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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. allenwoll

    .
    John - What --- --- ncessarily connect to your good ideas ? ?

    February 10, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  2. steven kraatz

    everyone is human no one is a saint regardless of what you believe (thats all i got to say about that). stupid is is stupid does

    February 10, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  3. Whosoever

    For God didnt send His SON into the world to condemned the world, but that the world through HIM might be saved. He who believes in HIM is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the NAME of the only begotten SON of GOD. And this is the condemnation that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light becuz theeir deeds were evil. for everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. but he who does the truth comes to the light that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in GOD. John :18-21 whosoever will let him come to GOD through HIS SON JESUS CHRIST..for HE is the only way to HEAVEN and to recieve forgiveness for our sins...

    February 10, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      I believe that a being of love would not allow such a place as hell to exist at all; thus, I do not find the god of the bible to be "loving."

      February 10, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It is odd. A perfectly good, omnipotent and omnipresent God creates a place that is entirely evil with which it will coexist for eternity.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      OR....
      Men made up the whole story ( which is far more believable.)

      February 10, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Whosoever", but all that is unfounded and most of what you wrote in capital letters are elements of mythology. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your unfounded assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      February 10, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Lost my religion

      So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is." Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code.- Mark Twain, a Biography

      February 10, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Lowell Thomson

      Perhaps Whosever can explain how an omnipotent being can be "jealous."

      Omnipotent means you can control everything. He could just make whatever makes him "jealous" disappear. Jealousy is an ongoing emotional state; how can an omnipotent being "suffer" jealousy?

      February 10, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • sam stone

      Saved from what? His vindictive petty pr1ck father's temper tantrum?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • sam stone

      apparently, whosoever feels capitalizing his drivel gives it some credibility

      February 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  4. Puh-leez

    NEWS FLASH – CHRISTIANS ARE MEAN.
    Sorry Mr. Dickerson, that is SO middle ages news.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Christ came to create conflict, not peace. Thois man should read his own book, for the first time.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • End Religion

      JPTurkey: your jeebus sounds like Mohammed

      February 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  5. John P. Tarver

    The damned telling Christians how they must behave has become a CNN standard.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Dorothy

      The article is written by a Christian pastor.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Wish it weren't so needed, huh? Perhaps you should evaluate the condition of your religion when you have to be told that being an azzhole is a bad idea.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Paul made it abundently clear that the fake Christians take money for what they do. The fact that this man has engaged in the one career that guarantees his own damnation does not validate his opinion. At least an Atheist can end up in sheol.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • End Religion

      The bible is anything but abundantly clear. The only clear thing is that it is fiction.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • sam stone

      The damned? Gee, Johnnie, you speaking for god again? Here is something for you and your punk god.......fvck off

      February 10, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  6. John P. Tarver

    Hate is just another side of Love. More to the point is, how could any Christian take money for evangelizing; when that is one way to be certain that one will be cast into the lake of fire.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  7. swohio

    I LOVE how everytime I read a story about Christianity at CNN, it's always about what Christians do wrong, and how they need to stop being hateful, and how they need to change and improve, and how they need to act more like Christians....

    ....however, when I read a story about Muslims, it's always to point out the good of their religion, and what they do right, and how people can learn from them, and how they aren't the bad people everyone makes them out to me. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they are bad. I'm just saying it would really be nice if, for a change, we could read a CNN news story about Christians that doesn't point out their faults and make them feel bad.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Then your sample size has been too small. Your hypothesis is wrong.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Truth

      There is one about them trying to stop modern day slavery. Learn to read.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Christians are born sinners, horrible wretches that need saving. At least that is what your religion teaches....I'd figure you like people telling you what a horrible person you are. That's part of being christian.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • freeindi

      CNN dare not talk about Muslim because muslim will declare a religious war against CNN, coward journalism. I don't like religion, but at least I have never heard any priest to declare war or to issue any death sentences against anybody. Catholics didn't threaten anybody when the movie Da Vince Code came out. On the contrary, I see death threat against the cartoonist, write who dare to write something about muslim

      February 10, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Craig Chilton

      TO Richard Cranium -

      YOU wrote -

      "I'd figure you like people telling you what a horrible person you are. That's part of being Christian."

      Thus - it's NO WONDER that most of the RRR Cult's pseudo-Christian lemmings have such a massive problem with self-esteem!

