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.
Christianity is the largest religion in the US and the world. How come they act like a downtrodden, persecuted bunch?
......maybe because they are also spoiled little children.
Pretending to be repressed is one of the oldest ways to justify being a dick to others.
The ministers in my family say it's because some people think that "no longer being allowed to persecute others" qualifies as "persecution" rather than "justice".
Because their religion tells them they are horrible wretched sinners. They persecute themselves more than anyone.
@LivinginVa, You hit the nail on the head. I have been aware of that fact for some time now.
RC, nice hypothesis.
They need to feel persecuted in order to justify the hate and anger they perpetrate; they need to feel injured in order to EARN their heavenly reward.
Although Christians have no monopoly on hateful diatribe , many of its most high profile adherents seem to be purveyers of a very harsh, judgemental and divisive creed. Pat Robertson,James Dobson or Billy Graham routinely make some very unsettling remarks.A tornado kills a dozen people in Kansas, and Pat Roberson says its because we respect civil rights for gays and lesbians in America. A school shooting happens because we dont force children of varying religions (and some w/ no religion) to pray to a Christian god every morning.The bible , especially the old testament, is filled with horrible violence.Yahweh tells his followers to murder the wives and even children of his enemies.He commands his followers to stone to death unruly children, sends unbelievers to an eternity of pain, sends pestilences and causes a deluge that destroys most of humanity.Christianity is a religion that is filled with hatred,violence, and destruction.Why should its followers be any less violent ?
You have a point. I suppose one can't expect the followers to be different than the teachings.
Oh why such great punishment? SO great?
If I could at least remember then perhaps I would slap my own back and slash myself.
All I can see now is shadow.
All I want is sleep.
The Hell, Earth. Why this place?
Such loveliness allowed while we bask in the suffering.
Where does such cruelty manifest?
Who would seek worship on this shipwreck?
I hate the direction that this nation has turned, 16 trillion dollars in debt and all the people cry about about comments made about THEM!
Why does CNN snip my comments?
You said, "Why does CNN snip my comments?"
CNN uses WordPress blogs for their opinion pieces, and they use automated censoring that looks for words, or fragments of words, that are considered offensive. If your post doesn't show up, it most likely had a forbidden word in it.
On the Belief Blog, repeat posts, even those that were previously censored and not displayed, will show a message stating that you posted it before.
The following words or word fragments will get your post censored (list is incomplete):
arse as in Arsenal
cock as in cockatiel
coon as in cocoon
cum as in circumstance
homo as in homosexual
rape as in grape
sex as in homosexual
spic as in despicable
tit as in constitution or title
vag as in vague
To circumvent the filters you can break up the words by putting an extra character in, like: consti.tution (breaking the oh so naughty "tit").
I didnt hear you screaming when Bush got us into this mess.
You griping now ?
A call for civil discourse is welcome, but the Pastor has to be kidding about Christians being persecuted today in this country.
Just read these comments if you believe Christians aren't under attack, you in denial?
Foreseen, Are you that much of a wimp that words qualify for persecution?
Forseen: There is a difference between criticism and persecution. There is even a difference between ridicule and persecution. There is a difference between "not being able to persecute others" and persecution. Christians are not being persecuted.
Absurd but its hard to blame him. It's Cult 101, "Our beliefs are friggin' nuts, so you will be persecuted. Just remember though, if you don't stick to the cult rules then you aren't special. And you do want to feel special, don't you? Heck, if you're not persecuted you're probably not trying to spread our cult hard enough!"
Xtians insult insult each other more than receiving insults from non-Xtians.
You are not under attack. Grow up. People have DIED for their religions and do to this day in other countries. I suspect you are not being threatened in this way? You are not under attack if someone disagrees with you or challenges you. Your christian doctrine has the MOST support in the US than any other religious group. You are not alone...they are masses of people in huge churches that believe like you!
Under attack!??? ppppffffttttttt
Christians are not under attack. It's just that Americans who disagree with them, like me, have stopped humoring Christians. If a Christian wants to 'witness' his or her faith to me, then I will spend a equal amount of time 'witnessing' my own interpretation of the Gospels to them.
I never start those conversations.
There is not much you can do since chrisitanity is based on ignorance and fear. Good luck convincing someone who subscribes to such beliefs to not be hateful.
You are wrong!
You are right!
Stop cutting me off when I try to speak!
No thank you. That's not for me. I don't like you. It's nothing personal, it's only because you exist. If you start with me you're going to get it back. That's how it should be. But I'm no particular religion and I don't care what religion yours is or isn't.
Let's take another example: The case of Jessica Ahlquist. She was a student at Cranston High School West in Rhode Island. In 2012 she sued – and won – to have the school remove a prayer banner displayed in the school's auditorium. She argued that the banner violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. She won her case in federal court. Following the ruling she was vilified in the school and the community. She received death threats, threats of violence, and other acts of scorn. Florists refused to deliver flower to her. A state senator called her an "Evil little thing" on public radio. All of this from people who were upset about having to remove a banner displaying a prayer about good citizenship.
