16 August 2007

Yes, We Do NEED Sarcasm

e've been defending the judicious use of sarcasm, and I have been personally been amazed (and appalled) to see that some Christians think sarcasm is always a vice. In fact, some on the Emerging side of the blogosphere are evidently convinced sarcasm is a worse vice than cusswords and deliberate nastiness.

Well, we beg to differ. Sarcasm can be high virtue, when applied to a good cause. At times, it is as necessary as oxygen. And today, thanks to a link I followed from Doug Wilson's blog, I found some blogs that prove the point:

Note: The premise of each of the above blogs is safe enough. Most of them live outside the Christian districts of the blogosphere, however, so exercise due care before following their links or probing beyond page 1.

Phil's signature


DJP said...

Oh, goodness. Most of "those" are pet peeve's of mine.

Here's a different dan who shares one of this Dan's peeves.

Now... is there a "white cars are evil" blog?

wordsmith said...

I think that sarcasm in general is a lost art in contemporary society, as is satire. Swift would surely be pilloried for his Modest Proposal, were he to write it today.

Anonymous said...

"In fact, some on the Emerging side of the blogosphere are evidently convinced sarcasm is a worse vice than cusswords and deliberate nastiness".

That being true, they must prefer the other two words often used in place of sarcasm.

TrothKeepr said...

I wanna sign up for that sarcasm society. ;)

northWord said...

hahahah....I've never noticed the lower case L deal before.. I bet I'll be seeing them everywhere now.
The crummy church signs were a riot...sadly.

There really are those that think sarcasm is always a vice?
salt can be good, I like a little in my politics
and I sure like some in my religion.

Quintin said...

I agree, sarcasm is a great tool.

Stefan Ewing said...

Those first four blogger's [sic] should "lITERAllY" form a webring!

candy said...

Dan. Do drivers in California actually use turn signals anymore?

FX Turk said...


DJP said...

Do drivers in California actually use turn signals anymore?

Well, I can tell you one who does, Missy!

Quintin said...

An insult is only meant to hurt.

Satire someone actually might find funny...

"the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc."

Lee Shelton said...

It has been my experience that those who dislike sarcasm or think it's "mean" are the ones who just don't understand it.

By the way, if you want some good Christian satire and sarcasm, pick up a copy of The Gospel Blimp and Other Modern Parables by Joseph Bayly.

Joel B. said...

Hey, thanks for the link. You'd be amazed how many nasty emails I get from other Christians for my use of satire/snark/sarcasm. Good post.

Tom Chantry said...

What is the difference between "insult" and "satire"?

"Insult" is directed at me. "Satire" is directed at everyone else.

goasktheplatypus said...

I would like to submit that the Apostle Paul was very sarcastic. If I need to provide references, I'll take some time and look them up. When churches are dealing with heresy, he tends to get very sarcastic though.

I would also submit that God Himself can be sarcastic. If you don't believe me, read the book of Job.

James Scott Bell said...

An insult is a slap in the face. Satire is a slap in the face for a reason, like when the sergeant slaps the guy in the foxhole who is going nuts, and the guy says, "Thanks, I needed that."

An insult just wants to hurt a person. Satire is a wake up call. It gets at an issue, usually by indicated the absurdities of a certain position. It deals with consequences, and that's always a valid consideration in a debate.

FX Turk said...

We have such smart readers.

Let me ask the obvious retort from the other side of the aisle:

"So as long as you mean well, you have the moral authority to hurt people? Is that what you mean by satire?"


SB said...

Let your speech always be gracious

James Scott Bell said...

...seasoned with salt.

donsands said...

A little sarcasm is good for the soul.
Too much sarcasm can be bad.
Proportionally, sarcasm is good.

Rick Frueh said...

Sarcasm as it refers to your doctrinal friends is good hearted; sarcasm when it refers to your doctrinal enemies is demeaning albeit camolflaged. It is meant to make light of someone's position as so worthless it is humorous.

James Kubecki said...


We'll respond to the retort as soon as you post a link to the "National Sarcasm Society" stuff at the Pawn Shop.

Anonymous said...


Good question! Deep question! Hard question!

Hard because sarcasm and satire are grouped together these days to mean the same thing...ridicule.

Let me ask...if my intentions are to mean well (displaying compassion and love with use of sarcasm and irony along the way); how much responsiblity do I carry for how others may or may not respond?

David A. Carlson said...

