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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: Christianity • My Take

soundoff (10,298 Responses)
  1. R Wold

    What kind of fantasy world do you live in where Christians have a "bad reputation" in America?

    I recently read a study showing that Atheists are the least trusted minority in America, followed by Muslims.

    Christianity or Judaism are practically a requirement for political office.

    This is not "having a bad reputation", this is nearly cultural hegemony.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • SuZieCoyote

      Atheists are the most trustworthy people on the planet.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • I Am God.

      References? Proof? You got any or is this just ramblings of an individual who disagrees with the opinion piece?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      LOL – statistical obfuscation by "Christians". What will they think of next, the little scoundrels?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Hammerdown

      Give me an athiest any day of the week,
      and twice on Sundays.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  2. altroyan

    Please cut the BS. There are so many religions out there in the World which allow immoral acts against Christians. Before your a Christian you're born a HumanBeing, that is first. You know pain, and many rights from wrongs at birth. As a Christian, you learn about a great human who solidified the message. The phrase "if a man slaps you on one cheek, to to the other side and let him slap you again". Sorry, we have the right to survive and defend ours existence as HUMAN BEINGS. So why be forced to be nice and tolerate other religions in our country when we would be jailed, starved to death, exiled or killed in another country? Christianity did not leave its mark on the World from BSers who write columns like this....it left its mark by force just like Islam is doing to the World today. Islam in the eyes of a baby could be viewed a an Evil religion where it's main focus is achieving harmony through chaos and suffering. All in all, Islam is showing us what Christianity used to be. Now we are soft, wealthy with scripture and politics and complacent. If history has told and shown us one thing, some religions don't survive and or revert to suppression. You let another tell you what is and is not, and lose your rights as a HumanBeing you are on the road to existence doom. Don't let anyone tell you what your gut has already.....it's all BS.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Zhi Wei Wang

      Because you should know better than being a criminal in a criminal society, dirt-bag. BTW I'm atheist so I support what the pastor says.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • All Praise Altroyan

      Hail Altroyan

      You sir are a masterful speaker, you speak the truth of the power and superior nature of us. You bring us together and make us strong and let us see the light that all those other religions are not many enemies but one enemy; Muslims. We must not let this enemy pollute us, we the master religion must stay pure and keep this subhuman enemy away or make them pay. Perhaps you; Hail Altroyan all Hail Altroyan can come up with a Final Solution to this problem of the enemy.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Hammerdown

      You know pain, and many rights from wrongs at birth....

      Wrong.
      You are a clean blank slate.
      Everything is tought to you.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  3. Surthurfurd

    There are many people in all groups who thrive off of the notion of "we vs. they". This makes them feel important. It also explains why these people do not feel a need to uphold the values that they are seeking to impose on others.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  4. SuZieCoyote

    I praise the article for standing up to some of the nastiness, but the problem is not an occasional one, it is endemic to Christianity. The worst business dealings I have ever had have been with Christians. It is a lesson I've learned over and over. They cannot be trusted to behave honestly. These days, if I go into a business (such as an automotive garage) and see a morning prayer/hug session going on, I back up my car and drive the other way. They will overcharge me, do appallingly bad work, and send me out in an unsafe vehicle. I don't hate them, but I am frightened at their total lack of conscience. If you believe that no matter what you do, you will be forgiven and saved, there is no sense in being ethical. I read a couple of days ago about a so-called *pastor* who stiffed the waitress by writing on her check, "I give G*d 10%, why should I give you 18%?" Look it up. Only a truly nasty person would say such a thing to hard working who works below minimum wage because her employer assumes she gets tips. Then, when the employee outed the woman, the *Pastor* had her fired. *Pastor,* yeah, right. Just another Christian doing the Christian thing.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Elliot Carlin

      fortunately you don't stereotype groups of people. Lol

      February 10, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  5. illmatico

    Funny how most of the comments here revolve around gay marriage and religion. I think I know more people that are not religious and hate gays than ones who are religious. Example A: my godkids father and wife (atheist). He has a lesbian sister that has 3 kids with her "partner". He supports his sister 100% but when you ask him what he would do if his sons turned out gay he usually replies "I'll kill them". His atheist tenants while sitting at a BBQ once said "I don't mind gay people but why to they have to take over the marriage thing". The whole time my Christian self is just cracking up thinking "and they say we are bad". These are not Texans, these are liberal to the core Chicagoans. Most support gay issues because it's the cool thing to do, but once you serve a little liquor and you turn off the cameras – it's a whole different story.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      It's just the latest group targeted by Christian hate. Heck, we could refer back to the Spanish Inquisition to get the really sicko Christian stuff.

