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Friday, August 23, 2019

When Niceness Is Naughty with Mark Galli

When Niceness Is Naughty

You won’t find the author of Jesus Mean & Wild disagreeing with “Why Niceness Weakens our Witness: I can’t follow Christ and also succeed at being nice” by Sharon Hodde Miller:
Niceness … aims small. In her book American Niceness, author Carrie Tirado Bramen describes niceness as a virtue of “surfaces rather than depths,” while Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, calls it “a trivial virtue that is easy to fake.” Niceness is concerned with the appearance of goodness and not the reality of it. It gives the facade of serving others but exists primarily to serve ourselves.
The hard part, of course, is knowing when niceness, which most of the time expresses kindness and respect, becomes an act of cowardice. I’ve spent much of my life learning the difference and I don’t always show good discernment.
The Polyamory Trend
I’m not inclined to point to outlandish examples of culture-gone-wild, but when I came across two stories in a short span, I had second thoughts. Our culture is so large and diverse, there is always something crazy going on somewhere. “Polyamory Is For Pre-Teens in Public Schools. Oh Really?” and “Lutheran ‘Love’: ELCA Bishop Leila Ortiz Praises Polyamory” come from culture-warrior websites, so I initially read them with a skeptical eye. I assumed they were extreme examples.
Then I read in Men’s Health—hardly a reactionary outlet—an article on “What Is Polyamory and Why Is It Gaining Popularity?”
… how many people are actually polyamorous? It’s tough to gauge the numbers, but it’s currently estimated that 4 to 5 percent of people living in the United States are polyamorous—or participating in other forms of open relationships—and 20 percent of people have at least attempted some kind of open relationship at some point in their lives. Those numbers, however, are likely to increase.
This last article is not the be all and end all on the topic, but it does suggest the mainstreaming of what was formerly an extreme and outlandish practice. So mainstreaming, it seems, that the next issue of CT Pastors will have an article to help church leaders navigate this in their communities, and sometimes in their churches.
What to Do about Nationalism
Nationalism has become a dirty word in some circles since the tragic shooting in El Paso of a few weeks ago. But like most concepts, it comes in many forms, some healthy and some not. The conservative version—and the one that scares some people—is called national populism. Matthew Goodwin at UnHerd comments on a number of books that explore the roots and outlines of this phenomenon in a way that leads to understanding and not mere condemnation or cheerleading—or at least it seems given the summary of the books.
Calling Evil Good
From a favorite teacher on the other side of the Tiber: Bishop Robert Barron on the Limits of Tolerance. The video is a bit dated since Katharine Jefferts Schori’s term as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church ended in 2015. But it is a perfect example—and both humorous and sad—of why the gospel of tolerance (one of the gospel pillars of our culture) is not the same thing as Christian love.
Grace and peace,

Mark GalliMark Galli
Mark Galli
Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today

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