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.
An actually good faith article, and I agree with what's being said. There is very little wrong with the bible, but more with those who follow or individualize it. It's not easy being a Christian because of society and our own issues.
It is very easy to be Chxtian if you just only judge yourself and not others
Problem is evangelicals want to be the sheperd and not the sheep. These folks just need to lead good lives of their own. Leave the judging to God
More precisely they want to be the fleecers.
I don't go to church and I am more pagan than christian. I find it very difficult to post hateful comments even using an anonymous screen name. If you are hateful behind a computer you are hateful in person. You don't get hateful just because no one knows who you are christian or otherwise.
...and thats what makes you a better person :)
Ironically, you are probably a better Christian than many Christians.
The author can call himself a Christian all he wants, but the lack of evidence and rhetoric suggest he really isn't. He may simply be another person looking for an excuse to write about something when there isn't any real issue to write about. In fact, I'm not sure where he was going with this piece. If you're going to write something that "looks" like you're taking a stand, it will continue to flop. This kind of rubbish attracts rubbish.
He's a minister. I know at least a half dozen other ministers who have said basically the same thing. Just because he is a different denomination than you, doesn't make him "not a Christian".
ahhhh but maybe it does make him a NON if he's another denomination.....
From the looks of it, thats how these people think.
"The author can call himself a Christian all he wants, but the lack of evidence and rhetoric suggest he really isn't."
Sorry, but when did a lack of evidence and rhetoric suggest someone is not Christian?
Considering that Christianity is a faith, how could it be otherwise.
Do you know this man? Have you met him? Interesting judgement.
At least he was candid and honest. Maybe you didn't like that?
While you apparently believe you are looking through a window, it is really a mirror.
Thanks for proving the author's point, anyway.
Bwa Ha Ha Ha ha, what happened to Christian doctrine of "if someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek" ?? Jesus knew he was dealing with unforgiving lot, otherwise why would he had to say something like that?
hey mohammad, feel free to leave anytime.
!chuck, wood – that's it? be nice goon, are you forgetting what the article is about?
@ Mohammad A Dar
He probably didn't even read it.
There is a widespread problem with disrespect in America, Christian and non! It's epidemic Andy! The present American culture and the baby boomers are often to blame. The biggest problem I see with Christians is when they can be overly judgemental and haughty as if they were the chosen tribe of Israel. When they act like the Pharisees they leave a disdain towards Christianity. Certainly there are laws and rules to follow in God's world, but when mankind is anything but kind there needs to be a reevaluation of action and deed no matter who you are or what religion you carry. I have grown to distrust many adults beyond the simplicities of basic relationships. Surface relationships can be quite pleasant. But for many humans once their baggage takes control, many of them meddle, manipulate, try to control, lie, spread rumors like high schoolers, have bigotry, are shallow, have high ego, crazy jealousy,are short sighted, ignorant by choice, and have a level of judgement and self righteousness that can be astounding.
But then there are the pure ones, they are rare and many of them are children, or live in the country areas of America, or are from the older generations. These people can make you smile, laugh, feel hope, help you remember why the human race exists, and help you pray for goodness and God to win no matter what religion they are! I carry God as my banner, and Christianity as my sub banner. I am a human first, a child of God first, and a Christian second. I accept, Jews and Gentiles and try to be a Good Samaritan wherever I can in the name of God and Humanity. Certainly I announce I am Christian, but not with a sledgehammer. Instead I tend to try a tool pouch!
L.H: you sound like several of my friends. They are fun to be around, and I hope they'd say the same about me – even though I'm a pure atheists (which I don't mention, advertize, rub in or even defend at any time unless provoked by a religious bigot intent on playing the self righteous role of a minor god).
Excellent article, thank you.
As an agnostic person (meaning I have explored and the spirit moves me, but churches do not), I find it very easy to get lost in so many different possible interpretations of different passages of scripture.
I am nonetheless disgusted when Christians, or any other religion or non-religion, use scripture, quotes and/or logic to justify hate. It's inspiring to come across people who are good-hearted, whatever their creed.
