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.

  • https://profiles.google.com/ravanan101 Ravanan

    If you consider an hour-long sermon on the joys of stamp collecting, waltz, and harlequin garb to be par for the course…you might be a UU.

    I don’t get the furlough one though.

  • Anonymous

    Fred (et al.), if you’d like your Evangelical humor with an edge, head on over to Stuff Fundies Like,

     at  http://www.stufffundieslike.com/

    and join in the fun—or the catharsis, depending on how long it’s been since you escaped.

  • http://dtm.livejournal.com/ Daniel Martin

    If the phrase “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction” trips off your tongue easy, you might be an Episcopalian. (and a Rite I type at that)
    If high humor at your dinner table included passing your sister food by saying “take, eat” and her responding “these are the peas which are given for you”, you might be an Episcopalian.
    If your the adults taking part in your church’s bible study/adult ed. program have more academic degrees than a typical meeting of Mensa, you might be an Episcopalian.
    If you know what the eighth sacrament is, and understand the scorn that will rain down on anyone scheduling a meeting immediately after the service that would interfere with it, you might be an Episcopalian.

    And some more biting ones:

    If the only connection between your church and Christ’s command to feed the hungry and clothe the naked consisted of your diocesan contribution, you might be an Episcopalian.

    If your natural reaction to every single controversial issue is a careful, deliberate refusal to take a stance, you might be an Episcopalian. (Remember, this is the tradition that invented “consubstantiation”)

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    If your natural reaction to every single controversial issue is a careful, deliberate refusal to take a stance, you might be an Episcopalian.

    Heh. Definitely.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    If you’ve ever pondered whether it’s better to interrupt your Saturday
    evening for Mass so that you could sleep in on Sunday, or the other way
    around, you might be a post-Vatican-II Catholic.

    Hey, I resemble that remark. X-D

  • Izzy

    Or Catholic, I think. Awesome either way.

  • thegeekgene

    If you’ve ever told someone they aren’t a True Christian if they vote Democratic . . .

    If you’ve ever told someone they aren’t a True Christian if they think Buddhism has a lot going for it . . .

    If you’ve ever told a girl/had a boy tell you God has directed her/him to marry you . . .

    If you’ve ever tried to allay your girlfriends concerns about your immortal soul by telling her it’s okay to drink and fight and cuss people out so long as no one knows who you are . . .

    If you’ve ever broken up with your girlfriend on the grounds she is enticing you to sin . . .

    If you’ve ever indignantly told the boy you like that your Jewish friend would SO burn in hell while your Jewish friend was standing in between you . . .

    I am actually the Jew in this situation. The rest come via my best friend (who has no memory of that argument), a Baptist going to a Christian college. Less funny (involving a different evangelical):

    If you’ve ever sent your clinically depressed Jewish friend an e-mail telling her you can no longer be friends with a heretic and you hope the dissolution of your five-year friendship won’t cause her to resort to self harm, mere weeks after she has confided in you she has been contemplating suicide . . .

    Also: Hi! I’ve been lurking for a couple of years but never commented before.

  • Daughter

    See, I missed most of this stuff.  I didn’t grow up Church of Christ; my best friend did, and only started inviting me to go to church and youth group with her at about age 12, and I was baptized at 19.  Youth group meetings invovled a Bible lesson and discussion, followed by a fun activity.  No Sword Drills.

    But I can play along:

    If you can debate whether or not clapping to a song constitutes use of instrumental music, you might be church of Christ.

    If you know by heart at least 50 verses in the Bible that mention baptism, and another 50 that allude to something like it, you might be church of Christ.

    If all the adults in your congregation are known as Brother or Sister So-and-So, and no one is called Pastor, you might be church of Christ.

  • Daughter

    See, I missed most of this stuff.  I didn’t grow up Church of Christ; my best friend did, and only started inviting me to go to church and youth group with her at about age 12, and I was baptized at 19.  Youth group meetings invovled a Bible lesson and discussion, followed by a fun activity.  No Sword Drills.

    But I can play along:

    If you can debate whether or not clapping to a song constitutes use of instrumental music, you might be church of Christ.

