Skip to comments.Satire and Sarcasm
Posted on 03/23/2010 5:44:17 PM PDT by delacoert
Opponents of satire and sarcasm argue that the mockery behind such monikers and books is not grounded in the love of Christ that is best manifested in charity toward enemies. They say that such ridicule is entirely against Pauls command in 2 Cor. 6:3 to give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. And in addition, they say that such sarcastic remarks about theological opponents ignore the fact that we are still brothers in the Lord despite doctrinal differences, and thus a spirit of sectarianism is promoted rather than a spirit of unity in Christ.
While there definitely are perversions of satire that are intended only to stir up strife and dispute, you cannot toss out the principle of Biblical sarcasm just because of its perversions. This is akin to the argument that Christianity is a sham because there are hypocrites calling themselves Christians. Just because there are fake diamonds being manufactured and sold as genuine doesnt mean true diamonds dont exist. And so offensive satire should only lead us to seek out what Biblical satire looks like.
Tremendous insights can be gained by looking at Christs diatribe against the Pharisees in Matthew 23. In vv. 24-27 Jesus says,
Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead mens bones, and of all uncleanness.
This passage and the rest of the chapter show that the Christianity of the Bible is not always as nice or kind as we would like. The love of Christ is not so warm and nonconfrontational as is commonly assumed. Rather, when there is an antithesis between two groups of people, mere intellectual wrangling can rarely resolve the conflict, and often more inflationary language is required. Christ used this method of caricaturing to show the distinction between His followers and the blind guides and whited sepulchres that were the scribes and Pharisees.
Also indicative of this sarcastic spirit are the references in the Psalms to laughing at your enemies and having them in derision. The image of Christianity presented in the Psalms is one both of praise to God for preserving the lives of His saints and of prayers to God to cut off evildoers and judge the wicked. Take Psalm 52:6-9:
The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him: Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness. But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints.
Such passages as this show that although we are certainly to love our enemies and pray for their salvation, we must also remember that it is God who casts down those who strengthen themselves in wickedness, and preserves as an olive tree those who fear Him. And the revelation of this antithesis between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman can at times be found in somewhat biting laughter and mockery.
Often Christians get so caught up in restraining themselves from hating their enemies that they end up thinking it is entirely unrighteous to show disdain for them or to mock them. But we find that the Bible is not devoid of ridicule for the fools, and that Christ Himself spread it rather thick on the Pharisees. In our attempts to understand how best to confront those we disagree with, we must never disregard the pattern of Scripture, as this will always lead to futility.
So we see then that sarcasm can be used righteously, but we must define the goal of sarcasm if we are to avoid the more invidious uses that hinder Christian truth. The goal of satire, as with all forms of rebuke, should be to save a person from error. As James 5:20 says, He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. Rebuke in any form is a very gracious act when done with concern for the soul of the man in error.
Mockery should not be the form of rebuke in every situation, however. In Galatians 1:1, Paul says, Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness. Never should the usage of sarcasm in the Bible be interpreted to support immediate harshness whenever a brother errs; rather, the emphasis should first be placed on a private rebuke, as this is the first step in the Matthew 18 process.
Yet sometimes mockery is appropriate. Once a person has spurned rebuke, and especially when other Christians are falling into this persons error, open ridicule may be an appropriate way to call them back to truth. And when the object of the ridicule is the heathen and the workers of iniquity, then mockery is definitely appropriate, as they dont even share the privilege of brotherhood in Christ. These are the people David and Christ were reproving and mocking. Regarding church discipline, 1 Timothy 5:20 reads, Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. And this should also be the heart of any appropriate satire; that others also may fear.
So we find that there is no cookie-cutter approach to determining propriety in satire. At times it seems best to just let an error be, or to go privately to the straying brother. But at other times the shrewdest approach appears to be a public ridicule of a persons doctrine so that others are not led astray. In order to make this judgment of suitable action, we must have a firm grasp of the basic principles and purpose of satire and then let wisdom guide our actions. If we try to lay things out unilaterally, cut and dry, then we will inevitably hurt somebody since situations are more variable than that. But if we rely on wisdom, we can have assurance that our form of rebuke will be fitting for the occasion.
In summary, we must remember that Christianity is not so limp-wristed as to avoid all mockery of wrong positions, as the examples in Scripture show that this is allowable at least in some circumstances. But we must also remember that the purpose of mockery should always be to point out error, and when mockery is causing undue offense or further entrenching a person in their error, it should be pulled back. We must constantly keep in mind that satire, when wrongly used, can be a divisive blade, cutting brethren to pieces where a simple rebuke would have been admonishment enough; but when rightly used, satire can be an exposing light, revealing error and exhorting to repentance.
So let us use satire with wisdom, and pray for such unity in the faith that satire will become entirely unnecessary.
How could someone read Paul’s rant against the super-apostles in 2 Cor. and doubt the Biblical use of scarcasm. Or how about Elijah ragging on the Priests of Baal when they tried bring the fire down from Heaven. (”Dance faster. Maybe your god’s busy going to the bathroom and can’t hear you.”)
Exactly. I was just recently reading this passage in 1 Kings 18:27 and having a good laugh.
"Where's Baal, huh? Maybe he's travelling. Maybe you need to wake him up! Yell louder, I can't heaaaaar you! Maybe he's taking a craaaaaaaap!"
Seems there’s a few of us that can appreciate sarcasm.
And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king. And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD? And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace.
1 Kings 22:15-17 (KJV)
Good post. I especially like the last sentance.
Although I agree that satire or mockery is not inappropriate or wrong, as a generality, I also think that, in today’s climate, it’s more likely to miss the target than not. I think one is more likely to communicate a point by stating it clearly, in the most concrete possible terms, without flourishes, figures of speech, or hedges.
We’ve reached the point where reality is far more absurd than anything we can imagine as satire - that’s why satire or humor articles have to be flagged in big red letters, or people think it’s fact.
And it is this type of satire and sarcasm we see most often in this forum.
Satire and sarcasm are strong debating tools when used properly and sparingly, but when used often and loosely satire and sarcasm only make the one using them look to be a pious bully who wishes to ridicule and not to inform.
I don't think we have to worry about that here.
I’m assuming I’m still okay to market
“The Purpose Driven Nap”
Forty Winks of Purpose
Rip Van Warren
The meme creeping into recent Religion Forum threads is that sarcasm and mockery is too mean and devoid of Christian niceness.
I say, "Hogwash!"
I don’t think it was very nice of Christ to tear some place apart, though he was kind enough to rebuild it in three days. /s
Yeah, but I do need to watch my tongue. It can be a little too sharp. :(
It is an after effect of several years of Oprah Christianity...
Seems theres a few of us that can appreciate sarcasm.
I think that is why the Lord said
In my Fathers house are many mansions:
if it were not so,
I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you!:)
Yeah, sorry about that. Perhaps it was bit too sarcastic for the delicate sensitivity of some Religion Forum participants. ;)
Mockery is fine. I love that passage in 1 Kings. However, when its all you have to offer and you offer it all the time, that’s when it crosses the line.
Oh I agree. If sarcasm is not acceptable as a form of rebuke then I we need to dispense with writers such as C. S. Lewis