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My take: A word to Christians - Be nice
February 9th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

My take: A word to Christians - Be nice

Editor's note: John S. Dickerson is author of the book “The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors that Will Crash the American Church ... and How to Prepare” and senior pastor of Cornerstone in Prescott, Arizona. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter @JohnSDickerson

By John S. Dickerson, Special to CNN

Last week a high-profile American writer and news personality asked me a painful question: “Hey pastor, can a Christian tweet hate?”

It was not a hypothetical question. He was asking because some of his 1.3 million Twitter followers claim to be “Christian,” and some of the meanest, most perverse hate-tweets he receives come from these self-proclaimed Christians.

We’ve all seen folks, Christian and otherwise, lose their cool in a Facebook face-off or in the comment section under a controversial news story. But as I scrolled through the “Christian” hate tweets to this news personality, I was baffled and ashamed by these so-called followers of Christ. One user describes himself not merely as Christian but as “sharing God’s message of Grace with everyone I encounter.” The messenger of Grace recently tweeted that he doesn’t merely hate this news personality, he despises and loathes him.

These are the moments when it’s embarrassing to be a Christian. I’m not embarrassed to believe the extravagant claims of Christianity: that Christ was born to a virgin, died for our sins, physically rose from the grave and is returning to rule the world. But I am embarrassed to be associated with some of the people who claim his name.

I have written in the past about the bad reputation that Christians have in America. Some argue that it comes from misrepresentation by the media. Others argue that “all who live godly will suffer persecution,” and that’s why we Christians have a poor reputation. Maybe there’s some truth to those claims, but we Christians have to acknowledge another reason why we are perceived as hateful: because many of our number are.

More and more, I see hateful Christians chalking up their disrepute to “persecution.” God tells us otherwise. In 1 Peter 4 we’re told, “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed. …” And that’s the truth; sometimes we are insulted for proclaiming the good news of salvation in Christ. But listen to what follows: “If you suffer, however, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.”

The Apostle Peter is more or less saying: If you suffer for sharing the good news of Christ, great, you’re blessed. But if you suffer just because you’re being a criminal or acting like an idiot, then don’t blame it on Christ.

Some 2,000 years ago, Peter knew so-called Christians would be criminals and “meddlers.” He knew some would claim, “Wow, I’m really suffering for Jesus,” when they are really just suffering for being jerks.

The word “meddler” means busybody: someone who inserts himself into matters that are not his own. Might this include some people involved in the Twitter, Facebook and “comments” showdowns of our day?

So yes, “all who live godly will suffer persecution.” But let’s not be jerks, get persecuted and then blame it on Christ. American Christianity, with its past position of cultural superiority, gave birth to some self-righteous and condescending so-called Christians. These folks may be culturally Christian, but they know little of Christ and his actual message of humility and repentance. I am convinced that, if Jesus Christ were here walking among us, he would have nothing to do with those who claim his name and consistently spew hate.

Theologians and academics will argue about that last sentence. Isn’t Jesus “a friend of sinners?” Yes. Doesn’t Jesus’ grace wash away the sins of those who trust in him? Yes. Wouldn’t that include the sin of "hate tweet"? Yes.

In seminaries and churches, we tend to engage in obscure questions about theology. For example, “Is it possible for someone to truly trust Christ and spend their entire life tweeting hate?”

Maybe so. But Jesus didn’t engage in such esoteric abstractions. He taught simple truth with clarity, authority and practicality. On controversial issues—“Are hate tweeters true Christians?”—I find myself drawn to the simple words of Scripture. Theologians will argue and debate, but God’s word is simple and clear.

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.” (1 John 2:9,11)

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:9,10)

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

Jesus put it this way in Matthew 12:34-36: “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”

If we will give account for every careless word spoken, might we also give account for every careless comment typed or tweeted?