    If you know by heart at least 50 verses in the Bible that mention baptism, and another 50 that allude to something like it, you might be church of Christ.

    If all the adults in your congregation are known as Brother or Sister So-and-So, and no one is called Pastor, you might be church of Christ.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t kill us with sheep!

  • Daughter

    If you can say with a straight face that your church is “exactly like the way the Christians worshipped in Acts 2!” even though you don’t meet in an upper room of someone’s house, you don’t share everything in common, you don’t take the Lord’s Supper as part of a meal, and the Spirit doesn’t come down on you like tongues of fire (in fact, the last one, if it were to happen, would be seen as Satanic), then might be church of Christ.

    If your church is named after the street where you’re located, because to give it any other name would be to “de-nominate” yourselves, you might be church of Christ.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been reading this blog and growing out of being raised evangelical
    for years and I’ve never once commented. I guess I should try joining
    the community-in-the-comments. Maybe a few half-hearted
    You-Might-Be-An-X jokes will help with that.

    Willkommen!

    I don’t suppose we have to remind you that the official bird is the booby and we would appreciate a general refrain and amnesty on ovine-related violence.

    But perhaps you haven’t made a habit of reading the comments, so in that case:

    The official bird is the booby; flame wars are held on Thursdays; the official motto is It’s More Complicated Than That; and please don’t kill us with sheep!

  • Amaryllis

    @Becka:disqus : oh, there’s more…

    If you’ve ever pinned a scrap of Kleenex to your head and called it a hat, you might be a pre-VII Catholic.

    If you’ve never even seen a woman wear a hat to Mass, you might be a post-VII Catholic.

    If you spent your time in Confirmation preparation memorizing the Baltimore Catechism, you might be a pre-VII Catholic.

    If you spent you time in Confirmation preparation making collages to illustrate the principles of social justice, you might be a post-VII Catholic.

    If you know that the answer to “What do you call people who use the rhythm method?” is “Parents,” you might be a pre-VII Catholic.

    If you’re willing to concede that Natural Family Planning is not your mother’s rhythm method, but, screw it, what the Pope doesn’t know won’t hurt him, where’s my Pills, you might be a post-VII Catholic.

    And you might be a Catholic of any vintage if…

    …chocolate crosses in your Easter basket don’t strike you as sacrilegious.

    …dressing little girls like brides for their First Communion doesn’t strike you as weird.

    …Bingo doesn’t strike you as real gambling.

    …your reaction, on meeting a middle-aged woman dressed in a plainly-cut, dark-colored skirted suit, is to mutter, “Yes, S’ster.”

    …you couldn’t possibly explain what transubstantiation really means, but you totally believe in it.

  • Daughter

    Welcome, thegeekgene!  So sorry about how crappy your friend treated you.

  • Daughter

    And another welcome to Jonathan!

  • Daughter

    If you’re willing to concede that Natural Family Planning is not your mother’s rhythm method, but, screw it, what the Pope doesn’t know won’t hurt him, where’s my Pills, you might be a post-VII Catholic.

    Like!

  • Lori

     I almost want to say “If you think that using the correct hymnal is as important as using the correct Bible version, you might be church of Christ,” but I’m not sure if that’s just the congregations I attended/my family.  

    It’s definitely not. I’ve lived through the hymnal wars too. I once saw red book vs blue book nearly split a congregation. Clearly there was some other dysfunctional going on, but the hymnal came this close to being the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

    Yet again I find myself feeling compelled to say that I wish I was making this up.

  • Anonymous

    If you’ve ever had an intense debate after church about whether it’s pronounced ah-men or ey-men…

    And then sat through a car ride during which it was huffily proclaimed “AH-men? AH? Next thing you know, we’ll be conducting them in LATIN!” then you might be a Baptist.

  • Anonymous

    HAH!

    If you couldn’t possibly explain what transubstantiation really means, but you KNOW IT’S HERESY, you might be an Evangelical.

  • Anonymous

    Uh, Lunch Meat? I believe that would be “the peace that passeth understanding.” If the King James Bible was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for me. (And if this isn’t the first time you’ve heard that joke–especially with “Paul,” not “Saint Paul”–then you might be, etc.)

