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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. Son of God

    "Some 2,000 years ago, Peter knew so-called Christians" – Peter did not know it – Holy Spirit did. THe Bible was written by the Holy Spirit revelation to Christ's deciples .

    February 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Dana

      No. It was written by a bunch of guys trying to explain things they did not understand and to scare the fools that believed them. You must be one of them.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • That's just crazy talk

      The problem with Christian's today is they have a pious arrogance Jesus would have flipped tabled over. They read about Jesus, they talk about Jesus, but very, very, few act like Jesus.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  2. Tom

    If you don't believe in a higher power, I'm still cool with you unless you say something hurtful or start harassing me. I don't believe in Budha or Bishnu (sorry if misspelled) or other higher powers other than the one I believe in, but I will still be cool with you. As it states in the First Amendment, Freedom of Religion. You can be the religion you want and America can't do anything about it to make you what the president believes in (i.e. religious beliefs).

    February 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  3. savingdaniel

    @SkepticalOne All I need to do is look at your name. What are you doubtful of Mr. "I Got No Proof of God So Derfore Me No Believe Dat Anything Amazing Can Happen Unless Me Sees It"? What a logical, scientific, rational, mature, positive mindset.

    Yes m0ron, amazing things can happen to people other than you, stop being a jealous idi0t and grow up. People can see lights in the sky they can't identify, it can be something other than an plane or bird. Have fun with your, "It could be swamp gas" "belittle others who see something you personally think is funny" scoffers life, it's really gotten you far and won you many satisfying friends hasn't it? Bye scoffer.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      have you read the article at all?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • IKYABWAI

      @savingdaniel,

      It sounds like you are scoffing @SkepticalOne.

      "scoff: Speak to someone or about something in a scornfully derisive or mocking way: "

      Bye to you.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  4. GAW

    It's not just Christians who hate Any American regardless of their ideology will find a reason to hate something or someone. It's part of the American tradition.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  5. IvotedforObama

    I believe in Jesus Christ and His resurrection. Today Christians make themselves look bad, especially the "Conservative Christians". They spew out pure hatred talk for anybody "not like them". They are an embarrassment to Jesus.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • OOO

      Do you "believe in Jesus Christ and His resurrection" or is it really just hope?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Dana

      Nobody could really believe that absurd religious nonsense.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  6. ME II

    No comment

    February 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  7. Randal Flag

    Yes it is scary how those who profess to live in Christ are some of the most intolerant and mean spirited people you want to meet. I have to say however that this story is relay late in coming.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  8. Whosoever

    Love gives choice! and gives us the freewill to choose HEAVEN or HELL!!! this is love if you dont want to follow GOD on earth it would be unloving for HIM to force you to go to heaven and spend eternity with HIM and HIS people..So HE gives us the choice.. its yours for the CHOOSING.. I would beg you to choose LIFE not DEATH .. ETERNAL life with GOD in heaven.. no matter what you believe will never changee the true facts.. Once we die and are either in heaven or hell there will be no more 2nd chances.. now is the time to choose.. please i beg you all choose life!!!

    February 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      That hell exists as a viable option proves that god is not good nor loving.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Whosoever", but most of the things you wrote in capital letters are elements of mythology, therefore your assertions are unfounded. 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 12:19 pm |
  9. Darwin was wrong

    Atheists have no morals. They believe in myths. a lightning bolt struck a mud puddle and poof! The earthed appeared! living matter came from non-living matter. Maybe it was magic?!?! They also believe in the fairy tale that a frog can turn into a prince!! The cult leader of the new atheists (Dawkins) believes the seeds of life were put here by space aliens!!!! , u people are stupid fools!!!!

    February 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      I see you did not read the article.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Randal Flag

      Yea those cray atheist. Everyone one know a man in the sky gathered dust and breathed life into it and made man and then ripped a rib to make women. Those atheist and their fairy tales. ROFL

      February 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • the truth shall set us free

      Believing in God doesn't determine whether you are moral or not. Many atheists are highly moral people who don't judge others (like you do).

      It's often people like you who give them no reason to believe in God. They haven't seen proof of him experientially and they haven't seen proof of him in the behavior of so-called professing Christians (like you).

      February 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • what Bible are you reading?

      'But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.'

      February 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • ME II

      @Darwin was wrong,
      "Atheists have no morals."
      Atheism provides no morality system, but that doesn't mean they have no morals.

      "a lightning bolt struck a mud puddle and poof!"
      No one is claiming this happened.

