I am an occasional reader of the Babylon Bee and occasionally share their satirical articles on social media. Or more than occasionally. I’m a Babylon Bee oversharer. I have appreciated their acerbic wit and the way they turned their scathing, tongue-in-cheek critique on the Evangelical industrial-complex. Often the headline does it for me. I don’t always read the articles even when I shared them. Yeah, I’m that guy.
But the Babylon Bee has now moved into new territory, beyond the ethereal internet onto a palpable (and pulpable) printed page, a Babylon Bee book, How to Be A Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living. This is your guidebook for navigating evangelicalism. This includes joining the right church, with just the perfect mix of over-the-top pyrotechnics and punny church signs. It means always giving off the appearance of everything being “fine,” doing life together without letting community get too deep, vulnerable or authentic, serving God without doing much of anything, exploring ways to look spiritual online, inhabiting the Christian subculture and being sufficiently cut off from the wider world, conforming to mainstream Christian beliefs, crusading against the heathens and fighting those cultural wars.
Yes, it lampoons everything that drives you crazy about the Evangelical subculture and all those things that drive people away from the church. OMG, Evangelicals are a bunch of hypocrites. They are shallow, judgy, self-centered, dismissive of outsiders, and live in their own bubbles. Haha. Get it? It’s funny because it’s true.
Adam Ford (creator of the Babylon Bee) and Kyle Mann (current head writer and showrunner for all things Bee) collaborated to bring this book to print. Writing humor is a difficult thing, and the Bee often succeeds admirably. I can’t say I enjoy this print edition all that much. Perhaps it is that for humor to be rip-roaringly funny, there has to be an element of surprise to it. If satirizing the evangelical subculture is amusing on page 3 (why do books always start on page 3?), I found I was barely interested in the topic by page 192. The last 9/10 of this book were a bit of a slog. There was no surprise, the jokes become more and more predictable. If the concept was fresh at the beginning (big if), by the end, Ford and Mann are almost wholly reliant on snark to keep their readership’s interest. So like my online-sharing self, the headlines grab me, but I lose interest in the long haul.
But beyond the humor, I kept asking myself, “what is this book trying to say?” Creator of the Onion (internet satire par excellence), Scott Dikkers writes in How to Write Funny, “Satire has something to say—something important—that’s hidden in the literal text.” What was the point? Did I feel like I was being challenged to do something different? Is there a prophetic edge to what Mann and Ford are saying? Maybe. My sense is that their lambast of the Christian subculture re-enforces in the reader their own judgment against perceived evangelical shallowness. Moreover, the caricature of the movement is so overdrawn, it would be difficult for any reader to find themselves (we will only see those we already dismiss). There is snark but no prophetic edge. I wish the Babylon Bee was more like Samantha Bee (but with fewer F-bombs).
If you enjoy reading everything from the Bee, you probably will find this book enjoyable too. I was a little underwhelmed but certainly, there is value in being able to laugh at yourself. I give this three stars. ★★★
I received a copy of this book from the publisher and have provided you with my honest review.