Monthly Archives: December 2015

Why Christians Have a Hard Time with Satire

Yesterday I published a blog post about a fictional visit from Jesus to Liberty University. I was exposing the absurdity of asking Christian students to purchase guns for self-defense by presenting a Jesus who retracts his teachings on non-violence and promotes the “kill them before they kill you and others” attitude we heard from Jerry Falwell, Jr. I was trying to create a Jesus who would affirm Falwell’s thinking and take it to its logical conclusion.

The conclusion: if Jesus adopted Falwell’s approach, he probably would have bypassed the cross. Jesus would have destroyed the people trying to kill him and established a new political dynasty which would not differ too much from any other regime of his day or ours.

obs_20110726001I tried to use humor, wit, and biblical theology to create a satirical response to Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s reprehensible call to action, exposing how unfaithful it is to the teachings and example of Jesus. And yes, it was a lot of fun to do.

But the response was rather… muted. Maybe my post wasn’t all that good. That’s always a distinct possibility. Or maybe I offended people into stunned silence. But that hardly happens on social media these days.

In the meantime I’ve been waiting for angry people and church members to call or email me, complaining about how blasphemous I was. How dare I mock Jesus like that?? That’s usually the response to satire that involves some aspect of our faith.

When Monty Python’s Life of Brian was released, it created a massive firestorm of protest from Christian groups who lambasted it as anti-Christian blasphemy. Bring it up today, and it still gets the ire of many. It was satire! And it wasn’t mocking Christian faith or Jesus. It wasn’t even mocking religion in general, although some used it as such. Life of Brian was a satire of the sorry state of organized religion and how we often (mis)represent the gospel.

So why do Christians have a hard time with satire these days, especially when it invokes Christian motifs and figures? I think there are several reasons, and I’m sure you could list off more:

  1. Being culturally marginalized has got us defensive. The church is in a tough spot. For 1,700 years, we found ourselves at the epicenter of culture and government. Now, we’re increasingly on the margins of both, and we don’t know how to handle that. Whenever the culture jabs us or we even perceive that they’re jabbing us, it rubs salt in our wounded pride.
  2. Humor and religion don’t often play well together. Let’s face it. Dealing with God is serious business. It requires our very best and our utmost devotion. Humor, however, is a distraction. The very nature of humor is to knock us down a peg, to enjoy our imperfections, our limitations, and the things that would normally shame us. In fact, humor is an antidote to shame. But… humor is also an antidote to pride. High-mindedness is a pathway to pride and arrogance. Humor- and yes the Bible contains humor!- has a humbling effect. It invites us to avoid the extreme of taking ourselves too seriously. So humor can and should play a role in our life of faith.
  3. People are hyper-sensitive these days. Sorry. I’m sure someone just got offended by that. It seems as if there’s a cultural weed infesting our First Amendment right of free speech: freedom from being offended. Very little can be openly discussed and debated without things devolving into ad hominem attacks. Disagreement is the new scandal. Words must be weighed very carefully to make sure some segment of an audience doesn’t feel belittled. (Warning: raising this point will garner a Scarlet I for being insensitive).It’s hard to say anything of consequence without issuing qualifying statements to soften the blow on people’s sensibilities. In this climate, humor and satire have become the greatest casualties.

Given all this, is it any wonder that Christians have a hard time recognizing and understanding satire? There’s a good deal of satire in the Bible, including from people like Jesus and Paul. It serves a purpose in getting our attention and encouraging us to think and do differently, more faithfully, more Christ-like.

So… on that note, fellow Christians: lighten up, will ya?

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Jesus Keynotes an NRA Rally at Liberty University

This just in! A stunning revelation that Jesus Christ- yes, the actual Jesus of Nazareth- miraculously appeared at a scheduled National Rifle Association rally at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Upon inspection of the wounds in his hands, feet, and side with residual scarring on his forehead, Jesus’s identity was confirmed.

In the words of Liberty University’s President Jerry Falwell, Jr, “We had been praying for some time that the Lord would show us how to better protect our students from the kinds of violence we’re seeing on other college campuses. The Holy Spirit convicted us that we must meet potential violence, especially from Muslims, with the strength of arms. Every student must be armed and ready to defend themselves and their classmates from any violent threat. Well, that led us to the National Rifle Association’s assistance and… to our great amazement… our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who was kind enough preach to us. Although I have to admit, I’m somewhat puzzled by the conclusion of his address.”

