I have to tell you that very little on my Facebook feed can make me laugh as much as the content from the Babylon Bee. For those of you who have never heard of it, this is a satirical website that sets its sightson religious and political topics. You know those types of things that you are never supposed to talk about, this website takes on those topics and dares you to laugh at them.
Naturally, I’m sure this makes some people uncomfortable. We are used to laughing at politics, but satirizing Christianity might hit some people a little bit close to home. While I find it hilarious to see them poke fun, I assume that some people are rather offended. They pick on everyone from Joel Osteen to John Piper. No one is immune to a little bit of ribbing, but I have the feeling that there were a lot of people who see this project as damaging the cause of Christ.
In a way, I can kind of appreciate their logic. We all know that the Gospel is serious business. By making fun of certain ministries, I am sure that some people feel like we are maybe alienating other brothers and sisters. They might say that we should try not to do anything that would perhaps damage the reputation of other believers in other ministries. Sure we don’t agree on everything, but some people might see this kind of satire as damaging.
I would like to contend however that not only is it very funny, but I actually think it has a therapeutic effect on the church as a whole.
Good comedy is funny because it is true. Comedians say things that you might think but would never be brave enough to save yourself. They point out the irony that you have thought about but never actually put into words. That’s why it’s funny. While some of the articles from the Babylon Bee are pretty edgy, I would also contend that they are often times diagnosing very real problems in the church itself. For example, here is a classic article from 2017 entitled, “Southern Baptists Announce Crackdown on Fun.” Edgy, sure. Potentially controversial to Southern Baptists, sure. Funny, absolutely (and this from a Baptist no less).
Is it the case that Southern Baptists want to ban all fun? Obviously not. This is satire for crying out loud. However, is it also true that sometimes, particularly Baptist churches (again, I say this as a Baptist), have a tendency to become rather legalistic. Do we like to hear it? Not so much. Is it true? I have to admit that sometimes it is. Satire is funny when we realize that small grain of truth that is being exaggerated.
Recognizing that truth in a way that kind of wakes us up through humor is actually a good thing in my opinion. Have you ever texted someone something and you spelled a word wrong? The funny part is that your phone does not necessarily let you spell a word wrong. You know that it probably AutoCorrected what you said, thinking that it knows what you meant. The results are typically ironically incorrect and often times funny. Your friend who received your message probably wrote something back laughing at you for your error. When your friend wrote back some type of funny remark, you probably smiled when you recognized your typo. Because your friend pointed it out in a lighthearted and humorous way, you weren’t necessarily upset but probably were extra careful to spell everything right the next time.
I think that this kind of satirical correction is similar. We kind of smile at these articles, but we also, if we are honest with ourselves, can see our own legalistic tendencies come to light. I think about those times when perhaps I was following rules, like a Pharisee, that I made up myself and added to the Gospel. Obviously I am not suggesting that we water down the Gospel, but we do quite easily fall into legalism. Sometimes articles like this, through poking fun at us, actually bring about a healthy period of self-reflection and consideration.
Second, I think that we all have a tendency to take ourselves a little bit too seriously. This is related to legalism in a way, but it is not always a bad thing to be able to smile at your own humanity. We can idolize ourselves. We can idolize other people. We can idolize different ministries. None of them deserve our worship. Sometimes a little bit of humor can help us keep things in perspective. We want to worship the One who deserves worship. If we start to put someone else in that spot, if it takes a little bit of humor to help us recognize our or their humanity and other imperfections, then I am okay with that. I know this makes some people uncomfortable. That said, it comes back again to my previous point. Sometimes these things have to be said, and humor is sometimes an effective, less threatening way to help regain perspective.
I think that really is the bottom line here. When we think about this kind of humor, some people take it as the ultimate insult. They see it as demeaning and highly problematic. All that being said, I would suggest that it actually can be helpful. Specifically, it can be helpful when people have a hard time seeing their own shortcomings. If we can laugh at ourselves, it means that we recognize our own faults. That recognition is the first step. Once we have that, we can advance to a point where we ideally address the problem. Sure satire can be done with a cruel tone. It can be done to humiliate someone else. I’m not really huge on that. That said, poking fun at someone I think can be therapeutic. It can help us find out things that are actually true and encourage us to solve those shortcomings. Secondly, it can help us not take ourselves so seriously which we all have a tendency to do. Even if it only does those two things and has no other benefits, I think there is a place for this type of satire, and I am going to remain a loyal reader of the Babylon Bee.