Jump directly to the content
In Defense of Sarcasm & Humor: A Response to the Earnest

In Defense of Sarcasm & Humor: A Response to the Earnest

Jun 6 2012
Why Christians can appreciate a good dose of laughter along with a serious sensibility.

When I was 10, helping my father—the pastor—to prepare for a baptism, I'd hop into the baptismal pool and give a dramatic, Unshackled-style before-and-after testimony, complete with tears, a Damascus road moment, and a changed life. At 15, I'd intone pious-sounding nonsense in what I called my "Christian talk-radio woman" voice. It was a revelation when I discovered the now-defunct Wittenburg Door, a religious satire magazine, and I watched Saturday Night Live—church lady and all—with guilty, absorbed pleasure, though, in fact, my rather conservative parents were not bothered by my love for satire. If anything, they encouraged it, enjoying the irony the first time I was interviewed on Christian talk-radio: now I really was a Christian woman voice on the radio.

The ways we humans speak and behave follow conventions. We perform expected roles and speak conventional lines, and there's nothing wrong with it. Liturgy is right and good and serves important purpose. I wouldn't want Thanksgiving dinner to be a completely different meal every single year—I expect that sweet potatoes will make some kind of appearance—but I don't necessarily need them marshmallow-topped. In other words, we like our traditions—even our traditional ways of speaking and acting.

But every now and again, we love us a good remix, and sarcasm is just that. Last year, our own Karen Swallow Prior skewered the worst Christian clichfamp;copy;s and it became one of Her.meneutics' all-time most popular posts. It's fun—and funny—to look closely at the ridiculous things we all do and say.

Writing for Her.meneutics recently, Micha Boyett rightly pointed out (in response to discussion between Ann Voskamp, Tim Challies, and Beth Moore) that we are in a cultural moment that's rife with irony: "We see everything with an eye roll." It's true: many of us are jaded and suspicious of earnest claims. But to me, sarcasm is a kind of truth-telling. It has the ability to see conventions as conventions, clichfamp;copy; as clichf©, insincerity for what it is.

There's a good reason Jon Stewart is, for many people, the king of information. By posturing as "just" a comedian, Stewart exposes the hypocrisy and absurdity in "straight" journalism and in politics. I sometimes think of him as an analog to the Preacher in Ecclesiastes (no, I'm not claiming Stewart is divinely inspired), who walks through the world seeing injustice in the place of justice, envy, and self-interest as primary motivators, and folly and futility at the end of it all. The style, if you'll excuse the clichf©, resonates.

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.


To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

More from Her.menutics
Why We Want to Return to Stars Hollow

Why We Want to Return to Stars Hollow

The weirdest part of the Gilmore Girls hometown? How they did community right.
My Toddler Survived Brain Cancer—Here’s What I Learned

My Toddler Survived Brain Cancer—Here’s What I Learned

7 things you should know, from a mom who’s been there
Don’t Just Pray Alone

Don’t Just Pray Alone

The world is desperate for people to pray with.
In Defense of Clutter

In Defense of Clutter

What to do about privilege, poverty, and piles of stuff.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

My Son’s Autism Changed Everything—Even Our Church

I came to see special needs families as an unreached people group.


  • RT @LoveLifeLitGod: "Teens are having less sex, and ... using more effective methods of birth control." https://t.co/0JH9C5SEDH
  • RT @BobEwoldt: Know someone who needs this? Via @What do you say or do when a kid gets cancer? https://t.co/Flq9XnpJ57 #ChaseAway2026
  • RT @lorewilbert: Want to know who you'll marry? Or who you married? @BetElliot will tell you: https://t.co/KIZbFLyQRf
  • RT @bethanykj: @ct_women I wrote something similar a few years ago: https://t.co/zajIKJPj27
  • @bethanykj Exactly! #greatminds

What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
In Defense of Sarcasm & Humor: A Response to the Earnest