S: (n) sarcasm, irony, satire, caustic remark (witty language used to convey insults or scorn)(wordnet.princeton.edu)

A biblical example from 1 Kings:

At noon Elijah mocked them (the priests of baal), “Yell louder! After all, he is a god; he may be deep in thought, or perhaps he stepped out for a moment or has taken a trip. Perhaps he is sleeping and needs to be awakened.”

Now that is funny. But not to the priests of baal....

Sarcasm is always meant to insult or scorn. Don't delude yourself into thinking differently.

The question to ask is, does the person or situation call for me to use insults or scorn?

philness said...

Sarcasm is our most reasonable responsibility to culture. It is the perfect mirror. It keeps everyone in check.

steve said...

Henry: The definition of sarcasm should not change based on the audience toward whom the sarcasm is aimed.

To demean someone is to mock him. That's not the same thing as sarcasm.

bethany said...

Thanks for your recommendation. I'm actually a christian who thinks sarcasm AND curse words are ok when used judiciously. I think the key in these particular sites is that we mock artifacts, not people. I also think you need to take interpersonal sarcasm in context. When my friends and I tease each other, it is affectionate, and shows how close we feel to each other.
Also, wordsmith, I think Swift WAS pilloried for that essay. It does take some education to get satire, no matter what era. If you think it's a lost art, you obviously don't read enough Onion or watch enough Colbert...

Jmv7000 said...

"The Simpson's" TV show is the greatest satire / parody in the 21st century and rivals Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales."

So, yes, good satire does still exist.

James Scott Bell said...

The first 8 seasons only.

Keith B said...

The 2nd rule to this blog states,

"Say what you like about us; disagree as strongly as you like; beat us up or slap us around verbally with near-total impunity. But keep within the parameters of Christian civility. We'll automatically delete comments with profane or unwholesome words, including abbreviated or otherwise disguised ones."

From the above discussion of sarcasm and this rule it seems that almost anything is in the bounds of Christian civility but cursing. But can't excessive sarcasm be unwholesome as well? (Not all sarcasm is out of bounds)

And while it may take intelligence to understand sarcasm, there is still a need to be cautious of being prideful.

wordsmith said...

I didn't say that Swift wasn't pilloried in his time. I maintain that in this era of political correctness, satire and/or sarcasm *is* by and large a lost art, and Swift would certainly be subject to censure - public figures have been forced to resign from their positions for remarks that were, on the surface, far less shocking than what Swift wrote.

Additionally, I would draw a distinction between a spoof site like the Onion or Lark News and satirical/sarcastic works.

David A. Carlson said...

re: use of sarcasm

If the point of the sarcasm is to illucidate, to confront error, or to otherwise demonstrate a truth, in particular to an audience that is blinded to the truth and needs a "shock" to awaken themselves from a stupour, I think sarcasm is a very valid tool in the toolbox.

If the point of the sarcasm is to poke fun at another because its, well, just fun and those people deserve it anyway, or it is your standard way of responding in all situations, then it should not be used.

bethany said...

wordsmith: I don't know what your distinction is. I'm willing to consider it, but you need to explain further. Also, Swift wasn't really a public figure, and he certainly wasn't running for anything. I think the difference is mass mediation - nobody was posting YouTube clips of "A modest proposal" out of context to get people all riled up. That's not about whether or not we appreciate satire (I hold we do, at least as much as they did then) but the effects of mediation.
I'll repeat that even if you rule out "spoofs" Daily Show/Colbert and (as someone else mentioned) the Simpsons offer good contemporary examples that find much larger audiences.

candy said...

I agree with David.

Keith B said...

David: Thanks for concisely stating an important point. It is a good way to explain the difference of good and bad sarcasm. Sarcasm like any tool can be used for the good or the bad.

Solameanie said...

I can't find any occasion where curse words are appropriate and "judiciously usable." In fact, this flies in the face of a host of Scriptures warning us about such speech.

As to sarcasm, there is plenty of it to be found in Scripture, in both OT and NT. I wonder at the many out there who insist it's not Christian to use sarcasm when the evidence to the contrary is there for all to see. In general, the ridiculous deserves ridicule, especially when it's coming out of the mouth of a false teacher.

Unknown said...

I agree with David that sarcasm used right is "to illucidate, to confront error, or to otherwise demonstrate a truth,"

I do remember getting in trouble as a kid for being sarcastic. My goal in these times was not to speak the truth but to 'mouth-off.' Rather than come right out with a potty mouth, I could be sarcastic but it never did hide the motives of my heart.

