Seven obnoxious Jesus jukes

jesus jukeThe phrase “Jesus juke” was originally coined by Jon Acuff in a 2010 post on his blog “Stuff Christians Like.” Jesus jukes are moves that you make in online conversation to showcase your superior Jesus-ness at the expense of other people who have said something, often in banter or jest, that is inadequately theologically correct (or TC for short, the Christian version of PC). Jesus jukes are the 21st century online conversational version of the exhibitionist piety that Jesus calls out in his Sermon on the Mount, like praying on the street corner, disfiguring your face when you’re fasting, and announcing your alms-giving with trumpets (Matthew 6:1-18). I’ve come to realize that many Jesus jukers actually aren’t doing it on purpose, so I figured some examples might be helpful to my accidental Jesus juking friends.

1) “Why do you make things so complicated? The answer is Jesus.”

This is probably the most obnoxious Jesus juke: “You can have your ‘religion,’ but I believe in Jesus plus nothing.” In Christian music, there’s actually a term of measurement called JPM, Jesuses per minute. Throwing Jesus’ name around as a means of giving yourself credibility in a conversation is a more accurate application of using the Lord’s name in vain than saying OMG. “Jesus” is always the right answer to every Sunday school question and the way to take the higher ground in every Christian argument. “Jesus” is often a code word for a specific set of beliefs about Jesus which have little to nothing to do with the personality of Jesus displayed on the gospel.

2) “You seem to be interested in what people want, but what about what God wants?”

In every evangelical conversation, the ace of spades of trump-cards is to show that the other person is being “man-centered” while you’re being “God-centered.” This was very much the basic posture of Pharisaic existence in Jesus’ day: “I really believe your heart’s in the right place when you heal people on the Sabbath, Jesus, but how do you think that makes God feel when it’s supposed to be His day?” (Jesus himself got Jesus juked all the time!)

What does Jesus say in response to the Pharisees’ Jesus jukes? “The sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:7). “Go and find out what this means: ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice'” (Matthew 9:13). In other words, to try to drive a wedge between “what God wants” and the legitimate needs of human flourishing (insofar as they are legitimate) is a false dichotomy that the Pharisees of yesterday and today exploit to draw a line between God and other people and put themselves on God’s side of that line as His “defenders.”

3) “You worry too much. God will take care of it.”

When someone is dealing with anxiety, the best way to ratchet up their anxiety and shut down any trust between you is to let them know that their anxiety reveals their lack of faith. Faith in Jesus is a grace God offers to all, but it is also a spiritual gift that some possess uniquely. Some people are better at trusting God than others; my wife is way better at it than I am. If you have this gift, God gave it to you to be a non-anxious presence and make anxious people feel safe, whether it’s through humor, good-natured positivity, or another tactic that doesn’t shame the other person and call attention to how much lousier they are at coping than you are.

4) “You know, I used to talk the way you do back when I was a fundamentalist/liberal/etc.”

I’m sometimes guilty of this one. I grew up moderate Southern Baptist. Since I was 3 years old, I have been opposed to fundamentalism, so it’s disingenuous to pretend that I had a fundamentalist past and used to be like “those fundamentalists” I argue with before I got “enlightened.” It’s very tempting to play the “I used to be just like you are” card as a rhetorical power play clumsily clothed in patronizing faux “empathy.”

Even if you have undergone a genuinely radical conversion from one ideological slant to another, do not project “Oh, that’s how I used to think” onto other people even if they sound the way you think you might have sounded. You have no idea what irreducibly complex combination of God’s grace, sin, and other social forces are at play behind another person’s beliefs. I realize you may have a genuine zeal to help other people escape their fundamentalism or liberalism. Just never assume that anyone else is “exactly where you were.”

5) “When I had your problem, I read [insert Bible verse] and everything made sense after that.”

That’s great that [insert Bible verse] helped you. But guess what? God uses different verses with different people and your experience isn’t invalidated if the same verse doesn’t have the same meaning for others. I was once in an online forum with a guy who was emphatic that if I would just read Romans 6 and really let it soak in and maybe say it slowly in a dramatic voice and shed a few tears, then I would gain victory over the issue I was dealing with. This kind of Jesus juke especially sucks when the issue is some kind of legitimate mental illness. When you make salvation/deliverance/healing/etc. about a particular verse and not the Holy Spirit, you’re making the Bible into a magician’s tool.

6) “I guess I just believe that Jesus meant what he said about hell/poor people/other topic.”

