Sunday, April 09, 2023

"Fake news" isn't new

In a Google search for "sermon walking," one can find the following:

Reporters and city officials gathered at a Chicago railroad station one afternoon in 1953. The person they were meeting was the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner. A few minutes after the train came to a stop, a giant of a man - six feet four inches with bushy hair and a large mustache stepped from the train. Cameras flashed. City officials approached him with hands outstretched. Various people began telling him how honored they were to meet him. The man politely thanked them and then, looking over their heads, asked if he could be excused for a moment. He quickly walked through the crowd until he reached the side of an elderly black woman who was struggling with two large suitcases. He picked up the bags and with a smile, escorted the woman to a bus. After helping her aboard, he wished her a safe journey. As he returned to the greeting party he apologized, "Sorry to have kept you waiting." The man was Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the famous missionary doctor who had spent his life helping the poor in Africa. In response to Schweitzer’s action, one member of the reception committee said with great admiration to the reporter standing next to him, “That’s the first time I ever saw a sermon walking.”

link:, which link states "author unknown"

A different variant appears on :

Albert Schweitzer was acclaimed in his day as one of the greatest men on earth. He was a missionary in the heart of Africa. He won more honors than any living man at that time. He won the Nobel prize in 1952. On one occasion, when he came to Chicago, a group of prominent citizens came to welcome him. They gathered around him, gave him the key to the city, and told him that they were greatly honored by his visit. The reporters took notes and the photographers were getting many pictures. Suddenly the great man excused himself. He rushed over to a little woman who was struggling with a heavy suitcase and several packages. He picked these things up and told the woman to follow him. He literally ran interference for her through the crowded station, put her on the train, and wished her a pleasant journey. When he returned to the committee, he said, “I am sorry to keep you gentlemen waiting, I was just having my daily fun.” And one of the reporters said, “That is the first time I ever saw a big sermon walking.” 1 1W. Herschel Ford, Sermons You Can Preach on John, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), p. 273-4.

The problem with these accounts, however uplifting they are, is that they never happened. Schweitzer only visited the United States once, to appear at Aspen, Colorado giving a talk on Goethe, and to accept an honorary degree from the University of Chicago, The year was 1949, years prior to his receipt of the Nobel Prize.


Albert Schweitzer made only a single trip to the United States. It was during the summer of 1949, when America was enjoying mounting prosperity, Europe was struggling to recover from the devastation of World War II, and Africa was about to shed its colonial past. He came to speak in Aspen, Colorado, at a festival celebrating the bicentennial of Goethe's birth, to earn funds for a leprosy clinic at Lambarene, and to meet with American drug manufacturers about modern leprosy treatments. Acclaimed everywhere he went and invited to speak at countless dinners and assemblies, Schweitzer stuck to his original schedule, traveling relentlessly and returning to Europe after only 25 days.

Compare to text in the article -- Can We No Longer Believe Anything We See? -- URL:

Last month, some people fell for images showing Pope Francis donning a puffy Balenciaga jacket and an earthquake devastating the Pacific Northwest, even though neither of those events had occurred. The images had been created using Midjourney, a popular image generator.

People figured out the fake jacket photo very quickly. In 2023, people repeat the Schweitzer story and listeners accept the truth of it without question.


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