Saturday, September 02, 2006

Greg Albrecht Pitches Deep Thoughts on Grace, But All I Caught was the Sarcasm

I hate sarcasm.

Since the word "sarcasm" is often misused in different ways, I'll explain that when someone's being sarcastic, they're basically ridiculing someone else in an intentionally cruel manner. Say I overheard someone misusing the word "sarcasm" in a sentence. I could gently correct their misuse of the word. Or, I could employ sarcasm by shouting at them, "There's this subject taught in school called 'English.' You need to pass English to graduate, and apparently you never made it past kindergarten."

If that sounds mean, you're getting the point. When people are sarcastic, regardless of the words they use, they're essentially saying, "You're an idiot. I'm so much better than you."

So there's a lot to hate about the mean-spirited nature of sarcasm. Nothing makes me reconsider an opinion faster than hearing someone wax sarcastic about it.

I recently read some sarcastic words in "Grace,but," a commentary by Plain Truth magazine editor Greg Albrecht. Greg basically says we are saved by grace alone, and that any "works"--good deeds--we perform in life are not cause for rewards. Rather, any good thing we receive is another demonstration of God's grace.

But I couldn't have told you anything about the article the first time I read it. I was too upset by the sarcastic way he dealt with his friend in the piece. From the first word, he sets it up to bash his friend, a pastor who took issue with Greg's opinion:

This was a serious discussion, so I didn't ask him (though you can bet I wanted to!) if he had been a contributing writer for the Keeping Grace Under Control New World Dictionary. ...

I respectfully told him that his theology had gone to the dogs. My pastor friend seemed to be suggesting that God conditions humans somewhat like Pavlov’s dogs. ... But, according to my Bible, we humans are not dogs (and this is just one of those pearls of wisdom you will gain from listening to me!). ... We are created for a relationship with God in a way that no other part of his creation is (including man’s best friend).

Greg often adds a humorous edge to his writing, poking a little fun here and there. But it deeply troubled me that he was cutting his Christian brother down in a widely available public forum. (And, considering this was in a print publication, Greg already had a limited amount of space to offer ideas for contemplation. Why waste space ragging on his so-called friend?) It does seem his friend's opinion was off-track, but couldn't Greg offer correction in a gentle, loving way?

I'll admit, I fall into using sarcasm sometimes because I'm sure I'm right. Such certainty can be a dangerous thing. Who among us can define grace with 100 percent accuracy? That's like saying, "I know God completely. I know what's going on in his mind, and I can explain his nature and actions as if I were God myself."

I've learned a lot from Brooke, Kevin, Paul, Peggy, Mark, Judy, Tina, Russell, LaTonya, Angela, and everyone who has commented and talked to me about opinions I've expressed on this blog. I need regular reminders I only see a small part of the picture of faith. I appreciate how others have expanded my field of vision.

Thankfully, you all keep me in check. Please continue to add your thoughts and expand these discussions. And call me on it if I start to get sarcastic.

To ponder:
Why do you think people use sarcasm?

2) Is it ever right or helpful to sarcastically point out someone's error?

3) What are some problems sarcasm can cause in relationships?

4) Think of a time when you used sarcasm. Did you realize the words were hurtful? Did you intend for the words to be hurtful?

5) If you find yourself using sarcasm frequently, ask God to identify any pride, anger, hurt, sadness, or esteem issues that might cause you to communicate this way. It might help to ask a friend who's around you often for accountability.


Holly said...

Some definitions to entertain my teacher friend, Peggy:

Irony, sarcasm, satire indicate mockery of something or someone. The essential feature of irony is the indirect presentation of a contradiction between an action or expression and the context in which it occurs. In the figure of speech, emphasis is placed on the opposition between the literal and intended meaning of a statement; one thing is said and its opposite implied, as in the comment, “Beautiful weather, isn't it?” made when it is raining or nasty. Ironic literature exploits, in addition to the rhetorical figure, such devices as character development, situation, and plot to stress the paradoxical nature of reality or the contrast between an ideal and actual condition, set of circumstances, etc., frequently in such a way as to stress the absurdity present in the contradiction between substance and form. Irony differs from sarcasm in greater subtlety and wit. In sarcasm ridicule or mockery is used harshly, often crudely and contemptuously, for destructive purposes. It may be used in an indirect manner, and have the form of irony, as in “What a fine musician you turned out to be!” or it may be used in the form of a direct statement, “You couldn't play one piece correctly if you had two assistants.” The distinctive quality of sarcasm is present in the spoken word and manifested chiefly by vocal inflection, whereas satire and irony, arising originally as literary and rhetorical forms, are exhibited in the organization or structuring of either language or literary material. Satire usually implies the use of irony or sarcasm for censorious or critical purposes and is often directed at public figures or institutions, conventional behavior, political situations, etc.

Wit implies intellectual keenness and the ability to perceive and express in a diverting way analogies between dissimilar things: “Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words” (Dorothy Parker). Humor suggests the faculty of recognizing what is amusing, comical, incongruous, or absurd: “Man's sense of humor seems to be in inverse proportion to the gravity of his profession” (Mary Roberts Rinehart). Repartee implies a facility for answering swiftly and cleverly: “framing comments ... that would be sure to sting and yet leave no opening for repartee” (H.G. Wells). Sarcasm is a form of caustic wit intended to wound or ridicule another: “[His] tone seemed as if meant to be kind and soothing, but yet had a bitterness of sarcasm in it” (Nathaniel Hawthorne). Irony is a form of expression in which an intended meaning is the opposite of the literal meaning of the words used: “A drayman in a passion [a rage] calls out, ‘You are a pretty fellow,’ without suspecting that he is uttering irony” (Thomas Macaulay).

Sarcasm: A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound. A form of wit that is marked by the use of sarcastic language and is intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule.

Sardonic: characterized by bitter or scornful derision; mocking; cynical; sneering

Irony: the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.

Wisecrack: a smart or facetious remark.

Parody: a composition that imitates somebody's style in a humorous way

Tease: To make fun of; mock playfully.

Anonymous said...

I read it!!! :) Peggy