Did You Know That an Article at The Gospel Coalition States “Jesus Doesn’t Want You to be Nice?”

Jurors want courtroom lawyers to have some compassion and be nice. Johnnie Cochran

When you go to to the DMV to renew you license, do you ever say “I hope I don’t get the nice officer?” When you are out at a restaurant and the server is rude, do you think “Wow, I’m so glad I didn’t get the nice one?” How many of you hope that your kids will get the *nice* teacher at school as opposed to the one who never smiles? Why does it matter?

After our 10 day bus trip, we remarked about the niceness and cooperative nature of our traveling companions and tour director. In other words, nice people made for a pleasant experience.

In the past 9 years, we have written post after post about rude, condescending, arrogant know it alls who become incensed when a member of the congregation asks a question or makes a suggestion. These stories often end up with the congregant being given the left boot of fellowship along with a church discipline letter to make sure that person knows that he should never do something like that again.

What is it with certain groups and leaders which seem to believe that being rude and harsh is necessary in order to save the people of the world from hell? Somehow being nice is not seen as a *gospel* value by *serious* Christians.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

“Jesus doesn’t want you to be nice” touts a youth pastor on TGC.

Today, the Guy behind the Curtain and I had the first of a series of meetings as we begin to redesign the website. We are serious this time. Today we discussed some preliminary steps, one of which involved the revamping of our blog commenting rules. Knowing I was going to write this post, I thought the first rule should be *Be nice.*

Yesterday, at The Gospel Coalition website, I found the following post: Jesus Doesn’t Want You to Be Nice by
Kris Fernhout, taken from the Rooted website. Let me attempt to sum up his argument. Kris gave what he thought was an insightful lesson on the Sermon on the Mount, complete with the example of Jesus loving others so much that He gave his life for others. Please note the age of the student.

As my group talked, I asked them a simple question, one that get asked all the time: “So how do you think Jesus wants you to live tomorrow when you’re at school, home, and with your friends?” There was a moment of silence and then one middle schooler spoke up and said, “I think he wants me to be nice to others.”

Now, if you’re a youth pastor like I am, you’ve heard this kind of answer more than you care to. But this particular time, when I heard my student say “I think he wants me to be nice to others,” I nearly lost my mind. I couldn’t believe that this was the take-away after we spent time in the Sermon on the Mount, talking about how when Jesus said “love your enemies,” it was something he’d personally live out while suffering on the cross.

He then rallied them together to slap them upside the head for this response which he found to be sorely lacking.The following are his points, nicely rebutted by me.

He defines nice as  “cordial, ducky, swell, amiable, courteous, polite and unpresumptuous.”

Yesterday, I tweeted out my thoughts on this post. One person said that in fact, kind can mean nice!

The online Thesaurus says a synonym for nice is kind. Also, there is a difference between “That was a nice dinner” and “She is a nice woman.”  The context of the word *nice* determines which synonym to use.

“Nice is literally the least you can do for someone.”

I think he missed the boat on this one or else he is living in some sort of *swell* community in which every middle school kid is nice to all the odd ducks in their class, the DMV office is filled with cheerful attendants and clients, and no one ever cuts off anyone on the roadways.

I have heard many sermons in which the pastor confesses to being a bit irritable towards others when he drives. (This is one of those acceptable sins to confess.) In fact, being nice in this circumstance means thinking sympathetically towards the other driver. Let me give you an example.The day after I found out my daughter had a brain tumor, I was riding back to the hospital, 7 month pregnant, crying. I forgot to signal when I turned into someone’s lane. No accident occurred but the man in other car kept leaning on his horn and giving me the finger.  Ever since that day, I have given the other person the benefit of the doubt, often wondering if they, too, are having an awful day. Being nice would mean learning to swallow one’s anger that someone had the audacity to cut you off.

Not only do I remember middle school but I remember the middle school experiences of all three of my children. I watched kids mistreat others (this was a Christian school), make fun of those who were different, etc. It is so hard for the ones who are not being hurt to be nice to those who are. Sometimes those who do show kindness end up on the wrong end of the teasing themselves. How many kids have you read about who have committed suicide due to the unrelenting bullying that takes place in the school?

That middle school kid told his pastor something radical but the pastor was a bit caught up in his own *lesson plan* that he didn’t understand that being nice is not an easy trait to acquire at that age. Kudos to the kid! Middle school kids need to learn how to be nicer.

He says that being nice is what the world wants you to be.

Ummmm… not the world that I see around me. The world expects us to try to get ahead, even at the expense of others. As one person in my former church said “God is not calling me to be concerned about a group of teen boys who were molested.” In many churches, there are pastors who punish those who don’t understand their *vision” because, in their minds, their vision is far more important than some dumb congregant that just doesn’t jump when they are told to jump.

A new franchise opened up near me and offered, for the first night only, $4 off their burritos. They were mobbed and the line stretched out the door into the pouring rain. People in the line were, in general, polite. However, one woman went out of her way to ask the people on the line how they were doing. She wished them well and cheered them on. The atmosphere changed immediately. The servers were smiling and laughing and people began acting nice to those around them.

All around me I see people behaving badly, exhibiting a “disagreeable” and “cold* manner towards others when they didn’t get what they wanted. Those two words are antonyms of nice. Those who are not nice are mean, unfriendly and disagreeable. So Jesus does not want us to be nice? I don’t think so.

He says that being nice is not living a new life.

Here are his examples of Jesus not being nice. I am going to disagree with him.

Jesus gave us a model for living. He wasn’t just nice to the man they called Legion and cast out three of the multitude of demons possessing him. He wasn’t just nice to the paralytic who was lowered through the ceiling on a mat, only healing his legs and not his sins. He wasn’t just nice to the unnamed woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, letting her silently sneak away without healing her physically, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.

  • Jesus was nice to the man when He cast out his demons. Leaving him to suffer with the demons would not have been nice.
  • Jesus was nice to the paralytic man. He healed his paralysis and went on to heal his sins.
  • Jesus was nice to the woman he healed. He showed her love and compassion and helped others to see that as well. My guess is that she was bullied and ostracized which wasn’t *nice.* I bet people started treating her much better after her encounter with Jesus.

My daughter is a trauma nurse and she is one of the nicest people that you could meet. She has to do medical things to people that can cause pain but she has never not *been nice* to her patients while doing things that hurt.

Why do people assume that you must stop being nice when you deliver the gospel message to others?

Here is one comment that I received on Twitter.

 

First of all, there are lot of words that aren’t in the Bible and that doesn’t mean that they are unacceptable. *Trinity* is one of those words. Secondly, the word *kind* is a synonym for *nice* in the English language.

One can share the gospel and do so nicely. They are not mutually exclusive.

Let me leave you with an example of a pastor who was, and continues to be, not nice as he implements his agenda at his church. Andy Davis, at FBC Durham, wasn’t nice. He came to that church and played along with the folks in the church who had women as elders. But, he is a true blue Calvinista and implemented his agenda in the typical Calvinista fashion. I call it the *scorched earth* approach. I have two dear friends who were on the receiving end of his arrogant and condescending manner. These two wonderful, godly Christians were called, along with many others, *wicked* and *unregenerate.* You can read our story here and also read Davis’ feature on the SBTS website.

Here’s the deal. Davis was unkind, not nice, arrogant, nasty and repulsive when it came to his treatment of his brothers and sisters. This is one guy who needs to learn the word *nice.* In fact, I think Jesus would tell him that he should try to be nice, lots and lots nicer. Not every doctrinal disagreement needs to be fought with knives and grenades. We can all be lots nicer and I think Jesus would be pleased.


Comments

Did You Know That an Article at The Gospel Coalition States “Jesus Doesn’t Want You to be Nice?” — 179 Comments

  1. As I was saying to you (Dee) on Twitter about this, I am fine with people being nice, and there’s nothing wrong with being nice, but.

    Many Christians conflate “being nice” with codependent traits, to the point they think being assertive and having boundaries is “mean.”

    So, they teach (and my mom was big on this as well), you should go through life being a push-over and allow folks to verbally abuse you or exploit you.

    A lot of that view point is incorporated into Christian gender complementarian teachings especially ones aimed at girls and women, too.

    I kind of discuss some of that about one third of the way, or so, down this page at my blog:
    https://missdaisyflower.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/%E2%80%A2-christianity-isnt-about-politeness-introversion-is-not-sinful-and-your-complementarian-biblical-interpretation-is-incorrect-addressing-the-dont-be-yourself-essay-by-greg-morse/

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  2. My Bible tells me to be nice a whole bunch of times. Here are just a few.

    Mark 9:50 “Be at peace with one another.”
    Hebrews 12:14 “Make every effort to be at peace with everyone”
    James 1:19 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”
    Leviticus 19:18 “love your neighbor as yourself.”
    1 Thessalonians 5:11 “encourage one another and build each other up”

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  3. Love this. Another great one, Dee. I grew up in the IFB, and I can tell you so many stories of ministry leaders who were cruel, hurtful, and abusive to anyone under them… but perfectly “nice” to suck up to those above them or to new recruits. That’s a fake niceness. Only a fool would think the middle school kid was talking about hypocritical fake niceness in the context of “love your enemies”. Ugh. These guys are just looking to pick a fight, to find one more opportunity to cut people down and remind them that they are not smart enough to get the “deep” things of the Bible. Of course, I do occasionally see this kind of “know-it-all” behavior pop up in egalitarian groups, too. Any one of us can fall into that temptation, I suppose. However, I loved your response, and how you took it out point by point. Really well done. Or should I say… nice? 😀

    IMHO, truly “nice” behavior is being nice to someone who is irate and insulting you, for something you didn’t do, because its your job to listen to their complaints. Being “nice” usually means being patient, which is ridiculously hard, even when you have to tell someone a harsh truth they don’t want to hear. I love the Boundaries books. One can have strong boundaries while still being nice/kind. When I think of a “nice” person, I think of someone being genuine and Holy Spirit filled – not “fake nice”. Fake nice and real nice are totally different things.

