Local Pastor Longs For Good Old Days When America Pretended To Be A Christian Nation

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ScottS's picture

What a sad commentary when "Christians" prefer a religious hypocrite over an overt sinner.

Christ railed on the religious hypocrites (e.g., Matthew 23, esp. Mat 23:13-29), while seeking the company of sinners to call them to repentance (e.g., Luke 5:29-30). That's not to say the Pharisees never heard a call to repent, both by John the Baptist (Mat 3:2, 7-8) and Jesus's general preaching (Mat 4:17), but they were not heeding the call because of their hypocrisy (Mat 15:3-9; Jn 5:43-47), so Jesus more commonly was rebuking them for that.

Here, we have "Christians" who are praising the "decency" of hypocrites being hypocritical in bygone days. Sad.

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Craig's picture

LOL! This is as comical as the one about the permanence of the ESV last week!

TylerR's picture

Editor

Craig, that one was a real announcement from Crossway. This one is fake.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ron Bean's picture

Is there a way to give some of our brethren the ability to appreciate subtle humor?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jim's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

Is there a way to give some of our brethren the ability to appreciate subtle humor?

A spiritual gift ... not all have it because "He distributes them to each one, just as he determines" (1 Corinthians 12:11). Tyler has it ... Ron Bean has it ... Bert Perry likewise ... Others not so much!

Bert Perry's picture

I wonder if we would do well to occasionally have some non-Biblical literature as a way to "sharpen iron" here, as it seems to me that a fair number of controversies arise simply because parties misapprehend what kind of literature they're reading in the Scriptures.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

ScottS's picture

Yeah, I missed that the site linked to was a satirical news site (***BLUSH***, and while I cannot prove it, I do not recall the ***SATIRE*** warning being on the original link that I clicked through to, but I might have overlooked that also).

However, I am one that finds such sites (whether "Christian" or not) to rarely ever be "humerous." They bring more confusion to the already abundant misinformation on the web (so God is not behind it, 1 Cor 14:33). They tend to go beyond real satire (which uses humor to expose a true vice) and instead set up a false "news" story, which means they do not speak "truth in love" (Eph 4:15; missing on both counts usually). So I am still sad, just for a different reason now. If such sites (especially if attempting to hold some "Christian" moniker) would make it more plain that what they are writing is not really news (by "more plain," I mean in the heading of the site itself or under the title of each fictional article), then they could have value by declaring that truth up front (or more clearly at the end; a footer note of "Trusted Source For Christian News Satire" is not obvious at all), showing that they do not intend to deceive the reader, but rather to have the reader view it from its humorous, fictional exaggeration.

I believe subtle humor is best appreciated in a context of already being warned that such humor is there (what little humor is in the Bible is rather blatant and not so subtly given); that warning is what these "news" sites tend not to do.

Still, I blame myself for not cross-checking what site I was on before posting my original comment. Reacting without fact checking is no better than fact presenting without facts to present. My bad.

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Bert Perry's picture

Scott, if you think we need to be warned about subtle humor, what do you think of Paul's utter lack of warning with Galatians 5:12?  Or in the book of Philemon--translate the name "Onesimus" back into its meaning of "useful" and watch the puns fly up at you?  I'm told as well that puns are rife in places in the Old Testament, I think especially in Jeremiah.  

Really, a warning that humor is coming up is the comedic equivalent of the old Antioch College policy requiring consent at every stage of a romantic relationship; simply a way to make sure that no humor, or romance, actually occurs.  

As I noted above, "getting the joke" is really an important part of exegesis--figuring out from the context and style whether it's meant to be taken literally (NOT Galatians 5:12!), or whether it's a figure of speech, or whether it's meant to be taken figuratively, whether it's prose or poetry, what gives the poetic form meaning, and the like.  The Bible uses a fair amount of humor in important parts to get the message across, so we shouldn't see the use of humor as sin.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

ScottS's picture

Hi Bert,

Thanks for you reply. From my previous post it should have been clear that I do not "see the use of humor as sin." I acknowledged there is some humor in Scripture, so clearly all humor is not sinful. But because humor is used in Scripture also does not mean all humor is unsinful. Distinctions need to be made on the context of humor as well.

So my point about subtle sites like the "news" sites that are not really so is that they convey a false sense of legitimacy as part of their attempt to be humorous; they attempt to deceive to bring about what is believed to be humorous (part of that humor being to dupe the unwary reader). That, from my reading of Scripture, is sinful.

