“One of the difficulties about satire, and I’ll say this about myself in particular, is that it is so difficult to use without sounding arrogant. James Denny said ‘It is very hard to show that Christ is magnificent and that I am clever at the same time.’ That has been a very powerful word for me over the years.” John Piper, “Should Christians Use Satire?”
Ten years ago, I read a piercing reflection entitled “The Scourge of Cleverness,” in which David Gundersen puts “cleverness” in the cross-hairs:
“One of the greatest maladies of the blogworld is the disease of clever-seeking. I’ve seen it in myself and I’ve seen it in others, but it’s unhealthy no matter where it’s found. What I’m talking about is the insatiable drive to say something witty and clever, something that catches people’s attention whether it’s balanced and helpful or one-sided and harmful, something that pricks people’s minds whether the syringe is full of medicine or poison. There’s a lot of substance-less rhetoric out there, and those who produce such rhetoric seem to have the bottomless gift of making clever posts seem insightful and true even though they are often neither. Or maybe they’re both, and the post (or comment) is still suffocated by its own wit.
It’s just hard to resist the urge to be clever.
…In the past I’ve sometimes realized that I’m writing paragraphs that are more flowery than they are true, sentences that are more clever than they are humble, and words that resonate with the flesh but erode true godly affections. I’m not going to stop trying to encourage whoever comes here to read. I know that my life is a vapor and that Christ is all, so I want to do the best I can to spur my brothers and sisters on to love and good deeds. For me, one of the things this means is writing, and writing for a verdict. But I always want the aim and the effect of my words (whether spoken or written) to be encouragement and exhortation instead of a worthless reputation for being clever.”