I know that nobody else really believes that Jesus meant what he said quite like you do, you radical Jesus freak! But maybe you’ll experience a little more of his grace for yourself if your discipleship becomes something other than a self-justification spectacle whether you’re of the “no cussing, no drugs, no premarital sex” branch of works-righteousness or the “no supporting any aspect of Caesar’s empire whatsoever” branch.

What did Jesus say in Matthew 25 anyhow? Was he using a hyperbolic parable about eternal suffering to prophetically goad his rich listeners into thinking twice about their most vulnerable neighbors? Or was he demonstrating why nobody can possibly be saved from hell because his standards for loving your neighbor are so impossibly high but as long as you do everything Paul says to do to bag justification by faith, then you’re good? Hate to say it, but there’s actually a range of possible interpretation here. What did Jesus mean by what he said? That’s a good question that a very large community of people has been working to answer for more than 2000 years.

7) [A long, non-sequitur string of scripture references without commentary that generally involve some kind of prophetic “warning” of apocalyptic destruction that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.]

This might not be a Jesus juke so much as a manifestation of mental illness. But maybe there are people who think that throwing non-sequitur scripture bombs at other people is a legitimate form of spiritual conversation. Here’s the rule: if you can’t explain in your words why you’re using God’s words, then you’re abusing God’s words and they certainly aren’t your words to own.

31 thoughts on “Seven obnoxious Jesus jukes

  1. I recently experienced a variation of #3: “I know God has a plan for all of this.”

    Now, that is something I actually do believe, but in this context my friend was said it to me/herself about 7-10 times in a two-hour conversation. It was as if she was reassuring herself that her anxieties wouldn’t overwhelm her if she kept saying it over and over and over. So, I just said, “Stop worrying because God says so.” J/K, I didn’t.😉

    Instead I attempted to affirm the fact that the issues she was dealing with were real/not unimportant and that God is present even when we’re frustrated. Hopefully it came off as helpful and not pious. Great post, sir!

    • Yeah sometimes it can be a helpful thing to say to ourselves. I like the way you articulate what you needed to affirm.

  2. Pingback: Vengeance and genocide: sanctified violence in the Scriptures and slasher film theology, part 1 | neoprimitive

  3. I love the book Stuff Christians Like🙂 Coming from the conservative fundamentalist world for a while, the book is seriously funny. Your comments on Jesus Jukes are appreciated.

  4. Pingback: It just doesn’t work: concern trolling and public shaming | Mercy not Sacrifice

  5. Morgan, I respect your ability to engage compassionately with hurting people who know little except how to hurt. I suspect that the same tone you exhibit online is how you relate to people on the street, more or less. Don’t be discouraged by poisonous feedback masquerading as spiritual discernment. I see it as a perfect illustration of this post.

    A friend once told me, “I used to spend 80% of my time trying to get people who don’t love me to love me, and only 20% of my time soaking in the love of those people around me who know me and still love me. I was giving haters all the power to shape me. I decided to flip that ratio, and it has changed my life.” That was so helpful to me. I hope you can soak tonight in the love of those people who love you, and disengage from the haters. Haters gonna hate.

    You have a divine calling to obey, whether that fits everyone else’s expectations or not. In this day and age, blogging is as fundamental to ministry as door-to-door evangelism or hospital visitation ever was. Thanks for using technology wisely and bringing the Kingdom into the lives of thousands of people.

    Press on!

  6. I take no joy in telling the emperor he has no clothes. Experience has taught me they rarely listen till its too late. It certainly is addictive demonizing other people (like evangelicals?) or writing pointed blog posts about the dumb ways people less educated than you talk about Jesus online. Shame you don’t see the irony.

    • Like I said, I hope it made you feel good or useful to perform this sober duty to tell off the big bad blogger or whatever you want to call it. Nothing but love for you friend.

  7. Morgan,
    I stand amazed by your ability to write so much with such clarity and depth while still, presumably, loving and ministering to the needs of your family and church. You are lucky to have a church and a conference who do not seem to mind the amount of time you spend writing about all the things others do which irritate you so much.

    • That’s a very interesting way to characterize what I’m doing. It sounds like you have decided that I’m failing to do what you presume that I don’t have time to do. God has actually been able to use my blog as an outreach resource that’s brought several people to our church. I do not only blog about games that Christians play in their social media conversations though I do think that recognizing these Jesus jukes is a legitimate prophetic application of what Jesus says about exhibitionist piety in Matthew 6.

      • I’m sure you are right. I have heard other pastors, like Joel Osteen, justify like you that the number of people who come to their church is evidence of Gods blessing and the rightness of their message. That puts you in good company at least.

        Thank you for alleviating my concerns. I’m sure you have nothing to worry about.

