Why We Love 'Add a Word, Ruin a Christian Book'
What makes the best "Add a Word, Ruin a Christian Book" tweets so funny?
Let's make sure to really analyze that, because aren't all jokes better when you explain them? Ha!
Seriously, though, the great theorists of humor have often agreed that we laugh hardest and most about the things that make us uncomfortable, or that are otherwise taboo. We laugh about poop and we make jokes about death, and these things are right on the border of what we loathe, fear, or simply feel embarrassed by. Laughing lets a little bit of that tension go. And, of course, a lot of folks feel conflicted about God and about religion, and I think mocking Christian books is a little bit of a release valve for that tension. So for Reformed folks, Acne Break Out and I Declare Bankruptcy by Joel Osteen are guilty pleasures; for progressive evangelicals, Recovering FROM Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem releases another kind of tension. And books like He Touched Me Inappropriately by Benny Hinn release some of the ambiguity and frustration we feel about his deceitful antics in the name of God.
But most of the tweets have been pretty non-sectarian, and that makes me really happy—what's made me smile a ton over the past 24 hours—is seeing folks from all points on the theological and ecclesiastical spectrum joining in the joke. It's fun to see Cameron Strang of Relevant, Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition, Tim Challies, Susan Isaacs, and Eric Metaxas joining New Monastic folks, other neo-reformed people, progressive evangelicals and non-believers having a good laugh all together. It's just such a refreshing change from the frequent state of affairs in the Christian blog and Twittersphere, when people are at each others' throats.
So besides all that, what do you think made it go viral?
Oh, who knows? Dumb luck! But it's a great example of how creativity actually flourishes under constraints. 140 characters is a great length for book titles, even with an extra word, so no one's daunted by the fear it won't work. And the whole point is to be as absurd as possible, so no one's afraid to look silly because silliness is kind of the point. It's been so fun to watch. I'm usually the curmudgeonly one wringing my hands over how addicted everyone has become to their smartphones, but I've really enjoyed watching people chiming in and making what feels like Life Together, Laughing by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. G.K. Chesterton said that it's "the test of a good religion whether you can make a joke about it." Right now, it feels like #AddaWordRuinaChristianBook has helped us pass that test.
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