Take 5 with Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like

Stuff Christians Like (SCL) is a fast-growing site that takes a satirical and honest view of Christian pop culture.  Started in March 2008, site founder Jon Acuff decided to put an evangelical twist on the wildly popular blog, Stuff White People Like.  Writing with wit and sensitivity, Acuff has engaged readers with over 500 (almost 600) insightful posts on what Christians like such as Rob Bell, comparing Braveheart to Christianity, metrosexual worship leaders, and counting swears in movies.  SCL works because not only is Acuff young enough to be relevant and relevant enough to know what it means to be relevant, but also because his posts are saturated with sincerity and humility.  And because he’s a super guy, Jon Acuff agreed to Take 5 with Backseat Writer when he could be writing about how Christians like to write blog posts about other Christians (or hanging out with his wife and daughters).

*You wrote that you started Stuff Christians Like to take a look at the misconceptions, preconceptions, and conceptions in general about the church.  Why do you think it’s important to clear the air about Christianity using the SCL as a forum?

To tell you the truth, I didn’t initially think it was important. I have about 40 different URLs registered, ranging from bad ideas to even worse ideas. And when I started stuffchristianslike.net I thought it would be another idea I wrote about for a few weeks and then quit. But when people started reading it, a complete surprise to me, I felt like I was not alone in wanting to explore faith and the culture we’ve created around it with humor and honesty.

*By using humor, you offer a softer approach to topics that are generally off-limits.  Not only that, but your commentary about the Church is constructive in nature.  Plus, you even use the Bible, something that I don’t see a lot of satirists doing.  How has this approach been helpful for those who have been hurt by the Church?

Part of the approach has been learning from my mistakes. Early on I made the mistake of writing about individuals instead of issues or ideas. After a few posts where I felt like I unfairly and without a whole lot of love picked on people I started to realize that it’s hard to write a blog without following Christ’s command that we love other people. There are too many Christian Jerk blogs out there and I decided that even though I had blown it a few times I wanted to be hyper deliberate about not being a jerk. So I think a big part of the approach is that the only person I try to point a finger at is me. Ways I’ve been wrong about God or the church or faith and then exploring those in hopefully a funny way. I try to never mock. The Bible is chock full of verses about how much God wants to drop the elbow of death on mockers, so I try to avoid that. Although I still make mistakes with what I write.

*I imagine when writing some of your posts, you know that you’re going to push buttons.  What makes you hit “post” anyway?

There are some posts that I’m really terrified about posting but in some ways I hope I never get numb to that. I don’t think it’s easy being honest, especially when the stakes are higher and there’s a part of you that worries about people you know seeing what you wrote. But the biggest criteria I use when picking topics is, “Is this true of my own life?” If it’s not, if it’s not something I struggle with or think is funny in my own life I don’t write about it. So that makes it easier to say things that might be hard to share. If that’s what is going on in my life then I’m not presenting some crazy idea, I’m sharing my life.

*I know there’s a book a’coming in March 2010.  How did the book deal come about?

When people started reading the site I contacted a literary agent that a number of people suggested named Chip MacGregor. I had a conversation with him and sent him my blog traffic numbers. We put together a proposal and he shopped it around to a few different publishers. Zondervan seemed like a great fit and when they offered a chance to publish Stuff Christians Like I was really honored by the opportunity.

*Sometimes I think it’s harder for women who write satire/humor to find success, especially in Christian circles.  Do you think this is true?  Why or why not?

I think that’s probably true regardless of the gender when it comes to creating Christian satire. I think it’s a hard thing to do because I’m not sure if the church embraces satire and laughter as vehicles of honesty and insight, which is a shame because I think God loves laughter. The verse that kind of drives the site is Psalm 126: 1-2:

“1 When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”

I love that when the other nations saw the laughter, when they noticed the laughter they couldn’t help but say, “The Lord has done great things for them.” That’s why I try to get people to laugh.

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