Thursday, August 23, 2007

Uprooting Evil - Jesus, Sarcasm and You

Sarcasm is the close cousin of insult. Sarcasm is sharper, less blunt than insult. If insult is a cudgel, sarcasm is a knife, with a serrated edge.

Sarcasm can be bitter and belittling and when used indiscriminately, it can wound deeply. Yet when something truly deserves to be belittled, there are fewer weapons more useful than the cutting remark. We tend to confuse love, goodness and kindness with mere niceness. We forget that the truest love is at times the most demanding, abrasive and hard. Sarcasm can be used to shock the foolish out of their folly.

The prophets, the Apostles, and Jesus are most excellent examples of the use of sarcasm to shed light on the madness of their time. Remember Elijah mocking the priest of Baal by suggesting that their god must be taking a dump? Or Jesus calling the Pharisees a brood of vipers or whitewashed tombs. How many times did Jesus say to his disciples variations of “are you deaf or are you just stupid?” Then there is Paul, in Galatians 5, where he suggests that if a certain group of Christians who are fixated on keeping Jewish law including circumcision are so set on it, they may as well just complete the job and whack off the whole deal.

(For a more complete treatment of Sarcasm in the scripture, read A Serrated Edge by Douglas Wilson. It has some flaws, but it makes a strong case for not always being nice, but always being good. Go here to read how Wilson acknowledges and fills in some of the holes.)

Such language is not fit for greeting cards. People, especially religious people, who use such language today are thought to be too rough, to angry. The point is, however, that certain things, certain people, certain actions, certain error demands rough treatment. It is to be gone after, hammer and tongs, full tilt, no mercy. It is fine to be positive and to seek out the good in things, but to deny the negative, the evil and the wrong, to pretend it is not there and to not even acknowledge it is folly of the highest order.

Jim Rohn, a favorite speaker of mine, talks of the importance of the negative. It is not only necessary to plant and tend the flowers and vegetables in your garden, but you must also pull the weeds. And you have to go at the weeds, ideally with a sharp hoe, perhaps on your hands and knees, but you cannot neglect to pull the weeds. If you do they will grow up to choke out your garden. You must have no mercy. In the same way, it is necessary to identify and recognize folly, stupidity and evil for exactly what they are and go at them to destroy them, giving no quarter.

As Jim Rohn says, “Sometimes you have to love like a mother and hate like a father…And sometimes you have to love like a father and hate like a mother.” Hate those habits that would destroy us – hate laziness, worry, ignorance, fear, apathy. Hate those things which will lead us to poverty, disease, wrecked marriages, ruined lives. Hate those things which bring oppression, injustice, and prejudice. Hate them and make it your life’s mission to destroy them. If you focus just on the good alone, to the total exclusion of rooting out the evil, you let evil have it’s way too long and pretty soon it can own your garden.

And so sarcasm, used rightly, is a tool for good in uprooting evil. It certainly takes wisdom to use it rightly, just as it takes wisdom to use a sharp knife. When using sarcasm on others, you had best be sure that you have the facts straight, and that you aim your sarcasm at the right target. Sarcasm is not a thing to use lightly – for the same reason that I don’t give knives to small children. But when it’s needed, it is not only OK, it is good to have the right tool.

1 comment:

Paul Cohen said...

For more on the matter of the Lord our God and whether He uses harsh words, please read:

There is much more, if you care to search around.

Thank you for bringing up this important matter.

Paul Cohen