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Why We Love 'Add a Word, Ruin a Christian Book'

Why We Love 'Add a Word, Ruin a Christian Book'

Oct 8 2013
Talking Jesus jokes and Internet culture with hashtag-maker Rachel Marie Stone.

Her.meneutics writer Rachel Marie Stone began the hashtag #AddaWordRuinaChristianBook Monday morning. By that evening and late into the night, it became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the U.S., with Christian leaders, authors, and bloggers joining in the online fun.

#AddaWordRuinaChristianBook is exactly how it sounds. Thousands of Twitter users inserted a new word into a popular Christian book title to change its meaning, then shared their new titles along with the #AddaWordRuinaChristianBook hashtag. (For example, in Rachel's honor, Annie Dillard's Teaching a Stone to Talk becomes Teaching a Rachel Stone to Talk.)

The results were ridiculous, clever, silly, and creative. In other words, they were just what the Christian Twittersphere needed, she said.

Trends like #AddaWordRuinaChristianBook may be short-lived and fun, but they also "require sense of religious literacy and tell us about popular opinions" among people of faith on social networks, according to Heidi Campbell, director of the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies at Texas A&M University. Religious memes, she says, are actually a clever 21st-century religious pursuit.

Stone—the author of Eat With Joy and a Presbyterian missionary living in Malawi—talks about her hashtag-gone-viral in a quick Q&A. Read all the way through for some of our favorite "ruined" Christian book titles, and suggest your own in the comments.

What made you start tweeting #AddaWordRuinaChristianBook?

Well, you know that thing that lots of people have pointed out: Christian sees secular thing and Christianizes it…#AddaWordRuinaMovie was giving me some good social media laughs over the weekend, and Monday morning I thought: "Why not try it with books?" But of course, there are too many books in the world. Better to narrow it down to one (broad) category of books. And then, of course, the guilty pleasure of making hamburger from sacred cow occurred to me.

Why is that a guilty pleasure?

I've always loved to play with words, and my dad's a pastor, so, naturally, I've been mocking Christian songs, books, and turns of phrase all my life. When I was very young my mom told me that "we" don't mock the words of hymns and such because it isn't nice. And yet, I've never been able to help myself.

I laughed harder than anyone the other night when my five-year-old son did some "Jesus Loves Me" improv and came up with Jesus loves me when I poop/Even though it makes him droop. (Presumably, from the odor.) Now, I realize that some folks might think that's a bit crude. But to me it gets at some significant things: first, that it is slightly naughty (and therefore funny) points to the fact that even at a young age, my son knows he's being irreverent by putting "Jesus" and "poop" together. But he's also—unwittingly of course—affirming something that's theologically essential: we have bodies, bodies that poop, and Jesus loves us. Poop and all.

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Why We Love 'Add a Word, Ruin a Christian Book'