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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. Surthurfurd

    Far too many people look in the mirror and decide that is perfection and deviation from that is wrong.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  2. RonFromNM

    Thanks, pastor. These are the "Christians" I've encountered who go through life waving their "get into heaven free" card while acting in the most abominable fashion. One doesn't need religion to act properly, one only needs the golden rule... do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • wo

      Right on. I do not ever again need a blue-eyed long blond haired fairy in the sky as my god. I learn my own god is much better and not from those spewing from the pulpit.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  3. Barb

    Truth be told... Atheists have nothing on Christians in the killing department (Inquisition, anyone?) I wouldn't go there.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • Wes Scott

      Which Inquisition? German? Spanish? French? They also brought us the Crusades. In fact, more people have been slaughtered in the name of christianity than from all other causes combined. Killing and hating are what christians do best.

      To quote Abbie Hoffman (1968), "Yes, folks, send what you can, be it your nickles, dimes or dollars, to Kill a Commie for Christ."

      February 10, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  4. merlinfire

    If Christians do not kowtow to the desires of others, and hold to their beliefs that they have held for two millennia, then apparently they are embarrassing.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      And if non-believers don't kowtow to Christians – they pitch a fit and call them Democrats.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • BEMHEB

      and with that comment, you just proved his point

      February 10, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Wes Scott

      Well, most christians SHOULD be embarrassed by their words and deeds. If one is going to claim to believe in Jesus and what he taught, then it would be helpful to actually live like those beliefs are real to them.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  5. 21k

    ah, "jaa-sus!". the god that created the entire universe and everyone in it, yet decided that hitler's free will to murder millions was more important than the free will of his victims to live. what a great deity to believe in.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • catfishgrazis14

      amen !!

      February 10, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • One one

      And many of his victims prayed for help, but those prayers were not answered because god did not want to interfere with Hitler's free will. So, what is the point of prayer ?

      February 10, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Craig Chilton

      TO One one -

      YOU wrote -

      "And many of his victims prayed for help, but those prayers were not answered because God did not want to interfere with Hitler's free will. So, what is the point of prayer?"

      Mitt Romney’s free will had him on a steady upward slope to victory, two weeks before the 11-6-12 election. Then God created and steered Superstorm Sandy in a manner that derailed and doomed his chances. Thus, for the sake of the nation, God did a really GOOD job of interfering with Romney’s free will!

      Countless numbers of people were praying for Romney to be defeated. So was this specifically a granting of their prayers, or would god have done the USA that huge favor anyway? Only HE knows the answer to that. And in the end,
      the final decision is always God's. Free will has parameters that that HE controls, usually more covertly.

      April 12, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  6. Alan Farkas

    All good points Pastor. The problem is we have to start differentiating between "Christians", and the true "followers of Jesus". There are so few true followers of Christ in this country, who are walking the walk, and operating in the Spirit of God. The true gospel of Jesus Christ is not preached any more, and that being the case, there so few true Christians walking that out in their daily lives.Every one out there who says Christians are giving Christianity a bad name are right, the sad fact is they have not come across a true Christian, because when they do, in a world that is so dark, the true one's shine. Remember Jesus said,not every one who says to me, Lord Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that does the will of my Father which is in Heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord,have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them,I never knew you, depart from me,you that work iniquity.

    People who profess to be Christians better check their salvation, because if you had a emotional experience at a powerless alter call, and your life hasn't changed, you are lying to your self. If you believe, once saved always saved, you better go back and look at how many times Jesus used the word IF, and in what context.Today's wolfs, dressed as sheep, behind the pulpit, are going to pay a enormous price for their treason against the Most High God.

