Satire is nothing new but seems to have gained momentum over the last decade or two. Satirical “news” sources, such as The Onion has duped more than one person unaware of the nature of their stories and the absurdity of the claims. Over the last few months, a different source of satire has saturated social media, particularly for the Christian crowd, known as the Babylon Bee. It did not take long for the Babylon Bee to take over the Facebook feed of many (including this author). It’s catchy titles left many laughing because of the far-fetched ideas and ridiculous nature of the posts. After the witty writing and keen observations, the reader is left with a laugh and growing awareness of the subculture they inhabit.
Adam Ford, the founder of the Bablyon Bee, stated in an interview with World Magazine, “Satire is a powerful, effective, and biblical tool for conveying ideas—and one that, much like webcomics, belongs almost exclusively to the anti-religious worldview.” The posts are largely “making fun” of himself but as the editor, Ford has the final say in what is posted.
Before I proceed, let me put my cards on the table. I have read many articles from The Onion and The Bablyon Bee. I have laughed out loud at the headlines, storylines, and witty observations. However, I do believe there is a danger with a regular intake of satire (and even sarcasm for that matter).
The danger of satire is that Christians risk losing the ability to appreciate and praise what is good, true, and beautiful.
Satire has the goal of exposing or critiquing statements or practices by taking them to laughable exaggerations. Satirical news sites are appreciated by many because it brings a different perspective on a situation with a pointed, yet humorous approach. As our minds become regularly exposed to satire, one of the results is often a critical spirit. I have noticed that as I read satire or hear Christian comedians with regularity, I become more prone to laugh or mock practices or phrases around me. This critical sprit is not a switch I turn “on” or “off” but haunts me as I gather with other believers each week. Because I am no longer there to worship the living God. Rather, I begin to look around for what might be the next punch line or catchy headline.
What I long for is a perfect church and culture. Satire reminds me that perfection has not arrived. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that. However, a steady dose of satire begins to create a critical spirit and a growing discontentment in me. I’m exposed to the errors in my own church and culture but I am left with a sense of despair of where to go and what to do. Satire creates a vacuum. Often it seems that a critical spirit and a growing discontentment fill that void.
This is NOT a call to boycott certain news sites or figures. This is also NOT a call to return to a place where laughter is not welcome. If you know me at all, then you know that I love to laugh, joke, smile, and have a good time. Rather, I want to remind Christians that what we read and hear does effect us in some way. Christians are those who are in a relationship with the One who is good, true, and beautiful. Our minds, lips, and lives ought to reflect this reality. The growing prayer in my own life and for other believers is:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8