How many people know the etymology of the word nice? According to the Oxford English Dictionary it came into middle English originally meaning stupid from the Latin word nescius (meaning ignorant).
So in that sense, I hope and endeavor to be, not nice. Sometimes in order to tell the truth its hard to be nice and I mean nice in the modern sense of the word too. Some of the things Jesus did weren’t ‘nice’ in any sense of the word.
Whipping the money lenders out of the temple for one thing, okay it seems like banker bashing is nothing new, and is usually popular just so long as you aren’t a banker but the points of the episode (so important its in all four Gospels) are twofold. The money changers were there because you weren’t allowed to use Roman or Greek coinage in temple grounds to buy sacrifices, but that the money changers and people selling sacrificial offerings had turned the the outer court of the temple into a market with all the shouting and avarice that entails. The outer court of the Temple was supposed to be available to gentiles to pay homage to God.
The religious establishment had completely forgotten the point of their religion. Not only had they treated God’s house with contempt they’d done so at the expense of evangelism, at the expense of their belief they were the chosen race precisely in order to bring knowledge and worship of God to the wider world, to quote Mary, to enlighten the gentiles. So Jesus was making a very important point and its the only time he ever resorted to violence to do so.
But there is another more troubling episode, harder to understand is Mathew 15:21-28 where Jesus tells a Caananite woman she is a dog when she is only trying to get her demonised daughter exorcised. What is going on there??? Some people have a bit of a bogus read that Jesus was taught compassion by a Canaanite women. Surely if that were true then everything we believe about Jesus’ divinity would have to go out the window. So what is going on?
Well my reading of it is this, that Jesus is using this very public argument with his disciples to teach his disciples about his mission. The disciples want Jesus to grant the woman’s prayer just because they want rid of her, her persistence is annoying them. Jesus is saying to his disciples, “surely if my mission is only to the Jews then I should ignore her” (which is the subtext of their contempt for the woman and the underlying assumption of Jewish exclusivity the disciples still clung to.)
In the end he commends the woman for her great faith in him, ergo the gentiles are capable of great faith, ergo they should not be called dogs. And also Jesus’ mission is made clear to his disciples, it is not just to the Jews. This was a complex argument, and Jesus was using the woman’s persistence to teach his disciples, now I like to think that Jesus wasn’t saying what he said to the women cruelly but rhetorically, with an expressive Jewish finger wag aimed squarely at his disciples.
So anyway. Jesus and niceness, not necessarily the same thing. Sometimes I’m not nice either, I guess I hope that on this blog I do it for the purpose of expressing my belief in the truth of the insurmountable virtue of Catholic belief. Sometimes I’m sure I’m most irksome to protestants, and so I should be, of course it is most irksome to be told that protestantism is lacking if you are a protestant.
I don’t know when it happened during the reformation, but the idea has come about that it is fine for religious pluralism within Christianity. Different sects to cater to different needs and different types of people. This is not Catholic by definition and Catholics argue its not a christian sentiment, just an excuse for justifying division.
The Catholic view is that everyone should be Catholic for a great many reasons (primarily the Mass which Jesus commanded his disciples to do when gathered in his name), but not least of which is so all of Gods gifts given to Christians complement each other and act in union for the good of the spreading of the Gospel. God created one Church on Earth and gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter.
Jesus didn’t create a myriad of Church’s and give the keys of the kingdom to every bishop, never mind any free evangelical church pastor who got his theology out of a Christmas cracker. If you are protestant and this irks you, so be it, better you are annoyed than me being nice, and lying about my faith. I am not being mean, I’m being Catholic.
The Anglican church is famously infatuated with being nice, it wants to be nice at the expense of all else, so it allowed women priests, now it wants to be nice and give them a promotion to the episcopate. Eddie Izzard calls it cake or death theology and I’m inclined to agree with him.