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August 24th, 2013
08:40 AM ET

Should Christianity be so boring?

Opinion by Jon Acuff, Special to CNN

(CNN) - No one has ever accused us Christians of being fun.

No one has ever said we are a laugh-filled group.

No atheist has ever said, “I might not love Jesus, but his followers sure know how to party!”

And yet, in my favorite story in the Bible we actually see Jesus paint the opposite picture.

If you’re a Christian, you’ve heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke referenced in approximately 42 million sermons. If you’ve missed it though, allow me to summarize.

A young son said to his dad, who represents God, “I want my inheritance.” This was the cultural equivalent of saying, “I wish you were dead!” The father gives him the money. The son immediately runs off to the Jersey shore and fist pumps the night away with 4 Loko and Skrillex. [Not a direct translation.]

After squandering all the money and awakening in a pig pen, the son devises a plan. He will come home, apologize and throw himself at the mercy of the father. His greatest hope is that the father will let him be a servant. He can’t even imagine getting to keep the title “son.”

He comes home expecting punishment, but instead something weird happens.

The father sees him from a distance and sprints toward him. He runs toward him and embraces him. Before the son can even get his whole apology out, the father has already started planning the last thing he expected.

A party.

Instead of punishment he gets a party.

The idea that God fixes problems with parties is crazy.

Who does that?

Life doesn’t work that way. Imagine that you messed up at work. Your boss called you in and said, “Johnson you lost our biggest account! You just cost this company more than 3 million dollars. You know what that makes me want to do? Throw you a party!”

Or think about this in the context of a marriage. Have you ever had an argument with your spouse? Not a fake argument but one that lands you on the couch overnight.

You come into the kitchen and your wife is doing that “mad dishwashing” move we all do when we’re upset. Just power scrubbing pots and pans with a vengeance, mumbling the entire time.

You approach her slowly and say, “Heyyyy baby, how do you feel this morning?” Without looking at you, she takes a deep breath and says, “You really hurt my feelings. Last night, you really surprised me by what you did. My mom was right about you. I’m so angry and disappointed. This whole thing makes me want to get an inflatable bounce house and throw a huge celebration in your honor!”

That would be ludicrous.

Our worst mistakes don’t end in parties, but in this story in the Bible, it did.

When given the opportunity to talk to a group of people, the picture Jesus drew of his Father was of a party giver; someone who met sinners with welcome home banners.

What if Christians were like that?

What if churches became the place where failures found new beginnings?

What if we were known for our parties, not for our Pharisees?

It all feels a little crazy, but I don’t think it’s impossible.

Christians should offer hope in exchange for hurt, new in exchange for old, parties in exchange for pain.

Are we there yet?

Nope, we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve still got a lot of things to work through, a lot of progress we have to make.

But when you think about the prodigal son story, I hope you will remember something.

Two people moved.

One walked.

One ran.

And we prodigals are the walkers.

We still have a running God.

And he is ready to throw a party.

Jon Acuff is a keynote speaker and the author of four books including The New York Times best-seller, START. Acuff is also the author of the popular blog, Stuff Christians Like.net.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jon Acuff

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Opinion

soundoff (4,711 Responses)
  1. Paul

    It would be interesting to know to which denomination this author is referring. We neopentecostals/charismatics dance in church, love to laugh during our sermons and afterwards, and believe church and life should both be a party. My young adult children both mention often (to their friends and to us) how much fun church is. And we have built our church life around all sorts of positive social interaction. If Christianity is that boring, maybe you should change churches. (For full disclosure, I should mention that I am our church's main pastor.)

    August 24, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Church with the rollers is a lot of fun too.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • Apple Bush

      You have taught me that stupidity can be both boring and less boring.

      Thank you.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • bostontola

      You come across more as the churches main marketing person, maybe that's the same thing.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:57 am |
      • Paul

        It's not marketing, it's a conviction... God laughs (Psalm 2), God parties, the angels celebrate pretty much nonstop in heaven, and so can we. When you have come across the best news in history, your face should express it. And while no doubt many people will deny the Gospel is good news, I know many others who would disagree, having been taken by God from lives ruined by the destructive behaviors he lovingly told us to avoid, to transformed lives of peace, joy, and yes, party-style happiness.