      And, how about those pedophile priests? :)

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

      Let me go ahead and clue you in on the shocking news that just because you are an atheist does not mean you are pro gay marriage or that you wouldn't be blind and stupid towards your kids.

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

      As for the pedo priest, I think many don't even believe in religion. I think they join the priesthood because they know they will be surrounded by a bunch of boys. Look at the MO of any pedo and you will see that they usually put themselves in a position where children are plentiful. This is another reason why letting gays serve in the Boys Scout is one of the worst ideas I have ever heard of.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • shipwreck73

      I call BS on your story.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Hammerdown

      There are 340 billion people living in America,
      and you pick out "ONE" person to make a bad point.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  6. a dose of reality

    Faith that could stand up to any form of reason is long gone. Our knowledge of the world from 2000 years ago to what we now know about the world has irrevocably changed the need for religion. We do not need God to explain things; and religion becomes obsolete as an explanation when it becomes optional or one among many different beliefs. We now see that the leap of faith is not just one leap; it is a leap repeatedly made, and a leap that becomes more difficult to take the more it is taken, reaching its pinnacle in blind allegiance and active denial and rejection of any other possibilities. At that point, the credibility of the faithful is entirely lost.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Elliot Carlin

      Good point, and perhaps the current assault on liberty and freedom here in America. After all, we apparently aren't endowed by our Creator with certain rights....not self evident anymore. Is that what you are saying? This should be some roller coaster of a ride culturally.

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

      elliot, no one can deny your rights but men and no one can defend your rights but men. so where do your rights really come from?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  7. David S

    CNN, could we ask you to allow multi-level replies on your belief blogs? This is a really great discussion and there are some wonderful commenters here that I would like to engage in back-and-forth discussion with. Your articles here, spur lively discussion among people that might not find each other on other types of forums. I often find my self enjoying the comments section here more than the articles.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  8. gary@trilbytropicals.com

    Typical CNN bash story to further the anti-Christian agenda being pursued by the Liberal Left wing atheists in the USA. Some Christians may not act very " Christian -Like " all of the time but they give more to their fellow man and tend to the needy more than any other group on this Planet. Certainly more than the "talk -only " Atheists.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      What a nice sanctimonious, self-righteous rant. Do you enjoy playing God? Isn't blasphemy a sin, along with judging others?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Damocles

      This is an article written by a *pastor*. How is it CNN bashing?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Scott f.

      It has been my personal experience that the more vocal someone is about being christian the more they treat people like dirt.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Thomas

      This is hardly liberal stuff. I would guide you to the Cornerstone church website. It says what it says. If you think it is "left" or "liberal," I think your theological compass may be off.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • I Am God.

      Crybaby. Can't deal with an opinion piece can you?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • gary@trilbytropicals.com

      Whom ever has hacked my account will be reported . I gave no permission to rant in my name.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • JB

      Except the article is not anti-religious at all. You read but you do not understand.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Hammerdown

      anti-Christian agenda being pursued by the Liberal Left wing

      Jesus was a liberal.
      You dont seem to like liberals much.
      You do the math.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  9. OC

    It's not complicated. God and Jesus want you to live a life of LOVE – love of all humans and love of all life. It's that simple.
    Please try and grasp this concept that really solves every issue and problem this country faces. The issue is not how much
    you love Jesus or how much you love him. See the larger picture.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Is that why so-called Christian groups mount huge campaigns of hate against gays and lesbians like they did with proposition 8 in California.