I, Pastor Chris Owens, have attained an exclusive transcript of Jesus’s keynote address to the NRA and Liberty University. The following are his remarks:

[Jesus walks onto the stage wearing two gun holsters with a rifle slung to his shoulder.]

jesus-gun-500x3001-630x378“Thank you, thank you, one and all for having me here today. I bring you greetings and blessings from my Father in Heaven and the Holy Spirit who has been trying to get your attention recently. I’m grateful that you have now heeded the call and have gathered together for this momentous occasion.

“Back in my day we didn’t have guns and rifles. We had swords, and I want you to know, my friends, that I would have been a proud, card-carrying member of the JSA, the Judean Sword Association.”

[thunderous applause]

“Yes! Yes! Those Romans were a severe threat to our people and to me. They oppressed us. They terrorized us. They certainly were not good Jews like us. And so the night before I died, I encouraged my disciples to sell a cloak and buy a sword. That’s right. I was beginning to come to my senses and I realized that the only way to fend off those heathen Romans was with a strong show of force. If any of those pigs dared come near us, they’d find a blade in their belly.”

[several minutes of applause]

“Now it’s true that I rebuked poor Peter for cutting off the ear from one of the guys arresting me in the Garden of Gethsemene. He was only trying to protect me with the sword I commanded him to buy. But I told him to put his sword away. Then I warned him that all who take up the sword will perish by the sword.

“However, I have had a few thousand years to think things over. So now I say unto you:

Whoever takes up the sword will LIVE by the sword. And whoever carries a gun will LIVE by the gun!”

[several minutes of rapturous applause with multiple refrains of “Hallelujah!! We praise you Lord Jesus!!”]

“Yes, thank you my friends. You know times change. Things that were good for people a long time ago are not relevant for us today. Your esteemed president Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr. led me to see that.

“It is a matter of common sense and even a good American duty to protect ourselves from the threats of people who hate us and want to harm us, especially those Muslims. In fact Donald Trump is spot on. Don’t even let them into your country anymore. You never know when one of them will turn on you.

“And when they do- and believe me, they will!- I want you to do the responsible, moral thing, and shoot them down where they stand. Then there’ll be fewer Muslims to terrorize the world.

[several minutes of applause and shouts of “USA! USA!”]

“Now, I know many of you remember my teachings about turning the other cheek and not resisting an evil person. Those teachings of mine have bedeviled you for 2,000 years, and I am truly sorry for that. Please forgive me for I did not know of what I said.

“How naively irresponsible I was for commanding you to be a bunch of pathetic wusses. How are we to stop evil people if we don’t take ’em out? Isn’t a bullet in the head of an aggressor the most loving, compassionate thing we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones? No more bad guys means peace and prosperity for us!”

[several minutes of applause, shouting, and gun shots into the sky]

[A hand of a young man in the front row goes up.]

“Yes, my son. Do you have a question?”

[The young main said, “Lord, didn’t you also say that we are to love our enemies and love our neighbors as ourselves? Have you revised that as well?”]

“Absolutely not, my friend! Loving our neighbors and our enemies are timeless principles which must be freshly applied to your context.

“Who are your neighbors these days? Aren’t they good Christians like you?

“And as for loving your enemies, the guiding principle is this: live to love another day. I mean, how can you be good, nice, loving followers of mine if you’re dead?? How can love prevail if evil people kill the true lovers?

“So I say this: love your enemy with an AK-47 at your side. Love ’em with all your heart. And the moment they begin to threaten you, show them the full force of good Christian love! Live to love another day, my friends!!”

[several minutes of applause, praises, shouts, and gunfire with a burning effigy of Mohammed.]

“Friends, I must leave you now. There is one more thing to be done. I am going back in time to correct a few errors. I am God, after all. I can do that.

Jesus with a rifle“Those nasty religious leaders who had me arrested and that fellow Pontus Pilate who condemned me to die– they’re dead men now. Yessir. How can I continue to love the world and bring about the kingdom of God unless those bastards are filled with lead?

“Greater love has no one than this: that he should take up arms to protect his friends. Crosses are for defeated weaklings! Sin, death, and evil– mow ’em down with everything you’ve got!!

“Farewell, my friends! Keep your ammo well stocked!”

[Jesus leaves the stage, and there is stunned silence. Suddenly a voice from the crowd says, “Does that mean we can sleep in on Sundays now?]

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