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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. jim

    Another day, another anti-conservative piece on CNN. Yawn. Only this time by a "Moby."

    February 10, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      So Jesus was anti-Conservative? Well, he was, come to think of it.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Yawn, another sanctimonious "Christian" with hateful words.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Tom

      Go back to your hand job....

      February 10, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      so reminding christians to act like christians is anti-conservative?

      February 10, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • BigMowma

      If you really are a believer, you should be able to do this:
      Mark 16:18

      They will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

      February 10, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • humanbean

      Amazing how you can lead a horse to water...

      February 10, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  2. Andrew

    What a revolting concept: GOD.
    If there is a God, I only wish it would kill itself so i could watch it die. Right after it explained to me the pointlessness of its existence.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Robby Robinson

      Wow, Andrew, you better know for sure that there isn't a GOD. I have been mocked for believing in the Magic Man who lives in the clouds. (The following text is Andrew MOCKING a believer, "you honestly believe that when you die, you go to...HEAVEN????????? Hah!!! What a weak pathetic soul you are!!!

      OK Andrew, so I am assuming your belief(s) (or lack of them) infer that there is NO GOD and when you die, it's simply flicking the switch and POOF, you cease to exist.
      You think I am WRONG about what lies before us in the afterlife? Andrew, in the end, if I am wrong and there is no GOD, and there is no heaven, well, if it's like you say it is (flicking a switch and you simply cease to exist) well I guess I will never know I was wrong.
      Nevertheless, WHAT IF YOU ARE WRONG?

      February 10, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  3. Surthurfurd

    Why do we demand of others what we do not even suggest for ourselves?

    February 10, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  4. Uncle Milty

    This is why I often thought the term Republican Christian was an oxymoron given the GOP position on health care, education, the environment, the justice system, and programs to help the poor.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      The GOP has a special Jesus who hates the poor and loves assault weapons. :(

      February 10, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Zwei Stein

      Amen!

      February 10, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Mike

      I think what you're missing is that Jesus was not involved in politics, which did exist in His day. He was all about movements of the people for these things, not the government. That is the main disconnect between Liberals and Conservatives in my opinion, we all want the same thing – just a different way of going about it. We can have good social programs in a private setting that will help people, or we can have them set up and run by a inefficient government that will inevitably fail.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Robby Robinson

      Christians who are Republicans (the Grand Ole' Party) is an OXYMORON. Seriously friend? Uhmmmm, Republicans are PRO-LIFE who do NOT believe in abortions, how is that an oxymoron?

      February 10, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  5. One one

    Christians could improve their reputations by keeping their beliefs and practices to themselves and out of our schools and laws.

    Also, preaching that people who don't believe as they do will be sent to hell to suffer forever is not helpful for community relations.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Onslow

      One one: I agree 100% and offer that the same can be said of all organized religions. Keep your conflicting, nonsense beliefs out of schools and government. The age of reason will eventually come upon us and we will be free of religious absurdities. It can't come too soon.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • thierence

      I have this feeling the between Christianity and Islam, that the fate of the earth is doomed.
      The two greatest religions. What a joke.
      I'm just glad I don't have to live long enought to witness the destruction of earth.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • m. doolan

      Gee I thought we were all already in hell.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • vortex1964

      Reading your post just saddens me because this nation was founded on the principles that GOD endowed his creation with inalienable rights. These were religious men of substance that fought an unjust government which would not allow them to worship God as they desired. Our laws are based on ancient religious laws which were codified and accepted by a religious society. I find it sad that your comments are base on emotion and not facts.

      Christians should never push their beliefs on people who refuse Christ as their Lord and Savior. We share Jesus, and it should be in love and mercy. We share his love and also the consequences of refusing Gods grace and mercy. It is done in love to save those who would otherwise end up under Gods Judgement.

      So, in Love I tell you that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord in the day of Judgment. Be reconciled to God.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  6. muslim2012

    February 10, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Answer

      Islam will fall by their own atheist numbers. The age of reason will destroy all your petty tribes.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  7. slim johnny

    Thank you, Pastor Dickerson

    February 10, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  8. ena

    I loved your point, "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." then you spoke of those who said that Jesus would associate with sinners. Sinners yes.... the pharisees no. He condemned them soundly for their behavior, their lack of humility, their lack of repentance. Sinners were easy they knew they needed forgiveness. The self-righteous not so much. Our danger as Christians is that slide into the world of self-righteousness. When we make rude, hateful comments and claim that we speak for the Lord, we are wrong. We speak out of the nastiness of our own hearts. When we speak truth in love, and call people back to God then we speak for the Lord. We need to learn the difference. Thanks for starting this conversation. You are engaged in the latter.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Mark

      How can ANYONE claim they speak for some mythical, magical being? Even if you KNEW this mythical being existed, how could you claim to speak for it? Weirdos.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • tom LI

      Ena – good post. I ask one Q. Exactly how do You, anyone learn the difference? People honestly believe they are speaking the truth out of love and no amount of discussion, or rebuke from the offended party can convince them otherwise.

