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When Should Christians Use Satire?

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Shane, a listener to the podcast writes in: “Pastor John, with the growing popularity of Christian satire, for example, websites like ‘The Babylon Bee,’ what are your thoughts on the use of satire to communicate Christian thought?”

 

The dictionary defines satire like this: “The use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.” And then, if you look for a definition of irony, which was used to define satire, the definition it gives is this: “The use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.” So satire, then, is a way of exposing folly, foolishness, error, or evil by saying the opposite of what the author really thinks in such a way that, while claiming to support something, it makes it look ludicrous and, therefore, undermines the attitude or the activity.

  • “God grants repentance more often with brokenhearted appeals than with clever indictments.”

Now, in deciding whether it is wise to use satire or irony we should ask, Does the Bible use it in a way that commends it? And, if so, when might it be appropriate, and when not? And, are there other biblical exhortations that would put the brakes on it or guide it, minimize it, maximize it? So, the answer to that first question is Job, the prophets, Jesus, Paul — they all used satire. They all used irony to expose the folly of the people they were dealing with.

 

For example, Job 12:2,

  • “No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you.” That is exactly the opposite of what he thought.

Or, Isaiah 44:14–17 — this one is really, really good:

  • He [the idolater] cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

That is really powerful.

 

And then Elijah: “And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened’” (1 Kings 18:27). That is just pure irony and satire and sarcasm in his case. Then, consider Jesus: “And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he [Jesus] was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Mark 2:16–17). Which was a very pointed indictment of those who were talking to him, thinking they were well when they were, in fact, sick.

  • “We should be careful before we pull out our sword of satire when dealing with someone’s error.

And then Paul says, “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!” (1 Corinthians 4:8). He says the exact opposite of what he thinks because that is what irony does. It is not lying, because the assumption is everybody knows exactly what I am doing, and they are being indicted by it.

 

Now, in all of those cases as I look at them, the people who are being exposed by the irony are those who are acting wrongfully in a fairly entrenched way. In other words, these are not poor, weak people who have simply stumbled and made a rare mistake, but are hardened people who go on and on in their error and do not respond to exhortation. Which means, I think, that satire and irony are not going to be a Christian’s first or main strategy of correction with people, not people we are trying to win anyway. We know that Jesus said not to cast our pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). But we should be very careful before we put someone in the category of swine. We will be very slow. Similarly, we should be careful before we pull out our sword of satire when dealing with someone’s error.

 

One of the difficulties with satire — and I will just say this about myself, in particular — is that it is so difficult to use without sounding arrogant. James Denney said it is very hard to show that Christ is magnificent and that I am clever at the same time. It has been a very powerful word for me over the years.

 

Some of us are so prone to be clever and biting in our criticism that satire fits our natural sinfulness way too easily. I would put myself in that category. So, for myself, I find I need to read other sets of Scriptures, other passages more often, like these:

  • 2 Timothy 2:24–25: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.”
  • James 3:17–18: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
  • 1 Peter 3:8: “All of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

That is what John Piper needs to hear over and over again, because I am wired to be sarcastic. I daydream about how to say things with pointed, ruthless effect. So, I need those verses all the time.

  • “Satire and irony should not be our first or main strategy of correcting the people we are trying to win.”

So, my conclusion is that in the rough and tumble of truth-speaking in a world of evil and folly, there will always be a place for irony and satire to do its work of exposing error and evil and folly. Nevertheless, I think the use of it is very limited in bearing the kind of fruit that love longs to see in transformed lives. God grants repentance. It seems to me — and I base this on 2 Timothy 2:25 — God grants repentance more often in connection with brokenhearted appeals than with clever indictments.

 

Source: https://www.desiringgod.org/intervie...ans-use-satire

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There will always be a place for sarcasm.Luther and Tyndale used it to great effect.Tyndale also used Isaiah's example of sarcasm in his own work. Who can forget Elijah's classic use of sarcasm with the prophets of Baal as you mentioned above.

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As in all things there is a time and place for sarcasm.

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Looking for comment section on your post and couldn't find it so I had to add a post. I too can be very sarcastic.Through the years with much reading and learning I would like to think that I have found more balance and use it more judiciously.The real answer lies with this who know me my best and the best I can see is that the jury is still out on that question.

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Looking for comment section on your post and couldn't find it so I had to add a post. I too can be very sarcastic.Through the years with much reading and learning I would like to think that I have found more balance and use it more judiciously.The real answer lies with this who know me my best and the best I can see is that the jury is still out on that question.

Hi Dutch, to make a "comment" on someone's post, just look at the bottom of their post to the right where you find things like "Edit, Quote, Comment, Flag, Like" and click on the word "Comment".

