You might be an evangelical …

In addition to our unexpected hospital adventure this week we’ve also been puppy-sitting for my brother-in-law’s 6-month-old poodle (energetic, mischievous, adorable). Whenever there’s a quiet moment around here it seems that means someone is probably eating something that isn’t food.

My brother-and-law and his family are on vacation in Costa Rica. I was initially confused when told where they were going because, as an evangelical, I instinctively got fixated on the idea that this must be a mission trip, leading me to ask some awkward questions about what they would be building down there.

So let’s add that to the list of evangelical Jeff Foxworthy jokes: If your idea of a trip to the Caribbean involves building new outhouses for a missionary school, then you might be an evangelical.

Say whatever else you will about Foxworthy, but the man deserves credit for introducing an elegant joke structure that offers almost limitless possibilities. The guy has since made a fortune and I say he deserves it. I only wish that the anonymous genius who first uttered the immortal phrase, “Your momma is so ugly …” had also been able to cash in on that ground-breaking comedic innovation for the wealth and fame he or she also deserves.

Foxworthy’s “you might be a …” joke structure works for any cultural or subcultural group. You might be a tech geek … You might be a Mormon … You might be a tea partier … You might be a progressive … You might be a hipster … (For that last one: If Jeff Foxworthy jokes make you roll your eyes in condescension, then you might be a hipster.)

The jokes practically write themselves. Just articulate some observation about the group in question and toss away the standard kicker at the end. Start listing a few and it becomes hard to stop:

If you feel guilty for not keeping up with your quiet time, then you might be an evangelical.

If you have strong opinions about when, precisely, Amy Grant “sold out,” then you might be an evangelical.

If the first time you saw your uncle’s shot-glass collection, you wondered where he got all those fancy communion cups, then …

If you’ve never been skiing without rededicating your life to Christ at a bonfire afterwards, then …

If you’ve lost track of the number of “re-s” you need to add before “re-re-rededicate your life to Christ,” then …

If your favorite painters are Thomas Kinkade and Warner Sallman, then …

If you’ve ever forgotten to set your clock back at the end of Daylight Savings Time and your first thought at seeing the empty church parking lot was, “Oh no, I’ve missed the Rapture,” then …

If you never watched “Highway to Heaven,” not because it was too preachy, but because it aired on Wednesday nights, then …

If you knew that “Wednesday nights” in the previous joke was a reference to prayer meeting, then …

If you’ve ever tried to calculate the size of a tip in a restaurant based on how it would influence the waitress’s receptivity to the gospel tract you left with it, then …

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” If you just shouted, “Where?” then …

If you’ve ever seriously discussed whether using tabs constitutes cheating at Sword Drills, then …

If your answer to the question “What Would Jesus Do?” is “He would wear a T-shirt that says, ‘WWJD?’” then …

If you’ve ever been to a pot-luck dinner featuring more than three varieties of Jell-o salad with shaved carrots and mini-marshmallows, then …

If you’ve ever played the tambourine while wearing a tie, then …

If your gaydar is so bad that you think your choir director just needs to meet the right godly woman, then …

If you can’t look at Kente cloth without thinking what those colors stand for in The Wordless Book, then …

If you’ve ever informed someone you’ve just met that they deserve to suffer in Hell for eternity, and you said this without a trace of anger, then …

If the last rock concert you went to included an altar call, then …

If you own any clothing or accessories that you regard as “a witnessing tool,” then …

If you think the phrase “a witnessing tool” refers to something that’s good to have rather than someone it’s bad to be, then …

If praying in public makes you talk like a 17th-century Quaker, then …

If two acoustic guitars and a Yamaha DX7 keyboard are your idea of a “rock band,” then …

If the only High Church figure you don’t regard with suspicion is Bishop Ussher, then …

If you think that there’s nothing supernatural about the bread and wine during communion, but that there is something supernatural about a Ouija board made by Parker Brothers, then …

If your idea of communion wine is made by Welch’s, then …

If you know what burning vinyl smells like, then …

If your boss tells you you’re going to have to go on furlough and your first thought is that you’ll need to prepare a slideshow for the Sunday evening service, then …

If a sentence beginning “Lord, we just, Lord, want to thank you Lord, for just, Lord, just …” doesn’t strike you as either atrocious grammar or a speech impediment, then …

If you’ve ever thought of TMZ as kind of like a prayer list for Hollywood starlets, then …

If the words “submissive” and “head” make you think of gender, but not of sex, then …

If you think saying grace loudly is a good way to witness at The Olive Garden, then …

If you’ve ever discussed whether The Flintstones was set before or after Noah’s flood, then …

If your fantasy football team was selected based on the personal testimony of the players, then …

OK, I’ll stop there.