        August 24, 2013 at 11:04 am |
        • bostontola

          Keep telling yourself that.

          August 24, 2013 at 11:07 am |
        • sam stone

          You have no authority to speak for god, Paul

          August 24, 2013 at 11:30 am |
        • sam stone

          It is not the best news in the history of the world. It is a story you and others have bought into. While it is true that people have turned their lives around when becoming religious (and please do not hand me that tripe that christianity is a not a religion), people have turned their lives around with no religion, also.

          we find joys in diferent ways. some of us like a walk in the woods, others like popping through industial haze, others like a vaporizer with some chronic.

          faith is no different. it releases endorphins and dopamine into your bloodstream, and they make you feel good

          but it is entirely a subjective think

          if it works for you, fine

          but trying to convince others is futile

          August 24, 2013 at 11:40 am |
        • Katie1970

          There are still plenty of Christians around, despite the responses to your comment. Some of them appreciate a more reverential, solemn type of service. To me, it reminds me that we are being respectful of our Heavenly Father. I never got into Church in Jeans personally, but my earthly father always said that praising God shouldn't feel like a funeral, so once we were grown and out of the house, he sought out a joyful, happy church such as yours.

          August 25, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  2. Apple Bush

    Your husband takes you to the company Christmas party. You have long been jealous of his very attractive co-worker Genevieve, and your jealous imagination suspects there is a spark between them. You dress to the nines and look great. The moment comes to say hello to her. She is beautiful, charming and smells intoxicating. You break a heal just as you reach to shake her hand. You spill your drink on both Genevieve and your husband. They look at each other and giggle, holding the gaze a bit too long. Where is your god now?

    August 24, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Have you read the story of David and Bathsheba?

      August 24, 2013 at 11:05 am |
      • steve

        Yes I am familiar with the story. Funny how David gets away scott free from murdering her husband when he should have been executed. But then God is not exactly consistent is he? And yet, a man is put to death for simply picking up sticks on the sabbath (probably to keep his family warm) or another for catching the falling Ark of the Covenant. Sky daddy has no credibility.

        August 24, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Katie1970

      God is always there when you need him, although not always in the manner you wish. But I think you are turning a relatively nothing situation, born of man's free will, into an issue that God should address. Men cheat. Children are shot. Planes crash. Wars happen. Mortal life is not perfect, which is why we have the opportunity of entering the perfect Kingdom of Heaven upon our exit from this earth. It's the gift of forgiveness of our sins that Jesus Christ gave us with his death and resurrection.

      August 25, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
  3. Great Discussion

    I read the Christianity articles on CNN just for the comments. Jesus! Could y'all be any more bitter? Your faces are going to freeze like that.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Apple Bush

      It's that damn lol?? / Troll Hunter being all bitter and salty.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Yes, I probably could be more bitter. Christianity (and the ignorance and segregation it breeds) negatively impacts my life in many ways.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  4. Lynn

    Thank you for reminding us of God's Grace and Mercy! I really do believe God would like to join, celebrate, and facilitate parties for us! I choose to believe God has a great sense of humor and fun! We can only pray for those who rather lay around in the dark participating in negativity, hopelessness, and a need to bring others down with them.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Apple Bush

      I choose to believe in the little boy that lives in my mouth.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:55 am |
      • John P. Tarver

        NAMBLA?

        August 24, 2013 at 11:06 am |
        • G to the T

          No John, he said "lives" in his mouth... dirty boy...

          August 26, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • G to the T

        Tony? (redrum, redrum!)

        August 26, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  5. Seyedibar

    Better question... Should Christianity be so historically and scientifically inaccurate?

    August 24, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • bostontola

      They were state of the art circa 100 AD.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Bosto, they are still state of the art in the south.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Why don't you cool it with the hate and create an international movement to clean up the garbage in international waters. All that junk that the rich and the commies are always dumpin'?? You LUV the UN so demand action and not feelings!