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I did look for the comment section but didn't see one on this particular post which struck me as odd because all the other posts I come across have a comment space at the bottom.

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I did look for the comment section but didn't see one on this particular post which struck me as odd because all the other posts I come across have a comment space at the bottom.

Only the Original Post does not have comments. One must "post reply" to the OP, therefore, staying on topic. I'm sure most people have figured out the comment's use. Post reply should be done when commenting on the OP. And when Post replies are made sometimes things said in them need commenting. In other words, use the comment to refrain from sidetracking the OP, and Post reply to the OP in order to stay on subject.

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When I saw this thread, I said, Wow, I have to read that!

I co-host Holy Madness - The Show holymadness.podbean.com -- a pharisamanic podcast in which two wise guys in Jerusalem rethink everything and sift through the madness of the world seeking divine wisdom. Our bread and butter (or rather, salt and maybe olive oil, since this is Jerusalem) is satire -- as you would reasonably expect from any Jewish humor you've heard along the way. William knows of what I speak :-)

 

"One of the difficulties with satire," sharply observes the original post "is that it is so difficult to use without sounding arrogant."

One key may be in whether you include yourself in the satire. Speaking from my experience with my podcast, much of our best humor is when we are satirizing phenomena in which we ourselves are included. But some bits in which the object of satire was someone else just bombed. It worked when we mocked the regime in Iran (beginning of episode 7) -- because it's horrifically evil and ironically in the name of holiness -- but we've cut plenty where we felt our punch, however well-deserved, would just hurt people. To slightly rework the langauge of the original post: transformation is in love.

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Shane, a listener to the podcast writes in: “Pastor John, with the growing popularity of Christian satire, for example, websites like ‘The Babylon Bee,’ what are your thoughts on the use of satire to communicate Christian thought?”

 

 

 

Source: https://www.desiringgod.org/intervie...ans-use-satire

 

************An wuzzint Jesus sayin," If U slackers had the faith of mustard seeds that mountain wouldn't B in our way,,wouldit" sorta sarcastict ???*********

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Good post. And good responses. I thought Elijah was funny, and he hopped a ride on a spaceship.

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When Should Christians Use Satire?

 

When it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, as was Paul's use of it from 2 Corinthians 11:1 to 2 Corinthians 12:21.

 

2Co 11:16-21
(16)  I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.
(17)  That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.
(18)  Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.
(19)  For you suffer fools gladly, seeing you yourselves are wise.
(20)  For you suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.
(21)  I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.

 

2Co 12:11-16
(11)  I am become a fool in glorying; you have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
(12)  Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
(13)  For what is it wherein you were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.
(14)  Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
(15)  And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
(16)  But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.

 

The self-deprecation is very effective, and I'm sure many servants of the Lord have benefitted from the tone and substance of this portion of Scripture. 

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On 1/23/2018 at 2:07 AM, Meir-Simchah said:

When I saw this thread, I said, Wow, I have to read that!

I co-host Holy Madness - The Show holymadness.podbean.com -- a pharisamanic podcast in which two wise guys in Jerusalem rethink everything and sift through the madness of the world seeking divine wisdom. Our bread and butter (or rather, salt and maybe olive oil, since this is Jerusalem) is satire -- as you would reasonably expect from any Jewish humor you've heard along the way. William knows of what I speak 🙂

 

"One of the difficulties with satire," sharply observes the original post "is that it is so difficult to use without sounding arrogant."

One key may be in whether you include yourself in the satire. Speaking from my experience with my podcast, much of our best humor is when we are satirizing phenomena in which we ourselves are included. But some bits in which the object of satire was someone else just bombed. It worked when we mocked the regime in Iran (beginning of episode 7) -- because it's horrifically evil and ironically in the name of holiness -- but we've cut plenty where we felt our punch, however well-deserved, would just hurt people. To slightly rework the langauge of the original post: transformation is in love.

That sounds great!  I just subscribed.   I love satire.  It takes a quick witted mind and a firm grasp of issues to do satire well.  

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Pastor Hans Feine, the creator of YouTube channel Lutheran Satire, preached a sermon on this. I watched it last night on YouTube. If I can try to summarize his points I would say we need to determine who has "gone into the ring." The Jewish leaders Jesus railed against did, as did the prophets of baal. These people are fair game to "hit" with sound theology. I don't start out that way even with militant atheists, but after they demonstrate being unreasonable and uncivil over a length of time, I think it's weak to just walk away. I don't think satire's effective as a parting shot either, you have to be willing to go toe to toe with them and beat them at their own game.

 

Jesus did NOT treat the woman at the well with satire! Compassion is appropriate there. These are some clear, wildly divergent examples. Rarely is our life so obvious.

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