I think swearing is a different issue. While it is true there are things that are say 'damnable' to hell in a literal sense (like unbelief and heresy) we tend to cheapen the language by using it flipantly. I've been in a lot of non-Christian contexts where swearing is used to either puff oneself up or hide a lack of vocabularly. Even when used to express anger (even justifiable anger) swearing cheapened the critique and showed the person had not thought through their anger.

I guess as a personal check we should ask: do I use sarcasm (and language) to illucidate truth or berate? Interestingly, Ezekiel uses some pretty gross sexual imagery to describe the nation's idolatry.

northWord said...

chalk up another point for David here . .
the end of day: only God knows the intent of our hearts, I ask Him daily to "check" mine.

agree on the cursing thing too (I don't believe "sailor" was meant in the use of "salt" in the Christian language)

Jam 3:10 "Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be."

David A. Carlson said...

The ridiculous DO NOT deserve ridicule.

They deserve the truth. Sarcasm can be a way of delivering that truth. So can confrontation, expulsion from church, and a whole host of other actions.

If you are using sarcasm with the intent to hurt, you are not acting in a christian manner.

And while sarcasm is certainly used in the bible, it is not the SOP for dealing with others. To say "its in the bible" and then apply it injudiciously, is to act contrary to the overall teachings of the bible.

donsands said...

"In general, the ridiculous deserves ridicule, especially when it's coming out of the mouth of a false teacher." -meanie

I saw a video, which mocks Bob Tilton, and I thought it was hilarious. And fitting for this proven heretic.

And yet a pastor friend saw it, and thought it was over the line, and not good.

So, is it our own conscience that is the judge in some instances?

David A. Carlson said...

And if anyone else agrees with me, I am going to faint. Quick, someone post something on Dan Kimball, contemplative prayer or Christmas so I can go back to being villified.

David A. Carlson said...

One final post.

I think Phil's posters fall within my first category. I think they are an appropriate use of sarcasm, done in love, to "wake up" people who are in error.

I also think some "posters" (commentors) on this blog like them because they see them as a way of ridiculing bad evil emergents. And that is wrong.

wordsmith said...

Spoof (n): a mocking imitation of someone or something, usually light and good-humored; lampoon or parody

Satire (n): 1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc. 2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.

Swift was hardly a total unknown in his day, and in fact hung out with some of the political higher-ups of his day. I can't comment as to the applicability of the Simpsons, having only watched the show once or twice at most.

wordsmith said...

donsands: "I saw a video, which mocks Bob Tilton, and I thought it was hilarious. And fitting for this proven heretic."

Have you seen "The [Flatulating] Preacher"? Knowing who Tilton is, I would agree that he well deserves such an honor, but I can see where some might be uncomfortable with the topic.

Phil Johnson said...

David: "I also think some "posters" (commentors) on this blog like them because they see them as a way of ridiculing bad evil emergents. And that is wrong."

Three points:

1. I do actually agree with the point behind what David is saying here.

I wouldn't necessarily apply it to the reaction the Po-Motivators® have generated. In fact, I don't have any particular incident or person in mind here, but it does need to be stressed that the subtlety of good satire is always spoiled when someone overreacts, and that's true on both sides of every divide.

See: satire is like a paint-ball battle; it's not intended to be fatal, and satire alone can't really be fatal. But when someone scores a dead hit or (conversely) gets hit where it hurts, there's always this tendency to overreact.

On the side that scored the hit, angry people sometimes swarm around the victim, wanting to pretend the hit was fatal and do a mindless victory dance over the "corpse." Satire ruined.

On the side that got hit, angry people sometimes swarm around the victim, complaining that you shouldn't be aiming for the head or the heart, but only the pinkie toe. When you remind them that we're not really using lethal ammo, they only get angrier. Satire ruined.

With regard to the Po-motivators,® I saw far more of the latter than the former, but I won't try to deny that some of our commenters (and a few people in our sidebar links) have been sometimes guilty of the former.

It should be noted, too, that over-reactions are most likely to happen when the satire has well and truly hit its mark.

2. And while we're on the subject, let me (at least once more) make the point no one has yet cogently replied to: before I ever posted a single one of the Po-Motivators®, I posted a series of thorough, dispassionate, point-by-point replies to Scot McKnight's CT article, and that series got precisely zero thoughtful feedback from the quarters where it is now being claimed that all we ever do here at Teampyro is sarcasm.