Very few people in the community seemed to comprehend that they way they were treating Jessica was exactly contrary to the banner they were trying to defend. This is just another perfect example of the hypocrisy of Christians.
...and on top of that, Jessica was defending everyone's rights, including theirs, to feel comfortable in a public place; free from religios spoutings of one kind or another.
The exact reason we do not want a theocracy, and why religion must end. It's OK to have one's fantasies if one wants, but religion is simply bigoted mob rule.
The thing that scares me most, is that all of these delusional believers are way too comfortable with the ending of mankind. Some of them even look forward to it. And now we actually have the capability of ending our existence on our own, via weapons or pollution. The only prophecies are self fulfilling prophecies.
Some of them are even trying to bring about the end times. Suicidal nutcases.
Christians, muslims, jews, parsis, mithriasts, hindus, buddhists
they all seem afraid to me. Afraid to face realistically the loneliness and expanse of the universe.
They call it the "Fear of God" for a reason.
I never thought that it was a good idea to raise a child in fear...............
A lot of christians are rude and intolerant based out of fear. Fear of what those around them believe. Fear that somehow that will rub off on them. Fear that the perceived truths and biases will slip from their grasp ,. never to be found again.
They put themselves in their little christian bubble and point and yell. its quite sad.
WELL SAID !!
God created the universe. Many billions of years ago, a life form evolved on a planet not so far distant and their scientists deduced the building blocks for life existed in the universe and from it, new life forms could be created. These ancient ones populated Mars with life and eventually, due to asteroid events over millions of years, life arrived here on Earth. We are a product of that primeval turbulence. Therefore, we must worship the Aliens, not God. The Aliens have to worship God. This is all true because I have faith that it happened just this way.
Your 'nom de plume' is fitting!
i"This s all true because I have faith that it happened just this way." laughable and delusional.
catfish, you seem to be irony challenged.
You may be closer to the truth than you think.
I'm not Christian but even I think this is provocative. While so called Christians may tweet or post hateful or bigoted things, the Muslims are still the only group that presently acts out their hate under the guise of their religion. In addition, American liberals aren't bashful about spewing their hate towards anyone who doesn't tow the progressive line. I believe your comments are directed to the wrong group. There are too many apologetic whiners in the US Media these days. CNN is right at the top.
I wonder if you even read the article or your bible for that matter. The point being made is that when a christian "spews hate" they are being hypocrites, not when an atheist does it. If you know even 10% of your bible you would understand that.
John said...."the Muslims are still the only group that presently acts out their hate under the guise of their religion."
History proves you wrong on that one John. Christians are notorious for propagating their hate through actions.
Christian vote and lobby to repress gays. They stack school boards to get damn-fool nonsense things like creationism on the syllabus. They put up thousands of signs and billboards that insult atheists, then get mad when atheists put up a few signs that say the same thing. They deny medical service to employees.
They are not passive, nor are they innocent.
Prohibiting two consenting adults from marrying because the Bible says so is hateful.
Screaming a woman entering a clinic because she may be having an abortion for a reason one believes the Bible disapproves of is hateful.
Discouraging teaching of evolution and higher level thinking skills because it may cause children to question their parents' teaching is hateful and a disservice to our children.
The article was written by a Christian, not a Muslim or a self professed liberal. He is addressing Christians, as a fellow Christian and what he sees are the words of Christ. Personally I would like to see a lot more kindness, and a lot less hate from everyone.
"the Muslims are still the only group that presently acts out their hate under the guise of their religion. " Absurd. Christianity through the ages rivals islam as the world' largest hate group.
OP, it would behoove you to listen to what "good Christians" Hannity, Beck, O'Reilly, Coulter, and Limbaugh, among others, say about people. Liberals spew hate? Puh-leez.
John...your comment...."the Muslims are still the only group that presently acts out their hate under the guise of their religion." seriously? have you forgotten the westboro baptist zealots, the anti-abortion fanatics that have killed countless doctors and medical professionals, the kkk, the entire white supremacy/militia movement? more blood has been shed in the name of religion, every religion, than for any other reason. look back through time...romans/christ, the crusades, the spanish inquisition, hitler, relatively modern day ireland/northern ireland, the entire middle east situation. the list goes on and on and on.
Scientific theories are testable and disprovable, religious claims are not. Explaining things as miracles disqualifies from a rational and reasonable discussion.
How did life begin? Either God did it or you believe in Abigenesis or Life from non-life which has never been proven EVER.
So the truth is if you believe in Abiogenesis it requires faith since it has NEVER been proven.
No much of a difference between us all is there? We all have faith in something!
