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Monday, March 7, 2011

Satire and the Sacred-

I am a Christian. My Christian background, however, encompasses Atheism and Agnosticism. I had a conversion experience and as a consequence I consciously sought to submit the wholeness of my being to the Christian way of thinking and doing.

Unfortunately, like so many things in this world, there is and is not one singular Christianity. Being the spiritual adventurer I was in my youth I sought a broad range of experiences within the Christian community. I have fellowshipped with a lot of believers from a lot of backgrounds. I attended a mission in my early Christian experience and received training. I attended a Christian college for a time. I have seen a lot of Christianity.

Because I do not espouse any one particular narrow view of Christianity I am possibly more open to sacrilegious humor than a lot of my brothers and sisters. I believe both God and the Church are strong enough to stand up to a bit of ridicule and a few bad jokes. I also believe that within satire can be found valuable information.

The satirist is a very perceptive creature. Humorists are, in general. They lock onto inconsistencies and weaknesses in positions and arguments and shine a bright light on them. They point and laugh. Granted, this may be painful if they are pointing and laughing at something you hold sacred. On the other hand, anything you hold to be precious and valuable should be important enough to examine carefully.

If something is so precious as to be deemed holy it should be examined carefully and often. The light of satire can aid in this examination. Institutions and orders provide structure for living out ideals, and can be very good. Idealization beyond the point of critical examination, however, puts these institutions at risk of falling out of order. Without the light of satire, along with other sources of illumination, the flaws can go unattended and the structure will eventually collapse.

Human heroes have flaws, and recognizing those flaws does not show disrespect if they are genuine and factual flaws. If your hero has to be swathed in band-aids to keep up the hero image, perhaps your hero ought to be downgraded to a highly respected regular person. There is nothing wrong with that. A human hero shouldn't really be anything more.

This sanctification beyond examination can happen in politics. It often does. Sometimes it is a leader who deifies himself beyond the realm of examination or accountability. There are a few of those in the world today. I must note that they are not fond of satirists. They don't like lights shining where flaws might be exposed.

Certain political orders are equally uninterested in comic examination. Some political parties are also not fond of the light of satire. A lot of individual leaders and aspirants to leadership don't particularly like being  the butt of jokes. Yet the light of satire and the barb of the lampoon can provide insight and guide a real leader toward better leadership.

I recall that in the jail where I worked there was a fellow worker who could imitate me. I regret that I never had the opportunity to see that. I think it would be interesting. I doubt that I would have been offended, and suspect I would have found it funny. More importantly, it would have been enlightening. Sadly, it is an experience I have not had.

If you cannot see the humor in someone seeking to roast your sacred cow, perhaps you need to adjust your perspective. If someone or something is worthy of sanctification, it is worthy of careful and consistent examination. The light of satire can aid in this examination. Don't waste a resource.

Besides, it might really be a good joke. Laugh often. Laugh well.

1 comment:

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

I hate satire Mike. I try to avoid it whenever possible. That's probably why I never read my own blog.