Saturday, June 02, 2007

My Use of Satirical Humor: Essentially Contrary to the Ironic Humor of Our Lord Jesus and St. Paul? / White's and Svendsen's Caricatures of Me

Frank "centuri0n" Turk's legendary "Free Dave Armstrong" T-shirts and posters


It all started with my posting of two Three Stooges videos from YouTube (a pie fight and the scene where Curly is eating soup with a live clam in it: the scene, incidentally, that I consider the very funniest one in all of their classic shorts). I was comparing the first to the strong anti-Catholic tendency (able to be documented with extreme ease; and I have done so, time and again) to personally attack people and to incessantly use ad hominem. The second I used as a satirical illustration of the inability of anti-Catholics to understand Catholic doctrine.

You would have thought that the sky fell down. I responded to one ridiculous reply at some length. There are a number of possible, plausible explanations that don't entail acknowledgment that the videos were unethical:
A) I could have intended the videos as merely temporary from the outset (which I've done before on several occasions).

B) I could have moved them off the front page but retained them on my blog (which I've often done; I just did that, e.g., with a YouTube video of CCM guitarist Phil Keaggy, because I wanted other stuff on the front page more than I wanted that).

C) I may have thought that the two videos had (quite predictably) been misinterpreted and had caused extreme overreaction from the intended recipients of the humor and their devotees; thus, as a prudential decision, removed them so as to not affect (by irrationality of response) the reception of the far more important prayer for non-Catholics, while continuing to believe the humor and satire perfectly apt and acceptable and altogether defensible.

D) I could have thought that the recipients were too weak to handle such humor, and so removed the videos as an act of charity and taking into account the weakness of a brother, so as not to make him stumble (albeit without proper reason). It's like how we parents approach different children at various levels of forcefulness. What would barely get one child to obey would practically traumatize another of a much more mild and meek temperament.
If in fact they were removed because I felt I had done something wrong, then I certainly would have admitted that and talked about it, as I virtually always do whenever there is some controversy and I remove something.

I don't hide anything. If I 'm wrong, I openly state that I was, retract, and apologize. I have no problem with that. I've done it dozens of times over the years online. People who have followed my writings through the years are fully aware of this.

[ . . . ]

By the way, the correct explanation of my actual reasoning was Point C above. I reiterate, just to make it crystal-clear: there was absolutely nothing wrong with posting these videos. The satirical point they made fit the circumstances perfectly.

These people need to lighten up. I can think of few instances of humor more harmless than those were. The extreme reaction to them only reinforces the impression that these people (anti-Catholics or nearly so) are pompous and arrogant in how they approach Catholics in the first place.

People who can laugh at themselves react much differently. For example, Baptist Ken Temple, the regular on this blog, and I have been having this (quite vigorous and meaty) discussion about Protestants' first principles of authority.

I posted three pictures on that post of a dog chasing his own tail (as a word picture of circular reasoning; one I posted originally had a "dog" with two tails and no head -- see that one here --, but there were technical problems so I removed it), and Ken stated: "The pictures of the dogs are hilarious -- I have busted a gut laughing".

This is one reason I like the man and admire him. He's not pompous. He can take ribbing and humor. That's the difference. But people who are too full of themselves in the first place cannot laugh at themselves and take any humor.

It's like James White posting two caricatures of me and one of Pat Madrid being stoned. That's fine and dandy (he doesn't think twice about it), but let wicked, evil Dave Armstrong merely stretch a picture of his face out and you would think I had insulted his wife and children, stolen his life savings and attempted to murder his dog [he has written about this several times, with the utmost silliness and pique over a harmless bit of humor]. He clearly can't take his own medicine. It's the double standard thing again.


James White's commissioned artist Angel Contreras' first caricature of yours truly
: 4-22-04 (copyright 2004)
[source page and post]

Originally, a friend of mine had done a caricature of Angel Contreras' caricature of White (see the original below), and we see that in the drawing above. Below we see the original caricature and my friend's second "unbloody" counter-caricature (the first, seen above, I removed from my site after about two days, due to several protests against it, as in poor taste).