Plenty more where those came from, but that’s all the royalties I can afford to pay Foxworthy, Inc.

I realize that despite his popular success — and partly because of it — Jeff Foxworthy has never been highly regarded by critics and he’s never spoken of as “a comic’s comic.” The knock is that he pulls his punches and sands down the rough edges. You could put a disclaimer at the end of his act that says, “No rednecks were offended in the telling of these redneck jokes.” He can be a bit soft and safe, nerfing his punchlines and avoiding controversy.

So for those of us who like our comedy a bit darker and more transgressive, Foxworthy seems kind of tame. He seems like he might be able to do a gig in Tehran without rankling the authorities. Or maybe even a White House Correspondents Dinner.

But I don’t want to be a comedy snob. There’s plenty of room for Foxworthy’s gentle, genial approach even if it’s not my favorite flavor. Just because I take my coffee black doesn’t mean I think Starbuck’s should ban sugar. (Although it would be nice if those of us who are just trying to get a lousy cup of coffee didn’t have to wait in line behind 30 people ordering elaborate, syrupy milkshakes that take 20 minutes to frappé.) And just because I think Bill Hicks was a genius doesn’t mean I can’t think that Bill Cosby is one too.

Still, though, I think Foxworthy’s ingenius “you might be …” structure also remains an untapped mother lode for those who like sharper-edged material. Those jokes practically write themselves, too.

“If you’re seething with barely suppressed rage over the economic exploitation you’ve suffered every day of your life, yet you’ve been duped into redirecting that rage toward black people and Mexicans, then you might be a redneck.”

That sort of thing.

Or take the gently Foxworthy-esque, all-in-good-fun tone of Jon Acuff’s very funny “Stuff Christians Like” blog and dial up the honesty while dialing down the cautious tactfulness.

Stuff Christians Like No. 1070: Slut-Shaming.

Stuff Christians Like No. 1071: Anti-Semitism.

Seems like those jokes are just sitting there waiting to be told.

But since telling most of them would likely require both trigger-warnings and the sorts of NSFW language I try to avoid here, we’ll let those pass. For now.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Oh yeah >.< I've seen that happen to better folks before too; well and had it once or twice myself but I suspect those folks were trolling me.*  Definitely annoying My art teacher for the few classes I took said somethign early on that made good sense to me:

    “Would you ask someone to fix your car for free?  Would you ask someone to paint your porch for free?  No, of course not.  So don’t expect an artist to do it either – it’s a job.”  (I’m probably mangling her quote a bit but that was the gist).

    I’m open to doing basic stuff free for friends – but my colors take so long that unless I really, really, really like the person for some reason it’s just not happening on that level.  (I’m about 20 hours in on my current piece**)

    ; Speaking of which I should probably quit hanging around on slacktivist…. my webcomic has been hanging for awhile and that’s what the piece is for lol (thank you for indulging me – it’s appreciated!)

    *There was a stretch where I pissed some folks off and they spent a couple months trolling my DA page.  Thank goodness for the block feature!

    **Some of that is just me having been stupid early on though.  I’m new to outright painting, so I keep forgetting to work back to front.  (x_X)  So much backtracking.  However as I figure out my layers in GIMP2.0 I think that may cease to be a problem eventually.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    That’s [Foot Functions] what younger Southern Baptists who want to dance sometimes call dances to appease older Southern Baptists who still believe that Moses’ tablets would definitely have prohibited dancing if God had more room in the margins.

    Oh! It’s Play Party Games! Gotcha.

  • Lonespark

    Yep.  Same here, raised Congregationalist.

