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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. God

    Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all – old and young, girls and women and little children.
    Ezekiel 9:5-7

    Of course christians are not nice when they read this garbage every weekend.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Zeus

      Or Exodus 22/20:
      Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed.

      IIf Thou Shall Not Kill, who will be the destroyer? Conan?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  2. Dana

    It is usually when men are at their most religious that they behave with the least sense and the greatest cruelty – Ilka Chase

    February 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • We are who we are

      2 Chronicles

      7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Lost my religion

      What God lacks is convictions - stability of character. He ought to be a Presbyterian or a Catholic or something - not try to be everything. Mark Twain

      February 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • CrossCountry

      We are who we are –

      The key there is 'humble'. Tall order. I have my doubts.

      February 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  3. Joey

    Why can't the religious just open their mind and realize its all just a bunch of folklore from ancient people who were totally clueless about the world. And faith, it's not a good thing. It is not a virtue.

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

      Because dismissing everything that is complex and difficult to understand as "God musta dunnit!" is much easier than actually using your brain to try and learn how things really work.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • OOO

      If you take an honest look at yourself, you will realize that you make no decisions in your life based on faith alone except those that are religiously mandated.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • J2

      Obama? Colin Powell?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • ABarker

      So you know more than those who came before you? You're smarter? More intelligent? I doubt that. Just more arrogant. Much of modern medicine is based on what those people discovered. Most of the conveniences you enjoy, many you can’t live without, were created by the very people you believe to be inferior to yourself. Much of the help that is given to people, assistance with food, utilities, etc. are compliments of those you disdain. Are we perfect? Not hardly. Do we have people who are misguided within our ranks? Absolutely. Are there people who consider themselves followers of Jesus who have missed the point? Yes. Can the same be said for those who are non-believers? From what I’ve seen, without a doubt.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  4. Abdul the Goat Hurder

    Islam hates Christians , so it's ok for you to hate them as well .

    February 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  5. savingdaniel

    @Over 40,000 denominations of insanity
    "moral compass lol"

    Why did you single out Christians and not include yourself blind and bigoted one, by simply saying "Over 5 billion humans and they all have different beliefs, moral compass lol"? Because you're a bigot who judges in hypocrisy, who hates God and therefore God has blinded him. You think you are above everyone, morally righteous by picking on Christians and ignoring your own sins? So, if not all Christians are in agreement, therefore none of them can be right? That's logic? Now carry your insane hateful "logic" and "moral compass" which you imply you have further blind hypocrite: "not all humans agree" therefore you, and everyone else, have no moral compass. God: Infinite points, Man: Infinite lies, Man: Fail God: Wins.

    Fail.

    "How true, LeeCMH"

    And whatever you call insane is insane because you said so. This is the same argument Catholics use against protestants: "You can't all have the holy spirit!" and the twist on it by atheists, "So which one has the truth!?" both arguments of which are illogical because,

    1) They make no point
    2) They are merely questions
    3) Truth still exists
    4) Merely not knowing which is true doesn't make them true
    5) Merely making an insult or expressing disbelief isn't proof in and of itself of anything

    Do you see how childish you all are who fight against God, how futile, blind and arrogant yet?

    Psa 2:1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
    Psa 2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Jehovah and against his Anointed, saying,
    Psa 2:3 "Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us."
    Psa 2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
    Psa 2:5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
    Psa 2:6 "As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill."
    Psa 2:7 I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
    Psa 2:8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
    Psa 2:9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
    Psa 2:10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.
    Psa 2:11 Serve the Jehovah with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
    Psa 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

    Evey knee will bow and confess that God is truth, and mankind liars, and no amount of "ders 40,000 denominations of chridians lol dur hah scoff scoff mocking you I hate you you have no moral compass I blame you all for my life's problems I'm righteous and pure perfect and holy nothing bad about me only you all you're all the same non is right cuz you're not together! I demand you all agree or I won't take responsibility for my actions and admit there's such thing as truth or the Bible is true or that God exists or that I have to do right!" insane ranting will change that. Resistance is futile.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Voices in the Rain

