Once a bad idea enters Christians’ heads, it never leaves. It’s a truism as accurate as the one about death and taxes! Christians now have a whole new bad idea to torment people with. See, their god’s totally on social media, and gosh, we’re being so mean to him by leaving him on read receipt! (Don’t know what that is? Don’t fear–I shall explain, I promise!) Today, Lord Snow Presides over the newest bad idea getting installed in Christians’ heads.
This post comes with an obligatory TVTropes Walkabout Warning! (Also, here is my obligatory #NotAllChristians disclaimer.)
Behold, Jesus Stands At the Door.
The usual conceptualization we hear from Christians is that of Jesus standing at the door to our hearts and knocking. Oh, won’t we allow him in? He can’t enter our hearts without our permission, after all!
(If these Christians are trying to make Jesus sound like not a vampire, that’s the sound of them failing completely.)
Until we open the door to our hearts, he can’t come in! Poor widdle Jesus, just knockin’ at the door all sad and lonely!
(If they’re trying to make Jesus sound like not a weird Nice Guy stalker boyfriend, that’s the sound of them failing completely.)
Won’t we open the door? He wants to save us from all the vicious, evil, cruel stuff he and his daddy intend to do to everyone who won’t let him in!
But that’s the old-and-busted comparison. Christians have a new-hotness comparison now, updated for the new millennium!
Behold, Jesus Stands At Our Text Messages.
The old imagery comes straight from the Bible–Revelation 3:20, to be exact. In fact, this imagery has produced some of the most venerable and beloved (and trite) Christian artwork in the world. If you’ve ever seen one of those many paintings of Jesus knocking at a big closed wooden door, that’s where the idea comes from.
But Christians are nothing if not painfully derivative. They’ve likely been ripping off ideas, slogans, songs, stories, and marketing strategies from popular culture since the religion was invented slightly less than 2000 years ago.
So who’s even surprised that now, in the age of social media, Christian opportunists have finally figured out a way to pitch Jesus as knocking at the door of our cell phones?
That whole “God Friended Me” shipwreck didn’t come from nowhere, after all. (We’ll talk more about that end of social media appropriation later.)
In the Wild.
In 2004, a Finnish company promised customers that if they sent texts to a certain number, they’d receive back a text from Jesus Christ. They got in trouble for it, but I think the floodgates had opened. I got my first cell phone in the first month or so of 2004, speaking of which. It didn’t take Christians long to think of how they could use the quickly-developing new consumer technology to market their religion.
By 2012, Andy Stanley–remember him? He is the worst. He started a sermon series called “What If God Sent You A Text Message?” Spoiler alert: he informs us in the announcement for the series that the Bible is the text message. Good thing most people are on unlimited texting plans nowadays!
In 2015, we run across this post written by a Christian who thinks that the “Holy Spirit” inspires Christians to send Jesus-flavored text messages to each other. She thinks these texts represent honest-to-goodness communication from her actual god. I can barely even mock someone who thinks that way.
By 2016, we find a Mormon lady writing a book called LYFSGUD: If God Sent You A Text Message. Its blurb on Amazon: “. . . Heavenly Father is anxious to talk to you. And if texting was His chosen method, He would do it. But, for now, it’s not.” Aww, sad trombone! She should talk to her pals. They sure think this!
And now we stand at full circle, with a Christian whining about people leaving Jesus on read.
Leaving Jesus On Read.
And boy oh boy are these Christians annoyed that people are leaving Jesus on read. Leaving someone on read is slang for seeing a text message come in, reading it, but not replying to it right away. Savvy texters can tell when someone’s done that–they can see if their outgoing messages were read or not-read-yet. The text generates a little “read receipt” showing it was received by the other person.
The top definition of the phrase “left on read” over at Urban Dictionary calls it, hopefully with a little hyperbole, “the highest level of disrespect a human can receive.” Leaving someone on read sounds exactly like what Bernard Black so famously referred to as “blanking” someone in the series Black Books!
In one show, Bernard makes a complete offensive loon out of himself at a dinner party held by his friends Gerald and Sarah. By this phrase I mean he shat in one of their dining-room chairs, drank ALL of the booze, accused their small son of a crime, and did a ventriloquism act at the table with his own belly fat. The next day, Gerald and Sarah encounter Bernard on the street–and studiously ignore him. He tries to make up to them by bringing them presents, and then, when they refuse his gifts, he lectures them about all the reasons they suck.
Their greatest offense by far is that they “blanked” him. To him, that not only evens the scales with what he did, but tips it in his favor.
Bernard: I come to your house, I bring a bottle of wine –
Gerald: A policewoman.
Bernard: – Policewoman, bottle of wine, the point is I made an effort. And OK, I was slightly indiscreet. And I’m sorry! I am. But you you blanked me.
