I am not going to lie. I like stuff, particularly stuff that makes me laugh. That is why I enjoyed Jon Acuff’s “Stuff Christians Like.” His 2010 collection of lists and diagrams and essays is one of the funniest books I have read in awhile. He uses a brilliant blend of irony, sarcasm and heart touching roasting to unmask the hidden truths behind current American Evangelicalism. This wonderful cocktail also makes “Stuff Christians Like” one of the most honest books I have read in awhile.
Like many, I would love to think that Evangelicalism as a subculture is ceasing to exist. However, Acuff proves me wrong. Our subculture has gone nowhere, though it has changed drastically in the last 50 years. And John Acuff describes and unmasks this new evangelicalism in brilliant detail. He mocks everything from pushing on your eyes during prayer (which I do) to the different roles people play in prayer circles to metrosexual worship leaders, to feeding 3 year olds their body weight in fish crackers during “Preschool Life Groups,” (because we can’t call it Sunday School anymore).
The most brilliant aspect of the book (and his blog) is that its critique of evangelicalism is surprisingly current. In my experience, most recent blogs and books about Evangelicals are 10-50 years too late. They are still complaining about our legalistic, politically motivated, angry and fundamentalist past.
But that time has come and gone. Now, as Acuff perfectly describes, we are an over-emotional, cliche drowned, hipster loving, logo touting movement of missional, radical, postmoderns. In one of Acuff’s more brilliant observations, if there is a copyright infringement expert standing at the door to heaven, not one of us is getting in. Likewise, our hesitance to boycott Abercrombie and Fitch for severe human rights violations shows how sold out we are to “soft, cotton T-shirts.”
So after reading, “Stuff Christians Like” I have to ask “what next?” Now that our legalistic, fundamentalist and conservative movement has morphed into a showy, sentimentality infused, hipster monster, what is a devoted pastor to do?
I suppose the answer is that I will continue to do what God called me to do. I will speak truth to the monster. I certainly do not advocate for a return to our legalistic and conservative ways. Instead by, “speak truth” I mean a way of living and being among the evangelical culture that questions its assumptions, practices and worldviews. The hope is to bring about a truer form of faithfulness, one that transcends rock choruses and prayer circles and fish crackers in “life groups.”
This faithfulness might encourage a rock star metro sexual worship leader to lead a smaller, rural congregation from time to time. It might include a deeper commitment to more ancient forms of prayer that move beyond “prayer circles.” It might be more generous towards those churches that are so out of date they still call it, “Sunday School.” It would probably mean not judging those who have to use the Table of Contents in their Bibles or come to church with a head cold.
It would certainly include treating copyright law respectfully and humbly and being inventive over clever. And it might even suggest caution when it comes to corporations like “Abercrombie and Fitich.”
And it would most certainly mean not pressing your eyes out during prayer.