I don’t love it so much.
I feel like someone who has been shut up in a bomb shelter throughout the war, and on finally coming out, is glad to see so many of her friends alive on the one hand, but stricken to see the toll taken and how much has been destroyed on the other. Google, You Tube, the Internet...my new discovery is also shocking: rampant slander! And Christians often leading the way through the mud!
It strikes many people we come in contact with as odd that we don’t have cable t.v. or any t.v. at all. I‘ve been living outside the states since ’92 and beside the occasional sitcom I’ve seen on airplanes, the movies I hand pick to watch, and the Oscar Awards (which are a must), I have been pretty much shut off from American media, and thus American culture. Until recently that is. With my new Macbook, the possibilities have soared, and I feel that America is just a finger tip away: the America I’ve missed, and the America I haven’t missed. A part of the States that I have not missed, with which I am now again confronted, is the culture’s keen ability in using sarcasm to ridicule others; especially if those others, don’t line up with ones own views on a matter.
Now, just recently, a Christian tried to get me to believe, that as a pastor he had Biblical permission to use sarcasm and put downs and whatever else he might need in order to expose heresy. And as noble an agenda as this might be, I simply cannot find the Biblical support for the kind of things I’ve been seeing in blogs, especially his blog, and on You tube of late. If anything at all, sarcasm and this critical irony, is an American thing. Americans have perfected it, bathe in it night and day, and wield it to great effect and detriment at their enemies. Not even in England do they come anywhere close to the Americans in using sarcasm and irony (satire maybe, but not sarcasm). And in the parts of the world where I have lived, it is virtually absent altogether.
But just to be safe, I looked it up (sweet and easy on my little computer dictionary) to double check if I even knew what I was talking about. And this is what I found: “Sarcasm[A] is stating the opposite of an intended meaning especially in order to sneeringly, slyly, jest or mock a person, situation or thing. For example, ridicule is an important aspect of sarcasm, but not verbal irony in general. By this account, sarcasm is a particular kind of personal criticism leveled against a person or group of persons that incorporates verbal irony.”
Yup, that’s just what I thought it was. I cringe every time I hear/read Christians, or others who are important to me, using this kind of language to bully or mock in any way another person, no matter how "right" they might be on content! In addition, I highly doubt it’s effectiveness in winning the hearts and minds of those who disagree with us. Let me illustrate:
It was a long and trying road to finally find the right sports club for Jonathan. He of course wanted to play soccer like everybody else here in Germany, so we sent him to the nearest soccer club. This was a good few years ago now. Anyway, the coach was over the top. He had suffered from Polio as a child, so never played himself (maybe that explains his behavior, i don't know). The kids would win by huge margins, but this guy was never happy. He would yell and scream (and i don't mean the way all coaches just yell and get hyper) and berate and belittle the players. He would even let his tirades out on the parents, if they asked the wrong question or somehow did something "stupid" in his eyes. He shamed people, and of course he was always “right”. Jonathan was terrified of him, so much so, that he wouldn't really go after the ball for fear he would be shamed and belittled for loosing it again. Here is the catch: the coach never once yelled at Jonathan the entire time he was on the team (which wasn't long i assure you)! It was enough that he saw the others being publicly shamed. The thing is, it didn't lead to obedience!! It led to personal shame and retreat. Jonathan froze inwardly, did not develop love or respect for his coach and did not long to please him. He certainly didn't have any fun playing soccer. He acted only out of fear of doing the wrong thing. When people resort to character assassination, stinging sarcasm, malicious mocking and caustic ridicule, it scares me, even if I am not the target. I know how easily I could make just such a false "play," so I freeze inwardly. I unconsciously feel shame and retreat away from the person wielding the hatchet. Instead of concentrating on the "ball" and giving myself up to playing as well as I can to win "the game", I find I am too concerned with where that hatchet might come down next.
Let’s be honest, is anyone really ever won over by these tactics? Of course I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. It might be possible to slice and dice the Bible and piece together a permission slip for this style of communication, but I would wager to bet we Christian bloggers and You Tubers are just swimming with our American culture on this one. I know what has won me over in the past and what still gets my attention today is the respectful, intelligent and personal witness of humble and authentic people. People who are not threatened by my honest questions, sincere doubts or even my differing perspective on a particular issue. The chances that I might be won over to a given idea are far greater, when I feel safe with someone, knowing that that person will preserve my dignity and can value my individual human worth, despite the fact that I might not yet be completely on board with them about even subjects of the utmost significance. This leaves a back door open for me to go through at some other time, when perhaps through different circumstances, life experience, or the Holy Spirit’s leading, I am able to see things in a new light. Wouldn’t it just be heavenly, if our internet conversations were laced with this kind of love? I hope you hold me to this on my blog and in my conversations with you. Thanx.