I posted the link below at the MALEs Midwest discussion site. Now it ought to go here too, for all who didn’t see it yet. If you’re in Warriors, Mankind Project, or any of a dozen men’s groups (including my own), it will be both hilarious and painful to watch.
When I posted this for the MALEs (Men as Learners and Elders), my friend Tim started a discussion about the problem of using sarcasm too much, and how it injures relationships. Having done some thinking about the matter myself in my writing, I responded with the following comments:
The reaction we’ve had to the tv piece is evidence enough of sarcasm’s usefulness– that pain can bless and convert and solidify in the same way that 40 days in the wilderness, Peter’s denial, or other difficult circumstances send us back to God for clarity about who we were made to be, and how to root out elements of the False Self. It may come off as rubbing salt in a wound at times, and may or may not have that intention on the part of the sarcastic person, but tearing of flesh to reveal what’s underneath is not the same as tearing of flesh for pleasure or self-justification. Satire, sarcasm, and other critical but humorous modes were used frequently by the Old Testament prophets, and I believe occasionally used by Jesus himself in the metaphors he chose.
Take Jesus’ cutting comment to the Syrophoenician woman seeking healing for her daughter: “It’s not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” (Mk 7:27-28, or Mt 15: 26-27) Not the kind of remark we’d expect from the Lover of the World. But then she says even the dogs get the crumbs, and effectively puts Jesus in His place. He does a 180-degree turn and accepts correction, one of the few times He does so in scripture. I take the inclusion of such moments as the Father’s way of saying: 1) Jesus WAS human, after all; 2) Creativity and humor, even humor with intent to belittle or critique some person or institution, have their place in the ongoing conversation between God and man, and therefore between man and man as well.
It’s true that the attempts often go awry, that the point of the sarcasm is simply to elevate oneself and tear the spiritual flesh of the other, but it’s not automatic. Good communication has to use multiple modes, and I could not believe in a God who doesn’t have a sense of humor. It’s also one of the distinctives I think the Judeo-Christian tradition has that Islam has a much harder time catching on to. See Albert Brooks’ movie “Looking for Humor in the Muslim World” for an interesting, nuanced treatment of this subject.
All that said… if sarcasm is a problem for you, in an addictive sort of way especially, then you’re right to face it head on and try for more authenticity and vulnerability. Sarcasm and irony are *mostly* poisonous and harmful in Western culture these days, as we continue in our insecurity, and our addiction to physical violence as well.