    If you call yourself a christian, start acting like one, other wise you bring shame to Jesus, and make the gospell inafective.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • camo

      Another nice sonuding preacher like the slow leaky faucet, like pat robertson, etc.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  7. Todd

    Religion is finally dying and, like any living thing, it is going out kicking and screaming. RIP Christianity.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • catfishgrazis14

      Instead, hopefully, RIP all religlion. Christianity and islam being two of the worst.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Mat

      You must be having your blinkers on.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
  8. Richard Mark

    Isn't it interesting that Stephan was stoned for his "being nice" approach. And all of the disciples who followed Christ were brutally murdered for "being nice." And to think of it: Jesus was crucified for "being nice." I think John Dickerson, who is quite young and inexperienced in "suffering" doesn't really get it. "Being Nice" isn't the issue here. "Speaking the truth in love" is the answer. We desperately need men and women of courage these days who will stand for God's truth regardless of the outcome. God help this generation.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • lloyd roberts

      So are you saying that Christ's answer to those who are not nice is to not be nice. I don't think you got it. Try again

      February 10, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Wes Scott

      I seem to recall something about turning the other cheek. I do not recall anything about hate speech, murdering people in the name of god, or any of the other totalitarian stuff that so many who call themselves christians do on a regular basis.

      Try leading by example and perhaps people will want to follow. You can use this experiment I learned in Boy Scouts. Stretch out a piece of rope on the floor. Pick up one end, and then try to push it. When it does not go where you want it to go, then turn around and pull it. People are like that rope – it is hard to push them, but much easier to lead them. If you lead them by hate speech and violence, then don't be surprised when they turn hate speech and violence against you.

      End of lesson!

      February 10, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Going In Circles

      Jesus wasnt crucified for being nice,
      he was crucified because he was a threat to the Jewish edlers
      and to the Roman empire.
      Cant have this Jesus whipping the masses into a frenzy.
      Lets make an example of him.

      I hand you the historical view, not the religious view.
      Take it or leave it.

      February 10, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  9. VVVVV

    Even when you got a Liberal as the main headlinge in the news killing cops in Cali, CNN runs stories bashing conservatives. I'm an atheist and right now Christians being mean isn't what is on my mind.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • betty

      You want news, go to the CNN homepage, not the religious section. What kind of stuff to you think you will find under a section labeled 'Belief"?

      February 10, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      ...hmm, something smells like a tea bag.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • t3chsupport

      Sooo... why did you come to the religion blog?

      February 10, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Wes Scott

      On what basis have you determined that the cop killer, himself a former cop, is a liberal? Most cops I have EVER known are very conservative and vote straight RepubliKKKlan tickets. You are proving the author's point. Thank you for making that so perfectly clear.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Going In Circles

      Whats a headlinge ?

      February 10, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  10. johnk

    I believe in God, but do not believe in ANY ORGANIZED RELIGION! I find all of these groups hypocritical and distorted. As to human, we are all imperfect and do and say cruel things. I am a realist, accepting the fact you have to watch out for yourself from your fellow man and woman. They are not out to get you but will take advantage of you most of the time, not all of the time. As the saying goes, its business, don't take it personal. The social media has created problems with its interactions to others. One to one personal contact is slowly going to a forgotten custom. Just go to any restaurant and watch the young people sit down and interact with their phones instead of talking to one another.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  11. kamanakapu

    No one has a right to lie or be a part of any lie. What, than, is a lie? A lie is an assertion that is onviously false on its face for it cannot be proven, produced or replicated. Every single person has the duty to refute or rebut a lie for all lies have, as their ultimate targets and victims an innocent person, place or thing.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      Who gets to decide what is a lie?

      February 10, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Eric

      And it's up to weak humans to discern what they say are "lies." I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I am more than tired of the lies said against the church. I do my best to be tolerant of others religious beliefs, ones that you could say are "lies." Setting a good example for others to follow is the best policy rather than spewing intolerance and hate.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  12. HarryHoudini

    It would seem that expressing faith in the savior is for more important to some Christians than actually trying follow the savior's examples.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  13. Tony Montana

    Another attack on Christians by CNN. Why doesn't CNN attack other religious groups.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • HarryHoudini

      Didn't you read the article? Attacking other faiths is the job of angry Christians.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      You missed a similar article earlier by a Muslim

      February 10, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Jack

      As a former churchgoer, not all deserve the ridicule, but they are more than enough to be ridiculed in my opinion.