White claimed on his webcast, Dividing Line, on 4-20-04 [his audio file / my nine-minute excerpt] that if we had simply done a counter-caricature without the blood, of the "Catholic" arrow hitting his forehead, that "it might have been funny." So we did that, and posted it. But guess what? White didn't find it very funny. Big surprise, that. In any event, here are the "dueling caricatures", for your pleasure, more than three years after the original incident, that White exploited shamelessly, making out that this was proof positive that I was exceedingly hostile towards him (and lately -- with almost chilling paranoia -- he has taken to describing me as a "stalker" when I refute his papers):

We also did a take-off of White's take-off of our counter-caricature to the caricature of him. This is a portion of ours, that replaced the "Bishop White voodoo doll" in the caricature above:

At length, alas, it was time to make fun of me again, over at the hallowed halls of Alpha and Omega [i.e., begin but never end arguments] Ministries:

Angel Contreras' second caricature of me: 1-13-05; copyright 2005. As far as I know, I am the only person to be blessed with two caricatures by Bishop White's minions
[source and accompanying blog post]


May God grant to all of us the ability to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously, as if we are above all criticism.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

James White's artist Angel Contreras humorous caricature of Catholic apologist Pat Madrid being stoned for idolatry
[March 2004; source page]

This leads in to comments made by one Carrie, on my blog (see her blog):

Mocking the prophets of Baal or the Pharisees does not add up to mocking what you consider "brothers and sisters in Christ". Stop hiding behind that excuse.

She made this comment because I had written on my blog (in a Prayer for Non-Catholics; emphases added presently):
Lord, help us all to control our tongues and to have discernment and wisdom to know when humor or satire is proper and necessary (such as when Elijah mocked the false prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel or Your Son's criticisms of the Pharisees or Paul's sarcastic remarks about castration). Forgive us (through the blood of Jesus and Your Holy Spirit) our pride and arrogance and any haughtiness or triumphalism in our presentations of or defense of Catholic truths. Humor is Your gift to us also, but help us to sanctify it and to know when and where to utilize humor in the course of our proclamations and defenses of what we hold dear. We all often fall short in that, Lord. Help us to do better, with Your aid and guidance.
I replied to Carrie:

If you are so concerned with my mostly harmless humor, what is your opinion of James White's two visual caricatures of me, done by his artist friend Angel: one portraying me as a hateful, spiteful person, and the other, as a liar who breaks vows [the word "vow" wasn't used in the caricature itself, but White has since made that argument; even renewing it recently]? Or how about Eric Svendsen's National Enquirer satire that had a child growing out of my chest and a supposed connection with Holocaust deniers [see that masterpiece here]? Do you condemn those as unethical?

I conveyed the truth, using a humorous means, in my videos of the Three Stooges. If someone is engaging in personal attacks against brothers in Christ, such as Steve Hays did with Scott Hahn, or Rev. McCain does to me right on my own blog (because I allow him to, whereas he won't allow me to comment on his blog: Example One | Example Two), or as other anti-Catholics routinely do, then it is perfectly acceptable to humorously compare their silly tactics with a Three Stooges pie fight.

Carrie replied:

I'm not so concerned with your humor as much as your attempt to defend your humor with biblical support. Your examples of Jesus and Paul are contradictory to your proclamation that Prots are siblings in Christ. It is the hypocrisy that bothers me.

And I responded at length, having heard enough of this bogus accusation (complete with a pass for anti-Catholics when they engage in unethical satire):

Jesus and Paul used humor in a way that was far more "cutting" and insulting than virtually anything I've done.

Jesus used heavy sarcasm and exaggeration in the Sermon on the Mount. Surely you can't say He was preaching that to unbelievers. These were believers or disciples. But look what He said:
39: He also told them a parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?
40: A disciple is not above his teacher, but every one when he is fully taught will be like his teacher.
41: Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
42: Or how can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.

(Luke 6:39-42; cf. Matthew 7:1-5 - RSV)
Perhaps the most famous instance of sarcasm in Paul was tongue-in-cheek desire for Judaizers to castrate themselves:
6: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.
7: You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?
8: This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
9: A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
10: I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine; and he who is troubling you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.
11: But if I, brethren, still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In that case the stumbling block of the cross has been removed.
12: I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves!

(Galatians 5:6-12)
Now, again, the Judaizers were Christians. They weren't pagans or nonbelievers. See the article on them in the Catholic Encyclopedia and the article "Jewish Christians" from Wikipedia. The relationship of Jews and Christians and the Law and the New Covenant in the early Church was very complex. So, e.g., even Paul circumcised Timothy:
1: And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek.
2: He was well spoken of by the brethren at Lystra and Ico'nium.
3: Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

(Acts 16:1-3)
Note that this incident occurred after the council of Jerusalem (that Paul attended), which had precisely ruled (led by Peter) that circumcision was not necessary for Gentile converts (Acts 15:1-21,28-29). So here is Paul circumcising a Gentile soon after the Council that had declared that it was unnecessary. And why? Scripture tells us it was "because of the Jews that were in those places (Acts 16:3).

