One of the most remarkable religious media phenomena of recent years has been the development of massive Christian Facebook accounts. They post silly graphics of Jesus comforting children with words like, “LIKE and SHARE if you believe Jesus loves you!” Or, worse (?), they post videos of kittens or children doing cute things, things that have nothing whatsoever to do with Christ or faith, and say, “LIKE if you thing God makes the most adorable little angels!”
Then, of course, once they’ve reached a couple million Facebook followers, they make money by linking their followers to products or websites that want their traffic. Most of them don’t tell you that they’re paid to drive traffic to a website. But they are.
Now, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with putting together compelling graphics and encouraging people to share them. There’s also nothing wrong with building an audience and charging advertisers who want to reach that audience. I’m a capitalist. And I’ve begun to explore some ways of utilizing some of these techniques, but doing so (I hope) with integrity and theological substance. So at the Evangelical Portal Facebook page, we’ve begun to share daily Bible passages and quotes from the likes of Spurgeon, Kierkegaard and C.S. Lewis. I also believe there’s a place for very clear and very simple affirmations of faith, affirmations that Christians across the world can understand and embrace.
What galls, however, are the militantly superficial uses of the image and the name of Jesus, the manipulative ways in which some Facebook accounts encourage/cajole/threaten people to Like and Share the post, and the often-unclarified financial arrangement behind them. So, for instance, there are images like this one:
This is taken from an actual Facebook account. And guess what? It worked. It got 200,000 Likes. And when it gets 200,000 Likes, then it spreads the word about that Facebook account — the account grows — and they can charge advertisers more money to reach their audience. Right after posting this image, the same account posted links to jewelry for sale. It’s often very hard to find out who is behind these Facebook accounts, in fact. Is there not something just a tad problematic about this? At the very least, Christians should understand the media they’re consuming.
So, in an effort to lampoon these sorts of images and techniques, and raise the issue to public consciousness, I decided to make up (TO CLARIFY: THESE ARE NOT ‘FOUND’ MEMES BUT ONES I AM CREATING TO MOCK THE GENRE) Twelve Terrible Facebook Jesus Memes. I’m going to post one of them here — and at the Evangelical Channel Facebook page — everyday for the next twelve days. My intention is not to mock Jesus — not in the slightest. My intention is to mock (and perhaps, just a little bit, to shame) the profound manipulations of Jesus for Facebook gain. Again, there are right ways of doing this, and wrong ways. This series is all about the wrong ways.
1. DAY ONE:
DAY TWO (since today is such a big football day!):
Come back tomorrow for more.