Discussing
Against Satire, Almost

Bethany Keeley-Jonker

Jerry Fondse
October 6, 2010

Bethany,<br>May I continue to teach MarkTwain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Fiinn in my English 205 class here at Calvin College? It is filled with wickedly pointed satire, much of it directed at me and my carefully framed white, priveleged, male lens through which I try to do gospel work, often not very effectively.<br>Jerry Fondse<br>English Department

Jonny Rose
October 6, 2010

Hi there Bethany,<br><br>At the beginning of the year, some Christian friends and I joked about how much we'd love to start a church together in the future when we're older . The same night, I set up a satirical website called The Happy Church as a joke response to the day's conversation.<br><br>It then spiralled from there. <br><br>The aim was a) because it made us laugh and b) evangelistic - we wanted to show that Christian's weren't uptight or humourless people who took life too seriously, but instead people who were filled with JOY. Furthermore, I make sure each piece is filled with the Gospel or has links to good Gospel/evangelistic content so it doesn't just lampoon the church for the sake of it.<br><br>As a result, I have had many non-Christians come up to me and tell me how much they enjoy it. I haven't seen any conversions but it's definitely been helpful in encouraging dialogue between me and non-christians. <br><br>To see more, check these links out:<br><br><a href="http://thehappychurch.wordpress.com/category/what-we-do-at-the-happy-church/" rel="nofollow">http://thehappychurch.wordpres...</a><br><br><a href="http://thehappychurch.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/introducing-the-big-dogs/" rel="nofollow">http://thehappychurch.wordpres...</a>

JCarpenter
October 6, 2010

Comment is not necessarily on satire, but re the NYT article which quotes Christwire: their target is not Christians but "those who do not question what they hear on the news." I just heard on the radio today a quote from Edward R. Murrow, the CBS journalist of the 1940's and '50's, who maintained that journalism (news) needs to be kept as objective as possible, and not fall prey to subjective opinion, pushing ideology and party-line. Opinion and editorializing must be secondary to objective journalism based on facts, not what a later generation called "spin."<br>Satire and bloviation both are opinion; both as you say are rarely going to persuade change; both seem to have as their goal to mock an opponent and provide entrenching-tools for the insiders who "get it." Neither are rarely "the truth, spoken in love."<br>Satire as critique of self, all included, could have its merits---satire as mockery of others, those who "don't get it," is often deliberately spiteful, hurtful, misleading, and in danger of bearing false witness.

Jeffrey Overstreet
October 6, 2010

I highly recommend A.G. Harmon's post on this subject, which appeared in Image's blog Good Letters: <a href="http://bit.ly/cnZAkH" rel="nofollow">http://bit.ly/cnZAkH</a>

John Lussier
October 6, 2010

The Serrated Edge by Doug Wilson is a GREAT defense of Biblical Satire and a recommended short read for all!

Bethanykj
October 6, 2010

Point taken, Fondse. Though perhaps Huck Finn is an example of satire that is more about self-examination than mocking others?<br><br>I'm more questioning when I relish seeing others skewered. Perhaps there are better ways to present objections to others beliefs and behavior.

Paulvanderklay
October 6, 2010

Oh, great post! <br><br>This one caught me preparing to introduce the book of Ecclesiastes for a Bible study. Tremper Longman III argues that the book is voiced as Solomon though he rejects that Solomon may have authored the book. It's not really satire, it isn't humorous, but your post sure got me thinking about the genre. I'm also trying to think if there is any satire in the Bible. What a wonderful mental mini-journey you put me on this afternoon. Thanks. pvk

