My Brother in Christ, You Made This a Meme

Calling someone or something your “brother (or sister) in Christ” can be lightly sarcastic or lovingly snarky.
​Image composition of emoji folded hands over a cloud background.
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My sibling in Christ, you opened this article, so now you’ll have to learn about a meme format that’s taken off in the last few weeks and given me a lot of mixed feelings in the process: calling people “my brother in Christ.” 

The meme is meant to be the setup to a punchline about owning one’s own actions, or calling out some bigger systemic problem that the system itself is perpetuating. 

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I’m what some people would call an “exvangelical”—someone who’s left an evangelical Christian past and might still be still recovering from it—although I don’t like the word itself. So, seeing people say “my brother in Christ” gives me something akin to a low-level cringe-PTSD. This phrase was supposed to stay in the memories from church life I’ve worked hard to repress, of being a 10-year-old solemnly shaking hands with a 60-year-old pastor at the door of the sanctuary before service begins, or sitting in a repurposed, thickly carpeted prefab shed in the summer of ninth grade while a 28-year-old youth leader with frosted tips talks about what makes my male friends “stumble.” (I’m sorry if you understood that one, my sibling in Christ.)

In other words, it’s not supposed to be all over my Twitter timeline and TikTok For You Page, and yet, there it is. In meme form, I’m more familiar with the phrase as a joke about friendzoning a dude by calling him your “brother in Christ,” but this is something totally different. Today, it usually follows a format of someone speaking to another person who has fucked up in some way: sometimes it’s a peer, other times it’s a system like capitalism, car infrastructure or Chipotle, or fictional characters like Doctor Frankenstein.

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It’s not that different from the “we’re all trying to find the guy who did this” meme from I Think You Should Leave, where the “guy who did this” is also the guy complaining, or the two Spidermans (Spidermen? Spidersman?) meme. 

The tone of this one, however, is of a friend approaching you to say ‘hey, you’re a piece of shit, but it’s okay, I accept you.’ It’s a tiny bit patronizing, gently inviting the recipient to take responsibility for their actions. It’s difficult to get defensive with someone who’s acknowledging we’re siblings in this great big cosmic mess together. 

According to Know Your Meme, “brother in Christ” started as a recaption meme, replacing the N-word in images. It credits the first version of this to Twitter user @etherxeno, who made one with a Subway sandwich meme in mid-February: 

At this point, it’s a standalone meme in image and text formats. But it didn’t really stick on Twitter, yet. It’s taken off on Tumblr, however. It’s a fake-deep earnesty that lends itself nicely to the platform, where it’s still most highly saturated. 

As meme formats go, this one’s been a slow burner. It made the jump to TikTok a couple weeks ago, with people trying to predict the next big memes, and it’s gotten more popular on Twitter in the last few days.

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“It’s comparable to calling my friends ‘my love’ when I know they’ve fucked up,” TikTok user stevie_bea said in a video about the meme, which is extremely accurate. Social psychologist and author Devon Price tweeted that it’s not unlike the trend of condescendingly calling people you don’t know “bestie.” There’s a false familiarity to it, like calling someone “hun” in the South—but way less aggressive, mostly because it’s disarmingly unexpected.

It’s Kermit putting his hand on Pepe the King Prawn’s chaotic little shoulder.

I first encountered it in sobriety meme accounts on Instagram in the last week or two. (I’m not sober myself, but I’ve got enough generational trauma around alcoholism to make these memes hit just right, and hey, jokes about suffering are just funnier.) The tone of the memes fits into the framework and language of recovery: a lovingly detached friend telling you they see your struggle, can laugh with you about it, but hope to hold you accountable.

It also makes sense to me that this meme started hitting the mainstream in sobriety and recovery memes because Alcoholics Anonymous, as an organization, has Christian roots: its founders met as part of the non-denominational Christian organization called the Oxford Group. Most of AA’s “twelve steps,” its program for recovery, references a higher power, God, or an uppercase Him that adherents are to turn their will over to. The Serenity Prayer is on the back of the chips members get to mark their time sober. You don’t have to believe in God to join AA—“higher power” can be loosely defined, as I understand it—but the language of the program is Christian by default. In this context, “my brother in Christ” makes a lot more sense. 

It’s jarring to see people turn something I heard between church pews, reserved for the most serious and sedate moments, used in a meme format, but at the same time, I think it gives me some hope. Gen Z is supposedly less religious than its predecessors, so it makes sense that they’re able to seamlessly appropriate religiously-loaded language to make a meme—but young people today are also often politically involved, deeply compassionate with each other, and passionate about making the world better. The ability to see each other as siblings in this cursed little life is the one thing, maybe the only thing, organized religion taught me that I try to keep.