Political Correctness? Absurdity? Satire? Can I Laugh at That?

Written by Wes Walker on November 1, 2013

I have a bad habit.  The kind that sets the politically-correct police and other stuffy types to wagging their finger and tsk-ing me.

I  enjoy laughing — and won’t apologize for it.  It makes me feel good.  It might even be good for my health.  That might be bad enough.  But the problem goes deeper.  I laugh at the wrong kinds of things.

I laugh at absurdity, especially when it’s politically incorrect.

I laughed when I noticed braille on a drive-thru ATM.  (Who is supposed to use that?)

I nearly lost it in church when a visiting pastor preached a serious sermon about “The Father’s Heart” in a heavy Dutch accent … exactly when the Austin Powers series was still recent.  Ditto when I noticed the bass-line for a song in the morning worship set sounded just like Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker”.

I laughed at Jiggs McDonald’s quote that said we should tolerate Mosques in our neighborhoods, so long as they tolerate shops like “MoreHammered” (the liquor store); and Iraq-O-ribs (the open-pit pork BBQ place) opening across the street. (Among others that I probably shouldn’t print.)

I’ve worked entire night shifts bantering with almost nothing but quotes from Monty Python, Princess Bride and Airplane.

Even so, I’m not unreasonable.  I recognize that sometimes laughter may be uncalled-for, or inappropriate, times when restraint ought to be exercised.  And I try to be open to fair criticism when it comes from people whose opinion I respect.

Inevitably, I posted something funny, and took heat for it.

(The offending clip was the reaction of pain/shock/horror by the Original Star Trek cast in response to seeing Miley Cyrus on the viewscreen. — that now-infamous “twerking” incident.  If you don’t want to see her on stage again, DO NOT click the link.  Don’t blame me, you have been warned.)

Someone did not appreciate that I posted it.  Reason?  The media is already sex-saturated, and I shouldn’t feed into it. In his opinion, Christians should never share such a thing.  Before you judge him, he isn’t the typical censor-everything type.  He still listens to the same music I did back when I wore my hair long.  This isn’t his reaction to every circumstance, just this specific one.

I started thinking about the proper use of humor.  Christians shouldn’t cuss, right?  Or at least that’s what we’re told. Considering some of the blunt language in Sacred Writ, maybe we’ve been missing that point a little.  A pastor-friend of mine and I once counted up offensive language found in scripture, and put together a list some delicate ears might find shocking.

Weighing the criticism, I thought about what “message” I sent by sharing this clip, and also if there might be other better ways to get that result.

Clearly, this clip was intended to mock Miss Cyrus’s …  uhhhh … “performance”.  The Star Trek characters (and even the Enterprise) reacted in unanimous horror to her act.

What was the message?  Humor (mockery) was used effectively to denounce something inappropriate.  Said differently, it used cultural peer pressure (mockery) to reject this behavior as morally/culturally sub-standard.

Other ways to do this?  Finger-wagging, hand-wringing, high-horses and soapboxes?  There was plenty.  Did anyone notice or care?  Not the MTV crowd.

But, using pop culture to parody/mock/marginalize by way of social media?  That’s different.  Things like that go viral; can penetrate culture.

In a “messaging” battle between say, the Daily Show, South Park, or the Willy Wonka internet meme versus say, an ethicist, a rules lawyer or the Church Lady, who’s gonna win?  Usually, snark trumps substance, and pithy always trumps plodding.

This isn’t new.  Mockery has a time-honored history of pressuring people to change ideas.  Alinsky-ites have bludgeoned conservatives with this for years, and we stupidly wither under it, although Churchill wouldn’t have.  

Swift and Pope (personal favorites) made extensive use of satire.  Political cartoons could say in a single frame what might take others an essay.

“But is it CHRISTIAN?”  That’s the BIG question, isn’t it?  Can Christians use mockery to prove a point, or change an attitude?  Isn’t that just … “wrong”, somehow?

No, it’s not.  Elijah did it at Mount Carmel.  Remember?  Oh, your god hasn’t answered you?  Try shouting louder.  Maybe he’s taking a trip — or a dump.  No really, keep trying.

The Apostle Paul did it.  (I’m paraphrasing:) Circumcision makes you holy, does it?  Why stop there?  Go all in.  Lop the whole thing off, and be EXTRA-SUPER-holy.

Think maybe Paul and Elijah were exceptions?  They were rugged bare-knuckle types that sometimes pressed things too far. But your “Sweet Jesus?”  HE would NEVER do such a thing.  Right?

Guess again.  Jesus used an Aramaic play on words (“camel” and “gnat” sound almost the same) to mock his generations’ stuffy religious leaders.  Neither camels nor gnats are Kosher, obviously.  Jesus told the Jewish leaders that they strain out gnats but swallow camels.  

What was he doing?  Mocking their legalism.  Their irrational convictions had “immunized” them to rational arguments, but Jesus, (like these other examples) bypassed that defense (against rational arguments) and mocked as absurd ideas and practices otherwise unworthy of defending.

Still unconvinced this idea is biblical? Let me recommend a book on the topic by Doug Wilson.  He defends with scripture the Christian use of Satire.

Don’t be shy — yuk it up.  

Because, sometimes … life is just funny.

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