  • Hawker40

    “That’s [Foot Functions] what younger Southern Baptists who want to dance sometimes call dances to appease older Southern Baptists who still believe that Moses’ tablets would definitely have prohibited dancing if God had more room in the margins.”
    “Oh! It’s Play Party Games! Gotcha.”

    Leading to the joke…
    Why don’t Southern Baptists have sex standing up?
    It might lead to… dancing!

  • Lonespark

    If someone brings up communion in conversation and you ask if they mean flower, water or animal, you might be a UU.
    Oh, this is soo true, and funny.  

  • Lonespark

    Right.  That’s my problem with it.  It totally doesn’t apply to most religious people I know, including the Christians.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    A bigger pet peeve of mine is how people want me to do art for them for free just because I can.  It’s like “Draw me this!” “Paint me that!” yet they don’t expect me to want to make a living off it and get offended if I ask for anything in return. 

    Ooooo that chaps my butt when people do that. As a starving artist myself if you want me to paint something for you the least you can do is supply me the paints I need (if I don’t currently have them) to do the job.

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t apply to all atheists either. I’m a hundred percent confident we don’t live in a monotheistic world. Only ninety percent that we don’t live in a polytheistic world; it might just be that none of the gods are interested in talking to me.

    Also, Lonespark, I PMed you on Dreamwidth, I don’t know if you saw…

  • Anonymous

    As a starving artist myself if you want me to paint something for you
    the least you can do is supply me the paints I need (if I don’t
    currently have them) to do the job.

    SING IT SIBLING. I am delighted to do custom jewelry, and once I’m a bit more confident in soapmaking and candlemaking I’d love to do custom work there too, but I am by all that’s holy getting paid for it.

  • Madhabmatics

    You can tell a lot about a religion by what they don’t recognize. Jews don’t recognize Muhammed as a prophet, for instance. Muslims don’t recognize Jesus as God. And Baptists don’t recognize each other in the liquor store!

  • Emcee, cubed

    And Baptists don’t recognize each other in the liquor store!

    To add on from a story mother told me (though it is outdated) – And Catholics don’t recognize their priests at the banned movies…

  • Lunch Meat

    Oh, if we’re just posting jokes now…

    Q: How many church of Christ elders does it take to change a light bulb?
    A: CHANGE?!?!?!?!11?

    Jesus turned water into wine…the church of Christ turned it back.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    Oh, if I was doing something like custom jewelry you can be damn sure they would be paying me for it. I think my problem is that most of the people that want free artwork from me see me giving it away at Christmas, birthdays, etc. and not realizing that I don’t have a lot of extra cash to spend on buying gifts for people so they get artwork instead. I think all that goes through their heads is “Oh, well he gives it away anyway so what’s the fuss?” 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    Oh, if I was doing something like custom jewelry you can be damn sure they would be paying me for it. I think my problem is that most of the people that want free artwork from me see me giving it away at Christmas, birthdays, etc. and not realizing that I don’t have a lot of extra cash to spend on buying gifts for people so they get artwork instead. I think all that goes through their heads is “Oh, well he gives it away anyway so what’s the fuss?” 

  • Anonymous

    This blog is interesting to me because I grew up with few or no Protestants in my area. We were all either Catholics (Irish, Polish, Italian) or Orthodox (Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian, Greek). So, the whole evangelical culture seems pretty foreign.

    So, to add my bit …

    If you know how to say “Christ is Risen” and the response “Indeed He is Risen” in a language that you otherwise do not speak or understand, you might be Orthodox.

    If your Easter service began at about 10pm and ended at 3am after a lengthy cold wait outside the church in your light spring coat for the priest to bless your end-of-fast foods, you might be Orthodox.

    If you have Cold War conflicts between wings of your church (because one bishop cooperated with the Soviets or other dictator and so another less tainted bishop was appointed but not universally accepted), you might be Orthodox.

    If you have to have your son baptized in a Methodist church because a doctrinally sound godfather could not be found, you might be Orthodox.

    Different, eh?

  • Lila

    If it’s “And with thy spirit”, you’re an Episcopalian who remembers the Dreaded Coming of the New Prayer Book (the 1977 Book of Common Prayer, preceded by the even less beloved “zebra book”).

