His letter to militant Italian atheist Piergiorgio Odifreddi is a model of respect for your opponent and insistence on truth nonetheless.
And yet … and yet .. I still feel there is some place in the debate for snark. So does Dougherty. A year ago he admiringly called Pope Francis an “Insult Comic“ and pointed out that he has brought snark to the Vatican. Think of some of the phrases the Holy Father has used to sum up the shortcomings of the religion of our age: “fomenters of coprophagia,” “Mr. and Mrs. Whiner,”“Christians allergic to preaching,” “pastry-shop Christians,” “soap-bubble” Christians and many more.
“Insults aren’t foreign to Christianity,” Dougherty reminds us. “Jesus himself was brutal when condemning the ‘whitened sepulchers’ and the ‘brood of vipers’ among the religious leaders of his day.”
Which brings me back to my own snarky posts.
I have always been swayed by C.S. Lewis, who marshalled the quotes of two successful Christian evangelizers in the preface to his Screwtape Letters. “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn,” said Martin Luther. “The devil, the proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked,” said St. Thomas More.
If gentle ridicule is the vernacular of the day, then isn’t a little of it necessary? It shouldn’t frame the Christian’s entire argument – it certainly doesn’t for Pope Francis. It has to be done with an eye toward bettering the other. It should look more like the loving way a friend teases than the ugly way a bully teases.
So let’s continue the experiment and carve out some small place for snark in the New Evangelization. We’ll see how it goes.