Friday, October 7, 2011

The Sin of being 'Nice'

My friend Jim Beyer has written a great response to a post by Bishop Victoria Matthews' of New Zealand
support of the Anglican Covenant.

In American parlance especially in the South the term 'nice' is what boys and girls are taught from first breath.  'Nice' becomes the be-all-and-end-all of all social engagement.  Nice is more important than truth, 'nice' is more important than kindliness.  It is more important than agreement, compassion,  meaningful exchange, or even love.  'Nice' is a plastic expression of pleasantry that usually masks integrity. 

In the South for a girl growing up in the 50's, nice was what girls were supposed to be.  But catty was what really evolved.  We could be 'sweet' to the adults but to one another, nasty was the real outcome.  I got out of the South as soon as I could to escape the 'niceities' of my surroundings.  I moved back last year and lo and behold I found a Texas that is not 'nice'.

I don't know if it has been all those Yankees who have moved down here or those pick'em up trucks or the Republican politics, but the 'nice' Texas of the '50's is no more.  A little ole lady is just as likely to get a one finger salute driving Ft. Worth streets as in NJ and the F word is as common on the streets of NY.  It has become just as crass as the rest of the world but somehow it has become a great deal more honest.

It is only when you get out into the smaller towns or the rural areas do you find people pulling over when a funeral cortege passes by or the old Southern 'drop by' still in effect.  There is still respect for those 'texasism'--terms that have deeply subversive yet funny meanings like:  "He's all hat and no cattle" or "she's as confused as a goat on AstroTurf".  But that phony 'nice' is giving way to a more genuine set of feelings and behavior that one can depend on as being real.

With regards to the Anglican Communion, perhaps what we will have as time moves on is a group of churches throughout the world who can speak honestly to one another, who can discuss important elements of the faith without fear of 'losing face', losing faith' or some other kind of loss.  The loss of 'nice' may actually help us clarify what we mean rather than using arcane theological terms that are not understood alike.  "If Christ be with us, who can be against" comes to mind.  It makes us a bit 'tougher' to face the discomfort of differing opinions or different aspects of what it means to be Anglican.  I makes us a bit bolder to address the hard issues of what it means to be a disciple of the One who calls us to peace, not just nice.


Jim said...

Well said. I think you have nailed the problem with nice. What we need is honest and committed to agree to disagree.

Not with this document cutting off all discussion. What we get is a set of positional papers followed by a Standing Committee directive.


Lionel Deimel said...

The Episcopal Church, since 2003, has been concentrating on nice, and, if we’re not careful, niceness will be the death of us. Let us hope that next year’s General Convention scraps nice, tells the Communion what it really believes, and rejects the Anglican Covenant.