    Love your ministry. Keep it rolling!

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  4. Daisy,

    Daisy, do you ever listen to Rush Limbaugh, he has this throw away joke that he uses from time to time,

    The end of the world came last night, women and minorities hit the hardest …..

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  5. Maybe it is a slang issue. Why use a four letter word like “nice” when you could use a heavyweight theological word like “winsome”?

    (I wonder what the correlation rate for pastors against nice but encouraging winsome at other times.)

    Good grief these guys. Give me a pastor who visits the orphans and widows in their distress over those who warn about being in the hands of an angry God any day.

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  6. srs: Give me a pastor who visits the orphans and widows in their distress over those who warn about being in the hands of an angry God any day.

    No kidding. Right on.

    Empathy to those in need beats this not nice version of hair shirt religion, heart & soul.

    And, “the *scorched earth* approach” is never nice either.

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  7. srs: Maybe it is a slang issue. Why use a four letter word like “nice” when you could use a heavyweight theological word like “winsome”?

    Ah, Christian code words. I think pastors are so desperate writing long sermons every week that no one actually wants to hear that they have to come up with new stupid words to replace normal words. Winsome is a great example. Saying “season” instead of a period of time is another. We should compile a list of the most annoying Christianisms…

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  8. Deb: Great post, Dee!

    Which is why we love TWW – the posts from both you, Deb, and Dee.

    You take what we all are sensing is off the rails at church and just put it out there, for a group think closer look. Baggage that doesn’t belong gets chucked, burdens lifted. Each post is a redirect back to Jesus, “easy and light”, his words.

    Thanks to you both, and to all of the readers who ruminate and research and share their gems.

    No more pew-perching like a duck swallowing a fish whole. There’s more to the Christian walk. We are all thinking, gifted people, in God’s family. Annointed, to use our brains, hearts, and gifts, too. Not just elbow grease and pocketbooks, blindly, as some suggest.

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  9. Jesus was ALWAYS nice… to the meek, the lowly, the disenfranchised, the repentent, etc. He was not, however, always nice to the religious zealots that were full of themselves. Listening to Godspell tonight I was reminded of Him addressing them as “you snakes and vipers..”.

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  10. I think we need to send Kris Fernhout back to a Writer’s Workshop, because this article is poorly written. If I was reading this article for guidance on how to live a Christian life, I would be very confused. If it is wrong and sinful to be nice, then how are we supposed to act as Christians? Does God want us to be arrogant and mean, like the behavior of Kris when he chewed out his middle school students? The very last sentence states, “Given the depths of his freely given sacrifice for us, may our lives be marked by a kind of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness that both reflects who He is and proclaims the depths of our gratitude.” How are these virtues not nice?

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  11. I think you missed the point on this one. I don’t think the author is saying “don’t be nice”. But l think he’s saying go way beyond being just nice. Actively love. ““Nice” is literally the least you can do for someone”. Nice is good, but nice doesn’t reach the level of active love that Jesus calls us to. Nice doesn’t describe the actions of the Good Samaritan, but agape love is closer. He went beyond nice, to actively getting involved. Again, nice is good. But love is better. That’s what I heard from the article.

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  12. “I thought I had taught a great lesson.”

    This is kris’ thesis statement.
    He cares not if these kids become more like Jesus. Everything he writes here supports his thesis. Most of the information was just self validating.

    1. He had youth volunteers that did his bidding.
    2. He used great illustration from his own life.
    3. He is a youth pastor and we are not. “If you are a youth pastor like I am.”
    4. 30+ middle schoolers hung on his every word.
    5. The duty of correcting this perceived lack of semantic completion was an affront to his own holiness and could no be resolved via group discussion.

    Truthfully, his reaction was childish and his lesson poorly taught.

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  13. Even if someone is not nice to me, I can tell if they love me.

    I can’t say, in any of my encounters with New Calvinists, that any of them acted either nice or loving, much less both. Most seemed to relish in the fact that they thought they were elect and I was not.

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  14. Kudos to the middle school student who believes God wants him/her to be nice to people.

    logic tells me this student simply used a generic term for behavior choices like kindness, patience, generosity, selflessness. and that his/her innocent reasoning would prompt no less than actual kindness, patience, generosity, and selflessness in all their simplicity.

    i’ll take my cues from this innocent 12-year old. been “loved” by christian leaders and it left me with scars.

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  15. What Happened: “I thought I had taught a great lesson.”

    This is kris’ thesis statement.

    Sounds a lot like Jeroboam son of Nebat: “Jeroboam thought to himself…” and the next thing you know there were two golden calves set up in Isreal. (I Kings 12:26)

    Youth pastor Kris could have replied to the student, “Awesome. Tell me what being nice might look like.” And the student along with his peers could have had a real discussion (gasp) about how they’d like to put the sermon on the mount into practice. But no… that would have meant giving them authority to decide for themselves. And the honor of believing God was at work in their lives instead of just in the life of the “trained leader.”

    I’m sure youth pastor Kris would not believe me if I told him I’ve learned more about God from discussing Bible stories teens, uneducated villagers and unbelievers than I have from the sermons of men like him who are certain they exegete the Bible correctly.

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  16. “Why do people assume that you must stop being nice when you deliver the gospel message to others?”

    Because to the TGC/Reformed crowd, delivering the Gospel is about Telling The Truth. Especially Telling The Truth To An Untruthful World. That, to their mindset, allows them (even demands) that they be harsh and confrontational. Remember also their Puritan roots. Puritans held very strongly that you had to force people to see how sinful they are and how mad God is at them before you can tell them about Jesus’s gospel. Add the two together, along with the American admiration for “straight-talking tough guys”, and there you are.

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  17. Henry Drummond writes:

    “Have you ever noticed how much of Christ’s life was spent in doing kind things – in merely doing kind things? Run over it with that in view, and you will find that he spent a great proportion of his time simply in making people happy, in doing good turns to people. There is only one thing greater than happiness in the world, and that is holiness; and it is not in our keeping. But what God has put in our power is the happiness of those about us, and that is largely to be secured by our being kind to them.…I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder than we are. How much the world needs it. How easily it is done. How instantaneously it acts. How infallibly it is remembered.”

    Source: The Greatest Thing in the World:Experience the Enduring Power of Love by Henry Drummond

    plough.com Daily Dig for June 19 on Facebook

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  18. Eeyore:
    Puritans held very strongly that you had to force people to see how sinful they are and how mad God is at them before you can tell them about Jesus’s gospel.

    They are not generally preaching Jesus at all. They redefine gospel to mean God saving the elect and don’t talk about Jesus at all.

    I both can and can’t figure out their theology. I think many leaders in that group really want to play god. Like they think if they force people to join, God will make them elect, but then they claim that you can never know who God will choose. They seem to believe in absolutes that the leaders are most definitely saved. Jesus said the “least of these” would be more likely to be saved. Since they focus so much on the OT, I am sure there’s a lot of “We’re God’s chosen people” beliefs, but they judge and declare not elect anyone that’s not a leader and even ex-communicate like they have that power (according to their own theology).

    It’s so convoluted.

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  19. I wonder a bit about the age-appropriateness of a call to a pre- or early teen lay down one’s life for one’s friends (and enemies). It would have been better to inquire “tell me what you mean by that?” The child may have meant “to not be selfish in the way I treat them”, which would get A+ for application in my book.

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  20. Daisy,

    The more “authorirarian” a Chritain group, the more they “pick and choose” scripture and completely ignor verses that do not support/contradict the message they are trying to push…. I have seen it over and over and over…

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  21. I believe that Jesus wants us to be nice to everyone.

    BUT,

    Jesus was not nice all the time. Pharisees and money-changer come to mind.

    Sometimes confrontation is necessary, and it isn’t always nice.

    BUT,

    Being nice (kind if you will) is the rule, not being nice is the rare exception. That is the point that Kris Fernhout is missing.

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  22. ‘Nice’ is a tricky word with many different potential applications. Southerners tend to think that Yankees don’t know how to be nice because the act ‘short’ and with people and don’t take the time to butter up folks. Meanwhile I learned early on how to be nice as sugar while cutting somebody to pieces into a heap on the floor, preferably in front of witnesses. Nicely, of course.

    So, regardless of what the dictionary says, ‘nice’ is not necessarily synonymous with ‘kind’.

    As to the illustration of a trauma nurse and how she must act. Yes, Dee’s description is right on. But sometimes one has to be ‘nice’ like the cops are nice-if the patient is on drugs or drunk for example.

    I think one should act appropriately for the situation, and that is what I think Jesus did. Appropriate. One should come to the rescue of the persecuted, even if it entails not being ‘nice’ to the perps, for example. When the parents solved the issue I have described at the school where some of my g’kids were the parents were anything but ‘nice’ but it had to be done. And when the school principal told some parents to take their kids and go-that was not nice to them but it sure was kind to the remaining kids.

