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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: Christianity • My Take

soundoff (10,298 Responses)
  1. Gawd Almighty

    It's the Muslims that should scare the hell out of the world, not the bible thumpers. Wake the hell up.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • Islam, etc.

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      February 10, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Why do you have to be afraid of only one or the other?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      brother muslims are running scared, from hindu drones, absurdity of American tech no logy

      February 10, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
  2. True Guy

    Psalms 137:9
    "How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock,"
    Leviticus 20:13
    "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death."
    Deuteronomy 7:1-2
    "When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations . . . then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy."

    I mean.. i can go on and on.. but dont want u guys to scroll too much, hope u all get the idea..
    Problem is most if not all christians 'Cherry Pick' the bible and their holy books, most of us have no clue whats actually in the bible.. like this author.. who is asking Christians to be "nice".. lol

    True Christian, Muslim or Jewish person(That is if they really are what they say they are) can not play "Nice" period.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
  3. lionlylamb

    I can imagine all things relative

    When most of the pollen spreading insects are soon found gone, it will be man’s business to create insect size robots to take the places of the dead pollen spreading insects. Such super small robots would need only the power of sunlight for them to pollenate a farmer’s fields. I can imagine such a hive being remotely manipulated in just the ways our UAVs are now being flown in the armed services. I can see different characters of each insect size robot. Each robot would also have eyes and ears and movable lips from which to add speech. Flying and walking parameters would be based within the mainframes cloud servers. The costs for producing such a robotic insect with camera technologies and the costs of creating a game like program from where the hive or home base would be is based upon an insect robots furthest distance in ratios to the insects range abilities.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=uFh9SrXJ1EA

    Imagine if you will, robotic made insects made so much like the real insects and are able to transmit a video signal to the person’s computers or home televisions and even over school computers. The joysticks would make a comeback! Flying robotic honeybees and spiders and lizards and all with video cameras! Instead of there being mock actors playing the parts of honeybees or spiders or even lizards, you would have live people flying the insects. I can imagine a grade school even thru to colleges or even university all having hives of insects each one being characteristically different to the others. I can also imagine real families buying a family of flying and/or walking video robots.

    I can also imagine people with fish aquariums plopping in a small robot fish with video capability and capable of being swum by joystick capabilities.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Craig Chilton

      And this SPAMMY stuff has WHAT, exactly, to do with this topic?!?

      April 13, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
  4. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    hinduism followers of savior Mithra ism, need to opposition crooks Mithra ism savior ism of fabrication as violation Christianity to blessed hind fool humanity of dark ages based on racism, Egypt and anointed one Rom, and learn to racist live by way of truth, not hinduism Mary Easu corruption of truth called by hindus religion , a hind labeled dump Constipation of USA and in to teachings of son of , not of hindu hifnduism called Jesus.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Islam, etc.

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      February 10, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
  5. Islam, etc.

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    February 10, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
  6. End Religion

    Has anyone seen the #walkingdixons?

    February 10, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  7. Charlie J

    "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."
    So a Christian can spew any vileness, get forgiven, and then go and do it again!? What arrogance!

    February 10, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • Dave Green

      I'm not so sure that's how it works. I'm not a christian, and I realize there are many denominations and interpretations, but I don't think the concept is about having a "license to sin." I think the idea is that once you accept it, you will naturally turn away from sin.
      One of my favorite books of the bible is James, and he covers that at length. Essentially, you can sum it up this way: "You show me your faith without works and I'll show you my faith by what I do." *shrug* Then again, it's not my religion, but it seems pretty simple to me.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
  8. JH

    Christianity, at its essence, isn't supposed to be judgmental and hypocritical and telling everybody to go to hell. Some people just made it that way.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Christianity, at its essence, is dumby dumb dumb.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • dale

      true, we are not to judge. on the other hand, as brothers and sisters in Christ, holding eachother accountable and keeping eachother in check, is different than judging. (amongst Christians)

      Yes all Christians are hypocrites if you want to view it that way. The way I view it, Christians such as I am, need to be concerned about having a relationship with Jesus. And of course true repentance for sins followed by obedience. This is truly what produces good fruit among Christians.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Christianity has been about condemnation since the times of Paul's writings to the churches. Jesus was also about condemnation. Follow me, or else. He even told people to leave their families to follow him and one guy that he shouldn't bury his father. He refused to help a gentile woman until she compared herself to a dog. I'm not sure where are getting your information about christianity not being a condemning religion, but it's certainly not from the bible.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • dale

      John 3:17-18
      17-For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18- Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

      This page explains why Jesus called this woman a dog. check it out. explains it real clear. check the comments near the bottom of the page.

      http://literalbible.blogspot.ca/2007/01/jesus-calls-canaanite-woman-dog.html

      February 10, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @ dale,
      Actions speak louder than words.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  9. Nice try

    I am not obligated to behave in any particular way based on any particular belief I choose to have. I am not obligated to any particular belief or lack of belief based on anyone elses opinion.
    More importantly whatever beliefs I have or don't have I reserve the right to change my mind as often as I see fit.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • Dave Green

      Yep, you sure do..You can change your mind every 5 minutes. You can do whatever you want. The bottom line is: If you say "I believe X" then you should act like it. More than that. If you actually believed X, you WOULD act like it. That's the point.
      You want to change religions every 5 minutes to justify whatever way you choose to live? Hey, have at it, but don't be surprised when you find yourself alone, because no one trusts who you are or what you are about.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • A taste of real

      Better alone than in bad company.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
  10. Wondering

    What about Pastors who preach hate?

