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Neat stories of events that
never happened

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Christian Urban Legends are stories of events that never happened. They are generally created by a Christian as a fictional account because they give concrete support to their beliefs.

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Topics included in this essay:

bulletOverview of secular urban legends
bulletOverview of Christian Urban Legends (CULs)
bulletHow CULs are created
bulletWhy are CULs created and spread

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Overview of urban legends in general:

The term "urban legend" has been used to refer to a type of fictional rumor. These legends often have many of the following characteristics:

bulletthe story is truly remarkable, convincing and startling.
bulletit is described as a real event.
bulletin reality, it never happened.
bulletthe person telling the legend does not know the individuals involved, but might say that they know a person who knows them.
bulletthe story often includes some detailed information about the circumstances or individuals involved in order to increase the legend's credibility.
bulletthe legend can spread rapidly and cover much of North America within days.
bulletthe story often resurfaces periodically.

Some common urban legends have described:

bulletAlligators in the New York City sewer system. They were allegedly bought as pets when they were very small and flushed down toilets when they grew too large. They allegedly grew to full size in the sewers.
bulletA U.S. couple, while on vacation in Mexico bought what was described as a Mexican hairless puppy. They smuggled it back into the country. When it became ill, they took it to a veterinarian, and were surprised to hear that it was not a dog; it was a sewer rat.
bulletSatanists kidnap about 50,000 infants and children per year, ritually abuse them, kill them, and sometimes eat them.

All are startling, many sound believable, but none ever happened.

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Overview of Christian urban legends:

"Christian urban legends" (CUL) is a term used by the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) on their "Science, Scripture & Salvation" radio program for 1999-APR-17. 1 More details. They use it to refer to those urban legends which have a Christian theme. CULs are similar to ordinary urban legends:

bulletthe stories are unsubstantiated.
bulletthey do not come from authoritative sources.
bulletthey describe events that never happened.

But they have one unique property: they tend to support some biblical passage or theme. 

There are many themes and stories in the Bible for which no hard evidence has ever been found:

bulletIf millions of Israelites lived in Egypt for centuries, one would expect some evidence of their occupation to have been preserved in Egyptian writings.
bulletIf the Israelites camped for three decades in one spot, as described in the Book of Exodus, one would expect that archaeologists might have found evidence of their sojourn.
bulletOther Christians might expect that there should be some evidence in the archaeological record of Abraham, Moses, Joshua and other major Bible personalities mentioned in Genesis.
bulletIf Noah's ark landed on a mountain within a small mountain range there should be some hard evidence of its remains; after all, it was the size of two football fields.
bulletIf Heaven is "up there" then there should be some astronomical evidence of its existence.
bulletIf Hell is just under the earth, as described in the Hebrew Scriptures, then deep holes drilled into the earth's crust should have produced some evidence of its existence.
bulletIf dinosaurs and humans were created in one week circa 4004 BCE, then one might expect some evidence in the fossil record of men and dinosaurs coexisting.

ICR is concerned that sincere, well-meaning Christians may use CULs to prove the accuracy of certain biblical passages and thus "win people to Christ." The danger is that when the new Christian finds that the story was false, they might conclude that other information that they had received was also unreliable. This might destroy their new-found faith.

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How Christian CULs are created:

Some are created by backward reasoning, as follows:

bulletOne starts with the belief, held by almost all Conservative Christians, in the absolute truth -- the inerrancy -- of the Bible, when interpreted literally.
bulletThere are many Bible stories that involve miracles, or at least require the reader to discount the findings of science. Examples are:
bulletThe sun appearing to stop in the sky;
bulletNoah's Ark floating for a year in spite of the fact that it would take dozens of people continuously pumping out the bilge water to keep it afloat.
bulletHell being located deep below the Earth's crust.
bulletSince God created the first humans and all species of animals in a few days, dinosaurs and humans must have co-existed on Earth.
bulletDevout conservative Christians believe that these events happened. Thus, there must be some evidence today that will prove their existence. Examples are:
bulletThere would be a one-day discontinuity in time, back in the 15th century BCE.
bulletThere must be some physical remains of Noah's Ark still existing today.
bulletA hole drilled downwards into the earth would reach Hell.
bulletFossilized dinosaurs and human footprints should exist together.
bulletA conservative Christian then creates a fictional story that contains hard evidence that these events happened.
bulletNASA scientists write a computer program that finds a time discontinuity.
bulletSome remains from Noah's Ark are found in Mount Ararat in Turkey.
bulletScientists drill a deep hole into the earth and hear people screaming in agony.
bulletFossilized human footprints are found which intersect dinosaur footprints.
bulletThe story spreads quickly and widely because it meshes neatly with people's beliefs and offers proof that the Bible is true.
bulletThe story is finally exposed as a hoax. Some find their faith weakened when they discover that a Christian has engaged in a hoax and has intentionally deceived people. Doubt in the inerrancy of the Bible increases.

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Why are CULs created and spread?

Those on the ICR program discussed whether these CULs may be really spread by non-believers in order to discredit Christianity. They decided that it was a possibility. But they felt that it is more likely that it is mainly Christians who latch onto unsubstantiated, romantic ideas from the past, and spread the "evidence" by word of mouth.

It is understandable how some Christians might want to fabricate pious frauds in order to convince others of the reliability of the Bible accounts. A single piece of hard evidence would go a long way towards convincing skeptics of the literal truth of the Bible. The "Well to Hell" story alone allegedly convinced 2,000 people to be saved. It is the case of the ends justifying the means.

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  1. "Urban Legends," Science Scripture and Salvation radio program, 1999-APR-17. Available via RealAudio at: http://www.icr.org/rad-9904.htm  

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Copyright © 1999 to 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Creation date: 1999-APR-5
Last update: 2004-OCT-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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