Brief Reviews, VOLUME 3

Brief Review: STUFF CHRISTIANS LIKE by Jonathan Acuff [Vol. 3, #29]

319948: Stuff Christians Like A Brief Review of

Stuff Christians Like

By Jonathan Acuff
Paperback Zondervan, 2010.
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Reviewed by Mark Traphagen.

Stuff Christians Like is a book I was determined not to like. For one thing, it is the very thing it sets out to parody: yet another Christian knockoff of something the world has already done. (The website from which the book originates is a Christian version of the popular site.) But author Jonathan Acuff is so awww shucks self-effacing that you can’t help but warm up to him. Besides, in his very first post on his web site he makes fun of the fact that he’s ripping off that other site. A humble Christian with a sense of irony about himself. What’s not to like?

Most attempts at Christian humor leave me flat, but Acuff is actually funny most of the time. The humor here depends upon familiarity. Acuff points out the foibles common to at least white, suburban Christians (the book and site could have been called “Stuff White Christians Like”). Most of his subjects are pretty obvious (“Saying ‘I’ll Pray for You’…and Then Not,” “Disguising Gossip as Prayer,” “Feeling Guilty for Not Converting Enough People”), but Acuff teases out the little subtleties that make these things (uncomfortably) funny for those who know them well. Part of what makes the book readable is the author’s willingness to openly join with his readers as they think, “Ouch! I do that….”

The one weakness of some of the essays could have been the subject of an essay: the annoying compulsion felt by Christian humorists that they have to bring out a “lesson” or preach a little sermonette after they’ve told their joke. Usually these lessons are obvious, and probably would have been more powerful left unsaid. Acuff sometimes seems strained as he let’s us know “what the Lord would want us to know” about whatever he’s just lampooned.

Stuff Christians Like is, on the whole, both funny and useful. It helps middle class evangelicals realize that they exist in a culture, and that culture is both endearing and sometimes counterproductive. Awareness is the first step to recovery, and a little humor helps the awareness go down more smoothly.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior

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