Tracey Sheneman
October 7, 2010

The ChristWire guys proved their point with me, at least. I was among those who fell for the "Is Your Husband Gay" piece when I saw it on Facebook. Good satire, like the "Gay" article, has to have just enough credibility to hook the unwary and, if we're paying attention (or willing to admit our own prejudice), to correct our own flawed judgment.<br><br>Intent matters. As Proverbs 15:4 says, "A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit." Lampooning ourselves and society for our hypocrisy, inconsistency, and ethical lapses can be therapeutic and even promote spiritual growth. When church and society become immune to the core biblical message "turn back to God and love your neighbor," satire can be an effective prophetic tool. If our intent is to contrast our foolishness with God's wisdom and grace, and call sinners to repent, we would be well-advised to cherish the gift of satire and use it wisely.<br><br>We remember the Jesus of the gospels for his compassion, grace, and utter humanity. He is not often enough, in my opinion, credited for his sarcasm and scathing wit. See Matthew 21:23-46 for an example of simple storytelling used to challenge perceptions and overturn social convention. Jesus' criticism of the religious lawyers and Pharisees could be withering, as it certainly is in Matt. 21. He wasn't calling the righteous to repentance as much as he was pronouncing the just judgment of God on the self-satisfied. <br><br>In Luke 4:23, Jesus made quite a splash in Nazareth, when, after reading from the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue he used a little ironic self-deprecation to challenge the spiritually complacent: "You will surely say this proverb to me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also in your own country.' " After hearing several additional searingly critical comments from this would-be Messiah, the congregants rose up, infuriated, and cast Jesus out of the synagogue. <br><br>Satire has its place, in the church as well as in the larger democratic society. Done well, it deserves our respect---even reverence. Done poorly or with malicious intent it is no better than playground name-calling. Just be aware: speaking prophetic truth, in the manner of the OT prophets and Jesus Christ, often elicits a less-than-enthusiastic response from the audience.

Lata
October 7, 2010

Did Jesus never use satire?<br>For instance, in the way he talked about the Pharisees?

Sistersharonblcl
October 7, 2010

HELLO TOO ALL... MAY I HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY NO.. JUST WANT THE SIMPLE THINGS IN LIFE HE WILL MAKE YOU RICH CAUSE WHEN YOU HAVE ALL THE MOMINES AND GREED YOU ARE STILL NOT HAPPY SOMETHING IS MISSING AND HIS NAME IS JESUS... CAUSE WITH ALL THE GREED AND KNOW HEALTH WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN. IN GOD'S GRACE AMEN.

JCarpenter
October 7, 2010

Definitely critical remarks, whether or not they fit the satire description. Can we use satire as carefully, pointedly, and effectively as Jesus? I appreciate satire, but I'd be cautious about embracing it as a frequent or continuous method. Satire tends to progress toward cynicism.

Bethanykj
October 7, 2010

Agree, I think if anything Jesus said was meant to be satirical, I misunderstood it. There are certainly instances in which Jesus is sincerely critical about hypocrites like the pharisees, he just came out and said it.

Bep
October 7, 2010

Back in the '80s, Calvin College had a class offered by a prof from Trinity (Deerfield) entitled "Christianity and Satire." It explored how far and what were acceptable targets or what crossed the line and perhaps fell into the category of blasphemy. The general dividing line ended up being satire about God and the Bible--absolutely not; satire about churches and institutional religion--absolutely acceptable and even needed given that in various instances they are full of practices displaying the fallen nature of human beings.

Ty Woznek
October 7, 2010

Satire and sarcasm are hard topics to deal with. I am surprised by how many cultures do not get sarcasm...<br><br>In matters of truth I believe it is best to speak plainly with grace. The problem with subtle communication is the broad opportunity for mis-understanding. While I understand the importance of not taking ourselves too seriously, satire crosses over the line. It's merely a soft form of tyranny at worst, slander at best.<br><br>Speaking the truth plainly with grace may not be the most persuasive approach, but it is the clearest. And, in the end, truth wins.

Bethanykj
October 10, 2010

I think this comment is supposed to go with the previous post.

JCarpenter
October 12, 2010

Amen to the plain, grace-filled truth---also good though is the use of parable, proverb, metaphor, allegory; witness John Bunyan, C.S. Lewis, just to mention two of a host of writers.

Steve Cotton
October 27, 2010

I have long contended that Jesus was a master teacher because he knew how to use hyperbole, sarcasm, and satire to great effect in his messages. In one sense, he was the classic Jewish comedian -- teaching the very essence of truth. And that may explain why the disciples were so often caught in their "I don't get it" posture. We all learn differently. And that is why Jesus was so great at restating his lessons. "If you don't understand it that way, let me try it this way."

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