There's no sacred pastime that evangelicals haven't hijacked. From Stryper, to T-shirts that say "Jesus" in the likeness of the Reese's logo, there's been no end to their assimilative efforts. So it should be no surprise that, in the age of tweeting popes, religious visionaries have begun to convert memes to Christianity.
We're not talking about the mirthful blasphemy that's been popular on image boards for years. Take, for example, the Guido Jesus meme, starring a super-jacked Fabio-type creature in a V-neck snapping a selfie, usually accompanied by jokes that hardly qualify as pious propaganda ("BEARS A CROSS / GOOD FOR TRICEPS"; "TURNED WATER / INTO JAGERBOMBS"). In 2012, Christians manifested a wholly new phenomenon by creating their own memeosphere, and by flipping Scumbag Steve and his other advice animal ilk into pro-gospel statements.
"Christianity has always been a fertile ground for Internet memes," says Brad Kim, the editor of Know Your Meme (knowyourmeme.com). At the same time, Kim notes that there are "roadblocks to exploring the subject of Christianity in the context of Internet culture, mainly due to the polarized nature of its audiences and the community bias towards religious-skepticism."
In other words: Christ is one of the Web's favorite punching bags. That said, this year, the crew behind Christian Memes (christianmemes.com) — a network of blogs and social-media sites with more than 50,000 Facebook likes — decided to judo-flip the sacrilege. They don't outright reject mainstream memes, but in a growing subculture of tubular youth ministers in board shorts and sandals, they knew that wholesome memetic fanfare could catch on with the Christ crowd.
"Most memes are hilarious but often feature vulgar and profane themes, as well as derogatory remarks and comments towards Jesus and Christianity," writes Christian Memes founder Michael Schaffer in an email to the Phoenix. "We wanted to give other Christians the opportunity to see memes that are positive towards what we believe for a change."
A lot of Schaffer's pro-Christ memes are familiar, only with a biblical bent and an intuitively righteous twist. Scumbag Steve becomes a shitty Christian (" 'THE STAND' IS PLAYED DURING WORSHIP / SITS DOWN"); Success Kid has perfect Sunday attendance ("HAVE TO MEMORIZE BIBLE VERSE FOR CHRISTIAN CLASS / ALREADY HAVE IT MEMORIZED").
In the same vein, Xzibit is a shameless proselytizer of recursive religiosity ("YO DAWG I HEARD YOU LIKE FREEDOM / IT IS FOR FREEDOM THAT CHRIST SET US FREE"); Musically Oblivious 8th Grader knows jack about church jams; Overly Attached Girlfriend is nuttier than usual; Good Guy Greg is a convert ("BECOMES A CHRISTIAN / QUITS USING DRUGS").
"The big difference in a lot of our memes is that we have edited versions for our site," writes Schaffer. "For instance, Good Guy Greg has a candy cane in his mouth [instead of a joint]. We get a lot of hate for our edited memes, but it's something I feel is appropriate to do, since our main audience is Christians, and above all, God."
Devout as they are, the Christian Memes team hopes to deliver unto the Web as it has given unto them. To that end they've birthed Oversaved Oscar, an original effort whose character is crazily ecclesiastical ("GOES TO BIRTHDAY PARTY THAT HAS DEVIL'S FOOD CAKE / REFUSES TO EAT IT.") It's not exactly Guido Jesus, but it's actually quite funny.