I have some advice for Christians (if they want it): When someone says that “kindness” is important, don’t argue against them. You won’t win. You won’t look good. And you’ll just give people like me blog fodder.
This all stems from writer George Saunders‘ viral commencement address in which he said the following:
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded… sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?
Those who were kindest to you, I bet.
It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.
It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but c’mon, it’s a beautiful sentiment.
And hard to disagree with, right?
Unless you’re Christian.
Jen Pollock Michel writes at Christianity Today that Christians would be misguided if they followed Saunders’ advice:
To make kindness into an ultimate virtue is to insist that our most important moral obligations are those we owe are to our fellow human beings. Under Saunders’s assumptions, the only plane of human behavior with moral import is the horizontal one: neighbor to neighbor. Sin is exclusively defined as the harm we do to one another.
But Scriptures does not support this view. Instead, it describes sin primarily as offense against God.
She goes on to imply that what made Jesus great was not his kindness to those less fortunate, but his sacrifice to “God’s wrath.”
Which pretty much takes away one of the few things Jesus had going for him.
Michel’s final paragraph summarizes her awful advice:
We are better off, not with George Saunders’s advice, but with the wisdom of King Solomon, who, at the end of his life of study, concluded this about living life well: “Fear God and keep his commandments.” Honor your Creator first — and kindness to his creatures will follow.
Or you could cut out the non-existent middleman and be a damn decent human being because it just makes the world a better place.
That shouldn’t be asking too much.
Leave it to a Christian to parse and discredit kindness as a supreme virtue.