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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. Bob M (yes, a STARTer)

    I find it interesting how haters and critics beak off in anonymity. Comment and critique is fine but everyone out there throwing rocks at Jon for what he believes is the low road. Why don't you consider getting your own work published on CNN first and let us all have a crack at ripping your opinions apart. And for those that hate Christianity it's OK. It's not personal. The democratic processes in North America, hospitals, universities NGO's that offer free aid to those in need etc can all remain. You're free to use what was started in many instances by Christians. The art of dissent however, still needs to be learned by some.

    August 24, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Christianity is boring so Jon will fit in and me too.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • G to the T

      Just because the large majority of people at the time of the founding of western democarcy happened to be christian, doesn't mean that christianity should necessarily get all the credit.

      Democracy is essentially very NON-Christian (where there is a supreme ruler).

      August 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  2. I've changed

    If you think it's boring,sitting in uncomfortable pews listening to someone rationalize ancient stories,wait until you get to heaven.

    August 24, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  3. lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

    The haters sure jump to conclusions. Hate the church, hate the Lord. BBbbbbwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahaha

    Um, you socie dudes corrupted em by Punking them, er Inc'ing them. The sick joke is on YOU.

    August 24, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  4. Jesus Christ Son of God

    Christianity is boring, because all the sheeple don't have a brain. Why else would they give money to support lawsuits against the church, give up time on the weekend, and believe in things like 'the earth was created in 6 days', or 'there is a god, even though we have no evidence'.

    August 24, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      The Earth was created in 6 eras then, as the global geological fossil record validates.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:12 am |
      • bostontola

        Really, so the earth was created before the sun?

        August 24, 2013 at 11:13 am |
        • John P. Tarver

          NASA claims they may be seeing planets come into being before there is a sun with their telescopes that would violate atheist cosmological notions. No problem for physics, since general relativity eliminated the big bang notion in 1919.

          August 24, 2013 at 11:17 am |
        • bostontola

          Ok, now you have crossed the line from delusional to common liar.

          August 24, 2013 at 11:24 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          Planets would be forming in the lumpy accretion disc at the same time as the central stellar mass and diisc material collapses under gravity but "seeing" them wouldn't be possible until the star began fusing hydogen and helium. Not until the solar wind blew away most of the surrounding dust and gas would the discrete planets be visible. Even then no solid planets would be present until the heavy asteriod bombardment phase had ended. Newly formed planets would be molten hellholes.

          August 24, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  5. CodyV

    Why was the party thrown? To fix the hurt? No, the party was thrown because the son came back and recognized his mistake. If more people recognized sin and wanted to rid it from their lives (myself included) maybe we WOULD throw more parties. The true is that both Christian and Mainstream culture try to minimize perceived or real sin in their lives. Once we recognize sin as sin, and strive to remove it from our lives, God is pleased. The parable also speaks of the salvation we have in Christ, and there IS a party any time someone recognizes Jesus as their savior

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

      Sin, sin ,sin...Oh you Christians and your obsession with that fabricated term. What a guilt trip your religion has played on you. There is no such thing as sin. There is only ethics and crime. If your actions harm others then the only forgiveness you should be seeking is from the ones who you wronged. In many cases that isn't possible so you just have to bear the guilt for your bad behavior without hope of resolution. Thinking you can be granted forgiveness by a higher power is cheating, cowardly and dangerous.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  6. Story Girl