Christians aren’t the only ones hurling hateful blows on the Web. But we are the only ones who claim to follow the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. So let’s be nice.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John S. Dickerson.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (10,298 Responses)
  1. Brad

    I can only tell you what happened to me. I heard the gospel and realized that life is not about me (us), it is about God. I accepted the gospel and willingly submitted my life to Christ. He has blessed my life abundantly with love, joy and peace. Why would I not want this life? He is indeed the truth, the life and the way.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Answer

      That god is Zeus I presume. Glad that we agree.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      ...nothing like haughty Christian braggadocio.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  2. snowboarder

    at the very best, jesus was a decent philosopher who's life was grossly embellished by his followers after his death.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  3. Santi Clause

    So, these "hate" Christians just focused on the contradictory Biblical quotes that you don't like.

    I have seen the face of God – Genesis 32:30

    Nobody has seen the face of God – John 1:18

    There are verses to the effect that if you love Jesus, but don't hate your family, you are not his follower. etc.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      I especially love those verses where the wife is the husband's chattel and she (they) must obey him.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • scranton

      @judge- The kennedy men loved that one to and live by it.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Brandon

      In Genesis 32:30, it was not literally God whom Jacob saw. Read the verses preceding verse 30 and you'll see that he had an encounter with an angel.

      In the other verse, Jesus was hot talking about literal hatred for one's family, but prioritization of the relationship with God above all else.

      It's important to take Biblical verses in context. Had you taken these two verses in context, you would have recognized that both are examples of literary flair or hyberbole to make a point...not literal truth.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Ralphie

      Context matters.

      February 10, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  4. trosefox

    An interesting read. I think something of importance here, though is that people have to be taught to be nice. People are taught to be mean. They can also be taught to be nice. And if their family of origin didn't teach them that, then maybe the church that they've joined should. Some churches teach hate to a degree. Also, I think some non-Christians expect to be able to run over Christians. And when Christians don't lay down and take the abuse, we're labelled as evil and mean. We haven't all figured out how to politely take a stand and lift up standards... That's something our great church should teach. As a matter of fact if the church were really teaching kindness, there'd be kinder Christians. Too often the church teaches to assimilate into the world or to light it on fire... There's no balanced ground.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  5. Mike

    George Carlin said it best when he suggested we add another commandment....keep thy religion to thy self!

    February 10, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  6. Love & Peace

    We should all try not to mistake goal setting (people falling down and picking themselves up and trying again to be better...religion of faith, hope, love) with hypocrisy.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Damocles

      You don't need a deity to strive to be a better person.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Towers3

      When I speak my hate for what I believe to be a culture of Agnostic, Satanists and Atheists I speak as an individual and not as a member of a religion. My hate is especially for the Satanists, not so much the other two ignorant groups... You have to see to believe, and once you've seen you will. It's sad, because obviously you haven't. The Satanists have, but chose the dark path instead.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Jeff Cox

      Damocles, you may not need it ... but if it brings someone to a higher demonstration of caring and love, then what's wrong with it?

      I don't care HOW someone gets to enlightenment ... as long as they do it!

      February 10, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Em

      @Damocles If following any religion makes somebody a kinder person, why does it matter to you? We all have our own ways of coping and bettering ourselves, and unless you truly have a vested interest in the well being of others, I suggest you leave these people the hell alone and stop belittling them on the CNN Belief Blog.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • snowboarder

      em, unfortunately it never comes down to just a personal belief. there are those in the religious community that work tirelessly to impose their chosen "morality" upon the remainder of the citizens through civil law.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Damocles

      @jeff and em

      From personal experience, I have seen the harm that replacing one crutch for another can bring. From the experiences I have had on here, from seeing posts from people who were unwilling to change on their own and turned to religion, it's turned them into some rather hateful people.

      @em

      You suggest? Are you suggesting you are going to do something if I don't? You, me, everyone on this board is holding their words up to public scrutiny. If I disagree, I'm going to say so, much like you were able to disagree with me.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • WIRENUT

      tower3 it doesn't matter if you hate as a individual or as a member of a group it is stil against Jesus' word.this mean you are no closer to god then those satinist . have fun is the firepit.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Damocles

      Those damn satinists with their unholy love of silky smooth fabrics!! Wool and itchy, sweaty, stinky wool alone shall be their only salvation! Repent oh ye lovers of comfort!

