Religion Etiquette Q&A: Sacred Spam and Non-Attachment

How should I handle religious chain mail? Plus: Orthodox house blessings, Jehovah's Witness funerals, and Hindu temple manners

BY: Laura Sheahen

 
Have a religion etiquette question? E-mail columnists@staff.beliefnet.com with "Etiquette" in the subject line.

My friend often e-mails me generic prayer requests or religious stories that contain instructions to forward the mail to everyone I know. There's the implication that if I break the chain, I don't really love God or my [sick/troubled/etc.] neighbors. How should I handle this?

It's bad enough opening your e-mail to find umpteen messages about mortgage rates and, uh, "invigorating" pharmaceuticals. Now you're getting God spam? What has the internet come to?



Rest assured that no one will smite you for clicking the delete button fast and furiously. In fact, you'll probably be loving your neighbors as yourself by

not

forwarding such mail. Some nefarious types use e-mail prayer chains to spread viruses, preying on our

sympathy

for a cancer-stricken child or a struggling single mom. One e-mail worm causes your computer to blink "May GOd bless u;D." Now that just ain't kosher.

So skip the guilt trips and can the spam. Make an exception every now and then for e-mail that actually tells a good tale. Send them to grandmotherly types who enjoy a sweet story. Just remember the Buddhist precept of non-attachment, and never pass along any e-mails from strangers that come with an attachment. They could carry a virus.

I'm an Orthodox Christian. I've read that it's customary to give an offering to the priest who comes to bless your home. Is there a customary amount to give?

According to Orthodox writer Deborah Belonick, honorariums for such a blessing vary tremendously, ranging from a home-cooked dinner to $5 to $100, depending on the circumstances of the parishioner. Do consider the priest's travel costs and how much time he spends performing the blessing.

Orthodox house blessings are more elaborate than a typical "bless this house" prayer you might hear from a Roman Catholic or Protestant minister. They usually occur around the Feast of the Theophany (Epiphany), when Orthodox Christians celebrate Jesus' baptism by John in the River Jordan. Homes are blessed with holy water used in the church during this feast, drawing a spiritual association between the family, the church and the parish.

The priest uses holy water, holy oil, and incense during the ritual. He sprinkles all the rooms of the house with holy water and anoints each of the four outer walls with holy oil in the sign of the Cross. After the censing of the house, he reads a passage from the gospel and then blesses each member of the household with holy water: the husband, the wife, and the children, oldest to youngest. If relatives and friends are present, they are blessed next.

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