Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Is That Funny Christian Video Real? Here's How to Tell

"Rappin' for Jesus" is a hoax, everybody. Yes, I know it's hilarious to watch middle-aged white Republicans use hip-hop slang. But the rapping pastor dropping n-bombs in Dubuque is not a real person, even if approximately 1.4 million viewers say otherwise. (Watch the video below, but be warned, it's offensive.)

It's a very well-executed hoax, complete with a phony out-of-date church website. Here are the four dead giveaways that it's fake:

1. There's no internet record of an Iowa pastor by the name of James Colerick, outside of this video. That's an immediate red flag.

2. An actual Dubuque pastor has confirmed the nonexistence of the church to The Christian Post.

3. That supposedly defunct-since-2004 site was updated in January. (The YouTube video was uploaded in February.)

4. As The Daily Dot smartly observes, the word "swag" wasn't in common use in hip-hop until after 2010. Do your parents even know how to use it in a sentence? What are the odds that this guy, were he a real person, would have said it before 2004?

Those are the facts. But for me, the biggest tip-off is that it has no real message. This is the most reliable test of a Christian viral hoax: would an actual Christian have a good reason to make this? Does it tell people how to get saved? Does it reference the Bible? Or does it just make Christians look like idiots for no apparent purpose?

For comparison, here's a legit Christian rap from the Georgia megachurch 12Stone. It's about tithing.

Here's another one, uploaded in 2008 by a guy named Matthew Fisher. It tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, and there are self-mocking elements, I'll stake my reputation on this one being the real deal.

You'll notice that the fake video got a lot more views than either of the real ones. Not surprising: people (seemingly) making idiots of themselves attract more attention than people trying to do something from the heart. If you associate Christianity with the kind of clueless, culturally tone-deaf ignorance displayed in "Rappin' for Jesus," then you probably didn't question its authenticity. That's what makes it an effective parody -- it strikes a chord, and one that should make mainline Christians very uncomfortable.

Incidentally, if you want to see what the more over-the-top Evangelicals were actually teaching their youth groups 2005, the documentary Jesus Camp is worth a look.