In which the author considers the types of videos he shares from YouTube

For a moment, just a fleeting second, on Tuesday, I had a pang of conscience. I post a lot of videos here that I loosely categorise as “Christians doing stupid stuff and posting it on the Internet”… I was wondering why it is I post such videos. The other sites that do it seem to do it because they don’t like Christianity very much. But that’s not me. I love Christianity. I love the church. I love broken and stupid people trying to serve God with their gifts. And yet. I watch a video like this:

And I think “I just need to post that” – I didn’t post that video on Tuesday, and I only post it now, because it illustrates a point. Stripped of context that video is really dumb. In context, it’s an instructional video for a holiday kids club (judging by the title) that I assume has been uploaded to YouTube to cut down on pointless time in leaders meetings. A nobel aim. One that should be applauded (there are “private video” settings on YouTube though – which are probably more suitable for this sort of thing).

There are Christian videos online, and there are videos from “Christian Culture”… and there are those that just brilliantly highlight what is wrong with some of the parasites that have attached themselves to Christian culture…

Others just contain laughably bad theology.

So, I felt a little guilty about laughing at brothers and sisters in Christ. I thought “people laughed at Noah when he was building an ark, just because something looks stupid doesn’t mean it is.”

Then. I read this post on the Dilbert Blog by Scott Adams called the mockability test. And it kind of summed up why I think we need to call out Christians when they do ridiculous stuff. And lets face it. If God hadn’t directly said to Noah “build an ark I’m going to flood this place” – it would have been pretty ridiculous to build a massive ark and start collecting pairs of animals (I might be looking at you, creation museum builders).

Here’s a snapshot from the Dilbert article:

“I have a theory that some sort of mockability test would work like a lie detector in situations where confirmation bias is obscuring an underlying truth. In other words, if you believed that hard work often leads to success, and yet I could easily make jokes about it, that would be a contradiction, or a failure of the mockability test. And it would tell you that confirmation bias was clouding your perceptions. To put it in simpler terms, if a humorist can easily mock a given proposition, then the proposition is probably false, even if your own confirmation bias tells you otherwise.”

What I really want, when I post these videos, is for any of my readers who are interested in seeing the gospel being spread to their neighbours to take stock – and make sure that everybody in any of their flocks, spheres of influence, or family, avoids doing stuff that makes Christians a laughing stock.

The cards are stacked against us as it is with our counter-cultural gospel without us building extra obstacles onto our culture. You know the type of obstacle I’m talking about. The type that makes it look like being a Christian requires twirling flags around and speaking in tongues, or being completely off your face (though I’d put those people in the “calling out heretics” category not in the “hey this is slightly wacky” category), or just looking like an idiot. And I want non-Christian readers to go “yeah, those people are on the fringe of Christianity and converting doesn’t mean I have to have a lobotomy”…

So that’s why I’m going to keep posting videos of Christians doing dumb stuff on the internet. Because family members do dumb stuff all the time – and it’s loving to call them out on it in the hope that they’ll stop. It’s tough love.

What do you think? Should we be mocking videos of Christians, or people calling themselves Christians, doing stupid stuff? Are there reasons I haven’t considered for, or against, my argument?

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

14 thoughts on “In which the author considers the types of videos he shares from YouTube”

  1. Yeah nah, good call!

    Totally worth pointing out when (a) Christian culture ≠ Christianity and (b) perceptions of Christianity ≠ Christianity, etc etc.

  2. “What do you think? Should we be mocking videos of Christians, or people calling themselves Christians, doing stupid stuff?”

    Sure, as long as we still pray for them. It’s one thing to call public attention to what some Christians do in private, but if they’re hurting the gospel in public, they’re fair game.

  3. Nathan,

    While your goals are laudable, Dilbert’s mockabilty test seems problematic. Marriage is often considered a peculiar Christian institution* that could be mocked quickly and sharply by a humorist. I like your goal of pointing out fringe (or not so fringe sometimes!) ‘Christian’ stupidity but is there a better premise then Scott Adam’s?

    *Staying married, enjoying being married, better than other arrangements etc etc

    1. Luke,

      I don’t think that’s necessarily true. If marriage were perceived as a Christian institution there’d be little to no gay marriage debate.