So why is it that we always hear (as a polemic against the papacy) about Paul's rebuke of Peter when he compromised in behavior for fear of the Jews or Judaizers (Gal 2:11-14), but we never hear about this hypocrisy of Paul's, that is exactly the same sort of catering to men, and a shortcoming of resolve? To top it off, in the very next verse, we are told that Paul "delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem" (16:4).

See also my articles:

Should a Christian Ever Contribute to a Mosque Building Fund? / Early Christians and Jewish Synagogue and Temple Worship
(+ Discussion)

Jewish-Christian Dialogue on Authority and the Rabbinic Credentials of Jesus and the Apostle Paul
Paul called himself a Pharisee more than once. Jesus observed Temple rites and various Pharisaical traditions, and even commanded His followers to observe the teachings of the Pharisees and obey them (Matthew 23:1-3).

Therefore, when Jesus uttered His scathing denunciations of the Pharisees, it was not directed towards total unbelievers, but towards kinsmen who had gone astray and had become hypocrites. The New Testament refers to Christian Pharisees, and Nicodemus was one. Joseph of Arimathea was likely a Pharisee, as we know that he was a member of the Sanhedrin (Mk 15:43), and that body was dominated by Pharisees at the time of Jesus.

Paul was observing purification rites in the Temple when he was arrested (Acts 21:26-28).

Carl W. Conrad, a classic professor, wrote a post highlighting a number of instances of irony and sarcasm in Paul:
I'd like to invite the list to consider some potential instances of Pauline rhetorical "double-speak" and venture opinions on the extent to which the apostle may on occasion have indulged in deliberate misstatement of his honest perceptions or attitudes for rhetorical purposes.

1. In an exchange yesterday. . . originating on another list, the question arose whether or not it is the case that Paul on more than one occasion resorts to rhetorical exaggeration, equivocation, irony, even sarcasm in order to enhance, even at peril of distorting them, his intended messages. I want to point to a few texts where one may seriously doubt whether Paul means to be understood literally and some others that may be more ambiguous.
He suggested the following passages as instances of same: Romans 15:18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:4-5, 14:18; Gal 5:12; and concluded: "I think there may be several points in the Pauline corpus where we ought to suspect rhetorical exaggeration or even sarcastic humor."

Likewise, Bible commentator Mark D. Nanos wrote a book entitled The Irony of Galatians: Paul's Letter in First-Century Context (Augsburg Fortress, 2001). Reviewer Loren Rosson III stated:
Mark Nanos argues that Galatians must be understood primarily as a letter of "ironic rebuke", Paul's knee-jerk reaction to the news that his Gentile converts have begun to accept circumcision, and thus the "whole Torah", as a complement to their faith in Christ. Furious and exasperated ("like a parent scolding children being influenced by their peers"), he wrote this letter with smoldering sarcasm and vilifying rhetoric -- neither of which portray his converts or those advocating their circumcision (or Paul himself!) very accurately. Nanos calls this "ironic rebuke", which served the purpose of redirecting the Galatians to his circumcision-free gospel by means of humiliation and shame.
The only unarguable case of humor being used against nonbelievers is Elijah on Mt. Carmel, mocking the prophets of Baal. I never claimed otherwise, but it doesn't follow that, therefore, such humor, mocking, or sarcasm can never be used against fellow Christians, if they are playing the hypocrite. I have now proven beyond all doubt that this is perfectly permissible, and is one way that we imitate Paul (as he commanded us to) and Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, we have numerous instances of God the Father using humorous analogies, parables, etc., in rebuking the disobedience of His own people, the Jews. We are made in God's image. If God uses a great deal of humor while rebuking, then it follows that we can do so as well.

Case closed. My use of the Three Stooges, comparing it to the legion ad hominem attacks by anti-Catholics against Catholics was entirely apt and extremely mild humor compared to that used by Jesus and Paul, with talk of vipers, whitewashed tombs, logs in the eye, castration, "their god is the belly" (Philippians 3:19) and the like.

I consider them my brethren, but they do not consider Catholics their brothers and sisters in Christ. So why is it that you misdirect your criticism towards me, rather than towards the ones who are truly wickedly reading brethren out of the Body of Christ?

My humor proves nothing of what you charge, but their plain statements manifest their wicked schismatic opinions and divisiveness: attributes that are scathingly condemned many many times by the Apostle Paul.

* * *

See my related post: Christianity, Humor, and Satire.

No comments: