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.
the author looks gay
...and I'll bet you're a "Christian" – and a tea party Republican too.
Behold the troll proving the author's point.
im gay too haha
ha ha ha ha
All the posters spewing pages of their religious beliefs and non-beliefs, need to ask yourselves this: If you do not believe in Christianity why are you reading an article about it?
Why are you against people reading anything?
We all post because we want to feel important. Some feel important defending a belief. Others feel important attacking a belief. Then there are those who feel important promoting an idea. The problem we end up having is: we hold others to a standard we refuse to hold ourselves to.
One easy answer is this: because Christianity has great influence on our society, and I care about our society.
I think that's the kind of constructive answer you're looking for.
I can tell one thing about yourself instantly CarrieO – you're feeling under attack. You're psychology feeling under threat that a pastor is admonishing the christian behaviors and you're on a defensive rant.
"Please leave my faith alone" – well tough cookies. Suck it up.
Get a clue: this isn't a Christian blog, dear. It's a belief blog. If you can't figure out the difference, maybe you should get a dictionary.
Be careful Mr. Dickerson .......... that you don't become embarrassed by some of Jesus' "tweets" !
Jesus to the respected religious rulers of His day:
John 8:44 "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires ....... "
Matthew 12:34 "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."
Look at you go. Punching a pastor with quotes from the bible. That's a neat trick.
Such kind words from a loving god. I'll pass on the mean guy in the sky.
You know...it shouldn't be shocking anyone that there are factions of hateful Christians out there. All groups have them. The KKK, the very definition of a terrorist organization, is Christian. What is more scary than the hate are those who blind themselves to it.
Embarrassing some time?? Your are all in a cult and your leader is an imaginary guy that forgives your sins. lolollolol #EMBARRASSING ALL THE TIME
Christianity is hate. They may preach love and forgiveness but that's not what they do.
Do you decry hate you see in Christians but not in yourself?
No I own my hate. That's the difference.
" Love one another. As I have loved you" - Jesus Christ.
Raised Catholic, went through a fundamentalist phase. It was the company of those "Christians" that turned me away from all things Christianity. I had one tell me, when I questioned the ra cist comment I heard from this person's "Christian" child - that they as Christians were forgiven because they were saved, and they weren't epected to be perfect. So it's a get-out-of-jail-free card if you "accept Jesus as your Lord and savior"? I think they missed something in the Bible.
Did you go back to figuratively hugging pedophile priests?
Lets see this author try an article like this about Islam. Its not going to happen. Christians=bad and Islam=civil right in the New America.
CNN has had several of those articles also. One recently "http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/09/my-take-what-would-mohammed-do-about-u-s-pastor-in-iran/"
to takemycountryback, grow up, idiot americans like you make me sick, remember you yanks are NOT superior in any way–most likely you drive a pick up truck are fat, have a slob for a wife and a pile of dirty brats.
Sorry – my figurative list of religions was meant to be much longer.
What would Jesus do ?
This was pro-Cristianity article, please read it.
That is because christians ARE bad. Just islam is bad too.
I am honored to be a Christian and associated with the many caring and loving people that are not represented in this article. I am sure Christ is not as ashamed as most of you are with us. Christians and non-Christians are imperfect and Jesus knows that. Opposition is sometimes being wrongfully characterized as hate. The Christian opposition to ideas contrary to God will continue no matter what you call it.
The problem is: most of us are casting stones while ignoring ... well you know.
Oh boy. The "my god is bigger than your god" mentality. The post is rife with glib haughtiness.
"Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged", Our God is infinite. What are you talking about?
I don't care what Christians "oppose" as long as they don't attempt to force others to observe their beliefs. You can oppose gay marriage all you want, and I won't mind a bit if you don't marry someone who's gay. You don't have the right to tell others not to do so.
"Ideas contrary to God" – as JUDGED by whom?
Surthurfurd, Is your statement rude?
Lisa, The person speaking is the one that discerns good and evil when they use their freedom of speech. Why do you want to get the government to stop me from expressing my opinion of my interpretation of the Bible? What exactly are you trying to say?