    February 10, 2013 at 8:58 pm |

    • Reeducation camps. We've needed them here for a long time.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • Kanageloa

      Well I know that there are quite a few. Louis Farrakhan preaches hate. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church preaches hate. Rev. Al Sharpton preaches hate at times. Pseudo – imam Malik Zulu Shabazz definately preaches hate. So I guess there are quite a others not mentioned. You don't have to be a pastor, reverand or priest to preach hate. Even our politicians do it in a very slick way Lots of haters to go around..

      February 10, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
  11. YeahItsMe72

    i've personally never found religion to be a predictor of how nice (or moral) a person is. This isn't meant to be a knock against Christianity, many of my friends are Christian and I think they are nice. But the very suggestion that somehow Christianity and being kind (or moral) go hand in hand is a farce. Plenty of Christians aren't nice, plenty of non Christians aren't nice. There's zero correlation. Zilch. None.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  12. jrwarino

    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. = Spiritually lazy.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Book of hinduism, absurdity bible is one fit all book, written in such a way, it can be interpreted any way one likes.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • Islam, etc.

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      February 10, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Todd in DC

      Etc, double the dosage, ok?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
  13. Mark

    Lets be nice. "I have come into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice" ....Jesus John 18:37 "Many are called, few are chosen." Not all will respond favorably to the truth, no matter how "nice" we appear to be. God bless

    February 10, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Mark, atheists tell you how and why Christians are wrong every day. We tell you very nicely too.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • sam stone

      mark: you know that quoting a book to people who do not accept the authority of the book is only so effective, don't you?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      No need to call hinduism absurdity of a hindu as truth, book of hindu Mithra ism, savior ism bible is hinduism criminality of hindus crooks of hindu dark ages to spread hinduism racism among humanity, for some to be above others by race.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • Islam, etc.

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      Bang your gong is a sign of a hungry stoner, self absorbed, Not of a beerz but bud, in obedience of T. Rex absolute rock whoa. Electric warrior, rock to bogart water bong ism Greed is not appreciated pot heads absolute stoner ism, nor it is appreciated by holder, ignorant bogart ism.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  14. Jordan

    Christians have had a bad reputation since the emergence out of the dark ages. Wars in God's name, proclaiming self domination over places simply because people living there believed something different(so obviously wrong and not worthy of equality), enslaving people because of a twisted loophole made up from the bible.

    Yeah, christians in the course of history have been the worst kinds of people. I'm glad I'm not partaking in the centuries of oppression, dominance, and enslaving that comes with the name "Christian"

    February 10, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • Mike

      Which religion were Hitler, Mussolini, Mao (to name but a few) pushing?

      By your "logic," secular war mongers either don't exist and/or are acceptable.

      Get a clue.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
    • Fred

      It's that same old argument about stuff that happened six hundred years ago. You just can't get over it.
      If you can't come up with something more recent than that, then you have zero argument to make.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • -.-

      Another asshole who doesn't know the difference between a theocratical war and one put on by a government...Hitler was Catholic, by the way. Get the fucking clue yourself.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • Overfiend

      Hitler was Catholic like you are intelligent -|-

      You both said you were, but everybody knows different.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Srebrenica, 1995, over 8500 unarmed men and boys slaughtered because of their religion by Christian troops

      Fred “If you can't come up with something more recent than that”
      Now shale we talk about Rwanda?

      February 10, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • Mike

      The brain-trust is out in force tonight.

      Hitler disavowed his so-called Catholic "beliefs." More to the point: his wasn't in the name of religion.

      No takers on Mussolini's or Mao? (b/c it doesn't fit your agendas)

      Granted it must be frustrating living in Mom's basement, but your anger is only amusing me further.

      Sit n' spin

      February 10, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
  15. chiefsadler

    If only more Christians would talk like you, we might have less terrorists in the world and we'd be so much closer to being one big happy family...

