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Stuff Christians Likeby Jonathan Acuff
Sometimes, we fall in love on mission trips even though we know we’ll break up when we get back. Sometimes, you have to shot block a friend’s prayer because she’s asking God to bless an obviously bad dating relationship. Sometimes, you think, “I wish I had a t-shirt that said ‘I direct deposit my tithe’ so people wouldn’t… See more details below
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Sometimes, we fall in love on mission trips even though we know we’ll break up when we get back. Sometimes, you have to shot block a friend’s prayer because she’s asking God to bless an obviously bad dating relationship. Sometimes, you think, “I wish I had a t-shirt that said ‘I direct deposit my tithe’ so people wouldn’t judge me.” Sometimes, the stuff that comes with faith is funny. This is that stuff. Jonathan Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like is your field guide to all things Christian. In it you’ll learn the culinary magic of the crock-pot. Think you’ve got a Metro worship leader—Use Acuff’s checklist. Want to avoid a prayer handholding faux pas? Acuff has you covered. Like a satirical grenade, Acuff brings us the humor and honesty that galvanized more than a million online readers from more than 200 countries in a new portable version. Welcome to the funny side of faith.
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Stuff Christians Like
By Jonathan Acuff
ZondervanCopyright © 2010 Jonathan Acuff
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMY BAD
One time I went to an R-rated movie with a friend who works at a church. On the way out he noticed two people who knew him. He grabbed me before they recognized us and we hid out until we thought they were gone. Turns out they waited for us in the hall. I didn't work at a church, so all I had done was commit a regular sin. My friend had broken some sort of church employee, "Never see the movie Desperado starring Latin sensation Antonio Banderas" covenant, so I immediately threw him under the bus and said, "It's embarrassing, really, seeing pastors behave like this. The three of us are all just normal Christians; this guy is a professional. He should be ashamed of himself." Then I swore for emphasis, but it was one of the okay swears, so it wasn't that big of a deal.
COMPLAINING ABOUT NOT BEING "FED" AT CHURCH
If you want to become a professional church grumbler, not just some amateur occasionally throwing rocks at the worship service, minister, or other attributes of the church, there's one key phrase you need to know:
"I'm not being fed."
This simple complaint-the teaching is lacking, the sermons are thin, the worship music is not uplifting enough, or a million other things that people find inadequate-is the official complaint of church grumblers the world over. If we could figure out a way to monetize it, we could permanently end world poverty. Forget cold fusion; if we could generate energy every time someone says this phrase, we'd be able to break our dependence on foreign oil in about four minutes.
It's such a perfect thing to say because it deflects any attention away from me, while at the same time creating false humility and making me seem spiritually mature and advanced. "It's not you, it's me. I just want to learn. I'm admitting that I am incomplete. I'm hungry for deep, real spiritual teaching. I'm humbly confessing that I'm not getting enough out of church. Please help me get the rich faith-building experiences that I so desperately need."
Just be careful who you say this to. Pastors are starting to get wily. When people tell my friend, "I'm not being fed," he replies, "I'm perfectly happy to spoon feed my one-year-old. But if I'm still spoon-feeding him when he's five, we've got a problem. Here's a fork. Feed yourself."
WATCHING R-RATED MOVIES ... BUT ONLY IF THEY'RE VIOLENT
For Christians, it's completely okay to watch R-rated movies, but only if they got that rating because of violence. If they're rated R because someone is getting their head cut off or there's a battle scene that's so gory, blood splashes on the camera lens, don't worry. God's cool with that. However, if the movie is rated R because of sexuality ... well, I hope you enjoy your fold-out couch bed in hell. It's gonna be a hot one, my friend. A hot one, indeed.
I'm not sure where this rule came from, but it's true. Not only do Christians watch violent R-rated movies, we'll quote them from the pulpit, build sermon series around them-even show clips from them during service. I call it The Braveheart Rule, and my theory is that it's because of the Old Testament.
Have you ever read any of the Old Testament? It's hardcore. Samson smashes people in the head with a donkey jawbone. A priest runs a spear through two people having sex. David carries Goliath's head around like a bowling ball. It's violent. I think that Christians read that and assume, "Cool. God's down with some wanton violence. R-rated movies, here we come!"
But if there's any nudity, if a single nipple makes a cameo at any point, forget it. Throw that piece of nonsense in the trash. That is horrible. We'll have to wait until they show the edited version on TBS.
JUDGING FUNDAMENTALISTS FOR BEING JUDGMENTAL
You know what I don't like about fundamentalist Christians? They're so judgmental. I really don't like when people do that. Don't they know we're supposed to be about love and not judgment? Jesus called us to love him with all our heart and all our mind and all our soul. And to love others! Don't they get that? It's about love!
I'm just so sick of their negative attitudes.
