a. A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.
b. The branch of literature constituting such works. See Synonyms at caricature.
2. Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.
<%image(20051003-ned flanders.jpg|80|108|ned)%> Satire is a powerful way of conveying truth and issuing a critique. Though there is a wealth of high literary examples of satire, I think one of the most popular and well-known examples of satire today is Ned Flanders from The Simpsons. My choice of Ned is not arbitrary. As a Christian, I think it’s important to hear what people are saying and not saying about Christianity through someone like Ned. And the funny thing about satire is that the message is not that people think all Christians are just like Ned. Ned is just a hyperbole of certain qualities, and the use of the hyperbole is to bring these qualities to center stage. When we see them beefed up and in the spotlight we have a chance to look, really look at Christianity from a fresh perspective.
Satire may be one of our most powerful tools in offering a commentary on our culture and on Christianity. It enables us to see ourselves and at the same moment, not see ourselves. We look at Ned’s shallow concern for his neighbors, theologically dubious prayers at dinner time, and disturbingly naive religious zeal and can laugh because we’ve done things like this, but not quite as bad. We realize that we or someone we know has the potential to do such things, but the actual act will not be as reprehensible as Ned’s misdeeds.
Another great example of a satire of Christianity is the movie Saved. I don’t know any worship leader who acts quite as dramatic and “pop-ish” as the girls in the move, a senior pastor who does back flips, or evangelists who throw Bibles at the heathen, but the power of the movie is not in the truth of the events. The issues lie in the sincerity of worship, selection of pastors and leaders, and our manner of sharing the love of God with others. Surely we don’t do things as heinous as the characters in the movies, but at times we’re not too far from that. Thanks to satire we can look, laugh, and then think more deeply about our of love for God and for one another.