Most of our critics apparently would never think of extending to us the sort of even-handed "fairness" they seem to think is more important than truth and justice.

3. Notice, also, this post defends the "judicious" use of sarcasm; not its abuse or overuse. We're not suggesting that all sarcasm is good, or even that all our sarcasm is first-rate satire. We would all acknowledge that there is such a thing as too much. But those who are angriest about the Po-Motivators® haven't made that argument. Their claim is that any satire leveled against someone else who claims to be a Chrisian is wrong. That opinion is not merely wrong; it's the kind of wrong thinking that deserves to be satirized.

terriergal said...

CenturiOn ( or ee cummings) wrote

A sense of humor. My mother always told me a good sense of humor was a sign of intelligence. She always told me this when I was mad about something, of course.

donsands said...

"Have you seen "The [Flatulating] Preacher"?"

Yep. That's the one.

"Knowing who Tilton is, I would agree that he well deserves such an honor, but I can see where some might be uncomfortable with the topic."

Good thought. Thanks.

terriergal said...

steve wrote:
Henry: The definition of sarcasm should not change based on the audience toward whom the sarcasm is aimed.

To demean someone is to mock him. That's not the same thing as sarcasm.

I wrote:
Answer: A sense of humor.

Score one for me! Yay!

Do you really mean by that post you didn't get Henry's joke?

Let me guess... you don't like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh either... ;-)

Stefan Ewing said...

David, sorry for piling in with bringing on the fainting spell, but thank you for the careful parsing you've done in your comments up above, and bringing to light some important distinctions.

bethany said...

1) wordsmith: that explains our disagreement a bit. You see satire as necessarily biting, while I include more lighthearted sarcasm (that still has a point)in the genre.

2) I disagree with solameanie who suggests that there is never a good use of bad language. See: "wake up dead man," U2.

3) I think that sarcasm is often an efficient and gentle form of rebuke. Example: in my high school youth group some younger members were ruining the tone with bad attitudes. One sarcastic response from me made them immediately stop their negative commentary, probably more effectively than a sincere talking-to would have, certainly from my position of being older, (possibly) cooler, but not an authority.

Rick Frueh said...

"Notice, also, this post defends the "judicious" use of sarcasm; not its abuse or overuse."

All subjective and measured by the user/abuser. Satire demeans the person or his opinion while by inference legitimizes the satirists view.

Do we also defend the judicious use of disdain, contempt, and scorn? When the "other side" demeans someone like MacArthur they also are in the wrong.

It presents to the world a dialogue that must massage egos and uses humor to diminish others and their opinion. And the posters were not just one aspect, they were comprehensive and relentless concerning the object of the satire.

They are wrong no matter which "side" comes up with the creative shots. For penance, why not creatively make posters satirizing MacArthur, Sproul, and Calvinism in general. Then we could call it even and move on in Christian brotherhood while still confronting doctrinal issues.

David A. Carlson said...

It's ok Sewing, Phil has restored order to the universe.

My place in the pantheon that is Pyromaniacs has been reset to its normal postion

northWord said...

oh the irony..

bethany said: "I'm actually a christian who thinks sarcasm AND curse words are ok when used judiciously."

then solameanie said: "I can't find any occasion where curse words are appropriate and "judiciously usable.""

to which bethany replies with a watered down term for the word "curse": "I disagree with solameanie who suggests that there is never a good use of bad language"

and then refers to a Bono song to bolster her conviction . .
(bad language indeed)

Respectfully, Bethany, please please pleassse don't make the mistake of putting the words of mere man before and/or in place of the inspired word of our Lord.

bethany said...

northward: I actually changed terms not to "water down" but because I don't consider the f-word a curse - it's obscene but not profane.
I'm not suggesting that Bono is inspired, but I do suggest that the use of that word in that song is a good example - it is meaningful and expresses a (IMO theologically sound) position eloquently. I don't feel that I really CAN reference the bible to make this argument because cultural barriers make it so challenging, plus I'm not a scholar of any biblical languages.
Anyway, I wasn't using the U2 song to prooftext, I was using it as a counterexample to solameany's assertion. Maybe you disagree with me here, but I think that while humans aren't always inspired, they are capable of doing good art sometimes, and I think bono and "wake up dead man" are a good example.

Phil Johnson said...

Henry (Rick) Frueh: "When the 'other side' demeans someone like MacArthur they also are in the wrong."

