Friday, December 02, 2016

Mockery in the Church

I recently wrote about the decline in discussion thanks to the rise in mockery.  It was in the context of why we have Trump vs. Clinton.  It turns out that Trump won and in large part because the middle of America felt put upon and scorned by the mocking left.  I was not surprised. 

But now I must say that I have long been bothered by the same trend in church.  Mocking is often now the way the church communicates too.  Douglas Wilson is excellent at it with a sharp wit and a sarcastic tongue.  He helped popularize the heresy of Federal Vision with his mockery.  But it has gone from the controversial to the church mainstream in the Babylon Bee.  I see this posted everywhere I go on social media.  
Some of the Bee’s stuff is quite harmless using well-worn jokes as fodder like the need to end a sermon on time.  Others are more satire directed at new evolving ways of communicating on social media.  But more and more are mocking of people directly.  And not always individuals but large groups.  Some were so popular they were fact checked by Snoopes. 

Now mockery in and of itself is not sinful.  We do see it used in the Bible.  Surely Paul is mocking to some degree in Galatians 5:12 where he wishes those who would require circumcision would emasculate themselves.  God participates in a bit of mocking or sarcasm at least in his conversation with Job in Job 38.  God knows where Job was when he set the limits to the waters, and he knows Job cannot hook the Leviathan.  But it was used to make a point.  Job need his sense of importance and power torn down by God, which God did to Job’s spiritual benefit.  But we also see the Bible warn quite a bit about mocking such as Proverbs 3:34 or the incident in 2 Kings 2:23 where the she-bear tears apart some mocking children.  So there is a limit, a time and place, for the use of such communication. 

The problem today is the overuse of mockery.  Jesus and Paul could mock, but that was far from their only weapon.  It had a place and a purpose.  The majority of the conversation was to build up.  They mocked to bring a listener to change by laying bare his folly.  But they never ever left someone there.  Tearing down without building up is not good at all.  It clears out the strong man without filling the house with the Spirit.  Jesus mocked and so did Paul and Elijah and others, but can we find a Scriptural example where the mockery was not done in order to bring about change, but rather to bring about a laugh.  Did the disciples sit around and tell jokes to each other about the Pharisee who was eaten by a wolf on Saturday because he could not exceed the proscribed number of steps for the Sabbath?  Probably not.

And here in lies the rub, for me at least.  Do we believe this mockery is effecting change?  Is this tearing down leading to a building up?  Does anyone really think Joel Osteen is reading this, much less motivated to start using the Bible correctly?  Do we think this helped any followers of Osteen?  Do we think it helped protesters in the streets?  Are modern worship services starting to tone it down after seeing how they are likenight clubs thanks to the Babylonian Bee?  Is the mocking of the anti-gluten diet craze really changing minds?  Of course not.  But is the conservative Reformed crowd being affected by this mockery?  We don’t make these mistakes, but what is the attitude portrayed toward those that have contemporary worship or were so upset by the election they took to the streets?  Is it compassion and love?  Even Jesus loved the Rich Young Ruler when he pointed out his sin and shortcoming.  Does this form of communication, which seems to be just for our entertainment, moving us to help the protesters in the street who need to know from where the only comfort in life and death comes, or does it make us look down our noses at them because they need a participation trophy? 

And let us also hold up the “do onto others” mirror that the Bible desires us to hold up.  Would Adam Ford want to be at the end of his mocking satire?  He has often pointed to his anxiety disorder as part of his journey that was very formative for him.  He takes anxiety medicine and has openlysatirized those who think you should not be taking medication for suchdisorders in some of his comics.  Would Adam think it good and funny satire if someone wrote an article with a title along the lines of “Blood tests confirm levels of sin (just like Diabetes), Jesus pill the answer”.  Would he even allow such as post on his Babylonian Bee?  According to a search on the Bee's sight, the answer is apparently no.  I am not saying that people with anxiety should not take medicine.  What I am saying is that this is a more complicated question than comparing it Diabetes.  Again the more the mockery the less the discussion.  And the other thing I am saying is that if he would not allow such an article, then he is being hypocritical about his support of satire/mocking.  His goal was to mock from a place of love, but if you are doing something to others that you would not be okay with being done back to you, you have failed the biblical test of love. 

The problem I have with what goes on today in places like the Babylonian Bee is that mockery is presented for mockery's sake.  The main audience is not even those who it is mocking.  Rather, it is those who already agree.  It is not tearing down for the purpose of building up, it is tearing down so we can all have a good laugh at those fools over there.  

This is a worrisome trend especially in the church.