Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon warned a northern Virginia megachurch that modern American society is attacking truth and comedy in ways that threaten the freedom of speech.
The head of the popular Christian satire site gave a Monday lecture at Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg. He listed ways society is attacking comedy and biblical truth through censorship.
"We're living in crazy times, unusually crazy times, actually outrageous times where absurdity is everywhere," Dillon began. "Truth is under attack. Reason is under attack."
"Comedy is under attack. And you can't speak up and try to defend any of these things, or they try to suppress your voice and silence you. Freedom of speech is under attack."
Dillon said the world is "increasingly becoming more and more difficult" for Christians to speak "the truth boldly in the public square."
One example, according to Dillon, was when churches in the United States could not gather to meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, but casinos, bars and strip clubs remained open.
"COVID really drew out the insanity and somehow it's not behind us yet at this point," Dillon said, citing a 2021 study that found students at Stanford University will more likely to wear facemasks while riding a bicycle than helmets.
"It wasn't long ago [when] we were told men were not allowed to have an opinion on abortion. You know what we're told now? Men can get pregnant," he continued.
Dillon cited the example of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who, during her confirmation hearing, was asked to define the word "woman" and responded, "No, I can't ... I'm not a biologist."
"Now, I see what looks like a lot of women here tonight. I think," Dillon continued as the audience erupted in laughter. "Or at least some of you were assigned female at birth. The doctor made his best guess, and you just went with it."
"This is nuts. Men are dominating women's sports. Does anybody have a problem with that?" he added as the crowd cheered and clapped. "Men are being named woman of the year."
Dillon noted that certain world events are occurring today that make him "angry." He said these particular attacks on truth should not be considered funny.
"Drag shows for kids are everywhere, and if you call it grooming, you'll get banned permanently on all of the major social platforms. It kind of makes me angry. I have two young kids," Dillon expressed. "I don't even want to laugh at that one. … The truth is under attack in all of these examples."
"Comedy is under attack," Dillon said, adding that the world is "so absurd" that it is to the point where it seems it is a "parody" in and of itself.
"It makes our job kind of challenging," Dillon said, saying it's "a lot harder" for his website's writers "to do their job" as satirists because "their jokes keep coming true."
One of the main criticisms that Babylon Bee receives, Dillon said, is that its jokes are often labeled as being "too believable," saying it was "the weirdest criticism of comedy to me."
"Jokes are funny because of their proximity to the truth, not their distance from it. Right? I mean, everybody here has heard the saying 'it's funny because it's true,'" he explained.
"If you divorce a joke from reality so far that no one could possibly believe it, then it's not going to be funny and it's not going to make a point. So, I think it's just a weird and silly criticism of us."
Dillon believes that "attacks on comedy are attacks on the truth because there is a grain of truth to every joke," which is how comedians can resonate with audiences.
Another more "harmful" thing, Dillon said, is how culture is seemingly "coming after" comedians by creating strict rules about what can and cannot be joked about.
"A lot of comedians are playing along, by the way. There's a lot of comedians that are refusing to make jokes that can potentially get them canceled or suspended. Others, fortunately, are being bold," Dillon said.
"Do you remember what happened to Chris Rock? He got slapped by Will Smith. He made a joke that wasn't received well. That didn't use to happen."
A rule created by society, which Dillon said he rejects "wholeheartedly," is the idea of comedians not being allowed to engage in "punching down."
"Punching down," he said, is defined as comedians joking about "people who are beneath you" or who have "less power than you, less privilege than you."
"It's a really weird situation to be in, as a comedian, as a satirist, or a humorist, a comedy writer of any kind, to be thinking to yourself, not 'is this funny?' when you're writing a joke, but 'am I making fun of somebody who sees themselves as being more marginalized and oppressed than me and is going to be offended by it?'" Dillon said.
"Imagine how condescending it is to think to yourself, 'you know what, I shouldn't joke about those people. They're beneath me'… I'm better than them. They're down here. I'm up here," Dillon added as the audience laughed.
Dillon said that if every person is "created equally in God's image," then all comedians should be able to joke about anyone they choose to joke about "indiscriminately."
"Isn't that the way of treating each other equally?" he asked, getting applause. "If I were to make a joke about women, I'd be 'punching down' because men supposedly have more power and privilege than women in our society. Well, I would only be reinforcing that if I acted like I couldn't make jokes about women because they're beneath me. I'm reinforcing that idea."
"If I joke about them, I'm treating them equally. So, I will. I'll continue to joke about you throughout the night. And you will like it and not slap me."