The Mystery Men Christian Tweet Generator

Some of the most forwarded tweets today come from evangelical leaders. Since I have a large number of Christians in my Twitter feed I’ve seen a lot of these tweets, along with even more tweets from less well known Christian leaders. Surprisingly, I soon started to find these tweets a bit depressing. It was never the message itself that depressed me, but two related issues instead. First, the actual content in the tweets is rarely profound. In fact, most express such a basic understanding of the Christian life that I’m starting to think evangelicals today are among the most forgetful people alive.1 The second thing that I find depressing is that people don’t seem to recognize the basic formula for many of these tweets. The basic structure (though there are variations) is this:

“State some problem” + (optional) contrasting conjunction + God phrase + reversal of the problem’s terms.”

Here are some examples that I just made up (I’m not out to make any one Christian leader look bad, but I’m confident you’ll recognize these sorts of tweets).

  1. “You might be struggling with confidence, but remember God gives confidence in your struggles.”
  2. “When you don’t know what to do, do what you know to do.”
  3. ”Don’t focus on how much you love God, start by focusing on how much God loves you.”
  4. “If you’re having a hard time understanding God’s word, consider that maybe God’s word can’t understand you.”2

After seeing these sorts of things for a few years now, it suddenly dawned on me that this isn’t the first time I’d come across quaint formulaic sayings of this sort. In the universally acclaimed movie, Mystery Men, the sage superhero, The Sphinx, joins the ragtag Wolf Pack and inspires them with some sayings that look pretty close to what we see from Christian leaders today on Twitter. Here are a few of his gems:

“You are not ready to face the enemy until you have vanquished the enemy within yourselves.”

“To learn my teachings I must first teach you how to learn.”

“He who questions training, only trains himself at asking questions.”

“For when you care for what is outside, what is inside cares for you.”

And my personal favorite:

When you can balance a tack-hammer on your head, you will head off your foes with a balanced attack.”

Finally Mr. Rage’s (Ben Stiller’s character) rage gets the better of him and he lets everyone in on the little secret formula for wisdom. Click the video to see Mr. Rage in action.

I’m not sure what to say about all this. Hopefully as Twitter evolves we’ll see more nuanced and thoughtful tweets from our Christian leaders (as far as possible given the medium). In the meantime, I’m hoping someone comes up with a service that allows us to filter out these sorts of tweets. After all, “If you want to avoid being bothered by mindless tweets, your mind must bother to find a way to avoid them.

  1. This is the same feeling I had when Rick Warren’s book Forty Days of Purpose took the evangelical world by storm. It wasn’t the theological content in the book that bothered me, but instead that people following Christ since their teens would claim that the book was so eye-opening. It should have been eye-opening, and popular, among new believers, but not for those following Christ for many years. What an indictment of contemporary church teaching! ↩︎
  2. Another problem is that the formulaic nature of these tweets can easily mask questionable theology–like that which is expressed in this one. ↩︎