    Personally, I would not advise anybody to mess with Jesus either then or now counting on some gentle and sweet response. That has not been my experience, don’t you know. How often have I ‘heard’ the admonition to just cut it out.

    On last thing. Daisy is spot on that the demand for niceness can be used as a control mechanism to keep people in line and docile. Unscrupulous people do that just a whole lot.

    But the fudies are wrong that being aggressive and belligerent and shocking and such is a necessary tool for personal evangelizing. But being a wimpy pushover willing to change the message just because somebody does not like it, or like you, is not the way either.

    Truth with kindness, appropriate to the person and situation, and with the courage of a martyr-that is what I see in Jesus.

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  23. I cringed for the poor student who used the word “nice” and then called down public condemnation on himself by his youth pastor. The lesson of love and service beyond just being nice is worth teaching, but in a less heavy-handed way. The youth pastor could have modeled speaking the truth with love but wasted the opportunity.

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  24. But this particular time, when I heard my student say “I think he wants me to be nice to others,” I nearly lost my mind. I couldn’t believe that this was the take-away after we spent time in the Sermon on the Mount, talking about how when Jesus said “love your enemies,”

    I read this article the other day. My impression of the youth pastor was that he was a bit full of himself and his reaction was massively over the top.

    Love your enemies is not so far from be nice to them, in practice.

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  25. The problem with youth pastors is that they themselves tend to be young. It is parents or parent age people or parent-like people, people with some years of experience which included both wins and losses, people who are comfortable dealing with childish and adolescent aggression without getting either tough or defensive, those need to be dealing with the youth.

    Said another way, departments of education in colleges/universities do not teach classroom management techniques just for the heck of it. There are skills to be learned. Parent-like skills. There are some folks who are unsuited for dealing with the young. But churches seem to not get the message and just grab up on somebody willy nilly and let them have a whack at it. Maybe because nobody wants to do it themselves.

    I asked my daughter why she did not volunteer to work with the youth, seeing her success with it on the job. Her answer was that working with other people’s kids is a losing situation unless the power of the state has your back. Apparently parents can be impossible unless and until the teacher/worker has some backup authority for his/her own protection. And church kids and their parents can be some of the worst, apparently, given the situation.

    So the church gets some young person who has neither the skills or the experience or the backup and lets them have a go at it. Bless them; they are bound to mess up.

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  26. Ken P.,
    By forcing the money changers from the Temple, Jesus was actually showing compassion to the people who were being hurt by the money changing system within the Temple system. Arresting a thief is actually a nice act.

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  27. Many New Calvinists I have met would never be accused of being loving (from your previous post) or nice. I have found many of the “chosen” to be cold and distant in interpersonal relationships; some are even mean-spirited. It comes with the territory, I suppose … Calvin himself wasn’t all that charming. Why would God want to choose such people and leave so many loving and nice whosoever-will folks out of the family of God?! Rude, condescending, and arrogant are not fruit of the Spirit … you will know them by their fruit.

    Our doctor is one of the nicest folks you would ever want to meet. My suspicions that he has converted to New Calvinism were confirmed earlier this week. I hope he doesn’t stop being nice.

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  28. Max: Our doctor is one of the nicest folks you would ever want to meet. My suspicions that he has converted to New Calvinism were confirmed earlier this week. I hope he doesn’t stop being nice.

    Good point. However, my oncologist is not ‘nice’ in the usual use of the words. Competent. Informed. Determined. Sure. But ‘nice’-not really. I would not respect him, given his chosen specialty and his years in dealing with what he deals with, if ‘nice’ were all that he had left to offer.

    I have known burned out physicians who dwindled into the pit of no longer really competent but who were so nice and caring to the patients that the patients just loved them to death. In one instance they loved him and his niceness even past the time when the accreditation people stopped the hospital from letting him get away with some stuff that he was doing; curtailed hospital privileges. Poor ole so and so, he was always so nice; he really cared. Nope. He was beyond caring and all that was left was niceness.

    It all depends on what people mean by ‘nice’. Nice is nice, but ‘just’ nice is not okay.

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  29. Reading his examples of Jesus ‘not being just nice’…does he expect the middle schooler to do literal miracles??

    As one person in my former church said “God is not calling me to be concerned about a group of teen boys who were molested.”

    *speechless*

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  30. And may I say that I think that Dee’s expanded concept of ‘nice’ is a perfectly good approach to the question. Comprehensive. Appropriate. I just don’t think that a lot of people mean that when they say ‘nice’.

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  31. Philip,

    At Middle School age, students begin to have agency, develop their own personal ethics. Since at that age students are generally not out in the community alone, being nice to others is often a good beginning for them, something they can begin to do on their own and take responsibility.

    In schools, for example, often the Anti-Bullying Campaign swings into full force in the Middle School. In other words, for the students, as they begin to take responsibility for their interactions with others, “Be nice, be polite, be respectful” but don’t take rides or candy from strangers.

    The writer/youth teacher has a point but may be missing the mark for that age.

    Some here mention that Jesus was not nice to the religious leaders of his day, calling them snakes and vipers, etc. True, but that was Jesus as an adult. As a youth, different story:

    At age 12, middle school, Jesus’ parents found him sitting in the Temple with teachers, listening to and asking them questions – Luke 2:46.

    For Middle School age, being nice is a sensible and safe way to start to interact and figure out community, (but don’t get in the car with a stranger, or in the case of Savage, with the youth pastor).

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  32. okrapod: my oncologist is not ‘nice’ in the usual use of the words. Competent. Informed. Determined. Sure. But ‘nice’-not really. I would not respect him, given his chosen specialty and his years in dealing with what he deals with, if ‘nice’ were all that he had left to offer

    My optometrist is that way. Blunt and straightforward professionalism, with no kind bedside manner. But I always leave her office feeling she was concerned enough about my eye condition to tell it like it is. I’m not sure this should transfer to Christian ministry, however.

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  33. Max: Mark Driscoll’s macho man, tough dude ministry. Nice doesn’t come with that resume.

    [“… because if you get the young men, you get everything, the women, the children, the money, the business, you get EVERYTHING. If you don’t get the young men, you get nothing.” 1.11 and following. On the video. The comments there sum it up well, Mars Hill was about Mark, quoting him, emulating him. Not about Jesus.

    That’s where Driscoll and Piper collude. It’s all about them, the model dude. Piper had this deal about occupying the city, so folks moved back into the ‘hood. Then he adopted, cross-racially, so families adopted outside their culture or race. Pied Piper. Desiring God is, like Driscoll says, all about young men, the key to the whole enchilada, the YRR. If women post there, they are fawning over their men.

    But Piper is older than Driscoll with his sons grown up, and it seems that maybe they themselves didn’t follow the Pied Piper. “If your Christianity doesn’t work at home, it doesn’t work, so don’t export it,” said Howard Hendricks, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

    But I digress, back to being nice… the problem is once these know-it-all but know very little types are exposed, it’s a carnival.

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  34. Max: I’m not sure this should transfer to Christian ministry, however.

    I tend to think that it has its place. That is how parents do, that is how schools do, that is how medical people do when necessary, that is how the cop does who pulls you over and asks to see your permit, that is how the masters do at TKD, and that is how the volleyball coach does-just to list stuff within the actual recent experience of some of my g’kids ages 12-15.

    But what? It has no place in christian ministry? Well, I think it is one aspect, but would not work with the kids who have unmet needs for affirmation and recognition if that were the totality of youth ministry. Problem is, we have seen cases where the kids with said unmet needs get preyed on by predators only to ready to be ‘accepting and affirming’. I guess it gets complicated.

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  35. Max,

    But, when the heat got turned up, Driscoll ran like a proverbial chicken… and they wined about helicopters flying over his house and people through rocks at his house…??? yea, real macho man to me..

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  36. okrapod,

    I think you make a lot of good points about the cultural differences…Yankees can be nice in a way that seems harsh. Southerners can be nice in a way that seems cutting. AS I said, I see no reason one cannot be both nice and firm – perhaps because of that southern upbringing.

    Calls for so called totalitarian niceness by people, particularly those in the wrong, can often be a way of deflecting from ones own actions and skirting justice. All of this can be complicated in application.

    However, I have no doubt this child thought of being nice in the best way, as a way of applying Jesus’s call to kindness towards others that they could actively practice as a middle schooler. A deeper discussion by a youth pastor would have been wonderful and appropriate. This guys reaction? Not so much. Mostly because it was all about *him*.

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  37. Benn: Daisy, do you ever listen to Rush Limbaugh, he has this throw away joke that he uses from time to time,
    The end of the world came last night, women and minorities hit the hardest …..

    A word to those leaders in high places, “Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted and forgiving one another.” It costs noting to be nice and kind.

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  38. I don’t think Jesus was “nice” to people, but he was compassionate at times and showed empathy.

    There’s this guy named KAS at Julie Anne’s blog who is big on Tone Policing.

    JA’s blog is a place for spiritual abuse survivors to vent about what they’ve been through, and KAS (like many Christians) spends more time focusing on style than substance.

    So he essentially tells them to be more “nice” in how they complain about “Pastor Snodgrass” at the local church who abused them for years.

    I’m not against “niceness” per se – I’m not saying people should be rude and catty on comment threads for example

    – But there needs to be room for people who have been wounded by horrible Christians, doctrines, or churches to vent their spleens without being told to be more cordial, sweet, and nice, in how they vent.

