Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Book Review: Stuff Christians Like
I've got a little section on my bookshelf reserved for Christian humor. It's little, because most Christian humor is lame. At least the stuff that gets published. But I've got a few of these little cartoon books, the kind that poke fun at Christians and the Church. I was looking through them a few months ago in a vain last-minute attempt to find something funny for the Alpha introductory talk.
The problem was, they're all pretty dated. I found them pretty funny, but that's only because they were poking fun of the church in which I grew up, a church of potlucks and steeples and choirs and pastors in robes. But I quickly realized they wouldn't translate to people coming in from outside the church, or to people more attune to the Church of the 90s to the present. Which made me sad.
But then, along came Stuff Christians Like, and the day was saved. This is that same book, only with three major differences:
1) This book is the product of the 21st-Century Church, not the 1950s church. Thus you have pieces discussing metrosexual worship pastors, hip youth group rooms, side hugs, church logos (the holier, the better), mission trip romances, Rob Bell, using "love on" as a verb, using the word "just" as prayer filler, and judging fundamentalists for being judgmental.
2) This isn't a comic book, although it has great illustrations.
3 This book often uses humor to make a serious point. Just when Acuff gets you laughing, he rips home with a zinger, challenging us in our blind spots to, you know, actually be better Christians.
Of course, the book is ironic in its own way. One of his pieces is on ripping off advertising and logos to make similar-looking T-shirts (think "Jesus: The Real Thing"). When, as even Acuff admits, this book is a knock-off of the wildly popular Stuff White People Like website. In fact, Stuff Christians Like began as its own website. So there you go. In (gently) mocking Christians for being unoriginal and derivative, Jonathan Acuff's book is unoriginal and derivative.
That's not to say it's not funny. Or worth picking up. It is funny, and it is worth picking up. It might not be the most important Christian book of the last decade, but is still a worthwhile way to pass some time, laughing at ourselves and the funny way we live our lives. But don't fear that it's a sarcastic diatribe against the church, as so many of these things are. It's more along the lines of Keillor making fun of Lutherans, or Foxworthy making fun or Rednecks. The humor is in seeing yourself somewhere in there, and saying "oh yeah, I guess we are a little goofy. Maybe we should stop taking ourselves so seriously."
Note: thank you to Zondervan for providing a free preview copy of Stuff Christians Like for the purpose of this review.