    I was and always loved fun and I recall even as a child I had this innate awareness and curiousity about God. Then I ended up in a baptist old school church enviroment with my parents. I found fear seemed to be the basis. Yet..as I read the the life of Jesus I saw Jesus who rebelled against the "Religious system" even outright offensive in their face. They are the ones who killed him and the same system in a different set of pharaisaical robes are still at it killing the true essense of God and acting like they are the voice of God. Jesus himself said love is higher than any religous law you throw at these people. The point being ..that at the time of the ten basic commandments established just as a guideline for living ..as any place of habitation in community needs. He in his Grace knew we couldn't keep all them he didnt want perfection . he wanted their heart and gave a place of sacrifice until Jesus time had come. So fast forward to the last book of the old test to Jesus the religous system had added 400 plus laws and rules that people were held to the fire for. Jesus irritated the system by hanging with the drunks and the lepers. Healing people on the sabbath just to irritate them further. Now today there are so many denominations, so many that say they have a voice for God but like the pharisee of old it is the voice of religion disguising itself as God. If you truly have God in your heart you will love in a quite supernatural way. (Like that woman with the shooter in GA the other day) This is how you know them by their fruit. Yet we as a hateful society with no discernment lump every christian in a category. How elementary has our thought process become?? I will also say the same way some lump every muslim to extremists? We get our education from some dumbed down agencies drunk with power (Called NEWS MEDIA) who feed us like mindless idiots with stupid people called experts and that is where we get our info for the most part and let them bend the trends of our minds. WE HAVE GOT TO COME BACK TO OPEN MINDEDNESS instead of being told what to think. WE ARE LOSING OUR INDIVIDUALITY PEOPLE! Why are we judging people as if they are groups that are all like thinkers?? How would you like it if you live on..Say 200 south main st. and there was some idiot on the block who commited a horrific crime. Now you no longer are known as an individual on south main but you are now labeled by the criminal and their are at least 80% genuine good people on that street but it doesnt matter by the time the media gets their agenda pumping you are now percieved to be a contemptable piece of trash to be hated by all who are products of their twist on it. Just food for thought.

    August 24, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Story Girl

      So sorry ..I have the flu and hit post before I edited! ( : Here is the edited..I was and always loved fun and I recall even as a child I had this innate awareness and curiosity about God. Then I ended up in a Baptist old school church environment with my parents. I found fear seemed to be the basis. Yet. As I read the life of Jesus I saw Jesus who rebelled against the "Religious system" even outright offensive in their face. They are the ones who killed him and the same systems in a different set of pharisaical robes are still at it killing the true essence of God and acting like they are the voice of God. Jesus himself said love is higher than any religious law you throw at these people. The point being..that at the time of the ten basic commandments established just as a guideline for living ..as any place of habitation in community needs. He in his Grace knew we couldn't keep all them he didn’t want perfection. He wanted their heart and gave a place of sacrifice until Jesus time had come. So fast forward to the last book of the old test to Jesus the religious system had added 400 plus laws and rules that people were held to the fire for. Jesus irritated the system by hanging with the drunks and the lepers. Healing people on the Sabbath just to irritate them further. Now today there are so many denominations, so many that say they have a voice for God but like the Pharisee of old it is the voice of religion disguising itself as God. If you truly have God in your heart you will love in a quite supernatural way. (Like that woman with the shooter in GA the other day) This is how you know them by their fruit. Yet we as a hateful society with no discernment lump every Christian in a category. How elementary has our thought process become?? I will also say the same way some lump every Muslim to extremists? We get our education from some dumbed down agencies drunk with power (Called NEWS MEDIA) who feed us like mindless idiots with stupid people called experts and that is where we get our info for the most part and let them bend the trends of our minds. WE HAVE GOT TO COME BACK TO OPEN MINDEDNESS instead of being told what to think. WE ARE LOSING OUR INDIVIDUALITY PEOPLE! Why are we judging people as if they are groups that are all like thinkers?? How would you like it if you live on..Say 200 south main st. and there was some idiot on the block who committed a horrific crime. Now you no longer are known as an individual on south main but you are now labeled by the criminal and their are at least 80% genuine good people on that street but it doesnt matter by the time the media gets their agenda pumping you are now perceived to be a contemptible piece of trash to be hated by all who are products of their twist on it. Just food for thought.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Apple Bush

      I read this whole post with great interest.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  7. Cal Worthington's dog SPOT

    All organized religion is just a Ponzi scheme to separate people from there money and free will.

    August 24, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Jesus Christ Son of God

      I agree.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Are you standing on your head? Go see Cal!

      August 24, 2013 at 11:12 am |
  8. Orygun Duck

    I have been to many church sponsored picnics and events and never thought they were boring. I would rather be around nicer people and a plus is no one is throwing up from too much alcohol.

    August 24, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Less fist fights and shooting too.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • G to the T

      Speak for yourself – I always found those events SOOOO boring...

      August 26, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  9. Apple Bush

    Christians, your complete lack of common sense makes your boring personality and activities understandable. Education is available that teaches us what we have learned as a species sense 100 a.d. Say no to boredom and dummy dum dumbness.