If you look at the vast majority of world religions they all have some version of "do unto others" as a basic premise (google: golden rule world religions and you'll find links to lists). If only folks would remember that part when interacting with people of other faiths, it would be a much better world.
agnosticism is simply the position that one does not believe that the existence of a god can be proven–it is unknowable
you can be a theist agnostic or an atheist agnostic
God doesn't love Satan, get over it!@
God may not love Satan. He just created Satan and evil.
he must. he could have vanquished him, but did not
According to the theists, he created satan. He hates his own creation?
sam stone sayz,
he must. he could have vanquished him, but did not"
You crucify Christians for this nonsense? You must like lyin', stealin', and killin'.
if the author finds it 'embarrassing' to be a christian, then why not stop being a christian and save the embarrassment?
Some people would like to be able to reclaim Christianity from the right-wing nuts rather than walking away from their beliefs.
Try reading the article.
"I’m not embarrassed to believe the extrava.gant 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 would certainly be embarrassed to believe such nonsense
The "right wingers" aren't the problem. Christianity itself is the problem and it is it's own worst enemy. Take the right wing out of the equation, and your still left with an absurd and contradictory belief system.
Yes Athey, but you are using your brain and not your emotions.
Embarras*sment saved is embarras*sment earned.
logan5: I have no issue with any faith, whether Christian, FSM, Hindu or otherwise, that encourages people to be kind and help each other and makes it easier for them to deal with the bad times in their lives. I have an issue when that faith is used as a weapon against others.
The atheists on these articles think if they believe in the lies of satan that they will be collectively mini-gods. The FBI took my couch cushions again and it is hard to get up. Do as the atheists do in this country to ensure the USA goes belly up.
you talk about lies and then mention satan. oh the irony.
Jesus told us he would give you reprobate minds. Satan's lies causes confusion. My 12-year-old daughter still smokes in front of her kids. After their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.
Atheists believe in satan as much as they believe in gods; ZERO. NADA. ZILCH. ZIPPO.
Except, of course, in the deluded minds of dummies infected by religious fairy tales.
if people believe in lies of Satan than facts of Jesus, who is the better salesman? I am sure FBI will be very sorry for picking up stinking couch cushions from your house !!!
Still on your knees behind your trailer, Heaven Slvt?
Christians believe in satan; atheists do not. Hard to follow something you don't believe exists.
heaven sent, how many kids does your 12 year old daughter have?
Wow, that was a good piece. It reminds me to constantly put myself into check, and to remember that the flesh, and the Spirit tend to fight each other.
This picture is extremely offensive and completely inappropriate. I can't even imagine what would start if a Jew or a Muslim was depicted like this. It just means that you, CNN, is not afraid of Christians but deadly afraid of any other confession. Cowards!
Cohen the Barbarian, a Jew in 16th generation.
I agree. I'm new age but that picture is just freakin rude.
Chin up buttercup.
Why is a portrayal of an angry Christian inappropriate for an article on angry Christians?
How rude of you. I mean it does look like you would play a game of hockey on his forehead, but really – have some compassion.
Fil, you didn't explain why you think the picture is offensive?
Maybe we should give the same advice to the Muslim world, considering we are supposed to respect their archaic, repressive beliefs while they're trying to kill us.
There have been commentaries by Imans saying that. This, however, is written by a Christian minister to other Christians.
I find it hilarious that people keep bringing Muslims up on a blog written to Christians about Christians...hmmm...guilty conscience much?
Mrs.Pepperpot: Yeah, well, it's obvious that some of these folks never read past the headline.
You might be on to something there.
Sorry Mrs. Pepperpot.
I agree. And darn it – I like Mrs. Pepperpot's name.
Some many non-Christians here not hating@!@! They can't even read the truth here!
define NON Christian....I dare you.
What truth? written where?!
I never read the article. I come in here to argue with the other posters.
No you didn't.
Everybody believes in the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness; but some believe this right includes the right to stiffle the ability of others to persue thir rights.
Rights? Stifling one's rights? To me a personal right seems based upon socialized approvals. For without socialisms bluntness regulatory contrivances there would be no boiled down individualistic rights to ponder upon.
It is a delicate balance in places like the U.S., where the law advocates for freedom of religion, but, because of diversity, needs to protect the rights of all.
The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.
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.
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.
(4th POTUS, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights)
Unca suga's balance is long gone. He's drunk.
Clarity wrote, "It is a delicate balance in places like the U.S., where the law advocates for freedom of religion, but, because of diversity, needs to protect the rights of all."
