John Wayne, Robert Schuller, and Why I Read Snopes.com

If you think that title is a little far out, just be glad I didn’t settle on “Will I Meet John Wayne in Heaven?”

Snopes.com is an incredible resource for fact checking urban legends and internet scams.  Remember the whole Veggie Monster debacle?  There are still plenty of people that think Cookie Monster has been removed from Sesame Street and replaced with a health conscious, veggie munching counterpart designed to combat childhood obesity.  There was an email writing campaign to get him back on the show.  Thing is, he never went anywhere.  He admits that “Cookies are a sometimes food” but there is not now nor has there ever been a Veggie Monster.  Sesame Street has denied rumors and even issued press releases, but the rumor is larger than life.  People repeat it without any confirmation whatsoever, making it the perfect example of what happens when we copy and paste total fabrications.  If people would spend 60 seconds on Snopes, such stories would die a quick death.

About 10 years ago a story began circulating online that John Wayne made a dramatic conversion during the final weeks of his life.  You can read the full story here, so I’ll summarize.  That story goes that the Duke sent get well wishes to Robert Schuller’s daughter who was in the hospital following a motorcycle accident.  The myth revolves around her sending a reply, stating that she would be fine because Jesus would help her, and asking John Wayne if he knew Jesus.  Long story short, Wayne broke down and cried, and claimed that at that very moment he gave his heart to Jesus.  He died only 3 weeks later, implying that one little girl sharing the Gospel at a key moment kept John Wayne from going straight to hell.

Well, that’s the FWD:FWD:fwd e-mail internet version.  Schuller did have a daughter who was hospitalized in 1978 following a motorcycle accident.  John Wayne did send her a letter, though there is no evidence she sent a reply.  Wayne was raised Presbyterian, and converted to Catholicism later in life.  The story at Snopes is much more detailed, but bear with me as I come to a point.

I like the way Snopes handles this dramatic story of sharing the Gospel.  In an attempt to stress the importance of sharing the good news, some clever person warped the truth and fabricated what amounts to a lie.  In his zeal to encourage us all to spread the Word, someone overlook the command to not bear false witness.  Snopes just about sermonizes by declaring “better Christians” will see how ludicrous it is to use the favorite tactic of Satan (father of lies) to shepherd people toward salvation.

Kudos to Snopes on this one, not just for clearing up the misinformation but for knowing what good Christians spreading the Gospel is supposed to look like.

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One thought on “John Wayne, Robert Schuller, and Why I Read Snopes.com

  1. God doesn’t need help – certainly not make-believe or exaggeration! Our God is a great God, a sovereign God who WILL bring about His own purpose. He chooses to use us, His people, but it is still His work.

    At least Snopes differentiates between real Christians and those who use the term loosely.

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