    If, when you were a little kid, you damaged something or other and prayed “in Jesus’ name” that he would fix it, because he promised that whatever you pray in his name, he will do it, then…

     

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t know the joy, joy, joy thing was Evangelical.  I sang it in my Methodist Sunday school and Methodists are not Evangelicals.

    My least favorite verse was “I’ve got the peace that passeth understanding” because I didn’t know what it meant and it was a tongue twister.  I always thought the Devil sitting on a tack thing was a little violent for small children, even when I was a small child.  Yeah, I was weird like that.  I never felt comfortable singing that, even though the Devil did deserve it.

  • Mau de Katt

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

    Or Presbyterian.  And my automatic response to your “And also with you”?

    “Let us pray.”

  • Mau de Katt

    If every single meeting in the office, down to and including having birthday cake at someone’s cubicle, begins with prayer… you may work at Promise Keepers.

    If each and every departmental presentation at the company’s Annual Progress Meeting turns into a full-blown sermon, complete with audience responses of kerchief-waving and “Preach it, alleluja!”, you may work at Promise Keepers.

    If a Very Important Meeting with your boss ends with him ritually washing your feet, then…

  • Mau de Katt

    If every single meeting in the office, down to and including having birthday cake at someone’s cubicle, begins with prayer… you may work at Promise Keepers.

    If each and every departmental presentation at the company’s Annual Progress Meeting turns into a full-blown sermon, complete with audience responses of kerchief-waving and “Preach it, alleluja!”, you may work at Promise Keepers.

    If a Very Important Meeting with your boss ends with him ritually washing your feet, then…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Oh, and: If half the songs you learned as a child have accompanying hand motions, you might be an evangelical.

    Double points if you still know all of the hand motions.

    Or maybe you went to Y Camp. (quite possibly jewish community center camps and boy scout camps do this too.) Different songs, though, I suspect, unless the ones you remember are “Mr Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun”, “Little Bunny Foo-foo”, “The Court of King Carratacus” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Oh, and: If half the songs you learned as a child have accompanying hand motions, you might be an evangelical.

    Double points if you still know all of the hand motions.

    Or maybe you went to Y Camp. (quite possibly jewish community center camps and boy scout camps do this too.) Different songs, though, I suspect, unless the ones you remember are “Mr Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun”, “Little Bunny Foo-foo”, “The Court of King Carratacus” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”.

  • Mathbard

    Does the Blessed Redeemer thing even track? Do we know slightly different versions of the tune?

    Always had to sing that verse at 2-3 times normal speed. Almost like we had to race through it.

  • Mathbard

    Does the Blessed Redeemer thing even track? Do we know slightly different versions of the tune?

    Always had to sing that verse at 2-3 times normal speed. Almost like we had to race through it.

  • Mathbard

    Does the Blessed Redeemer thing even track? Do we know slightly different versions of the tune?

    Always had to sing that verse at 2-3 times normal speed. Almost like we had to race through it.

  • P J Evans

    If your idea of a “grace meal” after the sermon consists exclusively of Kool-Aid and cookies, you might be a Methodist

    We must have missed out on that at the Methodist church I was raised in: no ‘grace meals’. Coffee and tea, in the hallway, some mornings; the summer we moved to a new location lemonade and iced tea were staples for the work crews (all the way down to children).

  • Tonio

    That young woman wouldn’t happen to have the same name as a city that straddles the Virginia/Tennessee border, would she?

  • Lori

    You learned Little Bunny Foo-foo at Y Camp? Man, I had to learn that one from my friends because they did not teach it at church camp. 

    “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” we did in kindergarten. 

  • Anonymous

    Two things from the church my extended family belongs to:

    If you refuse to decorate your Christmas tree with any ‘pagan’ ornaments, you might be Brethren (and seriously need to learn about irony).
    If you think singing hymns is irreligious, you might be Brethren.

  • P J Evans

    I don’t remember ever singing anything in church that had ten verses. I think our organist would have revolted. (The hymnal had some canticles with ten or so verses, but we didn’t normally do those, and anyway they’re different.)