      I m sorry. I did not read this post. I couldn't stomach the few things I did read. And I didn't want to be dragged down again by some "Godly" person skewed view that they profess is Christ's. What I did read is this guy is poster boy for the article. I came in to post a thank you to the author in restoring my faith...not in God...but just in people...and then there is this guy.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      We don't fight against something that we see no evidence of and thus dismiss...that would be like fighting with a shadow puppet...kind of redundant. As for the rest of your spewing...you prove nothing!! Those are 2000+ old buybull verses written by sheep herding men over the course of 400 years...they have no validity in society, they can't be used in the making of any law so they are meaningless to those who don't share your imaginary friend.
      It is time to reside within this century.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • frank

      Actually, you fail. It appears the response was reply to someone claiming moral compass as something that only Christians own. The response was terse, but the quotes from the founders show they were up against the same divisons in Christianity that tear at freedom.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  6. Dana

    “If there is a god, atheism must seem to him as less of an insult than religion.”
    ― Edmond De Goncourt

    February 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Evolved One

      Indeed.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Lost my religion

      yes

      February 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  7. Peter Beck

    There is much truth to this article. Those of us who call ourselves Christian know it is a constant struggle to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We see "Christian" hatred manifest itself in almost any discussion of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I won't elaborate further here because it's like poking a stick at a hornet's nest.

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

      Maybe you should start calling yourself an independent thinker rather than a christian. I'm sure there are some christian "truths" that you don't necessarily believe anyway.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  8. 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 12:25 pm |
    • Duke1

      One has to be very cautious when quoting some of the founders of ou nation. While its true many deplored the machine of religion, that was in a context of Protestantism being still a relatively new branch of Christianity. Men like Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Franklin didn't despise Christian ideals. They despised the perversion of those ideas by a religious system that was corrupt. I could provide many quotes in support of the Bible, and Christianity by all these men. Context is always important when discussing historical figures.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • frank

      I tend to agree, Duke1, although many of them were also highly influenced by Deism. But has Christianity since then just become more divergent?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  9. truth

    Some of these people call themselves Christians but don't bother opening up the Bible to find out what it is that Christ taught; they are too busy listening to Fox News and doing what 'they' command.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Abdul the Goat Hurder

      This is comment was so racist and bigoted and racist , shame on you . I bet you get paid to post this propaganda . Fox news treats Muslims way better then any other network . Fox has a Saudi Royal as a major invester so you know .

      February 10, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Peter Beck

      Very well said, Truth.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Truth

      I didn't mention race at all, but since you did...

      Great. Then Republicans should be praising Muslims right and left (since the majority of Muslims are just living their lives, not harming others). Just like the majority of white people are doing the same and aren't murderers/terrorists (like McVey, Manson, Dahmer, Lizzy Borden, Bonnie and Clyde, etc.). Can you imagine how long a list of American murderers would be?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Going In Circles

      Abdul the Goat Hurder

      This is comment was so racist and bigoted and racist , shame on you .

      Racist ?
      Wow, do these morons even know what the defenition is ?
      Republicans have realy dumbed down to this level.

      February 10, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  10. Abdul the Goat Hurder

    Saudi Arabia , and Iran and Pakistan hate Christians , so does Boko Harram and the Al Nusra Front and Hamas and Hezzbolla and Al Qeada , and CAIR and ISNA and the MSA , so , it OK for CNN to hate Christians , too . The Muslim World hates Christians , so you should too . Over a billion people cannot be wrong .

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

      What is a "hurder" and how do you get to be one. Is it painful?

      February 10, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  11. Ungodly Discipline

    The way humans experience the world is limited by our evolved faculties. We can “see” light waves but not x-rays for example (without technology). What else are we missing? Just because we can’t experience something doesn’t mean it is not there. There may be many more dimensions we simply don’t have the mental or physical tools to perceive.

    The reason I am an Atheist is because I don’t how it all started or where it is going and likely never will. I accept that. I don’t need to fill that gap with gods and goblins. Whatever is “behind the curtain” of the Big Bang is probably not possible for us to know. I don’t believe in the “Super” natural. If something exists, it is natural.

