Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sarcasm and Christianity

I worked at a Christian summer camp for several summers. During the majority of those summers during the staff training it was pounded into our heads over and over and over that, "sarcasm has no place at camp." I understood why the trainers emphasized that, but it didn't quite seem right to me. Sarcasm is overused in our culture, but that doesn't mean all sarcasm is evil. I couldn't express these thoughts very well at the time, but I recently finished reading a book that has done it better than I could have. The book is Word Pictures by Brian Godawa. Here's part of what he says about Christianity and sarcasm.
"Some Christians feel that sarcasm or satire is harsh and unloving--not befitting a Christlike treatment of people. And a cursory look at American culture confirms that concern to a degree....It turns out that an examination of the Bible yields a rather startling revelation: God uses sarcasm and mockery as an important tool of truth-telling.

God is often sarcastic in humor. And particularly in relation to sin....

Sarcasm is not below God's character, and neither is it below his people's character. The same laughing derision that God himself employs toward the wicked is also played out dramatically through God's appointed mockers--I mean messengers.....

Of course, these biblical examples do not justify all sarcasm. We many not receive actual visions or direct words from God like they did, but we can draw the principle that satire may be appropriate when applied to public sins or evil done by men who openly defy God's law, but not necessarily to the private sins of individuals with whom we have personal relationships....

The danger of using sarcasm notwithstanding, it is certainly one of the most potent tools to make a moral point and expose sin, lies, and hypocrisy with an edge of humor. The essence of comedy is precisely that we laugh at our faults and frailties, and yes, even at our sins, which elevates the excellent and the virtuous as superior. Sarcasm reinforces the values we believe in by showing the absurdity of those values that we don't. God is the original satirist. And he has built his comedy on the foundation of his apostles and prophets."

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