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  39. What’s Wrong With Being Nice?
    https://www.crosswalk.com/culture/books/qanda-with-no-more-christian-nice-guy-author-paul-coughlin-1366977.html

    Question: “What’s Wrong With Being Nice?”

    Paul Coughlin replies:
    What we often label as “nice” behavior is a disguise for passivity and fear.

    Historically, calling someone a “nice” person has not been a compliment. It has meant “dainty,” “unable to endure much,” and “effeminate” among other adjectives.

    And think about the “nice” people in your life. Do they stand up to injustice and are they truthful regardless of consequences?

    Most “nice” people don’t have it in them to be righteous.

    They are pleasant and amiable not because they are virtuous but because they lack virtue. We see another type of person in Jesus, who wasn’t nice but was amazingly good.

    …CB (question):
    You say Jesus wasn’t a nice guy. He was a good guy instead. Please explain.

    Coughlin:
    The Gospels show a man in near constant conflict and tension with his surroundings.

    Fearful Nice Guys avoid conflict and tension, often through dishonest means.

    Nice people worship at the altar of other people’s approval. Jesus did not.

    Nice people when criticized often crumble and hide. Good people keep going, the way Jesus did.

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  40. Philip: Nice doesn’t describe the actions of the Good Samaritan, but agape love is closer. He went beyond nice, to actively getting involved. Again, nice is good. But love is better. That’s what I heard from the article.

    That’s similar to conversations I’ve seen people have about the words “sympathy” and “empathy.”

    Which is… sympathy looks at someone in trouble and says, “That’s too bad,” and keeps walking on,

    But empathy looks at the same person and not only says, “That’s too bad” but actually goes over and picks the person up and does something to help.

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  41. So since when has the golden rule been omitted-as you would want to be treated-and replaced it with cultural nuances?

    If I am learning something potentially dangerous, like driving as an adolescent example, I would not want to be treated nicely if it meant compromising any detail of safe driving. But if I brought deviled eggs to a covered dish thingie I would not want to hear negative comments even if they were a disaster.

    So if we call all of that being nice, and an argument can be made for that, then okay. Or if we think that nice is too often a trash basket word and is better pushed aside, then so be that also.

    I am sorry that the kid and the youth minister tangled It was the job of the youth minister to handle things better.

    But in my family we had to take a kid out of school and homeschool her because of severe bullying while all the while our kid was what passed for nice-so nice-nicest kid you ever saw or so said the teachers, but which was actually a weakness on her part in that she could not deal with aggression as well as her older sister aka the asian tiger, who cut a swath right though it and kicked the bullies into the gutter while doing it.

    Sigh. I not a genuine friend and advocate of nice, as commonly understood, as a lifestyle requirement. Too many people can get hurt that way.

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  42. ___

    “Bad Ole Calvinesta, Perhaps?”

    hmmm…

    Proverbial Calvinist bashing?

    O’joy!

    hum, hum, hum…I saw, I saw a calvinesta sneekin’ up on me, I did, i did, I saw a calvinesta sneekin’up as plain as he can be…( I’m sure he would eat me if he could…)

    huh?

    Calvinism is not really about living the new life Jesus offers. It is about a faux five hundred year old theological religious system that its adherents are utilizing — integrating bondage, legalism, and religious tyranny by stealth into unsuspecting American churches.

    What?

    Repeated performances on the horizon?

    Sure.

    SKREEEEEEEEEETCH!

    There are a lot of nice people loosing their church to this religion nonsense.

    KRunch!

    Don’t be one of them.

    ATB

    Sòpy

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lIyFNDfsdiU

    ;~)

    – –

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  43. Daisy,

    I don’t think it’s being ‘nice’ that is the problem. It’s being insincere? Fake? I think the way you generally object to it is that nice for you tends to mean ‘pushover’.

    A lot of this issue with the word nice is in the definitions. The definitions of nice seem to be all over the place. People will accuse you of not being nice when you are truthful about bad things.

    Perhaps polite is a better word for some of that general manners thing. That’s where cultural differences often come in as well, as standards of politeness and manners differ. I think that’s why people are fonder of the word ‘kind’ as it implies some sort real feelings towards someone rather than simply going through the motions?

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  44. Daisy: Most “nice” people don’t have it in them to be righteous.

    See, this goes the opposite direction, in taking a nice person who is probably generally pleasant to people and using good manners, and assuming that they are not capable of standing up in the face of bad actors. I don’t think that’s fair either. Their is a time and a place for all sorts of emotions, and because someone is ‘nice’ in most cases doesn’t mean that they don’t have a spine.

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  45. okrapod: But in my family we had to take a kid out of school and homeschool her because of severe bullying while all the while our kid was what passed for nice-so nice-nicest kid you ever saw or so said the teachers, but which was actually a weakness on her part in that she could not deal with aggression as well as her older sister aka the asian tiger, who cut a swath right though it and kicked the bullies into the gutter while doing it.

    I was willing to defend myself when bullied in school (even though I was a shy quiet kid who hated confrontation), but my mother would never permit me.

    Remaining passive in the face of bullying generally enables the bullying to continue, the bullies don’t stop. And the teachers do nothing to make it stop.

    There was someone on JA’s blog or another one over a year ago who said her daughter tends to be soft spoken and non-confrontational.

    So, a teacher sat the class bully next to this lady’s daughter, knowing her daughter would just sit there too afraid or reluctant to fight back (the teacher was making life easier for herself by doing this).

    The lady said when she found out, she complained to high heaven to the school and/or teacher and got the teacher to move the bully kid away from her daughter.

    I was bullied a lot in different schools from junior high on up. And most school systems do nothing to defend the victims.

    It’s also the same dynamic in workplaces.

    I was bullied in a professional career by an adult bully, and I did a ton of reading on workplace bullying as a result.

    The experts in those books will tell you H.R. depts. will not defend you, the victim, but will defend the bully.

    American culture has a serious (and on-going) problem with expecting victims to put up with non-stop bullying and refusing to hold bullies accountable.

    I just saw a news headline the other day about a little 12 or 13 year old (in New York?) girl who was bullied by other school kids so bad and for so long she committed suicide.

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  46. Coughlin: They are pleasant and amiable not because they are virtuous but because they lack virtue. We see another type of person in Jesus, who wasn’t nice but was amazingly good.

    See, this is a false dichotomy. Jesus was often ‘nice’ as well as being good. Life is not a bunch of people who only have one mode! You can be many things, sometimes at once, sometimes situationally.

    I can be nice to the dry cleaner and cut an abusive person out of my life.

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  47. Lea: I don’t think it’s being ‘nice’ that is the problem. It’s being insincere? Fake? I think the way you generally object to it is that nice for you tends to mean ‘pushover’.

    The way “nice” is taught and socially re-enforced (especially among Christians) is generally to mean “be a doormat.”

    If one means by nice “be polite” or “be civil to others” I’m okay with that.

    Unfortunately, I was taught that being a girl or a woman means “being nice,” and being nice means “be a codependent doormat.”

    (All of that is also mixed up with “being feminine means being nice”)

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  48. Philip,
    Yes I agree that the main point of the article is that we need to go beyond nice to show love. My confusion lies in how to show love, because the way he scolded his students did not seem loving at all.

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  49. Lea: See, this is a false dichotomy. Jesus was often ‘nice’ as well as being good. Life is not a bunch of people who only have one mode! You can be many things, sometimes at once, sometimes situationally.

    It depends on how you’re defining or understanding “nice.”

    Being nice / kind / good / doormat / polite / considerate can be understood in different ways.

    As “nice” is understood and taught by most Christians, I don’t think Jesus was nice. I agree with Coughlin that Jesus was “good.” Or, as Okrapod put it above, “kind.”

    Niceness does not call for action but is a passive position.

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  50. Daisy: As I was saying to you (Dee) on Twitter about this, I am fine with people being nice, and there’s nothing wrong with being nice, but.
    Many Christians conflate “being nice” with codependent traits, to the point they think being assertive and having boundaries is “mean.”

    But knowing TGC, they’re probably flipping in the completely opposite direction: The meaner and nastier you are, the more Godly you must be. Communism begets Objectivism.

    “The Devil sends sins in opposing matched pairs, so that in fleeing one we embrace the other.”
    — attr to C.S.Lewis

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  51. Daisy: The way “nice” is taught and socially re-enforced (especially among Christians) is generally to mean “be a doormat.”

    For which the pushback is “Punch ’em in the nose and throw them under the bus, Praise God!”

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  52. Florence in KY: A word to those leaders in high places, “Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted and forgiving one another.” It costs noting to be nice and kind.

    For a bunch who is always talking about grace-this and grace-that, it shouldn’t be too much to ask them to extend some grace and be nice to folks! The “tough love” message went awry somewhere. I can tell someone truth in love and still show them the love of Christ in doing so.

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  53. Daisy:
    Benn,

    Years ago, I used to listen to Limbaugh almost daily, but I stopped listening to him much a few years ago. I’m not familiar with that joke you cited, no.

    Limbaugh deteriorated over time; as he listened to his own PR boasting for too long and Entropy set in, he lost all sense of humor and much of his humanity. All that’s left is the True Believer’s total, sleepless, unsmiling concentration on The Cause.

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  54. ishy: I both can and can’t figure out their theology. I think many leaders in that group really want to play god.

    “Play god” or BE God?