    February 10, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • Nice try

      If more people would stop refering to their fellow man in tribalistic groups then they'd all realize we, in reality are one big unhappy family.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
  16. FoolishHumans84

    Its funny how people say that it's Christians who judge everybody. When every time i read any article that has to do with religion its always the atheist that do most of the judging by trying to say what we believe is false or telling us were lame or tell us that were hypocrites. Christians aren't perfect we choose to follow after the ONE (Jesus Christ) that we believe to be perfect. We make mistakes like everybody else. Its just that anytime you say your a Christians everyone puts you under a microscope so they can judge your every action. I'm a Christian and i have no hate for anyone but if anyone asks me about what i believe and why i believe it I would be more that happy to tell them. I have no need to shove the good news down the throat of anyone.
    SHALOM

    February 10, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Jordan

      Any atheist that says a religion is 'lame' isn't much of a conversationalist -.-

      February 10, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Dave Green

      Don't comfuse anti-theists with atheists. I'm an atheist, but I have no issue with people believing whatever they believe. However, on a more general note: If someone claims to believe X, they should act like they believe X. I'm not suggesting they have to be perfect. everyone has a bad day. I'm talking about in a general sense of who they are as people.
      If you claim to to follow the teachings of Jesus, then you should act like it. At least in a general sense. The point is, there are many who don't and it's interesting that the ones who apparently do, seem to have no issue with it.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • George

      Why Christians act so badly: they believe that no matter what they do, as long as they believe in Jesus, they are saved. So they have no motive to be good. Which correlates with their behavior.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • End Religion

      @fool: what you are perceiving is us pointing out your hypocrisy. We don't have any rules that say "don't judge". You do. Judging is natural, but religious folks have a rule against it. You don't follow any of your rules yet you want everyone to live by them. We're just pointing out how ridiculous the game is.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • FoolishHumans84

      I agree with you Dave if someone says that they believe in X then they should in a general sense at act accordingly as to what they believe, and i should of clarified. I wasn't throwing all atheist in the same boat. I've actually had some good conversations with some it just seems in general most of them are very disrespectful to me about my beliefs. And to George Jesus says to judge a tree by its fruit. For those that claim to be Christians but are spewing nothing but hate and lies. From a biblical perspective it might put there salvation in question.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • FoolishHumans84

      @Endreligion. I don't expect anyone to follow the rules that i follow. Like i said I am willing to explain and teach what i believe. I will never try to force or argue with anyone about what i believe. If people want to know about GOD thats great. if they don't then thats on them. All i can do is pray for them.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • jason

      @fool @end - there is no rule for judging others. The famous quote about judging in the Bible, is what Jesus brought up over and over in the New Testament, and that is about hypocrisy. The context is that person X should get their stuff or sin straight themselves (judge themselves first), and then you can see 'clearly' what sin is in your brother's eye to help them out. Jesus did this all the time to the Pharasies which though rules and 'show' (acts of service) were the way to Heaven - whether it was about money, material things, generosity, selfishness, etc. So this quote is not saying you cannot judge - it is saying that if you judge someone for their sin, but you have not fixed yourself, then just remember that God holds all judgement.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  17. groo

    I have no clue what I am talking about.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • Bunky Pewster

      Have YOU seen my gum?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  18. Luis Wu

    Who cares? Ancient mythology and ignorant superst!tious nonsense has no relevance anyway. Let the ignorant masses wallow in their delusional fantasy world if it makes them happy.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:36 pm |

    • Yes, let them have their fantasies. We'll only come every now and then. Late at night to have one for our feast.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  19. llatpoh

    S h a r i a h compliant CNN would never publish an article like this aimed at I s l a m because it might offend... Imagine, the same negative jarring evil-looking menacing graphic depicting M or his followers, at the top of the home page for half the day no less… hard to imagine because you’ll never see it…
    …apparently there are different rules for how Christianity is treated…

    February 10, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Nice strawman. Your persecution complex is showing.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • Bunky Pewster

      Yeah, those fvcking a55h0les!! Fvck them!! Have you seen my gum?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • Ted Halloran

      That doesn't seem to be an image of Christ, so I'm not sure that your reference to "M" is relevant. It is representative of the Christians that are the subject of the article, and there are many images of Islamic extremists that are also negative and published. Much harm has been done in the name of religion. Some good too.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • -.-

      Is that a deptction of Jesus or God? No? Then what are you whining about? Did somebody steal a picture of YOU, perhaps?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • Fred

      You're right and I believe the reason for that is because they know that Christians won't take up arms or make bombs to "argue" against the article. Christians make make some comments, but that's the extent of it.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • Saraswati

      This is an article aimed at ChrIistians, a group that makes up most of the US population and hence most CNNviewers. It wouldn't make any sense at all market-wise to do the same for the miniscule Islamic population reading these blogs.

      That said, I don't disagree media outlets around the world are afraid to write about Islam, but this is not what's going on here.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  20. the AnViL

    all monotheistic religions are based on ignorance, bigotry, hate, division, and racism,, so that can be their only product.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • lol??

      You sure are bigoted against a lot of things.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
    • Craig Chilton

      TO Lol -

      YOU wrote ti AnVil -You sure are bigoted against a lot of things."

      The discontent and stridency of the average bigot generally is inversely proportional to his level of self-esteem, his capability to marshall and present relevant FACTS, frequently his level of education, and often even his or her IQ. It also is almost always inversely proportional to their propensity to be fair-minded egalitarians who stand up for people's human and civil rights.

      SO - Can you PROVE that anything he said in that post was INCORRECT?

      April 13, 2013 at 9:38 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.