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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. Philojazz

    This was a very thoughtful article posted by a Christian. Congratulations to the author.

    I agree with the author "about the bad reputation that Christians have in America." I hope the Christians reading this article make it all the way through, and ask themselves how they can improve their image, but, more importantly than that, how they can improve WHO they really ARE in THIS WORLD.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • raisin mountaineer

      Puzzled by the bigot comment. Your comment was very good and I agree with it.

      February 11, 2013 at 12:19 am |
  2. JSmith

    The bible itself creates the hate and Christians just follow along with it's teachings, just read it. "If you don't hate your father and mother..." Oh, I'm sorry, is that taken out of context? I could ask ten different Christians and get ten different answers to that verse alone. They hate and glad you are going to hell.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
  3. Proud Atheist

    There will come a day when the Babble's scriptures will no longer influence our great nation's laws, and I hope that I see that day in my lifetime. It is inevitable that science will triumph over religion, and I believe that it will be sooner rather than later. Dog, I hope so!

    February 10, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Orygun Duck

      Not sure every problem has a scientific solution. The idea that science should trump religion was popular in the old USSR.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "The idea that science should trump religion was popular in the old USSR."

      One thing the Soviets got right.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Ec1warc1

      I look forward to the day when CNN reports the facts that make the news and not religious opinions like this one. Opinion is not news and CNN is 99% opinion and far too much of that is all about religion.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  4. GenericMan

    Get on my level.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
  5. Orygun Duck

    There is a certain narcisscism that has taken over our culture that in our celebration of the individual, then we need to accept everything that comes along. While I don't 'hate' anyone, there are some lifestyles that are not the most fulfilling and should be avoided.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      like religiousity?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Orygun Duck

      Jesus himself was a critic of 'religiousity.'

      February 10, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • End Religion

      I agree with you that believing in imaginary creatures is a lifestyle that is not the most fulfilling and should be avoided.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
  6. Orygun Duck

    There is a certain narcisscism that has taken over our culture that in our celebration of the individual, then we need to acdept everything that comes along. While I don't 'hate' anyone, there are some lifestyles that are not the most fulfilling and should be avoided.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  7. robert Nelson

    more x-tian navel gazing. gawd Im tired of hearing you people whine.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I'm glad when any group (or individual)takes the time to try and examine its own motivations and actions. Sure, you shouldn't let self examination dominate your life, but this post is hardly aimed at people on that end of the spectrum.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  8. Lindsey

    While most of my friends are Christians, I have made sure that they stifle the urge to convert me. That is one of the many things that bothers me about that religion, the lack of respect for others beliefs. Different opinions are not wrong, they are just different.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Luther 23

      Are you as offended if a atheist attempts to convince you he is correct, or if a salesman on TV tries to convince you to buy his product?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Yes, those roving bands of atheists and television pitchmen better stop knocking on my door at all hours.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      Religions are clubs, they try to get members, by hook or by crook.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  9. Mohammad A Dar

    be nice = suffer for Jesus, why should I suffer?

    February 10, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
  10. mike

    Ghandi said "I might have become a Christian if I hadn't met so many." Hateful people will I guess always turn to the "rules" of Christianity as devices to hate and judge while ignoring Christ's teachings.

    February 10, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • Aldewacs

      OH a new twist: do as HE says, not as I do ...

      February 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
  11. Exactly

    What does the word "nice" mean anyway. Isn't just more "people pleasing"...a task that once you've been around a while you realize is impossible.

    February 10, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
  12. Jerad Libhart

    Do you judge all non-believers by the poor examples in their culture as well? Or just christians?

    February 10, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • Exactly

      This article is self inflicted masochism. It's saying that a human, because he is currently holding an ideology is required to be "nicer" to everyone because he is holding that ideology. I'd say that everyone should be judged by the same standards but what would be the point? People love to find reasons to feel superior to eachother and that holds true no matter what your background.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Harry Hippobottomus

      We don't have a "culture". We have little in common beyond not believing religion. There are right-wing atheists, left-wing atheists, apolitical atheists, atheists who listen to rap, atheists who listen to Beethoven, and so forth.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • Exactly

      Maybe no one needs a "culture". I've been getting along fine without one for quite some time.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • Harry Hippobottomus

