A History of Religious Satire from the Hebrew Prophets to Stephen Colbert
by Terry Lindvall
Pub Date 13 Nov 2015
Winner of the 2016 Religious Communication Association Book of the Year Award
In God Mocks, Terry Lindvall ventures into the muddy and dangerous realm of religious satire, chronicling its evolution from the biblical wit and humor of the Hebrew prophets through the Roman Era and the Middle Ages all the way up to the present. He takes the reader on a journey through the work of Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales, Cervantes, Jonathan Swift, and Mark Twain, and ending with the mediated entertainment of modern wags like Stephen Colbert.
Lindvall finds that there is a method to the madness of these mockers: true satire, he argues, is at its heart moral outrage expressed in laughter. But there are remarkable differences in how these religious satirists express their outrage.The changing costumes of religious satirists fit their times. The earthy coarse language of Martin Luther and Sir Thomas More during the carnival spirit of the late medieval period was refined with the enlightened wit of Alexander Pope. The sacrilege of Monty Python does not translate well to the ironic voices of Soren Kierkegaard. The religious satirist does not even need to be part of the community of faith. All he needs is an eye and ear for the folly and chicanery of religious poseurs.
To follow the paths of the satirist, writes Lindvall, is to encounter the odd and peculiar treasures who are God’s mouthpieces. In God Mocks, he offers an engaging look at their religious use of humor toward moral ends.
“I read Lindvall’s book with great appreciation and learned a lot. It contained so much more than I expected, a virtual history of religious mockery, which no one has attempted before. It is a significant contribution to religious and cultural studies. Beside that, it is a just plain good read."--Harvey Cox, Hollis Research Professor of Divinity, Harvard University
"Terry Lindvall’s lively and witty prose is perfect for God Mocks, an engaging and fascinating history of the unexpectedly comical ways that prophets and preachers, artists and writers have exposed the sins and foibles of the saints across the ages. This broad and creative study cleverly probes the lighter side of human depravity to reveal how much satirical discourse has always been vital to the redemptive (and oft times entertaining) task of prophetic consciousness raising. A delightful, thoroughly researched, and perceptive contribution to understanding religious communication."--William D. Romanowski, author of Reforming Hollywood: How American Protestants Fought for Freedom at the Movies