Gerald: So – So what? –
Bernard: Well. I think I deserve an apology.
Of course, Gerald and Sarah tell him to get lost and he grievously injures himself making his glorious flouncing exit.
(See this clip below, at 6:07 if the video doesn’t put you there.)
Can’t you just see Christians’ version of Jesus doing exactly the same thing? Make a grand and glorious THIS IS WHY YOU SUCK speech and then flounce away, only to trip on his own two “holey” feet and bounce down the steps? Bonkety-bonkety-BONK!
This 2016 post “New Message from Jesus – Read at 3:16 AM” comes to us courtesy of Alicia McCallay, who says she attended Dallas Baptist University at the time. She compares her pique and frustration with being left on read from boys to how her god must feel when people leave him on read (emphases are hers in the original):
As a girl, I feel like I often hear “he left me on read receipts…” or “I can see when he opens my texts, he didn’t even bother to reply!!!” We seem to allow ourselves to become obsessed over this issue we face. We can’t believe someone would dare leave us on read receipts. Growing up in a generation booming with technology, our attention is all in the little screens. We are all fully aware of how it feels to be ignored. Nobody will ever admit to enjoy being ignored. If the person we are trying to communicate with doesn’t listen, we hate it. We want to be heard. So, we can all agree we hate it – right?
Poor widdle Jesus, she cries. Gosh, how must he feel about being ignored by the people he wants to talk to and interact with? She ends with an exhortation to her readers to danged well pay a little more attention to “the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Messiah, Mighty God and King of Kings.” Why gosh, if they did, just imagine “how much growth we could have in Christ!!!!”
(The zillion exclamation marks are also hers.)
The Obvious Problem With This Idea.
The Christian god has not once, in the entire slightly-less-than-2000-years-of-history in Christianity, communicated with a single human being in a way that can be substantiated as coming from him. Not once. Not ever.
When Christians try to compare a communication from their god to communication from real people, they fall flat on their faces–much like they fail when they chirp “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship, tee-hee!” All they do is remind everyone in the world how unlike actual communication it is.
See, when I get a real text message, it’s from a real person–or at least from a real bot. I know this. I don’t get text messages from ghosts and ghoulies and long-leggedy beasties and things that go BONK in the night. Only actual people or bots create and send text messages.
The entirely one-sided nature of Christians’ imaginary relationship with their god is one of the most obvious ways that Christianity’s conceptualization of reality differs from actual reality.
I can’t blame Christians for being upset with how Christians use their time. Their priorities reflect their real feelings about their religion’s various claims–both supernatural and earthly. Christians’ total lack of follow-through in every single direction imaginable is likely one of the biggest hurdles their salespeople must combat in trying to recruit new people to the religion!
When I was Christian, it amazed even me that Christians didn’t spend more time praying. We had the red bat-phone to a real live god! Why weren’t we using it way more often than we did? For that matter, even now, decades out of Christianity, Christians remind me constantly of how little they think of prayer and how ineffective even they think it is.
But I don’t wonder anymore why they pray so seldom and for such inconsequential things.
I know perfectly well why they don’t. It’s the same reason I didn’t, past that rush of early conversion.
For all this blather they do about how immediate and constant their communications with their god might be, Christians know that it is neither. Just like everyone in the whole world, they try to spend their time and resources on what matters to them. They prioritize their lives in a way that reflects perfectly how they really feel about dropping to their knees to get a little divine infilling from boyfriend!Jesus.
Here’s the thing. Even the Christians who belong to ultra-sales-oriented flavors of the religion don’t make sales attempts. They don’t perform the most basic of devotions on any kind of consistent basis. They barely even support their own clubhouses with donations. Their sheer hypocrisy puts the lie to everything they try to say about their faith journeys.
Guilting and shaming Christians into cuddling up more often with boyfriend!Jesus might accomplish some immediate and small changes in resource allocation, but that almost certainly won’t last. People have very limited resources nowadays. Inevitably, their preferred use of those resources will reflect their real priorities.
And that undeniable fact, too, drives Christian leaders crazypants.
Today, Lord Snow Presides over the Christians scrambling to create cringeworthy marketing strategies to make Christianity sound a little more relatable and personally-relevant than it really is.
NEXT UP: A Christmas miracle! Come read about how your captain totally spoke in tongues at a holiday party! And then we have a quick review of a vintage Christian soulwinning book. (Mr. Captain has promised to make an appearance!) See you tomorrow– <3
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Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. I’ve started us off on a topic, but feel free to chime in with anything on your mind. Pet pictures especially welcome! The series was named for Lord Snow, my recently departed white cat. He knew a lot more than he ever let on.
Sorry this is late tonight. I literally forgot what day it was. At least Tuesday’s ready to go!