Why? Because I love Jesus.
And Jesus loves me.
And, I mean… I’m not attracted to guys.
And, I mean… neither is Jesus.
So, I mean, I don’t believe Jesus is actually a woman, which my title may suggest, but he’s basically kind of like a woman.
Because I love him, just like I love women, and not guys.
That’s lame, you say?
Either way, the title got you here, right?
So I win.
If you haven’t picked it up yet, I’m completely joking. I’ve been known to do that. However, I constantly see various Christian bloggers use the same kind of tactics I jokingly used here in order to lure in bloggers to read their latest posts, just like I probably did with you by using this title. And, while at first I thought it was sort of clever and creative, I’m becoming more increasingly unimpressed (and even upset) by this tactic, especially when Christians utilize them.
I’m not talking about having a really creative title. Truly innovative titles based on the subject matter of the blog post are very admirable. It takes some true inventiveness to do that. What I’m talking about is titles such as the one I ironically used for this post to make a point. Titles like these are nothing more than cheap ways of getting people to look at your posts. Bloggers and writers love to profit off of the fact that we are naturally curious, we love for drama, and we’re prone to deception. Blog posts like “I Believe Jesus is Actually a Woman” happen far too often.
Yes, once you started to read it, I kind of twisted my words so that I technically didn’t lie to you. I was able to make it so I didn’t draw you here on completely false pretenses and I rationalized why Jesus is kind of like a woman… but I never intended on actually making that argument. The sole purpose of having that title was simply to bait you onto my website, to give my website page views, and to prompt you to share this “controversial” blog post on Facebook (thus baiting more people to my website and giving me more page view).
I’m convinced that people who pull stunts like this think about and formulate a compellingly deceiving title before they actually think of content for the blog post.
Why do it then?
Well, because people fall for it.
Just scroll down your Facebook feed and you’ll instantly see that I’m right. You see, Christian bloggers aren’t the only people to exploit this tactic and see its effectiveness. It seems like every other link on Facebook contains what has been called ‘link bait‘. (Blimey Cow actually just did a great video on this here.) You may not have heard of that term, but I’m positive that you know exactly what I’m talking about. These are links with titles like, “An Old Lady Fell Asleep in her Car and What Happened Next Will Stun You! ” or “10 Reasons Why Michael Jackson is Still Alive and Breathing… You Won’t Believe Number #6!” When we read these, in our minds, we’re thinking, “I have to see what happens next… it’s stunning!” And, “Well, I have to at LEAST check out number 6, because it’ll be unbelievable!”
We’re not clicking on the post because we’re genuinely interested in the subject matter. We’re visiting it because it’s a novelty. And humans love novelty. We love to be caught off guard. And we love for our interest to be sparked. People will do whatever they can to make things novel, to catch us off guard, and to spark our interest. Anything. They know that they can’t attract us to view their post, which is otherwise very average and uninteresting, any other way. Therefore, they resort to “link baiting” and sit back and wait for the web traffic.
While the Facebook links are extremely annoying, I can’t hold them to any kind of higher standard. I’m not here to rebuke lame Facebook posts. But, what I can speak to is when this kind of stuff is done in the name of Jesus. What I’m asking is this:
Has Jesus and the gospel become so boring and uninteresting that we have to resort to using deceptive novelty and cheap, disingenuous tactics in order to spark people’s interests?
This may sound like I’m being judgmental or hyper-critical, but just hear me out.
Both faith and art that are based on novelty is never something that is deep and lasting. This is the true in all matters of Christianity, our faith, and in all matters of writing, a form of art.
For example, take another form of art: music. Music is wonderful, beautiful, captivating, and enthralling. There’s a reason why it’s part of every single culture on the face of the earth. However, with the modern innovation of ‘pop music’, the beauty and wonder of music was sacrificed for sake of making ‘catchy songs’ that make money. Something that had once came from the heart and soul, something that required true dedication, something that you invested your life in… it had become nothing more than a means to make money and make people with no talent or dedication famous. (Sadly, this stripping of significance in exchange for substance-less catchiness and false allure can even be applied to a lot of ‘Christian music’)
Of course this isn’t true of all pop music or artist, but, overall, the thing that music interesting and captivating was replaced with a cheap replacement. Yes, it was captivating for a bit. It caught your attention. But, once you looked deeper into the song, you realized that it had no substance at all. It was crafted by people who know what will spark listener’s interests, but meanwhile having no true significance behind it.
I’m scared that we’re doing the same thing with Christianity when we craft catchy, but empty, titles for blog posts. Something that had once came from the heart and soul, something that required true dedication, something that you invested your life in… it’s being replaced.
The principle isn’t limited to blog posts either. For example, look at popular clichés within Christianity. My favorite example is, “Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.” We hear it all the time. It’s plastered all over stickers and shirts and everything. “Wow,” people think, “I thought Christianity was a religion?!” It draws their attention. But, things like these are doing the same thing as pop music and deceptive blog posts. My point is not that we should get upset at people who use this phrase or even that it’s wrong to phrases that summarize our faith. It’s not that this particular phrase is even completely wrong (it has some truth to it). The point is that anytime that our faith becomes attractive or interesting because we have a cute, memorable phrase to go along with it, then you we’re living out our faith wrong.
If faith, like music, is reduced to catchy hooks, then it’s not a faith worth having. When bloggers make faith-based posts and use misleading titles that draw in viewers, we’re selling the faith short.
Jesus doesn’t need you to link bait your blog post in order to be interesting! The gospel doesn’t need to be subjected to cheap tactics in order to be compelling! The kingdom of God doesn’t need misleading titles in order to captivate people!
What if Jesus had started out his Sermon on the Mount by saying, “A Jewish Man Walks on a Hill and Says that the Jewish Law Is Wrong! You’ll Be Shocked at Number 3!” What if Paul had began his epistles with a title that said, “I Think That Every Christian Should Kill Themselves,” only to go on to explain that he meant that they should be dead to sin and be crucified with Christ. Technically, he wasn’t lying! Right?
The gospel that they taught wasn’t reduced to dumb clichés or catchy hooks to draw people in. It was astounding all on its own. It was interesting all by itself. The gospel was the most revolutionary message in the world at that time. And when we use catchy and deceptive hooks in our faith, we’re saying that this isn’t true today. People use link baits because the actual blog post isn’t interesting enough to draw people in on its on. So we’re saying that people might not be attracted to the power of this message in and of itself, therefore we need to help it be a little more alluring by standing it on the legs of a deceptive and misleading title or banner.
Christianity is beautiful. Writing is beautiful. Why rob each of its beauty at the same time by sinking to the low of link baiting? Seeing the substance of the average Facebook post depleting is one thing… but to see the most beautiful thing in the world be reduced like that? It should cause some alarm and mourning. It should push us to actually be truly creative in our art and in any expression of our faith. Creative titles aren’t bad. Innovative phrases aren’t wrong. Inventive forms of art aren’t the problem.
The problem is losing in our confidence in Jesus draw all people unto himself. It’s forfeiting our assurance in the gospel to capture the attention of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. It’s relinquishing our reliance on the kingdom to spread to the entire earth. Not because of our cheesy, cheap, deceptive, and beauty-robbing tactics. But because the kingdom truly is powerful. The gospel truly is captivating.
And Jesus may not actually be a woman, but I’m sure that he truly is genuinely beautiful.