Sarcasm IS a Catholic virtue…

Satire and sarcasm are classic tools in the kit of commentators and apologists from Aquinas to Chesterton. And Jesus Himself was the paragon who set the standard for this approach to apologetics.

I was recently called out in a Catholic group ( CatholicCT if anyone cares) for a sarcastic comment. It was deleted, the admin snarked something about sarcasm isn’t welcome and inferred it wasn’t Christian. Ahhh, deliver us from the thin-skinned and ignorant. Sarcasm and satire are embedded in the Gospel of all places.

Jesus Himself was quite capable of using it – and well He would; in a world that had strong Greek influence, this essential debating tool would be familiar to any educated person of that age. Sadly, the same seemingly can’t be said for our age. Because it seems to be de rigueur, let’s start with defining sarcasm. It is “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt”. It comes from the Greek “sarkasmos” – to rip flesh. And – despite it’s mean etymology and the fact that the thin-skinned call it the “lowest form of wit” (largely because they aren’t good at it), it was common. 1Don’t believe me? Fine – here are some examples of Jesus “ripping flesh”

“The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus replied to them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” “John 10:31That’s not laying on thick now, is it? Here is a commonly employed tool in our Lord’s toolbox:“ At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. 2 Now when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath!” 3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions— 4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the [b]consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?” – Matthew 12:1–3″Have you not read?” Accusing the smug and book learned pharisees of missing something so basic from the Torah? That left a mark on some wounded egos.

And then there is Luke 13. “31 At that very time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away and leave this place, because Herod wants to kill You.” 32 And He said to them, “Go and tell that [a]fox, ‘Behold, I am casting out demons and performing healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I [b]reach My goal.’ 33 Nevertheless I must go on My journey today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside Jerusalem. “

Calling a ham-fisted despot like Herod a fox was an epic dig. And even while foreshadowing that the good works and miracles he was performing that day would soon be rewarded with the Passion, he had to give a dig at the pharisees, reminding them that they had quite the track record for killing those God sent to them as prophets – and would soon set up Jesus Himself for similar treatment.

So you see, gentle reader, sarcasm and satire are valid tools for things Catholic. Still disagree with me? Best toss out all your CS Lewis, your GK Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and even that pretty strict Saint, Augustine.

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