1. I've known John MacArthur personally for nearly 30 years and while he himself isn't generally known for employing satire or sarcasm, I don't think I've ever heard him complain that a critic was being unfair or unkind merely because the person was using satire. That is true despite the fact that some of the most fierce and angry ridicule that has ever been aimed his way has come from certain Emerging quarters--including one or two of the very same blogs where you'll find lots of mock indignation about the Po-Motivators®.

2. As far as what's fair for "the other side" is concerned, (correct me if I'm wrong, but) I don't think anyone at TeamPyro has ever once complained about the style as opposed to the content of our critics' derision.

3. On the other hand, we're often subjected to some pretty fierce mockery, even in our own comment-threads. Funny, but I can't remember a single time when any of the people who are so outraged at our use of sarcasm have ever actually made similar complaints against our detractors. There IS a double-standard at work here, despite what you suggest.

Rick Frueh said...

So be it, you are faultless.

northWord said...

Thank you, Bethany, for your response. For now I'll just wish you well, and ask God to bless you with wisdom and discernment on these things, we all could use it all of the time, lest we become puffed up in our own [mis]understanding.


Stefan Ewing said...

Personally, I refrain from using the f-word, s-word, and even the d-word. My vocabulary has grown quite a bit in coming up with creative, inoffensive synonyms for them. And I don't see that we are really doing the Lord any favours by using such language.

If we are going to get pedantic about it, however, they are profane and therefore not desirable to use, but not blasphemous—i.e., taking the Lord's name in vain.

To put it another way, before I was saved, I thought the f- and s-words were the bad ones (and the d- one less so), and the blasphemic expressions not quite so bad (God have mercy on me). Now I still don't use the f-, s-, d- and assorted other words, but I am even more careful not to blaspheme.

There: clear as mud!

Habitans in Sicco said...

Henry (Rick) Frueh: "Satire demeans the person or his opinion. . . Do we also defend the judicious use of disdain, contempt, and scorn?

But then. . .

"So be it, you are faultless."

Hats off, gentlemen--a phoney.

Phil Johnson said...


My personal opinion as both a music lover and a professional editor is that quotation marks are always entirely appropriate in around the words "good art" when applied to Bono.

I know this is a subjective judgment.

On the other hand, so is your argument in favor of using the f-word. I don't think it's a given that just because Bono did it in a song you like, it's perfectly OK. I'd go with Scripture on this one, which (while using certain kind of strong, even vulgar language in specific contexts) strongly discourages the indiscriminate use of coarse and smutty speech. I think this particularly applies to terms that are not merely earthy but also ribald.

See this for my more detailed thoughts on the matter.

Solameanie said...

I really don't want to go down the "arguing over what constitutes bad language" road again, but it keeps coming up like a hairball.

Why are people so attracted to the idea of having a potty mouth and thinking that it represents Christ well? Whatever differences there are between obscene and profane really doesn't matter. It is inappropriate for Christians to speak like this. Period. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

Scripture is plain -- very plain -- that Christians are not to use bad language. You can try to twist, nuance, and evade this truth in true postmodern fashion until the Guernseys come home, but Scripture will have none of it. I really don't care what Bono did or why, or what any individual happens to think. What matters is what God thinks. I can't tell you how many times I have shown various people (even some Christians) what Scripture says on a given issue of behavior. They look at me with either a glassy-eyed stare or dismissive roll of the eyes and say, "well, I just don't think there's anything wrong with it." Why don't they just come out plainly and say they don't care what God's Word says because it stands in the way of how they want to behave? Grrrr!

David, yes, the ridiculous DOES sometimes deserve ridicule. But the key is something you hinted at yourself. Is the ridicule given with the intent to hurt with malice, or solely for the purpose of wounding someone?

If indeed malice lies at the root of said ridicule, of course that wouldn't be right. But if the "intent to hurt" is more akin to giving someone a spanking as a corrective measure, then it can be an appropriate thing to do. If I am rendering a spanking, I WANT it to hurt for the purpose of sending a clear message that something is wrong.

I realize that this philosophy doesn't fly well with our overly indulgent generation, but so it is.

northWord said...

I guess, as rule of thumb anything I wouldn't say directly to God I (try) to refrain from saying at all, in private or not.

One of the things that "happened" to me as a result of my own (true)conversion was those f-bombs and such that had once too easily flowed from my mouth (esp in private, ya know like when I'd drop a can of Chunky soup on my toe, something like that)- well those tendencies just dissappeared, and not like the other things in my life I needed to actually think about and consciously stop doing, it just happened naturally.
I think that alone is a clear indication of what God thinks of all foul language or any other form of behaviors un-becomming of a Christ follower.

