sarcasm: a Christian perspective

Okay, so I have sort of a satirical side to my blogposts from time to time. My sarcastic humor does come out at work occasionally, but it was not until recently I came across the fundamentalist idea that sarcasm was a “sin.” Here’s for example this post by a Thomas Umstattd. But I think that anyone after weighing the Bible’s witness, I must say that what the writer Thomas Umstattd is promoting legalism. Just because he does not understand how something works within the biblical narrative, and because there’s an overuse with a practice, does not in anyway make sarcasm a sin. If I may, one of my favorite stories growing up (and still is) is the story of Elijah confronting the hundreds of prophets of Baal. In 1st Kings 18:27, Elijah is LYING to the prophets of Baal, he ponders, “Is Baal using the restroom? Maybe he has fallen asleep?” In this instance, between the believing audience (us) and Elijah, we know that Baal is just an idol. In the context of confronting idolatry, Elijah insists on using sarcasm to get his point across. This is a man inspired by God, who is carried away in the chariot of fire. The Bible is filled with other stories that involve wordplay and riddles, men of God using mockery and we US American Christians work so hard to sanitize this. God sends lying spirits in the Old Testament. Our God is sovereign, our God is free to use whatever genre He chooses to confront the Enemy. God cannot be contained–which is the goal of legalism. In the moment that Elijah was confronting the prophets of Baal, was he insecure? Nope. Was Elijah demonstrating good leadership? Yes, and he was confronting bad leadership. More importantly, Elijah was not using sarcasm against the persons of the prophets of Baal, notice that. He was critiquing their ideas. So when sarcasm is used to cut at a person personally in their representation of God’s image, that is mockery, and that is wrong and sinful. Yet when sarcasm is used to criticize ideas, this is okay, it is biblical. Lies as Mr Umstattd said are indeed the language of Satan, but so also are half-truths. Truth can be delivered in the form of irony, especially since TRUTH is a Person, the 2nd Person in the Trinity (John 18:37-38). So when one examines the use of saracasm, it should be utilized against problematic ideas that oppress people, for instance.

For more Christian perspectives on sarcasm and its usefulness, see for example this article by Rachel Marie Stone from Christianity Today’s Her.Meneutics: In defense of sarcasm.

0 thoughts on “sarcasm: a Christian perspective

  1. Robert Martin

    Hrm… Now, what if sarcasm, used in the context of the church (meaning the community, not the institution) between believing brothers and sisters, causes issues of relationship within that context? Whether or not the sarcasm was properly motivated in calling out idolatry or the like, if it causes a rift in relationship, is it then a “sin”?

    Now, note, that I’m not asking if it’s a sin 100% of the time to use sarcasm… but is the use of it something more contextual? In your example of Elijah, that context seemed to clearly call for it, what with the ridiculous extents that the Baal worshipers were going through to gain attention of their god. But are their contexts, perhaps, where the use of sarcasm may actually be harmful to relationships and, therefore, by definition, “sin”?

    Reply
    1. h00die_R (Rod) Post author

      The overuse of sarcasm could lead to sin and bitterness sure but if sarcasm is used to criticize a heresy or problematic views that are contrary to the Good News, then I would say that’s fine, even between fellow believers.

      Reply

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