October 27, 2011

I Can "Out-Nice" You

As a pastor's spouse, one thing that we are all generally good at is being nice. Being nice smooths stormy seas and often opens the way to friendship. So what's wrong with that? Nothing, I'm all for us being nice to each other. The problem comes when its used one of two ways. The first way is to be passive-aggressive to cover anger to get our way. It's really being not nice in a "nice" way. The second way is more to my point. Being nice can also be used as a way to keep others at a distance and not really engage them. It just allows us to maintain the appearance of civility.

Did you see the TV news report about Claremont School of Theology on your local PBS station Tuesday night? Here's the link: ttp://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/education/july-dec11/religioused_10-25.html.

Frankly, I'm not sure if Claremont is still a UM school. Recently the school has come under heavy criticism for promoting itself as an interfaith school. In fact the report did not say the word "seminary," but did tout Claremont as part of the University of California system. And perhaps there is something to be said about pastors getting their theological formation with other persons of other faiths training to become religious professionals.

During the report Najeeba Syeed-Miller talked about the need for authentic inter-faith dialogue as opposed to just "out-nicing" each other. That is, we need to find ways to work on our world's serious problems together--including religious bigotry and intolerance. And I buy that, but being nice has another side. It lets people co-exist long enough to also find things they might like about each other. And if you like a person, it's much easier to work with them.

So what do you think? Would you rather have the appearance of civility or no civility at all? Would you rather have authentic relationships or merely superficial relationships? Sorry, but I'd really like to have both.


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