  • Lila

    If it’s “And with thy spirit”, you’re an Episcopalian who remembers the Dreaded Coming of the New Prayer Book (the 1977 Book of Common Prayer, preceded by the even less beloved “zebra book”).

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    I do the same thing sometimes >< (I have literally no money, so IF people get presents from me, it's art.  I like to think the effort shows I do give a crap, even if I lack the funds to show it in the more traditional way.)

  • Münchner Kindl

    Don’t know where else to fit this, and still haven’t found a way to contact Fred directly by mail – but I thought this interesting and quite in line with Fred’s general attitude (And the purported aim of patheos more general)

    10 Things Christians and Atheists can agree on

    http://www.cracked.com/article_15759_10-things-christians-atheists-can-and-must-agree-on.html

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    Yeah I’m perpetually broke. I quit work in 2006 to look after my grandmother full time so the only gifts I can give people are of the handmade variety. 

  • Anonymous

    Jen K: If your gut response to “May the force be with you” is “And also with you” you might be Episopalian.

    Oh good heavens YES! XD

  • Anonymous

    Jen K: If your gut response to “May the force be with you” is “And also with you” you might be Episopalian.

    Oh good heavens YES! XD

  • http://twitter.com/machallboyd Matt Boyd

    I vaguely remember one of the jokes Foxworthy passed on for being too mean-spirited was “If your bedsheets have eyeholes…”

  • Tonio

    I agreed with everything but Number 5. The offensiveness of the idea that mass murderers and kindly grandmas will face the same fate doesn’t begin to compare to the offensiveness of anyone deserving to suffer for eternity after death. I don’t know if the universe has inherent justice, I just know that we shouldn’t expect it, at the expense of working toward making our societies more just places for eveyrone.

  • bitwise operator

    Fred mentioned a hypothetical version of “Stuff Christians Like” but with more honesty and less tact. Might I recommend http://www.stufffundieslike.com? Yes, it’s specifically about Fundamentalist Christianity, but many of the principles apply. And it’s interesting to read it through from the earliest archives through to the present and watch the posts get more elaborate and the topics more serious.

  • Joshua

    more than three varieties of Jell-o salad with shaved carrots and mini-marshmallows

    Please tell me people do not eat such things.

    Look, you do have good food in America. I’ve been there. Come on.

  • ErinvH

    If you turn every quarter note in the original into a triplet of eighth notes, it works.  Part of the fun is starting out at a fast tempo and then seeing who trips over the triplets when the words speed up by two-thirds.

  • Tom Ryberg

    You have to sing it in triplets:  “(I’ve-got-the) _glor-i-ous _hope-of-my _bles-sed-Re _dee-mer-way _down in my heart…”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4I4JSPCOXOBY636XORNXYXBHKI Lymis

    Can’t help you with the Wordless Book (raised Catholic), but as I understand it, Sword Drills are drills to find specific passages in the Bible at speed – and you’re supposed to know the Bible well enough not to need little tabs for each Book  - just like you should know that T comes further back in the Dictionary than F.

    Kente cloth is the earth-toned patterns claimed to be traditional African fabric patterns, usually heavy on the gold, and brown tones.

    One knows what burning vinyl smells like, I assume, if you’ve attended public burnings of records. (For being evil “Rock n Roll” or godless Disco, or whatever). I could be very, very wrong, though.

  • Brightie

     Sword Drills–children and youth in competitions involving reciting the books of the Bible in order, finding certain books and passages faster than anybody else, and memorizing/reciting popular and innocuous verses about such things as God being creator, Jesus saving, and praising God. Also known as Bible Drills among some Baptists, and Bible Quiz if you’re Assemblies of God Pentecostal and more serious about the memorizing.

    Kente cloth I don’t know, but “Wordless Book” refers to a set of color-coded bits of paper or felt meant to symbolize theological statements about human nature and salvation.

    No clue on burning vinyl or TMZ.

  • Brightie

     I think the idea is that you have trouble believing anyone could be gay and willingly in ministry in YOUR church. Either that, or homosexuals are an abstract concept, not real people in front of you.


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