What Memes Mean: Avoiding Scumbag Apologetics

Each Wednesday in What Memes Mean, Kirk Bozeman questions the significance, humor, and subtexts of viral videos, memes, and other Internet fads.

Look, I know you get frustrated.

You’ve got the presuppositional/evidential thing down pat, thoroughly worked through old vs. young earth creationism, and moved past a cursory reading of Case for Christ into all the obscure books in its most footiest of footnotes. And your heart is ready, really ready. You’re prepared for friendly, honest, patient discussion on things like the problem of evil and the authority of Scripture, and all the classic theistic philosophical arguments in chronological order. You’re ready to be an apologist.

And you walk out of the library with your head held high and immediately run into that guy. Often (though not always) an atheist, he’s the guy who — after a few minutes of “discussion” — has made it very clear that he doesn’t care at all about your hard work toward “faith seeking understanding.” He’s not taking you seriously in any way and obviously assumes that anyone with a faith commitment is intellectually flawed and incoherent. You try to tell him about Alvin Plantinga and warrant, but he rolls his eyes and starts back in.

It gets frustrating, I get it. You see the logical inconsistencies in his thinking that he refuses to see and the rude and abrasive way that he dismisses your attempt at friendly interaction. You start to feel that button-pushing is his main objective, not mutual understanding. You’re trying to have a genuine apologetic discussion, really are trying to be respectful, and it’s not being reciprocated in any way.

This “Christian meme” is obviously born of that frustration. This is a photo-caption meme pointed at that guy, lampooning him in the way he lampoons you, picking on him in the way he picks on you, fighting back. Because, frankly, don’t we all get tired of not saying something to that guy? Being ridiculed and not taken seriously gets old for anyone eventually.

And I’ll say this: Sometimes the loving, right thing to do with such folks is to call them out on their that-guy-ness, to let them know that you are trying to have a balanced, respectful discussion, and they’re not playing fair. As Christians, we don’t have take unfair and disrespectful debate lying down. There is certainly a time and place to stand up for ourselves.

But should this be done through passive photo-caption meme? Probably not. Not because we “sink to their level” (a very self-righteous phrase), but simply because it’s dangerous and unhelpful. I’ve found out from personal experience that snarkiness is rarely a good road to take — you’re setting out into dangerous territory. Someone is going to say something we will all later regret, and, personally, I feel that quite a few of these photo-caption memes are quite regrettable, even embarrassing.

Also See, Citizenship Confusion: Atheists are Idiots, Really?

Reign it in, guys. Write a well-worded essay, type up an edgy blog post, give a firm but kind word. Don’t make a venting, passive photo-caption meme, for goodness’ sake.

So I get it. I feel you, I really do. It’s frustrating. But we can handle these things better than this. And we must also remember that as Christians we have often been guilty of being that guy as well.

We learn this from Acts:

And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” (Acts 26:28–29)

Remember, this is our end. And I really, really can’t see a snarky photo-caption meme getting us there.

Also see, Citizenship Confusion: Atheists are Idiots, Really?

About Kirk Bozeman
  • Gabe

    It’s just as frustrating as a skeptic to try to explain why you no longer believe christianity and the bible are true, only to have the apologist roll their eyes and say it’s because you haven’t read the right apologetic literature, or imply that you really know deep down in your heart that it’s true but refuse to believe because you’re sinful and too prideful to submit to God’s authority. It swings both ways trust me.

  • Gabe

    But of course you admit that this problem swings both ways.

  • http://kirkbozeman.wordpress.com Kirk Bozeman

    Thanks for the comments, Gabe. My one worry with this post was that it would sound like I am blaming all non-Christians for this sort of thing and freeing all Christians from blame. This is absolutely not the case at all, we could all be much more respectful as a whole. Of course, that hope may be a bit idealistic with this sort of thing, but I think it’s worth at least mentioning.

  • http://www.stustation.wordpress.com StuartB

    Hence, why I’m no longer involved with or support most campus ministry.

  • Ben

    Thank you for this article. It is a good grounding self reflection we need to take occasionally, and people tend to not like doing that very often.

    When I first saw that Atheism one you have posted above, I laughed because it is true. Not laughing at the “other side” mind you, but laughing at how easy it is to take part of a discussion or a person’s perspective, and paint it as lunacy in a couple sentences. There is some truth in it which is why it hits home, but it isn’t truth so it derails anything we consider part of coherent thought for discussion.

    I saw one the other day that was Kirk Cameron and it said something like “Tell him you don’t believe in the Bible and he proceeds to quote the Bible to convince you.” That one hits home for me. That was my stance when I was not a believer. I didn’t understand how a person could say “The Bible says this…” and when I respond that I don’t believe the Bible they proceed to tell me more Bible instead of approaching it another way or at least take a step back to prove that the Bible is reliable. It simply showed their lack of intelligence in my mind.
    The flip side is, now that I am a Christian I saw a posting on a blog saying the effect of “Without quoting the Bible, show how Jesus is God.” I responded by politely stating that I understand what they are saying, but it is a flawed logic. It would be like me asking them to prove evolution without quoting a single scientific journal or study.

    So what I am saying is that we all have instances of being “that guy.” The key is, like you said, not to resort to crude memes to sum a more complex notion. That is a marketing campaign. We should be in discussion with people, a personable action, instead. I think the Bible says something about speaking to the world about Jesus. Yes it gets ugly, and yes we run into “that guy” and want to punch him in the face. But that is part of life, we need to deal with it in our new clothes, not our old ones.


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