The protectionism of singularities parochial schooling efforts has wavelengths and bandwidths upon many varying socialisms. To say you are for something of wordage essence requires one a need of acquiring, thusly, the admonition of verbalization to be and become a requirement of solicitousness in forthrightness becoming endeared to one's psychic phonon.
Uh oh, lionly threw up his word salad again. Clean up on page 29, pronto.
Ok, God is Jesus, Jesus is God. God wanted to have a physical manifestation of himself on Earth and though he created the heavens and the Earth, Adam and Eve, he couldn't manage a “Jesus” so he knocked up a virgin by proxy who then gave birth to Himself and then he waited for himself to grow up so that he could preach the "truth" to those who would listen.
Then he set up his own death so that he could suffer on a cross to "die" (even though he can't die) for the sins of all the many billions of people who would be born who had not yet committed any sins but for whom he has a plan and that plan includes sinning for some unknown reason so he needed to die for them. Then he becomes a ghost, takes a little trip to Hades to hang with the red guy and then he "rises" and walks about frightening people and then disappears after telling everyone he would return and never shows his face again.
I would offer this counter possibility. Mary got knocked up by the blacksmith. Jesus was a cult leader. Jesus broke the law and was punished and died.
Yep and this is nothing new. It is now more prevalent because of social media. This is why I left The Church and continued in my own spiritual journey without someone telling me how to believe. I did this all about a week or two after September 11th after a colleague claiming to be a Christian said and did some of the most hateful things to me at work one night and then turned around and started preaching about being a God fearing man and love thy neighbor. Yeah so when I hear someone tell me I am going to hell because I don't go to church and praise god everyday I just laugh and pity them in their ignorance.
Also there is a lot of people who have been using Christianity in the United States to change policy saying that our country was found by the faith. Those people don't realize they came here and founded this Country because of religious persecution so to do it now is a slap to the face of our founding fathers.
Jesus identified that the majority of ones who profess Christianity are that in name only.(Matt 7:13, 14) At Luke 13, Jesus establishes that few would be willing to "exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able."(Luke 13:24)
He further illustrates this by saying that there would be ones who go to a "householder" who has locked his door, but these ones will "stand outside and to knock at the door, ' Sir, open to us', But in answer (the householder) will say, ' I do not know where you are from". These ones will then reply: "We ate and drank in front of you, and you ate in our broad ways." The householder, who pictures Jesus Christ, will respond: "I do not where you are from. Get away from me, all you workers of unrighteousness !" (Luke 13:25-27) Why ? Because these are pseudo-Christians, not the genuine thing. They are rejected by Jesus.
Thus, most who profess to be Christian are that in name only, being what Jesus called "weeds" at Matthew 13:24-30. These ones are counterfeit Christians who often dispense hate rather than the "undeserved kindness of God".(Acts 11:23) On the other hand, a small number on the earth are "wheat" or genuine Christians. These ones have put on the "new personality" that emulates Jesus Christ, who in turn, emulates his (and our) Father, Jehovah God.(Col 3:10)
You seem like a thoughtful person. I will have to disagree that we live in a totally morally ambiguous world. Unfortunately, I am not smart enough to always figure out the right thing to do on my own. That is why I need an example (Jesus) to follow. I feel pretty confident that I wont be too far off the mark if I follow his lead. Again, my biggest problem is dealing with my "inner jerk" on a daily basis and not doing the things I know are right.
It should be noted that he never forced his ideals and teachings on anybody. He simply offered them up. His ministry was one of attraction, not force feeding.
"not force feeding"
SO we're just going to ignore the follow-me-or-burn-in-hell bit, huh?
If you cannot determine the right thing to do without jesus, I feel very sorry for you and your lack of an internal compass.
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” -Mohandas Ghandi
G is quite the urban legend.
Christians suck and thats the truth. People and there groups. It`s 2013 very sad.
Actually, I'd be willing to bet you know some great Christians. They just don't push their faith in your face, they just go about their lives believing more in the "They will Know We are Christians by Our Love" than by "Onward Christian Soldiers" version of Christianity.
Do you really think human nature will change quickly. You are right, people form groups and find distinctions with people not in the group. The group acts as one, defending itself and finding fault with other groups. This is not unique to religion but very prevalent in religion. This is not going to change in our lifetime.
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.