Lark News truly is evangelicalism’s finest news source. It is like an onion, with many layers to its journalistic excellence. I recently discovered it after a friend on Facebook linked to an article about a church cutting non-essential members who do not give and do not volunteer. Every article carries hard truth that speakers and writers might either be afraid to address directly or that they might not address tactfully and effectively. They address issues like how churches treat youth pastors, the quality of Christian radio, and evangelical withdrawal from American society.
Satire done well is a beautiful, beautiful thing, and Lark News plays it straight. The great thing about satire is that being quick to get the point makes readers look silly. I am used to The Onion, which is a satirical treatment of general news, and I sometimes figure that others will catch satire when they see it. However, Lark News is good enough that I have seen people get taken in by what they do, much like foreign newspapers mistake The Onion for real news. Satire does not call the reader to be quick enough to jump on a bandwagon but rather to be slow enough to watch where it is going. There might be a fine point to a bit of satire: “You’re right, but you’re doing it wrong!” There might be a grand and sweeping attack: “This whole thing is wrong! Get rid of it!” It is regularly shocking, demonstrating how the abuse of a good idea or the use of a bad idea becomes horrible and absurd. It shows rather than tells.
Lark News forces Christians to reexamine issues that they might not otherwise consider. The articles that I have seen so far attack self-righteousness and legalism, the adoption of business methods into church practices, and unrealistic expectations put upon pastors. One article features a couple who not only practiced abstinence during their courtship but also carried it two years into their marriage. For another, the title says everything: “Church franchise a hit, but hostile take-overs rattle congregations“. Yet another describes how a church completely lost faith in their pastor’s competence as a religious leader after he opened a Twitter account. Even when harmful church practices receive intelligent and sympathetic criticism, they do not always change. Satire offers another way to say the same thing again but in a way that does not only pass through the head.
When people laugh at themselves and come to realizations on their own, changes in personal character are more permanent than when people are ambushed with a sermon. Writing good satire is like parkour for the mind. It takes a bit of flexibility to understand, but to write it requires leaps and twists connecting things that do not belong together in the same path. Sermons are pretty great, but they are easy to make, and even when they are poorly composed, there is no great loss. Poorly written satire, however, comes off as childish or bitter mocking and reduces the likelihood that readers will give an author a second chance. It is good to see someone out there having a go at the ridiculous points in evangelicalism but doing so skillfully, leaving something left for compassion to work on when the whips and scorpions of satire are done. There is much to love in evangelicalism, so it is encouraging to see someone who cares enough to run it through the satirical wringer.