No joke

Increasingly it seems we are seeing more attacks on free speech around the world. For months terrorists groups like ISIS have been capturing journalists, holding them hostages for ransom and even beheading them when their demands are not met. The most recent shocking attack took place in Paris last month when terrorists entered the offices of a French satire magazine called Charlie Hebdo and killed twelve people.

What is satire?

Satire is actually an ancient genre used in all “media” including speech, literature, plays, music, cartoons, comedy, television and now social media. From ancient Egyptian and Greek satirist’s literature and drawings to playwrights like Shakespeare and novelists like Jonathan Swift, satire has been a cultural staple for well over two thousand years. Modern satire is evident in TV shows like “The Simpsons,” “The Colbert Report,” “The Daily Show” and The Onion. Satire is defined as “a way of using humor to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, or humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Satire is meant not to just make fun of or to judge, but to shed light on a particular injustice or truth. Most often satire is aimed at politics or politicians, the church or church leaders or human rights and justice issues such as education, poverty or labor. While there are many forms of satire, good satire is not just funny — it should make people think, possibly change a viewpoint, or even offer a call to action or social change.

A tool for good

Because the goal of satire is to expose injustice, hypocrisy, contradiction or corruption, many governments or leaders attempt to eliminate it through censorship of all media. Fortunately, enough people and societies today continue to value free speech, including satire, because it not only pokes fun at those in power but also gives voice to the voiceless (for example, children, women or poor).

As Christians we may not appreciate satire that pokes fun at Christianity or at religion in general, but we cannot forget that God is the author of creativity and humor. Laughter, comedy, satire, irony and— some would argue — parody are all found in our Bible. If we are willing to consider how satire can help make the church, religion or society better, then we can embrace it as a God-given gift and tool for good in the world.

Question of the day: Do we, as Christians, take ourselves too seriously?
Focal Scriptures: 1 Kings 18:25-40; Matthew 23; Acts 17:16-33

For a complete lesson on this topic visit LinC.

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