Rarely a week goes by that I don’t share a Babylon Bee story on Facebook. The Bee bills itself as “Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire.” Given how often unaware readers mistake its stories for real news, I’m not sure trusted is the right word. But satire? Absolutely!
Here are some samples. From pop culture: “Reeling From Yet Another Unnecessary Film, Fans Call For Common-Sense Star Wars Control.” From church life: “Church Ushers Rough Up First-Time Visitor Trying To Escape Without Filling Out Connection Card.” From politics: “Fox News Slams Jesus For Never Once Standing During National Anthem.” The Bee skewers everything, earning a hearty #Heh in all my Facebook posts.
My #Heh is slightly less hearty for The Babylon Bee’s new book, How to Be a Perfect Christian. Don’t get me wrong, hilarious sendups of American evangelical culture occur throughout the book. One example of such is the C.H.A.F.F. acronym for “high-quality spiritual pictures of your open Bible”:
- C = Coffee: “True Christians study the Word of God with a mug of artisan, fair-trade, non-GMO, gluten-free, cage-free, nonalcoholic coffee.”
- H = Hashtags: “We recommend hashtags like #blessed, #amen, #holy, #iambetterthanyou, and #lookeveryoneimreadingmyBible to ensure your personal time of communion with God through His Word goes viral.”
- A = Audience: “Don’t forget that you’re doing this for an audience of one million.”
- F = Filter: “A plain-Jane picture of an open Bible never got anyone on the express lane to heaven … . Apply an authentic vintage look, and you can be sure you’ll get a like from Jesus Himself.”
- F = Fact: “As in the size of your Bible … . Weather your Bible before the shot, too, to give it a worn, distressed look.”
After reading C.H.A.F.F., I’ll never look at my friends’ Instagram devotional pics the same way. (And perhaps, just perhaps, my friends will stop posting those pics in the first place.)
Like all good satire, there is a serious purpose behind the skewering. How to Be mock-seriously defines a “perfect Christian” as “one who conforms to the man-made standards of the Christian faith in any given age.” Chapters then go on to spell out those standards in detail. The satire works largely works because it addresses real hypocrisies and flaws in American evangelicalism. By humorously skewering fake Christianity, real Christianity stands out sharper by contrast.
So, why my less than hearty #Heh? Two reasons: First, satire is easier to write and read in short spurts. The Babylon Bee’s online articles hit the mark harder, in my opinion, precisely because you can read them quickly and walk away. It’s harder to attain a satirical tone over the course of an entire book, even a short book. Normally, I read books in two or three extended sessions. With How to Be a Perfect Christian, however, I found myself picking up and putting down the book after short spells. The soul can only take satire for so long.
Second, American evangelicalism presents too many targets. Some evangelical churches are light on doctrine but heavy on “cool.” Others are heavy on doctrine but light on contemporary relevance. (These are only two extremes among a multitude of options.) The problem is that you can’t satirize the one the same way you satirize the other. At times, however, it seemed to me that The Bee was trying to have it both ways.
Consequently, four stars instead of five for this reviewer. The book is a good #Heh, even if not a hearty one.
The Babylon Bee, How to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2018).
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P.P.S. This review is cross-posted with permission from InfluenceMagazine.com.