      February 10, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  7. jimmy

    I have always felt that people who disagreed with me were not good Christians. Anyone disagreeing with me has got to be stupid.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Answer

      I agree with you that you're stupid.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      So you have no issue being closed-minded. My good christian friends have no issue with my atheism and are very open to hearing other sides. My good christian friends don't judge anyone, are not bigots and respect others who are not doing harm to society and in turn their fellow man.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Sandra Hansen

      There is no such thing as someone who completely agrees with you or every single thing that you say, or I say, or anyone else says. Therefore, you are in a world of your own and no one is ever as good as you. Of course this statement may have been meant ironically, which would have made it funny, but we can only guess at that since it is impossible for us to know that without you telling us.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  8. Matthew 7:21,22

    The fact that MANY would be calling Jesus 'Lord' and claiming to be Christians although being 'workers of lawlessness' was written down 2000 years ago. The important thing is not whether WE know Jesus but rather whether HE knows us.

    "Not everyone saying to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day 'Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name and expel demons in your name and perform many powerful works in your name?' And yet then I will confess to them: 'I never knew you. Get away from me you workers of lawlessness.'

    February 10, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  9. blake

    More hatred and Christian bashing by the far left secular humanists at CNN.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Aww, don't worry. Jesus loves you even after your sanctimonious, self-righteous, hate-filled rants.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Jeff Cox

      Blaming CNN for pointing out the hypocrisy that many Christians demonstrate is like blaming a reporter for arson when they write a story about a burning building.

      I think the Bible quotes included in the commentary were perfect – they succinctly put the onus on people who love "mankind" while hating their fellow man. Don't use Christ's teachings as a justification for pointing out the faults of others – use them to keep your own house in order, while reaching out with love to those who struggle.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Alex

      Did you even read the article?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • nancheska

      You just proved the point of the article!

      February 10, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Hammerdown

      Shoot the messenger, ignore the message.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  10. Maria

    No Soul who follows the commandments and the path of Jesus, could never be embarrased. But when Satan takes over and we allow him to guide our path we should not only be embarrased but ashamed. The good news is that God's mercy has no boundaries and whomever repents with perfect contrition will be forgiven and will be received with open arms in the Kingdom of Heaven as they were promised when Jesus died on The Cross. Blessings, love and peace to all. Amen

    February 10, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Answer

      Looks like you forgot to mention the talking snake, satyrs and other beasts that you believe in. Please update your bs.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Your god created your satan, knowing full well the consequences. He also created hell, and both hell and satan are used to threaten you. It does not sound like your god loves you so much as he created you to be his slave or else. Your god, satan, heaven and hell....they are all constructs of ignorent men. Put down your book of myths and join us in reality.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • nancheska

      Maria, I think we can agree (believers and nonbelievers alike): the buck stops with us, as individuals. If we would be adult, and claim responsiblity for our actions and inactions, maybe the world would be a better place.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  11. illmatico

    What is the difference between Fox and CNN? Nothing. Both wack off to religion.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      ...did you climax?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • jimmy

      The right uses religion to promote faith while the left uses religion to tear it down. Pretty simple when you think about it. I believe the left is more afraid of religion than the right is of the left. To the left religion infringes on the belief in the government as the supreme being.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Flores de la Hoz

      I avoid Faux News but with CNN it is every week putting down and mocking Christian and Spiritual folks. This is hurtful to Christians and misleading to young people who are confused.

      Most healthy viable long term marriages I have observed in my life have religion -God at the Center. Children who are brought up within a loving religion handle the trials of life better than those who do not believe in the supra-natural role of prayer.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      + + + + +

      jimmy

      The right uses religion to promote HATE while the left uses religion to tear it down
      ....Fixed that for you.

      February 10, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Statistics show that believers get divorced more often than nonbelievers.

