According to Proverbs 18:17, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” However, such questioning is often uncomfortable, and can lead to less than appreciative responses. Especially if the questioner used sarcasm to drive home his point. If you don’t believe me, just ask Socrates — oh, you can’t because he is dead from being forced to drink hemlock after playing the gadfly one too many times (that, and the fact that he lived more than two millennia ago).
Some consider sarcasm, satire, and parody to be inappropriate for the Christian at all times. While I believe that one must be careful in the employment of such a rhetorical device lest it be used maliciously or as a cover for arrogance, I nevertheless believe it to be an important tool for those charged with proclaiming and defending the truth. And, I believe that when it is aimed at our own message and our own institutions we should do our best to humbly listen and learn. The wisdom literature found in the Bible makes it clear that refusal or failure to listen to the counsel of others is the practice of a fool.
When our culture holds up a mirror for us to look into, we must do so. Whether it be from friendlies such as George Barna and Lifeway Research or the sarcasm of those who are not so friendly and are heir to the attitudes of Ambrose Bierce, H.L. Mencken, Mark Twain, Aldous Huxley, or Oscar Wilde. And, sometime there are the hybrids — friendlies with sharp swords.
The guys at Credenda Agenda / Canon Press are friendlies with sharp swords. I stopped reading their material a couple of years ago because I was taking unhealthy enjoyment in their parody, satire and sarcasm. However, a friend passed me a copy of their little book The Mantra of Jabez and I have to say that I think they masterfully used reductio ad absurdum to critique the very popular The Prayer of Jabez. I encourage those of you who love The Prayer of Jabez to remember that “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” Get a copy of The Mantra of Jabez and test your first impression with this second book that has come forward to question it.
We would probably all benefit from some friendly parody. Its use adeptly points out that many of the errors of cultural evangelicalism are not just wrong, but silly wrong — pitiably wrong. Correction is uncomfortable but…
Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. (Ecclesiastes 4:13)
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)