For years, churches have been trying to find new ways to attract Millennials, two thirds of whom believe churchgoers are “a lot or somewhat hypocritical.” Churches have tried everything from deploying hipster pastors to making their sanctuaries less church-like.
As a Millennial, I have a message for churches: Please, just stop. We don’t need outreach that looks like the latest emoji trend, which features the tagline “Scripture 4 Millennials” and translates the Bible into emoji. That’s right. On the Bible Emoji Translator website, you can enter your favorite Bible verse and out pops an emoji-version of scripture. Or as the translator puts it, “Enter ur fave Bible verse on the left emoji awesomeness appears on the right” (thankfully, there aren’t any symbols for words found in the Bible like prostitute or concubine or circumcision).
now as he 👣ed by the 🌊🌊 of galilee, he 👀 simon & andrew
his brother casting a net into the 🌊🌊: 4 they were 🐟ers.
— Bible Emoji (@BibleEmoji) June 9, 2016
It’s true that churches have seen an exodus of Millennials in recent years. Some institutions have responded by adding coffee shops; trendy megachurches host services in auditoriums rather than churches and use the latest technology—giant projector screens and contemporary music that mimics a Beyoncé concert—to attract younger worshippers. They use The Message Bible rather than the King James Version, and embrace a “cool Jesus” that inspires memes such as an image of the crucifixion with the caption, “So this Pontius Pilate guy has me crucified but after three days I was like Nah bro!”
But guess what? All of this pandering is the exact opposite of what Millennials actually want from church. The harder churches try to be cool and trendy, the more Millennials are joining the mass exodus from the church. Surveys show that Millennials want a small, traditional sanctuary with stained glass windows and quiet hymns. They want to feel like they’re in a church, and they want to go there to escape the busy world and all the technology that surrounds them all day every day.
Millennials actually want religion to be (gasp!) sacred, not hip and trendy. So adding Bible scripture emoji to the collection of taco and poop emoji that have colonized the digital world defeats the purpose. And it degrades what Christians consider to be the holiest book.
As The Atlantic put it, this trend “offers perhaps the greatest possible ironic contrast—the world’s most read book, which governs the lives of billions of people, translated into tiny anthropomorphic cartoons. The emoji Bible represents the perfect intersection of high and low, taking something very serious and remixing it with something very silly.” When Jesus was drawing in the sand when the Pharisees were trying to get him to condemn an adulterating woman, I don’t think he was drawing cartoons to get his point across.
For the sake of Millennials (and anyone else who doesn’t want to witness the hipsterization of the Bible), and for all that is holy, stop trying to make Christianity and any other religion “cool.” This Millennial is begging you to stop. We are going to swipe left on the church if we keep seeing stunts like emoji Bibles and hipster Jesus (*face Psalm*). Instead, join my campaign of adding an eleventh commandment: Thou shalt stop trying to make Jesus cool. Or, to put it in Millennial-ese, #StoptheBibleemoji.