      February 10, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  12. Eric Danzey

    Take up your cross and follow after me means putting yourself down and away in order to do it... such a huge difference in being a disciple & follower of Jesus Christ and a "Christian." Tweeters, posters and opinionated Christian know-it-all's & haters are just as bad as the Pharisees & other judgmental sorts that drove Jesus crazy during his days on earth. Each of us must be very careful & work out our own salvation with fear & trembling, and if Jesus didn't judge, who are we to judge another's servant? (All ~ believers and non-believers alike, belong to God)

    February 10, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      I don't "belong to god'....there is no such thing.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Answer

      I like to see all christians carry a massive cross weighing a ton -everyday- for the rest of their life.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  13. Steve in Oconomowoc

    What is wrong with just "not knowing" and being at peace with "not knowing". Why is it human nature to "need to know"? No one has proof one way or another. All conversations just lead to arguments and hatred. Let's just all admit something that we know for sure to be true…..that "No one knows"!

    February 10, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  14. snowboarder

    i suppose if the christian community didn't focus so much of their attention on denying the rights of their fellow citizens, this article might hold a little more water.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Yes, those horrible Christians interfering with other people's rights! Like, well, their right to control their own property. I mean, really, if YOU don't like slavery – don't own one!!!

      February 10, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      Yes, those horrible Christians interfering with other people's rights! Like, well, their right to control their own property. I mean, really, if YOU don't like slavery – don't own one!!!

      If you dont like gay marriage DONT HAVE ONE,
      But dont tell me i cant..............H Y P O C R I T !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      February 10, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  15. guest

    I work at a reformed evangelical church and I had a member sit in my office when Obama was running for the first time and tell me he would never vote for a N.....r! I was dumb-founded.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Yes there are hateful, intolerant Christians. But there are also hateful, intolerant non-Christians, too. I hope you are not implying that Christians are more likely to be racist, because that's not true in my experience. Recall that it was Christians who brought about abolition and the civil rights movement (the REVEREND Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!). It wasn't atheists risking their lives creating the underground railroad and it wasn't atheists marching for civil rights.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • midwest rail

      Please cite your credible news source that shows credibly that no atheists marched for civil rights.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • snowboarder

      i was at a bar in northern MD when obama came onto the tv and someone stood up and shoulted "f him. he's a N!"

      they also proceeded to expound on his not being american because he father was african and his mother asian. of course, they had confused obama with tiger woods.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  16. Lisa

    Reblogged this on John and Lisa's Blue Skies Blog – Soaring with God and commented:
    I'm re-blogging this because I couldn't agree more. I've felt this way for a long time – and this author uses just the right words to make the case.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  17. lifeinpawprints

    Like Mahatma Gandhi said: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

    February 10, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Ghandi never met christ. He did not know him.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:26 am |
      • lifeinpawprints

        Neither did any of us. I never MET Hitler but that doesn't mean I can't have an opinion as to whether I like or dislike him. Gandhi formed a view on Christ based on historical teachings, just as we today form views on other historical figures based on what has been written about them.

        February 10, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      Richard Cranium

      Ghandi never met christ. He did not know him.

      And you have ?

      February 10, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  18. Ron

    Kait, I agree that there is a possibility that I am wrong. However, I try not to believe things simply because it is "what I am supposed to do or not to ask hard questions". I used to have serious doubts about the existence of God but have come to not simply believe, but be pretty well convinced of the existence of God and Jesus through study and personal experience. Way too much to go into here. Suffice it to say that there is only one truth. Somebody is mistaken! If I am able to do it right, then when I die, even if I was wrong, the world may have been a better place for my having been here. Again, only if I can actually do what I am taught and not be a hypocrite.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Nana9999

      This is so well said. I do believe that there is life eternal through Jesus Christ but even if there were not, if we all live as Jesus tells us to, the world will be a better place for it.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  19. Muhammed

    Off with their heads. Then post the video on the internet.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Kind of like Israeli tanks killing Palestinian teenagers?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Kind of like Israeli tanks killing Palestinian teenagers?

      You mean like Palestinians shooting rockets a Jewish school children ?

      February 10, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  20. Brandon

    Well said. Thanks for writing this

    February 10, 2013 at 9:19 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.