Interesting how everyone...Christian, Atheist, None, and whomeverwill...jumps on these comments and tries to out slander everyone else. Why can't everyone learn respect and kindness and quit acting like squabbling children on the playground? Come on, Kids, be nice!
Dr. Ed, Please be more tolerant of opposing ideas.
There seems to be as many intolerant anti-Christians here as there are intolerant Christians here. Picking a side and throwing snowballs is not worthy of our potential.
The poor, minorities, gays, and immigrants see Republicans and their conservative Christian allies as hostile to them. Is Jesus pleased with that? I think not.
Well shouldn't the Christians set the example, if you claim to follow Jesus' teachings of love? Love your enemy, right? That's what makes a Christian – not spouting hate against gays (which is a lot easier to do).
They SEE that because it's what's happening.
It took Constantine and over 300 years to stop persecution of Christians by Jews in the Christian part of the world at the time. Some say they 'believe in science' and use it as an excuse not to believe in god.
Science is simply HOW god made the universe.
"Science is simply HOW god made the universe."
the vast majority of scientists would disagree with you
but, whatever; who cares about the truth anyway?
You'll go tell everyone that it is your god. And that's the funny part. XD
Science is how the universe is made. It has nothing to do with god.
Things you know (justified true beliefs) can be formally defined:
– It is true
-you believe it
-you are justified in believing it
Satisfy these three thing and you are good to go. How did God get into the category of things you know? Science at least has an organized plan for coming up with things we can know.
And after those 300 years, once they were on top, how long did it take for the Christians to stop persecuting the Jews, of whom their alleged savior was a member? The truth is, they have yet to stop. Christians blamed the Jews for the Black Plague, slaughtered them wholesale during the Inquisition periods, and even now make claims that the Jews are responsible for the death of Christ. The ones who actually killed Jesus were the Romans, the same people who first weaponized Christianity and then used it to blanket the known world with a pall of ignorance.
Christianity has spent the last few centuries admitting it was wrong about various scientific and social-political concepts. We'll have flying cars and lightspeed travel by the time anyone admits that you were wrong.
I thank John for a thoughtful article-he articulates many ideas I've been thinking for years, and includes some beautiful quotes from the bible that I haven't heard before. He is a person I would love to talk with about spirituality, regardless of labels about what faith a person is. The moment you label someone or call them a name, you have made it clear you are not interested in actually connecting, having a dialogue, or learning anything. If you listen, hear and respond with an open heart, you will find that most people have similar values, regardless of what church they do or do not go to. I am in an earth-based spirituality education program, and people in my class have backgrounds including Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism (probably others as well). The things we all agree on are: that we are here to heal ourselves, others, and the earth, that we are here to be of service to the greater good, that it is essential to pursue self-awareness, integrity, and that it is essential to cultivate spiritual power, love and compassion. We also call ourselves Druids, but if I had said that first, many readers would have disconnected due to the stereotypes in their mind...the effects of centuries of the Church demonizing earth-based spirituality. Please open your mind and your hearts, and stop instantly judging. There are beautiful people of many different beliefs, both Christian and non-Christian (and atheists!), that are working to make the world a better place. And they are all "lightworkers"- united in their core beliefs to place love above fear and to be of service. This reality is beyond names and labels. I hope to meet you there.
I'm not an atheist. I'm a Pagan. I do not worship nature; I admire it. I do not believe any revelation-based dogma. I do not believe ANY mortal man/woman knows more or less about our Creator than any other mortal. I believe we are all born with the knowledge of what it takes to live a decent life. Some, because of differences of the individual brain's workings, are better able to live the decent life. The closest explanation you'll find is under Deism (although it doesn't describe me perfectly.)
Faith-based religions rely on the fact that you will ignore what your mind tells you CAN'T BE. Best of luck to you all in being the human you were intended! Respect and admire all that our Creator has created.
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"K.C.s Sunshiney Disco Apocalypse
Actually, I don't want to know any more. It creeps me out that there are people like him walking the streets. At least as a felon he cannot own a gun."