      August 24, 2013 at 11:00 am |
      • bostontola

        Welcome to the 21st century, its called Green Peace, you can join on line.

        August 24, 2013 at 11:03 am |
        • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

          They can't keeep up, silly. Too much sin.

          August 24, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Katie1970

      Since when are miracles expected to be "scientifically accurate." I think you might need to check out the definition of "faith."

      August 25, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  6. lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

    Can't you haters join a movement or sumpin'?? Maybe go out in the wild and make big rocks into little rocks?? You might get lucky and find a fossil you can make up stories about. Save the wurld and all that type of thing.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Apple Bush

      lol?? Bathroom is calling.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  7. PantherMartin

    He misses the point- the Prodigal Son was allowed to go waste himself in degradation- we all have Free Will. The life of the Godly Father resulted in his abundance- the wasteful selfish son woke up in filth and repented- returning, humbled to a loving and restorative Father. I always told my kids that if they landed in jail I wouldn't bail them out- they needed to sit there, contemplate the situation they got into, and hopefully become wiser. The son's repentance came before the restoration to the Father.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  8. Apple Bush

    Why does lol?? / Troll Hunter hate so much? Why?? *sob*

    August 24, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  9. Eric Pillsbury

    The just and loving Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful people and sent his Son, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin on the cross and to show his power over sin in the Resurrection so that all who trust in him will be reconciled to God forever.

    Jon, I hope you don't listen to your wife and read the comments. It is here where you see the unbeliever flop around in their unbelief. The problem is that we can't give hope to the hopeless by telling them they'll have a party in heaven when they have parties on earth. Where is the difference? They need to hear about Jesus! The Savior of all who turn from sin to him. Who forego things of this world and obey his Word. Do the angels in heaven rejoice at just one sinner turning to Christ? Absolutely! But they only come to that point by first hearing the gospel of Christ Jesus.

    I see where you are coming from. I do. But START with Jesus.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Christ died on the cross to redeem Adam's birthright of everlasting life; there was never any salvation in the Law.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  10. Charles Darwin

    I find the whole jesus concept not only boring but very childish as well.
    At least the fairy tale about aliens bringing us here is a little more believable.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Charle's Darwin was a racist who we know was wrong about the origin of species, but he did illustrate a wonderful ant study.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:52 am |
      • bostontola

        Oh, that's right, you're the guy accusing atheists of suppressing science.

        August 24, 2013 at 10:59 am |
      • John P. Tarver

        The global geological fossil record proves species occur rapidly following a mass extinction, yet we teach racism in our classrooms to satisfy the atheist.

        August 24, 2013 at 11:07 am |
        • bostontola

          Delusional or troll, which are you?

          August 24, 2013 at 11:09 am |
        • steve

          I like how he states himself to be 'John P Tarver' as to add credibility, until the verbiage comes out and discredits himself. I don't know if Charles was a racist or not but if he wasn't he would have been in the minority. Was Martin Luther a racist, definitely. Was God a racist (based on the genocides he inflicted), most certainly. 'WE' know original of species was wrong? Well there have been some improvements since we have much more evidence, but the core of it was correct. When you say 'we', what religious cult do you mean? Or are you suggesting the bulk of the scientific community is on your side?

          I would expect to see enhanced speciation after mass extinctions, kind of fits stephen jay gould's theory doesn't it? Real question is why would god create these massive extinctions, change his mind? Was bored just before the Permian extinction? Perhaps had enough of watching dinosoars roam for 190 million years when we were his ultimate aim? HAHAHAH.

          August 24, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Katie1970

      And Christians are supposed to be boring? Yes, I have seen many in my life who misrepresent Christianity and God's will. Westboro Baptist comes to mind, as well as the guy who got his 15 plus minutes for incessantly threatening to burn the Qua'ran. But overall, you athiests are the most depressing, unhappy, emotionally inhibited, miserable humans on earth. I can't imagine any of you being a hit at ANY party, even one of your own. You truly don't seem to understand there is both pain and joy in the world. All you do is look for the pain to validate your belief. Christians may be boring (well, we Protestants can still whoop it up on Saturday night), but you guys are just .....sad.

