A while back, I posted something about a meme that I saw making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter. The meme in question caused some deep-seated discomfort for me, because I didn’t like the implications. So I rambled about it via a very short story and, much to my surprise, people seemed to like it. Quite a bit, actually. So much so that I considered making similar posts a regular part of my blog. You know, something along the lines of “Anti-Meme Monday,” where I’d take on a meme that twists or distorts the Christian faith ever so slightly. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of things flash by in my feeds. But the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea. I’d have to do a lot of active hunting for those memes and that wasn’t something that really interested me. So I shelved the idea and figured my anti-meme crusade would be a one time thing.
Never say never, I guess.
About a week or two ago, I saw a new meme flash through my Facebook feeds. Several of my friends shared it, usually with a hearty wink and knowing laugh (or whatever the on-line equivalent of that is). And once again, I started feeling a sense of…well, unease. It didn’t sit well with me. And as the days past, I realized that I would have to tackle it.
What’s the meme in question? This one right here:
Just to be clear, I didn’t retweet this. Whoever took the screenshot did.
So what’s the problem? It seems like a pretty straightforward joke, something that Christians can share about those durn atheists and twist their tails for once. Aren’t atheists silly? They claim not to believe in God, and yet they spend an awful lot of time hating on something that they think doesn’t exist.
But is this really an accurate picture of what atheists believe (or don’t, as the case may be)? I’m not so sure. Worse, I worry that sentiments like this only muddy the discourse.
I mean, think of it this way: suppose an atheist characterized the Christian belief system as “having to follow the rules of some ‘loving’ sky wizard so you don’t wind up burning in hell for all eternity.” How many of us who profess faith in Jesus would say that’s an accurate description of the faith? I know I wouldn’t. I would label that as a childish caricature of a belief system that has little to do with following rules or avoiding hell or anything like that. And if I heard an atheist seriously suggest that that statement somehow explained my beliefs, I would be incredibly hesitant to get into any sort of discussion with that individual, simply because I would know that he wasn’t showing me any amount of respect as a person.
So why is it okay for us to do this when the shoe’s on the other foot?
Besides, is this really an accurate description of what an atheist believes? This meme seems to imply that deep down, atheists do believe that God exists and that the reason why they feign unbelief is because they hate Him for some reason. Is that true for some atheists? I suppose it might be, but I suspect for the majority of them, they don’t hate God. They can’t. They may not appreciate what His followers have done over the years. They may look at the pain and suffering of the world and assume that this means that a loving, all-powerful God can’t fit.
And really, how does this help open avenues of discussion with atheists? Let’s not forget, atheists are still people who have been created in the image of God. These are still people whom God loves very dearly, people that Christ died for. It’s hard to talk to them about this grace and love that is theirs through Christ if they think this is our understanding of where they’re coming from.
Look, I get it. I love satire. I love a good joke. But a joke like this isn’t funny if it isn’t based on some aspect of the truth. For those who have shared this meme, I have a challenge for you. The whole reason why I was so disturbed by this meme is because about a year ago, I listened to an interview conducted by some friends of mine with a man named Randal Rauser. It was a deeply convicting discussion that I’ve been chewing on for the last year. I would humbly suggest you not only listen to that interview yourself, but maybe check out Rauser’s book, Is the Atheist My Neighbor?
Simply put, if we want to be able to share God’s love with others, we have to do it from a position of respect. And this meme doesn’t add to that. At all. We can do better.So is it okay to incorrectly represent a person's belief system for the sake of a joke? Click To Tweet