They hate dancing too. Did you know that? I'm not making that up or perpetuating a stereotype. They all hate dancing. They even made a documentary about it one time starring John Lithgow and Hollywood's Kevin Bacon. Gripping stuff really, but I doubt any fundamentalists saw it because they hate popular culture. Ugh, I can barely stand how judgmental they are.
You know they don't drink alcohol, right? Oh no, don't ever offer them a glass of wine or a pint of beer. They'll throw that right back in your face. That's kind of a litmus test I use to determine whether you're a fundamentalist or not. If I suggest we have a glass of red wine and you refuse, then I know. I know exactly what you're all about and I can read the depths of your spiritual walk just by that simple refusal. You're a fundamentalist and you're judgmental.
Sure, I don't know many fundamentalists personally, because I can't stand being around people who are judgmental, but I caught a few seconds of a church service on television once. I think it was a church in Texas. Most fundamentalists either live in Texas or are planning to move to Texas at some point in their lives. But even though I haven't been to a fundamentalist church in, I don't know, ever, you don't need to go to one to know what they're all about. Fire, brimstone, and above all, being judgmental.
Don't you just hate how judgmental fundamentalists are?
I wish they were more open-minded.
BREAKING UP WITH YOUR SMALL GROUP
Many Christians reach a point in their small group relationship where they realize, "This isn't working for me anymore. I need to see other small groups."
It's a tricky situation, fraught with unique challenges. Do you take the passive-aggressive route-just stop showing up? Make excuses until eventually they stop calling? Can you skip group without looking like you're skipping God, because you still love him, right? Do you organize a mutiny and try to take other couples with you? "I can't keep studying the book of Job. I'm making a break for it; we're starting a new group and heading to the border of the New Testament. I think we've got room for two other people in our car. Three if someone will sit in the way back, but Hank and Stacy aren't going to be able to make it. Don't look back. Just run. Run!"
Do you work hard to make them want to dump you? When you host it at your house, do you serve the most disgusting dessert possible, kidney strawberry pie or blackberry beet pudding? Do you start oversharing at group until eventually they ask you to leave out of awkwardness? "I want to talk about some bowel issues I'm having. Anyone else know what I'm talking about? Bowel issues? Here are some detailed observations I had in the bathroom this morning. I took pictures." Do you bring your own poetry and tell people, "God laid this fourteen-page poem about the death of my cat on my heart; I'd really like to read it to you tonight. It's written in Klingon, so it might be a little hard to understand the first time around."
Do you start seeing other groups on the side? And do you keep your broken group going because you like talking about football with one of the guys and your wife likes the recipes one of the girls gives her? You can find substance elsewhere. Just start small grouping all over town until you find one you like, and once you do, you can dump the old one.
If all else fails, I guess you could just be honest. But that's only if you don't know a good recipe for pork pineapple white chocolate chip cookies. People hate those things. Serve a warm plate of those to your small group and it will be over by bite two.
SENDING MORE HATE MAIL THAN SATANISTS
I'm not going to lie to you. I don't know the exact numbers on this study. There were no Bunsen burners or beakers or statistical flow models plotting percentage of hate mail sent by satanists vs. percentage of hate mail sent by Christians. But I can say without a doubt that when it comes to the hate mail I've had emailed or posted online about things I've written, 100 percent of it has not come from satanists and the majority has come from fellow Christians.
That feels backwards. I don't have any friends who vocally worship satan, to whom I give the middle finger of grammar with a lowercase s, but I assume that there's a lot of hate involved. I have to imagine that when you serve the father of lies there's a lot of lying and criticism and outright nastiness in all forms. Hate for satanists is kind of like Frisbee for Christians. It's just something you do when you sign up. And yet the most frustrated, hope-you-fall-in-a-deep-hole-full-of-cougars-on-crystal-meth hate mail I get is from other Christians.
Which makes no sense. After all, love is right there in our bylaws. We're supposed to love God, love our neighbor, and love ourselves. Pretty simple, but maybe that's too hard to try all at once.
What if this year we set our sights on something reasonable, like, "Let's send less hate mail than devil worshippers"? I admit, that might not be the kind of goal you can slap on the bottom of a Thomas Kinkade poster and sell at craft fairs, but at least it's attainable. I hope.
BOYCOTTING YOU UNLESS YOU MAKE BUTTERY-SOFT T-SHIRTS
Dang you, American Apparel! Ten years ago we would have boycotted you back to the Stone Age. Ask Kmart. We would have risen up against your suggestive advertising and probably had a good old-fashioned product bonfire. There would have been billboards and picketing and yelling, but when it comes to you, we can't muster up a boycott. Your shirts are just so soft and comfortable!
And it's not like you're shy about what you do. We know about how you've used Penthouse magazine covers as décor in your stores. We know that when you realized your anti-sweatshop messaging wasn't increasing revenue, you made a deliberate decision to sell using sex. In Fast Company magazine your CEO, Dov Charney, was honest enough to say, "That's the problem with the anti-sweatshop movement. You're not going to get customers walking into stores by asking for mercy and gratitude. If you want to sell something, ethical or otherwise, ... appeal to people's self-interest."