    August 24, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Orygun Duck

      Well, sure education is a wonderful thing. And as a rational person you must know that virtually all of the great universities built in the Western world were originally built and chartered by Christians.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:07 am |
      • John P. Tarver

        All our modern technology is based in the creationist sciences of quantum mechanics and relativity.

        August 24, 2013 at 11:15 am |
      • Apple Bush

        "since"

        Orygun, your last sentence illustrates my point perfectly. Thank you.

        August 24, 2013 at 11:15 am |
        • Orygun Duck

          Not really. Your point is not 'rational.'

          August 24, 2013 at 11:20 am |
      • G to the T

        Contrary to what Carl Sagan and many of my atheist fellows may believe, education and/or intelligence have nothing to do with wheter or not someone believes. Neuroscience has shown that belief comes first, the reasons for belief come second. Smart people can believe weird things because they are much better at rationalizing their beliefs.

        That all being said, I still find the evidence for the existance of a "god" unsatisfactory and my studies of christianity, it's history, the history of the bible, etc lead me to feel pretty confident that if there is a god, it isn't Yahweh.

        August 26, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  10. Nick

    I'm surprised there is so much hate for this article. I thought it was well written, and the message of it "Christians should offer hope in exchange for hurt, new in exchange for old, parties in exchange for pain." I believe is relevant and thought provoking.

    August 24, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  11. WD

    As a former "pig pen" dweller, this story is one of my favorite. As I read the blog, there is one point that should be emphasized. Before the father "ran", the son started his "walk". The Father longed for him to start that walk, but the party did not start until the son repented (unpopular word I know, so lets just say turned toward home). The reason the church is seen as boring is not because they don't have a party when one turns home, but because those calling it boring want to party in the pig pen and in the church. The church party is not boring, but you simply can't party both places. The son had to make a choice. With that said, I do understand the point the blogger is making. Lots of folks turn home only to find the "older brother" in that story that wanted to make the younger son pay for his sins. Those churches are absolutely wrong.

    August 24, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  12. Hannah

    After I read the article, I took it in an entirely different context (my previous comment justifies this). However, realized that there is a debate regarding whether Christians are boring or not after reading through the comments. Well, here is my two cents:

    "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." John 15:19

    We, Christians, are not infatuated with some of the things many in this world find entertaining and "un-boring." For example, before I found Christ, it seemed like you had to go out to have fun (college student here). It looked like those who did not party were boring and people I would not want to hang out with on a Friday night. However, after I found Jesus Christ, my perspective changed. Now, many of the things that the world taught me was exciting and fun became uninteresting to me.

    This is exactly what the Bible talks about. Unless you are a Christian yourself, it will be difficult to understand where we come from when we prefer to sit at home rather than go out and make poor choices.

    August 24, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  13. Vic

    This article is a great perspective.

    Since the creation of man, man is full of iniquity, that is the desire to sin (I never claim to know why.) Then, sin took place by the Immortal First Family who consequently were reduced/transfigured to mortal beings, kicked out of heaven, and curse was put on the earth till the end of time. Ever since, sin became inherent in mankind, life trials have been the norm, and God put man to the test to redeem himself. Throughout the human experience, man could never redeem himself on his own, as if God intended to show man that he needs Him. God is so merciful that after he showed man the wrath of death and separation from Him, He always regarded his Faith in Him as redemptive and ultimately gave him the biggest "Welcome Home" party of all, the FREE GIFT Of SALVATION of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Come as you are, just Believe.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  14. blakenaustin

    I grow weary of CNN's and the far left media's intolerance and hatred regarding Christians and Christianity.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • I've changed

      Poor Christians,always being picked on.You have tax free status for your club.You have every politician in your club.You stand up proudly and tell everyone what to believe,(on pain of eternal torture).Must be so awful being you.Give us a break.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • sam stone

      and others grow weary of christian's empty proxy threats, self righteous blathering and persecution complex

      August 24, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  15. JP

    'christianity'

    August 24, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  16. Puzzled in Peoria

    The crucifixion was no party. Most of life, for today's Christian, is one of ridicule and hurt, as the comments to this article bear out.

    Worship services can range from young people bouncing up and down mindlessly to old people coldly singing the same hymns they have sung for 60 years. Which is pleasing to God? I'm afraid only God knows.