    Like they think if they force people to join, God will make them elect, but then they claim that you can never know who God will choose.

    At which point, they have to constantly PROVE to themselves that THEY were Chosen, that THEY are Elect (and You’re NOT) — Getting Rich, having the biggest Mega, Perfectly-Parsed Utterly-Correct Theology…

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  55. okrapod,

    Would this analogy hold true for church leaders then? If they are competent, informed, convicted, not mean or aggressive, but not necessarily “nice,” would they still be considered good for the church?

    I have known a really nice preacher and an elder (two different churches) that smiled really big and read How to Win Friends and Influence Enemies cover to cover multiple times, but they are neither competent, informed, nor convicted. But, everyone liked them more than us and couldn’t believe they could do anything bad. Meanwhile the preacher routinely lied and manipulated and the elder was stealing money.

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  56. Benn:
    Daisy,

    Daisy, do you ever listen to Rush Limbaugh, he has this throw away joke that he uses from time to time,

    “The end of the world came last night, women and minorities hit the hardest …..”

    I’m pretty sure Rush didn’t originate that joke. I remember hearing it (or something similar) long ago, before Rush became the latest New Messiah du Jour.

    And like South Park, it’s funny because it’s true. You see that kind of misplaced priorities all over the place.

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  57. Daisy: As “nice” is understood and taught by most Christians, I don’t think Jesus was nice.

    I think there is such a variety of ways ‘nice’ is taught, that the words becomes almost useless, however, I think in all the ways it is taught, Jesus was still often nice. He was *least* nice to the leaders and Pharisees, and most to the common people. It was generally fitting to circumstances. I would say turning water into wine at a wedding was a plain nice thing to do, in the most common way, while being extraordinary of course.

    As I said, I think coughlin presents a false dichotomy between being nice and being good. You can be both!

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  58. Headless Unicorn Guy: Limbaugh deteriorated over time; as he listened to his own PR boasting for too long and Entropy set in

    This is pretty off topic, but way back before the internet was much of anything, I used to listen occasionally. You could hear stories from all over the place on the radio, without much effort. Once the internet came, you could easily read them all without commentary, or a bazillion ads. At that point, what did Limbaugh add? Little, is what I found.

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  59. Lea: This is pretty off topic, but way back before the internet was much of anything, I used to listen occasionally. You could hear stories from all over the place on the radio, without much effort. Once the internet came, you could easily read them all without commentary, or a bazillion ads. At that point, what did Limbaugh add? Little, is what I found.

    At which point, his ego (expanded by his own PR) set in and he doubled down and got crazier.
    You see a similar dynamic with a lot of the abusive Christian Leaders scrutinized on this blog.

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  60. Lea: As I said, I think coughlin presents a false dichotomy between being nice and being good. You can be both!

    But not necessarily at the same time. If Jesus said whoever comes to me I will in no way reject (translation by okrapod) that sounds nice. If Jesus says the day will come when he tells people, depart from me I never knew you-is that nice?

    I think we need to go back to words like justice and mercy rather than nice or not nice.

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  61. Daisy: I was bullied in a professional career by an adult bully, and I did a ton of reading on workplace bullying as a result.
    The experts in those books will tell you H.R. depts. will not defend you, the victim, but will defend the bully.

    Because Bullies Get Things Done.
    I have heard some companies actually deliberately test for and hire Sociopaths for middle management positions because not only do Sociopath bullies Get Things Done, they are so polite and submissive to top management.

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  62. Lea: Daisy,
    I don’t think it’s being ‘nice’ that is the problem. It’s being insincere? Fake? I think the way you generally object to it is that nice for you tends to mean ‘pushover’.

    I grew up with such a Nicey-Nicey-Nice family.
    Though with them add “In Denial” to “insincere” and “pushover”.
    i.e. “Everything is so Nice Nice Nice — AND DON’T YOU DARE EVER ROCK THE BOAT!”

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  63. Daisy: – But there needs to be room for people who have been wounded by horrible Christians, doctrines, or churches to vent their spleens without being told to be more cordial, sweet, and nice, in how they vent.

    “Stay Sweet…”
    — Standard pastoral advice to (female) abuse victims.

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  64. Lea: I think there is such a variety of ways ‘nice’ is taught, that the words becomes almost useless

    I haven’t seen Lydia around these parts lately so I’ll have to register her common complaint about “totalitarian niceness”. When I hear the word in a church context I am now reminded of past injustices where the authoritarian leaders invoked “be nice” to dismiss any and all efforts to hold them accountable. They went about their business of suppression and control and any push back had to be cloaked in the sweetest of terms. Blech

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  65. Headless Unicorn Guy: Though with them add “In Denial” to “insincere” and “pushover”.

    Ah. Good point, that is sometimes true.

    I think in most cases, there is a more precise, descriptive word to describe the things we are praising or dismissing than ‘nice’.

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  66. Fisher,

    If junior high kids don’t have a fundamental understanding of Jesus sacrificial love and “love others as yourself”, the problem is not with the kids. The character, behavior, and priorities of church staff generally conform to those of the leader over time. The correlation with parents an children is similar. Kris is basically saying that he is the only person in the room who has experienced the power of Jesus to transform people into his likeness; but, through no fault of his own, he has been unable to help anyone else understand what that transformation looks like.

    If I were a parent in the room, I would have wanted to follow Jesus example with a whip. But, I would have been “nice” and treated him like a pagan without a transforming relationship with Jesus. I love my child too much to be complicit in in detached compassion. Much evil has been perpetuated under the cover of detached compassion.

    If this were more than an isolated incident, I would assume this was a reflection of leadership and politely departed in peace. The church organizational chart is an unscriptural curse on the fellowship in these situations.

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  67. Headless Unicorn Guy: Limbaugh deteriorated over time; as he listened to his own PR boasting for too long and Entropy set in, he lost all sense of humor and much of his humanity. All that’s left is the True Believer’s total, sleepless, unsmiling concentration on The Cause.

    Hmm, sort of like Ann Coulter. She went from being mildly humorous and amusing in raising some common sense points, to becoming the Kathy Griffeth of the conservative world–another nut performing extreme acts of entertainment to get the spotlight on themselves so they can sell, sell, sell (books, in the case of Coulter). This crazy world makes me want to live in a cave. And I used to like Kathy Griffeth, until she went crazier and crazier, lewder and lewder with her jokes, etc. It stops being entertaining real quick.

    I never liked Rush really. He name-calls for entertainment and ratings. The more outrageous, the higher the ratings. As a pro-life feminist, I don’t like being called a “feminazi”. Mark Levin over the last few years has actually alienated his own audience by snapping on his own fans and hanging up on them. His fans on phone would actually be agreeing with him, but he’d misunderstand and think they were disagreeing and say, “Get off the phone, you jerk!” I think name-calling and acting all angry for ratings can and does backfire.

    Clarification: I do like Rush the band. People get confused when I say I like Rush, because they think I’m talking about Limbaugh. Anyway, back to my cave.

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  68. Daisy: Many Christians conflate “being nice” with codependent traits, to the point they think being assertive and having boundaries is “mean.”

    I so totally understand, Daisy! I have Christian extended family on my father’s side who expected me to be a doormat to my very abusive father and remain in contact with him, even though professional psychologists who study/treat for domestic violence state that going no contact is a perfectly valid thing to do to protect oneself. They were very codependent with him. One of my dad’s sisters is even a pastor and a self-proclaimed feminist, and yet paid his bail when he last beat my mom many years ago, such that he was already out and back home by the time we ourselves got home from documenting bruises with the police at the hospital. That is a scary level of codependency toward a very entitled male coming from a “feminist” female pastor.

    Ironically, my extended family on that side were all into the Boundaries book–for themselves. I am not allowed to have boundaries. I am hateful and mean and unforgiving if I have boundaries to protect myself from further emotional harm from my abuser. Meanwhile, they erect boundaries that I always respect, and yet do not respect mine (such as writing to me when I ask them to please leave me alone). When one aunt said I could only write to my dad by giving her the mail first, I respected that. I wrote one last letter to him and addressed it to her home, knowing she’d read it, and had in that letter that I was going no contact because I was tired of being mistreated. She honestly expected me to have correspondence with my father with her reading my mail. No privacy whatsoever. And yet they never cared to respect my no contact boundary, and wouldn’t stop writing on and off to manipulate me to talk to him.

    So yeah, the people who expect you to be nice little doormats refuse themselves to be nice little doormats. It’s always one-sided, isn’t it? And that’s your clue that they don’t believe in nice in the sense of true kindness at all. Otherwise, they’d be kind to you and respect your boundaries as well.

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  69. Lea: I think in most cases, there is a more precise, descriptive word to describe the things we are praising or dismissing than ‘nice’.

    For instance, when people tell you to be ‘nice’ in order to get you to stop talking about something they, or someone else, has done to you, this is not about a problem with people being nice. It is about them being *manipulative*.

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  70. According to a tweet by Leslie Puryear (up-top in the main article), there are a lot of nice people going to hell.

    Does this mean that there will also be a lot of mean people going to heaven?

    And if so, will they still be allowed to be mean?

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  71. I rarely stop by TGC website, or Pyromaniacs, but Phil Johnson made a comment on Pyromaniacs that I like.