      So Christians who have long said that you need God to be good now say that they hate having to be any better?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • Saraswati

      This guy was hardly going to make his point while criticizing people outside his own group.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • Dave Green

      Uh yes...Of course we do. If you say..."I believe X," then you should act like you believe X. The problem is, many christians stand on the highest pulpit they can find, screaming about moral authority, when they are just as morally bankrupt as they claim everyone else is. That's not christianties fault and it's not all christians fault. though, if *I* were a christian I'd be a tad more upset about those claiming to be christian who act anything but, then I would about non christians calling them out for it.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
  13. Dyslexic doG

    WHY oh why do you posters think that quoting a phrase from a bronze age story book re-hashing old egyptian and pagan religions will give your comment any credence?!?!

    Please STOP quoting the story book!

    February 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • Saraswati

      If a Chritian is talking to another Christian it would presumably add credence.If you mean specifically in talking to peopleoutside their religion you should clarify that.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      The article is written by a Christian pastor and is written to fellow Christians. Presumably, therefore, many of the posters are Christians and quoting the Bible is meaningful to them even if it is not meaningful to you.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • The Bible: Gullible's Travels

      It's all they have. They have absolutely not a hint of a shred of real evidence. They must rely on the Bible, no matter how absurd or contradictory it is. Circular logic is all they can do. And it helps that the Bible says people will laugh at them, and that laughter is proof what they believe is true – a con game tactic, of course, but it keeps them in the circle.

      I have no idea how anyone can read the first 20 pages of Genesis and NOT say "this is total bullshit!" I can't believe some people are that gullible.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  14. Dyslexic doG

    don't care if you are nice or not, just stop trying to change the laws of the land to support your bronze age voodoo.

    February 10, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      Agreed. And there are Christians, and Christian denominations that do not try to inflict Biblical laws into the land. Not enough, however.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  15. was blind but now I see

    If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed; For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

    2 John 1:10-11

    February 10, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • sam stone

      wow, still blind....A QUOTE. you don't get any more impressive than that, nosireebob

      February 10, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  16. Nietodarwin

    "Christians are losers" ( Ted Turner)

    February 10, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • Chad

      kind of a nice trick on the part of the author to use the subject of Christian behavior to draw out atheistic malice..

      February 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • 29ers

      Good luck Chad in getting CNN to publish an article that truly represents Christianity and the message of the Bible.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Observer

      29ers,

      This article was all about the message of the Bible.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • sam stone

      even christians cannot seem to agree on the bible.
      some great communicator wrote that, eh?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • Akira

      Kind of refreshing for a Christian Pastor to call out hypocritical behavior of some Christians...

      February 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • 29ers

      It is not about the message it is the medium he chose to publish , knowing fully well CNN is secular and anti Christian. If he wanted to address Christians there is plenty of other venues open to him. Just shows this pastor is either very naive or very mischievous.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • Observer

      29ers,

      The preacher sounds quite perceptive.

      It's sad so many Christian hypocrites can't admit they are. That was his point.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • 29ers

      He made a very poor choice of accusing Christians based on one tweet and chose the wrong platform to voice his ill formed opinion. Very un Christian of him.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Try reading the entire piece – there was an entire list of tweets he was reading, he only chose one as an example. Also – why do YOU get to choose the venue for his opinion ?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • Observer

      29ers,

      He could have been more Christian (for many) by picking on gay sinners while ignoring the MUCH MUCH GREATER number of Christian sinners who commit adultery or by pretending the Bible EVER talked about abortion.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Bunky Pewster

      Yeah! That fvcking a55h0le!! Writing an article about how people should be nice on a major network that prints thousands of articles every day! Fvck this guy!

      February 10, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • 29ers

      Why did I chose this venue to respond? Because he chose to accuse billions of Christians based on a tweet.
      There are countless Christians who tirelessly work for the betterment of humanity. What has this Pastor done for humanity??

      February 10, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • Observer

      29ers,

      "What has this Pastor done for humanity??"

