Leeeeeerooooy … Jenkins!!

Posted: August 9, 2010 by Jim Killam in church culture, disillusionment, missions, pop culture, television

Sometimes, we confuse being courageous with being an impulsive clod.

In World of Warcraft, the hugely popular online role-playing game, thousands of players live in a 3D world, band together as “guilds” and fight battles. This game is responsible for untold wasted time, flunked college classes and couch-potato flab.

The game’s most accidentally famous player goes by the name Leeroy Jenkins. In what became a viral Internet video, Leeroy’s nerdy guild uses the game’s online voice-chat feature to endlessly discuss strategy for a castle raid. The dialogue goes on the order of: “I will use an intimidating shout to kind of scatter them, so we don’t have to fight a whole bunch of them at once. … I think it’s a pretty good plan. We should be able to pull it off this time. What do you think of it, Bill? Can you give me a number crunch real quick?” And Bill then estimates the number of casualties, based on previous raids.

Meanwhile, Leeroy has left his computer for a moment to get leftover chicken out of his microwave oven. When he comes back, he’s heard enough strategy. As the planning drones on, Leeroy says, “All right, chums, let’s do this!” And on the screen, his character charges alone into the dungeon, screaming his name as a battle cry: “Leeeeeeeerooooy … Jenkins!”

His teammates look up from their discussion. “Did he just go in?” one asks. Yup. They all reluctantly follow, cursing their teammate profanely. It’s complete chaos. All of their intricate planning goes up in smoke as dragons quickly wipe out the entire team … but not the players’ voiceovers.

“Leeroy, you moron.”

Some believed the video to be real. Others thought the narration had been added later. No matter. Leeroy Jenkins became an instant legend in the video gaming world and far beyond. Google his name and you’ll find more than a half-million references, videos, articles and interviews. You can buy Leeroy Jenkins T-shirts, mugs, mouse pads and more. There’s even an entry in the Urban Dictionary for “Doing it Leeroy Jenkins Style.” It means to do something so stupid and impulsive that people talk about it for years.

History is littered with the likes of Leeroy Jenkins. We don’t know most of their names, because they are inconsequential. They died stupidly and for nothing, and probably messed up someone else’s carefully crafted plans along the way. Sure, there’s paralysis by analysis – the reason for Leeroy’s frustration. That’s a whole other topic worth tackling soon. But sometimes, grabbing the bull by the horns is … well, as stupid as grabbing a bull by the horns.

The evangelical church has seen more than its share of Leeroy Jenkinses: Well-meaning, God-loving people who barge into a community or a foreign culture with little regard for anything but taking the city for Christ (whatever that means). In the process, they may damage years of missionaries’ relationship-building. This is especially true on many a short-term missions trip: 20 team members, all wearing the same loud  T-shirt, complete with their church’s name and a snappy slogan for the week’s project. We dive boldly into unfamiliar cultures and situations without properly reading the situation – something no thinking person would ever do in a war or a business meeting or a marriage (or even a complicated video game). But here, we bound off the plane or the church bus and figuratively shout: “Leeeeeeeerooooy … Jenkins!”

Duh.

Every spring on the state university campus where I work, a self-proclaimed prophet – I hesitate to call him a Christian – makes his annual visit. For two or three days, he stands in the center of the campus commons, waving a big, heavy, King James Bible above his head, and insulting passing students. “You’re a whore!” he’ll shout at any female student wearing shorts or a tank top.

He draws a crowd. What’s more fun for college students than to engage the religious nut who’s calling them names? This presents a cartoon image of Christianity to students who quickly think that all Christians are judgmental, intolerant louts.

Christian students and staff at our campus cringe when this traveling circus shows up, knowing we’ll be doing damage control. I’m sure our campus prophet and his cohorts feel good about themselves after a day spent railing at the sinners. I don’t know how much they truly care about those sinners. It’s possible to get so obsessed with truth that you forget about love.

It’s easy for me to judge this guy. “Most Christians are not like that,” I’ve told students. But to them, maybe we are. Maybe we’re just more discreet about the way we judge people by the way they look, or speak, or act. Maybe we’ve subconsciously “gone Leeroy Jenkins” on a foreign and potentially hostile culture because we are terrified of rejection; this way, we get it over with, quickly and painlessly.

We have to be about more than trying to score points with God, failing spectacularly, and then commiserating with our churchy friends about the depraved culture. The church doesn’t need more Leeroys, and neither does our culture.

What do you think? For Christ followers, where’s that line between courage and Leeroy Jenkins, and how do we recognize it?

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Comments
  1. John says:

    Well written Jim. I think we are all guilty of being a little Leeroy sometimes. Hopefully after reading this I will be a little more aware of when I am. Inspiring blog, keep up the good work you two.

  2. […] Leeeeeerooooy … Jenkins!! […]

  3. […] Not much more need be said about self-appointed prophets of doom with their prophecy charts and mathematical calculations. See our previous post: Say Cheese. Also see: Leeroy Jenkins. […]

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