      Meanwhile, ACTUAL Christians, who OBEY Jesus' command in Romans 13:8-10 - and comprise the *majority* of America's Christians, rend to be self confident and effective people. SO self-confident, even, that they feel NO desire to stridently pursue UN-Biblical hate-agendas against millions of people's harmless rights, and make complete and public fools of themselves, as the RRR Cultists do. Actual Christians are so low-profile that much of society has made the mistake of believing the RRR Cultists' claims that they - the cultists - are Christians! The RRR Cult's False-Teacher leaders are VERY crafty (and dishonest) people!

      April 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  8. mick burke

    -R. Waters

    What God wants God gets God help us all
    God wants dollars
    God wants cents
    God wants pounds, shillings, and pence
    God wants guilders
    God wants Kroner
    God wants Swiss francs
    God wants French francs

    (Oui il veut des francs francais)

    God wants escudos
    God wants pesetas
    Don't send lira
    God don't want small potatoes
    God wants small towns
    God wants pain
    God wants clean up rock campaigns
    God wants windows
    God wants solutions
    God wants TV
    God wants contributions

    What God wants God gets God help us all
    God wants silver
    God wants gold
    God wants his secret
    Never to be told
    God wants gigolos
    God wants giraffes
    God wants politics
    God wants a good laugh

    What God wants God gets God help us all

    God wants friendship
    God wants fame
    God wants credit
    God wants blame
    God wants poverty
    God wants wealth
    God wants insurance
    God wants to cover himself

    What God wants God gets God help us all

    February 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Craig Chilton

      You wrote - "What God wants, God gets. God help us all."

      Well, it appears that you are RGHT about that, per THIS passage that clearly states what God wants, and what His intentions are for humanity -

      1 Timothy 2:3-4 (KJV) -

      3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
      4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

      NOTE the words, "WILL have" and "ALL."

      April 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  9. GonzoinHouston

    I think that if more Christians practiced what they preach then there would be more Christians in this country. As it is, I think the focus on opposition to gay rights and abortion by so many churches has actually fueled the increase in atheism and the "unchurched". The majority of the world's problems are not due to religion, but rather to selfish and evil people using religion to justify and further their aims.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

      Part of the problem. What you said at the end is better. Christianity in particular is too divergent.

      "Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth." –Thomas Jefferson

      February 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  10. sybaris

    There is no right religion. The only truth is science. If every religion were wiped out it would be replaced with something else but not the exact same something else. If science were wiped out it would be replaced with the exact same facts and scientific theories.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  11. charles darwin

    Christians are some of the biggest haters in the world.
    Just count the graves throughout the centuries not only of other religions but of Christians themselves.
    If we didn't have the laws we have today, Christians would still be burning or boiling people alive for saying or thinking the wrong thing.
    Religion is the worst thing mankind ever invented. Second is the Atom bomb.
    Thank goodness I have the freedom to be an Atheist, although there are Christians that hate me for it.
    I don't hate Christians, you are just following a pack of lies and myths and I feel sorry for you for not seeing the truth.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Whosoever

      JOHN 3:18-21.. Thank you!

      February 10, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • OhioPatti

      Just for the record, I don't hate you because you are an atheist.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Whosoever

      any belief system is a religion including darwinism.. atheism.... so on and so on...what about the 50 MILLION inocent babies we have murdered in the womb? Darwinism and atheism teach nothing made everything !! how illogical is that?? like looking at the home you live in did nothing make it? of course not... so look around we were created by a intelligent designer GOD.. We will all stand before HIM one day and give account to HIM..but we love our sinful lifestyles more than GOD so we create god in our own image and try and convince ourselves there is no GOD..

      February 10, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • sam stone

      whosoever.....your empty proxy threats just show that you have no argument, and must threaten people. fvck off.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  12. OhioPatti

    To those of you who disagree with me, or would like to debate, I left a few posts here to share with others. I am not here to debate, argue or fight about this article. It is not my purpose to cause dissension. If you want to debate, argue or fight about this article, about Christianity, or about organized religion, I suggest you find someone else to do so with. God bless you all.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • charles darwin

      Sounds like you are here to hit and run.
      True christian.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • OhioPatti

      charles darwin,
      This is the "comment" section. I left a very few comments. I did not see that it was a "Comment/argue/debate/fight" section, and won't engage in that activity with you. If you interpret that as "hit and run", that is your choice. Thank you for your thoughts.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Lost my religion

      You don't get it do you – the fact that you end your litany with a phrase that tends to annoy me. Go bless yourself

      February 10, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Craig Chilton

      TO OhioPatti –

      If you don’t like the heat, then the answer is very simple. Just stay out of the kitchen. No one’s forcing you to debate. But whenever a person posts a comment into a section in which a debate is in progress, their comment becomes PART of that debate, by default. This is a free country, and your comments are welcome. But don’t be surprised when you get responses from people don’t agree with you. Thin skin is unbecoming.