      He has pointed out the hypocrisy of so many Christians who ignore the Golden Rule. If even a few Christians wake up and recognize themselves, he has helped humanity.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Good grief. I said nothing about where you choose to respond. You claimed he is un-Christian because of the venue he chose to share his message. Since he is a pastor, I'm quite sure that the CNN belief blog is a drop in the bucket of where he proselytizes. It is not up to you to determine the proper venue for his opinion.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • 29ers

      This pastor made a very poor choice in writing this article for this blog.He has done no service that will help any Christian.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • Observer

      29ers,

      "He has done no service that will help any Christian"

      Possibly not. HYPOCRITES are seldom objective. They would rather try to go off on tangents to avoid the issues. They love to pick on trivial points and IGNORE the topic.

      That's why so few ever quote the Golden Rule when discussing gays or pro-choice people.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  17. Andy Christensen

    "In seminaries and churches, we tend to engage in obscure questions about theology....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.

    Amen, brother.

    February 10, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • sam stone

      simple and clear? i suppose that is why there is only one christian church

      February 10, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  18. Sam Yaza

    Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.” (1 John 2:9,11)

    i see you john and raise you a Luke

    Don’t associate with non-Christians. Don’t receive them into your house or even exchange greeting with them. 2 John 1:10

    If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14 26)

    February 10, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      lets make this clear by brother the bible means brother in Christs hating people in your out group is totally biblical acceptable as long as you call it love.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      Either way, there's nothing about yelling at them that they are going to hell or harassing them because they don't believe. Either be nice, or ignore them.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • was blind but now I see

      The key word there is "brother". There is clearly a difference throughout scripture.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      yeah there is always a difference throughout scripture it says one thing and then another, what do you call something like that oh yeah! a lie

      February 10, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • was blind but now I see

      The parable is as follows:

      Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
      But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

      But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

      So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?

      He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

      But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.

      Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
      —Matthew 13:24-30, Holy Bible: King James Version
      The word translated "tares" in the King James Version is ζιζάνια (zizania), plural of ζιζάνιον (zizanion). This word is thought to mean darnel (Lolium temulentum),[2][3] a ryegrass which looks much like wheat in its early stages of growth.[4] Roman law prohibited sowing darnel among the wheat of an enemy,[4][5] suggesting that the scenario presented here is realistic.[6]

      A similar metaphor is wheat and chaff, replacing (growing) tares by (waste) chaff, and in other places in the Bible "wicked ones" are likened to chaff.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • lol??

      bigot

      February 10, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  19. Where is your God now?

    You are at a German “sparkle party”. You are wearing your party pants. You are ready to dancy dance. It is a hard-core German sparkle party and you are wearing your rubber boots. The music is pulsating and it feels good to dance. You notice a familiar face standing at the bar. You dance over to her as fancy as you please in your polished rubber boots. You bend low to smell her perfume and say hello. It is your father.

    February 10, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Did it ruin your party mood ?

      February 10, 2013 at 7:25 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 1:05 pm |
  20. Nietodarwin

    Xstianity has survived and flourished throughout centuries for one reason; MURDER. The only reason we people of reason can now finally say so is because of the information age and the anonymity of the internet. All it takes is a little look into basic history. Any xstian who claims different is flat out wrong, and in complete denial.

    I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.
    Bertrand Russell

    February 10, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • Craig Chilton

      So who needs anonymity in the Internet? I've spoken my mind freely for my entire life (which 'way predates the Internet), and have done so at least 30,000 times ON the Internet, over th last 19 years. And I *always* (except in the RARE times when a website requires an alias) post under my REAL, FULL name. And everyone who may be interested knows that I live in Evansdale Iowa, since I give my address and phone number plainly in all of my own websites and blogs, including http://www.ChristianEgalitarian.com ..

      I have never, ever, regretted being outspoken and forthcoming, no matter how controversial the topic at hand may be. Not for a nanosecond.

      The profound amounts of COWARDICE and PARANOIA that pervade the 'net absolutely amaze me! All of those gutless wonders out there COWERING behind alias like scared rabbits!! Absolutely astounding!! If people had been like that 235 years ago, this country probably would still be flying the British flag today. (But at least we'd have a very nice and intelligent Queen.)

      April 13, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I appreciate the anonymity offered by the internet. I think it is good to evaluate the merits of an idea without knowing the origin. It's more honest. Plus, it's stupid to use your real name in "public" on line.

      April 13, 2013 at 9:20 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.