On Tuesday, Adam Ford and The Babylon Bee released “How to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living.” In deliciously mocking tones, the book encourages Christians to make church and their spiritual life all about themselves, rather than loving God and serving their neighbors. The book has a serious aim, but it is mostly a work of satire encouraging Christians to laugh at themselves.
“Of course we should be able to laugh at ourselves,” Adam Ford, creator of the Christian satire site The Babylon Bee and lead author of the book, told PJ Media in an interview. “That’s one of the founding principles of the Bee, actually. We satirize our own ‘teams’ all the time. Being able to chuckle at yourself and your ‘camp’ is healthy.”
Laughing at yourself has many salutary effects. “It eases hostility, kills pride, and brings down walls between different types of believers,” Ford argued. “And the opposite is also true — if you can’t recognize and laugh at your own quirks, if you immediately become defensive, if your first reaction is to try to shut down any poke at your worldview — that’s a bad sign. It’s unhealthy. You need to look at that.”
The Babylon Bee creator insisted that “laughter is a gift from God, a manifestation of his grace, a result of being created in his image. It’s one of the highest joys we’re granted in life.”
“How to be a Perfect Christian” could be described as a laughter machine. The Babylon Bee book mocks the self-centered inversion of Christian discipleship at the heart of the Prosperity Gospel, the wishy-washy theology behind Unitarian-Universalism, the autonomy of relativism, and the pettiness of cultural Christianity — and it will have believers in stitches.
As a sample, here are “The Seven Essential Truths of the Gospel” from page 134:
- You are amazing. You are so special and amazing, you’ve surpassed even God’s expectations for your life. As the great theologian Christian Aguilera said, “You are beautiful. … Words can’t bring you down!”
- God really needs you on His team. What would God do without you? God decided to save sinners because He was really lonely and needed you to cheer Him up.
- God is love and has absolutely no other distinguishing attributes. Holiness? Justice? Wrath? Sovereignty? Nah. God is love and only love.
- Jesus died for your temporary comfort and security. You were just so special that God sent His only Son so you could be satisfied with temporary things of this earth.
- Did we mention you’re amazing? Seriously, we just can’t even describe how amazing you are. Turn your eyes upon yourself, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim.
- The God of the Bible would never do anything you personally disagree with. God is constantly checking His actions against your subjective moral compass to make sure you’re never offended. He’s lucky you’re around to keep Him on message!
- Those who conform to cultural Christianity will be justified. You will be declared right with God only when you look like a really good Christian. It’s a hard road, but it’ll be worth it in the end. We promise!
Perhaps needless to say, all of this is delicious and hilarious nonsense. The gospel is about God, not about you. God is love, but that love is also defined by His other attributes. Jesus called His disciples to take up their crosses and sacrifice their comfort and security (Mark 8:34-38). God’s justice is above and somehow fits flawed human understandings of right and wrong.
As for that “turn your eyes upon yourself” line, that comes from a song about Jesus which says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
These are perfect inside jokes for Christians to laugh at the excesses of Christian culture, but they should also make Bible believers think, Ford told PJ Media.
“The book is humorous in nature and is full of jokes, but the underlying subject matter is very serious,” the Babylon Bee creator said. “It is not hard to fall into the trap of believing that merely conforming oneself to some surface-level Christian culture is the equivalent of being born again.”
Recent polling has borne this out. According to a Pew Research Center poll released last week, a full 20 percent of self-identified Christians said they do not believe in the God of the Bible. This confirmed the idea of a cultural Christianity — that many Christians identify as Christian and go to church, but don’t actually believe Christian doctrine.
Throughout the Bible, Jesus emphasizes the importance of obedience in the heart (Matthew 5), not just in the outward appearance. He condemns the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who perfectly follow the Law but look down on their neighbors with disdain, refusing to love them as themselves. Their religion is about being better than other people, and Jesus condemned that more than anything else. Even Jesus’s disciples constantly start bickering about “who is the greatest” rather than following the example of Christ’s humility (Philippians 2).
Ford warned that “we are all susceptible” to the temptations of cultural Christianity. For this reason, “How to Be a Perfect Christian is designed to make people laugh, yes, but then to really think about why we do what we do, and what’s behind all of it.”
The best antidote to the falseness of cultural Christianity is a passionate belief in the Bible, Ford argued. “The most pressing threat to true discipleship, when it comes right down to it, is not trusting the Word of God above all else,” he said. “Letting something else supersede the Bible in authority in our lives. If we start placing the Word in submission to our feelings, circumstances, and surroundings, we’re placing a buffer between ourselves and the truth.”
“The Bible should be the lens through which we see culture, politics, trends, and traditions — not the other way around. This is the undercurrent that flows beneath the book’s humor,” the author explained.
Cheekily, however, Ford ended his interview with PJ Media with a quip almost straight from the book: “The second most pressing threat to true discipleship is, without a doubt, failing to buy our new book, How to Be a Perfect Christian.”