Thomas Merton recounts in Seven Storey Mountain how one of his English private school teachers once said that being a Christian is the same as being a Gentleman.
Manners are good, but, as the recent discussion of pro-life “rhetoric” shows, many Christians are mistaking civility for virtue. Part of this is the “What Would Jesus Do?” mentality, the 19th Century innovation according to which Jesus was somehow a “nice guy.”
Let’s look at what the Gospel of Luke has to say on the subject (Douay-Rheims).
34 And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child
is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign
which shall be contradicted; 35 And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out
of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.
[John the Baptist] said therefore to the multitudes that went forth to
be baptized by him: Ye offspring of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the
wrath to come? (Luke
John the Baptist wasn’t afraid of condemning political figures for their sins–even the private ones:
But Herod the tetrarch, when he was reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done; 20 He added this also above all, and shut up John in prison. (Luke 3:19-20).
Jesus is willing to offend the people:
24 And he said: Amen I say to you, that no prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 In truth I say to you, there were many widows in the days of Elias in Israel, when heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there was a great famine throughout all the earth.
26 And to none of them was Elias sent, but to Sarepta of Sidon, to a widow woman. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet: and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian. 28 And all they in the synagogue, hearing these things, were filled with anger. (Luke 4:24-28).
And some of the Pharisees said to them: Why do you that which is not lawful on the sabbath days? (Luke 6:2)
13 Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida. For if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the mighty works that have been wrought in you, they would have done penance long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgement, than for you. 15 And thou, Capharnaum, which art exalted unto heaven, thou shalt be thrust down to hell. 16 He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me. (Luke 10:13-16).
29 And the multitudes running together, he began to say: This generation is a wicked generation: it asketh a sign, and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. 30 For as Jonas was a sign to the Ninivites; so shall the Son of man also be to this generation.
31 The queen of the south shall rise in the judgment with the men of this generation, and shall condemn them: because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold more than Solomon here. 32 The men of Ninive shall rise in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas; and behold more than Jonas here. (Luke 11:29-32).
25 And there went great multitudes with him. And turning, he said to them: 26 “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27).
Jesus openly criticizes people, using language that might be considered “uncivil” or “mean”:
24 But woe to you that are rich: for you have your consolation.
25 Woe to you that are filled: for you shall hunger. Woe to you that now laugh: for you shall mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when men shall bless you: for according to these things did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:24-26)
37 And as he was speaking, a certain Pharisee prayed him, that he would dine with him. And he going in, sat down to eat. 38 And the Pharisee began to say, thinking within himself, why he was not washed before dinner.
39 And the Lord said to him: Now you Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but your inside is full of rapine and iniquity. 40 Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without, make also that which is within? 41 But yet that which remaineth, give alms; and behold, all things are clean unto you.
42 But woe to you, Pharisees, because you tithe mint and rue and every herb; and pass over judgment, and the charity of God. Now these things you ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 43 Woe to you, Pharisees, because you love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the marketplace. 44 Woe to you, because you are as sepulchres that appear not, and men that walk
over are not aware.
45 And one of the lawyers answering, saith to him: Master, in saying these things, thou reproachest us also. 46
But he said: Woe to you lawyers also, because you load men with burdens which they cannot bear, and you yourselves touch not the packs with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you who build the monuments of the prophets: and your fathers killed them. 48 Truly you bear witness that you consent to the doings of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and you build their sepulchres. 49 For this cause also the wisdom of God said: I will send to them prophets and apostles; and some of them they will kill and persecute. 50 That the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, 51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, who was slain between the alter and the temple: Yea I say to you, It shall be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers, for you have taken away the key of knowledge: you yourselves have not entered in, and those that were entering in, you have hindered. 53 And as he was saying these things to them, the Pharisees and the lawyers began violently to urge him, and to oppress his mouth about many things, 54 Lying in wait for him, and seeking to catch something from his mouth, that they might accuse him. (Luke 11:37-54).
Everyone knows the Parable of the Talents in Luke 19, but how many people know how the parable ends?
26 But I say to you, that to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: and from him that hath not, even that which he hath, shall be taken from him. 27 But as for those my enemies, who would not have me reign over them, bring them hither, and kill them before me. (Luke 19:26-27).
In the following sentence, this “nice,” “civil” Savior is speaking to His own Apostles:
And Jesus answering, said: O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring hither thy son. (Luke 9:41).
And the passage that liberal priests love to second-guess:
51 Think ye, that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, no; but separation. 52 For there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against his father, the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother, the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 54 And he said also to the multitudes: When you see a cloud rising from the west, presently you say: A shower is coming: and so it happeneth: 55 And when ye see the south wind blow, you say: There will be heat: and it cometh to pass.
56 You hypocrites, you know how to discern the face of the heaven and of the earth: but how is it that you do not discern this time? 57 And why even of yourselves, do you not judge that which is just? 58 And when thou goest with thy adversary to the prince, whilst thou art in the way, endeavour to be delivered from him: lest perhaps he draw thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the exacter, and the exacter cast thee into prison. 59 I say to thee, thou shalt not go out thence, until thou pay the very last mite. (Luke 12:51-59).