The Babylon Bee–“Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire”–publishes a piece on a famous pastor, an author, a Christian basketball player. It takes shots at the average mini-van driving mega-church family, at Mormon missionaries, at porn-addicted Redditors. There is a piece about Minnesota preacher John Piper punching himself, Jen Hatmaker’s supposed lack of clarity. There is a piece about TD Jakes–a heretic, the Bee insinuates. The sarcasm is thick, the writing a shade of clever, deprecating, perhaps even irreverent. Everyone in the Christian family is fair game; no one is spared from the Bee’s falling anvils of irony.
The clickbaity headlines are bookended by ads for Compassion International and Eternity Bible College. A penny a click? A flat fee? Who knows whether the dollars pile up in the office of the Bee, but the message is sent–this is Christian-sponsored mockery. Welcome to the new Church.
If you ask Google to define the term satire, she will tell you it is “the the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” (Emphasis added.) The satirist is the ironic hit man, the exploiter of the people for personal gain. And sometimes, I suppose, it’s all in good humor. Sometimes, I suppose, it’s good comedy. Maybe I’ve used satire in the past. Perhaps I’ll use it in the future.
Sometimes, though, it feels cheap. Sometimes, it feels smarmy. What’s the difference between good satire and arrogant mockery? As Justice Potter Stewart once wrote about hard-core pornography, “…I know it when I see it.” And let me be more to the point: Christian satire feels more like mockery when it stands in opposition to the guiding ethics of the Christ.
The Christ swung by Earth, stepped out of eternity and into humanity. He gathered all manner of folks to himself–tax collectors, fishermen, perhaps a graduate or two from Eternity Bible College–and he taught them the by-God way. Satire was not the primary language of the by-God way (though Christ occasionally painted in redder shades). Instead, Jesus instructed his followers in the ways of love and mercy.
Do to others what you’d have them do to you.
Do good to your enemies.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
These were all things the good preacher preached. But then he upped the ante. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,” he said, “if you love one another.”
Loving our neighbors, treating each other well, being kind–these are the evidences of spiritual transformation. And sure, there were times that Jesus took issue with the teachers of the day, but did he take issue by way of satirical teachings? Did his teachings drip with sarcasm and irony?
I’ve searched the words of Jesus, the writings of Paul and the other apostles. I find little proof that satire is a spiritual fruit or a Christian virtue. (Granted, I’m not a first century Jew and the satire and irony might be lost in translation.) I find little evidence that the God-way entails commodifying others for personal gain. And when the satire is against Christians, for Christians, by Christians, it sends mixed message to a world that longs for path to peace and love.
We are a people of peace and love. Watch us roast each other to a crisp!
What’s peaceful about satirizing your brothers and sisters? What’s loving about it? Really. This is not a rhetorical question.
Perhaps you’re rolling your eyes, saying “please, for the love of God, stop taking yourself so seriously.” Fair enough. But ask yourself this question: aren’t love and peace things to be taken seriously?
This, too, is not a rhetorical question.
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