August 24th, 2013
08:40 AM ET

Should Christianity be so boring?

Opinion by Jon Acuff, Special to CNN
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(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. Atheists are soooooo boring!

    The only "party" an atheist has is 'reasoning against God party'.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • bostontola

      I've been waiting for the "I know you are but what am I" response to this article. Congrats!

      August 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • GAW

      Generalization is the mother of all F' ups

      August 24, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  2. JLS639

    Comparing a father forgiving his son and throwing a party to a boss throwing a party for losing the biggest account is absurd. Parent forgive their children all the time (I know mine did...). Easy parental forgiveness is a perk most people get to enjoy and sometimes push to its farthest limits.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  3. Curwen

    CNN please write a story about a different fairy tale, your getting the Christians upset.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • *

      * you're, when you mean "you are" (not your)

      August 24, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
      • Curwen

        I care not for grammar Nazis, But thanks anyway. it's a Saturday i'm drinking and smoking.This is not my job or a formal correspondence or an essay or the like. It does not need to be perfect.
        If you want to correct people become a teacher we need some good ones.

        August 24, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
        • Athy

          But your comments might be more readily accepted if they don't appear to be written by a fifth grader.

          August 25, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
      • GAW

        * Must be the life of the party.

        August 24, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  4. tony

    Catholics party with unprotected socks. Makes more Catholic babies for home schooling and no health care

    August 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  5. Evil Twin Steven

    Would like to know how Jon Acuff describes Christians as "boring" while fails to question the "excitement" generated by muslims who strap bombs on mentally handicapped females and send them into a market and blow them up? Who recruit local losers with the promise of getting la id in heaven since they can't seem to do it on earth if they blow themselves up along with innocent civilian? Why not an article about that, Jon?

    August 24, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • MercuryCrest

      If you want to see it so badly, write it your own damned self.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • JLS639

      "the "excitement" generated by muslims who strap bombs on mentally handicapped females and send them into a market"

      I heard your big day as a suicide bomber is a blast. It's da bomb. You make a really big splash. You go all over town. Everybody gets to see what you are like inside.

      Okay... I will stop the tasteless jokes if you do...

      August 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Tracy G

      Well Said

      August 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Ross

      Thank you very well honest true account of the heart, mind set and motives of not just Islam but from the White House down to the kindergarten classes excluding and mocking their very own creator who has given and blessed them with life an countless blessings in this life but soon enough in time the evil one who they serve now will turn the tables on them and of course then they will cry out for lord who they they betrayed . That's when boring starts and never ends be patient world your almost there!

      August 24, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Kindergarten classes mock god? How?

        August 24, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
      • Larry L

        You've just completed the longest and least meaningful sentence in the history of these moronic "Belief" comments.

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

      Oh no! Another "But what about.....?" post

      August 24, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  6. Vic

    I made this one up:

    We know so little because Adam & Eve ate only a few from the "Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil." If they ate the entire tree, we would know everything!


    August 24, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  7. Luke

    Is there any question that CNN has set this so-called "Belief Blog" up so that haters can have a platform for their intolerance to all things Christian?

    Well done, CNN. True to form.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • bostontola

      Free speech is to religion as UV light is mold.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Evil Twin Steven

      agree,man. Thiswas my post:

      Would like to know how Jon Acuff describes Christians as "boring" while he fails to question the "excitement" generated by muslims who strap bombs on mentally handicapped females and send them into a market and blow them up? Who recruit local losers with the promise of getting la id in heaven since they can't seem to do it on earth if they blow themselves up along with innocent civilian? Why not an article about that, Jon?

      August 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • MercuryCrest

      He's one of your own, man.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Doobs

      If you only want to read and hear things that agree with your personal set of delusions, stay in your church pew. This is a public comment section.

      August 24, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  8. Jim MCDonald

    Another day, Another anti christian article by CNN.

    They still don't understand why they keep losing viewers.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • bostontola

      e i e i o.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • MercuryCrest

      From the language he uses, he seems to be Christian.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Doobs

      Aw, feeling particularly persecuted today?

      August 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  9. Colin

    If you find Christianity boring then you do not know the Christ.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • bostontola

      You do?

      August 24, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • OTOH

      Boring I can handle. Falseness and superst.ition I cannot.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Curwen

      The older religions were a lot more fun.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • tony

      Not knowing something false AND boring sounds like a win-win

      August 24, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Fernando

      Say Colin, this Christ-thing you speak of sounds fascinating. How can I get someone to share the details of your crazy party animal god?

