Abstaining from Ridicule

Yesterday, one of my younger cousins posted this to Facebook:

Let’s try to be humble, rational people; truth needs no help from mockery and laughter in its defense (even if we are surrounded by those who agree with us that an opposing viewpoint is false)…Mockery says, ‘I am better’…and what better way is there to cloud judgment than to be prideful?

I remember that a congregation I once attended offered a World Religions class during Bible Study time. The teacher, I think, did a fine job trying to teach us about other belief systems as respectfully as he could while comparing and contrasting those systems to the Bible. Many of the class members, however, were far from respectful. Every class, people would make jokes about aspects of another faith they thought was silly, and all I could think was, “I hope we have no visitors who believe that.”

We do the same when it comes to Intelligent Design versus the Big Bang and evolution and a million other differences between you, me, and others. The fact is, we ridicule other peoples’ seemingly outlandish beliefs so we feel better about our own leaps of faith. We are building ourselves up by tearing others down. We might call it “all in good fun,” or “just a joke.” In my line of work, we call it bullying, and I don’t appreciate it in my classroom. I appreciate it even less when other Christians are engaged in it, or, even worse, I find myself roped into it.

Think of the Samaritan by the well in John 4. When she started asking about details of worship, Jesus doesn’t ridicule her for following different traditions than His culture. Instead, He points her mind away from physical matters and toward spiritual matters. In Acts 17, when Paul visits Athens, he doesn’t make fun of them for all of the gods they worship. Instead, he finds common ground in their religious practices to begin teaching them about the Christ. Even when Jesus is harsh with the Pharisees in Matthew 23, he doesn’t stoop to mocking them while pointing out their hypocrisies.

It’s easy to mock. It’s easy to make someone else’s beliefs sound ridiculous. For example, I once saw Christianity explained thusly:

The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil source from your soul that is present because a talking snake convinced a rib-woman to eat from a magical tree.

How do you feel about that description? Does it amuse you? Does it make you angry? Do you want to sit down with the author and explain your views in a less ridiculous way? Does it make you care about their perspective or resistant to it? Now how do you think ridiculing the beliefs and convictions of others does any good for the cause of Christ? It doesn’t. It just makes us look bad.

Let’s remember that we are to watch our tongues (James 3) and that we should be striving to – that is putting a great deal of effort into – living peaceably with those around us (Romans 12:18). Let us put away ridicule and mockery and seek more open and honest dialogue with those around us.