NO MORE CHRISTIAN NICE GUY: When Being Nice --- Instead of Good --- Hurts Men, Women and Children
Bethany House Publishers
This is one of those books that makes reviewers like me spend an inordinate amount of time trying to condense the author's premise. It's not because the premise is so complicated; it's because of the myriad filters, grids, and perspectives through which readers approach lightning-rod topics like genderism. A tyrannical, controlling male pastor will read this book, and this review, through a grid similar to the one used by the wife of a tyrannical, controlling Christian man. They'll interpret Paul Coughlin's call for a return to the authentic, biblical Jesus as a role model for Christian men in an entirely different way than would, say, the wife of a passive Christian Nice Guy, the classic CNG.
No matter where you live, no matter where you worship --- no matter where you go, for heaven's sake --- you've met your share of CNGs, Christian Nice Guys who traded in the gospel of Jesus Christ for the gospel of playing it safe. As a former CNG, Coughlin recognizes the fear that keeps these men believing in only a meek and mild Jesus --- and believing this is the only view of Jesus they should emulate. Coughlin likens this bogus portrayal of Jesus to that of a "bearded woman" or a glowing pretty-boy who has just received a "to-die-for facial." But the Jesus of the Gospels, Coughlin writes, operates along the entire "tender-tough spectrum." A meek and mild wimp doesn't overturn the moneychangers' tables or use heavy doses of sarcasm --- even if it is the "blessed sarcasm" used by Jesus, which, Coughlin points out, He inherited from His own Father.
The son of an off-the-charts abusive woman, Coughlin learned early on to play it safe. You'd think a personal encounter with the Lion of Judah would have led him into a life of boldness and adventure, but no. The church intervened and taught him to be a docile CNG who never makes waves, never makes a scene (think of Jesus here!), and thus never makes a difference. A series of revelations caused Coughlin to re-examine the kind of man the church had fashioned him into. (My personal favorite was the time he failed to move quickly enough when a traffic light turned green, and he looked in the rearview mirror to discover that the horn-honking, red-faced, livid driver behind him was none other than his "perfect" pastor.)
A result of those revelations is a changed man who has started what he calls a Good Guy Rebellion --- a call for Christian men to trade in their niceness for genuine goodness, echoing C.S. Lewis's description of Aslan in THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE as a lion who is not safe but good. Good guys, he points out, may not be very popular in churches that want to keep them under their thumb, but the transformation from CNG to Good Guy will earn them the long-lost respect of their wives and children, and steer them into a life of authentic obedience to the powerful God they've wanted to serve all along.
My recommendation? Read this along with Dave Murrow's WHY MEN HATE GOING TO CHURCH. But read it only after you have resolved to approach it with an open mind and with a genuine desire to understand Coughlin's perspective. If you don't read the book in its entirety, you'll miss the big picture. And it's a picture no one in the church should miss, especially CNGs and their wives. Oh, and let's not forget all those CNGs who have left the church for the very reasons that made them CNGs in the first place.
--- Reviewed by Marcia Ford (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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