      August 24, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Tracy G

      I agree Colin. I have been a Christian since age 9 and I am now 48. I think I have had one of the most exciting lives ever. My life is filled with adventure, good people and happiness. God has given me everything I've ever prayed for and on times he's said "No" to me, He has always given me better. God is very real. The non-believers have been blocked from seeing God so they don't understand (this is biblical). My advice to anyone who doesn't believe in God.......skip being RELIGIOUS and start seeking a RELATIONSHIP.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
      • OTOH

        Tracy G,
        "start seeking a RELATIONSHIP."

        This is late 20th century psycho-babble. You would have never heard that kind of thing a hundred years ago. "God" was to be worshipped and feared. You have a 'relationship' with your own thoughts - there is no verified evidence for anything else.

        August 24, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
      • Doobs

        God has given me everything I've ever prayed for and on times he's said "No" to me, He has always given me better.

        I'd love to hear how you can be so certain it's a sky fairy that "gives" you these things.

        August 24, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • G to the T

      Which annointed one are you referring to? There are dozens in the bible...

      August 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  10. Apple Bush

    lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

    The genius of your handle is it couldn't possible be more inappropriate relative to your content. Hilarious and well done. Did I win?

    August 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      No, it was just mud that stuck.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    August 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • HeavenSense

      Hi Prayer-bot.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Colin

      Purveyor of Truth

      August 24, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • tony

      Causes all the misery on Earth.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Atheist

      Atheism is very healthy. Atheism represents recognition and acceptance that reality is more important than fantasy. Atheism is the use of your entire brain, and a shedding of futile belief in things that don't exist, like 2000 year old barbaric desert gods. Atheism is a step forwards for the human race, out of the dark ages of religion and into a brilliant future.

      Let me put it this way; atheism is reason, intellect, and forward thinking. What've you got?

      August 24, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  12. Jim8

    Should Christianity be so controlling that it allows cults to exist?

    August 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  13. Colin

    If there is an adjective that most describes Christians, I would say it is "compartmentalizing." Christians generally are functioning members of society who use logic and reason in every aspect of their lives EXCEPT their faith. They would never buy a stock or real estate because their agent or broker had a vision or claimed divine insight; they would never board a plane if they knew the maintenance crew downed their tools and prayed that everything would be ok with the plane; and they would never undergo an outdated, discredited 2,000 year old medical procedure.

    But, when it comes to their religion, they will believe in the most absurd of supernatural nonsense – mind reading (or “prayers being heard”) by dead people or a god; in many cases, a 6,000 year old Universe; a dead Jew rising from the dead; etc. based on nothing more than 2,000 year old stories written by people they know nothing about which were compiled into a book by people they know nothing about using criteria they know nothing about.

    Amazing. Tell them they are under a duty to believe the unbelievable and they will line up in the millions to obey the command with ovine obsequisness.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Alex MacArthur

      I think you've been hanging around some shallow minded Christians. The ones I know are wholly capable of articulating their convictions and their theology squared on nothing BUT reason.

      On a side note, be careful not to fall into the trap of blind naturalism.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
      • G to the T

        Then please do! (Oh and what's this "blind naturalism" you speak of?)

        August 26, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Tracy G

      Colin, FYI on Christians and their faith.......Christians wouldn't buy stock because their stockbroker had a vision because God would reveal it directly to them. They wouldn't have to rely on a stockbroker's vision. Additionally, would you or any Atheist ever board a plane that wasn't properly maintained. Being a Christian doesn't mean you're foolish. God gave us brains to think with. It means that in times when things don't go as planned, that we as Christians will have faith that God will work it out for good for those who love Him.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
      • OTOH

        Tracy G,
        "we as Christians will have faith that God will work it out for good for those who love Him."

        Yes, it is quite a tidy scenario:

        - Bunch of people survive a tornado - "Thank 'God' they are still alive!"
        - Several people die in that tornado - "They are happy with 'God' now!"

        - Person survives cancer - "God" saved him!
        - Person dies of cancer - "They are in a better place with 'God' now!"

        I have no idea why believers build sturdy houses and tornado shelters or seek medical treatment when they can so easily go to "the BETTER place" to be with "God".

        August 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  14. Brian F

    Anyone who can turn water into wine knows how to party.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Colin

      Actually, that story almost certainly never happened. It appears only in John's gospel, written about 100 years after Jesus was born and is a common motif in Mediterranean literature of the time. Dionysus was also credited with such a feat.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
      • Maani

        Actually, the Gospel of John was almost certainly begun in ~65 or 70 A.D., and COMPLETED ~90 A.D. In addition, unlike Mark and Luke, John was an apostle (as was Matthew), so his recollections are likely to be MORE accurate than other gospel writers.

