Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Being nice

Been thinking this past couple of days about the implications of "Christian" behaviour. My reverend friend has obviously been suffering some constraints, and Rosemary has been pondering the cost of discipleship when it comes to worship experiences. And reading what these blogs had to say reinforced my current discomfort. The stone in my shoe is the need to be, for want of a better word, "nice". (I know: I used to forbid any use of this word unless to mean exact, but I need the implications of this usage).

And so: Does a Christian have to let himself be dragooned into a situation simply because it would seem churlish to say no? Does operating in a church environment mean that the weakest brethren will actually prevail at the expense of everyone else, simply because no-one else can bear to point out that they can't deliver? Is it, in fact, unacceptable to say "no"? (This is different from saying "yes" and then drifting off later, which seems somehow more acceptable). Is the kind of directness which you find in the outside world somehow beyond the pale? Are we doomed to the lowest common denominator?

Maybe it's simpler than that. Perhaps it's just the curse of the voluntary organisation, where a few professionals have to try to keep everyone on board. Best not to rock the boat in case someone falls out? On the other hand, would they fall, or would they be pushed?

Note: happily, I am not referring to church life in my home patch. But I get around ...


  1. Anonymous11:56 PM

    Would it help to remember that "nice" was originally "nescius", and degenerated therefrom? And that "silly" was originally "holy" (seelig)?

    Other than that, it seems that being gnomic is the price of being gnice.

    (Oh dear - the word verification is redsly.)

  2. Thomas Merton once excoriated the problem in Christian community of "chronic niceness". By which he meant those external signs of concession to others that are inauthentic, and which prevent that more basic hospitable honesty, which we call acceptance, and out of which trust, courtesy and love have a chance to grow. I'm just reading something just now, which researches the phenomenon of bullying in church. And bullying is not nice!

  3. An appropriate limerick is:

    There was a young lady from Kent,
    Who always said just what she meant;
    People said, "She's a dear -
    So unique - so sincere-"
    But they shunned her by common consent.

  4. Egads. WHERE did Bill find such an appropriate limmerick, then?

    Are we not told to let our "yes be yes" and our "no be no"? In my mind, I think the Lord knew we would be faced with situations where "no" is the appropriate answer!

    It really is a shame that in many church circumstances it is the priest/pastor and his family that perform a great deal of the work for the church, as memebers seem to think that is the way in which things get done.

    As we passed several enormous edifices (that would be "churches"!) yesterday, I wondered how, with current membership down so low, they could afford to keep these churches up and running....

  5. Katya, I'm happy to say that our own congregation has moved on from being a priest-centred one to a situation where laity preach, do intercessions, write for the local paper, choose hymns, do sick visiting, produce the newsletter, deal with the builders etc etc - a very big step forward!

  6. Jim - what is the Merton book? Sounds like something I should be reading!

  7. Let mne go looking for the Merton quote Chris. I suspect it is quoted in a biography. But his Thoughts in Solitude deals with the issues of being honest and loving with people and situations. He would have avoided our modern euphemism 'challenging' in relation to people and behaviour, especially in Christian community - where the challenge is to faithfully follow Jesus in relating to people with loving frankness that is itself a challenge!