But there is proof of the big bang. There is no proof of God
I stopped identifying myself as Christian many years ago when the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell turned the word into a synonym for hate, bigotry, intolerance, and ignorance. i've seen less Christlike behavior out of 'Christians' these days than from the atheists among us. Jesus didn't tell us to hate anyone different from us or to act like we're better than anyone else because we happen to follow His particular teachings. if folks who claim to follow Him spent more time actually learning and understanding his teachings than dwelling on his death and supposed resurection, they might start living up to what the word Christian is supposed to mean. and we wouldn't be fighting over abortion or gay rights because people would 'judge not' and not be 'meddlers.' they would love everyone unconditionally as Jesus came to teach us and as God does. they would accept everyone as God does.
If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be - a Christian.
- Mark Twain, Notebook
"I like your Christ; I do not like your christians. They are so unlike your Christ." -Mahatma Gandhi
I see the most vitriolic, hateful things spouted by Christians in regards to welfare reform, social justice, politics, and many other areas. I think we are in very interesting times in that those terribly conservative views are on their way out, and those who are united behind some of these conservative ideas are going the way of the dinosaur. I think Christianity will more and more fade as any sort of an influence on U.S. society. And they will protest (loudly, they already are...) that this means the end of our society, since we are forgetting God. I think it is a distinct evolution, and unfortunately, Christians – by taking this hateful stance – are going to be left behind as irrelevant. I believe this is probably God's plan. I think you all have actually lost not only a lot of people, but God is probably looking down in disbelief at some of the things that leave your mouths as well. Those of us who are actually good people – God will stand behind as we are the force of good at this point. Not you, as you persist in this hate.
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.
We are who we are: Matthew 6:5-6 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
I see nothing in that passage which suggests that loudly proclaiming – "I'm a Christian and if you aren't, you are going to Hell " is at all endorsed by Christ.
we are: you do know that quoting a book to those who do not accept the authority of the book is only so effective, don't you? or, do you just like to feel pious?
Let's see now. The false brethren told the gubmint to take over the "church". As the church gets corrupted then they can accuse! The commie mommie socialists have da gubmint god controlling everythin' now. Broke yet? Ya got all that you want so quit complainin'!
What is "da gubmint"?
I actually see where I misspoke, so let me repent. You DON'T have all ya want. You are gonna kill the Christians and take their stuff! Hitler showed how that game is played when he did it with Jacob.
Is this supposed to convince anyone that you are an intelligent human being capable of putting forth a rational argument defending your position? if so, EPIC FAIL! LOL!
So, lol?? what do you think of the early Christian apologists who claimed that the reason the gospels looked so much like earlier pagan writings was that it was not plagiarism at all, but a pre-emptive strike by Satan?
rich, do you really not know or you just want [lol??] to explain it? I don't think he would honestly explain it...
Simple. Servants gone WILD!
He's still slightly embarrassed by his racism so he didn't come right out with it but I think, Rich, you have the idea now if you didn't before....
You do realize that the government is we the people, right?
When you complain about the government, you complain about yourself.
If there is something in government you want to change, stand up and convince people you have an idea, or solution to a problem. That's the way it works.
Calling the gavernment "da gubmint", just makes you look silly.
Look at the symbiotic relationship Harvard has with the education president. Harvard's charter shows it was founded by men of faith. Now they cover up for da prez and he delivers the goodies from the Christians. The other narcissist, Paula Broadwell, wasn't so lucky. She got sacrificed.
No where in the bible does it say christians will be perfect people on earth, but the media will have you believe that, so when a christian makes a mistake or states an opinion, the media amplifies and twists that mistake or opinion 100 fold until you (the general populous) believe that christians are all liars and hypocrites even thought many stick to what the bible says. For example, Obama was against gay marriage on the 2008 ticket.. hardly a peep about it from gay rights groups, but chick fil a says they are against gay marriage and a media storm brews and they are beaten, figuratively, over that opinion even though it was the same Obama had just 3 years prior.
Obama didn't give money to hate groups.
Sure, no one is perfect – but you all have gotten so awful lately... there's a limit, you know?
So Christians aren't perfect. I think the point you make better is that we are all really the same. And we all follow our own moral compas merged with that of societies. No need for any god or religion.
Biblical literalists hold that we are God’s favorites. We live at the universe’s center on a planet God made and maintains for us to use. Earth’s resources are here for us to exploit. God protects us and promised he would not destroy Earth again until the end of days.
Under that scenario, we have little reason to safeguard our existence.
35% of the electorate are biblical literalists. Do you see the problem?
Well, biblical literalists are probably more prone that most to holding contradictory ideas – in logic-tight compartments as Michael Shermer described it. They will draw on the ones that are most useful and advantageous to them at the time. I think they want to live and get by as much as the rest of us. As an example, see how they flocked to former-heretic Romney in the recent election. All done in self-interest with little reference to the Bible.
In one article a Muslim promotes high morals. In another article a Christian promotes high morals. In the discussion sections most of the posters oppose high morals.
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.