        August 24, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
        • Considering all the outrageous things that christians are absolutely certain of

          I don't put much stock in your "almost certainly"

          August 25, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
        • Johnny

          Actually most biblical scholars would say that John was not written by an apostle.

          August 26, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
        • fred

          We have a fragment of the gospel of John written 80AD-100AD.
          "a King I am. For this I have been born and (for this) I have come into the world so that I would testify to the truth.
          Everyone who is of the truth hears of me my voice.
          "Said to him Pilate, "What is truth?" and this
          having said, again he went out unto the Jews
          and said to them, "I find not one
          fault in him."

          When you find fault in this extant copy you are blowing in the wind. Bottom line is you are not of the truth just as The Bible says and thus like the Jews throw out lies while even Pilate said I find not one fault in him.

          August 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
        • Zombie God

          And of course fred that was written 2nd hand at best

          August 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
        • fred

          Given we cannot even agree upon John as an author what does it matter if its second hand? The knowledge or confidence as to source was much better in 100AD than it was in 400AD and certainly better than yours our mine.

          Truth is it fits with what other writings say and the context remains true to this day as with most of what Jesus had to say.
          1) Jesus did testify to the truth
          2) Those who are of the truth (believers) hear that truth while unbelievers do not.

          August 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • Doobs

      Anyone can turn water into wine. All it takes is a grapevine and some yeast. Put the water around the grapevine, pick and crush the grapes, throw in the yeast and boom, wine!

      But fairy tales are fun, too.

      August 24, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  15. Youcantbeserious

    How absurd, the prodigal son parable doesn't emphasize a party – it's a celebration of his son's return, not a "fist pumping, Jersey shore party" (and you forgot the part about the brother getting very upset about not being honored despite his loyalty). The parable also isn't a literal story about a party thrown in someones honor – Mark 4 tells us that parables are told as metaphor for a lesson; in the case of the prodigal son it's that the father always seeks to reunite with his sons. This whole article is pandering, and extremely lame.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  16. allenwoll

    No, mental illness CAN be fun.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  17. Apple Bush

    Profit Pour

    This shaggy dog was prowling the bar and spattin’ out pussy hair like sunflower seeds.

    I have taken that walk with him.

    He never said much…that you could remember anyway. Not much difference in the pour either.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  18. Jim

    "It is impossible , I say, not to believe that there is in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a Fabricator of all things" - Thomas Jefferson

    August 24, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Colin

      And who fabricated the fabricator. If you say "noboby"you have just broken the very rule you used to posit its existence.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
      • Jim

        He is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omga

        August 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • allenwoll

      Yes, indeed, T J said it well : But THAT is far and away from our present commercialized concept of an anthropomorphic "God".
      There certainly was / is an agency of some sort behind all this - But It showed / shows little compassion for man nor beast !
      We have been pretty much dumped off at the station - One NOT necessarily of our choice, either !
      Yes, with a brain, but one unfortunately few have fathomed how to PRODUCTIVELY use.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Curwen

      Shake off all fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  19. kyzaadrao

    First, no matter what parents do, sometimes children find them boring because their idea of partying is not necessarily the same.

    If you're not eluding to the rules and ethics getting in the way, you're just plain hanging out in the wrong churches and congregations. The joy of Christian music has spawned more great musicians than you probably know of. The happy dancing joyful churches must be eluding your experience. People are smiling, hugging and helping each all through the week in congregations I belong to.

    However, CNN doesn't run positive spin articles on Christianity so most likely there's a larger issue here.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Curwen

      Good parties involve se.x and/or booze and drugs.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
      • pothead

        Rock n Roll ,smoke a bowl!

        August 24, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  20. Apple Bush

    Quit following me I got no more to give you people I got no more to give so no coffee... I'm done. Done.
    But I wasn’t done. I was only pouring foundation. That is when it happened. Yeah I guess it is like a cell. It has dark spots, corners. There is a lighted area but the bulb flickers on and off more than it used too. Strange to be a rabid animal in a cage you built yourself and when they try to save you….bite them…then ask them to come back.
    to eat a steak, politely rest your butter knife through a perfectly cooked filet that melts in your mouth like warm, fresh spoiled tuna.

    August 24, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
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About this blog

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.