Saturday, August 24, 2013

Practical Theology for Women: on sarcastic pastors and a follow up

Here's the original post Wendy published on sarcastic pastors.

And here's a follow-up post on hermeneutics.

My own thoughts in response to the first post Wendy published were the subject of an earlier post).  And I've given the matter a little more thought since. 

The core social problem with sarcasm as employed by some pastors and bloggers is that it is essentially a shortcut from dealing with ideas and people they disagree with in a serious way.  There is also a significant temptation to succumb to double standards.  This can manifest in a form where some knowing risqué joke typed with a nudge and a wink by Team A is given a pass and when a comparable joke is given by someone on Team B the people on Team A take offense, apparently in an entirely serious and unreflective way.  Now a couple of epistles discourage coarse joking generally so someone might say that there's a more basic underlying problem in the example I've given.  Sure, let's grant that up front, but it's another case in which a select group of people will refer to how offensive passages in Ezekiel are that deal with sexual organs and that since that's in the Bible coarse analogies for the sake of effect are totally legit.

Now there's a somewhat lazy group of people who will simply figure from this that those kinds of contradictions prove the Bible is useless. The reason it's lazy is because those kinds of contradictions are inherent to the entire human species. Why is it that certain types of executive power exercised in the United States are anathema to conservatives and liberals only when the other side resorts to them?  Hypocrisy is the natural human condition and may not be on purpose (most of the time it is likely inadvertent) but double standards have to be explained.  :)   Anyone can pretend to themselves and others that I get to use belittling sarcastic analogies because I'm speaking truth to power while you're just being an offensive troll.  No, that won't work in either direction so long as we attempt to justify for ourselves what we find offensive in others. Either we're going to have to explain why certain double standards are not only justified but necessary but to do so in a way that exonerates us while condemning others.  But that's the whole internet already, isn't it?  Do we not aspire to something slightly better?  No, not in reality, it seems.

I would myself return to the observation that a great many good and serious preachers did not see any necessity for sarcasm in instruction most of the time.  Remembering that humor comes in the categories of laughing with and laughing at, guided by the golden rule, should be rule enough to think better of most types of sarcasm we're tempted to employ.  If you wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of it why be on the giving end of it?  Because someone on the internet is wrong?  There's an xkcd for that, right?

I'll be the first to admit I've employed sarcasm mercilessly about certain people in the past.  This old post of mine is basically sarcasm from start to finish.  If you feel there is no other option but to employ sarcasm I suggest you use it to address ideas and behaviors rather than to address individuals and categories of people.  People can let go of ideas and behaviors in time but their very self tends to stick with them until death, eh?

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