A Satire That Backfired

Writing satire isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Sometimes I like to write a Bible hoax, in which I present a “new Bible translation,” full of over-the-top crazy poppycock, written for the purpose of exposing the foibles of liberal churchmen’s ceaseless efforts to make the Bible say what they want it to say.

A few years ago I published a piece on the “New Utopian Translation,” the NUT Bible for short. It was, of course, chock-full of inane heresies. Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from a pastor out in Washington state, who read the thing, took it literally and seriously, and was angry enough to give a sermon about it. He got a lot of funny looks from his congregation! And the next day, his daughter made a report about it in school and nobody believed her. The poor pastor launched a frantic internet search, couldn’t find a word about any NUT Bible, and finally called me, begging for confirmation so his flock wouldn’t think he’d flipped his lid.

As I patiently explained to him that the article was a hoax, written for satirical and humorous purposes, he suddenly said, “Oh, no! Oh, what have I done? I see it now! N-U-T–that spells nut! Oh, oh, oh!” He was a good sport about it, though: admitted it was all his fault for getting too worked up to see the now-obvious absurdity of the piece.

This sort of thing happens every time I do this. I get peppered with reader emails demanding more information, denouncing the villains who bowdlerized the Bible, or even thinking I was endorsing the blasted thing, and denouncing me. But as one reader said, the last time I published a hoax (a couple of weeks ago), “Well, how was I supposed to know? That stuff you made up is no crazier than the stuff I’m hearing from the pulpit in my church!”

I think he needs to change churches.

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