Nice is no Substitute for Christ

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Bravo Ed Feser!:



The Mr. Rogers biopic, with Tom Hanks in the starring role, comes out this week and has been getting a lot of positive attention – in some cases, embarrassingly rapturous attention. This might seem surprising coming from Hollywood types and secular liberals, given that Rogers was a Presbyterian minister. But of course, Rogers’ adherence to Christian teaching has nothing to do with it. Commenting on the movie, Angelus magazine reports that “Hanks mentions that Rogers was indeed an ordained minister but seems to take comfort that Rogers ‘never mentioned God in his show.’” In the movie’s trailer, a man says to Mr. Rogers “You love broken people, like me,” to which Rogers replies “I don’t think you are broken” – never mind the doctrine of original sin.


So, why the adulation? The movie poster reminds us that “we could all use a little kindness.” The Daily Beast story linked to above tells us that Rogers was America’s “one true hero” and that “Hanks could very well be a living saint,” all because of their extraordinary… “niceness.” Indeed, “Tom Hanks playing Mr. Rogers may save us all,” because the movie reminds us that “the world we live in now still does have niceness in it.”

Niceness. Well, it has its place. But the Christ who angrily overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, who taught a moral code more austere than that of the Pharisees, and who threatened unrepentant sinners with the fiery furnace, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, was not exactly “nice.”

Now, my point is not to criticize Rogers himself, who I’m sure was a decent fellow, and who was, after all, simply hosting a children’s program. I don’t know anything about his personal theological opinions, and I don’t know whether the movie accurately represents them or even refers to them at all. The point is to comment on the idea that an inoffensive “niceness” is somehow the essence of the true Christian, or at least of any Christian worthy of the liberal’s respect. For it is an idea that even a great many churchmen seem to have bought into.

This is evident from the innumerable vapid sermons one hears about God’s love and acceptance and forgiveness, but never about divine judgment or the moral teachings to which modern people are most resistant – and which, precisely for that reason, they most need to hear expounded and defended. And it is evident in the tendency of modern Catholic bishops to emphasize dialogue and common ground rather than conversion, orthodoxy, and doctrinal precision, and to speak of the Church’s teachings on sexual morality, if at all, only half-apologetically, in vague and soft language, and in a manner hedged with endless qualifications.

Such “niceness” is in no way a part of Christian morality. It is a distortion of the virtues of meekness (which is simply moderation in anger – as opposed to too much or too little anger), and friendliness (which is a matter of exhibiting the right degree of affability necessary for decent social order – as opposed to too little affability or too much).

Go here to read the rest.  Modern popular conceptions of Christ are so at odds with the Christ of the Gospels, as almost to be a Bearded Spock Universe inversion of Christ.  However, it is the Christ of the Gospels who will ultimately judge us all, and not the Christ of Mr. Rogers:


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  1. Love this post.

    John Calvin, John Knox and Thomas Cartwright from the Reformation rebellion in the 1500s would be aghast to learn into what people like Mr. Rogers have turned the Presbyterian Church USA – a liberal morass of niceness: “Jesus is your buddy; it’s ok to murder babies and commit sodomy.”

    Nice comes from the Latin word nescius which means ignorant. Jesus was NOT nice! The moral code He preached (as Donald points out) was more austere than that of the Pharisees whom He called a brood of vipers (Matthew 12:34). With an unrelenting zeal for holiness He whipped the money changers out of the Temple (Matthew 21:12–17, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45–48 and John 2:13–16). Over and over and over again He warned His listeners about going to hell to burn for all eternity if they did not repent. Indeed, in Revelation 2:20-23 Jesus warned the Church at Thyatira that He would cast that idolator Jezebel on her sick bed and strike her children dead. Does that sound like a nice guy?

    Let’s go further. Ananias and Sapphira lied to St. Peter about how much they donated to the Church from selling their property, so the Holy Spirit struck them dead where they stood (Acts 5:1-11). St. Paul handed over to Satan Hymenaeus and Alexander that they might learn not to blaspheme (1st Timothy 1:18-20). And he also commanded the Church at Corinth to hand over to Stan for the destruction of his flesh a certain man who was sleeping with his father’s wife (1st Corinthians 5:1-5).

    It’s time to eradicate this effeminate emasculated niceness from the Church – to purify the Body of Christ from the heresy that Jesus was just a nice guys and to be Christians one must be nice. NEVER! Jesus Christ is Lord, Savior AND King – absolute Monarch of the Universe, and the Blessed Virgin Mary is His Queen Mother beneath whose heel the serpent’s head will be crushed (Genesis 3:15). Jesus is the Rider on the White Horse (Revelation 19:11).

    “12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. 13 He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. 15 From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

    Buckle up, folks. There’s no niceness in authentic, orthodox Christianity.

  2. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the “I don’t think you’re broken” line is based on truth, because outside of a theological discussion, that’s not what most folks are thinking about.
    They’re thinking “broken” as in “worthless, throw it away.”
    If they think of Original Sin at all, it’s as warped human nature.

    I’ve been harping on the “nice isn’t good, good isn’t nice” thing for ages, to the point I would classify “chaotic nice” as a variation of “chaotic neutral.”

    Somewhat related, our parish has a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that looked incredibly familiar, couldn’t figure it out…it’s the original for the Buddy Christ (“Catholicism, WOW!”) statue in Dogma.

  3. When I think of the Church of nice I’m reminded of those who suffered horrible deaths for the Faith…..then the idea of a “nice” church is no more. They died not in vain, but heroically. For they would not cave into temptations to blaspheme the faith nor would they speak niceties if a soul hung in the balance. They spoke directly and courageously. The Gestapo met with Fr. (Saint) Maximilian Kolbe to discourage him from the material he broadcasted from his meek radio station.
    Fr. Kolbe was warning the faithful of a diabolic regime that was staging to decimate Poland and beyond.
    His speech was controlled but not filtered. His comments reflected the truth in all conditions. In fact, he invited the SS to tour his facility and see the printing press that materialized the Immaculata magazine that reached millions of Poles.
    He would not water down the truth nor attempt to twist it.

    He was faithful to the end.
    Ground to ashes for the cause of Christ.

    Bishops and religious alike…..take note.
    Nice is not useful.
    Courage is required.

  4. That Fr. Van Horn is dishing out a baptism by fire. As you notice, many are slain in the spirit. This is what pastorial application looks like! Thanks E.S.

  5. Fred Rogers was a Pittsburgh institution. Lots of my present and former co-workers watched his show. I never watched a single show.

  6. The confusion that exist today in the catholic church disturb me.I rely on the religious education I received growing up with the teaching of Baltimore catechist.The 10 commandments never change.With that I know I have the true faith.Our children’s today learn poorly about their faith in CCD class.

  7. Depends on the class, depends on the teacher, both of which in turn depend upon the Pastor and the Bishop.

    But mostly it depends on Parents and Godparents taking their obligations seriously.

    And even that doesn’t guarantee they won’t exercise that tricksy free will and go off and squander their inheritance in a far country.

  8. Mr. Rogers niceness is the perfect expression of Vatican II Catholicism. All smiles, no bite. Being a Catholic can be very painful at times. And being nice—by not correcting someone—-can pave their way to hell. Thus being nice can be very nasty. My guess the devil is “nice”, always willing to please.

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