Chain Letters: The Case Against Them
What is a Chain Letter?
Have you ever received a chain letter? Have you ever sent a chain letter? Let's first define what a chain letter is.
A chain letter is a letter that the sender asks the recipient to pass on to a number of other people and then those people will forward to other people. This follows a chain; hence the name chain letter.
A typical chain letter consists of a message that attempts to persuade the recipient to pass the letter on to as many other people as possible. Chain letters might seem harmless, but chain letters are annoying. Chain letters are manipulative. They try to exploit the recipient with superstitions to threaten the recipient with bad luck, physical violence or death if the recipient breaks the chain and does not adhere to the instructions in the letter.
Chain Letters Are a Nuisance
Some chain letters are indeed fairly harmless. For example, an elementary school student wishing to see how many people can receive his email for a school project can grow exponentially and may be hard to stop.
Sometimes chain letters contain false promises from well-known individuals such as Bill Gates promising a monetary reward to everyone who receives the message.
There are chain letters that warn people about a virus. Sometimes this is a hoax. People have become so accustomed to receiving them that unfortunately, they dismiss the warning even when it's true.
Chain letters are a nuisance. They play on the recipient's emotions.
Platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Myspace have made it easy for people to send a chain letter to hundreds of people at one time.
Chain Letters Can Be Illegal
Chain letters can be illegal if recipients are asked to send money and forward the letter to others asking them to do the same. These chain letters are not only illegal, but they might contain trojans.
In the United States, under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery says it is illegal to mail chain letters that involve financial arrangements or provoking people to send money.
However, asking for items of minor value such as business cards or recipes are not covered by this law. Don't think you are getting off easy if you send your pyramid scheme chain letters through e-mail. This is called wire fraud.
Even worse than the chain letter is a chain spider. A chain spider is a type of electronic chain letter whereby recipients are encouraged to sign a petition in favor of a particular cause.
Chain spiders multiply in an exponential fashion. Therefore, chains with long recipient lists are likely to spread to a lot of people in a very short time.
Many Christians Send Chain Letters
I am surprised that many Christians send chain letters.They, of all people should know better.
Here are some ways to know you have received a chain letter.
- The letter tells you to pass the letter on to 10 people in order to be blessed. The Bible tells us another way to get blessed, and it is not by responding to a chain letter.
- The letter says if you are my friend, send this to 7 people. Since when does sending chain letters prove friendship?
- The chain letter says if you love me, send this letter back to me. This is such a poor way to express love. Love cannot be reduced to a click on a keyboard.
- The chain letter says if you want me to have a good day, send this letter back to me. It is a sad situation when receiving one's own letter back makes someone's day.
- The letter tells you to do something and then promises you something in return if you do what they specify. It is legalistic because it tells you how many people to forward the letter to. It is witchcraft because it is manipulative.
- The most disgusting chain letter I have ever received said, "If you love Jesus, send this to 12 people." No! No! No! That ain't Bible! [emphasis added]. The Bible says if you love me, keep my commandments. It says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about responding to a chain letter.
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Chain Letters Are Not Godly
Chain letters are not of God. We don't have to send chain letters to prove our love for God. You should not send chain letters to prove friendship. When you receive a chain letter through the mail, put it in the trash. When you receive a chain letter through e-mail or text, put it in the trash. If you respond to it, you are as guilty as the person who sent it. Also, if you refuse it, the chain will be broken.
Sending chain letters in the name of God says one thing about the sender . . . he or she is Bible illiterate!
If I told you to forward this to 12 people in order for you, the recipients and me to be blessed, this would be a chain letter. But of course, you know I wouldn't do that because I have just made a good case against chain letters.