...be holy for I am holy...

I'll have to check out PhiLs link later -

wordsmith said...

Regarding the ridiculous deserving ridicule - from Matthew Henry's commentary:

"Proverbs 26:4-5

"Proper treatment of fools

"See here the noble security of the scripture-style, which seems to contradict itself, but really does not. Wise men have need to be directed how to deal with fools; and they have never more need of wisdom than in dealing with such, to know when to keep silence and when to speak, for there may be a time for both.

"1. In some cases a wise man will not set his wit to that of a fool so far as to answer him according to his folly 'If he boast of himself, do not answer him by boasting of thyself. If he rail and talk passionately, do not thou rail and talk passionately too. If he tell one great lie, do not thou tell another to match it. If he calumniate thy friends, do not thou calumniate his. If he banter, do not answer him in his own language, lest thou be like him, even thou, who knowest better things, who hast more sense, and hast been better taught.'

"2. Yet, in other cases, a wise man will use his wisdom for the conviction of a fool, when, by taking notice of what he says, there may be hopes of doing good, or at least preventing further, mischief, either to himself or others. 'If thou have reason to think that thy silence will be deemed an evidence of the weakness of thy cause, or of thy own weakness, in such a case answer him, and let it be an answer ad hominem-to the man, beat him at his own weapons, and that will be an answer ad rem-to the point, or as good as one. If he offer any thing that looks like an argument, an answer that, and suit thy answer to his case. If he think, because thou dost not answer him, that what he says is unanswerable, then give him an answer, lest he be wise in his own conceit and boast of a victory.' For (Luke 7:35) Wisdom's children must justify her."

Solameanie said...

I apologize for my rather heated tone in my last post. I don't know why this issue incenses me so much, but it does. I think it's largely because I have seen the whole concept of holiness trashed so badly in recent years. Seeing people behave and speak like they live in the gutter is something you expect from the unsaved, not Christians. Working in secular radio in distant years past, I can remember getting upset one day and swearing in front of my co-workers. They knew I was a Christian and I cannot tell you the damage that did to my testimony. I still grieve over it.

Add to that the other ills I see. Christian young people living even more sexually immoral lives than their unsaved counterparts. Being increasingly unable to tell Christians apart from non-Christians in their behavior, speech, ethics, morals etc. And when those of us who are concerned about it speak up, we get called prudes, holier-than-thous, self-righteous and the rest of the panoply of barbs. I expect new, baby Christians to have some rough edges, but when people who have been believers for years -- even teachers and pastors -- excuse sinful lifestyles, I do tend to get very cranky very quickly.

Phil is quite right when he speaks of Scripture using some rough words at times, and he is also quite right in differentiating those words from coarse, smutty terms. Unfortunately, people can't seem to tell the difference anymore, or worse yet, use one to excuse the other.

northWord said...

well said, solameanie...I completely agree.

Christians have got to stand with Christ
/no matter/in spite of/ and especially in the face of the world, or "popular" view.

Stefan Ewing said...

Reading over Phil's post from last year, one thing jumps to mind. This is a ridiculously tedious question, but I just have to know the answer!

Is it appropriate for us as Christians to use, say, the name of the insect companion of Pinocchio as a way to avoid taking the name of the Son of God in vain?

I used to work with someone who, though not a Christian, had the most colourful vocabulary of family-friendly expressions that were not actually profane or (debatably) blasphemous. The aforementioned insect's name together with the medial word "jumping" was one of my favourite ones.

The question is, it may sound inoffensive, but does it nevertheless suggest an intent to treat God with irreverence?

Stefan Ewing said...

Was my last comment a showstopper, or has this thread just played itself out?

candy said...

Course language is just a cheap and easy way to get a reaction.

Well placed sarcasm at least takes a bit of wit and thought to make a point.

Solameanie said...


Believe it or not, I know some who oppose the use of ANY words as expressions because they think they really represent profane or obscene words. For instance, the term "shoot" is regarded to mean something else, only with two "o"s. They do make an interesting case, but I don't know if I can be quite that severe. I am not a philologist. After a while, this stuff starts to resemble the King James Only argument in terms of nitpicking. All I can say is that, before I heard this kind of argument, I never even thought of the naughty alternative when using a word like "shoot." Is this being overly severe? I don't know, and I really don't spend a whole lot of time wringing my hands over it. I mostly try to avoid saying anything out loud. It keeps me out of trouble.