But "a warning that humor is coming up" need not ruin the experience at all.  People go to comedy clubs to hear humorous things; they are forewarned such are coming. People attend while another person becomes the roast at roasts and find amusement knowing that humor will be present. The fake "news" sites, especially if they intend to be under a Christian label, should make the context of their humor much more apparent, because then the lies told as "news" are clearly seen in the context of not being a lie, but rather imaginative fiction told for humorous effect, and the humor can be appreciated in that context without an attempt to deceive.

My view with respect to puns in Scripture is that by the nature of a pun, it has two intended meanings, one usually literal, while the other one either for humor or for a different, still literal, application (so a rhetorical effect); but a pun only works by a context where two ideas can make sense. That means any pun in Scripture, that is truly intended as a pun, meant that God (in inspiring it) intended two meanings by it, and had a message to convey through each meaning. I believe in Scripture, it is often more for rhetorical effect than humor (though even in rhetorical effect, a pun can be fun for the reader).

So my take on your examples:

Onesimus is the actual name of the person in v.10. Paul is clearly doing a word play in v.11 off of the name's meaning of "useful" when he refers to the profitability Onesimus. And while this has some mild humorous side to it, humor is not the real purpose. The purpose of choosing the ἄχρηστος and εὔχρηστος terminology is to utilize the meaning of Onesimus's name as a rhetorical device to emphasize he is able to live up to that name now.

Similarly, Gal 5:12 does not have a intended meaning that Paul desired those troubling the Galatians to mutilate themselves. I know that it is an ancient and somewhat common interpretation that Paul was euphemistically (or directly) stating such, but that interpretation should be rejected (that would be taking it literally in the wrong direction). That there is a play on words between Paul not preaching circumcision (v.11), yet preaching that these troubling the Galatians would cut themselves off (v.12) is apparent, since he did use a middle voice verb that refers in literature to castration. But the context makes it clear that the meaning is not the literal one, nor even a pun of dual meaning, but rather that the word is used purely rhetorically to refer to cutting themselves off from the Galatian Christian community. It is clearly this that Paul (and God in inspiration) desired; no one need even pick up on the "humor" of the contrast nor the possible double meaning to get the meaning. Paul/God do not want these troublers to be the leaven in the lump (v.9), else the group will devour itself (v.15). Paul had been stating throughout that separation was needed: this group was to be "accursed" (1:7-8; a setting apart for divine cursing); this group had before separated themselves in their hypocrisy (2:11-13; but Paul did not want believers caught up in it, and he held Peter and Barnabas to a higher standard that they should not have succumb); yet as this group sought to exclude the uncircumcised (4:17), instead this group should be cast out like the bondwoman (4:30), since they already estranged (NKJV) or severed (ESV) themselves from Christ (5:4). Paul's desire for them to be gone from influencing the community does not exclude trying to win them back from their transgression (6:1; as Paul had with Peter in ch.2), but the separation would help keep pure "the household of faith" (6:10) from the bad influence. Any humor in the passage, if really intended as humor, is incidental to the whole meaning; rather, the picture is one of a need for getting the bad influence out, and it would be best if they removed themselves.

In neither case was it the potentially humorous aspect that carried any of the real meaning of the word plays; rather, it was the rhetorical value of the words in context to emphasize the points of usefulness and of removal respectively.

I do not believe any part of Scripture is humorous for the purpose of humor only; and likely the humorous side of them (though I have not studied every such passage) tends to be a by-product of the clever rhetorical use of words to emphasize a point, not to explicitly amuse the reader. So missing the humor is okay; and in some (maybe all?) cases even missing the clever rhetorical point of the word used is okay. In both cases above, if one does not know Onesimus means "useful" or that ἀποκόψονται was used of self-castration, it does not mask the meaning intended, it only masks the added rhetorical emphasis of that knowledge. The meaning is clear from Onesimus being stated as profitable and the context of Galatians that these troublers were to be cut off from the community. The rhetorical value adds color and power, but not any additional meaning to the text.

That's my take. I enjoy good humor. I grieve at bad humor. I think a distinction needs to be made, and for me, attempted deception for the sake of humor is bad, unless one clearly reveals the deception either before hand or immediately after the fact to reveal the truth of the deception. For me, a small in the footer below the article word added of "Satire" is not clear. Most people do not go reading the footers of websites.

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16