    This is a simplistic post for a large subject, but the moral of the story is, it is ok to say, “I don’t know.”

    Now it is possible to enjoy the scientific journey of discovery with a clear and rational mind.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  12. Dana

    That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.

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

      Straight from my hero. Hitch.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  13. John P. Tarver

    The Theory of Relativity proves that Time is independant of Space, eliminating the scientific basis of the big bang notional hypothesis. Theories are experimentally demonstrable and repeatable under the scientific method, unlike a notional hypothesis.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      whatever you say

      February 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Actually you are talking about Newtonian theories. Relativity refers to time and space as time-space and does NOT claim they are independent.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      You are trying to claim that you have discredited the Big Bnag with your post.

      Problem is that the big bang DID happen, and has been proven to be fact, and has been not only peer reviewed, but also a Nobel Prize awarded to the scientists that proved it.
      You can continue to argue over the cause, but the big bang is not theory...it is fact.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Well John P., once again you prove your ignorance of science.

      February 10, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  14. Dana

    Stop wasting your life discussing fairy tales. It is such a waste of time.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      Lets stop wasting time trying to insult each other.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • lol??

      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      "K.C.s Sunshiney Disco Apocalypse
      sayz, .............................
      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
      lol??
      And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha........................

      March 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  15. John Diomitron

    @Roy

    Have you heard of Elijah the Tishbite? How would you characterize his demeanor towards King Ahab and his wife Jezebel who had turned from the LORD God and to Baal and did evil in the sight of the LORD? Read 1 Kings.

    Sometimes the truth is sweet, and sometimes the truth is bitter. Even when it is bitter, it is still the truth! Speak the Truth! Give me Truth!

    February 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • John Diomitron

      As it is with speaking forth the Truth, I say to you that the message of a prophet like Elijah divides and unites, scatters and gathers, and is both bitter and sweet depending on whose ears the message falls and the hearts that receive it.

      REPENT! THE DAY OF THE LORD IS AT HAND!

      February 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Indeed, the truth is better. The fairy tale of a big invisible sky wizard making stuff with magic spellz and feeling nicely towards you doesn't seem true. Truth seems to be that this is a big cold universe and you're just one insignificant part of it who will cease to exist one day. Bitter truth over fuzzy-wuzzy fairy tale any day.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "John Diomitron", but all that contains elements of mythology, therefore your assertions are unfounded.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  16. Surthurfurd

    When we demand civility and respect for ourselves, we must demand it in ourselves first.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  17. K. McBride

    John Dickerson, thank you for an excellent observation. I see that only a few who have replied to your article have been introspective. We all should be asking ourselves if and when do we fall short. And we should be committing ourselves to do better. Most of the comments have been either from people displaying the behavior that John is warning us about – or from people who have become disillusioned about Christianity because of such behavior.

    My hope is that this just reflects a noisy minority and that a silent majority are more tolerant, humble, and willing to learn to do better. I hope that we can learn from Christ's words and actions. For example – he did not condemn the Samaritans. So we should not be condemning those who do not believe like us.

    Christ built on the good that people already had in their belief system – instead of condemning. The times where we do find Christ condemning is for the hypocrites among his own faith (Judaism, because he had not yet fulfilled the Law of Moses) who actions showed that they did not follow their proclaimed beliefs.

    Christ also condemned the sin and not the sinner. So let us focus to drop our sins – including hateful speech and intolerance. Before we claim intolerance against us, be sure not to be intolerant of others.

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

      It does seem that we are slowly maturing as a species. With each generation more of us are considering the golden rule.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  18. theReturnOfTheX

    If there is one truth about Christians, it is that they do not act very much like Christians.

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

      “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Gandhi

      February 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  19. Rickinsd42

    Amen Brother.

    February 10, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  20. PFF

    Thank you for the wise words this article delivers. It is something Christians should meditate on daily.....

    February 10, 2013 at 12:19 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.