    The key message in the Prodigal Son parable is and always has been the graciousness of God, not the fact that the father threw a party.

    When you come to truly know God through Jesus Christ, your heart DOES feel like rejoicing.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • rolick

      I think the constant feeling of being victimized comes from the idea of crucifixion in the first place. But feeling ridiculed and hurt is very different from being crucified. One is emotional, the other murder. The very idea that a bit of name calling equals some kind of oppression is wrong. As far as I know, no one is out there trying to outlaw religion, no on is trying to legislate it so that people can't practice their faith, even though many will say differently, with no real evidence except that someone doens't agree with me on a CNN forum, therefore I they are being oppressed. However, there are religious groups out there trying to enforce their beliefs into law, because of whatever the interpret from their bible is the best for everyone.

      So where normally I would ignore religion and live and let live, now I have to stand up for the rights of others and fight those who would use our government to create a rule of law that meets their own world view.

      We have many religions in the country, and to those who say that Christianity is the only one, my response would be, which one, which version of Christianity should rule us all? Because they are not all one and the same.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  17. JP

    what makes me feel great about christinianity is having the holy spirit with me all day, just by saying the lords prayer in the morning, keeps me healthy, in a good mood, sure beats all other options offered to me by advertisers telling me i'd feel
    better and have a better life if i bought their products.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      You HAVE bought a product.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:56 am |
      • bostontola

        hook, line, and sinker.

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

          You have free will to believe what you want.. Best wishes.

          August 24, 2013 at 11:15 am |
        • sam stone

          jp: not if god is omniscient, we don't

          August 24, 2013 at 11:26 am |
      • JP

        There were no introductory fees (whenever you're ready.. lol..)

        August 24, 2013 at 11:29 am |
      • JP

        Try getting on your knees and saying the Lords prayer at the start of each day for a week, you may be pleasantly surprised by the way you feel and think afterwards.. Best,

        August 24, 2013 at 11:43 am |
        • Athy

          But you'll wonder why your knees are sore.

          August 25, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
        • G to the T

          Been there, bought the t-shirt.

          Try to keep in mind JP, the majority of non-believers in the US started off as christians. We did not abandon our faith easily or quickly. I spent years trying to re-establish my faith before finally realizing that I just didn't believe anymore.

          August 26, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Luke

      This is the generation that seek Him, they that seek the face of the God of Jacob.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:05 am |
      • evolved DNA

        Luke..god is "he" then.. how was that determined?

        August 24, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • L.S.B.

      The product by the most cunning swindlers in human history.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  18. Luke

    We go to church to worship God the Holy Trinity. You shouldn't find "fun" there, but repentance, joy, and peace.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • evolved DNA

      Luke.. sorry to hear that. Repentance for just living your life and fearing that you may have offended an alien doe not sound like joy to me. IIt sounds more like misery loves misery.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  19. mac101

    "The idea that God fixes problems with parties is crazy."

    The idea that god fixes ANYTHING is crazy.

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

      Christianity is only foolishnes to fools. Darkness hates the light.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:03 am |
      • sam stone

        Neither light nor darkness can hate anything, as they have no minds

        You are a pompous fool

        Fvck off

        August 24, 2013 at 11:28 am |
      • G to the T

        Self-enforcing delusion much?

        August 26, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  20. MightyMoo

    I went to one of those charismatic christian high school and when people made mistakes that were whoppers like getting pregnant both the guy and the girl were tossed out. It really bugged me because at that moment it was their greatest need but they got tossed to the curb for someone else to deal with them so the perfect Christian atmosphere remained at the school.

    I hope they don't do that anymore but I don't know and don't really care. They had their vision and it sure seems awkward when I look back at it. So yeah here I am years later quite a bit more cynical about organized religion.

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

      I can kindofsee the point – and no, I'm not a Christian. People model their behavior on that of members of their community. Several studies in just the last few years have found that people tend to gain weight and underestimate their own obesity when hanging around with other overweight people. The same goes for all behaviors. The more seemingly accepted pregnant girls at a school, the more acceptable itis to be a pregnant girl at school. You are weighing the good of the few against the good of the many. Harsh? Maybe, but that's the reality of how humans work.

      August 26, 2013 at 12:30 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.