August 22, 2014

Of Christian Criticism, Satire, and Wit

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

I am almost obsessively addicted (redundancy?) to satirical and witty social criticism.  I can’t seem to get enough of it. My favorites are HL Mencken, Mark Twain, Albert Nock, and, to represent the living, Fred Reed.  Actually I could add most of the Taki Magazine columnists –but none can compete with Mr. Reed.  But in any case, in a world where the cultural left takes everything too seriously and is Officially Offended by the alleged oppression inherent in every unapproved opinion, the calm and collected social outlook of the social critic is an undisguised blessing.

I do wish there were more Christians writing in the same genre.  One can certainly find some of this wit in writers like the proto-Reformed Libertarian J. Gresham Machen, and even RC Sproul Jr (I love his Facebook posts).  Christians should have an advantage in this area, but unfortunately we take the world too seriously it seems.  Christians have their social sacred cows, which they shouldn’t, and to slaughter them is to declare war.  Indeed, Christians should be in a far better position to point to the lunacy of the world’s obsessions; for starters, it is their God that created humor in the first place.  And after that, well, we are explicitly told to not love the world or the things of the world.

Here is John Gill’s commentary on 1 John 2:15:

The habitable earth, the world in which men live; this is not to be loved by saints, as if it was their habitation, where they are always to be, and so loath to remove from it, seeing they are but sojourners, and pilgrims, and strangers here; this is not their rest, nor dwellingplace, their continuing city, or proper country, that is heaven. Nor should they love the men of the world, who are as they came into it, are of it, and mind the things of it, and lie in wickedness, and are wicked men; for though these are to be loved, as men, as fellow creatures, and their good, both spiritual and temporal, is to be sought, and good is to be done to them, as much as lies in our power, both with respect to soul and body; yet their company is not to be chosen, and preferred to the saints, but to be shunned and avoided, as disagreeable and dangerous; their evil conversation, and wicked communications, are not to be loved, but abhorred, and their works of darkness are to be reproved; nor are their ways to be imitated, and their customs followed, or their manners to be conformed unto:

We are a called out people, we should have an outsiders perspective, and this world is not our home.  Issues of the Gospel and salvation and living holy lives are deadly serious.  But here are, awaiting eternity. Have some fun once in a while.

Here is Machen on National Parks:

“A great system of National Parks has been built up. It might have been a beneficent thing if it meant that the natural beauty of the regions now embraced in the National Parks were to be preserved. But as a matter of fact it means nothing of the kind. During a period of over 30 years I used to go in the summers, with some interruptions, to Mt. Desert Island, Maine. When I first went there it was about the sweetest and most beautiful lake and mountain region that could possibly be imagined. It really seemed as though no human being would have the heart to destroy the delicate charm of those woods. But then came Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and the Lafayette (later Acadia), National Park, and all was changed. Huge roads now scar practically every mountainside and skirt the shores of practically every lake. The woods near the roads have been ruthlessly ‘cleaned up.’ The natural beauty of the region has been systematically destroyed. When I go into that National Park, with its dreary regularity and its officialdom, I almost feel as though I were in some kind of penal institution. I feel somewhat as I do when I am in Los Angeles or any of the other over-regulated cities of the West, where pedestrians meekly wait around on the street corners for non-existent traffic and cross the streets only at the sound of the prison gong. Certain it is at any rate that the best way to destroy true recreation is for government to go into the business of promoting it.”

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com