Thursday, September 10, 2015

BuzzFeed’s “I’m Christian” Video

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There’s been some buzz lately over a recent BuzzFeed video of “I’m Christian, but I’m not…” which can be seen here:

This video is evidently about breaking stereotypes of Christians, and I resonated quite a bit with this video. I’m a Christian but I’m not a homophobe, I’m not a conservative (though I sympathize with some conservative views), I go to church on Sundays, I listen to Christian music (including T-mac), and I’m a feminist (when using Merriam-Webster dictionary definition 1 of “feminism”). Overall I liked this video because it fights stereotypes and religious prejudice against us Christians, and Christians everywhere are smiling at how refreshing it is to see a mainstream outlet doing the opposite of promoting Christian stereotypes, right?


Well, not quite. A number of sources managed to find the BuzzFeed video offensive to Christians somehow, and in a way this shouldn’t be surprising. We live in a culture where being offended is in vogue, and the more we find stuff to be angry at, the better we feel (apparently). But we shouldn’t fall into this world’s groupthink mentality of finding stuff to be offended at based on flimsy evidence. Of all people, Christians should know that we are not to be part of the world[1], and yet we’re evidently not immune to tumbling into the community of unreasonable outrage.

Bring On the Outrage!

To give a specific example, consider an article in The Blaze that says, “There’s nothing more self-righteous than making a big show about your supposed lack of self-righteousness.” Seriously? How about claiming that you’re more righteous than others? Isn’t that more self-righteous than e.g. saying you’re not more righteous than others? And making a “big show” of not being self-righteous is…taking part in a video to help break Christian stereotypes (e.g. of self-righteousness) where you tell people that you don’t think you’re more righteous than others? This is an act of self-righteousness? What kind of logic is that? Suppose a celebrity who is a Christian, Denzel Washington perhaps, said in an interview that he didn’t think of himself as more righteous than others. If an atheist celebrity were to broadcast this “I’m not more righteous than others” claim as proof that Denzel Washington is self-righteous, we Christians would immediately denounce this as irrational idiocy.

Consider the Federalist’s claim in the “Wow, was it bigoted” section:
As the better half noted, imagine that BuzzFeed did a video like this for Muslims. “I’m Muslim but I’m not a terrorist!” The outrage would be immediate.
Why would people really be outraged about a video trying to break Muslim stereotypes with e.g. bona fide Muslims who aren’t terrorists? When I first read this (I initially skimmed the article) I was confused, until a friend at work informed me that some people would interpret a statement like “I’m a Christian, but I’m not this stereotype” as meaning (or implying) “Most Christians are actually this stereotype.” But this is kind of ridiculous; latter statement doesn’t follow from the former, and to think otherwise would be making a remarkably uncharitable interpretation (yet another illustration why people should be taught the principle of charity) and people, Christians included, should not be so quick to interpret people’s statements in the worst possible way. Yes, I know it’s in vogue to be offended, but we shouldn’t try so hard that we’re finding offensive claims in the mouths of people who aren’t actually making them.

Some complaints are so silly you’d almost think the people making them would even find the first verse of “Amazing Grace” offensive to Christians. One of the Federalist’s “cringeworthy” objections to “I’m Christian, but I’m not…” video is “No mention of Jesus,” as if being a Christian and going to church on Sundays had nothing to do with Jesus. Or maybe the objection is that “Jesus” wasn’t mentioned by name, but considering the nature of the video (breaking stereotypes, noting what some Christians are not) the fact that the name “Jesus” wasn’t specifically mentioned doesn’t seem enough to be worth cringing over. After all, the first verse of “Amazing Grace” doesn’t contain the word “Jesus” either; should we find that “cringeworthy” and ignore all the stuff this verse has to do with Christianity? Or is the “Jesus must be mentioned by name” criterion to be applied only to those things we want to find offensive?

The Federalist claims, “BuzzFeed’s viral video is the cry of the Pharisee. Thank God I’m not like those other men!” The viral video is the cry of Christians saying, “We don’t fit these stereotypes.” Do we really have to interpret, “We don’t fit these stereotypes” in the worst possible way? And of course when making the “cry of the Pharisee” objection, we’ll have to ignore all those claims in the video suggesting that these Christians aren’t self-righteous—which ironically was the cause for a criticism I mentioned earlier! The Christians in this video are putting themselves on a pedestal and that’s offensive—except that they’re not putting themselves on a pedestal, but that’s OK since that’s offensive too. I’m getting the impression that certain people are trying too hard to be offended.


I’m not going to say that there aren’t any flaws with the video, but I also don’t think Christians should be finding this video as offensive or cringe-worthy as some people are apparently taking it to be. A non-Christian mainstream media outlet fighting Christian stereotypes and religious prejudice is something we should be grateful for, even if it doesn’t have everything we’d like it to have. The video isn’t perfect, but it’s far from horrible; indeed I suspect it’s roughly as good as we could reasonably expect it to be given the circumstances. For all its flaws, BuzzFeed made what I think was a sincere effort to help us Christians. Think it feels good to be outraged? Try being grateful and appreciative; it’s actually kind of nice.

[1] See John 15:19, John 18:36, and one of my favorite verses, Romans 12:2