    “The “gospel-centered” movement that many of us were so enthusiastic for just one decade ago has gone with the drift. The Gospel Coalition has for some time now shown a pattern of embracing whatever new moral issue or political cause is currently popular in Western culture by arguing that this, too, is a legitimate “gospel issue.” They are by no means alone in this. Everything from the latest Marvel movie to gun control legislation has been deemed a “gospel issue” by some savvy evangelical writer at one or more of the most heavily trafficked evangelical websites. But if everything is supposedly a gospel issue, the expression “gospel-centered” is rendered meaningless.”
    http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-root-of-matter.html

    My feeling is that TGC, 9Marx, and a few others are mainly responsible for ushering in the age of “Conference Christianity.” We have seen the fruits of that.

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  72. Lea: But this particular time, when I heard my student say “I think he wants me to be nice to others,” I nearly lost my mind. I couldn’t believe that this was the take-away after we spent time in the Sermon on the Mount, talking about how when Jesus said “love your enemies,”

    I read this article the other day. My impression of the youth pastor was that he was a bit full of himself and his reaction was massively over the top.

    Love your enemies is not so far from be nice to them, in practice.

    Lea,

    What I find most puzzling is the fact that the youth pastor was so utterly baffled that this was what the kids understood about the Sermon on the Mount. Frankly, being “nice” (walking two miles instead of one, turning the other cheek, and giving your only cloak to someone else) would be my take-away from that sermon as well!

    No, today’s Christians (especially the Neo-Cal Reformed ones) say that we need to run around like little “Jonathan Edwards” clones telling everyone how much God wants them to burn in Hell! Funny how the Bible testifies to the contrary: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9.

    Our world is sorely lacking in simple kindness or niceness or whatever you want to call it. Since kindness IS one of the Fruit of the Spirit, wouldn’t it behoove us to demonstrate it in our lives?

    I realize I’m using ‘nice’ and ‘kind’ interchangeably, but viewing the entire scenario from a middle-schooler’s point of view, it would stand to reason that the kid would more than likely equate the two.

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  73. Muff Potter: According to a tweet by Leslie Puryear (up-top in the main article), there are a lot of nice people going to hell.

    Does this mean that there will also be a lot of mean people going to heaven?

    Some of the meanest people on the planet are church folks! We talk about them all the time on TWW. Since not everybody that goes to church ‘is’ the Church, each church has both mean saved people and mean lost people.

    Muff Potter: will they still be allowed to be mean?

    No. That will all be settled at the judgment seat of Christ, where believers will give an account of their lives to Christ. Mean Christians will have to answer for being mean-spirited, which is not a fruit of the Spirit which will pass into the heavenly realm (IMO).

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  74. dee:
    okrapod,

    I think it is possible to be nice and to love justice and mercy.

    I agree. Jesus was kind (nice) to the Roman Centurion and healed his servant in Matthew 8, but He essentially handed the Pharisees their hineys in Matthew 23 and strongly rebuked them for neglecting the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness!

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  75. NC Now: Clockwork Angel: I never liked Rush really.
    I listened and laughed at him all the time back in the 80s. When Reagan / Bush 41 where in office.
    But after Clinton was elected he became just mean.

    Patient Zero of Clinton Derangement Syndrome (negative sub-type)?

    Timing kinda fits; he’d gotten established as a Celebrity, was listening to his own PR, and then outside circumstance kicks him a good one.

    Around 10 years ago Internet Monk did a blogpost on “The Limbaugh-ization of Evangelicals”:
    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/the-limbaughization-of-evangelicals
    Which probably has fallout in today’s Christianese political situation, what Professor Fea of Trinity College calls “Court Evangelicals”.

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  76. okrapod: What is detached compassion?

    Hazarding a guess, I’d say it’s FEELING so Compassionate(TM) without actually DOING anything about or with it.
    Makes Compassion just another part of the Sociopath’s Angel of Light mask.

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  77. What Happened: If I were a parent in the room, I would have wanted to follow Jesus example with a whip.

    When somebody piously scolds you with “What Would Jesus Do?”, remind them that flipping out and throwing over tables is a Biblical option.

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  78. I can’t think of many things more destructive to a middle school kid than telling them they shouldn’t be nice. This pastor is clueless and is causing more damage than he can even begin to understand.

    Most normal people know that we cannot love our neighbors or God without being nice; it’s part of the deal.

    The kid gave a great answer. The pastor needs to chill out and put people before theology.

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  79. Lea: Headless Unicorn Guy: Though with them add “In Denial” to “insincere” and “pushover”.
    Ah. Good point, that is sometimes true.
    I think in most cases, there is a more precise, descriptive word to describe the things we are praising or dismissing than ‘nice’.

    I think I was too harsh on my family with “insincere” and “pushover”, though my youngest brother was a master of plausibly-deniable psychological abuse and my ACA father did have a somewhat-passive personality.

    Thinking about it, a better description would be Rich Buhler’s term “A lot of Pretending going on.”

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  80. I have a suspicion that this kind of lack of fundamental compassion and empathy may be widespread in certain circles of American christianity.

    At least 15 years ago I was a finalist for a job with a large and very well known Christian organization, and they flew me over 1,000 miles for more than a day of interviews. It was one of the weirdest experiences of my life. Including a grilling from a 20-something kid who wanted to know what I would do if someone demanded work from me and my team and “just didn’t care.” I said we’d do our best of course, but that I didn’t think any believer should “just not care” about other people. This person did not know how to respond to that. Looked utterly puzzled. Sort of tried to walk back their comments, but not really.

    I didn’t get the job, and that’s something for which I’ve always been thankful.

    By contrast, at the completely secular workplace where I now work, our CEO has said they look to hire people who are “smart and nice.”

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  81. drstevej: His brother, David, is a nice guy and solid believer. We were neighbors and I discipled him for 4 years in the 90’s. His background is Methodist.

    That is cool! I never knew that! Thanks for sharing, and for sharing the Gospel with your neighbor. Small world, ain’t it? 🙂

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  82. Root 66,

    “Our world is sorely lacking in simple kindness or niceness or whatever you want to call it. Since kindness IS one of the Fruit of the Spirit, wouldn’t it behoove us to demonstrate it in our lives?”
    +++++++++++++++++

    is it possible church culture has caused us not to recognize kindness in people who don’t sport the christian brand?

    (speaking from experience)… i’ll go so far as to say that churches pass out “Bias-Against-Non-Christian” glasses like theaters pass out 3-D glasses. these glasses cause christians to see human beings from the highly exotic “secular culture” as entities walking around incapable of true kindness. the best they can do is pretend, put on a kindness act. because only initiation into the God club makes real, genuine kindness possible.

    at least, that’s what the instruction manual says, plain as day. and that can’t be wrong…. because,…. well, it just can’t. (or else what in the world is this church business all about, then?)

    (or else professional christians are twiddling their thumbs with lack of things to do and talk about)

    the Bias Glasses i had been wearing started to malfunction long ago, and then with my exit from church culture they went kaput. and i saw amazing kindness everywhere. i saw magnificence in human beings everywhere, on all religious and non-religious spectrums, on all economic levels, amongst all sexual identities, all ethnicities, all ages…

    kindness and generosity amongst strangers. honesty for its own sake, at personal cost. and more.

    it’s not that i didn’t see it previously — it was seeing but not seeing. automatically discounting it, because how could it be real without the christian label.

    i remember many years ago fainting on the sidewalk outside a restaurant in “the bad part of town” of one of the world’s biggest and most famous cities. total strangers from “the bad part of town” came to my rescue. helped me. did whatever they could. took off their jacket and made a pillow for me.

    kindness is alive and well in the magnificence of human beings everywhere.

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  83. Technically, “kind” isn’t in the Bible either. Kind is an English word. I looked up it’s origin, and it doesn’t derive from Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew either. It derives from Old English.

    So “kind” is the word that translators chose because they felt it most closely resembled the meaning of the Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic word that they were translating. Words rarely translate perfectly, which means that even if “nice” isn’t in the English Bible, it is really only via translator choice..

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  84. elastigirl: (speaking from experience)… i’ll go so far as to say that churches pass out “Bias-Against-Non-Christian” glasses like theaters pass out 3-D glasses.

    Don’t 3-D glasses give a lot of people eyestrain headaches?

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  85. I *think* he was trying to contrast nice with godly, given that he tries to show that Jesus would not have been nice had He not healed/cured the persons completely and finishes up naming attributes that are essentially the fruits of the Spirit (whom he never once mentioned). And in “nearly losing it” he shows that said fruits need to develop a bit more in him.

    As an aside, there really should be an emoji of a bearded man holding a cup of coffee to depict the pretend Calvinists. By their emoji ye shall know them.

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  86. elastigirl: i’ll go so far as to say that churches pass out “Bias-Against-Non-Christian” glasses like theaters pass out 3-D glasses. these glasses cause christians to see human beings from the highly exotic “secular culture” as entities walking around incapable of true kindness. the best they can do is pretend, put on a kindness act. because only initiation into the God club makes real, genuine kindness possible.

    Yep, I’ve heard it all – “you are a closed person” to “you have a hard heart”
    Check out the latest a few posts ago – I’m pretty much incapable of making a decision between right and wrong – well…I have a concept but it isn’t valid without a holy scripture to back it up.

    When “niceness” becomes a theological flashpoint, I do a face-palm.

    Ok – go to youtube and look up the following “Sesame Street”, “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”, “Veggietales” for some refresher training.

    They all promote “love thy neighbor”, “do unto others as you would have done unto yourself”. What has the church done to itself since I left? These were the basic tenets of Sunday School.