      And I’m not sure mocking marriage is “easy” for a humorist – because it is still likely that most of a humorist’s audience will either be married, have been married, or will one day get married. I don’t think that’s what Adam’s was talking about. I think he’s talking about the ridiculous.

  4. Yeah, we should call people on their rubbish, but if we’re pointing it out to blog readers only, we’re not really attacking the problem at its source. We could give ourselves a goal that before we share a YT video, we have to at least post a constructively-critical comment on the video, or email the organisation directly.

  5. I want the focus to be on whether the action flows from sound or unsound theology.
    Otherwise it simply becomes an exercise in what we find cool or uncool, hip or lame, sensible or wacky being applied to the behaviour of others.
    And that’s just a form of sneering elitism dressed up as concern for the Gospel.
    If waving a flag was a mandated form of Christian worship that actually helped people I’d be flapping with the best of them.
    Same with babbling incoherently, roaring like a lion, dancing like man-power, writhing on the floor, wearing a frock and a pointy hat or reciting Beatles lyrics while dressed like a lobster.
    The reason I’d criticise the behaviours above is because they’re bad theology, not because they look dumb.

    1. Hi Gary,

      Sometimes I think it’s even worth criticising bad actions matched with good theology. For instance, there are plenty of people with good theologies of Hell who have bad methodologies of presenting Hell – now, that might be the result of other doctrines being weak. Sometimes I think it’s ok just to criticise things for looking dumb (I’ll be posting an example in a couple of days) – just because I think we should be trying to do better at how we present the gospel. The tone will be different there though…

      1. You’ve pointed out the difference between wanting to correct an expression of good theology and correct the fruit of bad theology.
        Mockery in Scripture seems to be directed against the foolishness of trusting in non-gods and those who are inconsistent in their expression of faithfulness to the true God.
        I think it is worthwhile folding some theology into the process. People don’t accept Christianity because it doesn’t make sense to them. They don’t accept it because they’re dead to it. However they express it, the basic proposition is that every Christian is not thinking correctly.
        Making it more plausible (i.e. closer to the cultural norms with which they are comfortable) isn’t what helps them believe.
        The Holy Spirit does that.
        (And I write this anticipating you believe this too.)
        The church does not have a stranglehold on ridiculousness. We get most of our ideas from wider culture, and sometimes we enhance their ridiculousness, and other times they’re already beyond the ability to further amplify that quality.
        I think there’s a place to give readers of my blog a taste of the excesses so they can appreciate God’s boundaries.
        And there are certain problems with an outreach process that tacitly puts its confidence in the credibility of its methodology and not the power of God.

        1. Yeah Gary,

          I agree to a point.

          I just don’t think a Christian Justin Bieber wannabe singing “Mary Did You Know” is helping the evangelistic cause. I think pragmatism/methodology needs to be held in tension with reformed doctrine because from our observation of the world, and (at the very least from my own personal experience) it seems there is a link between good methodology and good fruit… I guess I’m suggesting we’re called to be salt and light – not MSG and neon.

  6. Fair point Nathan, it’s the criticism of fringe behavior. However what is it that distinguishes your blog from Stephanie Drury’s (Stuff Christian Culture Likes)? Admittedly I prefer your blog and agree with your criticism but why should I, what’s right about your criticism and wrong with Stephanie’s?

    (This isn’t to say Stephanie occasionally gets it right and sometimes is just criticizing American-Christian culture but sometimes the thing she criticizes looks dorky but on further analysis is actually a good thing.)

    This is an interesting area Nathan, I’d be keen to hear more. (BTW thanks for the coffee beans.)

    1. Yeah, I don’t know. I like SCCL. Stephanie even occasionally reads here (she has been known to comment).

      I think maybe it’s that I’m not quite as disenfranchised with the church and I’m criticising crazy outliers, while she criticises the mainstream as well. I still love the church, and I’m saying “I don’t want us to become like x” – she seems to be saying “the church/Christian culture is x, and that’s wrong”…

    2. I think that’s also what separates me from a lot of the blogs I glean these videos from. They’re poking fun at all Christians on the basis of the fringe – I’m saying “not all Christians are like this and we should make sure we don’t go that way”…

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