What Memes Mean: "Nu Thang"

Most videos go viral because they are funny. More often than not, the humor comes from the stupidity or misfortune of others. Since American Christianity has plenty of wackiness and seems to delight in broadcasting that wackiness through local and national cable channels and movies, there are many opportunities for us to laugh at viral videos of Christians doing silly, stupid, ridiculous things. But is it right to laugh at these videos? Sometimes, yes! Case in point: this kid’s cover of DC Talk’s song, “Nu Thang.”

To me, what makes this video acceptable to laugh at is the fact that I can see myself in the kid and can imagine the motives that might have brought him to the place where he was covering a DC Talk song on a local access channel, wearing parachute pants, high-top sneakers, well-gelled hair, and an unstoppable smile, while rockin’ killer moves.

This video represents the best of the worst of our attempts to use worship to assert our own significance. I might be reading too much into this kid’s motives, so I’ll just say that what I’m referring to here at the very least is true of my own heart, particularly at that age.

In Christian culture it is hard to find legitimate, acceptable ways to look and act cool. Bragging, pride, arrogance, and physical attractiveness are considered to be sins or signs of vanity, at least officially. So how is a middle schooler supposed to assert himself, to stand out amongst his peers and feel important? Well, in the 1990’s one way to look cool was to rap a DC Talk song.

There are thousands of other ways he could try to make himself feel significant. The Christian market has responded to the needs of teens to look cool and exert their individuality: clothing, bracelets, bands, posters, etc. Despite the fact that these attempts at being cool are motivated by a misguided and ungodly desire to find our worth in the approval of others, Christians have found ways to justify our vanity by cloaking it in worship or righteousness. I’m not showing off, I’m reppin’ Christ. Other prominent examples of this are the Christian album covers which features attractive, cool looking musicians. Pictures that invite us to envy or covet, but claim to be inviting worship of God.

That’s what makes this video so funny and endearing to me. I’m not really laughing at this kid and his ridiculous dancing. I’m laughing at us, at myself and the absurd ways we try to use God to glorify ourselves. When we step back and look at our vanity, it looks rather silly. It seem like it should look pathetic and despicable, but because God is gracious enough to love us even in our duplicity, it just looks silly. It looks like a kid, rapping a DC Talk song, wearing parachute pants and high-top sneakers, flashing an unstoppable smile, rocking well-gelled hair, and occasionally busting out some killer dance steps.

Update: Be sure to read this interview of Michael Clancy, the rapping kid, who is now a 29-year-old lawyer.

About Alan Noble

(Co-Founder/Editor/Columnist) is a part-time lecturer at Baylor University. He received his PhD in Contemporary American Literature from Baylor, writing on manifestations of transcendence in 20th Century American Lit. He and his family attend Redeemer Waco, a PCA church. Alan's passion is studying how believers can be a faithful presence in culture to the glory of God and the edification of others. In addition to editing, Alan writes his column, Citizenship Confusion for CaPC.

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---For questions, comments, or interest in speaking engagements please email me at noble.noneuclidean [at] gmail [dot] com.

  • Alan Noble

    To iterations on memes, there is no end:
    Auto-tuned “Nu Thang”

  • http://goodokbad.com Seth T. Hahne

    Could not finish it.