      We know who the real haters are. ;)

      February 10, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Cultosaurus Rex

      It's not complicated. God and Jesus want you to live a life of LOVE

      Conservatives dont like that.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  10. Lester

    This is hardly news. And nearly as bad are the folks who give comfort and support to such people, either actively or passively, when they engage in hate-filled behavior.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  11. David Swanson

    Atheist that I know are such after they have had experience with Christianity. Few Christinans are convets from Atheism.
    It's the lack of willingness to attempt to understand and know ones "enemy's" that causes problems. It's the assimption that one knows the character of another human being based on limited facts that begains the process of hypocracy and hatred.
    This separatiion caused by missunderstanding others stems from the belief that God is something separate from us and that we need religion to bring us back to that union with God. A freethinker attempts to understand as many view points as possible. It's extremely rare in any religious belief system for a follower to think as far outside the box as I guess that Jesus did. If in fact there was a Jesus.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • I Am God.

      I agree. I was an Atheist due to the experiences I had with the Christian church and after studying multiple other religions.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Answer

      Just ask the religious person why they struggle with their fears so often.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  12. JFT

    Now, author of this article, be nice without believing in Jesus – not because you have hopes of heaven or fear of hell, but simply because IT IS THE RIGHT AND ONLY THING TO DO.

    That's what's hard. When you can do that, then I'll listen to you, and not before, So long as your good behaviour is conditional on your belief in a person who probably never existed and on the words in a book written long after that unlikely person died, and which has been altered, expurgated and edited ever since to meet the agendas of various religious groups, your actions are worthless. Do it without the promise of that heavenly crown – then get back to me.

    As for the hate-filled "Christians" – there are a lot more of them than there are any other kind. Most exclusionary, mean, hate filled folks I've ever encountered. Who needs that? Do right because it is right, not because anyone said so, anyone promised you many mansions, anyone said God wants it that way. Only because it benefits your fellow man and the world.

    You'll be amazed how hard it is sometimes. But then, nothing good is ever easy.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Richard Sneed

      So you hate Christians, huh? The author made clear that there are nominal Christians ("so-called Christians") and true Christians. Unfortunately there are many, many more of the former than the latter. Nominal Christians are self-made. True Christians are God-made. I wish you could meet just one of the latter but I admit that we are very rare.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Doobie Wah

      Richard Sneed

      So you hate Christians, huh

      He never said that, YOU did.

      February 10, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  13. edweird69

    Why don't Christians pray in cemetaries? Didn't Jesus bring back many many dead people? He even brought his own self back to life. Yet my daddy lays dead after all these years. And not one Christian ever shows up at his grave site. Go figure!

    February 10, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Ex-Catholic Glo

      Boy, you sure are an idiot. Why should anyone who didn't know your father pray at his grave That's YOUR job, so stop whining.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • edweird69

      @Ex-Catholic – well, all those Christians who didn't know my father, sure were at his bedside praying. Their god didn't heal him then, guess there's no need to ask him to help him now. And, your name calling means nothing to me. It didn't phase me at all... you worthless, childish, bunghole. ahahhaha

      February 10, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  14. Josh

    JESUS:: Here is an Idea, Love them as I love you, nurture them as I have nurtured you...
    DUMB FOLLOWER: What if they are gay or worship other gods?
    JESUS: DID I FKN STUTTER?

    A scientist will read many books and feel the need to seek more answers, a religious person will barely read one book and claim to know them all.

    Im a proud Atheist, but it is good to see leadership in your community acknowledging the problem with the the fan club. Keep it up good sir.. Gods word was always meant to spread love, not spew hate.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  15. briantology

    CNN is RIFE with grammatical and contextual errors. The flipping front page, lead net article is missing words, commas, and periods? HIRE SOMEONE TO PUT A SECOND SET OF EYES ON YOUR ARTICLES CNN!

    What an awful site.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Doobie Wah

      Children are easily distracted.

      February 10, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Zeibodique

      Aww another in a series from the "I need a life" whiney keyboard warrior rant. "I hate CNN so much I read and comment on any article I can"

      February 10, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  16. Surthurfurd

    Sadly, there is a common pattern where people are members of a religion as if it is a club. They attend something and profess something so they feel like they belong. Yet they focus not on the ideals of the group; but, on the idea it is "us vs them".