      No one teaches these differences. There are no good means to get thru to a stubborn Believer that they are acting in a hateful manner, as they see themselves as "washed and cleansed" and therefore right, and in a position to comment on the lives of others.

      The entire concept of "shaking off the dust" and leaving alone people who reject the message is never payed attention to. In fact, the Xtian dogma is to gnaw on that bone till one party concedes defeat if at all.

      All nice ideas presented by this article – but hard to put into action when so many Xtians are closed off to any sort of criticism of their actions. They see any sort of resistance as an invitation to condemn and vilify, and use scripture as their support and weapon of choice.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:13 am |
      • ena

        Tom, sadly what you say is true. Me, I try not to make any comments that are nasty. I hear too many of them directed at me by the good christians to whom I am a minister,..... at me about me and at me about others. I try to assess is what I want to say coming from bruised pride or hurt feelings, is it because I personally disagree? and then I ask, is this what the Holy Spirit is asking me to say? It is hard to know the difference.... but if we don't learn to speak the truth in love (wanting the best for the other person and opening them up to grow in the grace of God....not condemning) then we should learn to keep our mouths shut. What is that saying that our mothers and grandmothers spouted..."if you can't say anything nice then don't say anything at all."
        There have been a lot of bloggers this week talking about humility. I believe that is a big part of the speaking truth in love.... arrogance is about condemning. But when I remember that I am a sinner saved by grace and that my calling is to be a beggar telling other beggars where bread is to be found, then my words and my actions are more in line with grace.
        For now, I am a work in progress, and I hope that I don't offend, and that when I do, I will have the grace to confess, and make amends.
        thanks for helping me clarify my thoughts.

        February 10, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  9. popseal

    There has never been a moment in Christian history when there wasn't some level of confusion about the person of Christ, manipulations about the work of Christ, sad mistakes by we Christian, and slanders leveled against us by His enemies. Know that THE WORLD HATED HIM BEFORE IT HATED US. In Him we are eternally delivered from the sad destiny we once shared with those spiritually dead lost souls that now surround us. Living in the nasty now and now is certainly more of a challege than rejoicing in the sweet by and by..........................

    February 10, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • edweird69

      You had to be "delivered"? Your loving god was going to inflict eternal punishment on you, but now you can be "delivered" from his threat...and get to spend eternity with this monster too? wow... there's a reason to be happy!

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

      and this is the brainwashed cultish kind of talk you can expect from people stupid enough to not think otherwise...

      February 10, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      'Know that THE WORLD HATED HIM BEFORE IT HATED US'

      That was a very sweeping statement.
      The world didnt care less.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  10. rla

    yep a lot of faux christians but still a lot better than muslums in general....Also these annomoyas people could be anyone of any thaought or persuasion trying to propoganda the christian faith.... Just remember not to believe anything that is on the internet nor twitter

    February 10, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      ...starting with this post

      February 10, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • ikenelson

      You seem to have missed the entire point of the article, and I doubt you know any muslims personally.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  11. muslim2012

    the bible numbers 23;19 contradict modern christianity.God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
    Surah Al-Ikhlas
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

    Say: He is Allah, the One! (1) Allah, the eternally Besought of all! (2) He begetteth not nor was begotten. (3) And there is none comparable unto Him. (4)

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

      Rather than attack, why not find common ground? Admit both religions have thier failures, but both can seek peace on this planet by letting go of thier rigid beleifs that seperate and embrace new thought that supports the unity of humanity. If it means tossing the bible and koran out, so be it. It is better we strive for peace and unity than fight over absurd details of out dated books that are largely useless to todays world and issues.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • snowboarder

      john wrote "If it means tossing the bible and koran out, so be it."

      that is the most naive statement i have read today.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It is an interesting statement. I sat with my partner in front of a sort of psychiatric review board that was to evaluate her therapy – how well it had work – in order to see if she was fit to return to clinical duties in the hospital where she worked. I learned from these people the concept of a "bad book". They ascribed many of the hurdles she had had to overcome to a self-help book a colleague had given her. They were focused on it to the point that they actually said it had injured her. How many people and how much of civilization has been harmed by the Bible and Qu'ran?

      BUT, how do we to toss them out? Our culture abhors censorship.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Correctlycenter

      Matthew 4:17 says about Jesus: " And a voice from heaven said, this is My beloved Son, in whom I AM well pleased."
      John 3:16 says: " For God so loved the world that He sent His only beloved Son, in so whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life."

