Michael Spencer writes against a phenomenon I once called "the cult of the nice"; the peculiarly Huxlian/postmodern Christian culture too many of us live in where displaying anything less than "happiness" is verboten. Spencer sums up the problem thusly:
"[Contemporary Christians are] merely human, but their church says they must be more than human to be good Christians. They cannot speak of or even acknowledge their troubled lives. Their marriages are wounded. Their children are hurting. They are filled with fear and the sins of the flesh. They are depressed and addicted, yet they can only approach the church with the lie that all is well, and if it becomes apparent that all is not well, they avoid the church."
Or, what is even more disturbing, we turn church into a place of empty emotions, slick facades, and plastic relationships to dumb the pain. If only we'd simply avoid the church instead of corrupting it!
"The little crumbs of love I have tasted have fallen from the table of Orthodoxy. I may be depressed, but I'm not stupid. I'm staying put. If I starve to death, I might as well starve to death surrounded by beauty and peace."
People don't understand Orthodoxy, in part, because of what the cult of the nice does to one's perception of an authentic Christian life. In this post, Grace notes that contemporary Christians "are uncomfortable with us Orthodox sometimes because we don't smile more and, I don't know, cheer up. I get uncomfortable with them because they do. There's something a little brittle, a little shiny about all that. It's good stuff in small quantities, but it's sugar-water -- all zip and no substance. No wonder their hearts are hurting."
If there is one thing that needs to be said here it is this: A Christianity without a proper and vibrant asceticism, a way of life that promotes and encourages us to be open about our battle against the passions and our need for constant repentance, isn't Christianity at all. It is pop psychology and false spiritualism masquerading as the Gospel.
The cult of the nice is the shameful joy of a mock resurrection which was never preceded by dying to oneself to being with. Sugar water, indeed.