Stuff Christians Like is a new book by blogger and first-time author Jon Acuff. The book is an expansion of the website of the same name which has graced the internet since 2008. The SCL book, like the blog, is a freeing look at our funny family of faith, even those less-than-flattering problem areas. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to mark the occasion by asking Jon a few questions. Enjoy!
What are the limits of satire?
I don’t think there are clear cut black and white limits. I try to only write what is honest of my own life. So if it’s a situation I have not really experienced myself, that’s a limit. I’d also say that one of the limits is love. I care about love more than satire so if I think something is going to hurt someone, I don’t write it.
Have you used humor as an an evangelism tool? What might be the pitfalls of doing that?
I would say that the stuffchristianslike.net completely uses humor as an evangelism tool. Laughter is a universal language. When you go on a mission trip, even though you can’t speak the same language, you can laugh together. The pitfall is taking to too far. The pitfall is that you end up using mockery instead of satire. And God is not a fan of mockery.
Are Christians afraid to laugh? If so, why?
I don’t now that they are afraid to laugh. I’ve had over 1 million folks laugh with me on the site, so I feel like they are not afraid to laugh. I feel like we just don’t have a huge history of creating funny things. I am certainly not a pioneer in Christian humor. Folks like Matthew Paul Turner and Lark News have been doing this a lot longer than me but for the most part we don’t have a rich history of comedy in our faith.
What is it about your blog that appeals to non-Christians?
I think that it’s honest. I admit the things I’ve done incorrectly as a Christian. I write about our shortcomings.
How do you maintain a peaceable, welcoming environment?
I only point one finger and that’s at me. I attack issues, not individuals and that helps people trust I am not being mean or toxic in my humor.
Share with me, if you will, an example of healthy dialogue which has taken place on StuffChristiansLike.net
I wrote about the three most common types of pastor’s wives. A pastor’s wife commented that she didn’t fit any of them and was actually a horrible wife who was hurting her husband’s ministry. Without any input from me, a handful of other pastor’s wives stepped up and commented back to her, encouraging her and strengthening her.
If you could do away with one comment, one regularly repeated sentiment, what would it be?
That to do serious good you have to be serious. That’s the mentality that gets me most. That you have to be somber and serious to really change the world. Not true. We raised $60,000 to build two kindergartens in Vietnam with just the site Stuff Christians Like. We did that through humor.
Which is the greater battle? Christians against “the world” or Christians against each other?
I think I would say against the world. We’re surrounded by a world that subtly and deliberately wears away at the things we hold vital.
What have been the most interesting moments thus far in promoting the new book?
The other day I was asked to do a radio interview in the UK. I got on the phone and the producer said, “Jon, you’ll be on with the host and the Bishop of Buckingham.” That was just so perfectly random. I thought to myself, “Of course I am spending my lunch break at work talking with the Bishop of Buckingham about Twitter, that is exactly how I planned this day.” I’m just some random guy in his kitchen with a blog, all of this stuff has been fun and funny.
How did you concoct your particular brew of sincere sarcasm?
I really believe that mockery is a great short cut to easy laughs, but it removes your ability to speak in love later. As a Christian, the love matters more to me. I can’t reconcile being a jerk online and then being a compassionate Christian offline. I have failed at this. Please know that I have messed them up a lot, but I’ve had some really generous readers and friends who have helped me shape this voice. I don’t consider myself the “owner” of Stuff Christians Like because so many people have helped shape the place it’s arrived at.
My mother-in-law tunes into Joel Osteen each week for the joke and then promptly turns the channel. Do you have any advice for Joel on how he might keep her attention for longer?
That might be the most random question I have ever received. I would have to say this, if that spinning globe of metal behind Osteen is not holding her attention, I’m not sure anything, including white Siberian tigers that appear carved from fluffy clouds, could hold her attention.
What is the stuff that you like?
I like laughing. I like hearing my kids filter the world through their little heads. I like Seth Godin. I love my wife. I like being done with jogging but not jogging. I like techno music. I like salt & vinegar chips. I liked writing the book Stuff Christians Like. I like Joel McHale.