The long and short of it is, most of us adults know what a naughty word is despite all attempts at obfuscation and parsing. The EC-types who are trying to shoehorn profanity, vulgarity and/or obscenity into acceptable Christian parlance (Anne Lamott comes to mind) know better for the most part. Some of them think they're being trendy, others think they're being iconoclastic, others think they're being "authentic," while others are just simply being stupid.

Jon from Bucksport said...

Thanks. What a great way to defend this. Just a simple post not a long, drawn out diatribe.
I have to agree that, "those who do not appreciate sarcasm are those who don't get it." Or those who can't do it.
I once heard a preacher say that sarcasm is always indicative of a bitter spirit. Uh…, right.
We should be gracious in our speech but sometimes grace speaks out and says, "You are a sinner destined for hell!" So sometimes it is appropriate to point out error with different methods.

Helen said...
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Anonymous said...

Our daughter who was born with down syndrome, is known as 'sunshine' because of de-light she brings to all who meet her. She is not witty or smart by the world's standards. Her language of love is extending her hand and saying,"Hi, it is nice to meet you!" (even when she has known you for 2 years) or "happy birthday" (even if it is not your birthday). She gets a smile from others because her love language is 'up' and not a put down. Yes, she is vulnerable, because she lacks discernment, but she doesn't put people on the defensive by offensive language.
Sure, we intelligent people can judge the shortcomings of others, but where do we end up at the end of the day, as we 'lay me down to sleep'. This child demonstrates a pure heart and I, her mother sleep well, knowing God has orchestrated the events of her day and some day she will see her Heavenly Father.

Satire? Well, there go I by the grace of God. I could be in her shoes (cognitive development: 15 month old), or your shoes(IQ, hmmm..125?), or that foolish emertian's shoes (a hopeless case? I pray not so), but no, I'm wearing size 6 wide and the moment I begin to judge,(which satire does, and I am also guilty of) I will surely be tested. So what is a nana to do? Pray that I would give grace in the manner I have received it. And yes, I act silly sometimes.

Ted said...
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Anonymous said...

Third watch thoughts:
'fruit of the spirit...'

I just wonder what old screwtape would teach contrary to the above?
Maybe.. 'rebellion, futility, and sarcasm, and the greatest of these is sarcasm?? Because it makes a great weapon, a dagger and not that hideous sword of the Spirit.' Or,

"Wormwood, keep in mind,
on that old ancient tree
hung the juicy fruit,so tastee..satire.. keep whispering
'sample it and see.
You'll be the life of the party
with wit to inspire..'
'You now know good and evil.
So indulge. It brings great pleasure..'
to the ole serpent.
Just keep whispering
'you are
oh so
clever...' "
Disrespectfully yours,

Anonymous said...

Um...this is off-topic, but have y'all seen this?


Anonymous said...

And, this?


Missional Apologetics? Isn't that an oxymoron?

Solameanie said...


You need to re-read Paul's writings. He uses sarcasm in Corinthians and Galatians.

David A. Carlson said...

Just a little sarcasm by Paul

4:8 Already you are satisfied! Already you are rich! You have become kings without us! I wish you had become kings so that we could reign with you! 4:9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to die, because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to people. 4:10 We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, we are dishonored!

But Paul than says why he is sarcastic

4:14 I am not writing these things to shame you, but to correct you as my dear children.

I think sarcasm is well overused by all, including christians. But you cannot make a biblical case that it has no place in christian speach or writing (or poster making).

Mike Riccardi said...


1 Cor 4:7-8 - For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.

2 Cor 3:1 - Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you?

2 Cor 10:1 - Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the mekness and gentleness of Christ--I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!

2 Cor 11:1 - I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me.

2 Cor 11:17-23 - What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison But in whatever respect anyone else is bold--I speak in foolishness--I am just as bold myself. Are they Hebrews? So am I Are they Israelites? So am I Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ?--I speak as if insane--I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.

DJP said...

Or the rest of this thread, and blog.

Helen said...

Is that how you use the Bible?

"Let me see if I have an excuse to behave like this - yes! Paul did it! I can do it too!"

I thought it was supposed to inspire better behavior, not excuse what evidently is questionable.

Daryl said...

Perhaps a better way to say it would be ..."Paul did it, I better be willing to as well, when the situation calls for it."

wordsmith said...

