Christianity Doesn't Realize it's Making Fun of Itself



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When Christians make fun of other kinds of Christians, are they really just teasing about those groups’ specific quirks? Or is there something deeper going on? Something that taps into insecurities about – and a desire to make fun of – their own faith? Today I explore this question by looking at an article from the Christian satirical publication “The Babylon Bee.” To me, it appears this article’s dig at overly-hyped megachurches actually makes fun of fundamental Christian ideas of worship… Even possibly of a “relationship with God.”

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so for those of you who wondered what it would look like if Christians tried to elbow their way into the irreverent humor business today we're going to be taking a peek into a really weird little corner of modern Christian culture one that you like me may have seen popping up in your Facebook feed in recent years and that is the weird wild world of Christian satire news yes if you're one of those lucky people who have already been exposed to this pop-culture phenomenon you know I'm talking about the babylon bee now the babylon bee is basically a christian version of the onion and it's about what you expect when you hear someone tell you there's a christian version of the union no it's not all about making thinly veiled passive-aggressive commentary on atheists or liberals though articles such as six-year-old saying why don't we just give everything away for free searches the top of democratic polls shows that it's not totally about sacrificing cleverness for the sake of lazy crowd-pleasing jabs from what I've seen it looks more like it came from a room full of hip relevancy seeking youth pastors trying to be edgy and funny often dipping into inside jokes about church life and Christian culture as much as anything and of course it often falls flat the way to expect the same roomful of youth pastors too even when it takes a jab at God's not dead it does so in obvious unimaginative ways that immediately dashes any hopes you'd had for well seeing Christians make fun of God's not dead if you want to know more about the Babylon be in general you can explore it yourself but today I wanted to focus on one of their articles I actually found reasonably funny and discuss why it was funny and what it means about how Christians see themselves but before we do that since we're on the topic of satire I want to really quickly tell you about a book I recently received called the misread Bible this isn't a paper motion the author just sent me a copy and I thought it was cool so I thought I'd tell you about it basically it's the Bible but he well miss reads it by changing passages it's pretty cool and often hilarious and there's even an audiobook version here's a sample God saw all that he had made and was pleased with himself and the bulb switched off and back on a sixth day to thus the heavens and the earth were completed and on the seventh day God ended his work and he said now let's rest because tomorrow were going to create the universe all over again in a slightly different order so if that sounds like something that interests you go over to miss read Bible comm where you can check out some extensive samples of his writing and find options for purchasing a copy and if you like him ever want to send me any non poisonous and non explosive items you can mail it to jeremiah jennings what do you think my parents named me prophet azad p.o box seven seven three zero two four Eagle River Alaska nine nine five seven seven but anyway back to this Babylon B business the article I'm looking at is called Holy Spirit unable to move through congregation as fog machine breaks the article is short and I think it's worth hearing the whole thing so Shannon Q has generously offered to read it for us nashville tennessee describing the experience is tragic local worship leader Axl Johnson found his congregation totally unable to worship as the church's primary fog machine malfunctioned right in the middle of the Sunday morning set we barely got through our new song it was a real train wreck a visibly shaken Johnson told us while sipping a latte macchiatto in the church cafe after service just as the song an original mash-up between Hoobastank the reason and Gunn Gore's beautiful things reached its climax a loud pop emanated from the 1600 watt machine positioned just in front of the plexiglass pulpit the device sputtered to a halt and ceased pumping out 30,000 cubic feet of water-based fog per minute into the venue onlookers said it totally and instantly killed their personal worship experience it was a serious downer one parishioner recalled one moment I was caught up in the spirit worshiping the Living God of all creation before his throne and the next I was brought plummeting back down to earth the mood was totally ruined the Church has ordered a full inspection of the remaining five fog machines as well as the laser light controllers as a preventative measure we're not losing the Holy Spirit again not on my watch anyway Johnson declared we're a strong group on a life journey together we'll pick ourselves up and grow from this tragedy at publishing time the church is discussing a possible name change from legacy to the gathering to help the flock move on now I'm definitely not saying this article is brilliant and I can see how it might fall flat for some people but it took a lot of what I found to be reasonably funny jabs at mega churches or hipster seeker-friendly churches in general and it did so pretty concisely using quick little bits of imagery if you've had any exposure to these kinds of institutions little details such as a worship leader named Axl Johnson sipping a latte in the church cafe or the attempt to manufacture emotion was a mash-up of syrup soaked songs such as the reason and beautiful things instantly paint a hilarious picture what happens when a church tries to recreate its own version of relevant modern culture within an inward-looking church environment instead producing this weird artificial subculture that only really exists part time and most people just step in and out of and the name change from legacy to the gathering actually got a laugh for me especially since I've heard my former pastor / boss attempt a tortured explanation for why he was rebranding our church as like crossing so yeah but the focus throughout this piece was really on one main joke which is about how this megachurch relied so heavily on carefully chosen song sets and garish effects to evoke a feeling of being connected to the holy spirit and for my experience in the church I can see how this joke would resonate with a lot of Christians especially those critical of the overly produced for volley of