NO MORE CHRISTIAN NICE GUY
by Paul Coughlin
Bethany House Publishers, 224 pp.
When Being Nice – Instead of Good – Hurts Men, Women, and Children
Excerpt from Chapter 10:
THE JOURNEY FROM NICE GUY TO GOOD GUY
GETTING BACK OUR OUTRAGE
William Bennett wrote a relevant book, The Death of Outrage, that asks an excellent question: What has happened to our ability to be outraged? He and many others within the church see too little of it.
I don't claim to know all the answers for this, but I do know one unreported reason: In today's evangelical subculture, Christians, especially Christian men, aren't supposed to get angry about anything. See where this leaves us? Though it's true that avoiding anger governs our ability to do damage, it also limits our ability to do good. Furthermore, our sidestepping of anger is usually more about ignoring the reality of a situation (rather than our choosing at a given time to be unexpressive); eventually, if left unaddressed, the inner anger will simply blow out of us in some other form or venue.
Anger itself is neither good nor bad. Remember what Paul wrote? Be angry and do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26 ESV). Anger's rightness depends on the direction we move with its power and energy. By and large, though, Christians don't believe anger is a legitimate power source; they fail to see it as an engine for righteous indignation that helps us confront the problems hurting our fellowman. By shunning all expressions of anger, we reduce our ability to be forces for redemption.
If we read a newspaper on any given day, we should find a lot to be angry about, like when I read how sinister entrepreneurs were selling a video on which they incited homeless people to fight one another while cameras rolled. These predators were making money by getting some of the most beleaguered people in society to pummel one another. Staring at a homeless man showing the camera his bloody tooth, my heart filled with anger; I growled and I sweated. Normally, we look away, and when we do speak about such horrible behavior, we often dismiss it as being some expected part of the "end times," as if this makes it all disappear or become irrelevant. Anger can be a stimulant, a motivator to propel our indifferent hearts into redemptive action.
A person with a sincere attachment to God, says Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, ’will manifest his or her faith in loathing cruelty and abhorring mercilessness. Those who are detached from G—d are usually fearful in the face of evil."
Ignoring anger not only makes men less likely to do good, it leaves some depressed. Writes Jonathon Heide of New Man magazine:
Psychologist David Decker works with men who never said a mean word to anyone. These men are so conditioned to dismiss their feelings of anger, they don't even know how to get mad. Some of these men live out the standard male expectation ... but feel no human connection, in part because they don't deal with emotions, including anger. For Christian men, the pressure to contain themselves seems even tighter.
How does this bring glory to God? Especially when considering that anger, properly directed, brings glory to God? The wrath of men shall praise you, says the Bible (Psalm 76:10), and the fear of the Lord is to hate evil (Proverbs 8:13). Right now, Christian Nice Guys hate only what disrupts comfort. Something has to change; we need to repent of this disguised vice if we're to have a real relationship with God.
I interviewed the late youth minister Mike Yaconelli numerous tunes before his sudden death, and once he told me about meeting Mother Teresa. "She's tough as nails, Paul. She's uncompromising and she irritates people. She's willful and domineering. She gets angry. She's not nice, but no one would say she isn’t good.” Sounds like the authentic Jesus of the Gospels.
* * * *
Dr. Laura says that "being nice in the face of evil makes you a victim," and this is the same evil that keeps you in passivity. May this fact keep you awake tonight, because, despite our inclinations, such disquietude is good for us. I thank God for my nocturnal wrestling from a place of soul-trouble; that’s one of his ways of telling us there’s something truly wrong inside.
We should be thankful we don't serve a nice God, because such an entity would have no real power to help us. Annie Dillard writes regarding God’s true nature,
Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke?
The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It's madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. (Traveler's Unaware)