Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gossip: a case study

In a recent message I wrote about the dangers of gossip and the way the internet has enabled gossip to travel faster and further than before and to be more easily 'manipulated'. In this message I want to give an actual example of how this can happen in the Christadelphian community.

Some time ago I became aware of an allegation that I had "withdrawn fellowship" from Christadelphians. Anyone who has read any of my messages on this blog about "withdrawing fellowship" or who knows me personally would know that the allegation is clearly nonsense.

I came across a "quotation" on a website which claimed to be something I had written. It was allegedly from a letter I had written when "withdrawing fellowship" from Christadelphians. I contacted its author (let's call him 'Ken'). I asked him to remove the statement as it was untrue. He refused, on the basis that he had received the information from "a reliable source" and it was claimed that the quotation was "unedited" and was my "own words".

I tried to track the untrue rumour to its source. This is what I uncovered. (By the way, I have changed the names of the people involved to hide their identities.)

1. 'Ken' obtained his information from 'Kathy', a "reliable source" of information and someone he obviously trusted. He has never personally seen the letter from which he quoted although he insisted that the quotation he put on a website was "unedited". Even though he had never even seen the entire 'letter' or seen the "quotation" in its context he was still confident that he knew what it meant. Even though I was allegedly the author of the unseen document he wouldn't believe anything I had to say about it.

2. I contacted 'Kathy'. She told me that she had seen a letter I had written to an ecclesia saying that I had 'withdrawn' from Christadelphians, and that this had come from a sister we both know ('Betty'). I immediately contacted Betty. She told me that she had never discussed the matter with Kathy, and had no knowledge of such a letter.

2. When I confronted Kathy with this information she changed her story. She said that she didn't get it 'directly' from Betty but from 'some brethren' to whom Betty had allegedly sent the letter. So that removes Kathy one more step from the alleged 'source' of the story.

3. After my enquiry Kathy contacted Betty again, wanting to get a copy of the letter she had allegedly sent to some unnamed brethren. Betty told her again that she had never seen the letter, didn't even know if it existed, and could therefore not have shown it or passed it on to anyone.

4. I told Kathy that I hadn't written a letter to any ecclesia resigning or withdrawing from Christadelphians. Kathy may have checked with the ecclesia who supposedly received this letter (I don't know) but she subsequently changed her story (again) to say that perhaps I hadn't sent a letter. So now she changed her story to say it may have been a different form of communication (although she really didn't know and had no evidence of any other communication) and perhaps this 'communication' had been sent to someone else and not the ecclesia she claimed. In other words, it was evident that the letter didn't exist, but she still wanted it to be true! From the change in her story it was obvious that she really had no detailed information whatsoever and was simply passing on some gossip she had heard but hadn't checked but wanted to be true (or she may have fabricated the whole thing - a sad and frightening possibility).

5. So the story went from me writing a letter (which Kathy claimed to have seen) to a named ecclesia resigning or withdrawing from them and Christadelphians in general, to some other form of communication (but Kathy couldn't say what or how) to someone else (but Kathy didn't know who).

6. Instead of having 'first hand' knowledge of this Kathy has now admitted that her information came from 'some brethren' (unnamed) who allegedly received it from Betty, who apparently or allegedly obtained it from someone else (but Kathy is not sure who), even though Betty denies this. That means the information was at least third hand by the time it reached Kathy, and she has no idea where it originated or how many hands it might have passed through before arriving in its final form.

7. Despite being presented with this Ken has refused to remove the "quotation" from the website. He still believes that his "unedited" quotation from Kathy was accurate.

Ken still insists that his 'quotation' is "unedited" and in my "own words" even though he has never actually seen the letter from which it allegedly came, his 'reliable source' of information (Kathy) has never seen the letter either (and now admits it may not exist), she won't say where she got the "quotation", and the person from whom Kathy's unnamed source allegedly obtained it (Betty) has never seen or even heard of it.

NO ONE has actually seen anything from me on the subject, and no one knows where the 'quotation' originated, or in what form, or in what context, or by whom, or if the source was trustworthy!

Yet Ken and Kathy obviously don't want the facts to stand in the way of a good story, and so they will keep telling it! Heaven help us.


Unknown said...

I'm glad that the rumor is false about your leaving the Christadelphian body. I enjoy your articles and they certainly do not sound like they came from someone who had left. It is very sad that gossip as you described happens.
Thanks again for your articles, Horst

Steve said...

I've made it very clear that I don't post anonymous comments unless the writer emails me and gives me their reason for wanting to remain anonymous - and in the past I've always allowed anonymous comments when that has been done.

However, it's amazing how many anonymous comments I receive which are obviously intended for my eyes only. If anyone wants to send me a personal comment my email address is in my profile, but to do it anonymously is just cowardly in my opinion (and the cowardly have no place in the Kingdom of God - Rev 21:8).

I can't resist however quoting from one anonymous comment I received. It said:

"You speak and act like someone who is not a member of the Christadelphian Community, so is it any wonder that people make up these stories?

What I found really funny was the Freudian slip: "... is it any wonder that people make up these stories?"

Yes, that's what I've been suggesting: most of the gossip and romours are made-up stories without a measure of truth in them. So why do people prefer the made-up stories in preference to the facts? I think the Bible has something to say about people with "itching ears" who prefer stories to the truth.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps now, Steve, those who would like to have seen some sort of disassociation/dismembership action taken against Pine Rivers Worship Centre in Qld for allowing you (an allegedly "dis-fellowhipped ex-Christadelphian) to exhort us and share your Bible knowledge, grace, inspiration and enthusiasm, might now apologise to the members of PRWC for all the Spiritual Abuse and hurt that has been inflicted on them.

Or is that too much to ask....?

As PRWC have maintained for years, the (grossly exaggerated and manifestly untrue) allegations against yourself and our dear Brother DH appear to be the evil fabrications of an individual (or individuals) who is/are operating totally anti-Christ (cp Prov 6:16-19).

Unity will never be achieved within the CD Brotherhood whilst disharmony (such as you have exposed in this blog) goes unchecked.

Unity (and harmony) can only be experienced in our midst, when we (just like an orchestra made up of many different instruments) are all allowed to express the individual movement of the Spirit in our lives under the great conductors baton.

Go in Love
Grow in Grace

Steve said...

I received this comment by email. Permission was given to post it here.

Hi Steve,

your latest blog "Gossip: a case study" really left me laughing. Thanks! Personally, I have always found gossip quite useful to find out what I am up to - it would seem others are much better informed on my movements, beliefs and objectives than I am myself.

But seriously, I have wondered many times over the last few years how plain evidence can be so completely ignored in favour of 'a good story'. Usually this 'good story' involves condemning someone, or pointing out the supposed wrong. It is a great shame that we choose to concentrate on the bad rather than the good to begin with, let alone go around creating even worse. If only the simple advice Christ gave was actually followed.

Incidentially, well done on actually being able to discuss the issue with the people involved. My efforts in tracing and rectifying rumours have usually hit a brick wall along the lines of "we won't speak to you until you recant of your evil", when asking what the evil is which I am meant to be recanting from, the response is "well, if you cannot even see it, you must be beyond hope".

(name supplied)