I will begin with the obvious that I will be “punching up” (which I am told is the only acceptable way to crack any jokes) in this critique. Although it might be more fair to say I am moving above my pay grade. But things have been slow in these parts and this is a topic I have been kicking around, so why not keep the game going.
I want to interact with a post from Wyatt Graham’s personal blog. If you are unfamiliar with him he is the Executive Director of TGC in Canada and by all appearances runs a much tighter ship than this flim flam operation of mine. He prose is clear, and his spelling and grammar have left me green with envy. He even made a point I had not considered, and will shortly come to, and it provided some interesting texture to my own thinking. So I am grateful for that. Overall I have to take issue with the piece not because the overall theology is bad, but the application of said theology is.
In the Beginning
Graham begins by quoting a tweet from Megan Basham, “I make no apologies for mocking people who claim the name of Christ but have pronouns in their bio.” And he takes umbrage at it because in his view this trespasses the Biblical descriptions and prescriptions on mocking, which are as follows. 1. Typically we only see groups mocked not individuals. 2. Mockery while occasionally useful can lead to foolishness or sin 3. Mockery should be used sparingly.
All of the above points are accurate. Especially the third. Everyone today is a mocker, it has lost its punch. There is a reason the first five years of Saturday Night Live was so groundbreaking, it wasn’t that the writing was that sharp. Simply put no one had dared to mock and satirize to the level they did before (at least not on national television.) Today the power of mockery is diluted to the point of obnoxiousness. We have entered the realm of Flippancy as Screwtape would describe it:
“Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armor-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.” – Screwtape, Letter XI
I can understand an aversion to mockery as a regular practice, particularly in the realm of Twitter. Why then would I have an issue with Graham objecting to Basham? Again the proof is in the pudding, his application (and light proof-texting) are poor.
If I were a snarky man I would point out that it was Megan Basham who exposed the collaboration and endorsement of several TGC alumni with renowned mass baby murder financier Francis Collins and the CDC in order to play COVID pharisee and pile up enough heavy burdens on the backs of the weary so that they would comply and get all the jabs. But I am not a snarky man so I will ignore the side note that a TGC editor is not a fan of Basham’s work. I will simply redirect the readers attention to the tweet from Basham, “I make no apologies for mocking people who claim the name of Christ but have pronouns in their bio.” First we should point out that this could be here saying she is mocking a group, people who claim the name of Christ but have pronouns in their bios. Now she could be flitting about the Twitter-verse picking on people directly, but typically this kind of thing plays out as one tweet mocking en masse the whole idea. Like the one above. But also notice this. Graham’s problem is with the mocking of these people, not with their incorrect ideas and practice. This is inline with TGC’s less than full throated denunciation of the practice. Every once in a while they will squeak out an article about how it isn’t logical, but make plenty of room for being winsome to those people. You will notice there is no such “nuance” in this piece agreeing with Basham that pronouns in a bio is at best an absurd capitulation to a laughable religion. Which brings us nicely to Elijah and the prophets of Baal.
Graham naturally deals with one of the go to texts for mockery in Scripture 1 Kings 18. And handle it well he does. He uses it as the capstone to his very good point about mockery as a revelatory tool:
“In Scripture, mocking often takes a revelatory purpose. God mocks those who make idols in Isaiah. The point is that making idols are foolish since they cannot help you. God does not go after an individual but whole categories of those who make and serve idols.” – Wyatt Graham, Should We mock Those We Disagree with?
Yes and amen, and yet… It can be pretty well argued that pronouns in a bio are akin to a pinch of incense to Caesar. In this case the Alphabetti Spaghetti Caesar, who has demanded you worship a god that will not only, not help you, but actively looks to destroy you. The reference to Elijah on Mt. Caramel is fitting since the god of gender morphing requires just as much cutting, disfigurement, as child sacrifice as Baal did. So mockery of the people who just want to go along to get along, in Graham’s rubric should be mocked.
The proof-texting shows up near the end with the appearance of Proverbs 17:5 “He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker.” Graham ties it in with saying, “For the most part, Scripture says don’t mock.” But that is not what this verse is saying, generously it applies to the now very popular comedy rule, punch up, not down, that gets shrieked as some wounded fool who doesn’t like to be criticized goes swooning for his smelling salts and fainting sofa. My guess is that he used the verse because he had already referenced Psalm 1:1 “Do not sit in the seat of scoffers.” twice already and three times might have been repetitive. But it still was a prooftext, and a poor choice.
The last nit to pick is the use of The Woman at the Well from John 4. Yes, Jesus doesn’t mock her. But that is not what that text is about, he does make her very uncomfortable, Jesus knows how to use different approaches for different people and situations. Sure, if say, Peter was taking the lead on that one and was doing the kind of rant that would have brought a tear of pride to Driscoll’s eye, the it would have been wildly inappropriate to her in that context. But Jesus does go full Driscoll on the Pharisees, to their faces, in Matthew 23. Different people, different situation. And possibly a more relevant text considering the topic at hand.
Application made Fuzzy
There is a rhetorical or philosophical sleight of hand that I think underlies the problem with Graham’s application. And that is how people now see their identities as inextricably linked with their ideas. Their whole personages is bound up in what they perceive to be right, good, and proper at the time. The irony is that none of the thinking is original to them. There is still a higher authority telling them to think and identify that way. Currently the almighty algorithm shines its favor on the demigod of the pronoun plethora party and everyone is instructed to worship in such a way. Meanwhile YHWH tells us exactly who we are and how we are to worship him. It is a religious war, there are idols and by Graham’s own thinking that is fair game for mockery.
Things get sticky because of that sleight of hand. You could mock the idea and offense will be taken because that idea, that idol is in the person. What to do, what to do? If only there were some commands from a higher authority…
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” – Colossians 3:5-10 (emphasis added)
Again not every situation calls for mockery, but mockery is useful to cut through rhetorical armor. Reductio ad absurdum quickly reveals the risible in pronoun thinking. And according to the text above, it is all indeed idolatry. Just because a person says they are hurt does not mean an evil thing was done.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Proverbs 27:6
Here is the kicker Graham has some very good thoughts, it is why I wanted to interact with his post. I particularly appreciated his three points and I think they should be given deep consideration by all who have that zinger welling up inside of them. I have said before Christians need to develop not just a sense of humor but skill in comedy. Mockery and satire is a part of that, right now I rate us around the level of a twelve year old boy who has just learned about sarcasm. Graham, with his points, shows a good way for us to write our jokes better so that they might make a point, be revelatory, and just frankly funny. How we apply this thinking will matter and might even give a good punchline to the setup: Three pronouns walk into a bar…