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Snarky for Jesus

Snarky for Jesus

Bishop James Mathes has written an essay for Daily Episcopalian about the quality or lack thereof of the comments here on Episcopal Cafe. In a similar vein, Father Tim Schenck asks in a recent blog post whether snark is unChristian, and concludes that it is not. He says, in part:

Christians with a predilection for online snark occasionally encounter pushback from those who don’t think it’s appropriate. The best snark comes right up to the line without crossing over it and that can push people’s buttons who expect more positive output from their clergy and lay leaders. This all begs the question: Is snark un-Christian?

If you get back to the original definition of “sarcastic,” I don’t think you have to look much further than Jesus himself for validation. While it’s rarely put this way, Jesus had a wicked sense of humor that made extensive use of both hyperbole and sarcasm. If Jesus was Tweeting I’m pretty confident he’d be a master of the medium (though I doubt he’d have as many followers as Justin Bieber).

Here are some examples:

1. “Let the dead bury the dead.” (Matthew 8:21-22)

2. “How can you say to your neighbour, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4)

There are more examples

What do you think? Is snark unChristian (I hope not, or I am in trouble) and are clergy particularly adept at snarkiness?


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Bill Dilworth

“Our Lord famously warns…”

Accusations of “Argument from authority!” in 3…2…1…

Of course, my indignation, like my anger, is always righteous. And therefore my snarkiness and disdain are justified. But, I wonder if snarkiness isn’t a species of the deadly sin of malice, a deadly sin like the others to which we have grown accustomed to indulging.

Our Lord famously warns:

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21 – 22).

There is this from Paul:

“For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:14 -15).

And this from this Sunday’s epistle:

“If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless” (James 1:26). He goes even further, “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue–a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. (James 3:7 – 10)

And from the first epistle attributed to Peter:

“But in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame”

(1 Peter 3:15 – 16).

And from the early church:

“At times we not only condemn but bring our neighbor into contempt. For it is one thing to condemn, and another to bring into contempt. To bring into contempt means when a person not only condemns but also despises another, scorns him and turns away from him as from an abomination. This is worse than condemnation and much more pernicious.” (Dorotheos of Gaza, Directions on Spiritual Training)

Might Christians be called to a different kind of word care? And wouldn’t that be counter-cultural?

Matt Gunter


I love snark. But I have a love-hate relationship with church related snark online.

The internet is a forum where most of the eyes and ears lurking around are not people of our faith, let alone Episcopalians. The words we post, we give freely to the world and they see it and it defines us to them. Period.

So I worry about the flood of snarky Episcopal content, which tends to be hypercritical insider-speak. I worry about the whole clot of tweets and blogs and comments that exist for Episcopalians to eviscerate Episcopal this or that.

How is it welcoming? How does it present us to a world that tends to think all Christians are petty bickering bigots? Don’t get me wrong, as an insider I devour things like @churchsnobTEC, but I’m horrified at what that name alone must project to outsiders. And twitter is the equivalent of intercom announcements at the mall.

In an idealistic world we’d all take a moment before posting any church commentary – snarky or not – to remember that we are each the spokesperson for our faith and there are things more important to get across on the www than our opinions or an incendiary humor: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

But I don’t think that means we can’t also be opinionated and funny.

Ruth Meteer


In snark we trust.

Seriously, IMHO, snark is wonderful when directed at institutions, public figures, and social injustice. Where would we be without snarky comments about discrimination, for instance?

When directed at specific, private individuals, snark can be ugly and abusive.

Anyone want to post something about +++Williams and his political acumen (or lack thereof) so I can have a mini-snarkfest?

Eric Bonetti

Rod Gillis

Re Bill Dilworth’s 2nd post, agreed Bill the hinge upon which action turns is on the “may or may not”. The challenge is attempting to discern the

difference.Confrontation is sometimes constructive in both counseling and politics.

Sometimes the pointed and “snarky” rejoinder is the one democratic tool left in disarming linguistic smoothing techniques and the public relations turn of phrase one so often finds in church statements these days.

As for quotes, here’s one I like, and find applicable to our current problems.

“But despite these notable exceptions I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church.I do not say that as one of the negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say it as a minister of the Gospel who loves the church..”

–Martin Luther King, 1963

(Letter from Birmingham city Jail)

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