From The Blog

Christians and the Rhetoric of Snark by Julie Ray Brown

Recently I was reading an Instagram post by a well-known Christian author and speaker and in it she was introducing a new Christian author that she LOVES. She wrote “suffice it to say that if you are comfortable with swears, snark, and sarcasm, this is your girl.” And my first thought was: when did it become okay for Christians to extol “swears, snark and sarcasm.” Has snark become a virtue?

Snark and sarcasm are by definition cynical, biting, and snide. One definition referred snark in particular as “a seemingly witty mannerism, personality, or behavior that is a combination of sarcasm and cynicism.”

Now, let me be the first to admit that I have travelled aplenty on the snark and sarcasm express. All I have to do is listen to my 10 and 12-year old boys to know, embarrassingly, how much I employ the rhetoric of snark. Ouch! However, I have to admit that when I am paying close attention, I feel ashamed when I hear it coming out of my mouth and feel even worse when I hear my own tone of voice coming out of “the mouths of babes.”

It is impossible to spend much time on Social Media, watching late night TV, or viewing ads on television and manage to avoid the prevalence of snark, not to mention Twitter tirades and sound bites from some of our leading politicians and pundits. And don’t even think about perusing through the comments section on blogs, articles, or FB posts.

But I guess my real question is — what are we Christ followers meant to do with this? In what ways are we letting ourselves be “conformed to [this] pattern.” How are we really meant to be using our words?

So, of course, I turned to Google and did a quick search for scripture about how we should be using our spoken words. And in a few quick seconds clear answers came streaming at me in what felt like ALL CAPS!

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18 

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad. Proverbs 12:25

A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23 

Well y’all, I don’t know about you, but I really want to do better. I want to be counted among those whose words bring gladness, healing, delight, help, benefit, and grace. And I know it is going to be hard work – because being snarky and sarcastic is the easy way out. It involves lowering ourselves and often putting others down. Love and grace call us upwards and to lift others up with us – and upwards always requires more work. Lord have mercy!

I took another long look at Romans 12 this morning. Let us allow these words to settle into our hearts and lead us on to living our best life to the glory of God.

Romans 12: 9-18

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.