Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Fake Christians and the Gospel of Niceness

September 18th, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

Deacon Tim Sullivan is the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Wayne County and is also the co-author – along with Cyndi Kane –  of a weekly (or thereabouts) podcast.  The deacon’s subjects, while varied, are almost always topical and I have yet to regret having spent the 15 or so minutes it takes to listen to one of them.

Deacon Tim’s current podcast takes as its point of departure a CNN article on Almost Christian, a new book by Kendra Creasy Dean that argues that many parents and pastors are unwittingly passing on a  self-serving strain of Christianity.  The deacon goes on from there to show how the “Gospel of Niceness” fails not only on spiritual grounds, but on economic grounds as well.

Following is my transcription of some of Deacon Tim’s key points.

[The researchers concluded that] American teenagers are embracing what [they] call Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which is a mouthful, but then they translate it. It’s a watered-down faith that portrays God as a divine therapist whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.  So the whole idea is that these young people are growing up with Christian guidance that basically just gives them the message that they’re supposed to do good and feel good, you know. Period. And this isn’t working. So they become very indifferent, very passive about religion because it doesn’t challenge them in any way and so they just drift away. …

Here’s what I think is the key. … “Pastor’s often preach a safe message that can bring in the largest number of congregants.  The result: More people and yawning in the pews.” …

… just recently I’ve been in a number of situations and come across some different materials where clergy, pastors, ministers have basically said, “There are things I’m just dying to do, dying to say, but I’m afraid it would drive people away and, frankly, we need the money, you know, to pay the bills.” …

In the world of Christianity today there’s this Gospel of Niceness that is not creating any passion, it’s not leading people to make a commitment to Christ.  They’re just sort of drifting through a life of Christianity with no power, no vitality. And that seems to be a general characterization of what’s going on, not just with teenagers, but with adults as well. …

In the name of economics – getting the bills paid – so many Catholic priests … are softening the message, the core message, of Christianity.  And the reality is that it’s not good for business.  Places that are flourishing – and there are a lot of them in the Catholic Church – they don’t do that.  They are challenging their parishioners and where this is happening people are responding and the church is alive, it’s vibrant, they have more vocations, more new priests, they have more people going to Mass regularly. And so this strategy of appeasing the people to keep them in the doors and contributing to the collection plate, it isn’t working. …

I don’t know how to do it, but I feel compelled to help some of our clergy in the Catholic Church, anyway, appreciate the fact that, you know, this is a losing strategy, even from a financial standpoint.  This Gospel of Niceness, it doesn’t work from any perspective.

Listen to the entire podcast here.

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4 Responses to “Fake Christians and the Gospel of Niceness”

  1. Sfomo says:

    After Vatican II, we were told that we were no longer little children and that we should inform our consciences and make decisions for ourselves based on right consciences. Unfortunately, many did not learn how to do that and our priests gave up that responsibility. As a result, we need to go back to being treated like little children with firm guidance.

  2. Nerina says:

    This deacon “gets it.” Now he needs to go to almost every church in our diocese and say it!

  3. Mike says:


    Deacon Tim is not a product of the French Road Heresy Factory (it shows), but received his formation in the Diocese of Tulsa.

    He’s only been in DOR for about 2 1/2 years, so I expect he has a bit more to learn about all the reasons why the Gospel of Niceness has replaced authentic Catholic preaching in so many of DOR’s parishes.

    The Catholic Courier published an interesting story about him shortly after his arrival (see here).

  4. benanderson says:

    Thanks for posting this – I just listened to it this morning. They hit the nail on the head. I especially liked the contrast between a mission trip and the sharing of faith at starbucks. I felt challenged myself to be more open about my faith around coworkers and friends. It’s clear this good deacon is not from around here 🙂

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