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  87. Lyrics

    WHAT WOULD JESUS DO
    Gerry Spehar
    Jesus moved to Texas, Jesus bought a gun
    Filled it full of bullets in case He had to shoot someone
    Jesus joined a church and started preachin’ every Sunday
    The other six He built a wall to keep refugees away
    Cause Jesus had investments, and Jesus had healthcare
    And he didn’t want ‘em suckin’ all that money from his share
    But Jesus had an iPhone and Jesus had to eat
    So he didn’t mind em workin’ over there and workin’ cheap
    And if they got sick or if they died, Jesus didn’t care
    He just didn’t want em dodgin’ taxes and on welfare over here
    What would Jesus do? …

    Full audio and lyrics here:
    https://kgmusicpress.com/track/1430290/what-would-jesus-do

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  88. Lowlandseer: It seems to be all about him as this earlier article by him shows

    That was certainly my initial impression! And this article is basically even more.

    Maybe they should put people in youth group who care about youth?

    “I’m sorry that in an attempt to make church and our youth ministry a fun, energetic, and exciting place to be, I have made those of you who are thoughtful and introverted feel unwelcome, not safe, or “less than.””

    Hm. This youth group sounds like it would be torturous.

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  89. elastigirl: kindness and generosity amongst strangers. honesty for its own sake, at personal cost. and more.

    it’s not that i didn’t see it previously — it was seeing but not seeing. automatically discounting it, because how could it be real without the christian label.

    When I was a Lutheran, I heard this from the pastor:

    (i)”Even on my best days of kindness and doing good, it’s from mixed motives…”

    Really?

    And the conclusion from there is always that goodness cannot exist for its own sake and in its own ‘rightness’ as the right thing to do, it can only be sanctioned by the Christian label.

    bull$#it.

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  90. Muff Potter: And the conclusion from there is always that goodness cannot exist for its own sake and in its own ‘rightness’ as the right thing to do, it can only be sanctioned by the Christian label.

    He may have been talking about the doctrine of merit. That is a complex idea mostly because protestants and catholics use different meanings for the words and it is difficult to understand what is being said across that barrier. As in condign vs congruent merit. If that is what he was talking about it could easily sound like he was saying and concluding what you seem to be thinking that he was saying.

    This idea has been difficult for me for along time. My problem was that a good thing is good regardless of the motives-a cup of cold water is good either way. And that is certainly true. If even you being evil know how to give good gifts–said about people being good to their children-is certainly both true and biblical and observable. But if the pastor was talking about righteousness in the contest of the doctrine of merit, then he was talking about something different. This idea is thought differently about in catholicism than in protestantism but it is not exclusively either a catholic or protestant idea.

    It is a bit difficult to wade through, but well worth the effort, in my opinion.

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  91. Headless Unicorn Guy: “Stay Sweet…”
    — Standard pastoral advice to (female) abuse victims.

    Yes, I was thinking just this. As so many others have said, in many cases “nice” can really mean “doormat”, and the whole “keep sweet” thing popped into my mind. Many a pastor will tell a woman to “keep sweet” and then there’s that unspoken “or else” right behind it.

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  92. okrapod: It is a bit difficult to wade through, but well worth the effort, in my opinion.

    My original comment was in reply to elastigirl’s observation of human kindness in every theatre of life. Human beings, regardless of creed or religion, ‘doing the right thing’ simply because it’s the right thing to do, with no thought of: ‘what’s in it for me?’

    Lutheran theology (as does reformed theology) teaches that true goodness apart from imputed righteousness is not possible, and is always sullied by self-serving sin.

    Again, I say bull poo-poo.

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  93. Deb,

    In my opinion, that’s heresy. It’s like the whole, you know, New Testament thing was something that happened to other people. These whack-jobs are stuck in Old Testament Hebrew patriarchy, which Jesus clearly dismantled. But why not – it’s not like they’re Christian anyway. I don’t know what to call this brand of authoritarian patriarchal cultlike nonsense – some weird mutant Judeo-something. But it ain’t Christian. They talk about Gospel this and Gospel that, but it seems like they’ve never even read the Gospels.

    It seems harsh to put it this way, but it seems that simple to me. They like to complicate things with layers and layers of man-made ‘theology’. Where is Christ? Where is Jesus in their ‘theology’?

    It’s so clear, but people are so bedazzled by something or other. I don’t understand why anyone gives them the time of day.

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  94. Deb: Chandler said: “I teach to men.”

    …and “Our girls love it!” The first time I’ve ever heard a preacher refer to the female members of his church as “our girls.” Subordinating and condescending New Calvinism at its best.

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  95. roebuck: It’s so clear, but people are so bedazzled by something or other. I don’t understand why anyone gives them the time of day.

    Three words.
    Shock, awe, and fear.

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  96. Pen and Pulpit twittering a rather not nice, or maybe harsh, dialogue. Unfamiliar with them, so maybe this is the norm?

    It is interesting how Jesus got to the point of calling the religious leaders of his day not very nice people, well, white-washed sepulchres and other descriptions. What is the continuum of getting to that point?

    Or, Paul in Acts 23:3 after he was ordered (by Ananias) struck in the face in Court: “Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit here to judge me according to the Law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck.’”

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  97. Jesus: “And the second is like unto it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ”

    Paul: “Love is patient and kind”

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  98. okrapod,

    Foreigner: “I want to know what love is.”

    Pat Benetar: “Love is a battlefield.”

    Mickey & Sylvia: “Love is strange.”

    The Judds: “Love can build a bridge.”

    Dolly & Whitney: “I will always love you.”

    Bocephus: “I’m for love.”

    Beatles: “All you need is love.”

    U2: “One man in the name of love.”

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  99. Muff Potter:
    Does this mean that there will also be a lot of mean people going to heaven?
    And if so, will they still be allowed to be mean?

    My perspective as a retired celebrity youth pastor: Back on earth, I was considered the original Mr Nice Guy (even though some Christians thought I was too librul, cause I taught the kids to love their neighbors). Up here, I’m just about the meanest S.O…. oops pardon my French… I’m as mean as they come!

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  100. Jack: Ok – go to youtube and look up the following “Sesame Street”, “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”, “Veggietales” for some refresher training.

    They all promote “love thy neighbor”,

    Hey, you throw me in with a cookie-eating monster and a talking cucumber! I resemble that remark! Good thing the church has rediscovered the “gospel”! No more Mr Nice Guy! If I could do it all over, I’d tell kids god hates them and has a wonderful plan for their death…. Sorry for lying– I’m the worst liar I know up here–- but there are quite a few other retired celebrity youth pastors I never see around. Not sure they made it…….

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  101. okrapod,

    Generally, I concur with you. The way we use “nice” and “kind” in the States today…they are not exact synonyms. Merriam-Webster backs me up on this (https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/kind)–they are related terms, but not synonyms.

    We see this distinction in phrases like “nice guys” and “nice young ladies”. Generally, these phrases are used in proclamations like, “Nice young ladies always cross their legs,” or “Nice guys always finish last,” or “A nice Jewish rabbi would never flip tables!”

    We also see it in people’s actions, which may appear nice on the surface, but are motivated by something not-so-nice, and are thus, unkind. For instance, the stereotypical/”joke” interpretation of “Bless their heart!” It might be nice (or at least what “nice” people would say in such a situation), but it’s often not very kind.

    All that to say, I don’t speak Koine Greek or Hebrew, so I don’t fully understand the nuance of the words we’ve translated as “kind” in the Scriptures.

    I also found these posts interesting: https://www.scu.edu/the-big-q/being-nice-vs-being-kind/
    http://biblehub.com/greek/5543.htm

    From that perspective, many people *would* say that Jesus is not “nice”, but I can’t imagine a person on earth who knows the basic tenants of who Jesus is and what He has done while on earth, who would deny that Jesus is “kind”.

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  102. Lowlandseer: I *think* he was trying to contrast nice with godly, given that he tries to show that Jesus would not have been nice had He not healed/cured the persons completely and finishes up naming attributes that are essentially the fruits of the Spirit (whom he never once mentioned).

    Then he really got his signals crossed somewhere between brain and mouth.

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  103. okrapod,

    I can see what Muff Potter is saying I truly can. It is possible for a person to decide that something is just wrong and stand up to it, because he knows it is wrong.
    Also Jesus gave warnings against doing righteousness to be seen. So there are deeds done for wrong motives. Aren’t there? Sure seems that there are. If I were to give to the poor and let everyone know that I was doing it. Well, Jesus says that my motive is wrong and that I already have my reward. Either in that people saw it, which would be what I wanted, or by them praising me because I did it. I let everyone know what a good guy I was. So sometimes motives can be even misunderstood by the person doing the act of righteousness. At least I have to admit that about myself.

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  104. Muff Potter,

    indeed… my toes are still curled backwards. as nauseating as my memory of the smell of formaldehyde from 8th grade biology class.

    but what is it exactly? it takes more than 45 seconds to get to the revolting content.

    is it that they seemed so utterly enraptured with themselves and their own self-importance?

    is it that they had the air of participating in the interview of the century, believing the audience is hanging on every word of every thought passing between their ears?

    is it the histrionic hand gesturing, in a patronizing effort to stoop to the level of their adoring fans who couldn’t possibly grasp such deep things otherwise?

    is it how they seemed to love the camera so rightly focussed on them and enjoy performing for it, striking a pose and tone of voice to purposely convey gravitas dressed up in false modesty?

