May 21st, 2010
10:47 AM ET

Stuff Christians Like: Treating secular media like Satan’s newspaper

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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (93 Responses)
  1. Mark H.

    After growing up in the Church of Christ (Christian as opposed to Disciples of Christ), I learned to suspect anyone identifying themselves as a Christian. My experience is that there are a lot of people in church calling themselves Christian but acting far from it, thereby making the "brand" look bad. This may sound trite but real Christians don't have to talk about it, they show you with their actions. I believe but I'm wary of those moneylenders in the Temple.

    May 28, 2010 at 8:50 am |
  2. john

    The key is whose truth do you give your allegiance. A wise man once said, "If you continue in my word then truly you are my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Unless a person personally knows, worships and obeys the Lord Jesus they will have a distorted, deluded and diminished view of truth. Our task is to help people grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Only then will people be free from their problems, sins and limitations.

    May 28, 2010 at 7:11 am |
  3. Nick Gripp

    The words christian and conservative contradict each other. A true christian gives unselfishly to those who don't look like them and gives sincere good wishes to EVERYONE.

    May 28, 2010 at 6:05 am |
  4. Nick Gripp

    Religion has done good things for many, many people for a long time. Religion has done many horrific things to many people for a long, long time. Is it me, or are there more Christians getting more extremist in their thinking and rhetoric? I'm starting to think some are taking their religious beliefs TOO seriously and morphing into haters. Is that what Jesus wants them to do? I'm serious. If Jesus came here now, would he say "good job, keep it up"? I doubt it. I think he would be deeply saddened that so many people are using him to fuel their anger and bigotry. I am saddened by it.

    May 28, 2010 at 5:54 am |
    • Clay IQ150+

      You have to remember that a large and vocal segment of the current Republican party (historically the party upper middle class white business owners) is made up of ex-patriot southern Democrats. When I was a kid you couldn't find a Republican in Texas. The southern working-class Democratic voting block, over a period of about 25 years, converted to the Republican party (a bunch of nice older white gentlemen that knew just what people wanted to hear). You may remeber this period of history as "The Civil Rights Movement"...when a bunch of "liberals and Jews" were using the Federal Government to ram desegregation down the throats of decent Southerners. And bada-bing, there you go, most working class people from Texas to South Caroline jumped to the Republican party. The "South" has stayed a solid Republican block ever since desegregation...period. Old habits die hard...even when you're trying.

      May 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  5. Petey

    This column was vague, and not especially clever or humorous. Not really the best use of my three minutes.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  6. E

    So basically what he is saying is Christians have no original ideas, so they just copy other people and pat themselves on the back?

    May 27, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
  7. Mamie

    I am a Christian and I think Fox News is Satan's news station and his way of spreading evil.

    May 27, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  8. trapeze medusa

    Religion is for the emotionally weak and the intellectually incurious. YOUNG PEOPLE : Read something truly liberating. I direct your attention to " The God Delusion " by Richard Dawkins or " The End of Faith " by Sam Harris . You do not have to be imprisoned by your parents' bigoted dogma. They were fearful , you don' have to be.

    May 27, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
  9. Jim

    A warning to all.

    The Holy Bible uses its numbers and timelines to establish a calendar of sorts that shows the history of this world...from beginning to end. The day known as the Day of Judgment coincides with our modern calender date of May 21, 2011. On this date, God will take the elect from Earth and disasters will begin on the Earth and last for 5 months. Then the planet will be destroyed. BE WARNED. Research this information. We are the last generation. There is nothing else of concern.

    May 27, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
    • Gene

      Thanks for the date. I can surely forestall foreclosure 'till then, and I can use the extra two thou per month.

      May 27, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
    • Gene

      Tell ya one thing, Jim. My neighbor's a Rapture Ranger with a BMW Z4. If I come out some morning and there's a pile of clothes at the drivers door, I'm grabbing the keys and that puppy's mine!

      May 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • Carl

      Thanks for sharing that. I suppose the computations based on "Bilbilcal revelation" take all the various orbital perturbations and varioans into account in arrivng at that date?

      May 28, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  10. Blaine

    Christians say they are just visiting. I wish they would go home.

    May 27, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  11. kmcwilliams

    How about fondling little boys? Aren't Christians fond of that? Is it just Catholics?

    May 27, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  12. Maria

    Jonathan Acuff – You just gained a new blog reader! I loved this article, and I wish we all would see more the humor in it. Sometimes (ok, a lot of times) I feel like we take our belief so seriously we must be super holey (I mean, holy) the whole time. ( a lot of h, no?)

    May 27, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  13. Nathan

    What's funny is this article is this article points out the stereotypical "agendas" that are a result from an unsubstantiated fear, and none of the comments have anything to do with the article, but quickly digress into "fox sucks/christianity is stupid" comments, followed up by e-evangelists trying to argue people into faith on blog comments.

    To my fellow christians, why don't we stop worrying about how news percieves us, and start worrying about something we can control: namely displaying the validity of the person of Jesus not throught beating people into submission with our viewpoints, but by radically loving and serving our neighbors and community with a depth and quality of love that can only come from outside ourselves?

    Good article jon let's hope that cot in hell comes with flannel sheets.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:46 am |
    • Anand

      I agree with a lot of what you said Nathan. I appreciate your heart and attitude of putting in action where our mouth is. But, unfortunately, the concept of love has been redefined by secular media, including CNN (I do follow CNN regularly, though).
      1. If you send your children into the army to protect millions of your fellow country mean, risking their own lives, that is love. (In fact, Christ kind of love).
      2. Instead of providing a fish to a man, how about teaching the man to fish?
      3. Instead of a welfare system, and keeping the poor permanently poor, how about creating a system where the poor can become rich and even surpass you one day. (this can never happen in a welfare system).
      4. How about caring for the unborn, as it is still human life?
      Don't all these scenarios depict love to you??? Unfortunately if you stand up for these issues, or even highlight these in the public, you are considered "hate-mongers" by secular media outlets, including CNN.
      That is when Christians get frustrated, as they are accused for doing the right things.

      May 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
    • jm

      Well said Nathan. It just seems these days mature Christians (rather than vociferous ones) are in the minority. Somebody said we have focused on doing the Gospel rather than being the Gospel. Big difference..

      May 27, 2010 at 7:33 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.