Sunday, March 30, 2008


"Snarky" is a new word for me. I'm not sure what it means. Sometimes it seems to mean any public criticism of a person, as in, "If Hillary can't figure out what's happening in broad daylight [at the airport in Bosnia], how [expletive deleted] is she going to know what's happening at three a.m.?" Is that snarky?

Sometimes it seems to mean arguing publicly against another person's belief, or even his unbelief. Is that snarky?

St. Irenaeus did that.

These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation. They also overthrow the faith of many, by drawing them away, under a pretence of [superior] knowledge, from Him who rounded and adorned the universe; as if, forsooth, they had something more excellent and sublime to reveal, than that God who created the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein. By means of specious and plausible words, they cunningly allure the simple-minded to inquire into their system; but they nevertheless clumsily destroy them, while they initiate them into their blasphemous and impious opinions respecting the Demiurge; and these simple ones are unable, even in such a matter, to distinguish falsehood from truth. (Irenaeus, Against Heretics, Preface)

Is that snarky? How about this? Some people consider it downright anti-Semitic. (But it isn't; it's against the Judaizers in the Church.)

Many, I know, respect the Jews and think that their present way of life is a venerable one. This is why I hasten to uproot and tear out this deadly opinion. I said that the synagogue is no better than a theater and I bring forward a prophet as my witness. Surely the Jews are not more deserving of belief than their prophets. "You had a harlot's brow; you became shameless before all". Where a harlot has set herself up, that place is a brothel. But the synagogue is not only a brothel and a theater; it also is a den of robbers and a lodging for wild beasts. Jeremiah said: "Your house has become for me the den of a hyena". He does not simply say "of wild beast", but "of a filthy wild beast", and again: "I have abandoned my house, I have cast off my inheritance". But when God forsakes a people, what hope of salvation is left? When God forsakes a place, that place becomes the dwelling of demons. (St. John Chrysostom: Adversus Judaeos, HOMILY I)

St. Photios could be tough, too:

But you still do not wish to perceive over what sort of abyss into which you are cast and into what pits of the soul's corruption you are buried because you are not willing to be persuaded by Christ, or His disciples, or the Ecumenical Synods, or a rational method of reasoning, or by sacred and eloquent testimonies to humble your mind. You are buried. Rather, you reproach the common Lord. You accuse the noble mind of Paul, but you accuse falsely. You incite rebellion against the Holy and Ecumenical Synods. You ridicule the Fathers. You banish the true thoughts and the true intentions of your bishops and Fathers and consign them to the devil. You dismiss any remedy, are dumb to rational thought. Indeed, you completely overwhelm your salvation with dubious and passionate preconceptions. (St. Photios the Great, The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, 94)

Is that snarky?

Even the Apostles could write very harsh things. Does this qualify as snarky?

They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord. But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire." (2 Peter 2:10-22)

Or this?

For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth. 15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. (Titus 1:10-16)

How about St. Paul's wish in Galatians, a double-entendre, that those who were demanding Christians be circumcized would "cut themselves off"?

But to encounter snarkiness par excellence, excoriation, condemnation, harshness unparalled, you have to read the letters Bernard of Clairvaux sent to the Pope concerning Peter Abelard. (I can't find them on the Internet, and no wonder. If anybody can, they're choice!)

I don't know. All I know is, whatever "snarky" may mean, he exemplified it. And, today, so do I.


DebD said...

uh oh, have you been getting yourself into hot water on the net lately?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Not LATELY, so far as I know.

But often enough, heaven knows.

Kyrie, eleison!