Why So…Not Nice?

David Burchard Christian Ethics Leave a Comment

“So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?”–Paul of Tarsus

“In one point I do certainly think that Victorian Bowdlerism did pure harm. This is the simple point that, nine times out of ten, the coarse word is the word that condemns an evil and the refined word the word that excuses it.” – G.K. Chesterton

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?” – Mark Twain

“This new thing you have devised is the vilest cesspool that the devil has on earth.” – Martin Luther


If you read from this repository of thought with any regularity, you’ll have noticed that I often use sarcasm. I sometimes go so far as to say mean things, even call people names and joke as to their fortitude.

Last week, I wrote this heterosexual, cisnormative article regarding Jackie Hill Perry’s book excerpt published on Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s website, For the Church. It gives a good flavor of the kind of polemical writing to which I’m referring (as does this).

Now, there are many Christians I truly respect and hold dear, and many others I know nothing about, who take umbrage with that approach to communication.

“It’s ineffective. It’ll turn folks off and they won’t listen to you.”

“Why the name calling? That’s arrogant.”

“Show them you care by dealing with the argument without being crass or insulting.”

Common responses to creative, crass critiques.

So, the question for all Christians is: What is right?

Why do I use the voice and tone I do? Do I have warrant to consider such speech righteous?

There are a number of reasons that I write the way I do in this here day and age, as they say. The one reason I here want to cite is this: To do so is Biblical.

It’s sometimes nice to lead out with the big swing. Using crass critique, name-calling, insults, and sarcastic mockery, not always, but plenty of times, is Biblical, baby.

Look at how Jesus himself speaks to religious leaders in his day, those guilty of peddling fine sounding falsehood, and so leading people into error (Matthew 23).

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

      “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

      “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ “You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? “And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ “You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? “Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. “And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. “And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

      “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

      “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

      “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

      “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ “So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. “Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

See what Jesus says to the disobedient church (Revelation 3).

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.

Look at Paul write about those teaching falsely in the churches of Galatia (Galatians 1 and 5).

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated!

He speaks with similar derision in 1 Timothy 4.

But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;

Do you think the prophets of old were any nicer than Jesus and bad boy Paul?

Have you ever noticed what Amos called the ladies of the north who were out of line (Amos 4)?

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria, Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, Who say to your husbands, “Bring now, that we may drink!”

Elijah doesn’t stop at slashing with his words. He does physical slashing as well (1 Kings 18).

And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”

And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

How about Ezekiel?

And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity…She lusted after their paramours, whose flesh is like the flesh of donkeys and whose issue is like the issue of horses. “Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom because of the breasts of your youth.

Jeremiah?

A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her.

This is a sampling of Biblical argumentation. It is not limited to this, but it includes this, crass insults, mockery, name-calling, and sarcasm.

So, why do I so often write the way I do? It’s Biblical.


“You sophistic worms, grasshoppers, locusts, frogs and lice!”–Martin Luther

churchill speech

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