Helen: "Is that how you use the Bible?

"'Let me see if I have an excuse to behave like this - yes! Paul did it! I can do it too!'

"I thought it was supposed to inspire better behavior, not excuse what evidently is questionable."

Unless you want to make the case that Paul was sinning when he penned those portions of Scripture. So much for verbal, plenary inspiration.

Mike Riccardi said...


I'm not sure if your comment was directed at me, but in case it was, I'll respond. I believe I responded to Ted's implicit request for examples from Scripture in which the Apostles used sarcasm. I believe I did that. There was nothing about, "Now I can do that, too!" Although, I must admit I usually am in favor of following the example of the apostles (notwithstanding how imperfectly I do it).

Solameanie said...
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Solameanie said...

I hate that you can't edit comments after you catch a mistake once they've been posted. I'll try again.

I think some of the objectors are missing the point entirely. I don't think anyone is advocating using sarcasm carte blanche, or in a knee-jerk fashion. But there are times where it is called for, especially in terms of rebuke when people needing the rebuke are being particularly recalcitrant.

This particular contingent of Christians today who feel that believers are to be nothing but Caspar Milquetoasts in society need to wise up. The Bible does not impose such a standard when it comes to dealing with false teachers, or for that matter, when preaching the Gospel to the populace. Stephen didn't get stoned to death by telling his audience that God loved them and had a wonderful plan for their lives.

In our history, Alexis DeTocqueville noted that one of the things that made America the great nation that she was is that her "pulpits thundered with righteousness." I can imagine what some of today's Christians with the type of mindset I'm describing would say about that. No one today would be permitted to preach with thunder. A mild crackle of Rice Krispies perhaps, mixed in with Wally Cox-style one-liners. In severe cases, some mild whining with limited hand-wringing would be okay.

In the end, it probably does little good to remonstrate with people who hold this mindset. They don't want you to confuse them with the facts, or ruin the warm, fuzzy, lava-lamp theology they've constructed for themselves.

Helen said...

Mike, it was a general comment. Thanks for the verses. I see that the apostle Paul used sarcasm but it bothers me when people say "because that's the word of God that means it's ok for us to sarcastically make fun of people".

Daryl I like your approach to what's in Paul's letters better too, but I don't think it applies to sarcasm, because who finds themselves unwilling to be sarcastic, as if it's something God has to push us into? Isn't being sarcastic something we love to do? If anything don't we need holding back rather than encouraging in that regard?

Helen said...

I can only speak for myself - when I felt like using sarcasm, it felt like a temptation to be mean, in a clever, funny way that would make people 'on my side' laugh; it felt like a temptation to sin, not like being called to holiness by the Holy Spirit.

donsands said...


That's a good conviction. And you should live by it.
I don't have the same conviction as you about sarcasm.
I like saracsm. It can be refreshing at times, and an excellent way to share truth.

Ted said...
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DJP said...

TedI see CLEARLY now that Paul uses sarcasm. . . . the Apostle Paul, who was writing Holy Scripture, uses sarcasm - as do the Prophets and God Himself. Hmm. God's Word is sometimes sarcastic. I think I see the connection there (as in, “Yes, the Holy Spirit uses sarcasm sometimes.”)

-- snip --

...I don't like the title nor the content of this post. Not one bit.

Helen said...

djp, what point are you making by quoting parts of ted's comment? I don't understand.

Ted said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Solameanie said...


You might want to re-examine the context of some of those verses you cite.

Just a friendly suggestion.

Daryl said...


I think Dan was just pointing out Ted's use of sarcasm to make his point that sarcasm is always wrong...sort of like using words to prove that words have no inherent meaning (another EC favourite)

Ted said...
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bethany said...

I think that some of the misunderstanding in this discussion is that some people are forwarding an argument that sarcasm is always bad. Others find examples where it might not be, and the first group accuses them of making excuses, choosing un-authoritative sources, etc.
Perhaps you can tell by my mildly weary tone that I side with the second group. Sure, there are times when sarcasm is hurtful. Maybe even MOST of the time. But there are also times when it's a useful, elegant, perhaps even necessary form of communication.
Call me postmodern, and I'll embrace it. I am suspicious of broad, universal claims. Especially about things as slippery as language.

Helen said...

Bethany, you mentioned two groups: those arguing sarcasm is never appropriate and those saying, yes, it is sometimes.

Surely there's at least one more group here you didn't mention: the group holding the view expressed in the original post i.e. "we need sarcasm".