      August 25, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
      • Johnny

        From this post it seems you have never met an atheist.

        August 26, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  11. sticktowhatworks

    It's interesting how the world has caused Christians to explain themselves, "be more fun", and more accept everything. God nor His Word, need our help in making it powerful, truthful, and joyful ...it does all by itself! As for your storytelling, please stick to the scripture: don't add and don't take away ...I absolutely hate when Christians water down the Gospel with popular jargon and rhetoric to seem "cool". We spend so much time trying to be cool that we forget to be correct and truthful. Being in Christ is the most satisfying, liberating, and FUN time ever! There's no need to become marketers to convince more people that Jesus is awesome. We simply allow His love, joy, and peace to be manifested in our lives.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  12. bostontola

    The whole premise of this article is false. Christians comprise 75% of the US. If Christians were boring the US would be boring. We have been accused of many things, but boring we are not. This author may live in a sequestered world of fundamentalists, but most Christians I know are not boring.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • sticktowhatworks

      THANK YOU! I'M NOT BORING!!

      August 24, 2013 at 10:47 am |
      • Apple Bush

        OK WHY ARE YOU SHOUTING?

        August 24, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  13. Matthew

    There's nothing about Christianity that is boring. The author didn't even mention anything that he thought was boring. Calling Christianity boring is like calling Obama honest and competent. There's no evidence to support either claim.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  14. jazzy

    Luke 15:10 NIV

    In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

    Christianity is not boring but religion and tradition takes the life and power out of christianity. People need an authentic encounter with God. A personal relationship with God through Christ is true Christianity but when people get trapped in religious mindsets and trapped in the traditions of "church as usual" then we become modern day pharisees. Nice article. Lord, demolish religion, people need to authentically know YOu.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  15. rolick

    I love it when the new Christian set tries to get down with the young folks, ya know, get on their level and be cool. What a dumb article.

    "The son immediately runs off to the Jersey shore and fist pumps the night away with 4 Loko and Skrillex". That made me embarrassed for the writer

    Do you think that's all he would do, pump his fists? When people go to night clubs, they are generally looking to pump more than just there fists. Pumping your fists is what happens when you have to go home and you did not get lucky.

    The reason it's so boring is because basically the bible is a book of rules, commandments and all that. You must do this and you must not do that, very rigid. The ten are just a top ten list, there are many more rules in there. And it's hard to have fun following the rules, the best times I have had in my life is when I broke the rules, either the ones society put on me or the self imposed ones I put in myself. Letting go of them is thrilling. Fun is feeling free to do what makes you happy. Christianity is all about repression of the self, and that's no fun.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  16. Hannah

    God's love for us is bigger than we can ever imagine. Those two scenarios you depicted that would be "ludicrous" to us is something God would do for us. Remember, Christ (God's beloved son) died for us while we still sinners. Because we are able to love because He loved us first, this article makes perfect sense to me.

    We should be filled with boundless love, laughter, and joy. We should be judgement free, willing to forgive any mistakes. Church should be a place where happiness is; that is, a place where Christians can truly express themselves without any fear of rejection.

    Yes, there is God who is running with open arms towards anyone who is willing to accept Him. In the Bible, it says that angels rejoice and "party" whenever anyone accepts Jesus as his/her Savior.

    That was beautifully written; a perfect mix of humor and insightfulness. Thank you, Jon.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • G to the T

      I'm sorry Hannah, but for some of us, the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself to redeem his own creation seems a bit odd to say the least.

      August 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  17. larper2

    Christians are not boring. We can party, we can have fun, we sin all the time. It's through Jesus Christ that our sins are forgiven. We try not to sin but we fall short. "Dear Lord forgive me for all my sins in thought, word, or deed. By what I done or what I have left undone. In your name Amen."