      "...living matter came from non-living matter"
      Matter is not alive.

      "The cult leader of the new atheists (Dawkins) believes the seeds of life were put here by space aliens!!!!"
      This is incorrect. The video clip you might be referring to is Dawkins responding to a question that asked him to speculate, not what he believed.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • End Religion

      @DWW: Sounds like wedge rhetoric. You display that you do not understand evolution, or are intentionally misrepresenting it. Atheism has no belief system, prophets or messiah. You are misrepresenting Dawkins, who during the "Expelled" movie was asked if the alien scenario was a possibility, to which he answered he supposed it could be – there isn't yet any evidence against a hypothesis like that. In usual Christian fashion you claim to live by the words of your god, and although he commanded you not to lie your post is nothing but. You're a walking advertisement for atheism.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • End Religion

      @randal flag: please consider being more gentle to the citizens of New Las Vegas.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry – TOTAL FAIL.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • ephemeroptera1

      Your comments just proved the point of the article. Good job.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  10. Religions are dangerous...

    Christians are fools, the very fact they believe the man named Jesus is a god is proof of that, and they are indeed some of the most hateful, racist, misogynist people I have ever met!

    February 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      You might want to correct yourself before you go about correcting others. BTW: I am agnostic.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Darwin was wrong

      The civilized races will replace the s@v@ge races!! That's what Darwinian evolution teaches. Joseph Stalin was an atheist. Hitler got his philosophy from Darwinian evolution and his power from the Catholic Church. Atheists are just as evil as the religious

      February 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • End Religion

      dww sounds just like tbt. Might want to re-read the article and think about the eternity in hell you have waiting if you buy into the whole god and commandment against lying thing.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • hal 9001

      "Darwin was wrong" – your generalized assertions are unfounded. Perhaps the following book can help you cope with the problem of repeating unfounded assertions:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      February 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  11. Surthurfurd

    Just like John S. Dickerson is doing. We all need to question those of the groups we belong (especially ourselves) as to how civil and respectful we are.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  12. John Adams

    Ohhhh, are those big, bad Christians being mean? Ohhh. How about, "Hey Muslims- stop blowing up people around the world." How about, "Hey Muslims, stop KILLING people with whom you disagree?" Christians are great, and their support organizations and parochial-based schools are the moral compass this country needs. Christianity and their tweets are just fine- thank you. Let's worry about the religions and sects that are an actual threat, instead.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • End Religion

      Christianity is a threat. Just as Iran has a theocracy, that is Christianity's goal for the U.S. Both would rule the world with their childish notions of loving vengeance and control over others if we let them.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      I seem to recall Jesus saying something about casting stones.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

      "moral compass" LOL

      each brand of Christianity has a completely different idea of what "moral compass" is.
      =================================================

      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 12:15 pm |
    • Randal Flag

      We can all do better. if we assume we are perfect that we can not. Maybe just maybe there is some validity in what is being said. Maybe you might want to give it a LITTLE thought and see If you find ANYTHING that might make you a better representative of your faith. MAYBE. If not, then oh well.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • JM

      Slavery? Racism? Colonialism? White man's burden? KKK? Crusades?

      Reality. A lot of evil has been done in the name of Christianity. But, none of it bears any resemblance to Christ's teachings.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @JM

      Slavery? The bible never condemns it, gives instructions on how to beat your slaves and when to kill them, and god himself enslaves all those who disagree with him in neverending torment.

      I can't think of a worse crime or a more des.p.icable individual. Can you?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • kirtai

      Are you a teenager? When I get on to my teenage students, say for talking out of turn, I frequently get the response, "But he was doing it too!" Does one person's sin give you liberty to participate in it as well? Look to your own self (in this case your own church, which is mine too and I heartily agree with the author) and let God worry about the others.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  13. YouMayDisagree

    People relax, religion ( any kind ) is a way to look at your self from someone else's point of view...basically Jesus is not going to punish you, you going to punish yourself ( or not ) . Any religious leader knows this fact and they will manipulate it for good or bad, just use your best judgement, religion is in your head.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      Religion is often manifest in laws that limit personal freedoms and equality.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

      How true, LeeCMH

      Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

      The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.

