Austere?

No. I couldn’t believe it either, but there it was in big, bold lettering. The terrorist and infamous leader of ISIS had been tracked down by US forces and he blew himself up. Afterward, The Washington Post ran a slightly understated headline.

The line read as follows: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Austere Religious Scholar at Helm of Islamic State, Dies at 48.” When I heard this, I thought it was a joke. It was the kind of headline normally used by The Babylon Bee (my favorite satirical magazine). But the Post beat them to it. I assumed they were turning to political satire as well.

A Quick Retraction

The Washpo (as it is affectionately called) quickly retracted and changed its headline in the wake of a deluge of blowback from just about everyone. Apparently, it is reconsidering its new format as a satirical paper (much to my chagrin). I may have considered a subscription had they maintained their comedic course.

The headline originally seemed so tongue-in-cheek that it sounded as if they were seeking a few coffeehouse chuckles. Unfortunately, it appears as though they were actually in earnest (which causes me to doubt that they should be considered a serious newspaper). 

Al-Baghdadi, reportedly, not only took his own life but that of three of his young children. There’s nothing quite like dying for the sins of your father. The American troops tried to take him alive, but they understood, going in, that the prospects of that occurring were highly improbable.

While The Post celebrated al-Baghdadi’s austerity, everyone else seemed to be celebrating his death. I’ve seen enough death firsthand to have developed an aversion to anyone’s mortal demise. But calling someone who sought the death of millions of others, austere, is a tad beyond the pale in my book.

Academic Accomplishments

Austerity (while it has a variety of definitions) means “giving little or no scope for pleasure.” Yeah… I guess you’re austere if you want everyone else to die and avoid any future happiness. C’mon Washpo! You can do better than that.

While other outlets were labeling him “a serial rapist and murderer,” one of our most prestigious newspapers was attempting to emphasize his academic accomplishments. I like to “accentuate the positive,” as the old song goes; but I’m pretty sure the evil, in this case, outweighs the good—even in the headlines of an American newspaper.

Among al-Baghdadi’s atrocities were things like genocide, sex slavery, mass crucifixions, decapitations, stonings, and organized rape. Since he did all this in the name of religion, it becomes especially repulsive. Portraying anyone’s rape as a good thing is incomprehensible to most people. This guy was a monster in anyone’s book.

All life is precious, but ridding the world of a character such as al-Baghdadi is not going to elicit many tears—particularly from people of the Western Culture. I’m pretty sure most folks from the Middle East won’t be in very much anguish either. It’s not for me to say, but I’m guessing Revelation 21:8 might apply here.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Fake News You Can Trust

Those of you who know me well know that I love satire. One of my fave publications is the Babylon Bee which is advertised as “Your trusted source for Christian News Satire.” Their motto is, “Fake news you can trust, delivered straight to your inbox.” I’m often found reposting their stuff on my Facebook page.

Recently, I ran across one of their articles named “Why Can’t We Return to How Peaceful the World Was Before Guns?” I didn’t repost this one because I wanted to be sensitive to feelings caused by the recent mass shootings in our country. Many people look at the Bee’s articles and actually think they’re serious, so I refrained.

Merely Satire

I was, however, intrigued by the Facebook thread that followed the satire on removing guns from the world. As the conversation took the usual twists and turns, people had to be constantly reminded that it was merely satire. Yet, as any good lampooning often does, it sparked some extremely serious dialog (not to mention a few arguments). I found the exchange of ideas to be stimulating, educational, and noteworthy.

So satire, at its best, can indeed be fake news you can trust. Unfortunately, there is satire and then there is satire. In other words, any writer of satire needs to be sensitive to the “line.” There is an invisible line that should not be crossed. It’s not always easy to see or determine. The best of satirists are the ones who are able to sense the line and are able to get their point across before they transect that demarcation. They make us laugh and they make us think. If they’re good at it, they cause us to do both simultaneously.

My attention was recently directed to an upcoming movie that is being advertised as “a satire that follows wealthy thrill-seekers taking a private jet to a five-star resort where they embark on a ‘deeply rewarding’ expedition that involves hunting down and killing designated humans.” The designated humans are apparently referred to as the “deplorables” in the movie. Sound familiar…? One character is quoted as saying, “The Hunt‘s coming up. Nothing better than going out to the Manor and slaughtering a dozen deplorables.”

Over the Line

To the production company’s credit (I think), they are pulling the ads due to the recent mass shootings in our country. From what I understand, however, they are not pulling the movie. In all fairness, I (like you), have not seen the movie. But I’m going to go out on a limb here by suggesting this sounds like a satire that’s gone a tad over the invisible line.

As much as I love satire, this one sounds like a real loser. In a time when everyone is screaming about being more sensitive to each other, about political divisions, and about coming together in unity, this release seems to be rather ill-timed.

Who knows? Maybe it will be a lot more positive than it sounds. I sure hope so. Otherwise, we’re neither laughing nor thinking.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]