A Christian revival is hitting social media — but it’s drenched in layers of ambiguous irony, and it’s happening within the messy confines of memes. People use the phrase “my brother in Christ” to connote friendly condescension with a polite, godly flair, pointing out the issues of their peers with Christ-like reverence.
“My brother in Christ” has a fake seriousness that is disarmingly affectionate, and Know Your Meme says the first recorded example was this Subway meme, where the phrase was placed over the n-word. For the past two months or so, “my brother in Christ” memes have mocked automotive infrastructure, Chipotle haters, self-proclaimed maniac pixie dream girls, and parents who are disconnected from mental illness. It has been associated with sad images of Elmo impersonators and has even been used for dunk on the president.
Memes use formal language (Sir, it’s an Arby’s!) and artificial affection (“bestie”) all the time for humorous effect, and “my brother in Christ” does both. The point of memes, really, is to present new ideas in a familiar format, using nostalgia or the thrill of recognition to make a new idea sound appetizing. And “my brother (or sisteror brother or sister) in Christ” awakens religious memories of blessings or scripture readings — Christian rituals that may feel nostalgic to young adults who, on the whole, are declining in religiosity.
Bible study time — The phrase “brothers and sisters in Christ” is dotted throughout the New Testament of the Bible, usually translated from the Greek word adelphoi, which has been used hundreds of times in the holy book. The King James Version interprets the word as “brothers” and is correctly understood to refer to siblings. Paul begins his letter to the Colossians, for example, by calling them “faithful brothers and sisters in Christ” and wishing them “grace and peace from God our Father.”
So, would a devout Christian consider meme-ified use blasphemous? We asked Pastor John Withum of First Baptist Church in Oregon City, and he told us that “part of the responsibility of the family of God is to gently help one another follow the ways of Jesus when we let’s go astray”.
He continued, “When the Apostle Paul was writing about this, I’m not sure he was referring to overfilled bowls of Chipotle or not leaving enough room for cream in your coffee, but I don’t. don’t think it’s ‘blasphemous’. It’s great fun, above all. I think we’ve all had those moments where someone is there to acknowledge your moment of stupidity, and so we can all relate to those memes.
A religious revival of fashion — In August, QG proclaimed that “from Sunday Service to Holy Trinity bikinis, religion is all the rage.” In this article, the magazine describes a vaguely ironic adherence to Christian principles by fashion brands like Praying (makers of the “God’s Favorite” trucker hat and Holy Trinity bikini) and I NEED GOD (which sells shirts emblazoned with a ” prayboy” bunny and booty shorts that say “GOD WON’T LET ME DIE”).
It’s hard to pinpoint where we are in the lifecycle of this particular meme, but online creator Ena Da says Grab she thinks its about to come out. So send your condescending remarks while you can. And remember, my brothers and sisters in Christ, always keep the faith.