  • Tonio

    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 …

    I’ve been to a few events where the invocation sounded exactly like that, with a few Fathers thrown in. Why so many justs?

  • Anonymous

    “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”?

    Ah, we had something that went to the same tune, but I can’t remember… Mark, Matthew Luke and John? Could be.

  • Lunch Meat

    If you’ve ever sung “As the deer panteth for the water” loudly to drown out/correct the people who were singing “pants”, you might be church of Christ.

    If you then stumbled over or thought it was weird to sing “You are” instead of “Thou art” in the chorus, you might be slightly more observant and church of Christ.

    If you know it’s a bad idea for the person leading the prayer to invite everyone to recite the Lord’s prayer together, you might be church of Christ.

    “Our Father, who art in heaven, [incomprehensible mumble] name. [mumble] kingdom come, [mumble] will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. …And forgive us our [mumble], as we forgive our debt–I mean those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [two people continue while everyone else says "amen", then everyone races to catch up] For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”

  • Tonio

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

    That one confuses me. For reasons that aren’t well thought out, I would have assumed that evangelicals would be completely in the opposite direction, ready to deem any man gay for the slightest deviation from gender norms.

  • Lori

     I’ve been to a few events where the invocation sounded exactly like that, with a few Fathers thrown in. Why so many justs?  

    At some point (not sure when) for some reason (not sure why) “just” became the God-approved substitute for “um”. All those Lords and Fathers are also just filler. People seem to think that they allow an unprepared or nervous pray-er to sound devout instead of confused. They are wrong. So wrong. And yet this belief persists. 

  • Daughter

    I’ve never understood why gay is considered automatic for choir directors.  I’ve known men in churches who set off my gaydar; choir directors (or whomever leads singing) aren’t any more likely to do so than anyone else.

  • Daughter

    I’ve never understood why gay is considered automatic for choir directors.  I’ve known men in churches who set off my gaydar; choir directors (or whomever leads singing) aren’t any more likely to do so than anyone else.

  • Daughter

    Uh, “whoever”

  • Daughter

    @ Lori, I don’t think most people do it consciously.  It is filler, but filler adopted out of habit and unconscious conformity. 

  • http://twitter.com/AbelUndercity Abel Undercity

    If you’re reading through all of this with no small amount of detached interest and sincere relief, you might be an atheist.

  • Lori

     For reasons that aren’t well thought out, I would have assumed that evangelicals would be completely in the opposite direction, ready to deem any man gay for the slightest deviation from gender norms.  

    You just don’t understand the critical difference between “one of us” and “them”. The person that goes to our church or is a member of our family just hasn’t met the right godly woman. Even if he is, to quote a gay friend, “gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous.” The same principle applies to lesbians. Also, being married makes you straight even if you’re so far up the tree with those monkey’s that you’re in danger of snapping off the top branch. 

    Any man who is not “one of us” who is insufficiently manly is suspected of being that way. Same with women who are too manly. 

    There is no such thing as a butch gay man. Does not exist. Likewise lipstick lesbians are not an actual thing. 

    Did you see the pictures of the guy service members marching in this year’s San Diego Pride Parade? Suffice it to say I know a couple people whose minds were just blown. DADT ending and and gays & lesbians serving openly really is going to lead to some big surprises  in some circles.  

  • Lori

    I don’t think it’s conscious, and I was being sarcastic when I said it was God-approves, but it is filler that’s adapted to the specific situation. I’ve never heard anyone who wasn’t praying use “just” instead of “um”,. It’s a subcultural construct. 

  • Lori

     If you’re reading through all of this with no small amount of detached interest and sincere relief, you might be an atheist. 

    It’s not really being an atheist that makes you detached. I’m an atheist. I’d say that if you view this with detached interest you might be an atheist raised by non-evangelicals. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVT7C7S6IP2OC44PFUZGAJ4OBM JohnK

    The arc of the universe is long and it bends towards justs. Evangelicals are just playing the curve.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVT7C7S6IP2OC44PFUZGAJ4OBM JohnK

    The arc of the universe is long and it bends towards justs. Evangelicals are just playing the curve.

  • Anonymous

    That “gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous” line comes from Good Omens.


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