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So What’s Our Deal?

The purpose of Winsomewit is twofold.

1. Through the use of satire and similar means we seek to engage the mind of those who might be otherwise hostile to a Christian worldview.

2. We seek to promote the genre and the use of a sanctified, winsome wit among Christian writers. There is a place for polemical pieces, and apologetic. There is even a place for how-tos, and light, humorous devotional literature. But that is not what we seek here in this place.

Below is an article I wrote on what Christian satire could be.

Taking Humor Seriously

“The Evangelical’s Use of Satire”

 Dewey didn’t give it a decimal point.  When I ask librarians about it, they look at me like they would a newly discovered blemish. I’ve sleuthed the labyrinth of their stacks and shelves and come up with nothing more than a dust-mite allergy.  As best I can tell, the only mention of the subject is in a dictionary of oxymorons.  I am referring to the elusive, white stag of Christian-satire.

No.  I didn’t say, “religious satire.”  There is a heading for that.  Religious satire lampoons the church, clergy and organized religion. Men like Voltaire, Shelley, Twain, Sinclair Lewis and Mencken often invited Christendom to a roast in its honor.  Yet, only a small number of genuine believers have ever returned the invitation, men like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and Malcolm Muggeridge.

I have searched in vain to find the G.K. Chesterton of evangelicalism, or a Mike Royko, Art Buchwald or Dave Berry.   We evangelicals typically disdain the dodge, parry and thrust of wit’s foil, preferring instead the “deftly” placed 2×4 to the side the head.  With truth on our side, we attack culture head-on like the British lining up in neat rows against the minutemen.  Like the fair-fighting Redcoats we are then chagrined when snipers snipe at us from behind their carefully chosen defenses.

What is wrong with satire?

If the rest of the world feels free to use it, why don’t we?  Why, for instance, does the annual Amy Award, given to Christians writing in the secular print media, never go to someone writing with wit or whimsy?  Why do we feel so obligated to linear, left-brained, logical prose?

A number of objections might be raised to the use of satire.  It may appear to be less honest than a straightforward rational argument.  Using absurdity might seem to belittle the seriousness of our position.  Others might think it simply rude.  The most serious objection, however, is that the use of satire is not biblical.

Do the scriptures forbid the weapon of satire? Only a surface reading of certain texts could lead us to that conclusion.  E.W. Bullinger has a section in his book Figures of Speech Used in the Bible called EIRONEIA[1]: or Irony, which is subdivided to include “sarcasmos” i.e., sarcasm.  He lists about fifty uses of such irony from the mouth of both God and man.

Perhaps the funniest came from Elijah to the prophets of Baal.  I Kings 18:27, “Shout louder…Surely he is a god!  Perhaps he is deep in thought or busy, or traveling.  Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened…” That is funny!  Further examples could be given of irony and other forms of humor used in scripture.  The truth is, the Bible is far wittier and more creative than we trust ourselves to be.

Satire’s Potential

I don’t want Christian writers to grudgingly accept the use of satire.  I want them to embrace it.  They should embrace it because it has such marvelous potential.

Funny is what is true.  One of the cardinal elements to good humor is that it must be based in truth. Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy style plays on this.  He just talks about what frustrates him, and people can relate, because the same things frustrate them.  It rings true. Last I checked, we Christians had the truth on our side.  With a little sense of timing and the right wording, that truth can zing, amuse and make inroads.

Absurdity best illustrates absurdity.  When you take something absurd and embellish it, or set it in a different unfamiliar context, the effect is hysterical.  Last I checked, not only did we have the truth on our side, but our opposition had absurdity on its.  Atheism is the height of absurdity.  Scripture says, “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘there is no God.’”  When people are allowed to see how laughable a position is they will be quicker to distance themselves from it.

People hate to look stupid.  They hate to be laughed at, and that makes them avoid association with people and ideas that bring derision. When we lampoon the quirky notions of modern culture, people will be less likely to associate themselves with those ideas for fear of looking stupid.

Humor does an end run around our left-brain.   Linear logic is a left-brained activity.  When we argue in a head on, point-counterpoint fashion (much like this rather serious article on humor) we engage just one side of the brain.  Our right-brain takes a little snooze.

A few years ago, J.P. Moreland wrote a book, Scaling the Secular City.  With wit you don’t have to scale the wall. Humor is like a Trojan horse.  The right-brain lets the ideas in while the left-brain dozes. The internal logic of the satire pops out quicker than you can say, “it’s Greek to me” and voila, the defenses collapse from within.

They won’t know what hit them.   When radio talk-show host, Rush Limbaugh came upon the scene, his barrage of witty repartee stunned liberals.  Conservatives were supposed to be dull and serious.  No one seemed prepared for a funny Republican.

If there is one thing that the secular world doesn’t expect, it’s that we would suddenly come down with a sense of humor.  Christians are seen as sanctimonious spoilsports out to poop the party.  When we start using satire and parody, the world will do a neck-popping double take.

The Punch Line

This is my hopeful, perhaps quixotic crusade.  I want to challenge Christian writers to use satire to challenge culture, not exclusively, but at least occasionally.

Quaker writer, Tom Mullen was right. “Big sins and small ones deserve the hardest blows we can manage, and laughing at political stupidity and satirizing injustice are at least as effective as outrage.”[2] In the public battle for the minds of men, no weapon, be it ever so humble, should be ignored.

“The End”

 

 


[1] E.W.Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids Michigan: Baker Book House, 1968), p. 807.

[2] Tim Mullens, Laughing Out Loud And Other Religious Experiences (Waco, Texas: Word Book Publishers, 1983) p. 64.

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