According to Webster’s, satire is “a way of using humor to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc…” Thus, in the case of my two previous posts, a couple of our modern obsessions (fast food menus and all things politically correct, respectively) were made the objects of ridicule.
Citing The Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia offers a more detailed definition of satire:
Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, and society itself, into improvement.
Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satire)
The concept of satire was first introduced by the ancient Greek playwright, Aristophanes. Shortly thereafter, it was perfected by two Roman writers: Horace and Juvenal. Horace practiced a milder form of satire while Juvenal employed a much more severe, often caustic form. Writers, teachers, and speakers have effectively employed satire in its varying degrees ever since.
Jesus, Himself, as a master teacher, employed satire. He used it sparingly, but He did use it - most often in His biting criticisms of the religious establishment of His day. A classic example is found in Matthew 23:23-27:
23“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
The first time around, He was fairly mild, employing wit and relatively gentle humor in referencing the irony of straining out a gnat while managing to swallow a camel in the process. The second and third times, however, in order to drive home his contempt for the Pharisees, He grew increasingly sardonic.
To this day, the ability to do these things well is part of what sets really good communicators apart. For my own part, I am a little better at recognizing quality satire than I am at producing it. So, whenever I come across a good piece, I will readily make use of it.
Thus, I thought I would post another short piece of satire for my blog today. Like the past two, this one is about Christmas. It was written by Chris Dolson and first published in Christianity Today Magazine back in 1988. It is an American parody of Luke chapter 2. But it is not ridiculing the Biblical story. Not at all! Rather, it is a biting commentary on our greedy and materialistic culture – on who and what we as Americans have become in our unbridled pursuit and zealous worship of the false god known as mammon. It is titled…
JOY TO THE MALL!
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from the U.S. Treasury, that all of America should go shopping. And this decree was first made when leading economic indicators dipped to their lowest point. And all went out to shop, each to his own mall.
And a Christian also went up from his suburban home to the city with its many malls because he wanted to prove he was from the household of prosperity. And with him was his wife, who was great with economic worry. And so it was, that, while they were there, they found many expensive presents, pudgy-faced dolls, trucks that turn into robots, and a various assortment of video games.
And the woman wrote checks for those they could afford and put the rest on many different kinds of plastic cards; she wrapped the presents in a bright paper and laid them in the garage; for there was no room for them in her closet.
And there were in the same county, children keeping watch over their stockings by night. And, lo, Santa Claus came upon them; and they were sore afraid (expecting to see the special effects they had seeing the movies).
And Santa said to them, "Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people who can afford this holiday. For unto you will be given this day, in your suburban home, great feasts of turkey, dressing, and cake - and many presents. And this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find the presents, wrapped in bright paper, lying beneath an artificial Christmas tree adorned with tinsel, colored balls, and lights."
And suddenly there was with Santa Claus a multitude of relatives and friends, praising one another and saying, "Glory to you for getting me this gift; it’s just what I wanted."
And it came to pass, as the friends and relatives were gone away into their own homes, the parents said to one another, "I sure am glad that’s over. What a mess. I’m too tired to clean it up now. Let’s go to bed and pick it up tomorrow." And when they had said this, they remembered the statement that had been told to them by the storekeepers: "Christmas comes only once a year."
And they that heard it wondered at those things that were sold to them by the storekeepers. But the children treasured all those things in their hearts, hoarding their toys from each other.
And the parents, after a drink, went to bed, glorifying and praising each other for all the bargains they have found in the stores.*
All I will add is this: "Ain’t it the truth?!"