Recently, someone inquired of me how my pastoral heart is evidenced by the satire and sarcasm in which I sometimes engage. This is a understandable and fair question which goes to the issue of compassion. We might summarize the issue by asking; Is it a lack of compassion to mock God’s enemies?
First, we would have to determine what kind of ‘enemies’ with which we are dealing. Certainly you deal differently with different kinds of people. It would hardly be wise to mock somebody who is tentatively embracing a un-biblical idea or behavior and is still willing to consider counter arguments to their position. However somebody who is epistemologically self conscious in their hatred of God and is leading others into sin might be a perfect candidate for a kind of mockery that reveals the compassion of a pastor’s heart.
To suggest a concrete example we would probably deal differently with a Freshmen college student who is beginning to embrace the legitimacy of homosexuality as just another social relationship then we would her college professor who is self-consciously teaching her in such a way that hides all the counter arguments from her. If we entered into conversation with the Freshmen student we would probably try to engage her argument by offering counter arguments and by exposing where she has been led astray. We would tend to exhibit more patience as we sought to help her sort out her ill informed thinking. If we entered into conversation with the College professor who is responsible for the Freshman’s confusion and who is pursuing an agenda and who is an epistemologically self-conscious God hater mockery might be the perfect vehicle of compassion.
When we consider the issue of compassion and mockery we must keep in mind that compassion is seldom a zero sum game. That is to say that often it is the case that when we show compassion to one party we are thereby showing callousness towards another party. Let me try and explain.
Let’s take the women in office issue that I have written a few posts on lately. Clearly I have been callous towards those who hold to and advocate such a position, but those who have noticed the callousness are required to examine what purpose the callousness is serving. Is my callousness towards the feelings of those who are advocating egalitarianism and feminism born of just a callow meanness on my part or is it possible that it is really compassion that drives my mockery?
If we continue to consider the feelings of those who are advocating high handed sin do we at the same moment do violence to the feelings of those who are being shattered by their perverted advocacy? We must keep in mind that when we treat the ideas that God haters advance with tact and compassion that we might, by that posture, be communicating that their ideas are worthy of respect, thus investing a certain validity to their ideas. If ideas that contain high rebellion against God’s word are discussed in a “civilized” compassionate and respectful tone does that not suggest a lack of urgency regarding the ideas being discussed?
For example, how sane would most people find it to observe two people in polite debate over the idea that not enough Armenian Christians were killed by Muslim Turks in the great Armenian holocaust at the turn of the 20th century? Naturally, such civility appalls us. There are some ideas that by their very nature should not be treated civilly and should be met with the most scornful mockery possible.
Now, thus far, we have only considered the issue of compassion and mockery on the horizontal level of man to man. What of God? When we fail to mock those who are self consciously mocking God are we joining in their mockery? Should our compassion for those who resist God be greater than our compassion for God? Does our compassion for God’s enemies reveal a callousness towards God on our part? Does not Elijah’s mockery of God’s enemies on Mt. Carmel suggest a compassion on Elijah’s part towards God and towards God’s people.
Compassion thus cannot be considered in a vacuum. Compassion towards a murderer is callousness towards the victim’s family. Compassion for one who is effectively advocating homosexuality as just another life-style is callousness towards those who are being charmed by that argument. Compassion towards egalitarians and feminists who are quite self conscious about what they are attempting is callousness towards every daughter and every wife who will be hardened and hurt by the culture that the advocates are seeking to build. Just as it is callousness towards every son and every father who will be emasculated and emptied by that same culture. The loathing that is revealed by any mockery reveals a corresponding compassion and love for the opposite of that which is being mocked and lampooned. A pastor’s heart can express compassion in both positive and negative movements.
All of this to say that I offer no apologies for my mockery and putative callousness. I am glad though for people who correspond with me and warn me about ‘the lack of my pastoral heart.’ I am glad for them because it gives me a chance to communicate that there are times when mockery is the very essence of compassion. Speaking only for myself, if I could not mock the enemy all of my time would be drenched in tears. Crying gets boring after awhile.
I have daughters in my family and young ladies in the congregation I serve who I love deeply as a Father and a Pastor. My pastoral heart towards them would be made of iron fibers if I did not show them compassion by mocking the egalitarians and the feminists.
3 thoughts on “On Mocking & Compassion”
The thing I often have trouble with when debating unbelievers is getting angry at counter-mocking. I’ve heard it said that the mocking of the scorners is like a child shooting spit balls at the Sun, expecting to extinguish it’s flames. If I am thin-skinned it shows that I’m failing to believe two things; 1) Christ is fully able to defend Himself, and 2) my identity is with Him, and not myself.
In debating fellow believers, however, I think Calvinists have the unfortunate besetting sin of often being right. This leads them to think that they’ve “won.” Then they spike the ball in the end zone, do a crazy legged dance, and perhaps add a pantomime mooning to further humiliate the opponent. Such displays are met with immediate penalties during TV Sunday games. In the Kingdom most penalties are deferred.
You have some good points!
First, at least for myself, I seldom believe that counter-mocking is going to win the scorners over any more then a solid argument that doesn’t include mocking will win them over. Of course, one always hopes that it might jolt somebody into reality, but I’ve seldom seen that happen. The mocking is more for the onlookers. Think Elijah at Mt. Carmel. I doubt (I may be wrong) that Elijah was expecting the priests of Baal to repent in light of his mockery. I think it more likely that he was hoping to reveal the exceeding foolishness of Baalism to the people of Israel who were present at this decisive contest.
Second while it is also true that Christ is fully able to defend Himself it is also fully true that He often uses His people to defend Him. Additionally, Christ Himself was not adverse to saying direct things in order to stir up his opposition. (In His parable, Scripture will record from time to time…”The people knew that he had spoken this against the Scribes and the Pharisees.)
I will agree with your last paragraph. I wonder though if at least in part that behavior is driven by sheer frustration? Now, that doesn’t excuse it but it does perhaps make it somewhat understandable.
Thanks for your warning words of wisdom Robert,
Another example might be Paul’s mocking of the Judaizers’ boasting in their circumcision. He publically suggested they should go all the way and emasculate themselves. That’s double points for mockery and general distastefulness.
Calvin also dealt with this throughout much of his life and defended himself by suggesting he was merely a dog, but that when someone threatened or attacked his master, he would not fail to bark. I think he saw a failure to do so as treason against his master.
Further, I am of the opinion the ridiculous ought to be ridiculed. Otherwise it tends to develop an unwarranted legitimacy (unfortunately usually among Christians – think dispensationalism, etc.).