Reading Reflection:

Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean (Oxford, 2010)

I’ve reflected on a portion of this book before, but in light of my last article, I thought Dean’s commentary on “nice” would be fitting.


As a social lubricant, “nice” is a cheap and versatile adjective; it offers a nod without a commitment, in religion as in other spheres.  Edward, a Hispanic seventeen-year-old from California, described his church as a place that is “warm and welcoming and people are nice.  Little groups send get well cards and stuff”…Faith is not a boundary either to claim or repudiate.  As we have mentioned, American teenagers “tend to view religion as a Very Nice Thing”—meaning that religion may be beneficial, even pleasant, but it does not ask much of them or even concern them greatly, and as far as they can tell it wields very little influence in their lives. For all its incipient niceness, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’s superficial pleasantness pales beside Christian teaching on hospitality and compassion.  In the practice of hospitality, God sends me to strangers in the name of Jesus Christ, who calls me to recognize God’s image in them…The Bible has much to say about kindness and compassion but says nothing at all about being nice (p.33). Hopefully I didn’t chop that up too much for you to feel a piece of the punch that I did in reading it.  Sure, we want joy in the Lord, but we do not want a bunch of God-bless-plastic smiles.  We don’t want to put bubblegum on the message.  And I’m afraid that our younger generation is not taking us seriously because many proclaiming Christian’s do not take God’s Word seriously.  If you think the Bible is a “nice” book, try opening it up and reading it at work or on the metro.  The gospel can be terrifying or glorious to a listening unbeliever, but certainly not nice.  Nice is entirely too comfortable for the Christian life.