The Common Good

Top 10 Reasons Why Christians Like Top 10 Lists about Christians

Sojomail - July 19, 2012

 GUEST COMMENTARY by Christian Piatt


Top 10 Reasons Why Christians Like Top 10 Lists about Christians

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No, this is not some new Charlie Kaufman movie that folds in on itself, creating a perpetual feedback loop. I’m serious; Christians love Top 10 Lists.

No wonder Moses did only 10 commandments.

I noticed this recently when all of the top three most popular articles on Sojo.net at the time were lists of this kind. So I went back and did a search of my own personal blog archive. Every one of the most popular pieces started with “10 Reasons,” or “Seven Things” or the like.

Are Christians obsessed with lists? What’s the deal?

I talked to a publisher years ago who told me that the key to a successful theology book was to include something akin to “six easy steps” in the title. I never took him up on that advice, but he knew what he was talking about. So after expending a little gray matter on the issue, I came up with this list of reasons why I think Christians love these kinds of lists:

#1. We don’t want to have to think too hard: Now, before you fire up your keyboard and rattle off a protest email, this is a broader truism across our entire culture. There’s a reason why People magazine has a bazillion more subscribers than The New Yorker, and why the folks on “Jersey Shore” have a career at all. In publishing, the K.I.S.S. method (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is a cardinal rule in building an audience. It’s just that few people are dumb enough (like me) to actually say it out loud.

#2. We’re in a hurry: The average attention span is shorter than…hey, look! Something shiny! But really, we’re a perpetually distracted lot. And it’s no surprise, when we consider we’re submitted to more ad impressions today in a month than any generation before us ever saw in an entire lifetime. We have all these devices to make our lives easier, but what it’s actually done is raise the bar of expected performance. Who has time for detail? Give me the quick and dirty version, and if I need to know more, I’ll find it later.

#3. We want to connect: In an article – never mind a whole book – we need to have some level of buy-in with the ideas offered to stay interested. When a piece is entirely focused on explicating one main point, it’s an all-or-nothing deal. You either agree or disagree; love it or hate it. At least with a list, you’re likely to find something you can relate to. Which brings me to my next reason…

#4. We’re narcissists: We love to see ourselves in the things we read. There’s a real feeling of affirmation when we read something and can say, “Hey, that’s me! This writer gets who I am.” And with a broader list, we’re not only more likely to find ourselves somewhere in it; we’re also more likely to see our friends in it and share it with them.

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Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004. Christian is the creator and editor of "Banned Questions About The Bible" and "Banned Questions About Jesus." His new memoir on faith, family and parenting is called "PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date."

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