The Pilgrim’s Pensieve #14

Satire in Church

This week I decided to do a satire. I had been thinking for a while of how to effectively criticise Christian fellowships and churches run by authoritarian figures. I had been in such fellowships myself and I wanted to openly talk about some of the evils that went on in them. None of them were peculiar to that group and I found they were quite common among such types on campuses and communities all over. I figured satire was a good way to talk about them.

I just finished reading Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe last week and it inspired me to tackle such issues through the power of stories. Mr. Achebe brilliantly described the downfall of a fictional West African dictatorship in a very vivid and incisive manner. Being a Ghanaian there was a lot I could identify with since my own nation a quarter of a century ago was also a dictatorship. When my friends and I talk about what went on in the fellowship it was borderline absurd. Being inspired by the political satire in Achebe’s work, the shocking hilarity of the subject matter and my favourite genre of comedy being political satire, I decided to do a satire.

There aren’t many full works of Christian satire that I know of, that is, satire of Christians done by Christians. When I pitched the idea to one of my pals he was dismissive of the idea. He felt that it could make the real life subjects angry. He, like many other, is generally not a fan of the open criticism of Christian leaders. I on the other hand have no qualms about it though I do think you need to be fair in your objections.

Christians tend to shy away from such kinds of humour. When I searched on the net about satire there were a lot of Christians who felt that kind of humour belonged to the world and a Christian shouldn’t even think about. There were others too who disagreed and tried to show in the Bible and throughout Church history it has been used as a legitimate tool for self-reflection and scrutiny.

When I think of the Bible, especially the prophets, I see a lot of examples of parody, satire, sarcasm, irony among other things. The Bible uses different techniques and avenues for discussing and highlighting problems, including the comedic or satirical, and I think that is enough of me to pursue my pet project. Maybe I will develop it into a little book, who knows? Now I am still trying to flesh out the form of the story. What I do know is that it will be a based of a political satire of a dictatorship this time set in a small church with an authoritarian leader who is a prophet.

Another inspiration of mine is the great modern parable Animal Farm by George Orwell. It was a book that was banned in many countries including my own during Kwame Nkrumah’s dictatorial regime. The power of satire to challenge leaders and hold up an unflattering mirror to their own practices is something Orwell brilliantly harnessed. Thebest kind of comedy is honesty. This is what I want to do, in my own small way. The Church, particularly in my own settin, sometimes takes itself too seriously to even realise its own foibles and shortcomings. I want to be true to the real situations that face real people in churches and fellowships everywhere. Whatever the outcome of this little initiative of mine I know it will be certainly interesting.

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