I love Satire. It’s probably my favourite type of comedy if I am honest. And we have a great wealth of satirists to choose from. From shows such as Have I got News for You to the Daily Show and from writers such as Armandio Iannucci to to Mark Steel, nowhere is safe for the absurdities of politics and culture to be made fun of.
I believe for satire to be good it needs to shine a light on all aspects of those cultures that are wrong, absurd, dangerous and ridiculous. It needs to take what is wrong and expose them for what they are. The best satire is the type that is able to show the contradictory facets in public life, be that politicians or celebrities. Whilst being funny, very funny.
Politicians and celebrities have been the butt of many jokes over the years but there is one group who are now finding themselves ridiculed more and more. That group? Evangelical Christians. Namely fundamental Christians. Now you may be thinking this is nothing new. Sure Christians have been made fun of by shows such as South Park, Father Ted and Family Guy before but there is a new group stepping up to the altar and confessing their disdain for most things Evangelical Christian. And it’s not who you would think either.
For the group who are taking it upon themselves to ridicule the absurdities of Christian Culture are none other than other Christians.
Watching this subculture of Christians take it upon themselves to poke fun at the parts of Christian life, language and culture which have seemed so ridiculous to many of those outside of the church already, has been a breath of fresh air.
As a Christian one of the most frustrating things I find about the culture that I somehow find myself loving and hating at the same time, is it’s inability to laugh at itself. Religious folk are by far and away the most easily offended group on the planet which doesn’t bear well for our ability to laugh at ourselves. Comedians such as Tripp and Tyler and bloggers like Jon Acuff though realise that sometimes as Christians we exclude others from being able to feel part of a Church, not necessarily because of some desire to keep people out (although sometimes because of very much this reason) but because those who have been brought up in a culture which doesn’t think it’s weird to talk about having fellowship with each other, when really they just mean hanging out, are quite literally speaking a different language.
The weird and wonderful dynamics of Christian Culture should be open to made fun of because it shows that a/ sometimes the reasoning of a lot which we do is odd and its good to question why we do or say certain things and b/ hey it’s funny. If the old comedy statement that ‘it’s funny because it’s true’ is ahem, true, we should all find Christian culture funny because we all know someone who echos someone else’s prayers and prays invisible, ‘unspoken’ prayers.
But the Christian satirist doesn’t simply stop at weird Christianese talk or prayer triplet and prayer squares as terms to be made fun of. A growing number of Christians who have become disillusioned with certain characteristics of Christianity have come out fighting.
It is one thing to make fun of typical light hearted things as the comedians mentioned above may, but it is quite another to stand up to the practices and processes that many churches use but which in fact may be dangerous and harmful.
A hotbed for this kind of Christian satire can be found on twitter, with tweeters such as Stephanie Drury of Stuff Christian Culture Likes (not to be confused with Jon Acuff and Stuff Christians Like) standing up for those who have been mistreated by the Church by using their voice and own experiences to highlight the darker aspects of Christian culture like misogyny and homophobia. If satire at it’s heart is about seeing things clearly, about seeing that there is a better way then sites such as Stuff Christian Culture Likes are leading the way in exposing what some Churches and Christians believe to be the way things should be.
Fake twitter accounts such as the brilliant @RealRobBaal which pokes fun more at peoples view of Rob Bell than Rob Bell himself and @fakedriscoll which imagines Mark Driscoll as a sort of lovable misogynist are important in how they acknowledge some sort of truth about someone or a culture that many, were either too afraid or too oblivious to mention. Like the elephant in the room, which everyone knows about and no one ever mentions, highlighting an issue in a comedic way can actually bring a sense of relief.
This is where satire in general but particularly in Christian circles can be a positive thing. For those who have been mistreated by the church, seeing other people expose the actions of a few in a way that shows them up for who they really are can bring healing and closure. For those who have tried to change the way things have been done in church, just because ‘that is how we do it’; seeing other people feel the ridiculousness of some of our practices also, can help them realise they are not crazy or alone.
This can be life changing for someone who was about to throw the towel in on Church and God and faith.
For Jesus, this way of thinking was particularly clear. He often took the absurdities of the religious culture in which he was a part of and exposed them for the world to see. Stories of camels going through needles, people removing specks from their buddies eye while they had a plank in their own and even stories of people stripping naked to give someone your clothes were all examples of Jesus using humour and imagery in a way that exposed a wrong thinking or wrong doing.
Perhaps satirising our own Christian culture is important and perhaps it is even biblical. One thing is for sure
it needs to be very, very funny.