      I won't pass judgement, I have enough to work about my own actions to last a half dozen of my lifetimes

      February 10, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  14. ben

    What? Everyone knows church people suck.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Eric

      I love you too, bro.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  15. Eric

    There are good Christians, and there are bad Christians. We oftentimes find ourselves living in a rude, hateful society. We who profess a belief in Christ need to reject that society and live a life of peace without spewing rudeness and hate back.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  16. Bill Richardson

    I am a born again believer. A Christian. I have taught God's word to groups of people although I am not a pastor. I personally think that there are "Christians" out there that do more to hurt the cause of Christ than many atheists. I want to say something to all that are reading these posts. The Word of God tells us that we, who are in the Body of Christ, are not to judge those that are outside of the Body of Christ. The Bible tells us that those individuals are to be judged by God. (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

    February 10, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      I fear that the goal of many people is tribal warfare. They accept membership in a group then blindly attack all those who are outside of that group.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • snowboarder

      yet the religious work tirelessly to impose their particular view of morality on the populace by codifying their beliefs into civil law and attempting to force religious indoctrination in public schools.

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

      so you believe the words of the men who wrote your bible?....You noticed that there are no words, not one, put there by any god, right?

      February 10, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • HarryHoudini

      This 'inside' and 'outside' (us versus them) characterization of people is part of what gives Christians a bad reputation.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Jack

      I feel your right! That is why I try to live the life God wants me to; others will follow if they want to. No need to preach!

      Live by the Golden Rule, it is a very simple rule. Know that I know that I fail more often than I success! But I keeping trying!

      February 10, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  17. Adam

    Out of the gate, the topic of the story reveals the bent of the news outlet. Notice that CNN did not ask a Pastor to write about all of the redemptive and gracious things that Christians are doing around the globe to love people, to end injustice, to serve the poor. Although these things represent the majority of Christian behavior, it would not sell newspapers, because people want controversy.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      So you are promoting controversy?

      February 10, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      one correction
      these things represent the majority of HUMAN behavior. You do not need religion to be kind or generaous.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Eric

      It's the media that promotes controversy and contention.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Answer

      Take a good look at those good christian work in Uganda. They have those children rightly bigoted and fast! By golly they'll have more haters than in America within the next 5 years as compared to the 230 years history of the US.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Joe

      You can do all of those helpful things without believing in stupidity. Seriously, if your dumb enough to believe the earth was created in 7 days: shoot yourself. As in, your too stupid to be left alive and I feel having you around will inadvertently put me or my kids in danger by having a some loose cannon retard believing in magic and fairytales.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • everything in Moderation

      Adam, if you want nothing but positive feedback and pats on the head for being good, don't ever turn to a newspaper for your information.

      Want to know a blatantly obvious secret about this article? It's written FOR Christians, not against them.

      This is an important article for Christians to read and consider. It's a directional message toward the positive. You don't have to read very deeply to understand that the author of the article has the best intentions for Christianity. Take the information in, sans defensiveness and work at being the best you can be to illustrate the benefits of your religion.

      Or paint this article as anti-Christian propaganda and utterly dismiss the opportunity to hear what's needed for you.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Chris

      Hmm. As a gay atheist, I will say that *most* of what I see from Christians is hate, hate hate. I think you are delusional.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  18. Mark

    "Annomoyas" must be some kind of tropical fruit, I guess?

    February 10, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  19. Surthurfurd

    What people claim are religious debates are more accurately tribal spats.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  20. Tony Montana

    Christians are the most persecuted religious group!

    February 10, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      Much of that persecution has been done by Christians in the name of being "right".

      February 10, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Clearly you have not grown up an atheist in America.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • snowboarder

      tony, thanks for the laugh.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Yes, Christians have been the biggest persecutors throughout history.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Tony Montana

      Thou shall not lie, cheat and steal isn't persecution.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Craig Chilton

      TO Tony Montana -

      CHRISTIANS are the most persecuted religious group in history?? Really?!?

      ALAS, how SOON we've forgotten the horrors of the Holocaust!!

      April 12, 2013 at 5:48 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.