Too Damn Nice

Yesterday, I was talking to my brother and he offered some constructive criticism of my blog.  He said that in the post “Bad Theology”,  I was a little shrill toward the end.  Specifically, this paragraph: “It’s all part of God’s plan.  This, my friends, is the saying that inspired this post.  How can so much shit be contained in 6 little words?  The reason I hate this so much is when it’s uttered.  You’re sitting at the hospital with a friend whose child has suffered an awful trauma and when they ask why, some well-meaning idiot will say “It’s all part of God’s plan” along with some other mumbo-jumbo about God working in mysterious ways and how we shouldn’t question them, yadda, yadda, yadda.  I just want to shake them and yell “Are you listening to yourself?”  I can’t think of a more callous thing to say. It takes away what little hope they might have had and replaces with…, what? The knowledge that our Creator is a hard, capricious overseer who singles people out for suffering and hardship in the furtherance of some unknown plan for the universe? I hope that’s not the case. I prefer to believe in a God who’s a loving father, one that would never cause his children pain.  But, evidently, I’m wrong.  And, a better parent than God, because I’d never do that to one of my kids”

Okay, maybe I did come on a little strong,  but I think it’s about time those of us on the progressive/liberal side of Christianity stopped being so “nice”.  Merriam-Webster says that the definition of nice (in this context) is “socially acceptable”.  Now, I’m no Bible scholar, but I am familiar with the book and I’m not aware of Jesus being all that “socially acceptable”.  In fact, he seemed to go out of his way not to be socially acceptable.  Nor was he all that pleasant to be around at times.  Kicking over tables and beating people with a knotted plowline doesn’t really meet my criteria for nice.  But, it was necessary.  Jesus was pissed off, as much about where the money-changers and vendors had set up shop as he was at what they were doing.  These greedy S.O.B.’s had set up in the Court of the Gentiles, taking up all the space in the one area of the temple complex that Gentiles could go.  The telling part of the scripture comes from Mark 11:17 where Jesus says “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”?  But you have made it a den of robbers.”  So, I don’t think me getting riled up at people who say stupid stuff is a bad thing.  Heck, for once I even have Biblical precedence on my side!

All my life, I’ve been told Christians are “nice”, that we don’t want to offend anyone.  Again, I turn to Jesus’ example.  When invited to dinner by a Pharisee (Luke 14), Jesus watched the other guests jockey for the seats of honor, where the best food and wine would be served. After watching for a few minutes, He spoke up with a lesson on etiquette: “ 8‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’ 12 He said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous”  Basically, he sat there and insulted the host and all his guests.  And, you know what?  They needed it. 

If we’re going to be Christ followers (as the hipsters like to say), we should be doing what He did.  When it was time to be nice, loving and caring, that’s what He did.  And, when it was time to light someone up, He did that too.  In our zeal to differentiate ourselves from the worst aspects of the old-style fundamentalism many of us grew up with, in or around, we’ve given up our passion.  There are some really, really bad things being said and done in the name of God and somebody needs to speak up and say “That’s not right” with that passion and power we’ve forfeited.  It’s time to let go of being “nice”, worrying how we’re going to sound or whether someone will get offended and say what needs to be said.  Only then can we start taking the faith back from the crowd who’s hijacked it.  And, if that’s shrill, so be it.  It’s how I feel, damn it.