Friday, March 12, 2010

Christianity and sarcasm

Children are such good teachers of truth.

Yesterday, when our kids were dropped off at daycare, the provider sarcastically said that if the not-quite-one-year-old cried too much then she’d be put on the porch. Our three-year-old pulled her mom aside and said with concern “won’t she get really cold out there?”

It’s hard to explain sarcasm to children. Do you say “sarcasm is when you say something you don’t mean because it’s funny”? Or “she was only joking, she didn’t mean it”? If so then isn’t sarcasm really just “funny lying”? Is that really the message I want my kids to learn; that lying can be funny?

I’m extremely sarcastic and this really got me thinking. I have a “conversation” about telling the truth when my older kid says she brushed her teeth but didn’t and then I turn around and sarcastically say that it didn’t snow last night (though my daughter can clearly see it did).

How is she supposed to deal with that? Why is it “funny” when daddy lies about it snowing last night but it’s “naughty” when she lies about brushing her teeth?

Through baptism we have become prophets in Christ (and priests and kings). As prophets we are called to tell the truth… always. Pope John Paul II in his first encyclical wrote that we are to seek and proclaim the truth in our daily lives not just when it comes to God stuff (Redemptor Hominis 19). How does my excessive “funny lying” jive with that? I’m beginning to think it doesn’t.

Sure, there’s a time and place for sarcasm, but I for one have allowed it to flow out into relationships and situations where it isn’t welcome. The only saving grace is that the first step to recovery is to admit I have a problem…

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