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The role of ridicule in religious rhetoric

This cartoon was posted earlier today on the First Thoughts blog, but it was subsequently removed after a couple of commenters questioned the appropriateness of lampooning a theologian like this. I’m curious what you think. Take a look.

The cartoon was taken down both because of the two comments that it received and because the poster felt that it “may have been more mean than satirical.” Now, I can understand the desire to protect theological discourse from degenerating into pure meanness and descending into ad hominem attack. And, satire is a tool that should be wielded very carefully. As I discussed in my review of Imaginary Jesus, you need to be careful not to cross the line.

Nonetheless,  removing a cartoon like this still annoys me. Does theology always have to be so serious? Personally, I like to make fun of people (as long as they don’t do it back to me, that makes me sad). Like any good caricature, it can be a very effective way of highlighting what you think are the most distinctive characteristics (i.e. flaws) of the person/position you’re trying to describe.

What do you think? Am I off here? Do we need to be more careful in using satire and such things in our religious discourse? Or, is there a legitimate role for this kind of rhetoric?