Christian Snarkiness

Jesus talking to a manAlthough I think this is also applicable outside a Christian context, ultimately it's appeal to certain Judeo-Christian mores may limit its relevance to non-Christians.

Throughout web and podcast dialogue it has become popular to be snarky toward people and/or views that one significantly disagrees with. I use the word "snarky" in the context of my Mac's first definition for it:

(of a person, words, or a mood) sharply critical; cutting; snide: the kid who makes snarky remarks in class.

I myself have been guilty of the behavior…it is fun, satisfying, and effective.

Well, "effective" depending on what you are trying to effect.

Let's assume there is a view that is so bad that it warrants your snarkiness. There are two types of people who hold that view: those who are open to changing it if provided with the proper evidence and those who will never come around no matter how convincing your proof is.

With group number one, how effective (in your desire to change their opinion) do you think it'll be if your conversation begins with (or includes) snarkiness (or any other negative approach, for that matter)? Isn't it far more likely it'll build an even higher wall between the two of you?

With group number two, you've already accepted they won't modify their position, so your snarkiness has no benefit for your "opponent(s)."

That is, in neither case is being snarky fun, satisfying, and effective.

It is just fun and and satisfying.

Then the question becomes, "Is it good fun and satisfaction or bad fun and satisfaction?" You be the judge:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29, English Standard Version).

Is snarkiness good for building up? Does it give graace to those who hear it?

A soft answer turns away wrath,
   but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).

Is a snarky word more likely to turn away wrath or stir up anger?

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:5-6).

Is snarky speech gracious? Is it the way we should answer each person?

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:17-18).

If you are snarky in return to someone who has been snarky (or otherwise unkind) to you, is that not repaying evil for evil? Is being snarky honorable in the sight of all? Is it, as far as it depends on you, living peaceably with the recipients of your snarkiness?

I could go on with applicable biblical verses, but will with a couple of quick final points.

Notice that none of the scriptural references I shared has a "they're a jerk" or a "they are evil or on the side of evil" escape clause. They used all-encompasing words like "only," "always," and "all."

Yes, there are opinions and doctrines (and people) out there that deserve (and need) to be responded to. No matter how offensive, wrong, or evil those opinions and doctrines (and people) are, you are still a Christian.

Will they be able to know that by your words?

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48, emphasis mine).

UPDATE: My iPhone&#39’s The American Heritage Dictionary has another good definition for snarky:

1. Rudely sarcastic or disrespectful; snide.

And this one from my iPhone's Advanced English Dictionary:

(informal) Snide and sarcastic; usually out of irritation; often humorously.

Ultimately this post isn't limited to just snarkiness—its principles apply to any negative approach, written or spoken.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless (James 1:26).


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