    August 24, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  18. Patricia Abraham

    This story predates Jesus. It was one already familiar to Jews. However in the original story the father sends messengers to his son asking to come back as far as he can. The father said he would come the rest of the way. The story is about returning to Torah. A common theme in Jewish tradition long before Jesus was taught this story. I prefer the original version.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  19. bostontola

    What does Christianity have in common with all other religions?
    It is man made and demonstrably false.
    What makes Christianity different than all other religions?
    It is the largest and most powerful so it can do more (harm and good). Since it is made up of and led by people, that power is dangerous, as has been proven many times in history.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Why I hate church (3rd edition) by Apple Bush

      1. Stains on the pews.
      2. The texture of the pews
      3. Creepy windows
      4. Creepy people
      4. Child abuse

      August 24, 2013 at 10:40 am |
      • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

        Hate.

        August 24, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Hate.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:41 am |
      • bostontola

        You must live in a black and white world if you regard this as hate. I don't hate Christianity, I don't hate Christians. They are all groups of normal people with the same strengths and weaknesses as any other group of people. The difference is Christians are powerful, so their mistakes can injure others much more.

        August 24, 2013 at 10:42 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          Apple said "hate". Now he just wishes he had more power to back it up.

          August 26, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Gee

      Partly true but a little over simplified. In essence all religions are a concoction of man and that would include what the world sees as "Christianity". However if you read what Jesus (Yeshua) said you would soon discover he spoke against creating denominational division, never endorsed building buildings, never endorsed following after preachers, teachers, etc, (other than himself directly), and foretold his death many times to be carried out through the hands of religious leaders. Religion as a creation of mankind is indeed as far from God as the rest of this present universe. IF you are inclined to follow Jesus, hopefully you will do so in a direct relationship (seeking without being led by other human beings). One day, when we cash in our mortal chips... we all get to see what was true and what wasn't. Ectoplasmic oblivion may end up a poor bet.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:58 am |
      • G to the T

        "However if you read what Jesus (Yeshua) said..."

        "However, if you read what the unknown authors attribute to Jesus (Yeshua)..."

        There you go, just wanted to fix that small error in your logic.

        August 26, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Bunja Bunja

      Christianity is demonstrably false? Please prove it then. Not that I care one way or the other, but I have yet to hear a convincing argument that any religion is "false." Most arguments are based on misunderstanding, literal interpretations of translations (because that makes a lot of sense), statements made by extremists, etc.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:06 am |
      • bostontola

        Your scripture is presented as the word of god, yet there are factual errors and contradictions within it.

        August 24, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  20. Bob

    I'm not so concerned that Christianity is boring, but I don't find its stories particularly interesting. What bothers me most about it is that it has so many adherents (and they hold so much influence on how the rest of us have to live) despite its obvious self-contradictions, unsupportable claims, and its many horrid and violent dictates.

    Christianity is really nothing more than yet another god myth set, like so many others that man has created. Other than a few historical anchors in its horrid text, it has little footing in reality, and hopefully the whole Christian superstition will decline away into being just a sorry part of human history. The sooner that decline happens, the better.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Hate.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Otto

      There is only one rule in Christianity, clearly stated in the Gospels and again by the Apostle Paul. Love your neighbor. That's it. Everything else is just commentary. Despite what people may say, the Bible is not a rulebook, and, like most religious texts, is allegorical and poetic. It cannot be taken literally, because it was never intended to be taken literally. If you think the demise of Christianity will make the world a better place you are sadly naive. There will always be conflicting ideas and philosophies regardless of religion. Mankind will always find a way to fight with and oppress each other.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:13 am |
      • Bob

        That's bullshit, Otto, plain and simple. Get your head out of the sand and read your nasty holy book. since you are clearly ignorant of its foul contents. These are some of its rules that it requires you to follow. Please also note carefully my comments about "context" within:

        Numbers 31:17-18
        17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
        18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

        Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

        Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

        Leviticus 25
        44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
        45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
        46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

        Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

        Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

        And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

        So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

        Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
        Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
        http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

        August 24, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.