mega churches a lot of Christians I grew up with would actually be very critical of churches like this not only because they could I don't know feed a lot of people with the money they used to run sixteen hundred watt fog machines but because of the value they place on momentary emotional experiences and the lengths they go to to conjure them so I get how this works with a Christian audience but there's a problem here a big part of this joke is in phrasing things as if this fictional mega church needed these trappings to bring the holy spirit into its auditorium or have it moved through the congregation or whoever your denomination likes to phrase it and once the church's production faltered the Holy Spirit actually could move within this church logically of course such a thing should not stop the Holy Spirit if you actually believe it exists because if it did it should have easily been able to enter the auditorium and communicate with Christians at will and fog machines and production values and even music shouldn't have been a factor at all so by saying that the Holy Spirit was blocked by a breakdown in these things this article is very heavily implying that whatever experience this congregation interpreted as experiencing the Holy Spirit was just a wave of emotion generated by a carefully crafted church experience but if that's what experiencing the Holy Spirit was for this church then couldn't that mean that that's all it is for Christians in general or if not doesn't the mere suggestion open the door for Christians to doubt the very emotional experiences that make God real to them and for some shaped our understanding of who he is and possibly whether he exists to me it looks like this article skates dangerously close to a joke about the fundamental idea of worship and even to the idea of Christians thinking they're connecting with God this might not seem like a big deal to a lot of people but in some branches of Christianity it definitely is many evangelicals say they believe in God largely because they feel him in their heart and know him personally but if the feeling they think is God might even possibly be something else that's something they don't even want to consider I sure didn't so why would a Christian publication even take such a sideways shot at something that defines their idea of communing with God why did they even make this joke I guess we could just chalk it up to obliviousness and leave it at that but on a deeper level I think this article represents a way that Christians simultaneously contain and indulge in doubts about their faith basically jokes like this take something that's funny about all of Christianity and even shows a deep underlying problem with the religion and deals with it by focusing the humor and implicit criticism on to a specific group of Christians this does a couple things for them first and most obviously it's a way of processing an underlying doubt they have about their own faith when they simply can't deny that a specific absurdity exists anywhere within any part of Christianity they can at least drown out their doubts by laughing really hard at how one specific group of Christians manifest this problem then pretend is just a quirk of that one group or fault of one denomination instead of something that seriously undermines their entire faith it's easy to just laugh at generalizations about how rigidly the Catholics follow ritual and pretend the Christianity at large doesn't at all it's easy to laugh at King James only yes for believing in the internal unchanging value of every word in the King James Bible and pretend your own fundamentalist adherence to the Bible is off the hook just because it seems slightly less absurd by comparison it's easy to laugh at faith healers for claiming to instantly heal people when you yourself believe God heals people but load your idea of when and how with enough qualifiers to avoid confronting the fact that he doesn't it's easy to laugh at fire and brimstone preachers when you yourself believe non-christians deserve eternal torture but are more polite about it and yes it's easy to laugh at a megachurch for using fog machines to evoke the Holy Spirit when you rely on some form of music and meditation to do the same and the underlying principle is that needing either is equally silly and laughing at one other group of Christians for how they do what you do but in a more obvious way or at least a way that's more obvious to you because it's slightly different from what you do and you bury the mechanics of how you do the same thing at the back of your mind helps you pretend that your reliance on ritual your fundamentalism your belief in healing or hell and the dependency of your relationship with God on emotions about what music don't exist and that they don't undermine your faith in a sort of variation of the no true Scotsman fallacy everything weird or silly about Christianity is just something wrong with specific people usually other people of course but there's a second part of this that I want to touch on really quickly and that is that many Christians actually want to laugh at their own faith they aren't a monolith a group of people who believe in the same way on the same level many not only have their deep-seated doubts but deep down actually think a lot of their religion is funny and are embarrassed for associating with it they want to laugh at it but can't admit to themselves or others that it should be laughed at so turning the focus to a specific group not only helps them avoid doubts but lets them release some pent-up irreverence that they keep bottled up for fear of what mocking their own religion reveals to them about their own religion but if you're a Christian who laughs at large groups of other Christians the fact of the matter is that whatever you think is funny about them is probably funny about you at least to some extent whatever you think undermines their religious experience or their specific belief often undermines yours as well the sooner you can recognize this and as a result introspect about the meaning of what you actually believe the sooner you will be able to really assess what you believe will this lead you to atheism maybe maybe not but I have to think if you really honestly assess yourself in your beliefs it will at least have to give you a small tug in that direction but then if you're truly confident in your faith what's there to be afraid of why should you need to avoid looking too closely yourself by laughing at others this program was made possible by a grant from SR Foxley Bob generic and Q and by the generous support of viewers like you if you wish to join them in pledging to this channel please find a link to the prophet Azad patreon below or maybe five fuck machine oh my god how many fog machines is too many fog machines like one yeah