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To Mock Or Not To Mock

November 16, 2016

Jordan Standridge is concerned about political idolatry in the church. Pastor Standridge sees evidence of this idolatry in the attitudes of some evangelicals as they comment on political matters. Here is the core of his argument:

And the mocking has begun. My Facebook is filled with comments about snowflakes, hypocrites and lefties who supposedly are so evil and so despicable that they need to be ridiculed for their tears. The problem is that these snowflakes we’re mocking are my mission field. I talk to so many of them on a weekly basis. Despite Scripture’s warnings about letting no unwholesome words out of our mouths, and only using words that are able to build others up (Eph. 4:29), we think that because some wanted to push abortion and gay marriage that we’re allowed to speak of them any way we choose.

I think that Pastor Standridge is trying very hard to make a moral issue out of a prudential one. He has not established that all mockery is incompatible with either loving  or witnessing to the lost. In fact, the Bible certainly seems to indicate that some mockery is essential to biblical witness. Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal. Isaiah dished out scorn to idolaters. Jesus excoriated the Jewish leadership of his day, and He didn’t even spare His own disciples (“Get thou behind me, Satan”).

Pastor Standridge prays that, “we repent and start treating them as Paul would, like people who will spend eternity in heaven or hell.” He appears not to remember that Paul was not above a bit of castigat ridendo mores, especially in the Corinthian epistles. Here is an example from 2 Corinthians 11:

Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison.

To be sure, not all uses of mockery are good uses. Mockery can be a form of abuse, and when it is, it is evil. But not all mockery is either abusive or evil. Sometimes it is precisely the tool that is necessary to show people who they really are.

The trouble is that mockery is difficult to do well. It may repel people unnecessarily (there is such a thing as necessary repulsion). Furthermore, when we mock, we can easily permit the fleshly attitudes to assert themselves. We can give way to pride, bitterness, and vengeance. Nevertheless, it is just as possible that a refusal to engage in sharp discourse–including mockery–can also betray fleshly attitudes such as cowardice, concessiveness, or a desire to be thought well of by worldly people.

Some tears need to be ridiculed. So does some laughter. And some indifference. A blanket denunciation of ridicule does not serve the interests of truth.

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