      (James Madison – 4th POTUS, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights)

      February 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  14. LeeCMH

    Many people adopt Christianity so put a veneer of respectability around their intense raw hatred.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  15. Jeebusss

    Jesus was pretend, but if he did exist, and he did come back, and he was the person as described in the Bible, he would be very unimpressed with 99.9% of Christians.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Infiddleaway00

      The NT doesn't include everything that took place in the name of the NT God. If it included the consequences, especially, the killings, it'll be much less "nice."

      February 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  16. shoddymill

    Thank you, thank you John Dickerson for calling out this behavior. I suspect it's often rooted in the fears of those who lash out–that they might not be able to defend their faith against questions and challenges. It's ultimately a groundless fear, but putting it to rest means confronting the hard questions yourself, before someone throws them at you and catches you unprepared.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • savingdaniel

      "I have written in the past about the bad reputation that Christians have in America." so thank you for making a false stereotype and an arrogant one? What bad reputation? And why is he stereotyping? So all Christians are the same? There's no division between Catholics and protestants, no difference? They never broke apart over fundamental differences in doctrine, one isn't known for non stop hypocrisy and child abuse and the other is? You are stupid and blind. "The fool has no pleasure in understanding, but in airing his own opinions." – Proverbs, King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, of God, the Judge, Savior, Rock and Shield to the Humble and Forgiven

      February 10, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • shoddymill

      I think Christians in this context was his own shorthand for his fellow evangelicals–of which I am one. And I have many times shared his embarrassment at the way some of our brothers and sisters conduct themselves in public discussion. I can sympathize, because they are fallible humans like the rest of us, and I have had the same fear of being unable to defend my faith. But someone needs to speak up and call for a better witness than we often see. And for that I thank him.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Willm1515

      Well said

      February 10, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  17. Amen

    Ain't that the truth? These people who claim to be Christians but hate Democrats, hate non-whites, hate people who think guns are causing deaths...don't look, act or talk like Christ in any way? Where's the love? Where's the humility? Where's the self-sacrifice? Where's the kindness/joy?

    Who would want what they are selling: hate?

    February 10, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • MagicPanties

      They sell fire and brimstone.

      Who, rationally, professes love and obedience to someone/thing because if they don't, then they will be horribly tortured for eternity [by this "loving" something] when they die?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • JM

      It's supposed to be good news, that this isn't the end of the story (as C.S. Lewis put it). That believing/hoping/trusting is all that is needed: faith.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • End Religion

      Since when is coercion good news?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • JM

      It's free will. You don't have to believe. It's your choice.

      It's like the story of the Prodigal Son.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      JM
      "It's free will. You don't have to believe. It's your choice.
      It's like the story of the Prodigal Son."

      No, it's like the story of the mugger in the alley, asking for your wallet or he will kill you. Choice?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Willm1515

      Your right they pick and choose when the want to be "Christian" . And they certainly don't know or choose not to act the way the Christian faith teaches.

      February 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  18. Wrathbrow

    Ever notice that the answer for: what would Jesus do
    it is almost always what the person saying that thinks.

    And people keep quoting what famous people think (Jesus said, Einstein said, Jefferson said, Budda said, etc). So what.
    Make your own cases with concepts, good information sources.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • Mei

      Christians can have just anger-but the majority of Christians DO keep their cool or at most, verbally blow off steam but don't really follow through on their words because they realize that they are letting their emotions control their better judgement. UNLIKE many celebs and other high-profile people who seemingly talk of peace and goodness but do just the opposite (with a smile on their face) such as advocating abortion (a true and real Holocaust that God will judge all souls on in the end) and destroying marriage (advocating for gay marriage). Jesus said the world was "not of Him" and He is right. Practicing Christians can defend their Faith and pray for those who don't believe in it. If they fall into anger or sin, they have the ability to go to Jesus and repent and start again.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  19. mike

    stupid article

    February 10, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      let me guess, you're the kind of Christian the author talks about?
      No way that's true!

      February 10, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  20. Edward

    Again, faith at its worse. When you believe the bible is God's word, you instantly loose any credibility. First, most of the writers of the stories in the bible remain anonymous. Second, the only reason to believe it is God's word is because you have been told it is, not by God, but by men. Which men? Holy men. Why should you believe holy men? There are plenty reason not to trust any man. But, I would say it would be extremely important not to believe men who tell you to believe them, because if you do not you will burn in hell. Why? because God loves you.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • Mei

      Even the devil has Faith. He's seen God. You shouldn't be too sure of your limited-human self.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Edward

      Do you know the devil? Did he tell you that God exists? But if the Devil did see God, then he does not have faith. he knows God exists.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:11 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.