Satire is a form of humor aimed at criticizing the stupidity of contemporary politics, news, and other cultural quirks.
In an age of hyper-exagerrated, narrative-driven clickbait “news” sources, satire websites have, for many, provided a welcome chuckle at the absurdity of our present culture. For years, the Onion was the king of satire news sources on the internet, until 2016 when Adam Ford as a response to the “massive void on the right for comedy that wasn’t cheesy.”
Not only have the hilarious headlines pointed out the silly idiosyncracies of American Christian culture, but the Babylon Bee has also poked fun at all ends of the political spectrum, generally reserving the majority of its content making fun of liberals and the left.
Babylon Bee headlines like the following making for easily shareable ‘memes’ that are sure to get a quick chuckle:
In January 2021, The Washington Times reported that The Babylon Bee receives more than 20 million page views a month, has more than 20,000 paid subscribers, and has a Twitter account with more than 856,000 followers. I’ve had more of my Christian friends share links from Babylon Bee than any other website. Its popularity is huge.
While Christian satire can offer a needed chuckle in an age of absurdity, I think several cautions are in order:
The very nature of satire is making fun of people. There’s a difference between pointing out the silliness of a person’s argument and ridiculing the person. The former is probably okay, the latter goes against all the teachings of the New Testament. Ephesians 5:4 says:
“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” “Foolish talk” and “crude joking” can be widely interpreted as any kind of humor that is degrading, demeaning, or at the expense of others.
Similarly, Ephesians 4:29 says: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
I love a good chuckle just like the next guy, but its hard for me to see how Christian satire “builds others up” and “gives grace to those who hear.” There are ideas in our culture right now that deserve to be made fun of, but we should never do so at the expense of others. When Christians engage in this kind of discourse, it makes us look hypocritical to a watching world.
Satire can be misunderstood due to its indirect nature.
Not only can it be taken as fact, which several times the Babylon Bee has been labeled a misinformation site by sources who didn’t get the joke. In engaging in writing satire, one always runs the risk of being misunderstood, or being misinterpreted.
Satire is a deathwork
In one of the best books I read last year, called The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman argues that our culture has become a third world culture – meaning a culture that no longer looks outside itself to find meaning, but encourages every individual to look within themselves and decide for themselves who they are and what is the meaning of life. While past cultures existed to transmit values of the previous generation onto the next generation, our culture is weaponized against any and all values, and as a result all the art and creativity is directed towards the production of what Philosopher Philip Reiff called “deathworks.”
A deathwork, he says, is “an all-out assault upon something vital to the established culture. Every deathwork represents an admiring final assault on the objects of its admiration: the sacred orders of which their arts are some expression in the repressive mode.” Trueman says
“Deathworks make the old values look ridiculous. They represent not so much arguments against the old order as subversions of it. They aim at changing the aesthetic tastes and sympathies of society so as to undermine the commands on which that society was based.”Carl R. Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self
The main example he gives is pornography because it takes sexual activity and divorces it from any moral content. In older more traditional cultures, sexuality had a sacred significance and was part of a relationship, but modern culture exists to denigrate old sexual values without trying to replace them with a better vision for sexuality. The point is that deathworks seek to tear something down without any intention of replacing them with something positive.
As such, the Babylon Bee and other Christian satire websites are “deathworks” because though they point out the ridiculousness of culture, they do not offer anything to replace it with.
Satire is a form of sarcasm, which is a form of lying.
Technically sarcasm is a lie – its not telling the truth. Even if it is an open lie, with no attempt at seeking to deceive the hearers – its still dishonest as to the speaker’s true intentions.
We ought to take Paul’s advice to Titus. Titus 2:8 says:
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”
When you conduct yourself with integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech, its hard for enemies or opponents to have anything evil to say about us.
So here’s a few questions to ask before sharing that link from Babylon Bee:
- 1. Is this poking fun at an idea or at a person?
- 2. Can this be easily misunderstood and shared as fact?
- 3. Does this create cynicism or joy in me?
- 4. Does this create cynicism or joy in others?
What about you… is Christian satire helpful or harmful to your faith?
Unpopular Opinion Submitted to Stuff Christians Know by Luke Wright
About: Luke is a pastor at Legacy Christian Church in Kansas City. Luke is committed to telling and retelling the story of Jesus in a way that captures the wonder of God and moves people towards amazement at His crazy love for them through preaching, teaching, and writing. He is married to the love of his life, Shanna. For nearly two decades Luke has been in ministry and has watched God work powerfully in his life and in the lives of others, and continues to draw great joy from sharing the good news of Jesus with people that have never heard as often as he gets the chance.
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