    February 10, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      It's tribalism. Period. Like an overgrown pep rally for adults.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  17. GO_GOP

    I do not really care what CNN thinks of us. All I know is Christianity is the only true religion and the Bible is the word of our Lord in heaven. His son came to earth to die for our sins. He performed so many miracles like curing the leper, turning water to wine, walking on water. His words inspire us and I feel fortunate that after my death I will head straight to heaven. I feel sorry for atheists and people of other religions.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • I Am God.

      If your is the true religion how come it wasn't formed till the Roman Emperor declared himself and the Roman Empire a Christian stronghold?

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

      The problem is not Christianity. It is in those who claim to be members yet avoid following Jesus and his example of caring for others (especially those who are not privileged. Jesus did not preach that God will give wealth and power to the "worthy".

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

      Don't worry we feel sorry for you. Being handed down a rotten life of lies and fear. Poor you.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      And we feel sorry for those who continue to believe in a man made book of myths. Science continues to prove the bible wrong and yet you continue to cling to your crutch. Put down the book and join us in reality.

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

      God is Imaginary dot com (look there for truths)

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

      gop, you do realize that there is no compelling reason to believe anything that you have stated to be true.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • What's the Difference?

      Don't feel sorry for them, preach the word to them. Who are we that our gift is so great that we should boast in it? That's the reason it is given freely, right? I don't feel sorry for them, I love them, and would welcome them into my home, and eagerly share the word of Christ!

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

      You sure about that? Hypocrisy is a sin too ,pal...

      February 10, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Babbs

      God is not a political affiliation. Religion is just that it is not a relationship with GOD. I don't believe religion matters what is your relationship with GOD. Matter of fact if you are a follower of Christ you would be a Jew as he was a Jew.That Christian name tag came after his death and written mostly by Paul (Saul) who never was a disciple and fell out with those that were disciples and lived and learned from Jesus.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • JB

      You say that someone performed so many miracles . Please provide proof other than a book that anyone by the name of Jesus A)cured even one leper, B) turned water to wine, or C) walked on water. There are many fictional books that set events in modern time or history that never happened, do discount those as false but put your fictional book of moral lessons forward as 100% reality is folly at best.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Doobie Wah

      What's the Difference?

      Don't feel sorry for them, preach the word to them.

      No, dont PREACH, keep it to yourself, the rest of us dont want to hear your garbage.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  18. warning!

    Matthew 7:23 Just because the use His name, it doesn't mean they know Him.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  19. daichi

    I totally agree with this artical, I am a Muslim and even within my faith we have some people who act anything but holy, I believe that within every faith there are a few like that, claim to be but fail to follow, just like some of my christian friends who only attend church on special advents such as christmas. It truely is ashame that we all can't get a long whither you believe in God or not.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      News Flash! There are more than just a few. ;)

      February 10, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  20. Maria

    ps. And we must not forget that we will be judged INDIVIDUALLY by ONE GOD. Only our own actions will be the ones in front of us when we see His face. This world will end with all its empty promises and temporary "gifts" and pleasures, but His justice will be based on TRUE only. We can not hide from HIM as we hide from each other. He sees inside our hearts and know if what our mouths preach is really what our heart feels. No fooling Him at the hour of death. So, maybe we need to repair our own roof, before we talk about the neighbor's. We are all sinners, to God there is no small or big sin, all stains even the tiny ones, must be "removed" if we want to live with Him in Eternity. And without out that there is only one other option, Hell. May the Holy Spirit shower our souls with His Gifts, and may our lives be lived as Christians not "preached" as a Christian. He did not "claim" to do and be, He WAS and IS. <3

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

      Sure right.

      Your bs is showing – again.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Realist

      God is Imaginary dot com (visit that site for truths)

      February 10, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Realist

      ..... www dot GOD IS IMAGINARY dot com ..... (visit that site for truths) .....

      February 10, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Doobie Wah

      Maria

      ps. And we must not forget that we will be judged INDIVIDUALLY by ONE GOD

      Good, i will take Zeus.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.