Friday, June 12, 2015

The role of ridicule

i) The spectacle of Bruce Jenner posing as a pin-up girl on the cover of Vanity Fair raises the question of ridicule in Christian discourse. Is that ever appropriate? 

There are Christians who think that violates Christian etiquette. We should never indulge in ridicule or sarcasm. 

ii) Some Christians are hypersensitive to ridicule because atheists like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and their many imitators, deploy ridicule as a weapon against Christians.

The problem, however, is not the general propriety of ridicule, but the specific context:

a) Ridicule should not be a substitute for argument. That begs the question. If it's been established by reason and argument that the object of ridicule is indeed ridiculous, or if the object of ridicule is manifestly ridiculous, then ridicule is appropriate. 

But all too often, atheists cut straight to ridicule before doing the intellectual spadework. They resort to ridicule as a substitute for reasoned discourse. 

b) Apropos (a), the object of ridicule should deserve to be ridiculed. It's inappropriate to ridicule an undeserving object. 

iii) Apropos (a-b), the forces of political correctness attempt to shame people into submission. They use intimidation rather than persuasion. That betrays the fact that their positions are irrational. 

iv) I'm not suggesting that everyone who engages in ridicule must begin by making a case for their position. Different people are good at different things. A comedian is not a philosopher, or vice versa. 

v) In addition, some beliefs and behavior are prima facie ridiculous. It doesn't require an elaborate justification to mock it. There's a common grace intuition that comes into play. 

vi) There's a balance to be struck between stigma and cruelty. As a rule, I think we should avoid humiliating people. For instance, teenagers sometimes do embarrassing things which would be hard to live down if that became widely known. I don't think they should be ruined on that account. We should avoid exposing them. I don't mean covering for their actions, but not publicizing their actions. Not doing them harm. Protecting the weak is virtuous. 

vii) But that can be counterbalanced by another consideration. Up to a point, stigmatizing certain behavior is a salutary disincentive to destructive behavior. There are men who underwent sex-change operations after that became socially acceptable. That's an irreversible procedure. It didn't solve their psychological problems. In fact, it aggravated their inner turmoil. As a result, many commit suicide.

Had sex-change operations been stigmatized, that would deter them from having the operation, thus sparing them the deleterious consequences. 

viii) Moreover, there are some people who ought to be publicly humiliated. For instance, some ambitious, fanatical politicians are dangerous to the common good. They will use their power to promote evil. Take Anthony Weiner, who at one time was a leading candidate to be mayor of NYC. Or take Eliot Spitzer, attorney general and later governor of NY, who persecuted crisis pregnancy centers. Their ascent to power was jackknifed, at least temporarily, by scandal. They deserve to be ridiculed. Men like that ought to be driven from the public square. They are a menace to society. A threat to all that's good and decent. 

ix) Furthermore, there's a difference between people who struggle with "inner demons," and people who make a public spectacle of themselves. For instance, Bruce Jenner has chosen to live in a fishbowl. 

What is more, he's a willing pawn on chessboard of social engineers. He is being used to further a destructive agenda. Destroying the Bill of Rights. Persecuting the church. The war on boys. The war on babies. Euthanizing the elderly and developmentally disabled. They use him as cover.  

His antics invite mockery. His brazen repudiation of God's design for manhood and womanhood richly deserves to be lampooned. His buffoonery is an apt target for satire. Indeed, it's almost beyond parody. 

And, more importantly, the larger cause he represents should be greeted with derision.

x) The Bible is no stranger to satire. Isaiah lampoons idolaters. Jonah is the butt of the joke. Jesus ridicules the religious leaders (Mt 23). 

But as I say, we need to choose our targets with care. 


  1. The media hype swirling around the deeply confused and spiritually desperate former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner who now tries to pass himself off as something he manifestly isn't can be described as nothing less than ridiculous.

    He's a living caricature, the embodiment of the sexual zeitgeist of our age. From medal-winner to gender-bender. The unfunny and disturbing re-make of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    Why people can't see this says a lot about the collective spiritual blindness of fallen humanity. It's Romans chapter 1 verses 1 through 18 played out in living color before our eyes.

    Maranatha, Lord Jesus!

  2. If someone is writing or speaking in public, that's material that is open for public discussion.