      April 13, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  13. crappygovernment

    Most of the Christian saints and prophets took the Good news of the Gospels to their corrupted secular societies, just like Tim Tebow is doing. There is nothing wrong with being assertive for the Lord.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Truth

      This so called "corrupted secular societies" are the ones who brought you all your freedoms. Religion thrives on ignorance and control, or are you too blind to understand that?

      February 10, 2013 at 11:30 am |
      • crappygovernment

        You sound like a pretentious international communist type, schmuley! Tikkun Olam is doomed!

        February 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  14. paul46

    Well written Mr. Dickerson, thank you. Wow, anytime anybody mentions either religion or politics it sets off a fire-storm. I think people of all religions try to hold themselves to a high standard–& we all fail. It's not just the Christians, trust me. It seems that one of the most basic teachings of all religions is humility, certainly not self-righteous arrogance. No wonder the secular world so dislikes religion–they see our hypocrisy.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      Indeed, it does

      February 10, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  15. Rev. Horkenspew

    If Islamophobia is so unacceptible , them why is it accpetible to hate on Christians ? Muslims wil kill you if you make them angery , Christians would just pray for you ... hate is hate . Christian-op-hobia is hate .

    February 10, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Dorothy

      The inquisition was an odd form of prayer.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Anybody can hate for any reason. There's no crime in it. You are confusing blasphemy and actions/words against a person with what someone feels. Don't do that. And besides, do you really want the culture in christian parts of the world to be that of the Islamists, where they do bodily harm or cause death for such "crimes?"

      February 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • frank

      Hate is hate, but I don't with your assumptions. Turn on your spell-checker, dude.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • SixDegrees

      "Christians would just pray for you"

      Well, if blowing your head off with a shotgun while you're coming out of church is considered a form of prayer, I guess that's right. Or if prayer involves lobbying for laws that criminalize gayness and treat it as a capitol offense, punishable by death, then, sure.

      Christians, it seems, pray to a god who carries a pitchfork.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • sam stone

      Christians legislating their view of god from within are a far greater threat to our freedom than Muslims attacking from outside

      February 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  16. Me

    Joel Osteen tells me Jesus wants me to be rich. apparently for me to get rich I have to give Joel money....hahaha.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  17. Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

    All religion is an extension of primitive tribalism. Even the priests still dress up in garb like witch doctors. :)

    February 10, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  18. Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

    Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?
    =================================================

    Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3:

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    John Adams, POTUS #2:

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

    James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights:

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    Thomas Paine:

    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      So true. In modern churches with assets in the billions – like the Catholic and Mormon churches – it's all about the "profit". Not the "prophet". ;)

      February 10, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Rajun Cajun

      If you are quoting Adams and Paine as some sort of attempt to indicate that these founding fathers had any particular reservations about Christianity, then you clearly don't know your history. Both of those men were particularly devout Christians even to the point where Paine envisioned a theocracy as the government for the US. Stop thumbing through the quote book for idiots sponsored by some atheist society and think and study for yourself. I think you'll find the relationship between culture and religion a far more complex mix of bad and good. Remember though, we're talking about an endeavor undertaken by men in the name of God, not an endeavor undertaken by God with the consent of men. You can no more hold God responsible for bad children than you can hold anyone responsible for what their grown children do once they've left the house.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  19. Steve Fielder

    The root cause of so many Christians behaving in such arrogant, condescending, and even hateful ways towards others is their mistaken belief that being "saved" makes them superior to most other folks running around out there. When people think of themselves as being part of an elite group, they will start behaving like elitists, and many of them will also invoke their faith to justify bigotry, oppression and intolerance because they believe that people who hold membership in God's exclusive club and are doing God's work can do no wrong.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  20. mkimetime

    All that glitters is not gold. The flamboyance, rock-star glamour and wealth of some of the more prominent American religious leaders is in stark contrast to the humble way that Jesus led. The boastful manner that some Christians use to speak about their faith is so aggressive and so inconsistent with the gentle, loving and forgiving god at the center of the story. How can anyone outside the church be anything but put off and distrustful of the religion as a whole when you see the self-important sum of its parts?

    February 10, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Rationalthought

      Christians, the right wing ones are stupid. They tout Jesus Christ when there is no credible evidence he even existed. They don't realize he was just copied from other ancient religions. They try to force it down on everyone else. How dumb is that?

      February 10, 2013 at 11:15 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.