Satire spends its energy unmasking humans, but too much satire destroys the satirist.
Whether we consider Mad Magazine, National Lampoon, The Wittenburg Door, SNL, or The Babylon Bee, we need to rethink the value of satire.
I’m not being a killjoy here, but instead asking for some reconsideration. How much satire does it take until we have learned to spend all our time deconstructing, unmasking, and demolishing other humans made in God’s image?
Tony Hendra tells his story in the revealing Father Joe. As a fourteen year old he is caught en flagrant with a friend’s wife. Instead of beating him to a pulp, the man leads Tony to Father Joe (Dom Joseph Warrilow) at Quarr, a Benedictine monastery on the Isle of Wight. Under the care of Father Joe, Tony makes progress into the spiritual life, but (in the wisdom of Father Joe) is not approved for the monastic life and so Tony heads off to Cambridge University.
A fork in the road takes Tony down a long, painful road of infidelity, drugs, and all manner of soul soothers that neither soothe nor care for the soul. The main tune he played on that road was satire, a form of literature and communication dominated by humor, irony, and ridicule. Tony eventually becomes a lead writer for National Lampoon, USA’s precursor of Saturday Night Live.
As he seeks to be soothed with drugs and sex, however, Tony continually remembers and returns to Father Joe. But, his soul continues to evaporate into the mists of prestige and indulgence.
What impressed me so much in Father Joe is what a life of satire can do to the soul. When we spend our creative energies and passions pursuing ways to tear down, ridicule, and humiliate public figures, we destroy ourselves. Why? Humans are God’s Eikons and to dishonor them is to dishonor God, and to dishonor God is to tear out our own soul.