May 21st, 2010
10:47 AM ET
Editor's Note: Jonathan Acuff writes the blog www.stuffchristianslike.net and recently released the book "Stuff Christians Like." In addition to commenting on Christian culture, he’s also written branding for clients such as The Home Depot, Bose, Chick-fil-A and AutoTrader.com. He lives outside of Atlanta with his wife and two young daughters.
By Jonathan Acuff, Special to CNN
As a pastor’s kid, I always found it odd that we Christians sprinkle a little church flavor on popular secular ideas and make them our own. We turned, “Got Milk” into, “Got God,” and “Adidas” into, “Add Jesus.” I feel like we often don’t use our best creativity to express our love of the person we believe created it all. So when the site stuffwhitepeoplelike.com blew up, I thought it might be fun to discuss that problem by committing that problem. I started stuffchristianslike.net thinking it would be like one of the many ideas I’ve written online.
Two years and 1.3 million readers later, the site is still going. Zondervan published the book, “Stuff Christians Like,” and last November the blog readers raised $30,000 in 18 hours to build a kindergarten in Vietnam. Despite that, some people initially don’t understand that at the core, I’m a Christian writing satire. They question the motives, confusing satire with mockery. More than that, they challenge me if I get anywhere near people like CNN.
When I was on "American Morning," several people told me, “That will be the only time I watch that channel.” Unspoken, but certainly heard, was the quiet hope that I would not be forced to sleep on a pull-out bed in hell for my association with the news network. And when a pastor I know did a relief special with Anderson Cooper, he received comments about how wrong that was. (Can you imagine God ever saying, “I regret that those disaster victims did not receive help, but you avoided making direct contact with Anderson Cooper. Well done my good and faithful servant.”)
It’s true, we Christians sometimes treat secular media as if it’s Satan’s newspaper. Why? I have three reasons I believe it happens:
1. The loudest Christians get the most attention.
Cooper did the disaster story, but often the Christians who make the news are the ones who are doing things like protesting military funerals with signs that scream hate. We understand that sensational Christians create sensational news, but it also makes us weary. You can only see so many reports on snake handlers before you start to feel a little trigger shy about the big news networks approach to Christians.
2. We’re pretty sure Fox News is baptizing people in their lobby.
I’ve never been to their station, but I have to believe that Fox News has a lobby fountain that they dunk people in. And Bill O’Reilly makes each guest take communion. And “Fox” is actually a Hebrew word that means, “Station that cares more about redemption than ratings.” Not really, but in Christian culture, it’s clear which side we tend to side with. And even though I’m a conservative guy who digs Fox, they’re a news station just like CNN. They’re not a ministry. Glenn Beck isn’t a priest and watching "Fox & Friends" isn’t like “tithing your time.”
3. Being “in” the world, but not “of” the world is tough.
I wish there was a verse in Proverbs that said, “It’s OK to watch the show, ‘Sex & the City,’ but only if it is the edited version on TBS.” Or maybe we could get an official ruling on R-rated movies. It appears that if the rating is due to violence, like "Braveheart" or "Gladiator," not only can we watch it, but we can do an entire sermon series on it. If a single nipple makes a cameo in the film however, you’re a sweaty heathen for watching it. Figuring out what it means for us Christians to be “in” the world, but not “of” the world, is quite the challenge.
Those are the three reasons I think we’re distrustful of CNN and other secular forms of media. I think I am required by Christian law to quote the verse where Paul says, “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial,” but I just don’t have time. I’ve got a lot of apology e-mails to write to friends who are pretty convinced CNN is Satan’s website.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Acuff.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.