8. Anonymous1:29 PM

    Weather or not we send this email on, men, this is the Apostle's Creed. As Catholics, we live & die with it. It is just too sad that, what should be the divinest profession of mankind is being evangelized thru bogus chain e-mails. For those baby-boomers like myself, we know that these brain manipulating chain mails have been around for a while now, and we never saw a single proven and documented consequence if we failed to send them on.

  9. Paul Dion12:37 AM

    "Right on. Thanks for the deep conviction with which you wrote your comment."