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  105. Ken A,

    “So sometimes motives can be even misunderstood by the person doing the act of righteousness. At least I have to admit that about myself.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    i think christian culture fosters a preoccupation with oneself, a propensity to overanalyze and overspiritualize everything. as we can so clearly see in Matt Chandler and John Piper, of course.

    oh to be normal again. shedding the scaly skin of christian culture so one can simply do what is right because it’s the right thing to do, case closed. neither self-congratulations nor self-recriminations factor in whatsoever.

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  106. Ken A: If I were to give to the poor and let everyone know that I was doing it. Well, Jesus says that my motive is wrong and that I already have my reward.

    Yes, but he never said not to do it anyway! Even if your motives are wrong, you can still do good. Do good, until you do it for the right reasons.

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  107. elastigirl: oh to be normal again. shedding the scaly skin of christian culture so one can simply do what is right because it’s the right thing to do, case closed. neither self-congratulations nor self-recriminations factor in whatsoever.

    AMEN!

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  108. okrapod,

    brainwashing

    hard to imagine christian leaders would set out to do such a thing, but that is often the net result.

    the concept of God is like a strong cocktail — mixed with an individual’s unique nature as well as human nature in general, it is easy to come under the influence of a whole host of ideas as well as persons. objectivity declines.

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  109. elastigirl,

    sorry to monologue, here. my friends and family of other religions or no religion keep me balanced. keep my objectivity roughed up into broad relief.

    but who knows, maybe this is all like the Truman Show.

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  110. I thought the definition of a “Christian” was a follower or “Christ” and a Christain was to be “Christ like”…
    Silly me, I guess I need to only listen to these Neo Cal crowd only and not follow Christ’s example….. since they are sure not “Christ like”….

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  111. okrapod: Who is stopping you all from doing that, and how are they stopping you from doing that? If you all explained already, I apologize, because I missed it.

    Nobody is okrapod, I was just venting up-thread, no apology required.
    I for one value greatly your perspective and wisdom about much here at TWW.

    Actually, we’re a lot like Jews arguing Talmudic Mishna.
    Theirs is a long history of dispute and argument on how to interpret Torah.
    And in many areas, there is no general monolithic consensus, and they’re okay with that.

    Such a thing is not possible in fundagelicalism, where there can only be a ‘teacher’ and ‘teachee’ relationship.
    Long live TWW!

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  112. Muff Potter: And in many areas, there is no general monolithic consensus, and they’re okay with that.
    Such a thing is not possible in fundagelicalism, where there can only be a ‘teacher’ and ‘teachee’ relationship.
    Long live TWW!

    Agree with your final point!

    But I’m not even sure it’s a “teacher” and “teachee” relationship. In megachurches, there’s little or no relationship between guru and giving unit.

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  113. jyjames: No kidding. Right on.

    Empathy to those in need beats this not nice version of hair shirt religion, heart & soul.

    And, “the *scorched earth* approach” is never nice either.

    Our former pastor used to brag about “dropping the gospel bomb” on people he encountered in the world as he went about his day. His comments always made me cringe.

    The gospel is a balm, not a bomb.

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  114. Wow, this is a simple lesson that a child could understand. Apparently some Christians think being mean will win them a badge of honor. It might from their like-minded comrades, but not from God.

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  115. Muff Potter: Actually, we’re a lot like Jews arguing Talmudic Mishna.
    Theirs is a long history of dispute and argument on how to interpret Torah.
    And in many areas, there is no general monolithic consensus, and they’re okay with that.

    Such a thing is not possible in fundagelicalism, where there can only be a ‘teacher’ and ‘teachee’ relationship.

    “…where, like Highlander, There Can Only Be One.”

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  116. elastigirl: i think christian culture fosters a preoccupation with oneself, a propensity to overanalyze and overspiritualize everything. as we can so clearly see in Matt Chandler and John Piper, of course.

    Another major theme of Christian Monist’s book Butterflies in the Belfry, Serpents in the Cellar. There he traces it to his main theme, the influence of Platonic Dualism in the first couple centuries AD.

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  117. elastigirl: i think christian culture fosters a preoccupation with oneself, a propensity to overanalyze and overspiritualize everything. as we can so clearly see in Matt Chandler and John Piper, of course.

    God’s Pet Kids. Chosen and posturing, with schadenfreude for the unfortunate god-forsaken.

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  118. Darlene:
    Wow, this is a simple lesson that a child could understand.Apparently some Christians think being mean will win them a badge of honor.It might from their like-minded comrades, but not from God.

    I’m not sure who this is directed at, but I would argue that one can be “not nice”, while still not being mean. This is just my thinking/usage of the words, but “mean” or “cruel” would fall under the category of “not kind”, while “arrogant”, “rude” or “discourteous” fall under “not nice”.

    If somebody cuts me off in traffic, I’d think, “Well that was rude,” or “that wasn’t very nice,” but if somebody calls me a hurtful name, I’d think, “That was mean,” or “That’s not very kind.”

    I just read an interesting idea that people-pleased are almost inevitably “nice” people (they may be kind as well, or they might not–serial killers have been described as “nice people”), but I know plenty of truly kind, compassionate people who do not come across as “nice” because they are loud, or opinionated, or like to debate others. It goes back to the doormat issue others have discussed.

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  119. Clay Crouch: For the life of me, If there is a place of eternal torment, I can’t understand why God would send a kind person there.

    In order to do so (understand) you (generic you) have to suspend everything you think you believe about what is fair and just.

    From there it’s easy, just huey (helicopter) Isaiah 55:8-9 out of context to give it ‘authority’, ignore your conscience, and you’re just another brick in the wall.

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  120. jyjames: Demagogues and bubble people,

    People opetating in a bubble don’t recognize they are in a bubble. But they do see others operaring in bubbles. Perhaps we are all cluelessly operating in our own bubbles while criticizing others for operating in theirs.

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  121. Ken F (aka Tweed): Perhaps we are all cluelessly operating in our own bubbles while criticizing others for operating in theirs.

    “Life is but a vapor … it appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14)

    Our individual vapors link with like-minded vapors in bubbles of our choosing. They all eventually break. “Only three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). We would all do well to fill our bubbles with those things while we still have breath.

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  122. I actually agree with the Gospel Coalition this time, but perhaps not in the way that they would hope. I think some of the “nicest” behavior I’ve ever seen, that was an inch deep and not supported by genuine kindness, was the behavior emblematic of churches affiliated with…the Gospel Coalition. They had lots of phony, superficial niceness, but not kindness. They could love bomb, but there was no love, it was just a tool to lure you into their system. Of course, the sort of behavior they often exhibit is neither kind nor nice, just rude, arrogant and abusive, without even the sheen of niceness. That is what occurs when you question a leader or act like a Berean in any manner. I must say that the sudden abandonment and shunning by most of the congregation that you’d served with hundreds of hours of your time and thousands of dollars is also neither nice nor kind. Sort of leaves you with a lasting acquaintance with PTSD, which also is neither nice nor kind.

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  123. My reading of the article was that being nice was the bare minimum and that the actual standard was love, for enemies in particular. Not sure why they chose their title other than to be catchy and provocative with a deceptive bait and switch.

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  124. hoodaticus:
    My reading of the article was that being nice was the bare minimum and that the actual standard was love, for enemies in particular. Not sure why they chose their title other than to be catchy and provocative with a deceptive bait and switch.

    Take that title and run with it and you can justify a LOT of cruelty and abuse in the Name of God. That alone would mean it’s a bad title; if nothing else, Don’t Give Them Ideas. This blog is filled with posts exposing abuse justified in the Name of God.

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  125. Law Prof: I actually agree with the Gospel Coalition this time, but perhaps not in the way that they would hope. I think some of the “nicest” behavior I’ve ever seen, that was an inch deep and not supported by genuine kindness, was the behavior emblematic of churches affiliated with…the Gospel Coalition. They had lots of phony, superficial niceness, but not kindness.

    All Surface, No Substance.
    As they say in Texas, “All Hat, No Cattle”.

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  126. I know I’m a little late to the thread, but this exact mindset (“Jesus doesn’t want you to be nice,” “Being nice is a sign of spiritual weakness,” “Niceness is dumb,” etc.) was something I was brought up with by the Christian subculture — and which I now wholeheartedly reject.

    I have noticed a disturbing trend among Evangelical churches, especially the young adult crowd, sometimes even explicitly stated thus:

    “If people think you’re nice, you’re probably not a real Christian. You’re only obeying Christ if people hate you.”

    Now, it is one thing to hold firm to what is true when people hate you — but that doesn’t mean your sole goal as a Christian is to get people to hate you.

    This is one of those things on which I think a lot of humble and well-meaning young Christians get bamboozled out of their well-meaningness, and indoctrinated with the idea that “love” doesn’t actually mean “love”: That “God’s love and kindness” looks an awful lot more like Javert from “Les Mis” or Frollo from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

    Those dudes were not very nice, so clearly they must have been full of “love.”

    Very pious and zealous for the Law as well. What shining examples and paragons of being bold for “the Gospel(Tm)”

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  127. The Man Who Wasn’t Thursday: this exact mindset (“Jesus doesn’t want you to be nice,” “Being nice is a sign of spiritual weakness,” “Niceness is dumb,” etc.) was something I was brought up with by the Christian subculture — and which I now wholeheartedly reject.

    What got you out of it?

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