        • Wow, you compared me to Joel Osteen. It sounds like I hit a nerve with something so I’m sorry if I expressed myself in a way that was rude. One of my biggest mistakes in responding to comments is when I blurt out what first comes to mind and hit send. Regarding your concern if it is a genuine concern, it’s actually something that I wrestle with a lot. Whether or not you believe me, I genuinely feel called to blogging as part of my ministry; that vocation only became something I could name as legitimate after a whole lot of prayer and discernment. It took a long time for me not to feel guilty about doing it at all. Before I had a blog, I thought all bloggers were sleazy, egotistical exhibitionists. Do I spend too much time blogging? Probably so. Should I stop doing it because other people who disagree with the content of what I’m saying try to use that as a line of attack in their criticism of me? I’m not sure. But I’ll ask God about it again like I do every day.

          • No, you didn’t hit a nerve, nor offend me. It’s obvious you have garnered for yourself quite an online kingdom and as king of such a domain you have every right to teach your subjects how to best engage you. I hope they take heed, because we can’t have Christians acting superior in their knowledge of things, right? Your example of humility is one I hope all will imitate.

            I agree on one more thing. I don’t have a blog, so I can empathize with the way you once felt towards those who blog all the time. Lucky for you you were able to shake that as your blog has become so popular! How convenient!

          • You know it’s very interesting, because a lesson that I recently (re)learned might be applicable. I saw another person being arrogant a couple nights ago in an online conversation and I thought it was my duty to get through to him and take him down a few notches. So I wrote something in a very pointed tone like what you’ve written here. It made me feel really good inside to have told him off and I figured he would feel sorry and repent and I would have done my job as a “prophet.”

            But later I was convicted and I felt really rotten about it. And I realized that sarcasm and public shaming has never worked on me to call me out on my sin or make me a better person so I shouldn’t expect it to work on other people. I’m not sure how many more times I’ll have to learn that lesson. Probably a lot. Because demonizing other people and coming up with pointedly sarcastic ways of talking to them just feels so good. It’s very addictive.

            I hope that having told me off, you experience a sense of inner peace and catharsis that will allow you not to take any of this pain and frustration or whatever it is home to your loved ones when you get off work tonight. May God grant you peace.

  8. Excellent. There are lots more of course. In case you ever do a Part 2, here’s one I’ve dealt with in the midst of political discussions. “Maybe if we (read: you) spent more time praying/reading the Bible instead of wasting time on Facebook, God would heal our land.”

  9. WOW you hit the nails on the head! I especially liked how you handled the subject of faith and number 5 about Bible reading for peace. Some people are simply more simplistic for lack of a better term, and Jesus did point those people out to re-assure his disciples but he certainly understood not everyone was that way. Remember “Doubting Thomas” was still his disciple. Just because He said “blessed are those who have not seen and still believe” does not mean that Thomas was not blessed in some way. Not everything in life is an either/or neither/nor. I have a personal question if I may. I went from Lutheran strict Missouri Synod to Charismatic Pentecostal when in the military and now to kind of charismatic Lutheran. I changed in other words. It seems some people have a really hard time with that or simply can’t fathom there faith ever changing. In fact I don’t accept everything at face value anymore. I am more astute about Bible reading in that I see the references in light of historical context and not so quick to apply each passage to today or some kind of sign. Yes the Holy Spirit can bring those passages to light in a time of need or doubt etc.. but it doesn’t mean a certain passage can always be used that way. I have come to find that changes or even entire 180s on faith is normal for people who have regular counseling due to the entire questioning method we undergo. I went from a pretty fundamentalist view (except creationism I was never a Kent Hovind dino’s on the ark looney) to far more moderate. It seems you have too at least a bit. How do you handle situations where others see the difference to the point it can be like a wall between each other? Thanks ahead of time.

    • It’s very hard because we’re indoctrinated to mistrust compromise so people can’t just disagree with us without it being perceived as an attack of the enemy.

  10. I think these pop up in response to threat of a thought. You have carefully built your world so that all is under control and then…something threatens to make you rethink it. Jesus Jukes are the perfect antidote to unpleasant thoughts that might threaten your worldview. That is why books full of them sell so well I guess.

  11. This is really good, Morgan. It’s disarmingly funny, and that helps the truth go down a little easier. I appreciate that about you. You can also add another juke that I sometimes commit: “Well, that’s one interpretation, but in seminary we learned that [insert technical/Greek/Hebrew/footnoted language].” Even I get annoyed when I say that.

  12. Another very nice blog! I laughed at that last one–I think some people like to talk about the end of the world no matter what the situation. It’s like a hiccup.

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