We tried to dismiss that last part; you can define "self-interest" a lot of different ways, but then the author of that article confirmed our fears:
"Sure, he [the CEO of American Apparel] hoped quality or social consciousness or a distaste for logos would each attract some consumers. But he also hoped that selling a sexed-up version of youth culture to young people would attract others, and hopefully in greater numbers."
Dang you, American Apparel! I was ready for the boycott, I was, but then the last six T-shirts I got from Christian ministries were printed on American Apparel merchandise, and each one was more comfortable than the last.
Can you at least let us pretend that, when we place an order via cafePress or another printing press, the owner calls you and lets you know that we're reaching out to you in love and that our purchase is actually kind of a witnessing tactic? Will you give us that?
If not, please know that when I put on an American Apparel T-shirt I don't think about the financial support I'm giving a sex-based marketing machine. I think to myself, "I am being in this T-shirt, but not of this T-shirt." And dang, it is buttery soft!
FEELING SAD FOR CHURCHES THAT AREN'T MEGA
Christians sometimes like to feel small, quiet waves of pity for any church that doesn't have skyrocketing attendance numbers.
That's why every time my wife and I drive by the small Baptist church near my neighborhood on Sunday mornings on the way to the megachurch we attend, I think: Shouldn't the camera crew or the guy who runs the laser show be at church by now? The parking lot is empty at 8:00. Granted it only holds about forty cars, but shouldn't the host team be there already to get the traffic cones set up? Who is going to turn on all the flat screen televisions or get the crane they use for simulcasting the service to other campuses in the right position? Then I remember, that's right, they don't have a crane or other campuses.
And then I feel sad for them.
If God were really happy with what they were doing, wouldn't they have a building as big as the one I go to church in? Wouldn't they have 15,000 on an average Sunday? Wouldn't they have a staff of 400 instead of 4? Wouldn't God bless that church and make it mega if he were pleased with what they were doing?
He would, and that's pretty much what the Bible teaches. In Luke 15:10 it says, "I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." I know what you're thinking, "Oh, one person is mega to God." But maybe that "one person" is God math, just like some people will argue that six days of creation could equal the human equivalent of 6,000 days. Maybe we're supposed to interpret "one person" as "one greater metro area."
It can all be very confusing. And I'd love to get some wise counsel on it from my small neighborhood church, but I don't even think they have a New Testament specialist on staff. I'm actually pretty convinced that the pastor is also the guy who mows the lawn. Which is so small you couldn't even hold a night out at the movies event on it. How sad.
HATING ON MEGACHURCHES
I attend a megachurch, which means that occasionally, Christians who like to discount the validity of a large church will debate with me why megachurches suck. People don't ever come out and say, "Megachurches suck," but sometimes I wish they did, because it would be a much shorter monologue than this:
Here's the thing. If a caravan of school buses came to our church one Sunday, thousands of visitors just showed up out of the blue, I'd turn them away. Right then and there, I'd say, "No thanks, we don't want to be a megachurch. Go on, get out of here." I'd probably have to turn on the hose to chase off the stubborn ones, but the last thing I want to do is attend a megachurch.
I am pretty sure God is not happy with those churches. The music is too loud and the service feels like a concert. Without any hymns I'm not really even sure that counts as a time of worship. You can't form real relationships with people when you're surrounded on a Sunday morning by four thousand other members.
And they use lasers. God hates lasers. And in the great commission, in Matthew 28:19 where it says, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations," Jesus didn't mean "all" as in everyone. He meant all as in "all the people that can fit in an appropriately sized building." What's an appropriately sized building? The one my church is currently in, and don't go getting any ideas about attending. I've got a hose and I'm not afraid to use it.
Christians occasionally swear. They don't do it a lot. I'm not talking about thirty-second tirades laced with profanity. I just mean that every few days they'll say a swear in the middle of a conversation. Why do we do it? I think we want you to know that we know those words exist. We want you to be aware that we are aware they are out there and we know what they mean. Plus, everyone knows that swears are nineteen times more powerful coming out of the mouth of a Christian. That's a scientific fact right there. If you're a nonbeliever and swear a ton, it's just not that big of a deal. If you're a Christian though and you swear, birds fall out of the sky. Trees shake to their roots. Magma gets fourteen degrees cooler under the crust of the earth. Wielding that kind of power is too tempting to ignore.
Excerpted from Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff Copyright © 2010 by Jonathan Acuff. Excerpted by permission.
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For the last ten years, Jonathan Acuff has written advertising for clients ranging from the Home Depot to Chick-fil-A. In addition to his many day jobs, he also writes a blog called www.stuffchristianslike.net. He and his wife live with their two daughters outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
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