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Hilarious sattire from gifted writer
on March 20, 2010
"If you buy this book, God will make you rich."
And so begins a wild, satirical ride through the world of all things Christian. In "Stuff Christians Like", popular blogger and first-time author Jon Acuff explores the oft-unspoken funny side of faith, navigating the treacherous waters of church life, prayer circle etiquette, and proper side-hug technique (see book cover), among other things. Through a collection of over 100 short essays and a handful of amusing illustrations, Jon pokes fun at many of the odd things that Christians like to think, say, and do.
Like any humorist, Jon will strongly appeal to some people--I find myself in this group--while scandalizing others. Many who grew up saturated with the culture of the American church will find that these words precisely articulate the bizarreness we Christians sometimes share. On the other hand, those who grew up without many of these experiences may see Jon's writings as the epitome of irreverence.
Regardless of which school of thought you find yourself in, it is hard to argue with the premise of "Stuff Christians Like" . In the book, Jon recognizes that among the many labels Christians get branded with today, one of the rarest is "funny", noting that Christians are rarely associated with "an abundance of humor or wit or satire." Psalm 126 reveals that ancient nations recognized the goodness of God through the laughter of His people. Today, however, many non-believers see Christians as sufferers of what Jon calls SCS (Somber Christian Syndrome). SCS sufferers believe that truly being Christian means being serious and reverent all the time, never finding the humor latent within so many of our spiritual situations.
So, Jon wrote this book to be part of the cure.
In the "Stuff Christians Like" book, Jon pokes fun at many things Christians like, including:
* Not Knowing How To Hold Hands - "'Please join hands' are three of the most terrifying words you'll ever hear a minister say. (Second only to, 'We never talk about money at our church, but today...')"
* Thinking You're Supposed To Go Into Full-Time Ministry - "As a Christian, you're obligated to think about going into full-time ministry at least once every three years." and later joking that, "It's a well-known Christian fact that if you surrender your life to God--if you really turn over your hopes and dreams to him and truly give him control of your entire life--the first thing he's going to do is send you to Africa. Immediately."
* Saying "I'll Pray For You"...And Then Not - "Sometimes saying, "I'll pray for you" is just the Christian equivalent of ending a date by saying, "I'll give you a call." It shouldn't be, but it is, and right now I have about a 17 percent success rate when it comes to actually following through on my `I'll pray for you' promises. I know that's horrible, but that reflects a ten-year average that includes 2000-2005, when I was batting about 0.000. I've done better these last five years to pull up my average, but you know what they say about prayer statistics: "It's a marathon, not a sprint".
Continuing in the tradition of his blog, Jon pokes fun at himself more than anyone else by finding humor in his own prideful tendencies. He jokes about his desire for literary success by offering alternate subtitles for the book ("Stuff Christians Like: 100% Funnier Than 'The Shack'") or by comparing himself to famous Christian authors ("Stuff Christians Like: The Book C.S. Lewis Would Have Written If He Had Been 40% More Sarcastic or 100% Less Dead").
Through his keen gift of observation, Jon gives an in-depth breakdown of the seven people you meet in a prayer circle--The Opener, The Almost-er, The Rambler, The Cave-In, The Gunslinger, The Shot Blocker, and The Closer. He also describes the five different hand-raising styles noticed most often in worship--The Ninja, The Half & Half, The Pound Cake, The Double High Five, and The YMCA. The depth of each description makes it clear that Jon has studied the Christian species quite intently.
As a long-time reader of Jon's blog, one thing I missed from the book was Jon's more serious tone. On the "Stuff Christians Like" blog, Jon uses every Wednesday to write seriously about a particular issue of faith, most of the time dwelling on the reality of God's unbelievable love. The last chapter of the book is titled "Saturday Night Cryfest", which alludes to the mountain-top, emotional peak of typical Christian weekend retreats. This chapter does lean towards the serious side, but its small tastes of seriousness seem like an afterthought to the silliness of the rest of the book.
Jon is one of the funniest writers I know, but he is also one of the best communicators of God's love. So, while it is difficult to balance snarky, sarcastic humor with serious, honest writing, I would have loved more of Jon's serious side sprinkled amidst the fun (but hopefully that means a second book!).
Like the "Stuff Christians Like" blog, the book's satirical look at Christian culture clears away the silly clutter of faith, revealing a wondrously loving God underneath it all. If you find Jon's humorous blog postings to be too irreverent, you'll probably find the book to be the same. But if Jon's talent to "see things as they really are" helps you move beyond the awkwardness of being Christian and closer to the uncluttered heart of God, then check out the "Stuff Christians Like" book.
At the very least, buying a copy may make you rich.