You don't get "crime and punishment", do you?? After somebody pays the fine and does the time they should be free and fully restored. Got a demon livin' in your temple?? BBBBBwwwwwahahahaha
March 17, 2013 at 5:52 am | Report abuse | Reply
And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha.........
I cannot believe the amount of folks that are having debates that have nothing to do with this article. This is a well written and honest interpretation of what is happening between Christians today. This not aimed to try and make the non-believers join in, or say that one religion is better than the other. It is about Christian's being hypocritical. If you do not believe in, Christianity why are you reading an article about it?
Because some people want to know why christians behave the way they do. Live it up all week. Say you're Sunday. Repeat as needed.
Do you really believe that those hypocritical christians do no impact those who are not christian? The story of christianity is the story of intolerance toward those who are not christian or the "right kind" of christian, and therefore the subject affects everyone.
If you don't like the comments, Carrie, then why are you reading them?
Funny people belive in A GOD. first off the big bang is real check for yourself. the ESA has 2 telescopes that caught it on camera. so proved and fact. next you have a exspanding universe, proved and fact. next do you Christians really belive that that people have only been on the planet for 6000 years. nope you cant the first persons name was lucy. next the story of creation was took from a acient culture they where named summerians. the same story only thing is they stated it was a bed time story a feiry tail. with that said its so sad that you alls bible starts off with a lie and you Christians still belive this. o wait a minute all in the story of creation or the gigamish. it talks about more then one god. so where do you morons, I mean Christians have the right changes somebody elses story. they`re are 3 evils on this planet. First is GOD, GOVERNMENT, and THE POLICE. if you don't belive what I say then you do not know enough about you fake bible. so don't leave me a comment disagreeing with me if you have not done your research I`ve got 10 years under my belt. can you say that? nope I bet not
Learning is hard. That's why there is religion – it a simple sign that says "stop thinking".
It's hard to tell whether the anger and intolerance or the illiteracy stands out most in this post.
Considerhumanism.org – Happy Darwin Day!
Two groups of people ... the first professing their Christianity but not acting as Christ would have them act ... and the second calling themselves anything BUT Christian while demonstrating the love, kindness and tolerance towards our fellow man that Christ commanded.
I'd hold the second in higher regard. But that's me.
I agree. I've long been offended at the way people "use" their Christianity...as though Christians hold a monopoly on the ability to bestow acts of kindness and charity and no other folks can, or as a way to excuse their deplorable behavior. I know some pretty awesome people who exemplify all the qualities of being a Christian except the one where they believe that Jesus is the son of God, and then I know some people who are true believers in Jesus and go to church every Sunday and wear the medallions and pray in work but are just horrible, mean, sinful people at the core of their being. It's sad.
Only for then new members of this blog-
Being nice and at the same time truthful:
The Apostles' / Agnostics’ Creed 2013 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)
Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????
I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)
Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,
He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.
(References used are available upon request.)
I am always reading or hearing someone who states that he or she picks science over the existance of GOD. Science has not proved the non-existance of GOD but has done much to prove the existance of GOD. I belive that a good portion of those who choose to ridicule Christians and their beliefs do so because they want to live a life where there is no judgement for their sins.
You want your bs to be true. Well too bad – it isn't true.
LMAO – The usual, delusional childish arguments. :)
Here are some of the reasons why there is no god:
The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People and Their Gods Have Done to Each Other:
M. White, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u (required reading)
The Muslim Conquest of India
"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "
Rank …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..(Religions/Groups involved)*
1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")
2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)
3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)
4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)
5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)
6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)
7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)
8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)
9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C
10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)
11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)
12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)
13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C
14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C
15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C
16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)
17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Christians)
18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)
19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)
20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C
Unfortunately, the basic flaw in your logic is held by a number of people. Science will never disprove the existence of god, just as science will never disprove the existence of the invisible elephant living under my kitchen table. The burden of proof lies with the claimant. If the claimant makes assertions with no evidence then there is nothing to disprove, just don't be upset when others don't agree with your beliefs.
What has science done to "prove" the existence of God? All I see in the church anymore is H8. Lots of hate. “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)
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.