      February 10, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  12. Sandra

    It's funny. I have been a stay at home married mom for the past 15 years. Going to church, serving people in the church and outside of the church. Going to bible study. Enjoying really kind and loving people. I recently decided to step back into the world of local arts. I was shocked at the behavior coming from many of the people. Pushy, demanding, prideful, easily offended, easily provoked. Sorry people. I see NONE of that in the church. None. Christians who love God want to obey Him. And his first two commandments are: Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself. Put others before you. I SEE that in the Christian world.

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

      I can see where the culture shock would set in, what with you seemingly going from home to church and back home again.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      LOL – I work in the public sector and my religious co-workers are the most arrogant and prideful in the office. And, dare I say racist and chauvinist?

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

      Sandra – it's difficult to see the meanness and hypocrisy when you're in the middle of it and cut-off from the rest of the world. Not to say that there aren't good people, and relatively good churches out there who actually FOLLOW Christ – but in my opinion and experience – they are a rarity – not commonplace.

      Now, I admit to being a bit biased as I am in the South, where churches are on almost every corner, and hucksters who call themselves "pastors" milk their congregations for every drop of money they can.

      Example: My daughter, when she was 20, decided she wanted to get baptized in the local Baptist church. After her baptism, she took a seat and the pastor, rather than preaching on the meaning of baptism and being a follower of Christ, told the congregation that they had "missed their baptism goal" that month and continued to tell that that they needed to bring more people into the church next month. It made my daughter feel pretty awful – being referred to as a statistic. She never returned, and has not been in a church since. That, unfortunately, is how I perceive the state of churches in the so-called "Bible Belt" – they have to bring in more and more people to bring in more and more cash so they can pay for the ridiculously large buildings they are erecting. It's all just business, and tax-free at that. Certainly not what Jesus intended IMHO.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  13. stve11

    I don't think I have ever seen a story in CNN calling on Muslims to be nice...That's why your ratings S,uc,k. Just go out of business already please.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      We have. Rather recently. Yet does it matter? If you call yourself a Christian and refuse to follow Jesus, it seems reasonable for a fellow Christian to question your motives.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • kladinvt

      So, should all the minority religions be singled out for a discussion about their imperfections first, then maybe we can talk about the dominant sect in parts of the U.S., evangelical protestantism? The same sect that feels it necessary to legislate their beliefs, in a vain attempt to create a theocracy?! You mean those poor, poor victims??

      February 10, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Cultosaurus Rex

      If you stop posting, it will force CNN into bankruptcy.
      Try it.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  14. John

    Christains need to start embracing a wider belief system. One that includes all of humanity and embraces other religious paths as valid as thier own. Without that they violate the main teaching of Jesus "Do unto others as you want then to do unto you" The only way this planet will know peace, and the only way you can personally know peace, is to understand that unity of humanity and embrace it in all its forms.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      But then the tribal pep rallies won't be any fun without another team to hate.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  15. Jorge

    I for one do not believe that some folks behave like undesireable antisocial vermin because they are Christian, but the other way around. From my experience with many so-called "Christians", God probably draws then to Him for the sake of the rest of us, because if He did not and they were left to to themselves, they would injure us and tax our patience so, that we would end up incarcerating or executing them.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Excellent post!

      February 10, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  16. MennoKnight

    The people who this author is writing about would have been the Zealot in Jesus' day.

    These were the people that Jesus battled the most with.

    These are the people who are the most against having "messy" sinners in the church when in fact it turns out that they are the hardest people to deal with.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  17. chuckly

    the saddest part of all of this is that Christians even have to be told to 'be nice'

    February 10, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      The saddest part, is we all need to be told to be nice.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  18. NJ Sense

    How do you call yourself an objective news agency when you post a giant anti Christian graphic on you homepage? Writing about a controversial topic is fine, but putting a giant graphic like that is unacceptable and smacks of the leftist agenda.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      How are you going to get into heaven by making self-righteous, judgmental hate-filled rants towards CNN? ;)

      February 10, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      I see that you missed the point that this was a pro-Christian article.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Poltergeist

      Yeah that graphic is about as silly as the message.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No. It's pretty much what I imagine when I read posts by some of the nitwits here.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • NJSense

      Surthurfurd – Read what I wrote. I'm talking about the graphic. Imagine they had a graphic of Mohamed in the same derogatory context. A news agency should avoid the negative message implied by this imagery.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Cultosaurus Rex

      smacks of the leftist agenda.

      Translation – Christian Paranoia.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  19. Poltergeist

    There are 2 billion Christians. There will be bad people among them with numbers that big. Not to mention the internets penchant for turning anyone regardless of color, creed, and faith into anonymous jerks.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      Absolutely true. Just like there will be some who falsely believe they are following Islam imposing their will on others.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  20. Realist

    .......... .......... www dot GOD IS IMAGINARY dot com ..... and thank goodness because he is from the ..... www dot EVIL BIBLE dot com .......... ..........

    February 10, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      http://www.ironchariots.org/

      February 10, 2013 at 9:53 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.